still happy about Iowa
Mood: giddy
Music: Radiohead - "(Nice Dream)"
Posted on 2009-04-06 14:04:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 166

Yep, I'm still happy about Iowa! Supreme courts in Maryland, New York, and Washington have all ruled against gay marriage in the past 3 years[1] And it provides a beautiful spot of green on an otherwise somewhat dreary map.

Nate Silver does a regression on states voting on gay marriage and concludes that, if a gay marriage ban in Iowa makes it to the ballot in 2012, the vote will probably be extremely close. I'm not sure if having same-sex marriage performed in the state for 3 years will help or hurt the cause. (it seems to have helped in Massachusetts?) Using the same model, he predicts Texas would vote down a ban on gay marriage in 2018, which is sooner than I would have thought.

Also up this week - the governor of Vermont is expected to veto the same-sex marriage bill today (after the Senate approves the House version), then override votes should be tomorrow.

[1] - See this article for a broader picture. (return)


gay marriage in iowa!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2009-04-03 09:12:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 108

See here! And it was unanimous!

Also, regarding the possibility of a constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage (like Prop 8 in California):

Lobbying began immediately for lawmakers to launch the long process of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
No such legislation will be approved this session in the Iowa Senate, McCoy said. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal won’t allow it, he said.

Such an amendment requires the votes of a simple majority in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate in two consecutive sessions, followed by a passing vote of the people of Iowa.
(from this article, emphasis mine)


marriage in Iowa?
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-04-02 13:36:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 64

Andrew Sullivan notes the Iowa Supreme Court will hand down its ruling in a gay marriage case tomorrow. Really hoping I get to update my marriage map then!

If you haven't seen the Extreme Sheep LED Art, you really should. I saw it mentioned somewhere but wasn't that interested so I skipped it until today. But it's awesome!

Apparently Sweden voted for gay marriage!


dentistry and cable bandwidth caps
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-04-01 15:56:00
Tags: health timewarner
Words: 81

I had some fillings done today. Anyone know why the anesthetic they give you makes your heart race? He didn't remind me of that this time (sadly I've been there enough that I should know this going in) and it freaked me out. Not a pleasant feeling.

Time Warner might be capping bandwidth in the Austin/San Antonio area. (the company responds) This is very bad and if they go this route we might have to look into AT&T U-Verse or something.


Exciting news from Rice!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2009-04-01 10:26:00
Words: 483

I just saw the following email from David Leebron:

Dear Rice community,

Rice faces a changing world in its second century, and we must embrace the
challenges of the years ahead not as individuals but as a community. Recent
events have shown us that our future leaders will have to be concerned
with the human element of the future, as well as the technological. It is
for this reason that we have elected to move forward in our negotiations
with the Baylor College of Medicine. We believe, and feel confident, that
timely action will better allow us to prepare our students for the challenges
ahead. It is thus with great pride, and with the backing of the Board of
Trustees, that I announce to you our great institution's merger with the
Baylor College of Medicine.

In addition to this important milestone in Rice's history, an addendum has
been made to Rice's Vision for the Second Century. Although Rice has long
been known for--and indeed committed to--providing quality education for
tomorrow's scientists and engineers, we must continually look to the future
in order to stay at the forefront of higher education. It is for this
reason that a plan has been introduced whereby Rice University will
transform, gradually taking upon itself another identity. As the global
demands for healthcare continue to grow, we've chosen to make medicinal
studies a priority--a priority that, unfortunately, requires sacrifice in
other areas.

Although the details have not been finalized, a five-year plan has been
approved by the Board of Trustees whereby the current undergraduate
engineering curriculum will be gradually phased out to make room for
promising medical fields. Our hope is that a focus on medicine will attract
a host of creative, intelligent undergraduates to the Rice Premedical
Institute. The plan also calls for modifications within other departments
to emphasize this new direction. Although some might view these changes
with resentment, we strongly believe that such changes are necessary if
Rice's Vision for the Second Century is to be successful.

As is to be expected, the recent economic crisis has lent an urgency to
Rice's planned changes. History has shown that maintaining competitive
undergraduate programs in uncertain times is both financially risky and
ethically impure. As demand for certain fields wanes, it is our responsibility
as an institution of higher learning to ensure that Rice students study
within areas that not only show promise but also are financially viable.
As always, Rice will continue to adapt and grow as global demands shift.

Thank you for the suggestions and insight that have helped shape our
decisions so far. We continue to welcome your ideas going forward and
sincerely appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter.

With regards,

David W. Leebron

I think this is great news for the university - dropping the undergraduate engineering curriculum to establish a world-class medical program seems like a good bargain to me!


Same-sex marriage map!
Mood: proud
Posted on 2009-03-31 17:28:00
Tags: gay projects
Words: 93

The latest project I've been working on is this same-sex marriage map which shows the status of same-sex marriage and civil unions in the United States. It has pretty colors, and you can animate it to see how things have gone over time, and click on states to see their specific history.

Did you know that same-sex marriage isn't against the constitution in Wyoming? Or that in Virginia and Michigan, not only is same-sex marriage or civil unions against the constitution, but private contracts between people that do the same thing are too?

1 comment

Mood: excited
Posted on 2009-03-31 13:14:00
Tags: links
Words: 236

- Texas Senate approves drunken-driving crackdowns - I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, a checkpoint where you stop everyone who's driving and make them take a sobriety test seems pretty authoritarian. Admittedly it's only allowed for four hours a day and there are loads of exceptions, but I was pretty surprised to learn it's legal in 39 other states. On the other hand, 1300 people die in Texas each year (well, in 2007 anyone) because of alcohol-related crashes.

- This Austin Energy power-generation game is pretty interesting. (although the sound is annoying and there's no way to turn it off) Drives home how expensive solar power is - yikes!

- On Square Miles - that's a pretty big difference. (and I remember djedi mentioning the editorial on Sunday...)

- GM's Problems are 50 Years in the Making - fivethirtyeight is still going strong! The important stat is that GM pays $7 billion a year (from 1993-2007) in retiree pension and health care. And GM has never made more than $10 billion profit in a year. This sounds almost like a Ponzi scheme - the company does great at the beginning because it's deferring all these costs (and so can pay its workers less), but boy does it suck for them now.

- Lead Blizzard Dev Outlines 9 WoW Quest Problems - interesting points. And I never do that stupid Green Hills of Stranglethorn quest unless djedi gathers the pages for me :-)

1 comment

fun times at the bank!
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-03-30 15:00:00
Tags: dollarcoins links
Words: 462

(these are only "fun" compared to normal times at the bank. You have been warned!)

Fun bank story #1: I wanted to stop by the bank today to deposit a check and get a new roll of $1 coins, since I'm almost out. Then I realized I'm actually wearing my $1 coin shirt today. I went ahead and did it anyway but felt pretty self-conscious about the whole thing.
Fun bank story #2: As I was leaving, the teller pointed out that I had a lot of money in my bank account and asked if I usually kept this much around, presumably to pitch a savings account or something. I said no, and that I was getting married in a few months, to which she said "Congratulations!" and quickly dropped it. Later I realized this might have come off as saying my new wife was going to spend all my money or something.

- This TinEye "reverse image search" is pretty neat. You can get a Firefox extension and then do a search any time you see an interesting image to find variations of that image.

- I'm gonna go ahead and excerpt this article because it makes a good point and maybe summarizes how I think I feel:

This may sound strange, but I don't consider myself a real abortion foe. I have friends and sparring partners who think abortions should be illegal or at least heavily restricted. To me, that's the chief dividing line in the debate. I don't feel comfortable crossing that line. I don't think a regime of abortion restrictions enacted in the name of life would make this world a better place. I think it would cause a mess—hypocrisy, deceit, interrogations, amateur home surgery, moral crudity backed by the force of law—as ugly as any war fought in the name of peace.

I don't equate abortion with murder. I don't even think it's the worst option available to a woman facing unintended pregnancy. Every abortion dilemma is different, because every situation is different. The person best situated to make the right decision is the pregnant woman. A few years ago, I wrote a whole book on this point.

So why do I keep bringing up abortion as a moral problem? Because it is a moral problem. It's the destruction of a developing human being. For that reason, the less we do it, the better. When I say abortion is bad, I'm not saying it's necessarily worse than bringing a child into the world in lousy circumstances. I'm saying it's worse than avoiding unintended pregnancy in the first place. That's why I keep pushing contraception. If you cause an unintended pregnancy and an abortion because you didn't want to wear a condom, you should be ashamed.

Contraception is good, mmmkay?


looking for a tree place
Mood: curious
Posted on 2009-03-24 23:38:00
Words: 19

Anyone ever bought a tree in Austin? We're looking to plant a pecan tree in the backyard this weekend.


A depressing thought followed by happy music
Mood: pleased
Posted on 2009-03-24 12:58:00
Tags: music links
Words: 35

Depressing thought: Apparently, for every 1% increase in unemployment, 47,000 more people die.

Happy music: thru-you is a set of mixed YouTube songs, which doesn't really do it justice. My favorites are #1 and #5!


weighty thoughts
Mood: content
Posted on 2009-03-23 10:00:00
Tags: weight projects links
Words: 279

This weekend I was proud of myself as my weight hit its lowest level since I started tracking it this time. (since then it's bounced back up a little, but I'm going to ignore that for now) So I thought it would be a good time to look back at my previous attempts at weight loss to see how well I did.

And I had forgotten that (last very short attempt notwithstanding) I've done much better than this in the past. Right after college I was a full 15 pounds lighter than I am now, and even an attempt a few years later I got down to 5 pounds below my current weight. I really can't decide if this should be encouraging (it is possible for me to weigh less!) or discouraging (I've been trying for 2.5 months and only lost 7 pounds!).

On Friday I discovered that GnuCash (which we use to do our finances) stores its data in an XML format! So I wrote a script to generate a report on how much we spend on various categories each month (GnuCash has some builtin facilities to do this, but I couldn't quite get it to do what I wanted). The report looks pretty but I don't feel comfortable posting it to the web, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Related: I found this awesome ColorBrewer which helps you pick a set of colors for maps or graphs or whatever. This is great news since I suck at picking colors!

The British military put some of their troops on LSD to see how it would affect them. The results are amusing but not really surprising.


browser of choice?
Mood: curious
Posted on 2009-03-21 17:09:00
Tags: poll
Words: 32

So I saw this article about how Chrome is killing Firefox and I thought "Really?" That doesn't seem very likely considering Chrome's still under 1% market share.

But, just out of curiosity...


link friday: the bunch-o-linkening
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-03-20 15:45:00
Tags: links
Words: 77

- As has become a tradition, Paul Ford wrote six-word reviews of all the SxSW sample tracks released. Fun to browse through and listen to new music!

- More problems with Austin commuter rail - blah.

- Instead of rail, why not flying cars? The future has arrived!

- Medical marijuana is coming to Michigan next month - didn't realize it had spread outside of California.

- Today's weird link: - a bunch of neglected words beg for you to adopt them. With sound.


BSG and Lost
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-03-19 10:00:00
Tags: rant essay
Words: 595

(spoilers abound if you haven't seen the most recent episode of either!)
Lost is awesome.

Season 4 was pretty good - we learned a lot of interesting things about the island and the Oceanic 6's life after they left. The whole flash-forward structure was pretty neat at first, but eventually it seemed to rob the show of its stakes. We know Jack isn't going to die on the island because we can see him in the future! And there were certainly unanswered questions, like what happened to all the people who weren't in the Oceanic 6, but that wasn't enough for me to stay fully engaged. I thought the season finale in particular tied together some loose ends, but just wasn't that compelling. Interesting, sure, but I wasn't on the edge of my seat. And the whole dramatic tension of having to lie is something that is probably stronger in real life than it is to watch. After all, we're used to watching people lie on TV...

I had the same sort of problem with the beginning of Season 5 - we had a pretty good idea the Oceanic 6 were going to end up back on the island, so just showing why they arrived at that conclusion wasn't really that interesting to me. But the last two episodes of Season 5 have really kicked it up a notch. I feel like we're back in the heyday of Seasons 1 and 2 (which I watched on DVD and so didn't have the delayed gratification of waiting weeks between episodes) where we have no idea what's going to happen. Yeah, "Namaste" (the episode that aired last night) was kinda about resolving a bunch of loose ends about the Oceanic 6 arriving back on the island, but it did it in a very compelling way. I was on the edge of my seat watching LaFleur come up with a plan for Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid to integrate them into the Dharma Initiative. Even though the Purge is coming at some point we don't know what's going to happen to our folks.

And now a quick Battlestar Galactica rant, which you may have heard if you've been around me since last Friday:

I cannot believe they're at literally the second to last episode (bolding makes me sound angry!) and doing flashbacks back to before the series began...and these flashbacks kinda suck. So Roslin was happy go lucky! And had sisters! And then they and her father were randomly killed in a car crash, but she's stoic, see! Nevermind the fact that they would have all probably died when the Cylons attacked anyway...what is this supposed to tell us about her? We already know she's a tough person. I suppose the whole car crash was supposed to be shocking but I couldn't help but think the writers were just using a cheap device to make me feel sorry for her. Also, so help me if the person she's about to see on this blind date is the person who was driving the other car I'm going to jump up and down and scream "I don't care!" because I really really don't.

In other news, Baltar is still a jerk in the past. Two problems:
- I get that he's a jerk and I'm supposed to hate him. This has been emphasized basically any time he opens his mouth. Not news!
- There are three (now two) hours left to show the fate of humanity and I really really really don't care about Baltar compared to that.

TL;DR version: Lost good, BSG bad.


anyone want a camera?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-03-16 11:12:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 118

So I got a new camera for Christmas (it's great!), but my old camera works fine - anyone want it? It's a Canon PowerShot A510, 3.2 megapixels, 3x optical zoom, flash, etc. I'll even throw in a spare pair of batteries and battery charger, and a little carrying case. I just realized that I don't have the extra mini USB to USB connector, but they're like $8 at Fry's. Here's a picture:

Let me know if you want it!
The trip to see our new cousin Eli last weekend was good - here's David holding him:

(does linking pictures in LJ posts like this piss people off?)

Taking the day off today, hopefully will get lots of wedding stuff done!


hangin' on links!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-03-12 15:58:00
Tags: links
Words: 130

Couldn't sleep last night and had a 9 AM meeting this morning, so I'm slightly loopy!

- SIRC guide to flirting - this is an incredibly long article about social science and how you should flirt. Entertaining!

- Now-needy FDIC collected little in premiums - so let me get this straight. The FDIC (the "I" stands for "Insurance", remember) didn't collect money from most banks from 1996-2006 because

Congress believed that the fund was so well-capitalized - and that bank failures were so infrequent - that there was no need to collect the premiums for a decade
This makes me sad, as someone clearly doesn't understand what insurance is.

- The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist - a great Wired story about a real-life Ocean's 11 or something. Fascinating!

- Awesome video game-themed shirt and poster.


adieu genetic Mona Lisa
Mood: chipper
Music: The Lonely Island - "I'm on a Boat"
Posted on 2009-03-09 10:58:00
Tags: projects
Words: 260

That project I was working on? Yeah, not so much. After running it overnight, here's what I got:
The target imageA bunch of colored polygons
Um, so it seems to have figured out the image is mostly pink. Hooray?

Things I did learn:
- I originally tried crossover for breeding (specifically cut and splice) and that was just terrible. I think the algorithm really needs lots and lots of new polygons to be tried, and the weakness of crossover is that you're just combining existing ones.
- Originally I had a generation size of 500, and I implemented the image difference calculation in Python. This took around 500 seconds, which is way way way too long. After some optimizing, I got it down to around 280 seconds.

I had planned to wait until I had things working to write a C module for Python to do the difference, but I figured I couldn't really make progress until I could actually do the difference in a reasonable amount of time. After writing it in C (not even with MMX or anything) the total time went down to 1 second. Win!
- The best results seem to come from having a very small generation size and randomly mutating, which is pretty much what the original guy did.

Wanna see something else cool? Virgil did these: Books that make you dumb and Music that makes you dumb by correlating popular books and music at universities (found on Facebook) with average SAT scores. Obviously correlation is not causation but it's still pretty interesting. Guster, Ben Folds, and Radiohead fans should feel good, I suppose :-)


we got rings!
Mood: happy
Music: Civ 4 music
Posted on 2009-03-08 14:08:00
Tags: wedding
Words: 87

So yesterday we decided to knock a big thing off of the wedding list - rings. We went up to Lakeline Mall and thought we'd check out a jewelry store. Our first sign we were a bit over our heads: there are like 11 jewelry stores there! Anyway, we gamely went around to 6 of them and eventually settled on a nice titanium ring from Helzberg Diamonds - it was cheaper than I expected and very lightweight, which is good since we both type all day. Here's a picture:


the advantages of living in a medium-sized city
Mood: determined
Music: Foo Fighters - "Let It Die"
Posted on 2009-03-06 14:15:00
Tags: car projects
Words: 92

2.5 years ago: My car's check engine light turns on, I have to drive 40 miles early Saturday morning to get it checked out.

Today: My car's check engine light turns on, I drive 3 miles to drop it off during the middle of the day. (and hitch a ride back with destroyerj) Life is good!

My next project: This guy genetic algorithmed his way to a Mona Lisa with translucent polygons, and then this guy did something similar. I like images and especially genetic algorithms. Hopefully will have pretty results soon!


The Daily Show and Colbert Report firing on all cylinders
Mood: excited
Music: Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning"
Posted on 2009-03-05 13:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 205

Last night was a prototypical example of these shows doing what they do best. Here's The Daily Show finding an assortment of clips from CNBC showing just how wrong they were (and why perhaps being self-righteous about homeowners who bought big houses is hypocritical):

Good stuff. (although presumably some people knew they were buying houses that were too expensive for them, but it's unfair to tar everyone that way)

And here's The Colbert Report talking about a Glenn Beck recurring segment - here he sets them up:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

and here he knocks them down!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

Seeing Watchmen tonight! Very excited!


angry links!
Mood: angry
Posted on 2009-03-04 11:01:00
Tags: weight links
Words: 67

Ugh, even my links are disappearing!

Sign of the times - Austin layoff database

Updated my weight chart to show a rolling average of 5 days (in dark blue). The bottom graph is a graph of my body fat weight (weight * body fat percentage) - it's pretty noisy but trending downward, which is good.

There's now a free Kindle reader for the iPhone.

Jon Stewart on Limbaugh and Steele.


I miss music
Mood: contemplative
Music: Mozart - "Requiem"
Posted on 2009-03-03 10:02:00
Tags: music essay weight
Words: 106

I think I miss singing. Last week I couldn't get the Durufle Requiem out of my head (beautiful piece of music), and today I have the same problem with the Mozart Requiem, probably due to this 30 Rock episode. Maybe after the whole wedding thing I'll look into rejoining Austin Civic Chorus.

Another bit of self-reflection: The last few weeks I've been waaaay too moody. Insignificant things will bring me down, but then I'll feel better for no reason. I'm not sure how to work on that exactly.

We're seeing Watchmen at midnight Thursday and I'm quite excited!

Also, my weight sure bounces around a lot.


links for everyone!
Mood: busy
Music: Official Lost Podcast
Posted on 2009-03-02 12:11:00
Tags: projects programming politics links
Words: 212

So I won the code bounty! I've really been enjoying writing Firefox extensions - it's easy to get started and fast to see results, and I'm starting to understand XUL better. Anyway, Kate (who offered the bounty) is going to polish it up and release it, at which point I might consider using it - it's convenient and is a better solution to passwords than a tiered password scheme.

I also got the $100 Amazon gift card, which I'm not sure what to do with. Is this good because I'm less materialistic or bad because I'm not excited about anything in particular at the moment?


- Happy Texas Independence Day!

- If you like crazy Obama theories, you'll like this Daily Show segment! Sometimes I wonder where they find these people...

- The government is bailing out AIG some more, but the real story is that AIG lost $62 billion in 3 months!

- In a recent study, only 29% of people supported gay marriage, but this number went up to 43% if assurances were made that no church would be required to perform gay marriages. Which is kind of weird, because no church is required to perform particular kinds of marriages today.

- Obama frames things as people versus corporations and industries rather than Republican versus Democrat.


PasswordHash firefox extension!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-02-27 22:09:00
Tags: projects
Words: 14

In response to this code bounty, I give you PasswordHash! Firefox extension = good times.


obama's speech and an embarrassing memory from my past
Mood: embarrassed
Posted on 2009-02-25 13:23:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 241

Obama gave a sort of State of the Union last night - here it is in full and it was pretty good I thought. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (who some hope will run for president in 2012) gave the Republican rebuttal. As TPM points out he does a very good impression of Kenneth the Page! (Nate Silver covers why complaining about spending money on volcano monitoring isn't a great idea since it has saved lives in the past)

Unrelated memory that was randomly triggered at lunch: In 9th or 10th grade I was in the Houston Masterworks Chorus with my mom. For one rehearsal she couldn't make it, and so she arranged for me to catch a ride with someone (me not being able to drive) who was going to pick me up from home. Well, I'm a pretty shy person so I hadn't actually met this woman, but I sat outside on the curb reading a book waiting to be picked up. A car pulled up and scene missing and somehow I thought this was my ride and got so far as reaching in the window and unlocking the door before she asked "What are you doing?" I quickly apologized and went back to sitting on the curb. It was mortifying! Hopefully she didn't think I was a carjacker but I have a feeling she did. Later my actual ride came and I was careful to ask before entering the car :-)


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