Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Local school bans homework

Click on the image to see the news video

A few days ago, the news reported a local elementary school has banned homework and other schools in the area are following suite. If only that happened when I was in school!

Proponents say homework causes students undo stress leading to cheating and substance abuse plus it takes away from family time and fun. Others say homework instills responsibility and promotes what students learned in the classroom.

What do you think? Will students get into trouble for having extra time on their hands or is this the right thing to do?

- AV

(Note: Image borrowed from Ealing School Library in Canada)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cingular's Semantics Rip-Off

[Begin Rant]

I am so mad that I just have to get this off of my chest!!!

I purchased a Samsung Blackjack phone in December and was offered a "PDA" data plan by the Cingular salesperson for $39.99 a month. Now that I have done some investigation of my own and talked to other Blackjack owners, I found out I could instead be on the "MediaMax 200" Smartphone plan for only $19.99 a month which does EXACTLY* the same thing as the $39.99 plan PLUS it gives me 200 free text messages. Everyone calls the Blackjack a Smartphone except for Cingular who wants owners to pay $20 extra per month. They figure only business people would buy the Blackjack so let's just gouge them.

Over the weekend, I called Cingular customer service to change my plan to the "MediaMax 200" Smartphone plan. Today I read that Cingular is cracking down on this migration. I hurriedly called Cingular to change my husband's PDA plan to the MediaMax 200 plan. At first, I was connected to the Cingular Business customer service and he refused to change the plan and said his system would not allow him to do so. I hung up on him and called back to make sure I was not connected to Cingular Business and I was able to change it without any problems.

Unfortunately, I heard Cingular is going through their system and forcing all their Blackjack owners into the PDA plan. This sounds illegal to me and think a class action lawsuit might just be on the horizon.

Just as a point of reference, of all the things I read...

  • A smartphone uses Microsoft Mobile software and is a phone with PDA capabilities.

  • A PDA uses PocketPC technology and is essentially a PDA with phone capabilities which uses a touchscreen or stylus. The Blackjack does not have touchscreen nor stylus capabilities.

The Blackjack uses the Microsoft Mobile software and even Microsoft calls this device a smartphone!

[End Rant]

- AV

*One difference that I'm aware of is the PDA plan allows a laptop to connect to the Blackjack as a modem.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bidding Adieu

My good friend Gina and her boyfriend, John, threw a going away party this past weekend. She and John purchased a 3 bedroom/2 bath house with 1 acre of land in Crooked River Ranch*, Oregon a few months ago. The picture above is what I bought for her going-away/new home present.

1st panel reads: "Home is where your story begins"

2nd panel reads: "May your wall know joys; may every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibilities."

I met Gina at the camera club back in 2004 and she and several other members were really friendly which got me to join the club. Now she is moving 9 hours north of here; however, has extended an offer for us to come up to visit her whenever we want to after they're settled in. Her house has a beautiful view of a golf course and the Cascade Mountains. She will have lots of opportunities to take scenic photos, but I don't know if I can live in a small town with only 4000 people and far away from any stores. I guess I'm just a city gal.

- AV

*Photo by Thomas O'Keefe

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oh Yum!

Sorry to spoil your meal, but check out this eatery in New York City! It looks like these little chubby critters have been hanging out there for awhile. Do they taste like chicken?

For the full video using Windows Media Player, go to HERE.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What's up with this?

I saw this car the other day while I was on the freeway and I just had to take a picture of it with my cell phone. What was this guy thinking graffiting his own car? Would you drive this car?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What would you invent if it was possible?

Aside from world peace, poverty/starvation/disease/crime elimination, if only it was possible, here's my wishlist of inventions... (this is what happens when I have too much time on my hands at work).

Do you have any to add or improve on to "my inventions"?

  • Automatic Dinner Maker - it decides what I should eat each night from a list of pre-selected menu items and cooks the meals up to a family of 6.

  • Self Cleaning Bathroom - shut the bathroom door, press a button to automatically scrub, clean, and dry the shower, tub, toilet, sink, floor simultaneously.

  • WashDryer - place all your dirty close in the washer and when its done, it dries the clothes in the same machine.

  • Telemarketer Bonker - when a telemarketer calls, their phone automatically hits them over the head.

  • Slowsky Mover - slow moving drivers are automatically beamed to the side of the road until competent drivers pass them.

  • Lincoln Log Evaporator - droppings from pets evaporate immediately before they hit the ground.

  • Spam Mail Responder - every spam mail ever sent from a spammer is returned back to them on a daily basis.

  • Clock Stopper - make time stand still if you're late to work or to an appointment and return it back to normal after you have reached your destination. Or, another use is to have the alarm ring when you're ready to get up.

  • Gym Slim - buy a membership to a gym and you automatically slim down to your appropriate weight, look buff, and stay healthy without having to work out.

  • Hair Perfect Gel - a little dab and your hair stays perfect even in a category 5 hurricane.

  • Nutritious Junk Food - potato chips, cookies, pies, cakes, fries, chocolate, ice cream, ...etc. created to taste like they should, but have the same nutrients as low cal fruits and vegetables.

  • Rid-A-Cold Pill - medicine that will prevent colds for life.

  • Garbage-to-Fuel Converter - machine that will transform all your household garbage to gas for your automobile. Any extra gas you have can be sold to the oil companies at a premium.

  • I-Robot - a twin replacement of yourself you can send to the office when you don't feel like going to work.

  • Excretion System Transplant - replace the human excretion system with those similar to dogs (without the tail) so there is no need to use toilet paper.

  • All Temp Bodysuit - an invisible neck to toe suit with a controllable temperature gauge that can be worn under a swimsuit to winter overcoat. Only you will know you're wearing one.

This is all I can come up with at the moment.

- AV

Monday, February 19, 2007

Presidents' Day

As a child, I remember Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays as 2 separate holidays. Those were the days. Now I have to work during the Presidents' Day combo. I guess the last 2 companies I worked for didn't consider this a major holiday. It just feels so unpatriotic and un-American.

Has anyone gotten the new George Washington $1 coin yet? It was just released last week with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison coming out later this year. I believe the coins are the size as the Sacagawea Dollar, but with edge lettering. The Presidential Dollars will be issued at the rate of four per year until all of the U.S. Presidents have been featured, currently expected to be the year 2016. Presidents who had more than one consecutive term will only get one coin, but the one President who served two non-consecutive terms, Grover Cleveland, will be featured twice. Living Presidents will not be coined; Presidents must be deceased for two years before they are eligible.

Probably more than you wanted to know.

- AV

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Igor, Welcome to America

My friend who doesn't like kids has been touting about her new nephew her brother & sister-in-law are adopting from Kazakhstan. It took the family several days to get to the city of Arkalyk where the orphanage is located. As you can see from the photo, they will be adopting 4-year old Igor. Isn't he precious? Since he will be living in the Atlanta area, his family has renamed him Corey.

- AV

Valentine's Day Stories, Anyone?

Did anyone celebrate Valentine's Day? Sorry, but it's always hilarious to me to see so many men hovering around the card section of a store around Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day was just another day to me. Why do I say this? Because you and your spouse/significant other are suppose to be good to each other 365 days a year and not just 1 day a year. Just my opinion.

Anyways, I ended up watching "Departed" which just came out on DVD. The movie was violent and so-so, but it is nominated for Academy Awards in "Best Picture", "Best Director", and "Best Supporting Actor" categories.

Here's a trailer snagged from "Moviefone"...

- AV

Monday, February 12, 2007

At the studio

Clare Mullins hosts her own show on the local community KMTV television channel. I met her last week during my first video club meeting when she asked for volunteers to help her prepare for her show this past weekend. I was the only one who signed up from the club. I didn't know what to expect, but here's what I got to do... I helped her buy snacks, moved lots of stuff from her car into the studio in the pouring rain, helped copy photos onto a CD, arrange the studio layout, take photos, network with other volunteers, ...etc. 2-1/2 hours were spent preparing for the 1/2 hr. show, but it went by quickly and I had great fun.

The show is called "Colorful Journeys of Success" where Clare's 2 guests were Sydell and Valentina. She never mentioned their last names. They must be the Chers and Madonnas of the decorating world. :P

Sydell's paintings are painted in such a way that they can be arranged vertically, horizontally, or diagonally on a wall. And, Valentina is an interior designer, not decorator. There is a big difference between the two jobs which I realized after she explained it in detail. Valentina has such a colorful past. As she explained on the show, her strict Italian father forbade her to enter into the arts when she was growing up because one really couldn't make any money so she was forced to study the sciences (I forgot whether it was biology or chemistry.) In any case, soon after her father passed away, she began to study fashion design and spent many years in that industry before her clients urged her to re-decorate their homes as well. At that point, she began to study interior design. This is where she sketches a new layout of your house and/or room and hires contractors to do the physical labor.

Anyways, I found out by talking to the camera crew that I, too, could operate the cameras whenever I want if I take a short course at the studio. Of course, there wouldn't be any pay because it's a non-profit station, but it would be great fun and experience. Hmmm, I might have to take them up on their offer. Just what I need, to be involved in yet another project.

- AV

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Look who I met last night

The Ampex video tape recorder team from 1956 (l to r: Fred Pfost, Shelby Henderson,Ray Dolby, Alex Maxey, Charles Ginsburg & Charles E. Anderson)

I went to my first video camcorder club meeting last night and joined. One of the members and speakers, Fred Pfost, was a television pioneer who invented the video tape machine back in the 1950's at Ampex Corporation. Before this invention, there was only live television. For example, if they broadcasted an evening news program in the east coast, it wasn't realistic for the station to show the same live program in the west coast during the middle of the day; thus, the invention of the video tape machine to repeat the same show later in the day. Yes, they were huge and they weighed over 1000lbs.

Fred told the story with tears in his eyes as he reminised about television's early days. He used to travel around the U.S. demoing the recorder to different broadcast stations. As Fred described it, when the audience realized they were watching a taped program for the first time, they literally jumped for joy from their chairs like little children. CBS went on the air with the first videotape delayed broadcast on the "Douglas Edwards and The News" show on November 30, 1956 from Los Angeles.

I regretted not having my camera with me last night as Fred showed off the Emmy he won in 2005 during the National Television Academy's "Lifetime Achievement in Technology & Engineering".

- AV

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Beantown here I come

Hubby is going to Boston next month for a conference and I'll be tagging along since I have never been before. I originally had reservations because it's still winter and it's freakin' freezing over there, but this is a good opportunity.

I spent the morning checking out their subway system, where to go, and what to do. I have 3 full days so I'm planning on a 1-day trip taking the Old Town Trolley which gives a narrated 2 hour tour and on-off privileges at 17 sites. The other days will be roaming around at the Faneuil Marketplace, New England Aquarium, and Harvard University campus.

As long as it doesn't snow, I think I might be able to live with the below 30 degree weather. :O I'll be the bundled up roly-poly on the tour bus. Who is crazy enough to be on vacation in such harsh weather?

Although I do remember volunteering to visit our Toronto office during the dead of winter while I worked at Sun Microsystems. I had a chance drive in a snow blizzard for the first time and visit the partially frozen Niagara Falls.

- AV

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I just purchased these Iris' for Jackie's memorial service on Saturday. What do you think? Whenever I purchase flowers for such an occasion, they always seem inadequate.

- AV

Friday, February 02, 2007

Remembering Jackie

When I started this blog, I intended it to be something else than what it is turning out to be. I guess life is just funny that way.

I'm slowly getting over my cold and actually went to sleep right after an early dinner last night. Unfortunately, my spirits aren't very high due to this nagging cough. In any case, when I opened my email box this morning, hit me like a ton a bricks...

Someone had sent me a blog about my former neighbor's 5 month struggle with brain tumor, a battle which she lost just last night. She leaves behind a young son and fortunately in the hands of caring family members who will take care of him.

Jackie was a quiet and unassuming single mom who lived about a block away from us. Because we lived in a homeowner's association, we along with 318 other homes in the area were all connected to the same community. Even back then when she was healthy, she always seemed frail as if she would break. Her pride and joy was her son. They both adored each other. During our community get-together's, she would always offer to donate her beautiful soy candles and scrapbook making items to be used as raffle prizes.

I think the last time we spoke was through email over 18 months ago. We both applied for employment to the same company and we wished each other luck. I never followed up with her to see what was the outcome. After that, I moved away and never stayed in touch, but I will always remember her generosity when we were neighbors.

If anyone is interested, here is the blog written by Jackie's brother about her ordeal.

Jackie's Journey

- AV