So full of floating turds, someone needs to pull the flush handle
I think we can all agree that American politics – and politicians in general in this country – has become so corrupt as to be far more than an embarrassment, but actually an abomination. Our founding fathers put together a document (our Constitution) that was – and is – nothing short of genius. They did their very best to ensure our country would not be another England, where religion was mandated by the government. They wanted us to be free to practice (or not) any religion without government interference. In addition, they endeavored to construct a system wherein the citizens would be able to protect themselves from government corruption and tyranny.
This system worked pretty well for a very long time.
Many improvements were made to our country over the last 2+ centuries. Women won the right to vote, all colors and races have earned some semblance of equality (this last election cycle has proven we have a very long way to go on this score) and recently even LGBT rights have been established. These are all excellent examples of how our system should work.
This most recent election cycle should be a source of embarrassment to every adult in this country. The complete lack of civility and subsequent explosion of hate crimes is nothing short of an abomination. Fifty years of progress went down the tubes. The entire world watched as we matched the two least-likely candidates against each other – at our expense. Two candidates that were terrible choices. We were screwed. No matter who won, we lost. This was the best we could do? Seriously?
But back to my original topic…
Unfortunately, our elected officials have cleverly subverted the brilliant system put in place by our founding fathers to their own advantage.
- Numerous politicians have had their snouts in the public trough for over three decades.
- They have established the best health care system our tax dollars can buy for themselves, meanwhile saddling us with the Affordable Care Act (which is neither affordable, nor care for many of us).
- Their children do not have to pay back their student loans. Ours do.
- Lobbyists and special interest groups line the pockets of our representatives at ridiculous rates.
- Our representatives “retire” with over $150k per year for life even after only one year of service.
- They spend 30 hours per week telephoning potential donors for campaign funds.
- They are only in session around 133 days per year. You and I work around 240 days a year.
- The average pay per representative is $174k per year. More for party leaders.
- This averages out to $163 / hr, most of which is spent trying to raise re-election funds.
So what do we do about this?
Did you know that in Iceland after a 2008 financial crash like ours, the citizens took to the streets en masse, demonstrating until the conservative Prime Minister and his entire party resigned? They jailed bankers and re-wrote their constitution to ensure this would never happen again. Haven’t heard about this? The mainstream media certainly never covered it, did they? Why do you think that is?
Again… What do we do? Several things.
- By a vote of No Confidence we recall every single elected representative.
- We try the lot for treason. A firing squad for those found guilty.
- We vote in an entirely new batch of people who swear to actually uphold the Constitution and represent us fairly.
- We eliminate the Federal Reserve which prints money faster than anyone can count it.
- We start jailing everyone responsible for the 2008 subprime lending debacle.
We put some Constitutional Amendments into place:
- Congress shall make no law which applies to citizens differently than Congress
- Repeal Citizens United
- No elected representative shall make more than 5% above the mean of their constituents as a result of their position
(sucks if you represent Appalachia – pretty good if Manhattan is your district)
- Abolish lobbyists
- Put a bounty on lobbyists
($10 an ear should be sufficient)
- Term Limits – the President remains unchanged. 6 years for everyone else.
- Establish a 3rd party. A 3 party system ensures no single party can lock up the entire process with a majority.
- Election campaigns will run exactly 6 weeks.
- No candidate pays for campaign ads.
- As a requirement for access to the public airwaves, all TV and radio stations must give a finite amount of time per week to local / national candidates for this time period. This gets a lot of the money out of the political process and levels the playing field.
- Zero tolerance for negative campaign ads. Anyone trying such tactics is disqualified.
- Replace “In God We Trust” with “E Pluribus Unum” as our national motto.
(back to the way it was prior to 1956 when religion was injected into politics)
- Remove the tax exemption for churches. These are legitimate businesses. They should pay tax on what they collect.
Separation of Church and State was something our founding fathers viewed as critical.
- Repeal outrageous tax breaks for the very wealthy that enable people like Donald Trump to pay ZERO taxes.
- Reconstruct our welfare system so those in need of help are fast-tracked out of the “system” and on to jobs that will support them and their families.
- Single payer health care should be a right, not a privilege in any developed country.
- Eliminate Common Core in public education. Start building a system that actually teaches children to learn as opposed to teaching children how to take tests.
- 2 year college degrees funded by the State.
This way we find out if someone is serious about higher education.
- 4 year plans available to those who apply themselves in a productive field.
(no free liberal arts degrees)
- College loans go back to zero interest as an incentive.
- All current college loan interest forgiven.
- Start an immediate draw-down of troops in any other country. We need to stop being at war. This is only beneficial to the military-industrial complex. President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against this in 1961. Our country benefits from war and conflict to an extent we should be ashamed of. Enough!
- Immigrants who truly want to assimilate should be welcomed. This characteristic is what made America great. Those who want to establish sub-cultures should be discouraged.
- Zero tolerance for bigotry and racism. Germany has done a pretty good job of this. We should follow their example.
I could go on a lot more (and I might), but I think this is a pretty good start.
What do you think?
Another Brick In The Wall
This is one of the latest in my Vortex series of digital art / photo-manipulation.
What I don’t usually reveal is the source material for these digital abstracts. In many cases I have even forgotten the original image I used to create them. On occasion I have to find the master file and examine the metadata to figure it out if and when the topic comes up.
Since this one is fresh in my mind, I thought I would give y’all a little insight into my process.
The original image is from the inner basement area of the old Sears Building, now known as South Side on Lamar in the heart of Dallas. I explored this area back in December of 2008 with the idea of using it for some edgy modeling photography. There are several images from the research trip that I have used, one of which is in my first coffee table book, Texas As I See It.
This is the original unedited, un-retouched image:
Photoshop manipulation is next.
- The original image is cropped to a square that contains the elements I think will achieve the desired effect.
- The square is resized to a pixel count I feel will hold up to printing up to 42″ wide for my largest editions.
- This image is enhanced to bring up detail, color and shadow / highlight detail.
- Multiple layers are created to work from.
- A master layer is twisted to a degree I think is effective for the elements in the image
- A duplicate layer is created from the new master.
- Both new master layers are edited for exposure, saturation and hue.
- Layers are tweaked for blending effects and then a master file is saved with the layers intact.
In the case of square Vortex editions, this version may be further enhanced, tuned and may have adjustment layers created to produce the final image.
In today’s illustration, I have decided I want this one as a diamond-shaped image.
- This version is then rotated 45 degrees
- It is cropped and resized again
- Brightness, exposure, saturation, dodging and burning are finalized at this point
- This is the master used to print from
- I save it as such and name it accordingly
- A new layer is added below the master and filled with white
- The master is rotated back 45 degrees for purposes of producing the preview you see below
- The preview image has its resolution changed to something appropriate for websites and email
- A drop shadow is added
- In Photoshop the Save to Web and Devices option is employed to create the efficient file size needed for web / email use
The final result is this:
Another Brick in the Wall
The most time-consuming part of this was crafting the 3 dimensional brick and blending it to achieve the effect I was after.
There are right around 370 editions of Vortex images in the collection at this time. Most of them are online to be browsed, but the complete collection is not available in one place at this time. It takes a lot of routine maintenance to keep the website up to date and I just haven’t had the time.
If you want to see more of this series, you can find a fairly complete collection at www.vividpixelz.net
You can send me an email, text or just use the old-fashioned method of picking up the phone if you have questions about this or any of my other work.
The Vortexes are in two different styles. The diamond-shape like this one and square versions. Both are designed to be displayed in a grid. They come in 24, 36 and 48 inch sizes for the square style. The diamond shapes measure 34, 48 and 60 inches when hanging.
Vortex Diamond Grid
These are the 34″ diamond vortexes
We just recently blew in a nice thick layer of insulation in our attic to decrease our energy usage and even out the temperature across the house. Prior to this we have been replacing all our lighting with LED for these reasons.
- They use less energy
- They last a lot longer
- They create almost no heat (which is very beneficial in the Texas Summer)
We have about a dozen or so of the miniature halogen GU10 fixtures throughout the house. These are very similar to the ubiquitous MR-16 bulbs that have been popular for decades, but fitted with a bayonet mount. Some are on dimmers and some are not. We like the color and style of these lights, but they use a lot of juice and create a lot of heat. But we really like the look.
All this changed after we blew in 14″ of insulation, though. The problem with the halogen bulbs is they generate a lot of heat. After you bury them with a thick layer of insulation, this heat really starts to build up – and they overheat and shut down to protect themselves. This is at best a royal pain and at worst a potential fire hazard.
This is where the search for an acceptable LED replacement started. I went through several products that were not acceptable. They were either far too dim, or the wrong color (some were actually yellow) or just cheap and subject to failure. One batch I received, though very reasonably priced, were a mix of white and yellow looking bulbs (mostly yellow) which is great if you want to look sallow and jaundiced, but not what we wanted in our kitchen. If we do a zombie themed Halloween party, we may put those back in, just for the effect…
What it comes down to is that LEDs use a lot less wattage for the same number of lum
ens of light as halogen. A 50 watt halogen bulb is pretty bright. Some manufacturers state their 4 watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 50 watt halogen. Not in my experience. Some say their 5 watt bulb is the same. Not what I found. The 6.5 watt bulbs are touted as a replacement by some vendors. Not in our application. And then there is the color temperature. Light temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, with daylight falling somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 degrees Kelvin. “Warm” lighting is somewhere in the 2,700 to 3,000 range, but this depends a lot on the design of the LED filtering employed in each manufacturer’s bulb. This is still an emerging industry and it seems to me there is a significant lack of consistency at this time.
The bulbs we finally settled on are the ones below. They are robustly constructed with excellent heat sinks and cooling, rated at 8 watts and 5,000 Kelvin for a daylight color and I really like them. They are a very white daylight-looking light, as bright as a 50 watt halogen or better and dimmable.
The heat sink assembly and bezel are a medium gunmetal gray and the bezel is ventilated to allow for airflow and cooling. It is a very nice look. These are also a 60 degree wide beam, which is a floodlight rather than a spotlight. This is perfect for our needs. If you need something more narrow like a spot, these are the wrong ones.
We finally found the ones we like and I recommend them highly. They are more expensive than halogen, but they use less energy and last a LOT longer. Amortizing in the initial cost with the effective lifespan of roughly 20 years, you are spending roughly 65 cents per year while you save a bundle on energy.
- First of all, energy is billed in Kilowatt Hours (KWH). This is 1,000 watts in use for 1 hour.
- (10) 100 watt bulbs or (20) 50 watt bulbs on for one hour would be 1 KWH
- Lets say you are paying 9 cents per KWH and have 10 of these in your home.
- That’s 500 watts you are using or 1/2 KWH.
- Let’s say you have them on for 5 hours a day.
- That amounts to 2,500 watts or 2.5KW.
- Multiply that by .09 and you get .225 or roughly 22 cents per day.
- Multiply that by 365 days and you have $82.13 in energy annually for just these 10 bulbs for 5 hours a day
Let’s do the same math for LEDs.
- At 8 watts time 10 bulbs that’s only 80 watts.
- Multiply that by 5 hours and you get 400 watts, not even half a kilowatt.
- Multiply that by 365 and you get 146 kilowatts
- Multiply that by .09 and you have $13.14 per year.
It’s a pretty significant savings, especially when you factor it in over the 20 year lifespan.
Let’s just say you’re saving $60 per year
Over 20 years, that’s a $1,200 savings.
I don’t know if this is worth it to you, but it sure is to us.
Single bulbs are $12.99 each (sounds expensive, but they last about 20 years)
Six packs are $59.99
You can also get these same bulbs in 2700 Kelvin (warm white)
But what about your conventional ceiling cans?
For retrofitting conventional downlight floods (or uplights) these are excellent. We use them for our exterior architectural lighting.
You can order these in both 5000 K (daylight) and 2700 K (soft white) depending on your requirements. These are dimmable just like a conventional incandescent bulb. We use the 5000 K bulbs for our architectural lighting because we WANT it to look like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bright white light is exactly what we want for our purposes. In addition to architectural lighting this also makes for a nice deterrent for the criminal element, as it’s like freakin’ daylight out there 24 hours a day – and the cost is ridiculously low with LED bulbs. We have our entire exterior lighting system controlled by a photocell and it works flawlessly.
A growing trend in commercial interior decorating is to have very large prints of your own building / property in a highly stylized format.
I recently assembled this gallery from one of my commercial shoots as an example of what I can do for you. This little gallery contains variations on two images of the same lobby. This will give you some ideas while illustrating the kind of work I do. Please contact me with any questions.
For all you Do-It-Yourself (DIY) guitarists out there, one of my favorite inventions in the Pick-A-Palooza. With this clever punch you can make almost any reasonable plastic sheet product into a guitar pick. This makes for a good, eco-friendly operation where you can recycle things you’d normally throw out and turn them into picks. Over time, you save a lot of money as well.
Take your old credit cards, for example. Now you can recycle them into guitar picks rather than run them through a shredder – or meticulously slice them up with a scissors to make sure no one steals your CC number.
Normal everyday things you can turn into picks:
- Credit Cards
- Clear plastic packaging (you know those things that slice YOU up while you’re trying to cut them open?)
With the Pick-a-Palooza you can’t punch things like metals, but if you’re a shredder and pretty handy, you can make aluminum picks like these with a jewelers saw and a file. It takes awhile, but I made and sold quite a few of these some time ago.
I used Reel to Reel tape flanges as my source material. Today I would just buy sheet aluminum stock and go to work with a scroll saw. If you’re interested in my signature shredder picks, drop me a line and maybe I’ll make some for you. They sound really cool!
Put up an Antenna. Save $$$ Over Cable!
I don’t know about you, but I look at our cable bill (AT&T U-Verse) and am in disbelief how much we spend for the handful of channels we actually watch. Since we never watch sports, just scrolling through the (literally) hundreds of sports channels wastes too much of my time for what we are spending. Currently we are spending over $160 per month for Internet and cable. It just seems like a ridiculous amount of money. Add that up over a year and we’re spending just shy of TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS a year on cable. I can think of a lot of other things I could spend that money on — and actually have something tangible to show for it. Or better yet, go on a nice little vacation every year.
So my bride and i discussed it and decided we could live without all the channels we never watch as long as we get the major networks. I started researching antennas and found lots of options. There are very inexpensive digital antennas for apartment dwellers that you can just stick to the wall. We have a nice large attic and I decided something higher in quality with more signal would be a good investment.
I installed an outdoor antenna in the attic, along with an amplifier (we have 4 TVs and need the extra signal) – and after a couple of hours of getting everything configured and running an new 25′ Toslink (optical digital audio) cable for our main TV, we were all set. We get over 100 channels on the newer TVs and less, but plenty of channels on the older one. The signal quality is better than cable. It’s direct, with no long distribution issues to degrade the image. We love it. And we’re saving $$$ every month. So long U-Verse!
You do need to be basically line-of-sight to the transmitter antennas. We live in North Dallas and it’s simple to point the antenna south and pick up a lot of stations. You also never have outages…
You can do the same thing too. Follow the links below for the units I used to put this together. It’s easy!
Add this amplifier / splitter if you have more than 1 TV or need to run long distances to your sets from the antenna. It provides 8db of gain out of all 4 ports and is easy to install.
As we were gearing up for our Halloween party, I wanted to make our long, L-shaped hallway into something special.
Starting with the indirect lighting that I installed several months ago, I added red gels over the ultra-white LED lighting to create a very Dante’s Inferno look. Theatrical gels would yield the best results, but they are expensive, especially when you need about 80 feet of gel that measures about 3″ wide. Fortunately my wife found exactly what we needed on her travels. Red cellophane rolls used for wrapping gift baskets is perfect. It did take about an hour to cut something like 6 strips and drag a ladder along, setting them in place. The effect was worth it though, as it created an uneven, fire-like effect.
I decided parking a fog machine in the doorway to my wife’s office was the best location, and on a tripod above the fog machine I installed a
TSSS® Disco DJ Stage Lighting LED RGB Crystal Light unit, which turned the hallway into a swirling mass of color. Very kaleidoscopic effect with the heavy layer of fog. I had the fog machine set to pulse for about 2 seconds every minute of so to keep a distinct layer of fog in the hallway.
A nice feature of this unit is that it has a standard tripod fitting on the underside, which enables mounting it almost anywhere. It comes with a plastic bracket if you want to permanently mount it — and a compact (5″ or so) flexible tripod for lightweight installations of a temporary nature. Since most of us own a tripod these days (or can pick one up cheaply) this is a great feature.
The fog machine I used is one of the professional units rated at 700 watts. I’ve used lots of the “party” level fog machines over the years, but had them all fail after one or two uses, so I decided to go the Eliminator Lighting series. These are very well made and quieter than the cheap ones.
The thing to note about these fog machines is you CANNOT use the party variety of timer controls that you buy at a Halloween store. The control voltage is entirely different. I found this unit to be perfect after contacting the very helpful people at Eliminator.
The end result looks like this:
Not that this is probably new to most people that have contacted them, but AT&T’s UVerse support is an absolute joke.
We switched from Time Warner (Toad Warthog to us) for our broadband / Television service yesterday after one too many times of having our bandwidth be inadequate to stream a movie from Amazon.com. The problem with cable-based Internet is that it is a “shared network“. What this means is that the pool of bandwidth is shared over subnets (neighborhoods) so the more people online and downloading data, the slower the speed for every user. There is a finite amount of bandwidth divided among all the users in the neighborhood. During peak usage periods (after dinner for most areas), the overall speed diminishes greatly for everyone in the neighborhood. Services like UVerse are a conventional network design where my usage does not impact that of my neighbor.
The installation went very well and everything worked properly, but the default IP address scheme for their modem / router was incompatible with our network. They have a default of 192.168.1.254 for the router address and therefore, the network will have a 192.168.1.x series of assigned IP addresses. Our network uses a different range of addresses and reconfiguring 3 network printers for the AT&T subnet – and then reinstalling each printer on every computer — is simply unacceptable.
The installer gave me the info to log into the router and I found the control panel very friendly overall. I located the configuration page to change the IP addressing scheme and proceeded to enter our network settings. Then the infernal interface DENIED the settings, saying they were not acceptable. We use a perfectly normal private network IP schema, but UVerse will not allow it on their ARRIS NVG589 router.
Before going further, let me clarify that I have been configuring routers of all kinds, including Cisco for over 20 years. It’s what I did for a living for a very long time. This should be child’s play – and normally is.
So I had to call support (I hate calling support).
Over the course of at least 90 minutes I spoke with no less than seven different people, including basic tech support, tier 2 support and their advanced La-Dee-Da tech desk (which is a pay-as-you-go option). There was no way in hell I was going to pay them to solve a problem with the interface on their router. I tried in every possible way to convey the exact nature of the problem. All but one of these people simply could not wrap their tiny minds around it. The one who could had no idea how to solve the problem other than to take control of my computer in an attempt to configure the device (not acceptable) and needed to get authorization to do this without charging me.
All but the last person had the very same speech pattern (think Coneheads — “we’re from France”). I don’t know where these people are from, but they all sound like Martians and are virtually useless from a purely technical standpoint.
I finally gave up, installed my own router and disabled the WiFi in the Uverse box. I still need to Bridge the ARRIS to streamline communication speed, but at least the network is doing what it’s supposed to do.
Pathetic – and ninety minutes of my life I can never get back.
#UverseFAIL #AT&T #routerconfig
Warren’s advice du jour:
Never email, tweet, text or post
anything you don’t want to see
on a billboard tomorrow.
If you have a home listed for sale – and you use your fireplace – listen up!
In the Winter months we use our gas fireplace every night, which keep the living area – and our cats nice and toasty. Our fireplace is retrofitted with a double U-shaped burner under a bed of multicolored glass chunks. It’s beautiful – and produces double the BTUs of a conventional gas log fireplace. It can also be deadly under just the right conditions…
We had our home inspected last week in the process of selling it.
For several nights thereafter, I noticed an unusual odor while using our gas fireplace – and the house was getting far too hot. … And we were both falling asleep in front of the TV.
Tonight after lighting the fireplace I noticed the same thing and had a hunch.
Upon checking I found the flu was CLOSED.
The home inspector hired by the buyers of our house left our flu in the closed position after checking it. (You can be sure he won’t do that again.)
Immediately I opened the flu and several windows to air out the house.
We have CO detectors in our home. It’s code almost everywhere to have these installed. The problem is, they are generally installed on the ceiling or high on a wall. By the time the carbon monoxide level reaches the detector in a high enough concentration to trigger the sensor, you are probably unconscious. By the time the alarm goes off, you are likely to be in need of O2 therapy and possibly an ER visit. Depending on your own health complications, you may be in a more serious condition than healthier folks.
We could have died from the carbon monoxide (CO) buildup.
You cannot smell CO. It is odorless and colorless – and kills numerous people every year. The odor I noticed was the fireproof paint on the flu damper as a result of it being super-heated.
Always check your flu after a home inspection if you regularly use your fireplace.