I know I never mentioned it here in my blog, but I have a Nikon D80 DSLR camera that I’ve been playing around with as I start to dabble in some photography experimentation. The camera came with their more recently standard AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX lens which works nice for lots of stuff, but just doesn’t gather enough light indoors enough of the time to get faster shutter speeds. In its place, I picked up the AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens which has been fantastic as of late (you can see some shots with it on my Flickr page). Nice crisp images and usually non-blurry (if I can keep my hand still). I originally wanted the Nikon D60, but it was somewhat limited in some features, especially that of requiring AF-S lenses in order to use autofocus capabilities. Nikon appears to be slowly changing that game.

Apparently at some point, Nikon introduced their new AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens. It now brings the joy of autofocus for the 50mm prime lens to the Nikon D40 and Nikon D60 cameras. In addition, it removes the aperture ring from the older lens, which restricts it to the more recent Nikon cameras that can control aperture from within the body.

My brother will surely be enthused by this (he has been wielding a Nikon D40)! Unfortunately, it’s not slated to be available until December of this year, and there’s no price estimated for this yet. Hopefully it won’t be much more expensive than Sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, which currently retails around US$500, in order to stay competitive.

I had an absolutely fantastic weekend. One of which I haven’t experienced in a long time, probably since my college days back in Fargo. I need more weekends like this!

Friday night was originally slated for watching the Presidential Debate on television. There was a marginal chance that a friend and I were going to catch up over food and beers (that was a bit overdue for a couple years) instead. Being that she was a medical student in addition to having other commitments, I really wasn’t expecting it to come through. Surprisingly, she did manage the time in and we had a nice time catching up at Tully’s. I am quite pleased with the Irish Egg Rolls there, especially since I only recently took to trying sauerkraut, not even a week or two ago.

I never did get to watching the debate that night, although I did listen to some snippets of it on the drive back home from Tully’s. I had plans to watch the remainder of it when I returned home, but Holly had the TV otherwise occupied watching something else. Leaving the TV relegated to her since the debate was being recorded on the DVR, I settled into retiring for the night.

Saturday was a mildly loaded day from the start. I had plans to see Choke with another friend at the Amherst 9 in the afternoon. It was a well-spent seven dollars, thoroughly enjoying the majority of the film. It might come off a little awkward to those who haven’t read the novel, but I feel one could thoroughly enjoy it otherwise if nothing else for all the quick wit and comical situations positioned through it.

The remainder of Saturday was reserved for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra‘s opening night performance at Kleinhans Music Hall. What really enticed me into opening night was the guest artist, Itzhak Perlman. I think it’s been somewhere on the order of a decade since I last saw him perform, and I hard recall it even back from those days. Anyways, I had a mild dilemma on my hands as Holly had come down with a rapidly developing cold that morning and hardly felt in any condition to go to the performance come late afternoon. An hour and forty minutes prior to concert time (I was planning to be there an hour ahead of time), I bounced the idea off my crazy-busy friend from Saturday night as a random thought as I have very few acquaintances that would be interested in attending such a performance. Much to my surprise, she agreed to after only minor hesitation. I could only imagine how much of a wrench I threw into her busy plans for the weekend after these two nights!

The opening night concert was fantastic! The opening number (Hector Belioz’s Roman Carnival Overture was just the thing to set the opening night: something to keep me enraptured with shivers up my spine and emotional movement with the music! The applause demonstrated just how good the piece was. The second piece was 23 minutes of the Roman Festivals composed by Ottorino Respighi. Every movement flowed together beautifully and kept me as thoroughly entranced as the first piece even though it was nearly three times the duration!

Itzhak Perlman’s guest performance came in the third piece after intermission: Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. As can be expected, Itzhak did a marvelous job with his piece. Unfortunately, I felt the piece just didn’t have as much luster and flair after listening to the two pieces before intermission. However, all in all the entire concert was well worth the ~$100 a seat I paid for it!

Upon departure from Kleinhans, it was decided we should really eat some dinner. I was introduced to a much talked about tapas restaurant on Elmwood, ¡Toro!. It was my first experience in any sort of a tapas bar. A bit on the pricey side, but the food was delicious:

    Toro Calamari, crispy with hot peppers, olives & shaved parmesan…no sauce – This is probably some of the best calamari I’ve had to date. Unfortunately, the few places I tend to eat it at have only been Chinese or eastern-Asian restaurants of not the highest quality.
    Tuna Package, Panko crusted, sushi grade Ahi tuna over spicy cherry-chipotle salsa – This was my first time eating essentially raw tuna, and it was far more pleasant than the smoked salmon I had in a Wegmans salad roll (far too chewy, the texture was just wrong). The sauce on this tuna was right up my alley…it reminded me of a hot chipotle and barbeque blend.
    Cassoulet of Duck Confit, with orecchiette pasta, cannellini beans, leeks & roasted peppers in a rich broth – This was my 2nd favorite behind the calamari, being a wonderful blend of ingredients, I could hardly pick them out individual bites of this dish. I will have to get Holly to try this…I hardly think she’s discern the peppers of the beans out of it!

So between good food, a little bit of whiskey and a lot of catchup of life and other things, we burned the evening away until midnight. It’s not often I get a friend (or more) that are comfortable just running with the night like that. I miss those dear friends from Fargo to whom I still talk to (and will get to see over Christmas, thankfully).

The whole weekend has done a marvelous job of distracting me from the looming doom of the financial bailout on Wall Street (just saw that the proposed bill is in writing, all 110 pages of it) and the painful drama of the Presidential campaigning. Shoot, here it is Monday already, and I haven’t gotten the chance to watch the debate yet. It has been a good weekend that I can look back on and smile about. Hopefully I will make more over this year…I have not had enough of them since moving to Buffalo. Between five more BPO concerts, and season tickets to the Bandits again this year, I think I shall if I play my hand right.

Let me see what I can make out of this week going into it on such a good note! *wink*

Passing along some important information. Make your voice heard if you don’t approve of this folks! Especially after McCain’s disappointments Wednesday at CBS. I don’t think he’s in much of a hurry to go anywhere that important.


Image copied from DemandTheDebate2008 website to prevent secondary server burden

And so on that note, many people including myself are upset to see that none of the independent party candidates are going to be present at these debates. Looking into this a little bit, I saw what the requirements were for participation in these debates (my own bolding below):

Pursuant to the criteria, which were publicly announced on November 19, 2007, those candidates qualify for debate participation who (1) are constitutionally eligible to hold the office of President of the United States; (2) have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority in the general election; and (3) have demonstrated a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results.

The Board of Directors of the CPD convened today to apply the criteria with the assistance of the Editor-In-Chief of the Gallup Polling Organization, Dr. Frank Newport. Of the declared candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain were found to have satisfied all three criteria Accordingly, Senator Obama and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, and Senator John McCain and his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, qualify to participate in the September 26 presidential debate and the Oct. 2 vice-presidential debate, respectively. No other candidates satisfied the criteria for inclusion in the September 26 and Oct. 2 debates.

Fifteen percent of the national electorate seems like a rather high number considering the partisan spreads in the elections. I personally feel this number should be lower (say perhaps 7-10% range) so that way these debates can be broached with more thinking outside of partisan alignments. Granted, that’s the way the debates should already be, but I feel that with the way this election campaigning has gone so far, the questions will be answered in order to polarize their respective parties as best they can (at least for the Republicans at a minimum) and not really be a genuine reflection upon the candidate’s true thoughts and feelings on the issue.

Next election, I’m going to try to make a mental note to see if there is any way the public can influence these requirements set forth by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

September 24, 2008

[recipient address was inserted here]

[recipient name was inserted here],

Respected congressional representative of my district/state,

I am personally appalled at the rapidity in which the Bush administration has forced upon this nation this plan to simply throw money at the financial meltdown on Wall Street. I hardly feel that this is an adequate way to deal with a situation that was due to a growing irresponsibility of lenders, borrowers and the people who took it upon themselves to gamble with such loaned monies on the market.

I am in no way supportive of this present measure that has been presented to Congress. Frankly, I do not feel the government should involve itself any further in the crises that are occurring. Borrowers should be made accountable for poor decisions to involve themselves in unreasonable debt. Lenders should not be so aggressive with throwing money at people simply because they feel it is available when it really is not. The corporate entities who play with these high-risk loans should know they are unconfirmed monies and can hardly be used as legitimate assets if they cannot back them. The government and its citizens should not be held responsible nor liable for this debt.

I may be rash in saying this, but I feel they should fail if they cannot liquidate their own assets/profits in order to rectify their situation. Yes, it may cause a significant problem in future loaning and borrowing situations, but this is not a practice that people should be recklessly engaging in. Perhaps that is what this nation needs in order to put some solvency back into the mortgage system and to put a halt to this unnecessary inflation of home prices among other things.

I cannot fathom the government obtaining these unstable and insolvent monies as a solution. What guarantee do we have that these will be purchased back from the government so that we may return the monies borrowed in order to purchase them? What is the likelihood that most if not all of these dangerous loans make it until that time without also failing in foreclosures, further indebting our nation for helping? Lastly, how much will we really pay in the end? Regardless of any gains made on the tainted monies bought, how much will we owe back to those who lent us the funds in interest there?

This cannot be allowed to happen. These corporate entities must be held accountable for their actions. The government should not involve itself in the matter, if nothing else to be a last-action resort as no more than a lender to these institutions. We can be nothing more.

I can only hope you share some of my sentiments of disapproval. I understand much of the gravity of the situation (albeit not all of it, unfortunately) but I cannot simply stand by silently while such an action is suggested for foolish people who were too foolhardy for themselves and unable to assume responsibility.

Sincerely,
Jamie Baxter

US citizen and resident of New York’s 26th congressional district.
Sent to Senators Clinton and Schumer, and Representative Reynolds.

Addendum:
For those that are unaware, a convenient means for contacting your own congressional representatives can be found at Congress’s website. At the immediate left, you can enter your zip code to find your elected officials, and then submit correspondence to them on subjects of your choice.

Nashville pumps dry after panic about rumor of no gas:
• Nobody knows origin of rumor that Nashville was running out of gas
• Of 13 Nashville gas stations called at random, only two said they had gas
• Residents panicked and hit gas stations to fuel up
• People were filling up containers, cans, with some waiting an hour for gas

Williams said some drivers were following gas trucks to see where they were headed, and lines at some stations were a mile long. Fuel was continuing to enter the city, however, as pipelines were working and barges were coming in.

He likened it to Southerners rushing out to stock up on bread and milk when they hear it might snow. As stations began running low, the situation snowballed, he said.

(Via CNN.)

Seriously people…reactive damage control/emergency preparation like this is always going to screw you over. Especially if it’s a minimal concern; do something like this and you’ve exploited a situation that probably would have been fine into something that really is a problem now. The blind are leading the blind!

So much for contingency plans!

Really people, if you can’t live without fuel for a weekend, you might want to reconsider your driving habits and/or dependence on vehicular transportation. I know, I know, some people have legitimate reasons for needing it all weekend. But full weekend-scale sales on just Friday? I bet only 20% of those additional sales were needed if places really did run dry over the weekend.

In light-hearted news, I finally got a legitimate nap today. I have not really enjoyed a real nap in ages. Something happened near the end of my college years and I seemed to break free of the “nap whenever I wanted trend.”

I got comfortable on the bed laying in the sun and slept rather nicely. Much to my surprise, I woke up to a surprise in my lap. This:

Naptime Mitzi 1

She enjoys sleeping in the sun. She enjoys sleeping on me. Or Holly. A lot.

She must have been in feline heaven sleeping with both.

I had to physically stand up before she would get off of me. No wonder she gives me looks like this the rest of the time:

Annoyed Mitzi

No-shows stall hearing in Palin inquiry:

Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein argued Thursday that Todd Palin did not have to comply with a subpoena because Alaska state law bars ethics investigations of people running for elected office. Though the law appears to apply only to candidates for state office, a McCain-Palin spokesman said the subpoenas violate “the spirit of the law, if not the letter.”

(Via CNN.)

This little bit of news ired me to hear, as I was assuming something to this manner was going to occur with the presidential campaigning going on. The transition from a state-paid lawyer to a private-paid lawyer in combination with her initial cooperative manner towards the investigation just stands out like a sore thumb in my mind.

Now add to this picture even more attempts to bog down and immobilize this investigation:

Palin deliberately filed a complaint against herself, likely with the intent to derail the investigation into the non-public eye. As Alaska law AS 39.52.310(c) states,

If a complaint alleges a violation of AS 39.52.110 – 39.52.190 by the governor, lieutenant governor, or the attorney general, the matter shall be referred to the personnel board. The personnel board shall return a complaint concerning the conduct of the governor or lieutenant governor who is a candidate for election to state office as provided in (j) of this section if the complaint is initiated during a campaign period. The personnel board shall retain independent counsel who shall act in the place of the attorney general under (d) – (i) of this section, AS 39.52.320 – 39.52.350, and 39.52.360(c) and (d). Notwithstanding AS 36.30.015 (d), the personnel board may contract for or hire independent counsel under this subsection without notifying or securing the approval of the Department of Law.

Now if you will recall, Palin accepted her nomination back on the 3rd of September. This was also the same day the complaint lodged by the Public Safety Employees Asssociation (PSEA) was made for Wooten. Unfortunately I have no idea where the grey line is drawn in regards to when she is officially considered a “candidate for election,” but this sure as hell is not a state office.

Anyhoo, to follow up on line AS 39.52.310(j) mentioned above in bold,

(j) The personnel board shall return a complaint concerning the conduct of the governor or lieutenant governor who is a candidate for state office received during a campaign period to the complainant unless the governor or lieutenant governor, as appropriate, permits the personnel board to assume jurisdiction under this subsection.

The personnel board (as far as I can tell) is personally appointed by her while she is in office. From what I understand in the wording (I’m no law expert, just someone who tries to dig too deeply into information to make some sense of it), this would allow her filed complaint to either be disregarded (because she is a candidate for office, which is at the discretion of the interpretation of the word of the law) or direct the complaint away from the eyes of the attorney general to the private evaluation by the personnel board. So unless the disregard would also apply to the investigation set forth by the attorney general at the PSEA’s behest, then she is forced to turn this over to her personnel board and hope that they would evaluate this more to her desired discretion (e.g. not in the public eye, perhaps?), because she is obviously “not trying to put off the investigation until after the election”, according to Ed O’Callghan. Regardless, I cannot find any information to see if an individual is allowed to file a claim of ethical violation against their self (which at first glance sounds like a conflict of personal interest). Anyways, this is just the convoluted start of it.

Secondly, five Republican lawmakers have filed suit to halt Palin’s inquiry. This sounds like their way to retaliate against the bipartisan investigation that Palin allegedly was going to cooperate with, despite it being led by a Democratic senator. It appears to only be blatantly polarizing between the parties directly involved: the persons filing the lawsuit and those accused. The NY Times article illustrates that this was originally intended to be a “bipartisan and impartial effort,” and even suggests that this may be a direct result of the McCain campaign, whether or not they deny it. This could be debated: if they really were acting independently of the campaign, then Ed O’Callaghan might not sound like a lying bastard. If their actions are at the behest of the McCain campaign, then we have more blatant lies and trickery coming out of this campaign in order to save face.

Now, to wrap this back into the original post at top. Todd Palin seems to be a focus point for this investigation, and he feels he doesn’t need to respect the subpoena submitted to him by the attorney general. Between the fact that the McCain campaign is sending plenty of lawyers/advisers to Alaska to support Palin’s family and aides involved in this matter, it really leads me to wonder why they are fighting this tooth & nail?

Did it really take them two weeks to realize that they feel they shouldn’t be tried now because she’s running for an office? Despite the fact she doesn’t want to put off the investigation, why does she feel the need to register a complaint against herself, inevitably delaying and refocusing the investigation into her own pocket (by my own views in regards to her pocket)? Why are there Republicans trying to quash the investigation set forth by the attorney general if all of it was honkey-dorey before the nomination?

This really sounds like a disjointed effort to virtually eradicate this issue. Dirt or not, it feels as if there’s something everyone is trying to bury and quickly. It seems like too much work without enough coordination to really deny plausibility of the complaints.

But that’s just my long-winded two cents. *shrugs*

This is primarily here for those of you who haven’t run across this information yet. It was rather nice to read what appears to be a fairly critical evaluation of Mrs. Palin and her history in Wasilla. Unfortunately, I don’t necessarily think that this will change a whole lot in the evaluation of the McCain campaign. As I noted previously, Palin has already flipflopped on one of her previous stances. I’ll dig up some of the others that I’ve witnessed.

But as it blatantly appears, hypocrisy is not a trait that is unknown to the Republicans. John Stewart illustrated this quite nicely, much to my personal amusement!


adn.com | Alaska Politics : “I have known Sarah since 1992…”: “”

(Via Alaska Politics blog.)

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in common: their gender and their good looks. 🙂

You have my permission to forward this to your friends/email contacts with my name and email address attached, but please do not post it on any websites, as there are too many kooks out there . . .

Thanks,
Anne

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