The Force Is Strong With This Cake.

We keep trying to come up with some sort of witty comment for this, but are just awestruck by the skill and creativity it took to make this 500 pound, 6’7″ cake of Darth Vader.

The cake was created by Amanda Oakleaf and her team at Oakleaf Cakes for the 15th anniversary of the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars enthusiasts out of Orlando, Florida.

Here are the vital statistics for this edible work of art:

Budgets, Beachcasters, And Bonuses.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2012, the City of Satellite Beach held what will be the last “budget workshop” for the 2012 – 2013 City Budget. The next step should be on September 5, 2012, where the City Council will hear comments from citizens on the budget.

For the most part, the meeting on Tuesday night was pretty perfunctory as the items had all been discussed and this seemed to be more of a meeting to make sure the items were in the correct places in the budget.

The budget part of the meeting was so mundane and predictable that there were no citizen comments. We hope this means that most people can live with the budget, and not that they are tired of fighting over the budget. Time and the meeting on September 5th will tell.

But there were two items of interest that popped up during the meeting.

The first was a report from Dania Billman on the progress of the Beachcaster. Ms. Billman said there was a problem with the ads in the Beachcaster. The plan was for the city to sell ads to help finance the printing and mailing of the Beachcaster. In theory, this is a good idea. You have to make sure that the money you get from selling ads not only pays for the planned pages of the publication, but also for the additional pages with ads.

When the committee went to sell ads in the Beachcaster, someone decided to buy what can be called a “free speech” ad as opposed to an advertisement for a business or service. When the Beachcaster first started to look at selling ads, this was a discussed issue. The idea of someone purchasing an ad for the May issue saying “Good Luck Satellite High Graduates” was looked upon by the Beachcaster committee as a great thing. The concern at the time was not the “free speech” ads, but specifically an ad from “Tootsie’s,” the “gentleman’s bar” in the city. The Beachcaster Committee was worried what an ad from a strip club would do to the image of the Beachcaster.

Fairfax County Church Sues County Government Over Sign.

As many people know, we are very interested in protecting the free speech of people here in the US. Even seemingly “innocent” restrictions are often an affront to the First Amendment. It is our belief even those small restrictions must be vigorously opposed lest the government start approving what we can an cannot say.

Which brings us to a church in Fairfax County, Virginia.

The Church of the Good Shepherd-United Methodist in Vienna, Virginia has decided to sue the Fairfax County Government over a the operation of a $37,000 sign the church installed.

The sign is an electronic sign that changes messages and the church was cited by code enforcement of the county. According to the Washington Examiner:

The complaint stems from a ruling by a county zoning official that said the Church of the Good Shepherd-United Methodist’s newly erected, $37,000 sign was in violation of an ordinance that allows “any movable copy sign … to change messages a maximum of two times within a 24-hour period.”

A letter to the church cited three messages that occurred in a one-day period: “WELCOME, Come on in and beat the heat…,” “Also visit us at” and “Practicing the Presence Thurs., July 5, 1 p.m.”

Consequently, a second code violation was also cited, saying that because the sign changes messages three times, it was not permitted in the county.

We have seen restrictions like this based on the idea of that signs that change messages are a “distraction” to drivers. There are no studies of which we are aware that prove that to be a fact, yet governments try to use that rational to restrict the speech on signs. In fact, because the Fairfax County ordinance allows for day, date, time, and weather to be displayed and changed repeatedly, one has to wonder if it is not the content of the wording on the sign rather than the number of times the messages change.

So what is the solution? We believe that people generally may not want signs that flash, change messages and have animation in front of every business. We can be persuaded that it is “ugly” or “unsightly.”

Cigarette Label Ruling Victory For First Amendment.

Last June, we started watching the what would happen with the new “graphic warning labels” Congress had mandated in 2009 to appear on cigarette packages.

The law required the FDA to implement rules which ended up mandating that the government supplied images be placed on individual cigarette packages to cover 50% of the package. In addition, 20% of any advertisement had to require the images.

To be clear, we are not smokers. We think smoking is a disgusting habit. We are not sitting here advocating smoking.

As we noted in our first post on this, the rules on the package labeling were advanced and signed into law by President Obama – a guy who smokes.

Okay, that is really hypocritical in our mind, but we disagreed with the images on other issues as well. First, they have a certain “cool” factor to them that we think kids will love. The images will defeat the purpose of the warning labels themselves.

Secondly, the images are all Photoshopped – every last one of them. It wasn’t good enough to show a damaged lung, the government had to make the lung look even worse. An image of a person with smoke coming out of a tracheotomy hole in his throat was Photoshopped. A picture of teeth yellowed by smoking was faked. The list of faked images goes on and on.

We asked and continue to ask “why does the government feel the need to lie on these images? Doesn’t the truth stand on its own?”

The cigarette companies sued the government saying the labels were not factual and instead were “advocacy” to stop smoking. In November, District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled the new labels and regulations were in fact “advocacy” and “compelled speech.” Judge Leon struck down the rules on First Amendment grounds.

We agreed with the ruling. The government should only present facts to people, and not be an advocate for an issue one way or another. To demand that a company make statements that are against its business interests – statements such as the images that are faked – goes beyond the scope of that the government should do. It is easy to say “yeah, but smoking is bad so we should allow those images” but such thinking allows the government to advocate anything.

If the lawsuit had gone the other way, the government would have been allowed to demand businesses “advertise” and make statements against themselves. This seemingly small issue of pictures on a cigarette case had huge implications for many businesses and industries.

After Judge Leon’s ruling, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Obama administration appealed the case to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia where the court upheld Judge Leon’s decision by a 2-1 margin.

Satellite Beach Budget Meeting.

Just a quick reminder to all those who are interested in the City of Satellite Beach’s budget that there is another budget workshop tonight at City Hall at 6:00 PM.

Hopefully the effects of Isaac will be gone so we can argue discuss the budget in calm weather.

You can read the agenda here, or download the agenda packet here.

The budget is an issue that affects everyone in the city. Whether it be the services provided by the police, fire and other departments down to the toilet paper in the Schechter Center, the monies raised and spent by the City is affects us all. You need to be there to have your voice heard.

See ya at 6:00 PM

Bob Is A Racist.

Isaac And The Cookie Monster. Nom Nom Nom Nom.

As tropical storm / hurricane Issac skirts Florida and heads into the Gulf of Mexico, we have a spouse and kids suffering from cabin fever.

Saying “there is nothing to do,” while pester mom and me, the kids are bored because they can’t go outside too much. My suggestion of “you can always do some more studying” was met with stares that showed a mix of hatred and “are you serious?”

Enter the Cookie Monster.

A few days ago we stumbled across the original Cookie Monster sugar cookie recipe originally published in the 1975 book “Big Bird’s Busy Book.

The actual recipe from the graphic is hard to read, but here it is verbatim from the book:

Embracing Obscurity.

Well, this is a first for us.

The other day as we were sitting here at the Raised on Hoecakes world headquarters, we received an email from someone claiming to be a senior account manager at the “A Group” who asked if we would be interested in reviewing the soon to be released book “Embracing Obscurity,” by “Anonymous.”

“Oh great,” we thought, “another ‘419 scam’.”

For kicks, we started to dig around a little and found that the company is legitimate.

Our curiosity was piqued to say the least.

The writer of the email, Rodney Brown, said that he had seen our review of the Tim Tebow book “Through My Eyes,” and was wondering if we would be interested in reviewing a book being published by B&H Publishing called “Embracing Obscurity.”

(We have no delusions that we were picked to because of the greatness of our review of the Tebow book. We aren’t that good or special. We know the A Group did something like a Google search and we were there.)

We called Mr. Brown and talked to him for a bit. We made sure he knew that we would review the book as we saw fit, and if he was expecting a favorable review because he was sending us the book for free, well, that wasn’t going to happen. We also mentioned that there were laws about giving something in exchange for a favorable review.

Mr. Brown was upfront and said they would send a copy of the book and a copy of the law which covers reviews. His job, he explained, was to get people to review the book thereby creating a sort of viral marketing campaign.

We agreed and the book will be coming to us so look for a review in the future.

As part of the email, Mr. Brown attached a letter from the author which you can read here.

There’s even a video on the concept of the book:

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