Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You Can Help: Yellowstone Buffalo Headed to the Slaughterhouse

If you're looking for something to spend a few minutes of your online advocacy time on, this seems to be a pretty good cause. Give them a hand by sending 3 simple emails.
MontanaĆ¢€™s Department of Livestock is planning on trapping and slaughtering 300 wild buffalo Ć¢€“ including calves as young as a few weeks, and their mothers. The agency plans to begin the roundup on Thursday, May 31.

For extra credit, make sure that you tell Governor Schweitzer that he "could" be the Vice Presidential Nominee in 2008, but this won't help him. Seems that the emails have already helped stall this terrible thing. They've put off the vote until next week. With your help, they'll reconsider.

Kjellander Demoted, Illinois Scores

laquinta.jpgJust yesterday, the Sun-Times Lynn Sweet posted that Illinois' very own Bob Kjellander was named as the vice chairman of the 2008 Republican National Convention Committee on Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention to be held in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. The Committee on Arrangements is the RNC body charged with the planning and management of the Convention.

It didn't take long for the fellas over at Jack Roeser's playpen to blast Kjellander and pronouce this as a "step down".
The Republican National Committee (RNC) has announced that Bob Kjellander, the disgraced Republican National Committeeman from Illinois, has been named Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Arrangements for next year's National Convention. The RNC dishonors itself by giving Kjellander any role. Still, a post on the Arrangements Committee is a big step down from Treasurer of the RNC, a title Kjellander held until January of this year.

Hmmm....I see this a little differently guys. I know you have an axe to grind with Big Bob, but I think this is potentially a great thing. What's more important to a group of traveling Republicans then their arrangements? Where they're staying, what they're doing, who they're sharing a hotel with. All of that stuff matters much more to anyone going to the Convention than just about anything else.

I was at the 2004 Convention in NYC. And...because of Big, Bad Bob and Speaker Denny Hastert, guess where we stayed? In the vacationers dream of Times Square. We all had suites! It was fantastic. Since Bob's the Vice Chair of this committee, guess where the Illinois delegation is going to stay? Probably the best hotel in the city as it relates to the Convention.

Maybe Doug Ibendahl wants to stay at the La Quinta out on in Burnsville, but I sure don't. Do me a favor Doug. When Big, Bad Bob scores the Illinois delegation a great setup, why don't you help everyone out and stay away. Hang out at the Mall of America. I hear they have a great Ruby Tuesday's.

Oh...and if Tom Cross is looking for someone to chronicle the convention like we did 3 years ago, I think I can make room in my schedule. **hint, hint**

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Finds: A Punchup at a Wedding

Did you come just to start a fight?



A Punchup at a Wedding
Radiohead
Hail to the Thief

Wedding Buttons: “I’m just here for the Booze”

weddingbuttons.JPGOver on our wedding blog, we're trying to gauge people's honest opinions on these "buttons" for our rehearsal dinner. I think they're cute and a good way to get folks talking to each other. We'll probably have a pretty big sized rehearsal dinner, so we don't want people to not socialize. It's one of many posts that Natalie and I have collaborated on. Natalie is clearly the more clever, quick one of us. She wrote the punchline, which I think is pretty funny:
Buttons that have been rejected from the list include: "I slept with the grooms's mom," "I used to be the bride's sister, but now I'm her brother," "I'm just here for the booze," "I got a pity invite" and "I love lamp."

Go on. Head over to the wedding blog and give us your vote. I'm hoping that we'll get these done. We probably won't do buttons as much as we'll probably just do nametags run through a printer. Now...if you're having a wedding soon, don't go stealing our idea!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

XRT Widgets….

Here's a few XRT widgets that I fooled around with to show the XRT guys what they can be doing to help get their content disributed:





93XRT Concert Calendar

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Widgetized Wedding

We've been having a lot of fun over on our wedding blog. Natalie and I have been posting a lot. It's not the most compelling stuff for general consumption, but it's a nice way for us to keep in touch with our families, friends, and members of the Wedding Party. We're able to connect with the folks who will make our Big Day special, but it also allows us to share our experiences with everyone involved. We're trying to do things like polling the audience on how much they'd pay for a hotel as well as sharing our notes from our experience with our vendors.

Natalie has been good about giving me a lot of latitude on what I post and what I do with the blog. As we come closer, I'm sure the design/content will come under closer scrutiny. (Some folks were wondering how I slipped the Major League quote by her. Other's were just puzzled as to why I would slip it in there in the first place!)

Most importantly for me is that the wedding blog provides me with a new playground. I've had a lot of fun playing around with various widgets and such. I doubt that any of the readers of the site (but for a few) are very interested in the various ways our content can be/is being distributed. I've built a bunch of widgets to allow folks to consume our content on their terms. Being that our wedding is only truly important to Natalie and myself, we need to ensure that people can get our updates anywhere they want. It's been enjoyable to think about a distributed content strategy for a small site. We have no hopes of ever reaching a large audience, so this is going to stay small scale. The majority of the subscribers to the feed are using the email option (almost 85%), so thinking how things translate to email inboxes and when they are delivered are coming into play. (our delivery window is 7-9 am and most posts are published in the afternoon, so if they are involving things that are occuring "that" evening, they may be stale by the time the majority of our audience is reading them...)

If you haven't been reading our wedding blog, I don't blame you. If you're interested in keeping up with us, head over here. I'll keep looking for new ways to leverage technology for our guests. If you see something that I should be using, let me know.

Without further delay, here's a few of our widgets. Special thanks to the SpringBox guys. We had some trouble/issues with our countdown widget because of a change in their code. I posted a note on their forums and worked a back channel. They came through strong with great customer support. Great work guys. I know it's difficult when someone complains about the FREE product. Trust me, I know it's hard. Thanks for going the extra mile.

Here's our wedding countdown widget:


Here's our animated widget provided by FeedBurner:

Natalie and Jake's Wedding

↑ Grab this Headline Animator


You can also see this one "in the wild" on my right sidebar. Go ahead. Embed it on your MySpace page. You know you want one...


Here's what I'll call a "widget" that's also provided by FeedBurner. It's shows the various methods to subscribe to our content:

Want to stay up to date? Enter your email address and we'll deliver updates to your inbox. No spam...we promise!

 Subscribe in a reader

Powered by FeedBurner



From there, I fooled around with Widgetbox and created a widget on the fly for myspace or other sites:

Widgetbox is a fairly nice way to create a feed widget. There isn't a lot of customization going on, but one nice feature is their ability to "grab" a few images from your site and auto "propose" them for your widget header. They gave me a few options and allowed me provide my own. That's a nice feature that I wish other feed to widget creaters would provide. I'd prefer to provide a custom width, but with a free service, I guess I can't get everything I want.

For those readers who just want a styleable version of our content, we provide the BuzzBoost code compliment's of FeedBurner:



I've been thinking about what else I would want to help display various elements of content on our blog. With the coming "registries" at various stores, I wonder if I'll be able to find a way to display some items on our lists. What about some maps integration? Having one online map of various places for the weekend? Any other ideas?

Dismanteling the Oil Empires…

My fellow Americans,

You caved. That's right. I saw you there. You with your big gas guzzling SUV's and minivans. I thought we had a deal?!?! We were going to take Big Oil down to it's knees.

Oh...me? How'd I know? How'd I see these folks? Oh....um....my Camry was on empty. I had to go to the local Scholarship Night. I did. Seriously. But you? What's your excuse?

Sincerely,

Jake

Friday, May 11, 2007

All Politics Really is Local

The saying goes that "All Politics is Local", right? There's a recent great case of legislators making sure that they address a situation in their community through their bipartisan work in the Statehouse. When it comes to kids, we look to our leaders to act swiftly. In the case of teen drinking, a few members of the Illinois Legislature had a chance to address the situation and one that hit close to home. Two months ago there was a horriffic accident in Oswego that killed 4 teens were killed by a drunk driver. Turns out 3 of them were drinking, too.

Recently, the Illinois House under Tom Cross and the Senate Committee backed by Democrat Linda Holmes passed a measure that would stiffen the penalties for anyone under the age of 21 who is convicted of an alcohol-related offense (basically underage consumption or drinking). Currently, if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar while down visiting your sister at Kam's in Champaign and you're only 19, you usually get a slap on the wrist and get 3 months of court supervision. That's probably a bit light for some offenses.

Knowing that a driver's license is every teenager's prized possession, Tom Cross and Linda Holmes recently passed out of the Illinois House and Senate Committee legislation (HB3131) that will suspend for three months the driver's license of anyone underage caught consuming or in possession of alcohol. That's a great first step and a great example of making sure that your work at home in your district is getting done.

There's a few things to note about this. First, it's solid legislation. Maybe because I'm getting older, but I don't mind one bit restricting the use of driver's licenses for teens. Whatever we need to do to make sure that they're safe, I'm for. Second, it's interesting to see the House Republican Leader work with a freshman Democrat Senator, isn't it?

Sure, there are issues that will divide the parties, but there are things that affect the local districts that reach across that partisan divide. Frankly, as the Republicans are in the minority in both Chambers of the Illinois Legislature, that's the only way you can get things done these days. You need to be in a position to work with folks from across the aisle. It goes beyond this piece of legislation, too. Senator AJ Wilhelmi (who turns out is a pretty darn good Senator) passed the House GOP driven MySpace initiatives through Senate committee yesterday and is carrying some legislation to make dams safer in Illinois to avoid tragedies like last summer in Yorkville (a GOP stronghold). These bills all passed out of the House and now they are moving in the Senate because of Cross' ability to work with Democrats like AJ Wilhelmi and Linda Holmes.

Sure, we elect folks from one party of the other to represent us, but at the end of the day, we need them to be able to work to bring home both solutions and improvements to our districts. With the Republicans out on Exile Island, I'm impressed with the creativeness that the House GOP has shown to get some of their solid measures passed.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

“Lucky Us” - New Bob Dylan

luckyyouposter.jpgThis morning on the drive into the city, Natalie and I were tuned into WXRT (as usual) and we listened to the movie review by the "Regular Guy". This week, he covered the movie Lucky You, which he said had a stellar cast, but was a below average film. They don't have it posted here on the XRT site yet, but it'll get up there eventually, I bet. His review was fun, as usual, but one thing stuck out for me: he said that there's a new Bob Dylan song in the movie.

Turns out Lucky You is directed by Curtis Hanson, the same guy who directed Wonder boys. Hanson must have the "magic touch" because just like he did with the great song Things have Changed, he somehow coaxed Dylan to put out a new track for Lucky You. The new song, Huck's Tune is a great number and a nice addition to the "latest" Dylan work. From what the Regular Guy said this morning, the song only plays over the ending credits in the movie, so I'm sure it's destined for wider distribution at some point.

It's up in some format on YouTube. I've embedded it below. I'm not totally certain the video is connected to Dylan in anyway, but the song comes out strong. Go ahead and hit play and then go about your business reading the rest of your feeds or email. I bet you come back and hit "play again" when it is through.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spending the Sacagawea

sacageweacoin.jpgSomehow this week (stamp machine, I think), I came into a few of the sacagawea dollar coins. They've been jangling around my pockets for a few days and today, I decided to spend them. At the sammich shop down the block from my office, I ordered my meal, stepped over to the cashier, and gingerly handed the coins over to the young lady. She didn't even flinch. Gave me a few coins in change and I went on my way.

I couldn't help but feel like I just had gotten away with something - like I got a big discount.

Anyone use these things regularly? Did they stop minting them? Should I not be spending them, instead keeping them or something?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Letter From Senator Lauzen Re: SB600 and Doug Ibendahl

lauzenzahm.jpgLast night when I arrived back from work, I had, waiting for me, a letter from State Senator Chris Lauzen. He apparently, is a reader of this blog. Hello, Senator! Thanks for your cordial letter. I appreciate your interest in my blog. In his correspondence, Senator Lauzen takes issue with my position on Senate Bill 600 and this post.

It was nice of him to take time out of his legislative duties to correspond with me and I thank him for that. I won't go blow-by-blog through his letter, but I'll point out a few things.

Senator Lauzen states:
"I was surprised at the intensity of your sarcasm in pointing out how inaccurate your claim Doug Ibendahl's account was regarding the history of this legislation."

Surprised at my sarcasm? I guess you're not a subscriber, eh Senator?!? I hope that you subscribe to my feed via your reader or email. It's over there on the right. You'll get all my posts delivered to you!

Next, he includes roll call votes and analysis from 2005. I don't doubt that things didn't get called in 2005, but I don't like to live in the past. We can't deal with what's in the past. We can only deal with the future. Where's the bill now? It's stuck in a Senate Committee. We can't point fingers at other folks on this one, can we? I don't think so. Was something at play last year? Who knows, but I don't care about the past.

Senator Lauzen then goes on to point out, properly, his history of campaign victories, against some odds. I commend Senator Lauzen for being a traditionally conservative voice for the people he represents, but I will continue to disagree with him on SB600. It's not currently being held up by folks that Doug Ibendahl is pointing fingers at (Tom Cross) and I don't think it will cure the ills that Lauzen and Ibendahl believe the party has.
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