Posts with mood cheerful (119)

amazing goal from the Netherlands
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2014-06-15 20:56:00
Tags: soccer
Words: 37

In case you haven't seen it - Deadspin's calling it the "Rainbow Header", and I heard it somewhere else described as the "Flying Dutchman", but he looks more like a porpoise jumping out of the water to me :-)


Oklahoma link friday: motivations of programmers, Miyazaki is awesome, cryptography
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2014-01-31 13:23:00
Tags: links
Words: 236

"Oklahoma" because that's where I am, not because the links have anything to do with Oklahoma :-)

- How To Keep Your Best Programmers - very interesting post. The thesis is that people have a desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and falling short on any of these will make people want to quit. (thanks Adam!)

- Great Geek Debates: Disney Princesses vs. Hayao Miyazaki - Miyazaki FTW! The archetypes versus characters section is the most important for me - the characters in Miyazaki films always seem so real!

- Is It Immoral to Watch the Super Bowl? - sigh. I've thought about this before and I still don't know.

- A very long article/interview about President Obama

- Capitalism vs. Democracy - does capitalism naturally lead to greater inequality? Maybe.

- A new paper suggests there may be a "indistinguishability obfuscator" that could effectively obscure computer programs, which would be a major advance in cryptography.

- 3 myths that block progress for the poor by Bill and Melinda Gates

- Almost Everything in “Dr. Strangelove” Was True - well, that's frightening. The PAL codes being set to 00000000 is the worst part!

- The Art of Presence - some tips on being there for people who are going through trauma

- Someone Wrote a Poem About The Sims's Amazing Software Updates - awesome! The best is "Fixed an issue that could cause a teen to be trapped in a child's body when traveling to the future at the exact moment of a birthday."


Windows Phone: including ads in your app, and using In-App Purchasing to turn them off
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-09-04 19:55:00
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. I've done this in two apps now (HospitalPrices, and SatRadioGuide), and here's how to do it!

Note that this is for Windows Phone 8.0 - here's a similar guide for Win/WP 8.1 Universal apps.

Part 1: Adding advertising

I'm going to use the Nokia Ad Exchange, although there are other choices such as Microsoft pubCenter, Ad Exchange, etc. You can also use the Ad Rotator to switch these on the fly and rotate between them.

This will be a fairly brief guide - see this guide on the Nokia Developer Wiki for a more thorough one. Honestly, if I had found that one first I would have just linked to that and skipped to Part 2, but it seems a shame to waste all these words!

1. Sign up for an account at Under the SDKs tab, download the SDK for the versions of Windows Phone you'd like to target. Unzip the SDK - you'll find some documentation as well as Inneractive.Ad.dll. Under the Add App tab, create a new AppID (it's OK to leave the description and download link blank for now).

2. In your Windows Phone project, right-click on References, and click Add Reference. Go to the Browse section, and browse to the Inneractive.Ad.dll you unzipped from the SDK. Make sure the following permissions are set in your WMAppManifest.xml:

If you want location-based ads, see the documentation.

3. Wherever you'd like to put an ad in the app, use the following XAML:

AppID="<your ad ID>" AdType="IaAdType_Banner"
ReloadTime="60" Name="Ad" />

See the documentation if you'd like to customize this further.


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

Note that in-app purchasing is only possible in Windows Phone 8 apps. For Windows Phone 7 apps, you can use a similar technique and only show ads in the trial version of an app.

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 (I usually use "<your app name>-NoAds") and "NoAds" for the 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. 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("NoAds"))
var license = allLicenses["NoAds"];
if (license.IsActive)
ShowAds = false;

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

3. 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 OnNavigatedTo() method.

4. 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:

<shell:ApplicationBarMenuItem Text="remove ads" 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 Windows.ApplicationModel.Store.CurrentApp
.RequestProductPurchaseAsync("NoAds", false);
catch (Exception)
// oh well

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

// if we add more of these, we'll need to be more clever here
if (!Utils.ShowAds && ApplicationBar.MenuItems.Count > 0)


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!

References: Windows Phone blog post on In-App Purchasing

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


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: giving to the poor with no strings attached, discrete logarithms probably OK
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-08-23 14:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 272

- Is It Nuts to Give to the Poor Without Strings Attached? - maybe not! This reminds me of the idea of an unconditional basic income, which I think is an idea worth considering.

- Bruce Schneier says the "internet security crisis" I mentioned last week from advances made on the discrete logarithm problem is probably not such a big deal.

- Orson Scott Card Worries About Obama Turning "Urban Gangs" Into His Personal Police Force - siiiiiigh. I realize the article in question is titled "Unlikely Events", but there's a lot of crazy packed in there.

- What Snowden and Manning Don't Understand About Secrecy - sure to be controversial, but I think I mostly agree. Leaking something because there's a particular thing that the government is doing that is wrong/illegal is one thing, but leaking thousands of documents indiscriminately is quite another. (although Snowden's leak seemed closer to the first kind than Manning's)

- A good collection of findings that voter ID laws can be discriminatory. I'm not sure if they're targeting minorities specifically, but they certainly affect low-income people much more than higher-income.

- ‘Dear Dylan’: The Wonkblog advice column for everything - this is so good! (thanks Gary!)

- A harrowing first-hand account of an EVA gone wrong.

- Bill Keller says the Republicans oppose the "Common Core" educational standards for no good reason.

- Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure If Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault - not from the Onion! But an excellent example of whatever the cognitive bias is where if someone is "bad" then everything they do is therefore bad, and vice versa.

- The God of ‘SNL’ Will See You Now - fun anecdotes from people auditioning for Saturday Night Live.


Active Windows Phone developers: raffle for JBL Powerup speakers and backpacks!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-07-26 10:49:00
Tags: nokia windowsphone
Words: 152

I'm doing a quick and easy raffle for active Windows Phone developers in my region - you could win a JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker (white or cyan, your choice!) or one of three sweet DVLUP Wenger backpacks.

The rules:
- You must be an active Windows Phone developer, meaning you've published or updated an app since February 1, 2013
- You must be in my region, which includes South Texas (Houston, Austin, San Antonio - email me if you're somewhere else and I'll let you know), Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa.
- Deadline to enter is July 31, 6PM central time

To enter:
Send an email to with the subject line "Active WP Raffle" and the following details:
- Your name
- Your email address
- Your Windows Phone publisher name
- Your city and state

That's it! Good luck!

(got an email from me about a different raffle? No worries, you're eligible for this one too!)


Windows Phone: showing images built in to your app
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-07-09 22:14:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 224

This isn't too tricky, but for some reason I always mess it up. If you have images that you ship with your app and want to display them in XAML, here's how to do it.

The images in your app can be set in Visual Studio to Content or Resource. Generally you'll want to use Content (for performance), but I'll cover both.


<Image Source="images/yellow.jpg"/>

This works whether the image is Content or Resource.

In C#:
If the image is Content:
CSharpContentImage.Source =
new BitmapImage(new Uri("images/cyan.jpg", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));

If the image is Resource:
CSharpResourceImage.Source =
new BitmapImage(new Uri("/ImageSources;component/images/grey.jpg", UriKind.Relative));

Note that in this case "ImageSources" is the name of the .xap file.

I've put together a small sample WP project with all four of these images.

If you want to display images in a WebBrowser control, it appears that you have to copy the images to IsolatedStorage. There is a hint that there might be a direct way to do this in WP8 but I couldn't find any more documentation on it.


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!


Karma catches up
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-07-01 15:30:00
Tags: car
Words: 121

Last week was a pretty great week thanks to DOMA/Prop 8. It was also a good week for me personally - I got to go to Microsoft's //build/ conference in San Francisco, where I got to hang out with cool people (and got some free stuff!), and I got an award at work.

As I was waiting for my bags at the Austin airport I got a call from David that started with "I'm fine, but" - he had been sideswiped on his way to pick me up. (and then the other car drove off...) Thankfully he is indeed fine, and while the car isn't drivable, the damage doesn't look too bad so it probably isn't totaled. (apparently Priuses maintain their value well!)


A drive-in theater in Austin: Blue Starlite!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-06-20 10:37:00
Tags: endorsements
Words: 123

One of the things I missed about living in Maryland was going to a drive-in theater - the Bengies was close by, and although it wasn't without its faults (part 2), it was a fun time.

Last week we went to the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, and while it was indeed on the small side, we had a great time! They play non-current but good movies - we saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and some classic Simpsons episodes, and it looks like there's some cool stuff coming up this summer. It's clearly a small operation and the person who took our tickets said something about spreading the word so they don't go out of business, so I'm doing my part - go check it out!


long-overdue links: sexism in the tech industry, torture v. diversity, money wins elections
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-05-03 15:06:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 355

It's been a while, so some of these are out of date, but they're interesting, dang it!

- Caroline Shaw, a fellow Philharmonics singer at Rice, just won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music! Congratulations to her! A short article about the piece at Slate.

- The Biggest Problem in Technology - a good synopsis of the sad episode that happened at this year's PyCon. Best sentence:

Given the advantages of time, distance, and a rational mind, it is relatively easy to see that basically everybody involved erred (though some far more severely than others).

- John Yoo Criticizes Liberals for Caring More About Torture Than Diversity - when I read the headline, I thought "oh, there might be a valid point here but the headline is clearly exaggerating"...and I was wrong, the headline is dead-on. Sheeeeeesh!

- After the Jason Collins came out, these Onion articles seem especially relevant: Gay NFL Players Must Be Unknown Special Teams Guys, Says Homophobic Man, and my favorite NFL Players Support Player Coming Out, Getting Absolutely Obliterated During Games. These were published a month ago amidst rumors that a few active NFL players were going to come out - we'll see what happens!

- Ten Practical Things to Make with a 3D Printer

- Money Wins Elections - a cool visualization page in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act, which you should definitely support!

- Abusing hash kernels for wildly unprincipled machine learning - It seems almost magical that something as crude as the hash kernel he describes actually kind of works.

- Carmen Sandiego's Africa map: television's invisible, impossible shuttle run - the Africa map did seem impossible as a kid :-)

- How a banner ad for H&R Block appeared on—without Apple’s OK - an excellent reason for HTTPS everywhere!

- Pope Francis supported same-sex civil unions in Argentina in 2010 - certainly it was just a reaction to Argentina being about to approve same-sex marriage,!

- Paramount Hopes New ‘Star Trek’ Is a Global Crowd-Pleaser - I love me some Star Trek, but this article made me a lot less excited about it. Something about seeing how the sausage is made, and how they changed the plot, etc. to appeal more to international audiences.


Windows Phone: Visual Studio templates for creating a new app
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-04-14 17:30:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 259

Edit: I've updated this template to make it a Universal app and added a first-run tutorial!

Some of my articles about Windows Phone development have been focused implementing things that every app needs, like settings that are easily set in a UI. A similar article that I haven't gotten around to is writing a proper About page. I figured instead of writing an article I'd make a Visual Studio template with an About page, so when you're creating a new app you can use it and get it easily. you go!

- - template for WP 7.1 apps
- - template for WP 8.0 apps

Create the directory Documents\Visual Studio 2012\Templates\ProjectTemplates\Visual C#\Windows Phone, and download the templates to that directory. Next time you start Visual Studio and create a new project, you should see two new choices: "Windows Phone App with About page (7.1)" and "Windows Phone App with About page (8.0)". After creating from one of those templates, follow the instructions in README.txt.


- UserSettings class and settings page:

- About page with contact info and review button:

- Tips page:

- Page for linking to other apps

Problems? Feedback? More things you'd like to see in the template? Let me know at @gregstoll or!


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!


SimCity screenshots: mostly destruction
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-03-11 21:20:00
Tags: pictures simcity
Words: 102

(click for full size)
My city got hit by a meteor attack, which is pretty destructive!

Lots of people seem to get sick. I'm not exactly sure what to do about this, although I did build a better sewage system, which might help?

To make the neighborhood happy, I built a soccer field! I love being able to zoom in and watch people playing.

...and then, another meteor attack. This one managed to take out the nearby fire station, which was especially bad. But, as the citizens of Linesville are used to hearing: we will rebuild!

(I'm gregstoll on Origin - friend me!)


Windows Phone: how to get accent color in your app
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-01-02 23:20:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 227

As I mentioned in my post about icon design, I'm terrible at art, and I'm also not very good at making apps attractive.

But I do know that a splash of color helps, and since Windows Phone has user-selectable themes, you can use the theme accent color and make the app look "at home" on the phone, since the Start screen will have the theme accent color all over the place.

In XAML, this is very simple, for example for a TextBlock you can use Runs like:

<TextBlock TextWrapping="Wrap">
<Run>Better with a</Run>
<Run Foreground="{StaticResource PhoneAccentBrush}">splash</Run>
<Run>of color!</Run>

and in C# you can get a Brush with

Brush accent = Application.Current.Resources["PhoneAccentBrush"] as Brush;

There are a lot of these resources available per theme, including other Brushes, font sizes, etc. Here's a useful reference page that has all of the theme resources.

Note: @YiXueDictionary pointed out that using the "as" operator is a little faster than casting (and looks a little nicer) - see this post for a performance comparison of various casting mechanisms in .NET.

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!


reviews: Fitbit One, Nokia Lumia 920, Lenovo Thinkpad T430
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-12-17 16:21:00
Tags: reviews windowsphone
Words: 873

I got a few new things recently - here are my thoughts on them:

Fitbit One - I lost my Fitbit back in September, and my FitCalendar has been awfully sad since them. I ordered a Fitbit One and it just arrived a few weeks ago. Here are the main differences from my thoughts on the original Fitbit:

- It automatically syncs with iPhones and iPads (and soon some Androids), but sadly not Windows Phone. (yet? please?) And now, instead of working with the old dongle, it comes with two - one tiny one for syncing, and one for charging. Why are there two of these?? It's bizarre. At least you can now order extras of either of them separately, but now I have to keep track of two tiny dongles...

- They redid the design of the clip, and while it's a little harder to get out, it's more than made up for the fact that the clip now feels very very secure. Given that almost everyone I know who had a Fitbit lost it, this is encouraging.

I can definitely tell that my steps had dropped off when I lost my Fitbit...I'm working my way back up to 70K steps a week (almost made it last week!), so I really feel like having the device and paying attention to the numbers makes me healthier.


Nokia Lumia 920:

As the Nokia Developer Ambassador for Windows Phone, I was excited to get one of these. After having used it for a few weeks, I'm even more excited - here are my top reasons:
- The phone just feels very high-quality - the curved glass front almost melts into the sides.
- The battery life has been very good - after a normal day (for me) I usually have 60-70% left.
- Wireless charging - woo! That plus NFC enables some cool things like the JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker, which is exactly what it sounds like.
- Resizing live tiles is surprisingly fun, and really makes the whole Start screen more powerful since I can leave the truly live tiles big, and make the ones that are just links to apps small.
- Internet Explorer lets you choose what button to put by the URL bar (instead of refresh/stop), and I'm using the button that brings up open tabs, which I hit ALL THE TIME and it's so convenient!
- The camera is quite good - looking forward to really putting to the test when I travel next month.
- The feature I'm way more impressed with than I thought is the ability for apps to set the lock screen background, and Weather Flow lets you show the Bing picture of the day and the upcoming weather forecast. Very handy!


Lenovo Thinkpad T430

A few years ago I bought an HP laptop, as a gaming laptop that ran Windows. Now that I'm using my laptop for Windows Phone development, it really got to be painful, because:
- It was 17" and heavy. That was fine when I never took it anywhere, but now that I'm going to more Windows Phone events, it got irritating.
- The battery life was somewhere between unacceptable and pathetic. Admittedly, this might be partially my fault because I left it plugged in most of the time (that's bad for batteries, right?), but if I was doing any sort of development it lasted around 2 hours. Although one of the reasons was...
- It was really really slow most of the time (so I couldn't use the battery-saver mode, as that made it laggy enough that I wanted to throw it out the window). Sometimes Visual Studio would take a minute to response as the hard drive spun up.

So! I wanted something that was smaller, faster, with better battery life (and one that came with Windows 8). I looked at a bunch of options (including the Samsung Series 9 that David has and loves), but ended up with a tricked-out Lenovo Thinkpad T430, as recommended by The Wirecutter. Here's what's awesome about it:

- I was able to get an 180 GB SSD (most ultrabooks only came with 128 GB, which might not be enough after installing Visual Studio, etc., etc.) It even comes with a DVD drive (which is powered down unless it's in use), and you can swap that out for an extra hard drive if you need to, so I have some room to grow.
- It's not as light as an ultrabook, but it is pretty light. It has a 14" screen with 1600x900, which seems to be a good balance between portability and having enough real estate.
- I got a "real" graphics card in it (instead of just the onboard video), which means I can hopefully play games on it. Like SimCity which I am extremely excited about! But it has NVIDIA Optimus so it uses onboard video for better battery life unless you're playing a game or something.

The battery life is very impressive - I can use it all day with ease, and even into two days depending on what I'm doing.

The one thing I'm a little sad about is that it doesn't have a touchscreen, but I'm very happy with literally everything else about the laptop. (plenty of USB ports! fingerprint reader! charges quickly! has separate buttons for mute and volume controls!)


Windows Phone: adding settings to your app
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-12-13 23:09:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 861

I like including a lot of settings in my apps - it gives the user a lot of control about how the app looks/behaves. But it's a little tedious to add the code to save them to Isolated Storage, notify when they've changed, and allowing the user to change them on a settings page. After just doing this for a new release of PhotoNotes, I thought I'd write a step-by-step guide to adding settings to an app.

In this example, I was adding a boolean setting for whether PhotoNotes's tile should be live. So, let's get started!

Step 1: Add a UserSettings class

This class will provide access to the settings and handle saving/loading to Isolated Storage, as well as have an event for when the settings have changed.

Here's the actual UserSettings class for PhotoNotes. If you prefer you can also download UserSettings.cs here.

using System;
using System.Net;
using System.Windows;
using System.Windows.Controls;
using System.Windows.Documents;
using System.Windows.Ink;
using System.Windows.Input;
using System.Windows.Media;
using System.Windows.Media.Animation;
using System.Windows.Shapes;
using System.IO.IsolatedStorage;
using System.Collections.ObjectModel;

namespace NoteLens.wp8
public class UserSettings
IsolatedStorageSettings settings;
public event EventHandler SettingsChanged;

const string TilePictures = "TilePictures";

const bool TilePicturesDefault = true;

public bool ShowTilePictures
return GetValueOrDefault(TilePictures, TilePicturesDefault);
if (AddOrUpdateValue(TilePictures, value))

public static UserSettings Instance = null;
// This can't be private because it's called from the XAML in App.xaml,
// but don't create one of these in code!
public UserSettings()
settings = IsolatedStorageSettings.ApplicationSettings;
if (Instance == null)
Instance = this;
"Created multiple UserSettings!");
catch (Exception)
settings = null;

/// Update a setting value for our application. If the setting does not
/// exist, then add the setting.

public bool AddOrUpdateValue(string Key, Object value)
bool valueChanged = false;

// If the key exists
if (settings.Contains(Key))
// If the value has changed
if (settings[Key] != value)
// Store the new value
settings[Key] = value;
valueChanged = true;
// Otherwise create the key.
settings.Add(Key, value);
valueChanged = true;
return valueChanged;

/// Get the current value of the setting, or if it is not found, set the
/// setting to the default setting.

public T GetValueOrDefault<T>(string Key, T defaultValue)
T value;

// If the key exists, retrieve the value.
if (settings.Contains(Key))
value = (T)settings[Key];
// Otherwise, use the default value.
value = defaultValue;
return value;

/// Save the settings.

public void Save()
EventHandler settingsChanged = SettingsChanged;
if (settingsChanged != null)
settingsChanged(this, new EventArgs());


The bottom part of this file (from the constructor down) is pretty boilerplate. If you want to add a new setting, all you have to do is define a new key name (like TilePictures here), a new default value (like TilePicturesDefault) and the name of the property that exposes it (like ShowTilePictures) - then you can just copy and paste the existing property and make the three replacements.

Step 2: Define a resource for your UserSettings

This will let you easily access the UserSettings from XAML and code.

In your App.xaml, first make sure you have a namespace added for wherever your UserSettings class is. I didn't, so I had to add

to my <Application> tag.

Then, inside the <Application.Resources> tag, add

        <nl:UserSettings x:Key="appSettings"/>  

Step 3: Add a control to change the setting to a page

I already had an About page in the app (possible future post!) which used a Pivot control, so I just made the settings a new PivotItem under that.

The best way to show a Boolean value is to use a ToggleSwitch, which is part of the Windows Phone toolkit which is put out by Microsoft. So first, make sure you have that installed - I had to install it with NuGet. Now, here's the XAML for adding the new PivotItem and control:
<controls:PivotItem Header="settings">
<StackPanel Orientation="Vertical">
<toolkit:ToggleSwitch IsChecked="
{Binding Source={StaticResource appSettings},
Path=ShowTilePictures, Mode=TwoWay}">
Live Tile

Here we're binding to the appSettings resource we declared in step 2, and through the magic of data binding this will show the current value of the setting and also let the user change it.

Step 4: Listen for when the setting changes

We're almost done! In this case, I wanted to know when the user changed the setting so I could immediately update the tile to make it live or not. So, in About.xaml.cs (the codebehind for the About page) I made the following changes:

To OnNavigatedTo(), added
            UserSettings.Instance.SettingsChanged += appSettings_SettingsChanged; 

To OnNavigatedFrom(), added
            UserSettings.Instance.SettingsChanged -= appSettings_SettingsChanged; 

And finally added the method:

void appSettings_SettingsChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)

Step 5: Use the setting in code

This is obviously very app-dependent, but to get the value of the setting in code you should use


It's important to always use UserSettings.Instance and not create a new UserSettings class instance to access the settings, otherwise your SettingsChanged events might not fire in the right places. I added an assert to ensure that we only ever create one of them, and that will happen when the app resources are created from App.xaml.

In this example, we just added a boolean setting - see this follow-up post for adding an enum-like setting.


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!


Windows Phone: updating your app's tile, simply (needed for DVLUP!)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-12-08 23:54:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 343

Windows Phone Live Tiles are great, but setting up push notifications is a lot of work, and even running a background agent comes with limitations. There are two easier ways to update your live tile:

- One way is to just update it when the app runs. This is not as appealing to the user as one that updates in the background, but for some apps it might be good enough. For example, I'm going to do this in my Marriage Map app, as the data doesn't change very often.

To do this, here's some sample code:

var tileEnum = ShellTile.ActiveTiles.GetEnumerator();
var tile = tileEnum.Current;
#if WP8
FlipTileData ftd = new FlipTileData();
StandardTileData ftd = new StandardTileData();
// This next part is app dependent
ftd.BackContent = "back of a medium tile";
#if WP8
ftd.WideBackContent = "back of a wide tile";

Note that the code inside #if WP8 only works in the Windows Phone 8 SDK - I'm using the MSDN guide to share code between a WP7 and WP8 app, which has worked out great for me.

- Another way is to set up a schedule where the tile will update every hour (or so). The limitation to this technique is that you can only update the background image for the front of a tile this way, but for some apps this might not be an issue. To do this, see How to send a scheduled local Tile update for Windows Phone.

Note that the DVLUP challenges all require that your app
Include all 3 sizes of Live Tiles (must animate between at least 2 frames within the tile space with data, images, or text).
so if you want to earn rewards during Pointstravaganza, you'll need to do something to make your tiles live!


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!


Designing an icon for your Windows Phone app
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-11-25 20:04:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 748

I'm terrible at art, so when I'm developing an app I've learned to dread when it comes time to design an icon. Fortunately, I've done it enough times that I've got a decent process down. Hopefully this will help you get at least halfway-decent icons for your Windows Phone app!

Step 1: Install GIMP - it's free and works great as an icon creation tool. I'm by no means an expert at it, but if you've never used it before I'd recommend looking at some basic tutorials, like "The Basics" (just ignore all the drop shadow stuff!) and "GIMPlite Quickies" for a bit of image manipulation.

Step 2: Find a few icons to represent the app - this can be the hardest part, depending on what your app does. Here are some sites I've had success with:
Small icons
- Glyphish ($25, or free with attribution) - the icons are small, but there are a lot of them. I've used Glyphish icons in a few of my apps, including the one I'm working on now. It's worth $25!
- Syncfusion Metro Studio (free) - 600 Modern-style icons
- Silk (free) - 700 icons, although they're all rather small at 16x16
- Ikonic ($5 for PNGs) - 150 icons that are a bit larger
- Batch (now free!) - 300 icons, although they appear to require Photoshop
- The Noun Project (prices vary, many are free) - many black and white icons. These are good choices if you go with a transparent icon (described later)
Bigger icons
- Cutcaster (prices vary) - I used Cutcaster extensively for the city backgrounds in FlightPredictor for Windows 8. They have a pretty good selection, the pricing is reasonable, and many images don't require any sort of attribution.

Step 3: Decide on a full-color or transparent icon
There are two styles I consider for icons: a "full-color" one, such as the one for FlightPredictor:

or a "transparent" one, such as the one for this new app I'm working on:

In this one, the icon itself is white, and the background is transparent (I made it brown here so it's visible) and matches the theme color of the phone. This is a nice effect, especially if the icon itself is fairly simple. I didn't use this for FlightPredictor because the clock icon would have been obscured.

If you do decide on a full-color icon - don't forget that gradients look out of place on Windows Phone! The FlightPredictor icons on other platforms has a slight gradient over the length of the plane, but I changed that to a solid color for Windows Phone.

Step 4: Create a blank app icon
It's always easiest to start with the largest icon you'll need and scale down from there. For Windows Phone 7 this is 173x173, and for Windows Phone 8 this is 336x336 for the medium tile. (for the large tile I'd copy from the medium one into the large one, which is of size 691x336) The sizes are different for iconic live tiles - see this page on tile resolutions.

For transparent icons, it's easiest to create the app icon with a transparent background, then paste the icon parts in and turn them all white.

Step 5: Copy the parts into the app icon
If you've followed the steps until now, this shouldn't be that hard. Keep in mind that you will need to leave some blank space at the bottom of the tile for the name of the app. Be sure to keep separate layers for the different source icons in case you want to move them around later.

Step 6: Save it
Be sure to keep the original .xcf, as this will retain the layer information. Then save copies as .png at the various resolutions you will need.


As you can see, it's still a somewhat long process, but with the steps hopefully it won't be too painful. Feedback is welcome: post here or at @gregstoll on Twitter. And if you're interested in getting started with Windows Phone development, and if you're in the Austin area, email me to get access to DVLUP!

Edit: Randall Arnold points out that Inkscape is a great free tool for doing vector art, which gives you much better quality (and resolution-independence).


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: same-sex marriage, Wii U!, scandals
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-11-16 14:07:00
Tags: gay referrer politics links
Words: 455

Things have been busy so it's been over a month since I've posted a batch of links...but the wait is over!

- Same-sex marriage section: after the historic victories last week (wow, that was only last week! How time flies...), my marriage map was linked from Sociological Images, which is a pretty awesome name for a blog. (and no, the map isn't wrong, Maryland doesn't allow marriage until January. But that's OK!) Dan Savage reminds us that we couldn't have done it without lots and lots of straight allies: thanks straight allies! And the New York Times points out that Obama won LGBT voters by a lot, while there was roughly a tie for straight voters.

- Wow: Dick Morris (who predicted a Romney landslide) is now saying "I Felt It Was My Duty" To "Say What I Said". Regardless of who you wanted to win, that is a terrible terrible thing to hear from a pundit who makes predictions. (perhaps it's not unrelated that Dick Morris is notoriously almost always wrong when predicting things)

- I just found out an old high school friend of mine started CheckedTwice, a place to put up gift lists and such. Perfect for the holidays! It got a nice writeup in a local paper.

- For some reason, a bunch of Princess Bride references in an NFL pregame show.

- Someone wrote a Chrome extension that automatically fact checks crazy chain letters - pretty cool!

- Speaking of Chrome, the new 100,000 Stars is a very cool visualization of our stellar neighborhood. Man, browsing through this makes me want to play Master of Orion again...

- After playing Nintendo Land for the Wii U, David and I have been convinced to get a Wii U. Lots of fun!

- With regards to the Petraeus scandal, David Simon has two (NSFW-language) posts: part 1 and part 2. Short version: this shouldn't be a scandal.

- Speaking of scandals, I still don't really understand what the Benghazi "scandal" is supposed to be about. (obviously it was a tragedy, and we need better security, but I've never understood why people are trying to make political hay out of it) And apparently I'm not the only one!

- Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota Refuses to Confirm Pro-Equality Teen - worse than that, they're refusing his whole family communion. Ick ick ick.

- Sixth man infraction spotted 19 years after Rockets/Sonics game - pretty incredible that no one caught this, even though it didn't make a difference in the play. Once you know what to look for it's pretty blatant :-)

- From the Onion: Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On (re Hurricane Sandy)

- Pentatonix has a new Christmas album coming out - here's their version of Carol of the Bells.


Italy recap: Day 13 (the voyage home)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-10-13 18:57:00
Tags: travel
Words: 835

[Ed: this is the last Italy post! I'm as happy about this as I'm sure you are.]

Friday "afternoon"

We're on our way home! Of course, we're only 4 hours into our 10 hour flight (and I think I'm out of new books to read - ack!), but it's a good start.

This morning went well - we got up a little early, checked out, and lugged our stuff to the bus station. I bought tickets, and was a little proud of myself for expressing displeasure at a woman who blatantly cut in front of me. (my more usual M.O. is to pretend nothing happened) We got to the airport ridiculously early, so much so that we had to wait 20 minutes to check our bags. We had a pretty tight connection in Paris (a little over an hour), and my big fear was that we'd have to recheck our bags to go through security again. Luckily this turned out to not be the case, although figuring this out and checking our bags took 10 minutes with a helpful but kind of rude Air France agent.

First flight was uneventful, and we quickly found the shuttle we needed between terminals 2G and 2E in Paris. The shuttle driving alone took 20 minutes(!) so I was very glad we didn't have to do anything extra - we were a little late to board, but no biggie. The plane was also 30 minutes late taking off which makes me feel good about our luggage's chances. Here's hoping!

We're sitting together on this flight but there are no individual TVs which is disappointing.

"evening" for real
We're on our last plane! The rest of the flight to Atlanta was relatively uneventful. The poor lady sitting in front of us was travelling with three kids ages 3 to 6 - I overheard her saying that someone else was supposed to be travelling with her but something happened. The kids behaved reasonably well, I suppose. Before we took off, the boy was crying and so the flight attendant took him up to see the captain, and pitched it by pointing out that his sisters wouldn't get to go. Sounds like she has some parenting experience! (and yes, I was a little jealous I didn't get to meet the captain...maybe you do in first class?)

When we landed in Atlanta, the in-flight instructions informed us that we would indeed have to get our checked bags, bring them through Customs, then recheck them, making a liar out of the rude Air France agent. We had just under two hours to make our connection in Atlanta, but having to do all this stuff made me nervous - so many more points of failure. But everything turned out fine - our bags were basically there after we got through passport control and we were both asked only a few questions. (of course we had to go separately because we're not a family in the eyes of the US

Aside - I will say this: people in the Atlanta airport were super-friendly and helpful. It was partially the language barrier, but in Italy I often felt unsure about where to go (or what line to wait in) and whenever I asked someone it felt like I was imposing.

Interestingly, the inflight instructions made a big deal out of the fact that you always have to recheck your bags at the Memphis airport in particular, which took me aback. Is Memphis some super-important city or airport? (0.5%) Or does FedEx being based there have something to do with it? (1%) Or is the Memphis airport just laid out in a stupid way? (98.5%)

Anyhow, our trip is nearly at an end, minus the catching up on sleep part. A bit of navel-gazing:
- Going through AAA to book hotels has been generally successful. In the future I'm really going to try to find ones with WiFi in the rooms. (yes, yes, I'm a nerd)
- One hour is not enough time for a connection, especially involving international flights. (*especially* in foreign airports!)
- 90 minutes is the minimum time for a connection at our first city back in the US.
- Look at nearby airports! There were tons of buses from Florence to the Pisa airport, which I gathered was bigger.
- This vacation we did a decent job not overscheduling ourselves - most days we were tired but not exhausted.
- The plan of reserving tickets for things with long lines, but leaving other plans flexible worked great. We brought a spreadsheet with activities/hours/etc. and this let us back off on days we were tired.
- We need to do a better job finding activities that weren't art museums. (this may be an Italy-specific problem)
- Useful apps on my Nokia Lumia 900: the international data plan, Kindle, compass, Rome and Florence guides, and Photosynth (for taking panoramas).
- Knowing some Italian was helpful but not strictly necessary.
- I can't really sleep on planes.

All in all, it was a good trip and we had a great time :-) Thanks for reading!


Italy recap: Day 5 (Colosseum)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-09-30 21:58:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 381

(click for more)

Thursday 5 PM
We slept in a bit and made our way down to the Colosseum, which is a pretty impressive building. Spent a bit walking around inside - there were a lot of informative displays, which was nice. (Fun fact: for a while they would flood the floor and conduct naval battles!) Afterwards with our newly-acquired bus map we took a bus to the Campo di Fiori, which is an outdoor market. After doing a little shopping, including a Balotelli jersey and turning down some "Bunga Bunga" sauce max, we sat down for some lunch just as it started to rain. Score! The lunch place had a TV showing a soccer match, which I eventually deduced was Inter Milan vs. AS Roma. The channel that was broadcasting the game had literally no information on screen - no score, no "who scored that goal", no "who got that yellow card", no "who is being substituted in". They didn't even show the final score when the game was over, although it was clear AS Roma had lost.

The WiFi at our hotel occasionally works now, but only occasionally, so I was using my international data plan when I saw I had a voicemail. Turns out it was from ADT saying our burglar alarm had been set off! I tried to call them but I wasn't able to make international calling work - luckily some friends checked out the house and it looks fine. (thanks friends!) [Ed: after a few more false alarms this past week we had someone come out and fix the system. Yay!]

We took the bus back to the hotel and then went out for some wandering - it started to rain harder so we ducked into a cafe and got some hot tea, from where I write these words. [Ed: and as I type these words I'm drinking hot tea! Although not in a cafe.]

Aside - we've seen a few places now a calendar called "The Vatican", but would be more accurately called "Attractive young priests doing things around the Vatican". Weird.

Aside - I swear, we were offered umbrellas by fifteen people on the mile walk back to our hotel!


Walked around the corner for dinner, but it's been a quiet night other than that - resting and relaxing.


Italy recap: Day 4 (Borghese Gallery, opera)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-09-30 21:01:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 391

(click for more)

Wednesday 2:30 PM
Today was the Borghese Gallery (you make reservations for a timeslot - ours was 11 to 1). It was a bit of a walk to get there but was saw some nice parts of Rome, including the US embassy. We arrived early, which was good because first we had to wait in line for our (already bought) tickets, then in a line for an audio tour, then in a line to check our bag/cameras/phone. They seem very protective of the Gallery (although there were no metal detectors like in the Vatican), and after we entered we could see why - the place is absolutely stunning. Not terribly big as museums go, but many beautiful sculptures, paintings, and mosaics. My favorite sculpture was "Apollo e Dafne" by Bernini - Apollo has just caught Daphne, who is being transformed into a tree. David's favorite was "Paolina Borghese" by Antonio Canova, a sculpture of a member of the Borghese family reclining on a couch. And we got a kick out of the painting Danae by Correggio, which is so dirty in subject matter (according to the audio tour) that I won't describe it here (but ask me if you're interested!) Jupiter was a tricky god...

So the organization of the museum was a bit of a mess (it was unclear which line you had to wait in first) and the museum is on the small side, but I enjoyed it a lot. Afterwards we walked back, had lunch (and gelato!) and are resting for a bit before deciding what to do next - we have tickets to the opera (La Traviata) but nothing planned until then.

6:30 PM

We decided to walk down to the Time Elevator, which was a short movie about Rome with moving seats, "special effects" (i.e. wind blowing at you), etc. It was cheesy but fun. We also read the plot to La Traviata so hopefully we'll be able to follow along tonight, since it's presumably in Italian!

9:30 PM

La Traviata was good but we bailed early because it was in Italian, but also the theater was miserably hot with no A/C or fans. It was a nice little theater, though, with a bar inside so you could drink wine at your seat!

Then we had delicious gelato. (I should really end every day with that sentence!)


Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty review
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-09-23 16:23:00
Tags: reviews travel books
Words: 722

(I read this on vacation, and enjoyed it enough to write this review out longhand!)

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and PovertyWhy Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoğlu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book attempts to explain why there is such a huge difference in income and standards of living between countries. Its thesis is there are two kinds of economic institutions in a country: extractive, which extract incomes and wealth from one subset of society to another, and inclusive, which encourage participation for everyone and lets people make choices. There are also extractive and inclusive political systems, which correspond roughly to how democratic the system is. Extractive political systems are highly correlated with extractive economic systems, and these are the poorer countries.

A lot of the book examines particular countries and how they got the way they are. For example, because there were existing native civilizations in Mexico and Latin America when the conquistadors arrived, they were easily able to make an extractive society by taking almost all of the existing wealth and income, and even today most of these countries are still fairly extractive. In the US, there were no societies for the English to enslave (although that was roughly their plan!) so instead the settlers had to start their own development, and they weren't willing to be enslaved. (I'm grossly oversimplifying here - the book goes into more detail)

Some interesting notes:

- One of the big reasons extractive economies don't do as well is that they don't allow the creative destruction of new technologies, since the rulers are getting rich off of the existing technologies.

- But, economies can still grow under extractive political systems, such as the Soviet Union from 1930-1960 (or China now). A centralized government can still allocate resources more efficiently than they were before, but not as efficiently as a free-market system. However, this can't last, and the author predicts China's growth will slow down unless their political system changes.

- There is both a virtuous cycle where inclusive economies/political systems tend to stay that way, and a vicious cycle where extractive economies/political systems do too. Even when extractive governments are overthrown, the framework is still there for whoever runs the country to make a lot of money and have a lot of power - this is known as the "iron law of oligarchy", and it's a good reason to worry about the countries that underwent the Arab Spring. Of course it's not guaranteed to happen - Japan is a good example that broke the cycle.

- There's an interesting contrast between Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. (the Mexican billionaire, currently the richest person in the world) Even at the height of Gates's power, Microsoft was sued by the Department of Justice and lost, even if the penalties weren't extremely damaging. Slim made his money by buying Telmex when it was privatized, and using its monopoly. Telmex has been found in court to have a monopoly, but Mexican law has the idea of "recurso de amparo" ("appeal for protection"), which is a petition saying the law doesn't apply to you(!). Slim has used this effectively. An anecdote - Slim bought CompUSA in 1999 and promptly violated a contract. The other company sued and won a big judgment against him in the US.

- Random: Convicts sent to Australia were sent to Botany Bay - the name of the starship Khan was exiled on! Why did I not know this?

- There's a section about how the US South was somewhat extractive during segregation. Alabama's constitution has a section requiring schools to be segregated (obviously not enforced anymore), but in 2004 it survived a vote in the state legislature! Sheesh.

- Control over the media is essential for an extractive system to survive. When Fujimori ruled over Peru in the 90's, he would bribe Supreme Court judges and politicians on the order of $5-10K per month, but he paid TV stations and newspapers millions of dollars!

Anyway, the book is quite good and I would have given it 5 stars, but it's a bit long. (which is great if you're trying to prove your thesis to political scientists (there are lots of case studies!) but less good for casual observers like me) If you're at all interested in the topic I'd recommend reading at least the first 3 or 4 chapters.

View all my reviews


books I read on vacation (minus one)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-09-23 16:05:00
Tags: reviews travel books
Words: 473

I read a lot of books on vacation. Here they are (minus one that gets its own post!)

In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing DisastersIn Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters by Merrill R. Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically a collection of tech companies doing stupid things in the 80's and 90's. Pretty entertaining and possibly helpful!

Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises in U.S. Presidential CampaignsAnything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises in U.S. Presidential Campaigns by Joseph Cummins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summaries of every presidential campaign and how sleazy it was. (it's not an exclusively modern phenomenon!) Pretty entertaining although a bit long.

Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of EverythingBe Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything by Randy Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethics advice that doubles as entertainment. I agree with him on most questions but not all (specifically, he recommended publicly posting salaries of other employees that someone happened to stumble across, which I think is a bad idea).

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other StoriesA Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting short stories - I feel like I didn't fully get the symbolism (maybe I'll do a little research) but they're definitely well-written and I enjoyed them.

Seven Keys to BaldpateSeven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good mystery novel, although the language is a bit archaic.

The Little Book of String TheoryThe Little Book of String Theory by Steven S. Gubser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good summary of string theory. A bit hard to follow even though I have a little physics background, but still informative.

Straight Man GayStraight Man Gay by Danny Culpepper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Agony ColumnThe Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our FutureThe Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good book although a bit long and depressing for a vacation read. One thing I've heard people say is that there's nothing wrong with inequality - a rising tide can lift all boats. Unfortunately, in the US the rich have been getting richer while the middle class and poor have been doing worse. And Stiglitz points out that extreme inequality is harmful even on its own due to societal effects.

The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly UniverseThe Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe by Frank Close
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting account of how we discovered Quantum Field Theory. I didn't quite understand all of it and I gotta be honest - particle physics is pretty crazy. I miss the proton + neutron + electron model, but progress marches on...

Flight Of The Intruder (Jake Grafton, #1)Flight Of The Intruder by Stephen Coonts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Silvio Berlusconi: Television, Power and PatrimonySilvio Berlusconi: Television, Power and Patrimony by Paul Ginsborg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

View all my reviews


same-sex marriage map: now with pending actions!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-07-25 10:42:00
Tags: gay projects
Words: 192

My same-sex marriage map now has a list of "pending actions" at the top (i.e. upcoming votes, etc.).

I've been wanting to add something like this for a little while, but I had some trouble figuring out how to integrate it with a map. (should states be a different color if there's a pending action? Or should, blink, or something?) You can see I've solved this Gordian knot by cutting through it, as it's not tied in to the map at all - it doesn't even go "back in time" with the rest of the map. I think this is about 95% good enough, since this keeps the current pending actions at the top always, and really, who cares about pending actions in the past that aren't pending anymore? (not to mention it would be a lot of work to add that data...)

Luckily the data file is flexible enough that I was able to add those entries without breaking the TouchPad or Windows Phone clients. Someday I'll go back and update them to include this info.

Suggestions, as always, are welcome. (like a less dorky name for "pending actions", for example...)


My new email address...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-07-24 15:50:00
Words: 61


Yeah, I finally took the plunge and am hosting my own email. (actually, I'm using Google Apps) Hopefully this will be my last email address ever (TM). I guess I should update all of my logins everywhere, but that will probably happen over the next year or so.

(and my old email address should work for the foreseeable future)


good things run by people I know: Financial Geekery, PCPartPicker
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-07-10 11:04:00
Tags: endorsements
Words: 143

- Financial Geekery is a personal finance-type blog, but the posts are short and interesting. Some good ones: die broke: what it really means, the academic and the businessman: two views on investing, and a good series on ESPPs: part 1, part 2, part 3. Excellent stuff, and I'm sure Britton's financial coaching is well worth it!

- PCPartPicker is an insanely great way to build a new computer. You can pick out parts by category (with some nice filtering) and see which retailer has the best price for it. I've used it twice in the past few years to build machines at home. He's just started adding benchmarks for CPUs and it looks like GPUs will be coming soon. Philip, the guy who runs it, recently left NI to work on it full time, and I have no doubt he's going to do well.


whole lotta non-healthcare-related links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-06-28 14:00:00
Tags: links
Words: 158

Programming stuff:
- Both true and false: a Zen moment with C - legit, but pretty funny.

- Why is processing a sorted array faster than an unsorted array? - understanding how hardware works is important when optimizing software.

- VIM Clutch is hardware pedal to toggle vim between insert and normal mode. This is actually kinda tempting!

Other stuff:
- How we die (in one chart) - wow, I didn't realize how big of a problem tuberculosis/pneumonia/influenza used to be. Yay science!

- What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? - interesting discussion on Quora.

- Navy Plan To Fire Dust Clouds At Space Junk Would Take 10 Years - hmm, that's kinda neat.

- Video of a Mercedes racing a golf ball - yeah, that's pretty cool.

- Map of MLB player hometowns - pretty much what I expected, although some kinda heatmap might be nicer - there are a lot of markers in the US. (thanks Shawn!)

- The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever


personal stuff: FlightPredictor for windows 8, windows phone 7, and baking advice
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-06-20 10:30:00
Tags: windows windowsphone projects
Words: 136

FlightPredictor for Windows Phone 7 now has 7 five star reviews! The latest one came in a few days ago, and there's little that motivates me more to keep working on apps. Hooray!

Speaking of which, I've been working hard on FlightPredictor for Windows 8. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to show it off to some Microsoft folks...and it was a disaster. (many embarrassing bugs showed up, for reason that aren't interesting) Since then I've made a lot of progress, and I'm going to be showing it off again next week. The app is around 80% done, with only one big scary part left (push notifications). Wish me luck!

(and how about that Surface? I'd love to have FlightPredictor running on that :-) )

Finally, a word of advice: don't bake shirtless. That is all.


Tired of rants? Here's some links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-05-24 17:30:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 383

- Since Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, support for same-sex marriage in Maryland has gone up 12%, almost entirely from blacks. One word: wowowowowow! Minds have been changed!

- If you're at all interested in Windows 8, the Building Windows 8 blog is full of juicy content, like this ridiculously long post about the Windows user experience, past and present. For developers, the Windows 8 app developer blog has a lot of good posts, too.

- I feel like I've posted this before, but here's a good summary of how to spend your money to make yourself happier (buy experiences instead of things, help others instead of yourself, etc.)

- An interesting-looking new book says 20 minutes of being active provide a ton of benefits.

- When half a million Americans died and nobody noticed - wow, could Vioxx really responsible for that??

- Interesting look at Microsoft's "Signature" service to clean off a bunch of crapware the PC makers include. It's nice that you can buy computers from Microsoft Stores, and although some people are making fun of the fact that you can pay $99 and bring in a PC you bought elsewhere to get cleaned off, I think it makes sense. Presumably the PC maker got kickbacks for including that AOL (or whatever the modern equivalent is) software and that made the PC cheaper, so you're just paying more to offset that.

- Iran photoshopped a missile test image...but forgot to take Jar-Jar Binks out. (the image they posted was a joke created after the last time they photoshopped an image of a missile test!)

- An algorithm to help you play the perfect game of Battleship - looks neat, but I'm skeptical about this. His analysis only holds if you assume the position of the ships is random, and if you know your opponent is using Berry's new algorithm, couldn't you deliberately try to place your ships in "unlikely" places? (thanks Jessica!)

- A good discussion of the ESPP tax rules, which are pretty complicated. There are graphs!

- Polarization is real, and mostly on the Republican side.

- Check out this crazy non-stick coating invented at MIT - it makes ketchup flow out of a bottle like, well, a liquid!

- For Eurovision fans: a look at which countries tend to vote for each other.

- Why People Loved webOS - so true.


Nokia Mobile Monday Austin: recap of demoing FlightPredictor
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-05-01 16:29:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
Words: 358

As I mentioned last week, I got to demo FlightPredictor at Nokia's Mobile Monday Austin last night. It was fun!

I showed up early at Buffalo Billiards - pretty neat place! They have lots of pool tables, but also some arcade machines, shuffleboard, and a few skeeball machines. After hanging around for a bit I went upstairs and met the organizers as well as the Nokia person (John Kneeland! A pleasant surprise) and the Microsoft person, who was none other than Jared Bienz, who I had chatted with but never met in person.

After things got set up, I had some munchies and a free beer(!), and then the presentation started. John from Nokia went first, and talked for a bit about Nokia's commitment to Windows Phone and showed off some devices. Next it was my turn to show off FlightPredictor - I spent maybe 3-5 minutes going through the app and showing some of its cool features (inbound flight status! predictions! live tiles! airport maps!) and a little bit about what it was like to develop for Windows Phone. After I had finished, there were a lot of questions from the audience - it was pretty clear most of them weren't particularly familiar with Windows Phone, which is good for Nokia/Microsoft but a little less good for the purposes of selling apps :-) (still, I sold at least one!)

After me, the developer of the very impressive Blade Sports talked about his app, and then Jared from Microsoft talked about the Windows Phone platform and a little about Windows 8. Then we all got up on stage for questions, and then that was it.

Afterwards I chatted with a few people about my app and other Windows Phone things. I got a number of "cool app!" comments, and they felt like they were being more than just polite, which was nice. spamchang showed up and we chatted for a while, then the other presenters and I walked over to the W Hotel and chatted some more. Then it approached my bedtime so I left :-)

It was a great experience! I'm going to look into attending more Mobile Monday's in the future.

1 comment

Wellbeing review
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-04-22 14:38:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 234

Wellbeing: The Five Essential ElementsWellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting book, although it was quite short (the last half is appendices with methodologies and such).

The main premise is that there are five main dimensions to well-being: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. There's a short section on each, and that's basically it. I would have rated the book higher, but I've read similar stuff before.

Career: Use your strengths (big surprise coming from Gallup :-) ), try to grow, and spend social time with your coworkers. Also: being unemployed for more than a year is really bad for you - the effects last longer than even the death of a spouse!
Social: Have friends, and spend at least 6 hours a day socializing (any sort of communication counts). Mixing socializing and physical activity is good.
Financial: Buying experiences is better than buying things, spending money on other people is good, and set up automatic savings deposits.
Physical: Get 20 minutes of exercise daily, sleep 8 hours a night, eat natural foods.
Community: Join community groups and such.

In the back of the book, they ranked states/cities/countries by wellbeing. For states, Hawaii was #1 (big surprise!), Alaska was #2, and Texas was #8, which is better than I expected. For large cities, Austin was #6! (although San Antonio was #3) Dallas was #8 (boooo) and Houston was #14.

View all my reviews


links: NH protects same-sex marriage!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-03-23 15:23:00
Tags: links
Words: 134

- New Hampshire voted down an attempt to repeal same-sex marriage by a convincing margin of 211-116 - and it needed to pass by a 2/3 majority since the governor (a Democrat) had said he would veto it. More than 100 Republicans voted against the repeal!

Unfortunately, there are a bunch more states that are considering repeal - give to the Win More States fund to defend same-sex marriage!

- The Odd Link Between Commute Direction and Marital Satisfaction - bizarre, but I can kind of understand - anything can help you make a connection with someone!

- Ben Bernanke is going around to college campuses...and one of the things he talks about is why going back to the gold standard is a bad, bad idea.

- The Story Behind That 9,000-Word Quora Post on Airplane Cockpits - and here's the original!


Robopocalypse review
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-03-04 13:00:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 48

RobopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book - the first part I found to be very creepy. The whole thing seemed more or less realistic - turns out the author has an MS in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon. Recommended!

View all my reviews


Independence Day links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-03-02 11:52:00
Tags: links
Words: 120

(Texas Independence Day, that is)

- Ze Frank (of The Show with Ze Frank) just launched a Kickstarter project to do another show! It's already met its goal, but the more supporters the more awesome it will be. I'm very excited, and hooray for Kickstarter!

- Right versus Pragmatic - I am very much a pragmatist. (although I agree with Andy Ihnatko's complaint about the sense of entitlement...)

- The White House's Economic Case for Reelection in 13 Charts - or, politics + charts = linkbait for me.

- The Power of Being Pulled Over - pulling over drivers affects their behavior for a long time!

- Sprinkles Cupcakes Explains Its 24-Hour 'Cupcake ATM' - Houston's going to have round-the-clock access to cupcakes!

- Giant Prehistoric Penguins Stood Nearly 5 Feet Tall


FlightPredictor: Android milestone, WP7 progress
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-01-24 18:06:00
Tags: windowsphone projects android
Words: 267

FlightPredictor for Android has reached a milestone - as of the end of December payment, I've now officially made money on it! It cost $25 to register an Android account and I've finally made more than that on sales. Sales seem to be picking up lately: obviously the raw numbers are still pretty uninspiring, but progress is progress. Perhaps it's because of the four 5 star reviews it's gotten on the Android Market. I also sold one (yes, one!) copy on the Amazon Appstore, and am up to 11 cents in ad money from FlightPredictor Lite.

For Windows Phone, I've been hitting the app pretty hard, and have implemented a lot of features - enough, in fact, that I can make a list of everything I want to do before release. It's on a sheet of paper, but in case it gets wet or something, here it is:

- make it tombstone-safe (i.e. save state when backgrounded)
- show airport delays
- show airport maps
- will have to download these after app install - figure out how versioning will work!
- about screen (attribution)
- settings screen (necessary?)
- flight info - add when it was last updated, make sure nothing else is missing
- make live tile have an image with status/prediction for its background instead of text
- TODOs in code (down to 20 or so)
- show airline contact info
- make reloading flights on main page consistent
- send all flights (email/SMS)
- make real icons for app
- decide what to do about trial version and do it
- mutex in background agent for communicating? (see EvenTiles discussion)

So...still a long list, but these are all pretty well-defined tasks. Onward!


pre-Friday links (or; first links of 2012!)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-01-05 10:42:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 219

- Rumor is Nokia will be announcing the Lumia 900 at CES next week - if they do, I'll almost certainly pick one up...even if I have to switch to AT&T. (grumble grumble)

- Speaking of Nokia, here's Nokia Maps 3D (using WebGL!) May not work with every browser - worked for my Firefox at home but not at work, but Chrome seems to handle it. Unfortunately there's only city-level data for a few major cities, but it's pretty awesome to pan around London...

- How Doctors Die - pretty sure I linked to a similar article some time ago. Anyway, it's hard to know when to "give up hope", and I hope if I'm in that situation I can get good advice from my doctor.

- The Battle Over Gay Marriage Set To Go Nationwide - looks like 2012 will be a big year. Go Washington, Maryland, and Maine! (and boo North Carolina, Minnesota, and New Hampshire)

- Welcome to the Age of Overparenting - thoughtful article about backing off and giving kids more independence. (thanks David!)

- The United States Government Debates Whether the X-Men Are Human Beings... In Real Life

- 2011 Lesson #2 : Don’t Carpe Diem - don't stress about enjoying yourself every single minute! (also, things are more fun in retrospect, which if fine) (thanks Liz!)

- Why do we pay sales commissions? - good article from Fog Creek.


The Money Culture review
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-01-04 22:29:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 76

The Money CultureThe Money Culture by Michael Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is a collection of short (3-4 page) vignettes about the financial industry in the 1980's. The are three sections: about America, Europe, and Japan. The stories were occasionally interesting but I'm not familiar enough with the 1980's for most of them to really resonate (although I did learn about leveraged buyouts, I guess). Anyway, it was OK enough.

View all my reviews


Happy New Year! (for civil unions)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-01-03 14:31:00
Tags: gay
Words: 15

Now civil unions are legal in Delaware and Hawaii, thanks to laws passed last year.


taking joy in fixing a badly broken LJ app
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-12-29 17:10:00
Tags: lj for webos essay palmpre projects programming
Words: 211

After the latest LJ release, I got a few emails saying LJ for WebOS was badly broken, and lo and behold they were right.

I was not excited about fixing the app, since I knew the code for parsing posts, which is most of what broke, was pretty brittle and terrible. (c.f. "don't parse HTML pages with hand-written state machines") And I don't even use the app much anymore, and it's certainly not going to sell many more copies since it only works on webOS phones, which are not exactly flying off the shelves, and new ones might not exist. So I toyed with the idea of dropping support entirely, but that just felt wrong, even though I'd rather be working on new shiny apps for Windows Phone 7.

Last night I took the first serious stab at fixing things, and it turned out to be much more fun than I had hoped. The app was so nonfunctional it felt like writing a whole new one, and it turns out the new page format is a bit nicer to parse to boot. So I've fixed maybe 60% of the issues already, and hopefully I can fix the rest by next week sometime (pending New Year's festivities) and get back to WP7.


a few holiday pictures
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-12-17 12:59:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 18

Taken over the past few weeks:

Also: a perler bead LabVIEW icon! (now on my desk at work)


links: supercommittee, budgets, webOS, Fox News
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-11-22 10:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 186

The supercommittee failed to reach a deal on reducing the deficit. Reports are that the Democrats on the committee offered the Republicans a "fair deal" roughly in line with the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan deficit reduction plan. They agreed to cut entitlements, but the Republicans refused to raise taxes. Remember this the next time you hear about "fiscal responsibility" and such.

The latest xkcd is a cool graph of money. I wish I had a wall at work to put a poster of that or Death and Taxes on. Budgets are fun!

HP had their conference call and remarked that they've lost $3.3 billion on webOS this year...considering they also paid $1.2 billion to buy it in the first place, that starts to add up. I can understand why they might be hesitant to continue with it. It sounds like they're planning to make a decision in December, and one sticking point may be getting to license webOS for printers. Sigh.

I've seen studies saying that Fox News viewers are less informed, but here's one showing they're less informed than people than people who consume no news!


Marriage Map: cartogram, more crazy reviews
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-08-27 13:54:00
Tags: palmpre projects
Words: 207

I added a new feature to the same-sex marriage map (and corresponding webOS version) - a cartogram! It weights each state by population (roughly) so you have a better view as to what percentage of the population lives under what laws. (and it's easier to see what a big deal New York is!)

Since the last crazy webOS app review, I've gotten a few more! The first one is responding to that last reviewer:

To (the negative reviewer):I pray that you die in a fiery car crash. JUST KIDDING! I don't pray. But I'm hoping for that crash. :-)
and today I woke up to a new one star review:
Men who say they are gay are basically telling you they like another man's pen1s up their butt... That's freaking disgusting! Y wud I want to know tht?! How wud you like it if i came up to you and told you I liked to swallow d1cks? Don't you all get it? May the lord Jesus Christ have mercy on these wretched sinners, or may he smite them for their Satanous ways... I love God & he protects the holy, I am at peace.

Sigh. I think my next app is going to be about puppies; everyone likes puppies, right?


webOS app sales: how are my apps doing?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-08-17 20:30:00
Tags: palm essay palmpre projects
Words: 541

After seeing this post about webOS app sales on PreCentral, I thought it would be a good time to look back at my apps' sales. And in this post, you get real numbers, because...why not? :-)

Summary: App sales since the TouchPad release have been impressive. My numbers are a little weird because my paid apps have separate versions for phones (i.e. Mojo) and the TouchPad (i.e. Enyo).

I have four paid apps for the TouchPad, and here are their approximate sales (by number - all apps are 99 cents except FlightPredictor HD, which is $1.99) in July and August:

JulyAugust (as of today)
FlightPredictor HD155180
Simple Alarms165130
We the People HD8565
Private Browser HD5535

A few interesting things:So obviously I find it impossible to say how well the TouchPad is selling, but people are definitely buying apps (myself included!), and for that I am thankful. Here's to webOS's continued success!


the best part of linking up...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-08-12 11:32:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 167

Warning: I've been saving these up so there are a ton of them. Enter at your own risk!

- The Teleporter Library: A Copyright Thought Experiment - interesting take on file-sharing. But I'm not sure how to solve the "too few people need to pay for a thing" problem. (thanks David!)

- What Happened to Obama? - pretty damning article about Obama's lack of passion.

- Study: Strong Catholic support for gay rights - a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage? If those results are!

- How Plan B found the Droid I was looking for - exciting story of tracking down a lost phone.

- A big story broke accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of stealing signs. Grantland is a bit more skeptical, but also links to this account of the Dave Bresnahan Potato Incident, which is awesome.

- The Trivialities and Transcendence of Kickstarter - interesting story about getting a project on Kickstarter.

- An oldie but goodie: And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles.

- Ah, okra

- If Mario Was Designed in 2010


holdin' on links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-07-20 16:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 167

Going to be out of town this Friday (yay webOS event in Dallas!), so link Friday comes early!

- Lady Gaga's solo piano performance of "The Edge of Glory" on the Howard Stern show - more like this, please.

- Why I will never pursue cheating again - depressing story from a tenured professor about how tracking down cheaters isn't worth it, although he does offer some suggestions for making assignments less prone to cheating.

- Out of Poverty, Family-Style - interesting article about how the Family Independence Initiative is having good results helping poor families.

- This Simple Graph Explains Why Unemployment Refuses to Go Down - yikes. Consumers spending less is presumably good for the consumers (less credit card debt, etc.) but bad for the economy.

- Fake Apple stores in China! That is impressive.

- Why the Defense of Marriage Act Is on the Ropes - Obama is calling for repeal of DOMA, which is very exciting!

- Classic Ze Frank episode about "Brain Crack" with commentary (NSFW language)

- All of Modern Politics in One Chart


summer links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-07-08 11:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 155

Summer musical rehearsals have started. See you in August!

- When Crime Happens in Major Cities - interestingly Austin seems to have a higher percentage of crimes during the day than at night.

- People given Medicaid in Oregon reported better health than the control group. It was almost across the board, except the people given Medicaid didn't go to the emergency room any less, which is somewhat disappointing.

- Why the Republicans Resist Compromise - good analysis by Nate Silver on just how dependent Republicans are on conservative voters (in a way that Democrats aren't on liberal voters)

- The Brain on Trial - long article about how to deal with punishing people who commit crimes because of, say, a brain tumor. As we learn more about the brain, more crimes are going to be "justified" by looking at physical problems like this. The author suggests punishment based on the likelihood of committing another crime, which seems reasonable.

- Haydn's Head Fake


app reviews getting better!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-07-06 16:15:00
Tags: palmpre projects
Words: 125

As a followup to App reviews are a way to my heart: I released updates to the two apps in question that went live yesterday, and now they're up to 3.5 and 3 stars! Not as good as I would like, but I don't feel like a bad person for having made bad apps anymore.

On the flip side, the marriage map now has a rating of 2 stars (after 1 review), and as far as I can tell no comments were left. I guess I'll chalk that up to something mysterious, and hope that other people who have downloaded (there are 42 of you!) either rate it higher or let me know what's wrong with it.

Back to trying not to obsess over this...


it's-been-a-little-while links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-06-01 13:29:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 189

- A cool visualization of various countries' "life indices" where you can weight the different factors. And the countries look like flowers! (via djedi)

- A new poll shows Americans estimate 25% of the population is gay/lesbian. To which I say...where are you living?? Admittedly things like this are hard to measure (some people are closeted, not to mention sexuality is somewhat fluid), but this is way higher than any estimate I've seen. 7-10% or so sounds right to me. (via djedi)

- In a similar vein, a story from the AP suggesting the same-sex marriage tide is turning, maybe. Unfortunately the map is still pretty grim, and Minnesota just put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage.

- Over at the Atlantic, there's a series on the 10 biggest constitutional myths. Here's a good debunking of "originalists", and here's why the Constitution's purpose wasn't to limit Congress.

- Facebook devalues birthday greetings - yes yes yes! I've been saying this for years!

- Being Frugal Makes You A Loser - inflammatory title, and please don't read the comments, but I generally agree with the message, assuming you can afford good-quality things. (NSFW language)


cave pictures!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-05-12 23:29:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 40

During our staycation last week we went to Natural Bridge Caverns right outside of San Antonio. It was fun! We took pictures; here are some:
- David in front of the Natural Bridge
- creepy me
- a cave!
- a very big room


Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-03-31 12:42:00
Words: 77

We got new shoes on Saturday! My old shoes were almost two years old and literally falling apart. I'm pretty tough on them since I've gotten in the bad habit of not untying them when I put them on and just cramming my foot in it. As a result, chunks of padding had fallen out, etc., etc.

These new New Balance shoes are soooo much more comfortable on my feet. It feels like I'm walking on air!


Happy @TheAtlantic day! and more links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-02-15 15:13:00
Tags: palm links
Words: 271

It started out a little slow, but there are a lot of good articles in this month's issue. Like:

- Mind vs. Machine, an article about the Loebner Prize (i.e. Turing Test) written by one of the people trying to convince the judges he was human. Particularly topical now that Watson is playing Jeopardy...

- How Skyscrapers Can Save the City. High density development=good in my book!

- Inside the Secret Service - unprecedented access gives a good view how the Secret Service protects people. Also: I forgot President Bush had a live grenade thrown at him in 2005, and Clinton may have been almost assassinated in 1996. Scary stuff!

- When Freedom Is Bad for Business - remember when President Bush said that invading Iraq would help them rebuild their economy? Yeah...not so much. Iraq is currently 174th out of 183 countries for "ease in starting a business".

- The Moral Crusade Against Foodies - pretty hard hitting piece.


On to non-Atlantic links!

* Apparently Palm is giving away Pre 2's to "all qualified developers". They're certainly supporting their developers, almost to a comical extent at this point :-)

* A fancy treemap view of Obama's 2012 budget proposal. Always good to remember where we spend most of our money, and why cutting earmarks to balance the budget is patently absurd.

* Speaking of Iraq, remember "Curveball", the source who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons program? He now admits that he made it all up. Whee!

* Neil deGrasse Tyson on why science should invest for the long-term and not just on practical problems: basically, because we've gotten a lot of practical use out of long-term ideas.


The Green Hornet
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-01-29 13:25:00
Tags: movies reviews
Words: 162

So. We saw The Green Hornet last night.

I have someone managed to make it this far in life without seeing a Seth Rogen movie. The Green Hornet was written by and stars Seth Rogen, and...well, it shows.

I think my main problem with the movie was that Seth Rogen was not very likeable. There's a tried and true rule for getting away with your protagonist saying sexist/generally mean things: he can say it, but then he must get punched or somehow suffer. (see Futurama's "Amazon women in the mood" for this principle in action) In this movie, Seth Rogen is repeatedly a jerk to people around him, and he rarely gets his comeuppance. This makes me feel like the movie itself is endorsing being sexist and remarkably full of yourself.

It wasn't entirely without value, and did have a few funny parts, but if you like Seth Rogen movies, you'll probably like this one, and the inverse is true as well.

1 comment

motley links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-01-14 16:46:00
Tags: pictures worldofwarcraft links
Words: 358

IBM's been working on a system that can play Jeopardy! called Watson. It had its first practice match against champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and it won the brief game they played! Here's a liveblog with Q&A afterwards. You can clearly see in the video that Ken Jennings was trying to buzz in for questions that Watson got - I wonder how much the precision timing for hitting the button helps it? But still, being able to answer questions that quickly is dramatically impressive to me, even if it takes 10 racks of servers, 15 TB of RAM, and 2800 processors operating at a combined 70 teraflops. You can learn more about Watson at IBM's site.

One advantage to having to stay up late because of medicine: getting things done! Here are pictures from December, as well as socks:

I thought Obama's speech at the memorial in Tucson was very touching.

Comprehensive post about which states may take up same-sex marriage legislation this year - some good, some bad. Happy to see that my old state Maryland may at least get civil unions!

An interesting response from Senator Akaka (D-HI) about making election day a federal holiday - apparently it doesn't increase turnout in states that do it now, which I found surprising.

Neato Google Translate for Android into which you can speak English and it will say the corresponding Spanish (and vice versa). Universal Translator, here we come!

I found this post about working in an ICBM missile silo pretty fascinating. Also, the title is "Death Wears a Snuggie", which is a play on an actual patch they had, both of which are awesome.

Now that we're playing WoW again (and I hit level 85 last night!), I read this article about quitting WoW with interest. I don't think it's entirely fair, though - certainly people can get addicted to WoW and spent far too much time there, but if you use it as a source of entertainment I don't think it's any worse than watching TV or whatever. Not every waking moment has to be spent improving your life in some way...

The Dow Piano - data presentation through music!


two new neat web things
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-11-05 16:27:00
Tags: reviews
Words: 116

NewsBlur is a very cool new RSS reader. It imports from Google Reader (which makes it very easy to try out), lets you read either the original site or the RSS feed, offers a classification trainer for which stories you like/dislike, and lots of other goodies. I've officially switched over to it from Google Reader and I'm liking NewsBlur a lot. It's also open-source and the developer is very responsive on Twitter. A premium account is $12/year, which is really ridiculously cheap. Give it a shot!

Workflowy is...a little hard to describe. It's a good way to make lists and keep track of a lot of things but not be overwhelmed. But it feels like fun!


long-awaited links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-10-14 13:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 233

Wow - it's been a month and a half since the last one of these. In my defense, I was out of town for a lot of that time...

- A sample receipt from federal taxes showing what they go for. This is a great idea!

- A five minute overview of 200 years worth of progress in medicine and the economy. The video uses Gapminder which is a neat tool to plot demographic information. I like videos like this because I am a hopeless optimist :-) (most days, anyway)

- Malcolm Gladwell explains why the revolution will not be tweeted. This is one thing that bothers me a bit about Facebook in particular - if I get a reminder that it's someone's birthday and take 2 seconds to post on their wall, how much does that birthday greeting really mean? Very very little, in my view.

- OKCupid's latest data analysis is on gays vs straights. I'm a tiny bit skeptical of these sorts of data (people tend to lie about such things), but it's definitely very interesting.

- How to stack a deck of cards such that no matter where it's cut, you win the hand of poker. Clever!

- Report of a test drive of a Chevy Volt. Tempting but pricey. Maybe it'll be cheaper by the time we need a new car...

- The UK street artist Banksy (wikipedia) wrote the latest Simpsons couch gag, which is pretty dark.


catching up
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-08-02 14:18:00
Tags: pictures asmc projects
Words: 93

The summer musical went well this weekend, although I was losing my voice by the end on account of doing the pirate accent. Happily, today begins 3 days of no rehearsals/performances, which hasn't happened since we started rehearsals just under a month ago. So, I've been catching up on a few things:

- Pictures from Jonathan and Sarah's wedding are finally up:

- My PasswordHash thing now has a Google Chrome version. Unfortunately right now there's no support for adding things to the right-click context menu, so it just copies the password to the clipboard.

1 comment

Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-07-30 11:59:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 254

Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts: The Politics of Numbers in Global Crime and Conflict is my most recent read. It wasn't as exciting as the title indicates :-) Basically, it's a collection of political science essays. My synopsis below:

Statistics are important, but very hard to measure when they involved armed conflict, drugs, or trafficking. Agencies push numbers that make them look good to try to ask for/justify higher funding. Even if the number is totally made up, it acts as an "anchor" for people trying to make their own estimates.

A good example is casualties of the war in Bosnia. In 1992, the president, foreign minister, and commander of the army met to decide what number to use, and agreed on 150K civilians killed by Serb nationalists. Then the foreign minister announced that 250K civilians had been killed, which became the number that "everyone" used for a while. Years later, the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center worked on a project that led to publishing The Book of the Dead in 2007, which counted everyone killed and came up with a number of 97K. This made some people very angry and they denounced the project and people who had worked on it.

One school of thought is that it's OK to exaggerate numbers in order to draw attention to a problem. This school of thought makes me mad :-)

Anyway, what I took away from the book is basically never trust numbers for things that are really hard to count, like most things involving illegal activity.


happier when busy, sorta
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-07-26 10:22:00
Tags: asmc links
Words: 43

We're happier when busy but our instinct is for idleness - interesting study and it kinda jibes with what I've noticed about myself.

Seemed appropriate since yesterday was the beginning of Hell Week for the summer musical. So I guess I should be ecstatic :-)


8 webOS apps to buy - while they're on sale!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-07-02 12:49:00
Tags: essay palmpre
Words: 202

Since the 50% off sale is going on for another few weeks, here are my favorite webOS apps:

  1. FlightPredictor - OK, I'm a little biased here, but it's gotten great reviews on the App Catalog and is one of Palm's Featured Apps. Great for frequent fliers!

  2. Plumber's Nightmare - connect the pipes to leave no gaps. There are 60 levels and it's great when you have a few spare minutes.

  3. My webOS Apps - Very easy way to keep track of your app sales and statuses. Great for webOS developers!

  4. TweetMe - Beautiful Twitter client that's very functional. Just look at those screenshots!

  5. Sports Live! - A great way to keep track of your favorite US sports. Lives in the notification area so you can always know what the score is. There are also cheaper versions available for individual sports - I have the baseball one myself.

  6. Poker Drops - Trace out poker hands for points. The same developer (whom Palm hired a few weeks ago) also wrote Wobble Words, which I'm also a fan of.

  7. FlashCards - A great way to brush up on stuff you should know. I've been working on my state capitals :-)

  8. CrossWords - Tons of puzzles available, and keyboard navigation makes it very easy to use!


No more depressing links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-06-02 14:03:00
Tags: links
Words: 404

I keep reading about how the financial regulation bill was defanged, and how BP is forbidding photos of dead dolphins covered in oil, and how BP's safety record is terrible by oil company standards, and this live underwater video of the oil spill.

So, instead:

- Patrick Stewart was knighted!

- 12 things that good bosses believe - I like "My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods."

- From Wired: The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic - he created a giant spreadsheet (.xls) of data indicating how much each extra car/bus/etc. costs the city in extra traffic slowdowns for others. Cool!

- Apple rejects an iPad app because they "are not allowing apps that create their own desktops", according to Steve Jobs.

- FlightPredictor gets some love from the official Palm blog. Yay!

- Citizens Against Retail Discrimination (or CARD) makes me laugh. It's clearly a front group for credit card companies: see

This amendment would shift this merchant cost of doing business to consumers. Giant retailers don’t want to pay their fair share, and they want consumers to foot the bill.
and more specifically:
Consumers Will Pay for Merchant Windfall; Small Financial Institutions Will Suffer

The Senate recently added an amendment to S. 3217 that would arbitrarily limit the cost that merchants pay to accept debit cards, and eliminate important rules that are in place expressly to protect consumers.

Retailers are lobbying for a law that shifts their share of the cost for accepting debit cards onto consumers. Retailers want consumers to start paying their bills. They say it helps consumers, but really it's a ploy to increase profits. It’s unfair to have consumers pay for a retailer's business expense.
Of course the other side of the coin is the even gianter credit card companies that want the right to charge high fees for debit cards. I'm not sure how I feel about the regulation, but if you're going to play the "small business" card, there are thousands (millions?) of small businesses, and I bet there are very very few small credit card companies.

Also: "retailers want consumers to start paying their bills" - don't consumers pay retailers bills already, like electricity, etc? This is like the opposite argument that retailers will pass the extra cost to customers - here retailers will be charged less, and...that's bad? That is one confusing sentence.


friday links of the third kind
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-05-14 10:55:00
Tags: links
Words: 179

Something for everyone!

Randomly awesome:
- North Korea reports nuclear fusion success except, of course, no one believes them. Includes this gem:

Pyongyang says its latest scientific breakthrough coincides with the birthday of the country's founder, and eternal president Kim Il-sung - not the first time it seems that the laws of nature have been bent in his honour.

According to official biographies, when his son, the current leader Kim Jong-il was born, a new star appeared in the sky.

- The difference between "red" and "blue" families - they summarize it as "In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families.", meaning that in "red America", adults become mature after starting a family, while in "blue America", adults become mature, then start a family.

- A graph of US miles driven versus gas prices over time - now we're around the same miles driven as in 2000, which looks unprecedented.

TV/Video Games:
- Chuck got renewed - yaaaay!

- We bought 3D Dot Game Heroes (link is to review) last night. So far it's pretty fun, especially if you like old video games.


Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-04-28 12:51:00
Tags: taxes links
Words: 122

The Comprehensive Guide to Better Naps - a lot of good advice, although I'm not much of a napper.

A neat visualization of tax rates over time - the change in the late 80s is very dramatic - before that there were around 20 different marginal tax rates, afterwards there were 4. Also kind of surprising that the first tax bracket was 0% for a while.

The Data-Driven Life - I'm heading that way, I think!

The Only Thing That Can Stop This Asteroid Is Your Liberal Arts Degree.

Now that Ze Frank's show is over, he does neat stuff like this chillout song. (although honestly the woman sounds seriously depressed and should probably see a doctor)

A giant flowchart to help you pick a font.


Picture of our solar screens
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-03-13 12:38:00
Tags: pictures house
Words: 15

Here's a picture of the solar screens we got put up on our bedroom windows:


buncha random links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-02-08 12:35:00
Tags: links
Words: 113

Good Super Bowl yesterday! Nate Silver points out that the Saints' call to go for it on 4th and goal was the right move. Apparently, surprise onside kicks succeed around 55% of the time. And here's a handy chart about when to go for 2 after a touchdown.

The case against layoffs: they often backfire - this is one of the reasons NI is successful; there's a ton of institutional knowledge floating around since we basically have never had layoffs.

Someone emailed American Express complaining about their ridiculous password requirements (6-8 characters, no special characters), and this was their nonsensical response. Boo!

A graph of the US split up by social networking connections - neat!


Interested in LJ for WebOS?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-02-07 23:10:00
Tags: lj for webos projects
Words: 14

If you've interested in LJ for WebOS, why not sign up for our newsletter?


pre-thanksgiving links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-11-25 14:20:00
Tags: links
Words: 58

The Muppets cover Bohemian Rhapsody - excellent!

After some depressing articles about football and head injuries, the co-chairmen of the NFL's committee on brain injuries resigned. They were mostly discrediting studies that showed brain injuries happened a lot, so the fact that they're no longer there means that maybe the NFL is taking the problem more seriously. Here's hoping!

1 comment

origami adventures!
Mood: cheerful
Music: George Michael - "Hand to Mouth"
Posted on 2009-11-12 10:11:00
Tags: origami
Words: 302

I got a few new origami books and tried to make a few things, all of which ended in failure one way or another. (the most frustrating was trying to make a cute little tetrahedron, for which all the pieces turned out great, but apparently you need to be some sort of origami deity to assemble the 6 measly pieces) That's been disheartening, so I decided to go back to my old standby - using Sonobe units to make things. I've done 12 and 30 unit constructions before, so I wanted to try a 60 unit one.

Tuesday I made 40 units, and yesterday while I was home sick I finished up the latest 20 in front of "The Dark Knight". (still a good movie!) Last night was assembly time. It went surprisingly well at first - it's mostly hexagons and triangles which made it much more stable while putting it together than I had feared. I kept putting it together with the same pattern until I noticed that I was almost out of units, and the structure was nowhere near closed up. Usually this means that edges need to be joined together somehow, but I just couldn't figure it out. Eventually I did a little online research, and lo and behold the way you make the 60 unit structure is fairly different from the 12 and 30. What I was halfway putting together was the 90 unit structure.

So after a bit of deliberation I decided to take the whole thing apart and go for the 90. (I would have left it together while I folded the extra units, but then the extra colors would have been all on one side) I'll take pictures when/if I finish, since judging by the size of the structure I had it's going to be quite big!


link friday
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-10-16 13:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 153

- The top 100 scifi/fantasy TV shows - obviously a lot of room for debate here but I was pretty happy with the top 20 or so. I've seen at least an episode of 26 of these, including 7 of the top 10. How about y'all?

- My mom was on a local TV show to talk about the, I mean H1N1 flu. Here's the video (second one down, episode 124). She was also interviewed on a different show (InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse - awesomely enough, the show was nominated for an Emmy and that episode is the one they went in!

- Be lucky - it's an easy skill to learn - interesting, slightly provocative.

- George Takei and his partner Brad Altman on The Newlywed Game - awww!

- Been playing around on Google Wave some, and everyone keeps asking me what it is, which is a hard question to answer. This article at least describes what it's good at!


rolling along
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-08-27 13:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 141

This article on dirty coding tricks game developers have used to get to shipping is pretty cool. I particularly like one from the comments:

Back on Wing Commander 1 we were getting an exception from our EMM386 memory manager when we exited the game. We'd clear the screen and a single line would print out, something like "EMM386 Memory manager error. Blah blah blah." We had to ship ASAP. So I hex edited the error in the memory manager itself to read "Thank you for playing Wing Commander."
Texas executed an innocent man, certainly not the first.

Re-reading some old articles by Atul Gawande. (the guy who wrote the article about health care costs) He's written a lot of good articles: I particularly liked this one about checklists in the ICU and how amazingly effective they are at reducing physician error.


Palm Pre review
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-08-10 14:27:00
Tags: reviews palmpre
Words: 1009

I've been using my new Palm Pre for just over a week. My old phone was a Nokia 62xx something and was pretty terrible, so I'll mostly be comparing it to David's iPhone 3G. (which of course I don't have a ton of experience with) Here are my thoughts, roughly in order from good to bad:

OS: WebOS is really pretty wonderful. One of the big advantages is being able to run multiple applications at once - you can get by on the iPhone without this, but the way I'm used to doing things it feels much more natural. In WebOS open applications look like cards, and you can switch between them with a flick of the finger, or close them by flicking them up off the screen.

Another nice thing is the way they do notifications - for example, when I get a new mail message, a little banner pops up in the bottom of the screen with the subject, and then it shortly collapses to a small icon in the bottom right corner which I can later touch to see the subject. It does the same thing for voicemails and calendar alerts, and it's a very slick way of letting you know something happened without totally interrupting you.

There's a menu you can open by touching the top right that shows you percentage battery life, and lets you configure WiFi, Bluetooth and Airplane Mode. Whereas the iPhone has a modal popup every time you get in range of a WiFi network, for the Pre you'd have to go to the menu to connect to one. I think I like the Pre's way better as I found the popups annoying on the iPhone.

Calendar: Integrates nicely with Google Calendar, which I use - I get notifications on the phone and it's easy to browse. Yay!

Email: I get push email from Gmail which is awesome. The mail client itself is decent - I can see my labels, and clicking on a link opens the web browser like you'd expect.

Browser: The browser is generally fine. Has the same pinch/unpinch for zooming as the iPhone does. Sadly the scrolling (both here and in other apps) just doesn't feel as smooth as the iPhone's. I also really wish there was a way to open a link in a new card - there used to be an arcane key combination (orange button + space + click, maybe?) but it got removed in the WebOS 1.1.0 update.

Keyboard: The physical keyboard is small but functional. I like it a little better than the iPhone's keyboard - the tactile feedback is really nice to have. On the other hand, you can't really use it in landscape mode, since obviously it rotated with the phone. The keys are pretty small but I've gotten used to them and can type at a reasonable rate.

Having extra keys (orange, symbol, shift) is nice, but it means it can be a bit of a crutch. For example, to delete an app from the launcher, you have to hold the orange button and click it. Apple can't do this with the iPhone, so they had to find a more intuitive way of allowing this, which in the end benefits the user.

Contacts: They have this neat system called Synergy that can download your Google, Facebook, and AIM contacts (and Microsoft Exchange, but I didn't try that). The good news is that this is pretty neat and it tries its best to merge contacts that are actually the same person. The bad news is that, at least in my case, there were still a ton of contacts (AIM in particular) that didn't get merged, so I had to go through and manually do that. Which was kind of a hassle.

But still, the nice thing is that since it knows the merged contacts are all the same person, you can continue conversations you were having over AIM and switch to SMS or email fairly seamlessly. I haven't had a chance to actually try this but the demo I saw looked neat. Also, it downloads Facebook contact pictures which is a nice plus.

Launcher: The launcher is kinda OK. There are only 3 screens with apps on them which mean they can get kinda long. One nice feature is that you can start typing while the launcher is open and it will search through all your apps and contacts (this mitigates the 3 screen limitation somewhat). If you type something that has no matches it will bring up options to search on Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia, and Twitter which is nifty.

Messaging: I haven't done this much at all (it's really annoying at work getting my IMs on my phone) but the times I used it it worked fine.

Apps: The App Catalog currently has only 32 apps - they haven't really opened the door yet, but what's there is decent. There's Tweed (a nice Twitter app), Pandora, a stock ticker and a few others. Happily, their SDK is now available and it's pretty easy to install apps on the phone, so I'm looking forward to testing it out with a few simple apps.

Other apps it ships with: Google Maps (works about the same as the iPhone version, including builtin GPS), the requisite YouTube app, Amazon MP3 (yay!), and PDF and Office file viewers.

It comes with some Sprint apps, too, like Sprint Navigation (provides turn-by-turn directions with speaking!) and Sprint TV which I've only played with a little but seems to have a decent selection of TV shows (most require payment) and radio stations.

Battery Life: The battery life is honestly pretty bad. Usually I end the day at around 50% battery life which is reasonable I guess. Leaving the phone on in areas where signal strength is low seems particularly hard on it. (i.e. inside the Austin Convention Center) It was terrible the first few discharge cycles but things have gotten to a point now that I can live with it.

I've been happy with my Pre, and I'm looking forward to developing apps for it!


post-honeymoon link friday
Mood: cheerful
Music: Bobby McFerrin - "Wanna Be"
Posted on 2009-08-07 10:15:00
Tags: wedding politics links
Words: 138

If you haven't seen it, here's a time lapse version of our wedding.

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale in a neat way. Wow, he's looking old! I will always love him for his song on Square One.

These slides on Netflix's corporate culture are really really impressive.

Wal-Mart goes after the Girl Scouts - as is usual with Wal-Mart, theoretically good for its customers, bad for everyone else.

Rick Sanchez goes after a health care CEO who's against reform.

If you're interested in publishing your own games, is kinda like CafePress, but for games.

Spot the cyber-security tip that seems a bit out of place...

Speaking of Netflix, now that the Netflix Prize is over, their CEO says there will a Netflix Prize 2 coming soon. Cool! Perhaps I will be sucked back in...


happy 9 years!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-06-30 10:22:00
Tags: links
Words: 148

And on the same day of my 1000th LJ post! Clearly this is an auspicious day. Except for the fact that I broke a glass this morning :-(

Firefox 3.5 is out today! Looks like it's not automatically updating yet. I've been beta testing for a while and it's speedier and more responsive than Firefox 3. You can see some of the new features here.

I'm becoming somewhat obsessed with the Palm Pre - been reading reviews from Engadget and Gizmodo (here's the flash-heavy Sprint page) and I'm kinda excited about it, although I'm under contract with T-Mobile until March. I even signed up to develop an app for it - gonna try porting to it and see how easy it is...

Sometimes I step back and marvel that I can buy 16 GB of storage that fits on my keychain for $35.

Internet is out at home until Friday.

1 comment

Games database
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-06-27 20:20:00
Tags: projects programming
Words: 58

Just got done working on a database of the games we own. Not everything we own is in there, but most of it is, and I'll try to get the rest added soon. You can search based on number of players and the length of the game. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!


linky in spirit
Mood: cheerful
Music: Michael Jackson - "Black or White"
Posted on 2009-06-26 10:58:00
Tags: movies gay politics links
Words: 305

We watched Dial M for Murder last night. I had high hopes for it, having enjoyed Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" a few weeks ago, but this was even better! The opening 15 minutes or so were packed with tension, and although sometimes older movies don't hold up today since their twists have become terribly commonplace, this one holds up quite well. Highly recommended.

The Alamo Drafthouse had a tribute Michael Jackson singalong last night, and they say there will be more this weekend. I went to one of these in 2005 and it was a lot of fun.

Supreme Court rulings: strip-searching a 13 year old because you think they have Advil = very not OK (Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter), and crime laboratory technicians must testify to admit lab results into evidence, which sounds like it might be a fairly large change. That was a 5-4 ruling with an odd majority: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Scalia and Thomas.

If you're interested in the Supreme Court (and who isn't?), here's a chart of the justices' ideology over its history, which explains why seeing Stevens and Thomas agree on anything is pretty weird.

The DNC gay fundraiser I mentioned last week happened, and apparently Joe Biden gave a good speech and got a lot of applause. But it's hard to read this:

He said that gay and lesbian concerns will not be "delayed, put off or not end up on [Obama's] plate" because he is dealing with so many other issues.
since that seems to be exactly what's happening. I appreciate that they're pledging to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, but talk is cheap.

For you non-Austinites: it hit 107 degrees yesterday at the airport, and it's supposed to get up to 106 today. It is very very hot. Pity us!


faster pretty pictures
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-04-22 11:05:00
Tags: projects programming
Words: 56

Just finished rewriting the backend to Pretty Pictures from Genetic Algorithms in C++ (it used to be in Python). It's easy to forget how much faster C++ can be than Python - I even turned on an option by default to make all images color, which made things unacceptably slow in Python. It's fun to play with!


anyone want a camera?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-03-16 11:12:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 118

So I got a new camera for Christmas (it's great!), but my old camera works fine - anyone want it? It's a Canon PowerShot A510, 3.2 megapixels, 3x optical zoom, flash, etc. I'll even throw in a spare pair of batteries and battery charger, and a little carrying case. I just realized that I don't have the extra mini USB to USB connector, but they're like $8 at Fry's. Here's a picture:

Let me know if you want it!
The trip to see our new cousin Eli last weekend was good - here's David holding him:

(does linking pictures in LJ posts like this piss people off?)

Taking the day off today, hopefully will get lots of wedding stuff done!


Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-01-20 12:38:00
Tags: weight politics
Words: 58

I've been kinda reluctant to post about my weight publicly, but in the spirit of shaming myself into shape, here are the graphs I look at each morning. (made in R!) Light jogging around the neighborhood has helped me feel more in shape...hopefully I can keep that up.

Also, I hear we have a new president or something?


links links links links links links links links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-12-11 14:31:00
Tags: travel gay politics links
Words: 87

I'm trying out Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 - the new fancy Javascript engine makes things (like, which I really should work on more) much faster!

- A collection of tourist scams that I found interesting.

- James Franco and Sean Penn kiss on camera in "Milk" and get lots and lots of questions about it.

- Obama is crazy popular these days, way more popular than Bush or Clinton were when they came into office. 79% say they won't miss Bush and 48% say he's been worse than most presidents.


i'm kinda busy, but here are some links I enjoyed and thought you might enjoy as well!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-11-20 12:45:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 244

Finally everyone called Missouri for McCain (so long, bellwether state!), and Obama won 1 electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district (the one with Omaha in it), so the final electoral total is 365-173, and Obama won the popular vote by around 7% (see CNN's final results), which is a lot for modern elections. This is the largest percentage of popular vote win for a Democrat since LBJ in 1964. He flipped 9 states from red to blue from 2004.

Senatewise, Ted Stevens did in fact end up losing in Alaska, so you Alaskans are off the hook...for now. Georgia senate race goes to a runoff since the Republican won just under 50% of the vote. In Minnesota, there's an ongoing recount between Al Franken(D) and Norm Coleman(R) - Coleman is currently ahead by 172 votes (down from 215 before the recount started). Here's a neat feature where you can see some of the ballots that are being challenged and vote on how you think they should be called. I think #5 is my favorite!

South Park creators to write Broadway musical lampooning Mormons - so many mixed emotions. Angry at Mormon church for funding Yes on Prop 8 in California. Not real comfortable with a musical making fun of someone's religion. Amused it's being co-written by the writer of Avenue Q. Amused the lead role is being played by an openly gay actor.

This Daily WTF is yet another remarkable case of programming without thinking.


oh my goodness please count the votes already!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-10-31 13:42:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 420

This cheery bit by CNN asked people to say something nice about the candidate they're not supporting. Here's mine: John McCain served our country honorably. I can't imagine being locked up in a POW camp for five and a half years. I appreciate what he tried to do with campaign finance reform. I like that he believes in global warming. I think he really would try to reduce lobbyist influence. Sadly, before this campaign this list would have been a lot longer...

Here's my list of things I want to happen on Election Night, in order of importance:
- Obama is elected, preferably by a fairly wide margin to avoid shenanigans.
- Prop 8 in California (the one banning gay marriage) fails - the polls show it will be a tight race and I'd like to stay up until it's called. Prop 8 passing would be a huge huge setback for the gay rights movement.
- Democrats get to 58 senate seats (60 is required to stop a filibuster but 58 is probably close enough for most issues) - seems pretty likely.
- Larry Joe Doherty wins our congressional district (TX-10) - seems fairly unlikely now.
- Rick Noriega wins the TX senate race - seems pretty unlikely now.

I'll post my predictions on Monday. In the meantime there's this neat Google electoral map to play with.

Looks like abstinence-only education is losing support. (I wrote about abstinence-only education pissing me off a while back)

"Spreading the wealth" as an attack on Obama doesn't seem to be catching on. I would add that raising the tax rate on income above $250,000 from 35% to 39.6% is not "socialism". If you're against higher taxes on those making more than $250K a year, fine, but is it too much to ask to have a reasonable discussion about it? (yes is it, mostly) I also read an editorial (well, OK, the first few sentences of an editorial) in the paper this morning about how raising taxes lowers the incentive of entrepreneurs to make more money. I see how this is true in the abstract sense, but who says "well, I was going to make millions but it's not worth it if I might have to pay slightly more of that extra money in taxes! I'll just keep watching football or whatever."?

We drove by the early voting place at Randall's (183 and Braker) and the place was packed - the line to vote was well out the door. Burnt Orange Report has been tracking the early voting stats - here's their latest.

Happy Halloween!


closing ads
Mood: cheerful
Music: scaaaaary Arabic music
Posted on 2008-10-30 12:31:00
Tags: 23andme genetics politics
Words: 65

Work is being stressful, but I'm eating lunch and happy for now...

Interesting ads from both sides: here's Obama's hitting McCain on the economy and (for the first time I can remember) Palin:

and here's McCain's hitting Obama for wanting to talk to Iran without preconditions, complete with scary staticy backgrounds and Arabic music. Grrr.

The Retail DNA test is Time's Invention of the Year.


pretty contentless
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-08-22 13:34:00
Tags: referrer computer politics links
Words: 216

I got another link to my runs per inning calculator. Yay!

There's this new IM/email/social networking app called Digsby. It's pretty awesome - I can do Google Talk, AIM, and Facebook chat through it, as well as twitter, regular Facebook stuff and it checks my Gmail too! And it's written mostly in Python and there will be Mac/Linux clients soon. If you're gonna give it a try use this installer - apparently it fixes some memory problems. (hmm, it just crashed...but that's the first time that's happened)

Obama should announce his VP soon! Speaking of which, shows he and McCain essentially tied. If Obama loses I'm am going to be quite distraught. On the other hand, politics is always entertaining: yesterday McCain couldn't say how many houses he owns and Obama hits back with an ad. Some scummy right-wing group trying to swiftboat Obama made an ad that even Fox wouldn't air!

A New York Times article about The Daily Show points out that it is actually a pretty substantive source for news, covering long-running scandals like prewar intelligence in a way most places don't. Also, this comment about how the staff finds footage to air from a former Daily Show employee is pretty interesting.

Here's a panoramic view from the high diving board of the Olympics.


back from Maine
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-08-17 15:20:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 325

Well, we're back from Maine! Here are pictures, and trip recap is behind the cut:

Left on Wednesday and, after the plane stopped in Baltimore (thought the flight was non-stop but apparently not), made it to Manchester, NH. The Southwest gate agent in Baltimore was nice enough to let us off the plane for a few minutes so we could grab some dinner. It was weird being in an airport that we were so familiar with!

My family picked us up and we drove back to Old Orchard Beach, ME. The cottage we were staying in was small (and the stairs were creaky!) but nice enough. The next day we walked down to the beach and walked along the beach for a while. We walked around town and picked up some souvenirs, including a half-pound of fudge and almost three pounds of Jelly Bellys. (this is too many Jelly Bellys, by the way)

I tried lobster for the first time - it was...OK, but nothing spectacular.

Thursday afternoon we walked around Portland and saw something about a renewable feast being put on by Cultivating Community. Of course, the whole eating local thing was offset by the fact that we flew up there, but whatever. The food was pretty good, although the meal lasted for a while and it was quite chilly by the end.

Friday we walked around the beach some more and almost played a game of mini-golf before Aunt Rebecca, Uncle Barrett and company arrived. Walked around some more with them and had a nice dinner at a local place.

Saturday morning we walked down to play some mini-golf before dropping wonderjess off at the train station and driving back to Manchester for our flights. We barely took off before a thunderstorm rolled in, and in fact we barely landed in Austin before thunderstorms came in (or at least the rest of the flights were delayed).

It was nice to have some time off!


mathing it up after dark
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-05-20 09:37:00
Tags: music math projects
Words: 218

I couldn't sleep last night, so I worked on the Target probabilities project. It was annoying me that the old version of the generated HTML (which was generated by LaTeX2HTML) looked kinda ugly - look how jagged the math graphics are! (especially compared with the beauty that is the generated .dvi file) So I tried a few different packages and settled on TeX4ht, which produced this much nicer looking page. Ah, that's better. (although why is that table floating to the right? grr)

I've been making slow progress on actually figuring out the numbers (3 card straights and straight flushes are the worst!) but I'm getting there. Getting the right numbers is a little more challenging.

Before that, we watched Citizen Kane (still good even though we weren't paying full attention) and I played some GTA IV, including a little multiplayer with destroyerj. It was tough without a headset and sucking at the game :-) I managed to flip the cop car we were driving in, and another time destroyerj was driving and I was shooting at something and I saw him jump out of the car. Had just enough time to wonder "Huh?" before we slammed into a stopped car and caught on fire :-)

Finally downloaded The Slip by Nine Inch Nails. So far: very good.

Game night tonight!


Happy Pi day and time!
Mood: cheerful
Music: Final Fantasy X - Silence Before the Storm
Posted on 2008-03-14 13:59:00
Tags: smashbros wii
Words: 45

(yes, I am cheating here)

Last night we unlocked (spoiler)   Captain Falcon    and (spoiler)      Lucario       . We're making good progress! Got a few new stages, too.

Tomorrow is the big move, for which we may or may not have internet. Hope everyone has a nice weekend!


I still dislike moving
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-03-13 13:12:00
Tags: moving smashbros food
Words: 135

but we knocked out packing in basically two hours with literally one box still open. Thanks a ton, helpers! That was way less painful than I had expected. Then we played Smash Bros. and somehow unlocked (not a spoiler) Sonic, although I'm still not sure how.

Lowe's called and the carpet will come in next Wednesday, which means installation hopefully the week after that and then we can finally move in for real. Although before that we'll have the TV/computers, kitchen stuff, and a hot tub - what more could one really ask for?

I realized this weekend that I don't know any good local Italian places (preferably close to us) - anyone have suggestions? The only Italian I can think of is Olive Garden, which is fine but it would be nice to try somewhere else.


the previous two weeks
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-01-14 09:02:00
Tags: phone house
Words: 147

So the two weeks of craziness ended successfully. djedi's brother's wedding went fine, albeit a little hectically and involving more than 150 miles of driving inside Houston. (I was planning on doing a bunch of maps and showing how far apart things are in Houston, but it's not that interesting) Also a reminder to myself that, while I like people being married and all that, I don't like weddings. (the last few I've been to have been awkward, and the emphasis on the whole "man and wife" thing gets old) Which is a little sad but knowing is half the battle.

So! Going forward, this week is "we better make sure everything's OK with the new house because if we back out after this week it costs us a lot of money", meaning home inspection tomorrow and answering more tedious mortgage questions. Also, hopefully a new phone!


charts and tables and stuff
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-11-15 13:03:00
Tags: itunesanalysis links
Words: 228

Your results:
You are Derrial Book (Shepherd)

Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
River (Stowaway)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
Even though you are holy
you have a mysterious past.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

I've added a few things to the latest iTunes Rating Analysis, the most of exciting of which is the Summize-style charts! Now for each artist and album you can see at a glance the distribution of ratings. (and mouseover for the exact number) I also added the average rating of playlists, which in my case is pretty boring since most of my playlists are based on ratings. I still have some tweaks to do before it's done, but the charts make me really happy. :-)

Some links:

- The Nerd Handbook - not all of this is me, but some of it definitely is. ("The joy your nerd finds in his project is one of problem solving and discovery. As each part of the project is completed, your nerd receives an adrenaline rush that we’re going to call The High.")

- How to Win at Monopoly - tables and numbers! Partially based on more Monopoly tables and numbers. (via kottke)

- Funny headlines.


the router "saga" continues
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-11-08 10:02:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft links
Words: 142

(it's much less of a saga than the stupid washer)

Anyway, the wireless cutting out problem keeps happening with our Linksys 802.11n router, so I'm returning it today for the apparently more reliable DLink one. Here's a nice review of 802.11n routers that fartingmonkey found - it also mentions weird cutting out issues, which makes me feel a little better.

destroyerj mentioned this neat 2D portal-ish flash game which is neat.

This plot of Japan's Phillips curve (unemployment vs. inflation) looks like Japan itself! Similarly, from the comments, a chart of annual tobacco consumption that looks like Virginia! So awesome. (via kottke)

Mage buffs coming! Hypothermia's back down to 30 seconds in 2.3, and apparently Ice Block will be trainable(!), some sort of buff for mana gems and maybe some more mana-related issues. (which are a real problem for me in longer fights)


things are already better!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-10-30 12:52:00
Tags: work
Words: 80

I had a little trouble getting to sleep last night but I'm thinking that's because I unwittingly had a cup of caffeinated tea like 5 minutes before bed. (unwittingly referring to "caffeinated" here) Anyway I'm making some progress today which is better than yesterday, and I just feel more like I can do it. Plus I've been listening to good music, and I went to Tacodeli for lunch which I really missed. And they have Maine Root Beer on tap!


cluesolver, pictures
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-10-08 15:35:00
Tags: pictures cluesolver
Words: 106

Look, the subject is the same as the tags!

After my last post about putting the clue solver on hiatus, I couldn't get to sleep Saturday night so I got up, played a little WoW, and, in a flurry of inspiration, sketched out a clue solver GUI. It's not beautiful, but it seems relatively functional and easy to do with the GWT parts. I've coded up most of it and I'm on to writing the script interface functions and hooking it all together. This makes me a happy man!

I (at long last) have put up pictures from the trip down and a few random ones.


two weeks to yuma...i mean austin
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-09-07 09:37:00
Tags: travel cluesolver
Words: 194

We leave two weeks from today! Here's the route we're planning to take, going 6, 8, 8, 4 hours per day, stopping for the night in Ohio, Missouri, and somewhere close to the border between Oklahoma and Texas.

Things are coming together for the move. I'm going to finalize the movers today (going with Bekins), djedi's car is all set up to magically reappear down there, etc. Wish it would just hurry up and happen now. Two weeks isn't too bad though.

We raid Karazhan again tonight! I have high hopes.

The clue solver is not going well. I rewrote it using just propositional logic (no first order logic) last night, and it still gets stuck on very simple queries. I think I may have screwed up the resolution algorithm as it deduces all sorts of unhelpful things, so I guess I'll look at that next. If all else fails I could always just do the Monte Carlo-like simulation omega697 suggested, but I'm going to be disappointed if I can't actually prove things. Oh well.

For the clue GUI I'm thinking of trying out the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) to make a spiffy interface.


a big apple a day...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-08-23 10:21:00
Tags: cluesolver
Words: 207

(can't think of any other aphorisms with "apple"...I'm open to suggestions...)

NYC trip today - for some reason I wasn't really excited about it earlier this week (generally kinda blah), but I'm really looking forward to it. Train trips are fun!

As Fire Joe Morgan points out, the Orioles lost to the Rangers 30-3 (after being up 3-0)...and the Rangers pitcher earned a save.

I've been stalling on my clue solver because the first-order logic stuff isn't working out. One problem is that I chose to define equality as any old relation (adding the rules "Eq(x,x)", "Eq(x,y)=>Eq(y,x)", "(Eq(x,y)&Eq(y,z))=>Eq(x,z)" and rules for every other function that equality preserves it), but this makes the resolver build up a huge list of useless sentences.

So I've been thinking about it, and I think I am going to go the more propositional route, since there are a very small number of people and cards, and using relations like "Player(x)" and "Card(x)" leads to more complicated sentences and seems to give the resolver trouble. I'd still like a concise way to maybe specify the first-order logic rules using those relations but then expanding them out to all the possibilities, but this seems tricky at best. I'll think about it on the train trip :-)


escalefters, or escalumps
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-08-11 12:24:00
Words: 165

Funny article in the Washington Post about people who stand to the left (the wrong side) on Metro escalators, and how they're trying to combat that. Two interesting things:

- The 230-foot-long set of moving stairs at the Wheaton stop is the longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere, according to Metro! Maybe we should go sometime :-)

- You might wonder why they can't just put a sign up, but apparently

Metro also does not post signs advising riders where to stand. Agency officials said they are prohibited from putting up "Stand to the Right" signs because the national safety code for elevators and escalators does not allow non-cautionary signs to be posted within 10 feet of an escalator.

That seems kinda silly to me. There's also a Maryland law stating that you can't have people walk on an escalator if it's not working (i.e. just using it as stairs), which seems bizarre unless there was some sort of horrible escalator accident. Which is pretty hard to imagine.


from the barrel of a gun
Mood: cheerful
Music: The Simpsons Movie: The Music - "Trapped Like Carrots"
Posted on 2007-08-01 09:25:00
Tags: wii
Words: 204

Austin trip was fun. We got a lead on a really nice apartment complex that's going to turn into condos, one of which we might buy if we can afford. (don't know the prices yet) It's right off of Far West, a block or two from where we lived before. Ratings are good.

Simpsons movie - very good. Like watching a long episode, which is all one can hope for. Watching 50 minutes of random Simpsons clips before, then drinking Duff, eating a Ribwich and donuts heighten the experience. Thanks Alamo Drafthouse!

Texas game night - man, I miss those things. It was great to see everyone again, even if it was a little intimidating. (big shindigs don't happen up here)

Summer musical - we stopped by and got to see people and the new theatre. Good stuff. Can't wait to try out next year!

Mario Strikers Charged - a lot of fun so far. Nothing like soccer with red shells and fire pits and random bits of electricity.

Work - stress came yesterday but most everything has cleared up now.

Free time - I want to play WoW, Mario Strikers Charged, program a few things, learn more Go, etc. It's getting a little excessive.

People visiting this weekend - yay!

1 comment

pretty pictures is done
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-07-17 09:15:00
Tags: programming
Words: 101

Play around with it here. It can be a little slow, so be patient. There's also some problem with the script getting hung up, but I couldn't track that down last night. Also, I forgot to put my favorite genotype up - try

(abs (sub-wrap (neg (ccrgb (ru (ru (num 0.6614554081190059))) (log-clip (abs (div-clip (abs (cchsl (ccrgb (num 0.5266760532380341) (num 0.2037882282789114) y) x x)) (mul-wrap (sub-wrap (atan-wrap (num 0.2710625018544712)) (num 0.46994645301411775)) (abs x))))) (rd (cchsl (num 0.811607978527779) y x)))) (abs y)))

Leave your favorites in the comments!
Other things I was planning on adding but didn't:
- going back a generation
- Perlin noise


Yay holiday week!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-07-03 09:38:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft
Words: 125

2 hours of administrative leave make today much more palatable!

We're going to see Transformers tonight at Bengies, home of the biggest theatre screen in the US!

I resubscribed to digitalblasphemy after a few years off. My current background at home happens to be in the free gallery now! Very pretty.

We ran Black Morass twice in two nights and cleared it both times, so now six of us are Karazhan keyed. Aaand I beat the fourth (of six) Netherwing race last night. Now they start getting really hard and they recommend knowing the route really well. We'll see if I can beat the last two. We're getting close to the money for djedi's epic mount :-)

Looking forward to the day off tomorrow. Happy 4th!


take me out to the ballgame
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-06-28 13:06:00
Tags: baseball politics
Words: 298

djedi and I went to the Orioles-Yankees game last night. It was fun! Roger Clemens was pitching for the Yankees (which I didn't know when I bought the tickets, but a nice surprise), and it was a good game.

- There were a lot of Yankees jerseys and Yankees fans there. I'd say (judging by the noise of the crowd) probably about half and half. Wasn't expecting that.

- The temperature at first pitch was a sweltering 97 degrees (when this was announced there was a lot of ooohing, as Baltimore isn't supposed to be that hot!)

- At the "O" of "O say does that star-spangled...", everyone yelled "O!", presumably for the Orioles. I thought this was weird. (I don't remember the Houston Rockets doing that...)

- The next section over, an old guy fainted (or something) during the first inning (presumably due to heat stroke or something). The medical people got there very quickly, brought some ice, and eventually carted him off. He was talking, so it didn't look too bad.

- They had a scoreboard race between innings with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish. (go Mustard!) Pretty standard fare, except they printed season statistics beforehand! ("Ketchup started off slowly winning 2 of the first 13, but then went on a tear winning 4 of the next 6") Awesomeness.

- During the seventh inning stretch, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was not sung! Unconscionable. (some country song was, which would have been appropriate afterwards, like the Astros do with "Deep in the Heart of Texas")

O's won 4-0 (take that, Yankees fans!) in a real pitcher's duel.

Dems force Cheney to flip-flop on secret docs - apparently defunding his office was threat enough for him to stop claiming he's not in the executive branch. (although he's still not giving up his secret papers)


fun with go
Mood: cheerful
Music: Radiohead - "Everything in its Right Place"
Posted on 2007-06-22 15:27:00
Tags: health go
Words: 83 pointed me to this awesome Go wiki. Soo much good stuff there. Going through the Beginner Study Section, reading fun proverbs. I like "Black should resign if one player has four corners" (twisted logic!) and "Even a moron connects against a peep". And look at this cute Valentine's Day Problem! I should play go more, at least against the computer.

Went to the doctor today (see previous entries), everything's normal. The little amount of blood in my urine is just idiopathic. Yay!


camping pictures
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-06-13 10:59:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 41

The aforementioned camping pictures are up.

Yay day off! It's nice to know that, despite our general unhappiness with not having friends and work and such, we're not so bad off that we can't enjoy a nice summer day to ourselves :-)


a few birthday links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-04-20 13:02:00
Tags: links
Words: 126

Who's to blame for the Virginia Tech massacre. A helpful guide. (via kottke, yet again)

I think I believe that God doesn't control the world/our lives on such a low level as to determine the weather, etc., and I don't think He "made this happen" as some sort of punishment for something.

How to beat that traffic ticket. Am I alone in guides like this irritating me? It seems the point is to find any technicality ("Scott McCoy, a driver from northern California, recently beat a ticket by filing motions until he found erroneous paperwork.") to avoid punishment for something that you did. (obviously this is different if you weren't actually speeding) Taking responsibility for your actions FTW. (I might feel differently after getting a ticket)

1 comment

Extortion is profitable!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-03-22 08:55:00
Tags: haskell congressvotes
Words: 302

Man, I feel productive! (not in a work sense, but in a doing stuff at home sense) Last night I wrote the LJ-Blog adapter for fairydust1 - as she mentioned, all of the posts on her blog will become friends-only posts on the account boltonblog, so friend it if you haven't already! It only took a couple of hours (partially because I had code from ljbackup for interacting with LJ, and partially because I backed off a little from my goal and just posted the summary text from the RSS feed here ), and I was happy I could knock it out and it seems to work. (and sorry for the flood of posts, but I was even more afraid as I went to bed that it would keep doing that every hour!)

I also made some more progress on my congress votes project. Learned how to download files in Haskell - as with anything involving IO, it's a little tricky and I haven't quite got the hang of it yet, but I managed to make it work. The next hard part is figuring out which votes are "important" and which aren't from the Reason on the bill, such as "On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, as Amended", "On Motion to Recommit with Instructions", "On Agreeing to the Amendment", etc. Some of these I'm going to have to ignore if they deal with amendments because that information is hard to find. And I need to make sure voting "Yea" means voting for the bill and not against it!

Episcopal Bishops in U.S. Defy Anglican Communion - it's really nice to see the leaders of your church say this:

We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.


What does Thursday mean to you?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-03-15 07:55:00
Tags: haskell worldofwarcraft tivo programming
Words: 361

It hit 70 degrees here yesterday! It was absolutely beautiful. Of course, it's going to be cold again tomorrow, but it was nice to have a touch of spring.

I finished and posted my latest WoW guild data project. It was fun, but nothing too tricky about it.

So I read about the Amazon Unbox downloads on the TiVo, so I signed up. (free $15 if you link the accounts by the end of April!) We rented A Scanner Darkly to try it out (you have to watch it within 30 days, and once you watch it it expires in 24 hours), and it downloaded in like an hour. Very very cool stuff. It's also neat because if you buy something, Amazon saves it and you can redownload it at any time. (except if the stupid copyright holder doesn't let you, grr) Also, they have a small number of TV series including 24, Firefly, and Arrested Development.

My attempt at comprehending Haskell continues. I read through A Gentle Introduction to Haskell which, despite the title, is not really gentle at all. I'm also looking through the Haskell Wikibook which is a little too slow-paced for me, but it's a nice change of pace after the other one! I'm starting to get some of the ideas, and remembering why functional languages are so cool. As a crazy example, you can do something like

y = x * 2
x = 2

and it will still work, since variables are only assigned to once, so I guess it can figure out the order things should run in. (I should note that I can't find the reference for this anymore, so it may not be true. Also, this seems like a crazy thing to do in a functional language anyway.) Maybe my next Haskell project will be to write a bot for WoW! (*)

I've gotten in to work at 7:45 every day this week, surprisingly enough. I've also been to the gym every day.

I got two nice "Congratulations!" cards in the mail from my relatives for my engagement. Yay!

(*) - Just kidding. My next project won't be WoW-related. Also, this is borderline crazy to try to do.


little bit o' everything
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-02-27 10:25:00
Tags: microresolution worldofwarcraft programming
Words: 286

We went to an Oscar party this weekend. It was fun! Ellen did a good job hosting.

We've been playing a lot of World of Warcraft. I posted to the guild site about an analysis I did (using my auctioneer data lookup) about what potions you can craft to make money. I'm gonna try taking my own advice and see if it works! I also have been working on an Adobe Flex version of that interface which is almost done. The SDK is free and works on Linux, and since Flash Player 9 was just (a month or so ago) released for Linux I thought it would be a good time to try it out. Working in a data-driven language takes some getting used to but the resulting code is a lot simpler than the AJAX version. And it looks nice!

Via Fire Joe Morgan there's this delightful piece which compares sports bloggers to homeless people or...something. It's really hard to tell what the point of the column is, although from what I can tell the point was to be stupid.

The cablecards in our TiVo seem to be going on the fritz. Luckily Heroes recorded last night, although we haven't watched it yet. I reeeeealy don't want to have to call Comcast and get them to come out and fix them, especially since they work some of the time so you just know they're gonna work when the people come out.

I really really need to address and send those darn letters. I think it's the final step that makes everything "real" and I don't want to deal with. But sheesh, get over it. Microresolution: address the letters by Thursday night, send them by Monday.


Ah, a day off
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-02-19 17:15:00
Tags: microresolution
Words: 156

Days like this make me wish I didn't have a job at all (but still had money somehow). Although I'm sure I'd get bored after a couple of weeks and want my job back.

We got a new vacuum cleaner which I'm oddly excited about. It works very well (the Eureka Boss Smart Vac Ultra 4870 - thanks Consumer Reports!) and even self propels itself a little, which means vacuuming is like talking a dog for a walk.

There's still a bunch of snow on the ground from last week's storm, and it encroaches on the road some places, eating up a half lane or so. This made driving in Baltimore more interesting than usual. (we went there for lunch yesterday and checked out the Lambda Rising bookstore) Another fun thing is that most places there's a layer of ice on top of the snow, which makes walking deceptively difficult.

Wrote my last letter today! Microresolution complete.


Is the weekend here yet?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-02-02 09:46:00
Tags: microresolution politics links
Words: 306

Thanks again for all of your help on writing that letter! I forgot to mention my impressions on Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which I used to compose it. I didn't try the spreadsheet part (except for a minute), but the word processing part is pretty neat. It has some rich-text options (fonts, colors, bullets, etc.), and it keeps a revision history so it's pretty intuitive to see what changes you've made. You can also save in a bunch of different formats. I'd be curious as to how the collaboration works. Anyway it seems more than adequate for something simple like writing a letter.

To make things interesting, I'm going to add another microresolution. I have a World of Warcraft auctioneer price lookup that doesn't work with the new version of Auctioneer. Microresolution: make it work again by next Friday. We'll see if having multiple microresolutions out at the same time is feasible or makes me fail to complete any of them :-)

Current position of my pages in a search for "microresolution" on:
Google: #3!
Yahoo: not present
MSN: #1!! #6
The main competitors seem to be pages talking about microscopes and such.

Funny quote in this article about the mayor of San Francisco admitting to an affair with his aide's wife:

Tom Abbott, 36, an executive recruiter, said that having an affair with a loyal aide's wife was "a total slimeball move."

"Any guy who puts that much mousse in his hair can't be trusted," Abbott said. "You don't screw over your own boys."

However, Abbott said, he would probably vote for Newsom.

Venezuelan lawmakers just gave President Hugo Chavez authority to enact sweeping measures by decree. This is a little worrisome. Maybe Venezuelan "President" Hugo Chavez from now on?

I got a nice email from a Google recruiter - if anyone's interested, drop me an email!


math and dodgeball
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-01-20 12:59:00
Tags: dodgeball math
Words: 358

As I was laying in bed last night, I realized that there was a simplification for the sum in yesterday's post. So the number of possible auctions we calculated to be 1 + 28 * sum from i=1 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^(i-1). Let's look at sum from i=1 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^(i-1) = (1/21) * sum from i=1 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^i = (1/21) * [(sum from i=0 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^i) - 1]. (this will make our argument easier)

So what is sum from i=0 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^i? We can use a combinatorial argument (counting the same thing two different ways) to simplify this. Let's say we have 35 slots, and for each slot we have a choice of the numbers 0 through 21 (inclusive). One way to count this is that we have 22 choices for each slot, and since there are 35 slots, there are 22^35 configurations. Another way to count this is to first choose how many slots will contain the number 0 - let's say there are i such slots. Well, we have (35 C i) ways to choose which slots have 0, and then there are 21 choices (since 0 isn't a possibility) for the other (35-i) slots, so this gives (35 C i)*21^(35-i). Since i can be anything from 0 to 35, there are in total sum from i=0 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^(35-i) configurations. Now, if we let j=35-i, this is the same as the sum from j=0 to 35 of (35 C (35-j))*21^j (since j will range from 0 to 35 just like i did), which is equal to the sum from j=0 to 35 of (35 C j)*21^j. This is just what we wanted!

So we have shown that the sum from j=0 to 35 of (35 C j)*21^j=22^35. Plugging this back in to our expression for the number of possible auctions, we get 1 + 28 * [(1/21) * (22^35 - 1)], which is in fact 128745650347030683120231926111609371363122697557 as desired. So I didn't have to do that ugly sum after all :-)

Dodgeball was rough - we lost 10-1 and 13 or 14-0. No major injuries, though, so that's something!


Check out xkcd!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-01-05 10:37:00
Tags: rave ljbackup xkcd webcomic
Words: 82

So I recently got turned on to the webcomic xkcd. I discovered them from the sandwich strip, but there are lots of other computery random strips, as well as a few sweet ones. Even better, it's syndicated so you can just friend xkcd_rss to get the latest ones on your friends page. And don't forget to rollover to check out the extra tooltip :-)

In other news, LJBackup seems to be working again. Let me know if you have a problem with it...


last weekend at NI
Mood: cheerful
Music: ze frank!
Posted on 2006-08-11 13:20:00
Tags: links
Words: 439

Yikes, that's scary.

Getting beyond our airport security obsession - An "Ask the Pilot" column about why it's fairly hopeless to try to detect dangerous stuff being brought on an airplane.

A the show with zefrank about terrorism. I like zefrank a lot. He never blinks! Here's his ugly myspace competition and the "winners". Another good show, although they're all good from what it seems. ze frank's homepage has lots of neat interactive toys and whatnot. Whee!

I found the evaluation I wrote for COMP 360. COMP 360 was computer graphics. But, and here's the catch, the projects were impossible. We were given little to no direction and not enough time. destroyerj and I worked on project 2, after which he dropped the class (but not before we finished the project!!), and we were up until 5 AM the night it was due trying to get it to work. I don't think a single project in that class I did worked entirely. And I had good partners, but it didn't matter. Anyway, the last day of class I released my anger in the form of an evaluation. Then I released it again by copying over the evaluation so I could save it. Then my hand hurt.

Dr. Goldman made this class an unreasonable amount of work, grossly incommensurate with a 4-hour class. The labs assigned were quite difficult and took very large amounts of time, even when starting early. Compounding this problem was that the only place we were able to work on the projects (Symonds II) was locked to students - to work in there, someone had to be inside or one of the "babysitters" (some students) had to unlock it. This seems like a ridiculous way to handle access to the lab - why not give us all access? Apparently someone thinks we are common thieves...

More often than not, the lecture notes (and lectures) were not helpful in doing the labs, and we had to find some other resource or try to figure it out ourselves. This was extremely frustrating.

Most telling was the fact that around 70 people started the class, and about 20-30 are in it now, and I know that quite a few of these are graduate students who can afford to spend large amounts of time working on projects. Unfortunately, we undergrads don't have that luxury, and this class alone was cause for many stressful days and very long nights.

This class should be heavily revised so it is no longer a "weed-out" class for COMP 460. Never have I been so disappointed in a class in the Computer Science department here at Rice University.

1 comment

shows done! palm to google calendar done!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2006-08-01 09:27:00
Tags: asmc palmtogooglecalendar
Words: 257

I am happy to announce that my Palm datebook to Google Calendar app is complete! I was having trouble with the Google authentication (and so were other people using that API), but it all seems to work now, so give it a shot if you're interested. Whee!

The ASMC shows went well this weekend. Saturday was grueling, as usual - it's the only day we have three shows. But a lot of friends came to see it (onefishclappin, krikwennavd, Teresa & Lucas), as well as my family who had driven up from Houston the previous day. I snuck out for lunch with them, which was nice :-) Crowds in general were a little down, but they're still reasonably-sized which is nice. And maybe that means people aren't having to wait in line for a long time to get tickets, which was the case at least some of last year.

If you haven't seen the show, we have a nice gala this Friday night - after the show everyone comes out and mingles and there's a silent auction and a cash bar. I'd highly recommend it!

We hosted game night last night and I played my first live game of Go with Todd - got beaten both times, but I've played so few times that every game is helpful. It's very hard to tell what's going on, though!

Also started a new Civ 4 game yesterday on Noble. Haven't played too many turns and I'm already a little behind, but hopefully I can turn it around. Viva Japan!

Back to the work grind...


Viva Italia!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2006-07-10 16:49:00
Words: 334

Ack, many things on my mind.

First things first - yay Italy! The game was a good one, although I don't usually like games decided by penalty kicks, it was clear in this one everyone was really tired by the 120th minute. Italy scored their goal on a beautiful header, and would have scored another one had the man next to the one who put the ball in the goal not been slightly offsides. Oh well.

Unquestionably the most bizarre part of the game came in the 110th minute, just 10 minutes before it went to penalty kicks. Zinedine Zidane is the French star midfielder, who came out of retirement to play in the World Cup and who announced he was going to retire after this one. He was red carded and thrown out of the game for headbutting an Italian player in the chest (animated GIF version!) - the Italian player was fine after a little while. The incident was weird because you can clearly see there's a little pushing and jostling, then they exchange some words, then Zidane starts jogging away and gets a good five yards away before turning around, walking back and then letting loose on him. Apparently, this isn't the first time Zidane has been red-carded for stupid things, and it's not even his first head-butt. Yikes!

I went to jury duty this morning and plan on posting many, many observations later because I was fascinated by the whole thing. Unfortunately I didn't get chosen though :-(

The Nocebo Effect: Placebo's Evil Twin - very interesting article about how the placebo effect works both ways. Biology/psychology is weird. I loved this bit at the end:

But the mind is a funny thing, and generic responses to color go just so far in explaining the placebo or nocebo response. Consider this: In Italy, Moerman says, blue placebos made excellent sleeping pills for women but had the opposite effect on men.

The apparent reason? "The Italian national football team's color is azzurri," he said. "Blue."


odds n' ends
Mood: cheerful
Music: Saliva - "Famous Monsters"
Posted on 2006-04-17 12:39:00
Words: 74

Guitar Hero sequel!

Saturday I sent in my last car payment. I'm very excited about this! (hopefully my saying this doesn't result in a collision anytime soon)

Also, here's a tip: if you use the same mug for tea every morning and you haven't run it through the dishwasher for a while and your tea starts tasting bad, do yourself a favor and run it through the dishwasher. This is very likely to help.

1 comment

christi & david and baltimore pictures
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2006-03-27 23:20:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 23

Now that my computer works, I finally posted my pictures from christi & david's house and baltimore - check them out! (yay for working computer!)


purging old memory, and pictures!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2006-02-23 10:48:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 304

At some point I had a lot of things to mention on LJ, none of it terribly important. As I am behind on mentioning such things, I'm removing them from my memory - *poof* - and now I feel free to post again.

The trip to Rice went well - chatted with candidates at the information session on Monday night and interviewed people Tuesday. I have a few tips for people who interview:

- Don't be late. Seriously, not only are you wasting the interviewer's time and making your interview shorter, you're possibly putting them in an irritated mood. I actually wasn't irritated, but interviewing can be subjective, and you're only hurting yourself.

- So, stuff happens, and you're late for whatever reason. Please apologize/acknowledge that you are in fact late. I'm not sure how I feel about hearing an excuse, either way is fine, but pretending like nothing happened is not a good option. Yeesh.

Afterwards, I drove back, and it was incredibly foggy most of the way from Brenham to Austin. There was lots of billowing fog and all that. It was pretty scary - I was going 45-50 a lot of the way and it still seemed fast. Had I known it was gonna be so foggy, I might have taken I-10 to 71 back - at least there are lights on I-10. Anyway, we made terrible time and I was exhausted afterwards, but at least we made it back safely...

I took a few pictures at Rice, and so I put up a set of random pictures left on my camera. I'm showing one behind the cut because it's so sad for Rice folk!

Ack! What happened to the hedges?? (apparently they're just being pruned, but wow is that sad)

I'm sure I'll think of more things to say right after I post this, but oh well.


AMS conference
Mood: cheerful
Music: Mannheim Steamroller - "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"
Posted on 2006-01-16 09:35:00
Words: 677

So djedi and I got up early Saturday morning to drive down to San Antonio for the AMS conference. It was a neat experience, and I took some pictures that I may or may not put up, depending on how they turned out...

The morning we/I (mostly we but djedi had a few interviews) wandered around some, and checked out the exhibitors. There were a lot of textbook companies, some software companies, a few nifty art places (usually selling wooden Mobius strips, neato glass geometric figure lamps, and the like), and even the Numeric Mathematical Consortium, which was being manned by a friend from NI, which I didn't expect to see any of!

We grabbed lunch at the River Center, I had a smoothie which I really wasn't impressed with from Smoothie King, and headed back for afternoon stuff. djedi had more interviews in the afternoon, so I went to a few talks and proofread some of his paper. I was a little disappointed/regretful that I didn't understand even the titles of most of the talks, and felt very out of place considering that I was a math major not so long ago. But I guess that's what happens when you don't do math for a while. It was just a little frustrating.

Anyway, the talks I did go to were mostly fluff, but entertaining fluff! One was about math and science in the Whedon universe (Buffy, Angel, Firefly/Serenity). The point was that in each of these universes, there is a female character who's very good at math/science (Willow in Buffy, Winifred/Fred in Angel, River Tam in Firefly). Most of the presentation was, well, that, and she played some sound clips from all three of these, which was of course entertaining. And I've never watched Angel, but Fred is a graduate student in physics(?), and her thesis advisor sends her to hell, so she got some good laughs out of that :-)

Another was by the same woman about math/science in Simpsons and Futurama, focusing on David X. Cohen. She runs, which has lots of interesting stuff about the Simpsons and Futurama. One interesting anecdote she related (she's talked to David X. Cohen!):

So in the Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror VI, in the Homer 3D one, one of the equations they snuck in the background was 1782^12 + 1841^12 = 1922^12. This is clearly not true (otherwise it would be a counterexample to Fermat's Last Theorem), but if you add the left side on a calculator and take the twelfth root, it comes out as 1922, due to floating-point rounding. (David X. Cohen calls this a Fermat near-miss, and he put up the programs he used to generate them) So this started a debate on the newsgroups on whether this really was a counterexample, which was the desired effect.

However, there's an easy parity argument (the left side is clearly odd, and the right side is clearly even) that shows why it isn't true, which the writers hadn't considered. So, they snuck another near-miss in The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace - 3987^12 + 4365^12 = 4472^12, and this one is correct in terms of parity! (although there are divisibility arguments to be made, but what do you want?)

And again in that presentation she showed Simpsons clips and Futurama clips and all was happy and well.

The other presentation I went to was about Fibonacci numbers and Diophantine equations, which was done by two undergraduates based on their summer research. It was pretty good - the problem is that the talks are all really short (they did theirs in 15 mins) so I mostly understood, but the details started flying by. I was pretty confident that if I sat down and reda through their presentation, I would understand it, though.

So we headed home and both felt pretty bad that evening - it was a long day, and I had acquired a headache, my muscles were sore, and I was cranky. These are usually signs that I'm dehydrated (my skin felt dry, too), and they were mostly gone by Sunday, thank goodness.


Link Friday!
Mood: cheerful
Music: Rent - "Take Me or Leave Me"
Posted on 2006-01-13 13:39:00
Tags: links
Words: 345

I was informed at lunch that today was Link Friday, which surprised me at first, until I realize that most linkdays are Friday. So, why not embrace it?

A vintage Nintendo shirt with a funny slogan

So, you may have heard of the Million Dollar Homepage, in which a clever student raised a million dollars selling pixels on a 1000x1000 grid at $1 a pop. It inspired some copycats like the Five Hundred Thousand Dollar Home Page and the Million Penny Homepage. The most amusing spinoff I've seen is Fill My Room, which is selling blocks in his room in an effort to fill it up with lego-looking blocks. Hehe!

The Prejudice Map - a map with what "the internet" thinks of people from different countries. People from Norway are known for thriftiness and love of fish, while people from Canada are known for liking their beer and being tolerant.

The Aargh Page - a matrix (based on the number of "a"'s and "r"'s) of the number of spellings of aargh on the internet. Nifty! The funny part is the weird outliers, like why Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgh (12,7) is significantly more popular than the spellings near it.

After reading fairydust1's complaint that one's posts are locked in to LJ, I found a way to retrieve all your old posts. Unfortunately, that doesn't include comments, so I'm thinking of writing a script to read each post and store the comments in XML as well. The other main project on my mind is writing a World of Warcraft mod to automatically record guild information and post it to the guild website, or something.

When buying organic pays, courtesy of Consumer Reports.

I really like the Rent soundtrack, especially "I'll Cover You" and "Take Me or Leave Me".

Is Apple working on a full-blown mobile phone network? (including a phone made by Apple that will hopefully be better than the ROKR) This seems crazy to me. But I am interested in one of their new MacBook's, although maybe some other models are coming soon, or something different but also exciting? Who knows...


I've got to admit it's getting better...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2005-12-15 10:58:00
Tags: links
Words: 133

Why today is better than yesterday:

Yay Ford!

So I did spend all night working on the project, but I made good progress on it, and I feel a bit more confident in general.

The meeting turned out to be no big deal, although it was slightly awkward.

We're moving cubes here at work, which means I get a bigger cube (although not window-adjacent). However, that means I have to pack up my stuff tomorrow. At least it's a good excuse for cleaning off my desk, which is scary covered with stuff and dust. It looks better already, though!

Maybe Showtime will pick up Arrested Development!

Oh, and also I got a Peppermint Mocha yesterday which, although certainly not as good as anything wonderjess makes, was pretty good. And it cheered me up!


things to be happy about
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2005-10-04 16:25:00
Words: 112

1) A few months ago, I closed a credit card account, not realizing that I had a credit left on it (from paying something twice). Last week, I decided to try to get that money back, and called them up, expecting to go through a lot of hassle (how often do credit card companies pay you?). Turns out it took like 3 minutes, and I got my check in the mail a few days ago. Hooray!

2) The Astros, after starting off the season 15-30, made the playoffs, and some people are even picking them to win the World Series. I'll be following them closely!

3) I got a promotion today! Hooray!


Quick religion quiz
Mood: cheerful
Music: Colin Hay - "Going Somewhere"
Posted on 2005-01-31 15:21:00
Words: 28

I like quizzes. This is a quiz to find your most compatible religion. Apparently I'm 100% Liberal Christian Protestant, and 83% Roman Catholic. And I'm not a Scientologist!


On Weight Watchers
Mood: cheerful
Music: Fountains Of Wayne, "All Kinds Of Time"
Posted on 2005-01-17 13:36:00
Words: 107

So I joined Weight Watchers today - they started meetings at work, which is very cool. It worked for me before, and I was within spitting distance (10 pounds or so) of my goal weight, and then I graduated college, and getting to meetings got more inconvenient and getting high-calorie foods became easier. So I'm back up to around where I was where I started. But I'm gonna make it work this time!

Anyway, one thing that I don't like about Weight Watchers is the female/male ratio - there were 25ish people at the meeting today, and exactly 2 guys (myself included). It makes me...uncomfortable, I guess. I dunno.


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