Travel Update, Day 1

Well here I am at the end of travel day #1. It was a long, long day driving as we ended up driving a little over 1,000 miles, or about half-way. Here are some highlights:

Leaving Ohio:

oh

in

State #3 notice the silhouette of Abe?

il

Really big cross:

cross

Show-Me State:

mo

Gateway Arch:

arch

Trying to be creative while in a car and passing things at 60 mph:

arch mirror

These billboards were everywhere:

jesus

And so were these (with some in close proximity to those above!):

adult

Driving through Missouri:

mo drive

Final state of the day:

ok

So all this traveling has put us in Oklahoma City for the night. Updated travel map:

map 2

Leavin’ Not on a Jet Plane

Well it’s about 4:30… just about ready to go. Car’s all packed… just have to add the computer!

On the Road Again

In a few short hours, I will begin the second leg of my trip from Rochester, NY, to Phoenix, AZ. This past week I’ve been in Ohio after moving from Rochester. The trip is supposed to take about 31 hours driving to Phoenix from Ohio, but we’ll see how long it actually takes.

Here’s the route below. The red is territory covered, the blue is territory remaining:

map 1

I hope to have internet access along the way so I can blog my way to Phoenix. If not, I shall return a Phoenician.

Counting North Carolina’s Vote

On the topic of Electoral College reform, North Carolina is headed towards altering how the state awards electoral votes. Constitutionally-speaking, it is up to the states to decide how they wish to allot electoral votes. Except for Maine and Nebraska, every state and D.C. currently award all electoral votes to whichever candidate receives the greatest plurality of popular votes in the state, a method known as the winner-take-all method.

Maine and Nebraska employ the district allocation method. With this plan, each candidate is awarded one electoral vote for each congressional district won in the state. The winner of the state popular vote is awarded the state’s final two electoral votes.

Since Nebraska adopted this plan in 1972 and Maine in 1996, neither state has ever split their electoral votes even though they are set-up for such a scenario. North Carolina, though, would likely split their electoral votes.

As computed by my thesis, here are some past results:

2004
Bush: 11
Kerry: 4

2000
Bush: 11
Gore: 3

1996
Dole: 11
Clinton: 3

1992
Bush: 9
Clinton: 5

1988
Bush: 12
Dukakis: 1

1984
Reagan: 13
Mondale: 0

So, things could get interesting next year. Although North Carolina splitting electoral votes isn’t likely going to change much in the national electoral count, this little experiment could prove interesting for the future of the Electoral College.

Counting the Vote

I’ve finally completed my Masters thesis project, entitled “Counting the Vote: An Interactive Study of Electoral College Reform.” Viewable at: www.joehribar.com/countingthevote

thesis

In the project, users can learn about the Electoral College, several reform proposals to alter the system, and finally in the last section, users can select a past presidential election (2004-1984) and a reform proposal to see if or how that proposal could have changed the outcome of that election.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the outcome. Eventually I’d like to add more elections to see if or how they could change. Until then, enjoy.

President Gore

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYuqoKxRhMg

Gotta love people who can make fun of themselves and have a good time doing it.

Dirty Talk

Mmmm.

Money Matters

The New York Times has a really cool interactive map detailing contributions to the 2008 presidential candidates.

Let the Sunshine In

sun

Burning fossil fuels and coal to produce energy no doubt have an impact on global warming. Being dependent on foreign oil to produce gasoline for our vehicles no doubt has an impact on our national security. So why is there not a serious, all-out push for new power and fuel sources? I’m not too sure there really is a solid answer to that question.

What I don’t understand is that we have a huge, gaseous body beating energy down at us every day and we’re not seriously tapping into this free, clean, and uber-renewable source of energy. From The New York Times:

But for all the enthusiasm about harvesting sunlight, some of the most ardent experts and investors say that moving this energy source from niche to mainstream last year it provided less than 0.01 percent of the country’s electricity supply is unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon.

Even a quarter century from now, says the Energy Department official in charge of renewable energy, solar power might account for, at best, 2 or 3 percent of the grid electricity in the United States.

Within 8 years we made a pledge to put a man on the moon and fulfilled that pledge; in 5 years we made a commitment to building atomic weapons and we did it. The need for alternative energy is massively apparent. Why can’t we commit ourselves to a massive, Manhattan-Project-esque research venture to achieve this need? The sun has been shining; we’re just not letting it in.

The Dream Goes On

us flag

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

By changing only a handful of words throughout Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the address can still be relevant to modern times. By honoring those who have gone before us and those who have given the last full measure of devotion in support and defense of this nation, we can rise up to meet their sacrifices and restore hope in our mighty American Dream.

There are a great many problems facing this nation today. There are a great many people around the world who would wish ill on this nation today. And there are a great many reasons to feel all hope is lost.

But the most wonderful aspect about our nation is that the United States is more than tangible things. It’s more than bricks and mortar. It’s more than the computers, the corn fields, and the cars that all sustain the material world we know.

America is about people, about resiliency, about ideas. Yes, we are today experiencing rough times both at home and abroad. We look into the past and see golden times and then look at what we have today and see downtrodden times. But the beauty that is American is in the American Dream. The real bricks and mortar of America is an idea. The idea of equality; the idea of success; the idea of hope. Hope that one day things will get better.

When the nation gets lost in the woods, the idea returns us to a safe path. When we are wandering aimlessly looking for the light switch, the idea shows us the light. The idea reasons with us that no matter how bad things are or how bad we think things will become, the American Dream is bigger than any one person or any one problem.

Evil-doers may destroy buildings, cars, forests, markets, or houses, but they cannot destroy the American Dream. The dream goes on. And that’s what makes this country great.

Happy Independence Day.

(Photo: Andrea Church / MorgueFile)

BuzzDash

A cool site with tons of interactive polls. You can even see in real-time other site users voting in the polls. Wicked cool and easy to get lost on the site.

All Tied Up

Looking for creative ways to lace and tie your shoes? Look no further.

The Man with the Hat Is Back

Proof that not everything in the world has gone bad.

“Shining”

These recut trailers work the best when the new version is so drastically different from the actual film. This one’s still one of the best.

“Scary Mary”

Time to lighten things up a bit around here. You thought Mary Poppins was a sweet, charming lady? Think again.

We’ll Give You a Call

Refreshing spin on vote-for-me ads from Democratic presidential hopeful and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson:

Zipped Up

Ever wonder how the numbering for U.S. zip codes works? Ben Fry shows us how it’s done.

Not Your Momma’s Instant Message Program

Red Interactive Agency is taking online communication to the next level.

Moral High Ground

Finally a high-ranking official speaks out against torture: a letter [PDF] from General David Petraeus, commanding general in Iraq, to American troops in Iraq. I sincerely hope a copy was hand-delivered to the president, vice president, and attorney general.   Quote:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we not our enemies occupy the moral high ground.

Morally Opposed

I heard this story on NPR on the drive home today: the Bush Administration is manipulating science. While I was listening to the story, I thought to myself that I’ve heard this before about the administration. So when I got home, I decided to do some digging. Well, a quick search on The Internets came up with these stories:

Quote from the last article:

In my more than three decades in the government I’ve never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public.

James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2006

Why is the Bush Administration seemingly at war with science? Simply because they don’t believe in science? This not only is shockingly irresponsible but it’s alarmingly dangerous. We’re talking about the future of our planet and life on it.

This reminds me of other service professionals refusing to do their job because they have a moral objection to something: pharmacists who deny customers birth control. I understand that not everyone can agree with everything and everyone else’s opinions, but if you refuse to do your job, that’s stepping way over the line, as that Slate article rightfully illustrates. Quote:

But if a pharmacist doesn’t have to dispense birth control, or an EMT can refuse to drive someone to an abortion clinic, or a nurse can refuse a rape victim emergency contraception, none of us can really trust in the professionals around us at those moments when we need them the most.

So let me put this in perspective with myself. I abhor Internet Explorer because of its developers’ refusal to follow web standards. You might say I’m morally opposed to it. So as a web designer/developer, does that mean I can refuse to cater to viewers of my sites who are using IE? Does that mean I can embed some script that detects if my users are browsing with IE and instead of showing them my site show them some heinous personal message lecturing them on why they shouldn’t be using IE? Absolutely not.

Do I hate that people use IE? Yes. Do I still serve them with a begrudging smile? Of course. Do I wish they were using something other than IE? You bet. My job, like pharmacists and government officials, is to serve my customers. I may not like what they like or even believe in what they believe in, but that’s not what I’m here for, and it’s certainly not what service professionals and government officials are there for.

“Not Right Now, Condi. We’ll Play Later.”

I’m not really a Will Ferrell fan, but this is absolutely brilliant.

Liberals and God-less tax-raisers are trying to make me look bad by using such things as “facts”…. Think back to Biblical times…it was hot back then. Why do you think Adam and Eve were naked?

You Know That Feeling When You Walk into a Spider Web?

When does a comic book movie become too comic-book-y? When does the incessant cheese in a film start attracting rats? Both good questions, but not better than this one: what happened to Spider-Man 3?

The first film set the stage and introduced us to the world of Peter Parker, although this film had plenty of cheese as well. The second film gave us a serious character drama wrapped up into an exciting comic book movie. The third film gives us a series of blockbuster special effects sequences and one dance number strung together by a lackluster, trying-too-hard story in the effort of passing all this off as a “film.” Sorry, Mr. Raimi, it just didn’t work.

I was turned off from the film right from the opening title sequences. They were cool, but uninspiring and all-too-familiar like we’ve seen them before in the previous two films. In fact, the beginning portion of the credits listing the main stars was, more or less, a fusion of the titles for the first two films. Nifty effects, but dripping of been-there-done-that. About half-way into the sequence, we shift pace, and we see a bunch of black ooze, the stuff that we know will turn Spidey into evil Spidey. It just kind of crawls around not inspiring at all.

These visuals are backed up by the only sound on the screen the music. Danny Elfman, the composer for the first two Spider-Man films, wrote fantastic music for the title sequence and the rest of the films. He and director Sam Raimi had a fued over music in Spider-Man 2, so Elfman left the series after that film. Enter Christopher Young, someone who is NO Danny Elfman. Young trying to work with Elfman’s music is like a a hot dog trying to taste like a lobster. It just doesn’t work. Elfman’s title sequence music channeled through Young sounds as uninspired as the black ooze sequence looks. The instrumentation is lacking, and the excitement and driving percussion apparently left with Elfman. The first and third portions of the music in the title sequence are interpolated Elfman themes; the second portion is Young’s work. Fine on its own, but it holds no water compared to Elfman’s original music. Young’s themes are too simplistic in comparison to Elfman’s more complex musical endeavors. Furthermore, the music in linear form is at best a holed, beat-up patchwork of mush painfully obvious where Elfman ends and where Young begins.

So enough about the music, yes? Well for a film music fan, this is what we listen for. Music, for me, makes or breaks a film. The music in the rest of the film didn’t necessarily break the film, but it sure didn’t save it from the numerous faults (although there was a really cool rendition of the Spider-Man theme done with a dark male choir during the church scene). As mentioned earlier, the story was not much of a story. I fear that Raimi is going the way of George Lucas and concentrating too much effort on special effects rather than fleshing out the meat of the film in storytelling and character development. The new characters we’re introduced to in this film were far too underdeveloped, and Peter and M.J. seemed out of character and, frankly, unlikable in several scenes.

The special effects were ok in some places, and obviously fake in others. The fake-ness was most obvious at the end when we see the Sandman dissolve one last time (don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away). The effects were off in this film, too easy to tell real from computer-generated.

Two final thoughts: apparently no one on the writing staff could think of anything better to do in fight sequences than drop people off buildings. One or two people don’t fall; try four or five. Think of something else to do! And finally, a dance number should never EVER be in a Spider-Man film. Period.

Yes, this film was a comic book movie. But looking at films such as Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins, there are comic book movies that are serious enough to make a great film. This film just took itself too seriously and ended up being seriously bad.

Iowa Caucus Movin’ On Up

It seems that the madness of the ever-creeping-forward primary and caucus schedule for 2008 keeps growing and growing. Iowa is likely to move their caucus forward from 14 January to 7 January, with this move coming after California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Hampshire, and many other states have all moved their primaries or caucuses forward.

The pushing forward of these elections is a serious and dangerous trend facing American politics. Gone are the days of the so-called “retail” politics, where candidates literally meet as many voters as possible in the early primary states. This system was allowed to flourish because the primaries were spread-out over several months.

Today, though, candidates must engage in “wholesale” politics, where instead of having face-to-face meetings in voters’ living rooms, candidates must spend their resources on tv, radio, and internet ads, both positive and negative, in order to reach as many voters as possible in the shortened primary season. More ads means the candidates have to raise more money; more money needed means candidates have to start campaigning earlier and earlier, hence the absurdly early presidential race we currently are trudging through.

Not only does the shortened, front-loaded system of today increase the money necessary to mount a presidential campaign, it discourages and almost inhibits anyone who is not either financially well-connected or personally well-off. Are these the people we necessarily want running the government?

In addition, the front-loaded system perpetuates a never-ending, vicious, distracting, and otherwise excruciatingly-too-long general campaign that is far more likely to turn-off voters than it is to engage them. Next year, by the end of February, over 30 states will have held their primary or caucus. That means that in both parties, the presidential nominee will have been unofficially chosen. That means that the 2008 general election campaign will last from March to November. That means that if one or both of the major parties’ candidates falter during the general election campaign or the party has second thoughts on their choice, it will be too late to choose someone else.

If American voters are already apathetic towards politics, next year will only serve to drive them further away from caring who is elected. Can America afford this? Can the future of our democracy afford this? Can the rest of the world afford this?

Something needs to be done, and it needed to be done yesterday. An astronomical 84% of eligible voters in France voted last month in the French presidential primary. In the United States, 60% voted for president in 2004, 54% in 2000. If we worry about voter turnout, a front-loaded, national primary-esque system is not the answer. The political system has gone for a long walk off a short pier, and it has taken the rest of us with it.

Campaign Kickoff

I present to you my favorite presidential campaign advertisement: