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Welcome to The blog of whall

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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

January
6
2010
1:55 pm
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I saw this link on Twitter a couple of days ago.  Or maybe it was Facebook. Or maybe it came to me while looking at the pattern of bird droppings on my workplace window. 

I’d not heard of Barry Nalebuff before, but I really enjoyed this ~1hr long presentation he gave about innovation, ingenuity and general insights on solving problems.

 
Watch it on Academic Earth

I can say for sure I’ll never eat a banana the same way again.

Barry & Co runs an Open Source Idea site called http://whynot.net. When I get some more time I plan on spending a little bit over there to participate. I’ve been thinking that idea and innovation could easily be something opened up to the masses, so I’m glad someone acted on it.

December
17
2009
10:08 am
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For the most part, I’m not a fan of big government.  I don’t like intrusion into privacy, overly regulated industries, or yet-another-piece-of-legislation that makes mankind all the more administratively burdened.  Part of it is the overhead (and therefore, inefficiency) and part of it is a deeply-rooted fear of Big Brother combined with the lack of trust of humans in general, that there is the inherent likelihood that someone in power is going to do bad things to keep and grow their power.

Of course, not all legislation is bad.  There are some (decidedly few) laws that help us prosper, protect the little guy, and direct our nation into becoming a large self-sustaining body of rugged individuals.  Part of the ongoing struggle of a democracy is how we balance the two.

scales_of_justice

I’m not sure if “Truth in Labeling” is an actual law or not, but it seems I’ve heard something about FDA this or EPA that which required food to have consistent and accurate labeling.  For example, a product could not claim to cure cancer, and even if it did, it couldn’t be a food – it would have to be a drug.  The list of ingredients on a particular food must, by law, be put in order of content such that the first item listed represents the largest percentage of a single component.

In fact, I tweeted a picture recently of a Burger King icing packet and saw how they found all these ways of saying “Sugar”.

sugar

Lessee… Four different types of sugar!  liquid sugar, icing sugar, glucose, and… wait for it… sugar.  I feel like Bubba is there extolling all the different ways you can make Shrimp.  Wonka Gump, if you will.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I found a candy maker who is NOT afraid to comply fully with the Truth in Labeling law.  They are NOT trying to hide, obfuscate or otherwise distract you from the TRUTH.  We have here, ladies and gentlebloggers, a company who upholds the honor, integrity and trust we so timidly place in our corporate giants.

I now give you – the – Best.  Wrapper.  Ever.

scorpion-closeup

Since I know some of you respond poorly to pictures of icky nasty creatures found in nature (my tarantula videos and pictures come to mind), I’ll put the other pictures of this Scorpion Sucker in the extended entry, below.

VIVE LA LABELING!

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I’ve been an AT&T customer for a long time.  A looooong time.  Even back when I had the Telegraph Rollover plan.  I’ve been with them so long, I still have support for my two-cans-with-a-string phone.

Because of this, I’m very familiar with dropped calls.

I have enjoyed Verizon’s “There’s a Map for That” commercials showing the horrible, despicable and downright truthful discrepancies between the Verizon 3G network and the AT&T 3G network

Heh.  There’s even a lawsuit as reported by ZDNet.  The story Sam Diaz wrote is pretty funny and interesting.

Now, when it comes down to it, I really don’t care much about the Verizon map because 99.9% of the time, I’m in one of the dark blue AT&T parts.  Austin is pretty well saturated with 3G coverage, and it wasn’t long ago when I had a BlackBerry 8700C phone, and it only supported EDGE anyway.  Now that I’m on the iPhone 3GS, 3G coverage is more important to me, but in general I’m pretty happy with it.

Except in this one place.

This ONE, solitary intersection. 

This ONE AREA where I drive every day to and from work. 

THIS SPECIFIC DOT ON THE MAP WHERE I DROP MY CALL NO MATTER WHAT.

Yes, I’m sore about it.  A little.

I had heard that you can report to your cell provider dropped calls or problem areas, and if they have enough reports, they’ll investigate.  Who knows, they might actually DO something to fix it.

So I called in, waded through the options to figure out which one would help (hint: it’s zero, then zero again) and talked to the nice lady.  She did say that yes, I can report it and confirmed what I had heard.  So I reported it.  She let me know that she checked on the map and there was a transition point right there where calls would switch towers, and “sometimes calls drop when switching towers.”

Thanx for letting me know.

I also submitted the following email to their support team to hopefully hit home a little more.

This issue is not related to my specific phone, but I couldn’t find the option in the drop down. This issue involves dropped calls at a specific intersection. The intersection is Anderson Mill road and Millwright Parkway in Austin, TX, 78750. I’ve driven in this area for 20+ years, and ever since I’ve been with AT&T (8+ years), coverage at this intersection is spotty and usually results in dropped calls. It does this with my iPhone (3G), blackberry 8700C(edge), motorola RAZR, and the various phones I’ve had over the years. Since I drive this every day to and from work, I can count on a dropped call at that intersection.  It is very annoying. I’d love it if it could be tweaked to not drop calls every time.

YOUR MISSION, should you choose to accept it, is to also contact AT&T and let them know calls drop at this intersection all the time.  If you’re not in the Austin area, just say you were talking to Wayne and got dropped, and it annoyed you greatly.  If you’re not an AT&T customer, tell them you’d consider becoming a customer if they fixed that intersection.  You can contact them at http://www.att.com/wireless/contact-us/ or call 800-331-0500.

With our loud Internet voice, we can bring change!

This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds.

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As I’ve grown older, I’ve grown more skeptical. 

I hear politician’s lies, and I sigh.  I pick apart their carefully chosen words and attempt to figure out “the real truth” based on the specific choices they make with their adjectives and “clarifying words”.  It’s like the Devil is speaking, because as Piers Anthony put it in his great book “For Love of Evil”, the best lies are sandwiched firmly between two truths.  The Devil doesn’t always lie; he actually tells the truth most of the time.  It’s when he lies that makes the difference.

In fact, one can tell the complete truth and still effectively lie.

As they say, the Devil is in the details.  It’s in the qualifying words one uses to further distinguish and refine the meaning, even to the point where it makes it more vague.  Be it a pronoun that can be taken multiple ways, or an unspoken assumption; there are countless ways to hide the truth.

Remember Pirates of the Carribean?  Curse of the Black Pearl?

At one point in the film, Captain Barbossa agrees to Will Turner’s terms of surrender, which is to set his companions free.  When it appears to Will Turner that Barbossa went back on his promise, Barbossa quickly explains he promised to set them free, and he’ll keep to his word (because not keeping your word will bring back luck to your ship), but it was Will Turner who failed to specify when or where.

Classic. In his case, it’s the lack of qualifying details that gives Barbossa what he wants without lying about it.  However, sometimes you can get information (or at least more healthy suspicion) from the details that are provided.

Take this milk carton for instance. 

milk

Seems like a harmless, instructive carton of milk that makes you feel safe that no nasty hormones were used with the cows that produced the tasty treat contained inside.

With the keen, skeptical mind I possess, however, I dissect the Growth Hormone badge they presume to use to make me, the consumer, more at ease with my purchase.  But it just makes me wonder what the real truth is.

Here are my thoughts when I see this kind of badge.

  • “Our Farmers Pledge”
    Ah, the promise of a promise.  Note they they don’t come out and say “This product has no growth hormones” or even the shorter “No growth hormones.”  They say that their farmers pledge that there aren’t any.  For one, what’s a pledge, anyway?  Secondly, do the farmers go about injecting hormones, or do scientists?  Since when do farmers know anything about chemicals?  Farmers farm.  And as far as we know, the hormones might be in there, but the farmers just don’t know about it.  If the company is found out to have the hormones, it’s the farmers that get the shaft, not the scientists or executives.
  • No artificial growth hormones
    So then I hit the word “artificial” and wonder why they stuck that word in there.  Did they add it to increase confidence that something bad (presumably anything artificial) isn’t in there, or is it that growth hormones ARE given to the cows, but the hormones just aren’t artificial?  Are they putting in natural hormones instead?
  • Asterisked
    The almighty asterisk.  How many lies have been sold to the public with this unwitting ally?

I just don’t know what to believe.  I did a little googling (probably one of the most dangerous things on the planet to someone who thinks they know but know nothing (I’m talking about me here) ) and found this tasty little nugget.

The hormone of greatest concern to critics and whistleblowers is not bovine growth hormone, however, but insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which occurs naturally in both cows and humans. IGF-1 causes cells to divide and is one of the most powerful growth hormones in the body. Cows injected with rbGH have higher levels of IGF-1, and elevated levels of the hormone have been linked to cancer.

And it goes on

A Harvard study of 15,000 white males revealed that those with elevated IGF-1 levels in their blood were four times more likely to get prostate cancer than the average man. The report says, “administration of GH [natural human growth hormone] or IGF-1 over long periods…may increase risk of prostate cancer.”

Somehow I wonder if the people responsible for making this “natural growth hormone” are the same people making prostate pills.

There’s even a lawsuit against the people who use this label by the one producer of artificial growth hormone.  Imagine that – suing over deceptive labeling.

I now open up the comments to anyone wanting to submit a good cow or milk pun.

I’ve written about this before, and on this Veteran’s Day I again urge you to read about it and act.

Help a soldier.

Help him or her to call home while stationed overseas. 

You might not realize it, but despite Skype, VOIP, massive military funding, advances in telecommunication and ubiquitous cell phones, our servicemen and women still don’t have the ability or means to call home as much as they’d like.  It is for that reason that 590KLBJ radio runs Operation Call Home – donate a dollar, a few dollars, or the cost of a night out to directly purchase calling cards for our troops.

operation-call-home-2

operation-call-home

Thank you, Dad.  Thank you, granddaddy Rex.  Thank you to my uncles and extended family who served.  Thank you, Veterans.

I’ve got a mobile home (double-wide, to be exact) to fix up and sell. 

As some of you know, we recently moved to a new home here in Austin and now I need to prepare the old homestead for sale and move-out.   (pics and video are forthcoming, I promise).

Good thing I have the promise of knowing that hardworking, honest people who care are out there.  And it’s nice to know they are painfully honest.

I have an appointment with a handyman to come out next week and give me a bid on doing some work here and there – power wash the outside, rebuild a couple sections of flooring that got wet, fix some walls, lay down some vinyl tile – you know… stuff.  

Stuff I’d do myself if I had time.  Don’t even get me started on the cleaning that has to happen.

You see, the work itself is something I find fun and rewarding, but I just don’t have the time.  I’m the type of guy who likes to learn how to do something – just about anything – once.  I’ve changed my own oil – once.  I’ve rebuilt a carburetor – once.  I’ve laid tile, installed carpet, put up a dividing wall, poured concrete, dug a fire pit, changed my tires, installed a garbage disposal, painted a house, replaced heating elements in a water heater, built a computer from as scratch as you can get, installed a level brickstone walkway, resurfaced furniture and raised a couple of kids (well, halfway so far).  These are things I’m glad I know how to do, but I don’t want to do them every time, or very often.

Once is enough for most of it.

Now that I think about it, it’s not just about the fact that I don’t have the time.  It’s about efficiency, too.  Sure, it’s good to know how to do a lot of things… it helps you learn, you become smarter, more self-reliant, and if nothing else, you know how to spot a bad job when you see it.  But people who do things for a living are usually better, faster and more efficient than someone who just does it the first couple of times.  So while I know how to change my own oil, when *I* do it, it’s a mess and it takes me about 5 times as long as someone who does it every day.

About the only thing left is to figure out how to set up little mini-services for people who A) absolutely have the time to do a specific chore and B) have the money to pay for the chore to be done but C) want no part whatsoever in doing the chore (or) might do a horrible job at it. 

The example I’m thinking of right now is puppy dog poop stains.  I just want to call someone out to clean it up and clean it up right.  Sure, I have the time.  Sure, I have some of the right equipment.  But I know that there are people who are much better at doing that kind of stuff and won’t leave such a stain.  They can go door-to-door with a backpack-steam-vac and make the carpets look like new instead of like mushed up plastic swirlies.

Sigh. I guess it’s the price I pay until we can get a doggy door installed at the new house.

He sure is cute, though.

tigger

It’s official.

Ren and I are going to Vegas for our birthdays this December. 

If I had the time and inclination, I’d photoshop our faces into this apropos movie poster.  I’m still trying to figure out which of us would be which actor. 

Both of us have birthdays in December, and we were chatting it up during pool league how we need to do another road trip. You know, like our TequilaCon 2009 road trip where we took video but I never made a DITL, er I mean RITL (Roadtrip In The Life) for it?  *THAT* kind of road trip.

Then it hit us that we should go to Vegas. 

Turns out there’s already a big blogger birthday bash going on during my actual birthday (Saturday the 12th), and there are a million or so bloggers going.  So after comparing flights, holiday vacation travel for the Halls (what I like to call Hall-iday travel), vacation time from work and hotel options, we made our plans.

Friday the 11th to Monday the 14th.   Join us!

What makes the accommodations especially cool is my RCI membership – we snagged an entire week at a resort for pretty cheap.  We’re not staying the whole week, but it ended up being cheaper than a hotel would have cost per night during the days we’ll be there, AND we get a full kitchen.

The blogger bash is going on at Planet Hollywood and place we chose to stay at is just a couple blocks from there.  Ren’s not on Facebook, but so far out of the 40+ people confirmed attending, I only recognize two faces, and one of them is mine.

attending

So I will finally be able to meet Adam. 

I wonder.  Is the blogosphere ready for us to meet?

Here’s the official (is it official? it LOOKS official) link and picture that includes the obligatory Elvis, coming from the folks I’ve never heard of at Room 704.  All I know about them is that they are women and drinking is somehow involved.  What more can you ask for?

October
26
2009
9:39 am
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Over the last month or so, I’ve gotten a new job and a new house.

The new job? AWESOME.  I love the new challenges, the new company, the new product, and the future that comes with it.

The new house? AWESOME.  All four of us (ok, six including the dogs) have something we absolutely LOVE about the new house.  For me, it’s the 3car garage with a workbench + 2 attics.

I’m also attending a Transformation Boot Camp twice a week that should land me a new body in a few months.  I’ll let you know how that works out. (get it? work out?  HAHAHAH)

My old commute was right about 12.5 miles.  There were other ways I could travel to possibly avoid some traffic, but it usually ended up right about the same length of time – 25-30 minutes.

commute-before

The new commute is… actually, right about 12.5 miles also. 

commute

Today’s rain turned the commute that’s normally 20-25 minutes into a 50-60 minute one.  In fact, I never got higher than 3rd gear on the way in.  You know it’s going to be a long 12.5 miles if you never hit 4th gear.

Which brings me to the clutch.  Every time I change into 5th gear, it grinds.  The mechanic told me I’d probably have to consider replacing the clutch soon, so I guess I’m not too surprised.

So, I guess that’s my point for today.  I have a car that grinds when it gets into 5th gear, and the Universe threw me a nice rainy day that made sure I never got close to using it.

Thank you, Universe.

Pessimists suck.

I was thinking today how… if I wanted to, if I *really* wanted to, I could be unhappy. 

I thought – if I concentrated hard enough, I could find a ton of things to be upset about.  Things to complain about.  Things to ruin my day or my week.  Things that could ruin my life if I let them.

Have you heard of gratitude journals?  I believe Oprah is a fan of them.  You’re supposed to write down the things every day that you’re thankful for.  I’ve never tried it myself, but have heard the wonders it does for people who are depressed or unhappy.

Since I’m so happy all the time, I wonder what would happen if I decided to start a complaint journal.  You know, for balance.

I could dwell on the fact that I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.  Two hundred and seventy-five pounds of blogging muscle.

I could lament that I’m not at #avitaween this weekend like all the cool bloggers.

There are personal issues that could seriously weigh on me if I let them.  I don’t disclose them on the blog.

I owe a lot. In many ways to many people, and not just financial.

My feet itch.

There’s more politics to rile me up than ever before in my life, and it feels like the entire news media, the government, the blogging world, and most of my friends are against me and my principles.

I went without internet at our new house for a full week. Also, AT&T’s 3G coverage at our new house is horrible compared to our old house.

I forgot to set FastForward to record for my wife.  Now we’re weeks behind.

We still don’t have jet packs.

There are at least 3 jobs in my past that had I taken them when offered, I’d be a millionaire now.  I have 2 jobs in my past that I took a year too late and missed out on a million dollars.

My car’s muffler / tail pipe scrapes the bottom of our new driveway because of the incline.

I have health concerns. 

I’ve had to spend > $1000 on our two cars for maintenance, and I have at least another $1500 that needs to be spent, but we can’t right now.  $320 of it was for a leaking gas tank, and they just had to replace one little rubber grommet, but it costs that much anyway.

I still don’t have the game room TV cable hooked up, and we’ve been in our new house a week.

A road I drive every day will be moving from 2 lanes to 1 lane for 19 months while the government spends unneeded TARP stimulus money to pay workers to rebuild a bridge that doesn’t need rebuilding.

Speaking of driving every day, I used to work from home.  A LOT.  Now I have to go into work with 0% teleworking.  That means an additional $100-200/mo on gas expense.

I took a new job where I’m not the man in charge any more.  No clout, no history, no old-timer’s advantage.

That’s a lot of stuff, and I’m just disclosing or hinting at things that I’m comfortable saying on my blog.  If you know me and my blogging style, then you know there’s a lot more reality behind the scenes.

These were complaints off the top of my head.  Yet, I can easily come up with ten times as many things to be thankful for.  And it’s easy for me. 

In fact, it’s usually all I think about.  I keep being amazed at how lucky I am in life.  Everywhere I turn, I’m impressed with something.  There’s always something to make me smile.

Why don’t others have an easy time with it? Is it just perspective?

Despite all those things I listed above, I’m having one of the best days of my life today.

Here’s one of the reasons.  I found this on Iron Fist’s blog and I love it.

I’m so easy.

I bet you thought I meant DM as in “Direct Message” didn’t you?

direct-message

No.

I mean Demitri Martin.

I’ve really come to love more and more things on my iPhone and one of the most recent ones is the AOL Radio app.  AOL Radio is like XM or Sirius or a radio station but goes over this magical thing I like to call “the Internet.”  It streams in different stations, like Rock, Pop, All Beatles, Sports, Talk, Politics, Country, or whatever has a station.  There are millions of stations (sort of). 

There are a couple of stations in my AOL Radio “favorites” list that are Comedy specific – AOL Comedy Classics and AOL Comedy Attack!

aol-radio

Now, Faiqa, Avitable and you other liberals, please don’t get all freaked out about the AOL Progressive channel. It’s *not* what you think it is.

Here are some videos for your enjoy to see if Demitri is up your alley or not.  I’m giving you two options because you might be busy and want a shorter one.

(and yes, the 2nd one has a couple bad words in it, and has a couple repeat jokes from the first one.  I consider this the extent of my responsibility in warning you since my blog is PG-13 rated.)

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