squirreled away links
Posted on 2011-08-16 11:48:00
I stashed away some links and forgot to include them last time. So!
- Debate Showcases Pandering That Repels Voters - to summarize, at the Republican debate, a question was asked if the candidate would walk away from a deal that required one new dollar in taxes for every ten in spending reductions...and every single person said yes. I understand that this is primary season, but for the love of all that is good and holy, if no Republican is open to compromise at all it's going to be impossible to get anything done.
- It's the Economy, Dummkopf! - long Michael Lewis article about Germany, the economy, and (fair warning) excrement.
- 102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes - I like the quote at the end from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.
the best part of linking up...
Posted on 2011-08-12 11:32:00
Tags: gay politics links
Warning: I've been saving these up so there are a ton of them. Enter at your own risk!
- The Teleporter Library: A Copyright Thought Experiment - interesting take on file-sharing. But I'm not sure how to solve the "too few people need to pay for a thing" problem. (thanks David!)
- What Happened to Obama? - pretty damning article about Obama's lack of passion.
- Study: Strong Catholic support for gay rights - a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage? If those results are correct...wow!
- How Plan B found the Droid I was looking for - exciting story of tracking down a lost phone.
- A big story broke accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of stealing signs. Grantland is a bit more skeptical, but also links to this account of the Dave Bresnahan Potato Incident, which is awesome.
- The Trivialities and Transcendence of Kickstarter - interesting story about getting a project on Kickstarter.
- An oldie but goodie: And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles.
- Ah, okra
- If Mario Was Designed in 2010
crazy webOS app reviews: Marriage Map
Posted on 2011-08-07 15:36:00
Tags: essay palmpre gay projects
Marriage Map (the webOS version of my same-sex marriage map) got a 1 star rating this morning, with the comment:
It is a shame that marriage is moving from the way God intended it to be. I pray for the souls of those who are blinded by their belief that same-sex marriage is right.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales review
Posted on 2011-08-06 13:48:00
Tags: reviews books
The 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.
View all my reviews
Posted on 2011-08-04 22:30:00
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.
Torchwood: is it sci-fi?
Posted on 2011-08-03 22:15:00
We're fans of the new Doctor Who, so now that we're finally caught up, we thought we'd try Torchwood. After six episodes I'm very much not impressed.
What I like most about Doctor Who is the way it sets up interesting situations in different cultures in a way that good sci-fi writing is best at. But so far Torchwood has basically seemed like a standard action show with slightly more interesting characters and scenery.
So, those of you who have watched Torchwood - does it get better? Am I totally off-base?
Posted on 2011-08-01 18:04:00
- LabVIEW 2011 has released! You should totally go buy it or whatever. I made that unable to find the run-time engine dialog. Well, I added a sentence and some buttons. I'm sure this is as exciting for you as it is for me!
- Long read: retelling of the bin Laden raid with some new information.
- Girls Go Geek...Again! - in 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women. I had no idea!
- If the world lived in a single city - mostly posting this for a good visualization of how sprawled Houston is. (very)
- The Centrist Cop-Out - op-ed by Krugman about the debt ceiling brouhaha.
- The Platinum Coin Option - thinking outside the box to avoid debt ceiling catastrophe.
- What Happens if We Don't Raise the Debt Ceiling? - short answer: things get crazy.
- Hollywood is about to repeat the mistakes of the music industry - sigh! (thanks David!)
- In Time trailer - sci-fi action thriller that looks pretty darn good.
- A cool use of high-frequency and low-frequency images to see if you're nearsighted. (when I take off my glasses I see a giant blob :-) )
pouring good news
Posted on 2011-08-01 13:41:00
Tags: palmpre work
Last week was a shower of good news!
- I got promoted at work! Now I'm a Senior Software Engineer, which doesn't translate into anything different on a day-to-day basis. But I'm still excited :-)
- I am now officially a webOS Black Belt developer! Looks like I get some nice marketing material for my webOS apps, as well as a hefty discount on developer devices.
- (good news #3 is embargoed for now, but hopefully I'll get to talk about it soon...)
Poor Economics review
Posted on 2011-07-31 15:31:00
Tags: reviews books
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Poor Economics is about the world's poor (living on the equivalent of 99 cents a day, not including housing) and how best to help them. There are basically two broad schools of thought on how to help: for example, in education one group (the "supply wallahs") says we just need to get kids into schools with good teachers, and the rest will take care of itself. (i.e. ensuring the supply of education will solve the problem) The other group (the "demand wallahs") says there's no point in doing this if the parents don't believe there's value in education, and it's a waste of money (and possibly screws up the free market) to spend aid dollars on it.
It should come as no surprise that people generally are in one group or the other based on ideology. This book was written by the cofounders of the Poverty Action Lab, which conducts randomized control trials to actually figure out what ways of helping the poor are the most effective.
One of the big questions is whether a "poverty trap" exists with respect to a particular issue. A "poverty trap" means that if you're stuck at a very low income level, there's no good way to increase your income without getting an infusion of cash. "Supply wallahs" generally believe that poverty traps exist, and giving aid will help people get out of the trap and support themselves, while "demand wallahs" generally believe that poverty traps don't exist and aid will be wasted.
Now, to randomly call out parts I found interesting: (yay for Kindle highlighting!)
- A nutrition poverty trap would be if people were hungry enough to make them weak and unable to work, and thus spiral down into making less and less income. This does not seem to be the case for most adults, as when the poor get more money to spend on food they tend to spend it on better-tasting calories instead of more calories, thus indicating that they weren't seriously short on calories in the first place. However, getting proper nutrients to children is a problem, and giving away food with lots of nutrients does make children develop better. Each year of improved nutrition for a child increases their average income as an adult.
- Malaria is a serious problem in a lot of poor countries, and one simple preventative measure is to sleep under a bed net to keep out mosquitos. Poor people seem to realize this is a generally good idea, but bed nets are rather expensive (equivalent of $10) and the effects are hard to see immediately. (it's hard to quantify _not_ getting sick in the short term) Poor people, like all of us, are prone to procrastination in these sorts of circumstances, and so giving away bed nets does help to break the cycle. In fact, after being given a free bed net, they're more likely to buy one at full price when given the opportunity later. More developed societies have lots of ways to force us to do things that are good for us but that we might put off otherwise - for example, schooling is mandatory for children, and vaccination is mandatory to enroll in school; our drinking water is chlorinated for us; and our sewage is piped away. This lessens our cognitive load so we don't constantly have to make important decisions and fight the urge to procrastinate. Research has shown that we have a limited supply of willpower that gets drained when we have to have decisions, and it's no surprise it's harder to make good ones when you have to make them all the time.
- In Brazil, the state doesn't promote family planning, but when telenovelas (soap operas) with female characters with small families (none or one child) first became available in an area, the number of births would drop dramatically.
- Microfinance does help people make money, but the effects weren't as radical as many had hoped.
- A study in Uganda showed that only 13 percent of money allocated by the government for schools actually was received by the schools. (presumably the rest was lost to corruption, etc.) This, of course, is depressing and is why some think most foreign aid is useless without good governmental institutions. However, these results were reported in Uganda and there was an uproar, and when the study was repeated 5 years later, the number was up to 80 percent, showing that just having people care about corruption can be powerful in itself.
There's more good stuff in the book, but I'm all summarized out. You can read more about it at the book's website pooreconomics.com.
View all my reviews
webOS Dallas event trip report
Posted on 2011-07-26 14:58:00
Tags: travel palmpre
Last Friday I went to the webOSRoundup Dallas meetup/developer event. (you can see me in a few pictures there - I sat in the second row)
I had a pleasant drive up that morning and arrived in plenty of time to eat lunch and read on my TouchPad before showing up to the conference center.
The developer event was first, from 1-5 PM. Most of the material was fairly basic stuff, which I had expected, so I worked on my own webOS apps, adding a feature to Simple Alarms (yikes, I need to update that page!) and finishing the port of State Lines to Enyo and the TouchPad. (hopefully coming soon!) I did say hi to the people next to me and chatted and helped them out a bit. And Ben Combee (@unwiredben) showed off a Vectrex emulator that he had ported to the TouchPad and added iCade support. (code available here)
During the breaks I chatted a bit with HP and webOSRoundup folk, which was nice, although I didn't have a lot to say.
After that, I checked into my nearby hotel, then went over to the meetup event. It was at the Blackfinn, which seemed like a nice place (and had good beer!) but it was really, really loud. I had a few short conversations, but the noise combined with my natural introversion kept me from talking to too many people, and I left kinda early. I stopped by Best Buy to get a Touchstone (since I didn't win one :-) ) and returned to the hotel for a night of light coding and relaxing.
The next morning I just drove back, stopping for lunch at a Mexican place in Waco.
The trip was fun, but wasn't as successful as I had hoped. The next time I do something like this, I need to:
- have more specific projects to work on or features to add in my apps. I kinda felt like coding Friday night but didn't have much that I was inspired to work on.
- make more of an effort to network and talk to people. I've done better on previous trips, but maybe the lack of a plane trip/overnight stay hurt here? I kinda felt like the event snuck up on me, and maybe preparing for it more would have helped.
debt ceiling - write your representative!
Posted on 2011-07-26 13:11:00
Here's my letter to my Representative and Senators. You can write your Representative here and write your Senators here.
I urge you to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling by the August 2nd deadline. I understand that our national debt is a problem that we should address, but it is problematic to cut spending during a recession when unemployment is so high. We have already passed our budget for the year, and failing to pay the country's bills will result in financial disaster.
Please carefully consider any proposal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a financial catastrophe.
links, insomnia style
Posted on 2011-07-25 15:59:00
Tags: links sleep
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
Posted on 2011-07-23 23:34:00
Tags: reviews books
Anything 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."
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?
webOS developer situation: unacceptable
Posted on 2011-07-23 16:57:00
Tags: palm rant palmpre
I develop software for a living, so I tend to be more tolerant of bugs, realizing that even though it seems simple to fix, that isn't necessarily the case. And I've cut HP/Palm a lot of slack in the past from a developer standpoint, but things have recently gotten to a ridiculous point and I have to throw up my hands and rant about it.
Since the TouchPad launched on July 1, the sales numbers for apps have been wrong. And not even wrong in an obvious way - one app has gotten exactly 2 sales per day, while every other (paid) app has gotten zero. There's no notice on the page that things are messed up, although there is a thread on the developer forums. Yesterday, after we were told they had identified the problem and a fix was in the works, the sales numbers dropped dramatically, and now we're told not to trust the numbers until we hear otherwise. And last week, the June app payments were sent out, but for the wrong amount.
I've cut Palm developer relations a lot of slack, since the people are very friendly, their policies are much nicer than Apple's (no fee to join the program or submit apps, no arbitrary rules for rejection, quick turnaround times on reviewing apps), and they seem to realize that the webOS platform needs as many good apps as possible and as such, treat us pretty well. But when I say things like it seems they're chronically understaffed, this is the sort of thing that I'm talking about. And I haven't even touched on the tiny screenshots in the App Catalog and the inconsistent "For TouchPad" labels on apps.
Palm has been a part of HP for over a year now, and I know they've been in a mad frenzy to get the TouchPad out, but the time for excuses is over. I'm not leaving the platform anytime soon but things like this sap my will to work on apps. Please get this taken care of soon!
holdin' on links
Posted on 2011-07-20 16:04:00
Going to be out of town this Friday (yay webOS event in Dallas!), so link Friday comes early!
- Lady Gaga's solo piano performance of "The Edge of Glory" on the Howard Stern show - more like this, please.
- Why I will never pursue cheating again - depressing story from a tenured professor about how tracking down cheaters isn't worth it, although he does offer some suggestions for making assignments less prone to cheating.
- Out of Poverty, Family-Style - interesting article about how the Family Independence Initiative is having good results helping poor families.
- This Simple Graph Explains Why Unemployment Refuses to Go Down - yikes. Consumers spending less is presumably good for the consumers (less credit card debt, etc.) but bad for the economy.
- Fake Apple stores in China! That is impressive.
- Why the Defense of Marriage Act Is on the Ropes - Obama is calling for repeal of DOMA, which is very exciting!
- Classic Ze Frank episode about "Brain Crack" with commentary (NSFW language)
- All of Modern Politics in One Chart
Netflix for X, other random links
Posted on 2011-07-15 14:53:00
"Netflix for books": Goodreads (except for the whole paying money and getting books in the mail part). The mobile app has a fun way to scan books in (no webOS version :-( ), and it's easy to organize lists, etc. If you read a lot, you should sign up and friend me!
"Netflix for art": turningArt - neat idea! (but we're not members)
What Google's Famous Cafeterias Can Teach Us About Health - wow, charging per gram of sugar, fat, etc. is genius!
The CIA's Fake Vaccination Program - is it just me or was this a terrible idea? It's hard enough to get people in developing countries to trust doctors...
rant: debt ceiling, auto theft
Posted on 2011-07-13 10:52:00
Tags: rant politics
The continuing debate over the debt ceiling is really starting to piss me off. Given that the alternative of not raising the debt ceiling, it is widely agreed, would mean a giant fiscal crisis and probably another recession. If you're concerned about having too big a deficit, then address that in the budget, not in the "we have to pass this to keep paying our bills" vote. (why do we even need that vote since we already passed the budget?)
The point in time that put me over the edge was when Obama basically agreed to a $4 trillion deficit reduction package, 80% of which was spending cuts and 20% was tax hikes. And the Republicans said no, that increasing taxes at all, even on the richest 1% that's done much much better than the middle class over the past decade. I thought I heard the reason was that this would hurt the economy, which seems like an absurd point to make when the alternative is defaulting on our debts.
Anyway, McConnell proposed this crazy scheme where Congress would vote to give the authority to Obama to raise the debt limit, then pass a bill to say "no don't do that" that Obama could veto. It sounds like it has a shot at getting enough support, but it just makes me sad that this is the way we solve our problems.
There's a new campaign to prevent auto theft (can't find links, so you'll have to take my word for it). The billboard goes something like "Insurance premiums have gone up $x billion in Texas because of auto theft, so don't let your car be stolen". The radio ad has a guy talking about hoping somebody steal his piece of junk car, then a friend explaining that that would make his insurance rates go up.
Honest question: what?? I would think on the list of "Reasons I don't want my car to be stolen", "Insurance rates will go up" is somewhere around #57. You know what's #1? "Because then I won't have a car, and even if it's insured I'm probably not going to get full value for it and then I have to go through the hassle of buying a car, etc., etc." Who the heck thinks that "Well, I would have let my car be stolen, but I don't want everyone's insurance rates to go up a tiny bit"??
Am I crazy? Do people like having their cars stolen or something?
Posted on 2011-07-08 11:49:00
Tags: politics links
Summer musical rehearsals have started. See you in August!
- When Crime Happens in Major Cities - interestingly Austin seems to have a higher percentage of crimes during the day than at night.
- People given Medicaid in Oregon reported better health than the control group. It was almost across the board, except the people given Medicaid didn't go to the emergency room any less, which is somewhat disappointing.
- Why the Republicans Resist Compromise - good analysis by Nate Silver on just how dependent Republicans are on conservative voters (in a way that Democrats aren't on liberal voters)
- The Brain on Trial - long article about how to deal with punishing people who commit crimes because of, say, a brain tumor. As we learn more about the brain, more crimes are going to be "justified" by looking at physical problems like this. The author suggests punishment based on the likelihood of committing another crime, which seems reasonable.
- Haydn's Head Fake
app reviews getting better!
Posted on 2011-07-06 16:15:00
Tags: palmpre projects
As a followup to App reviews are a way to my heart: I released updates to the two apps in question that went live yesterday, and now they're up to 3.5 and 3 stars! Not as good as I would like, but I don't feel like a bad person for having made bad apps anymore.
On the flip side, the marriage map now has a rating of 2 stars (after 1 review), and as far as I can tell no comments were left. I guess I'll chalk that up to something mysterious, and hope that other people who have downloaded (there are 42 of you!) either rate it higher or let me know what's wrong with it.
Back to trying not to obsess over this...
App reviews are a way to my heart
Posted on 2011-07-03 13:20:00
Tags: palmpre projects
The HP TouchPad released on Friday, and it is flippin' awesome and you should get one!
So all my apps are out for it. Here's a list:
We the People HD
Anyway, most of these show up as new apps in the App Catalog, so they start back with no ratings. Which means I'm even more anxious than usual watching for when they get rated. And lo and behold, two of them are not doing well, which makes me very unhappy. One app I can fix (update already waiting to be reviewed!), but the other one I'm not even sure what people are complaining about...
I guess the moral is, if you want to make my day, rate my apps well, and vice versa. Hopefully I'll settle down after they all have a few ratings under their belt.
Why gays should come out at work
Posted on 2011-07-01 16:32:00
Tags: essay gay work
David sent me a link to Why gays should come out at work and I almost broke my neck from the vigorous agreeing that followed.
When I started at NI in 2003, David in I weren't out in general, and so I was naturally closeted at work. This was isolating - people asked if I was single or not, and so I said I was single. And then when people asked what was I had been up to last weekend, I would have to leave out things or outright lie.
It probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was very uncomfortable at the time, and made me feel dishonest because, well, I was being dishonest!
Even after we did come out to friends and "the world", I felt like it was weird to come out to coworkers, like I'd be making too big a deal out of it. (and I was still fairly uncomfortable with it myself) So I continued to be closeted at work until I left the company in 2006.
Of course, the reason I left the company was that David got a job in Maryland. I wanted to be clear to my coworkers that that's why I was leaving, not because I was unhappy at NI or anything. So I ended up coming out at a group meeting and saying I was leaving. It was fairly terrifying at the time, although everyone was supportive.
Since then, I've been out at all of my jobs and everything's been fine. I even have a picture of David on my desk :-)
Same-sex marriage in NY passes!
Posted on 2011-06-27 16:26:00
Tags: gay politics
It passed the New York State Senate by a vote of 33-29, Governor Cuomo signed it that evening, and the Empire State Building turned rainbow. And the map gets updated! (NY will turn blue when the bill takes effect in 30 days)
A few links about it:
- NY Times article
- Nate Silver contrasts Cuomo with Obama and why some are not too happy with Obama these days.
- NY Times "inside baseball" story about getting the bill passed where it becomes clear that the governor was heavily involved in making this happen.
Some good #longreads
Posted on 2011-06-23 13:41:00
- The Blind Man Who Taught Himself To See by using echolocation. Pretty impressive, but it sounds like it's difficult to do well.
- My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant - the story of a journalist who is just now "coming out". Pretty powerful, and it's disappointing the DREAM Act didn't pass, which would have provided him a path to citizenship.
- Kind of Screwed, or "getting sued really sucks, even if you're pretty sure you would win".
- How Many Households Are Like Yours? - 0.22% of US households are "male unmarried partners". Which feels really, really low.
- Hypersonic Jet, ZEHST, Revealed At Paris Air Show - this sounds pretty cool (it goes Mach 4!), but it will take 40 years to build. It seems odd to even talk about the specifics when probably all of them will change by then.
a sigh of relief
Posted on 2011-06-22 10:24:00
Tags: palmpre work
Yesterday two awesome things happened:
- a bunch of work stress magically disappeared
- I finished and submitted most of the webOS apps that will be ready at the TouchPad launch (July 1)
Both of these had been causing me a lot of stress, to the point of not sleeping well. So I'm really excited about putting these behind me.
(also, I submitted 4 apps last night, and when I woke up 3 were accepted already. Yay!)
happy Friday eve! PreCentral interview, Atul Gawande
Posted on 2011-06-16 10:53:00
Tags: palmpre gay politics links
I got interviewed at PreCentral yesterday! I think it went pretty well, and a surprising number of people clicked through to look at my apps and stuff.
Here's Atul Gawande's commencement address at Harvard Medical school. He talked about how medicine needs to move from a "cowboy" culture to a "pit crew" one.
The New York same-sex marriage bill passed the State Assembly (as it has several times before), but its future is unclear. Supporters say they have 31 of the needed 32 votes in the State Senate, but the Republicans (who have a majority in the State Senate) aren't even sure they're going to bring it up. But it sounds like it's either going to happen or it won't by the end of this week.
What to say to someone who's sick and how to help without being an imposition.
I'm not paying a great deal of attention to the Republican primary, but apparently Tim Pawlenty has proposed more tax cuts that are significantly larger than the Bush tax cuts. (and of course, the vast majority going to the top 1% or 0.1%...)
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