election day!
Mood: unsure
Posted on 2009-11-03 08:36:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 148

Not much in Austin is that interesting (but go vote if you haven't already, blah blah blah) - there are a handful of races throughout the country, but the big ones for me are in Maine and Washington.

In Maine, same-sex marriage is being put to a vote (after the legislature passed it and governor signed it, it was put on the ballot by a "people's veto"), and in Washington state the same thing is happening with domestic partnerships. Nate Silver thinks keeping same-sex marriage is favored by a little bit in Maine, but the truth is that same-sex marriage has never won when put up to a vote (although domestic partnerships have never lost when put to a vote...interesting, no?) so a victory in Maine would be huuuuge. Really hoping to turn Maine dark green on the marriage map (and turn Washington, um, slightly darker green!) - here's hoping!


a few new pictures
Mood: energetic
Posted on 2009-10-31 13:36:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 13

Only two months late! Including cute nephew pictures and a few camping ones.


So...does anyone want a Google Wave invite?
Mood: bored
Posted on 2009-10-29 16:23:00
Words: 12

I have 10 or so to give away. Drop me a line!


depressing articles about football
Mood: bored
Posted on 2009-10-29 11:13:00
Tags: links
Words: 99

One in GQ, and one by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. Basically, it looks like many linemen in the NFL suffer from Chronic traumatic encephalopathy which has symptoms similar to Alzheimer's.

It sounds like the NFL is being very reluctant to investigate or make changes to the game to minimize the risks. Sure, players know the risks of getting injured, but it sounds like people don't realize the risk for CTE and that it seems to be so widespread, and it can ruin your life after you leave the NFL. Head injuries are nothing to mess around with.


links...on friday
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-10-23 13:07:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 158

Why CDC says this year's flu season is "very sobering" - the graphs show way more people getting the flu so far than in previous years.

The Large Hadron Collider was completed last year, but there was a problem that required it to be shut down until around now. It's designed to try to find the elusive Higgs boson, which some physicists call the "God particle" because the current theory is that it's what gives all particles mass. The Superconducting Super Collider was a similar project that was canceled back in 1993. Some people have taken these facts and concluded that God or fate or something must be conspiring to keep us from finding the Higgs boson, which is crazy but also kind of neat.

Apparently New York Governor David Paterson is planning to push the same-sex marriage bill next week...hoping to turn NY green on the map soon!

A neat graphic of 50 years of space exploration.

1 comment

early voting happening now
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-10-22 12:43:00
Tags: politics
Words: 70

Believe it or not, it's time for another election. This one is fairly boring, but there are as always some TX constitutional amendments on the ballot. One of particular interest is Proposition 11, which would forbid eminent domain (the state taking private property) solely for economic development. (vote For!)

League of Women Voters Guide (.pdf)
Austin American-Statesman endorsements

Early Voting locations and times (.pdf) - they're open until next Friday.


life update
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-10-21 13:24:00
Tags: palmpre house programming
Words: 244

We finally got our roof replaced (and got a gutter on the back of our house to boot), and are almost done with getting the insurance settlement and paying the roofers and whatnot. I'm looking forward to putting this behind us. How often do roofs get damaged like this, anyway? The damage happened in March and we're still not quite done...

I've been getting back into origami lately - found a really cheap source of paper and ordered a bunch that should arrive today. My sorta-goal is to make all five Platonic solids - so far I've made a (bad) tetrahedron, a decent octahedron and a pretty cool cube. Anything with equilateral triangles = hard.

We cooked something out of the Joy of Cooking last night! Some kinda chicken dish with garlic and lime and potatoes. It turned out pretty well.

Planning on volunteering with the Community Tax Center in the new year. It's been a while (too long!) since I've done any volunteering, so it'll be good to get back into it.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been working on a LiveJournal client for the Palm Pre/Pixi. It works decently for me, but when I gave it to a few people to test it freezes. (luckily, you can just kill it so it doesn't mess up the whole phone) I'm at a bit of a loss as to why this is happening and it's pretty disheartening, so I haven't worked on it in a few weeks.


Golden Rules of Travel
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-10-19 10:01:00
Tags: travel
Words: 63

Grandma's Golden Rule of Travel: Always go to the bathroom whenever one is available.
Grandpa's Golden Rule of Travel: Don't back up more than you have to. (this is more of a driving rule)

I am proud to present
My Golden Rule of Travel: Always pack boxers and sleep pants, no matter what the temperature is outside.

This rule has served me well :-)

1 comment

link friday
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-10-16 13:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 153

- The top 100 scifi/fantasy TV shows - obviously a lot of room for debate here but I was pretty happy with the top 20 or so. I've seen at least an episode of 26 of these, including 7 of the top 10. How about y'all?

- My mom was on a local TV show to talk about the swine...er, I mean H1N1 flu. Here's the video (second one down, episode 124). She was also interviewed on a different show (InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse - awesomely enough, the show was nominated for an Emmy and that episode is the one they went in!

- Be lucky - it's an easy skill to learn - interesting, slightly provocative.

- George Takei and his partner Brad Altman on The Newlywed Game - awww!

- Been playing around on Google Wave some, and everyone keeps asking me what it is, which is a hard question to answer. This article at least describes what it's good at!


All's well that ends well
Mood: happy
Music: The Magnetic Fields - "Zombie Boy"
Posted on 2009-10-15 10:39:00
Words: 108

So last Thursday I was a little irritated with our roofing company and called the guy asking a) when the gutters would be done and b) what we needed to do for insurance. And I was annoyed because he never called me back.

But, lo and behold, Monday the gutter guy called me and we set something up, and last night I got an email from our insurance implying that it had all been taken care of. (so we get the depreciation extra money or whatever) Still would have preferred if he had actually, you know, communicated with me directly, but I'm not going to complain too much...

1 comment

A few late Friday links
Mood: determined
Posted on 2009-10-09 15:45:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 116

Weekend here yet? No? OK:

- Play this game of driving while texting! I am 0.78 seconds slower while texting and missed 10% more gates, considerably worse than the average.

- Carl Sagan, autotuned

- New survey shows rising support for civil unions - 57% of Americans support civil unions, 39% support same-sex marriage. We're getting there! Surprisingly, 49% said "homosexual behavior" was "morally wrong", so I give credit to the at least 8% that said that but also support civil unions.

- Paul Krugman answers readers' questions - interesting stuff.

- Some people said some nice things about National Instruments.

- Anyone else on Google Wave? Haven't quite figured it out, but let me know and we can be wave buddies or something!


developing for the Palm Pre
Mood: contemplative
Posted on 2009-10-09 10:18:00
Tags: palmpre programming
Words: 179

This week Palm announced how you'll be able to publish apps for the Pre, Pixi, etc. There seem to be three options that I'd consider:
- Join the Palm Developer Program (PDP) for $99/year and pay $50/app to get it in the App Catalog on the phone (paid or free)
- Join PDP for $99/year and distribute it on the web (paid or free)
- Release it open source and distribute it on the web (no need to join PDP in this case)

Basically, if I wanted to sell apps, I'd have to choose options 1 or 2, which are a bit more expensive than I'd like for a hobbyist project. I've been working on a LiveJournal client under the assumption that I'd be selling it for $2.99 or so - I haven't seen any other clients and I put a fair bit of work into parsing posts and comments, etc.

But I think I'll probably just release it on the web open source and put up a Donate button or something. Costs me nothing and it will let more people use it.

1 comment

Curious about Roman Polanski
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2009-10-08 10:50:00
Tags: poll
Words: 90

So, if you haven't heard, Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland two weeks ago. In response, some prominent filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen have signed a petition asking for his release. So, I'm curious:

My thoughts behind the cut:

I pretty much don't understand why this is an issue. He was tried and convicted of a pretty heinous crime and fled the country. Yeah, it was a long time ago, but sending the message that disappearing for a few decades = forgiveness of punishment seems pretty crappy to me.


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

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

Dear Mr. Stoll:

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

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

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

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


United States Senator

Dear Friend:

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator


Rice pictures
Mood: determined
Posted on 2009-10-01 10:20:00
Tags: pictures programming
Words: 388

I visited Rice for some recruiting this week, and tried to document all the things that have changed since I graduated. The result is here:

This has been, for various reasons, a crazy few weeks. I'm hoping things have settled down a bit now.

One of the things I've been doing is competing in the Google Code Jam, an online programming contest. The structure is interesting - each problem has a small set and a large set of data to solve. The small set you can usually get by doing a straightforward program/algorithm (although not always!), and you have 4 minutes to download and submit your solution. If it's incorrect you get notified right away and you can try again on a different data set. The large set is much, well, larger, and you usually have to do something pretty clever to solve it. You get 8 minutes to download and submit it, but you only get one shot and you don't know whether you succeeded or not until the contest is over.

The first round was the qualification round (you had to get one small set and one large set to advance) and after that was Round 1A. There were also rounds 1B and 1C, you could compete in any/all of them, and the top 1000 from each round advanced to round 2. I did well enough to advance, so I started doing more practice rounds from previous years with varying levels of success. This culminated in trying round 2 from last year the day before the contest and getting 0 points. I was kinda frustrated at this but it sorta worked out well because I was resigned to probably not advancing. In the actual round 2 I got 2 small sets and 1 large set, which I considered respectable - it put me in 1078/3000 people, but only the top 500 advance (and get a T-shirt :-) ). So I'll probably do it again next year but without a lot of practice or something I'm not sure I'd ever see the ways to do most of these; Google publishes a contest analysis of each round after the fact, and those round 2 problems are doozies.

The upside is that it made me want to jump back in to my other programming projects, so hopefully I'll get to do that soon!


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

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

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

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

Science links:

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

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

Chronic Radiation Is Beneficial to Human Beings (maybe)


reviews of stuff I generally like
Mood: determined
Posted on 2009-09-17 09:52:00
Tags: movies reviews palmpre games
Words: 468

After spending another month with my Palm Pre since my last review, I thought I'd take a minute and reevaluate. I'm still happy with it in general...

Battery Life: This has gotten a bit better since my first review - I still charge it every night, but just taking to the office and browsing a little with it during the day still leaves me with plenty of juice. Even traveling with it and playing games for a while on the way back from Niagara Falls I was able to use it most of the time.

WebOS: One big annoyance is that, when the phone is in landscape mode (which is better for reading web pages, etc.), you don't get the notifications on the bottom, and the keyboard is obviously in the wrong place. This leads to a lot of switching back and forth between landscape and portrait mode, or just giving up and leaving it in portrait mode.

Apps: There are now 50 apps on the store, and supposedly paid apps will be available next week. Here's hoping!

Last night we watched Spirited Away which was really pretty amazing. It struck the same "magical environment" tone for me that Coraline did. Here's a good review of it with a few clips to get a good taste of it. The director's newest film is Ponyo, now showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.

This week (busy week!) we also picked up Scribblenauts, a new game for the Nintendo DS whose tagline is "Write Anything, Solve Everything". The basic idea is that you have a series of puzzles to solve, and you can write any object (no trademarks or profanities) and it will appear, which you can then use to help you. It's a pretty cool idea and the dictionary of words it recognizes is huge. (according to someone who extracted it, it's over 22000 words!)

There are two types of levels - puzzle ones, where the goal is to do something specific (like collect the flowers and give them to the florist, or help the birthday boy break open his piñata) and action ones, where the goal is to get to the starite and overcome whatever obstacles are in the way. The puzzle levels are a lot of fun - they aren't too difficult but you master the level if you beat it three times in a row using none of the same objects. The action levels are an exercise in frustration, because the control scheme is fairly terrible. You tap on objects to manipulate them, but you also tap to move Maxwell (your character) to a spot on the screen. We've already died many times because of mistaps and there sure isn't any undo...

Anyway, it's a cute game and fun to play and watch. I just wish it was less frustrating!


Respect for Marriage Act introduced!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-09-15 13:27:00
Tags: activism gay politics
Words: 345

This bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allow married same-sex couples the same federal rights as all other married couples. This is a big deal. Here's a fact sheet about it. (.pdf) Right now, it only has 91 cosponsors (out of 435 representatives) so drumming up support is important!

Here's what you can do:
- Find your representative and senators and write them asking them to support the bill. The email I wrote is behind the cut:

Representative McCaul:

I respectfully urge you to support the just-introduced Respect for Marriage Act of 2009. This act will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and restore the "Full Faith and Credit" clause of the US Constitution to allow states to determine who is married, not the federal government.

Right now, 5 states allow same-sex couples to marry (see http://gregstoll.dyndns.org/marriagemap/ for a detailed breakdown), and in 3 of these states the couples were given this right through a legislative process. However, married same-sex couples in these states don't have the rights under federal law that other married couples do, such as Social Security survivor benefits, Family Medical Leave protections, and fair federal taxation.

As you probably know, Texas currently does not allow same-sex couples to marry (indeed, it is forbidden in the state constitution), and this bill would not change that. It would just give the same-sex couples that are married in states that have chosen to allow it the same rights as any other married couples. Marriage laws have always been left up to this states, and this would restore this practice as the Constitution intended.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

-Greg Stoll

(a little tailored for Texas, obviously - change that part if you use it and you're not from here!)

President Obama supports repealing DOMA but it's going to be hard to get it through the House and Senate, and he's not investing any political capital in doing so. If you support repealing DOMA, please take a few minutes and write your representatives!


another day, another dollar
Mood: okay
Music: Jami Sieber - "Undercurrent" (from Braid soundtrack)
Posted on 2009-09-14 15:46:00
Tags: links
Words: 299

For some reason I tend to get depressed Sunday mornings when we go to church. I'm not sure if it's because the weekend's almost over (but Sunday afternoon depression would seem more likely) or what. I usually feel better by the end of church, though. It's weird.

Yesterday I played Braid for the first time (djedi finished it last week, I believe), and it's pretty cool although kinda tricky. (David helped me a lot, which I appreciated!) The art style and music are quite striking, and it turns out the creator of Braid licensed all of the music. You can buy it on Magnatune, or listen to it here with slightly annoying end of track speeches:

Music from Braid by Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz

Excellent mood music!

onefishclappin posted this interesting map of which cities have more single men than women and vice versa. I would love to see an explanation for why there are more single men than women on the West Coast, and vice versa on the East Coast.

Is Happiness Catching? The answer is maybe, as you might expect, but the article lists a bunch of examples of things that are socially contagious, like obesity and smoking. For example:

When a Framingham resident became obese, his or her friends were 57 percent more likely to become obese, too. Even more astonishing to Christakis and Fowler was the fact that the effect didn’t stop there. In fact, it appeared to skip links. A Framingham resident was roughly 20 percent more likely to become obese if the friend of a friend became obese — even if the connecting friend didn’t put on a single pound. Indeed, a person’s risk of obesity went up about 10 percent even if a friend of a friend of a friend gained weight.


simultaneous dance video!
Mood: blah
Posted on 2009-09-13 12:27:00
Words: 21

Coordinated in advance on the internet:

Oddly enough, this was mentioned in the sermon in church this morning. Wasn't expecting that.


Rochester pictures, Obama's health care speech
Mood: resigned
Posted on 2009-09-10 10:26:00
Tags: pictures politics
Words: 117

Finally put pictures up from our Rochester trip this weekend:

Obama's big health care speech was last night - I caught a bit of it on the radio, but reading the remarks this morning it seems like a good speech and hopefully something will get done. (here's the plan in bullet point style) I'm glad he addressed some of the more ridiculous rumors like "death panels".

During the speech, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled "You lie!" to Obama, which got some boos. Here's a video - the look on Nancy Pelosi's face is priceless :-) Apparently he called afterwards to apologize to Obama.

I got my copy of Alien Hand Syndrome (i.e. the Damn Interesting book) yesterday. It is good!


Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-09-02 10:33:00
Tags: gay projects links
Words: 133

How many times have you had a log file with lots of pointer values and wanted to quickly see which values were equal, and even rename them with a meaningful name?

Wow. Really? Never? We lead very different lives.

Anyway, I wrote a little log colorer to do that, which has been helpful trying to track down a race condition. (and inserting a breakpoint tends to make it not happen) Also, colors!

Ben & Jerry's is celebrating that gay marriage is legal in Vermont effective yesterday (yay!) with Hubby Hubby ice cream.

In Maine, gay marriage is legal but it will be on the ballot in November. The Catholic Church, in a disappointing but not too surprising mood, is contributing $100,000 to try to repeal it even as they have to close local parishes.


rolling along
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-08-27 13:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 141

This article on dirty coding tricks game developers have used to get to shipping is pretty cool. I particularly like one from the comments:

Back on Wing Commander 1 we were getting an exception from our EMM386 memory manager when we exited the game. We'd clear the screen and a single line would print out, something like "EMM386 Memory manager error. Blah blah blah." We had to ship ASAP. So I hex edited the error in the memory manager itself to read "Thank you for playing Wing Commander."
Texas executed an innocent man, certainly not the first.

Re-reading some old articles by Atul Gawande. (the guy who wrote the article about health care costs) He's written a lot of good articles: I particularly liked this one about checklists in the ICU and how amazingly effective they are at reducing physician error.


who wants free stuff?
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-08-22 11:41:00
Words: 79

- A copy of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures for PC, still in its original shrinkwrap. (apparently Gamestop doesn't want used PC games or something)

- A Gamecube with power cable, video cable and even a component video cable. Still works but no controllers. (Gamestop won't take back game systems without a controller, and with a controller the guy offered me $10 which is frankly a little insulting) Lots of happy memories with this guy!

So, reply and let me know!


still liking my Pre
Mood: confused
Music: Michael Giacchino - "Star Trek" soundtrack
Posted on 2009-08-20 14:17:00
Tags: palmpre programming politics links
Words: 131

Palm is now accepting submissions for the Pre App Catalog, so I went ahead and submitted PasswordHash. That one will be free but I'm thinking of charging $2 for my next one...

LabVIEW has a lot of handy keyboard shortcuts.

codepad.org is a neat place to quickly try out/share code in a bunch of different languages.

The latest in health care: maybe the Democrats are going to give up trying to compromise since the Republicans don't really seem interested, although Chuck Grassley may or may not be. Honestly, I've kinda given up trying to figure out what the hell is going on - I hope something good passes but hearing how laws that affect us actually get passed makes me sad.

The Longest Poem in the World made out of rhyming tweets.


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