linky linky friday
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2010-02-26 14:10:00
Tags: links
Words: 222

- More than you wanted to know about that awesome "I'm on a horse" Old Spice commercial. It was all done in one shot! Also, the guy played in the NFL for 4 years, which explains why he's so ridiculously well-built.

- Bloom Energy came out of hiding this week with an appearance on 60 Minutes and a big press conference. They sell "energy servers" that produce electricity from either natural gas or biomass. At first, I didn't understand why this was a big deal, but producing electricity right next to the building that uses is it considerably more efficient than having to transmit it over power lines. Wal-Mart, Google, and eBay are already using the servers.

- Terry O'Quinn (plays Locke on Lost) is pitching a primetime show with Michael Emerson (plays Ben on Lost) where they're suburban hitmen or something. The rational side of me thinks that there is no way this will happen and be any good, but the more optimistic side thinks this could be super awesome!

- Home energy assessments are awesome, which makes me a little irritated because I've been trying to get one through Austin Energy and they never email or call me back. Sigh.

- Decoding the manifesto of that Austin guy who flew his plane into an IRS building last week.

- Very sweet ad for wearing your seatbelt


More snow pics
Mood: cold
Posted on 2010-02-23 12:32:00
Tags: pictures snow
Words: 5

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


The snow is sticking!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-02-23 10:06:00
Tags: pictures snow
Words: 5

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


link attack!
Mood: good
Posted on 2010-02-23 09:04:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 181

- There's a index of happy cities and states in the US (unsurprisingly Hawaii is the happiest state, although Utah and Montana tied for second). New Orleans is the 9th least happy metro area, and Rochester, NY is the 12th least happy. (although at least they beat Buffalo!) Austin did pretty well, too.

The Atlantic (best magazine ever, I remind you) did a a bunch of correlations on various demographic data to see what makes a city happy, and the most significant relationship was to education (or more precisely, what percentage of people had a bachelor's degree or higher) with a correlation of 0.68. Math!

- The White House unveiled their health care plan yesterday - here's a summary of how it compares to the House and Senate versions. There's going to be a "health care summit" later this week and then...who knows? Apparently they're open to passing it through reconciliation, which means they would just need a majority vote in the Senate instead of 60.

- Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation

- The stimulus bill probably has already added 1.6 to 1.8 million jobs.


LOST and links
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-02-17 12:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 227

Last night's LOST episode was pretty awesome. (decent recap here)
More smoke monster/fake Locke mythology. Sawyer being sarcastic. For that matter, Sawyer shirtless :-) Mysterious child sighting. (what are "the rules"?) Sawyer and fake Locke lying to each other. Ben admitting he killed Locke.

All good things. Plus the alternate timeline is turning out to be kinda like Heroes season 1, where all the characters' lives are intertwined in random ways. (Ben is a high school teacher!) Except it's even more interesting because we know how these characters interact in the "real" timeline, and we get to see them get a fresh start.

Also, why isn't Kate a candidate? Jacob touched her...

Looking forward to finding out the real story behind Jacob and fake Locke - it seems clear that Jacob was a protector of the island, but it's hard to know what beyond that to believe...


- The Big Picture featured Carnival this week and the photos are really amazing. (here's last year's version)

- The Case For An Older Woman - more interesting statistics from OkCupid. (a dating site)

- A graph of what the government spends money on. Aggregated:

This leaves 15 percent for everything else.


LJ for WebOS: 2.5 weeks later
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-02-17 10:55:00
Tags: lj for webos essay projects
Words: 577

It's been 2.5 weeks since LJ for WebOS was published on the Palm App Catalog, so I thought it would be nice to talk about how many copies have sold and whatnot.

As of this very moment (according to Palm's magic page that I reload far more often than I should), I've sold 44 copies. You can see a rough graph of the copies per day here, although this tracks downloads and not purchases, so for example when an update got published yesterday the download numbers spiked but the purchases did not.

I was actually expecting a little more of a bump from my app being near the top of the "Recent" list in the App Catalog, but I only sold 2 copies yesterday, which is around the same as most days. Which in retrospect makes sense, because already my app's appeal is fairly limited: only WebOS users who also use LiveJournal and use both enough that they'd be willing to pay to get a better interface to it. An impulse buy this is not.

This is part of the reason I priced it as $2.99, which is "high" in App Catalog terms - the number of people who would be interested in it is so artificially limited in the first place. Of course the other reason is that I think it provides at least that much value - it's much more pleasant to use than LiveJournal's mobile site, which is really the only alternative.

So how much money have I made? Well, let's do the math: 44 copies at $3 each is $132. My cut of that is 70%, which is $92.40. I had to pay $50 to get it on the App Catalog in the first place, so that's down to $42.40, and after taxes I end up with around $32.

On the one hand, hey, free money, right? Except I've spent a ton of time on this project. I've been working on it in my spare time since August, and I've written over 7000 lines of JavaScript code. I've definitely put at least 50 hours into it and probably closer to 100, so calculating the hourly rate is a little depressing. This is probably the project I've spent the second-most amount of time on. (I'm guessing top is

I think I put myself in a bad place here - when I work on projects for fun and release them "to the world" open source and all (see: almost everything on then I get the satisfaction of completing a project and the satisfaction whenever I see anyone use it, which is a pretty low bar. When I work on stuff for money, then, well, I get money for it, and the idea that someone cares enough about what I'm working on to pay for it.

But this model where I work on stuff in my spare time for fun and then try to make a little money off of it puts me in the mindset of working for the money, and then when the money fails to materialize I get depressed about it. Not to mention I've spent so much time on this in the last few weeks that I could feel myself burning out last night. So I think I'm going to back off a bit on new features and work on things that seem interesting or useful to me, not necessarily other people.

Anyway, this has been a bit meandering, so thanks for reading :-)


Ah, childhood
Mood: nostalgic
Posted on 2010-02-13 20:01:00
Tags: essay
Words: 46

As a child. I remember thinking that when characters on a TV show had to kiss, the director probably tried to cast the two actors as family members so kissing wouldn't be too awkward.

I was kinda dumb as a child :-)

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


Texas politics...
Mood: amused
Posted on 2010-02-13 14:44:00
Tags: politics
Words: 31

Dear marginal candidates for Texas governor:

Please stop saying 9/11 was an inside job. You're making us (the state) look bad! (which, admittedly, is not that hard to do...)



buncha random links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-02-08 12:35:00
Tags: links
Words: 113

Good Super Bowl yesterday! Nate Silver points out that the Saints' call to go for it on 4th and goal was the right move. Apparently, surprise onside kicks succeed around 55% of the time. And here's a handy chart about when to go for 2 after a touchdown.

The case against layoffs: they often backfire - this is one of the reasons NI is successful; there's a ton of institutional knowledge floating around since we basically have never had layoffs.

Someone emailed American Express complaining about their ridiculous password requirements (6-8 characters, no special characters), and this was their nonsensical response. Boo!

A graph of the US split up by social networking connections - neat!


Interested in LJ for WebOS?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-02-07 23:10:00
Tags: lj for webos projects
Words: 14

If you've interested in LJ for WebOS, why not sign up for our newsletter?


LJ for WebOS mentioned!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-02-04 23:31:00
Tags: lj for webos projects programming
Words: 26

Yay! LJ for WebOS was mentioned in the latest news post. If anyone's interested, here's the homepage, and I'm happy to answer any questions about it.


Mood: content
Posted on 2010-02-03 22:48:00
Words: 50

Today at work kinda sucked, and tonight I didn't feel like programming, so I played some FIFA, watched the last episode of Firefly...and now for some Chuck. Time away from the computer is good! (except for checking on sales of LJ for WebOS, of course!)

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


LOST thoughts
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2010-02-03 14:34:00
Tags: lost
Words: 151

First, a few links to the Lostpedia summary of the episode and a short interview with Damon and Carlton.

Now, spoilers below!

I liked where it seems that they're going with the episodes with the "flashsideways", exploring an alternate reality where the plane doesn't crash but the characters are still, you know, mostly the same. I dug the scene with fake Locke/the smoke monster (mystery revealed!) and am definitely interested to see what he's going to be up to next. I liked the stories in 2004 with the main cast in the wreckage of the hatch (why did Juliet have to die...again!), but the stuff with the Temple kinda bored me. Partially because I can't take a guy who looks like this at all seriously.

So overall I enjoyed the episode but it wasn't one of my favorites. It looks like this season will be good, though.

What did y'all think?


budget numbers and LOST day!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-02-02 15:06:00
Tags: links
Words: 62

Obama released his proposed 2011 budget - here's a neat graphic showing the differences from the 2010 budget broken down by department. Here's a breakdown of the various stimulus bills - these aren't new but I still found it interesting.

LOST Season 6 premieres tonight! A bunch of LOST links to celebrate, including Michael Emerson (Ben) reading "Little Boy Blue" in a creepy way.


LJ for WebOS released!
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2010-02-01 10:50:00
Tags: lj for webos projects programming
Words: 57

I'm happy to announce that my LiveJournal client for WebOS devices has just been released on the Palm App Catalog! It includes support for:
- viewing your friends post and own posts
- making posts with custom security, userpics, and tags
- uploading photos to and including them in posts
- viewing cached posts offline

Here's the official home page.


a few LOST links
Mood: excited
Music: Muse - "MK Ultra"
Posted on 2010-01-29 14:22:00
Tags: lost
Words: 64

Lost premiere is Tuesday! Wheeee!

Haven't been keeping up, or want a refresher? Here's a 8:15 recap of Seasons 1-5...blah, no direct link, but it's near the bottom of this article.

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune did a 10,000 word interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the executive producers. Here's part 1 which is definitely worth reading (no spoilers for Season 6).


what a difference...
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-01-27 09:55:00
Words: 70

Last week: Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can contribute to political campaigns, Democrats lose 60-seat supermajority in Senate, I gain weight.

This week: NI announces good Q4 results, State of the Union, magical new Apple tablet (or whatever) appears, our new Harmony remote arrives, LJ for WebOS (my WebOS LiveJournal client, formerly WebOSJournal) gets ever closer to release, I lose weight, one week closer to Lost premiere!


health care
Mood: sad
Posted on 2010-01-20 10:24:00
Tags: dreams politics
Words: 366

Scott Brown (the Republican candidate) won Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat last night. Although it doesn't seem like an upset now, it certainly was a few weeks ago - the last time Massachusetts had a Republican senator was 1978 (thanks Wikipedia!)

While it's fun to play the blame game (hint: Coakley was a terrible candidate, exit polls showed voters had a 58-38 approval of Obama), the real question is what does this mean for health care? It is possible for the House to simply pass the exact bill that the Senate has already passed without the need for another Senate vote, which seems to me the most likely way for it to happen. Or they could change the bill and send it back to the Senate and try to tempt Olympia Snowe or some other moderate Republican and waste more months and months while not doing more to deal with the economy and get absolutely slaughtered in November. It sounds like the White House wants to get it done (Axelrod, Plouffe), but it depends on the representatives in the House.

Last night we read in bed for a while, and I finished up The Science of Fear which had a passage about how we spend way too much money on counterterrorism (given the actual risk of terrorism) and how we could spend that money on, oh, covering the 40 or so million uninsured in America. It really hit home - to throw away a bill that helps cover 30 million people because of a special election (not to mention all the time that was wasted to get to this point) really doesn't make sense.

Then I had trouble getting to sleep because I was a bit despondent about health care reform's chances. Then I had a bad dream: I was on a train with my family and the Chinese army and something happened with a plane and I got orders to fight the Chinese army (destroyerj was a member), and we eventually defeated them in battle, killed destroyerj, but my two sisters had died in the fighting.

Sooo I think I'm going to disengage from politics for a week or so. Except the Prop 8 trial, of course.


a few Monday links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-01-18 15:23:00
Tags: music links
Words: 129

According to The Advocate, Austin is the ninth-gayest city in the US. Atlanta is #1, which kinda surprised me.

OK Go has a new music video out, and it's pretty good. It includes the Notre Dame marching band playing with them, which I generally like (see Radiohead with the USC marching band). Of course, OK Go is no stranger to cool music videos - they did the neato treadmill one for their last album.

The original YouTube video is not embeddable, and a member of the band wrote a long post explaining why that's so. Basically, their label (EMI) gets paid a small amount for each YouTube view, but their tracker can't count embedded hits, but there's a bit of philosophy about how different the music business is these days.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prop 8 trial liveblogging
Mood: determined
Posted on 2010-01-12 14:13:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 27

As I mentioned yesterday, the Prop 8 trial started this week. has been doing a liveblog of the proceedings, which I've found to be pretty interesting.


daily weight tracking - one year later
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2010-01-12 13:39:00
Tags: weight
Words: 144

I've been weighing myself every morning (give or take) for a year, so it seemed like a good time to look at the results:

Here's the graph:

Overall, I lost ~11 pounds in 2009. Optimistically, that's around a pound a month, which is nothing spectacular but not bad considering I wasn't on any diet in particular. Also, the overall trend was downward and I never got even close to my original weight.

Pessimistically, one pound a month is pretty darn low, and I seemed to stall out around September/October, and I'm not at my goal weight of 180, which is really above where I should be, according to BMI. And yeah, I know BMI is kinda arbitrary, but I'm not sure how else to find a healthy target weight.

Hopefully resetting the graph will help me focus on getting down to 180 and beyond!


Atlantic links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-01-11 10:54:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 257

Got a new issue of The Atlantic, and I'm only halfway through and I've already read two really interesting articles. I was sad when EGM died and would be sad if Newsweek stopped publishing, but if I lost my Atlantic heads would roll!

1. How America Can Rise Again - why things aren't as bad as they seem...except for our government/politics. The Daily Show covered this recently as well, which I especially enjoyed because people hearkening back to simpler times generally are looking through rose-colored glasses. (and are straight white males)

2. What Makes a Great Teacher? - Teach for America did a big study of their teachers and found what qualities correlate well with good teachers. And now they look for those qualities when hiring. And now (because of money the federal government is giving out) some school systems (DC's in particular) are tracking teacher performance. Good data => good findings => good results. Hooray for statistics!

David Boies and Ted Olson (the opposing counsels for Bush v. Gore) are bringing a case against California's Prop 8. People generally don't like its chances. Ted Olson wrote an editorial for Newsweek explaining his involvement - nothing shocking but it's nice to see the arguments coming from a conservative figure. (he was Bush's Solicitor General for three years)

When I read the paper this morning, I didn't expect to see an editorial by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees about a Supreme Court case involving the NFL. Color me surprised!

Obama hires a transgender bureaucrat, people accuse him of having a "transgender quota".


Mood: calm
Posted on 2010-01-07 10:54:00
Tags: movies
Words: 93

We saw Avatar in 3D last night. I went in with pretty low expectations but looking forward to the pretties. And that was about right - the story was both simple and extremely predictable, and honestly the movie felt a little long. But the giant blue people were very impressive, and the 3D really added to the beautiful, beautiful scenery. I've learned that a magical-seeming world that looks amazing is enough for me to enjoy a movie (see: Coraline), and the 3D really does make it better. So I did end up enjoying it.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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