Posts with mood tired (98)

Hawaii trip pictures and recap (finally!)
Mood: tired
Posted on 2014-10-26 18:15:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 3899

It's been more than a month since we got back from our two week vacation in Hawaii, and things have been so busy I just now finished posting our pictures. So - here they are!

<- click for full album

We got legally married while in Hawaii! Here are some pictures of the ceremony:
<- click for album

(all of the embedded pictures are links - click on them to see the full picture!)

Saturday 9/6
The flight from Dallas to Honolulu was pretty long, and honestly the plane (a 767) wasn't that nice - there were only a few TVs and the whole plane vibrated quite a bit on takeoff. It was in a 2-3-2 configuration, so at least I got a window seat (and took some pictures). When we got to our seats there was someone sitting in one of them, so we had to kick him out, so he moved to the seat in front of us and then was kind of a jerk the rest of the flight. The plane was quite full so I don't know what he was expecting, but oh well. Also, somehow there were no/few meals available on the flight (even to buy!), which is suboptimal for an 8 hour flight. Thankfully they told us this before we boarded so we bought some meals in the airport...

On the plane I read a bunch and watched Spike Jonze's movie "Her" which was pretty good!

After getting off the plane, we stopped at a Starbucks and then made our way down to baggage claim. I forgot how big the Honolulu airport was - it was a solid 10 minutes of walking to get there. Then our luggage took 20 more minutes to show up, although we were thankful to see it hadn't been lost!

We had a shuttle take us to our hotel, the Aston Waikiki Beach, which is on the very east end of Waikiki Beach. We got settled in and took the requisite pictures of Waikiki Beach from our room, then walked around for a bit, then came back to the room and collapsed, having stayed up long enough to get on a semi-reasonable schedule. Since activities tend to start early here we decided that getting up early and going to bed early would be our schedule... we'll see if we can stick to it.
<- view from our hotel room
<- David on Waikiki Beach at night

Sunday 9/7
This morning was the Pleasant Holidays orientation thing where you can schedule events for the rest of your trip. It's helpful to do this all at once (and they have everything pretty well organized), but sitting through the presentation I can see why we overscheduled ourselves last time we were here. There's not pressure, exactly, but the guy kept going on and on about how much amazing stuff there is to do here. Which is true! But trying to fill every minute of every day with tours and museums and shopping is not the way to have a vacation, or at least it isn't for us.

Anyway, we booked a few things (and got a sweet tote bag!) and then walked back to our hotel. The orientation was early enough (we got picked up at our hotel at 7:30) so we read down by the hotel pool for a bit, then walked down to a beachside café we had seen and after reading some more, ate lunch there. Then back to the room and we went downstairs to get picked up by a shuttle to go to our Atlantis Submarine tour, which I was really excited about! Then we got there, walked to the boat that would take us to the submarine, and after 15 minutes or so they came out and announced it was cancelled due to poor visibility. (something about ocean currents). I was fairly bummed out by this, especially since we didn't have a free slot to reschedule to. So, back on the shuttle to the hotel.
<- looking out over Waikiki Beach

We considered scheduling something else for the evening, but decided instead to read on the beach for a bit and then walk to Eggs 'n Things, which was delicious when we ate there 5 years ago. Spoiler alert: it is still delicious! Now we're relaxing in the room taking advantage of the movies the hotel lets us rent. (we're watching "Hugo", although the disc is skipping quite a bit)
<- reading on the beach
<- David at Eggs n' Things

It's actually pretty hot here - the highs are supposedly around 90 but in the sun it's really quite warm. I drank a lot today but suspect I didn't drink enough. I think we're going to try to limit outdoor activity between noon and 4 pm, or at least try to do things in the shade!

Monday 9/8
This morning we had "Breakfast on the Beach" at our hotel, which is not actually on the beach but by the hotel's pool, which is across the street from the beach. Close enough, I guess? Afterwards we went out on our top-secret errand to get a marriage license! We were going to take a cab to the Department of Health but decided instead to take the bus. This ended up working well (thanks HERE Transit!) and we made it over there fine and got the paperwork done. Afterwards we took the bus over to Chinatown and browsed around for a while before heading to Golden Palace to have lunch. (they have good dumplings!)
<- an old smallpox quarantine order, as seen at the Department of Health

Afterwards we took another bus over to Hilo Hattie, which is a pretty famous souvenir store. They're very friendly there and only somewhat pushy :-) I bought a nice Hawaiian shirt and a few other odds and ends, and then we took their shuttle back to our hotel to crash for a while.

We had dinner reservations at a show called The Magic of Polynesia. Whilst there, I ordered "The Magic", which is a drink served in a volcano cup that comes out on fire. Our waitress said that the top was 151 (it was in a hollowed-out lime half), and I could drink it as a shot or pour it in the drink. I guess I don't understand how fire works, because I blew on it a few times and it didn't go out. So I decided that that was just how it worked, and I'm not brave enough to drink a flaming drink, so I picked up the lime half and poured the fire into my cup. Unfortunately I spilled a bit and then the tablecloth and my napkin were on fire. _Then_ I figured out that the secret is: blow harder and the fire will disappear, although not before leaving a hole in my napkin and burning my finger. The Japanese tourists sitting next to us were quite amused. Lesson learned!

The food and show were pretty good... as our guidebook said, the magic was somewhat repetitive, but there was one trick that honest-to-goodness made me gasp. (he levitated a woman, raised her up to the ceiling, and then she disappeared and a bunch of paper exploded outwards. It was impressive!). Interestingly, one of the early things he did was ask where everyone was from, and there was a good chunk of people from the US, Japan, China, Korea, and Australia. (and two people from Canada, who got made fun of, because Canada!). Later in the show he picked an older Japanese guy to be his assistant and verify that the wooden box was solid, etc. Unfortunately, the guy didn't really speak English, and after a few questions the magician started leading him on to say "OK" to everything. At one point he tried to get in the box with someone else, which was definitely not part of the trick! Then after it was done he walked behind the curtain to follow someone, also not intended. The guy did seem to be a good sport about it, though.

Tuesday 9/9
Today started auspiciously - our ride to the Polynesian Cultural Center wasn't until 10:30, so we slept in a tiny bit, grabbed breakfast by the pool (it even rained for a few minutes!), and then read by the beach for a bit before heading over to the Marriott where we were supposed to be picked up. Right around 10:30 a bus marked PCC showed up, but the driver looked at our ticket and said we were supposed to be on another bus. 10:30 became 10:40 became 10:50, and we were the only one left waiting - never a good sign! So I called Pleasant Holidays and after waiting on hold a while, someone confirmed we had indeed missed it somehow, and booked us on the next bus leaving at 12:30. I asked for a confirmation number and then something happened and she basically hung up, I guess. Since we knew we had extra time we decided to go to the Pleasant Holidays booth at our hotel to try to get firmer info. Luckily Nancy at the booth took very good care of us and we even got a partial refund, which was nice because this new plan significantly cut down on the time we're we'd have at the Center.

So we had lunch and then did in fact get picked up and rode the bus the hour or so it takes to get to the Center. Our bus guide was about 20% interesting information and 80% stupid jokes and crowd games and such I just wasn't interested in...

The PCC itself is pretty cool, though - we walked through all 6 islands it covers (although we couldn't stay long at any of them; supposedly it would take 16 hours to see everything), had delicious luau food, then saw a pretty impressive show they call Ha: The Breath of Life. The show was very high-energy with lots of running around, yelling, and intense dancing. (the fire dancers were the coolest!) Many of the people that work at the Center are students at BYU Hawaii, and while they're limited to working 19 hours a week, I can't imagine performing in that show 4 nights a week for months on top of schoolwork!
<- fresh coconut water!
<- Samoan tree climber
<- dancing at the Tahitian village

Wednesday 9/10
Today we had a tour of the Dole Pineapple Plantation and north Shore and a few other random things. We were supposed to be picked up at 8:15 - when 8:20 rolled around I nervously called the company (fool me once, shame on you...) but the bus was just running behind. Our driver this time was friendly, funny, but also very knowledgeable. She also earned a bunch of points in my book by making fun of the other drivers (like the one yesterday!) who make you say "aloooohaa!" (to the cadence of "Helllloooooooo nurse!") The tour was a lot of fun - we saw some cool stuff at the Dole Plantation, including the world's largest maze! David and I ran a little short on time but we did manage to hit 5 of the 8 hidden stations. I also tried some "Dole Whip" which is kinda like soft-serve pineapple, and was delicious!
<- "breakfast on the beach"
<- David in a coffee garden
<- David in the hedge maze!

We drove by a lot of pretty places and I took pictures of varying quality. The trip ran a little late so we only had time for a short nap before dinner. We walked to a Japanese udon noodle place, which was pretty good, then walked along Waikiki beach for a bit after dark.
<- Hale'iwa, where all the buildings have to look like they would in plantation times
<- Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park (among other films) was filmed!

This is our last night on Oahu - it's been nice here but I'm also looking forward to a quieter island; Waikiki is quite crowded!

Our hotel has been pretty nice - one particularly cool feature is the newfangled elevators. In the elevator lobby, you have to tap your room key to the panel and then type in the floor you want to go to, and then it tells you which elevator (A-E) to go to. The elevator then has no floor buttons, although it does indicate which floors it's going to. I've heard of this idea before - it lets the elevator group trips more efficiently - but never gotten to use it in practice. I never saw anyone being confused (although walking into an elevator and not pressing a button is still weird!), probably because there were signs everywhere and it was carefully explained to us when we checked in.

Thursday 9/11
Breakfast, then reading by the beach, then leaving for the airport was our morning. The Honolulu airport was a bit crowded but we got through security with plenty of time before our flight. It's a nice place to spend time since it's open-air in parts, and the weather was nice like it usually is :-). There's even a garden we went down to explore! Had lunch and took the absurdly short flight to Kauai, got our rental car, and drove up to our condo - the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort. Our condo is really nice! Lots of space and a full kitchen. We lollygagged around for too long to take pictures before nightfall, but we'll take some tomorrow. Met up with Jonathan and Sarah (who did _not_ die!) and we went out to a Benihana-style place for dinner, which was excellent. Then we stopped by the local Goodland to buy breakfast food and laundry detergent (and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts!), and back here to relax for the evening.
<- Our hotel room in Honolulu
<- garden at the Honolulu Airport
<- very pretty old map of Hawaii, on a wall at the Honolulu Airport
<- on the runway at the Honolulu Airport
<- the view from our condo in Kauai!

Friday 9/12
We had breakfast on our lanai this morning, which was very nice! After lounging around a bit we headed back to the airport for our helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian. We enjoyed our flight with them on Maui, so we decided to use them again. This time we got to ride in the front seats (I got to be next to the emergency exit!), which gave us even nicer views. We saw lots of cool stuff including Manawaiopuna Falls (the waterfall seen in Jurassic Park!), the Kalalau Beach (which Jonathan and Sarah had hiked to), and the Na Pali coast. Hopefully some of my pictures will turn out OK! Afterwards we drove up to Kapaa for lunch at a local burger place, which was good, then back to the condo for rest time. Later the four of us went down to Hanapepe for an art night they have every Friday evening. There were food trucks and people playing music and a surprising number of art galleries open for such a small town! The nicest art gallery we saw was Giorgio's...unfortunately it was all pretty expensive. Someday! Tomorrow we're planning to hike part of Waimea Canyon, which should be fun but possibly exhausting.
<- in the front seats of the helicopter!
<- a bay in Lihue?
<- the waterfall in Jurassic Park!
<- Waimea Canyon
<- Kalalau Beach, where Jonathan and Sarah hiked to!
<- the Na Pali Coast
<- us in front of the westernmost bookstore in the US!

Saturday 9/13
Today was "hike Waimea Canyon day" and by gum that's what we did! David and I hiked around 2 miles and then headed back while Jonathan and Sarah continued on to the overlook they were hoping to get to - unfortunately it was cloudy by then so apparently you couldn't see much :-/. The hike was pretty rough - lots of up and down (I got my first 100 floor climbing day on my Fitbit!) but nothing was too scary. Afterwards we went to Poipu for dinner at Keoki's Paradise and then back home to collapse (and launder our red dirt-stained clothing!)
<- David at Waimea Canyon overlook
<- looking down over Kalalau Valley
<- me on the Waimea Canyon hike
<- David in front of creepy fog!

Sunday 9/14
Well, something happened last night and my allergies started acting up. (not sure if I was allergic to something on the hike or what?). Apparently I snored (sorry David!) which I rarely do unless I'm seriously congested, so I woke up feeling fairy crappy this morning. Luckily Tylenol+real Sudafed+caffeine+cough drops have been helping a bunch.

Today was set aside as a beach day so we went up to Hanalei for lunch and then to Hideaways Beach in Princeville. The hike down to the beach was surprisingly tough/scary, but the beach itself was beautiful, albeit small. I took a bunch of pictures and we hung out and read for hours. It was great! Afterwards we came back to the condo and enjoyed the salt-water pool - it has two water slides, a lazy river part, three waterfalls, and two spas!
<- David at Hideaways Beach
<- the beach part of Hideaways Beach

Monday 9/15
Thankfully feeling somewhat better today. We didn't have anything scheduled in the morning so after taking care of a few odds and ends we went down to the beach by our hotel. It's nice because there are some trees around so there was shade we could follow. There was a guy sunbathing near us who was friendly but, once he surmised we were a couple, proceeded to go waaaaay beyond the limits of oversharing. Way beyond!

We went into Kapaa for lunch and then down to Lihue to pick up two flower leis. Then we came back to the condo, cleaned ourselves up, and went down to get officially married at the courthouse! (Jonathan and Sarah were our witnesses) Judge Watanabe was very friendly and helpful (she performed the first same-sex marriage in the county!) and helped soothe my nerves a bit. The ceremony was short but nice. Afterwards we celebrated by, well, going back to the condo and relaxing for a bit before going to the luau at Smith's Tropical Paradise. The grounds there were very nicely kept up and we wandered around a bit before dinner. The open bar was also a nice touch, and the food was quite good. The show afterwards was impressive in parts but I felt it kinda dragged on. (I was also tired, so maybe this isn't fair...)
<- click for wedding ceremony pictures if you missed them above!
<- Peacock at Smith's Tropical Paradise
<- Japanese fan dance

Tuesday 9/16
This morning we toured the Allerton Gardens at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. The tour started out in a not-promising fashion, as our guide seemed knowledgeable but also kind of weirdly goofy and rambly. Luckily once we actually got into the garden itself things picked up, and the tour was pleasant, if a bit hot by the end. The story of how the garden was founded is pretty weird. Samuel Allerton made his wealth, apparently, by getting an inside tip that there was going to be a meat shortage, so he bought a bunch of cattle for 1 cent a pound and later sold it to the government for 60 cents a pound. (so, you know, profiteering!). Apparently he also founded a bank that became JP Morgan Chase? Anyway, his son Robert Allerton wanted to be an artist, so he went to art school, but then didn't like it and was contemplating suicide. So instead his father bought him some land and he designed the gardens there, which I guess he really liked. I guess the lesson is: money is useful?

(what the guide didn't tell us, but Wikipedia does, was that Robert Allerton had a same-sex partner and they were in fact one of the most prominent same-sex couples of their day! Crazy...)

So the gardens were nice and we did get to see where they found the raptor eggs in Jurassic Park, so that's something! Afterwards we came back to the condo for a bit and then went up to Kauai Mini Golf, which doubles as a botanical garden. (and was apparently started by the founder of E*Trade!). It was a good time.
<- David next to tall trees in the Allerton Garden
<- a nice water feature
<- where they found the raptor eggs in Jurassic Park!
<- me at Kauai Mini Golf
<- David at Kauai Mini Golf

Driving on Kauai is a little stressful - even the major roads are typically 2 lanes (i.e. 1 each way) with brief stretches of 3 lanes, and the speed limits are absurdly low to the point where no one follows them. Traffic gets pretty bad especially near where our condo is. I did let a car in front of me at one point yesterday and the driver flashed me the "hang loose" hand sign, which was pretty cool :-)

Wednesday 9/17
This morning we slept in (yaaaay!) and then had brunch at Kountry Kitchen, which I thought >was pretty good, although David was less impressed with his meal. We later met up with Jonathan and Sarah and got some shaved ice and then went over to the Kilohana Plantation. We looked at some shops and then did a rum tasting of Koloa Rum, which is made nearby. It's good rum, especially the coconut rum! Afterwards we popped over to do some more shopping (where I saw a $750 map of Hawaii I liked, but didn't buy) and then back to Gaylord's Restaurant at Kilohana Plantation.
<- rum tasting!

Today was the first day we didn't have to put on sunscreen, and I have to say it was pretty awesome. I'm getting tired of having the sun being our sworn enemy and having to lather on sunscreen every time we go outside. To its credit, I have been mostly free of sunburns this trip, but it's a pain!

Thursday 9/18
Quiet morning, although we did manage to squeeze in some beach time, then it was off to the North Shore for a Na Pali Coast boat ride and snorkel! We went with the Sea Breeze tour, and the boat was nice if a wee bit crowded. We saw some dolphins early on which was nice, and then some magnificent views of the Na Pali Coast, including some of the Kalalau Trail that Jonathan and Sarah recognized. Unfortunately I can't wear my glasses while snorkeling (it messes up the seal on the mask), but I did come almost face-to-face with a turtle! The water was a bit choppy and I started to feel a little sick on the way back, luckily nothing came of it. Afterwards we came back to shower and ate dinner at the restaurant at the condo, which was quite nice. Then David and I looked at stars on the beach :-) before coming back to pack up and whatnot.
<- dolphins!
<- us in front of a neat cave
<- Na Pali Coast
<- me at dinner
<- everyone else at dinner

Friday 9/19
Last day in Hawaii! :-( Our flight didn't leave until the evening, so after reading on the beach by our condo for a bit, we checked out and went to the coffee place we liked in Kalaheo for lunch, then went by a few waterfalls, played another round of mini golf, and went back to Lihue for dinner. The airport was kind of warm and they had some live music which was nice but a bit loud.
<- living room of the condo
<- monk seal on the beach!
<- Wailua Falls


Antifragile review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2014-09-21 12:57:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 645

Antifragile: Things That Gain from DisorderAntifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maaaan this book was frustrating to read.

His main point is that some things are fragile - small random things happening to them make them break. Some things are robust - they're resilient to small random things happening to them. But the best things are antifragile - small random things happening to them make them stronger. Good examples are things like your immune system, since being exposed to weak viruses makes it stronger.

So far so good. Unfortunately the rest of the book was painful to read, even as there were some good ideas sprinkled within. Here are some reasons why!

- The author is, to put it delicately, an egocentric asshole. He calls things "sissy" and "wussy", because he's apparently a fifth grader. Some choice quotes:

A friend who writes books remarked that painters like painting but authors like "having written." I suggested he stop writing, for his sake and the sake of his readers.
Charming, no? He also goes on about people who just don't understand his ideas (which I'm a little skeptical's possible that they do understand and disagree, which I'm sure the author would consider the same as not "really" understanding) and gives the example of a time when he was doing a radio interview and the journalist didn't understand something, so he walked out of the studio.

- The book is extremely prone to overstating things for dramatic effect (I assume?), which made me not trust it in a lot of cases. The author says "I realized school was a plot designed to deprive people of erudition by squeezing their knowledge into a narrow set of authors." (and then has a long list of authors that he's read) He says depression is a made-up disease! Here, look:
But when you medicate a child for an imagined or invented psychiatric disease, say, ADHD or depression, instead of letting him out of the cage, the long-term harm is largely unaccounted for.
I mean, I don't disagree that ADHD is probably overdiagnosed and we need to be careful about prescribing medication, especially if it isn't proven to work better than counseling. But I think it's pretty unreasonable and insulting to say depression is "imagined or invented". To me, this shows a lack of empathy or a belief that since he doesn't feel depressed, other people are just "sad" or faking it or something. Sigh.

- He has a giant chip on his shoulder. In retrospect this isn't terribly surprising, because in "The Black Swan" he talks about betting for the market to crash and being wrong every day for a long time, until he was right. (it also isn't surprising because he's an egocentric asshole - see above) But he attacks people mercilessly, some of whom seem like they don't deserve it. He keeps calling people "Fragilista" (which I never was entirely clear what that meant) and he talks about about "Soviet-Harvard" people. He is extremely condescending towards "book learning" and claims that most innovations came from tinkering without understanding what was going on, which I find a bit implausible.

- The book is extremely hedgehog like (see The Hedgehog and the Fox) - he tries to apply this principle of antifragility across a wide range of topics, some of which he (proudly!) doesn't know much about.

He also hates the metric system because the imperial measures are "intuitive". For example, a furlong is the distance one can sprint before running out of breath, which is really stretching the definition of intuitive...

Anyway, with most books I try to ignore the parts I don't like and get what I can out of it. In this case the whole reading experience was pretty unpleasant, and 90% of the good parts were in "The Black Swan" anyway, so I'd recommend reading that instead.

View all my reviews


pictures from our quick New Orleans trip
Mood: tired
Posted on 2014-07-27 22:59:00
Tags: health pictures travel
Words: 223

<- click for full album!

The short version is - we had a good time! Got to wander the French Quarter a bit, take a steamboat up and down the Mississippi, and even have afternoon tea. Foodwise, I managed to have red beans and rice, jambalaya, beignets, and something like "Creole sausage" (is that a thing?), so I feel like I did pretty well.

Oh, and I had a root canal last week which I have apparently survived. I would like to dedicate the trip to David (it's our 5 year anniversary!) and Advil.

<- We stayed at the Windsor Court Hotel, which was extremely nice. Here's a view of (one of) their restaurants, which is where we ate breakfast every morning.

<- Colorful coral (at the aquarium)

<- David in front of the Steamboat Natchez after our trip. It was fun and informative!

<- This artwork at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro felt very New Orleanian to me.

<- David and me in our carriage.

<- Our hotel was fancy enough to serve afternoon tea with ample tea sandwiches and scones! (sidenote: there were 20 other women there and no other men...)

<- Before we left we stopped by the National WWII Museum. Honestly, this picture looks a bit creepier than I had anticipated.

<- A sobering picture of the relative sizes of the military forces of Japan, the US, and Germany in 1939.

<- Recruitment posters from WWII.

<- Rationing, etc. posters from WWII.

<- More miscellaneous posters from WWII.


Giant linkapalooza: moving your settler in Civ V, the Protestant work ethic, Internet empathy proble
Mood: tired
Posted on 2014-04-06 22:27:00
Tags: links
Words: 305

Life has gotten kinda crazy so I haven't posted links in *checks* ack, months! So, here goes...

- You Never Move Your Settler! - Opening Strategy Splits Civ V Studio - like all good arguments, this one was settled with science!

- America And The Protestant Work Ethic - working is good but the work ethic in the US can be a bit out of control.

- Our Internet Empathy Problem - or "People are Terrible on the Internet"

- A long article about ITER's quest to make a fusion reactor with a tokamak and the problems with a large international engineering effort.

- When the emergency room is your only option - lack of after-hours care is a problem. (thanks David!)

- An interesting article on apps and books with crazy prices

- This Super Bowl for a lawyer in Georgia is...truly amazing.

- The Global Map of Homophobia - pretty stark differences between the continents

- Cryptic Crossword: Amateur Crypto and Reverse Engineering - very detailed (but interesting!) story of reverse-engineering some custom "encryption".

- Space Elevators Are Totally Possible (and Will Make Rockets Seem Dumb) - nothing new here, but I believe in space elevators!

- Super-old news at this point, but: the Texas same-sex marriage ban was struck down! (pending appeal, of course)

- Netflix and Net Neutrality - yeah, any time I hear "innovation" from ISPs I get scared.

- Behold Arscoin, our own custom cryptocurrency! - very cool to see the steps you have to take to make your own cryptocurrency!

- Iranian Ship, in Plain View but Shrouded in Mystery, Looks Very Familiar to U.S. - so weird

- Sesame Street: Pentatonix Counts (& Sings) to Five - yay for awesome people on Sesame Street! (thanks Britton!)

- The Kindly Brontosaurus: The amazing, prehistoric posture that will get you whatever you want, whenever you want it. - does this actually work? I am skeptical.

- What people order at Starbucks around the United States - apparently I belong in Omaha!


pictures from SXSW
Mood: tired
Posted on 2014-03-12 22:19:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 33

<- click for full album!

I worked at part of Microsoft Studio for a few days at SXSW.

<- look, I'm Doctor Who!

<- me with my Kinect Sports Rivals avatar!

<- an "art guitar" transplanted downtown


a few pictures from Rice
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-09-20 22:51:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 44

Click for full images!

<- The Gibbs rec center has these...weird things hanging from the ceiling. I didn't see any explanation, although I didn't look too hard.

<- This amazing store called Rocket Fizz is now in Rice Village! I had to stop in.

<- Rice gets a Texas historical marker!


The summer musical is over! (and pictures!)
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-08-15 20:50:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 53

The summer musical finished its run last weekend! The show was Peter Pan, and it was very successful - over 1300 people saw the free show! I'm still recovering a bit from it - it seems to get a little more exhausting every year...

Here are a few pictures from the show:
<- click for album


a ton o' links: government moneyball, disliking Ken Cuccinelli, fake vaccinations are a bad idea
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-08-02 11:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 556

(wow, this might be my longest link post ever? I think I'm less choosy about links when I'm tired...)

- Just another reminder to donate so KIPP high-schoolers can have laptops at school - they're over 50% funded now, but could use your help!

- Can Government Play Moneyball? - hey, maybe government should try to be more data-driven and only spend money on things that work! What a concept... (written by government officials who worked under Obama and George W. Bush)

- Virginia governor GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli launches website that pushes for reinstatement of state's anti-sodomy law - he wants to make consensual oral or anal sex felonies, even between married couples in their own homes. Although he says the law would only be applied "to sodomy committed against minors, against non-consenting adults, or in public," that's not what the law says and how hard would it be to write a law that says that? (not hard at all, say 49 other states) And this guy is neck-and-neck in the Virginia governor race...

- Texas is not Pro-Life - a reminder that while Texas is "pro-life" if you mean "trying to make abortion illegal", we're not so much for "trying to make abortion rarer" or in a myriad of other ways.

- Pakistan Battles Polio, and Its People’s Mistrust - who would have predicted that having the CIA running a fake vaccination campaign (when they were trying to get Osama bin Laden's DNA) would hurt real vaccination campaigns? (hopefully everyone)

- Why Men Need Women - ignoring the somewhat provocative (and misleading) title, the study seems to show that proximity to baby girls makes men more generous.

- 'Crack baby' study ends with unexpected but clear result - I'll spoil it for you: poverty is a stronger effect on children than the mother using cocaine while pregnant.

- The Unprecedented, Contemptible GOP Quest to Sabotage Obamacare - see also this Tom Toles cartoon (thanks David!)

- The Rise of the Christian Left in America - here's hoping!

- It can be terrible to be a creative person on the Internet, as people are terribly abusive. This seems like a big problem and I'm not sure what you can do about it, other than cut yourself off from any feedback at all.

- Yet another good article by Atul Gawande about why some innovations spread faster than others

- The Huge Threat to Capitalism That Republicans Are Ignoring - the New York Times story the article talks about is a great example of a market failure. When your only metric is "how much money am I making?" (and not "how much value am I adding?" or something like that), that opens the door to abuses like exploiting weird regulations to move around aluminum for no purpose. Really, at that point, why not just counterfeit hundred dollar bills?

- In Lieu of Money, Toyota Donates Efficiency to New York Charity - very cool story. Yay efficiency!

- A good interview with Michael Sandel, who wrote "What Money Can't Buy", which I loved to death.

- Can You Name These Cities by Their Starbucks Locations? - fun but tough; I got 10 right with a few lucky guesses.

- Don’t Be Alarmed by the Drone Blimps Hovering Over D.C. They’re Here to Stop Cruise Missiles - this is a real thing?

- A helpful reminder from Wired to check your application permissions on Facebook, Twitter, etc. with handy links. I had built up a lot of cruft!


link friday: simcity!, health care costs, jose canseco explains gravity
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-03-01 14:05:00
Tags: links
Words: 103

- SimCity comes out next week! Fun experiments with it: SimCity vs. The Suburban Sprawl and Using SimCity to diagnose my home town's traffic problem

- We Found Our Son in the Subway - all together, now: Awwwwwwww!

- Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us - very long and depressing Time article, but worth reading. All those nonprofit hospitals are...surprisingly profitable! Related: America’s Overpaid Doctors

- Jose Canseco explains gravity (in 8 tweets! science!)

- Reddit thread of random facts about Austin

- This comment thread on the AV Club is pretty awesome if you're into Law & Order (see the comment that starts "No, we're not offering a plea")


India, weekend 1
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-02-06 23:20:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 1014

<- click for full album

I thought for this trip I'd try posting pictures and entries as I went. I'm already a bit behind, though, so I doubt I'll really keep up. But, here's my first Bangalorian weekend!

Friday 2/1/2013 afternoon

I'm on my way to India! I arrived at the Austin airport obscenely early for my Dallas flight, which was uneventful. In DFW I realized that some of my Nokia friends were on their way to an event, so I walked from Terminal D to C to say hi. Then I had to quickly walk back, as it was a longer walk than I had expected and it was getting close to departure time. But I did sneak in a cup of Ben & Jerry's - tasty!

The flight to London was long but fine. I rented four movies on my Surface before I left and watched "The Cabin In The Woods" ("Joss Whedon horror movie" sums it up perfectly) and "There Will Be Blood" which was also good. I'm glad I had those to watch - the 777 entertainment system had movies but the selection was small and none of them tempted me even a little. In between, I chatted with the woman next to me, who was also heading to Bangalore, randomly enough! I also read some, including a book about airplane crashes; fate - consider yourself tempted! Tried to sleep but was mostly unsuccessful, so I was feeling blah when we landed. Walking around Heathrow helped a lot. Terminal 5 is very nice, after having to go through security again (blah) I got some souvenirs and lunch at Pret a Manger, my favorite place ever. The sandwich was only OK (my fault for getting one with avocado as the main ingredient - I love me some avocado but it's a bit much on its own) but the yogurt and fruit parfait was excellent. Mealtimes are so weird on multi-time zone trips, but my stomach's doing OK so far.

Tea at lunch helped, but I'm clearly out of it - while browsing shops I saw a Kindle for a very good price...until I realized it was in pounds. Not two minutes later, I thought that the currency exchange place was offering a terrible deal on rupees...until I realized that was in pounds as well. Going to take some melatonin on this next flight in the hopes it will help me sleep...

Saturday 2/2 evening

Not sure if it was the melatonin or being really tired, but I managed to sleep 5-6 hours on the Bangalore flight, which is easily a personal best. So I felt OK but disoriented (and tired of plane flights!) when we arrived. I did my best at filling out the immigration form, then picked up my luggage and went outside to find my driver.

As it turns out, our flight was quite early so I had to wait a bit for the driver, who drove me to my hotel. Even though it was 5:30 AM, the drive in was still terrifying. We would be on a road with lanes, and then there would be a sign about construction and everyone had to swerve to the left and drive on a part of the road without lanes. Honking was applied liberally. I also did see a cow on the side of the road!

I spent most of the day in the hotel room, getting my stuff set up and trying not to fall asleep. The room is nice, but unfortunately it faces the corner of two rather large roads, which means there is lots of honking all day long. I suppose I'll get used to it in a few days, but I'm glad I brought earplugs for sleeping. I did a tiny bit of walking around, but I'm planning to hang out with NI folk and do some sightseeing tomorrow. After a full night's sleep, of course!

Sunday 2/3 early evening

Ahh sleep. I felt so much better this morning! Unfortunately I seem to have lost my melatonin (left it on the last plane, I guess?) but I didn't need it - went to bed at 10:30 and quickly fell asleep. After showering and a short video chat with David (the WiFi in the hotel is barely good enough for this to work), I had breakfast and met Rakesh downstairs. We planned out where to go for the day, and then got on our way!

First stop was Big Bull Temple, which is a Hindu temple which has a giant statue of Nandi, a bull. After that we went to a big ISKCON temple. It was interesting - there was a long path to walk that went through the main temple but then you ended up at a market downstairs with souvenirs and food and whatnots. Our next stop was Bangalore Palace, where I got a lot of good pictures.

Afterwards we met Kanika and had a delicious Indian lunch, where I got my first taste of paneer here. (it was excellent!) Then we went to a shopping center where I got an Indian shirt and a few snacks, then we had tea and chatted for a good while. It was already 5 PM by the time we were done, so I just headed back to the hotel. I'm doing remarkably well for only my second day - I'm a little tired from walking around, but nothing like the jet lag I went through in Germany. Adjusting times quickly and getting a good night's sleep seems to be a winning combination. My stomach's also been holding up decently.

I've already adjusted to honking all the time on the roads - at first I had a visceral reaction to it, because I'm used to it meaning "something bad is about to happen", as opposed to "just FYI, I'm here" or "drive faster!", etc. Driving is still kinda scary but I just don't look too much. I saw some signs reminding people not to drink and drive, and all I could think was that there would be no way you could drive drunk in this traffic without getting in an accident!


linkstravaganza: defeating the norquist pledge, morgan freeman in an LGBT ad, C++ pitfalls
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-12-11 15:55:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 274

Apparently I'm only doing these once a month now. That's OK! Here goes:


- America...And The Rest - hey, looks like stimulus was a better choice than austerity, no? Maybe there's something to this Keynesian stuff.

- Grover Norquist, author of the "never ever vote for a tax increase" pledge, is facing somewhat of a revolt in the Republican party. Which I think is good: the idea that you could sign a pledge saying never to vote for anything, no matter what the circumstances, seems rather short-sighted. (I'm talking about economics here, not, say, civil rights and such)

- Warren Buffett still thinks we need higher taxes on the wealthy.


- A long article about the recent marriage initiative fights in the four states. Spoiler alert: we win!

- Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Washington state, here are pictures of happy people, including Dan Savage!

- And since the Supreme Court will be hearing same-sex marriage cases, the Onion gets a scoop with an editorial from Clarence Thomas: I Get To Determine Whether Gay People Can Marry.

- Morgan Freeman narrates an LGBT equality ad! First they ignore you, then they fight you, then Morgan Freeman does an ad for you, then you win.


- I found this page of C++ pitfalls both enlightening and depressing. There seem to be an unbounded number of very small mistakes you can make that still compile and yet act very wrong.

- A long story about the origins of Lost, at Grantland of all places.

- The new SimCity is coming in March! Check out this 10 minute strategy video to get a feel for what it will be like. I am excited!


Windows Phone: implementing fast app switching (needed for DVLUP!)
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-12-10 23:30:00
Tags: windowsphone wpdev
Words: 348

Since my last post talked about making a Live Tile update, which is needed for the DVLUP challenges, I thought I'd talk about a different requirement - Fast App Switching.

The key to implementing Fast App Switching is understanding the lifecycle of an app. The MSDN page on App activation and deactivation for Windows Phone is an excellent guide, and I refer to it often. The table at the bottom of the page is a quick guide to what you need to do to support app suspend/resume, including Fast App Switching.

Here's a quick example in code. Let's assume the MainPage just has one TextBox on it whose contents we want to preserve if the user switches away from the app.

// a bunch of code omitted
public partial class MainPage : PhoneApplicationPage {
private bool _isNewPageInstance = false;

public MainPage()
_isNewPageInstance = true;

protected override void OnNavigatedTo(System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationEventArgs e) {
if (_isNewPageInstance)
if (State.Count > 0)
// this assumes you always save everything
// if not, check with State.ContainsKey()
myTextBox.Text = State["TextBoxContents"] as string;

protected override void OnNavigatedFrom(System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationEventArgs e) {
if (e.NavigationMode != System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationMode.Back)
// save state for all controls
State["TextBoxContents"] = myTextBox.Text;
} else {
// navigating back, so don't save any state

If you have any state that you want to persist throughout the app, you can do a similar thing with PhoneApplicationService.State, and listening in the PhoneApplicationService.Activated and PhoneApplicationService.Deactivated events.

It's easy to test the case when your app gets deactivated and quickly reactivated (just press the start button, then hold the back button and switch back to it), but testing the tombstoned case is important too. To test this, in the project settings under "Debug", there's a checkbox called "Tombstone upon deactivation while debugging" - just turn that on, debug the app, and switch away and switch back. You may uncover all kinds of bugs :-)


See all my Windows Phone development posts.

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


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


Italy recap: Day 11 (Uffizi Gallery, movie theater)
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-10-12 20:32:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 412

(click for more)

Wednesday 10 PM
The plan was to go to the science museum (really more of a geology/biology museum) this morning, but it was raining and neither of us were that excited about it - we assumed that most things wouldn't be labeled in English. So we stayed in and read and napped and then went out to lunch before going to the Uffizi museum.

The ticketing for the museum was a bit nonsensical. We had made reservations for 2:15, but we weren't sure where to go so we waited in a line, the culmination of which was being told to wait in a different line to exchange our reservation for tickets. But, in the line we had just waited in (which was quite short) you could buy "reservation" tickets for...right now. I'm not really sure what "reserved" means in this context, I guess. Anyway, we waited in line to get our tickets, then we waited in line to get in with our tickets.

The Uffizi museum is big - like really big. We went through at least 60 rooms of art, and probably more because some weren't numbered. There was some good art there (like Botticelli's "Birth of Venus") but I'm just not a person that can enjoy 3 hours of art, especially after all the other hours of art.

Afterwards we had a quick dinner and went to a 6:30 showing of "The Dark Knight Returns". The theater was very posh - it looked like an old one with a stage. Also, in the movie Alfred talks about vacationing in Florence and that's totally where we are!

That's about it exactly for our nightly gelato/tea where I saw that Juventus was playing Chelsea and by some miracle it was showing on one of the few channels we get in our hotel, so I watched the end of that game. Even saw a few familiar faces from the Italian national team on Juventus - Buffon and Chiellini (smiley guy)!

Florence is famous for its leather, and street vendors sell a ton of it - it can smell quite strong! David got a new wallet and a leather-bound notebook, and I'm considering a belt...

Hard to believe that tomorrow's our last full day here. Like any good vacation I had a great time but I'll also be excited to be back home. Tomorrow we have a pretty light day - taking a bus tour and spending some time in some gardens, assuming it doesn't rain again.


Italy recap: Day 6 (Pantheon, Spanish Steps)
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-10-07 22:08:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 370

(click for more)

Friday 11 AM
The plan was to go to the Pantheon this morning, but when we woke up it was raining pretty hard, so we decided to wait out the rain. So, here are some general travel tips for Rome:
- The subway system is crowded but fast - we've never waited more than 4 minutes for a train. It goes a lot of places but there is an old part of town it doesn't go to (just east of the Tiber river), so you may want to get a bus map too.
- A Roma Pass is an excellent investment! You get unlimited public transportation for 3 days plus 2 free museum entries.
- Things are expensive - possibly even more expensive than in New York City.
- Meals, especially dinner, take a long time.
- Everywhere we've gone people have spoken at least a little English. I'm trying to work on my Italian but most of the time it's not necessary.
- People park wherever they want. Traffic is kind of terrifying!

3 PM
The rain stopped so we made our way to the Pantheon - very pretty!

It didn't take as long as we thought to see it (it's pretty small compared to museums), so we wandered over to Piazza Navona and then over to an Irish pub (with WiFi!) for lunch. It seemed authentic - I had a Guinness and there was rugby on the TV. Afterwards we came back to the hotel to play a game and rest.

9:30 PM
We walked over to the Spanish Steps and sat and read for a bit, then headed over to a bar for dinner.

There's a TV showing news in Italian at our nearby subway station, and the text at the bottom said "Texas" and the images were pictures of UT! Later we read there was a bomb threat. I was surprised it made the news all the way over here...
We were going to go see a movie again but apparently it's dubbed in Italian so no dice. But, gelato later!

We stopped by a nearby video poker place and played a few rounds - it was a little confusing but we got the hang of it in time to lose 5 Euros.


Italy recap: Day 1 (travel, arrival in Rome)
Mood: tired
Location: home!
Posted on 2012-09-22 19:38:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 482

We're back from Italy! There will be many posts about the trip. This is one of them.


(click for more)

Saturday, somewhere over NYC, 5:30 PM Austin time

We're on our way to Italy! The first flight to Atlanta was pretty uneventful, and we had a bit of time in the airport to eat lunch (Arby's!) and walk around some. That is one big airport!

Unfortunately, we didn't get assigned seats on this flight - I tried to choose them last week but Orbitz's website errored out and wouldn't let me. So I'm sitting right behind a bulkhead, which means I don't get to put my backpack at my feet, which I hate. Also, David's sitting way in the back of the plane and we couldn't get people to switch. Oh well. I thought I didn't have a personal TV at first (since there's no seat in front of me), but it turns out I do.

The plan was to be tired today so we could sleep on the plane. Unfortunately, I don't sleep well on planes and now that I'm here I'm kind of excited, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to be exhausted "tomorrow". Also, I bought a ton of Kindle books so I feel like I should be reading, but instead of that or sleeping I'm watching "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol". Oh well - vacation!

Sunday, 9 PM

Yup - exhausted today. But things generally went well. We landed in Rome, and after waiting half an hour for our bags we stopped in the airport for some breakfast - one of the nice parts of not having a schedule today is we didn't have to rush to our hotel. We took the express train to Termini (the main train station) and then the subway to our hotel. Sadly, Termini is under construction and it took a ludicrous amount of walking to get down to the Metro. Pretty sure six distinct escalators were involved. All told we walked more than two miles by the time we got to our hotel, which is small but nice.

Took a short nap and then I realized I was feeling pretty bad, probably because I was tired, hungry, and thirsty. Got lunch at a place right around the corner - I guess this is a touristy area (Piazza Barberini) because there are tons of restaurants around. Walked to an ancient art museum, but it was mostly closed. So we decided to make the trek out to a modern art museum, which involved a lot more walking than we had anticipated - hopefully the four hour Vatican museum tour tomorrow goes OK! Also, apparently in Rome "modern art" means 1800 and later. Came back and had a pizza and wine and gelato for dinner. Now: bed!

I'm been dizzy on and off today, which happened the last time I took an overseas trip (Germany in 2010). Hopefully sleep will cure it...


Pictures from the summer musical
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-08-14 23:35:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 9

I put a few up - click to see them!


Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-07-23 22:01:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 168

BlurBlur by Tom Rosenstiel, Bill Kovach
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was...well, OK. I bet it would be interesting if you were interested in journalism or journalistic ethics.

The main point for news consumers is that it's good to ask the following questions when analyzing a news story:
- What kind of content am I encountering?
- Is the information complete; and if not, what am I missing?
- Who or what are the sources, and why should I believe them?
- What evidence is presented, and how was it tested or vetted?
- What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?
- Am I learning what I need to?

and then there are chapters about each of these that aren't that interesting. It did make me feel better about subscribing to the New York Times, at least.

(why did I buy this book, you ask? Well, it was on sale at Bookpeople and I thought it was worth a shot. Oh well - can't win them all!)

View all my reviews


Austin Summer Musical for Children time!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-07-18 22:34:00
Tags: asmc
Words: 124

1. Come see me in the Austin Summer Musical for Children! This year we're doing Alice in Wonderland, we have free shows starting Aug 4, and for adults we have a Gala with a silent auction (and cash bar!) Aug 10. See the website for details.

2. I was tired last week, and caught up on sleep last weekend, but then I had a bad nightmare Monday night (one of those "someone is breaking into the house with a knife" affairs), so I'm exhausted again. And I have musical rehearsals/performances 17 of the next 18 days (hooray for Sunday!), so if I look grumpy/asleep, that is why. I swear I will try not to bring this up constantly, as I am wont to do.


Drift review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-06-06 23:07:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 155

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military PowerDrift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't believe a Rachel Maddow book got a back cover blurb from Roger Ailes!

The book laments the fact that it's too easy for us to go to war today, between a much stronger executive power (which she traces back to Reagan - good coverage of Grenada and the Iran-Contra scandal), huge roles for military contractors, and the fact that calling up the National Guard/Army reserves is no longer a big deal (they've been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last 10 or so years). She also touches on the fact that maaaaybe we shouldn't maintain such a large nuclear arsenal, and points out that it's very hard to make a smaller armed forces even when there are some parts (like our nukes) that aren't nearly as necessary anymore.

(paper copy, available for borrowing)

View all my reviews


links: the webOS story, businesses forced to serve gay couples?, dad on NPR!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-06-06 10:44:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 260

- Pre to postmortem: the inside story of the death of Palm and webOS - an epic tale of webOS from start to finish. A very well-researched piece by The Verge. It was somewhat cathartic to read, but I'm just about done cathartizing myself over webOS.

- NM Court: Company Can’t Discriminate against Same-Sex Commitment Ceremony - I'm not sure how I feel about this. It's clearly discrimination, but should private businesses be allowed to discriminate against gay couples? Of course, they aren't allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, but there's just something weird about forcing a photographer to take pictures of a couple they don't want to. (I can't imagine the pictures would be any good!)

- Analysts Try To Define Romney's Foreign Policy - hey, my dad got interviewed on NPR!

- In a story that's weird on many levels, the Department of Defense just happened to have two better-than-the-Hubble telescopes lying around that they gave away to NASA. From the article:

This is the state of our military-industrial-scientific complex in miniature: The military has so much money that it has two extra telescopes better than anything civilians have; meanwhile, NASA will need eight years to find enough change in the couches at Cape Canaveral to turn these gifts into something they can use. Anyone else find anything wrong with this state of affairs?

- Politifact, Politifact, Who Is The Truthiest Of Them All? - offered without comment, except that those graphs looks statistically significant.

- What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S. - be on time, don't discuss politics, and give people personal space!


What Money Can't Buy review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-05-29 11:46:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 1318

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of MarketsWhat Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The subtitle "The Moral Limits of Markets" is a very good description of this book. I've thought about some of these things from time to time, and I found the book to be very thought-provoking and had a lot of good discussions about particular issues. Let's dive in:

- It lists a number of ways that you can pay to save time: buying premium tickets at theme parks so you get to cut to the front of the line, paying to use HOV lanes even if there's only one person in the car. One poignant example is New York's Public Theatre, which puts on free performances of Shakespeare in Central Park every year. Tickets are free, but there are a limited number and you have to line up early to get them. Some people who don't want to wait in line have taken to hiring people to wait in line for them. (the theatre has spoken out against the practice)

From a traditional economics perspective, this is just correcting market inefficiency - clearly, tickets to the public theatre are worth more than $0, since people are willing to pay for them, so the canonical economic "solution" is to increase the price of the tickets until anyone who would pay $X for them can buy one. (or auction them off, which has the same effect) Or, even if the theatre doesn't want to do this, the person who's paying for the line waiter is clearly getting an economic benefit (since he hired him!), and the line waiter is also getting an economic benefit - presumably he has more time but would like more money, so it's win-win.

Except, out here in the real world, something feels wrong about this. If the only way to see a "free" show in the park is to pay for it, that excludes a lot of people from being able to see it. Again, from a theoretical perspective, how much people want to see the play is reflected in how much they're willing to pay for it, but of course people have a vast range of different financial resources, and that has to be taken into account as well. The "market-based" solution is to allocate the tickets to who will pay the most, but the "queue-based" solution is to allocate the tickets to who is willing to wait the longest, and in some sense time is a more equal commodity than money, in that at least we all have the same amount (more or less).

The book is filled with interesting situations like these. I personally don't have much of a problem with people paying to take the HOV lane (really, this is just a variation on a toll road), but buying tickets to a free public show seems wrong to me.

- There's an interesting discussion of paying students for good grades and whether it helps their performance. In New York, paying kids for good standardized test scores didn't improve their academic performance, but in Dallas, paying second graders $2 per book they read made them end up with higher reading comprehension scores, and in Texas, paying kids $100 for passing an AP tests had an expressive effect which made taking AP tests cool. It seems unclear what kinds of things will work and which won't, though.

- Speaking of incentives, the danger (which I've read elsewhere) is that buy adding money to the mix, you can turn people's internal motivations into external ones, which means you have to pay them to do things in the future, plus external ones are less strong than internal ones.

- There's a famous story about an Israeli day-care center that was having a problem with parents being late to pick up their children. To solve it, they imposed a fine for late parents, but that actually increased the number of late parents, because then they saw it as just paying for a service instead of a moral obligation to be on time. Economically, this makes no sense, but in the real world it makes a lot of sense.

- The difference between a fee and a fine is there's no moral judgment for a fee, while there is for a fine (i.e. you should feel bad). In the day-care center example, the parents treated the fine as a fee. In some countries like Finland, fines for speeding are imposed proportionally, so if you're rich you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars if you're caught speeding. This is an interesting way to try to impose fairness and discourage rich people from just paying a piddling (to them) fine.

- There's a discussion about gift giving and how it doesn't make sense economically - just giving cash is more efficient! But of course a gift to someone is also a signal that you spent time thinking about them and tried to find something they'd like in particular. Even gift cards have some signaling value if you pick a store you know they'll like. There's also a site called Plastic Jungle where you can buy and sell gift cards to various stores, which is interesting. In some respects, it makes gift cards less of a good gift (since you can sell them for cash), but on the other hand it's convenient if you know you're going to spend money at a particular store you can buy a gift card for less than face value.

- Much like the day-care center, there's a story about nuclear waste that makes no economic sense. In Switzerland, they get a lot of power from nuclear plants, so they have to store the waste somewhere. In a small village, economists asked if they would be willing to store the waste there, and 51% agreed. Presumably this was due to a sense of civic duty of some sort. Then economists asked if they would be willing to store the waste if everyone got a small stipend from the government, and only 25% agreed. Most people said they were offended and it felt like a bribe.

- Another one! AARP asked some lawyers if they would be willing to help out some senior citizens with legal matters at a very reduced rate ($30/hour), and most said no. Then AARP asked if they would be willing to donate their time for free, and most said yes. To me, this makes a great deal of sense - you can feel good about donating your time in a way that you can't about "not charging people as much as usual".

- There's an interesting discussion about economics and virtue. There's a famous talk given by Sir Dennis Robertson (a former student of John Maynard Keynes) that claims that, while economics doesn't deal directly with virtue, it can help by letting people "conserve" their virtue - by letting people make choices solely in their own self-interest most of the time, they can save up their virtue and "spend" it when it really matters. (when dealing with family, etc.) This is, to put it gently, insane. It sure seems that virtue is more like a muscle where using it more is good for it than an expendable resource like cash. Of course, you can "use up" your willpower, but if you develop virtuous habits you can get to the point where it doesn't take extra willpower to do virtuous things.

- There's a bit at the end about naming rights to stadiums and such. Frankly, I can't get my gander up about this - yeah, non-corporate names for stadiums are nicer, but whatever. (he also talks about how Moneyball is bad, which I didn't really understand)

Well, this was a long review, but I very much enjoyed the book, and I have a paper copy so it's available for borrowing. The summary: capitalism is great, but not everything should be subject to market forces.

View all my reviews


The Investment Answer review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-04-29 00:02:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 99

The Investment Answer: Learn to Manage Your Money & Protect Your Financial FutureThe Investment Answer: Learn to Manage Your Money & Protect Your Financial Future by Daniel C. Goldie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good investment advice (and very short and to the point!), but mostly stuff I had read elsewhere. Your mileage may vary. Don't try to beat the market, don't talk to financial advisers who are paid on commission, etc. It did have a good discussion and some sample portfolios of how to balance between asset classes, and a good reminder to rebalance which is something we don't regularly do. Paper copy, available for borrowing.

View all my reviews


links: FlightPredictor makes a list!, the penny is gone (in Canada), and some robots
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-03-30 15:18:00
Tags: projects links
Words: 155

- FlightPredictor for WP7 is on a top app list in the Windows Marketplace!

Apparently this is by number of downloads as opposed to ratings. (and most of those downloads were trial, not paid. But still!)

- Making big decisions about money - wise words from Seth Godin. And I am particularly prone to this...

- Canada is getting ready of the penny - our neighbors to the north are wise! (although I'm glad to see that Canadian local news isn't immune to some terrible sentences to end a story)

- A day in the life of a warehouse robot - that company Kiva that Amazon bought (not the microlending Kiva) makes pretty awesome robots!

- More robots: Look how high this robot can jump! Spoiler alert: very high.

- An interview with Batman, or at least the Batman of Route 29 in Maryland.

- Finally, a good way to start your weekend: Drunk Man Sings Entire Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody In Police Car - with video!


it's-been-a-while links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-01-27 17:00:00
Tags: links
Words: 84

- A heavily annotated State of the Union. Having not watched the actual address, I found it pretty interesting.

- The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that tracking someone GPS counted as a search, and requires a warrant - yay!

- Apparently Washington state has the votes to legalize gay marriage. Yay!

- How to nap - I've never really been much for napping. But maybe I should!

- Uncloaking a Slumlord Conspiracy with Social Network Analysis - graph theory to the rescue!

- Very odd story about a break-in in Philadelphia (via kottke)


two work vignettes; or, debugging is fun!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-01-19 14:20:00
Tags: essay work programming
Words: 414

1. I had a bug filed to me about a hang happening. It started happening after some code I submitted in September that seemed pretty unrelated - I added a flag to let some calls be made in a certain way that _could_ cause a hang, but I only made one call behave that way, and I was pretty darn sure that wasn't happening in this particular example.

So I tried to debug what was happening with the hang, but I don't have a lot of experience figuring such things out, so I asked someone over to help. It took a few hours and we didn't learn too much except it did seem to be related to the flag I added.

After stepping away from the keyboard a bit, I did some thinking, and realized that the only thing that made any sense is that my flag must be set on the call that was happening right before the hang. I couldn't see how that would have happened, but I had an outlandish and unlikely theory.

The next day, I was eager to check it out, and lo and behold the flag was being set! When my breakpoint got hit, I was giddy with happiness because I had reasoned out the problem. Although my outlandish theory was totally wrong (the real culprit was a 64-bit int being silently coerced to a 32-bit int...grrr), I was happy I had deduced what must be happening.

Lesson: I'm often eager to jump in and start debugging, but thinking about the problem (i.e. playing "What Do We Know?") can be valuable too.

2. I was debugging a different problem, and I knew some part of a data structure was returning some sort of error code from a particular operation. Unfortunately, I was debugging a release build, and so I didn't have an easy way of figuring out which one since there was very little debug information about local variables, etc.

So, I dropped down to disassembly (which never lies!) and stepped through one statement at a time. When I found that a particular call returned an error, I would "Set Next Statement" to before the assembly was setting up the call and then step into it. It took a little while, but I was comforted that I was guaranteed to find which part of the structure was returning the error.

Anyway, it was neat because I felt like I was totally in control of the executing code. Fun times!


Maphead review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-01-11 23:44:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 83

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography WonksMaphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyable book! I wasn't sure about it at first, but it brought out the (somewhat) closeted maphead in myself. There are chapters on lots of different map-related topics (geocaching, the Geography Bee, roadgeeks, etc.) and while some are better than others, it was a good read. It helps that Ken Jennings is a pretty entertaining writer.

(paper copy, available for borrowing)

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Scare for a Cure
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-11-01 17:09:00
Tags: essay
Words: 1125

Last week a friend at work mentioned that he was volunteering at Scare for a Cure, and they were generally short people on Halloween night (since it's a school night), so he was looking for volunteers. I've been feeling a bit guilty lately about not volunteering much (especially since I'm probably not going to be doing the tax center stuff I've done in previous years), so I decided to go for it. The downside was that he said it would last until 1 AM or so, but it's only one night so I figured I could deal. (I'm much more willing to do one-offs than things that tie me down for months on end...)

Anyway, I knew almost nothing about it (except that the money went to charity), so when we left work yesterday I tried to put myself in a "leaf on the wind"-type mood, to roll with the punches and other appropriate metaphors. Only issue was that I wasn't feeling great and had a somewhat sore throat. He explained that the haunted house was right next to NI's cofounder's big house, on Richard Garriott's land which he generally lets them use. It was off of 360 in the very nice part of Austin, of course - scenery was beautiful!

We parked and walked down to the site, where I was introduced to Susan, who seemed to be in charge of checking people in and running things to some extent. It became clear that this was a pretty big operation - lots of people wandering around, a costume trailer and a makeup trailer, the whole works! I ate some quick food that was catered by Southern's Fine Dining and reported back to Susan to figure out what I was going to be doing, and she ended up sending me to the Freak Lab, which sounded like fun. Got my costume (muscles bursting out of a shirt) and waited in line to get makeup (scars on my face!). By the time that was done it was getting late - I was done around 7:10 and group 0 was scheduled for 7:30. Of course I had no idea where to go or what to do, but Susan found someone to walk me down to the actual site. (it was pretty dark by this point...luckily I didn't kill myself, as I have terrible night vision)

The whole environment really felt like a mix between backstage at a show and a carnival (owing to the large number of clowns that were wandering around), which was kind of neat. I mostly observed and tried to stay out of people's ways.

It was dark, so this was the only good picture I got - unfortunately you can't see much of the muscles down both arms...

The house itself is (I learned later) on a concrete slab that was going to be an addition to Richard Garriott's house, but it got canceled or something and now the iron bars are rusted through so it's not good for much. Except being spooky - there's something unsettling about plain concrete walls and floors. I was pointed in the direction of Freak Lab, where I met up with the Freakmaster (who I had met before), and he explained how the scene worked. The gist was that some member of a group had already been kidnapped and was led to a cell in the Freak Lab - when the rest of the group got there, they'd let him/her out. But they wouldn't let out another actor in a different cell, who would get angry and call for the Freakmaster, who led them into the lab. There...some stuff would happen (this was out of my sight), usually involving spraying them with blood and someone's face being ripped off. At some point the Freakmaster would realize that they had let his captive out of the cage, and call for the guards. That was my cue to appear and scare them into the next room.

So really I had about 10 seconds of being visible, which was fine with me. I gotta say, the Freakmaster and company did a pretty good job of acting on their feet - he'd usually ask some questions and respond to answers in a creepy way. Groups started coming through around 8, and we got a 15 minute break around 10, then the last group came through our part around 12:20. Our scene lasted 3-4 minutes, and groups came through every 5 minutes or so, so there wasn't a whole lot of downtime. (and sometime there was less than zero!) I decided to kinda growl/yell at the guests as they were on the way out - otherwise they wouldn't see me at all, which seemed like a waste of a creepy costume. This meant my voice was not in good shape by the end of the night - luckily some kind soul had brought Ricola drops, which I downed every 30 minutes. I felt bad for the Freakmaster (who did a lot of talking) and the people that had to scream every single time. Is my voice just much weaker than everyone else's?

I've been in a reasonable number of shows at this point in my life, and there's a certain monotony in doing the same show three times in a day (for the summer musical, day). But that's nothing compared to doing the same scene ~40 times in an evening - by the end it was fairly Groundhog Day-esque. It helped some that we were directly interacting with the audience, but still...yikes.

Anyway, afterwards I was tired and such, but there were some last night traditions to attend to - walking through the house (which was kinda cool since I hadn't seen anything but our lab), a few speeches, a group picture, etc. I of course felt a bit out of place since these people had been doing this for quite a while together, and I was just a Johnny-come-lately. (also: I was tired) But it was fun and they seem like good people, if a little weirder than even other theater people I know :-)

The sad aftermath is that I was exhausted today (of course - got home around 1:30 but was sufficiently wound up/sore throat-y and stayed up for another hour), and I realized that I am apparently allergic to the foam or whatever that the bulging muscles were made of. Nothing too serious, but my arms are blotchy and itchy today.

Summary: If you like haunted houses, you should really check out Scare for a Cure - it's for a good cause and looked to be pretty scary, and they did a lot of work with costumes and scenery and such. (and get the red ticket so you can be covered with blood and such - way more fun that way!)


mostly politics/economics links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-10-21 13:41:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 296

Politics/economics: (more economics towards the top, more politics towards the bottom)

Back in 2000 (i.e. when we had a surplus, before the Bush tax cuts), the government wrote a report on why getting to 0 debt isn't a great idea.

Why Greece, Spain, and Ireland Aren’t to Blame for Europe’s Woes - they were invited into the eurozone so they could provide a good return on investment to the more developed countries. Then when the financial crisis hit, other countries cut back on foreign investment., meaning giant deficits. (although this wasn't the only thing going on, but it was a big factor)

Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) has a plan to let Starbucks customers lend money to small businesses through Community Development Financial Institutions. Kinda crazy but I'm interested to see how it turns out!

Robert Reich's seven biggest economics lies - trickle-down economics doesn't work! and so on. And as a reminder, just because 47% of Americans don't pay any federal income tax doesn't mean they don't pay other taxes like payroll taxes, which are somewhat regressive.

Biden Takes Senate Republicans To School On Tiny Millionaire’s Surtax - or, this is how marginal tax rates work!

Lemony Snicket on Occupy Wall Street

The Untold Story Of The Actual Obama Record - hopefully Obama's campaign brings these points up close to next November...


Michael Winslow does a pretty convincing electric guitar!

The coffeeshop fallacy for startups - just because you like hanging out at coffeeshops doesn't mean you'd like running one.

Adobe's deblur plugin which doesn't ship yet (and there are still big technical challenges), but nice!

Rick Santorum is still really really really anti-gay marriage. (I think when he said "he'd die on that hill" fighting for a federal same-sex marriage ban, he didn't mean it literally, but still...)

1 comment

Macroeconomics review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-10-12 16:55:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 49

MacroeconomicsMacroeconomics by Paul Krugman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This textbook helped me understand interest rates, inflation, and currency exchange stuff. It's a bit dense (it's a textbook!) but interesting, and it's broken up nicely with real world examples.

Paper book, available for borrowing.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-10-12 16:54:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 45

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Decent book - a bit meandering (like, say, the first half of it) but I liked it better by the end. (fair warning: also a bit grisly)

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Boomerang review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-10-12 16:53:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 192

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third WorldBoomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm becoming somewhat of a Michael Lewis fanboy, and I enjoy reading about the recent financial crisis. So why didn't I enjoy this book more?

One reason is that it felt pretty disjointed. There are five chapters, each covering a different country. (and California :-) ) Lewis's thesis is that what each country did with mountains of cheap credit is a reflection on what they really wanted as a country. This is interesting, but it means that each chapter only relates to the previous one as an example in contrast. Plus, I had read almost three complete chapters in excerpts in various magazines, so not a lot was new to me.

I liked The Big Short because it helped me understand (part of) what caused the financial crisis, but this didn't do the same for me. I guess I understand some countries a little better, and the book is relatively entertaining (Lewis is definitely a good writer), so I don't recommend against reading it...just don't get your hopes up.

(paper book, available for lending)

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-08-06 13:48:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 108

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical TalesThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of interesting neurological cases. Dr. Sacks goes into some detail about the case and what the underlying cause might be. The book can be a bit depressing at times because there often is very little he can do to help the patient, and it can feel a bit disjointed - the cases are roughly grouped together, but there's not usually much in common between them. But all in all it was a good read.

Paper copy, available for borrowing.

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Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-08-04 22:30:00
Words: 55

It has come to my attention that I've been unusually cranky lately. To anyone I've talked to in the last two weeks or so: sorry! I should be better after the musical is over and I catch up on sleep and my feet stop hurting and I take care of some unpleasant work stuff. So...yeah.


links, insomnia style
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-07-25 15:59:00
Tags: links sleep
Words: 176

I lay in bed for 75 minutes last night before giving in and getting up. It wasn't even normal insomnia - it was angry insomnia, where I got annoyed that I couldn't get to sleep and worked myself up into a light rage by the time I got up. Probably caused by some combination of drinking Dr Pepper too late, sleeping late, and being irritated at two games on my TouchPad. (new rule: no frustrating games right before bed!)

- Still Counting Calories? Your Weight-Loss Plan May Be Outdated - in summary, food is a bigger effect than exercise, eating yogurt and nuts is good, milk is OK (even full fat!), french fries, potato chips, and "sugar-sweetened drinks" are bad.

- It's official: developers get better with age. And scarcer. - summary of Stack Overflow users by age and reputation. Older developers give more answers, but their average rating is about the same as the younger developers. (via David - thanks!)

- Quit Being a Dick, Cowboy Up and Pay Your Taxes - well said!

- Russia classifies beer as alcoholic - not from the Onion.


Anything You Want review
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-07-23 23:34:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 518

Anything You WantAnything You Want by Derek Sivers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a secret desire to found a technology startup, which probably comes from reading too much Hacker News. I'm pretty happy with my current job, and I don't think I'd actually handle the stress of doing a startup very well, so I doubt it will ever happen. But reading books like this push me towards it. It makes running a startup sound so exciting! (and skips over the long discouraging parts)

This is a collection of anecdotes about founding, running, and eventually selling CDBaby. It's a very quick read, and it's entertaining. My favorite section:

My friend Sara has run a small online business out of her living room for twelve years. It's her whole life. She takes it very, very personally.

Last week, one of her clients sent her a ten-page-long scathing email, chopping her down, calling her a scam artist and issuing other vicious personal insults, and saying she was going to sue Sara for everything she's worth as retribution for the client's mishandled account.

Devastated, Sara turned off her computer and cried. She shut off the phones and closed up shop for the day. She spent the whole weekend in bed wondering if she should just give up. Thinking maybe every insult in this client's letter was true, and she's actually no good at what she does, even after twelve years.

On Sunday, she spent about five hours - most of the day - carefully addressing every point in this ten-page email; then she went through the client's website, learning everything about her, and offered all kinds of advice, suggestions, and connections. Sara refunded the client's money, plus an additional $50, with gushing deep apologies for ever having upset someone she was honestly trying to help.

The next day, she called the client to try to talk through the situation with her.

The client cheerfully took her call and said, "Oh, don't worry about it! I wasn't actually that upset. I was just in a bad mood, and didn't think anyone would read my email anyway."

...and later...
When we yell at our car or our coffee machine, it's fine because they're just mechanical appliances.

So when we yell at a website or a company, using our computer or our phone, we forget that it's not an appliance but a person that's affected.

It's dehumanizing to have thousands of people passing through our computer screens, so we do things we'd never do if those people were sitting next to us.

It's too overwhelming to remember that at the end of every computer is a real person, a lot like you, whose birthday was last week, who has three best friends but nobody to spoon at night, and who is personally affected by what you say.

Even if you remember it right now, will you remember it next time you're overwhelmed, or perhaps never forget it again?

Anyway, I'd recommend it if you're at all interested in startups, or reliving the dot-com era. (which is kinda coming back these days! so...yeah)

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cleanin' out the old linkbox
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-02-11 14:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 56

- A map of US states, labelled by which country their economy is the same size as. Texas is Russia!

- That Netflix graph of ISP download speeds I posted earlier - here's a cleaned up version that's much easier to read.

- A reminder: The IBM computer Watson plays on Jeopardy this coming Monday-Wednesday. Should be fun to watch!


back in the US links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-11-17 14:12:00
Tags: links
Words: 106

- A Post-Apocalyptic Tour of the Abandoned Six Flags In New Orleans - very creepy. You can read more about Six Flags New Orleans on wikipedia. Which seems a little redundant, as you can read about _anything_ on Wikipedia, but there's a handy link :-)

- Why, despite the fact that it looks amusing, I'm not going to see the movie Megamind.

- Warren Buffett gives the government a thumbs up for saving the economy a few years ago.

- Here's a clip of amazingly bad soccer in the quarterfinal match of the 2010 Asian Games.

- Did you know you can specify floating point numbers in hex in Java? I did not.


Germany trip recap
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-11-16 23:28:00
Tags: pictures travel
Words: 2932

Pictures here:

Full recap behind the cut:

Monday 11-8 11:40 AM (local) Frankfurt
I'm officially 2/3 of the way to Hamburg! Flight from Austin to Charlotte was unventful other than it being on a tiny cramped plane. The Charlotte airport was a nice surprise (since I had 4.5 hours to spend there). I walked the whole thing (no small feat), enjoyed a fresh yogurt parfait, read for a long time, then had dinner at a Cuban place where I saw the NY Giants (my weekly football pick) were dominating. Ordered a steak sandwich, which was heavy on the steak and gave me some stomach issues...

The plane to Frankfurt was a little disappointing. The video entertainment options were pretty good, but you needed a $5 headset or your own pair of the two-pronged headphones (where I swear are designed to be incompatible with every other headphones). Since it was getting late anyway, I just read for a while and tried to sleep, mostly unsuccessfully due to the ridiculously small legroom (after I put my backpack there) and the aforementioned stomach issues. By the time we landed I had already gotten through 2.75 books "today" which is pretty good!

I knew I had a tightish connection (1 hr 20 mins on paper), so I rushed through the airport as best I could. In Austin, the checkin agent said my bag was checked all the way to Hamburg, so I skipped it, stopped to get gouged at a currency exchange booth (Google said 1 USD was around .7 EUR and I got .57...) and went through Immigration. The guy asked a total of zero questions (I guess I don't look suspicious!) and I had nothing to declare so that all went pretty fast.

Then I realized I was out in the main airport and would have to go back through security. Also, I didn't yet have a boarding pass. So I walked all the way to my terminal, cursing my hurriedness and uncomfortableness at taking picture in a foreign airport (giant railroad-style display with >100 flights! A checkin booth for Iran Air!), found a kiosk and got a boarding pass. Then I wondered whether I did need to recheck my luggage to Hamburg or what, but I asked a Lufthansa checkin person and she assuaged my fears.

Made it to the gate with time to spare, although not much. Frankfurt is a huge airport!
I feel a little bad for not brushing up on German more than the very basics. Totally wasn't a problem so far (even the inflight magazine is in German & English!) but I do feel a bit the ugly American, so at least I try to act ashamed!
Although, later when the guy with the food cart comes by:
Me: Water Him: <something that sounds a lot like German>
Me: <Gesture helplessly> I don't speak German (in halting German) Him: OK, what language do you speak?
Me: ...English <confused> Him: <acting offended> We are an international airline
Me: <feeling bad, making excuses that it's hard to hear> Water Him: Ice or no ice?
Me: No ice.

And then, with God as my witness he pours me a Coke. I'm not sure what lesson to take away from this...

3:00 PM
Part of what I like about traveling is the unfamiliarity and disorientation of being somewhere new. However, when I've had three flights already and am pretty jet lagged, these become more intimidating than fun. Managed to make it to the hotel, though, so that's something.

soo tired, write tomorrow

Tuesday 9:00 AM
Yesterday I managed to find the NI folks at the hotel. Not having cellphone access is very debilitating! I had hoped to stay up and then go bed early (to beat jet lag), but I found out we had dinner reservations at 8. So I had some time instead to roam around Hamburg while it was still light.

The hotel has WiFi, but you have to sign in and for some reason I couldn't get my phone to work with it. So I decided to go on a mission - find tea, find WiFi so I could check email/let David know I had arrived, and some Rolaids.

I'll spare you the gory details, but this mission was a miserable failure. WiFi was everywhere but it was all protected, and I didn't see any coffee shops that said "Internet" on them. At one point I could see nine different protected networks! After a long time I gave up and did at least get some hot tea and sat inside to warm up - it's in the 40s after the sun goes down.

Stumbled back to the hotel after getting a little lost, and lugged my laptop downstairs (no WiFi in the room :-( ). Thankfully I was able to chat with David and check email. When I went back to the room I noticed that the voltage converter I bought only has two prongs so I can't plug my laptop into it. Not quite sure what to do about this since I have very little free time until Friday. Hopefully the next hotel's WiFi will work on my phone.

Dinner was nice - everyone was very friendly and we chatted a lot. Also, everyone's English is very good, which reinforces the "ugly American" feeling. Oh well. For Tuesday-Thursday the plan is to check out of the hotel, give the presentation (which is roughly 9-4 - my part is 11-11:20), then pack up and go to the airport - hence the lack of free time. Hamburg does seem like a nice city - wish I had more time!

Afterwards we walked back and went up to the hotel bar, which was very nice but I was dead tired by this point. Collapsed in my room at midnight for 7 hours of sleep, which is still a big upgrade!

This morning I dragged myself out of bed, checked out and went up to the presentation room, which is very nice:
I do get three nice LabVIEW shirts out of this. The theme of LabVIEW 2010 is "It's about time", so right now they're having an audience quiz and rewarding correct answers with LabVIEW-branded alarm clocks! Unfortunately it's all in German, so not only do I not understand but it makes me feel more awkward about my English presentation. Hopefuly it goes well!
I just got introduced (with everyone else). I hope he said nice things!
My presentation went pretty well. That was the most relaxed I've ever been giving it in front of people. I got a lot of good questions which is usually a good sign. Apparently I need to talk slower, though.
Knocking on table=applause!
Whoa, this plane has a row 13! I'm surprised we didn't crash.

Wednesday 9:00 AM

We arrived in Düsseldorf (the most German of the cities I'll be in because it has an umlaut! München doesn't count because it's Munich in English) and got a minivan taxi to the hotel which managed to fit all 8 of us with luggage. Arrived at the hotel at 7:30 and started setting up, which unfortunately took until 9 or so, not that I was able to help much. By that point I was hungry, and we went to dinner at the hotel. I had been doing well sleepwise up to that point, but I started to crash hard during dinner, and even got a bit of dizziness which I hope is just a jet lag thing (it happened Monday night as well). I bugged out around 10:30 and went up to the room, was able to connect to the internet and chat with David and check email. I then wanted to charge my phone (used it to work some crossword puzzles yesterday!) but had misplaced part of my voltage converter which took me twenty minutes to find since I was so tired. Went to bed watching the same UEFA Champion's League highlights (soccer) I had watched Monday night.

I did not sleep well - the room was too hot (the thermostat was...confusing) and the pillows too soft and the bed too hard. I guess I'm kind of a picky sleeper. But I felt decent when I woke up, made myself a cup of tea and headed downstairs.

The breakfast buffet was amazing - I took pictures!

Meats, cheeses, yogurts, mueslis, pastries, and (most importantly) tea! I held myself to two bowls of yogurt with various mueslis and fruit on top. Sooo good.

- I had a dream last night that someone walked into my room, smoked a cigarette, and left. About half of the NI folks here smoke, and at least one used to but quit.
- Voltage converter has been working great, except the American side of the plug has no ground, and my laptop has a grounded plug. Today I'm going to borrow a plug to charge it, but it would be nice to have a more permanent solution.
- My allergies have been quite bad - tea in the morning helps (I quickly learned the German for "tea" is << tee >>), but today I have a headache. Also, I'm tired again...
- Getting through security 10 minutes before boarding = "just enough time for a beer!" Excellent.
- Speaking of which, Lufthansa has free beer and wine!

Thursday 9:00 AM

Another late night - after setting up and dinner we walked to a local Berlin biergarten and had three pitchers of a local beer (Berliner Kindl = very good!)
It was nice to at least see a little of the city, as opposed to Düsseldorf of which I only saw the airport and hotel.

Looking forward to arriving in Munich tonight - already have at least one meeting set up on Friday to talk about work stuff.

Hopefully the jet lag is done - yesterday I crashed in the early afternoon. Probably getting more sleep would have helped, but when am I going to be in Berline again?

Apparently 21 years after the Berlin wall fell, you can still tell the difference between East and West Berlin.

Yesterday's presentation went well - I tried to speak slower and pause more, which took concentration, but hopefully people understand better. People seem to feel comfortable asking questions/talking to me during breaks, which is good.
It's kind of intimidating when everyone else's introduction is a name and position, and then they get to me and I get a minute of quickly spoken German, during which the audience smiles knowingly at me. Still don't really know what was being said...

Friday 7:30 AM

Boy, I finally get to sleep in and I'm unable to sleep past 6. My jet lag seems to bounce around randomly...not sure if this will make it easier or harder to adjust back.

Session went well yesterday - people seemed to understand my part better and I got a lot of good questions. Funny story: someone set one of the alarm clocks we gave away to go off at 11:11, which apparently is the official start of Carnival, it being Nov. 11 (which lasts until Ash Wednesday...weird). They had discussed doing this to all the alarm clocks when we were at the biergarten, so I was surprised it actually happened!

At the Berlin airport I had a currywurst for dinner, which is a sausage covered in curry powder served in a tomato-y sauce. It was delicious! And now I've had beer and sausage here, so I feel like I've "done" Germany :-)

After breakfast I'm going to head into the office - I was going to walk there but it's a bit far so they recommended I take a taxi. But it looks like it's close to an S-Bahn station, and so is the hotel, so I think I'll try that.

I'm in Munich now, which I guess I didn't mention. Very glad to be done traveling for a day or two.

Saturday 10:00 AM

Yay I slept in today! Feeling much better with the timezone, just in time to leave.

Yesterday I did take the S-Bahn in to the NI office, which is very nice. Spent most of the day working and being surprisingly productive. At lunchtime I gave my presentation again for a group of ~15 AEs, which seemed to go well. I also threw in some stuff about how we test LabVIEW at Andreas's request - apparently some of them grumble we don't test at all, which is so not true. Not sure how this part went over exactly...

Came back to the hotel and hung around all evening - was feeling pretty tired and blah. Had Thai food at the restaurant next door to the hotel which turned out to be connected to the hotel, but it was still pretty good.

Today I'm going to hit the Deutches Museum which is very large and and takes two days to go through, so I'll just pick the neat stuff. Then maybe the city center or something.

7:00 PM

Kind of a weird day.

I took the S-Bahn to the Deutches Museum and when I got out there were a lot of police just standing around. Nothing was going on as far as I could tell, and I first thought maybe this was normal, but I could see at least 50 officers stationed on corners, etc. Anyway, I couldn't figure it out (and was unsure about taking a picture), so I walked to the museum.

As soon as I got in (after I had bought a ticket) I realized that I had been here before when my family visited Europe right after college. Dang it! So I walked around to the stuff I wanted to see, but fairly quickly, especially since only 25% of the displays were translated into English. Oh well...

So I left the museum much earlier than planned, and when I walked back towards the S-Bahn suddenly there were a lot of police cars blocking the road, and even more police.
There was a group of people between the cars, and police in front of them. But the street was empty, except for more police down the street. At first I thought they were blocking off the street, but someone asked if he could cross and they let him. So I hung around and eventually some people walked down the street heavily flanked by police, and the crowd around me started whistling and chanting "Nazis out!" (or maybe "Nazis auf!") So I think it was a Neo-Nazi rally or something - crazy! I left pretty quickly since it seemed things might get ugly.

Then I decided to visit the Allianz Arena which is where Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 München play soccer. They have some shops that are open even when there are no games, although it turns out there weren't that many, but I got some nice Bayern Munich memorabilia. :-) It also led me to think about an interesting math problem...details to follow. (update: here's the problem with solution)

After that I decided to randomly explore the city - I've had mixed success with this in the past, but being well-rested and having some idea of where stuff is seems like a recipe for success, which today was. I went to the main train station, sat down for a bit and had a snack and read (the Kindle was awesome for this - very light in the backpack and easy to hold food in one hand (far away!) and "turn pages" with the other). After walking around the stores there some more I decided to head back to the hotel for a break before supper.

For supper I headed to the central bus stations, which had some shops but nothing particularly appealing, so I found a local place, which is where I am now. The all-day pass on the S-Bahn really paid off!

Sunday "midday"

Well, I'm finally on my way home. Between the jet lag and lack of sleep and constant plane flights, it feels a little surreal to be headed home. Just finished Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die which was good but creepy and not helping with the surreal feeling.

Pretty impressed with this plane - this time there's only one headphone jack so I can actually use the entertainment system. Watched a Simpsons episode during lunch, and they also have a music section so I'm listening to some Glee and some Gaga which are good reading music. Plus you can see where the plane is/how long until arrival which is very convenient since I don't have a watch.

Right now is supposed to be a "rest period" which confuses me since we left at 11:55 AM Munich time and are arriving at 3:25 PM Philadelphia time. Think I'm going to stay up when I can and sleep if I get tired. Switching time zones confuses me.

The woman sitting next to me said I was in her husband's seat - apparently his passport was stolen and the embassy doesn't have an appointment until Thursday. One of the flight attendants has been sneaking her free headphones, etc. I feel a little justified in being paranoid about my passport all week - I carried it around with me because I wasn't sure if I needed it if stopped by the police, but I've had bad luck with losing things from my pockets (see: San Francisco trip)
The plane to Charlotte also has a row #13 - what happened to the proper respect for dangerous numbers?? The flight attendant announced the flight time as "1 hour, 19 minutes and 32 seconds", and no one else giggled. Pretty sure that's 3 significant digits too many.

Wow, that was more words than I thought.


hospice care
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-07-29 15:58:00
Tags: links
Words: 499

Atul Gawande has a new article about how our health system does a bad job at end-of-life issues, and how hospice care is really a pretty good idea if the patient wants it, and how really the most important thing is to decide what kind of treatment you want before something terrible happens. WARNING: really really depressing! Here's a good summary:

The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.

More often, these days, medicine seems to supply neither Custers nor Lees. We are increasingly the generals who march the soldiers onward, saying all the while, “You let me know when you want to stop.” All-out treatment, we tell the terminally ill, is a train you can get off at any time—just say when. But for most patients and their families this is asking too much. They remain riven by doubt and fear and desperation; some are deluded by a fantasy of what medical science can achieve. But our responsibility, in medicine, is to deal with human beings as they are. People die only once. They have no experience to draw upon. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come—and to escape a warehoused oblivion that few really want.

To cheer you up, here are all the title sequences to Doctor Who played back to back.

I had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen today and they were running an interesting promotion. When the waitress gave me the check, she also gave me a "thank you card", which had some sort of prize in it (probably 10% off a meal, but first prize is $100000). She then explained how it worked: I had to bring the card back next time I ate there and a manager would open it for me and reveal the prize inside (if I opened it on my own it was void). Also, if I won one of the big prizes, she (my waitress today) would get a share of it.

This struck me as a pretty clever gig: since you already have the card, it makes you want to go back to see if you're "already a winner", even though that's basically equivalent to getting a card next time you go and opening it then. You can also feel good about potentially helping your waitress, I guess? That part was a little weird.


For Better
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-06-27 17:35:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 661

Continuing the neurosciency trend, my latest read is For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope. I gleaned a lot of information from it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. (if there's anything the last book taught me, I'm not going to try to explain why, because I don't know!)

Here's lots of random stuff:

The statistic that "50% of all marriages end in divorce" is misleading - the divorce rate has been going down significantly since the 1970s. Big risk factors for divorce include getting married before the age of 25, and not having a college education.

A good marriage improves your health, but a bad one hurts it, due to higher stress levels (and the fact that the stress is happening at home, which is supposed to be your sanctuary). A study on stressed-out women showed that holding hands with their husband reduced the pain they felt from an electric shock. (holding hands with a stranger helped some, but not as much)

Conflict: early in a relationship, some amount of conflict seems to make things healthier in the long run. (according to John Gottman, who is cited enough to deserve a coauthor credit) The number of fights you have is not nearly as important as the way you fight - a complaint ("I wish we had sex more often.") is better than a criticism ("You never want to have sex - you're always too tired."), which is better than contempt ("You're such a slob."). The difference between complaints and criticisms sounds minor, but from personal experience I definitely react much more poorly to criticisms. The first three minutes of a fight is a good predictor of the strength of the relationship. Eye rolling during an argument is another good predictor that the relationship is in trouble.

Children can take a big toll on marriage. On average, parents spend more time with their children than they did in the 1960s. This is fine, but it's better to make sure your marriage is healthy. Parents in happier marriages are more effective parents. When kids were given one wish to change the way their parent's work affects their life, they wished that their parents would be less stressed and less tired. (not that their parents would spend more time with them, which is what the adults predicted) Couples that did the best with kids (in terms of their marriage) were the ones that planned in advance - when they would have kids, who would take care of them, etc. Breaking the gender roles is also good, e.g. fathers do more housework, mothers give up some control about how things are done.

Sharing chores/housework is important. Money is another common point of contention; spendthrifts are attracted to tightwads and vice versa, but marrying one tends to lead to trouble. Maintaining some monetary independence from your spouse (being able to spend money on what you want) is helpful. Spending money on things that help your marriage (a vacation, for example) - also good.

Having outside relationships with friends and family is a very good thing; apparently this is more common in same-sex couples.

Finally, her prescription for marital health:
- Celebrate good news
- You need at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones to be stable. So after a fight, just saying "I'm sorry" once isn't enough. (say it four more times?)
- Keep your standards for your marriage high
- Pay attention to family and friends, as this puts less stress on the marriage to be emotionally fulfilling on all levels.
- Don't expect your spouse to make you happy - some studies have shown that most people have a personal happiness "set point" which they tend to return to.
- Have sex. Even if you're not in the mood, usually you'll get in the mood after a few minutes.
- Reignite romance by sharing new experiences and adventures.

Anyway, it was reasonably interesting, and available for borrowing as usual.

Next up: more neuroscience!

1 comment

marriage and such
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-06-09 11:54:00
Tags: links
Words: 111

I find the fact that Al & Tipper Gore are getting divorced after 40 years of marriage horribly depressing. Some marriages are not meant to be, but usually the people involved figure that out within the first few years. I guess it's important to keep working on a relationship no matter how long you've been together...

Similarly, this ad showing a married gay couple [mildly NSFW] depresses the crap out of me!

Unrelatedly, Bing Maps has this new feature called Destination Maps (it's a Silverlight app) where it will draw out a map and make it look hand drawn. Here's a map to our house drawn in "sketchy" and "treasure map" styles:


Fine, I'm getting old
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-06-02 09:38:00
Tags: work
Words: 65

This weekend I spent some time outside throwing (and hitting) a wiffle ball. My back was pretty sore yesterday and it took me a long time to figure out that was the cause!

I'm giving an presentation at work in a few weeks, which I like doing. Writing the slides, however, feels a lot like writing an essay, which I hate (and am terrible at).

1 comment

"it's monday and I'm tired" links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-05-24 10:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 112

The LOST finale was last night - recaps from the AV Club and Time. Overall I liked it although I'm still thinking it through...

A 15 page comic about the now retracted autism/MMR vaccine study - holy undisclosed conflict of interest, Batman!

A long article about teacher's unions and how the Obama administration is pushing to remove teacher tenure and pay solely based on experience.

As part of a Music Hack Day, someone wrote a hack to make songs swing by lengthening the first half of the beat and compressing the second half - here are the results.

A cool World Cup ad - only 18 days until it starts!

Lesser known but cool data structures.


linkin' up a storm
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-05-21 13:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 169

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released a game where you can try to stabilize the national debt. (unfortunately it's been flaky today) Spoiler alert: don't renew the Bush tax cuts and it's really easy - keep them around and it's basically impossible.

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books - long and interesting article about the future of ebooks.

What America spends on food and drink - Austin is #1 per capita!

International Number Ones - because every country is the best at something. The US is "best at" having the most serial killers!

The ESPN consensus on who's going to win the World Cup - I filled out my bracket but still might change my mind...

The security screening at the Texas Capital opened today, even though you can carry a concealed weapon inside. The article makes the halfway valid point that people that have concealed carry licenses have to undergo a background check, but still...come on!

A grocery store in New Orleans baked BP an oil spill cake.

1 comment

meh links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-05-07 10:36:00
Tags: rant links
Words: 461

Honestly, these links aren't that great. Fair warning:

- The Onion AV Club previews movies coming out this summer and how they compare to Marmaduke.

- Bruce Schneier on why there haven't been more terrorist attacks - the short answer is that they're harder than they look to pull off, and not that many people interested in doing them. Which is comforting, I guess.

- Star Wars pregnancy announcement

- So there's this bill that would strip people of their citizenship if they have suspected ties to terrorists. First of all, what happens to someone who has no other citizenship or ties? Secondly, the bar seems way too low here - the Secretary of State can deem anyone (as far as I can tell) to have provided material support, no need for a trial or anything. Sheesh.

A quick rant: From the article Flash is not a Right:
This strikes me as a very strange sort of attitude to adopt. There's no question that Flash is useful and popular, and it has a large and committed user base. There's also no question that it's often convenient to be able to program for different platforms using environments one already knows. And likewise, there's a long history of creating OS stubs or wrappers or other sorts of gizmos to make it possible to run code "alien" to a platform in a fashion that makes it feel more native.

But what does it say about the state of programming practice writ large when so many developers believe that their "rights" are trampled because they cannot write programs for a particular device in a particular language? Or that their "freedom" as creators is squelched for the same reason?

I wonder if it doesn't amount to an indictment of the state of computational literacy.
That is...what? Let's not get confused here - not allowing the Flash plugin to run on the iPhone/iPad is one thing, sure - I may not agree, but there are valid technical reasons, and it would require Apple to do something.

But not allowing people to write apps in other languages and convert them to Objective C - that doesn't cost Apple anything and they're going out of their way to lock developers in to their platform. That's what people are really angry about. There's no technical obstacle, they're just blocking it for basically political reasons. (and yes, I know it makes it harder in the future to upgrade components without breaking compatibility, but this feels like swatting a fly with a tactical nuclear strike)

What I write my app in is my business, and as long as it runs on the target platform I feel personally offended that Apple is telling me how I can do that. (well, not me since I don't develop for the iPhone, but you know...)


Sucker-punch dream
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-04-08 08:06:00
Tags: dreams
Words: 201

I was very stressed last night about various things, so my brain decided to reward me with the following dream:

We were in DC for a pro-health care rally (which hadn't passed yet) and after some speeches we decided to explore the Capitol building. The way to get around was to take the automated boats (awesome, right?), so I did that a few times on my own to see different parts of the building.

Then we were all going to meet to talk to our representative (who was a woman, unlike in real life) and try to convince her to vote for health care, which we assumed would be futile but worth a shot. Right after taking the last boat and starting to walk to her office, I reached down and realized that my wallet was missing!

I freaked out and knew that it had probably fallen in the river and was panicking when I woke up, heart pounding. I had a very strong urge to check my shorts and make sure my wallet was still there, but after a few seconds common sense and the fact that it was cold outside the covers won out...

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


weekend at the park
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-03-28 23:10:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 97

We went down to Houston for my Grandpa's 85th birthday party, which was fun. On Saturday we spent some time in Hermann Park, which was a good opportunity to put my new camera through its paces. I think the pictures turned out relatively well.

In the Japanese Garden we saw what really looked like a marriage proposal - on a blanket, a guy holding a girl's hand while she excitedly talked on the phone (and we overheard at least the word "wedding"). Would have taken a picture but I felt weird invading their privacy. They looked happy, though :-)

1 comment

Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-03-15 09:48:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 73

Nate Silver now gives health care slightly more than a 50% chance of passing.

A map of South Austin that looks like an old Zelda map - he used some software to autodetect trees, roads, etc.

MST3K Haiku - I think this one's from Prince of Space!

(this post is mostly an excuse to show off my new userpic. Been using it at work for a while and people are geeky enough to recognize it :-) )


solar panels on the roof
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-01-14 14:35:00
Tags: house
Words: 477

I went to a brown bag lunch (or "green bag" as they called it) at work today about putting solar panels on your roof. Here is what I learned!

Two guys who had actually put solar panels on the roof were presenting. One of them has a website, that has a lot of the information they presented.

- The cost is around $5-7 per "nameplate Watt", which is the panel output under ideal conditions. Of course, conditions are never ideal; has a good table of different panel outputs under realistic conditions.
- Austin Energy has a $2.50/Watt rebate described here. It's capped at $15K per home (i.e. a 6kW sized array). You can search for more local incentives at
- There's a federal tax credit of 30% (probably after any rebates, although it's unclear) you can get by filing IRS Form 5695.

The general recommendation is to size your panels so that it about equals your energy usage in your lowest-energy months (presumably winter). There are some good calculators at PVWatts and

So up to a 6kW system (the Austin Energy rebate cap), it would cost us around
$2.50 per "nameplate Watt". For a 4kW system (one of the guys had this) it would be $10K.

- Rule of thumb: each extra $1K in energy production per year increases your home's value by $20K. This works out to about increase the value of your home as much as you pay after rebates, etc.
- For a 4kW system, based on the PVWatts calculator we'd expect to get 5450 kWh per year, which is $625/year under current Austin Energy rates (7.2 cents/kWH for the first 500, 11.5 cents/kWH after that). So the system would pay for itself in 16 years.
- The life of the system is at least 20-25 years (most solar panels are under warranty for at least 20 years), but you have to replace the inverter ($2-3K) every 10-15 years.

- Austin Energy provides "net billing", so they just take your consumption for the month and subtract your production and that's your base rate. This is fairly generous. Austin Energy will even pay you if you produce more than you consume, but you get a low rate for it.
- Most home insurances cover solar panels, but call and ask. Most panels are rated to withstand winds of up to 110mph, and a direct hit from a 1" hailstone at 80 mph, so they're probably not going to be damaged unless your roof is.
- No, it won't provide power during a blackout. (it shuts down when the grid is off to protect any utility workers on the power lines)

One of the guys used Gruene Energy to install his system and seemed happy with them - a few people were there with brochures, etc.

Anyway, it was a very informative session and there were probably 100 people in the audience!


first links of 2010!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-01-04 10:52:00
Tags: pictures gay links
Words: 165

More Christmas pictures and pictures from Jess & Wong's wedding:

A nice article about newly elected mayor and Rice graduate Annise Parker - contains this surprising bit:

Chandler Davidson, professor emeritus of sociology, recalled Parker recruiting him to serve as faculty sponsor for the Gay and Lesbian Support Group that she founded at Rice in 1979 -- a year after she graduated. When the members of the group later posed for their first Campanile photo a few years later, Davidson said, almost all wore paper bags over their heads to guard their anonymity.
The article includes the picture - Parker was one of two people who didn't wear a bag over her head. Craziness!

2010 entertainments to look forward to, like the return of Chuck and the final season of Lost!

A graph of health-care costs versus life expectancy split up by country. Guess how the US does!

Don't forget, now driving while texting is illegal in Austin. The Department of Transportation recently launched to combat distracted driving.


links to keep me awake
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-12-10 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 79

Not two days after my previous post about the Austin commuter rail fiasco, Capital Metro fired their rail contractor. They said it shouldn't affect the schedule - it's scheduled to open early next year. Maybe there's hope?

ABC showed "A Charlie Brown Christmas" this year and cut out parts to show more commercials. The irony, it burns!

Is gay marriage 'inevitable'? - short answer, yes.

Make your own Mondrian painting! Click the squares to change color and drag the lines. Clever!


Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-12-10 10:17:00
Tags: sleep
Words: 123

Some combination of:

- sipping nervously on 2.5 Olive Garden-sized Dr. Peppers
- programming close to bedtime
- sitting awkwardly in my computer chair for a few hours, which (I guess?) hurt my hips so that when I went to lie down on my side it hurt after a few minutes

led to some pretty terrible insomnia. I was tired and tried to get to sleep for (what I later realized was) almost 2 hours before giving up and getting up in the cold. Thank goodness for that Snuggie(TM) that's floating around our living room.

On the plus side, I got some more coding done, but then when I lay down on the couch it _still_ took me a while to get to sleep. Quite unpleasant.


rethinking the plan
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-11-24 10:30:00
Tags: palmpre projects programming
Words: 121

I signed up for the Houston Turkey Trot 5K with my family. Unfortunately, it starts at 8 AM (which is very early for me these days) and I'm not in great shape and it's going to be cold, which doesn't do so great on my lungs. Hopefully I survive!

Been working on WebOSJournal (the LiveJournal client for the Palm Pre/Pixi) - it's coming along decently but I'm running into some frustration trying to allow replying to posts/comments. The authorization scheme is tricky and of course you don't get useful feedback. I actually downloaded the LiveJournal source code to try to figure out what I'm doing wrong, but it's hard to find my way around...

Obama kicks off massive science education effort - yay!


Texas senators support Defense of Marriage Act
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-10-05 14:49:00
Tags: activism gay
Words: 706

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Respect for Marriage Act that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in the states that currently recognize them. (see handy map) I was a little surprised to get an actual response from my two Senators (Representative McCaul indicated that he would send an actual response at some point), but not surprised to hear they were in favor of DOMA. For posterity:

Dear Mr. Stoll:

Thank you for contacting me about the definition of marriage. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important matter.

As you may know, in 1996 Congress overwhelmingly passed—and former President Bill Clinton signed into law—the Defense of Marriage Act (P.L. 104–199). This federal law defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." I agree with this position.

Under the laws, traditions, and customs of all fifty states, marriage has historically been defined as the union of a man and a woman. However, judicial rulings—and outright lawlessness by local officials in some states—have threatened traditional marriage and moved this debate onto the national stage. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas provides lower courts with the leverage needed to invalidate traditional marriage laws. The first major assault on traditional marriage came in Goodridge v. Mass. Dept. of Health, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court—citing the Lawrence decision—overturned that state's traditional marriage law. Other activist state courts have followed Massachusetts’s lead. In light of these judicial trends, constitutional scholars on both sides of the aisle agree that the Defense of Marriage Act and similar state laws are now in peril. I believe that judges should strictly interpret the law and avoid the temptation to legislate from the bench or color their rulings with personal ideology.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind should relevant legislation regarding the definition of marriage be considered during the 111th Congress. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.


United States Senator

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding same-sex marriage. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Marriage laws have historically been the responsibility of state governments, and I generally oppose federal government intrusion into matters of state authority. Currently, there are four states in which marriages for same-sex couples are currently performed. However, in 23 states these unions are either statutorily or constitutionally banned. Clearly, one state's action can have serious and far-reaching implications for other states, particularly because our Constitution requires states to give full faith and credit to the laws of other states.

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, and provided that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages granted under another state's laws. I voted for this federal law, and I continue to support it today because I believe the traditional family unit should remain the foundation of our society. With respect to marriage, I am a strong supporter of the due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. However, I do not support legislation that extends the traditional definition and recognition of marriage to same-sex couples.

On September 15, 2009, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3567, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009. The bill contains provisions that would force all states and territories in the Union to recognize all marriages that are legal in the state of origin. This legislation would further repeal the federal law implemented by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which stipulates that “no state or territory needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.” Currently, no Senate bill has been introduced to repeal DOMA.

Should Congress act on this legislation, I will keep your views in mind. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator


at-work-early links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-09-22 08:37:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 210

A Bush speechwriter wrote a tell-all kinda book - an interesting excerpt:

For a commencement address at Furman University in spring 2008, Ed Gillespie wanted to insert a few lines condemning gay marriage. Bush called the speech too "condemnatory" and said, "I'm not going to tell some gay kid in the audience that he can't get married." (Of course, Bush ran his 2004 campaign telling that kid just that.)
Should I be happy that Bush wasn't really against gay marriage or mad that he pushed a constitutional amendment to ban it anyway? (answer: mad, I think)

LOST University is in session....only a few more months until new episodes come out!

Science links:

A team at NYU has developed a device that can identify materials by scanning them, kinda like a tricorder from Star Trek. It fires a laser through the object and studies the scattering of the light. Awesome!

Unsurprisingly, people you're friends with on Facebook tend to have the same views (religious, political) as you. More surprisingly, two students at MIT have used this data to predict which people are gay (who didn't declare it on Facebook). The data-loving part of me says "neato!", the squeamish-about-outing-people part of me says "kinda scary!"

Chronic Radiation Is Beneficial to Human Beings (maybe)


Optimizing iTunesAnalysis: faster database access
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-07-09 09:44:00
Tags: optimization essay projects programming
Words: 280

The second in an occasional series
Idea: Now I'm focusing on improving the time to insert the iTunes data into database. Where we left off last time, our script took 71 seconds to run, ~50 seconds of which was database operations. The idea I had to speed this up was to batch a bunch of queries together and thus make fewer calls to the database. It turns out this actually slowed things down.

So I did a little research and it turns out if you insert data with the same query structure over and over again (but with different bind variables), the database doesn't have to reparse the query which speeds things up a lot. I tried doing this with pyPgSql but couldn't find any documentation how it was supposed to work, so I switched to using psycopg2 and changed the query for inserting the playlist data. Just switching to a psycopg2 sped things up a lot, it seems. I tried switching to a similar sort of query for inserting track data, but that actually slowed things down.

Anyway, the new script runs in 25 seconds, and it looks like only around 9 seconds for database operations. This is a 400% speedup in the database time! Overall, this step improved performance by ~180%, and since we started at 114 seconds we've improved ~350%.

Conclusion: Another big success, and I'm not sure how much more I can squeeze out of the script. Next time I'll focus on the script, which does the analysis from the database - right now it's taking between 5 and 12 minutes to run on my library of 6400 tracks.

Source files:
- old script
- new script


hangin' on links!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-03-12 15:58:00
Tags: links
Words: 130

Couldn't sleep last night and had a 9 AM meeting this morning, so I'm slightly loopy!

- SIRC guide to flirting - this is an incredibly long article about social science and how you should flirt. Entertaining!

- Now-needy FDIC collected little in premiums - so let me get this straight. The FDIC (the "I" stands for "Insurance", remember) didn't collect money from most banks from 1996-2006 because

Congress believed that the fund was so well-capitalized - and that bank failures were so infrequent - that there was no need to collect the premiums for a decade
This makes me sad, as someone clearly doesn't understand what insurance is.

- The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist - a great Wired story about a real-life Ocean's 11 or something. Fascinating!

- Awesome video game-themed shirt and poster.


less ow
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-12-10 14:51:00
Tags: health
Words: 54

Started taking antibiotics, set up an appointment to get my root canal on Monday. I know I should have gotten a second opinion or something, but I am incapable of handling teeth problems like an adult. So oh well, Monday will suck but my teeth will stop hurting and that's good enough for me.


debate? no debate?
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-09-25 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 326

Wow, what a crazy election cycle!

Yesterday McCain said he would suspend his campaign until a bailout package is passed. He also wants to postpone the first debate which is scheduled for tomorrow. Obama says the debate should go on and it's more important than ever for people to decide who will be leading the country in 40 or so days.

Just like the Palin announcement, this scared me for a bit just because it was pretty unexpected. But this isn't like suspending campaign events for a hurricane or something - this is a man-made disaster that a President would have to handle, even if there were other things going on at the same time. Looks like people aren't thrilled with the idea either. (David Letterman is not impressed)'s Nate Silver thinks it won't work (I remember the Iran-Contra scandals preempting Square One as a kid! I was so mad...)

I don't know what this means for tomorrow's debate - it looks like Democrats have agreed in theory to the $700 billion bailout (with some oversight and executive pay limits) but I doubt they'd be able to pass anything by tomorrow. Maybe Obama will get 90 minutes all to himself? That would be awesome!

McCain then proposed that the first Presidential debate be held in the slot for the VP debate which sure seems like there would be no VP debate then. Wonder if he's worried about Palin's performance...

Kind of a mini-scandal: McCain's campaign manager still a lobbyist despite earlier statements to the contrary.

Yeah, I want this mug. Genius!

Anyway, sorry for the heavy politics lately - it accurately reflects what's on my mind and what I've been reading about. It'll all be over in 40ish days barring something crazy like 2000. I sure hope that doesn't happen... (there's a not unlikely scenario of a 269-269 tie that would throw the election to the House of Representatives...then things get really complicated but Obama would probably win)


first weekend is over
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-08-06 15:22:00
Tags: movies asmc worldofwarcraft
Words: 250

As djedi mentioned, we survived the first weekend of shows. Friends and Family night went OK although I screwed up a part and was generally jittery - maybe because it had been two years or something? Anyway, I settled down into a pretty good rhythm about midway through Saturday and no major catastrophes. (one time I said "three minutes" twice instead of "two minutes", but in the grand scheme of things, not so bad)

Saturday was of course long - three shows and we had to do pictures between the first and second shows. You can see the ASMC pictures here (warning: spoilers!) They turned out well.

It was nice to get Saturday evening off and some sleep before the two Sunday shows, although I forgot that while two shows is a lot easier than three shows, it's still a lot harder than (say) no shows.

Days off are good, although what with NIWeek this week work has been tiring too. And tomorrow we have a short rehearsal and then back to shows again! Easier because I'll be better rested, harder because we're up until midnight Friday night with gala stuff.

Saw Batman in IMAX. It was awesome. The part where he jumps off the building looked even more incredible. Would see again.

Got my WoW account restored (at least all the important stuff). Pretty sure it's crashing because of memory, and if I run in windowed mode it doesn't seem to. At some point I need to actually fix the problem.


three days to go! eep!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-07-29 16:03:00
Tags: links
Words: 63

- How a warp drive (faster than light) might work - neat and maybe possible!
- Are Revolving Doors More Energy Efficient? - yes they are. Neat!
- Face Swapper Privacy - some software to put someone's facial features on someone else's face, resulting in a strange but human-looking hybrid of the two.
- Amazon has really really cheap generic pills.
- Executive Summary: charting the act of debugging - so true...


not the ideal situation for starting 3 solid weeks of rehearsals
Mood: tired
Music: Nas - "Black President"
Posted on 2008-07-09 13:33:00
Tags: asmc worldofwarcraft programming politics links sleep
Words: 260

I've been unable to get to sleep the last two nights. Last night was particularly bad so eventually I got up and programmed some and played a little WoW. (won a close AB battleground on my 46 pally) Even then after returning to bed it took me a while to sleep. I had no sodas yesterday, which is the most common cause of insomnia for me. Hopefully it just kinda disappears. The alternative is that I get so tired that falling asleep is no problem, but I'd kinda like to avoid that :-)

White House, 2005: Setting the Record Straight: Democrats On An Artificial Timetable In Iraq

The President Explains Why Timetables For Withdrawal Are Bad Strategy. PRES. BUSH: "Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies - that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder - and invite new attacks on America." (President Bush, Remarks On The War On Terror, Annapolis, MD, 11/30/05)

Iraq, yesterday: Iraq Wants Withdrawal Timetable In U.S. Pact
Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.

Unrelatedly: you can't protect your HTML source and it's a waste of time to try.


not an unqualified success
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-02-29 16:22:00
Tags: house
Words: 388

I took the day off today to wait for the cable guy (the important part being internet so djedi can work from home in the future) and the countertops people. The cable guy said 8-12 and the countertops said 9-11ish so I got up bright and early at 7 AM (there's a 7 in the morning? crazy) and headed over there. Both people showed up right around 9 so I give them credit for that (I was watching Lost episodes on my laptop most of the time)

Cable guy - there was some confusion about my order, but the tech seems to have his head screwed on well unlike the dispatcher, so that eventually gets sorted out. Unfortunately, the signal coming into our house is very week, so he turned on the jacks but no internet for us. Supervisor has to come out sometime next week.

Countertops - man, countertops are loud and dusty to install! Anyway, they look nice, with the exception of the big piece that goes around the sink which wasn't cut right (a bit of a subtle defect, but the guy pointed it out and said if we were paying that much we should have it done right, to which I agree). So they're coming Wednesday 3-5.

The countertops took forever, and because of a bit of poor planning on my part I didn't get lunch until they left at 2:45 (although I did manage to knock out 6 Lost episodes). Ate at Freebird's and finally got home at 3:30. Not 5 minutes after I get home I get a call from the cable guy, who asks if he left his drill at the house. Well, I don't know, but he says he needs it for his next job so I say I'll go back up there to check. I was a little annoyed he didn't seem thankful or hesitant to ask since it was a bit inconvenient on my part, but he was helpful when he came by and installed a faceplate so fine.

Arrive back at house, call him back while I'm looking and he says the drill is expensive. No drill in sight though, and he is friendly and very thankful that I looked. Oh well, hope he finds it.

I could a relaxing and fun night - luckily that's what we have planned!


check, check, check
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-01-21 09:19:00
Tags: movies pictures music house
Words: 325

Stuff we did this weekend that's worth mentioning:

- Saw "Juno". Good movie - the first scene had me worried that the whole thing was going to be very snappy and sound like it was written by writers who thought they were awesome, but it calmed down after that. Also, Michael Cera + Jason Bateman == win.

- Saw "Cloverfield". Also a good movie. I will avoid spoilers but I'd recommend it if you like horrorish movies. Kept me awake for a little while last night :-)

- Bought new music! In order of how much I expect to like them:
- Radiohead - "In Rainbows". Yeah, I should have gotten this a while ago but I was busy or something. Anyway, I've only heard the one track but it was pretty good and, come on, it's Radiohead!
- Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible". I listened to this on mediator and looved it.
- Nine Inch Nails - "Year Zero". I heard some samples and wasn't terribly impressed, but I like the concept so I'll give it a shot.
- White Stripes - "Icky Thump". I liked the samples I heard, so who knows.
- The Magnetic Fields - "Distortion". "California Girls" is a really catchy song but I dunno about the rest of the album. We'll see...

- Took down the Christmas tree in 10 minutes.

- Gave notice to our apartment that we're leaving.

- Went to the NI-sponsored hockey game, which was fun. The Ice Bats won!

- Bought a hot tub! We just stopped by to look at them but the '07 models were on clearance and the guy sold us the floor model for substantially cheaper than the "regular price". Anyway, we spent about what we wanted to spend so it's fine.

- Put pictures and videos of David's brother's wedding up. This was the first event that I used my Flip Video at (besides house-hunting) and let me tell you - editing the videos and such is a real pain. I gotta find a better way...(and fix the thumbnails at some point)


home again, home again jiggety-jig
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-12-26 17:41:00
Tags: movies
Words: 644

We're back home. Christmas was nice but there was surprisingly little time to relax. And I was OK about going back to work two days after Christmas, but I'm decidedly less excited about it now.

Christmas with David's family was nice, though - we cleaned up in time Christmas morning for the big party, and it wasn't as awkward as I had feared, since I had been introduced to a lot of his family before. Played 42 with family for an hour or two - they're quite good unlike myself, but everyone was pleasant and whatnot. Also ended up playing a lot of Rook while we were there - the rules are similar to 42, except it's with cards, and the play is fairly different.

It looks like we'll be at my folks this coming weekend for Christmas instead of the one after that, which works out better for various reasons but means we'll be in Houston three weekends in a row (all for good reason) which is kind of a lot.

Just checked mail - I got a small package from Gary Madison (from NY) that contains a CD called "Por Vida" which I know nothing about. I'm assuming it's a present, and I'm all for random fun stuff showing up in my mailbox, but does anyone have the skinny on this?

Movies we saw: National Treasure 2, Underdog (the second half or so), Live Free or Die Hard, Stardust. Thoughts below; may contain spoilers.

National Treasure 2: Biased against it from the beginning, because, seriously? It was more or less what I expected - decent action, barely believable plot. There were some major problems in there. For example: the main bad guy (who looks totally evil from the very first scene he's in and I hope it wasn't supposed to be a surprise that he was a bad guy) presents evidence that Nicolas Cage's great-grandfather was the mastermind of the plot to assassinate Lincoln. The story that Cage's family was told was that he was killed because he didn't decrypt a treasure map for a group of Confederate sympathizers to the legendary city of Cibola. Apparently these can't both be true, because Nicolas Cage's plan is to go ahead and find that city, thus proving that...the treasure map was true. So his great-granddaddy wasn't a traitor. Or something. Also, the main bad guy tries to get some of the clues along with way, mostly by shooting the good guys. But then at the end he needs them to decipher the final clue, or explore the tunnel with them or something. So why all the bullets before? And at the very end he heroically gives himself up to save the rest of them. He seems to want his family name to be cleared, but that sure isn't clear until he says so. Blah.

Underdog (the second half or so): Biased against it because I saw the trailer and it looked cookie-cutter talking animal: dumb. I sat down to watch with David's nephews who were supposed to be napping in front of it, which didn't work at all. It ended up being not as dumb as I thought - I certainly wouldn't recommend it, but sitting down in front of it beats working. Jim Belushi and Patrick Warburton (Puddy on Seinfeld, The Tick) certainly help.

Live Free or Die Hard: Biased for it because I liked the first one and I heard it was good. It was awesome. Justin Long is good, Timothy Olyphant is good, and of course Bruce Willis is good. Good good good. Simultaneously made me want to work out more and work on my leet hacker skillz.

Stardust: We watched this lateish last night, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been less tired. It's a fairy tale, and it was sweet, but it just felt a little weird. Worth watching, though.


Christmas in Port Lavaca
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-12-24 00:47:00
Tags: christmas
Words: 193

This year Christmas is with djedi's parents, so here we are! Things have already gotten kinda crowded - his brother and fiancee came in yesterday and his sister and husband + 2 kids arrived today. (other sister and husband arrive tomorrow) And there's only one non-master bathroom to go around, which is why I'm posting and not in bed :-)

It's been fun, although it's been a while since I've been back here and it takes some adjusting to lots of stuff going on, people getting on each other's nerves, etc. Overall I like it, but it's a pretty different feel than spending Christmas with my family. (I'm sure djedi would agree...) We're going to open most presents on Christmas Eve, since Christmas Day in the afternoon a lot of people from his mom's side of the family come over for a big party, which is sure to be peopleful and awkward for me, having met most of them but not enough times to remember who's who. Hopefully it'll be warm enough to play volleyball, though.

If I don't get to post again, everyone have a Merry (or Happy!) Christmas and a safe trip back home.


whoops, false alarm
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-12-16 17:58:00
Tags: phone
Words: 178

Apparently all is well between T-Mobile and Twitter (again, confirmed with my phone). Sorry about the earlier bit. Kinda wish I hadn't sent a slightly angry email to T-Mobile and a tip to the Consumerist, but I guess this will teach me not to do crap like that when I'm in a hurry somewhere. Also (as I quickly investigated), AT&T will give me the RAZR for free if I sign up with them, but to get the equivalent plan would cost more per month. So there's that.

Also, T-Mobile finally got back to me and the nice representative pointed out that I had in fact gotten a free phone in March 2006 which I had forgotten about. So, I'll get a new phone on January 13. Fine enough I guess.

Revels was good - the most dramatic part was hearing a loud noise and my mom fall a bit...turns out she was standing on a barrel and fell in the barrel. She was fine, no clothes were ruined, but I believe she will never hear the end of it :-)


when there's a smoke detector...
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-11-11 14:54:00
Words: 620

djedi woke me up at around 5:25 this morning, asking "Do you hear that beeping?" Somewhat groggy, I listened, and indeed there was a soft but definite beeping coming from somewhere. We walked out of the bedroom and the noise got louder, and finally out on the balcony when it was pretty darn loud. It seemed to be coming from a building across the parking lot, and it was definitely an alarm from a smoke detector. We looked and didn't see any smoke or anything, but of course that doesn't mean that nothing was happening. Apparently it woke him up and had been going off for 5-10 minutes by this point.

So, we debated what to do. djedi reminded me that our complex has a number for after-hours maintenance emergencies, which seemed like a reasonable compromise between doing nothing and calling 911. I called the office number and listened to the various options for residents - there was "report an after-hours maintenance emergency", but there was also a "report a disturbance or loud noise", which seemed to fit the bill. I hit that option and it said to call the police. Hmm, OK.

Calling 311 seemed like the right thing to do, since it's the non-emergency version of 911 and useful if you're not sure whether to bother the "real" 911. (912?) I called and explained there was a smoke detector alarm going off for 10-15 minutes by this point and she straight away connected me to 911. Which made me feel better about the whole thing; I said "fire" and explained the situation. The guy said they'd send a truck out and to call back if we saw any flames or smelled smoke, etc. So I threw some clothes on, went downstairs to meet the truck and try to find the source of the noise. It turns out a high-pitched noise like that is fairly difficult to locate (the principle behind the ThinkGeek Annoy-a-tron), but eventually I found the apartment, which was indeed across the parking lot. Oddly enough, the sliding door, a window, and the water heater closet were all open.

The truck showed up in around five minutes (just as it rolled up the beeping stop and I thought we would be made fools of, but then it started again), and I pointed them to the source of the beeping. At that point I kinda wondered how they had gotten through the gate (do they have some kinda magic clicker that rotates through frequencies? doesn't that mean that gates are pretty insecure?) and how they would get in the apartment. Awesomely enough, a guy pulled out a big ladder and climbed on the roof and stepped over to the balcony, then went to let the other people in (there were 5 of them total). They seemed to be searching the apartment, then came out to the balcony again and fiddled with something and the infernal beeping stopped! Hooray!

The guy explained that the apartment was undergoing renovation, and the smoke detectors (two of them) were sitting out on the balcony, and the dust and drywall particles must have settled on them and set them off. (smoke detectors detect particulate matter, not smoke specifically. News to me...) They left and we returned to bed, although it took me a while to actually get back to sleep.

The surprising thing was that that there's an apartment below them with a car parked outside, so apparently people were there and slept through it? I mean, that thing was loud - can't imagine honestly not being woken up by it. Although I guess they probably knew that there was no one in the apartment above...but there still could have been a fire, dagnabit!


segway tour!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-10-14 21:37:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 20

My mom's in town and we went on a Segway tour of Austin. Here are my pictures of said event.

1 comment

nightbane down!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-10-01 10:56:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft cluesolver
Words: 332

The night started poorly with two people getting locked outside of Netherspite's room and people being kinda cranky in general. However, we downed him on the next attempt and killed the Prince after a few attempts. (oh, and the free loot from the Chess Event) We had grinded up our Thrallmar rep so we could run Heroic Shattered Halls and summon Nightbane for the first time.

Nightbane, despite what I read somewhere, is not about as hard as Prince - he (?) is much harder. The tricky parts for us caster DPS in the ground phase are mostly avoiding the Charred Earth (or moving out of it when it hits your spot) and trying to stay out of the AoE fear. The air phase is tough - we finally figured out to collapse on the tank, wait for the Rain of Bones, then move back to where we were standing and kill the skeletons, and stop doing anything when Nightbane lands to avoid pulling aggro (this happened a lot). Oh, and don't stand too far apart when killing the skeletons otherwise you get the Fireball barrage. The landing is definitely the trickiest part - at first we would always wipe on landing or shortly thereafter.

Anyway, on something around our 12th attempt (anyone have a more accurate count?) we finally got him. There were a few close calls before that - got him to 14% a few times before - so I had hope, but man is it tough.

I got two pieces of loot for the night (T4 helm and Jewel of Infinite Possibilities) so I'm pretty happy.

Finally got started working on the Clue Solver again and I made some progress on the GUI for once. Figuring out parts of the Google Web Toolkit - I guess it's neat to wrote JavaScript code in Java but I'm a lot more comfortable in JavaScript (and not so comfortable in Swing-like GUIs) so it's not hugely efficient. Maybe it's more of a win on bigger projects or something.


we are in austin
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-09-25 00:17:00
Tags: travel
Words: 26

Made it to Austin, checked in to our apartment, stuff gets here Wednesday(!) so we have lots to do. *yawn* Will be at game night tmw!

1 comment

unstuck not in st. louis
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-09-23 23:39:00
Tags: travel
Words: 166

After all the hullabaloo over the car, it turned out to be a big bust - we turned it on this morning and not even the check engine light was on. Took it in to the service place (who only sold tires on Sunday, no service) and the guy said if the check engine light was off, they couldn't find the code anyway and so it was probably fine if we didn't notice any handling problems, etc. We drove over 700(!) miles today, nary a warning light to be seen. Went through 280 miles of Missouri, a lot of Oklahoma and are in Hillsboro, TX right where 35E and 35W become plain ol' I-35. We were on the road for just over 12 hours so we're pretty tired but we got a room with a whirlpool and we get to sleep late so we should be fine for the less than 3 hours of driving tomorrow. (I think - it's only 3.5 hours from Dallas to Austin, right?)


my bad
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-07-18 08:12:00
Tags: programming
Words: 69

After doing dinner (at the food court!) and Harry Potter last night (verdict: pretty good), I found a few horrendous bugs in Pretty Pictures. The upshot is that I think the scripts won't hang anymore, and breeding (which was horribly horribly wrong) seems to work better now. If you tried it yesterday and ran into problems, try it again (hitting Shift-Reload to make sure you get the new scripts).


Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-03-13 08:14:00
Tags: dreams music microresolution worldofwarcraft
Words: 705

It's weird leaving the apartment before my daily cron job runs...

So my latest project is taking data from the WoW armory and showing neat stuff with it. I'll probably put the public page up tomorrow. Microresolution: my next project will not be WoW-related.

Weird dream: I dreamt I had made a few friends and then I found out a friend was stealing them away from me (i.e. they weren't going to be my friend anymore). I was very upset about this and was ready to write a scathing LiveJournal post!

I've been listening to a lot of Avenue Q lately. My thoughts, after the cut:

At first, my favorites were the obvious ones - "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist", "The Internet Is For Porn", "Schadenfreude". After a few listens, I think my current favorites are "Mix Tape", "Schadenfreude", and "I Wish I Could Go Back to College". Here's why!

The Avenue Q Theme - cute little ditty. Does a good job of sounding like the Sesame Street without really "borrowing" any melodies.
What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?/It Sucks To Be Me - A nice peppy song. I like the little harmony part when they all start singing. The first "appearance" of Gary Coleman, whose stage representation has a really nice voice. I should take this opportunity to say that the Japanese character (don't know her name) has a really annoying voice. Ugh.
If You Were Gay - Rod's voice is a little bit off at the beginning. ("how can it get any better than this?") I do like the song because the comedy is done well, especially Rod's indignance. :-)
Purpose - I guess this is supposed to drive the plot a little, but this song is more or less boring. The guy's voice is reasonably nice, though.
Everyone's A Little Bit Racist - So I definitely like some of this song. The melody is nice, and I do like the message that perhaps we shoudl relax a little bit about race, and that no one's truly colorblind (a la Stephen Colbert's "I don't see race"). But it goes a little far (needlessly?) in kinda implying because of this, it's OK to tell racist jokes, make fun of people, etc, instead of maybe trying to make things better. See above re Japanese character's voice. Also, Gary Coleman saying "Whatchoo talking 'bout Kate?" is pretty funny.
The Internet Is For Porn - Cute song. I like Trekkie Monster. Kate's indignance is pulled off pretty well, too - her voice fits her character very well.
Mix Tape - I like this song a lot. The melodies going on in the background are very pretty (and catchy!), and the whole premise of the song (that you can tell if someone likes you by the songs they put on your mix tape) is pretty funny. "Fat Bottomed Girls" indeed!
I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today - Huh? Maybe this makes sense in context. At least it's short.
Special - Meh. Don't really like her voice.
You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love) - Funny. Again with liking Gary Coleman's voice. I should add I feel weird listening to this song at work :-)
Fantasies Come True - This song is...OK. It's really more sad than anything. Poor Rod...
My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada - Even though it follows the sad song, I can't help laughing. The frantic voice totally makes it! I like the way he says "Canada" too.
There's a Fine, Fine Line - Not bad. Voice is good.
There Is Life Outside Your Apartment - A cute song, but it doesn't quite click with me.
The More You Ruv Someone - hate hate hate skip
Schadenfreude - Funny, upbeat, and lots of Gary Coleman. What's not to love? I can put up with the meanness!
I Wish I Could Go Back to College - Really pretty song, and who hasn't wanted to go back to college at some point? Best song on the album, if just for the a capella section.
The Money Song - Cute song.
School for Monsters/The Money Song - It's OK. I do like Trekkie Monster.
a bunch of reprises - Not bad.
For Now - Good ending song. Everything is temporary!

I honestly forget the point of this. Oh well. The point is, good album.


Snickers ad pulled
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-02-06 15:41:00
Tags: activism
Words: 14

Snickers ad pulled. (as a followup to my earlier post) Good? Bad? I dunno.


Friday bridge math puzzle!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2007-01-19 08:19:00
Tags: bridge math
Words: 763

onefishclappin forwarded me this fascinating puzzle yesterday, and I thought "Ooh, I should figure this out", then started thinking about it, then went back to work for about 5 seconds, then gave up and worked it out (roughly). Here it is:

After you've dealt out a hand, are there more different legal ways to play out the hand, or more ways to bid the hand?

Here, only legal plays and bids are counted, so no bids or plays out of turn, insufficient bids, revokes, etc. Other than that, the plays or bids don't have to make any particular bridge sense, they just have to be legal.

There are few things I like better than a good combinatorics puzzle. Here's the analysis I sent her, along with some better numbers: (don't read if you want to try it yourself!)

My gut instinct was that there were more ways to play out the hand, so let's look at that first. It depends what the hands are (since you have to follow suit), but there are at most 13!^4 ways to do this, and you can achieve this is each player is dealt a full suit of cards (each player can play their cards in any order). The least number of ways would be if each person got a 4-3-3-3 distribution, and is something like (13!/(4!*3!*3!*3!))*(3!^4)^4 ((13!/(4!*3!*3!*3!) for the order the suits are played in, 3!^4 for the order of cards in a suit for each person, and the ^4 for all 4 suits). That's just an estimate, though: 13!^4 is definitely an upper bound.

The number of ways to bid is a little more tricky. If you're not familiar, there are 35 "normal" bids (1-7 in clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, and notrump) and the bids have to be in ascending order (or pass). If the other team bid, you can double, which means that they can then redouble, both of which are cancelled when a new "normal" bid is made. The bidding is ended by three passes.

My first analysis said that there are 2^35 choices for which bids are made along the way, and there are around 10 ways for transitioning from bid to bid (number of passes and doubles & redoubles), so that would give (2*10)^35. This isn't quite right, though: firstly there are 21 ways to transition between bids (see below for a list). More importantly, it's really the sum from i=0 to 35 of 4*(35 C i)*21^(i-1)*7, where i is the number of "normal" bids that are made (4 for number of passes at the beginning, 7 is the number of ways to go from the last bid to the end of the bidding). I think that's right (although the i=0 case is wrong; it should be 1, since the only way to have 0 bids is four passes). So, this is 1 + 28 * sum from i=1 to 35 of (35 C i)*21^(i-1). Hmm, not sure off the top of my head to simplify this, but a quick script to compute this gives 128745650347030683120231926111609371363122697557 (1.287*10^47), which is the answer that the sender of the email got and the answer found elsewhere too. So I got lucky that my initial estimate was fairly wrong in concept, it ends up being close to the same! (20^35 is 3.44*10^45)

And 13!^4 is "only" 1.5*10^39, so the answer is that there are one million times as many ways to bid a hand than to play it (and really, more than that for most usual hands). Fascinating problem - thanks onefishclappin!

List of bid transitions: this is the list of the 21 ways to get from one bid (B1) to the next bid (B2) while keeping the auction alive. p=pass, D=double, R=redouble. It took a few minutes to get these right!
B1 B2
B1 p B2
B1 p p B2
B1 D B2
B1 D p B2
B1 D p p B2
B1 p p D B2
B1 p p D p B2
B1 p p D p p B2
B1 D R B2
B1 D R p B2
B1 D R p p B2
B1 D p p R B2
B1 D p p R p B2
B1 D p p R p p B2
B1 p p D R B2
B1 p p D R p B2
B1 p p D R p p B2
B1 p p D p p R B2
B1 p p D p p R p B2
B1 p p D p p R p p B2

Update: a nice simplification of the number of auctions that doesn't require a script!


Good wii-kend
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-12-03 22:49:00
Tags: wii
Words: 229

...except for not actually getting a Wii. I got up at 6:45 this morning and went to my Target - they only had 3! Went to a different Target and they had 27 but I was 55 or so in line. I was pretty disappointed at first, but the electronics guy at Sears has been looking for one too and he was very Zen about it, which helped. Overall the people I've dealt with trying to get one have been very friendly. And there are always more on the way, and I have my list of phone numbers and when to call, etc., so I'm hoping soon will be my time.

David's sister was in town this weekend, so yesterday we saw the National Gallery of Art and walked around a ton to see the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and almost saw the White House Christmas tree (well, we saw it but it hasn't been officially lit yet). Took a lot of pictures, which will go up at some point. Today we took it easier - after church we went to Annapolis to eat and look around. Found a nice little pottery store as well as a bookstore/coffee shop before we had to drop her off at the airport. When we got home I took a much-needed nap and am back to feeling pretty decent.

1 comment

Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-11-08 23:15:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 14

Here, pictures: This gallery feels very fall foliage-y, while this one is more Baltimore-y.


/slap someone
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-10-15 00:01:00
Tags: politics
Words: 222

First of all, I love getting the Washington Post in the mornings - it's a quality newspaper!

This passage that I read this morning (from this article) made me want to punch someone, though:

At 7 p.m. Sunday, evangelical leaders including Perkins and Dobson plan to broadcast a 90-minute television special from a Boston church to hundreds of other churches across the country in an attempt to keep religious conservatives from sitting out the election.

Called "Liberty Sunday," it will "highlight specific cases and stories where people's religious liberties have been threatened because of homosexual activism and gay marriage in Massachusetts," said Family Research Council spokeswoman Bethanie Swendsen.

(emphasis added)

Oho, so people's religious liberties have been threatened because of gays gaining rights? I know it's a good strategy to portray your group as being oppressed, but firstly, gays aren't saying you can't practice Christianity. Actually, that wouldn't be threatening someone's personal liberty, but gays aren't lobbying for a law to be passed outlawing Christianity.

Also, for fun you can spin most of the civil rights advances of the last century in this way! Weren't white bigots's liberties being threatened when blacks wanted the right to vote? Or people who didn't want interracial couples to be able to marry?

(I was going to continue on in this vein, but you get the point)


some days, accomplishing anything is enough
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-09-08 00:30:00
Words: 893

So today was the appointed day to get my car Maryland safety-inspected (so I can get Maryland license plates). Got up and got to the shop at 9 (because I had been told to "drop it off in the morning"), where the guy told me I should have dropped it off at 8. Anyway, it would be done sometime in the afternoon, and no, they don't have a shuttle or anything (djedi's car isn't up here yet).

So, fine. I had planned for this eventuality. Went over to Starbucks and read Thinking in Java for a while. Tried a Green Tea Latte - ewww! The Starbucks green tea has a tendency to taste a little like grass, and apparently making it a latte really brought out the grass.

Got bored and antsy, so got up for lunch a little early (11:15ish). Walked over to Qdoba Mexican Grill which I had been meaning to try. When I walked, it's a good thing you can't be sued for similarity to an existing restaurant, because it looks a looot like Chipotle, even down to the metal bins the food is kept in and the line system. Except it's not as efficient because they offer more things that sometimes have to be done elsewhere. I ordered a chicken burrito and it kinda got lost or something - the guy never came back and people started going around me. I wasn't terribly impatient (what else did I have to do?), but it was sort of awkward, because I was looking at staff people, and it was clear something was wrong and that they didn't have the power to fix it. The manager or some sort of management person (it was clear because he was tall, loud, and obnoxious - kept talking in loud short Spanish phrases in a jocular way to the staff because, hey, it's a Mexican restaurant! Jerk) finally noticed when the line behind me emptied and ask whether I had been helped. I said, well, sorta, but my meal kinda disappeared, and he apologized, took my order, and gave me free chips and queso. The burrito was decent but nothing spectacular, and the chips (which had that same sort of salt that Chipotle uses!) and queso were fine, but definitely not worth the $3.25 I didn't pay for them :-)

After that, I called djedi and ended up sorta arguing over stupid crap that he was right about, then walked over to see how my car was doing. The guy was vagueish but it sounded like it hadn't even been looked at yet, and it would be done "around 3:30-4". Great. Anyway, back to Starbucks after walking around in the nice weather a little (but not too much; my stomach was bothering me a little off and on from drinking too much Starbucks). After not too long, got a call saying that my car needed the rear brakes tightened and the alignment redone, both of which had been done right before we left on our trip here. Sigh, fine, whatever, just make it pass (this put the bill over $200 - just the inspection alone would have been $80!). Sat inside for a while, then outside for a while, then walked around some more when my brain was going to explode (the book is not exactly light reading).

Around 3:45 or so I went over to wait in the waiting room just to make sure I didn't miss the phone call or something like that. Sat down, and "Oprah" was just coming on after "Dr. Phil". It was a big episode because it was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's first interview together as a couple, or something like that. The audience showed their appreciation by screaming a lot. Great. Wandered around a little outside and called djedi again to see how things were going back at the ranch (they were going OKish). The same guy I talked to in the morning and the afternoon was at the counter when I walked back in and said that only the alignment was left to be done. Super.

Sat back down and read some more, nearly finishing the book by skipping a lot about concurrency. Heard a lot of campaign ads (I think the primaries are this coming Tuesday). So the current mayor of Baltimore (O'Malley, a Democrat) is running for governor against the current one (Ehrlich, a Republican). Ehrlich ran an ad criticizing O'Malley for bad Baltimore schools. But he's the governor - isn't he to blame too? It reminded me of the Simpsons where Sideshow Bob aired an ad saying Mayor Quimby was soft on crime because he let Sideshow Bob out of jail :-) Also, it was neat to see so many Democratic ads (maybe only the Democratic primary is Tuesday? But I thought they were always on the same day...), and all of them were anti-war, anti-Bush.

Anyway, I keep reading, Tim McGraw (who is cute) makes chicken and dumplings, and I finish my book right about the time my car is done - 5:15. I'm friendly to the guy who checks me out, but I'm really just tired and frustrated with the world.

Luckily the evening was better, although I caused an almost wipe in WoW that I shouldn't have. Hoping tomorrow is way more productive, although given that it will likely involve the DMV, I'm guessing not so much.


it's only wednesday??
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-07-19 10:18:00
Tags: music links
Words: 127

I was gonna save these until Friday, but I'm tired and bored (waiting for a looong compile) now.

Christopher Tin composed the opening Civ4 music (there are more nice samples of his compositions), and when I read that I thought it was the same guy who did the music for Futurama. Turns out that's Christopher close!

Ken Lay was compared to Martin Luther King, James Byrd (black man lynched in Texas), and Jesus himself at his funeral. I understand respect for the dead, but this is ridiculous.

Daily Show segment on Mr. T - I love Mr. T!

Sound files created with pirated software shipped with Windows XP.

AOL Retention Manual - a followup to the story of the guy trying desperately to cancel his AOL account.

1 comment

rehearsal me tired
Mood: tired
Music: Stanford Talisman A Capella - "Baba Yetu"
Posted on 2006-07-17 09:33:00
Tags: dreams music civilization4
Words: 482

So I got back in to Civilization 4 this weekend. My current goal is to win on Warlord (difficulty level 3 of 9). The last game I started like a week ago was going great, I was way ahead in tech (as usual) and had fought off a few skirmishes, when my next door neighbor totally started laying the smackdown on my fair England. He was about to take London when I stopped, and although I tried to load that game to see it through to the bitter end, it seemed to not load for some reason. Although I can't say I tried too hard.

So, new game! I decided to go for a military victory, which I never never do, just for the novelty of it. So I played as Genghis Khan of Mongolia, and started pumping out military units pretty early. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so I "nailed" my next door neighbor America (who totally had it coming even though they didn't do anything to me :-) ). I wiped them out and now have a large part of a continent to myself (I foolishly let two other civs have a few cities in what should be my territory, so I'm trying to take them out culturally...we'll see). The weird part is, despite my pumping out Knights and Longbowmen and Cavalry like nobody's business, I'm still (barely) ahead in tech as well, which means things are looking good! I have the highest score, and France has the next-highest score, which means I'm gearing up for war with them. The problem is that I just got the tech for some good naval units, so I'm getting ready to bombard their cities and land troops on their continent. Anyway, I'm having a blast :-)

Interesting sidenote - both djedi and I love the opening music, and I found some information about it (yay Wikipedia!) - it was performed by a Stanford a capella group (although they're not a capella for this version), and the game stores it in .mp3 format, so I'm gonna add it to my iPod next chance I get. It's also available online, and I'd highly recommend giving it a listen. Might pick up one of their CDs sometime...

So I dreamed I was at Rice, although not back in school there. The US was having a big meeting with North Korea and it took place at Rice (kinda like when Rice hosted the G8 summit). Apparently various Rice student groups were performing for a big audience, I think it was on the academic quad. Anyway, the Phils were there, and they sang a love song while surrounding Kim Jong-il's wife. I thought this was a very very bad idea, but he and his entourage just sat there, not really reacting or anything.

Edit: Wow, we're moving to the fourth best place to live in the country. Neat!


fun with juries!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-07-12 12:28:00
Tags: essay jury
Words: 1130

So I was called for jury duty on Monday for the first time, so I was pretty excited about it.
A diagram of the courtroom

My notice said to be there at 8:30, so I left home around 7:45 just to be on the safe side (since it was downtown, which I never go to in the morning). After sitting around outside the courtroom for a little while, they let us in around 8:15. At that point there were around 25 of us sitting in the observer's area (surely there's another name for this, but I can't think of what it is...). There was a guy with gray hair sitting between the witness stand and the judge's bench for a while fiddilng with things - at first I thought he was the judge, but it was not to be. More potential jurors started trickling in, and we saw the woman who was later revealed to be the bailiff setting out styrofoam cups for people, distributing papers and whatnot. She seemed pretty on top of things.

We also saw the attorneys come in and out a little. (I thought the defense table was always closer to the jury, but I was wrong wrong wrong) Around 8:35 the guy with gray hair (who was the court reporter) came up to us and sat us in order. There were 60 people total (although 2 arrived after this). I was seated at the end of the second row, #24. I figured the odds were against my getting on the jury, but it wasn't entirely out of the question. While we were being seated, the attorneys showed up and so did the defendant (who entered by the door right next to the defense table). He was an older guy, maybe in his 50s, and looked fairly composed, talking with his two attorneys some.

Then the judge entered. He talked to us for quite a while (20 minutes or so), and he was a bit...quirky (he said he had been a judge for 30 years and was going to retire soon). He showed us the indictment and asked us why it was pink. Of course, nobody knew, and he said he didn't know either, and they're different colors different places in Texas. Whee! He also extolled the virtues of the jury room, which he said had a microwave and refrigerator, a nice view of downtown and the Capitol building, and a big TV with cable and all the premium channels. He told us not to talk to anyone involved in the case ("casual greetings" were OK), and told us what the charge was: a convicted felon possessing a firearm less than 5 years after the end of the felony sentence (jail, probation, or parole). It didn't seem like a terribly complicated case, and he said it should wrap up on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. At this point I reaaally wanted to be chosen - it sounded neat and it would only be a few days anyway :-)

After this the prosecution began their jury selection questioning. The attorney seemed pleasant enough, and she talked a lot about the law and the general process and whatnot. Her style was to basically say something about the law, then call on one or two people by name and ask if they agree. Some things she asked:

Those are the ones I remember, anyway. During this the judge was looking at a computer screen - dunno if it was court-related business or not, but I would have expected him to pay closer attention since (I assume) he can strike jurors like the prosecution and defense can.

After she was done (about an hour), it was 10:00 and we got a 15 minute recess.

Then it was the defense's turn. When I had seen the main defense lawyer before, for some reason I idly wondered whether he was court-appointed. If he was, I would be extremely impressed, as he was exceedingly thorough. He talked for a little at first, then talked to people in the jury. He seemed to have information on who were lawyers, who had served on juries before, and who had relatives in the police department, and he asked all of these people specifically about these. ("So, Mr. Smith, your brother-in-law is a police officer?") After that he asked the first 40 people some of the following questions:

I'm not even sure he cared too much about the answers - the effect of hearing these questions over and over for an hour and a half was enough to make me doubt anything :-)

After he was finally finished, the attorneys left out the entrance nearest the jury box and the judge talked to us for a while about parking and parking tickets and how he could probably get our parking ticket dismissed if we parked somewhere illegally today (or didn't feed the parking meter). Also, if we didn't want our money for serving we had to fill out a form saying where to direct the money. And when we get our check, cash it quickly so the county doesn't run out of money (!).

Anyway, the attorneys came back in and the moment of truth was at hand! They started calling names, and I saw the picked the first three people, which didn't look good for me. But then they skipped a few, and then skipped some more, but the last person they ended up with was #22. Sooo close!



aren't you supposed to be well-rested after a long weekend?
Mood: tired
Music: Ragtime - "Justice"
Posted on 2006-07-05 12:42:00
Tags: links
Words: 141

Apparently, no. Here are some links I found to keep me awake...

The Urban Etiquette Handbook - this is great! And entertaining to boot. My favorite page is the one with proper cell phone conduct and the four levels of iPod interaction.

Infared photo gallery of nature. The fact that the trees are white gives it an otherworldly kind of feel.

11 "Don't-Tell-the-Wife" Secrets All Men Keep - this is mildly entertaining and somewhat true (Secret #1: Yes, we fall in lust 10 times a day -- but it doesn't mean we want to leave you). Mostly applies to gay men too, just so we're clear :-)

CIA: Osama Helped Bush in '04. The website doesn't look horribly...reliable? But it was always pretty clear that the bin Ladin tape released four days before the election helped Bush, and the article suggests this was his intention.

1 comment

Happy Easter!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-04-17 00:14:00
Tags: pictures ruby
Words: 73

Happy Easter, all! I took some pictures of an Easter get-together at destroyerj's place.

Also, I'm learning Ruby to work on a LiveJournal archiving project of mine, and Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby is easily the weirdest, most bizarre programming tutorial I've ever seen, or expect to see. Even if you don't want to learn Ruby, I'd recommend skimming through it (and the pictures), and then wondering how Ruby relates to cartoon foxes.


Mood: tired
Location: home
Posted on 2006-04-07 22:53:00
Words: 40

Woof, I'm tired. Kyle and I got third place in Robolab, though (within 15 points from second place...)

If you're constantly forgetting whether you're logged in or not (like me!), check out the new Navigation Strip (sample picture). It's neat!

1 comment

willpower over moodpower
Mood: tired
Location: 11500 N Mo-Pac Expy, Austin, TX 78731
Posted on 2006-04-04 08:58:00
Tags: google maps weight robolab challenge
Words: 372

So I went to bed last night tired, cranky and irritable. And I woke up tired, cranky and irritable. And then at some point (maybe in the shower) I decided that was crap. So now I'm tired, but not as cranky or irritable :-)

Google Maps just updated their API to version 2 (here's an upgrade guide from version 1). I upgraded my google map to use the new API. The only visible difference is now you can zoom in two levels closer on the satellite or hybrid views (as close as you can in Google Earth), to really give you that "whoa, that's creepy!" feeling. The irritating news is that now map coordinates have to be given in a GLatLng structure, which constructor takes the latitude and longitude in the opposite order as before. So now I have to spend a while rewriting the dental site to flip all those arguments - ugh! Why didn't they get this right in the first place?

Last week I gained a fair bit of weight for two weeks. This week, apparently, I lost that weight and .8 pounds more to boot. I'm both happy and suspicious of the scale.

Tom DeLay's resigning! Wow. Given that a former aide of his pleaded guilty to corruption a few days ago and said he'd cooperate with prosecutors, I'm guessing he's going to be found guilty (eventually), or at least he thinks he's going to be found guilty. This is good news for Texas!

This Thursday and Friday (and Saturday morning) is NI's annual technical conference, NITech. Kyle and I are doing the robolab challenge again (see LJ entries from last year's). Things are going pretty well (and we're both busy, so not gonna work on it as much) - we got programs going Sunday afternoon and last night we put them together and did some trial runs which went, on the whole, pretty well. (unfortunately that meant I had to miss game night hosted at my place...) The competition is Friday evening at 6 PM at NI, and it should last around an hour, if anyone's interested in coming :-)

Work is stressful. I need to do a better job at not getting stressed at work. Any suggestions would be welcomed.


early morning post!
Mood: tired
Music: Greg Edmonson - "Firefly - Main Title"
Posted on 2006-01-18 08:20:00
Words: 235

Oof, it's early. And to think I used to get in to work so early regularly...

My mom is in town, so I did breakfast with her (hence the earliness). I had a productive night - took care of a bunch of odds and ends, and I made a breakthrough on my planned WoW mod. The most important part was the name - I came up with the gem "GwyddenTelMod", which I think I'll stick with (the name of our guild is "Gwydden Telaid", which means "Beautiful Trees" (or something close) in Welsh). Anyway, I can save guild data and parse it in Python, so now I just need some code to generate an HTML page and some way to automate the uploading somehow. But those are less difficult than what I've already done. Woohoo!

Mmm...good music (see above, or below if your friends page is different from mine!)

If you're a friend of fairydust1, you can add fairydust1blog to your friends list, and there will be a post there every time she posts on her "real" blog. The first time it ran it picked up all of the posts, but that shouldn't happen anymore, hopefully.

There's a neat hip-hop mashup of the Darth Vader theme video thing. As seen on jwz, who I've friended (he's Jamie Zawinski, who was an original hacker on Netscape back in the day, and his home page has some interesting rants).


file extension!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2005-10-14 23:29:00
Tags: quiz
Words: 37

Thanks to abstractseaweed!

src="" width="300" height="90"
border="0" alt="You are .mpg You live life like it was a movie. Constantly in motion, you bring pleasure to many, but are often hidden away.">
Which File Extension are You?


Long week. Also, long next week.
Mood: tired
Music: The Killers - "Mr. Brightside"
Posted on 2005-08-26 14:01:00
Tags: charlottesweb worldofwarcraft
Words: 293

Rehearsals for "Charlotte's Web" are going pretty well, in that I'm surviving them. Actually our runthroughs are getting cleaner (sidenote: it's really annoying not to be able to tell how I'm doing until it's done and Ron tells us how we did. I wish I could know whether things are going well or not (I can guess, but I'm mostly not terribly right) during the show), and I'm 95% there on my lines (mostly now is remembering which goes where, and the occasional missed cue). Having rehearsal every night gets tiring, though. Luckily no rehearsals this weekend, and (I'm big on the HTML tags today, I guess) no rehearsal next Thursday! Hooray! Unfortunately we do have tech rehearsals Saturday and Sunday of next weekend, which is a huge bummer because that weekend is already crazy busy with random stuff. *sigh*

Once rehearsals are done, I'll enjoy WoW more - I'm enjoying it now, but I'm always having to catch up with people, and I'm making djedi take me back through my old quests since I can't solo very well, being a priest and all. I do like the whole guild thing, though.

I tried out Google Talk, and I'm not really impressed, although the sort of integration with Gmail is kinda nice.

Hopefully I'll get rid of my backlog of pictures to post this weekend, including ASMC pictures. But no promises!

Work is going decently well...but since I have 6:30 rehearsals all week, I have to leave a little on the early side to make it there on time (and they're much more strict about getting there on time than ASMC; that is, you will be admonished (that's a word, right? I'm tired...) for being late). So I just need to get more done.


quick post
Mood: tired
Music: "The Tick" background music
Posted on 2005-08-23 22:42:00
Tags: pictures charlottesweb
Words: 153

I put up pictures from my family's Father's Day trip to Lake Conroe. Does anyone have problems loading my gallery in Firefox? Because I do (it takes a really long time and sometimes the pictures never load), and I thought it was my webserver, but I just tried it in Konqueror and it worked fine. So maybe it's just on my computer or something. Anyway... (Edit: the weird thing is that it seems to work in Firefox when I click on a link to it - it doesn't when I type in the address directly. *confused*)

Charlotte's Web rehearsals are going pretty well, although they are quite tiring. I mostly know my I need to learn blocking and whatnot. And work was really stressful today - lots of interruptions and stuff so I never got a good flow going, although I did accomplish a few things. Oh well - I'm sure tomorrow will be better.


back home, finally
Mood: tired
Music: some sort of tired music or something
Posted on 2005-08-17 22:26:00
Tags: travel charlottesweb
Words: 1039

I'm back in Austin!

So I left on Friday afternoon to go up north and see my family. Unfortunately my flight out of Austin (to Cincinnati) was delayed an hour or so, but since I was going to have a three hour layover in Cincinnati, no biggie. Ate dinner in what is possibly the most depressing airport concourse in America (Cincinnati terminal 3 concourse be fair, it was under construction, but it was all concrete and harsh lighting. Yuk!), then went on to Burlington (after a 15-minute delay or so). Got in around midnight and made it to Plattsburgh around 1 and promptly fell asleep.

Saturday and Sunday were spent cleaning and packing stuff up. Maybe I should back up. My grandparents (on my mom's side) have lived in Plattsburgh (upstate NY) for 50 years or so, but they're going to move to live in Hanover, NH (in the summer) and Houston (in the winter). There are a number of reasons for this, the most important being that it's getting harder for my grandma to get up stairs (the bedrooms are upstairs), and this way they'll get to be closer to their kids (my Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Barrett live in Hanover). So, this was all planned and stuff - then my grandma fell and had to get pins in her hip. So now she's in a rehab center in Hanover (more on this later). So, us plus Grandpa went to clean and move stuff to Hanover, except that we didn't know what stuff to keep and what to get rid of, etc, since a lot of it is Grandma's.

Anyway, so we drove to Hanover on Sunday via Burlington (dropping my dad off at the airport so he could go home) and Waterbury (where the Ben and Jerry factory is! Mmm...). We visited Grandma before getting to the condo - she's doing quite well, her physical therapy is going well and her spirits seemed relatively high. Then we unloaded and unpacked. Monday and Tuesday we spent visiting Grandma and Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Barrett and their children (our cousins, for those of you keeping score at home) Ethan and Chloe. That was fun.

Then, Tuesday, time to leave. Everyone else's flight left at 2:15ish and mine left at 5:15ish, so I hunkered down for a long stay at the airport - finished a few books and learned some more lines. Then, the flight was delayed two hours (this means six hours at the Burlington airport, which, while not as depressing as the Cleveland concourse, is extremely boring. The only "shop" inside security was a snack cart, from which I bought trail mix and a cinnamon roll), and we finally left. I was told that my Cincinnati-Austin flight was delayed 20 minutes, so I might just make it if things went well. We were a little later getting into Cincinnati than we had predicted, things did not go well, and I spent the night in Cincinnati.

Which, I used to always sort of want to happen, being an adventure and such. But I was really tired by this point, and disoriented (Cincinnati is in the Eastern time zone, fyi), so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. Plus, the flight they put me on the next morning was scheduled to leave at 8:53, and they asked me when I checked in what time I wanted to take the shuttle in, and I didn't know if they had breakfast or not so I said 7:00 to be sure I had enough time. Which meant I had to get up at 6:30, and they did in fact have a nice continental breakfast there, waffles included. Oh well. The room was quite nice - it was actually a suite with refrigerator, couch, and 2 TVs (I have pictures!) but I just watched a few episodes of Law & Order, took a sorely needed shower, and went to bed.

Next day! (i.e. today, or at least today when I started this entry...) Got up, was exhausted but made the shuttle no problem. This flight was a "true" Delta flight and not a Delta Connections thing, so I got to go to terminal 3, concourse B which was a very nice concourse. So I walked around it some, then sat down and read and waited for my flight. Unfortunately, it was...wait for it...delayed due to fog. (for the record, all 4 flights I went on, plus the one I was scheduled for and didn't go on, were delayed) Anyway, it left about an hour and 15 minutes late, and destroyerj was nice enough to pick me up (and got a speeding ticket on the way back, for which I felt bad).

So I get home by way of Wendy's (mmm!), and got home. At this point I knew that I had to work the booth at NIWeek from 4-7 and that I had Charlotte's Web rehearsal from 6:30-9:30 (so I would be late to rehearsal, and probably not get dinner in there), so I hurried and tried to find an electric razor so I could shave (there's another story in there, but it's uninteresting), and failed. Then I checked my email: hallelujah, Charlotte's Web rehearsal cancelled! Woohoo!

But I showered and went down to NIWeek, worked the booth which went fine, then came back here by way of NI (drove a coworker there) and Chick-Fil-A. My main task for tonight was to try to install Win98 and WoW (and Skype) so I could be ready with that (since I'm not having much luck making WoW work under Linux). Fiddling around with the hard drives took much longer than I thought, but I eventually got things set up and Win98 partially installed, only to have it reboot when it tries to finish the install. Whee. So now I'm working on XP. This stuff is gonna work, dang it!

This entry is getting long, so I'm gonna wind it down. Which is convenient, because I'm about out of things to say. djedi gets home tmw, which'll be nice. And I'm doing pretty well learning my Charlotte's Web lines, which is good since we're supposed to be off-book by Monday, which means some work is required this weekend.


quick referrer fun
Mood: tired
Music: Rio de Janeiro music
Posted on 2005-07-19 23:35:00
Tags: referrer
Words: 93

Before I head to bed, a few fun referrers:

- If you search for Scary Clown Gallery on, you get a picture of me in ASMC. At least this query makes sense!

Dang! The other two have changed - I guess Yahoo! reindexed recently (the search terms were PHOTOS WEIRD LOOKING WOMAN and CARTOON PHOTOS OF SAILORS). I really have no idea how my gallery got on there...

Oh well. Another common one I get a fair bit is pictures of sinkholes on Yahoo, which leads to a a picture of Old Wiess. Heh.


And now I am smart...I mean tired
Mood: tired
Music: nothin' right now
Posted on 2005-06-22 15:10:00
Tags: python challenge allergies sleep
Words: 190

So I found myself unable to get to sleep last night after I was in bed. I think it was a combination of being wrapped up in a small computer project right before bed and having a lot of caffeine (although I had finished my last coke by 8 or so, which I thought was OK since I didn't end up going to bed until midnight). And my throat was bothering me, as it has been for the last two weeks because of allergies. Ugh.

I got up, drank some water (which helped the throat) and worked another level of the Python Challenge (I'm up to level 4...), which is a lot of fun if you like programming (and Python :-) ). That was enough to get me back to sleep a bit later. So I'm tired today, but it isn't as bad as I thought it was gonna be.

Work's going pretty well - I'm on track to finish my project by the end of the week. Unfortunately testing has brought to light some unrelated issues that I may or may not be responsible for. We'll see!

(more evangelization next time...)


Oh, fine...
Mood: tired
Music: nothing yet!
Posted on 2005-06-15 08:57:00
Words: 8

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

1 comment

off-day recap
Mood: tired
Music: Cirque music (IMH)
Posted on 2005-06-02 01:19:00
Tags: disneyworld
Words: 421

Howdy all! It's late and I'm tired, so here's a quick recap!

So we got going a bit later than we wanted to this morning, and after some false starts (why why why don't all interstates have feeders??? why?) we made it to Pirate's Cove minigolf, when the rain that had been falling since we left picked up and we decided minigolf was not going to work today. Perhaps on Friday. So we went to our backup plan and went to the Morse Museum, which had some really neat and amazing glass works of Louis Comfort Tiffany (and a few other artists) - there were paintings of his too, but the glass works were the really impressive part. Before that, we stopped at a cafe and had lunch, and I was good and didn't have an enormous cookie that looked really really good (by this point, it had about stopped raining)

After that, we went to WonderWorks, which is...well, it's a little hard to describe. It has a lot of fun and educational things for kids to do, and most of the fun stuff was fun for us, too! We experienced winds that approached hurricane strength (65 mph), made giant bubbles, I landed the Space Shuttle, and stuff like that. And we played a game of Laser Tag at the end, too! We then headed for dinner at Pebbles Island Grill, which was decent but probably not worth the price. Stopped by the room to change and then walked to Downtown Disney (a bunch of shops and stuff that we'll see more of tomorrow) to the far end to see the Cirque du Soleil show "La Nouba". I've never seen a Cirque show before, and it was really amazing (which is good, because the tickets were a bit pricey). Lots of crazy crazy acrobatics, people spinning in wheels, people climbing up walls (done by gaining momentum on trampolines), neato trapeze stuff, guy riding a bicycle on a tightrope upside get the idea. It was a very cool show, and I bought a CD afterwards. Walking back to the hotel, we got some ice cream...mmm...and then did some midnightish swimming.

That wasn't so quick. Anyway, we're going to the Animal Kingdom (another Disney park) tomorrow, followed by dinner at Seasons 52 (hopefully) and then Pleasure Island (which is an island inside Downtown Disney with clubs and bars and stuff) and probably general Downtown Disney stuff, too.

And I saw in the local paper that Deep Throat was revealed today. Read about it! :-)


today. Also, last night.
Mood: tired
Music: people conversing
Posted on 2005-04-07 22:51:00
Tags: robolab challenge
Words: 243

First things first. West Wing was good!
So, good episode...really the last few episodes were good. I'm glad Santos won, and the addition of Baker was a nice surprise. As for the big surprise (Leo for VP), at first it made sense, but now...I dunno. I mean, he doesn't add anything electorally (chief of staff is not an impressive position, electorally), and his health problems would raise serious red flags for me. The real race should be interesting, especially since they're really setting both candidates up as "good guys".

Props for Jonathan - he noted at the beginning of the episode that of all the primary candidates, we've only seen Santos's wife.

So, still tired and stuff. Robolab went well tonight - there were some minor snags, but I think things will go well tomorrow. Today and tomorrow is a technical conference, so I was in sessions all day, which was kinda neat, but meant I was at work for 14 hours, and doing actual work for none of it. Which was weird!

Hmm. I'm out of things to say I guess. Hopefully things will go well tomorrow, and I will be able to relax some. Not that I should be stressed about this. But I have some new ideas to try at work, so hopefully that will help.

Happy Birthday, onefishclappin! Some people (including wildrice13 and onefishclappin) are over talking and stuff, but I need to go to bed - bright and early tomorrow! *sigh*


On sleep, and lack of it
Mood: tired
Music: Maroon 5, "She Will Be Loved"
Posted on 2005-01-11 09:22:00
Words: 328

I got 5 hours of sleep last night.

In college, this wouldn't be noteworthy at all - 5 hours was fairly
reasonable for those days, and that was OK.  Of course, that meant
it took an effort to keep me awake, especially during classes, whereas
nowadays I can stay awake even in boring meetings.

I don't mind being low on sleep if I've done something to enjoy myself
instead - programming, video games, etc.  But last night pretty
much sucked.

I've had bad allergies off and on for the last few weeks, roughly
correlating to the times when I went back home to Houston.  I
should probably go to the doctor to see what the deal is - I've had
allergies before, but not this bad.

Anyway, so I lie down last night, and my nose is stuffed up (big
surprise there).  I had just taken a nose spray to clear it up,
but that made stuff start to drain in my throat, which means I was
mostly coughing or trying to not cough, neither of which is conducive
to sleeping.  So after a bit of this, I got up, drunk some water,
and played on my computer some (sitting up always tends to help).

After a while, I went back to bed.  Unfortunately, I had drunk so
much water that I had to pee.  By this point I was actually pretty
tired (another difference from college - never had trouble getting to
sleep in college, because once I lay down, I was exhausted!), but I
couldn't quite get to sleep, and I really didn't feel like getting up
again.  Eventually, though, I gave up and got
up to pee, and drunk some more water (but not so much this time!) to
help my throat.  Then I got back in bed, propped up my pillows
against the wall (to make my head more vertical), and eventually got to
sleep, somewhere around 2:30.

So I'm tired today, for no good reason.  Ick.


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