Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Announcements for Courses and Seminars in Implant and Cosmetic Dentistry

Are you a dentist looking for some more continuing education credits? Looking to learn some new skills or improve your current skill set? Check out the new Continuing Education for Dentists blog for announcements of new courses.

Some of the course topics covered include:
I know this post seems really random. I am not doing some pay to blog thing. This is just a blog I run at work. Now back to the randomness of my other posts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Durham, NC - Democratic Primary Voter Guide - May 6, 2008

Looking for the 2008 Republican Primary Guide for Durham, NC instead?

This is just a page of links to the candidates campaign websites for the Democratic Primary in Durham, NC on May 6, 2008. I know I am missing some races because I only looked at 2 of the sample ballots. If I could not find a site, I did not link to anything. As I got farther down the list and the races got more local and smaller level offices, finding sites became much harder. Sites also started not being the top result or even on the first page. That is kind of sad. They need some SEO help. At least they have sites. Maybe my links here will help their ranks. Many of these candidates only have a week left though because they won't make it to the general election.

Also, I am very disappointed in our local newspapers and other media. Their election sites are very incomplete, hard to find, some are not up to date and they are all just generally crappy. The ones that are still showing info from the last election are the ones that piss me off the most. No one is going to use a voter guide in 2008 with Mike Nifong on it! They obviously do not care about the primaries. It is hard enough as it is for voters to get good candidate information. At least we can get it straight from the candidates now. Get with the times old media!

Also, did you know that you can print out a sample ballot that will be exactly what you will see when you get to the voting booth? First, go to check your voter registration and make note of your precinct number. Then go find you ballot based on your party affiliation and precinct.

Without further ado...


US Senate


Lieutenant Governor


Commissioner of Insurance

Commissioner of Labor

Superintendent of Public Instruction


NC State Senate District 20

District Attorney District 14

Durham County Commissioner (Vote for 5)

Other Resources:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why can't I buy beer before noon on Sunday (and other asinine laws)

This morning, despite staying up way to late, I still managed to get up and make it to the 8:45 am church service. At 10 am I went to a very interesting Sunday School class on "Making Ethical Decisions in an Unethical World" where we discussed behaviorism. At 11am I was doing some grocery shopping at Super Target. At 11:50am I was in the checkout line with my $95 worth of groceries when I was told I could not buy the six pack of Yuengling for 10 more minutes. What?!?

I wasn't really surprised that such an asinine law exists but I was surprised when I was denied my beer. Had I know this before unloading all my groceries I would have browsed the DVDs for 10 more minutes. Instead I went without (I still have a few left over from my Samuel Adams Summer Sampler case).

Why does such a law even exist though? Why does it matter when I buy my beer? From the best I can tell, laws like these, called blue laws, were written to impose good Christan morals on us. Forget about Jews, Muslims or any other religions and their holy days. Also forget about us good Christians who are just doing some grocery shopping after the early service. In North Carolina the hours you can buy alcohol is outlined in § 18B‑1004. It says that alcohol can not be purchased between 2am and 7am on any day and until 12 pm on Sundays.

That is just stupid.

My other least favorite law lately is the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 which requires me to show ID so I can be tracked when I need some Sudafed (ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine) for a cold or allergies. Unlike showing ID to simply prove my age when buying beer, showing ID to buy some cold medicine gets me logged for 2 years. If I were in bad enough shape or if I bought some for my wife or kid for instance, I might get arrested. Read the post on Protectionism and My Stuffy Nose!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Box Office Receipts Graph Since 1986

I love statistics, graphs and movies so I was extra thrilled a few months ago when I ran across this awesome graph of movie box office revenues from 1986 to February 2008. From this graph you can really see how concentrated the big money maker releases are in the summer and over Christmas.

Looking at individual movies is also pretty interesting. The Shawshank Redemption, for instance, is rated 9.2 out of 10 and is ranked as the 2nd best movie ever on IMDB but had a poor performance in theaters.

The Shawshank Redemption (click to enlarge)

Another interesting movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released in April 2002 and never had a big weekend. It started out making next to nothing but in the end it made money for a full year. According to the IMDB trivia page, "it surpassed Dances with Wolves (1990) as the highest grossing movie never to have hit number one at the box office".

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (click to enlarge)

Last but not least we have one of the worst movies ever made, Gigli (pronounced as Jee-lee). I've never actually seen it but it's reputation is enough for me. From the graph for this movie (I had to search to find it) you can see it had a semi decent opening weekend before everyone realized how bad it was and it was taken out of theaters. This movie opened in 2,215 theaters but by the third weekend it was only showing in 73 (IMDB trivia page). Gigli also did well in the Razzie Awards that year with 6 wins.

What have we learned? Good movies don't always do very well in theaters and bad movies sometimes can, at least at first. Go find your favorite and least favorite movies on the graph too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Obma is an elitist, just what we need!

Barack Obama's recent comment that some in Western PA are "bitter" and they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" was not good for his campaign but it isn't all that wrong either. Americans have been ruled by fear, ignorance and incompetence for the last 7 years. We have to cope somehow.

People cling to things that make them feel safe like their guns, their religion and a common animosity for people who are not like them. Everyone does this. I cling to the idea of checks and balances, my civil rights, my right to privacy and my faith in God. For several years I have had to fall back on these ideals to get me through the day and I too am bitter. So listen up, there is nothing wrong with your guns, religion or your concerns over immigration but don't forget there are other important issues in the world.

But now Obama gets to be labeled an elitist for all who will listen to his competitors or the pundits. As Jon Stewart points out, despite jokingly, is being elite really such a bad thing for a President? (Especially considering our current leader.)

You know, I hear what you are all saying but doesn't elite mean good? Is that not something we're looking for in a President anymore? You know what candidates, come with me. I know elite is a bad word in politics. And you want to go bowling and throw back a few beers. But the job you are applying for, if you get it and it goes well, they might carve your head into a mountain. If you don't actually think you are better than us then what the f*!k are you doing? ... In fact, not only do I want an elite President, I want someone who is embarrassingly superior to me.

Or watch Jon explain that we really do want an elite President on the Daily Show site.

One of my favorite aspects of the fictional President Bartlett was the fact that the man was brilliant. A democracy should be a meritocracy so shouldn't the top position in that system be the best of the best?

State sanctioned murder is legal again!

Wohoo! Today the US Supreme Court ruled states can get back to murdering again. And what better day then during the first visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the US? It was a nice FU to the Vicar of Christ! Who really cares What Jesus Would Do (WJWD) after all? It was also great news to follow the Amnesty International report on world executions yesterday showing us that the US is only 5th in the world with a mere 42 executions last year. China is killing us (pun intended) with 470 executions last year. We are also well behind the other 3 above us: Iran with 317, Saudi Arabia with 143 and Pakistan with 135 executions last year.

There has been a moratorium on executions essentially nationwide until today. It has been in effect since the case Baze v. Rees, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Corrections (PDF Opinion) was brought before the court last September. This was the first time since 1890 that a challenge to the method of execution has been brought before the court making the decision even more important. The court's decision could have forced states to rethink the way they are killing their citizens.

I guess not. Thinking is overrated anyway.

More reading:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charitable Donations, Now I'm On Their Lists!

I don't think I make a lot of charitable donations but my wife and I have made a few small ones over the last 3-4 years. Some of these donations got us memberships to the organization and newsletters, etc or were for some fund raising events like bike rides so they are not all just pure kindness of our heart donations. Looking back, many of these were actually a result of a direct mail solicitation. I don't like that I donated because of "junk mail" but I wouldn't have if I didn't believe in the charity's cause on some level.

Some people we have donated to in the past include:
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) - Sure they support some wack jobs, hateful groups, and other despicable people but this is all the principle that matters.
  • American Cancer Society - Sponsored someone in a fund raising walk.
  • American Red Cross - Katrina donation matched by (plus about 6 pints of blood a year. I am pretty sure that is not tax deductible.)
  • Amnesty International - I don't like the crap we are pulling at Gitmo. US signed treaties have the force of US law.
  • Barack Obama for President 2008 > Hillary Clinton (read that as 'greater than')
  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee - My distaste for the current administration got me to give them money.
  • Durham Literacy Center - My wife got me involved here. I would like to donate more money to them. Right now most of my donation is time in the form of tutoring. This is one of the organizations I have a real passion about. Since you have read this far, think about your life if you weren't able to read?
  • FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance) - Micro loans are a great idea! It is basically aid + Capitalism to achieve a sustainable life. Turns out Natalie Portman is one of their celebrity supporters so I get newsletters with her in them all the time. A win-win-win.
  • Habitat for Humanity of Durham - I've helped work on a house around here before and other houses in the past. I love it. But this was made to enter the Halloween 100 Bike Ride.
  • Humane Society - My wife got a letter. She is a sucker for animals.
  • Mental Health Association of Davidson County - Another bike ride. The Tour de Pig.
  • Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) - Group for the reform of Marijuana laws. They want it to be legal for medical use and eventually recreational use. NORML never sent me anything in the mail so MPP won that race for my $. I am not sure how they got my name in the first place though.
  • NC Museum of Art - I joined to get cheaper Monet in Normandy tickets. It did cost more in the long run but I helped out. :-)
  • North Shore Animal League - My wife got a letter. She is a sucker for animals.
  • Ron Paul for President 2008 - Free Market, Free People!
  • Triangle Presbyterian Church - The church down the road that we don't attend as frequently as I would like.
  • WBEZ Chicago - Ira Glass gave this long sob story about paying for their bandwidth and talked me into $5 to help pay for the podcast. He is well with it!
  • WUNC North Carolina Public Radio - How can anyone stand to listen to anything else? I listen to this or a CD. I can not stand riding in the car with my wife when she listens to those commercial stations that play a song every hour or so. This donation is well worth it. Plus, I always wait until the donation will enter me in some fun Eurpoean vacation drawing.
These days though, like many Americans, we are feeling a lot less wealthy and making charitable donations hits the wallet a lot harder. I'd like to donate again to some of these listed above and also some other organizations but I don't feel like I have the money too. (Kiva is one charity I have been looking at lately. Ever since I heard this story on Marketplace over Christmas last year I've been thinking about them. Basically it is micro finance like FINCA is except you get to actually pick who/what your money goes to. If only they had Natalie Portman too!)

Despite not having money to send out, I am on these organizations lists (and their friends). Just today my wife and I got letters from the following organizations asking for money.
  • Amnesty International USA - They want more.
  • Girls Inc. - From what I can tell they are like a Boys and Girls club just without the boys. This was actually addressed to me.
  • Human Rights Watch - I am guessing Amnesty gave them my name or they both got them from the same place.
  • James Carville on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee - They want more but they aren't going to get it.
  • Union of Concerned Scientist - If I had the money I might give them some.
  • USA for UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency)
  • World Wildlife Fund - They are all about nature conservation. So am I, just not financially right now.
Since I don't plan on donating to any of these organizations anytime soon, I still think I will do something. Instead of donating to them financially, I think I will start giving each organization that sends me a solicitation a shout out every so often. I'll actually take the time to look into each of the organizations to find out what they stand for and then post what I find.

There, now I don't feel poorer and I do feel better about all these charities and organizations that keep sending me mailing address labels and I keep sending them zilch!