$1 coins take two
Mood: geeky
Posted on 2008-12-08 17:11:00
Tags: dollarcoins
Words: 51

As a followup to my last entry, I did an experiment on the work vending machines today. I am happy (and surprised) to report that both the candy and the soda machine happily took my dollar coin. Oddly enough, when I hit coin return they both gave me back four quarters!

3 comments

$1 coins!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-12-07 13:52:00
Tags: dollarcoins
Words: 95

This afternoon we went to the Arboretum Barnes & Noble to do some Christmas shopping. As we pulled up and walked there from the parking lot, there was some music blaring from a truck or something. It turns out the US Mint was there promoting the 1 dollar coins! For real.

Of course I had to check it out. They had four people and a bunch of shirts and they said I could get a shirt if I traded in a $20 for 20 dollar coins! So I did, and here's why dollar coins are awesome!

14 comments

friday link friday
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2008-12-05 13:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 179

And now, a special Friday installment of Link Friday!

2 comments

prop 8 - the musical
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-03 14:13:00
Tags: links
Words: 45

If you don't like a musical with (in order of awesomeness) Neil Patrick Harris, Allison Janney, Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho and Andy Richter among others, are we really friends? Because I'm having doubts...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

4 comments

my problem with "Fringe"
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-02 10:44:00
Words: 172

We watched two episodes yesterday and it's moving into "one or two dumb moments and it's gone" territory. Here's why (may contains spoilers up until two weeks ago's episode):
I was hoping it would be more of a serial show, like Lost or BSG. But, it's not. It seems like (and I only watched two episodes yesterday so this may be biased by those) every episode ends with something kinda surprising! And then nothing really happens with that in the future, with the exception of the pilot.

The main stories are generally OK, but they seem to be falling into a pattern of artifically setting up the need to do something crazy, like "this guy won't tell us how to save this FBI agent unless we get to ask this other guy a question. Oh, but we just killed him so now you have to get the answer while he's dead." None of this really has to do with why the FBI agent is dying!


Anyone else watching? What do y'all think?

4 comments

getting back in the lj habit
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2008-12-01 11:36:00
Tags: health wedding links
Words: 361

Thanksgiving was nice with djedi's family. We went to the mall on Friday and didn't buy much but got a lot of ideas for people. Apparently we're in a recession that started last December, but you wouldn't know it looking at all the people that were there. I managed to screw up my shoulder something fierce, but staying dosed on Advil helps a lot, and indeed it was feeling much better this morning.

As I mentioned angrily before, I need a root canal. I decided to switch to the better dental insurance at work since apparently my teeth are fairly crappy, genetically speaking or something. The new plan takes effect Jan 1 and I'm trying to decide whether to put off the procedure until then. The tooth has only hurt a little since I went in and got a cleaning, and I have some antibiotics in my back pocket that I can take for 5 days (and they'll be effective for 10), so I could wait until it hurts a lot and take those. The downside is that if it doesn't work, I'll know mid December which will both be too late to schedule something before the holidays and Christmas will be filled with tooth pain.

Rice football is 9-3 and hopefully I'm gonna see them in the Texas Bowl! (which is in Houston)

We finally got around to asking the rector at our church a few weeks ago if we could have our commitment ceremony there or have him officiate. We heard back last night - nope and nope. (because of the rules for the diocese) He was very nice in the email and I understand that rules are rules and I'm really not surprised, I guess, but I am disappointed. Honestly, we're lucky that we live in an age where we can just be a couple most of the time, but it makes the times when that's not the case more jarring. We'll have to find somewhere else to have the ceremony, and someone to officiate...blah.

One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex - sounds kinda sketchy. I didn't realize the Pentagon used military analysts to push favorable media coverage of the war, etc.

2 comments

"I wish I had done this!"
Mood: geeky
Posted on 2008-11-26 10:16:00
Tags: essay math programming links
Words: 387

"I wish I had done this!" is my highest praise for a website. The last time I can remember using it was for wowjutsu, which tracks raid progression in WoW by looking up what gear people are wearing in the Armory and matching that with where that gear came from. Simple idea, useful, interesting, but the technology behind it is something I totally could have done.

My newest "I wish I had done this!" is StateStats. You enter a search term, it finds which states in the US search for that term more per capita, then gives you a nice heat map of the US. But then it correlates that with a host of other state rankings: obesity, income, high school graduation rates, voted for bush, percent youth, etc., etc., etc. So you can see that searches for "prius" are correlated with income and negatively correlated with energy consumption. Or searches for "gay" are correlated with density (i.e. more urban states) and negatively correlated with voted for bush. Or searches for "lsu" are highly correlated with, well, being Louisiana. Or searches for "coke" are highly correlated with obesity, while searches for "soda" are highly negatively correlated with obesity. (huh?) Or searches for "tea" are correlated with income and negatively correlated with voted for bush.

Anyway, it's a ton of fun to play with, and the example queries ("garth brooks" is highly correlated with voted for bush!) are interesting, but it's even more fun to think of a common search term and see what pops up.

The correlation metric it's using is just based on rank and not intensity - i.e. it's just the order of the 50 states that matter, not how much the first place one is bigger than the second place one. This probably leads to some false positives when the numbers are very close together. Also, I'd imagine there's a natural inaccuracy determining which state a particular query is coming from, and since you're looking at things only on a state by state level (as opposed to county by county or something) it's not as precise as it theoretically could be.

And don't forget correlation is not causation - searching for "hockey" does not make it colder outside, or make you richer.

I award StateStats the official "I wish I had done this!" seal of approval.

2 comments

tv stuff
Mood: post-y
Posted on 2008-11-25 13:29:00
Tags: links
Words: 173

(apparently I'm in a post-y sort of mood...)

How Fox Helped Make Torture Happen - apparently the interrogators at Guantánamo Bay are big fans of 24. I'm all for realism in TV shows, but at some point TV shows do affect popular culture and if 24 glamorizes torture (which it sounds like it does) to the point that it encourages government officials to do it...well, something's wrong there.

I'm a big LOST fan, and I've been doing their ARG this summer/fall, which was to apply to a position in the Dharma Initiative, take some tests and then...well, it turns out the ARG was cancelled because of the financial crisis. At first I thought it was all part of the ARG, but no! You can see the email sent today. If you haven't been watching LOST, or forgot what's been happening since it's been six months since the Season 4 finale (grumble grumble), you can see the LOST Starter Kit (password is "lafleur"), which is kinda like the "What the Frak?" summary of Battlestar Galactica.

11 comments

links in th' morning
Mood: happy
Music: Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning"
Posted on 2008-11-25 09:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 163

Princeton Proposition 8 to protect traditional sidewalk values. (being a freshmen is a choice!) I'm flattered (well, "flattered" isn't exactly the right word) that people are taking this rejection of gay marriage pretty seriously, although many many laws banning gay marriage have passed in other states and it never hit the national consciousness. Of course, this one is different in that it takes a way a right that had been given (by the courts) but, you know, still. I'd be pretty darn happy with civil unions in Texas even if it isn't called "marriage" for a very long time, but this is exactly the case in California...

Take the civics quiz! I scored 30/33=91% although I had some lucky guesses. Our elected officials don't do so great on it.

Here's what to do if you break a CFL bulb - basically, don't freak out, let the room air out for 15 minutes, then scoop up the pieces in a plastic bag (and wear gloves).

1 comment

link monday
Mood: blah
Music: Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning"
Posted on 2008-11-24 10:31:00
Tags: netflixprize math links
Words: 364

I'm actually feeling a bit down from finishing my talk - I guess I was looking forward to it more than I thought? It's weird. Maybe I need to work on whereslunch.org some more or something. Anyway, to cheer myself up:

Also, I put up some pictures David took of the talk. (thanks!)

0 comments

talk went well!
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2008-11-22 12:58:00
Tags: math
Words: 38

The talk went well! The kids seemed to understand, and in some cases jumped the gun on stuff (which is fine). Here's the talk in ppt format (and in odp format) and the worksheet in pdf format.

Yay!

2 comments

i'm kinda busy, but here are some links I enjoyed and thought you might enjoy as well!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-11-20 12:45:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 244

Finally everyone called Missouri for McCain (so long, bellwether state!), and Obama won 1 electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district (the one with Omaha in it), so the final electoral total is 365-173, and Obama won the popular vote by around 7% (see CNN's final results), which is a lot for modern elections. This is the largest percentage of popular vote win for a Democrat since LBJ in 1964. He flipped 9 states from red to blue from 2004.

Senatewise, Ted Stevens did in fact end up losing in Alaska, so you Alaskans are off the hook...for now. Georgia senate race goes to a runoff since the Republican won just under 50% of the vote. In Minnesota, there's an ongoing recount between Al Franken(D) and Norm Coleman(R) - Coleman is currently ahead by 172 votes (down from 215 before the recount started). Here's a neat feature where you can see some of the ballots that are being challenged and vote on how you think they should be called. I think #5 is my favorite!

South Park creators to write Broadway musical lampooning Mormons - so many mixed emotions. Angry at Mormon church for funding Yes on Prop 8 in California. Not real comfortable with a musical making fun of someone's religion. Amused it's being co-written by the writer of Avenue Q. Amused the lead role is being played by an openly gay actor.

This Daily WTF is yet another remarkable case of programming without thinking.

19 comments

is it Saturday yet?
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-11-19 12:54:00
Tags: math links
Words: 175

Saturday is my math talk; last night I finished the slides and wrote up a worksheet. Things look pretty good - tonight I plan to do a trial runthrough and make some changes to the worksheet. (I'll post all this stuff when it's done for posterity's sake...) At this point, I've spent probably 8 hours preparing for my 1.5 hour talk (which includes the students working on the worksheet) and I expect that'll rise to 10 hours of preparation by the time this is over. How do you teachers do it? This is crazy. I'm really looking forward to having my evenings back...(not that it isn't kinda fun preparing, but it's getting a little old)

Making some progress on my annoying bug at work. No longer freaked out about teeth. The week is looking up!

A long look at the people who saw the subprime mortgage crisis coming, written by Michael Lewis.

Five Physics Lessons for Obama - good stuff in here. I think nuclear power is a pretty good way to go, assuming it's managed well.

11 comments

life recap
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-11-17 09:51:00
Tags: 23andme math wedding worldofwarcraft genetics
Words: 504

World of Warcraft:
The second expansion to WoW, called "Wrath of the Lich King" (or WotLK) released Wednesday midnight. (the late midnight, not the early midnight) So we planned to get it then at our local Gamestop (the Arboretum one). We had heard that there was going to be a big party beforehand, including Blizzard developers and a costume contest and whatnot. So I guess we should have seen this coming, but when we arrived at 10:20 there was a long line. A very long line.

We assumed it was like other midnight release events we had been to - get in a short line to pay and get your receipt validated (sticker or highlighter squiggle or whatever), then wait in a longer line to get the game (that would only start moving at midnight). We walked by the tent where there was some music and stuff, and decided to wait in line to pay first before enjoying the festivities.

It turns out, there was only one very long line, and that was the line to pay. So we gamely got in the back and waited in the cold (djedi ran in to Barnes & Noble and got me a hot chocolate and himself a tea :-) ). And waited. And waited. Every fifteen minutes or so we'd move up like four or five paces. I wish I was exaggerating. wildrice13 and later destroyerj joined us so that was kinda fun, but midnight came and went and we were still in line. At this point the smart thing to do probably would have been to give up and come back the next morning (especially since I had to get up early to take destroyerj and skimmerduk to the airport) but that never occurred to me. Finally at 2:20 we got our copies and left. They only had two registers going for what must have been 500 people. Booo gamestop!


Having said that, the game is good and I got it to install on linux with the usual tweaking.

Math talk:
My math circle talk is Saturday, and it's coming along OK. I finished sketching out the talk and worked on my slides last night, although I then changed part of the talk to make a bit more sense. New theme: graph theory in computer science, with parts about register allocation and Huffman encoding. Still need to actually do the rest of the slides, then make up a worksheet, then practice it. I did get to pick out what sort of cookies would be served, though, so that's a plus :-)

Game night:
Sorry to those who I told we'd be hosting a game night this week, but between talk preparation stuff and djedi work crunch time we can't do it this week. Hopefully soon, though.

23andMe:
I think I'm going to take the plunge and get my DNA analyzed soon, maybe after the talk. Should be fun and exciting!

Wedding/Commitment ceremony planning:
We're actually starting to move forward on this - investigating locations, etc. More stress to come, I'm sure.

5 comments

what's on my mind
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-11-11 10:11:00
Tags: whereslunch math projects
Words: 209

11 comments

graph colorings and network flows
Mood: concerned
Posted on 2008-11-08 19:43:00
Tags: math
Words: 164

I agreed to give a talk to the Austin Math Circle in a few weeks, so today I tried to figure out what it should be about. I think I'm going to talk about graph theoryish things - the way things work, I'll be talking for a while, then the kids will work on part of a worksheet, then a break for cookies and stuff (I love cookies!), then more talking and more of a worksheet. First part will be on coloring (hoping to prove the six-color theorem) which I've got pretty well sketched out. (although I need slides too! ack...) Second part is less clear - I think something on network flows would be interesting, but I'm not sure I can come up with enough material that isn't too complicated and I can explain well. I guess I'll work on that tomorrow.

(also, this is the first post I've made in...man, maybe two months? in which I didn't mention the election, this postscript notwithstanding. Hooray!)

2 comments

ok, not quite over the election yet
Mood: calm
Posted on 2008-11-06 10:59:00
Tags: election politics
Words: 198

A lot of stuff is coming out now that the election's over. For example, apparently (and I honestly have a hard time believing this) Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country, and refused interview preparation for the disastrous Katie Couric interview. This seems to put in doubt thoughts of running in 2012. Here's more on the "civil war" between McCain's people and Palin's people.

Nate Silver on what the hell happened in Alaska - looks like the most likely scenario is that Democrats didn't show up to vote since the election had been called by then. Bad Democrats!

More of the Newsweek special election project - it's hard to link to so here are the chapters that have been released. It's really fascinating stuff if you're interested in what was going on inside the campaigns!

All seven chapters are now released!

2 comments

trying to move on
Mood: distracted
Posted on 2008-11-05 14:54:00
Tags: politics
Words: 98

Trying to detox from election coverage. No on Prop 8 is not conceding yet, but looking at the numbers it's hard to see how Prop 8 fails to pass. Don't really want to write more about it, except that progress is never easy but I'm confident we'll win in the long run.

Newsweek's "special election project" had a lot of access to the campaigns over the last year on the condition that they not publish anything until after the election. Here's the summary of what they're going to cover, and here's part 1 of their 7 part report.

1 comment

probably the craziest result of the night
Mood: amazed
Posted on 2008-11-05 10:31:00
Tags: election politics
Words: 117

Convicted felon Ted Stevens is winning in Alaska. Words fail me. Except for "what the hell is wrong with y'all up there??"

From TPM:

4:21 AM ... Now that Alaska seems on its way of reelecting its convicted felon senator and its (little doubt) soon to be indicted member of the House, I realize that perhaps I judged Sarah Palin too harshly. In the context of Alaska politics, I guess she really is a reformer.

4:26 AM ... Now that the "Bradley Effect" seems set for a richly deserved retirement, TPM Reporter Eric Kleefeld suggests christening the "Stevens Effect" -- the poll distorting effect of poll respondents unwillingness to admit they will vote for the convicted felon in the race.

0 comments

final election results for tonight
Mood: a little teary-eyed
Posted on 2008-11-05 02:18:00
Tags: election politics
Words: 343

Re my predictions:
- Obama picked up all those states, plus Florida. Most networks have called Indiana for him which would put him at 349 electoral votes. It looks like he's barely ahead in NC with 100% of the vote in, and barely behind in MO with 98% of the vote in. Although the last few states were close, the election certainly wasn't and we don't have to worry about recounts or anything like that. Still kinda in shock he won Ohio and Florida and Indiana!
- Senate: Dems did win seats in VA NM CO NH NC, with AK results not in yet and OR looking to be very close. The GA race has Saxby Chambliss(R) at 50.38% (he needs to stay above 50% to avoid a runoff) with 99% of the vote in, so that's pretty close. Al Franken(D) is barely ahead in MN with most of the vote counted.
- House: Dems pick up somewhere between 12-31
- California Prop 8 looks like it's gonna pass, I'm sad to say - "yes" is winning 52-48 with 62% of the vote in. I'm gonna assume it loses for peace of mind - staying up later hoping for a big comeback is probably not great for my health.

(oh, apparently a lot of GA early votes haven't been counted yet, so that could change things with the senate race and even the presidential one!)

I'm disappointed about Prop 8, of course (whose brilliant idea was it to let people take away rights by a simple majority? /sigh) but you know what? You can take away my legal rights, but you can't take away my djedi. It sucks to be in a state of legal limbo, but there are far worse things. We'll keep fighting the good fight and live our lives in the meantime. (encouraging words from Andrew Sullivan) I'm so overwhelmed by the historic nature of Obama's win and the fact that, with a solid majority in the Senate and House, hopefully he can get things done.

I stayed up later than David Gregory and Keith Olbermann!

6 comments

still up watching results
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2008-11-04 23:57:00
Tags: politics
Words: 50

Obama already has 338 electoral votes and he could very well win North Carolina and Indiana!

McCaul beat Larry Joe Doherty in TX-10. Oh well.

Staying up for a bit to see how Prop 8's doing (exit polls show it losing but it's close) and to avoid a hangover tomorrow :-)

4 comments

President-elect Barack Obama
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2008-11-04 22:15:00
Tags: politics
Words: 10

He took Ohio AND Florida. Well deserved. I'm so happy!

0 comments

happy election day!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-11-04 09:39:00
Tags: politics
Words: 115

and one last time, VOTE! Even if you're not in a battleground state, there are downticket races that matter, and the popular vote margin matters, and you'll feel good about yourself.

I should have taken today off and worked for Obama or Larry Joe or someone. Oh well. Maybe next go-round...

Nate's top 10 reasons exit polls are useless

I really think Obama's gonna win and we'll look back on this as an historic election, unlike the disappointing 2004. For a look back in catchphrase form, there's This. Fucking. Election. I barely remember some of this stuff - it was so long ago!

Finally, here's Big Bad John (who will probably win today) one last time:

1 comment

more election stuff (surprised?)
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-11-03 13:52:00
Tags: election links
Words: 62

John McCain was on SNL on Saturday - here's clip #1 and clip #2. I thought they were pretty funny. For balance, here's a Keith Olbermann sketch.

Although the final numbers still aren't in, early voting in Texas was up a lot, up more than one million from 2004.

Nate Silver's (guy behind fivethirtyeight.com) guide on what to watch for on election night.

2 comments

Election Predictions!
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2008-11-03 09:43:00
Tags: election
Words: 168

Here are mine: feel free to post yours here!

- President: Obama wins Kerry states + IA NM CO VA NV OH for a total of 311-227 electoral votes. (here's a decent calculator to play with) This is a somewhat conservative estimate and I hope he breaks 330 EVs or so so it's not that close.
- Senate: Dems win new seats in VA NM CO AK NH OR NC for a total of 58. The GA race goes to a hotly-contested runoff.
- House: Um, I dunno, Dems gain 25 seats.
- California's Prop 8 fails but it's very very close.

Mostly just guessing on these with a slight pessimistic edge.

An interesting video about voting dirty tricks from the Obama campaign, although it's weak on actual advice.

A reminder: exit polls will be leaked tomorrow during the day. They will be partial numbers and very unreliable (they showed Kerry winning in 2004). I don't think I'm gonna be able to stop myself from looking at them (numbers!!) but they're pretty meaningless.

5 comments

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