Nov 302008

The International DB2 Users Group (IDUG) is sponsoring not one, but five different contests (or challenges) as they refer to them centered around using XML, XQuery and DB2 more effectively.  Whether you’re a student just starting to learn about these technologies or a greybeard who has written the documentation followed by the aforementioned students there will surely at least one IDUG contest will offer you either excitement, challenge or enjoyment (if not all three).

  1. Monthly Video Contest: Judged by the IDUG community, all you need to do is upload an XML focused video.  Prizes will be awarded monthly.
  2. Monthly Gadget Contest: Simply create a small widget or gadget that will be judged by the IDUG community.  Prizes will be awarded monthly.
  3. Port an Application: has your favorite app been ported to use XML, XQuery or DB2?  If not, do the work yourself and possibly win a prize. Judged by a panel of judges.
  4. Develop an Application: Better yet, develop a brand new application using XML and/or XQuery and enter this challenge. Judged by a panel of judges.
  5. Take The XQuery Challenge: All you need to do is answer a series of questions by developing queries in XQuery. All correct answers (both query structure and solutions) will be entered to win larger prizes.

So, there you have it.  Now go get your geek on!


Nov 302008

It seems as though every year some freedom organization or another brings out William Bradford’s journal as evidence of how communism didn’t work for the pilgrims while a free market system was what really led to the first Thanksgiving.  This year, it was Free Talk Live that tried to make the case.  Unfortunately, they all miss a few important points.

First of all, the pilgrims first Thanksgiving in America was in 1621 when Bradford (governor of the Plymouth Colony) reported that the bounty was plentiful.  His tale of the free market system overcoming the original communist system in the colony is relating events from 1623 – when they had not received supplies from England in nearly two years.

More importantly, however, those who claim this is a true victory for freedom is the fact that the pilgrims didn’t even own their land, much less than anything else.  In fact, the entirety of the Plymouth Colony remained the property of King James I who authorized the Council for New England to plant and govern land in the area.  The Pilgrims had a contract stating all land and profits would accrue to the Company for 7 years at which time the assets would be divided among the shareholders. Most of the Pilgrims held some stock. The Pilgrims negotiated a more favorable contract with the Company in 1626. In 1627, Plymouth colony determined upon a new economic arrangement with 53 Plymouth freemen (the “Purchasers”) agreeing to buy out the Company over a period of years.

It was during this renegotiation that the 3rd problem arises as the Pilgrims returned to their original division of debt-

“So they caled ye company togeather, and conferred with them, and came to this conclusion, that ye trade should be managed as before, to help to pay the debts; and all such persons as were above named should be reputed and inrouled for purchasers; single free men to have a single share, and every father of a familie to be alowed to purchass so many shares as he had persons in his family; that is to say, one for him selfe, and one for his wife, and for every child that he had living with him, one. As for servants, they had none, but what either their maisters should give them out of theirs, or their deservings should obtaine from ye company afterwards. Thus all were to be cast into single shares according to the order abovesaid; and so every one was to pay his part according to his proportion towards ye purchass, & all other debts, what ye profite of ye trade would not reach too; viz. a single man for a single share, a maister of a famalie for so many as he had. This gave all good contente.”

We all know at this point that communism doesn’t work and that coercive government of sovereign human beings is not only evil but ultimately ineffective.  There are examples of both surrounding us every day, so please, please stop dragging the poor pilgrims into the mix.  They were all essentially slaves themselves.

Nov 302008

It has been about 9 months since Zaira and I went to the racetrack and played the ponies. After my experience at the Bay Meadows opener this probably isn’t too surprising.  Then again, you might not have noticed the lack of my horse racing posts  at all.  But Golden Gate Fields most definitely has.

Not a week has gone by since early September (opening day was September 13th) without my receiving something in th email from Golden Gate Fields.  But their latest letter certainly got my attention.  It included a coupon for free valet or preferred parking and free Turf Club admission for both Zaira and myself.  For me, being in the grandstands with the “unwashed masses” is part of the experience, so I won’t be visiting the Turf Club any time soon.  Even if I were interested in this ‘elite’ area to watch the horses, free admission wouldn’t motivate me to make the drive.
I will, however, be happy to use them, though when we visit on Saturday, December 13th.  That’s when I can cash in the ticket pictured to the right.  For those not familiar with betting slips, that’s what this is.  This “Mystery Mutuel Voucher” is guaranteed to be worth at least $2.00, but could also bring in $3, $5, $25, $50, $500 or even $5,000!  Now that’s nothing to sneeze at.

In addition to being able to cash in this ticket, that Saturday will also be one of three chances (Friday and Sunday are the others) to enter the 2008 Golden Gate Fields Handicapping Contest and win an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas to compete in the 2009 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Contest.  Of course, as my betting record (and bank balance) clearly show I can’t handicap for squat so the odds are long of my actually winning such a contest.  However, even a stoppe dclock is right twice a day, so I might as well give it a shot.

Nov 302008

Banner__bf08_300x250_google Despite their monopoly status (which is enforced with the government’s guns, of course) Charter is having to try harder and harder to get people to sign up for their cable television, internet and home phone services.  In fact, as the ad to the left shows, they’re currently offering a free gift card (to the business of your choice) worth up to $250 with you sign up for any of their black friday deals.

Whether you’re just looking broadband internet service ($24.99/month for 6 months plus a $25 gift card), want their Charter Communications Ultimate Service Bundle with 10 Mbps High Speed internet access, Digital Home television with Charter HD, Sports View, HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Encore, Showtime, The Movie Channel, and Unlimited Calling on your home phone ($165.97/month for one year plus a $250 Gift card with purchase), or something in between Charter’s got you covered withboth some of the best prices available and free gift cards.

Not sold yet?  How about the fact that any person who places an order through December 5thwill also be entered into a drawing to win one of 45 Xbox 360 gaming systems.  If you’re not currently happy with your television service provider or have simply been looking for a better deal, than Charter is willing to pay you to give them a shot.  Me, I just suggest you check out the current deals and run your own numbers.


Nov 282008
Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series         

Today is Black Friday, though I’ve barely heard that phrase this year and don’t know of any actual deals going on today.  Still, I have a feeling that if my regular Frugal Friday readers aren’t out shopping for deals, they’re probably still in recovery mode from yesterday’s National Day of Overeating.  So I’m just going to drop some quick news/tips/whatever with y’all.

I’ve written about the Safeway PowerPump Gas Rewards at Morgan Hill Review and about their doubling of points on gift card sales here in last week’s Friday Frugality.  They did finally get things together and credit me for the missing gift card purchases last week.  But on Monday when I went shopping I received yet another surprise: the coupon pictured above, left.  The coupon reads “$2 off your total shopping trip when you buy ANY 1 card.”  I did purchase a single small gift card on this purchase so I’m not sure if the coupon was triggered by that gift card purchase or my repeated calls to their customer service line, but I was still glad to use it on my Thanksgiving shopping trip and look forward to getting another one before the promotion ends at New Year’s.

The second tip has been sitting around my “to write about” file for a few weeks now, but its deadline is coming up soon so I’m dropping it in here.

About six months ago I wrote a comparison of the different coin counting machines available in my area and came to the conclusion that Coinstar was, by far, the best.  The primary motivation behind this choice was the ability to get the full value of your coins when exchanging them for a gift card instead of cash.  Well, now Coinstar’s gotten even better…

Now through December 7th, 2008 when you cash in $40.00 or more in coins at any Coinstar machine and redeem your coins for a gift certificate you will receive a small form to complete and mail in.  Then, within a month or so, Coinstar will send you a bonus gift certificate for the same company valued at $10.00.  No strings attached (except, of course selling your personal info to Coinstar).

Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series