personal stuff: FlightPredictor for windows 8, windows phone 7, and baking advice
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-06-20 10:30:00
Tags: windows windowsphone projects
Words: 136

FlightPredictor for Windows Phone 7 now has 7 five star reviews! The latest one came in a few days ago, and there's little that motivates me more to keep working on apps. Hooray!

Speaking of which, I've been working hard on FlightPredictor for Windows 8. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to show it off to some Microsoft folks...and it was a disaster. (many embarrassing bugs showed up, for reason that aren't interesting) Since then I've made a lot of progress, and I'm going to be showing it off again next week. The app is around 80% done, with only one big scary part left (push notifications). Wish me luck!

(and how about that Surface? I'd love to have FlightPredictor running on that :-) )

Finally, a word of advice: don't bake shirtless. That is all.


rushed links: gay parents, poetic justice, algebra app!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-06-18 11:07:00
Tags: links
Words: 94

- A study came out last week (funded by a conservative organization) claiming to show that children same sex parents tended to have more problems. Unfortunately, the study included same sex parents that had been involved in a heterosexual marriage and gotten divorced, so really the finding is: hey, divorce is bad for kids.

- Rockstar condemns Max Payne 3 cheaters to play only against each other - that is some awesome poetic justice!

- DragonBox is a popular app that teaches kids algebra (to some extent, anyway). Cool!

- An amusing way of dealing with a slug problem


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

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

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews

1 comment

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!


kinda down, but interesting links nonetheless
Mood: depressed
Posted on 2012-06-01 15:01:00
Tags: links
Words: 137

- Maybe US soccer is getting better? I watched them lose 4-1 to Brazil this week, and while there was definitely some sloppiness and head-scratching mistakes, they showed some promise on the attack that has been rare up to this point. Go USA!

- Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran - the New York Times claims that Stuxnet was the work of the US and Israel.

- A federal appeals court struck down DOMA this week - the next stop is the Supreme Court, if it gets appealed.

- The Power Of A President's Words, Ctd - or, "hey, there are gay comic book characters now".

- Compressing "Never Gonna Give You Up" lyrics - not a whole lot of entropy there!

- Surely the Nook isn't doing this on a regular basis, right? Seems like we would have heard about it by now...


FlightPredictor gets love as an "airport survival app"!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-05-30 10:15:00
Tags: windowsphone projects android
Words: 63

FlightPredictor is number 2 on this list of five airport survival apps! The blurb is nice and specifically calls out the airport maps, which I spent quite a bit of time on. It even lists all the platforms it's available on.

Based on my referer logs, a good number of people are reading the article and clicking through to the FlightPredictor page. Yay!

1 comment

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


Tired of rants? Here's some links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-05-24 17:30:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 383

- Since Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, support for same-sex marriage in Maryland has gone up 12%, almost entirely from blacks. One word: wowowowowow! Minds have been changed!

- If you're at all interested in Windows 8, the Building Windows 8 blog is full of juicy content, like this ridiculously long post about the Windows user experience, past and present. For developers, the Windows 8 app developer blog has a lot of good posts, too.

- I feel like I've posted this before, but here's a good summary of how to spend your money to make yourself happier (buy experiences instead of things, help others instead of yourself, etc.)

- An interesting-looking new book says 20 minutes of being active provide a ton of benefits.

- When half a million Americans died and nobody noticed - wow, could Vioxx really responsible for that??

- Interesting look at Microsoft's "Signature" service to clean off a bunch of crapware the PC makers include. It's nice that you can buy computers from Microsoft Stores, and although some people are making fun of the fact that you can pay $99 and bring in a PC you bought elsewhere to get cleaned off, I think it makes sense. Presumably the PC maker got kickbacks for including that AOL (or whatever the modern equivalent is) software and that made the PC cheaper, so you're just paying more to offset that.

- Iran photoshopped a missile test image...but forgot to take Jar-Jar Binks out. (the image they posted was a joke created after the last time they photoshopped an image of a missile test!)

- An algorithm to help you play the perfect game of Battleship - looks neat, but I'm skeptical about this. His analysis only holds if you assume the position of the ships is random, and if you know your opponent is using Berry's new algorithm, couldn't you deliberately try to place your ships in "unlikely" places? (thanks Jessica!)

- A good discussion of the ESPP tax rules, which are pretty complicated. There are graphs!

- Polarization is real, and mostly on the Republican side.

- Check out this crazy non-stick coating invented at MIT - it makes ketchup flow out of a bottle like, well, a liquid!

- For Eurovision fans: a look at which countries tend to vote for each other.

- Why People Loved webOS - so true.


Windows Phone 7 App Hub - my complaints
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2012-05-16 19:52:00
Tags: rant essay windowsphone programming
Words: 479

In the wake of complaining about background tasks in Win 8 (that was later rescinded), here are my complaints about the Windows Phone 7 App Hub, where you submit new apps and look at download numbers, etc.

Before I begin: I rant because I care :-) I'm still very happy with Windows Phone 7 (and Windows 8!) development, and plan on sticking around it for a while, unless of course Microsoft pulls a webOS like HP did. (dear Microsoft: please don't do this!) But there is some serious need for improvement here.

(Had I been writing this a few months ago, my number one complaint would be that the page itself was dog slow, but Microsoft seems to have fixed that. Yay!)


When I load the App Hub page, 95% of the time I have a simple question: How many copies did my app sell today? For webOS and Android, their consoles answer an equivalent question: how many copies has the app sold over its lifetime? Let's count the number of clicks it takes to answer that question:

First I load the page (I won't count this as a click), and I see something like this:

You might think the answer to my question is right by the word "FlightPredictor": 101. Or at least you might think that's the total number of sales. Sadly, it is the number of downloads in the last 30 days. This is interesting information (as is the graph at the bottom), but it doesn't answer my question. So click 1 is to click on the "101" number, which by the way does not do the same thing as clicking "FlightPredictor".

That takes us to this screen:

Here we can see a nice pretty graph, which is again interesting, but it only covers the last thirty days. So clicks 2-4 are setting the Start date to March 1, which is before FlightPredictor was released. (for bonus fun: this will take one more click every month!) Then click 5 is clicking Refresh Report, which shows me the full graph. But the numbers include trial downloads, which I am interested in, but I don't get paid for. To see the paid numbers, click 6 is clicking on Details, which takes me to this screen:

and then click 7 is advancing to page 2, where I can see the paid downloads for the US. If other countries had any paid downloads, I guess I'd have to add those up.


So...yeah. In theory I could get by with not resetting the date range and use the "export details" button to look at an Excel spreadsheet and look at just the most recent daily numbers that way, but most of the time I'd much rather be able to see the numbers in a browser, rather than firing up Excel. It would be really nice if this information was more easily accessable!


Windows 8 Metro: everything is fine re background tasks, nothing to see here
Mood: satisfied
Posted on 2012-05-14 21:17:00
Tags: windows essay windowsphone programming
Words: 137

After kvetching a bit about Windows 8 Metro background tasks, Jared Bienz set me straight.

The right way to do this is to either use push notifications to update the tile, or a TileUpdateManager to have it poll for tile updates. In both cases the difference is that you're not actually scheduling a background task - you're just providing a way to get a tile notification, which is a bit of XML that describes how to change the tile.

Now, this isn't ideal for me the programmer, since I need to set up an extra server, but it does scale better with lots of different apps and preserves battery life, etc. So it's all good, and hopefully lots of Win 8 apps will take advantage of one of these two ways to get power-efficient live tiles that update!


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

We saw a penguin at SeaWorld! Here is proof:

(and yes, the penguin is adorable!)

1 comment

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews


just some grousing about North Carolina, and Obama endorses gay marriage!
Mood: sad
Posted on 2012-05-09 14:03:00
Tags: rant gay politics
Words: 95

North Carolina voted to ban same-sex civil unions and marriage last night...and it wasn't even close. Amendment 1 passed 61-39%, and the map gets redder. Le sigh.

Why exactly are civil rights up for a popular vote again?

As @thinkprogress points out, the last time NC amended their constitution about marriage it was to ban interracial marriage. Similarly gloomy reaction from Andrew Sullivan.

This cool gay rights visualization from the BBC is already out of date!

Wow - minutes ago President Obama says he supports same-sex marriage! While this has no practical effect it's certainly encouraging.


Windows 8 Metro background task restrictions are way too strict (even versus Windows Phone 7!)
Mood: confused
Posted on 2012-05-08 13:43:00
Tags: windows rant essay windowsphone programming
Words: 548

Edit: See the followup post on why this isn't a big deal, and the right way to do updating live tiles in Windows 8 Metro.

I've been working on porting FlightPredictor to the shininess of Windows 8 Metro. One of the key features of FlightPredictor is the ability to pin a live tile for a flight, and have that live tile update periodically in the background.

On Windows Phone 7, there are a lot of restrictions on background agents like the one in FlightPredictor that updates the live tiles. The agent can't run more frequently than every 30 minutes (and when it actually gets called is not that regular), if it runs longer than 25 seconds it gets killed, and most importantly there's a limit to how many you can have active on the phone - Microsoft says phones must allow 6, but my Lumia 900 allows a maximum of 9. I've actually hit this limit, because live tiles that are always up to date are cool.

So, I've started to work on this for Windows 8 Metro, and I found this whitepaper about Metro background tasks. There are a bunch of new ways to trigger running tasks (when you have internet access, for example, or when a user logs in), but you can also trigger them every 15 minutes, which is nice. There are also CPU requirements (now they're measured in CPU-seconds instead of wall time that the task runs) as I would expect.

Unfortunately, you can't use the TimeTrigger unless you display information on the lock screen. This requires extra user permission, which is OK enough, I guess. I wasn't planning on looking into showing flight info on the lock screen, but if that's necessary for my app to work the way I want it to I'm fine with that.

But here's the kicker: a user can only have seven apps show information on the lock screen. And three of these (Mail, Calendar, Messaging) are builtin! So this leaves four slots for apps to run based on a TimeTrigger in the background.

Now for the rant-y part: this is crazy. I have a bunch of apps that run in the background on my phone - as I said, having auto-updating live tiles is one of my favorite features of Windows Phone. To drastically cut the number of apps that can do this on an OS that's designed for a tablet (so presumably better battery life, etc. than on a phone) is way too strict and a step backwards.

It is possible I've missed something here, and I'd love to hear feedback on it. This is just a policy decision - what I would really like is the ability to run based on a TimeTrigger even if my app isn't on the lock screen, with reasonable limits.

Addendum: one way around the limit on Windows Phone 7 is to use push notifications - then your app doesn't have to run in the background and doesn't count against the limit. But it looks to me from reading the Metro whitepaper is that even apps that want to run based on a push notification have to be on the lock screen. Or is there a way to use a push notification to update a tile without having an app run? I'm not sure...


a little down, with music to bring me up
Mood: depressed
Posted on 2012-05-08 10:05:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 84

Sigh. The past few weeks have been pretty rough in terms of stress and things going on. North Carolina votes today and the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions seems likely to pass. I am tired.

To cheer me up, I found this awesome a capella cover of "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Pentatonix. Then Adam pointed me to this cover by Walk off the Earth where they only use one guitar, followed by a pretty good parody of said video.


bleg: help stop an anti-gay amendment in North Carolina! (and a few links)
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2012-05-04 10:50:00
Tags: activism gay links
Words: 174

Give to stop an anti-gay amendment in North Carolina! They vote on Tuesday!

The amendment would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions - in marriage map terms that would turn North Carolina from beige to the darkest red. Unfortunately, it has been looking like it's likely to pass, but polling has been turning towards the "No" side.

(if anyone out there is in North Carolina: please please please vote against Amendment 1!)


- Are Apple's Tax Games Bad for America? - the summary says it perfectly: "The great global tax maze deprives the United States of revenue and jobs. But there's not much we can do to prevent it."

- A new study shows all-white juries convict a higher percentage of blacks, and having just one black person on the jury is enough to eliminate the effect.

- Bruce Bartlett (who served under Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and on the staffs of Jack Kemp and Ron Paul) shows yet again that lowering taxes probably won't increase employment, and the US's taxes are among the lowest in the world.


Mitt Romney's neoconservative foreign policy spokesman resigned for being gay
Mood: angry
Posted on 2012-05-02 17:50:00
Tags: politics
Words: 183

Set the wayback machine to last week. The Romney campaign hired an openly gay foreign policy spokesman, and as the linked article mentions, some saw it as a turning point that someone openly gay (and a public support of same-sex marriage!) could work in a public role on a Republican presidential campaign.

Well, that didn't last long - he resigned this week after an anti-gay backlash in the Republican party. To be clear, the Romney campaign didn't ask him to resign, but they didn't let him actually make any statements for fear of angering the base.

Keep in mind: nobody doubts his conservative credentials, as he was John Bolton's spokesman (as Andrew Sullivan points out). The objections were all because he supported same-sex marriage, although part of me wonders if they would have objected if he was straight and supported same-sex marriage. (of course, then he probably wouldn't have been a Republican anyway. Zing!)

Just a reminder that, even though neither Romney nor Obama support same-sex marriage, there's still a huge difference between the parties when it comes to gay rights. That is all.


Nokia Mobile Monday Austin: recap of demoing FlightPredictor
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-05-01 16:29:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
Words: 358

As I mentioned last week, I got to demo FlightPredictor at Nokia's Mobile Monday Austin last night. It was fun!

I showed up early at Buffalo Billiards - pretty neat place! They have lots of pool tables, but also some arcade machines, shuffleboard, and a few skeeball machines. After hanging around for a bit I went upstairs and met the organizers as well as the Nokia person (John Kneeland! A pleasant surprise) and the Microsoft person, who was none other than Jared Bienz, who I had chatted with but never met in person.

After things got set up, I had some munchies and a free beer(!), and then the presentation started. John from Nokia went first, and talked for a bit about Nokia's commitment to Windows Phone and showed off some devices. Next it was my turn to show off FlightPredictor - I spent maybe 3-5 minutes going through the app and showing some of its cool features (inbound flight status! predictions! live tiles! airport maps!) and a little bit about what it was like to develop for Windows Phone. After I had finished, there were a lot of questions from the audience - it was pretty clear most of them weren't particularly familiar with Windows Phone, which is good for Nokia/Microsoft but a little less good for the purposes of selling apps :-) (still, I sold at least one!)

After me, the developer of the very impressive Blade Sports talked about his app, and then Jared from Microsoft talked about the Windows Phone platform and a little about Windows 8. Then we all got up on stage for questions, and then that was it.

Afterwards I chatted with a few people about my app and other Windows Phone things. I got a number of "cool app!" comments, and they felt like they were being more than just polite, which was nice. spamchang showed up and we chatted for a while, then the other presenters and I walked over to the W Hotel and chatted some more. Then it approached my bedtime so I left :-)

It was a great experience! I'm going to look into attending more Mobile Monday's in the future.

1 comment

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.

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Demoing FlightPredictor at Nokia's Mobile Monday Austin!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-04-27 17:13:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
Words: 45

I found out today I'm going to be demoing FlightPredictor at Nokia's Mobile Monday Austin! Very excited about the opportunity...and man I wish I had some Windows Phone business cards to hand out. Oh well!

(if you're in the area, come say hi on Monday!)


links: same-sex union ceremonies in the Episcopal church!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-04-27 13:31:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 210

- The Episcopal Church in Texas is going to allow same-sex covenant ceremonies! It sounds like one church in Houston and one in Austin will be allowed to perform them, and St. David's church in downtown Austin is being asked to be the one in Austin. Wow wow wow!

- Most of the brain-training type of games only help you get better at that specific task, but there's some evidence that an N-back test can help short-term memory. My short-term memory stinks...maybe I should try it!

- A good article on ego depletion. (although if you've read the Willpower book, it covered ego depletion more thoroughly)

- IT'S OFFICIAL: Keynes Was Right - strike up the band!

- Might upgrade to the paid version someday - why I limit the trial version of FlightPredictor to adding 6 flights.

- An interesting article about a checklist that seems to be lowering domestic violence in Maryland by prompting the victims to get help. Since 2007, domestic violence homicides there are down 40%!

- 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses - doing my best...

--whimsical links below here--

- This is an extremely trippy story, from a NY standardized test, of all places!

- Steve Jobs' Plan for a Willy Wonka-Style Celebration of the Millionth iMac - I really really really hope this was true. Really!

1 comment

playing with Windows 8, 80k steps last week!, cold fusion
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2012-04-23 10:38:00
Tags: windowsphone projects programming
Words: 374


Wellbeing review
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-04-22 14:38:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 234

Wellbeing: The Five Essential ElementsWellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting book, although it was quite short (the last half is appendices with methodologies and such).

The main premise is that there are five main dimensions to well-being: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. There's a short section on each, and that's basically it. I would have rated the book higher, but I've read similar stuff before.

Career: Use your strengths (big surprise coming from Gallup :-) ), try to grow, and spend social time with your coworkers. Also: being unemployed for more than a year is really bad for you - the effects last longer than even the death of a spouse!
Social: Have friends, and spend at least 6 hours a day socializing (any sort of communication counts). Mixing socializing and physical activity is good.
Financial: Buying experiences is better than buying things, spending money on other people is good, and set up automatic savings deposits.
Physical: Get 20 minutes of exercise daily, sleep 8 hours a night, eat natural foods.
Community: Join community groups and such.

In the back of the book, they ranked states/cities/countries by wellbeing. For states, Hawaii was #1 (big surprise!), Alaska was #2, and Texas was #8, which is better than I expected. For large cities, Austin was #6! (although San Antonio was #3) Dallas was #8 (boooo) and Houston was #14.

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A little down about Windows Phone 7
Mood: disappointed
Posted on 2012-04-18 22:49:00
Tags: essay windowsphone projects
Words: 285

Been a little bummed out recently. Here's why:

- My brand new Lumia 900, while generally a pretty awesome phone, has a hardware problem that makes it shut off ~5 times a day. (and then it won't turn on for a few minutes) Hopefully I'll be able to exchange it tomorrow, but in the meantime it's been very irritating.

- FlightPredictor is not selling well, to put it mildly. Despite getting three 5 star reviews (yay!), being reviewed by wpcentral and AAWP, and being featured by AppDeals, so far it's sold a grand total of 14 copies over more than 3 weeks. And some of those were at a discount of 99 cents! Granted, over 100 trials have been downloaded, and it's possible those will convert to paid copies at some point since you get 6 flights for free, but I'm not holding my breath.

So, I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Maybe $2.99 is too expensive? Maybe I just need to get the word out more. (i.e. spam Twitter :-) ) I've submitted FlightPredictor to a few promotional things, so we'll see if Microsoft or Nokia bite. (attention Microsoft and Nokia: it's a good app!)

- After being unsure last time, I started work on a Goodreads client and made a bit of progress until the developer of the original app (Bookly) said he was bringing it back. I don't have any unique ideas to add to a client, so I put it on hold while I wait to check out the app. I'm guessing I won't work on it again.

So now I'm working on a financial calculator-type app. (thanks for the idea, brittongregory!) Meanwhile I'm considering playing around with Windows 8 and porting FlightPredictor to it.


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