Monthly Archives: July 2010

Confessions of a Facebook games addict

They say for your blog to gain a loyal following, you need to update it consistently. Ummm… I think I’ll just appreciate the few readers I do have, since consistent doesn’t seem to be in my vocabulary.

The Japanese theme really whet my appetite for restaurant design. It's a work in progress at this point. No, I don't have a social life.

Anyway, I’m blaming my lapse of posting on a new Facebook game I’ve gotten hooked on. That’s right. I’m one of those Facebook people. The ones posting requests for help building a chop shop on Mafia Wars, looking for ingredient trades on Restaurant City, or asking for help building a temple on My Empire.

If you’re one of my Facebook friends, I probably annoy you.

I am aware of how much I might be spamming your news feed. Really, I am. I try not to be too obnoxious in my posting. I don’t make the “brag” posts when I complete a dish or finish building a wonder or level up. I try to only post when I need help to advance in the game. Unfortunately for my friends’ feed, it’s a necessary evil.

That’s the one thing I don’t like about Facebook games — the social aspect. How you have to have so many “friends” if you really want to advance in the game. Granted, there are some games on Facebook that don’t require having friends who also play, but they seem to be few and far between. (Or boring.)

Oh, I know, logically, why the game developers want it this way. To get more people to play their game and to possibly spend money along the way. They’re a business and it’s in their best interest to get more people to play. I get that. But at the same time I hate that I have to spam my friends’ news feed with constant requests for help.

This is where I wish Facebook could separate application feeds from status updates, link posts, “like” announcements, etc. I may be wrong, but I vaguely recall being able to do this when I first joined Facebook. Being able to choose which kinds of updates you see on your news feed would be so helpful to everyone. But seeing how little Facebook listens to its users, I doubt that feature will ever be available.

I like Facebook games, and I joke about being an “addict,” but the truth is, I don’t really think I am that addicted to them. I go for days sometimes without logging in to check on the status of my restaurant workers. I haven’t played Mafia Wars much in over a week (because it’s just becoming a little too frustrating) (as frustrating as a game that takes no real effort to play can be). I like Facebook games because they’re (mostly) simple, and best of all, they’re free. I don’t need an expensive game system to design my own island country, and I don’t need to pay an outlandish price to install a treasure hunting app.

That’s not to say I haven’t ever spent money on these games. I have. Twice. But each time was a very small amount and over a year apart. I got taken in by some of the fancier items you have to spend real money to get, but not to an extreme. Certainly not $1400 worth of virtual items. I’ve spent far, far more on Webkinz. I don’t think the piddly little amounts of real cash I’ve paid for these games qualifies me as an addict. Maybe temporarily insane, but I had fun at the time, and my checkbook wasn’t exactly dented. One Wii game would cost more than what I paid to buy exclusive items for my virtual restaurant.

So until I get bored with my restaurant and my empire and digging for buried treasure, I’ll continue to annoy my friends list with game posts. And I am sorry for that. But I get a kick out of designing crap, apparently. (Not that you could tell from looking at my actual life.) And to satisfy that craving to design, I have to be one of those annoying Facebook people. So, to my friends on Facebook who continue to remain my friend, even though I’m one of those people, I’m both sorry for spamming you and grateful to you for keeping me around.

(Facebook tip: You can block these posts from showing on your feed. When you see an update from one of the many game applications, hover your mouse over it. A “Hide” button will appear. Click that, then click “Hide [Application Name].” (Or click “Hide [user]” but then you wouldn’t be able to read any of my witty posts. Wait… forget I said that.)

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Friday Five: No love for Vader

So, all hell broke loose in my little town this week, which, while fun, was quite distracting. Also, many of my Twitter folks are at San Diego Comic Con this week. (I hate you all.) (OK, not really.) So my Internet goodies were slim this week. But I managed to dig up five fun things to share.

A real Sith Lord would have used a lightsaber. Or the Force.

1. It’s hard out there for a Sith

Even the mighty Galactic Empire doesn’t seem to be immune from the current economic crisis. Times must be really tough if Darth Vader has had to resort to holding up banks. Or maybe someone’s just trying to pin this crime on Lord Vader, since no self-respecting Sith lord would deign to use a gun, especially one that wasn’t even a holdout blaster.

Source: Gothamist

2. Geeks vs. WBC

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you know how much I love to hate dislike a lot Westboro Baptist “church.” I believe they are nothing more than cowardly, bullying publicity whores. So when they decided to show up and picket Comic Con, well, you can guess how well that sat with my fellow geeks and geekettes. The counter-protest was truly epic. Rock on, my fellow nerds.

Source: Techland

3. New Spice

I have proclaimed my everlasting love for the Old Spice Man on more than one occasion. (Honestly, I think he’s ruined anyone else for me.) But this parody promoting the Harold B. Lee Library is pure genius. Old Spice Man, you have my heart, but New Spice Guy, you speak to my intellectual side. ❤

Source: hbllproduction on YouTube

4. MOAR DOCTOR!

I love geek shirts. But, if you know me, you know that I have a hard time finding ones that fit because of, erm… well, let’s just say they don’t always fit right across the chest. So whenever I can, I show off my geek pride in other ways… keychains, cookie jars and jewelry. So you can imagine how much I drooled over Jezebel Charms’ line of “Doctor Who” jewelry. SO. MUCH. WANT. Check out their Etsy store and drool with me.

Source: Jezebel Charms

5. Darth Vader calls about his iPhone

Poor Darth. Not only has he resorted to robbing banks, he can’t even get a decent signal off his new iPhone. Even using all his powers of the Dark Side, he can’t get any satisfaction from Apple’s help desk.

Source: ruliarch on YouTube

It’s been a hot, hot week, both in the news business and in temperatures. Hopefully, the temperatures will cool down soon. The news business can stay hot. Keeps things interesting!

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How I infiltrated the Republican Party

My heart pounds as I pull onto Main Street. Not so much because of the voting scandal that has rocked our little community, but because I see the gauntlet of candidate supporters on the courthouse lawn and I’m terrified I’ll run over one when they jump into the street to wave their little signs. I try to avoid eye contact as I search for a parking space. Preferably one where I don’t have to parallel park.

Vote early. Vote often.

When my Dad ran for tax assessor a couple of years ago on the Democratic ticket, our neighbors, who had recently moved here from Florida, lamented the fact that they wouldn’t be able to support him in the county primary, since they had been registered Republicans in their home state. Dad explained that being a Republican didn’t matter, as Tennessee had an open primary. Even though my neighbor was affiliated with the Republican Party, all he had to do was ask to vote in the Democratic primary on election day.

Having lived in Tennessee all my life, I never really though about how our process of voting was different to that of other states. I honestly did not know that in some states, only registered Republicans and Democrats could vote in their respective primaries. Until the 2008 presidential election, I wasn’t really into politics at a national level, so I was not aware of how other states handled things. I remember thinking that, finally, Tennessee didn’t seem so backwards compared to the rest of the country. A person could choose which primary to vote in on election day, and not be confined to the party line.

I get out of my car and lock the door, thanking whatever gods are looking out for me that I managed to find one on the opposite side of the street from the gauntlet, and I didn’t have to parallel park. I make my way down the street to the election commission building, hoping I look Republican enough to not warrant notice from the poll watchers. Head down, avoiding eye contact, I suddenly realize that if I really wanted to appear to be a non-Democrat, maybe I shouldn’t have dressed all in blue this morning. Hindsight will get you every time.

I freely admit to being a member of the national Democratic Party. I can’t ever foresee myself voting for a Republican at the national level because my beliefs conflict too much with that of the national Republican Party. But at the state and local level, it’s different. At the local level, you have a much better chance at actually knowing the person running for office. Party doesn’t really matter locally.

I have always voted in the Democratic primaries in the past, not only because I come from a large family of Democrats, but also because many times, someone I’m related to has run on the Democratic ticket, like my Dad. But in a general election, I have voted for the Republican candidate, because I think that person would do a better job than the challenger. And that’s the right of every American citizen eligible to vote.

I make it into the building without notice. Whew! The next step is to sign in and declare my intention to vote in the Republican primary. So many people in such a tiny space! But the line moves quickly, and pretty soon I’m called up by a poll worker to present my identification. I dig around in my purse and promptly hand her my Kroger card. Oops. For a moment I suspect my vote might be challenged after all, not because I’m a Democrat in Republican clothing, but because they might think I’m nuts. But I nervously laugh it off and hand over my driver’s license. The poll worker types in my information and verifies my address.

For several years, our district has been represented by an incumbent who puts party politics ahead of the concerns of his constituents. Just to name a few, he introduced a bill in the Tennessee legislature to ban the sale of sex toys, joined legal action challenging the citizenship status of President Obama and fired the county election administrator simply because she had voted in Democratic primaries in the past (despite coming from a family of die-hard Republicans).

This last asinine move was the last straw for many voters in the county, Democrats and Republicans alike. His challenger in the Republican primary came on strong, and many of us Democrats said we’d cross party lines to vote for the challenger, because we all agree our district needs new blood, someone who will put the will of the people ahead of politics. The Democratic candidate had no challenger in the primary. And, quite frankly, I’ve liked what the challenger has had to say.

“Would you like to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary today?” the election official asks.

“Republican,” I reply.

She prints off my voting paper and highlights two lines. “Sign there, please.” I do so.

Crossing party lines to vote in the other party’s primary has never, ever been an issue in the history of our county, perhaps even in the state. But when one high-profile, long-standing Democrat came in Monday morning, asking to vote in the Republican primary, someone inside the election commission office notified a relative of the incumbent, who immediately came inside to challenge her right to vote Republican. Nearly everyone was surprised to discover that, despite Tennessee being an open primary state, anyone can challenge the legitimacy another voter’s vote on the following grounds:

  • He/She is not a registered voter at the polling place.
  • He/She is not the registered voter under whose name he/she has applied to vote.
  • He/She has already voted in the election (previously issued a ballot).
  • He/She has become ineligible to vote in the election being conducted (for example, he/she has moved outside the district/state or has been convicted of a felony.
  • He/She is not qualified under TCA 2-7-126 (meaning he/she is not a bona fide member of the political party in whose primary they seek to vote).

The woman was challenged on the basis that she was not a legitimate member of the Republican party. And she’s not. But again, this has never been enforced. Many, many people have crossed party lines in the past. Why now, when an incumbent is in danger of losing his seat, is this little-known statute suddenly being put into play?

I’m quickly escorted past the long line of people waiting to cast their ballot, since the booths for those living in districts 6-9 are in a separate area. I totally feel like I’m cutting line, as I have to say “excuse me” to get by people standing in doorways. A few of them give me a funny look. But another poll worker notices me standing in the hall and tells me I’m OK where I’m at. Still no sign of a challenge.

After having her vote challenged, the woman took an oath to support the Republican party in front of a panel of three election judges. According to the challenge procedure, “The voter is required to be permitted to vote in a primary if he declares his allegiance to the political party in whose primary he seeks to vote and states that he intends to affiliate with that party. … It would be extremely rare to deny a citizen the right to vote in a primary he wished to vote in because Tennessee has no registration by party.”

After taking the oath in front of the election judges, all of whom were appointed by a crony of the incumbent, they decided she was not Republican enough to vote in the primary. Her vote was sealed in an envelope and marked “REJECTED.” Her vote for her candidate of choice was denied.

I’m beckoned to an empty voting machine. The poll worker takes my paper, queues up the machine, and pulls up the Republican primary ballot. Moment of truth. He tells me that if I have any questions about the ballot, just ask. Then he steps away. I am left alone to cast my vote in private.

TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated) 2-7-115(b)(2) states, “A registered voter is entitled to vote in a primary election for offices for which the voter is qualified to vote at the polling place where the voter is registered if: (1)  The voter is a bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote; or (2)  At the time the voter seeks to vote, the voter declares allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and states that the voter intends to affiliate with that party.”

Even though the woman took her oath, declaring her allegiance to the Republican party, regardless for how long, her vote was still denied. And it has opened up a floodgate of outrage, on both sides of the issue.

I scroll through the pages of the ballot, making my choices with care. I double check everything when I get to the end, then press the red button. My vote has been cast.

“All done?” the poll worker asks, as he hands me a sticker that reads, “My vote counted!”

“Yes,” I reply, attaching it to my shirt. “Thank you.”

So the questions remains. Does Tennessee have an open primary or not? Why was this one woman singled out and denied a right to vote for her candidate, when so many others, myself included, were allowed to vote without challenge? Why would a candidate in danger of losing his seat — a Republican candidate who has voted in Democratic primaries in the past — urge friends and relatives to challenge the legitimacy of other voters?

This is a clear-cut case of voter intimidation and discrimination. Which, hopefully, appears to be back-firing. I do believe we shall see the result of this disastrous action after the polls close on election day, Aug. 5.

I hurry out the door, exit the building, walking past the gauntlet to my car, feeling a sense of accomplishment. I had successfully infiltrated the Republican party to vote for my candidate of choice, without challenge.

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Giants of Pomona

Telling tales of your workplace isn’t a very professional thing to do, I know. But sometimes there’s a work-related story that’s just so … funny … that it can’t not be shared.

This happened about two years ago, but I was reminded of it the other night while watching television. When my coworker mentioned the incident out of the blue the next day, I decided to share the story. Because it’s just too wacky not to be shared.

Working at a newspaper, we sometimes hear all kinds of strange conspiracy theories about things going on in town. Most of the time there’s not much to them. Sometimes they do turn out to be true. In every case though, we are will to listen politely, in case there is a story there.

This guy though…

He came in on a Wednesday, which is a relatively slow day for us. Most of us were type-type-typing away, trying to get everything in order for the Friday paper. Heather, our assistant editor, brought him to her desk so he could tell her his story. None of us were paying much attention… until he mentioned UFOs.

All the typing in the office stopped simultaneously.

We tried not to look to obvious, straining to hear this tale. (We were also trying hard not to do anything to make Heather laugh. Even in the face of insane crack-pot stories, we must remain professional.)

There be giants in them thar hills!

The guy wanted Heather to do a story on gravesites he found out in the Pomona community that he had found that were older mankind. They contained the bodies of a race of giants. He wasn’t sure if they were alien beings, a race that predated mankind or the bodies of angels. He said that he had found similar gravesites in the Great Smoky Mountains, along with holy relics of some kind.

He said that if we could study these graves, we could learn about who we are and why we’re here. But there was a caveat. The graves caused cancer. Or rather, what we called cancer is some kind of disease that emanates from these graves, so anyone trying to study them would die. He had some really fuzzy pictures of the gravesites (and, according to Heather, one of the giants’ toilet). Heather, to her credit, managed to keep a straight face when she asked if he’d contact archaeologists about the site. He said he had, but that since he was the one to make the discovery, they told him that he could do what he wanted to it. Riiiight.

I do feel sorry for the guy, but … wow. I had no idea giant alien angels had once lived in the area, let alone so close to home! Too bad we didn’t follow up on it. We could have upped the tourism in this county and maybe even been featured on an episode of “Destination Truth.”

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Friday Five: My Little Pony of AWESOME

I missed last Friday. Again. I hang my head in shame. But I was feeling rather sickly last week, and just had no extra energy to sit up and compile my weekly list of Cool Crap on Teh Interwebs. And because I know you all look forward to it every week (I wallow in delusions of grandeur), please accept my heartfelt apologies.

Because I skipped a Friday, usually that would mean I would be giving you a double dose of Cool Crap. But, I usually put my list together while at work. Today, however, we had a departmental road trip to Nashville, and all my bookmarks are on my computer in the office. Fail. Again. Still, I did manage to find some of them thanks to the “Favorites” link on Twitter. Ah, Twitter. I really do less-than-three you.

"Help me, Obi-wan Little Pony. You're my only hope!" (Image credit: *Spippo on deviantART)

1. My Little Geeky Ponies

I wasn’t a huge My Little Pony fan back in the day, but that just means I only had about a dozen or so Ponies (that I still have stored away carefully in a box). I liked my Ponies. But this collection of 50 My Little Pony Mods for Geeks makes me absolutely drool. Both my inner geek and my inner 8-year-old are screaming “WANT!”

Source: BuzzFeed

2. LEGO Street Shootout

I’m becoming increasingly infatuated by the all the incredibly clever stop-motion LEGO movies being made these days. I’m not sure if this awesome shootout is from anything, but it’s just so clever and the facial expressions on the little LEGO man had me cracking up. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Source: Keshen8 on YouTube

3. Star Wars Improv

I’ve been a fan of the group Improv Everywhere for years now, ever since they pulled their Best Buy stunt. I’ve had dreams of visiting New York and getting to see one of their stunts in action (or, better yet, be IN one). Their latest stunt takes the cake though. I bet Princess Leia thinks twice about taking the subway next time!

Source: Improv Everywhere

4. LOLcat Eclipse

I fell in love with LOLcat Twilight, laughed till my sides hurt with LOLcat New Moon, and have been eagerly awaiting the latest installment, LOLcat Eclipse. And it didn’t disappoint. I cannot wait to see LOLcat Breaking Dawn!

Source: Pop Suede

5. Hi, I’m TWILIGHT and I’m TRUE BLOOD

You know, I’ve always found those Mac vs. PC commercials annoying, because Mac is such a condescending little shit. But parodies? LOVE ‘EM. Especially when it takes on a franchise I love (and one I love to hate). Sookie Stackhouse vs. Bella Swan. I laughed. I cried. I may have peed a little. (And for the record, Sookie would totally kick both Bella AND Edward’s asses.)

Source: ItsJustSomeRandomGuy on YouTube

Hope everyone has a better weekend than I will. I wore fancy shoes to the shindig today, and learned the hard way my feet are not cut out for fancy shoes. I’ll be spending the weekend nursing some mighty impressive blisters. Owie.

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Wiki Wednesday: Greyfriars Kirkyard

I’ve not been blogging much lately. Sometimes my head just feels so empty. (Don’t say it.) So in an attempt to make myself write more, I’m trying something new — Wiki Wednesdays.

I’m a Wikipedia addict. I love how I can see something on TV or read about something in a book and hop online to Wikipedia to read more about it. For me, using Wikipedia is like reading a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. While reading the original article, I’ll find myself opening links inside that article in new tabs, to read about something related to the original subject I had searched for… which will lead to more new tabs opened, and before I know it, I’ll have 15 tabs open on Firefox and have wasted an hour learning about things ranging from the cast of “Glee” to supposed secret government conspiracies.

So, every Wednesday (knock on wood), I figured I’d share one subject I learned about that week using Wikipedia. Remember to always take what you read on the Wiki with a grain of salt, but I do maintain it’s a good place to start to learn more information about something you may not have known before.

Subject: Greyfriars Kirkyard

Inspiration: “Afraid of the Dark” documentary on History Channel

A view of the north-eastern corner of Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh EH1, Scotland. On the left you can see the 'mortsafes' mentioned in the article, along with wall. (Photo by Tom Flynn)

My mother like to TiVo random documentaries during the summer to watch in between “Big Brother,” which she’s addicted to. (I plead the 5th.) This week we watched a two-hour special on why people are afraid of the dark. (Personally, I’m not so much afraid of the dark as I am the things lurking in the dark.)

One of the locales featured was Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland. I love Scotland. I love creepy cemeteries. I had to learn more about it, especially when the program mentioned that it wasn’t so much a cemetery as it was a hill of bones, since the town had run out of space to bury the deceased, so most of the graves actually had several bodies in them, one buried on top of the other.

The Wikipedia entry does not mention this (drat… I love the macabre), but it does contain the story of how Greyfriars came to be. The Town Council at the time declared the existing cemetery, St. Giles, to be full, and so ordered Greyfriars, on the site of a dissolved Franciscan friary, to be converted into a cemetery.

Because it is thought correct that there should be no more burials within St Giles, and because that kirkyard is not thought to have sufficient room for burying the dead, and taking into consideration the smell and inconvenience in the heat of summer, it would be provided ( by the council ) that a burial place be made further from the middle of town, such as in Greyfriars yard/ garden and the same ( should be ) built up and made secure. — Town Council records, April 23, 1561

The best know resident of Greyfriars is perhaps Greyfriars Bobby, a little Skye Terrier so devoted to his master that he kept watch over his master’s grave for 14 years. When Bobby passed away in 1872, the townsfolk buried him just inside the gates of the cemetery, near his master’s grave, since a dog could not be buried in the consecrated ground itself. He has his own headstone and a memorial statue erected nearby.

There is also a memorial to the Covenanters, where some 1200 members of the movement were imprisoned in the late 1600s.

The cemetery contains two mortsafes, which were ironwork cages that could be leased to protect bodies from “Resurraction Men” — grave robbers who would steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to Edinburg Medical College where medical students dissected them for study. (Which is damn creepy.)

I had heard of Greyfriars before, as one of the many ghost hunting shows I watch had visited. It’s supposed to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Europe, and many people have reported injuries they don’t remember actually sustaining. Which means I must put it on my “haunted places to someday visit” list.

Tabs opened:

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Getting to know ‘The Tudors’

I spent the recent 4th of July weekend watching nothing but British television. I started out the morning watching “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” ate lunch while watching (yet again) reruns of “Doctor Who” on BBC America and finished the day off watching season 1 of “The Tudors.” (OK, so, “The Tudors” isn’t exactly British television, but it’s close enough.)

Anne Boleyn — what's a little historical inaccuracy compared to ratings?

I’ve always been fascinated with English history (more so than American history *yawn*), but never to the point of actually wanting to know more. Until Showtime premiered its new series back in 2007, dramatizing the life of King Henry VIII and his six wives. I knew the basic story of course, that King Henry, in his desperate attempt to have a son, broke with the Catholic Church in order to divorce his wife and marry another woman, whose head he chopped off three years later. But I never really knew the details or much of anything about his other four wives.

Of course, watching a Showtime program isn’t the best way to learn what really happened. When the series first began, I devoured all the Wikipedia entries for Henry and his six wives. Wikipedia isn’t the most trustworthy source of information, but I find it to be a good starting point to learn about things I didn’t know before. For instance, by the time the series had introduced Henry’s sister, Princess Margaret, I had already learned that he actually had two sisters, Princess Mary and Princess Margaret. I guess the writers thought the show already had too many Marys because Princess Mary got written out of the show completely, and Princess Margaret was given her role. In history, Princess Margaret married King James IV of Scotland and would become the grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots. In “The Tudors,” Princess Margaret married the king of Portugal, smothered him, then married the king’s friend Charles Brandon without his permission. In reality, Princess Mary married Louis XII of France, became a widow three months later, and then married Charles Brandon in secret, eventually becoming the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey. (Both granddaughters were later, of course, beheaded.)

Yikes. Talk about artistic license.

But despite the gross historical inaccuracies of “The Tudors” (like 16th century women were really that clean-shaven), my parents and I became engrossed in the show. And it led me to want to learn not only more about the lives (and deaths) of Henry’s six wives, but also what really happened, as opposed to what Showtime’s interpretation of the events were. So I bought a book. My first non-fiction book in… well, ever. A 650+ monstrosity of a book. And I devoured it. And I bought more non-fiction books, The Children of Henry VIII and The Life of Elizabeth I. Which led to more curiosity about the royal family in the Middle Ages and the purchase of The Princes in the Tower, with more books put on my Amazon wish list.

It became a little ritual between my mother and myself that, after watching the latest episode of “The Tudors,” she would ask me, “OK, what really happened?” And, armed with my new-found knowledge, I could tell her. I think I now know more about Tudor history than I do about the history of my own country(ies).

Sadly, we had to give up Showtime before season four of “The Tudors” aired, but the DVDs will follow eventually. My parents and I will watch, and then I’ll tell them how it really went down.

As historically inaccurate as “The Tudors” may be, it opened up a door to an era of history that I didn’t I would be so fascinated by, and gave me an opportunity to learn something new.

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