Posts with mood busy (78)

Windows Phone: including ads in your Universal app, and using In-App Purchasing to turn them off
Mood: busy
Posted on 2014-09-27 15:03:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 824

Free apps are wildly more popular than paid apps, but some people (myself included) get annoyed at ads in apps. To get the best of both worlds, you can include ads in your free app but let people in-app purchase a way to turn them off. Here's how to do this in a Universal app (see how to do this in WP 8.0), and for an example, check out the Universal app Float to Hex!

Part 1: Adding advertising

Unfortunately there aren't a ton of ad APIs that support Windows Phone 8.1 Universal apps at the time of this writing - the only ones I found are Microsoft pubCenter, AdDuplex, and Smaato. I went with Microsoft pubCenter - here's where you can download the Windows Phone API and the Windows API.

You can follow the guides at those links for a step-by-step walkthrough to add ads to the Windows and Windows Phone version of your app.


Now the ads in your app should be working! Launch it and make sure that they appear and don't obscure any content.

Part 2: Using In-App Purchasing to Disable Ads

1. Log in to the Windows Phone Dev Center, click "Dashboard" (at the top), then "Submit App" on the left. Under the "App info" section, give your app a name and category, then Save. (you can change these when you're ready to submit for real) Go back to the dashboard, select your new app, and go to the "Products" section. Click "Add in-app product". For the product info, specify whatever you want for the product alias, but beware - don't use any spaces or special characters so you can use the same one on Windows! (for Float to Hex I used "FloatToHexNoAds" for the alias and product identifier) Set the type to "Durable", select the price, and click Save. Then specify a title and description - for the icon, feel free to use this:

(click for full-sized image)

Finally, submit the product. Since your app isn't published yet, it won't be visible to anyone else.

2. Repeat step 1 on the Windows Dev Center.

Now you need to check for the in-app purchase and hide the ad if so. One way is to do this declaratively using data binding, and it's arguably a bit cleaner than the way below. Up to you!

3. Either create a Utils class or add this code to an existing one:

public static bool ShowAds { get; set; }
public static void UpdateInAppPurchases()
ShowAds = true;
var allLicenses = Windows.ApplicationModel.Store.
if (allLicenses.ContainsKey("FloatToHexNoAds"))
var license = allLicenses["FloatToHexNoAds"];
if (license.IsActive)
ShowAds = false;
public static async Task RemoveAds(Action updateAd)
await Windows.ApplicationModel.Store.CurrentApp
catch (Exception)
// oh well

In App.xaml.cs, add a call to Utils.UpdateInAppPurchases() to the OnLaunched() and OnActivated() methods.

4. Find all of the ads you added in XAML, and add Visibility="Collapsed" to them. Then, to each page that has an ad, add this method:

public void UpdateAd()
Ad.Visibility = Utils.ShowAds ? Visibility.Visible : Visibility.Collapsed;

and add a call to UpdateAd() to the NavigationHelper_LoadState() method.

5. All that's left now is to add the option to remove ads from inside the app. If you'd like to add a menu item in the app bar, you can add the following XAML in both Windows and Windows Phone:

<CommandBar x:Name="AdUpgradeBar">
<AppBarButton Label="remove ads" Icon="Remove" Click="RemoveAds_Click"

Or, you can add a button in your about page, or both.

Then, add the event handler:

private async void RemoveAds_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
await Utils.RemoveAds(UpdateAd);

Finally, to remove the menu item from the page if the user has already removed the ads, add this code to your UpdateAd() method:

RemoveAdsButton.Visibility =
Utils.ShowAds ? Visibility.Visible : Visibility.Collapsed;

6. (optional) If you'd like to back up the In-App Purchases, you can back them up in the app settings. This isn't strictly necessary, but if the In-App Purchasing system gets messed up again your app will be covered.

To test the in-app purchasing code, you'll need to publish your app as a beta. (all in-app purchases are free in a beta) But, other than that, you're done!

One final warning: With Universal apps, you publish the Windows and Windows Phone version separately, and then apparently it detects the the apps are Universal. When I published Float to Hex, the Windows version detected that it was Universal almost immediately, but it took 36 hours for the Windows Phone version to show that it was Universal. So don't panic for a few days like I did!

References: Windows Phone blog post on In-App Purchasing

In-App Purchase: Success stories and Tips to test common in-app failure scenarios

Dev Center now open for Windows Phone 8.1 and universal Windows app submissions


See all my Windows Phone development posts. I also send out a monthly-or-so email with news for developers - check out the latest email and sign up here!

I'm planning on writing more posts about Windows Phone development - what would you like to hear about? Reply here, on twitter at @gregstoll, or by email at


link monday: world cup, global warming, universal translator!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2014-06-02 22:11:00
Tags: links
Words: 218

- Qatar World Cup 2022: Fifa vice-president 'would support' re-vote - oh man, if the 2022 World Cup ends up coming to the USA I will be over the moon! Elsewhere in FIFA corruption: Fixed Soccer Matches Cast Shadow Over World Cup - yikes!

- What is Obama's plan to tackle global warming? - a good explainer-type thingy. This could be a big deal, I think?

- Skype shown automatically translating multilingual voice calls - aww yeah, the Universal Translator is here! (you know, soonish)

- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds - I hesitate to give too much credence to a shooter who clearly has anger issues (including but not limited to women), but the article is right regardless.

- Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy - longish video, but explains why Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is awesome! (PS: he is awesome)

- Watch H. Jon Benjamin play HAL 9000 in '2001: A Space Odyssey' - H. Jon Benjamin = Archer and Bob from "Bob's Burgers"

- How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name - oh man, this is cool. Totally going to do this for my next(*) app! (* - currently working on at least two apps, so this may never happen)

- OK, so maybe we can be a *little* frightened - cosmology is scary sometimes!


link tuesday: terrible infographic, good infographic, animated movies
Mood: busy
Posted on 2014-04-29 13:22:00
Tags: links
Words: 233

Work/life is still crazy busy, so I figured links on Tuesday in hand was worth two links on Friday in the bush. (or something)

- NBC News Creates A Racially Insensitive, Time-Traveling Map of America - not sure if I buy the "racially insensitive" angle, but: this is unquestionably a terrible, terrible infographic!

- How Americans Die - on the other hand, this is a very captivating series of infographic type things. Well done!

- Rapture leaked: The true story behind the making of BioShock - makes me sad that Irrational Games is closing.

- What the Left and Right Both Get Wrong About the Moynihan Report - wonky, but a full-employment policy would be pretty amazing.

- The 100 best animated movies - glad my favorite is (spoiler!) #2.

- Meaningful Activities Protect the Brain From Depression - neat!

- Meep Meep Watch In Foreign Policy - hey, Syria's chemical weapons are almost gone! And Iran is further away from making a nuclear weapon! Foreign policy: sometimes, it works.

- Up Close on Baseball’s Borders - nice map of which areas follow which baseball teams. Poor Astros...I think the "Texas" in the Rangers' name gives them more fans than they deserve.

- Jon Stewart Flawlessly Takes Down Media's Sexist Coverage of Clinton Pregnancy - siiiiigh this is probably what we have to look forward in 2015/6.

- Florida Set to Join Trend Toward Higher Speed Limits - not much here, except: go Texas! (I have driven 85, and it does feel fast...)


Las Vegas pictures: AT&T Developer Summit and CES
Mood: busy
Posted on 2014-01-11 16:00:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 199

<- click for full album!

I went a bit easier on pictures this year since Vegas wasn't new to me this time.
<- a big ol' turtle in the Las Vegas airport.
<- Lucky Penguin slot machine!
<- Macklemore on stage
<- incredibly large screen showing a FIFA game
<- Samsung curved TVs
<- Family Guy and Ferris Bueller's Day Off slot machines??

I had a good time although I shorted myself on sleep most nights, which was a bad idea. Hanging out with my fellow ambassadors is always good fun!

Casinowise, I spent a bit more time at slot machines this year. I hardly ever won and they went by very quickly, so I didn't really see the point. I did have a nice conversation with a roulette "dealer" (there's a real word for that, right? the guy who throws the ball?) on Sunday night where things were quiet, and ended up a little bit to boot. Played some craps although as I mentioned I still didn't understand all the crazy side bets. Skipped blackjack this time because of my bad experience last time.

If I go back maybe I'll try to figure out what baccarat's all about, or play a little poker or something.


mega-link wednesday: self-driving cars, radiation poisoning, yet more about a basic income
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-12-04 20:38:00
Tags: links
Words: 420

There are a ton of these, so here's a terrible effort at categorization!

Long reads:
- Long New Yorker article about Google's self-driving cars - sounds like they're making good progress!

- How radioactive poison became the assassin’s weapon of choice - long read about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko by Russian agents. Scary!

- A state drug analyst in Boston altered test results and mishandled evidence for nine years, and over 150 defendants have been released already. Amazing the damage that one person can do...

Economics and politics:
- A universal income is not such a silly idea - an economist weighs in on Switzerland's proposal.

- Is Work Necessary? - the idea goes hand in hand with a universal income.

- Does Medicaid Breed Dependency? - I read the headline and thought "of course not", but I guess that's my ideology showing :-) Anyway, this is a reasonable experiment, although the share of the population that's employed isn't a perfect metric. If someone is suffering crippling pain but has to work without Medicaid, is it really a good thing if that person is still in the workforce?

Visualizations and...videos?:
- 2013 winners of the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards - some very nice visualizes in here!

- Baseball Games Beautifully Visualized Like Transit Maps

- Nyan Cat Bus - the video speaks for itself!

Copyright and, um, health:
- Goldieblox and the Three MCs - Goldieblox used a Beastie Boys song in their original ad (with new words), and it turns out copyright is complicated. Although Goldieblox later replaced the music in the ad. And while the idea for the toys is very cool, apparently the toys themselves may not be that great?

- Vaccinations have prevented at least 103 million cases of contagious disease since 1924 - and that's just in the US!

Punctuation, algorithms, public speaking, quizzes, Star Trek, and soccer:
- How the period became a sign of anger - sounds weird, but reading the examples I totally see it!

- Neural Network Follies - good story of a neural network gone awry...

- 7 Little-Known Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking - I enjoy public speaking, and I plan on trying a few of these next time I do. (probably meeting the audience in advance and planning a perk for afterwards :-) )

- Can You Guess Famous Simpsons Quotes From Just a GIF or Freeze-Frame? - fun! I got 11/12, although there was some guessing involved.

- Five Leadership Lessons From Jean-Luc Picard - obviously a bit of linkbait, but I actually enjoyed the article. (thanks Mom!)

- The World Cup Draw explained - it happens on Friday! Hopefully it's a good one for the USA!


Windows Phone: tips for lock screen functionality
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-12-03 22:35:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 352

Motivational Penguin was my first app that had any lock screen functionality, so I thought I'd write up a few tips I learned along the way.

- The official lock screen documentation is quite good - see also the lock screen design guidelines. Although I didn't strictly obey the "Keep any text or graphics within this area" boxes - it seems like there's nothing wrong with spreading out to the right of the box?

- Motivational Penguin updates the lock screen in the background (which is common), and I ran into some trouble with the background agent. This is why I wrote a post about debugging scheduled tasks recently - there are some helpful tips in there!

- You will need some way to let the user decide whether to have the app update your lock screen or not (my app does this via a ToggleSwitch, part of the Windows Phone Toolkit). Be careful that if the user does let your app update your lock screen that you also check the value of Windows.Phone.System.UserProfile.LockScreenManager.IsProvidedByCurrentApplication - if this is false then your app won't have permission to update the lock screen. In my app I check this every time I show the ToggleSwitch and if it is false, make sure the ToggleSwitch is false as well.

- A nice feature to add is to configure how often to update the lock screen. I took my list of choices from Memorylage, my favorite lock screen updater. (seriously, check it out, it's great and well worth it!) Memorylage allows updates Hourly, TwiceDaily, Daily, and EveryOtherDay. To implement this, you can store the last time you updated the lock screen in System.IO.IsolatedStorage.IsolatedStorageSettings.ApplicationSettings, and if enough time hasn't passed, just exit early.

I hope these are helpful! Being able to update the lock screen in the background is really pretty cool :-)


See all my Windows Phone development posts.

I'm planning on writing more posts about Windows Phone development - what would you like to hear about? Reply here, on twitter at @gregstoll, or by email at


Interested in developing for Windows Phone? I'm the Nokia Developer Ambassador for Austin - drop me a line at!


link friday: cash grants for the poor, nonpartisan primaries are awesome, trouble in Wikipedialand
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-10-25 13:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 157

- Research Finds Outright Grants of Cash Are Surprisingly Effective Form of Aid to the Poor - more evidence! (previously)

- California Sees Gridlock Ease in Governing - good for California, and I really wish more places would adopt nonpartisan primaries. (with the top two candidates going on to the general election)

- The Decline of Wikipedia - long article about how fewer people are editing Wikipedia, and the people that do aren't very diverse.

- T-Mobile Hands Consumers a Pleasant Shocker - amazing international rates for data! T-Mobile is awesome, although their network seems a bit worse than AT&T's...

- Eating popcorn in the cinema makes people immune to advertising - so, advertisers: no more ads at the movies!

- The 9 State Propositions Texans Will Vote On Next Week - nothing terribly interesting, except for Proposition 6 (the water one). Anyway, early voting has started, so find an early voting place here!

- Tea Party Group Leader: File 'Class Action Lawsuit' Against Homosexuality - too crazy not to share.


link friday: sign language translator, hyperloop, why mobile web apps are slow
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-07-19 15:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 260

- Microsoft Research worked on a project that can translate sign language with a Kinect! Although she does seem to be signing rather slowly, this is pretty impressive. Between this and using Bing Translator to point your phone at something and have it translate it, it's starting to feel like the future! (that last feature isn't unique to Bing Translator, but it is cool)

- Elon Musk (the Tesla and SpaceX guy) has been teasing a "Hyperloop" that will get you between LA and San Francisco in 30 minutes. (they're 300 miles apart, for we Texas folk :-) ) He also teased that it could be solar-powered, and here's a good article at how it might work. As it says, these are pretty bold claims, but Musk's reputation is very good, so we'll just have to wait until August to see how realistic this is...

- An epicly long post about why mobile web apps are slow - the short version is ARM is slower than x86, JavaScript is ~5x slower than native code and it doesn't look like it's going to be getting much better.

- Neat look at how much you get for 200 calories of various foods - that peanut butter looks so sad! (thanks Barbara!)

- Edit Wars Reveal The 10 Most Controversial Topics on Wikipedia - many of these are not surprising, but "List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees" - whaaa?

- Jack Handey Is the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America - I loved Deep Thoughts!

- Health Insurance Within Reach - an overview of the health exchanges that are scheduled to go live on October 1st.


mini-link friday: compound interest, marriage happiness
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-03-15 16:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 240

- If The Catholic Church Were A Business, How Would You Fix It? - I heard this story on NPR and immediately thought "this is going to be a stupid story". It ended up being OK, but the most interesting part in the radio version was the guy who pointed out the church started out with 11 people 2000 years ago and is now at a size of 1.2 billion, which is an annual growth rate of 1%. I immediately thought "that doesn't sound right, that's too small", but it turns out it's actually a little less (0.93%). Compound interest wins again!

- Rob Portman, a senator from Ohio, is now for gay marriage after his son came out to him. It's a little disappointing that he didn't change his mind until someone close to him came out, but that's the power of knowing a gay person. It's progress, and I'll take it!

- The Difference Between a Happy Marriage and Miserable One: Chores - interesting article, with examples.

- SXSW and Reddit’s Introspection Problem - this is extremely depressing. She raised some good points about problems with Reddit, and then she got personally attacked in terrible ways. Somehow trolls on twitter bother me more than anonymous comment trolls.

- The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble - a well-told story by the New York Times.

- A video of a fan accompanying Billy Joel; it will warm your heart, especially after the last two links!

1 comment

Google Reader is closing - try Newsblur instead!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-03-14 09:59:00
Tags: endorsements
Words: 133

Google announced yesterday that Google Reader is shutting down July 1. If you're looking for a replacement, I'd recommend Newsblur - it's run by an indie dev (Samuel Clay), it's open source, there are apps for phones (although I haven't tried any of them), and it works great! It has a lot of neat features (intelligence training, social-y stuff, etc.) but honestly I use it just as a normal RSS reader and I'm happy with it. (I also sent in some feedback and the developer sent me a T-shirt!)

One nice thing about it is that Samuel works on Newsblur full-time, and so he charges $2/month for the "premium" Newsblur experience. I like paying for stuff I don't want to die, since there's a stronger incentive to keep it alive. (unlike, say, Google Reader...)


links: Obamacare description, Romney's tax plan, NYT trial, a capella BSG cover!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-08-01 14:43:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 197

- Here's a concise description of what Obamacare does, complete with citations. (from a subreddit called Explain Like I'm Five) Very thorough from what I've seen!

- A new analysis from outside groups shows that Romney's tax plan will raise taxes on anyone making $200K or less, and lower them for anyone making more than that. So...yeah. I don't mind higher taxes to reduce the deficit, or investing in infrastructure/education/etc., but raising my taxes so millionaires can get a tax cut...not so much.

- Speaking of Romney and taxes, here's a striking graph comparing the past 5 presidents + Romney's yearly income and effective tax rate.

- The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers - glad to see their online strategy is working, even if they did still suffer a pretty big loss. Related: anyone want to try an online subscription for 99 cents for 4 weeks? Drop me a line and I'll send it your way!

- This a capella cover of BSG's All Along the Watchtower is awesome. (thanks, Jessica!)

- A story about the LGBT student group at Rice back in the 70's. Spoiler alert: Annise Parker makes an appearance!

- is kinda like Metacritic, but for books.


a few pictures: the rocks in front of the house, and a Starry Night typewriter cake
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-07-22 22:52:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 14

Here are just a few new pictures:

and the aforementioned Starry Night typewriter cake:


crazy Astros game
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-07-09 15:21:00
Tags: baseball
Words: 309

I went with my dad and Lukas to see the Astros play the Brewers on Saturday...and what a weird game it was!

After getting out of a jam in the top of the first, Jordan Schafer (the Astros' leadoff hitter) took the first pitch from Zack Greinke and hit a line drive to center field. The Brewers' center fielder ran straight ahead, dove for it, and missed, so the ball got by him. It looked for a minute like Schafer was going to get an inside-the-park home run, but he ended up with a triple.

Three pitches later, Jose Altuve hit a slow roller to first base. Schafer scored, and Greinke covered the bag but the umpire ruled Altuve was safe at first. (from where we were sitting, it looked very close) Greinke then got upset and spiked the ball, and the umpire ejected him! (the manager then ran out of the dugout and got himself ejected shortly thereafter)

So that was dramatic. Then, the Brewers had to find a new pitcher who had to warm up very quickly - usually when you bring a pitcher in, he's been warming up in the bullpen for a while. If a pitcher gets injured, then the replacement pitcher gets extra warmup pitches, but apparently that isn't true when a pitcher gets ejected :-)

So the rest of the game was pretty weird - the Brewers ended up using 7 pitchers, and based on their stats, they were probably the bottom of the barrel ones. Wandy Rodriguez started for the Astros and went 5 good innings, and then the Astros also went through 6 other pitchers, which made the game drag on for a bit. The Astros were up 6-0 at one point, but the game never really seemed out of reach for the Brewers which kept it somewhat interesting. (the final score was 6-2)


rushed links: gay parents, poetic justice, algebra app!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-06-18 11:07:00
Tags: links
Words: 94

- A study came out last week (funded by a conservative organization) claiming to show that children same sex parents tended to have more problems. Unfortunately, the study included same sex parents that had been involved in a heterosexual marriage and gotten divorced, so really the finding is: hey, divorce is bad for kids.

- Rockstar condemns Max Payne 3 cheaters to play only against each other - that is some awesome poetic justice!

- DragonBox is a popular app that teaches kids algebra (to some extent, anyway). Cool!

- An amusing way of dealing with a slug problem


just a bunch of links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-12-13 14:30:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 264

Sorted by the amount of politics, in ascending order:

- The Day I Saw Van Gogh’s Genius in a New Light - was Van Gogh partially color deficient? His paintings, viewed through a filter, suggest they might be.

- A technique for memorizing the two-letter Scrabble words...or at least the ones that start with "a".

- Looks like we're pretty sure the Chinese military have been attacking US companies such as Google, Lockheed Martin, and RSA. Frightening but not surprising.

- Fancy tax graph - the graph is a little confusing, but the different colors/percentage indicate the marginal tax rate, and the y-axis is how much percentage of the total tax revenue that was generated from that marginal rate. You can clearly see the effect of the Bush tax cuts, as there was a sharp drop in the amount of income that was generated by higher tax brackets.

- Speaking of tax policy, a comparison of Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain's tax plans. The graphs are very tall because the tax cuts for the rich are so huge.

- Lowe's pulled its ads from the show "All-American Muslim" because right-wing groups complained that it was "propaganda" for Muslims or something. This really really makes me sad. Lowe's has faced some backlash but is not planning on restoring their ads.

- I angrily tweeted earlier, but: Rick Santorum says that "science should get out of politics". This is the backward-est thing I've heard in a long time, and still angers up my blood every time I read it...

- Romney Accidentally Crashes Married Gay Vet’s Date While Trolling for Anti-Gay Votes - whoops!

1 comment

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment review
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-12-13 13:36:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 385

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an ExperimentThe Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at Half-Price Books and was pleasantly surprised. The hook is that the author spends one month (and one chapter) trying out a bunch of different ways of living. The list of things he tries includes strictly unitasking, outsourcing as much of his life as possible, living very rationally (to the extent of trying 40 different toothpastes to find which is best, although if you include the time spent deciding I'm not sure this is actually rational. But I digress!), emulating George Washington, and being his wife's devoted servant (which seems fair after all she has to put up with :-) ).

I was hesitant about the book because I was afraid it would be excessively gimmicky. The author mostly avoids this (although there is one chapter where he describes posing nude, which doesn't really fit with the rest of the book), and he gives a good background as to why he thinks this experiment will be valuable, as well as ending each chapter with how he hopes to take the lessons he learned and apply them to his life after the month is over.

During one chapter he tries "radical honesty", which includes a similar discussion as Lying, the Kindle Single I read a while back. He comes to the conclusion that it works great for your own flaws and mistakes but he has a harder time calling out other people's (a.k.a. being a jerk) which makes sense to me. The author also interprets "radical honesty" to mean you basically speak every thought aloud, which seems to be taking the concept a bit far.

Things I'd like to work on:
- I try to multitask a lot even though I'm not very good at it. His unitasking chapter convinced me to try to cut down on this and stay focused on whatever I'm doing.
- George Washington was very civil and proper. I guess I could do that more?

The author has a couple of similar books - one is "The Year of Living Biblically" and one is "The Know-It-All" (a year spent reading the encyclopedia). After having read this book I'm eager to give these a shot!

(paper book, available for borrowing)

View all my reviews


pretty music video links, and FlightPredictor for Android beta testers!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-11-11 13:41:00
Tags: projects links
Words: 86

Busy week, so just a few links. But first:

Hey Android users! Want to beta-test FlightPredictor for Android? It should be ready some time next week - send me an email!

- An awesome music video made out of lots and lots of Jelly Bellies. The music is nice too. (thanks Adam!)

- A montage of classic video game deaths.

- A visualization of which words Republican presidential candidates used during debates, also broken down by policy. Neat idea but I wish there was more information here (quotes, or something)


Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico review
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-09-29 11:32:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 63

Fire and Blood: A History of MexicoFire and Blood: A History of Mexico by T.R. Fehrenbach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a very thorough history of Mexico. It's also quite long (~600 pages of small print), and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It starts in prehistory and ends up in the 1980s with the PRI. Very informative!

View all my reviews


Bad Science review
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-09-29 11:31:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 312

Bad ScienceBad Science by Ben Goldacre

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bad Science is a book that I should have liked more than I did. He basically looks at a bunch of different pseudo-medical fads (detox baths, homeopathy, etc.) and explains that there's no real science to back them up by looking at the studies they cite and tearing them apart. He also writes a bit about the placebo effect, which is often not corrected for in said studies. Then he goes on to discuss more ways that studies are poorly conducted, and takes the media to task (rightfully so) for their coverage of the MMR vaccine (which does not cause autism).

Another interesting part was the section on antioxidants (especially because I had bought into the fact that they're good) - they do counteract free radicals when they come into direct contact with them, but there's no proof that a) free radicals are responsible for aging and various diseases b) eating more antioxidants will help, since the body already has a system for counteracting free radicals; maybe eating more antioxidants will cause the body to produce less, or something. Anyway, it goes to show that the body is complicated and really a reasonable-sounding biological theory isn't enough to prove that something is helpful - you need to do a real randomized placebo-controlled study. And in this case, there was a study done over a decade ago showing that people taking beta-carotene (an antioxidant) pills were more likely to die of lung cancer and other causes. So...yeah.

Another neat thing I learned was about the Cochrane Collaboration which focuses on evidence-based medicine and doing meta-studies of all the available literature.

I totally agree with the message here, but I think the book was a bit meandering which may be why I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have.

View all my reviews


usual friday links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-09-09 13:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 111

- Guys, we did it! Texas had the hottest June-August of any state, ever. So...can we get some rain now, please?

- Americans Should Be Able to Sell Stuff Without a Permit - well-said. (thanks, djedi!)

- Views Differ on Shape of Earth, Climate Edition - sigh. 98% of climate scientists think that manmade global warming is happening, but most Americans think that the number is closer to 50%. This is the sign of a successful disinformation campaign.

- Long article on why Finland's schools are successful. Their schools sound almost KIPP-ish...

- Did the CIA Do Enough to Protect Bin Laden's Hunter? - these days it's harder and harder to protect identities.

- The MOB mocks Rick Perry


sort of links, without many actual links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-09-02 15:07:00
Tags: projects programming links
Words: 477

I watched two excellent movies this week: The Hunt for Red October, and Clue. Both included Tim Curry. Make of that what you will. (I forgot he was in Red October!)

I also went to a podiatrist and got some orthotics which I've probably needed for the last 10 years or so. (thanks Dr. Newman!) Apparently my feet are as flat as a pancake. It amuses me when I stand barefoot in front of podiatrists and they flinch...

An iOS Developer Takes on Android - I haven't developed in iOS, but I am also new to Android development and sympathize sooo hard! Especially:

"You’re going to just hate Eclipse. You’re going to hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. It’s going to feel slow and bloated and it won’t taste like real food."
It takes the Android Emulator ~2 minutes to boot up on my perfectly-modern machine. But what really hurts is the edit/debug cycle. Every time I change a bit of Java and need to rerun the app, it takes about 30 seconds to redeploy and start up in the Emulator. Compare that to 5 seconds on the iOS Simulator. It may not sound like much but remember you’ll be doing this hundreds of times throughout your day.

Fortunately, it turns out to be much quicker to deploy and boot up your app on a physical device over USB.
But the reality is, it’s not HTML and CSS and so it’s another thick layer of stuff that you have to learn and understand and fight with when things don’t work like you expect.
So here’s the catch with the wonderful flexible layout system in Android: You must be very careful. If you animate certain kinds of properties, you can easily force the CPU to do all that fancy, expensive layout on each animation frame. And the CPU is very busy right now parsing some JSON from a web API or something, OK?
Anyway, I'm considering getting a real version of Eclipse and just installing the standard Android extensions. And maybe buying a Nexus S to get a better feel for the phone (and make debugging easier), but I haven't decided whether I'm that dedicated to finishing the FlightPredictor port yet.

Samsung basically says they're not going to use webOS (although they left the door a tiny bit open, I guess) - after HTC said a similar thing, this is very very bad news. Maybe someone will license webOS but the future is looking pretty grim. More likely (it seems to me) is that someone will buy the patents off of HP and call it a day. And then I will be sad.

Cool stop-motion ad, which made me eat at the place that made the ad. (stating obliquely so as not to "spoil" much as you can spoil an ad, anyway. Nevermind.)

1 comment

webOS app sales: after the TouchPad firesale
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-08-23 13:15:00
Tags: palm essay palmpre projects
Words: 137

Well, the last time I did one of these they announced no more webOS hardware from HP, so maybe if I do another one something really really good will happen?

Anyway, the fire sale basically started on Friday. Here are daily numbers for my most popular apps since then - two free, two paid:

FlightPredictor HD827192341
Simple Alarms615181228
Marriage Map162532162179

So things are still going strong! Interestingly, FlightPredictor HD sales are still driven strongly by HP's promo codes (36 of the 41 on Mon), while Simple Alarms is the opposite (only 6 of the 28 on Mon). So I'm curious to see if FlightPredictor HD sales drop off faster than Simple Alarms...


link smattering
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-08-01 18:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 181

- LabVIEW 2011 has released! You should totally go buy it or whatever. I made that unable to find the run-time engine dialog. Well, I added a sentence and some buttons. I'm sure this is as exciting for you as it is for me!

- Long read: retelling of the bin Laden raid with some new information.

- Girls Go Geek...Again! - in 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women. I had no idea!

- If the world lived in a single city - mostly posting this for a good visualization of how sprawled Houston is. (very)

- The Centrist Cop-Out - op-ed by Krugman about the debt ceiling brouhaha.

- The Platinum Coin Option - thinking outside the box to avoid debt ceiling catastrophe.

- What Happens if We Don't Raise the Debt Ceiling? - short answer: things get crazy.

- Hollywood is about to repeat the mistakes of the music industry - sigh! (thanks David!)

- In Time trailer - sci-fi action thriller that looks pretty darn good.

- A cool use of high-frequency and low-frequency images to see if you're nearsighted. (when I take off my glasses I see a giant blob :-) )


Netflix for X, other random links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-07-15 14:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 106

"Netflix for books": Goodreads (except for the whole paying money and getting books in the mail part). The mobile app has a fun way to scan books in (no webOS version :-( ), and it's easy to organize lists, etc. If you read a lot, you should sign up and friend me!

"Netflix for art": turningArt - neat idea! (but we're not members)

What Google's Famous Cafeterias Can Teach Us About Health - wow, charging per gram of sugar, fat, etc. is genius!

The CIA's Fake Vaccination Program - is it just me or was this a terrible idea? It's hard enough to get people in developing countries to trust doctors...

1 comment

Some good #longreads
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-06-23 13:41:00
Tags: links
Words: 137

- The Blind Man Who Taught Himself To See by using echolocation. Pretty impressive, but it sounds like it's difficult to do well.

- My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant - the story of a journalist who is just now "coming out". Pretty powerful, and it's disappointing the DREAM Act didn't pass, which would have provided him a path to citizenship.

- Kind of Screwed, or "getting sued really sucks, even if you're pretty sure you would win".


Shorter reads:

- How Many Households Are Like Yours? - 0.22% of US households are "male unmarried partners". Which feels really, really low.

- Hypersonic Jet, ZEHST, Revealed At Paris Air Show - this sounds pretty cool (it goes Mach 4!), but it will take 40 years to build. It seems odd to even talk about the specifics when probably all of them will change by then.


no time links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-04-25 11:16:00
Tags: links
Words: 164

- Is Sugar Toxic? is a very long article in the NYTimes magazine. The title is sensationalistic, but the evidence is kind of scary. On the other hand, what foods are worst for us seems to change every year, and it's hard to keep up.

- Speaking of the NYTimes, since moving to a paywall they've gotten 100K digital subscribers, which is pretty good. Although the first four weeks were discounted to 99 cents - we'll have to see what happens when it's time to renew. (disclaimer: I subscribed and am thinking of continuing)

- More NYTimes fun: a project called Cascade for tracking the sharing of stories on the web. Unfortunately they just have videos up (and no live demo) but it looks pretty neat!

- Nintendo pre-announces its followup to the Wii, meaning they said they'll announce it at E3 in June and it will ship next year.

- Is Garfield Dead? - I remember reading these strips as a kid (in a book) and being kinda freaked out.


touchy-feely links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-03-10 11:06:00
Tags: links
Words: 104

- Sleep is more important than food - hmm, I've never thought about it that way.

- The power of lonely - or, being alone can help you form memories better and develop your sense of empathy.

- The need to code - this is pretty much how I feel. I'm lucky that I get paid to do so :-)

- Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges - self-compassion = important!

And, not touchy-feely:

- Has Santorum Slipped On Outlawing Gay Sex? - Santorum is my least-favorite Republican presidential probably-candidate, which is saying something...

- There’s Nothing Special About Ohio - included here for gratuitous slams on Ohio from Nate Silver, a native Michigander.


sir links-a-lot
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-02-28 13:10:00
Tags: links
Words: 108

- This is old news (apparently), but Kayak has this neat map of places you can fly to for a given price. You can also filter by activities, spoken languages, and temperature!

- On Kickstarter, the Haptica Braille Watch is very cool, but running out of time and needs a lot more money. Chip in if you can!

- Just a reminder: we spend a whole lot of money on health care, but we're kinda average compared to other countries.

- A beautiful time-lapse video of the Milky Way in the night sky.

- At the rate the Kindle price is dropping it will be free by November. (maybe for Amazon Prime customers?)

1 comment

Ken Jennings is a standup guy
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-02-17 13:12:00
Tags: links
Words: 88

He did a Q&A with readers of the Washington Post, where he comes off as generally awesome. Best response:

Believe me, I was enjoying (almost) every second. Getting beat on the buzzer is frustrating, but are you kidding? I AM PLAYING A PRIME-TIME GAME SHOW AGAINST A SUPER-ADVANCED ROBOT! This is the coolest thing I will every do in my life by a factor of a million. The future is here.

He wrote a short article about the experience for Slate.

Also, Conan had some fun with Watson.


minnesota, civ 5, bridge
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-09-20 12:07:00
Tags: pictures bridge projects programming
Words: 208

I went to Minnesota last week on a recruiting trip and took a few pictures:

Civilization 5 is releasing tomorrow! The full manual is available online (warning: 233 page .pdf) and it look spretty good. I do miss having a paper manual, though.

I've been working on the bridge program for webOS. It's coming along nicely - the framework is all in place to bid and play, and I've done some of the graphical stuff so you can almost actually play a hand on the webOS emulator. The next big thing to do is the AI for bidding and playing, which will probably be big tasks. We're going to be fairly busy over the next month or two so I'm not expecting much progress for a while. (also, Civ 5 coming out certainly doesn't help :-) )

Happily, since webOS is Javascript-based it was pretty easy to make a webpage version of the game, which will make testing out AI algorithms, etc. much easier.

Eric Fischer took census data on race and mapped where people live in major cities. (here's Houston, Austin, and San Antonio) Some patterns definitely jump out at you, but if you zoom in you can see there's nowhere that's exclusively one race, which is a good thing.

1 comment

Apple now less evil
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-09-09 15:10:00
Tags: essay
Words: 232

Remember back when Apple put all kinds of crazy restrictions on how you could write apps for the iPhone, etc.? Well, they had a change of heart - they released a new license agreement that undoes some of that stuff. For example, now apps don't have to be originally written in C/C++/Objective C, and their policy on in-app interpreters and serving ads were loosened as well. As a bonus, there's a surprisingly direct list of reasons your app might be rejected, like

We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps.

If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.

We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
which read like they were written by Steve Jobs himself.

Anyway, I still don't agree with all of their rules, but they've retreated from ridiculous territory, so we can be happy about that at least!


insert clever title here
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-09-01 13:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 193

Palm announced some of the new features in webOS 2.0 - Stacks and Just Type are the most exciting to me, although I might spring for a Touchstone to play with Exhibition. As a developer, nothing jumps out at me in terms of ways to use these features in my apps, but I'm still thinking...

Re Sex at Dawn: a discussion of jealousy, someone who doesn't like the book and one of the authors responds to the criticism.

More conservatives are "coming out" for gay marriage, which makes sense but is so completely backwards to what I'm used to that it's hard to believe. Yay!

Depressing links: Building a Nation of Know-Nothings (yeah, it would be really nice if we could argue over opinions rather than facts), With Neighbors Unaware, Toxic Spill at a BP Plant, Reasonable Doubt: Innocence Project Co-Founder Peter Neufeld on Being Wrong. (most depressing quote: "I'd say, just based on my own experience, that about half the time police and prosecutors bury their heads in the sand and insist that they were right no matter what the evidence says.")

Apparently tennis players should challenge more calls, like Roger Federer does.


link bankruptcy
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-08-27 12:46:00
Tags: links
Words: 227

I've been accumulating these links, and then I kinda forgot about them, so here goes!

The LA Times just did a big investigation on teacher performance. I fully support using data like this (they use a "value-added" approach, where they compare students performance at the beginning and end of the year) as part of teach evaluations. Surely people can study what the good teachers are doing right and use that to help all teachers.

Comparing the tax plans - the graphic is a little confusing. What surprised me is that Obama's plan (which is to keep the Bush tax cuts for incomes < $250K and index the AMT to inflation) costs $3 trillion over 10 years, while just keeping all of the Bush tax cuts only costs $.7 trillion more.

In last week's Futurama episode, one of the writers (who has a PhD in math) proved a theorem that was instrumental to the plot - they even showed the proof briefly!

Did you know: the Blue Power Ranger quit the show because he was harassed for being gay by the producers, etc. In other news, Ken Mehlman (who ran Bush's campaign in 2004 and was head of the RNC) came out and is now supporting the legal challenge to California's Prop 8.

The evolutionary case against monogamy - I'm in the middle of reviewing their book. It is very interesting.


quick linkies
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-07-09 13:19:00
Tags: links
Words: 286

Bad news: The Republican governor of Hawaii vetoed the state's civil union bill.

Good news: A federal court in Massachusetts has declared part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional! The decision will probably be appealed by the Department of Justice, even though Obama is supposedly against DOMA. (and yes, the DOJ would probably appeal regardless, but I'm still a bit annoyed at the fact that Obama is "against" DOMA but unwilling to spend any political capital about it)
Edit: A friend informed me that if the ruling is not appealed, it will only apply to Massachusetts (because that's the jurisdiction of the court that made the ruling). So we actually want it to be appealed, assuming that we can win again. Learn something new every day!

Funny and kinda sad news: A trader moved the global price of oil to an eight-month high in a "drunken blackout".

Exciting local news: The Chevrolet Volt will be launched in Austin (among other places) this year. Were I in the market for a new car, I would consider getting one. Maybe someday...

Thoughtful news: Why is cheating OK in football? (soccer) May be a little biased since it's from an English paper about England's non-goal, but it raises a good point. Just because you can get away with it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. The ethics on the pitch seem to be "win at any cost" which is somewhat disappointing (see also: diving/faking injuries).

Somewhat surprising news: Mortgages over $1 million are being defaulted on at a much higher rate than cheaper ones. Although this quote:

“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.
seems probably a bit unfair.


Scheduling up the summer
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-05-15 16:55:00
Tags: essay
Words: 74

May: lots of programming stuff, both for Palm's WebOS and for 
Google Code Jam .

June: World Cup!

July: Summer musical rehearsals begin and performances start. Also, Jonathan & Sarah's wedding. This month is going to be crazy!

This is a list of what's occupying my free time (along with the usual social stuff, etc.) so hopefully I will remember not to agree to anything time consuming until August :-)

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


Atlantic links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-01-11 10:54:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 257

Got a new issue of The Atlantic, and I'm only halfway through and I've already read two really interesting articles. I was sad when EGM died and would be sad if Newsweek stopped publishing, but if I lost my Atlantic heads would roll!

1. How America Can Rise Again - why things aren't as bad as they seem...except for our government/politics. The Daily Show covered this recently as well, which I especially enjoyed because people hearkening back to simpler times generally are looking through rose-colored glasses. (and are straight white males)

2. What Makes a Great Teacher? - Teach for America did a big study of their teachers and found what qualities correlate well with good teachers. And now they look for those qualities when hiring. And now (because of money the federal government is giving out) some school systems (DC's in particular) are tracking teacher performance. Good data => good findings => good results. Hooray for statistics!

David Boies and Ted Olson (the opposing counsels for Bush v. Gore) are bringing a case against California's Prop 8. People generally don't like its chances. Ted Olson wrote an editorial for Newsweek explaining his involvement - nothing shocking but it's nice to see the arguments coming from a conservative figure. (he was Bush's Solicitor General for three years)

When I read the paper this morning, I didn't expect to see an editorial by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees about a Supreme Court case involving the NFL. Color me surprised!

Obama hires a transgender bureaucrat, people accuse him of having a "transgender quota".


origami dreams
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-11-13 12:54:00
Tags: origami dreams
Words: 50

After spending so long with the origami units last night, I saw the folds when I closed my eyes, and had a dream that some origami bees were flying around trying to destroy my origami construction. It was weird :-)

Also, they found a "significant" amount of water on the moon!


life update
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-10-21 13:24:00
Tags: palmpre house programming
Words: 244

We finally got our roof replaced (and got a gutter on the back of our house to boot), and are almost done with getting the insurance settlement and paying the roofers and whatnot. I'm looking forward to putting this behind us. How often do roofs get damaged like this, anyway? The damage happened in March and we're still not quite done...

I've been getting back into origami lately - found a really cheap source of paper and ordered a bunch that should arrive today. My sorta-goal is to make all five Platonic solids - so far I've made a (bad) tetrahedron, a decent octahedron and a pretty cool cube. Anything with equilateral triangles = hard.

We cooked something out of the Joy of Cooking last night! Some kinda chicken dish with garlic and lime and potatoes. It turned out pretty well.

Planning on volunteering with the Community Tax Center in the new year. It's been a while (too long!) since I've done any volunteering, so it'll be good to get back into it.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been working on a LiveJournal client for the Palm Pre/Pixi. It works decently for me, but when I gave it to a few people to test it freezes. (luckily, you can just kill it so it doesn't mess up the whole phone) I'm at a bit of a loss as to why this is happening and it's pretty disheartening, so I haven't worked on it in a few weeks.


slideshow comments
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-08-11 14:15:00
Tags: palmpre projects
Words: 75

Did a quick project so that GLSlideshow (my screensaver), which currently shows random pictures from my gallery, would show the comment on the picture as well. Wrote it up here but there are no demos or anything so it's not very exciting :-)

Played around with the Palm Pre API last night, and I feel like I have my legs under me and can start making things that are actually neat rather than just toys. Exciting!

1 comment

just this guy, you know?
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-06-10 11:49:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 99

A new poll came out showing that 69% of Americans favor allowing openly gay people in the military - up from 64% 5 years ago...and even 58% conservatives support it! For a point of comparison, when Truman integrated the army only 13% of the population supported it. Stephen Colbert is doing his show from Iraq this week (in front of troops) and last night did a segment on Don't Ask, Don't Tell which was pretty ballsy.

25 Great Calvin and Hobbes Strips

Remember that long health care article? Turns out Obama read it too and is taking it pretty seriously.

1 comment

hurried links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-05-15 14:34:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 198

Is it the end of May yet?

A Roomba's path (by taking a long exposure time picture) is pretty chaotic!

Yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a torture episode.

In The Fierce Urgency of Whenever, Andrew Sullivan is pretty pissed Obama hasn't done much for gays yet. I mostly agree, although I'm a bit more patient. It turns out Obama wrote a personal note saying he's "committed to changing our current policy" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The governor of New Hampshire says he'll sign the gay marriage bill if religious protections are added, which the legislature has indicated they'll do. Sweet! For the record, I have absolutely no problem with saying religions don't have to recognize gay marriages. (even though, to my understanding, they don't have to even without the wording he wants in the bill) After all these bills go into effect, Rhode Island will be the only state in New England without gay marriage. That is some craziness, folks.

With The 'Gay Tax,' Love Doesn't Come Cheap - why, despite the awesomeness that is states allowing gay marriage, the fact that it's not recognized at a federal level still costs couples a lot of money.


pride and prejudice and zombies and "star trek" and wedding and words
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-05-11 14:03:00
Tags: movies ljbackup wedding books
Words: 377

In reverse order:

- My bad. I posted to Facebook that my epic jury duty recounting was 9500 words long, which sounded more improbable the more I thought about it. Indeed, my word-counting was counting characters instead of words, so after a little tuneup the statistics show it was only 2228 words long (still my longest post ever). In fact, now I know I write an average of 200 words per entry! And over the life of my LJ (including protected posts which don't show up in the public statistics) I've written 204550 words, or around 126 words a day.

- Wedding stuff is going fine. I sent the invitations out today at lunch!

- "Star Trek" movie = good. We saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse, so I had a Romulan Ale before it even started which made it even better. (also, Kirk's Iowa steak with McCoy's baked beans, while arriving extremely late (the waiter took half off the price) was delicious) The new 4K digital projection thingy was incredibly crisp and I really enjoyed the movie. (talking about seeing it again soonish!)

- I have a long history with "Pride and Prejudice". I was forced to read it in 7th grade and hate hate hated it, didn't understand most of it, and got a "D" or something like that on the test. As such, I never had any desire to watch the A&E miniseries even though my mom and sister(s?) loved it, and I generally went on with my life.

For my birthday, djedi got me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I started reading it, and awesomeness ensued. The first paragraph is:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain than during the recent attacks at Netherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead.
There was enough zombie happenings to keep me interested throughout the book, and I even got kind of engaged with the non-zombie plot, which is nothing short of remarkable. Also, there are illustrations!

I'd recommend it (my mom and at least one sister want to borrow it) and am eagerly awaiting Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 2!


Stuff I've been following: Time Warner, gay stuff, dentist
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-04-10 10:03:00
Tags: health activism gay links
Words: 480

Time Warner

After my somewhat indignant email, I called Time Warner Austin customer service (800-418-8848) to express my displeasure. Had to wait on hold for around 10 minutes and when it went through, I just talked for a few sentences. It wasn't particularly eloquent, but I said what I wanted to say, namely that if they did this tiered bandwidth cap thing I was going to leave. I could hear the rep not taking me very seriously, but oh well.

More information: destoyerj found this article showing just how expensive the plans will be per GB (very). Here's Time Warner's latest statement - basically they're increasing the caps (slightly), adding a 1 GB cap tier (the only plan, I believe, that's cheaper than the current one), and delaying the start of the trials in Austin and San Antonio until October. And here's a kinda long response to the letter, point by point.

Since apparently a house just across Metric has AT&T U-Verse but we can't get it here yet (grumble grumble), I'm hoping it's available before October. I'd really like to switch away for cable as well, but AT&T doesn't have CableCards which would make our TiVo very sad.

Gay stuff

With last week's Supreme Court ruling in Iowa and this week's dramatic governor's override to allow same-sex marriage in Vermont, it's been a pretty good 10 days or so. Unsurprisingly, there has been some negative reaction.

Here's a ad from the National Organization for Marriage. Storm clouds aside, the three stories that are told are:
- A California doctor cannot refuse to treat a lesbian based on religious belief. Cry me a river.
- A New Jersey church group had a pavilion that was open to the general public for events but refused access for civil union ceremonies. Here I kinda sympathize with the church group - although it's kind of a dick mode, I think they should be allowed to deny people the use of their pavilion. Of course, this isn't a huge infringement on their's just a pavilion.
- A Massachusetts parent complaining that the public schools teach her child about same-sex couples. Well, she certainly has the right to disagree at home, but not teaching something in school (that happens to be the law in their state) because somewhat might object is just the sort of political correctness that conservatives are always complaining about.

Less importantly, the National Review came out with a truly homophobic editorial. Andrew Sullivan does the breakdown.


My tooth still hurts from the filling I had done last week. Why?? Is this normal? I'm tired of this crap and think I might switch dentists.

Finally, some links

Actually, just one link, but it's a good one: The Road to Area 51, featuring actual interviews with people who worked there talking about what they worked on. (some programs were recently declassified) The truth is out there!


links for everyone!
Mood: busy
Music: Official Lost Podcast
Posted on 2009-03-02 12:11:00
Tags: projects programming politics links
Words: 212

So I won the code bounty! I've really been enjoying writing Firefox extensions - it's easy to get started and fast to see results, and I'm starting to understand XUL better. Anyway, Kate (who offered the bounty) is going to polish it up and release it, at which point I might consider using it - it's convenient and is a better solution to passwords than a tiered password scheme.

I also got the $100 Amazon gift card, which I'm not sure what to do with. Is this good because I'm less materialistic or bad because I'm not excited about anything in particular at the moment?


- Happy Texas Independence Day!

- If you like crazy Obama theories, you'll like this Daily Show segment! Sometimes I wonder where they find these people...

- The government is bailing out AIG some more, but the real story is that AIG lost $62 billion in 3 months!

- In a recent study, only 29% of people supported gay marriage, but this number went up to 43% if assurances were made that no church would be required to perform gay marriages. Which is kind of weird, because no church is required to perform particular kinds of marriages today.

- Obama frames things as people versus corporations and industries rather than Republican versus Democrat.


is it Saturday yet?
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-11-19 12:54:00
Tags: math links
Words: 175

Saturday is my math talk; last night I finished the slides and wrote up a worksheet. Things look pretty good - tonight I plan to do a trial runthrough and make some changes to the worksheet. (I'll post all this stuff when it's done for posterity's sake...) At this point, I've spent probably 8 hours preparing for my 1.5 hour talk (which includes the students working on the worksheet) and I expect that'll rise to 10 hours of preparation by the time this is over. How do you teachers do it? This is crazy. I'm really looking forward to having my evenings back...(not that it isn't kinda fun preparing, but it's getting a little old)

Making some progress on my annoying bug at work. No longer freaked out about teeth. The week is looking up!

A long look at the people who saw the subprime mortgage crisis coming, written by Michael Lewis.

Five Physics Lessons for Obama - good stuff in here. I think nuclear power is a pretty good way to go, assuming it's managed well.


life recap
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-11-17 09:51:00
Tags: 23andme math wedding worldofwarcraft genetics
Words: 504

World of Warcraft:
The second expansion to WoW, called "Wrath of the Lich King" (or WotLK) released Wednesday midnight. (the late midnight, not the early midnight) So we planned to get it then at our local Gamestop (the Arboretum one). We had heard that there was going to be a big party beforehand, including Blizzard developers and a costume contest and whatnot. So I guess we should have seen this coming, but when we arrived at 10:20 there was a long line. A very long line.

We assumed it was like other midnight release events we had been to - get in a short line to pay and get your receipt validated (sticker or highlighter squiggle or whatever), then wait in a longer line to get the game (that would only start moving at midnight). We walked by the tent where there was some music and stuff, and decided to wait in line to pay first before enjoying the festivities.

It turns out, there was only one very long line, and that was the line to pay. So we gamely got in the back and waited in the cold (djedi ran in to Barnes & Noble and got me a hot chocolate and himself a tea :-) ). And waited. And waited. Every fifteen minutes or so we'd move up like four or five paces. I wish I was exaggerating. wildrice13 and later destroyerj joined us so that was kinda fun, but midnight came and went and we were still in line. At this point the smart thing to do probably would have been to give up and come back the next morning (especially since I had to get up early to take destroyerj and skimmerduk to the airport) but that never occurred to me. Finally at 2:20 we got our copies and left. They only had two registers going for what must have been 500 people. Booo gamestop!

Having said that, the game is good and I got it to install on linux with the usual tweaking.

Math talk:
My math circle talk is Saturday, and it's coming along OK. I finished sketching out the talk and worked on my slides last night, although I then changed part of the talk to make a bit more sense. New theme: graph theory in computer science, with parts about register allocation and Huffman encoding. Still need to actually do the rest of the slides, then make up a worksheet, then practice it. I did get to pick out what sort of cookies would be served, though, so that's a plus :-)

Game night:
Sorry to those who I told we'd be hosting a game night this week, but between talk preparation stuff and djedi work crunch time we can't do it this week. Hopefully soon, though.

I think I'm going to take the plunge and get my DNA analyzed soon, maybe after the talk. Should be fun and exciting!

Wedding/Commitment ceremony planning:
We're actually starting to move forward on this - investigating locations, etc. More stress to come, I'm sure.


more election stuff (surprised?)
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-11-03 13:52:00
Tags: election links
Words: 62

John McCain was on SNL on Saturday - here's clip #1 and clip #2. I thought they were pretty funny. For balance, here's a Keith Olbermann sketch.

Although the final numbers still aren't in, early voting in Texas was up a lot, up more than one million from 2004.

Nate Silver's (guy behind guide on what to watch for on election night.


the usual mindless collection o' links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-13 13:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 112

I heard on NPR this morning Weird Al Yankovic just released a song about the current economic crisis. The neat part is that since he did it digitally it's very relevant, instead of having to wait a year or two for a whole album.

The famous Obama "Hope" poster with many many parodies.

Austin mayor Will Wynn does the Thriller dance and he's actually pretty good!

While listening to This American Life's "Another Frightening Show About The Economy" (which helped me understand what's going on) I checked on my 401(k). Bad bad idea. Thank goodness I'm not retiring anytime soon...

A nice story about Obama that may or may not be true.


two quick politics articles
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-09 15:44:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 148

Work = good. Throat = about the same as yesterday = meh.

The Obama Surge: Will it Last? - good short article that highlights the fact that Americans might be ready for the real change in health care Obama is proposing.

Rage in the Town of Bethlehem - more ugliness at McCain rallies. Includes this bit:

Even the opening prayer was politically charged. "O God, we are in a battle that is raging for the soul of this nation," the preacher said. "You, O God, have raised up Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin for such a time as this." The preacher went on: "Help them, O God, to strengthen our economy, to keep our taxes and spending low . . . and grant them the privilege of being elected the next president and vice president."
I guess God is for lower taxes and spending. Who woulda thunk it? (actually, this makes me kinda mad)


Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-01 11:53:00
Tags: politics
Words: 183

Busy today; some quick videos and such...

Palin can't name a newspaper she reads:

This is just weird - maybe she was just caught off-guard or something? But Couric's technique of asking an easy question, getting a reasonable response, and then following up seems to lead to bad results for Palin.

Palin gets interviewed with McCain:

"gotcha journalism" means asking questions, it seems.

Can't find a video for this one, but here's a transcript:

COURIC: Palin says she makes no apologies for her pro-life views and opposes abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.

Gov. PALIN: I'm saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here should anybody end up in jail for having had an abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing that I would ever support.
Guh? "Opposing" abortion is a bit different than outlawing it, which, unless I've gone crazy here, is the general pro-life position. So...confusing.

Some ridiculously good polls for Obama - the win-o-meter is up to 85.4%!


Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-09-22 13:41:00
Tags: 23andme genetics politics links
Words: 146

Busy today - links!

- Rock Band 2 is out for XBox 360 (PS3 version coming soonish) - it looks good (here's the new track list, all downloaded songs are automatically transferred and you can transfer almost all of the Rock Band 1 songs for a one-time $5)

- Really leaning towards getting my genes genotyped by 23andMe.

- Banning gay marriage in California is now losing 55-38. Yaaaay!

- short Bruce Schneier column - if liquids are so dangerous to take on planes, why aren't people arrested for trying to take them on (like guns)? The answer: because they aren't dangerous...there shouldn't be a class of stuff that you can't take on a plane but you don't get in trouble for.

- has what seems to be a pretty reasonable tax proposal.

- wonderjess posted this dialogue between Obama and Jed Bartlett - written by Aaron Sorkin! Oh this makes me miss West Wing...


prickly McCain interview
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-08-28 14:29:00
Tags: politics
Words: 4

What a weird interview...


the usual
Mood: busy
Music: Peter Gabriel - "Down to Earth" (from Wall-E soundtrack)
Posted on 2008-08-12 14:31:00
Tags: pictures programming links
Words: 90

Since we're leaving tomorrow, I put up the pictures I had built up. Here are a few more ASMC pictures (check out my awesome chart!), here are a few recent random ones, and the most recent puzzle we did.

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner is out!

Barack Roll - memes upon memes...

I downloaded the iPhone SDK and may play around with it some, although I don't have a great idea for an app.

My throat gets tired talking for hour-long chunks at a time!


genome hacking
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-05-31 15:06:00
Tags: 23andme proandcon genetics
Words: 179

I've kinda peripherally been aware of this, but you can get your genome sequenced from 23andMe or deCODEme and get back a full report on genetic risk of diseases and stuff. And then you can compare the raw data with known genetic datapoints at SNPedia. This is like super cool. I'm like vaguely considering having this done.

Pro: This is like wicked awesome. A 2MB zipped text file with all of my genes? Awesome.
Con: There are some privacy concerns, although both companies stress their commitment to privacy and all that.
Con: It costs $1000, which is a lot of money for a science experiment.
Pro: Did I mention it was wicked awesome? Think of all the interesting things I could learn!
Con: I'm a little bit of a hypochondriac and I can't imagine this would help.
Pro: In theory I could be on the lookout for warning signs for diseases I'm prone to. (but see "hypochondriac" above)
Con: Still, $1000.

So I think that's a "no" for now. Maybe when it gets a bit cheaper I'll revisit it.


an early midlife crisis?
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-05-27 12:41:00
Tags: whereslunch essay xkcd math projects
Words: 159

Lately I've been feeling a lack of...something. A desire to build something great, some awesome website or something. I don't know where it's coming from and maybe it'll just fade away. Drive isn't bad, but it's kinda inconvenient. I just don't have a whole lot of time to devote to stuff like that.

Although, keep your eyes open for after I finish my current project!

Speaking of which, last night in bed I finally figured out how to use inclusion-exclusion to calculate the number of 3 card straights, etc. The key is to make your sets "hands that don't include a green 0", "hands that don't include a green 1", etc., figure out the number of hands in the union of those sets and then take the complement. I guess it's been a while since I've done this combinatorics stuff. I also filled out some more entries in the table with explanations.

xkcd story in the NY Times!


Firefox 3 + gmail fix
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-05-14 15:41:00
Words: 88

I'm running the Firefox 3 beta (it's better than Firefox 2, especially in memory usage!), but I've noticed sometimes my Gmail tab gets offset on the page - i.e. I can't see the top of the Gmail page and I can't scroll back up to it.

The fix (as I discovered by accident a few days ago) is to click on the page and start Shift-Tabbing until the links at the top highlight, then the page will be fixed. This is a great improvement over my previous reload-the-page-and-lose-all-my-chat-windows solution.


BOCA 2006 review
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-04-29 09:05:00
Tags: music
Words: 619

I got some new CDs for my birthday, so I'm in a reviewing mood, so here goes:

First up is BOCA (Best of Collegiate A Capella) 2006. I now have 6 different years so I feel like I have a decent basis for comparison here. You can listen to an Amazon preview here.

Let's Get It Started - Tufts Beelzebubs - Not bad, but it's lacking some energy. I'm not a huge fan of the original song which obviously hurts. 3 stars in my iTunes.
My Happy Ending - University of North Carolina Loreleis - Lead singer's voice is not bad, although there's obviously some mixing going on in the background. Not that mixing is necessarily bad, but it makes it sound less a capella and more like the original, which is bad in this case. This version is just kind of boring, honestly. 3 stars.
Something Like That - University of Oregon on the Rocks - Wow, a country song. Not used to hearing that in a capella. Kinda groovy I guess. 3 stars.
Tribute - The Pitchforks of Duke University - Yay, a song I like! Good harmonies, spirited. 4 stars.
Let Go - James Madison University Low Key - I love this song. The lead singer obviously doesn't sound exactly like Imogen, but she has a good whispery tone. I like how the chorus sounds more a capellaish than some of the other songs (i.e. it doesn't sound heavily mixed). 5 stars.
The Scientist - Cornell University Last Call - I don't like the weird echo effect. Lead singer is kinda bland and the song never settles into a good groove (also, it's kinda long). 3 stars.
Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy - University of Virginia Hullabahoos - Well, this is a weird song. Peppy, though. 3 stars.
Renegade - Boston University Dear Abbeys - I like this song. When we (the phils) went to competition a group from BYU did this live and it was awesome. This isn't as good but still pretty catchy. 4 stars.
Yeah - University of Oregon Divisi - bouncy, peppy. Good rhythm, and the rap section in the middle kicks it up to 4 stars.
Crazy Train - University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Clef Hangers - A pretty good version of the song, but it's a little boring. 3 stars.
So Cold - University of Pennsylvania Off the Beat - I like this group a lot - they seem to always be on BOCA CDs. Passionate song. 4 stars.
Hallelujah - Clemson University TakeNote - wow, this is like the 10th version of this song I've heard. The lead singer's voice just doesn't do it for me. 3 stars.
Mystify/Atrevete - MIT Resonance - Yeah, OK, I can get behind it. 4 stars.
You and I Both - Michigan State University Accafellas - The background vocals are pretty good but this song (original included) is just boring. 3 stars.
Are You Happy Now - Elon University Twisted Measure - yikes, another boring song. Why why why? 2 stars.
Crumbs - University of Southern California Sirens - Lead singer has a nice voice. This is a weird song I haven't heard before. 4 stars.
Don't Change Your Plans - Harvard Callbacks - I love this song to death. Listened to it at least 5 times yesterday. Good background and although the lead singer is a woman and doesn't really sound like Ben Folds it really clicks. 5 stars!
The Reason - University of Virginia Academical Village People - the parody words are cute, and the singing's pretty good. 4 stars.
The Memory Remains - Stanford University Harmonics - Metallica a capella? Why not? They did a pretty good job with the complex backgrounds and stuff. 4 stars.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Clemson Tigeroar - more excitement would be nice but it's still good. 4 stars.

All in all, not a bad album but not as good as some previous years.


a day of unnecessary stress
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-02-19 10:01:00
Tags: django work programming
Words: 282

First I was stressed about a recruiting meeting, which ended fine and without my being asked any questions. Then I was stressed about playing bridge with onefishclappin and the gang - it went fine, I had a lot of fun and I think I played at least well enough not to embarrass myself (or onefishclappin). Duplicate is a really nice format, and the bidding boxes are very elegant. 24 hands in 3 hours is a lot, though - my brain was fried by the end!

I was also stressed by a horrendously tricky bug at work, but that's worth stressing over, at least during work hours.

Carpet costs more than we thought it would (anyone surprised?) but it'll be fine. I just want to get the damn thing installed, really.

Now I'm stressed about taking my MacBook in today to see if they can fix my "Control" and "v" keys. That would make me a happy person.

Django question: (sorry yerfdogyrag, meant to ask you last night but see earlier bit about brain-frying) On my main page, I want a drop-down box that selects which person to see gifts for, and then some way to do that. Two options I've come up with:

- Use a <form> with a <select>, and GET the results to a different page. The problem with this is that the URLs get kinda ugly, which I'm not thrilled with. Should I do a redirect to the nicer-looking URL?

- Do some javascript stuff in the <select> element that changes the target of a link to the nicer-looking URL. But, I'm currently using the newforms library to generate the form - is there a good way to insert javascript in the onChange handler?


Super Mario Bros. (board game) probability
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-01-24 13:23:00
Tags: projects
Words: 9

Here are the results, complete with somewhat pretty graphs.


more links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-01-10 15:54:00
Tags: links
Words: 105

I'm not really happy about posting 2 links every day - maybe I should combine them more? Or link less? I dunno.

Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die - absolutely chilling retelling of one of those "To Catch a Predator" segments gone wrong. NBC's response to the article. (via kottke)

After a bunch of bank account details were lost in the UK, a TV star said it was no big deal and published his own bank account number to prove it...and somebody gave some money from it to charity. Oops!

Video from CES: Bill Gates is looking for a job!

Rock Band drumming tips from Harmonix


links when I should be preparing for a meeting
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-01-09 12:01:00
Tags: links
Words: 36

Star Wars Guide to the Candidates - Tom TanGreedo cracks me up! (via kottke)

Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House? - funny Microsoft "children's book". More things should be explained in terms of children's books!


Happiness (two kinds of ice cream!)
Mood: busy
Posted on 2007-12-07 15:28:00
Tags: essay happiness
Words: 229

A common trap to fall in is to assume that you will be happier and your life significantly better after event X happens. ("If I could just get that promotion...", "If I only had a puppy..", etc.) I've always tried to not do this because it leads to not trying to either make things better or be happy with where you are in life. There's always one more goal over the horizon that will finally make you happier. I've been reading The Happiness Project for a while and in a post today she linked to an article that articulated this point nicely.

At the same time, the truth is that sometimes big events do make you happier. I'm, say, 50% happier now than when we were living in Maryland, both for job and people reasons. I guess the difference is that it was a really big change, and that I didn't just give up on "being happy" while we were up there.

I guess I've been thinking about this some because of our discussions about getting a PlayStation 3. (mostly for Rock Band) Money aside, I was pretty reluctant for a little while because it has a very rich-kid or yuppie vibe around it. (to me anyway) But honestly, it's just a stupid video game system, it's not a reflection of my life or anything similarly out of proportion.


weird dreams
Mood: busy
Posted on 2007-11-29 10:19:00
Tags: dreams
Words: 245

I had some weird dreams last night (didn't sleep well). The one that just popped to mind was one where djedi and I were walking through a parking lot and there were some Boy Scouts. It was a busy parking lot (we were waiting to take a cab somewhere) and in a group were 5 or 6 Hispanics, and one Boy Scout called them "illegal immigrants", which really bothered me so as I walked by I hit him in the nose and pretended it was an accident. Then I felt really bad, because hey, he's just a kid. Later I 'fessed up to djedi.

Then we took a cab except there was no cab so it was a school bus and a 90 year old woman decided to drive all of us places. Then she drove 85 mph through a construction zone, swerved off the side of the road, and suddenly we were in free-fall. I said "I love you" to djedi before we were going to die, except at this point I was starting to realize that this was a dream and I "woke up", and then we went to a school class in this huge office building and everyone else was turning in their book reports and I had read my book but not written a report, so I panicked.

I've read somewhere that describing your dreams is pointless because it always comes out muddled and senseless. They can be kinda interesting though :-)

1 comment

Halloween pictures, etc.
Mood: busy
Posted on 2007-11-01 11:20:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 251

I put pictures from the Halloween party up. (they start at the bottom of that page)

So we bought a new router after suspecting problems with the old one. So far the wired connections don't drop, and it had the bonus of now I can access my website from my computer at a normal speed! (so the pictures took like 5 seconds to upload instead of the usual 10 minutes (no exaggeration!)) That makes me happy.

Making me less happy is that every 90 minutes or so the wireless will cut out and take a few minutes to come back. (the router is a Linksys WRT300N) At Fry's yesterday (when destroyerj was looking for a router) the sales guy said that Linksys's 802.11g routers are good, but he's gotten a fair amount of returns on the 802.11n ones. (like mine) I played with some wireless settings and it might have fixed the problem though - we'll have to see. Meanwhile I'm lusting over this Belkin N1 Vision which looks awesome. Luckily I'm not crazy enough to buy a extra router even if I'm infatuated with it :-)

When I was walking in this morning, I didn't see anyone around and thought about LJing how sometimes when that happens I think that I'm missing a meeting when that's almost certainly not the case. Lo and behold, when I got to my cube I had a note that everyone was in a meeting. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you...


Sen. Larry Craig
Mood: busy
Posted on 2007-08-30 10:37:00
Tags: politics
Words: 60

(if you missed the story, see here)

These sort of situations always make me a little uncertain how to feel. I confess to a reaction of schadenfreude simply because he's a Republican. Not good, I know. I'm also sympathetic because it seems fairly clear that he's closeted. (or at least, was) But with the whole hypocrisy angle...blah. (Tom Toles cartoon)


Pictures from DC
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-12-14 10:57:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 47

I posted my latest pictures - here's a hoodie picture, and here are the DC ones. (I think my favorites are David and me in front of the Capitol and the Washington Monument reflecting on the Reflecting Pool)

Whoa, this new LJ posting page is weird. Neat, though!


Wii impressions
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-12-11 16:41:00
Tags: ljbackup wii
Words: 834

So I got a Wii on Friday, and as you'd expect, djedi and I spent a long time playing it. But maybe not in ways you'd expect!

So we unpacked it and set it up, etc. I had played with a Wii Remote (i.e. controller) in stores before, but it's a lot easier to control it when you're at a "normal" distance from the TV and sitting down. The main interface is really a pleasure to play with - you get a slight rumble every time you roll over a button, which is a nice touch.

Anyway, the first thing we did (after updating the firmware) is create Miis for ourselves. A Mii is a little graphical representation of yourself - you get to choose the hair, face shape, etc., etc. I'm not very good at such things but it was kinda fun, and the results are at least recognizable!

After friending omega697 and others, we played around with Wii Sports (the pack-in title). It's kinda neat because you play as your Mii :-) There are five sports that come with it - here they are, ordered by how much I liked it:

The two games we had bought were Super Monkey Ball and the new Zelda. We haven't started the new Zelda yet, but we did bust out a little bit of Monkey Ball. Overall, I'm a little disappointed. The main mode (you tilt the Wiimote to move the level) is OK but I have more dexterity in my thumbs then I do in my whole hand, so everything seems harder. (and I hear the levels get crazy hard quickly) But, I really bought it for the 50(!) party games. We've only had time to play through 15-20 or so, and for some of those we were calibrating the Wiimote wrong, which may explain why many of them just didn't seem to work at all. I guess we'll have to reevaluate them... (we've been scoring them out of 5 so we can remember which the good ones are, since there seem to be plenty of duds and uninteresting ones) Anyway, poor control leads to a lot of frustration.

We also bought the original NES Zelda through the Virtual Console and played through it.(passed it last night!) It's a lot of fun - good game, and it is more fun playing it on a controller and TV screen than through an emulator on the computer. It's emulated very well - even the slowdowns when too many enemies come on the screen. For added fun, a third party will be making adapters so you can play the Wii with NES or SNES controllers, which is kinda neat.

Anyway, the gist of it is that I've enjoyed it a lot, and I'm looking forward to trying it out with more people come the holidays, assuming I can find two more Wiimotes and nunchucks. I'm still in the gimmicky phase (anything motion sensing is cool!) so we'll have to see how it fares with Zelda, etc.

On a non-Wii note, I hope to have LJBackup finished before I leave for the holidays. (next Friday) A bit optimistic, but I did some more stuff on it this weekend so there isn't too much left to do...


quick hits
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-10-11 13:29:00
Words: 130

- A good weight loss strategy: be in a building with no cafeteria. Bring your lunch (leftovers!). Have vending machines, but (and this is key) don't have any change or bills less than $20. Presto, no soda or candy bars! I wonder how long this will last...

- 2 day old Krispy Kreme donuts are still good. Not as good as on day 0, but good nonetheless. I think tomorrow may be pushing it, though.

- The new Evanescence CD is good, really good. I just love Amy Lee's voice. (in a "would like to hear her read the phone book"-type way...although I wonder what her talking voice sounds like)

- The Massive Attack CD with the House theme on it in is also good, although it takes a little more warming up to.

1 comment

quick macgyver link
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-06-16 15:01:00
Words: 13

Busy day, but here's a list of problems solved by MacGyver. Wikipedia FTW!


I love my computer
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-03-27 13:10:00
Words: 241

(not exactly, but it made a nice counterpoint to the last entry)

djedi and I seem to have pinned down the problem - after exchanging the motherboard and getting a new one with a non-NVIDIA chipset, I put the new one in and hooked everything up. It booted after a while (took a scarily long time the first time - luckily there are neat colored lights that indicate what it's doing), and sorta worked. By "sorta" I mean it was jerky at times, even when I wasn't in WoW, and WoW was more jerky until the computer basically froze. Rebooted and checked the error log - lots of hard drive errors. Ugggh. WTF was going on?

djedi and I suspected power problems, maybe, so I disconnected the power from my second hard drive and booted up. Guess what - no problems! Even played WoW and all that. Then I replugged in the second hard drive with a power plug on a different chain from the first hard drive. Bam, problem solved. Guh. So I'm still making things work in Linux now that everything's different (printer and sound seem to be the only noticable casualties), and I'm gonna transfer stuff back to the old hard drive and make sure that works so I can return the new one to Fry's. But then this horrible ordeal will presumably be over!

Desperately trying to get some work done today. The compiler seems determined not to let that happen.


Quick poll
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-03-07 10:42:00
Tags: poll
Words: 0


busy afternoon
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-01-25 13:46:00
Words: 95

I have robolab and then tax volunteering this afternoon/evening, so this is gonna be quick!

Didn't make Master Sergeant in WoW, but that's OK - hopefully I'll make it next week. I am making good progress on the guild mod - most of what's left is writing the server stuff to receive it when people send it in. Hopefully I'll get some good work done on that this weekend (but we'll see).

There's a great deal on a hard drive - $120 for a 320 GB Western Digital, if you're in the market for such things (I am!)


Whoops, there's more!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2005-11-29 09:51:00
Words: 142

Dagnabbit (sp?), I forgot some things.

I'm going to lose some weight, come hell or tasty cookies (the latter is much more probable, methinks). NI has a "Maintain, Don't Gain" challenge over the holidays (starts before Thanksgiving, ends after New Year's) to not gain weight, but I'm gonna try to lose a couple pounds. Wish me luck! (I'm announcing this because I've read that making your goals public makes it harder for you to abandon them)

An article about the new Pope and the new restrictions on gay priests. Unencouraging stuff, that.

Firefox 1.5 should be releasing real soon now, like today or tomorrow. I'm very excited about it for some reason - maybe because of the web development on my TODO list I've been doing. There's also a neat Firefox extension I just installed, if you're into that sort of thing.


Happy 151st post to me!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2005-11-08 13:28:00
Tags: pictures activism
Words: 75

I put up pictures from this weekend (including Ren Fest), although I didn't take very many.

For your viewing pleasure this evening, the Texas election results (courtesy of the Secretary of State). I'll be watching as soon as we get back from our boring meeting.

My hands have been hurting for the last week or so (it feels like the muscles in the hand, but it's hard to tell). This is not a promising development.

1 comment

Rice trip and other things
Mood: busy
Music: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - "Mike Teavee"
Posted on 2005-09-20 08:43:00
Tags: charlottesweb worldofwarcraft
Words: 376

So the trip down to Rice went well.
The drive down was uneventful in a good way - we watched a Simpsons episode and listened to my iPod. Unfortunately, our hotel was out 290 a ways (hard to find hotel rooms - maybe because of Katrina evacuees?), which meant the next morning we had to get up early and spend like half an hour in traffic to actually get to Rice. And on the way, we saw someone pull over, get out of his truck, and hunch over to pee. That was...interesting.

The day went well - we showed off our demos and had a pretty good presence. I talked to some people who seemed excited about NI - yay! Although the demo I had put together didn't actually work. But that's OK, since it wasn't very exciting anyway (using a camera to count change). Maybe next time!

By the end of the day, we were tired from standing from 10ish-4 (well, most of the time), and we had to pack up all the demos into the van. We got on 59 right at 5, so of course traffic was horrible, and we pulled off at 6 (still in Houston, mind you, just past the beltway) to eat dinner, then we continued on and made it back to NI, unloaded the stuff, and finally I got to go home. Yikes, I was tired!

Charlotte's Web was decent on Sunday - not great because it had been a week, and I forgot to get my hair pinned so it kept coming out of my pig head. Also, my voice was dry for whatever reason, so I had to talk loudly and it didn't sound (or feel) as good as usual. Oh well. Hopefully this weekend will be better, since my parents are coming up to see it! Which I'm excited about. Although they might have to evacuate from Tropical Storm (presumably a hurricane by then) Rita, which would be irritating.

Here are the Celebrity Jeopardy videos from SNL - haven't watched them yet, but I want to. Maybe I'll have time today!

Apparently there's a "plague" spreading in WoW. Very interesting, although I'd imagine it would be annoying to just randomly die. Dunno if I could heal myself fast enough to avoid it...


some things
Mood: busy
Music: X - "Crystal Ship"
Posted on 2005-09-07 15:34:00
Words: 92

Here is an excellent article about health care by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point, which I highly recommend!) - talks about "moral hazards" and why they don't apply nearly as much to health care as some think.

This has been around for a while, but Michael Chertoff saying that "no one" had predicted the disaster of Hurricane Katrina is so patently wrong that CNN comes right out and says so in the byline. The New Orleans paper is highly critical of FEMA, which seems appropriate given what I've read and seen.


lots of balls in the air...
Mood: busy
Music: nothin'
Posted on 2005-08-04 13:57:00
Tags: asmc
Words: 264

I'm juggling a lot of things right now. So, to make myself feel better, I'm going to list them, and then they won't seem so bad. Here goes!

- Work is rapidly becoming busy. I have a big deadline on Monday that I need to hit, so I'll probably have to come in this weekend. Which will be difficult because...

- This weekend is the last ASMC weekend. Gala is Friday night, and my family's coming into town, which will be a lot of fun. But it means I have to leave work a little early on Friday, and stay up late Friday night (gala doesn't end until around midnight), plus two shows Saturday and Sunday, and the cast party on Sunday.

- NIWeek is rapidly approaching, which doesn't necessarily make me more busy (I'm not doing a presentation or anything), but lots of people around me are busy, which means I might need to help them, and it's harder to get help for myself. (cue "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends" music...)

- I have a list of tasks that I've been putting off because of the musical that I really need to do, like get my car oil changed (next week! for real!)

- djedi's birthday is coming up! That's fun.

- Wrote some more code for djedi, and will be working on blamantin's stuff again soon, I think.

- Charlotte's Web rehearsals start on Tuesday. So, I'll have rehearsals, and I need to learn my lines.

- I'm playing Space Trader, an addictive game on my Palm.

Well, that doesn't seem so bad. See, there!

1 comment

The pope's passing
Mood: busy
Music: Dave Matthews Band - "Digging a Ditch"
Posted on 2005-04-04 11:05:00
Words: 122

Pope John Paul II passed away this weekend (which, unless you were in a cave on Mars with your ears shut, you probably heard already...), may he rest in peace. There's a strong tendency to not want to speak ill of the dead, which made me hesitate to write this, but I think it's important to not whitewash history. This pope was very conservative (opposition to the war in Iraq and the death penalty notwithstanding), and not supportive of gay rights at all (the church has been supporting efforts to pass constitutional bans on gay marriage and such). There are some good articles at Daily Kos and The Advocate. Here is the document released by the Vatican in 1986 talking about gays.


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