homophobic Super Bowl ad
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2007-02-05 09:25:00
Tags: activism
Words: 337

I know that's a somewhat strong accusation, but I think it's justified in this case. I'm talking about the Snickers ad shown during the first quarter.

Here's the synopsis: Two guys working on car with open hood. One guy pulls out a Snickers bar, sticks it in his mouth, and starts to eat it as he leans over the open hood. Other guy sees this, puts other end of the bar in his mouth and starts to eat it. They meet at the middle (a la "Lady and the Tramp"), then recoil after a brief pause. They then discuss how they just kissed, and one says "Quick! Do something manly!", they they pull out some of their chest hair. The End. Or, an AP synopsis:

BEST AD FOR A LOUD BAR: Snickers. In this spot from Mars Inc., two auto mechanics accidentally kiss after being unable to resist chomping on opposite ends of a Snickers bar. The cure for this inadvertent moment of intimacy? "Do something manly!" says one. Both proceed to rip out handfuls of chest hair.

You can see the ad at afterthekiss.com, which features four different endings. ("Chest Hair" is the one that aired during the Super Bowl)

I'll admit, the endings are a little funny - I'm reminded of the Futurama episode "Amazon Women in the Mood" which featured Bender, Fry and Zapp Branigan making a number of women jokes. In the commentary, the writers said that they decided it was OK because after every single one of them, the joke-teller got physically hurt somehow, which sorta reminds me of this ad. But seriously, come on. Two guys kissing is a horrible accident that must be rectified by a super-manly act?

So, screw you, Mars, Incorporated. I will write an angry email soon. I'm surprised GLAAD isn't on the case already...

Edit: I may have misinterpreted the ad, as others are suggested it was meant to be mocking of homophobic attitudes. If that is the case, sorry for getting all riled up for nothing.


Done and done...and I mean done!
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2007-02-05 08:54:00
Tags: microresolution
Words: 208

My most recently expiring microresolution was to make 5 hand copies of the letter and put up wedding pictures. Success! I wrote the five copies over the weekend (while watching "Heroes" and the Super Bowl), and the letter still seems good (mostly because there's no way I'm writing it another five times!) Next up - getting addresses for people (wonderjess, can you help when you get a chance? It's not too immediate or anything...) and such. I also put up Leigh Ann's wedding pictures (I took more than 100, so this took a bit longer than I had thought) and I just need to let djedi's family know. Many of the pictures didn't turn out that great due to lighting conditions and my poor timing, but I did the best I could. I also installed a "Shopping Cart" module to my gallery, so you can select an album or a bunch of pictures and download them as a zip file for your convenience.

My auctioneer microresolution is also coming along nicely - it returns basic data and I just need to add the more detailed statistics, which looks like it shouldn't be too hard. (the data's in mostly the same format, just the names have changed...perhaps to protect the innocent?)


Heroes ARG!
Mood: curious
Posted on 2007-02-03 09:50:00
Tags: heroes arg
Words: 445

So djedi and I watched the last two episodes of Heroes last night - good stuff! After they were done I stumbled across the new ARG (Alternate Reality Game, like the Lost Experience that I messed around with this summer). I got the hint from the show - go to primatechpaper.com to see. Behind the cut I'll list the progress I made last night. Spoiler alert!

So you go to primatechpaper.com and look around a little. Do y'all see the "call 1-800-PRIMA16" or text "PAPER" to 46622? I didn't see that at first, or something. (1-800-PRIMA16 was also on the show) Anyway, if you don't see that you can go to the careers page and there's an invitation code it asks for. I don't know what that code is (the guy said he wrote it on the back of the card for Mohinder, I think), but you can look at the javascript and see it's just going to send you to www.primatechpaper.com/jobs, which is at what point I first saw the call/text message text.

So I haven't called the number, but I did send a text message, and it told me to go to www.primatechpaper.com/wap, which I did on my normal web browser. There's a place on there to enter your name and phone number, which I haven't done, but you can also click on the logo off of the "About Us" page which leads to this text:

I'm in and u shud b 2 Go online to Primatechpaper.com when you get home. Find helix on About Us page. Username: bennet Password: claire. Get to know them thru me. HGghx11a. Talk again soon

So, OK. I did that (the helix is in the company logo) and logged in and it brings up this neato Assignment Tracker, under which there seem to be silhouettes of one girl and three guys. Clicking on any of the pages asks for another login, and when you fail, it says:
You have attempted to access a page
that you are not authorized to view.
Your IP address has been noted.

Future attempts to access may result in legal action.

But that's not your IP address! So, you can go to and get the following cryptic thing:
Invalid URL
The requested URL "/", is invalid.

Reference #9.b528acf.1170479141.0

That's where I ran out of time. So we have this reference number, and the string "HGghx11a" from Claire's message that might be used as usernames/passwords somewhere. I'll investigate more after dodgeball and such.

Edit: Aha! If you click on the top silhouette (Claire?) and use username: bennet password: HGghx11a you can see a profile of someone new. I really have to run though.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My subconscious hates Macs
Mood: focused
Music: Radiohead - "No Surprises"
Posted on 2007-01-31 16:54:00
Tags: dreams
Words: 50

Riffing on the dream thing (is this a meme? discuss amongst yourselves), I've had two dreams in the last four months or so in which myself and a few others were being threatened by Steve Jobs and he was generally a really really bad guy.

So what does that mean?


Public service announcements
Mood: excited
Posted on 2007-01-29 08:55:00
Tags: wedding
Words: 185

(or, "If everyone knew these things I think the world would be a slightly better place")

1) Some airports these days have cell phone lots, which is a convenient place to wait in one's car for the person you're picking up to call you. This way you don't have to circle the airport endlessly if you get there early (wasting gas and clogging up traffic), nor pay for parking. BWI has one, as does IAH in Houston. A short article with a comparison of some cell phone lots.

2) There is a one-time tax credit available this year (for overpayment of that federal excise tax that's been on your phone bill for forever). You don't have to itemize or provide receipts, just take the IRS standard amount. Info from the IRS site - don't miss out on an easy $30!

The wedding this weekend went well - it was a lot of work and I was totally exhausted by the end of it, but no major mishaps or anything like that. I have pictures that I'll put up before the end of the century.

Also, I'm engaged!


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

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

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

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

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

1 comment

Mood: excited
Music: The Slip - "Airplane/Primitive"
Posted on 2007-01-22 10:04:00
Tags: music snow
Words: 131

It finally snowed here!! Started falling around 3 yesterday and continued until dark. We went outside for a few minutes and played in it. It was really pretty :-) No work cancellation, but some school districts did today. The drive in to work was fine, albeit a little slower than usual.

I'd like to get holiday pictures up soon, but I'm not sure it's gonna happen.

I feel borderline ridiculous about this, since they were hot in the 90s and I missed them completely, but I really like Radiohead. "OK Computer" is awesome and I might just pick up "The Bends" per y'all's recommendation. This weekend I bought a CD by The Slip ("Even Rats" was a bonus track on Guitar Hero 1 that I loved) and so far it's sounding good.


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

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

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

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

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


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!


A series of unusual dodgeball games
Mood: content
Posted on 2007-01-13 23:01:00
Tags: dodgeball
Words: 573

Saturday is dodgeball day! We had the late shift today, which means I didn't have to show up until 11. We only had six people, which means all of us would be playing every game, which is kinda tiring. The first team we played only had six people as well, so at least it was fair. We hadn't played them before, and we lost the first game as usual. But then something unusual happened (read: unprecedented): we won three games in a row! I got the last person out in two of them (one by throwing, one by catching) and was generally on fire when it game to catching balls. They didn't throw balls too hard so it was just a matter of being alert and going for it. After a few more games we were up 5 games to 3 with 4 minutes left (which is time enough for around two games). We won the next game, which virtually ensured our victory. (hurrah!) The last game, I threw a stinger which wasn't aimed downward like it was supposed to and hit this guy square in the face (he wasn't looking). I was out for a headshot, and felt pretty bad about it. He looked OK afterwards, though (and they won that game so I felt a little better). Anyway, that was our first "real" victory (we won a forfeit when the other team only had 5 players...we played unofficially 6 on 5 and they beat us :-) ), so that was nice.

The next game was odd. We had played the other team before and they had beaten us pretty bad (I think we won one game against them). Before they came in our captain told us that there had been some kinda incident in the earlier game they had played (he didn't know what it was) and so they were upset or something, and the head ref was going to come in and ref our game. Well, OK. So then the team came in and the head ref came in and they were clearly arguing about something. And they continued to argue for like 5 minutes, and we still didn't know what was going on and just wanted to play a nice friendly game of dodgeball. We played for a couple of games and they won all of them, and then started to act strange. Like beating us to the balls on the rush but then rolling them to us. In one game, one guy sat down on the floor for a while. After that game, the head ref started yelling at them again and they argued for a little while longer. Apparently the earlier conversation had been about how they thrown too hard and left marks on people (girls especially?) and that they were too aggressive, or something. I'm still not entirely sure what the deal was, but it made the whole game fairly tense. After that they went back to their previous style, and they throw pretty darn hard. They ended up winning 9-0 and argued some more as we left. Meh.

We had some people over to watch the Ravens game. It was fun! (despite the Ravens' loss, in a game that featured no touchdowns. Whee.) We played some games after that, including some Wii and Tsuro. And I've almost finished one of the projects I microresolutioned about - just need to test the Windows version. And still a 3-day weekend!


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

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

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

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

Go Ravens!


David Beckham to play in US!!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2007-01-11 11:49:00
Tags: soccer microresolution
Words: 32

Holy crap! I gotta get me some DC United tickets this season!

My microresolution from last time was a success! It's nice to occasionally see that I have some willpower.

David Beckham!


dum de dum
Mood: cold
Location: home
Posted on 2007-01-10 11:40:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft wii
Words: 156

It is super cold here! I'm at home waiting for the cable people to come (they said 8-12, which of course means I just got a call at 11:40 that they're on their way. *sigh*), and wow. It's 34 degrees outside. And maybe it'll snow sometime in the next week! That would be awesome.

Being at home this morning, I accomplished almost nothing useful. Which is not altogether bad. Finished a book I was reading, played some Wii Sports and tweaked my WoW settings to get more fps, which is always good.

Speaking of Wii Sports, I recently made Pro in baseball. Woohoo! It's getting really hard, though - I've finally learned to lay off the bad pitches some. But the pitches are getting tougher - one game started me off with a 100 mph fastball (!) followed by a 69 mph screwball. How am I supposed to adjust between those speeds?

Ravens play Saturday. Go Ravens!

I'm bored.

1 comment

Mood: optimistic
Music: Radiohead - "OK Computer" album
Posted on 2007-01-08 09:37:00
Tags: music dodgeball microresolution
Words: 274

Like most people, I would often make New Year's Resolutions and promptly forget/ignore them come, say, January 15. But in an age of microgames (WarioWare series of games) and microtransactions (Xbox Live Marketplace, Wii Virtual Console), why not microresolutions? On Friday, I made a microresolution that I would work out at least twice over the weekend (stipulating that dodgeball Saturday morning counted), and I ended up going to the gym Sunday to fulfill the microresolution. Success! Next up: I had a few bad headaches this weekend and I bet they're from caffeine withdrawal. Microresolution: no caffeine (tea/chocolate excluded) from today until Wednesday (inclusive). We'll see how this one goes.

Speaking of dodgeball, djedi came to watch my game on Saturday. We lost both rounds, but I did "win" our only game for our team. It came down to me and a girl on the other team, and I threw maybe five balls at her before I finally (barely) hit her. She was good at dodging! I felt a little bad because she's a girl (and I was throwing the ball fairly hard, which was helpful because when I missed it would bounce off the wall and come back to me), but one of the consequences of feminism is that I'm not supposed to feel bad about stuff like that, right?

I spent a Best Buy gift card this weekend and, on a whim, I bought the Radiohead "OK Computer" album without hearing any songs on it, although it's ridiculously critically acclaimed. Listening to it now for the first time - my microreaction is that I like it. :-)

Why doesn't the LJ spell checker recognize "dodgeball"?


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

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

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

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

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

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

except a whole lot prettier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


back home
Mood: frantic
Posted on 2007-01-02 23:00:00
Words: 20

djedi and I are back in Columbia. Lots of things to do, so I'll leave it at that for tonight.

1 comment

Wii Forecast channel
Mood: bored
Posted on 2006-12-21 10:34:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft wii
Words: 240

When I woke up Tuesday the Wii disc slot was glowing blue, so I turned it on and there was a message from Nintendo that they had released the Forecast Channel. I did the system update and played with it quickly before work. Now that I've had more time with it it's actually pretty darn neat (relevant Penny Arcade strip). Yeah, it's just the weather, but here's why it's super cool:

- The background music is very calming. Plus, when you show a forecast of "rain" there's a faint rain noise that plays :-)

- It has the forecast for your area, but you can show a very nicely drawn globe (pictures here) with the current weather (or today's high/low, etc.), and you can spin the globe around by grabbing it and it's fun.

- Apparently Madden '07 uses the data from that to find the weather conditions when you play a game. Neat!

But really, the top two cool things are:

- If you zoom out enough you see stars in the background. And their positions and intensities are accurate! We spotted a few constellations last night...

- Obviously when you zoom out fewer and fewer cities are shown. I discovered this by accident, but when you start at Texas and zoom out eventually you get to a point where Houston is shown and not Dallas!!!! Hahahahaha!!! Take that, Dallas!!

Here's a festive screenshot I took in WoW - notice the reindeer mount and Santa-like hat :-)


LJBackup is here!
Mood: proud
Posted on 2006-12-20 21:06:00
Tags: ljbackup
Words: 16

LJbackup is live! Give it a whirl and let me know if there are any problems.


almost Christmas!
Posted on 2006-12-20 14:01:00
Tags: ljbackup links
Words: 349

The holidays are upon us! This is our last week in town (we fly out Friday for Christmas & New Year's in Texas) so we've been busy trying to take care of things. Like the TiVo Cablecard adventure djedi mentioned yesterday. I'm leaving work a little early to be home so they'll hopefully come and hopefully fix it.

I got some time yesterday to work on LJBackup. Now, it works pretty well - I was able to use the web page (which I haven't made public yet) to download a zip file of my journal. I even figured out Apache RewriteRule's to redirect from a .zip file to a script. I was planning on giving up on having it done before we leave, but I think a little more work (want to add a few more features) and I'll just put it up. I'd like to have the "finished" product included in my real backup, which I need to do tonight.

Jason Kottke recently had a Celebrity Mii Contest (Mii's are the little avatars you can create on the Wii), and here are the results. I like the winning one a lot, and my other favorites are Jack Black, Admiral Ackbar, and V from V for Vendetta. Kottke's blog is excellent - read it every day!

"Episcopalians Against Equality" - an editorial that ran in the Washington Post this morning about the 7 Virginia parishes that severed ties with the Episcopal Church and threw their lot in with a conservative Nigerian archbishop who supported legislation to criminalize "Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations".

I hesitate to post about this. Michael Crichton wrote a book called "State of Fear" which expressed the view that global warming wasn't a scientific fact (and later professed publicly the same). Michael Crowley, a writer for The New Republic, wrote a long column (subscription required) criticizing him for this view. In Crichton's latest book "Next" he made reference to a political journalist "Mick Crowley" who was a child rapist (excerpt is disgusting). Michael Crowley and "Mick Crowley" are both Washington political reporters who attended Yale. Slimy slimy slimy.


update day?
Music: "Hooked on a Feeling" by David Hasselhoff (thanks, David!)
Posted on 2006-12-16 23:04:00
Tags: ljbackup dodgeball wii
Words: 469

Hmm, Friday was quiet on LJ and today seems to be update day. So I'll continue the trend!

Last night djedi and I went over to a new friend's place to play Wii. It was fun! Although, a lot of what we played was Monkey Ball minigames, and these don't seem to be up to the caliber of previous versions. There are some good ones in there, though - the key is avoiding the stupid or impossible to control ones.

This morning was dodgeball! Unfortunately it was another stupid 9:00 start, but I was dedicated enough to get up on time. :-) Anyway, our first match was against a team that only have five players (six play at a time), so we went six on five against them. We did well at first, holding about even with them, but they ended up winning 10-4. Had some good games, though, including trading "I got you outs" with a cute muscled guy on the other team. He was better than me, though...

The second match was against "The Hasselhoffs" (yeah, really). They even had matching shirts with David Hasselhoff's face surrounded by the text "Don't Hassle the Hoff". As could be expected of a team that has uniforms, they crushed us 14-2 (and the last game we won because they were screwing around). One guy on their team even made a phenomenal catch - he was on the ground and caught the ball between his legs. It was unreal. Also, I got hit by a stinger (the small balls that hurt!) twice dangerous close to the crotch area. Luckily, no permanent damage was done.

Came back home and did some programming and played some more Wii Sports. I've already reached Pro level at tennis and I'm getting closeish with baseball! It's a lot of fun.

Played some WoW...had a slightly frustrating MC run because the server reset twice, so we had to basically start over twice. Luckily we weren't too far in, and the rest of the run went relatively well, including our first downing of Ragnaros after the patch.

Just went to djedi's office's holiday party - it was a lot of fun! We played ping-pong and air hockey and watched some football. I think my Wii Tennis is helping my ping-pong game. Also, I want to be warmed up for facing destroyerj come New Year's :-)

Finally fixed the frustrating LJBackup problem over which I almost killed a hard drive. It turns out when you're using prototype.js to do an Ajax call, you have to use "post" as the method, not "POST" (even though "POST" is supposed to be more compliant, or something). Anyway, making decent progress and I'm hoping to wrap things up before we leave on Friday!

Hope everyone's holiday season is going well. Only one week (give or take) until Christmas!


Pictures from DC
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-12-14 10:57:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 47

I posted my latest pictures - here's a hoodie picture, and here are the DC ones. (I think my favorites are David and me in front of the Capitol and the Washington Monument reflecting on the Reflecting Pool)

Whoa, this new LJ posting page is weird. Neat, though!


just a day, just an ordinary day...
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2006-12-13 08:30:00
Tags: ljbackup politics links
Words: 465

On the way in to work this morning, I heard an editorial on Marketplace. (by David Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush) He decried "populist economics" (basically the protectionist aspects of them) and sounded concerned since Democrats had just been elected. He said that, if they caused just half a percentage point of growth to disappear, that would be the equivalent of losing New Mexico's economic output, and in 20 years (assuming everything else stayed the same...) our economic advantage over China would be down to 3:2. But it was weird, because he never ever said a word about why assuming half a percentage point of growth would be lost was at all reasonable or anything. I'll excerpt from this Fire Joe Morgan post:

Then he said that maybe if Burnett hadn't mouthed off last year and been benched for the last week of the season, who knows, maybe 5 years $55 million could have been 5 years $75 million. Then, without backing that up, he then proceeded to chastise AJ Burnett for what he labeled a "$20 million dollar mistake."

You can't just make something up out of nowhere and then use the made-up thing to criticize someone for something that actually happened.

Maybe if Paul Konerko had not only hit 40 HR last year but has also invented a cold fusion machine, instead of $60 million from the ChiSox he might have gotten $50 billion from the government. That's a $49.994 billion mistake.

Hee hee. I love that blog!

Speaking of good blogs, Raymond Chen of The Old New Thing has written a book that I want. I'd ask for it for Christmas, but it's coming out just afterwards. Bad timing, publisher! The Old New Thing is an excellent, excellent blog on Windows programming that explains why a lot of the things in Windows are the way the are. (the answer is almost always "backwards compatibility", in case you were wondering :-) ) I don't even do much Windows programming anymore and I still try to keep up with it...

Last night I was working on LJBackup, and was trying to get the stupid AJAX piece (using prototype.js which I'm not terribly familiar with) to do a form POST correctly to a Ruby CGI script (also shaky ground for me). I got so darn frustrated I pounded my desk in frustration, and then my computer fan started making a scaryish noise. And then, when I tapped (fine, "hit") the computer to stop that, the hard drive started going "click...click....click" which scared the heck out of me, so I had to Alt-SysRq-B to get it to reboot. And then everything was fine. And then I gave up for the night and played Wii Tennis and got to the Pro level. So there!

Flu shot today!


Wii impressions
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-12-11 16:41:00
Tags: ljbackup wii
Words: 834

So I got a Wii on Friday, and as you'd expect, djedi and I spent a long time playing it. But maybe not in ways you'd expect!

So we unpacked it and set it up, etc. I had played with a Wii Remote (i.e. controller) in stores before, but it's a lot easier to control it when you're at a "normal" distance from the TV and sitting down. The main interface is really a pleasure to play with - you get a slight rumble every time you roll over a button, which is a nice touch.

Anyway, the first thing we did (after updating the firmware) is create Miis for ourselves. A Mii is a little graphical representation of yourself - you get to choose the hair, face shape, etc., etc. I'm not very good at such things but it was kinda fun, and the results are at least recognizable!

After friending omega697 and others, we played around with Wii Sports (the pack-in title). It's kinda neat because you play as your Mii :-) There are five sports that come with it - here they are, ordered by how much I liked it:

The two games we had bought were Super Monkey Ball and the new Zelda. We haven't started the new Zelda yet, but we did bust out a little bit of Monkey Ball. Overall, I'm a little disappointed. The main mode (you tilt the Wiimote to move the level) is OK but I have more dexterity in my thumbs then I do in my whole hand, so everything seems harder. (and I hear the levels get crazy hard quickly) But, I really bought it for the 50(!) party games. We've only had time to play through 15-20 or so, and for some of those we were calibrating the Wiimote wrong, which may explain why many of them just didn't seem to work at all. I guess we'll have to reevaluate them... (we've been scoring them out of 5 so we can remember which the good ones are, since there seem to be plenty of duds and uninteresting ones) Anyway, poor control leads to a lot of frustration.

We also bought the original NES Zelda through the Virtual Console and played through it.(passed it last night!) It's a lot of fun - good game, and it is more fun playing it on a controller and TV screen than through an emulator on the computer. It's emulated very well - even the slowdowns when too many enemies come on the screen. For added fun, a third party will be making adapters so you can play the Wii with NES or SNES controllers, which is kinda neat.

Anyway, the gist of it is that I've enjoyed it a lot, and I'm looking forward to trying it out with more people come the holidays, assuming I can find two more Wiimotes and nunchucks. I'm still in the gimmicky phase (anything motion sensing is cool!) so we'll have to see how it fares with Zelda, etc.

On a non-Wii note, I hope to have LJBackup finished before I leave for the holidays. (next Friday) A bit optimistic, but I did some more stuff on it this weekend so there isn't too much left to do...


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This backup was done by LJBackup.