November 29, 2012

October 2012 Pictures of the Day

Well, it's almost the end of November, so I guess that means I should finally post my October Pictures of the Day. It was another busy month for traveling, and you can see the Leftovers here. I hope there's something in the set that you like:

Thanks for reading and looking, and enjoy the rest of your week!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 26, 2012

Veterinary Election Fun

I know you may have already voted once at the beginning of this month, but democracy is calling yet again, dear readers.

Heska (a company that works with veterinary drugs, among other things) is currently holding a contest for different animal-related programs and projects. The grand prize of $25,000 will go to the winning project. As you may know, my dad is a veterinarian, and one of the projects he works with is in the contest. He specializes in animal dentistry, so he often teams up with the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dentistry Foundation (PEIVDF) to help provide dental care to animals, especially wildlife rescue and zoo animals. I'll include a few pictures my dad sent throughout this post. It's a good cause, and you can help, too.

Tigers get cavities, too.

If you go to the Heska contest site you can read about all the projects and vote for the one you think is the best. You can vote once per day until December 10th. You do need to register, but it's a very fast process and it's just to make sure that you don't vote more than once per day.

I think the PEIVDF project is very worthwhile, of course, but all of the projects seem pretty cool and worth checking out. And if you do decide to vote, whether for PEIVDF or any other project, thanks for your time and for participating!

Lions, Tigers, and Bears --oh my!-- They're totally useless when it comes to flossing.
Let's give them a paw and help them get good dental care.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 24, 2012

Oh, Son Of A...

After my anti-Black Friday rant yesterday, I felt a bit better. I'd said what I felt, and didn't have to think about it again until next year. Little did I know, though, that on my website, there was something strange and almost hypocritical-seeming at work:

My friend Brad sent me this screen shot, saying "I just thought this was ironic." Indeed, a Black Friday Deals ad in the middle of a rant against Black Friday. But I guess that's just how AdSense rolls, since it seems to find the content in blogs and tailors ads accordingly. Oh well. I guess it is ironic, and kind of funny even. One might even say it proves my point. 

Or maybe not. Either way, have a good weekend!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 23, 2012

A Brief Note To Black Friday: You Are Crap

By "you," I of course don't mean you, Dear Reader! I mean the very concept of Black Friday, which is so vulgarly capitalistic and basically just about crass commercialism. If it were any other day, I'd say discounts would be welcome, but not the deceptive kinds that many people are now associating with the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving--a holiday that is all about giving thanks and spending time with friends and family! Isn't that great? Well, it's not great for commerce, since you're not buying enough cards, decorations, or other crap.

I remember 10 years or so ago, the concept of Black Friday didn't even exist. They just called it "the day after Thanksgiving," and yes, everyone knew it was the busiest shopping day of the year. But that was out of necessity, since so many people have jobs that require them to work 5 days a week, so a Friday where the kids got off school and the folks didn't have to work did indeed provide a chance to go shopping. 

But it was shitty. Every mall and every store was packed with every other idiot that decided to go shopping. That's why they started calling it Black Friday, since it was "black" as in "all the light has gone out of my life, since I'm here trying to find bargains at Sears when I could have stayed home, relaxed, and digested turkey on my day off."

But it seems like it's been just in the last few years that Black Friday became a big thing. A big, shitty thing, and I'm here to say I don't like it. The worst part is, it's even come to Costa Rica. But here they don't celebrate Thanksgiving, so the whole idea of it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. And the discounts here are something small, like 10 or 15%. So they have "viernes negro," but no one knows why it's called black, nor why everyone's going to overpriced stores on this one day. It's all filler and no taste, which is even worse than Black Friday in the US.

I realize that it's too late to do anything about it this year, but next year I think I'll participate in Buy Nothing Day. I can't say I did this year, though, since I paid for a Chinese class and then went to the supermarket to buy some noodles and ice cream. Dammit, I'm still in consumerism's claws!

Anyhow, Happy Black Friday! (See how bad that sounds?)

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 22, 2012

It's The Great Turkey, Charlie Sitzman!

Well, it's Thanksgiving again, and I'm out of the country yet again. That's a bummer because Thanksgiving is great. But at least we'll be celebrating a bit in my class this evening --I even made some pies and everything!

My students and I have been doing a bit of research and a few lessons related to Thanksgiving, and so of course I came across "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving." I used to watch these Peanuts holiday specials almost constantly as a kid, or at least I think I did (and my mom seemed to confirm it). I had showed my class "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" to less-than rave reviews, so I'll not be showing this video tonight (I will, however, show a Simpsons Thanksgiving episode). But if you've not checked out the Peanuts' take on the holiday, you really owe it to yourself to see how weird these specials actually are. Here's the Thanksgiving one:

Now, if you actually made it through that, good for you. However, if you didn't, rest assured: it is fairly bizarre in parts. You can definitely see that the kids of the day must have really loved Snoopy, since in both this video and the Great Pumpkin he's got a few scenes of a couple minutes each where he just does things that don't really move the plot forward at all. You'd have a hard time finding that in today's cartoons (especially if you consider Great Pumpkin, which has got a 1- or 2-minute scene with Snoopy where he's apparently hallucinating that he's a World War I flying ace...yay Halloween!).

The Thanksgiving one does have a great scene with toast around 8:20, though. Gotta give it that. Toast is possibly my favorite food. It's just so versatile.

Plus, having actual kids do the voices gives both videos an eerie touch, and the dialogue is also very high-level stuff that even I need to listen to closely to understand. So in that sense, it's not even aimed at kids, necessarily, but then who is it aimed at? The thing that I think is weirdest about this one, though, is Snoopy and Woodstock's dinner at the end. Dude, Woodstock the bird is eating turkey. Isn't that nearly cannibalism? 

Anyhow, don't get me wrong: I love Thanksgiving (like I said here a few years ago), and I think it's great. But as we enjoy our dinners and time with our families, let's not forget the hardships our forebears had to suffer in the 1970s and 80s, when there were so few high-quality Thanksgiving-themed TV specials to choose from. And me? I'm just thankful for my patient mom, who had to put up with us watching Peanuts-themed holiday specials for the last three months of every year!

Happy Thanksgiving!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 18, 2012

More Trip Pictures

I've finally finished uploading pictures from our October trip to Europe and New York City. The slideshow below has my favorites (hence its name), but there are quite a few more from each section of the trip, if you're interested. You can check them out by going right to flickr, or through the links after the slideshow.

Here are the links to more pictures from the individual parts of our trip:

I hope some of them are interesting--if not, you can't say I didn't try. Thanks for looking and reading, and have a great week!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 16, 2012

What To Do When You Get An Election

Something tells me that's not his real name. Or the real date.
Well, more than a week has passed since the election in the US. Whether you liked the result or not, it's over. Thank God. I know everyone wants to put all the campaigning, the onslaught of media coverage, and the relentless commercials out of their mind for as long as possible (4 years, ideally), but I had some thoughts to share. My ideas here aren't about the results, but the process. If you don't feel like reading them, that's fine, but let me live in my fantasy world for at least a few more paragraphs.

The main reason I'm even writing this is because I've observed other electoral systems in other countries. I've lived in Germany and Costa Rica for various elections and noticed some differences in how they Take Care of Business. No system is perfect, and of course ours in the US isn't perfect, either. But I think that we could still take a few ideas from other systems to make ours better (and vice-versa, frankly). So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts about...


1. Make it easier to vote. In general, really. In Costa Rica --and keep in mind this is considered by some to be a "third world" country-- people don't even need to register to vote. They have a list of people, and on election day you simply go to the closest polling station and they cross your name off. That seems much easier than the registration process I have to go through in Colorado. And actually, if you think about it, why do we even have to register? If it's really a democracy, shouldn't the assumption be that everyone should get a chance to let their voice be heard, if they want it heard? 

On the other hand, if someone doesn't want to vote, I'd say that's his or her business (or loss, if you want to see it that way), and I wouldn't support laws like in Australia that fine non-voters. To me forcing someone to vote is just like trying to eat soup with a fork. I honestly have no idea how this particular metaphor works, but that's just the image that came to mind when I thought of electoral officials trying to force apathetic people to care about an election. If they're not inclined to vote, let them be lazy, I'd say.

2. A Tuesday in November? Really? In many countries (again, including Costa Rica), elections are held on Sundays and/or Saturdays, and the election day is basically treated like a holiday. No one who wants to vote should be prevented from doing so because he or she couldn't get time off work, because they had to take care of the kids, or because of inclement weather.

3. Keep promoting mail-in and internet voting. This election I voted by mail, and the previous one I voted by overseas absentee ballot (it was sent to me here in Costa Rica, a small miracle knowing the Costa Rican mail system). I think both of these are great steps in making the election more inclusive and accessible, but they could help kick it up a notch with online voting. If I had voted as an overseas voter this time, I could have actually voted by email, but I would have had to sign a statement that I accepted my ballot wouldn't be secret or private. I didn't care as much for that, plus I spent a lot of time in Colorado this year, so I just voted by mail. But still, why can't anyone vote by internet, and securely, too? I recognize that would require a verification regime, so that could indeed make things more complicated. But if Estonia can do it, why can't we?

An additional benefit of both online and mail-in voting is of course that you don't need to wait in long election lines. In all the elections I've voted in, I never had to wait in line terribly long, but one time in Colorado I did have to wait about an hour and a half. It's not tragic, but for some people a wait time like that could prove a deal-breaker, especially if they had to go to work, pick up kids, or wait in crappy weather.

My most-recent mail-in ballot.

4. Limit the money. This idea seems to enjoy support from most sides. The money being spent on all types of campaigns, from President down to Dogcatcher, has become astronomical. And it doesn't even seem to make that much of a difference in the end. The only thing I did notice is that every 4 out of 5 commercials I saw in Colorado in October were about the election. At least if we limited the amount of campaign funding, the campaigns wouldn't be able to afford to annoy me as much.

5. Get rid of the electoral college. Seriously, it's confusing as hell and not even most Americans know what it's all about. And have you ever tried to explain it to a class of English students in a foreign country? Don't.

The point is, it's a weird system that most people say isn't very fair. If you're promoting a democracy, "unfair" and "confusing" are two adjectives you'd probably prefer not be attached to your system. I actually do understand (somewhat well) how it works, but I still think it's stupid. For a national election, why not just let the popular vote rule? You may know the "fun fact" that four former presidents have been elected through the electoral college, but lost the popular vote. That just doesn't make sense.

6. Introduce proportional representation. Either that, or some kind of threshold a party needs to reach to govern, like 65% or something. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, one thing's for certain: almost half the country disagrees with you. Plus, there's the old adage that voting for a third party is throwing your vote away. I do agree that you should vote your conscience, not your fears, and all those other sayings, but seriously, do you really think that just two (2) political parties can represents the wishes, needs, and beliefs of an entire country?

If we had a system that implemented proportional representation, we wouldn't have to deal with the downsides of a winner-take-all system. The main downside of course is that if a party can win a presidential election with 50.1% of the votes (and yes, even less than that, as we all know), then there's still a huge swath of the country that will feel their voice isn't being heard. 

Imagine, for example, that in order to govern a country, a party had to get 65% of a vote, or to form a coalition with another party to reach that percentage. Or it could be 60%. Or 70%. In any case, it would encourage political parties to work together to make decisions and to get things done, while also enabling a larger percentage of the population's voice to be heard.

So, those are my ideas. I know that some of them --actually, most likely all of them-- will never be implemented in the US in my lifetime, but a guy can dream, can't he? Of course, I'm not a political scientist, and I've never studied these topics seriously. I therefore realize that some of these ideas may come off as impractical or even stupid, but this is just a sort of brainstorming device for me. But if an armchair political hack like me can sit back and come up with these six ideas in a few minutes, surely our greatest political minds can come up with more, even better ideas. After all, if the founders of the country talked about forming a more perfect union, it seems like we should at least be able to get rid of some of the most obvious imperfections. 

What's your take? Do you think any of these ideas would work? Do you have other ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts or other input in the comment section.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend, and don't forget: Vote (well, at least in 2016)!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 14, 2012

For Your Consideration

My brother Paul recently worked on this music video by the group Train:

He's a filmmaker, and he usually works with sound and general production. He said that for this video, he was a "Unit Production Manager." I asked him what that was, since I wasn't sure, and he said that he was in charge of securing crew, equipment, food, and permissions on a short notice. In any case, that sounds a bit more interesting than teaching the use of present perfect modal verbs yet again, so I'm a bit jealous that he's gotten on a career path that sounds a bit more fun than mine, at least at the moment.

Also, Train is a fairly big name group. I know they did the "Soul Sister" song a few years ago, and I think they did something like "Drops of Jupiter," but that may have came out right when I moved countries and didn't listen to as much music. Still, the point is that I've heard of them, and that they're big enough to film and play at Red Rocks, so that's pretty cool. The original link Paul gave me was through the Country Music Television channel, but since that link didn't work for me in Costa Rica, I embedded the one above. I also thought it was interesting that they're apparently "country" enough now to be on that station. Then again, the definition of country may be changing, but I still know this: Toby Keith sucks.

So, good work, brother, and may we see many more videos and movies that you were involved with!  

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 13, 2012

Pee Es

Your pee is a goal just waiting to be scored!
(I took this picture in the Schweiz back in 2006)
Last week I wrote about why I pee on my lawn, and how you can, too! I tried to explain urine's fertilizing abilities, although I obviously possess absolutely no knowledge about chemistry, physics, or astrology (nor do I know which of these fields of study could explain why pee makes grass grow).

Nevertheless, it appears that urine is even more powerful and valuable than I imagined. You can check out this article on Gizmodo if you don't believe me; basically, a few teenage girls from Nigeria have created a generator that runs on urine. You can check out the link or their references yourself, but I think the take-home message here is abundantly clear: 

Keep those empty pop bottles handy, since it's time to start hoarding your urine! 

Thanks for reading, and have a good one!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 10, 2012

September 2012 Pictures of the Day

September? Yes, September. We were traveling a lot (mostly in China during September) so I've been slow at uploading pictures and posting to the blog. But here they are, finally:

I'm also currently uploading pictures from October and I'll put them here when they're ready. In the meantime, you can always check out my latest pictures on Flickr. (And you can see some of the newest ones in the widget to the left.)

Thanks for reading, and have a great new week!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 8, 2012

Gee Whiz

Sure, if you need to do a Number Two, there's nothing like a bathroom. But if Number One is on your mind, your grass could use a favor.
One's no longer the loneliest number, after all.

I recently came across this article on The Atlantic Cities site. It talks about a new system/product that will allow people to urinate outside in urban areas, and then harness that urine to fertilize plants. You should really check out the article for a better explanation, as well as to see a picture of the system.

Personally, I think this is brilliant. I recently learned the power of one's urine in our own yard. Especially when our water used to get cut off, I'd quickly hop outside at night when I needed to take a leak. I was surprised to notice that in the areas that I peed, the grass seemed to grow stronger, which was in direct contrast to what I thought I knew about peeing on lawns. But maybe that was just dog pee I was thinking of.

In any case, our front yard was a dying wreck about a year ago, so I decided that there was really nothing to lose by peeing on it and seeing if it worked. And let me tell you, it worked like gangbusters. The only complication was that it was right next to the road, so I'd normally have to wait till darkness before going out, checking to see that no one was going to pass by, and then letting loose. Plus, there were many critters to contend with, such as bats that would do fly-bys and nearly attack my head, mosquitoes, insane stray dogs, and weird hicks. And once I even had to chase an armadillo out of our yard, but that was just weird. But the main idea is that it worked, and for a long time, that was by far the greenest part of our yard.

So if you have a yard and you drink liquid forms of nourishment, consider combining the synergy of the two and seeing what happens.

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November 6, 2012

Wow, 800 Posts!

This is just a stock picture of me blowing a candle out on a cake. It's not even recent; I think it's from 2007 or something. But the point is this: Cake, and Monumental Occasion.
As I was logging in to Blogger to write a new post, I just realized that my last post on Sitzblog was my 800th post! That's pretty amazing, especially considering that when I started this blog in 2006 or whenever, I didn't technically know what a blog was, nor did I have any idea what I'd end up doing with this one.

And I guess I technically still don't know, but I would like to thank anyone who's read this blog along the way, whether you've done so consistently or coincidentally. I appreciate your support, and it's readers like you that make this whole thing more than just a glorified digital journal.

In any case, here's to at least 800 more posts--thanks again for reading!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

November 1, 2012

Ladies And Gentlemen, Start Your Beards!

I don't do "Movember" (It just doesn't work to combine those two words, in my opinion), but I do get into Novembeard! This is what I came up with a few years ago, so we'll see if I can beat my own record this year!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook