Posts with mood okay (79)

Pictures from random things
Mood: okay
Posted on 2014-07-23 22:01:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 78

(click for full pictures!)

<- For our World Cup final watching party, we had soccer-themed snacks! (don't miss that the soccer ball chocolates are themselves in a soccer ball!)

<- This totally legitimate ad for vinegar was in the morning paper. I think my favorite "article" is "Vinegar, Better than Prescription Drugs?" I will say: it is not.

<- Carrie and her friends Jenna and Malika came to visit us, and we played a rousing game of Star Trek Catan!


Capital in the Twenty-First Century review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2014-07-23 21:27:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 495

Capital in the Twenty-First CenturyCapital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 700-page book about economics which...wait, come back! So yeah, it's pretty long, and I'd be lying if I said it was fun and games the whole way through. But it was quite interesting, and even surprisingly entertaining. It's also quite readable for a 700 page economics book. I'm not going to try and summarize the whole thing (I'd recommend reading one of the many other reviews for that) but here are a few bits I found interesting:

- Piketty talks about the works of Honore de Balzac and Jane Austin. He points out that inflation was low enough in the 19th century that their novels could have specific references to wealth and income and readers would be able to relate. Between 1914-1945 significant inflation was seen for the first time, and consequently you don't tend to see dollar amounts in books, etc.

- Income inequality in the US has been trending upward (higher than in most other countries), and Piketty believes it's because of the enormous rise of salaries of "super-managers" (i.e. CEOs) whose individual productivity is very hard to measure. After the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s (when the top tax bracket was reduced from 70% to 28%) the "super-managers" had more of an incentive to try to increase their earnings. An argument one hears is that decreasing the top tax rate increased productivity growth, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

- Before 1914, wealth was very concentrated, but the shocks of World Wars 1 and 2 dramatically reduced the wealth of the top 10%, and it's only now starting to "recover". Similarly, before the World Wars, wealth was more concentrated in Europe than it was in the US, but since 1960 or so the reverse is true.

- One of the main theses of the book goes as follows: the rate of return on capital (which Piketty calls "r") in generally on the order of 4-5% per year. (I don't think there's a theoretical underpinning for this - it's just what has been measured for a long time) The rate of growth of world GDP (which Piketty calls "g"), while it has been as high as 3-4% in recent times, is usually lower, and he believes it will be lower in the future. This means that r>g, so wealth will continue to accumulate faster than people can earn it, so wealth will continue to become more concentrated.

- If you look at university endowments, it seems that the larger the endowment, the more return it tends to get. This is another factor that can lead to "the rich getting richer" effect.

- His solution to the problem of growing inequality is a global progressive tax on wealth. (not income)

Anyway, it really was a fascinating and surprisingly readable book, and I'd recommend it if you didn't run away screaming at the first paragraph of this review :-)

View all my reviews


quick link friday: scary Toyota firmware,
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-11-01 16:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 92

- Toyota's killer firmware: Bad design and its consequences - apparently the unintended acceleration problem was probably a software bug...reading the description of the code made me shudder! (11,000 global variables!)

- Help me optimize this code which enumerates all possible GUIDs - I read this and could not stop laughing!

- It's Halloween, so here's a picture of Patrick Stewart wearing a lobster costume in a bathtub - awesome? Yes.

- A cover of "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas done by one guy!

- CHART: 'Winners And Losers From Obamacare' - there are more winners than losers.


link friday: a bunch of Obamacare stuff, and then some other things
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-09-27 14:55:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 195

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) health exchanges open next week (if the government doesn't shut down!), so here are some interesting links about it/them:
- Final Word On Obamacare Coverage: Cheaper Than Expected - definitely some caveats here, but premiums are lower than expected. The free market at work!

- How eight lives would be affected by the health law - interesting look by the Washington Post, although of course this is a tiny sample size.

- The Plot To Kill Obamacare - this just in, Republicans will do almost anything to prevent Obamacare from happening or working.

Other things:
- Free to Be Hungry - it blows my mind that, with the growing inequality we have in the US, some people think that cutting food stamps is a good idea. (food stamps are less than $5 a day per person)

- Here Are the GOP's Debt-Ceiling Demands, and They Are Insane - the title says it all.

Other non-politics things, which you might need after the depressing state of politics these days, or at least I sure do:
- Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems - interesting article about optimizing routes for UPS drivers.

- A Hospital Tells Police Where Fights Happen, And Crime Drops - neat!


link friday: Syria, stack ranking at Microsoft, boo Texas National Guard
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-09-06 10:55:00
Tags: links
Words: 329

- 9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask - a good primer.

- Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk - ignoring the "Labor Day" bit, this is a good long article making a case against attacking Syria. I honestly don't know where I stand on this anymore - at first I was for attacking, then I was against, now I'm "maybe if I shut my eyes the civil war will stop?"

- An inside anecdotal look at Microsoft's stack ranking and how terrible it is. It surprises me a lot that a high-tech company would do something like this - it seems like a way to fight "grade inflation" at the high cost of totally perverting every employee's incentives.

- Defying Pentagon, Texas National Guard Refuses To Process Benefits For Gay Couples - so they won't let you apply for benefits at a state facility, but after you apply at a federal one they have to provide you services anywhere. Congratulations, Texas National Guard, for making it very clear you don't like gay people!

- Hmm, I was going to link this dialect quiz, but it's offline at the moment. Anyway, here's my dialect map:

I was surprised how well it pegged me, although apparently people in Kansas City also talk like people in Houston...

- My Son Wears Dresses; Get Over It - hooray! This article made me forget about that gender studies book where everyone was terrible when someone didn't conform exactly to gender roles.

- From the Onion: Renowned Hoo-Ha Doctor Wins Nobel Prize For Medical Advancements Down There - classic!

- When Harvard Met Sally: N-gram Analysis of the New York Times Weddings Section - a cool look at how wedding announcements have changed over time.

- Minimum wage over the last 40 years, inflation-adjusted - after the fast food workers protests, I looked up an inflation-adjusted chart. Of course it's hosted at, and the text indicates that it starts when the minimum wage was at its inflation-adjusted high; here's a chart that goes back further.


India, weekend 2
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-02-12 23:30:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 756

<- click for full album

Saturday 2/9 late evening

Whew, what a day! Kevin and I went to Mysore, which is only around 90 miles away, but took 3 hours to get there. On the way we stopped in Shrirangapattana and saw a temple there.

As soon as we got out of the car in front the temple, there were a bunch of very pushy street vendors that bugged us. Check out my bargaining skills: first I got this pair of elephants for Rs 1000 (~$20), down from 1200:

Then I inadvertently learned if you say "no" twenty times, you can get all this stuff for the same price!

Then I had to say no fifty times to get this one guy to leave us alone.

We walked through the temple and then walked around the city some - it felt very much like a small town (once we got away from the temple). Kevin had a Flat Stanley with him, and he was very successful at getting adults and kids to hold him. Actually, a lot of kids weren't shy and would wave at us. Eventually I started waving at them and they'd wave back, which was fun :-)

After that, we went into Mysore and saw the railway museum (which took about 10 minutes :-) )

And then on to the main event - Mysore Palace, which was the seat of power for the Kingdom of Mysore until 1947. It's breathtakingly beautiful inside, but unfortunately no pictures :-(

Then we walked around a bit to the city market which was fun but crowded. (and somewhat pushy vendors, although having survived the temple in Shrirangapattana I was an old pro at saying "no" dozens of times) We also discovered the latest scam: a kid would walk up to me, say hi, and ask what my name was and where I was from. Then they'd ask for a coin from my country "for a school project" :-) I did happen to have a dime on me, so I gave in one time...

Finally we went up to Chamundi Hill which overlooks the city. Unfortunately by the time we found a good view of the city it was getting dark and the pictures weren't that exciting.

Headed back to Bangalore and I got some evening tea at Café Coffee Day right next to the hotel (which is apparently the Starbucks of India...based on what I've seen, this seems accurate) and now I'm collapsed in bed. I got 21K steps today, and...ow! Going to sleep in a bit tomorrow.

Sunday 2/10 evening

Slept in a bit! I had breakfast at Café Coffee Day just to shake things up (and because I slept past breakfast time in the hotel), and had my laundry picked up. After that I spent some time relaxing, posting pictures/blog entry for the week, and watched the last hour of "The Dark Knight" on TV. (in English!)

After playing a bit of WoW, it was high time to leave the hotel room as I was going a bit stir-crazy. One unfortunate part of this hotel ishere's nowhere to go (other than the two hotel restaurants) if you want to stay in the hotel but not in your room. So I walked to the east, where I thought I had seen some places to shop while driving by. It was a little further away than I thought, but I did find a kind of mini-mall - it had a department-like store on the bottom two floors, then some other random stores, then a food court, arcade, and cinema. I got some gelato as a snack, and then took a look at the cinema to see if there was a movie I could watch. Unfortunately, the thing that displayed what played at what times was kinda broken, and the website was hard to use, in that I couldn't even figure out what location I was in. Apparently Lincoln and Life of Pi were playing at some theatres in English, but I don't think they were at that one. Oh well!

Café Coffee Day also lived up to "the Starbucks of India": there were two of them in the mall, and it really wasn't that big...

I also realized after the fact that there was a McDonald's there and I totally missed a chance to check out the price of a Big Mac. Nooo!

Walked back, and the rest of the day was pretty uneventful except for room service. I did get to watch some cricket and English Premier League soccer, which was fun. Now, to bed!


links: traffic fatalities visualized, lead is bad, comment trolls are also bad
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-01-18 15:14:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 282

- Five Years of Traffic Fatalities - interesting visualizations of traffic fatalities. They're definitely more common on weekend evenings, but not as much as I had thought.

- America's Real Criminal Element: Lead - I've read this hypothesis before about the crime wave in the 60s and 70s and subsequent reduction, but this presents a very good case for it. I'm a sucker for stories explaining things in the past that were mysteries!

- Never Lie About Who You Really Are - this resonated so hard with me I nearly exploded. I am to the point where I don't hide that I have a husband, but I don't necessarily volunteer it even if it's relevant. Maybe that's not good enough.

- The Science of Why Comment Trolls Suck - from the article:

Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.
and that sounds about right from my personal experience.

- 'Star Wars' game segregates gay characters on gay planet - this is officially my favorite headline ever! The reasons same-sex relationship are only allowed on one planet is technical (they only included the same-sex flirting animations, etc. on new characters, it sounds like?) but...awesome.

- US employee 'outsourced job to China' - I am very impressed someone had the gall to pull this off...and it worked! (for a while, anyway)

- Earth to Fiscal-Cliff Pundits: $250K Does Make You Rich (this probably gives you an idea of how long I've been sitting on some of these links :-) )


Two awesome things by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics fame)
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-12-14 15:23:00
Words: 150

If you haven't read Dinosaur Comics you should give it a try! (although, today's is pretty confusing; MAYBE try a different day's instead?)

1. He has a Kickstarter for To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure, which is a *ahem* choose-your-own-path-style-adventure based on Hamlet! You can be Hamlet or Ophelia or King Hamlet (who dies at the beginning!) and the choices continue from there! It looks super awesome, and if you scroll through the updates people are collectively playing through one path.

2. On said Kickstarter page I saw a reference to B^F which is Mr. North's reading of the novelization of Back to the Future, which is, as he puts it, "insane", and after reading a lot of his posts I can't help but agree! It's also available in ePub/Kindle form for the low price of $3, so there's really no reason not to do that!


The Eyre Affair review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-12-09 16:28:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 33

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful book. The premise is outlandish but the author really sells it well and sucked me in!

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mostly happy links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-10-09 16:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 175

But first, a link I missed from my last angry links: this guy caused a lot of college tuition inflation and is proud of it.

- In Paris, they put up a statue commemorating Zidane's head-butt in the 2006 World Cup finals.

- Should I have a different opinion about not having opinions? - as someone who can be indecisive, there are some good points in there. Mostly that always making the other person decide can be a burden on them, so it's OK to just choose randomly if you really don't have an opinion!

- In 2008, Focus on the Family wrote a list of 34 predictions from 2012 if Obama got elected - and, generously, half of one prediction came true. (the repealing of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but without the disastrous consequences)

Fun videos:
- A series of covers of "Somebody That I Used to Know".

- Pentatonix's cover of Gangnam Style!

- I obviously don't have a lot of love for Ohio State, but credit where credit's due: their marching band puts on a good video game halftime show.


Italy recap: Day 7 (Museo della Civilta Romana, Catacombs)
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-10-08 23:02:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 264

(click for more)

Saturday 7:30 PM
Our last full day in Rome! Kind of sad, but I'll admit I'm looking forward to a nicer hotel. I'm writing this on the rooftop garden which is pretty beautiful tonight - no rain today which was handy. Our morning was free, so we took the subway to near the end of the line to EUR, which is a "permanent exhibition" built by Mussolini. Aside from the streets having interesting names (Europe, Africa, Art, Architecture, Shakespeare) it looked like a typical suburb to us. We walked to the Museo della Civilta Romana and saw some good exhibits about the history of Rome. It really cleared up some timeline issues I had, and there were some cool scale models.

Afterwards we went to the main train station and got lunch nearby, next to where our Catacombs tour began. We took a bus out to the Catacombs of Domitilla and got to walk through a small part of them. The whole catacombs under this church are over 10 miles; the original discoverer got lost for 3 days trying to find his way out! (and there are more than 60 different catacombs in Rome!)

We then saw two other churches (with no catacombs) and that was it. Had dinner and afterwards firmed up our plans for Florence a bit. Luckily our train doesn't leave until 12:45 tomorrow so we have plenty of time to pack, etc.

Oh, and we used the compass on my phone! Between that and the Kindle and the data plan, the my Lumia 900 has been very helpful :-)


Italy recap: Day 2 (Vatican tour)
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-09-23 15:08:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 691

(click for more)

Monday 5 PM

Ahh sleep. I feel much better than yesterday, and the dizziness is almost entirely gone!

This morning we had breakfast in the hotel - the breakfast area is small but good enough, and I got a cup of tea to start my day which is always pleasant. (caffeine was a major reason I was able to stay up until bedtime yesterday!) We took the Metro over to the Vatican for our four hour(!) guided tour, and got there way early. Luckily we've been using our phones as portable Kindles - even in airplane mode it's wonderful having a bunch of books to read when we're out and about; it makes planning for things less necessary and stressful. I also got a cappucino at a nearby cafe; here the generaly way this seems to work is you order at the cashier, pay, then bring the barista your receipt. Hovering over the barista without a receipt accomplishes nothing (especially if you don't speak Italian!) as I've forgotten a few times now.

The tour was decent but long. (and we never stopped for any sort of break) The tour guide had a CB-like radio that he talked into and we all had earphones so we could hear, which is necessary since the Vatican is the most-visited museum in the world. An average of 20K people per day visit, and today seemed like no exception.

I had forgotten that there's a lot of ancient art in the Vatican, even (to my slight amusement) statues to Greek and Roman gods!

Unfortunately, the tour guide talked both too much and too little, so it was hard to figure out what was important/interesting about each room. But of course the art is amazing, so it was fine. After the tour was done at 2:30 we quickly found a lunch place and ate and rested for a bit, then came back to the hotel for a nap.

Aside - I was reading "Be Good" (a book about ethics) while we waited for the tour to start. Then on the tour, a woman with three kids, two of which rode in a stroller most of the time, was in our group. After a while of being on the tour I began to wonder whether it was ethical to bring the kids along. (and I swear I'm trying not to be a stereotypical kid-hating gay man - hear me out!) Firstly, there are a lot of stairs on the tour, so people had to help here carry the stroller around. The museum was also crowded, so it took longer for the group to get anywhere because of the stroller. The kids (who ranged from ages...umm, 4 to 9 maybe? I'm terrible at kid age estimation) were relatively well-behaved, but by the end they were getting loud and cranky. (not that I blame them - I was getting cranky too!) So, I dunno. I just hope that when she bought tickets she knew that there were a bunch of steps. And I'm not sure how much the kids got out of it anyway...

Aside - There are two rules in the Sistene Chapel - no pictures and no talking. (although I guess tour guides are allowed) These seem like reasonable rules - the no-picture one is not terribly common but not unheard of, and it is a chapel so I'm fine with the church making the rules. But - visiting the Chapel is a great way to lower your opinion of humanity - there is lots of noise (to the point where every few minutes the guards say shhh and "Silenzio!"), and lots of people taking pictures. Sigh.

Aside - I saw more than a handful of people taking pictures with iPads/other tablets. What's up with that? Cameras on tablets are generally terrible, right?

After a bit, we walked over to the Trevi Fountain, which was crowded but pretty. Then we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant where they presumably forgot about us, so it took an hour and a half. (dinners are slow here but usually not that slow!) Then we went and saw The Bourne Legacy with Italian subtitles - fun times! Now it is late.


Fitbit: status after seven months of wearing one
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-08-02 13:19:00
Tags: reviews essay
Words: 283

I've been wearing my Fitbit for seven months now (initial impressions here), and it seems like as good a time as any to see how it's going.

I've kept my weekly goal at 70,000 steps. Looking at my FitCalendar, I've made my goal every week except one in which I was sick. Clearly some weeks have been better than others, but I'm proud of myself for sticking to the goal.

I definitely feel like having the numbers changes my behavior (which is the point, really) - I can remember plenty of instances where I have to force myself to go out for a walk (or, worst case, walk round and round the kitchen) to get up to 10K steps.

I might not make my goal this week or next week (because I can't wear it during the musical, I don't get credit for steps, and I'm exhausted from the musical so I'm giving myself permission to not kill myself to get up to 10K), but even so I'm pleased with how things are going.

A word of advice to Fitbit users: use the belt holster! Everyone I know who has just clipped the Fitbit itself to their pants/whatever has lost it. I've had a few close calls even with the holster. (I've lost it twice during musical runthroughs, hence the rule above!)

I also have one base station for home and another one for work, which was donated to me by someone who lost his Fitbit. That makes it pretty convenient to charge, and since there are a number of people that sit near me that have one, it will sync down their data too. :-)

Final verdict: Yay for Fitbit! (and yay for me!)


Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence V. Texas review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-06-10 19:09:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 320

Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. TexasFlagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas by Dale Carpenter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very interesting book about the sodomy law in Texas and how it was struck down in 2003. It starts with the background of both the people involved in the case and the city of Houston w.r.t gay rights (which I found fascinating, having grown up there and never picked up on any of that stuff). Then the arrest in question, in which the author convincingly argues that Lawrence and Garner were probably not, in fact, having sex when the officers walked in. Somehow that makes the whole case more poignant - that the law was just being used because the officers were (understandably) upset that someone had called in claiming a guy had a gun when that wasn't true, and generally down on gay people. (after Lawrence and Garner got lawyers they told them not to talk to anyone, because they wanted to challenge the law even though they probably hadn't broken it!)

Then the author traces how the case was brought to the attention of Lambda Legal (helped out by some closeted people in the judiciary), and culminates in the argument before the Supreme Court. I was surprised that the Harris County DA was very unprepared and got totally hammered during his oral arguments.

The book also makes the point (as did Paul Smith, who gave the oral arguments for the plaintiffs) that the law was about more than just sex - it was used to justify discrimination since gay people were presumably law-breakers. I remember the feeling of oppression that I had before 2003 knowing that the law was on the books, even though it was very rarely enforced.

Anyway, you may not like this book as much if you're not interested in the Supreme Court, gay rights, and didn't grow up in Houston, but I ate it up :-)

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1 comment

links: the 501 developer manifesto, etc.
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-04-18 13:18:00
Tags: links
Words: 238

- I read The 501 Developer Manifesto and was going to comment on it, and then I read I Guess I'm Not A 501 Developer and it was exactly what I wanted to say, so...nevermind. (the short version: not working long hours = good, but it's OK to program on your own for fun, amirite?)

- Doctors Urge Their Colleagues To Quit Doing Worthless Tests - it makes me sad that it's so easy for doctors to rely on "conventional wisdom" instead of staying up to date on the latest studies on the efficacy of tests/procedures/etc. To be fair, it's a hard problem, but one worth solving!

- On Being Gay In Medicine: A Leading Harvard Pediatrician’s Story - powerful stuff, we've come a long way!

- Calling Radicalism by Its Name - it's general election season, and don't believe anyone who wants to reduce the deficit and cut taxes.

- Poll: Google's More Popular Than Facebook, Twitter, and Even Apple - not too surprising, I guess, but why is Twitter so unpopular?

- Caine's Arcade - if you haven't seen it yet, 9-year-old Caine runs his own arcade made out of cardboard!

- Evidence: Fat People Can Be as Healthy as Thin People - as someone who is overweight but has generally healthy habits (more or less), yay!

- SpaceX on why the US can beat China - whenever I read about SpaceX I feel awesome inside...and not just because they use LabVIEW.

- QArt codes - making art out of QR codes. Very clever!


Republic, Lost review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-03-13 20:47:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 105

Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop ItRepublic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lessig makes the case that Congress is corrupt - not in the "directly taking money for votes" way, but just the fact that Congresspeople are desperate for money so they can get reelected, so lobbyists who can provide more campaign fundraising get more access. This is not a hard case to make.

He also talks about possible solutions, but it was depressing how out of reach these seem. The most likely one is a Constitutional convention, so...yeah. Good book, but fairly depressing.

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Thinking, Fast and Slow review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-02-07 21:54:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 167

Thinking, Fast and SlowThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book (yet another behavioral psychology one!) focuses on how we think by characterizing two "systems". System 1 is the automatic system that we can't really control - it is very sure of itself, it generates "intuition", and it is subject to all sorts of biases (overweights low probability events, is more sensitive to changes than states, sometimes substitutes easier questions for harder ones, etc.). System 2 is what we think of as our rational brain - it does tricky math problems and is what we use when we try hard to pay attention to something, but is also very lazy and tries to avoid being engaged.

The book starts off a bit slowly but is a great tour of how System 1 and System 2 interact and the biases they lead to (such as anchoring effects, narrow framing, excessive coherence, and loss aversion). I enjoyed it!

(paper book, available for borrowing)

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most depressing football game ever?
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-01-10 15:06:00
Tags: essay football
Words: 196

As someone who was rooting to LSU, last night's 21-0 loss to Alabama in the national championship game (ESPN, Wikipedia) was the most depressing football game I've ever seen. Alabama made 5 field goals (plus one missed one, and another one that was blocked) and while LSU's defense kept them out of the end zone until 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the fact that they were able to attempt 7 field goals is an indication that their offense was just good enough.

Of course, the real fault was the LSU offense - the defense kept them in the game much longer than they deserved. Time after time they'd throw short-to-negative-yard passes and the Alabama defense would jump all over them. But the fact that they were in the game until the middle of the fourth quarter, yet could never score or even get close, made it all the more painful and depressing.

(the most devastating game I've ever seen, of course, is The Comeback, when the Houston Oilers were leading 35-3 in the third quarter and managed to lose. I watched the whole game and went to my room and cried after it was over...)


Practical Cryptography review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-12-28 17:48:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 253

Practical CryptographyPractical Cryptography by Niels Ferguson, Bruce Schneier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is somewhat of a sequel to Applied Cryptography. Where that book is a long list of lots of different neat cryptographic algorithms, this is a much more practical book which gives solid advice on what algorithms, etc. to use.

It also hammers again and again that security is only as valuable as its weakest link, and often that won't been the cryptography. As such, it covers a ton of different ways security can be compromised, including using cryptographic functions in the wrong mode, not verifying every protocol message back and forth, bad pseudorandom number generators, side-channel attacks, attacks on the clock, etc. It was kind of depressing, honestly :-) The first sentence of the preface is "In the past decade, cryptography has done more to damage the security of digital systems than it has to enhance it." Later section titles include "Cryptography Is Very Difficult", followed by "Cryptography Is the Easy Part".

It talks about Diffie-Hellman and RSA in some depth (which means a bit of math), and works through designing a secure protocol. But, its practical advice is to use ones that exist already, and be very very careful. As the authors note repeatedly, "there are already enough insecure fast systems; we don't need another one."

Anyway, this is an invaluable book if you're working on security in any shape or form, and I found it quite interesting regardless.

(paper book, available for borrowing)

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mostly politics links, plus a good list of board games
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-11-30 15:54:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 170

BoardGameGeek has a holiday gift guide full of good games. I think we own (and like) half the games on the list :-)

- Why we need an individual mandate for health insurance - a short explanation by comparing it to the used car market. Adverse selection is a big problem! (thanks David!)

- Why conservatives can't get people to work hard is a good look at how hard it is to motivate people, and why building a strong middle-class seems important. (thanks David!)

- The Era of Corporate Profit - corporate profits (after tax) are the highest in the last 50 years, while wage income is at its lowest over the same period (both as shares of GDP). And (surprise, surprise!) corporate taxes are way down.

- A former conservative asks When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

- The Tuesday Birthday Problem is a long article about a tricky probability question. (the answer depends on how you ask it) I like probability questions, but I tend to steer clear of not-entirely-well-formed ones like this one.


The Decision Tree review
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-10-21 13:04:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 168

The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized MedicineThe Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine by Thomas Goetz

This book was...OK. It covered a few topics: we need to take more control of our health and have more access to our medical records/data (including our DNA) so we can make our own decisions, it's better to catch diseases early but the health care system in the US isn't correctly incentivized to encourage that, we need to change the pharmaceutical industry so they don't have to focus on blockbuster drugs. All was mildly interesting, but mostly stuff I had heard before, and tying all of this to a "decision tree" seemed shoehorned.

They did mention Quantified Self, which I appreciated, and there was an example of a Drug Facts box for prescription drugs that is much clearer than what we have today (a PDF example). I also learned about PatientsLikeMe, a website good for people with chronic illnesses to share what treatments work for them.

View all my reviews


a few nifty links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-09-16 14:22:00
Tags: links
Words: 155

- Meet James Wilkinson! This Commanding General of the US Army has the following to his credit:
- Allegedly was part of a conspiracy to depose George Washington as Commander in Chief
- Conspired with Spain for a brief while
- Allegedly plotted with Aaron Burr to start an independent nation in the west, who he later betrayed
- Blundered away the Battle of Crysler's Farm (which led to a court-martial, although he was cleared of all charges)
- Bravely ran away at the Battle of Lacolle Mills

- In the recent Republican presidential debates, the Tea Party audience has cheered Rick Perry's 234 executions as governor of Texas and a moderator's suggestion of letting a sick person with no insurance die.

- Why I Try Not To Do Things For Others, But Instead, Do Them For Myself - an interesting philosophy. I think it's good to do things for others sometimes, but doing household chores "for someone else" can definitely lead to resentment.


squirreled away links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-08-16 11:48:00
Tags: links
Words: 243

I stashed away some links and forgot to include them last time. So!

- Debate Showcases Pandering That Repels Voters - to summarize, at the Republican debate, a question was asked if the candidate would walk away from a deal that required one new dollar in taxes for every ten in spending reductions...and every single person said yes. I understand that this is primary season, but for the love of all that is good and holy, if no Republican is open to compromise at all it's going to be impossible to get anything done.

- It's the Economy, Dummkopf! - long Michael Lewis article about Germany, the economy, and (fair warning) excrement.

- 102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes - I like the quote at the end from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.

- Warren Buffett again says to raise taxes on the very rich.

- A new study suggests that people want to avoid being at the bottom to the extent of not wanting policies that help them if they would help people below them catch up.

Non-economy themed:
- Super creepy Pokemon hack - I know very little about Pokemon or even if this story is real, but this description of a hacked Pokemon game is, indeed, super creepy.

- Apparently, Herman Cain likes to quote the theme song from the Pokemon movie. Hah!

- A brief history of FIFA corruption - shorter version: FIFA has had a lot of corruption, yo!


monday is for linking: financial geekery, NY same-sex marriage, DVR sports
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-06-13 16:56:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 150

Britton Gregory, a friend of ours, is getting into the financial coaching business, and he has a new excellent blog called Financial Geekery. Check it out! I've already learned that I need to check my American Express credit card to see if I can get better rewards...

There's probably going to be a vote on same-sex marriage in New York this week, and apparently the count of confirmed supporters is up to 30 (out of 32 necessary). Go go go! (skipping obligatory link to map)

Chuck Klosterman tries to explain why watching sports on the DVR sucks the fun out of it. I have had similar feelings, and his explanations seem pretty close to the truth.

Taking Cold Showers - I like the idea but not sure I can force myself to do this. I'm not a very determined person in the morning!

A cool time-lapse video of Manhattan traffic, etc.


can't buy me links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-03-15 14:35:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 250

From the Atlantic:
- A neat map of the counties of America by how their median family income has changed over the last 30 years. Austin is a "Boom town"!

- Secret Fears of the Super-Rich - the most surprising thing for me was that the survey respondents (with an average net worth of $78 million) don't consider themselves financially secure, but would need 25% more than what they have to feel that way. Some of the big problems are ensuring their children grow up without a giant sense of entitlement, and constantly wondering if people like them or are just being friendly for their money.

- How 2 Colbert Staffers and a Game Journalist Rewrote Carmen Sandiego for Facebook - she's back!

From other places:
- Sadly, a same-sex marriage bill got sent back to committee in Maryland. But, tomorrow a bill will be introduced to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Probably doesn't have a great chance of passing, but it's good to know people are fighting for it. It surprises me that according to an HRC poll, 51% of Americans oppose DOMA! Maybe there is some hope after all...

- One of the four Democratic state senators in New York who voted against the same-sex marriage bill...lives with his gay partner. Yes, it's still hypocritical if you're a Democrat.

- Katamari Hack - make a Katamari on any web page! (works in Firefox 4 and Chrome...and maybe others)

- Weatherspark has a ton of weather data in a nice format. Here's data from Camp Mabry.


stock market returns project
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-01-26 10:33:00
Tags: projects
Words: 171

Riffing off of this New York Times chart I mentioned a few weeks ago, I present: a chart of stock market returns! A few notes:

- Unfortunately, I didn't have any S&P 500 data before 1950, so that's when the chart begins. I'm not sure how the original chart went back to 1920, and I didn't feel comfortable just copying their raw data.

- The calculations for dollar-cost averaging are...a little confusing. Basically I considered it as if you had a lump sum but instead of investing it all at once, you invest it a little bit per month. Except then correcting for inflation gets very tricky. Anyway, there may be some problems but I think the message is the same - especially in the short run it reduces risk and return, but the more strongly the market trends off the better off you would have been investing it all at once.

- It was fun to throw this together but it also adds less information over the original than I had hoped. Oh well!


things that inspire emotions in me
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-01-17 13:16:00
Tags: palm work links
Words: 264

(yes I am terrible at subjects)

First up, anger: Vaccines do not cause autism, and the original study (based on 12(!) children) done by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 appears to be fraudulent. No one's been able to reproduce the study, and Wakefield was paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers. Meanwhile vaccination rates are down, and more kids are getting measles, seemingly because people like Jenny McCarthy keeps pushing the connection even though there is none. I hope Wakefield is prosecuted - he's already lost his medical license...

Surprised: The Austin MetroRail now runs during the day, starting tomorrow! I'm surprised because it sounded like this would be impossible because of contracts with freight rail companies that use the same track, but apparently they worked something out. It's still only on weekdays (and only every 45 mins-1 hour), but this seems like a big step forward.

Excited: HP/Palm is having a "special event" February 9 to announce presumably new hardware, and they invited developers for a small event after the official announcement. Sounds like a good time, but vacation/plane tickets/hotels are expensive. I will be eagerly following from here, though, and desperately hoping for a new Sprint device!

Intrigued: More details on Stuxnet, the virus that set back Iran's nuclear efforts by years have emerged. It's looking increasingly likely that either the US or Israel or both were involved.

Inquisitive: NI is hiring software engineers, so if you're interested in a job in Austin, drop me a line! (working here is generally awesome) Vaguely related: Advice to a college sophomore programmer.


video links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-01-11 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 99

I'm pretty sure I linked this before, but the opening sketch from the Emmys was pretty awesome. (and the reason I've been humming "Born to Run" incessantly, people who I've spent any time with!)

The theme music for Law & Order: UK makes me want to put on a wig and boogie!

Why are birds dying? Obviously because Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed.

A fan-made commercial for NASA. (that borrows heavily from Carl Sagan)

Various videos of Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" translated to sign language.

Bonus non-video link: A Brief Visual History of US Taxes, because graphs + taxes = Greg bait.


Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-11-03 10:20:00
Tags: politics
Words: 175

First off, I'm glad I wasn't around last night to watch the results come in live. Losing > 60 House seats is pretty ouch.

But it wasn't all bad news. The Democrats held on to the Senate, and it looks like they'll have 52 or 53 seats. The Republican Senate candidate from Colorado, Ken Buck, who believes that being gay is a choice appears to be going down.

Sadly, the National Organization for Marriage managed to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges who ruled for marriage equality (maybe those Iowans will stop being so smug...), but the judge who originally ruled for marriage equality kept his job, and generally NOM endorsed a lot of candidates that lost.

Our old state representative Donna Howard apparently won by 15 votes out of 100,000! (pending a recount, presumably)

Anyway, maybe now (or at least in January) we can get back to governing and fixing unemployment and all that. Or, maybe it'll be a giant mass of gridlock and nothing will get done. Which do you think is more likely?


Sex at Dawn
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-08-29 17:34:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 471

My latest read was Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. Very interesting book.

The summary is a bit NSFWish, so here goes:
The authors' main thesis is that the standard narrative of human sexuality and how it evolved is totally wrong. The standard narrative goes something like this: A woman want to mate with a man who has a lot of resources and is monogamous with her, so when she gives birth the man will help her raise the child. Men want to mate with as many women as possible to spread his genetic material around, and he wants exclusivity with the women to be sure that the children they're raising are his. This results in a "mixed strategy" of pair-bonding - one man, one woman.

A lot of the book is dedicated to tearing down this narrative. They talk about the "Flintstonization" of prehistory - the tendency to take the culture of today and project it into the past. They also talk about some studies and books that have been written that support the narrative and tear them down a bit.

Of course, it's a bit hard to say what human culture was like before the advent of agriculture, but we can examine chimpanzees and bonobos (our closest ape ancestors), as well as primitive cultures today. In most models of human nature, chimpanzees are considered to be closest to humans, but bonobos (who were one of the last mammals to be studied in their natural habitat) are just as close. Bonobos and humans are the only species that have nonreproductive sex.

Anyway, I'll jump to the punchline: their model proposes that our prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were not monogamous at all, or even polygynous (one male, multiple females), but there was a lot of multimale-multifemale mating. This helped to solidify social relationships within tribes. (no group-living nonhuman primate is monogamous) The parental involvement "problem" wasn't as much an issue, because if a women has a child and has had sex with a lot of men in the tribe, then they don't know which one is actually the father and they all feel responsible for raising the child.

Under this model, Darwinian competition for mates is replaced with sperm competition - some of the chemicals in ejaculate seem designed to kill/prevent other sperm from fertilizing the egg.

So their point is that monogamy is certainly possible for humans, but the way we evolved makes it "unnatural" and very hard to do. Which is no huge surprise, given the myriad examples of adultery we hear about.

I always feel like I'm selling a book short a bit when I write a review, and this is especially true in this case. It's very interesting, and has a surprisingly breezy and entertaining tone. (despite the fact that I knew nothing about evolutionary psychology) Highly recommended!

1 comment

Lesson learned: avoid "authorized retailers"
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-07-08 12:41:00
Tags: palmpre
Words: 233

I got the skinny on my phone today - I did buy it less than a year ago, and the warranty does carry over to the replacement phone, but because I bought it at a Sprint "authorized retailer" and not a corporate store, they sold me a refurbished phone! Maaaaaybe this was mentioned at the time (I was somewhat under duress, having just lost my phone) but I certainly don't remember them saying that. The guy at the store I went to was sympathetic, saying someone came in last week in the same situation. (then I paid for the repair, and I'll get a refurbished phone shipped to me in a few days)

So: from now on, corporate stores for me. It's certainly not clear from Sprint's website, but I guess the "Sprint Store by Direct Store" is supposed to clue me in. That's the Arbor Walk location, to be clear. And apparently the manager of that store was a real jerk to Shawn, so another reason to avoid them!

But, I still like Sprint - cheaper plans, coverage seems fine, and because I'm a "Sprint Premier" member (read: been on any smartphone plan for 6 months) I'm eligible to upgrade phones every year instead of every two years. And the customer service, at least at the corporate store on Capital of Texas (which I am sadly quite familiar with) has been friendly and competent.


more world cup goodness
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-06-17 10:25:00
Tags: soccer links
Words: 108

I'm accumulating quite a stack of non-World Cup links, but to hell with them!

Nate Silver's World Cup odds update. To advance, the US has to either beat Slovenia tomorrow, or draw and then beat Algeria next Thursday.

My bracket which isn't looking too great.

Missed the England-US game? Here's a video recap with adorable Lego players.

The Guardian has this neat visualization of events during the games and popular terms on Twitter, so you can see how quickly Twitter reacts to goals, etc.

The Wall Street Journal is tracking every goal scored in the World Cup and breaking it down by player, team, country, day, stadium, etc.


neat startups
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-05-11 16:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 181

I like tech startups - probably comes from reading Hacker News a lot. If I were in a different place in life I'd probably want to work for one (or found one!), but I'm pretty happy where I am now, so instead I shall live vicariously through others.

- FlightCaster - predicts ahead of time whether flights will be delayed using machine learning and lots of data. I like this idea so much I wrote FlightPredictor (a WebOS client for Palm phones) that uses their data.

- SproutRobot - tell it where you are, and it will tell you what to plant when, and even send you the proper seeds. Just looking at the website makes me a little happier.

- Groupon - coupons with a twist. Each coupon is only offered for a day, and only if enough people buy it does the transaction take place (more about how it works). You can see the recent offers for Austin have included Precision Camera & Video, the Round Rock Express, Austin's Park and Pizza. I just signed up today and am hoping for more cool stuff in the future!


LJ for WebOS: 2.5 weeks later
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-02-17 10:55:00
Tags: lj for webos essay projects
Words: 577

It's been 2.5 weeks since LJ for WebOS was published on the Palm App Catalog, so I thought it would be nice to talk about how many copies have sold and whatnot.

As of this very moment (according to Palm's magic page that I reload far more often than I should), I've sold 44 copies. You can see a rough graph of the copies per day here, although this tracks downloads and not purchases, so for example when an update got published yesterday the download numbers spiked but the purchases did not.

I was actually expecting a little more of a bump from my app being near the top of the "Recent" list in the App Catalog, but I only sold 2 copies yesterday, which is around the same as most days. Which in retrospect makes sense, because already my app's appeal is fairly limited: only WebOS users who also use LiveJournal and use both enough that they'd be willing to pay to get a better interface to it. An impulse buy this is not.

This is part of the reason I priced it as $2.99, which is "high" in App Catalog terms - the number of people who would be interested in it is so artificially limited in the first place. Of course the other reason is that I think it provides at least that much value - it's much more pleasant to use than LiveJournal's mobile site, which is really the only alternative.

So how much money have I made? Well, let's do the math: 44 copies at $3 each is $132. My cut of that is 70%, which is $92.40. I had to pay $50 to get it on the App Catalog in the first place, so that's down to $42.40, and after taxes I end up with around $32.

On the one hand, hey, free money, right? Except I've spent a ton of time on this project. I've been working on it in my spare time since August, and I've written over 7000 lines of JavaScript code. I've definitely put at least 50 hours into it and probably closer to 100, so calculating the hourly rate is a little depressing. This is probably the project I've spent the second-most amount of time on. (I'm guessing top is

I think I put myself in a bad place here - when I work on projects for fun and release them "to the world" open source and all (see: almost everything on then I get the satisfaction of completing a project and the satisfaction whenever I see anyone use it, which is a pretty low bar. When I work on stuff for money, then, well, I get money for it, and the idea that someone cares enough about what I'm working on to pay for it.

But this model where I work on stuff in my spare time for fun and then try to make a little money off of it puts me in the mindset of working for the money, and then when the money fails to materialize I get depressed about it. Not to mention I've spent so much time on this in the last few weeks that I could feel myself burning out last night. So I think I'm going to back off a bit on new features and work on things that seem interesting or useful to me, not necessarily other people.

Anyway, this has been a bit meandering, so thanks for reading :-)


a few Monday links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-01-18 15:23:00
Tags: music links
Words: 129

According to The Advocate, Austin is the ninth-gayest city in the US. Atlanta is #1, which kinda surprised me.

OK Go has a new music video out, and it's pretty good. It includes the Notre Dame marching band playing with them, which I generally like (see Radiohead with the USC marching band). Of course, OK Go is no stranger to cool music videos - they did the neato treadmill one for their last album.

The original YouTube video is not embeddable, and a member of the band wrote a long post explaining why that's so. Basically, their label (EMI) gets paid a small amount for each YouTube view, but their tracker can't count embedded hits, but there's a bit of philosophy about how different the music business is these days.


links so I can upgrade to Firefox 3.6 and don't want to lose my open tabs!
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-12-08 11:42:00
Tags: links
Words: 107

The Austin City Council might push for a November 2010 referendum on expanding passenger rail. This is fairly hilarious to me, since the "existing" passenger rail is over a year and a half late, and they still haven't set a start date on it. I'm a big supporter of passenger rail, but even I'm not sure I'd vote for more after the boondoggle it's become.

8 Great Gifts for Your Data Geek - hmm, I own one of these and at least one is on my Christmas list :-)

Good summary of the hacked climate change emails - yes, some bad things were done, but the evidence is still overwhelming.


feeling a little better
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-11-04 14:06:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 34

In the meantime, I updated the same-sex marriage map with the results from WA and ME, and added in percentages on votes the public had on same-sex marriage. (I think Mississippi's was the worst)


another day, another dollar
Mood: okay
Music: Jami Sieber - "Undercurrent" (from Braid soundtrack)
Posted on 2009-09-14 15:46:00
Tags: links
Words: 299

For some reason I tend to get depressed Sunday mornings when we go to church. I'm not sure if it's because the weekend's almost over (but Sunday afternoon depression would seem more likely) or what. I usually feel better by the end of church, though. It's weird.

Yesterday I played Braid for the first time (djedi finished it last week, I believe), and it's pretty cool although kinda tricky. (David helped me a lot, which I appreciated!) The art style and music are quite striking, and it turns out the creator of Braid licensed all of the music. You can buy it on Magnatune, or listen to it here with slightly annoying end of track speeches:

Music from Braid by Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz

Excellent mood music!

onefishclappin posted this interesting map of which cities have more single men than women and vice versa. I would love to see an explanation for why there are more single men than women on the West Coast, and vice versa on the East Coast.

Is Happiness Catching? The answer is maybe, as you might expect, but the article lists a bunch of examples of things that are socially contagious, like obesity and smoking. For example:

When a Framingham resident became obese, his or her friends were 57 percent more likely to become obese, too. Even more astonishing to Christakis and Fowler was the fact that the effect didn’t stop there. In fact, it appeared to skip links. A Framingham resident was roughly 20 percent more likely to become obese if the friend of a friend became obese — even if the connecting friend didn’t put on a single pound. Indeed, a person’s risk of obesity went up about 10 percent even if a friend of a friend of a friend gained weight.


link friday
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-08-14 13:26:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 97

A 3D animation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field - pretty cool!

Someone diagrammed out a Choose Your Own Adventure. It turns out you're fairly likely to die!

If you like cuddly subatomic particles, you could do worse than the Particle Zoo. I would imagine it's Sheldon-approved.

Bill Clinton talks about Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA.

The American Conservative Union hit up FedEx for money for support on a bill, and when FedEx didn't bite, they recommended UPS instead. Shady!

An interview with Jim McGreevey, five years after he came out and resigned the New Jersey governorship.


weekend, life update
Mood: okay
Music: Nine Inch Nails - "The Perfect Drug"
Posted on 2009-07-06 13:08:00
Tags: health wedding links
Words: 222

Thursday I went tubing with some people in New Braunfels. I'm generally not super excited about water activities, but it was fun and relaxing. It was also really, really hot. I didn't fully reapply suntan lotion while floating down the river (not really sure why I didn't, except that I didn't feel like I was burning) , and thus I ended up horribly sunburned on most of my chest, upper legs and feet.

I've been using some aloe lotiony stuff which helped a lot, but even still it's still sensitive and (worst of all) itchy, especially at night. Saturday night I took a Benadryl which successfully knocked me out, and last night I tried to get by with just some cortisone cream. Gave up on that after a while of itching and not sleeping and took the Benadryl, but it didn't work as to sleep after about an hour and didn't sleep well. (neither did djedi, for unrelated reasons)

12 days until our wedding! Everything seems in order and we're keeping up with our todo list but I'm still generally stressed. Picked up honeymoon tickets, etc. today and I'm looking forward to that part :-)

A somewhat rambling but interesting talk by Stephen Fry about America's place in the world.

Propaganda posters for World War III. I think this one is my favorite.


Yeah, yeah, my heart's in a whirl
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-06-01 11:53:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 145

May had some high points, but overall it kinda sucked, what with being stressed out with work stuff all the time. June looks to be somewhat better, but still stressful. July will be hectic for 17 days, then awesome, then more awesome. (August will be extremely stressful for about 4 days, then presumably back to normal) This would all be more managable if I hadn't been so moody. Hoping that goes away when the stress is gone.

This is a terrible, terrible attack on Sotomayor. Something tells me G. Gordon Liddy thinks women shouldn't hold any positions of power anywhere.

Bing is Microsoft's new search engine. It seems decent so far.

Nevada gets domestic partnerships (over the governor's veto) and Illinois's civil union bill makes it out of committee but not to the house floor although it's still possible it will in a special session.

1 comment

rumsfeld flashbacks
Mood: okay
Music: "Star Trek" soundtrack
Posted on 2009-05-18 10:41:00
Tags: happiness politics links
Words: 575

Apparently the President's Worldwide Intelligence Updates (prepared by the Pentagon) often had verses from the Bible on the cover, which makes me a little queasy. I agree that, if you're religious, there's nothing wrong with looking to your religion/God for faith and guidance, but this seems more like "Hey, the Bible says this whole war thing is A-OK, carry on!" The accompanying article is full of new information about Rumsfeld, including

The next day, three days after landfall, word of disorder in New Orleans had reached a fever pitch. According to sources familiar with the conversation, DHS secretary Michael Chertoff called Rumsfeld that morning and said, “You’re going to need several thousand troops.”

“Well, I disagree,” said the SecDef. “And I’m going to tell the president we don’t need any more than the National Guard.”

The problem was that the Guard deployment (which would eventually reach 15,000 troops) had not arrived—at least not in sufficient numbers, and not where it needed to be. And though much of the chaos was being overstated by the media, the very suggestion of a state of anarchy was enough to dissuade other relief workers from entering the city. Having only recently come to grips with the roiling disaster, Bush convened a meeting in the Situation Room on Friday morning. According to several who were present, the president was agitated. Turning to the man seated at his immediate left, Bush barked, “Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what’s on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I’m watching? What the hell are you doing?”

Rumsfeld replied by trotting out the ongoing National Guard deployments and suggesting that sending active-duty troops would create “unity of command” issues. Visibly impatient, Bush turned away from Rumsfeld and began to direct his inquiries at Lieutenant General Honoré on the video screen. “From then on, it was a Bush-Honoré dialogue,” remembers another participant. “The president cut Rumsfeld to pieces. I just wish it had happened earlier in the week.”

Another excellent article I read this weekend was What Makes Us Happy? in The Atlantic. (a magazine I consistently enjoy) It looks at a study that started following Harvard students in the 1930s and kept up with them until now, trying to determine what factors were most important to living a happy life. What they found was
Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.
(bolding mine) The "mature adaptations" they mention consist of
altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship)
(bolding mine)

One more: here's Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame.


a cool toy and some anger
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-04-15 13:21:00
Tags: rant politics links
Words: 204

Cool toy: This ToneMatrix thingy. Note that if you right-click, you can copy and paste music in. My two quick compositions:

The scale is a pentatonic one (do, re, mi, so, la) which means that basically any combination of notes sounds good. The lack of dissonance gets a little...creepy? after a while, but it's fun to play with. There's actually a real instrument called the tenori-on that does something similar, and an iPhone version. (as well as another iPhone version by Brian Eno that looks even cooler)

Now. Today is Tax Day, and some conservative-types are holding tea parties to protest government spending. (and presumably the deficit?) Let me just say this - if you disliked Bush's expansion of government spending (specifically the Iraq war, Medicare expansion, etc.) and you're protesting, at least you're consistent. If you just hate Obama and everything he stands for, well at least you're being honest. But if you cheerleaded everything Bush did and started worrying about government spending and the deficit on January 20th, then you're not being serious. If you have no suggestions for what you want to cut, you're not being serious. If you favor tax cuts and lower deficits, you're really really deluding yourself.

1 comment

dentistry and cable bandwidth caps
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-04-01 15:56:00
Tags: health timewarner
Words: 81

I had some fillings done today. Anyone know why the anesthetic they give you makes your heart race? He didn't remind me of that this time (sadly I've been there enough that I should know this going in) and it freaked me out. Not a pleasant feeling.

Time Warner might be capping bandwidth in the Austin/San Antonio area. (the company responds) This is very bad and if they go this route we might have to look into AT&T U-Verse or something.


friday links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-20 10:18:00
Tags: weight links
Words: 164

- If I were unhealthily obsessed with my weight, I would say I should get sick more often. But then I remembered I got my hair cut too! I should have kept it to weigh it and correct for growing hair weight...

- 25 reasons we love Austin - Salt Lick! cupcakes! breakfast! bookpeople! alamo drafthouse!

- The Clinton Economic Record and Rising Tides - that first graph was startling. The obvious point is that the poor did as well as the rich under Clinton whereas they did much worse under Reagan/Bush I/Bush II, but everyone did better under Clinton than they did under any of those.

- The Futile Pursuit of Happiness - long but interesting article. People generally underestimate their long-term emotional resilience; losing a partner/family member makes our "emotional immune system" kick in and we feel better faster than we think. The "immune system" doesn't kick in with chronic annoyances (that door that won't close, that aching ankle) and so they make us more unhappy than we predict.


whereslunch - deleting!
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-15 22:49:00
Tags: whereslunch
Words: 15

Now you can delete restaurants and locations on, in case you make a mistake!


*insert witticism here*
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-12 10:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 109

- Jon Stewart Nails O'Reilly on Right to Privacy - pwnt! That last clip is priceless.

- After watching last night's Lost episode (and really, all of Season 5 so far), this Time Travel for Dummies article was quite helpful. It was written before last night's episode, so no spoilers for that. Also, here are some Jackfaces.

- Is the world ready for an Asperger's sitcom? - article about "The Big Bang Theory" and how Sheldon demonstrates a lot of Asperger's characteristics. (although the show's writers deny that was the intention)

- 10 Take Aways From the Bush Years - living in reality is a good start. Also, Rumsfeld sure comes off as a jerk.


a few links with no coherent theme
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-06 14:43:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 97

- The world gets its first gay head of state (although it's a little backdoor - the actual head of the party is taking a leave of absence).

- Obama Justice Department Re-Hires Attorney Fired By Goodling Because Of Lesbian Rumor - aww, nice! Also, that's a pretty crappy thing to do in the first place.

- Obama explains why we need a stimulus bill in an editorial in the Washington Post. The best line is the tagline: "The writer is president of the United States."

- Surveillance Pic Shows Man Robbing Stores With Klingon Sword - the clerk recognized it as a Bat'leth.


random amusements
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-01-28 11:08:00
Tags: links
Words: 42

- Champion of Guitars - a Zork-like Guitar Hero.

- Do You Talk Too Much? - the stoplight idea is interesting. iPhone app?

- Ten sci-fi devices that could soon be in your hands - I've read about the invisibility cloak but the other ones are pretty interesting!

1 comment

big pile o' links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-19 14:18:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 211

- Brett Favre beats Lizard People - the Minnesota recount goes on, and things get weird.

- The Strange and Bizarre Story of Wallace Scarborough’s Fight Against Democracy - hopefully the South Carolina House of Representatives does the right thing here, as it looks like the guy just lost.

- Scientists debunk the myth that you lose most heat through your head - my mom was wrong!

- Music Industry to Abandon Mass Suits - umm, a few years too late?

- In 2006, a Embraer Legacy 700 hit a Boeing 737 over Brazil. Vanity Fair just printed an article about the crash and how it happened. There was a writer on board the Embraer - here's his story in the NY Times about a week after the crash.

- Austin is the fifth safest city of cities of reasonable size! (500,000+ people) Houston is the 10th most dangerous of those.

- Austin 3G speed test - AT&T wins overall, although it's terrible downtown.

- Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman' - ah, the Onion...

- Air Traffic in 24 hours - seen it before but always interesting to see the pattern of flights as the sun comes up and goes down.

- A three-time wrestler explains why "The Wrestler" is good - interested in seeing this movie although I'm not sure why.


A week of happy recap, and
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-19 10:50:00
Tags: health math projects happiness
Words: 307

So I started the week of happy a week or so ago, and I'm pretty...happy with the results. It turned out to be kind of a tough week, what with the root canal and the painful aftermath, but focusing on the little things that make you happy during the day is good. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that big changes in lifestyle (new bigger house, etc.) don't generally affect one's happiness level in the long run, but little things can if you focus on them. Or something like that.

Dentistry - I gave in and called this morning to make sure it was normal for the pain to last all week. The person I talked to told me to come in, and they took an X-ray and thank goodness everything looks fine. (if I had had to have like another root canal or something I would have been seriously sad) She said the pain can last a while, and as long as it's getting better (it is!) it's OK, and she gave me another prescription for Zipac(sp?) to take in case there's a lingering infection or something. (and she told me to switch to Advil instead of Tylenol for the inflammation) So, yayish!

Last night when I got home quijax was watching Mythbusters, which I don't get to see much but I like! One of the myths they were busting was that buttered toast tends to land buttered side down, and long story short they ended up dropping toast off of a building and observing. Anyway, the results were slightly more in favor of the toast landing buttered side up, and Jamie had a physics explanation (when you butter toast it gets indented) but their numbers weren't convincing. Long story short, I created for an easy chi-squared test for significance. If only I understood more statistics...


A week of happy...ish
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-16 19:14:00
Tags: health happiness
Words: 76

Today I guess I'm happy because Tylenol exists, since it's holding my tooth pain at bay. I've been spacing my doses a little further apart so hopefully that means it's getting better. Not feeling particularly happy today, although I'm not really unhappy either. Just kinda...being.

Anyone else planning to go to the Texas Bowl (Rice v. Western Michigan) from Austin?

Oh yeah, I'm also happy work went well for the first time in like a week.


A week of happy
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-15 15:44:00
Tags: health happiness
Words: 135

I'm happy my root canal is done and it was successful. I'm also happy I'm at a job where I can take off easily for dentist and doctor's appointments.

I took my last dose of antibiotics yesterday and by last night the tooth was starting to ache again. So when I went in and they did the stuff to numb the tooth it hurt like hell. After that everything was pretty fine, modulo keeping my mouth open for a ridiculously long time (the appointment lasted 1:45, and my mouth was open for most of my jaw is sore). And it smelled terrible, what with doing unspeakable things to my tooth. And now my tooth is sore. But it's over with, and I took some Advil, so hopefully by tomorrow all will be relatively well.


A week of happy
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-13 16:01:00
Tags: happiness
Words: 73

Today I'm happy because last night I was at a red light waiting to turn left and the guy turned on his reverse light and sped up and backed right into me, but I got out and only my license plate was messed up and eventually the other guy got out and was very apologetic and was happy that there was no real damage.

(I'm also happy I can write in run-on sentences!)


Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-09 22:11:00
Tags: health
Words: 28

Re my teeth: that tooth is really starting to hurt. I guess I'll start taking antibiotics tomorrow? And see if I can make an appointment sometime? Blah. Ow.

1 comment

"Blagojevich" is hard to spell
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-09 14:56:00
Tags: politics
Words: 304

Here's the FBI press release about the arrests (PDF file). Innocent until proven guilty, etc., but the press release is pretty damning. Some of the more interesting bits:

As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was "elevating" Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would "raise [] money" for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something "tangible up front."
Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: "if ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it." (skipping) He added later that the seat "is a [expletive] valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing."
Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being "stuck" as governor, a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor, a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016, ...
(bolding mine) Wow. I guess he knew he was going to be caught soon or something. Soo glad they did this before he chose someone for the seat.
There's some more stuff in there about pay-to-play and getting editorial writers on the Chicago Tribune critical of him fired in exchange for a tax break. Hooray for the FBI and catching scum like this!


my problem with "Fringe"
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-02 10:44:00
Words: 172

We watched two episodes yesterday and it's moving into "one or two dumb moments and it's gone" territory. Here's why (may contains spoilers up until two weeks ago's episode):
I was hoping it would be more of a serial show, like Lost or BSG. But, it's not. It seems like (and I only watched two episodes yesterday so this may be biased by those) every episode ends with something kinda surprising! And then nothing really happens with that in the future, with the exception of the pilot.

The main stories are generally OK, but they seem to be falling into a pattern of artifically setting up the need to do something crazy, like "this guy won't tell us how to save this FBI agent unless we get to ask this other guy a question. Oh, but we just killed him so now you have to get the answer while he's dead." None of this really has to do with why the FBI agent is dying!

Anyone else watching? What do y'all think?


what's on my mind
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-11-11 10:11:00
Tags: whereslunch math projects
Words: 209


hodgepodge of whatever
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-10-29 11:22:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 275

NBC is back on Time Warner! Yaaaaay! And just in time for 30 Rock, too! (first episode is Thursday, I believe) A sure sign the dispute is over: is no more.

More Thriller: another video of the Austin event and an a capella version all done by the same guy with 64 tracks. (too bad his voice isn't that great) I think I'm done with Thriller links for now.

Charles Barkley might run for governor of Alabama in 2014. From the interview:

Brown: So are you going to run for governor?

Barkley: I plan on it in 2014.

Brown: You are serious.

Barkley: I am, I can't screw up Alabama.

Brown: There is no place to go but up in your view?

Barkley: We are number 48 in everything and Arkansas and Mississippi aren't going anywhere.

An old report on the disaster in election coverage that was Florida in 2000.

Obama is sorry to see McCain stoop so low:
We've tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush's way. It hasn't worked. Deep down, Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

That's why he's spending these last few days calling me every name in the book. I'm sorry to see my opponent sink so low. Lately, he's called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class.

By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in Kindergarten.

1 comment

nope, incoming boring debate
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-10-08 09:41:00
Tags: politics
Words: 241

Nevermind - that debate was pretty boring. No Rezko or Ayers or Keating 5, just a lot of similar stuff from the first debate.

Things I'd like to see Obama stop saying:
If you enjoy horrible things, you'll enjoy this boy band pitching Microsoft PDC (developer's conference). Who creates this crap?


(no subject)
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-07-23 10:14:00
Tags: asmc work worldofwarcraft
Words: 195

Rehearsals are going pretty well, albeit a bit tiring. We're about to get into "oh crap the shows is really really soon and we all suck" mode (it's an annual occurrence), but once we buckle down I think all will be well.

After rehearsal last night, I arrived home to find a few "dude, did you steal all the stuff in the guild bank?" IMs. Not a good sign. Tried to log in to WoW and couldn't, so I reset the password online and discovered that I had, indeed, done so. The weird thing is that the thief took basically all 5000 of my gold, but didn't sell any of my soulbound gear, and cleared out most of my bank but not all of it. And didn't find the 8 Primal Mights and 450 gold on my auction house mule.

Anyway, I filed a petition to get my crap back, which I think they usually do, and presumably they'll restore the guild bank as well. Yet another way WoW is better than the real world :-)

This week I've been superproductive at work...let's see if that continues today.

This article about purity balls is kinda creepy.


just the usual
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-07-14 13:33:00
Tags: music links
Words: 134

Feeling more normal today. Had fun with my family, with whom we saw Wall*E again and then Esther's Follies which was pretty awesome. Wall*E was good again - the good parts I appreciated more (even during the second half of the movie). It's a very good movie. Gonna grab the soundtrack (which almost by definition was good given the limited dialogue) tomorrow as well as Nas's new album, both of which I'm excited about. Yay Amazon mp3 store!

Links I was going to post on Friday:
- A little more about Phil Gramm's "mental recession" and "nation of whiners" remarks. What a stupid stupid thing to say.
- Video of a lightning strike...hitting the video taker. She's fine, but it's a little loud.
- The growth of Walmart across America - neato timeline map thing. I love data visualization!


captioning sucks
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-04-01 17:12:00
Tags: links
Words: 27

I stumbled across Captioning Sucks, a new site from the Open & Closed Project. It reminded me of Stanton's comment on closed captioning ads.

Food Court Musical - awesome!


fridays - meh
Mood: okay
Music: U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name"
Posted on 2008-03-07 13:26:00
Tags: projects politics links
Words: 181

For some reason Fridays haven't been very exciting to me lately. I am excited about the weekend though (smash bros!). I'll feel better when house crap is taken care of (Time Warner is supposedly coming out this afternoon so hopefully we'll have internet there at least...).

Nixon's plan to end Vietnam was to make the Russians think he was crazy enough to bomb them. That is rather frightening.

Map of Starbucks and Walmarts per capita. Vermont has the lowest combined total by far.

Why is it taking so long to total TX caucus results? (short answer: they're being sent in by mail!) Right now Obama's ahead 56-44 with 41% reporting, so it looks like Obama will end up with more total delegates from TX.

Has anyone used Processing? Not that I need another project, but you can do some neat stuff with it (examples) and there are a number of books about it. Maybe I'll check one out next time I'm at a bookstore.

This is an excellent example of being so close to a good approach but just missing it!

1 comment

How am I feeling?
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-02-13 18:12:00
Words: 0


getflix revamped again!
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-12-19 10:23:00
Tags: getflix projects work
Words: 85

So I spent some time updating this script to pull your Netflix ratings and after redesigning the database tables a bit (which was fun since it isn't something I usually do) I think it's about done. Now I need to add in some analysis or something :-)

We had our release party for the new NI smart camera (get yours today!) yesterday at 300, a bowling place that feels clubby. (there were music videos playing on screens in front of lanes and such) It was fun.


weekend update
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-12-02 18:43:00
Tags: movies music projects house
Words: 332

Friday started pretty crappily (as I noted), then we went to see Beowulf 3D with people. It was better than I expected - I guess 3D technology has come a ways since I last saw it. The movie was pretty typical action fare, except it was all motion capture CGI-y. It was pretty well done - you could tell most of the time that the characters weren't real actors, and some of the emotions didn't come through as well as they could have, but not bad.

The music was also surprisingly good - the few themes they used are pretty catchy, and the "main" song was sung during the end credits by Idina Menzel! (the original Elphaba in Wicked)

Saturday was spent being cranky for a large part of the day for various reasons. We did get to start Super Mario Galaxy which is a lot of fun, and hang out with wildrice13 in the evening. I worked on my arena rating graph which is coming along nicely - got some statistics to show. (did you know we are much better against teams with 0 mages than teams with 1 mage?) Next step is making it so you can choose criteria (say, matches where the opponents had at least one hunter and paladin that we played in Blade's Edge) and show statistics based on that. Should be fun.

Today was church and then house-hunting. After talking for a while about the way things work (helpful if a bit long), we looked at 6 houses. Unsurprisingly, our top choice was one that looked kinda OK on paper, and our #1 choice on paper was OK but not great (and is under contract anyway so we can't buy it). I took a ton of pictures that hopefully will help us remember the one we liked. It was pretty good but not super amazing or anything. I guess in the future we'll just get more listings from our agent and periodically look at more houses. It's a bit anticlimactic.


shirts I want, internet options
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-10-23 10:46:00
Tags: cluesolver
Words: 211

Dumbledore is gay! And shirts to match.

I still want this WiFi detector shirt but I feel a little bad spending money when none's coming in yet.

Speaking of computer stuff, we have Internet through Time Warner and it seems to go down reasonably often. But not really down - often just resetting the cable modem will restore things to normal. Hence my idea for a robot that can detect when I can't reach the Internet (easy) and reset the cable modem (hard unless there's some software way to do it, which I doubt).

So I looked into alternatives. Grande Communications doesn't recognize our address, AT&T/SBC/Yahoo/whatever DSL doesn't service our address, and Verizon DSL (I hate Verizon because of how difficult it was to cancel local phone service in MD, but whatever) finds a lot of different streets named Austin (our street is Austin Center Blvd) in various cities around here even though I put in the freaking zip code. GG verizon. So I guess we're stuck until I build a robot or someone reminds me of some other company I forgot.

Very stuck on simulations in clue solver, going to try to let it go for a few days and come back to it. Frustrating because I'm so close to done.

1 comment

clearing out tabs
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-10-02 15:50:00
Tags: music links
Words: 106

Radiohead is releasing their new album on October 10. You can order a fancy disc set or download it from them and pay whatever you want for it(!), which is pretty exciting.

And on the topic of downloading music, Amazon opened their MP3 store, from which you can buy and download 2 million MP3 files, unencumbered by DRM. This is great stuff (information about the downloader, which doesn't work on Linux) and I'm planning on buying Radiohead's Amnesiac from them when I get around to it.

It's not happening here, but it's happening now - striking ad campaign by Amnesty International, in the style of transparent screens.

1 comment

getting used to new surroundings, part 1
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-09-25 09:20:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft
Words: 323

So I got up early this morning to wait for the Time Warner people to hook us up with our own internet. (leeching off a very strong wireless connection - thanks neighbors!) Last night was a late night - went out to dinner at Rudy's with a few people and then played some WoW (our first downing of Netherspite and Prince! which should move our wowjutsu standing up to around #9 on Maiev) so I'm kinda tired. And I arrived here to find someone parked in front of our garage, so I parked in our other parking spot and kinda passively-aggressively left the garage door open so whoever parked there (thanks neighbors?) would get the message that there's someone living here now. It seems to have worked since the car's gone.

I'm feeling a little stressed because, as you know if you've chatted with me in the last month or so, I hate moving, and our stuff arrives tomorrow which is good but means we have to figure out where everything goes, etc. fast. And (this sounds ridiculous) I feel like I'm relearning how to interact with people socially, which is a bit of an exaggeration, but we didn't have many close friends up in MD and a few of them moved away. (I liked my coworkers and interacted decently with them but it's never the same for me in a work environment) We'd of course like to see people a lot (we'll probably have a housewarming party when we get settled in for good) but it's definitely stressing me out some.

The music on David's laptop has inexplicably disappeared, which is probably not good unless I just can't find it. I want to get my MacBook Pro but am waiting for the OS upgrade (October sometime). And I'm in the middle of State of Denial, Bob Woodward's book about the war in Iraq. It is excellent but engenders feelings of frustration at huge screwups.


nukes, outing
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-09-06 10:17:00
Tags: poll politics
Words: 191

I'm back at work today, feeling decentish. Took care of canceling utilities and setting up new ones yesterday, which is a load off of my mind. Also, my RFID blocking wallet came so I'm using that now. No more foil in my pants!

Air Force investigates mistaken transport of nuclear materials - yikes.

Per our earlier discussion, here's an article about the guy who's been outing anti-gay politicians. (there was a more biased version of the article in the Washington Post this morning) This isn't exactly the same since Craig was arrested and it seems like Mike Craig just brought that arrest to light, but it brings up the question:

My thoughts (no peeking before you vote!):This is no longer quite the issue it once was, since being gay in and of itself is fairly widely accepted these days. But after being closeted myself for a while, it put a big emotional strain on me to keep it a secret. I get the hypocricy angle, but I don't think outing is justified except in the most extreme situations. I'm also a big believer in keeping one's personal and work lives separate.


new glasses
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-08-17 16:48:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 23

Old glasses:
New glasses:

Really, not a lot of difference. (except they don't fall off of my face and I can see better)


where's my burrito? where's my burrito?
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-06-01 09:19:00
Tags: pictures links
Words: 177

I posted a few pictures - nothing earth-shattering, as I haven't been in the mood much to take pictures lately. With people visiting and our visiting people during June, hopefully that'll change :-)

I have a plan: rewrite the hat problem solver in Haskell. Maybe I'll get to it this weekend? I'd be interested in running timing tests to see the speed difference...

Wil Shipley argues for smaller, less flexible code. Yay!

Bush calls for global warming summit. Why do I get the feeling this is like Ronald Reagan not talking about AIDS until well after it was a problem?

I didn't watch the game, but LeBron James took over the Cavs' playoff game last night, leading them to victory in double overtime by scoring 29 out of their last 30 points. That sounds Jordanesque to me!

Blizzard's suing peons4hire, the most prolific in-game gold spammer that I've experienced. Yaaaaay! Although I played a lot last night and don't remember a single gold spam, which would be unheard of before the 2.1.0 patch...

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.


hat problem
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-05-21 09:24:00
Words: 64

Over the weekend, I wrote some code to find strategies for the hat problem I mentioned last time. The results are here - for 7 people I found a strategy that works 67.2% of the time using a genetic algorithm. The theoretical maximum (I think) is 7/8=87.5%, so there's still more that could be done...

Had a good time this weekend with my mom visiting.


Christmas pictures finally up
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-01-24 23:31:00
Tags: movies pictures
Words: 157

Subject says it all - check them out! I also put up a few snow pictures, snow still being novel and all. Actually, it's supposed to snow tomorrow; hopefully it won't delay our flight!

On a random note, I saw that "Little Miss Sunshine" was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Apparently the field is fairly weak - the movie was cute and neat and indieish, but definitely not Best Picture caliber in a normal year. I saw a reasonable number of movies this year, but I haven't seen any of the other four.

You know you're a geek when you consider getting a safe deposit box not because of birth certificates or passports, but for your computer backup DVDs!

Also, my SMTP server is borked, so if you're expecting emails from the guild website, you're not going to get any. I'll try to fix this next week. (as it sends me > 100 emails a day on my computer...)

1 comment

yay 3 day weekend!
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-01-12 14:26:00
Tags: microresolution
Words: 74

Microresolution: make good progress on (i.e. mostly finish) one of my two outstanding computer projects this weekend.

I syndicated Erin's journal at erinwblog. I stole a fun Lesser known college rivalries from The Onion.

It's kinda fun being in a football-interested place. I mean, I guess UT counts for Austin, but it doesn't feel the same. (Austin is the largest city in the US with no NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL team)

Go Ravens!


The wonderful game called Tsuro
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-01-05 23:39:00
Tags: math
Words: 794

One of the things I did over break was play a beautiful game called Tsuro. It's a quick (20 minutes or so) game that supports up to 8 people (it's actually better with 8 people!) with simple rules. And it's a thing of beauty, both in artwork and elegant design.

The board is a 6x6 grid that tiles are placed on. It starts empty. The tiles take the following form:

1 2
| |
| |
8 + + 3
| |
| |
7 + + 4
| |
| |
6 5

where the numbers 1-8 label the points on each tile. Each point on a tile is connected via a path to exactly one other tile, so a tile that had 1 connected to 8, 2 to 6, 3 to 4 and 5 to 7 would look something like:

1 2
| | | |
| / | |
8 +- / /+ 3
| | | |
| / | |
7 +-- | \+ 4
| \-+- |
| / \ |
6 5

except a whole lot prettier.

Now, every player has a piece which starts on the outside of the board, lining up with the 2 pieces per tile edge rule. You have a hand of tiles, and on your turn you play a tile on a space your piece touches. You then move all pieces that touch that on the paths the tile indicates, so if your piece started on the 6 point it would move to the 2 point. Of course, if your piece then ends up touching a tile that exists, your piece follows the paths on that tile, and so on. The goal is to survive; your piece dies if it goes off the board, and both pieces die if there is a head-on collision of pieces.

The neat part is that there are exactly 35 tiles, enough to fill up the 6x6 grid save one empty square. In order to survive the game, your piece must end up touching that empty square. It's an elegant end condition.

But it gets even better. I wondered how many different tiles there could possibly be, excluding rotations of the same tile. (since you can rotate them when you play them) If the answer was in fact 35, that each distinct tile was used exactly once and that just happened to work out to be 6^2-1 that would be proof that this game was, in fact, given to us mere mortals from the heavens.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Firstly, how many tiles are there without caring about rotations? The way I came up with counting it is to first arrange 1-8 in a row - there are 8! ways to do this. Now pair up each consecutive number, so if we had the string 46231785, that would pair 4 and 6, 2 and 3, 1 and 7, and 8 and 5. However, we're clearly overcounting here. Firstly, the order of each pair doesn't matter, so that's 2^4=16 times we're overcounting. Secondly, the order of the pairs doesn't matter, so that's 4!=24 times we're overcounting. Putting it all together, this gives 8!/(2^4*4!)=105. Another, simpler way to count (suggested to me by djedi) is that there are 7 choices to pair point 1 with. There are 5 choices to pair the next point with, 3 for the next and the last is determined, so that gives 7*5*3=105. Good to know!

Now the tricky part. I thought there was some nice way to count the symmetries, but I was thinking of Pólya counting, which is pretty neat but I couldn't see how to apply it. Not that I could remember this in Austin, so I used the Orbit-stabilizer theorem instead.

There are three types of symmetries a tile can had - 90 degree symmetry, 180 degree symmetry and no symmetry. Let's count how many tiles have each.

90 degree - a 90 degree rotation takes 1->3, 2->4, 3->5, 4->6, 5->7, 6->8, 7->1 and 8->1. So we have the chains 1->3->5->7 and 2->4->6->8. This gives the following tiles: (12)(34)(56)(78), (14)(36)(58)(72), (16)(38)(52)(74), (18)(32)(54)(76), (15)(37)(26)(48). It's surprisingly hard to find all these.

180 degree - here the chains are 1->5, 2->6, 3->7, and 4->8. If we list all these out, excluding the ones that have 90 degree symmetry, we get 10 tiles. (another mistake I made was counting 20 of these, but I was counting each rotation of each tile)

no symmetry - we'll count these by elimination, thank goodness.

So each 90 degree tile shows up once in the list of 105, each 180 degree tile shows up twice in the list of 105, and each tile with no symmetry shows up four times in the list of 105. So, there are (105-5-10*2)/4=20 distinct tiles with no symmetry. Adding, we get a total of 5+10+20=35 tiles, just like we wanted!!

Anyway, that's why the game is truly beautiful. We're going to game night at a game store tomorrow night and I'll see if they have a copy :-)


a few links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2006-08-01 14:49:00
Tags: links
Words: 77

Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It... - date a geek or nerd today!

Rice is adding two more residential colleges, to which I say "pah".

Late addition: a horrible commercial type thing for Appalachian State University. Apparently it's HOT! HOT! HOT! Also, if you're going to throw out "best in the country" and you're not an Ivy League school, you might want to clarify or qualify that statement somehow. Otherwise you just look like a big liar.


Mood: okay
Music: "Super Mario Galaxy" music
Posted on 2006-05-12 14:12:00
Tags: movies politics
Words: 406

Thank goodness. This week...not so good.

Why I love Fry's: the storm last Thursday night knocked out our wireless access point. So Wednesday after I work I popped over to Fry's to get a new one. After looking around for a while, the cheapest one I found was $70, and for that price I could get a wireless router, so I went ahead and got that (the last time our router died, we had an access point, so we got a router without wireless for about the same price, which was dumb). Aaaand I get to the register, and it's only $50! Unexpected price cuts - that's the way to go.

Video of Super Mario Galaxy - ooooooo I want this game!

We saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Republic Square Park last night (hosted by the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow). It was nice, and the sound was turned up compared to last year so we could hear better. Lowlights were it starting an hour after they said it would (because it wasn't dark enough), lots of people smoking around us, and some jerks next to us who came in maybe half an hour in and started talking to each other (normal volume, mind you) about random crap. After 10 minutes or so, I said "shhh" and wildrice13 told them they were bothering us, so they left (and maybe apologized - I played the role of the person who doesn't interact with them). Oh, and Ben & Jerry's had a cart there so I got ice cream :-)

Tomorrow's David's brother's graduation, so we have to get up early early to make it to College Station by the time it starts. Oh, and Austin folk - don't forget to vote tomorrow! (vote for Prop 6, which would allow the city to give same-sex benefits to city employees)

(ooo, Firefox just crashed, but restored my almost-finished post. Woohoo!!)

Anyway, here's more information about election day, including polling locations and text of proposed amendments. I recommend yes on Prop 5 ($100 is way too low a personal limit to contribute to campaigns) and 6. I'm honestly not sure about Props 1 and 2 - need to read a bit more about them...

Also, I've been really really in the mood to program lately (at least for at-home projects). I'm not sure whether to give in and program a whole lot, or try to do other things until the urge passes. We'll see...


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