On a personal level, it is encouraging to see such a powerful display of one person pressing for such a change. Being yourself and being committed to yourself can make a huge difference. One person can change the world. Way to go, Martha!

TED Blog

Martha Payne of NeverSecondsMartha Payne may only be 9-years-old, but she is already a world-renowned food blogger.

In a preamble to his fascinating TEDTalk about what governments can learn from open-source programming, Clay Shirky told Payne’s inspirational story.

In April of 2012, Scottish schoolgirl Payne started the blog NeverSeconds.blogspot.co.uk, which documents her school dinners (otherwise known as school lunches in the United States) with ratings like “number of mouthfuls” and “pieces of hair” found in food. The idea was to raise money for the charity Mary’s Meals, while at the same time showing the world the low nutritional value of school meals.

The blog quickly picked up fans. But on June 14, readers of NeverSeconds were greeted with a distressing post.

“This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any…

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So What? I Enjoy Hitting Myself on the Head with a Hammer! | Why Do It Yourself Websites Don’t Work

Originally posted at JM Web Designs.

As much as I would enjoy writing another column focused on undergarments, there is only so much material I can cover. Underwear, as one might say, is only part of the outfit. The question is, do you dress yourself, or does someone else pick out your clothes for you?

Actually, that is not the question at all. Today’s question is directed at those “so-called” home improvement experts that believe you can hang your own drywall, even though the only help you have is your wife who is just over five feet tall trying to hold the drywall against the ceiling while standing on a swivel chair. Don’t worry, mine had only six weeks of rehabilitation after the accident.

What exactly is the point? There is a reason people go to school and train to be good builders – THEY ENJOY THE WORK. I don’t and yet I do it anyway. If we are honest, how many of us figure that if we do certain tasks ourselves, we can save money by not hiring a professional? Allow me to tell you a story.

I thought it would be a great idea to renovate my basement. 1970s paneling was still a few years away from coming back into style and I wanted to make sure I was trendy, so I decided one day to pull off the paneling and re-finish my basement. That was ten weeks ago and I have not had a good Saturday since. Smashed thumbs, dust filling up my lungs, the gentle aroma of the landfill – all things I could have lived without ever experiencing are now my normal weekend routine. Why? Because I was greedy and wanted to save cash. Thankfully, the only people that are forced to look at my basement are my wife, myself, and the friends that I tricked into helping me paint.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZxh8rZ3rWA&feature=player_embedded

This analogy holds true when building a website. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between home and website construction. For example, do you want one person building an entire home? [No one is allowed to answer, “Yes! Bob Vila!”] There are lots of different specialties that go into building a house – architectural designing, framing, plumbing, electrical engineering, etc… A properly built website requires designers (graphic artists), coders, developers, researchers, marketers, and programmers (guys who sit in the dark and chug Code Red Mountain Dew all day long).

Now, there are people who are better at working with their hands and for most projects a little “imperfection” is acceptable, but not always. When publicly presenting your company do you want to put your best foot forward or allow your potential customers to see the cracks in your drywall? A poorly constructed website can actually cause more damage to your company image than not having one at all. Are the few dollars you might save by constructing a website yourself worth the headaches, frustrations, and eventual throwing of the keyboard?

As my television mentor (Homer Simpson) once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, stop trying.”

My Literary License Should Be Revoked

I write humor columns.  I feel I should clarify this, as there have been numerous responses to some of my previous columns, stating a moderate level of worry about some of my “anecdotal one-liners”.  Apparently, some people feel that I am trying to push a hidden agenda behind the humor.  Let me say this: they are absolutely correct.  Since my code has been cracked (Dan Brown would be proud of you), I will honestly and straightforwardly let you all in on my secret agenda.  My goal is world domination.  And my plan is to take over the planet by placing subliminal, subversive messages in my humor columns, and gradually, over say forty or fifty years, the world will know me as their all-knowing ruler (I suggest President Bush raise the security level to chartreuse).

Actually, I’m kidding.  It will probably take more like sixty-five years for the subliminal messages to take effect.  Okay, I’m not planning to take over the world (but I may go after France, I hear they’re not big on fighting).  In truth, my first paragraph was a joke, except of course for the first sentence.  Then again, a few of you may have thought that was a joke as well.  Since I care so much about my adoring fan base, I wanted to help make sure that each perfectly-timed (I have yet to time a joke right), witty (rarely are my jokes witty) statement does not go unnoticed.   In order to help everyone know when I am making a joke, I am going to discuss two recent news items, one of which is very serious and should not be made light of, while the other would be well-suited for a punch-line at an orthodontist convention.  Hopefully the juxtaposition of these two stories will make it possible to understand the idiom of my own personal humor.  The first story is about proposed Nebraska legislation to segregate public schools.  Since this is a very serious topic, I will make no jokes and report it as an actual journalist (which means that there will be no “potty” jokes; though I can’t guarantee I won’t use the word “snozberries”).

Lately, the Omaha Public School District has been engaged in a debate over district re-alignment.  Their goal is to annex the Millard and Elkhorn school districts, thus making Omaha “One City, One School District”.  To me, that sounds very similar to Adolf Hitler “One World, One Style of Moustache”.  I can’t believe this is being fought in our state’s mini-congress (“Trying to be as useless as the real Congress”), but it gets worse.  In a reactionary measure, one of the city districts gave an opposing proposition for Omaha to split the current public school district into three separate districts, based upon locality.  There would be a west Omaha district, as well as a south and a north, and what school your child went to was dependant upon your location in the city.  Basically, this would divide Omaha into three different races.  And this week it was passed and signed by the Governor!  Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea.  I mean, segregation worked before (just ask Rosa Parks), and maybe it could work again!   But I don’t think it should be divided by race.  I think it should be divided by extra-curricular activities.  I grew up in Omaha, and although this is not a geographical or racial distinction, I think the best way to keep similar people together is to separate students by their favorite activity.  Here are a few suggestions for activity separation: athletes (“2+2=my jock strap”), nerds (“Pocket Protectors and Their Validity in Today’s World Market”), rebels, and budding pornographers.  That probably wouldn’t work (everyone would want to be in the budding pornographers district), but I doubt anything will change soon anyway, because Nebraska’s legislature is very good at imitating their national counter-part.

This brings me to my next important story.  A few years ago, Dan Brown wrote a novel entitled The DaVinci Code.    Since I know that most of my readers prefer truth to lies, I doubt many of you have read his fiction, but none-the-less it has stirred up controversy.  This is mainly due to the fact that he scented the pages in his book to smell like marijuana to entice more readers.  Actually, it’s because this summer his book will be presented by Hollywood on the silver screen.  The reason people are upset about this is because many citizens in this country feel that Dan Brown overstepped his literary license by adding things to The Bible in order to fit his story (prepare the tar and feathers).  His plot has something to do with the protagonist using secret codes found in The Bible to solve a murder mystery.  How dare an author make up something to use in a fictional story!  This absolutely appalls me.  Not once in my writings have I ever made up something just to sell copies, and as an author, I feel he should be banned from writing for the rest of his life.  He should become a journalist.

I think it is a horrible crime on humanity when authors twist real events in order to make the story work.  The sad truth is that nearly everyone does it.  In fact, this treachery even goes back to John Wayne.  His military performances had no basis in reality; if they did, not one country would have dared to oppose “The Duke”.  And everyone knows that when King Kong made his real life appearance in the thirties, the stage was set up outside on the river, not in a theater on Broadway!  I definitely believe that Dan Brown’s literary license should be revoked.  And while they’re at it, they should probably take mine away as well.  I admit to you that I did tell a lie (only one) in this column.  The pages in The DaVinci Code were not scented like marijuana; that would be ludicrous.  They were flavored with snozberries.  Really, taste it.  I’m not making it up.