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Stuff I've written.

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:37 AM

Well, I've been busy writing, just not here. So, I thought, perhaps I should just post some links to what I've written elsewhere. Below are links and some thoughts on my interview with Richard M. Stallman and a little set of thoughts I had on the transition from summer to fall and its relation to the Gospel (got you intrigued?).

GNU Questions: RMS on SCO, Distributions, DRM — Want to understand the philosophical movement that got the ball rolling for GNU/Linux? It's not socialism, its Free Software. The Free Software movement was founded by Richard M. Stallman (RMS) in 1983 and has, in large part, succeeded because of the foundation RMS laid in its early years. In fact, much of the software that makes “Linux” work today was created by RMS's GNU Project, thus why I always call Linux “GNU/Linux.”

In the Open for Business article I linked to, RMS discusses with me a variety of topics including ethical questions within the context of Free Software philosophy and also questions on Digital Rights Management (DRM), the SCO Group lawsuit, and much more. There is also a link to my older interview with RMS which can be seen sort of as a primer. In fact, you might want to read that first to understand Free Software philosophy.

In essence, Free Software Philosophy argues that within the computer world there are ethical imperatives — the right to use, modify, share, and redistribute (even for a cost) the software you use. This flies in the face of the proprietary software licenses companies like Microsoft use. While many supporters of the parallel “Open Source” movement support these things for pragmatic reasons, RMS and his supporters believe it is the morally right thing to do. I respect that in this day and age of relativistic morals. Read both interviews, they are thought provoking even if you don't plan to use GNU/Linux.

While Free Software philosophy is secular in nature (RMS is an atheist), it does have some interesting connections with New Testament theology. RMS notes that the ideology behind his movement is very compatible with the concept of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” because you aren't signing contracts that prevent you from helping your neighbor get his computer doing whatever it is that he needs it to do. It's very interesting, I think.

Note: As I alluded to above, Free Software philosophy is often thought to really be socialism by those who have only a cursory knowledge of it (or who listen too much to Microsoft). It is not. Free Software supporters, unlike some supporters of the more “liberal” Open Source movement, insists on the capitalistic ability to turn a profit on Free Software. Red Hat, Inc. is living proof you can make money with Free Software.

Death of Summer — This time of year is always somewhat depressing for me. I'm not entirely sure why. However, lately I've had a different perspective on it. I blog about that at the Sakamuyo Network. Let me know what you think.

Friday Five: Travel

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:30 AM

1. What's the last place you traveled to, outside your own home state/country? Technically speaking, that would be last month when I went over to Calhoun County, Illinois for a ride. You can make a nice trip of it — take the bridge over to Alton, Ill from St. Charles, Mo, then drive down the Great River Road. From there you can take the (free) Brussles Fairy over the Illinois River to Calhoun County, home of the world's best peaches. Calhoun County is a very pretty area and a nice place to spend an afternoon.

From there, you can take the Golden Eagle Fairy across the Mississippi River to return to St. Charles County. Two fairy rides in one day is very nice! Better yet, on my last trip I found out a new fairy opened — now you can take a fairy over to the Great River Road too. This fairy was especially nice in that it crosses over the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

At any rate, if the question was asking the last time I actually stayed overnight, or longer, out-of-state, that would be Indiana last August. I went up there for my grandfather's wedding.

2. What's the most bizarre/unusual thing that's ever happened to you while traveling? Hmm… I dunno. The thing that comes to mind occurred on one of my family's semi-annual trips to the Ozarks when I was little. My grandpa (not the one mentioned above) decided to bring a metal detector to look for coins and other stuff on our trip. We didn't have room for it in the car, so it was tied up on the roof. We stopped for lunch at the very nice rest area right outside of Springfield, Mo, and then took back off. As we were pulling out of the rest area, we heard a loud “TTTHHHHHUUUUMP!” It was the metal detector flying off the roof. My mother pulled off Interstate 44 and chased the metal detector up the highway (it was in a cardboard box and drifted away from the car). Fortunately neither my mother nor the detector were hurt.

3. If you could take off to anywhere, money and time being no object, where would you go? Hmm… depends when you ask me. On Monday I would have said San Fransisco for LinuxWorld. ;-) Seriously, that's tough, but since it is probably more expensive to get there than other places I might want to go, I'd probably make Australia the destination for this trip. For some reason, Down Under fascinates me. Although, probably I'd rather go to Europe — I'd like to tour through England, France, Germany, etc. I have some friends over there I'd like to meet, so that'd be an added bonus.

4. Do you prefer traveling by plane, train or car? Car, definitely. My legs are long enough that a coach seat on a plane is very uncomfortable for more than a short while (and first class costs too much!). For that matter, I also get an ear ache when on planes, which isn't too pleasant either. Cars are good — you see more, you can go where ever you want, and your stuff can't accidentally go to the wrong destination or get damaged.

5. What's the next place on your list to visit? A new place to visit or just the next place? The next place is probably the Ozarks again — hopefully in mid-fall, otherwise, hopefully at Christmas (schedule permitting). I don't have any plans to go any place new, although who knows…

Rebates, Rebates, and More Rebates

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:56 AM

Yikes! I had a stack of rebates that had been waiting on my desk to be filled out for several weeks. sigh It ended up taking me thirty minutes to get through the stack, although fortunately with the new technique of printing the rebates on the receipts themselves, it makes things easier. Still, I just don't like doing rebates for some reason… at least I don't have to think about it any more.

Phew... what a day.

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:15 PM

Well, you may be wondering were I've been. Yesterday I spent the day in a hospital waiting room. Dad went in for a angiogram and possibly an angioplasty (after the doctors noticed a small anomaly during a stress test) and instead ended up getting a quadruple bypass surgery. It was, needless to say, very worrisome — he had several passages with 90% blockage and a few with 70 or 80%.

Going in yesterday he really didn't expect more than possibly an angioplasty (where they use a balloon to clear blockages), since it didn't even look like he had more than a blockage-in-formation. We are just thankful it was caught when it was — leaving it alone for longer possibly would have caused a massive heart attack.

At any rate, he's doing fairly well today. The hospital moved him out of ICU ahead of schedule, and he might be released by Monday, which is amazing, to say the least. While the toughest part is (hopefully) over, prayers would still be appreciated.

And They Still Charge THAT For Popcorn?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:15 PM

So, I give the theatre advertising company a call thinking maybe we could buy some time on a few nice “G” or “PG” rated films and spend, oh, maybe $500-$1,000. Yeah right.

Turns out that the company charges the better part of $13 dollars per CPM (that's advertising lingo for thousand ad impressions or showings), you can't pick what movies your ads show on — they must appear on all the movies — and you must show for at least seven weeks. Needless to say, even with an non-profit discount that comes out to the better part of $3,000. This amazes me, because these are highly untargeted slide adverts.

Anyway, I bring this up because it occurs to me just how much theatres make that you don't even think about. Not only do they get the better part of fifteen or twenty bucks per person on refreshments and tickets, then you watch numerous slideshow ads before… you see the really cool big screen motion ads. Then you finally get to the movie, but before you leave you see all kinds of ads plastered on the wall advertising various services as well.

With that much revenue, you'd think they could at least keep the floors from being sticky.

Ozark Trip 2k3 (Part II)

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:58 AM

Big Cedar is a unique experience that is almost a trip unto itself. When arriving a Big Cedar one goes down a large hill from which you see beautiful Table Rock Lake and then proceed to a curvy road that passes through, not over, several waterfalls. Driving through the streams (they are designed to be driven through), you arrive at the registration building and observation tower.

Big Cedar is an amazing place. The registration building has a grand vaulted roof with cannoes and a huge chandelier hanging down. On each wall appropriate sayings are posted in big metallic lettering, such as “All Men Are Equal Before Fish.” Once you sign in, you generally must drive to your cabin or lodge room as the resort is sprawled out over probably the better part of a mile of road that goes in a U-shape around one of Table Rock's inlets.

Big Cedar's rooms that come with kitchens include complementary soda, appropriately rustic plates, a basket of snacks, and a table made out of logs. The cabins are decorated with various wildlife and pictures (PETA members should find another resort) all in some sort of theme. Each cabin is unique. For instance this past time we stayed in the Audubon cabin, themed after James Audubon. The cabin was filled with pictures of the Audubon's from the time James was born onward… and even some of his drawings. Other cabins include the George H. W. Bush Cabin and the Waylon Jennings cabin (which I've stayed in as well).

Big Cedar is hardly just a place to sleep however. The resort has miles of walking trails, complementary mini-golf, three exquisite restaurants, complementary paddle boats and cannoes (not to mention a full service two story marina) and more. There are also complementary shuttles to get you around and also to Top of the Rock golf course (if you aren't the putt-putt type).

Things just get better at breakfast. Big Cedar's main restaurant, Devil's Pool Restaurant (named after a spring near and historical site by that was rumored to be bottomless), has the best breakfast buffet I've seen anywhere. It is simply delicious. It features freshly prepared hash browns, fresh danishes, sausage, bacon and all the other fixings, but it isn't just your average buffet. It also has a chef that is constantly making omelets to order (I like ones with ham, cheese, onion, green pepper, and jalapenos) and the best Belgian waffles I've tasted anywhere. These Belgian waffles melt in your mouth with the perfect compromise between a crispy and soft waffle (I don't normally even like waffles!). All this is served up in a restaurant that faces the inlet from Table Rock Lake. The restaurant is also stunning at dinner time as the sun sets over the Ozark mountains and glistens in the beautiful lake water.

Big Cedar is overpriced, no doubt, but if the larger cabins have three bedrooms and a sofa sleeper, so you can keep the cost down if you travel in groups. The smaller Knotty Pine Cottages are as low as $99 at Christmas and are very nice too (all of Big Cedar is lit up at Christmas with thousands of Christmas lights).

At any rate, we then moved on to Dogwood Cannon Nature Park, which is owned by Johnny Morris, the same fellow who owns Big Cedar, Bass Pro Shops (including Outdoor World and the various Sportsmen's Warehouse locations), and Tracker Boats. If you go to Dogwood Cannon its worth the extra expense over admission to get the tram tour. Unless you are an avid biker, you won't be able to see everything otherwise, and even bikers can't see everything the longer tram tour covers. The longer tram tour is two and a half hours and follows Dogwood Creek through the stunning scenery and then eventually comes out in Arkansas where you can see Johnny Morris' Bison, Elk, Deer, and Long Horn Cattle ranch. From the top of the fields where the deer and the antelop roam… oh sorry, wrong thought. So anyway from the top of the hill in this area you can in all but one direction and the Ozark hills in the distance are part of the park. This place is massive by design, Morris wanted to be able to control the water table feeding Dogwood Creek to keep it pristine.

When you enter Dogwood Cannon you'll enter a place with miles of crystal clear streams, huge waterfalls and beautiful old trees. Whether you love to be out in nature or you're just trying to get your yearly dose of the outdoors, this is the place to be. Dogwood Cannon is probably one of the best views you'll see in the Ozarks, and that's saying a lot considering how beautiful the area is. Dogwood Cannon also has some interesting history, including being the place where they recently found the oldest human remains in Missouri. The park is loaded with wildlife including woodpeckers, woodchucks (back to that deep question I mentioned last night), deer, and a large amount of fish that the streams are stocked with (including very large rainbow trout).

If you go down to Branson, you really need to go to Dogwood Cannon. It's impossible to summarize how beautiful it is, but all I can say is that it is. If you aren't staying at Big Cedar, you do have to go on a bit of a ride to get there, it's just a few miles from the Arkansas border — 18 miles from Big Cedar and another dozen or two miles from much of the other things you might go to. But, it is worth it. Set aside a day and just go.

Back to the actual trip, the weather was perfect in Dogwood Cannon this time around. Last year when we went, it poured down rain during the second half of the tour. That made things interesting, to say the least.

In no particular order, I should mention some other worthwhile stops that we didn't make this time, but certainly not because they aren't great. Oddly enough, all of the added tips I can think of are right next to each other:

  • Caldwell's Main Street Flea Market — if you like flea markets even a little bit, this is a stop that cannot be missed! Located in Downtown Branson, just a few moments from Lake Tanneycomo, I've gotten a bit of everything here over the years — a marquee sign in good working order ($60), an Apple PowerBook 140 also in good working order ($30), a few books, and many other great bargains. Flea Country in Kimberling City is also good.
  • Branson Cafe — if you happen to be at Caldwell's around dinner, stop by the Branson Cafe. It's hard to miss the little restaurant in downtown Branson. Just look for the red awning and the doubt icthy design under the logo. :-) As the sign in the restaurant says, “if the Colonel has their recipe, he'd be a general!” They have great food that's really reasonably priced. They also have great homemade meringue pies and cookies.
  • Sammy Lane — while in the neighborhood, the Sammy Lane is a great boat ride. It's primarily targeted for families as it is a — GASP! SCARY! — pirate cruise, but the majority of the time spent on it is simply a nice boatride up Lake Tanneycomo. Unlike the Lake Queen that is also available from the same place, the Sammy Lane is a fast little boat and riding over Lake Tanneycomo's extra cool water is extremely refreshing in the middle of summer.

I'll probably think of more to say later. I think I've pretty much wrapped up my trip. We stayed at Big Cedar for three days and enjoyed the atmosphere for most of the time (if you go to Big Cedar plan some time that you can actually stay at Big Cedar during the day — there's lots to do without even leaving). Three days at Big Cedar means three visits from the “cookie lady” who drops gingersnap cookies in the shape of the Big Cedar logo tree off each evening… Mmmmm.

This time around we didn't stop, but I would add another great stop is the Hen House in Bourbon, MO (near Cuba). We usually stop there for dinner on the way home and take some of their delicious homemade pie with to enjoy later on. It's a nice little restaurant and one of the last ones right on the highway before you start getting near St. Louis. Bobber's Truck Stop and Restaurant in Sullivan also has good food (great Perch on Fridays!), although at times it isn't the cleanest place, which makes the Hen House all the more attractive.

Sigh, I wish I was in the Ozarks right now after typing so much about it…


By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:50 AM

I had originally planned this as a pre-4th post, and I was going to introduce it by saying:

Ah, yes, it's that time of year again. That wonderful time of year. You know, the time of year when millions of Americans go and buy highly explosive materials and light them on fire. It's the Fourth of July!

At any rate I set a lot of the said stuff on fire last night. We had an hour long show that exhausted about half of my fireworks cache (I'm planning to shoot some more off for the next few days). If you didn't guess, I'm what you might call a hobbyist pyrotechnician. I enjoy finding and shooting off the fireworks almost as much as watching them.

Last night went really well too. About 8:45 P.M. C.D.T the entire family went out side to brave the mosquitoes, despite the the risk of West Nile Virus (a bird died of it about half a mile from here), and sat down. A card table full of fireworks awaited, and with that, I started by lighting a nifty new extra large round smoke bomb. It was a pretty blue one and put out enough smoke to make it a little foggy around the yard. Then I set off my personal favorite smoke bomb, Don't Smoke in a Can, which lasts probably at least a minute and dispurses a huge cloud of bright pink smoke. This thing is so powerful it shoots up a two inch flame at first and makes a loud sucking sound as it pulls air into itself.

I'll spare you the details of everything I shot off, but I'll mention some of the good ones in case anyone is inclined to rush back to the fireworks tents and grab a few more goodies before they pack up for the year.

  1. Pop Goes the Fountain (Black Cat): A long — very long — display of sparkling silver sparks and pops. It keeps shooting higher and higher. Really pretty fountain and well worth the $6.00 it retailed for (iirc on all prices).
  2. Boatload of Color (???): Really long, colorful fountain similar to the others but on a relatively large “cake,” causing the stream of sparks to move around. This one goes for about $7.
  3. Mammoth Fountain (Black Cat): Similar in length to Pop Goes the Fountain, but multi-color, including sparking silver, red, and green. Again goes for a very long time — probably about a minute and a half. It's a great deal at $5.50.
  4. Mini-fountains (Black Cat): A four pack in a little plastic bag set me back only $1, but these little fountains are perfect at dusk when you aren't quite ready to shoot off the more expensive fireworks. They went for about 20 seconds and were very colorful.
  5. 2 Cool (???): This one was probably about a minute long and did several different kinds of streams of color. IIRC, it also made some noise during the performance, and best of all, it cost only $3.95!
  6. Nuclear Meltdown (Black Cat): This one was our finale this year. It's very similar to the other two Black Cat fountains but adds to the excitement by stopping and then starting back up. It also goes up higher and is just generally impressive (third year I've been impressed by it!). Unfortunately this guy is only available at one of the more expensive tents and will set you back $11 for the pleasure of viewing it.

On top of these, we also enjoyed (as usual) artillery shells. Artillery shells come with a tube launcher and provide you with miniature versions of the big displays (chrysanthemums, circles, comets, etc.). These are much more cost effective than the one-use tubes and set you back only around $8-$12 for six to twelve shells unless you go for the fancy double or triple “break” ones (they do more than one effect at a time).

Well, it is getting late, so maybe I'll finish with some more fireworks reviews and the rest of my Branson post (from late May) tomorrow!

Happy Independence Day!

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:47 AM

Hope everyone in the Blogosphere had a good one! At this point, I should remind you to read my consideration of the problems of this holiday (along with other days of the year with issues). You can do so here.

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:37 AM

Well I had hoped to catch up on SAFARI tonight, but things didn't work out that way. I ended up with a project for a client instead. It went well though, so maybe tomorrow…

Sunday Five

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:59 AM

1. Is your hair naturally curly, wavy, or straight? Long or short?
Kinda wavy and curly, actually, which is bad, because I really prefer it to be straight. When it's about time for a hair cut, it can get down right disagreeable with my normal style (see below). Hmm… is hair naturally short ever? I keep mine short, if that's what the question is asking.

2. How has your hair changed over your lifetime?
It darkened from a reddish color to dark brown.

3. How do your normally wear your hair?
I normally have it parted on the left side and combed over to the right. For some reason having my hair cover my forehead
more than a little bothers me, so I constantly battle with it to keep it up on top.

4. If you could change your hair this minute, what would it look like?
I don't think I'd change it much, just maybe make it a slight bit more controllable

5. Ever had a hair disaster? What happened?
Not that I can think of…

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