Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter Becomes Law

After passing both the House and the Senate, President Obama has signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law. This makes me very happy.

The Ledbetter Act was discussed heatedly during the last presidential election. McCain opposed the bill on the grounds that it would open up lawsuits. Um....yeah...the bill's supposed to open up lawsuits to companies engaging in pay discrimination. Instead of equal pay protection, McCain felt that women needed more education and training and also stated that the he didn't think the Ledbetter Act would do anything to help the rights of women.

That line of reasoning seems to have stuck, because when discussing this issue with people, I've found that an instinctive fear of frivolous lawsuits and a lack of understanding of what the Ledbetter Act actually does. After explaining what the Ledbetter actually does, they tend to agree that it makes sense.

Prior to Ledbetter, workers had 180 days from the time of the first unequal paycheck to file a complaint for pay discrimination. The problem with the law as written was that companies just had to hide unfair pay practices for 6 months and then they could continue to do so with no legal recourse. In practice, employees tend to not discuss how much they are getting paid with one another, especially if they are new at a company, which would be when one would receive her first paycheck.

The Ledbetter Act says that workers have 180 days from each act of unequal pay to file a complaint, so basically 180 days from each discriminatory paycheck. It does not change the definition of what pay discrimination is, nor does it make it any easier to file a frivolous lawsuit. It simply changes the timeframe when someone can file a lawsuit, taking into account that you may not know about the pay discriminition for years.

President Obama, after signing the bill stated, "If we stay focused, as Lilly did, and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did, we will close that pay gap and ensure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alphabet Soup

I've started hanging out with a group of friends on Thursdays for ladies' night. We basically either cook something or go out to dinner and then talk/play a game/generally hang out for the evening. Last week we decided that it would be fun to try to go through the alphabet and cook a food for each letter. With each lady assigned a letter, it should take us a month or so to get through the entire alphabet. We're also going through the alphabet backwards, just to keep things interesting.

This week we're doing Z-T. I have the letter X. This will be a challenge. My first thought was to just pick up some Dos Eqis. This still remains my fallback plan if things go horribly, horribly wrong.

After a little research, I've come up with two options. Option 1: Xuxu, more commonly known as chayote or merliton. It's a South American squash. Option 2: Xigua, a Chinese watermelon. And yes, I understand that neither if these is an English word. I'm working with the letter X, cut me some slack!

I'm planning on going with option 1, assuming I can find chayote (or xuxu, in keeping with the X theme) around here. From what I've read, chayote can be substituted in any recipe requiring squash. I think I'll do some sort of chayote au gratin. Stay tuned for how this turns out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And Only 3 Months Late

I finally got aound to posting my pictures of my uber cool Halloween costume. For those just tuning in, a friend of mine had a Star Wars themed party. I went as a Jawa.

For those of you who don't remember your Star Wars lore, Jawas were the short, robed and hooded residents of Tatooine. They drove the sandcrawlers and were the ones who sold R2D2 and C3PO. Here's a reference picture, to jog your memory.

Here's my costume in full light. The face is actually completely blacked out. The black burlap that I used had the neat effect that I could see out relatively clearly, but you couldn't see my face.
Here's the costume again with the LED eyes lit up. It had a wonderful creepy appearance. (Try to ignore the lamp behind me, even though it kind of looks like I'm balancing some kind of bowl on my head.)

Here's another shot with the eyes lit up. In dim light, the costume looks creepy. I'm very happy with how the eyes turned out. They really made the costume.

And one last, parting shot. Doesn't this look scarey coming out of the shadows at you?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Attack of the Giant Humongous Coffee Mug

Last year for Christmas one of my friends gave me a really nice and very large mug. It is by far the largest mug I own. I use it to drink tea at work. It makes me feel spiffy because I drink out of the largest mug in the office.

One of my co-workers now has a mug that puts mine to shame. It is not so much a mug, but rather a ceramic bucket.

Take a look. The first picture shows the mugs side by side. For a little perspective, here are the mugs with a more normal sized large coffee mug for reference. My mug feels small and inadequate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blu Ray Vs. DVD

In short, yeah, it is worth the investment for a Blu-Ray player.

Over the weekend, my roommate broke down and purchased a Blu Ray player to go with his ginormous television. (Have I mentioned how wonderful it is having a technophile for a roommate?)

We both purchased a few Blu Ray movies to go with it. The first movie we watched was Hitman, because it seemed appropriate to watch something with a lot of explosions for the high definition experience. It was a gorgeous picture. Unfortunately, I haven't seen this on regular DVD and don't have a base of comparison for this movie. The other night we watched Serenity, because I love Firefly and it's something I've already seen on DVD. The space scenes are particularly pretty. Part of me wants to watch the DVD and Blu Ray back to back for comparison.

My thought is that if you have a high definition television, then it's worth getting a Blu Ray player for the improved picture. This is especially true for action movies, and modern movies that can take into account filming in high definition.

I'm not sure how some of the older movies will do on the Blu Ray format. As an example, I noticed that there are several James Bond collections available, including the earlier movies. Dr. No was filmed in the early 60's, using the technology of the day. I don't think that putting this film on a Blu Ray disc is going to improve the picture significantly. I feel the same about television series. These shows were filmed specifically for standard definition broadcast.

With that said, newer movies, and possibly even newer TV shows since high definition broadcasting is becoming more common, have a much better picture. Over New Year's, Bluemule was showing off his fancy new set up and I was impressed. We watched a few scenes from the last Pirates movie. Water looks great. You could see the texture and detailing of the costuming. Definately an improvement over the DVD version.

I plan on watching WALL-E in the next day or so and I bet it will be absolutely beautiful.

Blu Ray movies are still more pricey than regular DVDs. My highly scientific statistical method of price gathering (meaning I glanced at the prices in BestBuy) found that the average new release DVD is around $20, compared to $30 for the same movie on Blu Ray. I'm won't be re-purchase all of movies on Blu Ray anytime soon, particularly since Blu Ray players will play DVDs. However, I will be buying new movies on Blu Ray from now on.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Year Resolutions

I made 2 New Year's resolutions this year. The first, half jokingly, is to stay employed. With the economy in the toilet and getting worse, the university that I work at is facing budget cuts. It looks like my department is escaping intact. In addition, I had a pretty good performance appraisal yesterday, so it looks like I'll be here for a while longer.

My second resolution, and this one I'm serious about, is to give up chocolate for the year. Why? No real reason, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I seem to have blown that one already. I got some really yummy looking chocolate as Christmas gifts, and I wanted to at least taste it. Last night I indulged in one last chocolate fest. It was delicious. Now that that is out of the way, my plan is to give up chocolate until this time next year.

On another note, I am almost nearly a whole year caffeine free, or at least caffeine minimal. My roommate likes to point out that chocolate has caffeine in it and I was still eating that. My response so far has been, 'So?'. My self-induced one year caffeine fast will be complete in March. I am looking forward to adding tea back into my normal beverage consumption. I have a thing for tea. Coffee and soda I can do without; tea not so much. And herbal tea just isn't the same. I had considered adding tea back in after the start of the year, but a whole 12 months just seems so much more symmetrical.

Holiday Wrap Up

...Get it? Wrap up? Ok., I'll stop.

So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and all that stuff. Can you believe that it's 2009 already?

I actaully celebrated Christmas on December 25th this year. My family tends to celebrate what I've dubbed Rafuse Orthodox Christmas. It falls on the day closest to Christmas that everyone can get together.

I did minimal decorating in the apartment, but did manage to put up a rather nice tree. Space is very limited in the apartment, and because of that I decided to go without a tree last year. Then I discovered that not having a tree made me sad, so I bought a small pre-lit tree and called it done. This year I bought some small sized decorations to put on it. I tried putting on my normal sized decorations, but it looked silly. In any case, the tiny star that I found in a random aisle at Wal-Mart worked perfectly. The fun part is that I searched the Christmas decoration section for a while, found no trace of tree toppers large or small, and then gave up the search. I wandered through the pet supply aisle for something and found the little star lying discarded on a random shelf. A Christmas miracle? You decide.

I managed to get all of my sewing projects done before gift giving time. I ended up finishing a few after Chrsitmas, but that was ok, since I wasn't giving these out until Yomper's post-New Year LAN party. Let's hear it for procrastination!

My roommate and I had decided to not give each other presents. He has gift giving anxiety and neither one of us has room for extra crap. I woke up on Christmas Eve morning and found a gift under the tree for me. The roommate had gotten me an Ipod, engraved with my name on it. Surprise! I felt a little guilty, since I didn't get him anything, but I really do appreciate the gift. I've been wanting an Ipod for a while now.

The weather on didn't cooperate. Depending on what part of the road you were on, it was raining, snowing, sleeting, or a combination of all three. I had to pick up a couple of last minute things and discovered that 9am on Christmas Eve is a great time to shop. The 2 stores that I went to were nearly deserted.

I trekked down to the Kingdom to spend Christmas at my sister-in-law's parents' place. My brother and sister-in-law were there, of course, and my siter and her husband made it down from PA, even after the icey roads added another couple of hours on to their driving time. At my brother's suggestion, we all wnet out and played in the snow. It was a blast. The rest of Christmas was the nice kind of chaos that comes from having to many people in too small of a space. Alyssa slept through most of her first Christmas.

I spent New Year's eating yummy food and playing poker with BlueMule and friends. They were more than happy to take my money. As a consolation prize, I scored a recipe for some tastey chicken divan. All's well that ends well, right? Actually, I had a blast, and it was still cheaper then going out. I must be getting old, because for the last few years I have had absolutely no desire to go out to the bars on New Year's Eve.

Yomper had his annual LAN party that Friday. I ended up using his wife's computer because mine just isn't up to running any new games. This worked out for me because that meant I didn't have to schlepp my system to his place. We played Left 4 Dead all day long. Let me say that this game is the bomb diggity, and I'm not usually a huge fan of first person shooters. I've been playing the Xbox version with the roommate since late November. The basic concept is that it's the zombie apocolypse and a team of 4 survivors is trying to, well, survive. With 5 players, we decided to try the versus mode.

Playing the infected is even more fun than playing the survivors. It was with glee that I did all of the asshole-y tricks that the zombies have done to me in various run throughs of the main game. Smoker dragging a survivor into a witch, resulting in eviceration? Check. Boomer standing on top of a car with a sensitive alarm, so that shooting the Boomer results in alerting the zombie horde? Check. Multiple infected completely screwing over the survivors? Check and check. Playing this game with 8 players (4 survivor, 4 infected) would be insanely fun.

So, how have you been?