Posts with mood happy (120)

link friday: "God Only Knows", old-timey baseball footage, living on Amtrak
Mood: happy
Music: "God Only Knows"
Posted on 2014-10-10 10:23:00
Tags: links
Words: 195

- This BBC video of a bunch of famous people singing "God Only Knows" is pretty good, even if I didn't recognize most of the singers (not including Stevie Wonder, of course!) Here's a handy guide to who's who. Then I found in the comments a link to the barbershop quartet version from Bioshock Infinite. Then I remembered "Let the Circle be Unbroken" from Bioshock Infinite was also really pretty. Then in the related links I found this interview with the Lutece twins. Then I thought "hey, I should get back to work!"

- Watch rare footage of the Senators beating the Giants in the 1924 World Series - it's real old-timey baseball footage! (the music is extra cool, although it's not original)

- Aboard Amtrak - a long essay about the author's experience living on Amtrak. Includes a handy Amtrak travel guide which we might take advantage of in the future!

- Times Articles Removed From Google Results in Europe - look, I understand the idea behind the "right to be forgotten", but this smacks of revisionist history. The wedding and death announcements I don't mind as much, but the one's that "damage people's reputation" I don't think should be removed.


Windows Phone: paying your "taxes", or a checklist before releasing an app
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-08-23 16:15:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 830

Raymond Chen of The Old New Thing has a great post about paying your "taxes" as a Win32 developer, meaning you have to worry about features of the OS that your app may not be directly calling, but your users might be using. (examples are roaming user profiles, Fast User Switching, Hierarchical Storage Management, etc.) Here are more of his articles about "taxes".

So: what are the "taxes" in Universal app development for Windows/Windows Phone? Here's the list I came up with, and you can use this as a checklist before releasing a new app. Before you get discouraged at the length of the list, a lot of these are fairly easy to do!

WP means Windows Phone only and Win means Windows only, otherwise it applies to both.

Must haves:
(this doesn't mean that you have to support these, but you should be aware of them and disable support if your app doesn't play nicely)

Good for your app
These are not "taxes" per se, but they're definitely things you should think about before releasing your app!
Hopefully this will help you not forget anything when you're almost ready to publish your next app! And if I forgot anything, let me know at @gregstoll or and I'll update this list.


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


links: tipping, basic income, biases, the Harlem Globetrotters
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-08-05 20:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 273

- Why You Should Tip More Than You Do Now - a good reminder.

- Companies with Benefits - the idea of a for-profit company that also pledges to achieve social goals is pretty neat.

- The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee - I don't agree with everything in here, but I am glad to see the idea of a basic income starting to be discussed in the US. Will it ever happen? Probably not, but a man can dream...

- Inside the Mirrortocracy - this is a pretty damning post. It's easy enough to be unconsciously biased against people who aren't "like you" in some way - baking that into the culture only makes it worse. Actively thinking about your biases is a good step towards defeating them!

- Love People, Not Pleasure - so I read this editorial and thought "OK, this isn't too surprising", and then I got to the bottom and the author is the president of the American Enterprise Institute and I was like whaaa? But, good for him! (and in retrospect I'm a bit less surprised - the issue isn't really a liberal versus conservative thing)

- A Statistical Appreciation of the Washington Generals And Harlem Globetrotters - hee hee!

- The ‘World Cup Is Over, Now What?’ Guide to Soccer - obviously a bit late on my part, but still a good guide.

- How Fan Loyalty Changed During the World Cup - pretty nice visualization.

- CIA covert operation helped America win the race to the Moon - pretty interesting story!

- Brazil’s Secret History of Southern Hospitality - wow, this reads like something out of a novel! (thanks Adam!)

- The Cornish beaches where Lego keeps washing up - it's part cute, part environmental disaster!


weekend links: Austin's drive-in theater, Hobby Lobby, 2 vs 55 in soccer
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-07-12 15:24:00
Tags: links
Words: 401

- Did you know that Austin has a drive-in theater? It's pretty cool, and they're trying to raise money to make some improvements.

- Top 10 Silly but Awesome Products That Make Life Easier - there's some neat stuff in there!

- Republicans Finally Admit Why They Really Hate Obamacare - I did think it was interesting how a lot of arguments against Obamacare were essentially "it won't work". Now that it seems to be working, the arguments are more of the form "I don't think the government should be doing this" - which, to be clear, is a perfectly valid argument! But now we're getting to the crux of the matter...

- Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning - good editorial from the New York Times. For those who thought this would only apply to contraception, see: Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order. From a comment I posted on Facebook:

It is a tricky case. I think that some of the unhappiness with the decision from the liberal side (myself included :-) ) comes from two places:
1) It seems to me that the argument that a business shouldn't be forced to "support" things that are against their religion could apply to lots of other things. What about hiring LGBT people - isn't that supporting a sinful lifestyle? Or serving interracial couples?
2) to me, "being forced to spend money on something" doesn't rise to the level of "supporting" it. My tax dollars go to support lots of things that I don't like, but I don't get to pick and choose what programs my money funds. I understand this isn't directly equivalent to the Hobby Lobby case, but it rubs me the wrong way.

Anyway, like I said, it's tricky and I realize there are good arguments on the other side too...

- Two players from the Japanese national soccer team try to score against 55 kids - pretty interesting to watch! I also enjoyed the comments from the linked article about how good professional sportsters are, even if they look terrible by comparison to other professionals.

- This is a good sign how long I've been holding on to links, but: Tim Howard saving things!

- What Jobs Do People Find Most Meaningful? - links to this cool interactive chart...sadly I didn't see Software Engineer on there.

- Masters of Love - I've read one of John Gottman's books, but a refresher on what seems to make relationships work is always nice!


Pictures from Matt and Jaci's wedding
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-06-30 23:22:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 28

(click for the full picture!)

<- Table 10 was an NI table!

<- The other NI table had nicer flowers :-)

<- Matt's groom cake was an inside-out TARDIS!

<- Matt and Jaci!


links: Mayday PAC, airport signs, voter fraud and bioterrorism
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-06-20 12:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 193

- That Mayday PAC I mentioned last month is struggling to meet their ambitious $5 million goal in June. It really is a good cause - if you'd like to contribute I have a pledge page you can give through.

- How You Know Where You're Going When You're in an Airport - an article about signs in an airport? I'm sold!

- Where Dishonesty Is Best Policy, U.S. Soccer Falls Short - this seems like mostly a good thing, right?

- 17 reasons not to trust Dick Cheney on Iraq - hah!

- A Strange but True Tale of Voter Fraud and Bioterrorism - wow, I had heard about the bioterrorism but I didn't realize the whole point was to rig a local election!

- Shaka, When the Walls Fell - a long piece about a great (don't listen to the haters!) Star Trek: The Next Generation episode.

- Diplomacy: The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds - Ahh Diplomacy. I played a few times in high school, but it's pretty long and I was never hardcore/ruthless enough to do well...

- Here's How All 50 State Flags Would Look As App Icons - not a huge fan of Texas, but there are some nice ones in there...


Windows Phone: adding a first run tutorial to your app
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-02-05 21:33:00
Tags: windowsphone projects wpdev
Words: 512

In the Austin area? Come to the Austin Code-a-thon and have a chance to win a JBL Wireless Charging Speaker!


My Marriage Map app has gotten some bad reviews complaining about missing features that were actually present in the app. So, I decided to make a quick tutorial that would point out how to use the app the first time the user ran it. I did a quick search for some sample code but couldn't find any, so I rolled my own. (download the latest version of the app to try it out!) It features

None of these were particularly difficult, but adding them all took a bit of work. So I made a sample project with the same system to make it easier to add to your apps.

Some notes on the code:--

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: debugging scheduled tasks
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-11-19 22:32:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 113

I'm running into trouble with a scheduled task in an app I'm working on. I was going to write a post about how to debug a scheduled task, and then I realized I had already written one! Here's info on how to effectively debug a scheduled task. In my case, the ScheduledTaskLogger is going to come in very handy!


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!


Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-10-06 22:17:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 506

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So MuchScarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating book about how scarcity (especially in money or time) changes you. Some highlights:

- One experiment was run on people during World War II (conscientious objectors, apparently) where they ate very few calories for weeks. The point of the study was to figure out how to safely start feeding them normal amounts again, but during the experiment they had some personality changes - they became obsessed with cookbooks and menus, and focused on the scenes in movies where characters ate.

- Scarcity makes you tunnel on what you're lacking, at the cost of more long-term thinking.

- A school next to a loud railroad line showed that students nearest the noise were a full grade level behind those farthest away from the noise. Installing noise dampening pads caught them back up.

- Scarcity reduces your mental bandwidth (which the book defines as some combination of cognitive capacity and executive control)

- They were able to trigger scarcity by asking people to imagine they needed to make a $3000 car repair. After doing this, the lower-income people did significantly worse on a test of cognitive capacity, while the higher-income people didn't see such an effect. (the control was asking people to imagine they needed a $300 car repair, which didn't affect either group) This was even bigger than the effect on people who were forced to pull an all-nighter!

- Scarcity means you have to think of everything in terms of trade-offs - if I buy this $10 cocktail, that's $10 I don't have to buy something else. When you're not suffering from scarcity you don't tend to think that way as much.

- They looked at street vendors in India who have to borrow money at the beginning of the day to buy items to sell, and then pay back the daylong loan at the end of the day with the money they make during the day. This happens every day, and the interest rate they pay is 5% a day, which is of course really really high. So they ran an experiment where they gave a collection of vendors enough money to buy out their debt, so they wouldn't have to borrow every day. They wanted to see if the vendors would be able to not fall into the "scarcity trap" again (having to borrow every day). The result was interesting - the vendors didn't waste the money and were able to stay out of debt for a few months, but then one by one they all fell back into the scarcity trap. The reason was that while the vendors weren't in debt anymore, they had no slack in their budget, and so the first time they had an unexpected expense they would fall back into debt.

Anyway, while the book gets a bit repetitive in its second half, I still enjoyed it a lot and it's definitely worth a read. The biggest takeaway: scarcity is bad, but slack can defeat it!

View all my reviews


SatRadioGuide now available on Windows Phone!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-09-11 21:52:00
Tags: windowsphone
Words: 61

I'm happy to announce SatRadioGuide is now available on Windows Phone! It's an unofficial channel guide for SiriusXM radio channels, and the only SiriusXM app in the Windows Phone store. The app is free with ads, with an in-app purchase available to get rid of the ads. (which is why I wrote this article about how to do ads + in-app purchasing...)

Download from the Windows Phone Store


A few pictures from my new Lumia 1020!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-08-15 20:54:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 58

I splurged and got a yellow Lumia 1020, and it takes great pictures! Here are a few I took around NI (click for full version)

<- in the full 34 MP version you can read the license plate on the truck! (but what I posted is a downsampled 5 MP version which still looks great!)

<- playing with manual focus


Anne Sung for HISD Trustee!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-08-05 17:49:00
Words: 27

I went to high school and math camp with Anne, and she's an extraordinary teacher. You can read more about Anne and contribute to her campaign here.


Windows Phone: HospitalPrices released, how to show 3000+ markers on a Map
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-06-12 21:38:00
Tags: windowsphone projects wpdev
Words: 500

I just released HospitalPrices for Windows Phone. One of the more interesting parts was figuring out how to put 3000+ markers on a Map control. My first attempt was putting all the markers on the Map, but that ran out of memory. After some more tinkering, here's what I ended up with. It runs pretty smoothly on my Lumia 920 - if it needed to run faster I could have implemented a quad tree to search for markers instead of checking all 3000+ of them every time.

Want to make your own app/website? Check out the SQLite database with all the data!

Prerequisites: I'm using the Windows Phone 8 Map control - MarkerMap is the Map control, and every time the center or zoom level changes we call UpdatePins().

using Microsoft.Phone.Maps.Controls;
using System.Device.Location;

GeoCoordinate _lastUpdatedTopLeft = null;
GeoCoordinate _lastUpdatedBottomRight = null;
MapLayer _pinLayer = new MapLayer();
private void Init()
public bool CoordInBounds(GeoCoordinate coord,
GeoCoordinate topLeft,
GeoCoordinate bottomRight)
return (coord.Longitude >= topLeft.Longitude &&
coord.Longitude <= bottomRight.Longitude &&
coord.Latitude <= topLeft.Latitude &&
coord.Latitude >= bottomRight.Latitude);
private void UpdatePins()
const double ZOOM_LEVEL_THRESHOLD = 9.0;
if (MarkerMap.ZoomLevel >= ZOOM_LEVEL_THRESHOLD)
const int MAP_MARKER_MARGIN = 150;
GeoCoordinate neededTopLeft =
GeoCoordinate neededBottomRight =
new Point(MarkerMap.ActualWidth + MAP_MARKER_MARGIN,
MarkerMap.ActualHeight + MAP_MARKER_MARGIN));
// See if we already have all the necessary markers
if (_lastUpdatedTopLeft != null &&
CoordInBounds(neededTopLeft, _lastUpdatedTopLeft, _lastUpdatedBottomRight) &&
CoordInBounds(neededBottomRight, _lastUpdatedTopLeft, _lastUpdatedBottomRight))
var existingIdsList = _pinLayer.Select(
(overlay) => (int)(((FrameworkElement)overlay.Content).Tag));
HashSet<int> existingIds = new HashSet<int>();

foreach (var id in existingIdsList)
Collection<int> indicesToRemove = new Collection<int>();
Collection<MapOverlay> overlaysToAdd = new Collection<MapOverlay>();
// TODO - this is the entire collection of markers. Each has an integer
// Id and a Latitude and Longitude, as well as a PinBrush which is the
// color of their marker.
var datas = GetHospitalBasicData();
_lastUpdatedTopLeft = MarkerMap.ConvertViewportPointToGeoCoordinate(
_lastUpdatedBottomRight = MarkerMap.ConvertViewportPointToGeoCoordinate(
new Point(MarkerMap.ActualWidth + 2 * MAP_MARKER_MARGIN,
MarkerMap.ActualHeight + 2 * MAP_MARKER_MARGIN));
// Check existing markers
for (int i = 0; i < _pinLayer.Count; ++i)
GeoCoordinate coord = _pinLayer[i].GeoCoordinate;
if (!CoordInBounds(coord, _lastUpdatedTopLeft, _lastUpdatedBottomRight))
foreach (var data in datas)
if (!existingIds.Contains(data.Id))
GeoCoordinate coord = data.Coordinate;
if (CoordInBounds(coord, _lastUpdatedTopLeft, _lastUpdatedBottomRight))
MapOverlay overlay = new MapOverlay();
Ellipse e = new Ellipse()
Fill = data.PinBrush,
Height = 35,
Width = 35,
Stroke = new SolidColorBrush(Colors.Black),
StrokeThickness = 3,
Tag = data.Id
overlay.Content = e;
overlay.GeoCoordinate = coord;
// Now, switch them out.
int numToReplace = Math.Min(indicesToRemove.Count, overlaysToAdd.Count);
for (int i = 0; i < numToReplace; ++i)
_pinLayer[indicesToRemove[i]] = overlaysToAdd[i];
if (indicesToRemove.Count > numToReplace)
int offset = 0;
// We know that indicesToRemove is sorted
for (int i = numToReplace; i < indicesToRemove.Count; ++i)
_pinLayer.RemoveAt(indicesToRemove[i] - offset);
offset += 1;
else if (overlaysToAdd.Count > numToReplace)
for (int i = numToReplace; i < overlaysToAdd.Count; ++i)
_lastUpdatedTopLeft = null;
_lastUpdatedBottomRight = null;
_lastPinColorType = null;


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: 3D printed food and airway splints!, full scale lego X-Wing
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-05-24 14:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 146

- The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food - oh man I hope this happens! There's a video of a chocolate printer, which is as delicious as it sounds.

- Doctors Save Ohio Boy By ‘Printing’ An Airway Tube - wow. The future is getting closer!

- Cleared of Charges of Setting Off a School Explosion, Florida Honor Student Heads to Space Camp - I do like stories with largely happy endings! (only "largely" because she's still suspended from school...)

- This Incredible Full Scale Lego X-Wing Is the Largest Model In History - obvious geek link bait, but it is pretty awesome. And the engines glow!

- The Steve Jobs emails that show how to win a hard-nosed negotiation - be in a strong position and don't budge. (optionally: be Steve Jobs)

- Surprise! Mozilla can produce near-native performance on the Web - a detailed look at asm.js, which is an extremely cool idea.


Minnesota passes same-sex marriage
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-05-14 13:10:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 101

That makes three states (with Rhode Island and Delaware) in the past few weeks - the map will be getting bluer in July and August!

I was going to write something about how remarkable it was that just two years ago the Minnesota legislature passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, although it was defeated at the polls 53-47% last year. But it turns out both the amendment and the same-sex marriage bill votes were largely along party lines - the difference is that the House and Senate went from being controlled by the Republicans to the Democrats in the 2012 election. So...yeah.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-03-24 22:00:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 628

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My friend Dan Hedges dubbed this category of books as "neurotrash", which I think is an excellent term. And yet, I keep reading and enjoying them, and I enjoyed this one more than most.

The gist of the book is that although the American ideal seems to be a friendly, extroverted person, introverts have a lot to offer. Here are some things I found interesting:

- The definition of an introvert is a bit fuzzy. Generally, introverts prefer less stimulation than extroverts, tend to work more slowly and deliberately, and enjoy having fewer, but closer, friends. They also need time alone to recharge, as opposed to extroverts who recharge by being around people.

I was pretty sure that I was an introvert before reading the book, and that's still the case. I do enjoy going out a little more than some others I know, and I enjoy traveling and meeting people, but only if there's a well-defined relationship between us. For example: going to NI events is good, because I can talk about LabVIEW with people and ask how they use it. Going to a bar is bad, because I don't know what on earth to talk about. (I am also extremely conflict-averse, another introverted trait)

- The book covers a lot of studies where introverts can be more effective than extroverts. One showed that it seems that introverts are better leaders when the people they're leading are initiative-takers, because they tend to be better listeners.

- I've read this before, but: group brainstorming is less effective than individual brainstorming. One reason is the fear of public humiliation, even if you try to defuse that by saying "all ideas are good ideas", etc. Interestingly, online brainstorming seems to work the best of all.

- The book talked about the study where if a person is in a group with three other actors, and the group is asked a question and the actors answer deliberately incorrectly, the person is more likely to give the wrong answer. (in one version, the person gave the correct answer 95% of the time when there were no actors, but only 25% of the time if all the actors confidently gave the wrong answer!) They then did a followup with an fMRI machine to try to figure out whether the people were knowingly giving wrong answers because of peer pressure, or whether their perception was actually being altered...and it seems like their perception was being altered! Crazy.

- Babies who are "high-reactive" (who react more strongly to new sights and sounds) tend to grow up to become introverts.

- A helpful tip for introverts and extroverts is to try to find your sweet spot for how much stimulation you like, and work to stay near it. Just keeping in mind that you have a sweet spot is helpful.

- It seems like what makes an extrovert an extrovert is a tendency to seek rewards (economic, political, hedonistic), because they experience more pleasure and excitement than introverts do. They get an extra buzz from achieving their goals.

- A study found that men who are shown erotic pictures just before they gamble took more risks than those shown neutral pictures. This surprises me not at all. (the lesson is: when making a big decision...don't look at erotic pictures?)

- It's a good idea to create "restorative niches" for yourself where you can relax and be yourself. (these can be physical places or specific times throughout the day)

- In general, introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts, while extroverts prefer those they're in competition with.


I enjoyed the book a lot and would recommend it if you're into neurotrash! :-)

View all my reviews

1 comment

Windows Phone: writing a pinch and zoom image control
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-02-10 22:20:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 989

When I was working on FlightPredictor and was working on showing airport maps, I was surprised there was no builtin "pinch and zoom image control" in the Windows Phone SDK. (to be fair, there wasn't one in Android either, and I'm not sure about iOS) So I had to implement my own, with some help from the Internet.

If I were doing this today, I'd just use the PanAndZoom control from Telerik's RadControls for Windows Phone. (which comes with the Nokia Premium Developer Program! Just sayin') But I did go through the trouble to implement it, so hopefully it will help someone out. Ed: another good solution is the SharpGIS ImageViewer - I haven't tried it, but it looks like it works well and you don't have to type in a bunch of code :-)

To see an example of how this works, you can download a trial version of FlightPredictor, download the airport maps and then play with them. This code supports pinching to zoom, panning, a maximum zoom level, and double-tap to zoom in or out.

XAML code
Here's the relevant part of the XAML:

<Image x:Name="MapImage" Stretch="Uniform"
RenderTransformOrigin="0,0" CacheMode="BitmapCache"
ScaleX="1" ScaleY="1"
TranslateX="0" TranslateY="0"/>

Note that the GestureListener is from the Windows Phone Toolkit, which is a (free!) must-have. It also requires you to have this inside the PhoneApplicationPage XML element:


C# code
First, some variables to declare in your PhoneApplicationPage:

private bool _needToUpdateMaxZoom = false;
private int _imageHeight = 0;
private int _imageWidth = 0;
// Reference
// these two fields fully define the zoom state:
private double _totalImageScale = 1.0;
private Point _imagePosition = new Point(0, 0);

private double _maxImageZoom = 1;
private Point _oldFinger1;
private Point _oldFinger2;
private double _oldScaleFactor;

Now you need to get a BitmapImage containing the image to display. How you do this depends on where you're getting the image from, but here's how I do it for files stored in IsolatedStorage:

byte[] data;

// Read the entire image in one go into a byte array
using (IsolatedStorageFile isf = IsolatedStorageFile.GetUserStoreForApplication())
// Open the file - error handling omitted for brevity
// Note: If the image does not exist in isolated storage
// the following exception will be generated:
// System.IO.IsolatedStorage.IsolatedStorageException was unhandled
// Message=Operation not permitted on IsolatedStorageFileStream
using (IsolatedStorageFileStream isfs = isf.OpenFile("/airportMaps/" +
info.Url, FileMode.Open, FileAccess.Read))
// Allocate an array large enough for the entire file
data = new byte[isfs.Length];

// Read the entire file and then close it
isfs.Read(data, 0, data.Length);

// Create memory stream and bitmap
MemoryStream ms = new MemoryStream(data);
BitmapImage bi = new BitmapImage();

// Set bitmap source to memory stream

After you've set up your BitmapImage, add the following code right afterwards:

_imageHeight = bi.PixelHeight;
_imageWidth = bi.PixelWidth;
_imagePosition = new Point(0, 0);
_totalImageScale = 1;

// set max zoom in
if (MapImage.ActualWidth == 0.0 || MapImage.ActualHeight == 0.0)
_needToUpdateMaxZoom = true;
UpdateImagePosition(new Point(0, 0));

// Assign the bitmap image to the image’s source
MapImage.Source = bi;

Now, all that's left is to implement the GestureListener events, as well as a few utility methods:

private void MapImage_SizeChanged(object sender, SizeChangedEventArgs e)
if (_needToUpdateMaxZoom)
if (MapImage.ActualHeight != 0.0 && MapImage.ActualWidth != 0.0)

private void UpdateMaxZoom()
// this is already stretched, so this gets tricky
_maxImageZoom = Math.Min(_imageHeight / MapImage.ActualHeight,
_imageWidth / MapImage.ActualWidth);
_maxImageZoom *= Math.Max(1.0,
Math.Max(_imageHeight / MapImage.ActualHeight, _imageWidth / MapImage.ActualWidth));
const double MAX_ZOOM_FACTOR = 2;
_maxImageZoom *= MAX_ZOOM_FACTOR;
_maxImageZoom = Math.Max(1.0, _maxImageZoom);
_needToUpdateMaxZoom = false;
UpdateImagePosition(new Point(0, 0));

private void GestureListener_PinchStarted(object sender, PinchStartedGestureEventArgs e)
_oldFinger1 = e.GetPosition(MapImage, 0);
_oldFinger2 = e.GetPosition(MapImage, 1);
_oldScaleFactor = 1;

private void GestureListener_PinchDelta(object sender, PinchGestureEventArgs e)
var scaleFactor = e.DistanceRatio / _oldScaleFactor;
if (!IsScaleValid(scaleFactor))

var currentFinger1 = e.GetPosition(MapImage, 0);
var currentFinger2 = e.GetPosition(MapImage, 1);

var translationDelta = GetTranslationDelta(currentFinger1, currentFinger2,
_oldFinger1, _oldFinger2, _imagePosition, scaleFactor);

_oldFinger1 = currentFinger1;
_oldFinger2 = currentFinger2;
_oldScaleFactor = e.DistanceRatio;


private void GestureListener_DragDelta(object sender, DragDeltaGestureEventArgs e)
var translationDelta = new Point(e.HorizontalChange, e.VerticalChange);

if (IsDragValid(1, translationDelta))

private void GestureListener_DoubleTap(object sender, Microsoft.Phone.Controls.GestureEventArgs e)
if (Math.Abs(_totalImageScale - 1) < .0001)
const double DOUBLE_TAP_ZOOM_IN = 3;
double imageScale = Math.Min(DOUBLE_TAP_ZOOM_IN, _maxImageZoom);

Point imagePositionTapped = e.GetPosition(MapImage);
// we want this point to be centered.
double x = imagePositionTapped.X * imageScale - (MapImage.ActualWidth / 2);
double y = imagePositionTapped.Y * imageScale - (MapImage.ActualHeight / 2);
Point imageDelta = new Point(-1*x, -1*y);
// FFV - animation?

private Point GetTranslationDelta(Point currentFinger1, Point currentFinger2,
Point oldFinger1, Point oldFinger2, Point currentPosition, double scaleFactor)
var newPos1 = new Point(currentFinger1.X + (currentPosition.X - oldFinger1.X) * scaleFactor,
currentFinger1.Y + (currentPosition.Y - oldFinger1.Y) * scaleFactor);
var newPos2 = new Point(currentFinger2.X + (currentPosition.X - oldFinger2.X) * scaleFactor,
currentFinger2.Y + (currentPosition.Y - oldFinger2.Y) * scaleFactor);
var newPos = new Point((newPos1.X + newPos2.X) / 2, (newPos1.Y + newPos2.Y) / 2);
return new Point(newPos.X - currentPosition.X, newPos.Y - currentPosition.Y);

private void UpdateImageScale(double scaleFactor)
_totalImageScale *= scaleFactor;

private void ApplyScale()
((CompositeTransform)MapImage.RenderTransform).ScaleX = _totalImageScale;
((CompositeTransform)MapImage.RenderTransform).ScaleY = _totalImageScale;

private void UpdateImagePosition(Point delta)
var newPosition = new Point(_imagePosition.X + delta.X, _imagePosition.Y + delta.Y);
if (newPosition.X > 0) newPosition.X = 0;
if (newPosition.Y > 0) newPosition.Y = 0;

if ((MapImage.ActualWidth * _totalImageScale) + newPosition.X < MapImage.ActualWidth)
newPosition.X = MapImage.ActualWidth - (MapImage.ActualWidth * _totalImageScale);

if ((MapImage.ActualHeight * _totalImageScale) + newPosition.Y < MapImage.ActualHeight)
newPosition.Y = MapImage.ActualHeight - (MapImage.ActualHeight * _totalImageScale);

_imagePosition = newPosition;


private void ApplyPosition()
((CompositeTransform)MapImage.RenderTransform).TranslateX = _imagePosition.X;
((CompositeTransform)MapImage.RenderTransform).TranslateY = _imagePosition.Y;

private void ResetImagePosition()
_totalImageScale = 1;
_imagePosition = new Point(0, 0);

private bool IsDragValid(double scaleDelta, Point translateDelta)
if (_imagePosition.X + translateDelta.X > 0 || _imagePosition.Y + translateDelta.Y > 0)
return false;
if ((MapImage.ActualWidth * _totalImageScale * scaleDelta) +
(_imagePosition.X + translateDelta.X) < MapImage.ActualWidth)
return false;
if ((MapImage.ActualHeight * _totalImageScale * scaleDelta) +
(_imagePosition.Y + translateDelta.Y) < MapImage.ActualHeight)
return false;
return true;

private bool IsScaleValid(double scaleDelta)
return (_totalImageScale * scaleDelta >= 1) &&
(_totalImageScale * scaleDelta <= _maxImageZoom);

and that's it! Some things you can tweak:
- The maximum you can zoom in is 2x of the original image size. You can change this by modifying MAX_ZOOM_FACTOR in UpdateMaxZoom().
- When you double-tap on the image, if it's currently zoomed out it zooms in to 3x. You can change this by modifying DOUBLE_TAP_ZOOM_IN in GestureListener_DoubleTap.

I'm also not entirely sure the math is right in various places, but it works well enough on the size of images I tend to deal with. It would also be nice to add inertial scrolling...

Hope this is helpful! I took a lot of this code from this blog post.


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Know Your States now available for Windows Phone!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-01-18 11:32:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
Words: 20

Know Your States, the non-award winning app from the AT&T Dev Hackathon, is now available on the Windows Phone Store!


O'Reilly books 50% off - good Windows Phone 8 book available!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-11-26 13:24:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 49

O'Reilly is having a big Cyber Monday sale today - everything's 50% off! I'd recommend Windows® Phone 8 Development Internals - it's still a "preview", but if you buy it now you get access to the full book when it's done. I've read the preview and so far it's quite good.


Italy recap: Day 8 (Arrive in Florence, Galileo Museum)
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-10-09 22:23:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 365

(click for more)

Sunday 9:30 PM
We're in Florence! This morning we ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and made our way to Termini (the train station) with all of our luggage. Luckily David had packed an extra duffel bag - we've already gotten a lot of souveniers! - but it's a bit of a pain to move it all around. We had plenty of time to walk around and get lunch, then we got on our train. It was a little crowded but the ride was very smooth, and it was an express so we got to Florence in an hour and a half. We walked to our hotel and after a few tense moments where they couldn't find our reservation (ack!), we got our room. The room is very nice (there's a fresco above the bed!) but sadly the TV channels are still poor and there's no WiFi in the room (although there is in the lobby).

We were also planning to do laundry here, but instead of a laundry room they have a laundry service with the ridiculous prices you would expect of such a thing. So, we will *ahem* make do.

After unpacking for a bit we decided to walk over to the Galileo Museum. The center of Florence is very compact, so I think we're going to get by without using the bus, except for maybe some gardens that are south of the river. The museum is about as far away as anything from our hotel and it's only around a mile. (although: walking a mile, then walking around a museum, then walking a mile back can still be tiring!) We had around an hour before the museum closed and spent it all - there were a lot of cool old instruments and informative video demonstrations of how they worked. Definitely worth the trip!

Afterwards we had dinner nearby, walked back to our hotel and are now on our nightly tea run. Florence is definitely a smaller city (around 450K compared to Rome's 4.5 million) and a lot of stuff seems to close earlier, although that could also be because it's Sunday night. So we got gelato earlier, just to be safe!


Marriage Map now available for Windows 8!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-08-29 10:38:00
Tags: windows projects
Words: 39

My same-sex marriage map is now available on the Windows Store!

This is my third app in the Windows Store, and given that there are now ~650 apps on the Windows Store, just under 0.5% of them are mine :-)


David at the circus
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-08-26 13:44:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 0


Popular Crime review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-07-13 23:15:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 492

Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of ViolencePopular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence by Bill James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read any "true crime" books before, but I downloaded a sample because: hey, Bill James! I bought the book because in the sample he talked about why it's considered somewhat uncivilized to be interested in crimes covered by the media. He sort of defends the practice by saying a lot of them raise real issues about our criminal justice system, and it was kind of convincing. There's also the fact that a) James is an entertaining writer, and b) there's something that appeals to me about hearing the story of what really happened in these cases given what we know now. James isn't shy about saying what he thinks really happened (or at least whether there was enough evidence to convict), and that appeals to me.

So, most of the book is a series of "famous crimes" in the US, starting with Elma Sands in 1799 all the way up to OJ and JonBenet Ramsey. (by a "series" I mean he easily covers more than 50) Along the way, he'll also stop to comment about related topics like the success rate of the judicial system, the evolution of the legal system, and why arguing someone had motive, means, and opportunity is not even close to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of convictions.

Two of the more interesting asides were:
- Showing his true stat-nerd colors (God bless him!), he proposes a mathematical system to evaluate the evidence against a defendant. He comes up with a fairly reasonable system where each piece of evidence gets a weight, presumably normalized by its type, like "defendant bore malice towards the victim" or "defendant was untruthful in describing events around the time of the crime". You then discount how unproven and irrelevant it is, add all the values up, and see if you get to 100.
- He proposes a grand idea for prison reform, making a lot of prisons that only hold (say) 24 inmates, and each prison has a "level" between one and ten, corresponding to the privileges prisoners get. (Level one is like a Supermax, and level ten is really more like a halfway house than a prison)

Other interesting bits:
- I didn't know anything about Lizzie Borden's case, but she was totally innocent. Neat!
- The story of William Goebel was pretty interesting - James says that his assassination may have prevented a Kentuckian civil war!
- He talks about the murder of William Marsh Rice - yay!
- Earl Rogers was the real-life model for Perry Mason!
- There's a long section on JonBenet Ramsey, and despite the fact that the police and DA bungled the investigation so badly, the parents were almost certainly innocent.

I don't think I'm going to get into true crime books much more, although I may seek out more Bill James books - his writing style really livens up the book!

View all my reviews


Penguin pictures!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-05-14 13:55:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 15

We saw a penguin at SeaWorld! Here is proof:

(and yes, the penguin is adorable!)

1 comment

Imagine: How Creativity Works review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-05-13 22:08:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 525

Imagine: How Creativity WorksImagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book! It's all about creativity, how it works, and how you can become more creative. It's very much in the style I like, where they talk about a lot of different studies and case studies, and try to make sense of it all. So, some interesting things:

- Daydreaming is important for creativity - one important function seems to be to search for relationships and notice new connections. People who consistently daydream more score higher on measures of creativity. But the trick is to be aware that you're daydreaming - if you unconsciously daydream, the creative thoughts will be lost.

- On the other hand, being able to be focused and persistent is important after you have an initial inspiration. Apparently having depression "helps" one persevere. And having bipolar disorder is doubly "helpful" - during the manic stages you can erupt with new ideas, and you can polish them during the depressions. In one study, ~40% of the successful creative people had bipolar disorder, which is twenty times higher than the general population.

- Some problems require a flash of insight to be solved (see: daydreaming), and others don't and just require hard work. It's important to know what kinds of problems are which, and it turns out we're relatively good at telling whether we're making progress or not.

- Like daydreams, dreams are also an important source of creativity. In one study they gave students a task to do, which had an elegant shortcut that required insight to see. 20 percent of the control group got the shortcut, even when given several hours thinking about it, but 60 percent of those who slept and went into REM sleep found the shortcut.

- Changing one's environment seems to help creativity - traveling is especially good for this. But it doesn't even take that much - in one study one group was told a particular task (listing as many modes of transportation as possible) was conceived by people at Indiana University (which they attended), while another was told it was from Indiana students studying abroad in Greece. The second group came up with significantly more possibilities!

- Brainstorming (having a group come up with ideas with no one allowed to criticize any) doesn't really work to stimulate creativity. It's even worse than just having one person come up with ideas on her own! Encouraging people to honestly discuss mistakes/bad ideas is the way to go. Another trick is to deliberately give a bad idea to get people out of their comfort zone.

- Urban environments are good for cross-pollinating ideas. And Austin is specifically called out as being more creative (at least in patents per capita) than Houston. Bam!

- "Weak ties" (i.e. not close friends) are essential for creativity - the more you have and the more diverse they are, the better. (advantage: extroverts?)

- There's no substitute for face-to-face contact when it comes to generating ideas - in one study groups that met in person were able to solve a task quickly, while groups that were only allowed to communicate with email and IM weren't able to solve it.

View all my reviews


bonus links: xkcd april fools, programming stuff, other stuff
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-04-02 13:57:00
Tags: links
Words: 225

- If you missed xkcd's April Fools comic yesterday, you should check it out. Here's the reddit thread with details.

Programming-type stuff:
- An article about being careful how you handle NaN keys in hashtables - his solution is to add randomness to the hash function!
- A discussion of the infamous Girls Near Me app and how the problem is not the app, but having all of that data in one easily-accessible place. Privacy is fast becoming a thing of the past....
- API Design is UI for Developers - as someone who often has to use APIs, there's some goooood stuff there!
- For Windows Phone 7, Back means back. Not forwards, not sideways, but back. Being able to go "back" between applications was a bit weird at first, but I think I like it now and it's mostly consistent.

Random links that got orphaned and now have a home:
- 'What to do with Astrodome?' - hopefully something awesome! It's a neat building.
- A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney - I laughed at the Feynman diagram :-)
- (I was going to put a link here about how Rick Santorum wants to make pornography illegal, but we've all agreed Mitt Romney's going to win the nomination now, right? Right.)
- For the Prosecution, Justice Clarence Thomas
- Why is health care expensive in the US? Well, for starters, our prices are much higher than other countries'.


FlightPredictor for WP7 gets reviewed! (twice!)
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-03-23 11:51:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
Words: 165

After releasing FlightPredictor for WP7 earlier this week, it's gotten some nice reviews!

All About Windows Phone reviewed it on Wednesday, and today I woke up to find a wpcentral review of it, including a video review where George Ponder had lots of nice things to say about it. Hooray!

If I had two wishes (and they had to be FlightPredictor-related), they would be:
- getting some good reviews on the Marketplace. Right now it doesn't have any ratings, and I'm always super anxious to get one good one. I think this is a big reason that FlightPredictor for Android is doing reasonably well - it now has 7 5-star ratings!
- getting chosen for the [Your App Here] advertising campaign with Nokia & Microsoft. Because the app is US-only, I think I have even longer odds of this than I would normally; but the Lumia 900 is supposed to be coming out next month and it sounds like Nokia will be promoting it extensively, so who knows?


The Emperor of All Maladies review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-02-04 19:59:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 82

The Emperor of All MaladiesThe Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book. I wasn't particularly interested in the history of cancer before reading the book, but the book is very well-written and held my interest all the way through. (not an easy task, given its length!) It's a story of many ups and downs (mostly downs), but it sounds like there's a reasonable amount of hope for the future. Highly recommended!

View all my reviews


#FitBit review (and my health goals)
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-01-09 11:58:00
Tags: reviews
Words: 484

I got a FitBit for Christmas! I've been wearing it for almost two weeks, so I thought I'd write up my impressions so far.

How it works: The short version is that it's a pedometer with Bluetooth, so it automatically syncs your data to the FitBit website. (it stores your data on the device for up to 7 days, so as long as you sync it before then it will maintain the data at 5 minute intervals) It also measures floors climbed (apparently there's a tiny barometer inside: neat!), and, in my informal testing, does a good job of accurately counting steps and measuring distance.

The device itself is tiny and cute, and has a small OLED display (works well except in direct sunlight) where you can cycle through steps, distance, floors climbed, calories burned, the current time, and your current "activity score" (in the form of a flower), which measures how active you've been over the last hour or so. It comes with a belt clip, which is convenient.

My goals: The website does a good job of gamefying exercise - you get badges for number of steps per day and total, and the same thing for number of floors climbed. Here's my public profile, and you can also keep track of how friends are doing and such.

I'm sticking with the fairly standard goal of 10,000 steps per day (or really 70,000 steps per week) which is high enough that I have to go out of my way to get it, but not so much that it feels impossible to do on a regular basis.

To help, I've come up with some checkpoints throughout the day - 1000 steps by the time I get to work, 3000 steps when I get back from lunch, 6000 steps after my afternoon walk, 7000-7500 when it's time to leave work. That still means I have to take breaks during the day and walk around the floor, etc, but it's not a crazy amount all at once, and keeps me from worrying about it too much; as long as I hit the checkpoints I'm on track.

Incidentally, this is usually a fair bit harder on the weekends unless we're running a ton of errands or something. (grocery shopping is particularly step-friendly :-) )

Results: It's still early, but I did my first 70,000 step week last week, and have been at (or very close to) 10,000 steps every day. So: success so far, but the tricky part will be maintaining this throughout the year.

I think I'm going to try this by worrying a bit less about my weight. I would like to lose some weight, but all the recent articles showing how hard that is have left me a bit wary of that goal. So even if I don't lose weight, being active every day in a quantifiable way will still improve my health. We'll see how it goes!


Willpower review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-10-04 14:15:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 818

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human StrengthWillpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of this book. The authors (one research psychologist and one science writer for the New York Times) start by describing the famous marshmallow experiment (kids who were able to resist eating a marshmallow were generally more successful in life) and say that willpower is one of the only traits that corresponds well to success (the other is IQ, which we don't really know how to improve).

Willpower is an idea that was very popular in the Victorian era, but in more recent times has fallen by the wayside. But a series of experiments have shown the following fascinating things:
- When you start the day, you have a finite amount of willpower, and it can be used up. Students who were told to eat radishes instead of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies (and were left alone with the cookies for a while...what a cruel experiment!) were less persistent in a standard task (working on an impossible problem) than the students that were allowed to eat the cookies.
- Suppressing emotions (when watching a sad movie, for example) has a similar effect of draining willpower.
- But, eating food or raising your glucose level can replenish your willpower. Similarly, people who have used up their willpower show lower glucose levels.

Another random thing the book mentions - doing the Stroop task (saying the color that a word is printed in, rather than reading the word of a different color) for words in Russian was used during the Cold War to try to find covert agents who claimed to not speak Russian. If you don't know the language the words are printed in, the task isn't hard at all, but if you do you're generally slower. Nifty!

Making choices also drains willpower. Interestingly, it seems that weighing options and looking at pros and cons doesn't drain willpower nearly as much as the action of making a decision. When your willpower is low, you'll tend to take the recommended option, or decide on one dimension alone. ("Just give me the cheapest!")

To develop willpower in children, it's important to punish them when they do something wrong - the harshness of the punishment doesn't matter much, but consistency and the delay between the bad action and the punishment are very important.

There's also a chapter on dieting, which is very difficult because willpower is driven by glucose in your bloodstream! They did mention two interesting things:
- The "what the hell" effect is common in dieters, where if you've already gone over your calorie limit (or whatever) for the day, you'll tend to indulge more since you've already "failed". Of course, this is massively counterproductive.
- Seeing a treat and saying "no, I won't have this" is draining of willpower. But saying "I can have this, but later" doesn't drain it as much, and when "later" rolls around you're less likely to actually eat it.

Finally, some tips for increasing willpower: doing certain kinds of exercises can help. For example, reminding yourself to sit up straight, or recording everything you eat in a food diary have been shown to increase willpower stamina. The key point is that you're trying to change a habitual behavior. And it seems to be the case that you only have one type of willpower, so working on posture, for example, should help you resist other kinds of temptations better.

The book covers a bunch of different facets of willpower, and so it can feel a little disjointed from chapter to chapter, but I didn't mind since they were all pretty interesting. It also looks at some celebrity examples - David Blaine, for example, has tremendous willpower (when it comes to his stunts, anyway), and Drew Carey hired David Allen to personally come help him use the Getting Things Done system.

Some closing tips:
- Watch for the symptoms of "willpower depletion" - they're a little hard to spot, but a big one is "emotional volume". If your emotions are more intense than usual (e.g. being unnaturally upset at trivialities), that's a good sign to try to avoid making any binding decisions.
- If you're trying to make changes in your life, make them gradually, and don't try to do more than one at a time - you're more likely to fail at them all.
- When working on a goal, monitoring is very important, as is rewarding yourself when you reach milestones. There's an interesting mention of a group called the Quantified Self who are interested in automated monitoring of their body - pedometers, FitBit, and the like. Sounds right up my alley - I should check them out!

As I said, this is a very interesting book - I took notes and left around half of them out of this review because there was so much good stuff! I got a paper copy, so it's available for borrowing.

View all my reviews


Happy DADT Repeal Day!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-09-20 11:20:00
Tags: gay
Words: 86

The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell goes into effect today. Hooray!

On that topic: The Last Closet is a good overview of where we are in terms of gay athletes in professional sports. There are still no openly gay people in the major pro sports leagues in the US, but it sounds like things are much friendlier than they used to be, and things are changing quickly. (and the implication is that there are people that are out to their team but not the world)

1 comment

pouring good news
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-08-01 13:41:00
Tags: palmpre work
Words: 79

Last week was a shower of good news!

- I got promoted at work! Now I'm a Senior Software Engineer, which doesn't translate into anything different on a day-to-day basis. But I'm still excited :-)

- I am now officially a webOS Black Belt developer! Looks like I get some nice marketing material for my webOS apps, as well as a hefty discount on developer devices.

- (good news #3 is embargoed for now, but hopefully I'll get to talk about it soon...)


Same-sex marriage in NY passes!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-06-27 16:26:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 91

It passed the New York State Senate by a vote of 33-29, Governor Cuomo signed it that evening, and the Empire State Building turned rainbow. And the map gets updated! (NY will turn blue when the bill takes effect in 30 days)

A few links about it:
- NY Times article
- Nate Silver contrasts Cuomo with Obama and why some are not too happy with Obama these days.
- NY Times "inside baseball" story about getting the bill passed where it becomes clear that the governor was heavily involved in making this happen.


Deadwood and Osama bin Laden
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-05-06 18:35:00
Tags: links
Words: 73

- As part of Cheapass Games's grand reopening, they've released a major revamp of Deadwood. I found the article that discussed the redesign and reasons behind it fascinating!

- So, we killed Osama bin Laden. Yay! The New York Times did a neat infographic about people's responses in a 2D grid - one axis is emotional response (negative vs. positive) and the other is how big an impact it will have in the war on terror.


Palm developer session
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-05-03 11:12:00
Tags: pictures palm travel
Words: 399

I just got back from a Palm developer session and had a blast! Details below...

Pictures from the trip and from Easter are here:

I arrived Wednesday night late and took a cab to the hotel (the Best Western Silicon Valley) which was a little plain but comfortable enough. Except they had a coffee maker in the room with no tea bags! Should have brought along my own like David suggested...

The hotel was under a mile from Palm HQ, so the next morning I packed up my laptop (which has since died - thank goodness it survived the trip!) and walked. The morning was a few sessions and the afternoon was just a time to work on your app with a bunch of Palm people around and available to help. Oh, and I got to play with a TouchPad, which (I believe this is all I can say) is awesome!

As with last year I forced myself to be sociable and was pretty successful - met a few folks I had only chatted with online and some other fellow developers. Going from the outside world to a place where everyone is excited about webOS feels like culture shock, and there's a real sense of camaraderie among we developers.

Thursday afternoon and Friday was all coding time, so I got a lot of stuff done. I also learned about censored, and I might be censored and censored!

Saturday I decided to find a better way back to the airport, which meant walking 1.3 miles (with luggage) to the Sunnyvale Caltrain station. Had some extra time so I walked around the Sunnyvale farmer's market and bought a book (since the trip cost to the airport was $4.50 vs. $40 for the cab, I felt I had earned it!) I stopped in two shops and both people asked about my Scottish Rite shirt, leading me to conclude that residents of Sunnyvale (Sunnyvalians?) are big fans of children's theatre!

Made it to the airport way early and walked around a lot. The airport is big, but my reward was a neat gizmo-like machine at the end of Terminal A:

Also got a blueberry muffin (at Pai's recommendation) and finally got to try airport sushi, which was actually in this case quite good! I also stopped in a store, idly looking for headphones, which ranged in price from $15 to (I kid you not) $500!

1 comment

birthday links!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-04-20 16:07:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 80

- Nate Silver says: Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority. Yay! (although older people are more likely to oppose gay marriage and more likely to vote, so...yeah.)

- This is a little depressing, but a little freeing: The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything

- British Spy Secrets Still Much Cooler Than American Spy Secrets

- The Creativity Killer: Group Discussions - not always true, but often true it seems. Has some interesting suggestions for making group discussions more creative.


Queen! (and me)
Mood: happy
Music: Queen - "Radio GaGa"
Posted on 2011-04-15 13:58:00
Tags: music
Words: 110

Jonathan and I went to the Queen Sing-along last night at the Alamo Drafthouse, hosted by The Action Pack. It was awesome! Watching Freddie Mercury singing Radio GaGa at Live Aid really demonstrated how great a live performer he was.

Also, his voice was amazing. And his range, ridiculous! I think my throat was more sore than after the Michael Jackson singalong, which is saying something. (wow, that was 6 years ago?? I feel old....)

More Queen videos:
Under Pressure live at Wembley
Queen did the theme song for Flash Gordon! That is something I did not know.


In unrelated news, I'm in an internet video! Presumably more to come...


new work background!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-04-11 12:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 150

- My old background was the pretty Facebook friends map of the world. But I have found something even more awesome: Trexels! (or: pixel versions of 200+ Star Trek characters) Gotta catch them all!

- A top official of the National Organization for Marriage now believes in civil marriage equality.

- Ah, Mississippi, where 46% of Republicans think interracial marriage should be illegal, while 40% say it should be legal.

- The government didn't shut down - yay! Now there might be a big fight over raising the debt limit, but Nate Silver points out John Boehner doesn't have a great hand to play. Defaulting on our debts would be even more catastrophic financially than the government shutting down, so hopefully we can not do the same wait-until-the-last-minute type of strategy and move on to other things. Apparently Obama's working on a plan to reduce our debt that is hopefully less crazy than the Republican's.


23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism review
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-03-26 19:36:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 173

I recently finished 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. I was expecting it to be how dreadfully awful capitalism is. (these kinds of books depress me)

Instead, its main point was that capitalism is the best system (certainly compared with all the others we've tried) but making it extremely "free market" makes it worse, not better. The 23 things include "Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer" (trickle-down economics doesn't really work), "We are not smart enough to leave things to the market" (think subprime mortgage crisis), and "Big government makes people more open to change". (you're more likely to take a chance starting a business if you don't have to rely on your current job for health insurance, etc.) The arguments are generally well supported, or at least "well supported" as far as economics is concerned. (burn! But that's what you get for small sample sizes...)

Anyway, I enjoyed it and it was a pretty quick read. It's a physical book and so available for borrowing.

1 comment

Another new webOS app: Private Browser
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-02-22 13:24:00
Tags: palmpre projects
Words: 50

As promised, I have another new webOS app, Private Browser, that's out today! It lets you keep your browsing history private and save bookmarks that are protected behind a password. Here's a short video overview - I did it on the first take, so forgive the awkward pause near the end...


pretty cool link friday
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-12-03 11:38:00
Tags: links
Words: 149

- Striking RC plane video of NYC, including closeups of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. Best of all, no one was arrested!

- A very detailed post on Pac-Man ghost behavior, including the description of a bug. I found the description of the ghosts' "personality" interesting.

- Beautiful HTML5 ad for a iPhone app - scroll down!

- The Daily Show slams John McCain for supporting Don't Ask Don't Tell. Honestly, I've lost all respect for John McCain. If you're always and forever going to support Don't Ask Don't Tell, just say so, instead of constantly changing your story to hide behind another very thin line of reasoning.

- 23 and me is having a big sale, although apparently now you have to sign up for a subscription service ($5/month sounds pretty reasonable though).

- Bruce Schneier says we should close the Washington Monument as a symbol of how much we've overreacted to terrorism.


Built to Last
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-10-23 15:29:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 706

On a whim, I picked up Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials) at an airport bookstore. I had heard the name of it before, and it was better than I expected. (I'm also a bit of a sucker for business books)

The idea of the book is to examine "visionary" companies (premier in their industry, widely admired, etc.) and try to figure out what makes them different. So the first step is to identify visionary companies, which they did by sending out a survey to top CEOs. (they also set an arbitrary cutoff of founding before 1950) So they ended up with a list like 3M, GE, HP, Proctor & Gamble, Boeing, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Philip Morris, etc. Then they searched for comparison companies in the same industry that were founded at a similar time and were successful but not "visionary". So HP got compared with Texas Instruments, Disney was paired up with Columbia, GE was paired up with Westinghouse, etc. Then with these comparisons, they looked for patterns to see what was different.

Their findings were interesting: a "great idea" at a company's founding isn't necessary, or even early success. You don't need a great or charismatic visionary leader for a visionary company. The visionary companies did not play it safe. And so on.

Then the book distills these down into what it takes to have a visionary company. The biggest thing is that a visionary company needs a fixed core ideology and a clear vision. By this they don't mean just having a vision statement, but having a purpose (beyond "make money") that is widely recognized and taken seriously within the company. For example, Sony was founded with a "pioneer spirit" (and the idea of raising the reputation of Japanese electronics - Sony was founded right after World War II), HP was founded to provide something that is unique and to make technical contributions, Johnson and Johnson focuses on aiding the "art of healing", Philip Morris focuses on freedom of choice and "the right to smoke".

This was probably the most interesting part of the book for me. Learning about companies core beliefs (especially compared to a lot of the comparison companies which boiled down to "make money") was actually kind of inspiring.

The book goes out of the way to point out that there's no "right" vision, but just that having one that is authentic and guides decision making is what seems to matter. Some companies focused on customers, some on employees, some on their products or services, some on risk taking, and some on innovation. Again, just having a vision statement is not enough.

The rest of the book talks about other things that the visionary companies tend to do. One is "Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress", meaning always remain true to your core values, but don't be afraid to try different non-core things. Similarly, "making a profit" can't really be a core value, but you can't ignore it either. (this is the "Genius of the AND") Another is trying a lot of stuff and keeping what works. Yet another is home grown management which seems highly correlated with being a visionary company - that way your upper management has spent a lot of time in the company and learning and internalizing its values.

The authors spent a great deal of time on their methodology and trying to make sure that this was a scientific(ish) study. Ideally we would examine two companies that were founded at the same time, one with these principles and one without, and see how they turned out. Since we can't do that, we have to examine historical data, which can lead to various biases. For example, maybe embracing these principles leads to a 99% chance of failing in the first 20 years and a 1% chance of massive visionary success. This seems like a pretty big problem, and one that the authors touched on but didn't have a very convincing argument for.

Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot, and clearly it's something that's read at National Instruments because I recognized a lot of the terms used (BHAG, Profitable Core, etc.), which was kinda neat. It's available for lending and is a fairly quick read.


San Francisco trip
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-10-13 23:37:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 653

We had a great trip to San Francisco! Here are pictures:

This time, I didn't write up every single thing we did, just when I had something to say. So:

Monday, we drove out to Fairfield to visit the Jelly Belly factory. The tour was pretty interesting - we got to walk around the factory and saw a bunch of videos about the company's history and how they make Jelly Bellies. Along the way we got to try new flavors of Jelly Bellies (honey is good!) and sample beans that had only gone through part of the process. The scale of the place was pretty impressive. Also, one of the steps is putting the beans through a "sugar shower" which sounds really tasty! The store had free samples and a ton of Jelly Belly paraphernalia. I went a little overboard...

Afterwards we played Putt-Putt. I was a little ashamed because we were very hot, but the high was only in the 80s. Later I found out the high where we were was actually 97, so we hadn't transformed into California wimps. Yay!

The cable cars were neat but a little frightening - it looked like the driver had to grip very tight on hills to keep the car moving. Also, the brakes often took two or three taps to actually stop.

The Alcatraz audio tour was very interesting - the site is still relatively well preserved. There is a very nice view of San Francisco (it's only 1.25 miles away); apparently some nights inmates could hear chatter from parties there.

Pier 39 but had a lot of neat stuff, like an amazing sock store! I got a hot tea and then spent an hour on a ridiculously overcrowded and unventilated streetcar getting home...honestly was a little afraid of fainting. (lesson learned: hot tea is a "sometimes drink")

The Muni system is...interesting. Muni is the public transit system for the city of San Francisco (i.e. not BART, not CalTrain, not any of the 10 other mass-transit options) There are four(!) types of vehicles - cable cars which run a very limited set of routes, buses, streetcars that run on rails and attach to overhead power lines, and streetcars that also go underground like a subway. This was all extremely confusing for a day or so until we mostly got the hang of it. Stops were sometimes hard to see, and the payment system is kind of arcane. For street-level things, you pay at the front when getting on, unless you have a 1/3/7-day pass. (we bought a seven-day one...and then bought me another one when I left it on a bus our first full day here. Whoops!) The passes aren't electronic, so the driver's supposed to verify that it's still valid, which of course rarely happened. In the subway, however, you have to pay cash to get into the station, unless you have a pass, in which case you just...walk through the gates. The linchpin to the system is you can be stopped at any time by a Muni cop to show proof of payment (including a timed transfer if you paid cash), but we rode a lot and never saw one.

The California Academy of Sciences was pricey, but it had a good planetarium and enclosed rainforest environment. And a good museum shop :-)

We saw a fun show called Beach Blanket Babylon. It's a musical revue of, um, pop culture and stuff. Some of their jokes were fairly groan-inducing (bordered on the whole "referencing someone in pop culture=joke" philosophy), but usually either a joke or the music was good in each scene, so that's fine. Rule of thumb: the show isn't over until the big hat comes out. No, the really big hat. Seriously - biggest hat I've ever seen. Oh, and the plot of the 100 minute show could be described in 60 seconds. Just think of it as "Family Guy with music" and you'll be fine.


Last Call
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-08-14 19:52:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 543

I just finished Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. It had some very interesting tidbits, but in the end was a bit long for me at 375 pages. Interesting stuff from it:

- Prohibition was only the second amendment to the Constitution that limited the activities of citizens (not the government) - the first was the thirteenth prohibiting slavery.

- The ship that brought John Winthrop to Massachusetts in 1630 had three times as much beer as water on it.

- In the 1820s liquor was cheaper than tea; in 1830 the average American drank the equivalent of 1.7 bottles of liquor per week. (roughly three times what the amount is today)

- Something I didn't realize was that the women's suffrage movement was connected to the Prohibition movement - women were generally against saloons so Prohibitionists wanted to give them the vote, and the suffrage movement needed the support.

- Another crazy thing was that even in the runup to Prohibition, the brewers and distillers were not allies - they argued that the other's wares were the "real" problem, not what they sold.

- The Anti-Saloon League, which was the main group that drove Prohibition, mainly consisted of racists (afraid of what blacks would do when they had alcohol), progressives (who thought banning alcohol would help the working man), suffragists, populists, and nativists (who were against alcohol because immigrants were for it).

- The tax on alcohol provided 20-40% of federal revenue. After the income tax passed, the ASL went after national prohibition.

- Best footnote ever? about Richmond Hobson:

Not that he was particularly enlightened about women in general: Hobson thought that any woman who experienced carnal desire was a "sex pervert," and attributed promiscuity to the effects of alcohol. He wasn't crazy about sexual urges in men, either, but accepted their evolutionary necessity.

- So how did Prohibition pass, anyway? The ASL was very good at getting "dry" congressmen elected. World War I brought anti-German sentiment, and most of the brewers were German. And finally, state legislatures were heavily weighted towards rural voters - "one man, one vote" was not law, and the legislatures were not reapportioned to account for the growing urban population. States like Missouri and Ohio voted in a legislature that ratified Prohibition while at the same time rejected a dry amendment to the state constitution.

- After Prohibition passed, alcohol consumption dropped to about 30% of the pre-Prohibition number, although by the end of Prohibition it was up to 60-70%.

- There were many loopholes in the law - if you bought the alcohol before Prohibition went into effect, that was legal. Altar wine for religious purposes was legal. Alcohol for medicinal purposes was legal. All of these provisions were heavily abused.

- Bootlegging was a very big industry - smuggling in from Canada was popular, as was rum running off the East Coast.

- Horatio Stoll (neat! related?) ran California Grape Grower magazine.

- Eventually, the ASL waned in influence (mostly because Wayne Wheeler died), Prohibitionists overplayed their hand by passing much harsher punishments for drinking (making it a felony), people got tired of widespread corruption and increased mob violence, and the reapportionment that didn't happen after the 1920 census finally did in 1929. (seriously, how exactly was that legal?) So Prohibition was repealed. And people drank again. The end.

1 comment

prop 8. musical done! joining a choir?
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-08-09 14:14:00
Tags: asmc gay politics
Words: 556

Last week California's Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. Hooray! I read the entire ruling (warning: 138 page pdf) and it's pretty convincing - the judge ruled that laws that discriminate against gays are subject to strict scrutiny, while Prop 8 doesn't even meet the rational basis test.

I followed along with the trial and it seemed pretty clear that our side would win - David Boies and Ted Olson (i.e. the head lawyers for Bush and Gore in Bush v. Gore) are fantastic lawyers, and the other side called very few witnesses which were easily discredited. I'm not sure what the rules are on appeal if the other side can "substitute in" other lawyers, but if the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court (as many expect) I think we have a decent shot at winning!

Ted Olson was on Fox News this weekend and it was very much a Nixon going to China moment - he explained very succinctly the case for gay marriage. I know he's been a conservative stalwart but he earned a lifetime pass from me with his work on the case.


The musical is done! The shows went well despite the A/C mostly being gone the second weekend. I've never sweat so much in my life. My favorite moment was getting hit in the face with a book while we were supposed to be frozen. A few seconds later my glasses fell off my face and hit the floor, but I stayed (mostly) frozen until we "woke up" :-)

Performing in the musical reminded me that I like to sing and I kinda miss it - even singing the kid-focused songs was kinda fun. So I'm thinking about joining a choir. My ideal choir would be something singing good classical music meeting at most once a week in which I know people. Here are the possibilities I've found: (in decreasing order of probability I'll join)

- Austin Civic Chorus - I was in the Austin Civic Chorus when I first moved to Austin. I liked the kind of music they sing, but I don't really know anyone in it, and I vaguely remember not liking the director, although that was a while ago and maybe I'm misremembering. Also, auditions are very soon and I may have missed my chance already. The Civic Chorus itself requires $180 dues (!) and their concerts aren't free, which makes me a little unhappy.

- Capital City Men's Chorus - I know at least a few people in it from the summer musical, and it looks like a fun group. The music seems to vary wildly in genre.

- Austin Singers - never heard of these folks before, but they do music I like. Rehearsals are Mondays 7-9:30 - kinda long and downtown.

- Conspirare - good group but looks a little serious/"too good" for what I'm interested in. They have a professional choir as well as a volunteer one, so maybe the volunteer one would be OK? To audition you have to submit a resume and they'll let you know, which honestly sounds kind of intimidating.

- River City Pops - I know some people in it from the summer musical, but the music they sing is, well, pop, and there's dancing involved which isn't really my cup of tea.


Anyway...I dunno. Anyone in one of these? Or interested in joining one of them with me? :-)


The Checklist Manifesto
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-08-02 21:48:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 410

Continuing my love affair with Atul Gawande, his book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is an enjoyable and persuasive book. Summarized:


There are two types of failure: ignorance (not knowing enough) and ineptitude (not using what we know well enough). For most of history, ignorance has been the bigger problem in medicine; now ineptitude is. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 13,000 different diseases, syndromes, etc. There are also 6,000 drugs that we can use and 4,000 procedures that we can do to try to help. Even with specialization, this is a huge variety of problems and solutions.

The average stay in an ICU is 4 days, and the survival rate is 86%. That's pretty good given how serious your condition has to be to get admitted to one, and according to a study done fifteen years ago, the average ICU patient required 178 individual actions per day...and two of these actions involve errors of some kind. Of course this is a 99% success rate, but two errors a day is still quite dangerous.

Ever since a Boeing Model 299 crashed during a test flight (the pilot was an Army air corps test pilot with loads of experience), aviation has used careful checklists to handle the complexity of flying a plane and responding to emergencies in midflight. The main thrust of the book is to extend the use of checklists to medicine.

In 2001, Peter Pronovost designed a simple five-step checklist to prevent central line infections. At the time, these steps were well known, but one-third of the time, at least one step was missed. They tried using it for a year at Johns Hopkins hospital, and reduced the central line infection rate from 11% to 0%. Statistically, the checklist saved eight lives and $2 million.

Checklists are also used in construction. When problems arise, a separate checklist is used to ensure that all people involved have communicated and the best course of action is agreed upon.

The culmination of the book is the development of the Safe Surgery Checklist. Eight hospitals around the world tried it out for three months, and surgery complications went down by 36% and deaths went down by 47%.


I feel that summarizing the book isn't quite doing it justice - it's a fascinating read. But the results are so amazing, it makes me want to stand up and scream for all hospitals to use the Safe Surgery Checklist!

1 comment

FlightPredictor wins! and a new life rule
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-07-28 10:09:00
Tags: health asmc palmpre projects
Words: 83

Palm just posted the official results of the Hot Apps competition, and FlightPredictor made the list! Really looking forward to improving it and making some new apps once I have some free time...

Speaking of which, a new life rule: no sushi close to shows. Of course, the one time I get sick from it is during a rehearsal. (nothing overly dramatic, but I did feel pretty crappy and sat down a lot) Hopefully tonight is better - only 2 days until we open!

1 comment

Brain Rules
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-07-20 13:34:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 471

Another neurosciency book, I recently finished Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. Note that the book has an official website at that describes each of the rules and has some chapter excerpts, etc.

I was hoping the book would give me tips to learn better, etc., and there was some of that, but there was a lot more stuff along the lines of "this is interesting but not really helpful". But, interesting for interestingness's sake isn't bad, right? Here's some stuff I learned:

Exercise is really good for your brain - even fidgeting on the couch is better than not fidgeting. The gold standard for exercise (for the brain, anyway) is 30 mins of aerobic exercise 2-3 times/week. This has been shown to decrease Alzheimer's by 60% and dementia by 50%, and it's around as successful as medication for treating depression/anxiety.

The main function of oxygen is to absorb free electrons left over from digesting food to prevent them from damaging/killing cells.

We adapted to walk on two legs because it's more energy efficient, leaving more energy left over for the brain. Our brain is 2% by volume but takes 20% of our body's energy.

Learning new skills literally rewires the neurons in your brain. Some neurons are for surprisingly specific tasks - there is a neuron (at least in a "typical" patient) that activates only when you see a picture of Jennifer Aniston, and a different one for Halle Berry.

Your brain can't really multitask in what you're paying attention to - things are pretty much sequential. You can pay attention to something for around 10 minutes, then you need a break or to shift focus to something else.

People are naturally sleepy in the mid-afternoon, and a short nap can dramatically help performance. (a 26 minute nap improved a pilot's performance by 34%) Sleep is really good for your brain. Falling behind on sleep puts you into sleep debt, which can severely impact performance.

Stress is a coping mechanism designed for short-term problems. (i.e. a cheetah is about to eat you) Being stressed long term makes you 3x more likely to catch a cold, etc. Some people, however, are very tolerant to stress, which seems to be a genetic trait. One of the defining characteristics of stress is that the stressor is out of your control, so taking control is a good strategy to reducing stress.

A workshop called Bringing Baby Home (designed by John Gottman who got a lot of shoutouts in For Better)) can help new parents to improve their relationship, which reduces their stress levels when the baby is born, which makes the baby develop in a less stressful environment, which makes them cry less and develop better emotional regulation, etc.

Pretty interesting stuff, and available for borrowing.


world cup links
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-06-30 13:17:00
Tags: soccer links
Words: 292

Totally unrelated: happy 10 year anniversary to my wonderful husband!

Sadly, today is the first day since the start of the World Cup with no games. So, to pass the time:

- A cool visualization of which World Cup players play in which leagues - there's a lot more cross-pollination these days, with the English, German, Italian, and Spanish leagues benefiting the most.

- Why Lionel Messi is so awesome. Go Argentina!

Another fun soccer story:

In the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup, Barbados and Grenada were playing their final group game, with Grenada ahead by 3 goal differential, so Barbados needed to win by 2 to advance. This tournament was played under weird rules, including the fact that no games were allowed to end in draws, and if the game was a draw after 90 minutes, it would go to sudden death extra time, with the winning goal counting double.

Barbados was up 2-0 until Grenada scored to make it 2-1 in the 83rd minute. Since Barbados needed to win by 2, and Grenada was playing very heavy defense, Barbados instead deliberately scored an own goal to tie it 2-2. That way, if they could manage to win in extra time, they would get the win by 2 they needed. (since the winning goal would count double)

It didn't take long for Grenada to figure out what was going on, and so they tried to score an own goal to put Barbados back ahead by 1. But Barbados was planning on this, and started defending both goals while Grenada tried to score on either one.

Amusingly enough, Barbados was successful in preventing Grenada from scoring, and it went into extra time where Barbados did in fact win! Here's a Snopes article about the whole thing.

1 comment

everybody's linking for the weekend
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-06-24 14:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 231

I lack the time to make this post shorter, so:

One of my new favorite blogs is You Are Not So Smart - each post is about a different sort of bias or self-delusion. Dovetails nicely with the ice cream book and my general interest in neuroscience!

Also related: this earthquake simulation game shows people are terrible at planning - even though they know an earthquake is coming, they wait to improve their house until it's too late.

IBM has built a system that can play Jeopardy decently. You can even play against it and see how you do!

Another awesome music video by Ok Go - this one goes from very slow motion to very sped up.

Apple censored an image of two men kissing in a graphic novel. Although now they say to resubmit it, so I guess it was just a mistake? I wonder how many other mistakes are not reviewed unless they get wide attention...

Yes, cosmic rays can flip bits in memory. Now I know what to blame my bugs on - cosmic rays flipping neurons in my brain :-)

Giant spike in Internet traffic following Landon Donovan's winning goal

The Fellowship of the Vuvuzela

An analysis of the crazy 1000 point and subsequent recovery of the Dow.

Lots of people are moving to Texas. (and Austin, specifically)

Random: a banana equivalent dose of radiation. Bananas are radioactive! Didn't know that.


Palm Developer Day trip: Day 2
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-04-27 21:48:00
Tags: pictures palm travel
Words: 470

I woke up excited and nervous about interacting with people. After getting ready and seeing a few fellow attendees eating breakfast downstairs, I got in the hotel limo with two other people to go to Palm HQ. Chatted with them a bit about the kind of stuff they worked on. When we arrived Palm had breakfast available in their cafe - I grabbed some fruit and sat down with some people and joined their conversation. (Hooray for being somewhat sociable!) Even got one guy interested in FlightPredictor (coming very very soon!)

The keynote started at 9 and talked about a new things coming to WebOS in the fall timeframe - access to the microphone and camera, better file I/O access (yay!), a new database system, etc. After that the company store was open (all items 30% off!) so I got a nice Moleskine notebook with the Palm logo and a new headset. The rest of the day was a blur of sessions - interestingly they had both hour long and 30 minute sessions, but generally the hour long ones were good and the 30 minute ones were less so. I was proud of myself for asking a few questions and going to the Apps Lab to report a bug which we spent 20 minutes examining. Later I got a picture taken with my app (link coming soon!)

After all the sessions were done, Palm had an offsite mixer with free beer and food, so I took the shuttle they provided there. I was feeling pretty socialized out, though, so I joined a group talking with a Palm guy for a bit, got a beer and food from the buffet and then sat alone, thinking someone might join me, and they might not. As it turned out, no one did, and after a while I pulled out my book and read for a while, then just felt like going home.

This was a little tricky logistically - one option was to wait for the Palm shuttle to take me back to Palm and then call the hotel and wait for them, but I wasn't sure if the Palm shuttle was even running since I was leaving so early. The other option was to walk the 3.1 miles back to the hotel, which I decided to do. It worked out OK, but it was a long walk and I took a few wrong turns. Hooray for Google Maps with walking directions on my Palm Pre, though!

When I finally made it back to the hotel, I collapsed for a bit, then ordered a dessert as a reward, and prepared my plan for the next day. My flight wasn't until 5:50 PM so I was planning on taking the Caltrain to San Jose to explore the city...

Here are the pictures (more being posted as I type!):


birthday links!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-04-20 10:09:00
Tags: links
Words: 139

A growing scandal in Philadelphia: the Lower Merion school district assigns each of its high school students a laptop that they can take home and do work on. Well, these laptops have webcams that could be activated remotely (ostensibly to find the laptops if they were lost), but the students didn't know about this until the principal reprimanded a student for "improper behavior in his home". Now it turns out 56,000 pictures were taken in the past two years. Happily, no one seems to be defending the program and the school district is getting super-sued.

Another take on why Texas weathered the recession better than the rest of the country. (previous take here)

Lots of songs use the same four chords (illustrated in song form)

Another gay marriage map, which looks suspiciously (ok, not really) similar to my own.

1 comment

two sentence paragraphs!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-04-01 13:59:00
Words: 98

I'm very glad I married a man who can fix things around the house - he unclogged our sink last night, which meant we could run the dishwasher again! It's surprising how many dirty dishes we generate; if we don't run the dishwasher every day we're getting behind.

If you have a money market account, you might want to check the yield. Ours earned .3% last year and is on track to earn .0004% this year (annualized) - gonna switch that over to a savings account!

Queering the census - glad to know we filled ours out right! Umm...purple monkey dishwasher.


cakes! and other stuff
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-03-26 09:59:00
Tags: links
Words: 153

My friend Jennifer Bolton makes amazing cakes like this one:

A few other favorites of mine:

but if you haven't taken a gander at the whole gallery, you really should. I'm not sure if she makes them for hire, but it couldn't hurt to ask... :-)

After Google pulled out of China, China issued these instructions to domestic news sites about how they are allowed to cover it. It's one thing to know that China practices censorship, but another to read the actual rules they issue - makes it much more creepy.

Ben Folds being awesome on chatroulette (NSFW language) - apparently doing tribute to Merton, who did it first. (and now is taken down from YouTube)

After a Mississippi high school cancelled a prom rather than allow a same-sex couple to attend, a Georgia high school did allow a same-sex couple to attend...and then the guy's parents kicked him out of the house. Sigh.


One more LJ for WebOS sighting
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-03-17 11:32:00
Tags: lj for webos palmpre projects
Words: 33

After it made the Palm homepage, Precentral reported on the new homepage and mentioned LJ for WebOS by name. Cool beans!

(and, yes, this will be the last of these for a while)


LOST and links
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-02-17 12:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 227

Last night's LOST episode was pretty awesome. (decent recap here)
More smoke monster/fake Locke mythology. Sawyer being sarcastic. For that matter, Sawyer shirtless :-) Mysterious child sighting. (what are "the rules"?) Sawyer and fake Locke lying to each other. Ben admitting he killed Locke.

All good things. Plus the alternate timeline is turning out to be kinda like Heroes season 1, where all the characters' lives are intertwined in random ways. (Ben is a high school teacher!) Except it's even more interesting because we know how these characters interact in the "real" timeline, and we get to see them get a fresh start.

Also, why isn't Kate a candidate? Jacob touched her...

Looking forward to finding out the real story behind Jacob and fake Locke - it seems clear that Jacob was a protector of the island, but it's hard to know what beyond that to believe...


- The Big Picture featured Carnival this week and the photos are really amazing. (here's last year's version)

- The Case For An Older Woman - more interesting statistics from OkCupid. (a dating site)

- A graph of what the government spends money on. Aggregated:

This leaves 15 percent for everything else.


LJ for WebOS mentioned!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-02-04 23:31:00
Tags: lj for webos projects programming
Words: 26

Yay! LJ for WebOS was mentioned in the latest news post. If anyone's interested, here's the homepage, and I'm happy to answer any questions about it.


what a difference...
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-01-27 09:55:00
Words: 70

Last week: Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can contribute to political campaigns, Democrats lose 60-seat supermajority in Senate, I gain weight.

This week: NI announces good Q4 results, State of the Union, magical new Apple tablet (or whatever) appears, our new Harmony remote arrives, LJ for WebOS (my WebOS LiveJournal client, formerly WebOSJournal) gets ever closer to release, I lose weight, one week closer to Lost premiere!


WebOSJournal reviewed!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-12-11 13:26:00
Tags: palmpre programming
Words: 39

So WebOSJournal (my LiveJournal client for the Palm Pre/Pixi) got a nice review. I've submitted it to the Palm App Catalog, and hopefully it'll be up there soonish!

As a bonus link, The Year In Ideas is pretty interesting.


Golden Rules of Travel
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-10-19 10:01:00
Tags: travel
Words: 63

Grandma's Golden Rule of Travel: Always go to the bathroom whenever one is available.
Grandpa's Golden Rule of Travel: Don't back up more than you have to. (this is more of a driving rule)

I am proud to present
My Golden Rule of Travel: Always pack boxers and sleep pants, no matter what the temperature is outside.

This rule has served me well :-)

1 comment

All's well that ends well
Mood: happy
Music: The Magnetic Fields - "Zombie Boy"
Posted on 2009-10-15 10:39:00
Words: 108

So last Thursday I was a little irritated with our roofing company and called the guy asking a) when the gutters would be done and b) what we needed to do for insurance. And I was annoyed because he never called me back.

But, lo and behold, Monday the gutter guy called me and we set something up, and last night I got an email from our insurance implying that it had all been taken care of. (so we get the depreciation extra money or whatever) Still would have preferred if he had actually, you know, communicated with me directly, but I'm not going to complain too much...

1 comment

filllllings...nothing more than fillllllings...
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-06-16 10:04:00
Tags: health gay politics
Words: 142

I went back to my new dentist at Shoal Creek Dental Care - the cleaning I had took a while but was much more pleasant than usual, and I got a tooth filled yesterday in 20 minutes, which is awesome. And my cheek/gums didn't hurt after the numbing wore off! I am quite pleased.

Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight, I found this awesome chart:

Some interesting things:
- Housing antidiscrimination is the most popular policy in all 50 states, but it's only been enacted in 20 states. My guess is that it's something that people don't run into that often (we've looked for housing in MD and TX and never felt discriminated against) so there's not much impetus to pass it.
- Bully for Iowa's Supreme Court, but I'm worried about marriage being overturned there.
- Obvious next targets for marriage: NY, RI, and CA (oh the irony!)


Austin mayoral election
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-04-26 12:09:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 247

Yes, it's election season, or something! The Austin city election is May 9, and early voting runs from April 27 (tomorrow) to May 5. Here's a list of early voting locations (.pdf).

The "major" candidates are -

Lee Leffingwell - (Statesman article about him) He's a former airline pilot currently serving on the City Council. He spoke out early against the now-canceled Time Warner b caps. He's been endorsed by many organizations around the city, including the Austin Chronicle and Burnt Orange Report. I think I'm going to vote for Lee.

Brewster McCracken - (Statesman article about him) He's currently serving on the City Council. He drove the Pecan Street Project to modernize the electrical grid in Austin. He's been endorsed by the Austin American-Statesman, and honestly seems like a pretty good candidate. I still might vote for him if I change my mind.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn - (Statesman article about her) Austin elections are officially non-partisan (I believe), but she's held statewide office as a Republican before. Nevertheless, she ran for governor in 2006 as an independent and was the mayor of Austin from 1977-1983.

Other ways to get direct comparisons between the candidates:
- Voters Guide (.pdf) from the League of Women Voters.
- Four questions for Austin's mayoral candidates

Minor candidates - neither one of these guys have held elected office before, as far as I can tell.
- David Buttross
- Josiah Ingalls

I read in the paper this morning that turnout in Austin city election is abysmal, hovering around 10%. VOTE!

1 comment

A pretty picture for a Friday night
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-04-24 23:16:00
Tags: pretty projects
Words: 59

Created with Pretty Pictures with genotype:

(div-clip (colorperlin 1362710210 278847481 1402125762 (add-wrap (abs (num 0.031681362818044456)) (sub-clip (cos (ccrgb (sin (atan-clip (rd (add-clip (add-wrap x (num 0.578092059228798)) x)))) y (num 0.23646468718646263))) (colorperlin 1502179640 1316738189 454935563 (neg (div-wrap x y)) (num 0.5078184951973896)))) x) (bwperlin 880129745 (abs (add-clip (sin x) (ccrgb y (sub-wrap (cos x) (neg (log-clip (num 0.05318551299931629)))) (num 0.751250719855975)))) y))


marriage map: now with flashing!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-04-11 00:04:00
Tags: gay projects
Words: 31

It's true! You can click on the legend to make states that have that status blink.

Note to self: using fractional RGB values makes things silently not work. Don't do that.


link friday: the bunch-o-linkening
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-03-20 15:45:00
Tags: links
Words: 77

- As has become a tradition, Paul Ford wrote six-word reviews of all the SxSW sample tracks released. Fun to browse through and listen to new music!

- More problems with Austin commuter rail - blah.

- Instead of rail, why not flying cars? The future has arrived!

- Medical marijuana is coming to Michigan next month - didn't realize it had spread outside of California.

- Today's weird link: - a bunch of neglected words beg for you to adopt them. With sound.


BSG and Lost
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-03-19 10:00:00
Tags: rant essay
Words: 595

(spoilers abound if you haven't seen the most recent episode of either!)
Lost is awesome.

Season 4 was pretty good - we learned a lot of interesting things about the island and the Oceanic 6's life after they left. The whole flash-forward structure was pretty neat at first, but eventually it seemed to rob the show of its stakes. We know Jack isn't going to die on the island because we can see him in the future! And there were certainly unanswered questions, like what happened to all the people who weren't in the Oceanic 6, but that wasn't enough for me to stay fully engaged. I thought the season finale in particular tied together some loose ends, but just wasn't that compelling. Interesting, sure, but I wasn't on the edge of my seat. And the whole dramatic tension of having to lie is something that is probably stronger in real life than it is to watch. After all, we're used to watching people lie on TV...

I had the same sort of problem with the beginning of Season 5 - we had a pretty good idea the Oceanic 6 were going to end up back on the island, so just showing why they arrived at that conclusion wasn't really that interesting to me. But the last two episodes of Season 5 have really kicked it up a notch. I feel like we're back in the heyday of Seasons 1 and 2 (which I watched on DVD and so didn't have the delayed gratification of waiting weeks between episodes) where we have no idea what's going to happen. Yeah, "Namaste" (the episode that aired last night) was kinda about resolving a bunch of loose ends about the Oceanic 6 arriving back on the island, but it did it in a very compelling way. I was on the edge of my seat watching LaFleur come up with a plan for Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid to integrate them into the Dharma Initiative. Even though the Purge is coming at some point we don't know what's going to happen to our folks.

And now a quick Battlestar Galactica rant, which you may have heard if you've been around me since last Friday:

I cannot believe they're at literally the second to last episode (bolding makes me sound angry!) and doing flashbacks back to before the series began...and these flashbacks kinda suck. So Roslin was happy go lucky! And had sisters! And then they and her father were randomly killed in a car crash, but she's stoic, see! Nevermind the fact that they would have all probably died when the Cylons attacked anyway...what is this supposed to tell us about her? We already know she's a tough person. I suppose the whole car crash was supposed to be shocking but I couldn't help but think the writers were just using a cheap device to make me feel sorry for her. Also, so help me if the person she's about to see on this blind date is the person who was driving the other car I'm going to jump up and down and scream "I don't care!" because I really really don't.

In other news, Baltar is still a jerk in the past. Two problems:
- I get that he's a jerk and I'm supposed to hate him. This has been emphasized basically any time he opens his mouth. Not news!
- There are three (now two) hours left to show the fate of humanity and I really really really don't care about Baltar compared to that.

TL;DR version: Lost good, BSG bad.


we got rings!
Mood: happy
Music: Civ 4 music
Posted on 2009-03-08 14:08:00
Tags: wedding
Words: 87

So yesterday we decided to knock a big thing off of the wedding list - rings. We went up to Lakeline Mall and thought we'd check out a jewelry store. Our first sign we were a bit over our heads: there are like 11 jewelry stores there! Anyway, we gamely went around to 6 of them and eventually settled on a nice titanium ring from Helzberg Diamonds - it was cheaper than I expected and very lightweight, which is good since we both type all day. Here's a picture:


PasswordHash firefox extension!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-02-27 22:09:00
Tags: projects
Words: 14

In response to this code bounty, I give you PasswordHash! Firefox extension = good times.


book review: Dreaming in Code
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-02-15 23:01:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 314

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software is a book about the creation of Chandler, an email/calendar/todo list that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It starts by talking about how Mitch Kapor came up with the idea for the product and decided to fund it as an open source project and takes it through three years of development. It does a good job of explaining technical decisions made along the way and capturing the spirit of a lot of hackers.

What the book is really about is why software is so hard. Time and time again the people on the project would dramatically underestimate the amount of time it would take to complete features - indeed, it took basically three years before they had a "dogfood" worthy release (one that they could use themselves everyday - this is known as "eating your own dogfood"). Because the scope of the project was so large to begin with, it took a long time to really nail down what it was going to do and how it was going to do it.

Software development is hard - very hard, and the book does a pretty good job of explaining why that is. The techniques that we have now work reasonably well for smallish projects but just aren't very well suited for large ones. (see Virtual Case File, Windows Vista, etc.) This is not unlike when we first started building bridges - many collapsed due to poor design, but eventually we figured out how to do it well. Of course the problem with software is what the author dubs Rosenberg's Law: “Software is easy to make, except when you want it to do something new.” and its corollary “the only software worth making is software that does something new.”

I enjoyed the book and suspect that even non-programmers would find it illuminating.


Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-02-13 21:38:00
Tags: movies reviews
Words: 148

I was in a pretty crappy and tired mood going to see Coraline this evening, and the crowd of high schoolers around the movie theater didn't help. (it's not showing at the Alamo Drafthouse, oddly enough)

And for some reason I thought Coraline was going to be...dark and brooding and whatnot. And then she was a fairly typical whiny kid and I was disappointed.

But then! The whole movie has kind of a LittleBigPlanet feel about it, which I like. The plot was kinda OK, but the visuals were really impressive, especially in 3D. And the music was charming in its own way - very moody and such. So it left me in a good mood, which in the end is really all I can ask for.

Although there were a lot of kids there and a lot of stupid kids movie previews. That I could have done without.


book review: First, Break All The Rules
Mood: happy
Music: Boyz II Men - "Water Runs Dry"
Posted on 2009-02-11 13:54:00
Tags: reviews
Words: 297

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently is one of those books that would be on the NI official reading list, if we had one. It's based on a series of Gallup surveys and interviews in which they asked employees hundreds of questions about how satisfied they were with their work environment, and then correlated that with profitability, turnover, and such.

It turns out that happy employees are in fact more productive, and that most of their happiness comes down to their immediate manager. This book is aimed at managers, and the "break all the rules" part means that there's no one way to manage people - you have to take their personality and abilities into account and handle everyone differently.

Another important point is that people have talents that are fairly unchangeable. I, for example, am terrible at confronting people - I get nervous and fidgety and overly defensive and it leaves me very fragile. Now, if I were to practice confronting people and work on it for a while, I could probably overcome some of these physical side effects, but I would never be great or even good at it.

So the point is figure out what talents your employees have and make sure they're in a good position to use those talents. This is a big theme of Now, Discover Your Strengths, which I might review someday.

A corollary of this is that not everyone wants to go into management, and you should create a career path for people who are happy and good at what they're doing now. That way people won't feel forced to do something they're not good at to get more money, prestige, etc.

It's a good book with a bunch of interesting anecdotes. I'd recommend it!


more progress
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-01-26 12:39:00
Tags: whereslunch programming
Words: 122

Over the weekend I
- added geolocation to the front page of - it should automatically forward you to your closest city now!
- made the map use more horizontal space (and got rid of the ugly gap between the map and the sidebar)
- made the page statically load the list of restaurants, which should improve load time a little and should help the ads be more relevant, hopefully.
- upgraded to the latest jQuery which makes things look a bit different, especially the sidebar. Not sure whether to keep this new color scheme (especially the filtering sliders), but I'll leave it for a few days and see what I think then. This should also improve performance a bit.
- a few minor random performance improvements


ThumbnailCopy firefox extension
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-01-03 12:19:00
Tags: pictures projects programming
Words: 38

So I wrote this ThumbnailCopy extension (see Kurt's post) and in order for it to go public people have to register for an account there and review it. So...anyone mind doing that? :-)

Also, Texas Bowl pictures are up.


just so I feel caught up
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-29 10:52:00
Tags: travel gay politics links
Words: 326

Back from vacation! Christmas and related activities were good and fun and relaxing. Enjoyed spending time with family and got a lot of work done on - only remaining things on my list of "must fix before launching" are dealing with IE and possibly adding tag editing (which will be a pain).

Driving back to Houston tomorrow to watch Rice play in the Texas Bowl, and driving back the next day - glad I have a plan for that now.

There has been some controversy about Obama inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. He's the pastor of Saddleback Community Church and while he has focused on poverty and the plight of AIDS victims, etc., he did endorse Prop 8 in California. It turns out he did so on a Friday 10 days before the election on his church's website (not anywhere more public) and neither he nor his wife donated money to the campaign. Obviously I don't agree with him, but I'm all for engaging people we disagree with, and Rick Warren is no James Dobson or Fred Phelps. Plus, it's just an inauguration - not like he'll be writing policy or anything like that!

Oh, what the heck...some more links:
- 90% of the copies of World of Goo are pirated - yeah, yeah, I know not all of those people would buy the game, but this is kinda depressing. It's cheap ($20), it's DRM-free, and it's a good game!
- The US Census Bureau just released the 2009 version of the Statistical Abstract of the United States = tasty tasty data. Maybe I will do a project in R...
- A Russian professor predicts the breakup of the US in 2010. The map at the bottom is pretty awesome. I definitely think states like Kentucky and Tennessee would be excited about joining the European Union. Sheesh!
- No big surprise: text messages costs carriers nothing - I didn't realize SMS was designed to fit inside a control message, neat!


life is good
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-26 22:05:00
Words: 26

At home, watching TV (first 30 Rock, now How I Met Your Mother) with my family and David on the couch with me. I am happy :-)


Merry Christmas!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-25 09:52:00
Words: 3

That is all.


A week of happy
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-18 11:05:00
Tags: health happiness
Words: 260

Yesterday kinda sucked. My tooth still hurt a lot and my stomach was starting to hurt, possibly from taking too much Tylenol (I estimate something like 20 pills over the last few days). Buuut I was happy after work - djedi cooked a nice dinner, then I relaxed some on the couch, then we finally put up the Christmas lights and decorations. It's kind of exciting this is our first Christmas in a house, so putting up the outdoor lights seemed like a rite of passage of sorts :-)

While we were putting decorations up inside we had a new episode of "Chuck" on. I love "Chuck" - it's mildly serialized, funny/cute but with a reasonable amount of action. And the characters are very relatable - I feel like I can understand their motivations and why they do what they do, which is not always true on shows like "Fringe". Also, Adam Baldwin is awesome!

Anyway, that was nice, and then after it was over there was another new "Chuck" that we watched on the couch while cuddling. It was a good night!

Today I'm happy because (despite waking up in the middle of the night with stomach issues) my tooth definitely hurts less! This morning I did eventually take some aspirin (yeah, bad on the stomach but maybe it's bad in a different way than Tylenol? I dunno) but I waited until I got in to work, as opposed to downing pills as soon as I got up because it hurt so much. This is more exciting than I can put into words!


A week of happy
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-14 22:11:00
Tags: happiness
Words: 30

Today I'm happy we were able to be sociable this weekend, despite playing WoW a lot. Also happy we managed to beat around 3/4ths of Naxxramas on the first try!


A week of happy
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-11 15:41:00
Tags: meme happiness
Words: 91

From copperwolf - what a great idea!
1. Post about something that made you happy today even if it's just a small thing.
2. Do this every day for a week without fail.
3. Tag 8 of your friends to do the same.

Today's happy thing: my tooth is only aching mildly, as opposed to the pain Tuesday night. Absence of pain is something that's hard to appreciate, but it's pretty clear in this case since the pain was so recent.

Hmm...I'll tag djedi, wonderjess, wildrice13, llemma, onefishclappin. Don't feel obligated, though :-)


prop 8 - the musical
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-03 14:13:00
Tags: links
Words: 45

If you don't like a musical with (in order of awesomeness) Neil Patrick Harris, Allison Janney, Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho and Andy Richter among others, are we really friends? Because I'm having doubts...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die


links in th' morning
Mood: happy
Music: Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning"
Posted on 2008-11-25 09:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 163

Princeton Proposition 8 to protect traditional sidewalk values. (being a freshmen is a choice!) I'm flattered (well, "flattered" isn't exactly the right word) that people are taking this rejection of gay marriage pretty seriously, although many many laws banning gay marriage have passed in other states and it never hit the national consciousness. Of course, this one is different in that it takes a way a right that had been given (by the courts) but, you know, still. I'd be pretty darn happy with civil unions in Texas even if it isn't called "marriage" for a very long time, but this is exactly the case in California...

Take the civics quiz! I scored 30/33=91% although I had some lucky guesses. Our elected officials don't do so great on it.

Here's what to do if you break a CFL bulb - basically, don't freak out, let the room air out for 15 minutes, then scoop up the pieces in a plastic bag (and wear gloves).

1 comment

what's a good subject for the same old collection of politics links?
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-10-15 12:08:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 127

This account of Republican-leaning voters is pretty amazing:

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."
She thinks he's a terrorist! And still voting for him over McCain!

Just in: White House attempted to influence congressional elections in 2006 by traveling to campaign events with taxpayer dollars. Somehow I'm not surprised.

A CNN account of a guy doing The Great Schlep. Obviously anecdotal but still kinda neat.

Counterinsurgency tactics: running a laundromat in Northern Ireland back in the day. Pretty clever/awesome!


best TV shows quiz
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-09-09 10:29:00
Tags: quiz
Words: 142

All right, I'm making a quiz. Here is a list of the "best shows on television" according to various people. Bold the ones you've watched multiple seasons one and italicize the ones you've seen at least a few episodes of.

The Wire - everyone says this is awesome, need to watch at some point.
Lost - ohh yeah
Friday Night Lights - intriguing but haven't gotten around to it, may watch someday.
Deadwood - same
30 Rock - good stuff
The Daily Show - of course
Battlestar Galactica - of course
The Sopranos
Arrested Development - absolutely
Studio 60 - watched the first few episodes, didn't get into it.
South Park - pretty hit or miss, but the hits are good
Veronica Mars
Six Feet Under
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys - wait, really?
The Colbert Report - I'm on notice!
Mad Men - heard good things about it.
The West Wing


today is good
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-07-25 16:08:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft referrer links
Words: 71

Yay, somebody likes the frost mage dps page!

Hot on the heels of this shocking video suggesting Bush and Batman are the same person (thanks omega697) comes an op-ed saying the same thing. Oy.

"Last Lecture" professor dies - I hadn't watched the Last Lecture before but I'm glad I did today.

Totally reinstalling my laptop is painful, but it's going OK so far. Next up - downloading billions of patches to WoW.


best day ever
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-06-17 09:16:00
Tags: movies rant links
Words: 288

You can download Firefox 3 starting at noon our time. (you might be able to Help->Check for Updates... as well - not sure when that will be turned on)

Gays can marry in California today! Here's an interactive map of the legal status of gay marriage/civil unions in all 50 states.

Last night at Kung Fu Panda (which is still good, by the way, I'd probably even see it again) we saw a trailer for Fly Me to the Moon which is about three stupid flies that tag along on the first moon landing. This makes me angry. The graphics quality looks meh, it's filled with bad and stupid and pointless puns and the smart fly is named "Iq". Judging by the trailer, you're supposed to think that the idea of the fly on the moon is just so awesome, we'll have a bunch of characters say "Nat's going to the moon!", "Your boy is going to the moon!", "We're going to the moon!", etc.

Also, (and here's where I go off a bit) apparently there's some problem with the capsule and the flies have to save the day. This (aside from being stupid) I find offensive - it took years and years of hard work and dedication and lost lives to get us to the moon, not some stupid-ass flies fixing some problem or whatever. Next up: some scorpions are going to Normandy! And the Allies can't win the battle without them! So they go around and sting some Nazis or something! After that: well, you get the idea.

Maybe the 3D will make it way more awesome but somehow I doubt it.

In the vein of bad movies, a review of The Happening that contains all the spoilers.


The good news
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-05-29 13:07:00
Tags: work links
Words: 131

I'm feeling pumped! Got a debugger working that should help me out and one of my problems looks like the same as another problem someone else is looking at. Also, I think I finally got the right number for 3 card straight flushes of a specific suit!

Other things that make me happy:

- Making good progress in GTA IV. (incidentally, so far it's affected my brain less than Katamari Damacy...after playing that game for a while I kept looking for things to roll up!)
- Six Degrees of Wikipedia - very interesting. Billie Jean King is better connected than the United States!
- New York state will recognize gay marriages performed in other states!
- This clip from 30 Rock about the uncanny valley.
- This Starbucks commercial. Glen! Glen!Glen!Glen! (think "Eye of the Tiger", here)


really close to unpacked!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-05-26 17:08:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 8

Pictures and a video tour of the house.


Mario Kart friend code
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-05-05 21:39:00
Tags: pictures worldofwarcraft wii
Words: 18


Unrelatedly, a few new pictures.

Two-shot Mag on our first time!

(highest tag to word ratio? maybe)


merrily I roll along
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-03-11 10:00:00
Tags: smashbros wii politics
Words: 229

Ah, smash brothers. Last night I beat the 100-man melee after around an hour of frustration (at 4-5 minutes an attempt). I used Meta Knight for his combination of puffiness (to avoid cheap deaths) and a sword. My failures were almost all the same way - once I was down to the last 20 or so, they would always come 5 at a time and be very aggressive, and by that point I'd have a lot of damage and so when I got hit I'd fly off the platform. And then I'd try to get back on and it would be almost impossible with five targets to avoid. For my winning attempt I was much more aggressive about stopping them from grouping up, and it worked! Next up: 15 minute melee! (ugh)

I realized yesterday I was trying to convince myself independently that a) it wasn't that far from our apartment to the house (so people coming to game nights won't be horribly inconvenienced) b) it was a long way from work to the house (so that we're moving closer to work). Since work is between apartment and house, these are incompatible!

Bush vetoes bill banning waterboarding - I know it's been a little hard to follow, and I've kinda stopped paying attention, but the official policy of the US and our president is to allow torture. This is very sad.


oh, you lovable scamps
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-02-18 14:01:00
Tags: politics
Words: 92

I have seen an Obama TV ad! I heard an Obama radio ad! The Alamo Drafthouse is showing the debate in Austin! Is this what it feels like to live in Iowa or New Hampshire? Because then I totally understand their being jerks about always going first.

Preordered Smash Bros today, and confirmed the Gamestop at the Arboretum will be open at midnight.(although it sounded like all the Gamestops might be)

Learning Django, and rewriting my wish list site. It's a little trickier than I had expected but a pretty neat framework.


of phones and data
Mood: happy
Posted on 2007-12-12 13:26:00
Tags: phone projects
Words: 136

Phones: Like before, my cell phone's alarm isn't going on again, except this time I can't figure out how to fix it. I was planning on getting a new phone pretty soon anyway, but this may expedite the plans. My current top choices are the Samsung t439, Motorola RAZR V3, and maybe the Nokia 6133 - anyone have any opinions on these?

I found this awesome script to get your Netflix ratings last night and it's pretty cool. I may improve it some, throw in some analysis and make it my next project.

Speaking of backing up your personal data stored at an online site, LiveJournal was bought by SUP. It sounds like nothing big's going to change, but it might be a good chance to backup your LiveJournal with LJBackup. Shameless plug transmission over and out!


Mood: happy
Posted on 2007-10-04 18:10:00
Words: 18

We joined Netflix - friend us! (especially wonderjess since I found other people from previous posts but not you)


haaaaapy birthday david!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2007-08-11 12:09:00
Words: 11

Happy birthday djedi! On the agenda: presents, dinner, movies at Bengies.


beckham's back, all right!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2007-08-10 09:09:00
Tags: soccer
Words: 929

Here's the ESPN story. The story of our evening is below:

I went back and forth for a while about whether to drive all the way down to RFK or take the Metro. After reading that 45000+ people were going to be there, I decided to take the Metro - seemed like it would handle more people, and we wouldn't be adding to congestion.

So we did, and I grabbed a copy of The Onion to read on the Metro. (after djedi pushed me to - thanks!) Good stuff. The final train we took was absolutely packed with people, many of whom were wearing soccer or Beckham shirts. Neat stuff :-)

We got out and walked to the stadium - it was pretty clear at this point there were a huge number of people. Been a while since I've been part of a crushing mass of humanity. It's fun!

Eventually we got in the stadium and waited in line to get some pizza for dinner, then found our seats, around 6 rows done from the very highest in the stadium. Whee. Incidentally, we left work at 5:30, got to the Metro stop at 6:00, and got to our seats right around 7:05, so it took a bit longer than I had expected. (and we missed the first five minutes of the game, which was fine)

Clearly, RFK stadium was not built for soccer, as the seats we had were pretty far away from the field, and a little corner was cut off from our view with other seats. This also meant that when there was action down by that goal, people would stand up and so you had to stand up to see what was going on. Suboptimal. The people next to us were DC United fans and yelled a lot during the game - they knew all the chants and "songs" and whatnot. (they weren't exactly songs, more like musical cheers. I'm glad I read the ESPN article that explained the "We sing better than your wife" banner - thought it was weird to have that there all the time :-) ) A few people behind us worked for sports networks and talked loudly, one of them said he had interviewed Beckham yesterday.

The atmosphere was pretty electric in general. The stadium was pretty darn full, and DC United played aggressively in the first half, getting lots of good chances and scoring a goal. It was fun to watch!

At the 36th minute (right before a goal kick) people started yelling and cheering, and we finally figured out Beckham was warming up on the sideline, running back and forth and stretching and whatnot. I think everyone stopped watching the game and started watching him running and stuff. It was awesome! You could see the flashes go off from everywhere in the stadium too. Everyone was waiting for him to come in, but halftime came and no Beckham.

A 15 minute halftime sure seems pretty short...maybe this is indicative of the fact that the last game I watched was baseball, but 45 minutes of action, then 15 minutes of not, then 45 more of action is a pretty darn good ratio. They set up a small mini-field on the field and kids played soccer.

The second half started and shortly after it started raining hard. At that point we noticed the upside to our seats - you had to be pretty close to the top to have them covered so we didn't get wet at all. Hah! I figured this was bad news for our chances to see Beckham since he was having ankle problems...wet grass only increases a chance of an injury. LA was playing better this half, just missed a few shots and such. Then Beckham started warming up again with more cheering and stuff.

Finally when he was on the bench he took his warmup jersey off, to great cheering. Then he took his shirt off and put on a jersey, to even louder cheering. (for the shirtlessness or the putting on of the jersey? You make the call!) Then he subbed in and everyone went wild.

I was worried about being able to keep track of him, but even from our height I was able to tell him apart from the other players. He definitely wasn't sprinting or anything, and looked like he was still getting his bearings, although he did make a few nice passes. Whenever he touched the ball people yelled and cheered, amusingly enough :-) He even took a free kick and bent it toward the goal, but to no avail.

DC United won 1-0 (despite the guy behind us's prediction that Beckham would tie it up in the 89th minute) and all were happy. We began the voyage home...

Since there were soooo many people there Metro was running buses to a different Metro stop, which we got in line for. I can't imagine what it was like at the Stadium stop but the whole station must have been packed with people. There were buses there but we didn't get in the first round, then it took a while for them to get to Union Station, then we had to change trains, and then finally we had to drive home. We were pretty hot (it's been quite hot here, even at night) and tired by that point. The game ended at 9 and we didn't get home until 11. I do hate driving in DC but if I had to do it again I might just drive and save some time. Yeesh.

So, good times. Glad we were able to go :-)


7 years
Mood: happy
Music: Wilco - "On and On and On"
Posted on 2007-06-29 16:15:00
Words: 143

On and on and on we'll stay together yeah
On and on and on we'll be together yeah
You and I will try to stay together yeah
On and on and on we'll be together yeah

Please don't cry
We're designed to die
Don't deny
What's inside
On and on and on we'll stay together yeah
On and on and on
On and on and on

One day we'll disappear together in a dream
However short or long our lives are going to be
I will live in you or you will live in me
Until we disappear together in a dream

Please don't cry
We're designed to die
You can't deny
Even the gentlest tide
On and on and on we'll be together yeah
On and on and on
On and on and on
We're going to try

Happy 7 years! (tomorrow)


good music ftw
Mood: happy
Posted on 2007-06-05 10:26:00
Tags: music
Words: 30

Wow, I've listened to 30 seconds of "Kid A" (the album, not the song) and I think I'm going to love it.

Also awesome: "The Bends", Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"


living situation pros and cons
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-12-10 13:44:00
Tags: proandcon
Words: 424

So I had this idea for a post about things I like and don't like up here, in the spirit of my previous pro and con post. I'm trying to limit this to location stuff. (i.e. no job stuff or complaints about the obvious lack of friends, etc...)

Con: The nearest grocery store is like ten minutes away by car if there's no traffic. This feels obscenely far away, given that we lived literally across the street from an HEB in Austin.
Con: The grocery stores here are nowhere near as good as HEB. The selection isn't as good and they aren't as clean, etc. And they require use of the stupid loyalty cards (which we managed to get without giving them personal information, but the idea still bothers me).
Pro: Our apartment complex is really nice - we love our apartment and they have a small but decent gym. And there are cookies in the main office! And there's covered and assigned parking.
Pro: We're right across the street from a mall, which we used to walk to in better weather. There's also a movie theater and restaurants there.
Pro: It seems like there are lots of good restaurants around here, Copeland's and Bertucci's among them.
Con: We definitely live in the suburbs, which means almost all the stores around are chain stores. Still looking for a good independent bookstore like Bookpeople.
Pro: We're close to both Baltimore and DC, which means there are lots of things to do if we feel like it. The huge number of museums and such in DC means we'll never lack for things to do when people are visiting. (hint, hint!)
Pro: The weather. Yeah, on the whole I'd say this is a pro. It is cold here, but it's warmer today (50s!) and it really does feel like Christmas. Also, I can't wait for snow! (I reserve the right to change this to a con in January...)
Con: Radio stations. This is another close one, but I liked Austin radio better than here. At least WAMU is a good NPR station with shows like The Kojo Nnamdi Show. (the Diane Rehm Show counts against them because I cannot stand her voice)
Con: This is probably a suburb thing and to some extent a Maryland thing, but things just aren't as close as they seemed to be in Austin. We have to get on the freeway to go anywhere. This also may be because we haven't lived here too long.

Anyway, that's what was on my mind today.


Kojo Nnamdi is ruining my diet!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-10-26 13:19:00
Tags: weight politics
Words: 219

Seriously. His show is on the radio from 12-2, and I love listening to it (mostly because of his voice) so I went out and grabbed lunch yesterday instead of having soup like a good boy. I did resist the temptation today, but it was tough!

In case you didn't hear, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature must provide marriage or a marriage equivalent to gay couples within 180 days. Why this is especially good news:

- Because they allowed for the possibility of civil unions, I've read that this means the political impact will be less than it otherwise would.
- It was a 4-3 ruling...the 3 dissenting opinions were that they should extend full mariage rights to gays without kicking it back to the state legislature!
- It looks like the opponents of this decision are going to push for a state constitutional amendment in 2007, but by then the law will have been in effect for at least 6 months and the sky won't have fallen, so I doubt it will pass.
- Apparently the plaintiffs are Episcopal pastors - neat!
- New Jersey (unlike Massachusetts) doesn't require people getting married there to live in the state.
- New Jersey is like 3 hours away by car!!

Here's a neat map of laws and benefits in all 50 states

1 comment

good times
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-09-22 23:06:00
Tags: math
Words: 636

Things I'm happy about:

- We went to game night tonight and had a lot of fun. We played three games, all of which are guaranteed to terminate! Although the proof for the last one was a little tricky to come up with. Here are the rules:

You start with a stack of cards. There may also be cards in front of you, and cards on the table (that anyone can access). On your turn, you start one of two ways:
a) Drawing two cards from the stack
b) Drawing a set of cards from the table (not from in front of you).
Then, you do one of two things:
1) Play one card from your hand to the table (not in front of you)
2) Play a set of cards from your hand to in front of you.
If you started your turn with b), you must end it with 2), and you must play those cards you drew from the table to in front of you (along possibly with cards from your hand).

Given these rules, can you prove the game terminates? (the game terminates when the stack of cards is depleted, or some other condition that isn't relevant here)

So I first tried to show that the number of cards in the stack plus the total number of cards in everyone's hand must decrease on every turn (which means eventually the number of cards in the stack will go to 0, which ends the game). This, however, is not true: if you pick up cards from the table then play them in front of you (with no additions from your hand), that stays constant.

So, someone pointed out that the flow of cards is unidirectional: they always flow in the direction of

stack -> someone's hand -> table -> in front of someone

(sometimes they jump around, but they always go from left to right). So you can formalize this by showing that the sum

N^3*(number of cards in stack) + N^2*(total number of cards in everyone's hand) + N*(number of cards on table) + (total number of cards in front of someone)

is decreasing on every turn for sufficiently large N. It turns out that N=20 or so is sufficiently large, since that's the most number of cards that can be played in front of someone in one turn.

- djedi seems to be happy about work, which is nice. I'm excited about the project I'm working on.

- I've been going to the gym every other day, and lifting weights at my computer the other days (we've been playing a lot of WoW recently and it's convenient to do during downtime). I gained some weight last week mostly due to a batch of delicious brownies that I ate in like two days, but I'm back down to the previous weight already. (and I had two donuts for lunch on Thursday...and then I discovered "cookie time"!)

- We're going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival (weird that they picked the domain, although was already taken: why not or something?) tomorrow, which should be fun. The weather has nice (if a little chilly at times) so hopefully it'll be a beautiful day and not rain like my forecastfox is suggesting.

random: Last year a Japanese company had Sotheby's and Christie's compete for the right to sell their paintings by playing rock, paper, scissors. Christie's won by consulting teenage daughters of an executive, who came up with the correct strategy. Note that they got around the usual "on 3 or after 3?" question by having the combatants write down their choice on a sheet of paper. (via kottke via girlhacker)

I have the top Google Images result for her extra legs. Awesome!

Also, I've been extremely out at work and there haven't been any problems and I feel pretty good about that.


makin' progress!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-09-01 20:18:00
Tags: moving
Words: 333

Yay unpacking boxes! There are still plenty of them around to be unpacked, but we've set up the computers, the entertainment center (TV, dvd player, etc.), a lot of pots and pans and silverware, and some clothes, which is pretty good progress. The funniest part so far has been when I was trying to get the TiVo to work - the video from the cable box wasn't showing up and I couldn't figure out why, so I went to the TiVo setup help. I was fooling around with the remote while David was working on some other things, like lamp placement. We knew that there were some switches in the main room that controlled a plug (for a lamp), so he switched one of them...and my computer turned off and went silent. I might have been irritated at the situation, had it not been so funny :-)

Slowly trying to get into a sort of routine - I'm trying to convince myself that it's...what's the opposite of "vacation"? Yeah, that. So hopefully I'll make it to the gym tomorrow and establish a good habit. We'll see...

We got hit by what was left of now-Tropical Depression Ernesto today - rain and wind but nothing terrible. Also went back to IKEA for the 3rd time to get some more stuff and tried to get my car Maryland-safety-inspected (try again Monday!) Were going to eat at the Cheesecake Factory but the wait was so long so we went back to formerly Pizzeria Uno (now just Uno), which was OK. (their pizza is good but I had a burger which was kinda meh)

I crunched the numbers today from the ridiculous amounts of money we've been spending (to be fair, the travel expenses will be reimbursed, hopefully by the end of 2006!) - we're a little tight on money but we'll make it until we start getting paid, which is nice to officially know.

Happy Labor Day weekend to those of you who it means something! One week until work starts!


Democratic primary happenings
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-08-09 13:05:00
Tags: politics
Words: 129

So there were some big Democratic primaries yesterday. The most widely watched one was Connecticut senator, where newcomer Ned Lamont beat 18-year senator Joe Lieberman by 51.7%-48.3% (or something close to that). This is huge, because sitting senators baaaarely ever lose in the primary. Anyway, Lieberman announced he was going to run as an independent in the general election, thus proving he's in it for himself rather than his party. Democrats are standing behind the primary winner, luckily. I sure hope he doesn't win.

Also, Cynthia McKinney lost her primary - woohoo! Although it should be noted she lost her primary in 2002 (after implying the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand and allowed them to happen to profit off of them), so maybe she'll be back someday.


Apparently, left to my own devices...
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-08-03 11:48:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 46

...I watch all the "House" episodes (three) on the TiVo. That's probably not a good sign.

Summer musical pictures are up!

The pilot to Aaron Sorkin's new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, is up on YouTube. Good stuff! I will be watching come fall.


Mood: happy
Music: Pink Floyd - "Time" (imh)
Posted on 2006-05-19 09:49:00
Tags: links
Words: 111

Whee! Friday! And I'm visiting wonderjess and watching her graduate, so I'm looking forward to that. And I'm flying JetBlue, which I've never done before! Man, I like travelling. They show DirectTV on the plane and everything, which intrigues me.

These "seamless pictures" are very very cool. They're the work of Rob Gonsalves.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a group funded by lots of big companies that, among other things, argues that global warming isn't really happening. They have decided to start a PR campaign to defend...wait for it...CO2. The ads are hilarious, especially the one on the left ("Energy")! (from Andrew Sullivan)

Random Jon Stewart quotes

Have a nice weekend!

1 comment

just a few links
Mood: happy
Music: Firefly - "Main Title"
Posted on 2006-05-02 12:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 203

Apple has some new ads out comparing the Mac to a PC. I like these ads a lot - the tone seems to be just about right (except in "Better", which is the worst one IMO). I think I like "Network" the best, although the benefit they're showing in that one is probably the least impressive. I also find it amusing that in "iLife" they criticize the PC for not having more bundled apps - isn't that what the whole antitrust thing was about? Also, the Mac guy is quite cute :-)

They've found the gene that causes "stone man syndrome", a condition in which muscle is turned into bone. I wish the article had more information. Also, it ends with the mind-boggly dumb quote:

“The substitution of one genetic letter for another out of six billion genetic letters in the human genome is like a molecular terrorist that short-circuits a functioning set of muscles and connective tissues and transforms them into a second skeleton, in essence turning a light bulb into an atom bomb,” Dr Kaplan said.

A "molecular terrorist"? And how is this at all like turning a light bulb into an atom bomb?? Don't use analogies to make a good sound bite. Yeesh.


Mini-link monday
Mood: happy
Music: "RBI Baseball" music
Posted on 2006-04-10 16:36:00
Tags: music links
Words: 69

A little out of the ordinary, but these two links totally made my day:

Seven Songs with Factual or Logical Mistakes in the Lyrics (via waxy)

This one is crazy - someone re-enacted the 1986 World Series Game 6, bottom of the 10th inning in RBI Baseball! The original radio commentary is played over the video, and the guy really took care to get everything right. Well done! (via kottke)


lack of computer problems => happy panda!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-03-10 13:19:00
Tags: computer
Words: 170

So on djedi's advice, I went to Fry's (again!!) yesterday and got new memory. Stuck it in my computer and all the problems magically went away. Awesome! So I played WoW and it was noticeably smoother, as well as freeze-free. Hooray!

The things I still need to check/fix:
1) USB support (particularly for my camera) - probably will work, but need to try it
2) Sound - doesn't work, need to play around with nvsound kernel module some more.
3) Hard Drive weirdness - there have been some concerning errors in the syslog about not handling interrupts and not reading data correctly. There have been some reports of data corruption on nForce4 based motherboards (of which mine is). Hopefully the problem will go away, because I really really really don't want to have to get another motherboard with a different chipset. Ugh. But I'm not sure what I can do other than that if the problems continue...

Not only that, but I had a breakthrough at work yesterday, so things are going well!


why I'm happy
Mood: happy
Music: nothing yet
Posted on 2006-01-31 09:14:00
Words: 120

(in chronological order)

- My sister wonderjess got into grad school at Wash U - congrats!!

- Game night last night was fun - we played games that we don't usually play, which is always interesting. After people left, I stayed up too late...

- ...finishing my guild information table mod! There are instructions for installing it (and the source for it).

- This morning was weighing morning, and I lost a pound and some not too insignificant portion of my body fat! I still have a long way to go to get to my goals (I'm about 10% of the way there for both weight and body fat percentage), but the trend over the last month has been pretty consistently downward.

- I'm drinking a mocha!


On behalf of
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-01-13 12:54:00
Words: 55

onefishclappin and krikwennavd have gotten temporary custody of Matthew, at least until the next hearing happens in a month. They are happy, but I was warned not to read too much into this (this news comes via djedi), since it is just temporary. I'm sure they will post more details when they get back.



pictures are up
Mood: happy
Music: Madonna - "Ray of Light" (Pandora)
Posted on 2005-12-29 10:03:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 53

Just a quick note - I put some more pictures from Christmas up, including the first ones taken with my new camera!

I'm having this new chamomile tea that my mom bought for me in Rochester. It's good, but it kinda tastes like soap. I'm having a hard time reconciling those two facts. Mmmm...


quick update, since there have been lots of posts today
Mood: happy
Music: various Michael Jackson songs (IMH)
Posted on 2005-10-28 17:09:00
Words: 94

destroyerj, another friend, and I went to the Michael Jackson singalong at the Alamo Drafthouse last night. It was very fun - lots of dancing and singing. Although my voice is quite sore today (although I'm not hoarse, and my voice hasn't cracked yet! Yay...) I bought a DVD of all the music videos, so that's fun.

George Takei (Sulu on Star Trek) and Sheryl Swoopes (WNBA player, 3-time MVP, plays for the Houston Cometa both came out this week. Good for them! And maybe this will help ease the stigma of gays in sports.


ups and downs
Mood: happy
Posted on 2005-08-31 15:10:00
Tags: scipionusdotcom
Words: 178

I took some time last night when I should have been sleeping to help destroyerj put up, which is a place for people to provide and get information about conditions after Hurricane Katrina.

I heard this morning on the way to work that over 800 Iraqis were killed in a stampede during a religious procession after a rumor spread (no word on whether this was true or not) that there was a suicide bomber in the crowd. According to NPR, the procession involved taking food and candy from passers-by (I think this had some religious significance), and 100 people died of poisoning which was presumably deliberate. This is really horrible.

Lots of people are using I know it isn't much, but I feel like I helped out a little bit.

(Edit: Wow! I didn't realize this entry was going to become such a big deal. Credit where credit's due: the map was destroyerj's idea (he also goes by Scipionus, which is where the name came from), and he helped out with the implementation.)


happy birthday!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2005-08-11 11:14:00
Words: 3

Happy birthday djedi!! :-)


disney world pictures!
Mood: happy
Music: nothin'
Posted on 2005-06-10 23:33:00
Words: 182

So, first things first, I put the Disney World pictures up - check them out! Good to take care of that...

Poor djedi's laptop hard drive died today (at first I felt really bad because I thought my upgrading of iTunes had caused his computer to go nuts, but it turns out it was just a hardware problem...), so we went to Fry's and got a new one, and we're almost done with installing various bits of stuff. Anyway, so I'm gonna backup my stuff now, and y'all should too! Hard drives die all the freakin' time, it seems.

Work was pretty good today - I'm back working on more familiar ground, and it's a nice feeling...

Tomorrow djedi and I are going to the Pride Festival downtown, and then we and wildrice13 are going to see the Homestar Runner Live show (warning: annoying quicktime movie or something embedded there) at the Alamo Drafthouse, which rocks, if I haven't mentioned it lately. I think that might have been a run-on sentence, but it's hard to tell with all the HTML bits. Time will tell!


no park day! stuff! trogdor!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2005-06-04 00:00:00
Tags: disneyworld
Words: 519

No parks today! For the morning, see previous post.

After posting, we went out to lunch at Johnny Rocket's (50s-style place...decent hamburgers) (and djedi wanted me to add that he had a really great Oreo shake, and got to pick a Sonny and Cher song to listen to. So, there...and now he's gone :-) ), then over to the Sheraton (the host hotel for Gay Days) for the expo and pool party. By then it had started to rain again.

The expo was kinda neat - we looked around at various jewelry places and stuff like that, although there were a fair number of places for vacations and cruises and stuff (presumably because gays have, on the whole, more disposable income because they tend to not have kids) which we weren't really interested in. The hotel, by the way, was like Gay Central Station, or perhaps Gay Central Park. Gays and lesbians as far as the eye could see and whatnot. It was pretty neat to see :-)

After that we went over to the pool party, which had just kinda started for real because the rain stopped. So we hung around the edge of the pool, and eventually got in and people-watched for a while and stuff. Then, it started to sprinkle. Then, it started to rain. Then, it stopped raining, then sprinkled and rained hard. This didn't seem to bother other people, but being rained on while in a swimming pool is pretty unpleasant for me for some reason (I have a hangup about getting wet or something). Then, I saw some distant lightning, and it rained harder, so we finally decided to leave (many people were leaving by this point). Made our way back to the car (very hard to find parking) and I was soaking wet, then had to drive back to the hotel. Ugh!

Then we showered (ahh!), played a few hands of Rage, got dinner at Subway and went to see the comedy show "The Naked Guy". It was...interesting. I enjoyed it at first, but the style of the show was very Golden Girls (says David), and they took a lot of shots at celebrities to get a cheap laugh (or so it seemed to me). the plot was pretty predictable and so were a lot of the jokes by the end. But, it was still neat to see (and go back to Gay Central Station). Afterwards we came back here, played a quick game and are about to go to bed.

So tomorrow's the Magic Kingdom, and it's going to be crazy busy between usual Saturday traffic and the Gay Days stuff. But it should be fun. Unfortunately, we're leaving early early (well, 6AMish) the next day to drive back to Houston, so this has two consequences:

1) We're going to be tiiiired!
2) No LJ post until I get back, Monday at the very earliest.

I guess that's it. I had fun, but as usual at the end of a vacation I'll be glad to get back to my "normal life" and see people and stuff.

I'm not very good at winding down long posts.

1 comment

Mood: happy
Music: Aerosmith - "Love in an Elevator" (IMH)
Posted on 2005-06-01 10:37:00
Tags: disneyworld
Words: 799

So, recap of yesterday!

So we got up and left approximately on time to go to EPCOT - the hotel has a shuttle that goes there (and MGM) so we took that. Unfortunately, it was overcast and rainy, but it wasn't pouring, and the rain kept the crowds down (a lot) at EPCOT. We did the new "Mission: SPACE" ride, which was fun - we were all members of a flight team (I was the engineer!) and we flew a mission to Mars. <proud>I put the team in hypersleep!</proud> We then did the "Test Track" ride, which is supposed to be like a proving ground for a car (which went outside in the rain, too bad), explored some of the "Innoventions" which were kinds fun to play with (but nothing earth-shattering), and went to the "Ellen's Energy Adventure" show, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. It was pretty neat (the show was moving and we went through a prehistoric landscape with dinosaurs and whatnot) although on the longish side.

We walked through all the countries in the World Showcase, doing the ride and watching the show at Norway, watching a show at China before skipping ahead to Morocco to eat (definitely lunchtime by then). Then retraced our steps, got some fudge in Germany (mmmm!) and eventually meandered over to the UK and David and I got some Twinings Tea. (oh, and both the Norway and China show emphasized that "X's culture is in its people", so don't forget that!) After that we were going to go to MGM studios, and the nice lady in the UK that we bought tea from said that there was a boat ride that went there, so we did that (although it did take longer than the promised ten minutes...)

Hmm. This is a long recap. And this keyboard sucks. And surfing the web without a popup blocker is like the worst thing ever!

Anyway, we made it to MGM studios around 3:30, and immediately got a fastpass to Aerosmith's Rock n' Roller Coaster and waited in line for the Tower of Terror. That was fun, although pretty scary. Good stuff. Anyhow, we then got a fastpass for Star Tours, waited a long time for a Slushee (by this time it had stopped raining, so it was hot, and the crowds were a fair bit heavier) and barely made it into the next show of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It!". That was fun - a few people actually were on the hotseat for prizes, and the audience played along to earn points to try to be the next person in the hotseat. The host was no Regis, but she was pretty good, and did a good job handling some "technical difficulties" :-) Afterwards, we did Star Tours, which wasn't as fun as I remembered in seventh grade. Still, good stuff. In the store after that, I overheard the following conversation between two kids:

"Here's Darth Vader (figurine)"
"I wanted Anakin!"
"Anakin is Darth Vader!"

Heh heh. Anyway, then we went back and did the Aerosmith coaster, which was a lot of fun but pretty damn scary. While waiting in line we saw the start of the ride, which involves you starting out with a big acceleration (linear induction, sayeth wildrice13) and going up a hill. Upon seeing that, I thought "Hmm, that looks bad, but I'm sure it isn't as bad as it looks". Well, surprise, surprise, it was that bad! Yikes. But the rest of the ride was fun, and I eventually shook it off. djedi went on this ride (he had skipped Tower of Terror because of his stomach) and he seemed fine with it. Good stuff.

So then Part B of the day begins - we were going to go back to the room to order pizza and get some beer. Anyway, this sucked, and we couldn't find the pizza place, and I went the wrong way on I-4 and then tried to turn around, which had me exit 4 times (4 times!!) before I was on a real road I could turn around on, and by that time I was going the right direction so I just followed the signs back to I-4. Ugh. So we eventually got pizza and beer and made it back here. (Google SMS saved the day again!) Unfortunately, that meant we ate so late djedi had to stay up really late because f his medicine. *sigh*

So, today is a non-park day - we're planning to go mini golfing (at Pirate's Cove), then to Wonder Works (a general fun place with laser tag and stuff), and we have tickets to Cirque du Soleil tonight, which should rock. My hands are really starting to hurt, and we're about to go, so that's all for now!


weekend and such
Mood: happy
Music: Afrika Bambaataa - "Looking for the Perfect Beat"
Posted on 2005-05-16 11:13:00
Words: 315

The weekend was pretty good - we saw the Art Car Parade and walked to the Village (lots of walking on Saturday - both djedi and I had headaches afterwards :-( ), and celebrated my birthday with my family that night. Kyle and Erin's wedding was really nice, and I'm glad we were able to go. Also, the barbecue and cake were excellent!

destroyerj is hosting gamenight tonight, so that should be fun. Yay, fun!

I got rid of the google ads on my gallery page. No one had clicked on them, and they were kind of an eyesore, and I don't really need ads there or anything, so they're gone (perhaps in a puff of logic...)

I put my iTunes analysis on the web, so you can see my favorite artists and whatnot (silentzero, this is partially for you). Reading it requires a little bit of interpretation (for example, the artist "The New Broadway Cast Recordin" is the "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" soundtrack). Some interesting things I've discovered:

- I like explicit music (music with explicit lyrics, I mean) better than non-explicit (but this is probably due to the small number of explicit tracks I've rated)

- I like a capella music a little better than non-a capella music ("capella music"?) - this one's probably true.

- I need to fix up my tags so they're not truncated.

- I like Journey a lot! Other favorite bands include The Beatles, Linkin Park, Frou Frou, Matchbox 20, Michael Jackson, Evanescence, Savage Garden, etc. Any band with an average rating of 4 or greater is quite good according to me.

Again, I have the scripts to do this, so if anyone's interested in having this sort of analysis done on their music, let me know!

Just fixed a problem at work that had been bothering me - now on to other annoying problems, like making things compile. Grr.

Hope everyone has a nice day!


Quick random update!
Mood: happy
Music: William Shatner - "It Was A Very Good Year"
Posted on 2005-04-27 13:17:00
Words: 182

djedi and I went to a Round Rock Express baseball game last night (we scored some free tickets). It was a lot of fun - the Dell Diamond has a grassy area right behind the outfield fence, so we sat on the grass for a while, then moved into some seats as it got a little chilly. It's a great place to see a baseball game - very relaxed environment, etc.

(thanks to wildrice13)

American Cities That Best Fit You:

70% Atlanta

65% Honolulu

55% Austin

55% Las Vegas

55% Philadelphia

Which American Cities Best Fit You?

Atlanta is a bunch of crap, but Honolulu's cool! And Philadelphia would be neat, too. Las Vegas...well, I dunno about living there, but I'd like to visit! I really liked Alberquerque when we visited it on ACTS Tour, but oh well.

Some info about the next Zelda - looks like good stuff.

Dr. Smalley gets money from NASA - good to see Rice getting some good press.

"God doesn't take sides" - good article in Salon.

I guess I'm all linked out. Work's going pretty well, which is always nice.


Fun search results!
Mood: happy
Music: FFX-2 battle music
Posted on 2005-04-16 20:10:00
Tags: referrer funny
Words: 40

So I recently wrote a script to find interesting ways people come to my website. And it turns out that if you search on altavista for beer party naked photo album, the first result is on my website. That's awesome!


gays in sports
Mood: happy
Music: Cirque du Soleil - "Atmadja"
Posted on 2005-04-14 12:11:00
Words: 97

So I stumbled across this interesting survey about people's opinion of gays in sports. The results are about what I would expect - people are mostly OK with it unless you ask too much about it. Which means that if a major athlete in a team sport were to come out, he/she would probably not be welcomed by the public. Someday...

I'm trying out a new color scheme, all those who didn't like my last one and who thought the default one was "boring". At least this one isn't boring!

I guess I don't have much to say!


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