Posts with mood thoughtful (26)

On the Kansas and Arizona "religious freedom" gay discrimination laws
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2014-02-23 21:37:00
Tags: essay gay
Words: 277

What with the Kansas Legislature passing a bill providing for "religious freedom" by allowing businesses to discriminate against gay people (although the bill didn't pass the state Senate), and then with the Arizona legislature passing a similar bill and sending it to the governor (it is unclear whether she will sign it or not), it got me thinking a bit.

I think I'm actually OK with letting people that would be directly participating in a same-sex ceremony (like, say, a photographer) choose to not be hired. It feels weird to compel people to be a part of such a personal ceremony when they wouldn't want to be there. (and would you really want to hire a photographer who didn't want to be there?) But the further away you get from "individual person" (i.e. hiring an agency to send a photographer) and "same-sex ceremony" (i.e. serving a gay couple at a restaurant), I quickly get less OK with things. And both of these bills had very broad language.

In general, I think if you're at work you don't really have a right not to be offended. If you work at a restaurant, your job is to serve people, regardless of if you disapprove of them. And don't even get me started on "religious freedom" of businesses, which sounds about as absurd to me as "free speech rights" of businesses (read: ability to donate unlimited money to politics). If you're a bona fide religious organization, then you can discriminate all you want, but other than that your business doesn't have a religion.


Apparently the Kansas version may have just been a political ploy with no intention of passing? Weird.


A few thoughts about the George Zimmerman trial
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2013-07-15 10:52:00
Tags: essay
Words: 157

- "Not guilty" doesn't mean "he didn't do it", it means "the prosecution couldn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt". There really wasn't a ton of evidence at the trial, and obviously Trayvon Martin wasn't there to tell his side of the story.

- It sounds like the dominant narrative is something like: Zimmerman is wandering around the neighborhood, sees Martin who he thinks looks suspicious based on some sort of profiling (racial or otherwise), follows him and eventually confronts him. Then there's a fight and Zimmerman shoots Martin.

- While there's certainly an element of "self-defense" there, the fact that Zimmerman caused the confrontation (after being told not to by 911 dispatchers and, hopefully, common sense) makes me feel like he is somewhat culpable for Martin's death - if he hadn't confronted him, none of this would have happened. Manslaughter feels like an appropriate crime to charge him with.

I thought this was a pretty good take on the trial.

1 comment

Windows 8 and Windows Phone: what next?
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-09-04 22:42:00
Tags: windowsphone projects metro
Words: 137

I've ported my three "staple" apps to both Windows 8 and Windows Phone:

Windows 8Windows Phone
Marriage MapMarriage Map

I've also gone back and backported some new features from the Windows 8 versions of FlightPredictor and Marriage Map to the Windows Phone versions, although they're still in review. what?

I grappled with this in April and ended up starting Windows 8 development. One new option is "wait until tomorrow and see what Nokia/Microsoft announce for Windows Phone 8" - Windows Phone 7 apps should run on Windows Phone 8, but I'd like to make them nicer if possible. After that...well, I don't know. I'm definitely still in a Windows 8/Phone 8 mood, so maybe I'll wait a bit and see if there are niches to be filled.

(read: suggestions are welcome!)

1 comment

long post on Paul Ryan's tax plan
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-08-13 23:23:00
Tags: essay taxes politics
Words: 862

This weekend Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate. I think this is a good choice that really clarifies the election, as Ryan is a pretty staunch conservative. (according to DW-Nominate he's the most conservative VP pick ever)

Prior to this, Ryan is probably most famous for his budget plan, known as "The Path to Prosperity", which the Republicans in the House of Representatives passed earlier this year. I posted about this last year, but I thought I'd take a closer look at the proposal after reading that Mitt Romney would pay 0.82% in taxes under the Ryan plan. (!) This is because the plan eliminates taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest.

The full plan (warning: big .pdf) includes a bunch of non-tax stuff (including the plan to turn Medicare from defined-benefit to a defined-contribution), but I just read through the tax parts because I'm not a total masochist :-) For those of you following along at home, these are on pages 59-67.

It starts by saying the tax code is complicated (true!), and unfair because of the special credits, deductions, and loopholes that apparently cost $1 trillion a year(!), which is roughly how much the government actually collects in individual income taxes. That is...well, surprising.

It then shows a pair of graphs claiming to show that tax revenue really just depends on GDP and not the tax rates. Here they are:

I think the first one is a little misleading - you can't just look at the top tax rate and use that to determine how high the "overall" tax rate is - the other brackets and rates matter too. (although, to be fair, that's a lot of variables and it's hard to combine them all) For example, in 1950 the top tax rate was 90%, but that bracket didn't start until an income of $400K, which in today's dollars is roughly $3.6 million. (by comparison, the top tax rate today is 35%, but it kicks in at an income of ~$400K) I'm honestly not sure about these graphs - one interpretation is that as tax rates go up, people take more steps to avoid paying taxes. (using offshore accounts, etc.) Another interpretation is that the "average" tax rate hasn't really changed that much over the years.

The proposal talks about the corporate tax rate for a while, which it points it is the highest in the industrialized world (or will be soon, anyway), but lots of companies get around paying the full rate anyway. It says it would be better to lower the rate and eliminate loopholes, which I agree with (and Obama has proposed as well). One thing I did have clarified is that nearly 75% of small businesses file taxes as individuals, which is why Republicans often say that raising individual income taxes "hurts small businesses". (why do they do this? Seriously it just easier than actually incorporating? I have no idea...)

Anyway, the gist of the whole thing is to reduce our current six bracket system (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% - see current brackets here) to a two bracket system with 10% and 25% rates. One might immediately notice that this is a pretty huge tax cut for people making more than $400K/year. I also think that doing this in the name of "simplification" is a bit of a dodge - is the fact that we have six brackets instead of two really what makes the tax code complicated? No, it's all the deductions, credits, etc.

I'm not even going into the idea of not taxing capital gains, dividends, and interest (which I didn't even find in the plan, confusingly enough). One argument for not taxing these things is that it's "double taxation", since for example corporate profits are taxed, and then the dividends they pay out of their remaining money is taxed again. The phrasing always seemed weird to me, as if each dollar is only ever taxed once, which is of course totally untrue! When I get money in my bank account from my paycheck, that's money that has already been taxed, and then when I go out and buy a new phone, I pay sales tax on that too.

Finally, the whole premise of the tax part of the plan is that we can afford to lower the tax brackets by reducing deductions and loopholes and such. The problem is that a lot of these deductions (like, say, the home mortgage interest deduction) are really popular, so the plan cleverly takes the tack of not saying what would be removed. This makes it somewhat less of a plan and more of an idea. I'm wondering whether there actually was a real plan somewhere (after all, the House of Representatives passed something!), but I sure couldn't find it.

The plan also refuses to fund Obamacare, because why not? At this point it's really looking more like a wish-fulfillment scenario than a serious plan.

So...yeah. The whole idea of balancing the budget by cutting taxes (even the plan admits that revenues will be lower in 2014 and beyond) and then cutting spending even more (but, of course, not cutting defense spending), is really not that serious.

1 comment

a sensitive kid
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-08-01 17:03:00
Tags: essay
Words: 118

When I was in kindergarten, every kid had their name on the wall with a hook and a happy face hanging from it. If you misbehaved, your happy face got downgraded to a "neutral face", and if you did it again, a sad face.

I was a good kid, so my face was always happy. One day, the class was acting up in general (the details are lost to time) and so the teacher gave us all neutral faces. I hadn't done anything wrong, and was very upset by this.

It occurred to me today that while I've learned to be less sensitive (usually by distancing myself when necessary), at heart it still bothers me when this happens.


Marriage Map for #wp7 released! and a Windows Phone dev crossroads
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-04-05 13:26:00
Tags: essay windowsphone projects
Words: 504

First, the good news: a Windows Phone version of my same-sex marriage map is now available! (it's free and ad-free!)

It was tricky squeezing in all of the information on a phone-sized screen, but I'm pretty pleased with the results:

Countdown to the first inappropriate app rating in 3...2...1...

I'm at a loss for what to work on for Windows Phone development next; I was working on a side project but was thwarted by OS limitations last night (grrr!), so it's back to the drawing board. Here are my options, as I see them:

I'm going to be out of town this weekend, so maybe I'll let my subconscious think about what sounds the most interesting.


programming: checking that downloaded maps are up-to-date
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-03-27 15:18:00
Tags: projects programming
Words: 531

I came across an interesting problem when working on FlightPredictor for Windows Phone: ensuring that downloaded airport maps are up-to-date.

This is the first time I've had to deal with this problem when porting FlightPredictor:

But neither of these options were viable for WP7 - there are limits on app sizes (if I included all the maps, it could only be downloaded over WiFi), and there's no Content Provider-type mechanism. So I decided to let the app download the maps from inside the app itself, if the user chooses to do so.

This created a new problem: how could I tell when new maps were available? Here were my criteria:
So, here's what I came up with:
And my process for updating maps is to publish them to S3 first, then submit a new version of the app with a new maps index hash. If old users manage to get the new version of the maps, no problem - they won't report as out of date (since the hash won't match anything), and when they get the new version of the app they won't report as out of date either.

1 comment

First, Break All the Rules review
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-01-27 23:08:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 898

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do DifferentlyFirst, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This past week I took some manager-y classes at work. One of the books we were supposed to read was First, Break All the Rules. I got a lot out of it and so I thought I'd review it. Here's what it's all about:

Keeping employees engaged is (or should be) very important for businesses, but a lot of companies don't do it well. Gallup did a bunch of studies and came up with a set of 12 questions that correlated positively with having engaged employees. They are:

1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2) Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4) In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6) Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7) At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8) Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
9) Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10) Do I have a best friend at work?
11) In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12) This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Note that there are are no questions about pay, benefits, etc., because those things are important to all employees, while these questions are better at identifying the best employees. The percentage of employees that answer yes to these questions varies a lot between "business units" of a company, and so seems to be tied to the manager (even questions like #2, which should be pretty consistent across a company). The 12 questions also correlate positively to productivity, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction on a business unit basis. There's an elaborate mountain climbing metaphor, but the gist is that you need to have people saying "yes" to the earlier questions before you worry about the later ones. In fact, the first 6 are the most important.

So, managers are important! "People leave managers, not companies" is pretty true. There are four main things a manager needs to do to be a good catalyst: select a person, set expectations, motivate the person, and develop the person.

Select a person: Everyone has talents or strengths, and they're somewhere between hard and impossible to change. This is (not coincidentally) the theme of the whole Strengths Finder stuff, also by Gallup. When we're a child, our brain has a ton of pathways, but as we get older some get stronger as some go away. The ones that get stronger correspond to our strengths, things we're good at, and this is somewhat helpful in realizing that our strengths aren't really going to change. There are three main kinds of strengths: Striving (what motivates you), Thinking (how you think and come to decisions), and Relating (whom you trust and build relationships with). Finally, all roles require talent, even ones that might seem menial. (they give an example of talking to great housekeepers)

Set expectations: The key here is to define the outcomes you want your employees to accomplish, and not force them to take the steps you would take. Because people have different strengths, they may approach problems in different ways, and that's OK as long as the results are the same. Of course, in some cases the steps are required. (ensuring accuracy, safety, following industry standards, etc., etc.)

Focus on strengths: Don't try to fix people's weaknesses in most cases, because you won't be able to. Focus on their strengths and making them, stronger. Try to find the right role for people that fits their strengths. Spend the most time with your best people to help them achieve even more. (this suggestion in particular is challenging) Sometimes you do have to manage around a weakness - try to devise a support system (give a Rolodex to someone who can't remember names), find a complementary partner, or find an alternative role.

Find the right fit: The Peter Principle says we promote each person to his level of incompetence. So...don't do this! The way around it is to have "heroes" in every role. If someone's a great software engineer but isn't interested in management, let her do that if she wants and don't force her up the hierarchy. (this is what lawyers do - even once you make partner, you still practice law!) For this to work, there have to be prestigious roles that are still individual contributors, and there needs to be broad bands of pay so you don't feel like you have to move up the ladder to get more money. If your organization is more traditional and won't let you do this, do your best to shield your employees from the rules. Thank goodness NI gets this :-)


Admittedly I'm easily suggestable, but I really bought in to the book and its philosophy. It's one of the commonly read books at NI, and we seem to try to follow a lot of its ideas. (borrowed, not owned)

View all my reviews


A: not much
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2011-05-14 22:48:00
Tags: essay
Words: 158

I haven't written much about "life" lately. Mostly that's because things are mostly the same - go to work, come home, and do other random stuff. I know I've said this before, but the years after graduation were filled with moving, switching jobs, and moving. (and getting married...)

Honestly, I'm pretty OK with this. Temporary changes energize me (travel! vacation! new restaurants! etc.) but big life changes kinda do the opposite. I like the feeling of having a place that we live that will be ours for the foreseeable future. Same with my job - though what exactly I do varies from day to day, the people I work with don't.

So I guess this is my way of saying life is generally good. Yay!

Unrelated: Billboard seen between Fort Worth and Dallas: Where's the Birth Certificate? (actually, saw one of these between Austin and San Antonio as well) My question: so do these get taken down now? (maybe not...)


links with short commentary: lady gaga, doma, progressive insurance
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2011-04-25 13:39:00
Tags: essay links
Words: 451

(today is going to be a LJ-spammy kinda day. My apologies in advance.)

Weird Al was going to do a parody of a Lady Gaga song for his next album. Unfortunately, after a lot of back and forth and wasted time she said no. Then he posted about the saga and it turns out her manager had been speaking for her and she loves the song and gave permission. That's one of the downsides to fame that I hadn't thought about: it's hard enough to protect your reputation as it is, but when people contact "you" and have an entire conversation it seems downright impossible. The only reason this got sorted out is because Weird Al is also famous enough and posted about it. Of course, I don't know what the alternative is - surely Lady Gaga's manager deals with tons of stuff that Lady Gaga doesn't care or doesn't have time for.

The Obama administration has said that they're not going to defend DOMA in the courts. So the House of Representatives hired a law firm to do it for them. Now, presumably under pressure, that law firm has changed their mind and pulled out, and a senior partner has resigned from the firm as a result. My first response: DOMA is bad, so yay! My second response: actually, this isn't a great thing. Our legal system is based on the fact that lawyers will defend unpopular people, and it's up to the jury to decide. (Clement, the senior partner who resigned, made this point in his resignation letter) My third response: Well, this isn't exactly the same thing - law firms aren't obligated to defend things they don't want to, and defending an unpopular person is a lot different than defending an unpopular cause. So I don't know.

I've been hearing ads from Progressive about their Snapshot program, which gives you "a discount for good driving". Apparently you get a discount based on how much you drive and when you drive, as well as if you avoid sudden braking, etc. On the one hand, hey, more data! It would be very very cool if you had access to this data so you could see how "safe" your driving is. I remember reading in a book that programs like this for beginning drivers helped them a lot. On the other hand, plugging a device into my car and giving my insurance company access to this data is not something I particularly relish. They say that your rates won't go up based on the data (and there's no GPS data), but I wouldn't be surprised if both of those change over time. Could they make the Snapshot program mandatory? Or would consumers rebel?


Tax volunteering: recap
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2011-04-24 14:25:00
Tags: taxcenter
Words: 121

I volunteered this year again at the Community Tax Center . It's a really neat service and they help a lot of people.

That said, I'm very uncertain about doing it next year. I would usually leave early from work, grab supper, and then only have an hour or two before they closed. And every time almost all the computers were taken by other volunteers, so I ended up doing almost exclusively quality reviews. Honestly, most of the time I didn't feel like they needed my help - there were so many UT students volunteers!

So...I don't know. I like helping out but I didn't feel particularly useful, especially for the amount of time I put in.

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


Answered: why did HP (i.e. @palm) announce new #webOS products so early?
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2011-03-03 10:31:00
Tags: palm essay palmpre
Words: 499

I've seen a lot of speculation (especially now that Apple's announced the iPad 2, which will ship next week) as to why HP/Palm announced their slate of new products so early. So let's take it from the top:

(this is all speculation, of course)

So why did they announce in February when the Pre3 and TouchPad aren't releasing until "summer"?: The Pre3 and TouchPad won't be ready until summer. If HP could release either early they absolutely would.

Well, obviously, but why didn't they wait to announce until shortly before they released? Well, for one thing, the Veer is releasing in "spring". Surely HP wouldn't want to have one event for the Veer and another for the Pre3 and TouchPad.

Also, I think HP is in a tough spot. Palm hasn't had a new phone announced since last October...and that was the Pre 2, which looks exactly like the Pre/Pre Plus with better specs. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not exactly new and exciting. A lot of people were saying that if Palm didn't announce anything new and exciting by CES (later modified to Feb. 9), they'd leave for an Android phone.

But HP CEO Leo Apotheker said they'd ship products within weeks of announcing them! What gives? My guess is that he said this in frustration after learning that the products they were announcing on Feb. 9 weren't going to ship for months.

Why are the Pre3 and TouchPad taking so long, anyway? What about HP's scale and billions of dollars? The Palm acquisition wasn't finalized until July 31. That's just 6 months ago...and you have to imagine that at least the first few months was HP looking at the insides of Palm and figuring out what they wanted to do. That leaves very little time for HP to get more people working on Palm stuff. And usually adding more people slows things down in the short term!

Plus, there are some serious technical challenges here. In addition to working on webOS 2.0/2.1/whatever, for the Pre3 they have to deal with the fact that this is the first webOS device that doesn't have 320px width, not to mention it has a new processor and HSPA+ support. And the TouchPad is all new hardware and the OS looks substantially different. Apple worked on the iPad for a long time before it released.

Bonus question: Will the TouchPad be cheaper than the iPad? No. Apple has the advantage here of huge economies of scale, plus an iteration under their belt to lower costs. I guess it's vaguely possible that HP will lower their usual profit margins or even take a loss, but this isn't a "razor/blades" type model - I can't imagine HP's making any money on app sales, so where would they make money? If HP is willing to take the very-long-term view about increasing webOS adoption, maaaaybe. But I doubt it. My guess for the 16GB WiFi model: $599 ($100 more than the equivalent iPad).


productivity techniques (or: remembering stuff)
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-10-20 12:22:00
Tags: reviews essay
Words: 579

I have a terrible short-term memory. As such, I'm constantly afraid of forgetting something important - all of my open loops stress me out.

For events, keeping a calendar is a godsend. I use Google Calendar, which is accessible at home and at work, and automatically syncs with my Palm Pre so I can access it anywhere. Having constant access to my calendar makes me a happy guy! (before getting the Pre I had tried Google Calendar and gone through phases of disuse)

For a todo list, though, I've tried a number of different things without much success. My current theory why nothing has stuck is that a lot of my todos are things that I need to take care of in the next few months. So putting them on a list and staring at them until I finally decide to do them is almost as stressful as having to remember them.

One thing I've done that's worked well is putting time-based todos on my calendar. The easiest example is for checking on a rebate that I send in - after I send it I put a calendar entry 6 weeks from then to follow up on it. It means I have zero to remember, which is the goal. If I get more information about it (i.e. I get an email saying it's in processing with a URL) I can just add that to the calendar entry and resume forgetting about it.

I suppose I could do the same thing with general todos (pick a date for each one and add it to the calendar), but they're generally so flexible that I might want to do it early, etc.

Similarly, I'm terrible at dealing with email. I currently have around 25 emails in my inbox. (although it was up to 40 before I made a concerted effort to scrub them last night) Some of these are just general information that I need to capture somewhere. I tried setting up a personal wiki for this, but it never really got traction because I don't visit it enough. Many of these are reminders of things that should really be on my todo list. And just like todos, having a bunch of emails in my inbox with stuff that I should really do at some point stresses me out.

So I was excited to discover yesterday (which is what prompted this post). is a service that lets you forward them emails with a date, and on that date they will send you a reminder. This is brilliant for a few reasons:
- In Gmail, it shows up as the next thread in the conversation of the original email, so you have all the context you had when it was in your inbox.
- The way you specify the date is by where you forward it - if I want a reminder on December 17, I'd forward it to There's a whole section of different formats you can use, including time from now and future day of week.
- The original message isn't gone, of course, so if you need to access it before the reminder fires you always can. I think I'll label them with a special label to make this easy in Gmail.

Anyway, I'm going to try integrating this into my daily email checking routine for a few weeks and see how it works. Hopefully it's as useful as it seems right now!

What are your techniques for keeping on top of things?


bridge it is!
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-09-07 15:10:00
Tags: palm projects programming
Words: 107

After some thought and some more research about what webOS app to work on next, it looks like the mystery option is going to be somewhere between difficult and impossible, and it's going to be a while before I can tell which.

So, bridge it is! It's going to be pretty tough, but a few people have volunteered to help, and it's better to aim high, right? So far it can deal out hands and count points...

I can't decide whether the hardest part will be the AI for bidding, playing, or just making the graphics look nice (with pictures of cards, etc). I guess we'll see!


Palm: money to burn?
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-06-30 10:49:00
Tags: essay palmpre
Words: 229

Since the HP acquisition of Palm is expected to close this week, Palm has been spending money on their platform like crazy. To wit:

- On June 17, they announced all apps in the App Catalog would be 50% off until July 9, and they'd reimburse the difference to developers. So instead of making money on every app sale, they're paying the developer for each sale.

- Monday, Palm extended the 50% sale until July 23.

- From the beginning, the policy has been that each app in the catalog (unless it was open source) had a $50 submission fee. Yesterday they announced that not only are they getting rid of that fee, they're refunding all the $50 fees they've collected in the past, which is pretty ridiculously generous.

One could argue that these are nothing particularly new - Palm's been courting developers pretty heavily from the beginning, what with making homebrew very easy to do (no rooting required!) and giving away $1 million in their Hot Apps competition (of which I'm hoping to collect some), and having another Hot Apps competition starting in July for PDK apps. But the timing of these last three moves, plus the fact that they're insanely generous, make me think that they're related to the acquisition. I assume that HP was on board with these moves - if so, it bodes very well for the future of webOS!


Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-05-20 14:19:00
Tags: reviews essay books
Words: 291

I just finished The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. (I'm turning into somewhat of a Michael Lewis fanboy - really enjoyed this book, Moneyball, and The Blind Side) It tells the story of the subprime mortgage meltdown and in the epilogue talks about the fact that not only were (most) of the companies involved bailed out by the government, but most of the traders who bet on subprime mortgages and lost billions of dollars for their company were let go with generous severance packages. (i.e. millions of dollars)

His implicit argument is that they should have known better (most of the book is about the people who did see the crisis coming ahead of time, bet against subprime mortgages, and made plenty of money) and thus don't deserve to have their job or be rewarded. I'm not defending the giant severance packages, but this is a dangerous road to walk down. If they honestly believed they were making money for their companies, then firing people who failed (and obviously there were a lot of them) could make other traders very wary about doing anything.

And yes, I feel kind of ridiculous defending the traders, but I know I screw up a lot at work and I'd be very paranoid (and cautious to the point of getting very little done) if I thought one mistake could lead to being fired.

On a similar note, some people seem to think that contacting politicians at home or following them around Washington is "fair game" if they don't vote a certain way, or even outing them as gay if they vote against anything gay-related. I believe in a thick line between one's professional life and one's personal life, and such things make me very uneasy.


Rich Dad Poor Dad review
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-03-14 16:56:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 529

Rich Dad Poor Dad is a book that I've heard about for a while (partially because of the radio ads for seminars), so when I heard David's parents had a copy I wanted to borrow it.

I expected it to be about the usual stuff, like saving and not living beyond your means. It did include some of that, but it wasn't the book's main focus.

The author's (who grew up in Hawaii!) childhood friend's dad, who is a local enterpreneur is the "rich dad". His actual dad, who is a schoolteacher is the "poor dad". The book's main structure is that he and his friend want to be rich, so rich dad eventually gives them advice and shows them how he does it.

Here is the book's advice, in descending order of goodness:

- Assets vs. liabilities: An asset is something that makes you money (stocks, business, income-generating real estate); a liability is something that costs you money or loses value. (cars, a house, jewelry, golf clubs)  The main difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich spend money on assets and the poor spend money on liabilities. This is generally good advice.

- "Pay yourself first": Every month you should save/invest first, before paying bills and expenses. It's easier to do this if you're not in debt. I like this idea, but what are you supposed to do if you can't afford to do this? Apparently still pay yourself and then the pressure of not being able to pay your bills will inspire you to make more money. ?

- How to make money: The author's passion is real estate, specifically buying at depressed prices. He tells a story of buying a house worth $75K from a bankruptcy attorney for $20K, and then selling it quickly for $60K. Which is good and all, but I'd be bothered doing this for a living - you're not producing anything, you're just being a middleman. (yeah, yeah, "reduce market inefficiency" but come on)

- Taxes: Rich dad (and the author) hate taxes. A lot. So he recommends forming your own corporation and having it own your assets. Then the corporation buys stuff for you (a "company car", a vacation is a "board meeting in Hawaii"), and you don't pay taxes on the corporation's expenses. I suppose this legal, but it's ethically wrong as far as I'm concerned. Taxes pay for things we all benefit from, like roads and schools, and avoiding them by ignoring the spirit of the law makes me mad.

- Rich dad is kind of a jerk: He explains most people take a job out of fear, and then: "Some people say I exploit people because I don't pay as much as the sugar plantation or the government. I say the people exploit themselves. It's their fear, not mine." Also, it sounds like he was always so busy making money that he didn't spend much time with his family. (although, to be fair, I think he retired early)

Overall, the book has some good ideas, but to really follow it's advice I'd have to quit my job and become an enterpreneur. Which isn't totally unappealing,

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


Palm and LJ for WebOS
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-03-04 13:14:00
Tags: lj for webos essay palmpre projects programming
Words: 747

I worry about Palm sometimes. They recently lowered their guidance for this quarter, analysts don't seem too upbeat, and their stock price for the last year looked promising when they released the Pre in July, but has dropped dramatically since then.

More concerning is the fact that, 9 months after releasing the first WebOS phone, Gartner estimates that 0.7% of smartphones are running WebOS. Hopefully this will improve now that they're on Verizon (and rumor is they'll be on AT&T sometime this year) and once they launch in more countries.

The good news is that the mobile phone market isn't quite like, say, the social networking website market, which has a very strong network effect. If all your friends are leaving Friendster for Facebook, then Friendster is less valuable to you, and you'll probably switch to Facebook. But I can still use the web just fine from my Palm Pre even if the rest of the world switches to iPhones and Droids and Nexus Ones. There is somewhat of a problem that if fewer people use WebOS, fewer people will write apps for it, but this is more of a slow process. Also, at least in the US, most people are under contract for their phones and so they only have an opportunity to switch cheaply every one or two years. I'm really hoping Palm can keep turning things around - just yesterday they released an update to the Facebook app that makes it much nicer.

Speaking of apps...

LJ for WebOS has been doing pretty well since my last update - as of this very moment I've sold 72 copies. It seems fairly random how many copies are sold a day - thanks to the new app My WebOS Apps I have a nifty graph on my phone with these totals for the last week: 5, 1, 1, 2, 4, 2, 0. So...who knows?

One of the frustrating parts has been seeing bad reviews indicating that it just isn't working for a few people. Most of these reviews came early and I'm pretty sure I've fixed the bugs since then, but most people don't go back and edit their review when problems get fixed, and I have no way of contacting them to ask them if it's working for them and to try to diagnose their problem if not. I've been trying to make it more and more obvious how to contact me to the point that if you can't load the posts a dialog comes up with a button to email me the problem. We'll see if this helps at all. Encouragingly, more of the recent reviews have been good than bad, bringing the average back up to 3.5/5 stars.

I spent a lot of last week working on a new feature that I really wanted to add: the ability to browse other people's journals. I even wrote the parsing code before I got stuck on a problem that I've gotten stuck on before - the inability to properly authenticate so that the client can load friends-only posts. The API way to do this is to call the sessiongenerate method - unfortunately LiveJournal's cookie scheme has changed because of some security holes, and no one's gone back and updated or added a new API.

Every time I run into this problem, I spent some time trying to "fake it" by POSTing the right thing to the login page, essentially pretending I'm a regular user signing in from a browser. As in the past, I can't get this to work and I'm not sure why, and it's really frustrating to try to debug because it's all guesswork.

So I was a little down about that, and the last release (made it to the App Catalog yesterday) only had a few small features like deleting posts. This week I took a stab at some random not-quite-featurey things that have been on my list for a while, and everything just kinda worked. The next release will use a lot less bandwidth on the initial request (66% less in my test case!), and it fixes a bug with comments not posting by showing the CAPTCHA dialog that LiveJournal was returning. I was amazed that both of these basically worked the first time, so that was a nice pick me up :-) I'll probably submit it to the App Catalog tonight after a bit more testing.

I'm running out of features to work on that are actually possible to do, so I'm very open to suggestions!


yay for weddings!
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-01-01 15:42:00
Tags: essay
Words: 108

djedi and I went to a very nice wedding last night. Before we had our ceremony this summer, going to weddings put me in a foul mood - I was happy for the couple but emphasized the point that David and I wouldn't ever have one of our own. (especially the few we went to before we were out as a couple to everyone) So I was quite glad last night that I was able to just focus on being happy for them and happy for us too. One more hangup: gone!

Also, I seem to be on the mend from my cold, which is a nice 2010 present.


progress marches on
Mood: thoughtful
Music: "World of Goo" soundtrack
Posted on 2009-02-06 13:41:00
Tags: essay gay wedding
Words: 170

At some point during this whole wedding process, it struck me (more poignantly than usual) we've come a long long way.

When I first started dating in 2000, I was heavily closeted, out to very very few people. My nightly phone calls to djedi I wandered around the Will Rice quad (because I didn't want roommates overhearing), and when people asked who I was talking to I would have to be awkwardly mysterious. Anti-sodomy laws were still on the books in Texas and some other states (way to go Legislature!)

Since then, anti-sodomy laws were struck down by the Supreme Court. Gays can now marry in two states, have a civil union in five others, and be domestic partners in four others (source). I am now fully out (non-protected post FTW!) to my family, friends, coworkers, and anyone I meet on the street. And we're planning our holy union.

This is why I'm not nostalgic for the "good old days". We've made progress and it only gets better from here!

1 comment

hello married people/people who know about weddings
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2009-01-26 14:39:00
Tags: wedding
Words: 77

So I'm doing some initial research into where we could have a reception, by which I mean I googled "austin reception" and got a long list of places, like 300! and this crazy place that looks like a castle!

Anyhow, anyone know a reception location that you've actually been to in Austin? A list of like a billion unverified places is really not that helpful, but real places that actually do host wedding receptions would be awesome.


Attacks on Obama vs. attacks on McCain
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2008-10-29 12:24:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 678

I've been reading a lot about politics this year, although my sources range from relatively neutral to "in the tank" for Obama. But even so, I've noticed that the attacks on Obama seem to be far crazier than the attacks on McCain. It's hard to say whether this is true since the sort of sites I read tend to highlight the crazy attacks being made Obama, and I guess I don't entirely know where the crazy attacks on McCain are coming from. (I read which definitely had some questionable things, but still not as bad as what's being flung at Obama)

So I watched a segment of the Daily Show last night with interest, a segment where John Oliver went to Obama and McCain rallies and found people saying crazy things. Here it is:
As I was watching, it struck me that indeed the attacks on Obama were crazier. Let's break down each one by true/reasonable, grain of truth, and not true:
on Obama: If he is elected, we will have terrorists in our country. Didn't say he was a terrorist, so she could be saying he won't defend our borders, which is a reasonable concern. grain of truth
on Obama: He'll put a turban on, go in the White House and "we'll all be shot". not true
on Obama: He's a Muslim, we don't know enough about him. He is not a Muslim! not true
on Obama: It would be a takeover of our country, he doesn't understand the radical Islam perspective. Close to saying he's a terrorist, but this is a valid concern. grain of truth
on McCain: Idea of McCain becoming president is terrifying. This is pretty vague... grain of truth
on McCain: The conservative turn the country would take is scary. "Scary" is subjective, obviously, but McCain is obviously a conservative. true/reasonable
on McCain: The pick of Palin scares the living daylights out of me. Again, too vague to be true grain of truth
on McCain: Palin has proven to be most ineffectual and unintellectual woman out there. Hyperbole but there's a valid concern in there grain of truth
on McCain: McCain's out of touch, doesn't know about Twitter, Flickr, Youtube. Probably true but not a totally valid concern grain of truth
on Obama: Been tied up with a lot of "groups like that" like ACORN. Technically true, although I have a feeling if they hadn't suddenly cut the interview this would have gotten crazier true/reasonable
on McCain: Pals around with Keating Five people. "Pals around" is a bit iffy but he was one of the Keating Five... true/reasonable
(skipping two incomplete thoughts, one on both sides)
on Obama: Scared to death of him, have thirteen grandchildren, there will be no America left. Um, OK. not true
on McCain: Have a ten year old daughter who's grown up with war, would like her to have four years of peace. Borderline but McCain is definitely more hawkish than Obama, and he supported the war in Iraq where Obama didn't true/reasonable
on McCain: Roe v Wade would definitely be "under threat". Seeing as McCain now supports overturning it... true/reasonable
on Obama: We have to realize killing babies is out of line. Inflammatory language, but at least there's an issue behind it true/reasonable
(skipping McCain should have left the party when he's still having fun, because I don't understand)
(skipping Obama: "show me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are" because it's not specific enough)
on Obama: isn't living in a realistic world when it comes to his Islamic views again, didn't say he's a Muslim, and a valid concern true/reasonable
on Obama: if he becomes president, America as we know it is gone. not true

So, to summarize in table form:

Attacks on ObamaAttacks on McCain
grain of truth24
not true40

Obviously it's impossible to do this objectively, but I did my best. Innuendo was flung around at McCain, but no one said anything like America would be destroyed if he was elected.


genome hacking redux
Mood: thoughtful
Music: Toadies - "Possum Kingdom"
Posted on 2008-09-10 14:46:00
Tags: 23andme genetics
Words: 71

A few months ago I considered having my genome sequenced. Today 23andMe announced their service just got a lot cheaper, down to $400 (from $1000), and they're analyzing more SNPs now. I'm playing with their free demo (with sample data) and it does look pretty neat. $400 is still a lot of money, but if it came down to this or one of the new 32GB iPod touches I'd take this :-)


Mood: thoughtful
Music: Death Cab For Cutie - "I Will Possess Your Heart"
Posted on 2008-08-26 12:59:00
Tags: essay poll links
Words: 260

I read this article on panhandling and it brought some things to mind.

I've never been quite sure what to do about panhandlers - they're somewhat common in Austin (and Houston) and so it's not infrequent that I'll be stopped at a light and one or two will be on the median. Back when I first started driving, I leaned towards giving them a dollar and feeling good about myself. "After all", I'd tell myself, "even if they are just going to spend it on alcohol or whatever, it's not my place to judge them, and I have the right to spend my money on stuff that isn't great for me, so why shouldn't they?" I thought it was the Christian thing to do.

After a while of that, I got a little jaded, and thought about the fact that economically I was encouraging more panhandling by "rewarding" those who were. (cold-hearted economics strikes again!) My mom tended to have a bag of non-perishable food (cereal and the like) that she would give instead of money, which is actually a pretty good solution.

Now I'm generally torn on the issue. Since we moved further away from downtown I don't see panhandlers as much so it hasn't come up, but reading the article sure makes me less likely to give. I like Denver's solution of converted parking meters where you can drop money and the city will give it to homeless shelters, etc. - that way you can give at the time you're being asked while ensuring it goes to a good cause.


history of marriage
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2008-08-11 14:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 25

Interesting Salon interview about the history of marriage. It's easy to forget that the idea that one marries for romantic love is actually pretty recent...

1 comment

video tour of our apartment
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2007-10-24 14:38:00
Words: 21

Here's a video tour of our apartment I took with my mom's Flip Video.

(this set's icon for thoughtful is inappropriate)


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