Thursday, February 28, 2008

Borders Concept Stores

On February 14 Borders opened its first concept store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They have plans to open 14 more by the end of 2008. I didn't know what a concept store was so I went to their web site to find out more.
Concept stores will have digital centers where customers can mix and burn their own CD's, download books and music, publish books, explore family history, and create photo books. They will of course continue to sell books, music, and movies but will focus on popular topics such as travel, cooking, and childrens books by having kiosks set up throughout the store with large flat-panel LCD screens and expert staff. The new stores will be a little larger than their traditional bookstores, will carry over 170,000 items, and employ over 75 people. They will also be more environmentally friendly by using energy efficient light bulbs, skylights, enery efficient HVAC equipment, low-flow toilets, and by using earth friendly cleaning products.
The Decider in TS told me about these new concept stores because several people in our area have been downloading music and burning CDs for the iHCPL project.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Living Like Ed

Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr. has published a book called Living like Ed: a guide to the eco-friendly life. If it's anything at all like his HGTV show Living with Ed, it should be pretty good. There are chapters on home, transportation, recycling, energy, kitchen and garden, and clothing, hair, and skin care. Ed is a vegetarian and some of his recipes are also included as well as tips from his wife Rachelle. HCPL has 3 copies. The call number is 333.72 Beg.

Doing my civic duty

I had jury duty yesterday and since I got there a little early, walked across the street and voted.
I didn't get choosen for a jury but had a nice time anyway talking to the people sitting by me. One woman was from Crosby and said how much she liked to read so I asked her if she used the Crosby branch of HCPL. She said she did but that she had read everything in the library that she liked. She didn't know that she could request books from other branches and that she could do it all online. I also told her that a lot of the books she likes are also availabe on CD. She seemed very happy to learn all of this so I suspect the Crosby branch will be seeing a lot more of her.
It's an exciting time in Houston with all the presidential candidates and their families campaigning here. Bill Clinton spoke this morning at the Fiesta very close to where I work. I would have gone before work and heard him if I had known in time, even though I voted for Obama yesterday. McCain will be at Rice sometime this week to speak to the students. Hillary, Chelsea, Barack, and Michelle have all spent a lot of time here the last few weeks.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sound: #26: Making (or listening to) Music Together

Music networking sites:

MOG is a MySpace style site that tracks the music you listen to and puts you in touch with other people with similiar tastes. There is also information and blogging about concerts and favorite albums, songs, and websites. I'm not interested in social networking but found MOG good for music news and for searching songs and artists.
Imeem is similiar to MOG but allows user to interact with each other through blogs, photos, audio, and video. It also has a playlist feature that allows the user to collect and play content from several sources and have it rated (like Youtube)

I had a lot of fun playing around with JamStudio which is a free online music studio. It was pretty easy to use and could be addicting. I didn't create anything worth saving but did have fun trying out all the different instruments and sounds. After creating the song there is the option of sharing with and being rated by others.

Quote of the Day

"I can't wait until it's Obama vs. McCain. It's gonna be Youtube vs. Feeding Tube!" - Bill Maher

Friday, February 22, 2008


If early voting numbers are any indication, this will be a record breaking year for voter turnout in Texas. In Harris County, over 9,000 people voted early on the first day of the primary as opposed to 728 in 2004. Dallas showed a similiar increase. Other areas such as Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso also had huge increases. The Rio Grande Valley, which is thought to be HRC's strongest area of support had a higher turnout than in 2004 but the increase was not as dramatic as in other areas in Texas.
Everytime I vote I remember voting with my mom when I was really little. I believe it was at Mark Twain Elementary. The booths were large and had black curtains which you could close with a lever. When we got inside the booth and closed the curtain she let me pull the levers to vote. I probably voted for republicans. Sigh.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Liberal Manifesto by Daniel Kurtzman

Liberals believe in clean air, diplomacy, stem cells, living wages, body armor for our troops, government accountability, and that exercising the right to dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
Liberals believe in reading actual books, going to war as a last resort, separating church and hate, and doing what Jesus would actually do, instead of lobbying for upper-class tax cuts and fantasizing about the apocalypse.
Liberals believe in civil rights, the right to privacy, and that evolution and global warming aren’t just theories but incontrovertible scientific facts.
Liberals believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment that (1) prohibits another Bush from ever occupying the White House, and (2) prevents George W. Bush from ever becoming baseball commissioner before he does to our national pastime what he did for America.
Liberals believe in rescuing people from flooded streets and rooftops, even if they’re too poor to vote Republican.
Liberals believe that supporting our troops means treating our wounded vets like the heroes they are, and not leaving them to languish in rat-infested military hospitals under the outsourced management of incompetent cronies who think they’re running a Taco Bell franchise.
Liberals believe in pheromones, sex ed, solar panels, voting paper trails, the common good, and that, no matter how fascinating a story it may be, a president should never sit around in a state of total paralysis reading "My Pet Goat" while America is under attack.
And above all, liberals believe that it’s time to come together as a country and put a collective boot in the ass of shameless conservative fearmongers, hate merchants, and scapegoaters who are sucking the freedom out of all our souls.

This is from the book How to Win a Fight With a Conservative by Daniel Kurtzman. The website for the book is a lot of fun. It has a liberal identity quiz and a random insult generator among other things. The address is:

Music Downloading

For any of you who haven't done the assignment on music downloading and might need some help, the library has 13 copies of a new book called Downloading Music. The call number is:

Vote for a FUN CENTER for Children's Memorial Herman Hospital

"Colgate-Palmolive and Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation have teamed up this year to help children with Sickle Cell Disease and their families cope with the pain, fear and isolation of this terrible disease. By providing FUN CENTERS in hospitals, these children can forget about their illnesses for a moment and remember how to have fun."

Children's Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston is one of the places in the running for a Fun Center. We are currently number one, but by a small margin so every vote is important. Click on this link below to vote. You can vote once a day through the end of the month.

An Angry Militant Woman

In response to a caller who said that a friend had knowledge that Michelle Obama is a "very angry militant woman," Bill O'Reilly had this to say: "That's wrong. And I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down. "
How nice that he wants to wait until all the facts are in before lynching Michelle Obama. Certainly anyone who feels that this nation is flawed deserves no less.
This is probably the most hateful thing O'Reilly has ever said on the air, and that's saying a lot. He should be fired but he won't be because there are people who still believe the sh*t that he spews out nightly. These are the same people who would never vote for Obama, or any African American for president. If this country is bad or flawed, it's because of people like O'Reilly and his followers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Voting in Waller County, Texas

More than 30 years ago, protests by students at Prairie View A&M led to a decision by the Supreme Court that allows students to register and vote in the communities where they attend school. In 2004, over 2,000 students protested the Waller County District Attorney who said students didn't qualify for voter registration because they didn't meet state residency standards. In 2006, more than 1,000 students were turned away from the polls because their voter registration card were not processed. Yesterday, more than 1,000 students with an additional 1,000 friends and supporters walked 7.3 miles from Prairie View to Hempstead to vote at the only early voting site available in the county. Waller County used to have 6 early voting locations but reduced this to the one at the courthouse. After the U.S. Dept. of Justice put pressure on county officials the decision was made to open up three new sites including one adjacent to Prairie View. Unfortunately, those sites were not available on Tuesday so the students decided to march to Hempstead to vote.
What a great example of democracy in action. Cheers to all the students and their supporters for standing up for their right to vote, despite all the attempts over the years by Waller County officials to stop them.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bush and Pepfar

Bush is leaving on a 5-nation tour of Africa today. He is more popular in some of the 5 countries he will be visiting than he is in the US because of the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), a program that has saved the lives of a million or more people with HIV. Pepfar was started in 2004 at the urging of Colin Powell and the CIA who thought the Aids epidemic was a national security issue because it would kill a huge number of working age adults.
Here is what some Africans and people who work in Africa have to say about him and the Pepfar program:
"This is the best thing that ever happened to the poor people I work with. It's one of the few times I've seen US government money really reach down to the poorest of the poor. It's kept a hell of a lot of people alive."--Edward Phillips, a Catholic priest who distributes HIV medicine in Nairobi.
"I look at all the blood this man has on his hands in Iraq and I can't quite believe myself but I would say it's a bold experiment from the last people in the world I would expect to do it, and it is saving a lot of lives. To intervene on such a scale and make such a difference is huge."--Dr. Francois Venter, head of the HIV Clinicians Society in South Africa.
"The scale of the money coming in has really changed everything. If someone in a household has HIV it used to be we only focused on them. Now we look at the health of everyone in the household because if a parent has HIV that has implications for their ability to provide and care for their children. We can now treat the children for other diseases because that is a consequence of HIV in the household." --Anne Smith, head of CHF in Kigali.
"Then they said they could make us well, they have these drugs. So I got tested and I have the drugs. George Bush has helped us live."--Linda, a prostitute in Kigalia.

The program has come under attack because of it'e emphasis on abstinence and because of the use of religious organizations in the program, but it is clear from the article I read in the Guardian, where I got the information for this entry, that Pepfar is working.

Finally, something nice I can say about Bush. And yes I do know he didn't do any of this for humanitarian reasons, something he knows nothing about. And I also know it's not a perfect program, but it is something.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


If you eat chocolate, there's a good chance that some of it came from the Ivory Coast from a crop that was picked by children who are trafficked and enslaved. An estimated 284,000 children are forced to work 12-14 hour days with no pay and little food or sleep, and are often beaten, just so we can have our chocolate fix. The large companies like Nestle claim they are not responsible because they are only buying a product and don't own the farms.

Some major buyers of cocoa, including Cargill, initiated a program in 2007 to improve social and environmental practices in the cocoa industry and put an end to these abuses. In the meantime, one way to guarantee that the chocolate you are eating doesn't come from African slave children is to eat only certified fair trade chocolate. Only 1% of the chocolate produced is fair trade but it is easy to find in Houston at stores like 10,000 Villages, which sells only fair trade items, and Whole Foods Market. Just look for the fair trade certified logo.

Valentine's Day Republican Style

The RNC is now in the e-card business. On their website you can send your favorite right wing nut a Valentine's Day card with a picture of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton with the message "If I could rearrange the alphabet, I'd put T and AX together" (Clinton) or "My liberal heart bleeds for you" (Obama).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sound: #25: Am I a music pirate? It's hard to know...

1. I burned a CD! I used Roxio, a program that has been on my computer for a while. It was very, very easy. I used the song from Iron and Wine that I downloaded legally for the MP3 assignment. I also made a jewel case insert with the program on Roxio, also very, very easy.
2. I still listen to CD's and will probably not get an MP3 player any time soon. I just, 2 years ago, switched from a cassette player in my car to a CD player.
3. Thoughts on file sharing. I think it could help some artists who are not as well known as others by allowing consumers to sample music before buying. That was the case for me when I happened upon the free download of the day from The price charged by legal download sites such as iTunes is cheaper than the price of one CD so hopefully enough people will use these sites and not download illegally. With so many people sharing files and downloading music it would be impossible to stop the practice anyway.

Valentine's Day 1960

This picture is of me, age 6, in front of my home in Houston, taken on Valentine's Day in 1960. We were at school, Mark Twain Elementary, when it started snowing and we got to go home early. It was the first snow I had ever seen and I was pretty excited. Houston had 4.4 inches of snow that day which is very unusual. My sister made a snow angel and then later we made a snowman together. I've been in snow a few times since that, but this is one day I will always remember.

The house in the picture is on Drummond, right off of Stella Link. A lot of the other homes in the area have been torn down to make way for the McMansions that are so popular now. Fortunately, this one is still there and whenever my sister is in town we always go look at it together. A few years ago, when we were driving by, the owners came out and we told them we used to live there. They were the same people we had sold the house to in 1961 or 1962, when we moved to New Orleans, and they invited us in to have a look around. The house was the same, except for the hardwood floors that had been covered with carpet. We also saw our initials on some concrete in the backyard. It was a nice experience seeing everything again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Organic Foods

I was a little surprised to learn that most of the 25 major food companies own at least one major organic brand. Here is a list of some of them:

Odwalla (Coca Cola)
Morningstar ( Kellogg)
Horizon (Dean Foods)
Boca Foods ( Kraft)
Earth’s Best (Heinz)
Cascadian Farms (General Mills)
Naked Juice (Pepsi)

It's a good thing that organic brands are becoming more mainstream and available in stores other than health food stores. I'm a little leary about eating foods owned by Kraft or Pepsi though. My favorite brand, Amy's, I'm happy to say, is not owned by a large food company yet, as far as I can tell.
The picture gives a more detailed look at who owns what. Click on it to enlarge for better viewing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sound #24: The Sound of Music

After a few months off, the next step of the HCPL learning 2.0 program is back with iHCPL the Next Generation. The first assignment is all about sound.

For this assignment I looked at several types of sites for music downloads. Napster has over 3 million tracks which you can listen to free up to 3 times. After that it is .99 per download or a $15.00 monthly fee. iTunes features roughly the same number of tracks for .99 each, with unlimited CD burns.

I also looked at a free site, which offers a different album each day for free. I ripped a song by Iron and Wine to my computer and then put it on an MP3 player that I borrowed. I did this a few times with different songs from this album so that I would feel comfortable with the process. I had to listen to the songs to make sure they were really on the MP3 player and in the process discovered a new artist I like. Here is what entertainment said about Iron and Wine and Sam Bean, the artist: "Based in Miami, of all places, [Beam] launches balloons of sweetly whispered regret over trance-inducing backwoods string arrangements and watches them float away, his heart in tow."

I have listened to several radio stations on my computer at work including KPFT and KUHF. Most radio stations I have looked at have website listening. I also opened up an account on Pandora which is a customizable internet radio service. It is part of the Music Genome Project started in 2000. Pandora recommends songs and artists based on other artists or songs that you like and then plays them for you.
Thanks manic elegies for help with the MP3 player!

Tortoise adopts baby Hippo

A 650 lb. hippo baby was swept down a river into the Indian Ocean. When the tsunami struck, he was swept back onto shore and landed on a 100 year old tortoise. The tortoise became the hippo's surrogate mother and the pair eat, sleep, and swim together. Here is a link to the story and some really adorable pictures of the pair:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Freedom and democracy in Iraq

Try telling that to the women in the country, particularly in Basra, Iraq's second largest city. According to the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 133 women were killed in Basra last year. 47 of those deaths were honor killings and 79 were for violating Islamic teachings. Women are strangled, beheadded, or mutilated, often in front of their children, for crimes as minor as wearing a head scarf that isn't the right color. This sign was seen in a downtown market place: "We warn against not wearing a headscarf and wearing makeup. Those who do not abide by this will be punished. God is our witness, we have notified you." The people who commit these crimes against women are seldom caught. Before the invasion, Iraq was one of the most westernized countries in the Middle East where women had a relatively large amount of freedom. Now they live in constant fear. Another legacy of GWB.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Obama vs. HRC vs. McCain in the polls

According to a new poll by Time, if the election was held today, Obama would get 48% of the vote to McCains 41%. If HRC is the nominee, she and McCain would each get 46%. Independents prefer Obama over McCain but prefer McCain over HRC which may account for the difference. Democrats prefer Clinton over Obama 48% to 42% and 62% would like HRC to name Obama as her running mate. Only 51% would like Obama to name HRC as his running mate.
I know it's just one poll and polls are often wrong but I'm convinced even more that Obama needs to be the nominee.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney withdrew from the presidential race today saying: "In this time of war I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. Because I love America, in this time of war I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country."

What a nobel man and what a nobel gesture. He's taking himself out of the race because he would rather support McCain who will keep us in Iraq for years and years to come than have a democrat in the White House.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Google and Yahoo (heart) Obama

According to the searchable database Fundrace, a project of the Huffington Post, Microsoft employees support Clinton while Google and Yahoo employees support Obama. Here is a breakdown of donations by company for each of the candidates.

Hillary Clinton
Microsoft $129,734
Google $46,610
Yahoo $15,600
Barack Obama
Google $97,771
Microsoft $68,005
Yahoo $24,288
Ron Paul
Microsoft $54,111
Google $41,342
Yahoo $9,435
Mitt Romney
Microsoft $19,805
Yahoo $600
Google $0
John McCain
Microsoft $8,210
Google $1,550
Yahoo $0
Mike Huckabee
Microsoft $750
Google $400
Yahoo $0

You can find out more here:
I just went to this web site and it's pretty neat. Here is a description:"FundRace makes it easy to search by name or address to see which presidential candidates your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are contributing to. Or you can see if your favorite celebrity is putting money where their mouth is."
I checked my name and didn't find anything although I have given money to Obama. I found out that contributions have to be over $200 for them to show up on the database.
WARNING: Addictive.

Barack Obama

My neighbor here at work sent me this link to pictures of Barack and his family:,0,5458360.photogallery
These pictures show what a diverse background he has.
I wish he had won more states/delegates last night. The upside is that Texas may play a decisive role when we have our primary in March and my vote won't be wasted. I heard this morning that there may be a debate here before the primary which I would love to attend.
According to the people who study these things, as an older white woman I should be suppporting HRC and not Obama. For me it's all about the war. Her vote in congress was wrong and she knew it. She voted that way because she thought it was the best thing for her politically. Even now she won't admit her mistake. I don't want another person in the White House like this.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Peace talks in Kenya

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Nairobi today in an attempt to bring some resolution to the conflict that has been going on in that country since the disputed election in December. One proposal being considered is having Kibaki continue as president with Odinga, the opposition leader, serving as prime minister. They have also signed an agreement which will help 300,000+ displaced persons return home. A UN human rights group will also be investigating the violence that has killed over 1,000 people.

Pancake Day

If you're in the UK you may have pancakes to celebrate Shrove Tuesday which is better known here as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. The Guardian reports that 1/4 of the population in the UK will have pancakes today. Pancakes are associated with Shove Tuesday because it is a good way to use up some of the foods with fat in the house such as butter, milk, and eggs that are traditionally given given up for lent. Pancake races are held all over the UK as well. One race, which started in 1455 has participants, mostly women, running with frying pans and flipping pancakes to the finishing line. There is also the Parlimentary Pancake Race with teams from the House of Commons and the House of Lords competing.

Pancakes are ok, but I would prefer to have a King Cake from Lawrence's Bakery in New Orleans which I blogged about a few week ago.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A New License Plate!

For the next week Texans can vote online for the new Texas License Plate by going to

Here is a list of the choices:

Traditional Texas. The plate features blue highlights with a gold Lone Star, and bold, red “TEXAS.”

Lone Star Texas. A white Lone Star stands out in the top, left-hand corner of the plate. Wide brushes of red and blue punctuate the Texas sky on the top half of the plate along with a low-lying mountain range on the bottom.

Natural Texas. The entire plate is covered with wildflowers. (fourdogmom's favorite)

New Texas. This red, white and blue plate features a composite of modern landmark buildings from several Texas cities.

My Texas. This is the current general-issue license plate that was introduced in 2000. It features icons of the state, including a horse, space shuttle, and oil derrick.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Groundhog's Day!

Here are some facts about Groundhog's Day straight from the official site According to Punxsutawney Phil we will have 6 more weeks of winter this year and he is never wrong.

Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.

How often is Phil's prediction correct? 100% of the time, of course!

How many "Phils" have there been over the years? There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions for over 120 years!

Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the "elixir of life," a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.

On February 2, Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.

According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

No! Phil's forecasts are not made in advance by the Inner Circle. After Phil emerges from his burrow on

February 2, he speaks to the Groundhog Club president in "Groundhogese"(a language only understood by the current president of the Inner Circle). His proclamation is then translated for the world.

The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania's earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May..."

Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made on February 2, 1887.

So the story goes, Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip. Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Presidential candidate's pets

A co-worker mentioned that she would miss GWB's scotty dogs. when he leaves office. That's about the only thing I'll miss about him. That got me to wondering if Obama has any pets and what we could expect to see in the way of four-footed, or winged friends if he is elected. I finally found a list from an article dated May, 2007. I have highlighted the main contenders.


Delaware Sen. Joe Biden: A cat.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: "Seamus, our Lab."

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd: None because of family's allergies. Would like a dog.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards: Golden retriever and chocolate Lab.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Pound-rescues Harry the beagle-basset, Lucie the beagle and George the cocker spaniel.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama: None.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: Cats Jake and Squeaky.


Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback: Two dogs, two cats and a fish.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: None.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Jet the 9-year-old black Lab, Sonic the 1 1/2-year-old Shih Tzu.

California Rep. Duncan Hunter: Two black Labs, Boo and Hunter.

Arizona Sen. John McCain: Sam the English springer spaniel, Coco the mutt, turtles Cuff and Link, Oreo the black and white cat, a ferret, three parakeets and 13 saltwater fish.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Family recently lost Marley, a Weimaraner.

Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo: No longer has a pet.

It's not a good sign that Obama doesn't have any pets. McCain, on the other hand leads the group with 22. I would expect nothing less than pound rescues from Kucinich, the candidate I am most closely aligned with politically.

Chuck Rosenthal

Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal will be back in court today for a hearing to decide if he should be held in contempt of court for deleting more than 2,500 e-mails that he had been ordered to produce. Attorney Scott Durfee testified that as an attorney Rosenthal should have known the emails were evidence and shouldn't be deleted (DUH). The 1500 emails that were recovered contained pornographic and racist messages. Also included were love notes between Rosenthal who is married and his secretary. He also used Harris County computers for election campaigning, a big no-no.

Harris County sends more people to death row than any other prosecutor's office in the United States and it has been clear to the African American community in Harris County for a long time that they receive different treatment than white people. The racist emails along with the problems in the crime lab should convince the rest of this problem.

It was good to see all the protesters at the courthouse. There were more than 150 religious, community, and political leaders and I was happy to see that not all of the protesters were African American. This is an issue that we should all be concerned about, regardless of race. Everyone benefits if the right person is prosecuted and incarcerated for a crime. I was glad to see Councilman Peter Brown, a man for whom I have a lot of respect, outside the courthouse with the other protesters calling for the resignation of Rosenthal. Rosenthal refuses to step down but is not running for re-election. It's time for him to go. Several assistant DA's including Kelly Siegler should go as well.