Monday, March 31, 2008

My Thought on the Stimulus Package

This past summer I worked on the line at Herman Miller. I earned enough to qualify for the $300 stimulus check. In general, I disagree with government activism; I find the government harms more than it helps in many cases. As a college student, though, I will not say no to free money. Nevertheless, the government will not send me a check this May so that I might help turn the economy around. My parents still claim me as a dependent, which disqualifies me to receive the check. Logic would say that my parents receive that $300 check, but when has the government followed logic? My parents will not receive an extra $300 for me because I am an adult. It would make sense that citizens between 18 and 22 would receive money to help the economy, because we generally need it most and are least responsible with it. This means that instead of saving it, we would spend it; which is what the government wants, more spending.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What happens when there is nothing

Do you ever watch the news when there has been nothing going on? They usually play up whatever does happen that day and then throw in some crappy feature story. It's tough to watch to be frank.

Today was that kind of day for SpeakGood. I swear, nothing caught my eye, there was no good news.

Instead, I'm going to treat you to a less crappy feature on how I choose what I write about on here. May Godspeed be with you as you embark on this journey.

Google is amazing. Most of my stories come from the iGoogle interface which I have tailored to show me several RSS feeds from the top news outlets in the country. Lately, my technology feed has been the most story laden, and I love writing about tech stuff.

Then comes the actually writing. The topic usually has to have some sort of an opinion for me to write about it. Very rarely do I ever post something just to post it - I'm going to let you know how I feel about it.

Surprisingly enough, most of my posts take less than 20 minutes to write. Even the extremely long ones only take a little longer timewise. I wish this was the case for every school paper I had to write. As it stands now I still haven't finished a history paper that I told myself to finish several nights ago.

Finally, the post is published. At this point, my beloved readers (that's you!) get to see my work in all of its glory. Shortly after I post I update my RSS feed so that the new post shows on my Facebook profile as well.

Whew... 10 minutes later and Thursday's post is done. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Letter discrimination is ridiculous

You know it happens.

If your last name starts with a letter at the end of the alphabet you know exactly what I'm talking about. Last in roll call, last in lines, last in almost everything just because of your last name.

I'll be honest, I was graced to have a last name that started with the letter E. Sure, it's not A, but its a lot closer to the front of the alphabet than X, Y, or Z are.

For the majority of my life I laughed at your end-of-the-alphabet last names. I was superior. I had the letter E on my side.

However, now I feel your pain.

GVSU decides that to be far they change the order of class scheduling so the first letter isn't necessarily first to schedule. In this case, next year's sophomores with last names that start with the letters A through E cannot schedule until the last day available.

I'm not used to such discrimination. I liked being first and I sure am having a hard time giving it up.

Now I'm the one being rediculed. Now I'm the one being picked last. Thanks to you letter discrimination, I've fallen from my pedestal and back among mere mortals.

Letter discrimination must be stopped. Or at least systems like Grand Valley's must be adopted earlier in life.

Maybe then I would be used to it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words (and maybe an arrest?)

There is no denying that social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace are the most popular web hangouts of high school and college students alike. But what gets me is how dumb some of these students are.

It is astounding how many people post pictures of themselves drinking while underage. I know it happens, but that is not the surprising part. It's the logic (or lack there of) that drives someone to allow yourself to be photographed that baffles me. Furthermore, who in their right mind would post that on a public site like Facebook?

I had a friend in high school that was caught smoking marijuana because he let someone take a picture of him doing it. Long story short, the camera was lost and then found by a school administrator who found the pictures. To this day I have never understood his thought process -- why he would smoke marijuana to begin with or why he let a picture be taken.

It's kind of scary to think that our upcoming generation is not smart enough to realize that pictures can have these ramifications. Maybe we need to be taught some common sense.

As cheap as this sounds I always have felt that you could make a killing as a Facebook "rat". Basically the job would entail reporting underage drinking and saving the evidence to prove the case. I would never do it myself, but then again, someone probably will.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hotmail, Safari, and Internet ethics

My opinion of the Internet is that it should be an open medium for sharing information. No one company should have dominance over the Internet, whether it be through browser software or through Web sites.

One of the major problems I've had while running Linux is that the "full" version of Windows Live Hotmail does not work correctly using the version of Firefox packaged with Ubuntu and other distros. Hotmail forces you to use it's "classic" version -- which is very flawed. Unfortunately, I sent out some badly formatted e-mails (they were rather important) because of this.

After searching the Internet for a while I ran across a solution involving modifying the browser headers that are sent to Hotmail. Essentially, I am tricking Hotmail to think I'm using a version of Firefox running under Windows. It's the only way I can reliably get Hotmail into its full featured mode.

I've read many posts that claim that it is Microsoft's right to shut out Linux users from using Hotmail. Perhaps it is, but I believe this goes against everything the Internet stands for. In no way should Microsoft be allowed to deny full features just because you're not using Windows. Web designers should not be able to create applications and Web sites that do not work in different browsers -- regardless of whether or not they are competition.

When I booted up into my XP partition the other day I was shocked to find out Apple had begun packaging Safari in with its iTunes updates. This is just as wrong as Hotmail not working in Linux without tricking the Web site.

It's unfortunate that iTunes updates are already 50+ MB, but then they want to throw in another huge file for the worthless piece of software that Apple calls a browser. Firefox has all the features that Safari has, is faster, and is a much smaller download file.

What gets me is that Apple is going to capitalize on people who don't understand computers. When these people go to update iTunes, they probably will download Safari without even realizing it. I have no problem with people using Safari, I just do not think they should be forced to use it (much like how Microsoft should not be allowed to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows).

The news that Safari 3.1 crashes on Windows XP does not help Apple out at all. Not only are they pushing software on users, the software crashes on the most popular Windows operating system.

The Internet is supposed to be OPEN. Companies like Microsoft and Apple must stop their monopolistic practices in regards to their policies governing the use of their products.

It's too bad the United States courts will not do anything to stop these companies. All we can hope for is that the European Union will.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to make money blogging

Take this post with a grain of salt. We really make little money from this site so it's not like I'm a expert at the subject. However, when I was searching for this topic through Google, all I could find was recommendations from successful, money making bloggers. I personally think my views as a struggling part-time blogger are more relevant.

People start blogs for many different reasons. Some do it for love, some do it for money, and other reasons abound. I personally do it because it's fun and a great way to make sure my writing skills do not become rusty. Any money I make is a plus.

Before you start your blog, be prepared to have to work. SpeakGood is coming up on it's six month anniversary, and yet the largest number of viewers I've had in one day is 70 according to Google Analytics. On the plus side, it's way more than the five or so that we started out with.

Okay, now that you have heard my little spiel, here are some ways to earn some dough:

Pay-Per-Post Services- Pretty simple concept. You blog about certain things and companies pay you to do so. This has become quite popular as of late, however you will probably never see these types of posts on SpeakGood. Personally, I'm kind of against these types of posts because you do not know if the writer's opinion was influenced by his payment. I liken these posts to the infomercials that have supposed customers praising the product. All in all, if you're not opposed to these posts like I am, this is a pretty decent way to score some cash.

General Ads- These work best with niche blogs, blogs that have a specific topic (say Mayan art). Most of the ad providers automatically scan your site for keywords and show ads that fit your target audience. If your site is very general, the ads are not going to be as specific as you probably will need to get clicks. If you are successful at garnering clicks, this is a great way to earn money as clicks can be worth a dollar or more in some instances.

Referral Ads- Same concept as general ads, except that you're only paid if the viewer "converts" or buys the product the ad linked to. Often these have the highest payouts, but they also tend to be the toughest to get people to use. Once again though, a highly specialized site probably will show referral ads that pertain to your audience so you might get lucky.

Sell Dedicated Ad Space- I can only dream of being able to do this. If your blog is successful enough to sell dedicated space then I would say you've hit it big. Small blogs like SpeakGood simply do not draw enough traffic to interest individual advertisers, but if your blog has a big reader base this solution maybe for you. Very high payouts abound if you can utilize this option.

Obviously, the most important thing to do is to draw visitors to your site. Without visitors, you will make no money whatsoever. Submit your best works to Digg or other similar sites, spread the word around your campus or workplace, or even stand outside on the sidewalk handing out flyers. Each new reader is another potential ad click - which means more money for you.

Also, be sure to keep up a posting routine. I usually post to SpeakGood Monday through Thursday each week in order to keep my readers. Be sure to run a spell check as well.

If all else fails and you simply cannot make any money, look at it this way: You're surely going to become a much better writer if you blog!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Learn some computer stuff (or else find a geeky friend)

I'm probably what most people would consider a geek. I love video games, computers, and all technology in general, and I am extremely excited for the upcoming release of Ubuntu next month. But what comes with the territory and is most useful to others is that I know my way around a computer.

Tonight I spent a good part of two hours troubleshooting some problems with my friend's Vista laptop. Although I was unable to solve her problem (it looks like Service Pack 1 screwed up her user profile), I was reminded how much somewhere like Best Buy's Geek Squad would have charged to do the same troubleshooting that I was.

Did you know that Geek Squard charges $99 to back up a measly 9.4 GB of data? That is ridiculous. I've reinstalled my operating system three times this year and backed my data up by myself each time. Moving almost 20 GB to my iPod took less than a minute of my time. If I had to pay for that I would be fuming.

When my hard drive died earlier this year I had to take it to Best Buy to get it replaced because Acer's support told me to take it there. To say the least I was not looking forward to the trip. I had a feeling I would get an inordinate number of questions from someone who probably knew less about computers than I do. (I'll be honest and say I'm proud of my computer smarts).

I arrived at Best Buy only to be told I would need my receipt for my laptop. Unfortunately, I had no receipt and I had paid in cash so there was no credit card to look up in the computer. No problem, I knew my computer was registered with Acer and that I could look up the purchase date online. I tell my "agent" this and he proceeds to search for the Acer website.

A minute or so goes by and he returns telling me he cannot find it. Frustrated, I proceed to go behind the Geek Squad desk and find it myself.

I cannot be so unhappy because I got a free hard drive that was much larger than my original one. However, the other things people were dishing out money for were laughable. The guy behind me needed to reinstall sound drivers. It's a 5 minute fix tops, but I'm sure Geek Squad charged him $50 or more. Unbelievable.

Moral of the story: Find a geeky friend or learn some stuff yourself. You'd be amazed how much time and money you could save by just learning a little more about computers.

As for my friends computer, I will be backing up her data in minutes and doing a system restore to fix what Service Pack 1 screwed up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ageless wonders amaze me

I do not want to proliferate SpeakGood with the boring details of my uninteresting life, but a few recent events have led me to one conclusion: Chris Chelios and Julio Franco are not human.

There is no way possible. Chelios is 46 years old and is still going strong for the Detroit Red Wings. Franco is 49, and though he is a free agent, he is still an active player in the MLB.

What led me to this conclusion? Let's just say the current shape that I'm in leads me to believe after 18 the body just cannot take physical activity.

I'm not a superstar athlete and I never was. I'm average height, and I probably could afford to drop 10-20 pounds (but it seems everyone can these days). I've played baseball since I was in second grade and that includes the last four years in which I played high school ball.

Frankly, I've been brought to my knees by stuff that is so far from what Chelios and Franco endure every day at the age of 45+. For instance, today all I've done is help coach a baseball team for two hours (including extensive throwing) and then play pick-up half court basketball for two hours. And I feel like I'm about to die.

The fact that Chelios and Franco are still in one piece astonishes me. I give them major kudos for being the successful athletes that they are.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dice-K gets start in Japan

Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka will be the opening day starter for the Boston Red Sox when they take Oakland Athletic's in their season opener in Japan.

Dice-K starting is a wonderful thing for MLB and it's image overseas. Obviously, baseball is a huge thing in Japan, but allowing Matsuzaka to start the first game played their this season is awesome. Major League Baseball is getting the publicity that the NFL only dreams about when it goes overseas.

It is very important that American sports leagues get ample recognition outside of the United States. We are world leaders in just about every sport (except, of course, for soccer) and we need to set positive examples.

Personally, I cannot wait to catch some of this game. The fans are going to be going nuts no matter how Dice-K does. It will definitely be a lot of fun to watch.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The great gas price quandary

Ok, sorry to screw up my publishing schedule. But here is Thursday's post on Friday.

Anyone else sick of these ridiculous gas prices? Yeah, I though so.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say a couple of things that really have no scientific backing. These are only my opinions -- take them or leave them.

First off, the economy must get it through its thick head there is not an oil shortage. All this artificial supply and demand is killing consumers. There is enough oil to last a long time, even at our current consumption rates.

Second, the media must stop emphasizing the gas price hike. They continuous coverage is only making it worse. I'm a journalism major and even I think the media is horrid. By talking about gas at $4 per gallon, it is only going to reach that point.

Third, the United States must open some protected areas to oil exploration (read Alaska). There is enough oil up there to last a long time. PETA can take a seat and shut up.

Fourth, alternative sources of energy must be made economical soon. Until the alternatives cost the same or less as fossil fuels there will be no initiative to change.

There is no reason for gas to be $3.46 a gallon. These four ideas should make the price drop back to correct levels (i.e. $1.75 per gallon).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why abstinence only education is no longer an option

My home town is extremely conservative. Thus, it was a huge step when our high school began offering a health class last year. My concern? The only mention of sex education within the pages of the massive textbook was a small paragraph teaching abstinence only.

As I have been later told, this was the only way the school board would approve such as class. However, regardless of my or your feelings on the subject, it is becoming increasingly apparent that abstinence-based sex education is failing.

A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 4 girls aged 14-19 has a sexually transmitted disease.

It has always been my opinion that without proper education teens will make mistakes -- though I am not endorsing premarital sex. But, supression leads to oppression in my opinion.

The problem is that sex is a taboo topic in today's world. Many people do not want to talk about sex at all. It is this kind of attitude that is causing many questions to go unanswered. Like the story says, many teenage girls are almost afraid to discuss STDs with their doctor and are even less likely to be tested for them.

Instead of constantly pushing abstinence into the minds of today's younger generations, why not spend some time discussing the potential problems that result in having sex and spend time discussing why it might be better to wait. Perhaps that will convince teenagers that sex may not be such a great idea.

Teenagers will listen to logic, trust me. They will not, however, respond to people constantly drilling something they should not do into their head.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NFL free agency leaves me scratching head

It is always fun to see just how much many players can get through free agency in the NFL. Every year there is someone like Asante Samuel who is worth the nearly $60 million contract he signed.

But then there is always the head scratchers:

Tatum Bell, RB, Detroit Lions, 1 year @ $1.6 million - Why in the world Bell would want to come back to the Lions is beyond me. He sat the majority of the year and wasn't really effective when he was in anyway. Without Mike Martz the Lions may run more, but Bell will be unlikely to carry over the success he had in Denver -- especially behind Detroit's porous offensive line.

Trent Green, QB, St. Louis Rams, 3 years @ 8.9 million - Green will make a good backup quarterback to Marc Bulger in St. Louis, but is he really worth almost $9 million over 3 years? Green is injury prone and old. Seems to me St. Louis could have spent the money improving other positions because Green probably isn't a much better option than other backup quarterbacks.

T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones, RBs, Seattle Seahawks, 5 years @ $14 million and 4 years @ ~$12 million, respectively - Shaun Alexander is washed up, and I blame the Madden Curse. Regardless, I doubt Duckett is worth half of his contract. Jones was good for a while but has been stuck behind Marion Barber in Dallas for the last couple of years. Duckett was pretty worthless in Detroit last year, so I have to wonder how he managed to convince the Seahawks that he was worthy of a 5 year deal. However, these deals do have the potential to help Seattle's anemic running game.

Time will only tell if these moves make sense for the teams involved. Until then, I'm labeling these as the boneheaded acquisitions of the 2008 offseason.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Apple and their worthless DRM

Anyone who has ever purchased music from the iTunes store knows that every song purchased comes in Apple's annoying "Protected AAC" file format. Like everything else Apple does, they would prefer that their music not be played on anything other than Apple software and hardware.

Since I use Ubuntu Linux (read: no iTunes), it is extremely inconvenient for me to buy songs through Apple because I cannot play the DRM'ed files. Though it is possible to remove the DRM by burning audio CDs, that's a lot of work to just get a couple songs onto my Ubuntu Linux.

Thankfully, a couple months ago I ran across a cool little program called MyFairTunes, which was a one-click DRM stripper for those pesky AAC files. A minute or so later, all my downloaded music was DRM free and able to play on Ubuntu.

Once again, Apple is stepping in and ruining what is easy and legal.

Today I downloaded a song and went to convert it to an unprotected MP3 file. MyFairTunes gave me an error so I went to (the MyFairTunes main site) searching for a resolution. Shockingly I ran across this post.

Apparently Apple has filed a Cease and Desist order against the site and the Hymn Project is no longer allowed to offer download links for the programs.

Like I needed more reasons to dislike Apple and their closed-minded ways.

Using MyFairTunes to remove Apple's foolish DRM is COMPLETELY LEGAL. I bought the songs, why can I not put them on whatever devices I want to? This right falls under the Fair Use clause in copyright law.

Apple's iTunes End User License Agreement (EULA) does outlaw cracking the DRM on their songs, although that is no surprise. What else would you expect from a company that will not let their operating systems run on anything other than their hardware?

What is tough to understand is how Apple thinks they aren't violating the same thing they are fighting. Although CD ripping has been a computer standard for some time now, how is it different than cracking DRM off of a download? There is no difference between ripping a purchased CD and cracking purchased DRM'ed content. Both methods result in unprotected purchased content ending up on a computer.

What is unfortunate is that the Hymn Project did not in any way condone piracy. Essentially, Apple has alienated every user of the Hymn Project's software.

Regardless, Apple can enjoy their DRM'ed crap. Once my gift card runs out, I will be switching to Amazon or one of the other DRM free music providers. They "get" consumers, while Apple is so far behind the times. DRM is dead Apple, get over it.

Until then, I guess I will just have to burn audio CDs to rid myself of the infernal DRM.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Osceola Municipal Golf Course is one of those must play public courses

Oh how happy am I that I was able to play a full 18 holes of golf this afternoon. While my friends spent the day in a snow filled Michigan, I had the opportunity to play at Osceola Municipal Golf Course, one of the few public and affordable golf courses in the Pensacola, Florida area.

What immediately stuck out to me was the course's very cheap rates. While one could expect to pay 30 to 50 dollars for 18 holes and a cart up in Michigan, Osceola cost a grand total of $21 for 18 and a cart. Of course, this was the twilight rate, but the cool thing about Florida is that they consider after 1 P.M. to be twilight.

With prices that low, I really wasn't expecting much as far as quality is concerned. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The course was definitely not top notch, but far above my expectations.

In Florida's warm climate there is no such thing as a golf offseason. As such, the fairways show a little wear, but none more than what you would expect. The bunkers were amazing - as a Michigander I'm not used to pure white sand in the bunkers. Greens were very green and not tore up in the least bit.

From a playing standpoint there was nothing memorable about the course's layout and hole design. The course is very straight and open for the most part, and I've come to the conclusion that they do not believe in rough at Osceola. What is considered rough here is equivalent to Michigan's fairways. As a result your ball will roll forever.

Though Osceola is not particularly memorable, it is well maintained and affordable. For the first time being out this season with rental clubs I carded a 104. So it is definitely not hard, but still fun. I would recommend the course to anyone who happens to be around Pensacola and is looking for an affordable, but still satisfying round of golf.

Osceola's web site can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chris Anderson's feel good moment

Unfortunately for professional sports, there are only so many feel good moments to go around. And sadly, most of these moments come after deaths, like those of Pat Tillman and Sean Taylor.

Thankfully, Chris Anderson's story doesn't involve death. Instead, it involves a much happier story about a recovery from drug abuse.

Anderson was reinstated by the league after a little more than 2 years worth of suspension. According to the ESPN story, he has turned his life around and is ready to be back.

Good for you Chris. I hope your career continues right where you left off.

It's always good to see someone kick a drug habit. They are tough things to kick and sadly I lost a cousin a couple years ago to a drug overdose.

Professional sports need more of these good stories and less of the bad.

Favre no where near the top

No matter which "great" player retires, everyone has to evaluate them against everyone else who played their position/sport. Brett Favre is no exception. His retirement after 17 seasons in the NFL has sparked conversations on just how good he was.

Favre was a good quarterback and a great football player. However, he should not be held as one of the best players in NFL history.

Sure, his consecutive games played streak is impressive. But really how much does that say about him? That he was good enough to start and not get hurt? Wow, that encompasses a lot of players throughout their career. Just because he sucked it up with injuries and played, he does not automatically get to be thrust into the upper echelon of football lore.

At quarterback, Favre was adequete. In his prime he was very good, but since that time (after 1999 or so), he has just become a ho-hum starting quarterback - a Kerry Collins type. I would take Peyton Manning any day over Favre. I will even go so far as to say Manning would own Favre in his prime.

Favre was good - others are better. Regardless, Packers fans are both in mourning and also finally relieved to see the retirement of number four.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Inge will not be forced to play catcher

Okay, so 15 hour car trips from Michigan to Florida really take it out of you. Fortunately, I have enough left in the tank to do a blog post tonight, even while I'm enjoying the rather balmy 70 degree weather.

So it looks like Brandon Inge will not be catching anymore for the Detroit Tigers. Inge, the Tigers' former starting third baseman was relegated to a utility role with the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera this offseason.

Inge was a great catcher when he came up to the big leagues. Unfortunately, he no longer wishes to fulfill that role. And personally, I cannot blame him. I still feel that Cabrera should be moved somewhere else. Inge's glove at third base is too important to sit on the bench.

What angers me more is the comments made on the ESPN story linked above. People are making it like Inge is whining and complaining, but all he wants to do is start somewhere. And, for those that argue that Inge should do his job must remember his contract was signed with the intent that his job would be the Tigers' everyday third baseman.

I really hope some miracle happens and Inge ends up back at third for Detroit. He is my favorite player in recent history and it would be terrible for his tenure in Motown to end like this.