Tag links (352)

link friday: "God Only Knows", old-timey baseball footage, living on Amtrak
Mood: happy
Music: "God Only Knows"
Posted on 2014-10-10 10:23:00
Tags: links
Words: 195

- This BBC video of a bunch of famous people singing "God Only Knows" is pretty good, even if I didn't recognize most of the singers (not including Stevie Wonder, of course!) Here's a handy guide to who's who. Then I found in the comments a link to the barbershop quartet version from Bioshock Infinite. Then I remembered "Let the Circle be Unbroken" from Bioshock Infinite was also really pretty. Then in the related links I found this interview with the Lutece twins. Then I thought "hey, I should get back to work!"

- Watch rare footage of the Senators beating the Giants in the 1924 World Series - it's real old-timey baseball footage! (the music is extra cool, although it's not original)

- Aboard Amtrak - a long essay about the author's experience living on Amtrak. Includes a handy Amtrak travel guide which we might take advantage of in the future!

- Times Articles Removed From Google Results in Europe - look, I understand the idea behind the "right to be forgotten", but this smacks of revisionist history. The wedding and death announcements I don't mind as much, but the one's that "damage people's reputation" I don't think should be removed.


megagiant Sunday links: football, vacations, programming languages as weapons
Mood: exhausted
Posted on 2014-09-28 21:28:00
Tags: links
Words: 376

I am running out of words for "big" here...I remember a time when I'd post these every week or so. To be fair, this one goes back to before we were in Hawaii, about which I will post pictures when I have the energy.

- I'm quitting football - sadly, I am too. Which hurts, because not only does football have the perfect number of games per season, but it's exciting and a real cultural bonding point. (and I don't want this to come off as a "holier than thou" stance...) But the thing that really got me was the head injuries and the fact that players are often on painkillers during games so they can perform. And I don't see how the game can possibly change to fix these issues without becoming something else entirely. (see also Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees, which is pretty horrifying)

- Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain - or, taking breaks/vacation is really good for your brain. I will admit to lightly browsing through my work email while on vacation, but I didn't think about it much, and it was nice :-)

- If programming languages were weapons - this was spot-on, at least for the languages I've used. (although, really, C# is pretty excellent!)

- How to Get Ahead as a Woman in Tech: Interrupt Men - this is both depressing and uplifting. Just interrupt more, women, I guess! (thanks Christi!)

- The Law-School Scam - to be clear, this is talking about for-profit law schools, and it sounds like they're borderline scamming the government for federal aid for their students.

- Can the Crowd Solve Medical Mysteries? - obviously this wouldn't scale, but in truly desperate cases this sounds very promising.

- After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know - ack! One more reason why medicine (especially when you're in the hospital!) is not a free market at all...there's no pricing transparency at all.

- How to Be Polite - this is kind of a weird article, but it seems like there's some good advice in there.

- Introducing Tweet-a-Program - hey, that's pretty cool! I wish I remembered my Mathematica syntax...

- The Secret Rules of Adjective Order - neat, there are rules that explain why "big red barn" sounds good while "red big barn" sounds weird!


links: tipping, basic income, biases, the Harlem Globetrotters
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-08-05 20:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 273

- Why You Should Tip More Than You Do Now - a good reminder.

- Companies with Benefits - the idea of a for-profit company that also pledges to achieve social goals is pretty neat.

- The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee - I don't agree with everything in here, but I am glad to see the idea of a basic income starting to be discussed in the US. Will it ever happen? Probably not, but a man can dream...

- Inside the Mirrortocracy - this is a pretty damning post. It's easy enough to be unconsciously biased against people who aren't "like you" in some way - baking that into the culture only makes it worse. Actively thinking about your biases is a good step towards defeating them!

- Love People, Not Pleasure - so I read this editorial and thought "OK, this isn't too surprising", and then I got to the bottom and the author is the president of the American Enterprise Institute and I was like whaaa? But, good for him! (and in retrospect I'm a bit less surprised - the issue isn't really a liberal versus conservative thing)

- A Statistical Appreciation of the Washington Generals And Harlem Globetrotters - hee hee!

- The ‘World Cup Is Over, Now What?’ Guide to Soccer - obviously a bit late on my part, but still a good guide.

- How Fan Loyalty Changed During the World Cup - pretty nice visualization.

- CIA covert operation helped America win the race to the Moon - pretty interesting story!

- Brazil’s Secret History of Southern Hospitality - wow, this reads like something out of a novel! (thanks Adam!)

- The Cornish beaches where Lego keeps washing up - it's part cute, part environmental disaster!


weekend links: Austin's drive-in theater, Hobby Lobby, 2 vs 55 in soccer
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-07-12 15:24:00
Tags: links
Words: 401

- Did you know that Austin has a drive-in theater? It's pretty cool, and they're trying to raise money to make some improvements.

- Top 10 Silly but Awesome Products That Make Life Easier - there's some neat stuff in there!

- Republicans Finally Admit Why They Really Hate Obamacare - I did think it was interesting how a lot of arguments against Obamacare were essentially "it won't work". Now that it seems to be working, the arguments are more of the form "I don't think the government should be doing this" - which, to be clear, is a perfectly valid argument! But now we're getting to the crux of the matter...

- Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning - good editorial from the New York Times. For those who thought this would only apply to contraception, see: Post-Hobby Lobby, Religious Orgs Want Exemption From LGBT Hiring Order. From a comment I posted on Facebook:

It is a tricky case. I think that some of the unhappiness with the decision from the liberal side (myself included :-) ) comes from two places:
1) It seems to me that the argument that a business shouldn't be forced to "support" things that are against their religion could apply to lots of other things. What about hiring LGBT people - isn't that supporting a sinful lifestyle? Or serving interracial couples?
2) to me, "being forced to spend money on something" doesn't rise to the level of "supporting" it. My tax dollars go to support lots of things that I don't like, but I don't get to pick and choose what programs my money funds. I understand this isn't directly equivalent to the Hobby Lobby case, but it rubs me the wrong way.

Anyway, like I said, it's tricky and I realize there are good arguments on the other side too...

- Two players from the Japanese national soccer team try to score against 55 kids - pretty interesting to watch! I also enjoyed the comments from the linked article about how good professional sportsters are, even if they look terrible by comparison to other professionals.

- This is a good sign how long I've been holding on to links, but: Tim Howard saving things!

- What Jobs Do People Find Most Meaningful? - links to this cool interactive chart...sadly I didn't see Software Engineer on there.

- Masters of Love - I've read one of John Gottman's books, but a refresher on what seems to make relationships work is always nice!


links: Mayday PAC, airport signs, voter fraud and bioterrorism
Mood: happy
Posted on 2014-06-20 12:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 193

- That Mayday PAC I mentioned last month is struggling to meet their ambitious $5 million goal in June. It really is a good cause - if you'd like to contribute I have a pledge page you can give through.

- How You Know Where You're Going When You're in an Airport - an article about signs in an airport? I'm sold!

- Where Dishonesty Is Best Policy, U.S. Soccer Falls Short - this seems like mostly a good thing, right?

- 17 reasons not to trust Dick Cheney on Iraq - hah!

- A Strange but True Tale of Voter Fraud and Bioterrorism - wow, I had heard about the bioterrorism but I didn't realize the whole point was to rig a local election!

- Shaka, When the Walls Fell - a long piece about a great (don't listen to the haters!) Star Trek: The Next Generation episode.

- Diplomacy: The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds - Ahh Diplomacy. I played a few times in high school, but it's pretty long and I was never hardcore/ruthless enough to do well...

- Here's How All 50 State Flags Would Look As App Icons - not a huge fan of Texas, but there are some nice ones in there...


link thursday: World Cup, Bill Watterson returns!, checklists, World Cup
Mood: excited
Posted on 2014-06-12 13:05:00
Tags: links
Words: 157

The World Cup starts today! Woo!

- Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did. - awesome! Watterson sounds like a nice guy, albeit extremely reclusive.

- How mistakes can save lives: one man’s mission to revolutionise the NHS - sad story, but it sounds like medicine could use a more air safety approach to accidents.

- Nation’s Cable Companies Announce They’re Just Going To Take $100 From Everyone - ah, the Onion!

World Cup stuff:

Firstly, let me reiterate: woo!

Now, let's not forget that FIFA is "cartoonishly corrupt", and lest you worry that the US is falling behind, we have our own kinda corrupt soccer guy (known as Mr. Ten Percent). While you're watching, here's how to watch the World Cup like a true soccer nerd, and the Onion advises which World Cup teams to watch. If you're not into soccer, here's the World Cup of everything else. (thanks Ben!)


link friday: World Cup draws, behind the scenes of The Price Is Right
Posted on 2014-06-06 14:20:00
Tags: links
Words: 265

- A Fairer World Cup Draw - it's weird that they admit that the FIFA draw is unfair by design (for geographical reasons) but then sound impressed when pointing out a fairer algorithm. Anyway, the graphs at the bottom are neat because you can see which teams got the luckiest/most unlucky - US is near the unluckiest (although not as bad as Australia), and Mexico is so so so lucky.

- I did this last summer after the World Cup draw, but a reminder: you only need 5 points to be almost assured of making it to the knockout round, and 4 points gives you about a 50% chance.

- Here’s what it looks like behind the scenes of The Price Is Right - I found this compelling, as I love seeing "behind the scenes" type stuff. There's a lot of work that happens back there! Warning: the video's a bit long. (it's the whole one hour show) A few things that surprised me:
- Somehow I didn't realize that the producers actually choose the contestants, instead of being chosen at random.
- There's an insane amount of energy in the room!
- Everything's on a pretty strict timetable, and it's cool to see them adapt to things taking longer than the should.

- Selection bias and bombers - go logic!

- 22 Books You Should Read Now, Based On Your Childhood Favorites - thanks Kay!

- Girlfriend 'Complains A Lot ... Interrupts,' Developer Tells Conference - I understand the joke, but given all the sexism in the industry...yikes. At least we're to the point where people will get called out for this, but there's still a long way to go...


link monday: world cup, global warming, universal translator!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2014-06-02 22:11:00
Tags: links
Words: 218

- Qatar World Cup 2022: Fifa vice-president 'would support' re-vote - oh man, if the 2022 World Cup ends up coming to the USA I will be over the moon! Elsewhere in FIFA corruption: Fixed Soccer Matches Cast Shadow Over World Cup - yikes!

- What is Obama's plan to tackle global warming? - a good explainer-type thingy. This could be a big deal, I think?

- Skype shown automatically translating multilingual voice calls - aww yeah, the Universal Translator is here! (you know, soonish)

- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds - I hesitate to give too much credence to a shooter who clearly has anger issues (including but not limited to women), but the article is right regardless.

- Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy - longish video, but explains why Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is awesome! (PS: he is awesome)

- Watch H. Jon Benjamin play HAL 9000 in '2001: A Space Odyssey' - H. Jon Benjamin = Archer and Bob from "Bob's Burgers"

- How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name - oh man, this is cool. Totally going to do this for my next(*) app! (* - currently working on at least two apps, so this may never happen)

- OK, so maybe we can be a *little* frightened - cosmology is scary sometimes!


link saturday: net neutrality, video game soundtracks for work music
Mood: recovering
Posted on 2014-05-24 14:57:00
Tags: activism links
Words: 265

- My comment about net neutrality to the FCC is live! (see how to write your own) Vi Hart has a good video on net neutrality, and the great Google Fiber (come up north in Austin, please!) has a delicious poke in the eye to ISPs that do discriminate based on content (they don't).

- It's been an eventful month in same-sex marriage, and I've had my hands full keeping the map updated. (I also added the rainbow color for states (like Texas!) where a judge has overturned a same-sex marriage ban but the ruling is on hold) For the rest of the world, here's a very nice visualization of what rights LGBT people have.

- CIA will no longer use vaccine campaigns for spying - hooray! But it's a bit late for that...even if the CIA is sincere (which I don't have any particular reason to doubt), trust takes a long time to rebuild.

- Video game soundtracks ideal for work music - I've been trying this out this week and it's worked pretty well. I've been using this site (linked from the article) - you can vote on what to play next, or you can just sit back and listen to what's next.

- NPR had a good series on people being thrown in jail because they couldn't pay court fees, which the Supreme Court ruled against in 1983.

- Cutting Off Emergency Unemployment Benefits Hasn’t Pushed People Back to Work - sad, but unsurprising

- Arecibo Observatory Detects Mysterious, Energetic Radio Burst

- China proposes to fund and build high-speed rail line from Beijing to Vancouver - is this really going to happen? Probably not.


link friday: Mayday PAC succeeds!, net neutrality, solar cells in pavement
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2014-05-16 11:59:00
Tags: activism links
Words: 482

- The Mayday PAC that I mentioned last week met their $1 million goal! They have a $6 million goal for June, which is...ambitious.

- The FCC proposed some rules that would let ISPs accept payment for faster traffic, which is against the principles of net neutrality. But they're not final yet, and you can comment on them! Here's what I wrote - feel free to copy and paste!:

I believe internet providers should not be allowed to establish or accept payment for so-called "fast lanes". I also believe the FCC should using Title II to regulate internet providers, as they are a sort of common carrier.

Here's a pretty evenhanded description of net neutrality and such, and if you want another reason to hate Time Warner/Comcast, they've been investing in broadband infrastructure much less than they used to, probably because there's very little competition. (the lack of competition would be good to mention in your FCC comment!)

- That Amazing 'Solar Roadways' Project Has a Working Prototype - wow, their Indiegogo campaign looks pretty impressive (and it's 20% funded!), although I'm guessing that they're expensive to produce. Still, they do at least have a working prototype! (thanks Doug)!

- DATA Act signed into law - hopefully it will bring greater transparency to government data.

- Why do gay couples use the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife,’ rather than ‘partner’? - from a new LGBT advice column in the Washington Post. I can certainly understand the confusion here, and I'll admit I sometimes revert to referring to David as my "partner" in some situations. But I do prefer "husband" since it seems more accurate. Also, asking which person is the "wife" versus the "husband" shows a serious lack of understanding...

- AT&T’s GigaPower plans turn privacy into a luxury that few would choose - it costs at least an extra $30/month (plus one-time fees) to not have AT&T monitor your packets and serve you "relevant" ads, under the innocent-sounding name "AT&T Internet Preferences". You stay classy, AT&T! Even Google Fiber is better than this (from their privacy notice):
Technical information collected from the use of Google Fiber Internet for network management, security or maintenance may be associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber, but such information associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber will not be used by other Google properties without your consent. Other information from the use of Google Fiber Internet (such as URLs of websites visited or content of communications) will not be associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber, except with your consent or to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.

- All Science Is Wrong, Concludes Esteemed Fox News Panel - sigh

- How STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Is A Crypto-Truther Conspiracy Movie - wow...I remember thinking at the time that the plot made very little sense (even as I was watching it!), but I guess this makes it make more sense?


link friday: Mayday PAC, science is hard, net neutrality
Mood: lonely
Posted on 2014-05-09 11:43:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 475

- The Mayday PAC to reduce the influence of money in politics. (yes, they're aware of the irony) It's a Kickstarter-esque project being run by Lawrence Lessig. I don't know how likely this is to help things, but I desperately want it to succeed so I contributed. You can learn more about it (or read the FAQ) and I'd encourage you to pledge to help US kickstart fundamental reform by reducing the influence of money in politics.

- A chart of view of homosexuality in different countries - the US comes out looking pretty good, relatively speaking. No huge surprises - Africa/Middle East are terrible, Asia somewhat less so, and go Europe! (thanks David!)

- The Control Group Is Out Of Control - interesting look at parapsychology (ESP, precognition, etc.) as the "control group" of science. If they're finding significant results, then we need to figure out what they're doing wrong. More from the "science is hard" department: Lab Rats May Be Stressed By Men, Which May Skew Experiments

- Comcast is destroying the principle that makes a competitive internet possible - a very good look at net neutrality and specifically the Netflix/Comcast fight.

- The Single Mother, Child Poverty Myth - Scandinavian countries have a similar rate of single mother families as the US, but a much smaller rate of poverty among those families due to welfare-type programs. Of course, that means that children in single mother families, through no fault of their own, are much likelier to grow up in poverty in the US. Boo. (thanks David!)

- To Divide the Rent, Start With a Triangle - hey, I'm pretty sure I saw a colloquium about this at SWT Math Camp! (blah, "Texas State", whatever) Also, props to the New York Times for putting up an interactive rent division calculator.

- Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law - Apple basically admitted to backdating options for Jobs and other senior employees, but got off with a slap on the wrist. (thanks in part to their "swift, extensive and extraordinary cooperation.") But as the article says, the bigger threat to Jobs's reputation is the numerous anti-poaching agreements Apple had with other companies. See:

That same year, Mr. Jobs wrote Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google at the time, “I would be extremely pleased if Google would stop doing this,” referring to its efforts to recruit an Apple engineer. Mr. Schmidt forwarded the email, adding his own indiscreet comment: “I believe we have a policy of no recruiting from Apple and this is a direct inbound request. Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening? I will need to send a response back to Apple quickly so please let me know as soon as you can.”

When Mr. Jobs learned that the Google recruiter who contacted the Apple employee would be “fired within the hour,” he responded with a smiley face.


link tuesday: terrible infographic, good infographic, animated movies
Mood: busy
Posted on 2014-04-29 13:22:00
Tags: links
Words: 233

Work/life is still crazy busy, so I figured links on Tuesday in hand was worth two links on Friday in the bush. (or something)

- NBC News Creates A Racially Insensitive, Time-Traveling Map of America - not sure if I buy the "racially insensitive" angle, but: this is unquestionably a terrible, terrible infographic!

- How Americans Die - on the other hand, this is a very captivating series of infographic type things. Well done!

- Rapture leaked: The true story behind the making of BioShock - makes me sad that Irrational Games is closing.

- What the Left and Right Both Get Wrong About the Moynihan Report - wonky, but a full-employment policy would be pretty amazing.

- The 100 best animated movies - glad my favorite is (spoiler!) #2.

- Meaningful Activities Protect the Brain From Depression - neat!

- Meep Meep Watch In Foreign Policy - hey, Syria's chemical weapons are almost gone! And Iran is further away from making a nuclear weapon! Foreign policy: sometimes, it works.

- Up Close on Baseball’s Borders - nice map of which areas follow which baseball teams. Poor Astros...I think the "Texas" in the Rangers' name gives them more fans than they deserve.

- Jon Stewart Flawlessly Takes Down Media's Sexist Coverage of Clinton Pregnancy - siiiiigh this is probably what we have to look forward in 2015/6.

- Florida Set to Join Trend Toward Higher Speed Limits - not much here, except: go Texas! (I have driven 85, and it does feel fast...)


Giant linkapalooza: moving your settler in Civ V, the Protestant work ethic, Internet empathy proble
Mood: tired
Posted on 2014-04-06 22:27:00
Tags: links
Words: 305

Life has gotten kinda crazy so I haven't posted links in *checks* ack, months! So, here goes...

- You Never Move Your Settler! - Opening Strategy Splits Civ V Studio - like all good arguments, this one was settled with science!

- America And The Protestant Work Ethic - working is good but the work ethic in the US can be a bit out of control.

- Our Internet Empathy Problem - or "People are Terrible on the Internet"

- A long article about ITER's quest to make a fusion reactor with a tokamak and the problems with a large international engineering effort.

- When the emergency room is your only option - lack of after-hours care is a problem. (thanks David!)

- An interesting article on apps and books with crazy prices

- This Super Bowl for a lawyer in Georgia is...truly amazing.

- The Global Map of Homophobia - pretty stark differences between the continents

- Cryptic Crossword: Amateur Crypto and Reverse Engineering - very detailed (but interesting!) story of reverse-engineering some custom "encryption".

- Space Elevators Are Totally Possible (and Will Make Rockets Seem Dumb) - nothing new here, but I believe in space elevators!

- Super-old news at this point, but: the Texas same-sex marriage ban was struck down! (pending appeal, of course)

- Netflix and Net Neutrality - yeah, any time I hear "innovation" from ISPs I get scared.

- Behold Arscoin, our own custom cryptocurrency! - very cool to see the steps you have to take to make your own cryptocurrency!

- Iranian Ship, in Plain View but Shrouded in Mystery, Looks Very Familiar to U.S. - so weird

- Sesame Street: Pentatonix Counts (& Sings) to Five - yay for awesome people on Sesame Street! (thanks Britton!)

- The Kindly Brontosaurus: The amazing, prehistoric posture that will get you whatever you want, whenever you want it. - does this actually work? I am skeptical.

- What people order at Starbucks around the United States - apparently I belong in Omaha!


Oklahoma link friday: motivations of programmers, Miyazaki is awesome, cryptography
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2014-01-31 13:23:00
Tags: links
Words: 236

"Oklahoma" because that's where I am, not because the links have anything to do with Oklahoma :-)

- How To Keep Your Best Programmers - very interesting post. The thesis is that people have a desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and falling short on any of these will make people want to quit. (thanks Adam!)

- Great Geek Debates: Disney Princesses vs. Hayao Miyazaki - Miyazaki FTW! The archetypes versus characters section is the most important for me - the characters in Miyazaki films always seem so real!

- Is It Immoral to Watch the Super Bowl? - sigh. I've thought about this before and I still don't know.

- A very long article/interview about President Obama

- Capitalism vs. Democracy - does capitalism naturally lead to greater inequality? Maybe.

- A new paper suggests there may be a "indistinguishability obfuscator" that could effectively obscure computer programs, which would be a major advance in cryptography.

- 3 myths that block progress for the poor by Bill and Melinda Gates

- Almost Everything in “Dr. Strangelove” Was True - well, that's frightening. The PAL codes being set to 00000000 is the worst part!

- The Art of Presence - some tips on being there for people who are going through trauma

- Someone Wrote a Poem About The Sims's Amazing Software Updates - awesome! The best is "Fixed an issue that could cause a teen to be trapped in a child's body when traveling to the future at the exact moment of a birthday."


sick link saturday:
Mood: sick
Posted on 2014-01-18 16:26:00
Tags: links
Words: 361

Caught a stomach virus (or something) but I'm on the mend, so here's something to distract myself!

- How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood - talks about Netflix's microgenres, which I found fascinating. Also, now I want to see "Irreverent Reunited Lovers Werewolf Movies". And the bit about Raymond Burr is just strange!

- How Rush Limbaugh Decides What Is True - the short answer is "true conservatives are always right". Although I admit I probably default to giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, I certainly don't agree with him always...

- Good News You Might Have Missed in 2013 - by Bill Gates

- The Price Is Wrong And You Know It: Do You Buy That Ticket? - as I get older I find myself looking more at the motivations behind why businesses give away stuff and try not to take advantage of them. Although I still take samples from HEB even if I don't intend to buy them. (theoretically if they're good enough I might, right?) Anyway, airline fares are so crazy it's hard to know what is "obviously" a mistake anyhow.

- How Sleep Deprivation Decays the Mind and Body - the author stayed up for four days in a row as a teenager and it (might have) had effects on him for a long time. More on sleep: Goodnight. Sleep Clean. Sleep is important, everyone! (I have slept a _lot_ this weekend already, what with being sick...)

- Ask Culture and Guess Culture - very interesting difference. I think I'm more of a Guess person, or at least I would feel the same way about responding to a request as the original poster did - by trying to find an excuse. (thanks Emily!)

- The greatest newspaper correction ever written (49 years too late) (thanks Adam!)

- Aaron Rodgers: ‘I Really, Really Like Women’ - siiiiigh.

- Bisexual: A Label With Layers - Tom Daley (a British Olympic diver) came out as bisexual recently.

- Is 4K BS? - yeah, I'm pretty sure I couldn't see a difference between the 4K TV's at CES and their "regular" HD counterparts.

- A nicely summarized look at how strong companies are at protecting your data from the government done by EFF.

- The Great Handbell War - hardcore rivalry between handbell makers

1 comment

many-link Friday: almost nuking the East Coast, raising the minimum wage, white privilege
Mood: jolly
Posted on 2013-12-20 10:38:00
Tags: links
Words: 502

I wrote a long (and unorganized) link post because I lacked the time to write a shorter one. Sorry!

- That one time we almost accidentally nuked the East Coast - for a while I didn't really see the point of the USA and USSR both reducing their nuclear arsenal, but fewer chances for accidents like this are definitely a good thing!

- From the Onion: If I Had One Piece Of Advice For Today's Youth, It Would Be To Throw A Baseball Really, Really Well

- Two posts on those Upworthy-style headlines that have been going around: We Wrote a Heartbreaking and Terrifying Post about Viral Content without Lists or GIFs. Then You Clicked on It, and Magic Happened. and Why Are Upworthy Headlines Suddenly Everywhere? Personally, those kinds of headlines worked on me for a few months and now I have an instinctual aversion to them.

- How Many American Men Are Gay? - probably around 5%. The interesting part, although not too surprising, is that the share of people that are out of the closet depends on how tolerant your state is.

- Top 10 (Crowd-Sourced) Gift Ideas for Engineers - man, I want that LabVIEW wrapping paper!

- Snacking Your Way to Better Health - nuts are good for you again! Also, apparently multivitamins aren't that good for you.

- If a Story Is Viral, Truth May Be Taking a Beating - a bunch of recently viral stories were fake, including that kid's crayon letter to Santa with a long amazon.com link. Be careful out there!

- Rice football team goes crazy in locker room after getting Liberty Bowl invite - the "Say yes, coach! Say yes!" is undoubtedly the best part.

- Coffee Overkill Has More Marketers Thinking That It's Time for Tea - wooo tea!

- King James Programming - Markov-chain generated posts of the King James Bible and a computer textbook. Sample:

And David said unto Saul, The LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to see the value of the variable search that can be stored in a very efficient manner.

- NORAD Tracks Santa's Path on Christmas Eve Because of a Typo - neat, I didn't know that!

- A few minimum-wage related links: Should We Raise the Minimum Wage? 11 Questions and Answers and Supersize My Wage. Obviously economics is not an exact science, but I think raising the minimum wage would do more good than harm.

- Anti-Vaccination Movement Causes a Deadly Year in the U.S. - grrrrrrr thanks a lot Andrew Wakefield

- When “Life Hacking” Is Really White Privilege - The title made me a bit uncomfortable, but after reading the article I think it's fair. White privilege (or, really, any sort of privilege) is not realizing that you have advantages because you are white, and I think that's what was going on in the original article. (as a white person myself I probably wouldn't have thought of this had I just read the original article, but that's privilege for you...)

- South Korean Theme Park Dress Up Penguins In Novelty Outfits For Christmas - I want to go to there! (thanks Jessica!)

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all!


mega-link wednesday: self-driving cars, radiation poisoning, yet more about a basic income
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-12-04 20:38:00
Tags: links
Words: 420

There are a ton of these, so here's a terrible effort at categorization!

Long reads:
- Long New Yorker article about Google's self-driving cars - sounds like they're making good progress!

- How radioactive poison became the assassin’s weapon of choice - long read about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko by Russian agents. Scary!

- A state drug analyst in Boston altered test results and mishandled evidence for nine years, and over 150 defendants have been released already. Amazing the damage that one person can do...

Economics and politics:
- A universal income is not such a silly idea - an economist weighs in on Switzerland's proposal.

- Is Work Necessary? - the idea goes hand in hand with a universal income.

- Does Medicaid Breed Dependency? - I read the headline and thought "of course not", but I guess that's my ideology showing :-) Anyway, this is a reasonable experiment, although the share of the population that's employed isn't a perfect metric. If someone is suffering crippling pain but has to work without Medicaid, is it really a good thing if that person is still in the workforce?

Visualizations and...videos?:
- 2013 winners of the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards - some very nice visualizes in here!

- Baseball Games Beautifully Visualized Like Transit Maps

- Nyan Cat Bus - the video speaks for itself!

Copyright and, um, health:
- Goldieblox and the Three MCs - Goldieblox used a Beastie Boys song in their original ad (with new words), and it turns out copyright is complicated. Although Goldieblox later replaced the music in the ad. And while the idea for the toys is very cool, apparently the toys themselves may not be that great?

- Vaccinations have prevented at least 103 million cases of contagious disease since 1924 - and that's just in the US!

Punctuation, algorithms, public speaking, quizzes, Star Trek, and soccer:
- How the period became a sign of anger - sounds weird, but reading the examples I totally see it!

- Neural Network Follies - good story of a neural network gone awry...

- 7 Little-Known Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking - I enjoy public speaking, and I plan on trying a few of these next time I do. (probably meeting the audience in advance and planning a perk for afterwards :-) )

- Can You Guess Famous Simpsons Quotes From Just a GIF or Freeze-Frame? - fun! I got 11/12, although there was some guessing involved.

- Five Leadership Lessons From Jean-Luc Picard - obviously a bit of linkbait, but I actually enjoyed the article. (thanks Mom!)

- The World Cup Draw explained - it happens on Friday! Hopefully it's a good one for the USA!


link friday: company loyalty, sleep, The Price Is Right
Mood: calm
Posted on 2013-11-22 15:43:00
Tags: links
Words: 220

- Loyalty and Layoffs - I thought this was interesting but I mostly disagree. Certainly not all companies are worthy of your loyalty, but saying that none are seems equally extreme. If your company treats you well, try to treat your company well. I do agree that it's generally a good idea to keep developing your skills to keep yourself employable, etc.

- Sleep: The Ultimate Brainwasher? - more evidence that sleep clears out toxins and such.

- Winning The Price Is Right - a very thorough guide to all 71 pricing games from a game theory perspective; you don't even have to know the prices! It was surprising to me that there are some games you can win 100% of the time. Also, looks like they need a better random number generator? (see Bargain Game, for example)

- Why Are We Building Jailbait Sexbots? (NSFW?) - the short version is that researchers built a very realistic 3D model of a 10 year old girl, then used that to catch sexual predators. This raises all kinds of legal and ethical issues...

- Machine learning is way easier than it looks - aw, man, now I want to play around with this!

- The Changing Rules of Outing - interesting perspective on not giving special treatment to gay celebrities.

- Together and Alone, Closing the Prime Gap - the prime gap is down to 600!


lots of links: misconceptions of poverty, more basic income stuff, baseball
Mood: content
Posted on 2013-11-14 15:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 200

- Poverty in America is Mainstream - some interesting facts here, like it affects way more people than I thought, although the average time spent in poverty is relatively short, which certainly challenges my preconceptions. Along the same lines - 7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless (a surprisingly serious piece from Cracked)

- Yet another article about Switzerland's proposal for a basic income - the more I read about this the more I'm convinced this is a good idea, or at least worth trying.

- How the Super-Rich Are Abandoning America - yeah, that's depressing.

- Interesting article on how baseball would be different if they only played 16 games a season instead of 162.

- An article about how an ad agency would market broccoli - apparently, picking a fight with kale is good business!

- 39% of people in South Carolina support same-sex marriage - whoa! For some perspective, in 2006 a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed 78-22%.

- Oklahoma! Where the Kids Learn Early - wow, apparently Oklahoma has universal prekindergarten!

- Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15M of Americans' personal debt - at the cost of $400K. Nifty!

- China discovers that pollution makes it really hard to spy on people - well, that's...something.

- An awesome-looking tea calendar (thanks Andrew!)


quick link friday: scary Toyota firmware,
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-11-01 16:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 92

- Toyota's killer firmware: Bad design and its consequences - apparently the unintended acceleration problem was probably a software bug...reading the description of the code made me shudder! (11,000 global variables!)

- Help me optimize this code which enumerates all possible GUIDs - I read this and could not stop laughing!

- It's Halloween, so here's a picture of Patrick Stewart wearing a lobster costume in a bathtub - awesome? Yes.

- A cover of "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas done by one guy!

- CHART: 'Winners And Losers From Obamacare' - there are more winners than losers.


link friday: cash grants for the poor, nonpartisan primaries are awesome, trouble in Wikipedialand
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-10-25 13:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 157

- Research Finds Outright Grants of Cash Are Surprisingly Effective Form of Aid to the Poor - more evidence! (previously)

- California Sees Gridlock Ease in Governing - good for California, and I really wish more places would adopt nonpartisan primaries. (with the top two candidates going on to the general election)

- The Decline of Wikipedia - long article about how fewer people are editing Wikipedia, and the people that do aren't very diverse.

- T-Mobile Hands Consumers a Pleasant Shocker - amazing international rates for data! T-Mobile is awesome, although their network seems a bit worse than AT&T's...

- Eating popcorn in the cinema makes people immune to advertising - so, advertisers: no more ads at the movies!

- The 9 State Propositions Texans Will Vote On Next Week - nothing terribly interesting, except for Proposition 6 (the water one). Anyway, early voting has started, so find an early voting place here!

- Tea Party Group Leader: File 'Class Action Lawsuit' Against Homosexuality - too crazy not to share.


link friday: the NFL and head injuries, women in science, Antonin Scalia
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2013-10-11 14:18:00
Tags: football links
Words: 316

I was going to write something about how I don't want to talk about the government shutdown or impending debt ceiling disaster, and then I looked at my list of links and lo and behold, there were a few doing just that.

- This summary of some Republican focus groups is pretty interesting/slightly depressing.

- Atul Gawande has a good short column about Obamacare and Republican obstructionism.

- The 10 Stealth Economic Trends That Rule the World Today - I rolled my eyes at the title, but there was some interesting stuff in here.

- NFL deliberately campaigned against science regarding head injuries - I was going to write a full post about this at some point, but I've been too depressed about it all. Here's the thing: I don't regularly watch football, but I do follow it some. But all this news about head injuries, the pain that many players suffer while playing and after retiring, and (to a much smaller extent) the fact that the NFL receives huge subsidies (did you know the NFL is technically a non-profit?) really make me think that I shouldn't be supporting football for moral reasons. So...I don't know.

- The press-release conviction of a biotech CEO and its impact on scientific research - the CEO was convicted for subdividing his patient group after the fact and touting that the drug worked great on "mild to moderate" sufferers of a disease. Be careful out there, statisticians!

- Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science? - very interesting article by one of the first two women to get a bachelor's degree in physics from Yale.

- WATCH: Rice University placekicker uses a soccer "rabona" to execute an onside kick - nifty little kick. (see: ambivalent comments about football above)

- A long, kinda weird, interview with Antonin Scalia - apparently he has friends "that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual" but none have come out to him. I wonder why...


link friday: a bunch of Obamacare stuff, and then some other things
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-09-27 14:55:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 195

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) health exchanges open next week (if the government doesn't shut down!), so here are some interesting links about it/them:
- Final Word On Obamacare Coverage: Cheaper Than Expected - definitely some caveats here, but premiums are lower than expected. The free market at work!

- How eight lives would be affected by the health law - interesting look by the Washington Post, although of course this is a tiny sample size.

- The Plot To Kill Obamacare - this just in, Republicans will do almost anything to prevent Obamacare from happening or working.

Other things:
- Free to Be Hungry - it blows my mind that, with the growing inequality we have in the US, some people think that cutting food stamps is a good idea. (food stamps are less than $5 a day per person)

- Here Are the GOP's Debt-Ceiling Demands, and They Are Insane - the title says it all.

Other non-politics things, which you might need after the depressing state of politics these days, or at least I sure do:
- Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems - interesting article about optimizing routes for UPS drivers.

- A Hospital Tells Police Where Fights Happen, And Crime Drops - neat!


link friday: Syria, stack ranking at Microsoft, boo Texas National Guard
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-09-06 10:55:00
Tags: links
Words: 329

- 9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask - a good primer.

- Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk - ignoring the "Labor Day" bit, this is a good long article making a case against attacking Syria. I honestly don't know where I stand on this anymore - at first I was for attacking, then I was against, now I'm "maybe if I shut my eyes the civil war will stop?"

- An inside anecdotal look at Microsoft's stack ranking and how terrible it is. It surprises me a lot that a high-tech company would do something like this - it seems like a way to fight "grade inflation" at the high cost of totally perverting every employee's incentives.

- Defying Pentagon, Texas National Guard Refuses To Process Benefits For Gay Couples - so they won't let you apply for benefits at a state facility, but after you apply at a federal one they have to provide you services anywhere. Congratulations, Texas National Guard, for making it very clear you don't like gay people!

- Hmm, I was going to link this dialect quiz, but it's offline at the moment. Anyway, here's my dialect map:

I was surprised how well it pegged me, although apparently people in Kansas City also talk like people in Houston...

- My Son Wears Dresses; Get Over It - hooray! This article made me forget about that gender studies book where everyone was terrible when someone didn't conform exactly to gender roles.

- From the Onion: Renowned Hoo-Ha Doctor Wins Nobel Prize For Medical Advancements Down There - classic!

- When Harvard Met Sally: N-gram Analysis of the New York Times Weddings Section - a cool look at how wedding announcements have changed over time.

- Minimum wage over the last 40 years, inflation-adjusted - after the fast food workers protests, I looked up an inflation-adjusted chart. Of course it's hosted at raisetheminimumwage.com, and the text indicates that it starts when the minimum wage was at its inflation-adjusted high; here's a chart that goes back further.


link friday: bank robber becomes a law clerk, homelessness is way down, "Same Love"
Mood: peaceful
Posted on 2013-08-30 15:00:00
Tags: links
Words: 378

- Shon Hopwood and Kopf’s terrible sentencing instincts - a blog post written by Judge Kopf about Shon Hopwood, who Kopf sentenced to 12 years in jail for robbing banks. After Hopwood got out, he went to law school and will be clerking for a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Down in the comments, Hopwood himself responds and they have a rather pleasant conversation! This comment on Hacker News sums it up well:

I feel like I'm in some fantasy alternate reality, where prison rehabilitation really works, and where the Internet is used for polite, intelligent, and uplifting discussion.
Just wonderful!

- The Astonishing Decline of Homelessness in America - thanks to programs put in place by Obama and George W. Bush(!); unfortunately, the sequester may threaten the progress we've made.

- Macklemore’s “Same Love” Is the Only VMA Performance Worth Remembering - this song has come up a lot on the radio stations we listen to lately, and every time I get chills. It just sounds so heartfelt (and the bit by Mary Lewis is beautiful!)

- How Poverty Taxes the Brain - thinking about financial problems causes a mental burden that is the equivalent of losing 13 IQ points.

- Booker OK With Speculation That He’s Gay: ‘So What Does It Matter If I Am?’ - excellent response from Cory Booker, who's running for the open Senate seat in New Jersey. Another quote:
I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.

- Bill Watterson: A cartoonist's advice - words by Bill Watterson, drawn by someone else (who does a good job mimicking Watterson's style!) I miss Calvin & Hobbes!

- College Footbal Grid of Shame - the "Admirable/Embarrassing" scale looked questionable at first, but there is at least a methodology to it. Also, Rice is just where it should be - in the upper-left quadrant :-)

- The Killing Machines: How to think about drones - good long article in the Atlantic. I'm glad our drone strikes have dropped off dramatically.

- English Letter Frequency Counts: Mayzner Revisited - using a bunch of Google book Ngrams data to get more recent frequency tables for letters, digrams, and words. Fun fact: R, L, and C are more popular than they used to be. (I'm a big R fan myself!)


Have a good Labor Day weekend!


link friday: giving to the poor with no strings attached, discrete logarithms probably OK
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-08-23 14:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 272

- Is It Nuts to Give to the Poor Without Strings Attached? - maybe not! This reminds me of the idea of an unconditional basic income, which I think is an idea worth considering.

- Bruce Schneier says the "internet security crisis" I mentioned last week from advances made on the discrete logarithm problem is probably not such a big deal.

- Orson Scott Card Worries About Obama Turning "Urban Gangs" Into His Personal Police Force - siiiiiigh. I realize the article in question is titled "Unlikely Events", but there's a lot of crazy packed in there.

- What Snowden and Manning Don't Understand About Secrecy - sure to be controversial, but I think I mostly agree. Leaking something because there's a particular thing that the government is doing that is wrong/illegal is one thing, but leaking thousands of documents indiscriminately is quite another. (although Snowden's leak seemed closer to the first kind than Manning's)

- A good collection of findings that voter ID laws can be discriminatory. I'm not sure if they're targeting minorities specifically, but they certainly affect low-income people much more than higher-income.

- ‘Dear Dylan’: The Wonkblog advice column for everything - this is so good! (thanks Gary!)

- A harrowing first-hand account of an EVA gone wrong.

- Bill Keller says the Republicans oppose the "Common Core" educational standards for no good reason.

- Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure If Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault - not from the Onion! But an excellent example of whatever the cognitive bias is where if someone is "bad" then everything they do is therefore bad, and vice versa.

- The God of ‘SNL’ Will See You Now - fun anecdotes from people auditioning for Saturday Night Live.


link friday: pay employees more!, gamifying relationships, free co-pays are probably good
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2013-08-16 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 368

- Sorry, It's Not A 'Law Of Capitalism' That You Pay Your Employees As Little As Possible - a good article by Henry Blodget discussing the trend for business to maximize profits at the expense of their employees. With graphs! Lots of depressing graphs.

- When a Relationship Becomes a Game - I'm not sure how to feel about gamification of relationships. On the one hand, it sure seems wrong. But it's easy (for me, anyway) to let a relationship just kind of coast along and not put any thought into it, and this is an imperfect way of prodding one's self into doing more. (and this idea isn't new - I remember people in World of Warcraft logging off saying it was time to grind some rep with the wife...)

- When a Co-Pay Gets in the Way of Health - free markets are great, but health care is not a free market and we should stop treating it as such. The article details a case where eliminating a co-pay made more people actually take their prescribed medicine and probably saved their insurance company money overall.

- A Deeper Look at Austin Plans to Bury I-35 - this plan sounds pretty neat, although expensive. It's similar to what Boston did with the Big Dig on a much smaller scale. I've read a few articles about it so maybe it's more likely to happen than I think? (also, kudos to the headline writer - didn't see the pun until the second time around!)

- 'Less Costly Struggle and Bloodshed': The Atlantic Defends Hiroshima in 1946 - very interesting to read the perspective so close to the actual events.

- Math Advances Raise the Prospect of an Internet Security Crisis - looks like it's possible people are going to make progress on the discrete logarithm problem. (which is the basis of RSA and other encryption algorithms, although not all of them)

- When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart - feeling powerful can suppress your mirror neurons.

- How phone batteries measure the weather - whoa, awesome! Go big data!

- Google Maps Has An Incredible Doctor Who Easter Egg - I'm pretty mad at Google this week, since they blocked Microsoft's Windows Phone YouTube app for ridiculous reasons, but this is pretty neat.


a ton o' links: government moneyball, disliking Ken Cuccinelli, fake vaccinations are a bad idea
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-08-02 11:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 556

(wow, this might be my longest link post ever? I think I'm less choosy about links when I'm tired...)

- Just another reminder to donate so KIPP high-schoolers can have laptops at school - they're over 50% funded now, but could use your help!

- Can Government Play Moneyball? - hey, maybe government should try to be more data-driven and only spend money on things that work! What a concept... (written by government officials who worked under Obama and George W. Bush)

- Virginia governor GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli launches website that pushes for reinstatement of state's anti-sodomy law - he wants to make consensual oral or anal sex felonies, even between married couples in their own homes. Although he says the law would only be applied "to sodomy committed against minors, against non-consenting adults, or in public," that's not what the law says and how hard would it be to write a law that says that? (not hard at all, say 49 other states) And this guy is neck-and-neck in the Virginia governor race...

- Texas is not Pro-Life - a reminder that while Texas is "pro-life" if you mean "trying to make abortion illegal", we're not so much for "trying to make abortion rarer" or in a myriad of other ways.

- Pakistan Battles Polio, and Its People’s Mistrust - who would have predicted that having the CIA running a fake vaccination campaign (when they were trying to get Osama bin Laden's DNA) would hurt real vaccination campaigns? (hopefully everyone)

- Why Men Need Women - ignoring the somewhat provocative (and misleading) title, the study seems to show that proximity to baby girls makes men more generous.

- 'Crack baby' study ends with unexpected but clear result - I'll spoil it for you: poverty is a stronger effect on children than the mother using cocaine while pregnant.

- The Unprecedented, Contemptible GOP Quest to Sabotage Obamacare - see also this Tom Toles cartoon (thanks David!)

- The Rise of the Christian Left in America - here's hoping!

- It can be terrible to be a creative person on the Internet, as people are terribly abusive. This seems like a big problem and I'm not sure what you can do about it, other than cut yourself off from any feedback at all.

- Yet another good article by Atul Gawande about why some innovations spread faster than others

- The Huge Threat to Capitalism That Republicans Are Ignoring - the New York Times story the article talks about is a great example of a market failure. When your only metric is "how much money am I making?" (and not "how much value am I adding?" or something like that), that opens the door to abuses like exploiting weird regulations to move around aluminum for no purpose. Really, at that point, why not just counterfeit hundred dollar bills?

- In Lieu of Money, Toyota Donates Efficiency to New York Charity - very cool story. Yay efficiency!

- A good interview with Michael Sandel, who wrote "What Money Can't Buy", which I loved to death.

- Can You Name These Cities by Their Starbucks Locations? - fun but tough; I got 10 right with a few lucky guesses.

- Don’t Be Alarmed by the Drone Blimps Hovering Over D.C. They’re Here to Stop Cruise Missiles - this is a real thing?

- A helpful reminder from Wired to check your application permissions on Facebook, Twitter, etc. with handy links. I had built up a lot of cruft!


link friday: sign language translator, hyperloop, why mobile web apps are slow
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-07-19 15:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 260

- Microsoft Research worked on a project that can translate sign language with a Kinect! Although she does seem to be signing rather slowly, this is pretty impressive. Between this and using Bing Translator to point your phone at something and have it translate it, it's starting to feel like the future! (that last feature isn't unique to Bing Translator, but it is cool)

- Elon Musk (the Tesla and SpaceX guy) has been teasing a "Hyperloop" that will get you between LA and San Francisco in 30 minutes. (they're 300 miles apart, for we Texas folk :-) ) He also teased that it could be solar-powered, and here's a good article at how it might work. As it says, these are pretty bold claims, but Musk's reputation is very good, so we'll just have to wait until August to see how realistic this is...

- An epicly long post about why mobile web apps are slow - the short version is ARM is slower than x86, JavaScript is ~5x slower than native code and it doesn't look like it's going to be getting much better.

- Neat look at how much you get for 200 calories of various foods - that peanut butter looks so sad! (thanks Barbara!)

- Edit Wars Reveal The 10 Most Controversial Topics on Wikipedia - many of these are not surprising, but "List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees" - whaaa?

- Jack Handey Is the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America - I loved Deep Thoughts!

- Health Insurance Within Reach - an overview of the health exchanges that are scheduled to go live on October 1st.


link friday: anger at politics, penguin galaxies, Parkinson's treatment
Mood: determined
Posted on 2013-07-12 10:44:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 356

First I'm going to get angry about politics, then some more uplifting stuff:

- Lessons of the Great Recession: How the Safety Net Performed - pretty well, although there are still a lot more people on food stamps (SNAP) than before. Speaking of which:

- House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps - the Republicans say they'll pass a food stamps bill later, but they separated them so they can more easily put in the cuts they want. I'm really pretty angry about this. Also see: Yes, You Should Be Totally Outraged By the Farm Bill (um, hooray!)

- Remember that scandal with the IRS targeting conservative groups? It turns out they also targeted liberal groups, so that should pretty much put an end to that. Honestly, I don't mind the IRS having stricter scrutiny of tax-exempt groups that are politically oriented, and I'm not thrilled with the fact that they get tax breaks to begin with. (on both sides!)

Uplifting stuff
- State-based fun! Here's the most "significant" TV show set in every state where "significant" is defined as "whatever the guy who made the map thought" (here's the readable version of the map), and here's the most famous brand from each state. (thanks, Pai, for the latter!)

- Colliding galaxies take on the shape of a penguin guarding its egg - awwww! (thanks, Jessica!)

- No Parkinson's with the flip of a switch - wow, I had no idea we could treat Parkinson's this well!

- 8-Year-Old Little Leaguer, 31-Year-Old Professional Given Same Hitting Advice - from the Onion - the headline is the joke, but I laughed :-)

- Anatomy of a pseudorandom number generator - visualising Cryptocat's buggy PRNG - funny how a simple off-by-one error can lead to such a "broken" PRNG. Crypto is hard! (although I'm not sure how much faster you could break the crypto with this error - I guess if you're guessing what random number it picked, you have more likely places to start..)

- What Does It Take to Stop Crips and Bloods From Killing Each Other? - Interesting article from the NYTimes magazine about a new approach to curbing gang violence that seems to be working.

- A few tips for sleeping better


link friday: terrible charities, sleep is important, VR sistine chapel
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2013-06-21 14:16:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 288

Honestly, I went a little crazy with links this week. Some of these may not be any good. Try to guess which ones!

- America's Worst Charities - some truly terrible stories in there. Interestingly, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and others are joining together to point out that a charity's overhead ratio isn't a good metric for judging it. (one non-profit's story along the same lines) It sounds like they're working on other more useful metrics...

- A reminder that not getting enough sleep is really bad for you. Also, sleep deprivation can be a real problem when you're in the hospital.

- Introducing Project Loon: Balloon-powered Internet access - this is a real thing that Google is doing! Wow. Very curious to see how this pans out.

- Are You Smart Enough to Be a Citizen? Take Our Quiz - I think knowing what all of the Supreme Court justices look like may be a bit much. I scored a 46 (without cheating!), 4 points short of earning my citizenship "with distinction".

- A cool VR "photograph" of the Sistine Chapel - very nicely done!

- America's Landlords Are Far Less Likely to Rent to Gay Couples - well, that's sad, and it was a fairly large (7000 landlords) study.

- Exodus International (the biggest "ex-gay" group) is shutting down - wow...it's not often you see a group admit that it was wrong like this. Also see an interview with the the group's president.

- The 4-Minute Workout - take that, 7-minute workout! And it's still backed up by science!

- Silver makes antibiotics thousands of times more effective - neat, although the article points out that silver can be toxic...

- The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science - long article but I found it interesting. We (humans) are very good at lying to ourselves!


link thursday: hospital prices, kickstarter space telescope, donated cars
Mood: content
Posted on 2013-06-13 16:57:00
Tags: links
Words: 333

In case you missed it, I released my HospitalPrices app for Windows Phone! There's a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation competition I might enter if I can get more data in the app.

We were on vacation last week (recap/pictures coming soon!) but I still managed to collect a bunch of quality links:

- Colonoscopies Explain Why U.S. Leads the World in Health Expenditures - more along the line of hospital pricing, procedures are more expensive here.

- A space telescope on Kickstarter! If you contribute enough you get to point the telescope at whatever you want! Awesomesauce.

- Want to Save Civilization? Get in Line - lines are cool, and paying to skip lines at theme parks makes me sad. (touches on the same themes as What Money Can't Buy, an excellent book which it's probably about time to re-read...)

- A nice longform article about the queer games scene - that "Lim" game sounds very poignant. Who was saying video games can't be art, now?

- “Warning” signs at historical sites tell visitors to relax and enjoy themselves - these are excellent!

- What Happens to Donated Cars? - the short version is, it's very lucrative for the companies that charities contract out to. It's also an overly-generous tax break. The only thing missing is much benefit for the charity! (I wonder if this explains why we hear promos the KUT vehicle donation program all the time?)

- A researcher has decoded prairie dog calls - one step closer to Darwin from seaQuest DSV!

- Barns Are Painted Red Because of the Physics of Dying Stars - fairly basic physics/cosmology, but still neat if you stop and think about it.

- How the Robots Lost: High-Frequency Trading's Rise and Fall - good news, I guess?

- Google Trends in real-time - I thought this was showing searches in real time, but I think it's just a neat visualization of Google Trends. Oh well.

- Re the NSA story: if you haven't, you should read NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate and The Snowden Prism


a few links: FIFA, racism, and homophobia; same-sex marriage and wedded bliss; James Comey
Mood: energetic
Posted on 2013-05-31 14:08:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 194

- FIFA announced tougher penalties for racism today. A few thoughts:
  * It blows my mind a little that racism is still a problem in soccer. Maybe I have my blinders on but I don't think it's really a problem in US sports, right?
  * The proposal sounds reasonable, although punishing a team based on what its fans do seems like inviting false flag operations.
  * Racism is bad, but FIFA seems perfectly content to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where "homosexual activity" is illegal. Apparently Sepp Blatter (FIFA president) was asked about this and his response was less than encouraging. And yes, I'm still mad that Qatar got the 2022 World Cup over the US, and I suspect foul play...

- The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss - you're welcome!

- Obama nominated James Comey to be FBI director. I vaguely remembered that name from the Bush presidency - turns out he was Deputy Attorney General under John Ashcroft and told this amazing story to Congress. (here's a text summary)

- Apparently in World War II German soldiers were issued a precursor of crystal meth to keep them alert...and this continued until 1988 in East Germany!


link friday: 3D printed food and airway splints!, full scale lego X-Wing
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-05-24 14:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 146

- The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food - oh man I hope this happens! There's a video of a chocolate printer, which is as delicious as it sounds.

- Doctors Save Ohio Boy By ‘Printing’ An Airway Tube - wow. The future is getting closer!

- Cleared of Charges of Setting Off a School Explosion, Florida Honor Student Heads to Space Camp - I do like stories with largely happy endings! (only "largely" because she's still suspended from school...)

- This Incredible Full Scale Lego X-Wing Is the Largest Model In History - obvious geek link bait, but it is pretty awesome. And the engines glow!

- The Steve Jobs emails that show how to win a hard-nosed negotiation - be in a strong position and don't budge. (optionally: be Steve Jobs)

- Surprise! Mozilla can produce near-native performance on the Web - a detailed look at asm.js, which is an extremely cool idea.


link friday: seven minute workout, math proofs, supreme court <3's corporations
Mood: content
Posted on 2013-05-17 14:05:00
Tags: links
Words: 270

- The Scientific 7-Minute Workout - sounds promising?

- The Paradox of the Proof - very nice article about the possible proof of the ABC Conjecture.

- Corporations Find a Friend in the Supreme Court - I hadn't realized this, but

While the current court’s decisions, over all, are only slightly more conservative than those from the courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, according to political scientists who study the court, its business rulings are another matter. They have been, a new study finds, far friendlier to business than those of any court since at least World War II.

- Charity can't fill holes in aid to poor - the idea that private charities can step in to help the poor instead of the government just isn't borne out by the numbers.

- What's next Google? Dropping SMTP support? - Google seems to be stepping away from open standards, which makes me a sad panda. (also, they seem to really dislike Windows Phone => sad panda x 2)

- Infographic: Is Your State's Highest-Paid Employee A Coach? (Probably) - nice work by Deadspin.

- A Simple Graph That Should Silence Austerians and Gold Bugs Forever - it's not exactly a scientific experiment (wish that we could do those in economics!), but it's pretty convincing.

- Shaking Off Loneliness - being lonely is pretty bad for you healthwise. (and what matters is how you see yourself, not your raw number of friends or connections)

- Caught you red-handed: 9 games with creative copy protection - prompted by the recent Game Dev Tycoon story, but there are some blasts from the past in there!

- Check out the web cartoonists continuing Calvin And Hobbes - good stuff!


long-overdue links: sexism in the tech industry, torture v. diversity, money wins elections
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-05-03 15:06:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 355

It's been a while, so some of these are out of date, but they're interesting, dang it!

- Caroline Shaw, a fellow Philharmonics singer at Rice, just won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music! Congratulations to her! A short article about the piece at Slate.

- The Biggest Problem in Technology - a good synopsis of the sad episode that happened at this year's PyCon. Best sentence:

Given the advantages of time, distance, and a rational mind, it is relatively easy to see that basically everybody involved erred (though some far more severely than others).

- John Yoo Criticizes Liberals for Caring More About Torture Than Diversity - when I read the headline, I thought "oh, there might be a valid point here but the headline is clearly exaggerating"...and I was wrong, the headline is dead-on. Sheeeeeesh!

- After the Jason Collins came out, these Onion articles seem especially relevant: Gay NFL Players Must Be Unknown Special Teams Guys, Says Homophobic Man, and my favorite NFL Players Support Player Coming Out, Getting Absolutely Obliterated During Games. These were published a month ago amidst rumors that a few active NFL players were going to come out - we'll see what happens!

- Ten Practical Things to Make with a 3D Printer

- Money Wins Elections - a cool visualization page in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act, which you should definitely support!

- Abusing hash kernels for wildly unprincipled machine learning - It seems almost magical that something as crude as the hash kernel he describes actually kind of works.

- Carmen Sandiego's Africa map: television's invisible, impossible shuttle run - the Africa map did seem impossible as a kid :-)

- How a banner ad for H&R Block appeared on apple.com—without Apple’s OK - an excellent reason for HTTPS everywhere!

- Pope Francis supported same-sex civil unions in Argentina in 2010 - certainly it was just a reaction to Argentina being about to approve same-sex marriage, but...wow!

- Paramount Hopes New ‘Star Trek’ Is a Global Crowd-Pleaser - I love me some Star Trek, but this article made me a lot less excited about it. Something about seeing how the sausage is made, and how they changed the plot, etc. to appeal more to international audiences.


same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court, and a ton of links
Posted on 2013-03-26 22:31:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 337

The Prop 8 case was argued today, and here's the transcript. (a reminder: as with all things politics, you probably don't want to read the comments...I say this not having read them myself, of course) The DOMA case is tomorrow. Relatedly, the Onion was on fire today: Supreme Court On Gay Marriage: 'Sure, Who Cares', and Kim Jong-Un Comes Out In Support Of Gay Marriage: 'I'm Not A Monster', and most hilariously I Feel Very Strongly About The Issue Of Same Sex Marriage Because I Have A Gay Son (an editorial by God)

Relatedly, Nate Silver looks at the percentage of people that support same-sex marriage (it seems to be growing at around 1.5% a year), and even at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) it seems they recognize same-sex marriage is the future.


- Invading Iraq: What We Were Told at the Time - hey, it's been ten years since the Iraq war! And it cost lots and lots and lots of money! (much more than people said at the time)

- In Mississippi, the Mysterious Murder of a Gay, Black Politician - (a long read) it's still mysterious, but there's more to the story than the headline.

- NPR did a long story on the growing number of people on disability...it's something I haven't heard about, and the numbers surprised me.

- A long story about how De Beers cornered the diamond market and how they're ridiculously more expensive than they should be...nothing I haven't read before, but a good summary.

Tech stuff:

- New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs - LED bulbs are cheaper now - I guess it's time to switch away from CFLs? (or, at least, when they go out, replace them with LEDs?)

- Hyperkin is making a console that can play NES, SNES, Genesis, Famicom, and Game Boy games. And all for less than $100. Pretty nifty!


- Ask A Banker: Why Do People Keep Trying To Give Me Money? - it's economics _and_ it's humor! How do they do that?

- If PHP Were British

- Death Star Truthers

1 comment

mini-link friday: compound interest, marriage happiness
Mood: busy
Posted on 2013-03-15 16:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 240

- If The Catholic Church Were A Business, How Would You Fix It? - I heard this story on NPR and immediately thought "this is going to be a stupid story". It ended up being OK, but the most interesting part in the radio version was the guy who pointed out the church started out with 11 people 2000 years ago and is now at a size of 1.2 billion, which is an annual growth rate of 1%. I immediately thought "that doesn't sound right, that's too small", but it turns out it's actually a little less (0.93%). Compound interest wins again!

- Rob Portman, a senator from Ohio, is now for gay marriage after his son came out to him. It's a little disappointing that he didn't change his mind until someone close to him came out, but that's the power of knowing a gay person. It's progress, and I'll take it!

- The Difference Between a Happy Marriage and Miserable One: Chores - interesting article, with examples.

- SXSW and Reddit’s Introspection Problem - this is extremely depressing. She raised some good points about problems with Reddit, and then she got personally attacked in terrible ways. Somehow trolls on twitter bother me more than anonymous comment trolls.

- The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble - a well-told story by the New York Times.

- A video of a fan accompanying Billy Joel; it will warm your heart, especially after the last two links!

1 comment

link friday: simcity!, health care costs, jose canseco explains gravity
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-03-01 14:05:00
Tags: links
Words: 103

- SimCity comes out next week! Fun experiments with it: SimCity vs. The Suburban Sprawl and Using SimCity to diagnose my home town's traffic problem

- We Found Our Son in the Subway - all together, now: Awwwwwwww!

- Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us - very long and depressing Time article, but worth reading. All those nonprofit hospitals are...surprisingly profitable! Related: America’s Overpaid Doctors

- Jose Canseco explains gravity (in 8 tweets! science!)

- Reddit thread of random facts about Austin

- This comment thread on the AV Club is pretty awesome if you're into Law & Order (see the comment that starts "No, we're not offering a plea")


links from India! Annotated State of the Union, naps, virtues, kangaroos
Mood: relaxed
Posted on 2013-02-15 14:44:00
Tags: links
Words: 210

It's my last day in India - had a great time, and boy am I not looking forward to another long day of travel. But, until then:

The Annotated 2013 State of the Union - may want to grab a cup of tea before reading; it's a bit long, but it's a very good read!

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive - or Hey, Naps Are Good for You!

Ten Virtues for the Modern Age - billed as part of "A Manifesto For Atheists", but I don't see any reason these shouldn't apply to non-atheists as well.

xkcd: Workflow - aaaaa it's so true! I'm putting this up at my desk when I get back.

Why a Transaction Fee Matters to You - a financial transaction fee really does seem like a good idea. Hopefully the bill has some chance of passing?

There Was A Kangaroo Delay At The Australian Open - the picture really is worth 1000 words. (thanks Jessica!)

The Law and Order Database: All 20 Seasons - an interesting look at guilty/not-guilty rates over the seasons. Also: data!

Declassified: America's Secret Flying Saucer - it worked great until it got more than four feet off the ground. It does look cool, though!

Finally, a Valentine's Day appropriate article from the Onion: Romantic-Comedy Behavior Gets Real-Life Man Arrested


a few quick pre-India links: tea steeping strategies, NFL fans analysis, SimCity
Mood: excited
Posted on 2013-01-31 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 275

- Tea: Does bouncing your tea bag actually do anything substantial? - you don't need to sign up for Quora; the first answer is pretty comprehensive!

- More documents came out in the lawsuits about the no-hire agreements between Apple and other high-tech companies, and Jobs's letter to Palm includes the following:

I'm sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: "We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money."
Ouch! Some of the other documents are pretty damning as well - even if the only policy was "don't pursue people from these companies, but it's OK to hire them if they come to us", I think that's still kinda wrong.

- NFL Fans on Facebook - a comprehensive analysis of which parts of the country root for which teams. Good stuff! I love when Facebook does neat stuff with their data.

- SimCity vs. The Suburban Sprawl - I got to play the SimCity beta last weekend and I'm looking forward to the real release!

- Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months - yikes, cyberwarfare is becoming a thing...

- Republicans' No-Fingerprints Strategy on Gay Marriage - clearly this is just happening in bluish states, but this is still an amazing turnaround from not so long ago!

- Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A - written by an ardent LGBT activist.

- Sewers, Curfews and a Ban on Gay Bias - or "Tiny Kentucky Town Bans LGBT Discrimination, Defies Stereotypes"

- Disney's Oscar-nominated "Paperman" debuts online - I hadn't seen it before and it's really very good.

- Cute Child of the 90s ad for Internet Explorer

1 comment

links: traffic fatalities visualized, lead is bad, comment trolls are also bad
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-01-18 15:14:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 282

- Five Years of Traffic Fatalities - interesting visualizations of traffic fatalities. They're definitely more common on weekend evenings, but not as much as I had thought.

- America's Real Criminal Element: Lead - I've read this hypothesis before about the crime wave in the 60s and 70s and subsequent reduction, but this presents a very good case for it. I'm a sucker for stories explaining things in the past that were mysteries!

- Never Lie About Who You Really Are - this resonated so hard with me I nearly exploded. I am to the point where I don't hide that I have a husband, but I don't necessarily volunteer it even if it's relevant. Maybe that's not good enough.

- The Science of Why Comment Trolls Suck - from the article:

Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.
and that sounds about right from my personal experience.

- 'Star Wars' game segregates gay characters on gay planet - this is officially my favorite headline ever! The reasons same-sex relationship are only allowed on one planet is technical (they only included the same-sex flirting animations, etc. on new characters, it sounds like?) but...awesome.

- US employee 'outsourced job to China' - I am very impressed someone had the gall to pull this off...and it worked! (for a while, anyway)

- Earth to Fiscal-Cliff Pundits: $250K Does Make You Rich (this probably gives you an idea of how long I've been sitting on some of these links :-) )


linkstravaganza: defeating the norquist pledge, morgan freeman in an LGBT ad, C++ pitfalls
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-12-11 15:55:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 274

Apparently I'm only doing these once a month now. That's OK! Here goes:


- America...And The Rest - hey, looks like stimulus was a better choice than austerity, no? Maybe there's something to this Keynesian stuff.

- Grover Norquist, author of the "never ever vote for a tax increase" pledge, is facing somewhat of a revolt in the Republican party. Which I think is good: the idea that you could sign a pledge saying never to vote for anything, no matter what the circumstances, seems rather short-sighted. (I'm talking about economics here, not, say, civil rights and such)

- Warren Buffett still thinks we need higher taxes on the wealthy.


- A long article about the recent marriage initiative fights in the four states. Spoiler alert: we win!

- Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Washington state, here are pictures of happy people, including Dan Savage!

- And since the Supreme Court will be hearing same-sex marriage cases, the Onion gets a scoop with an editorial from Clarence Thomas: I Get To Determine Whether Gay People Can Marry.

- Morgan Freeman narrates an LGBT equality ad! First they ignore you, then they fight you, then Morgan Freeman does an ad for you, then you win.


- I found this page of C++ pitfalls both enlightening and depressing. There seem to be an unbounded number of very small mistakes you can make that still compile and yet act very wrong.

- A long story about the origins of Lost, at Grantland of all places.

- The new SimCity is coming in March! Check out this 10 minute strategy video to get a feel for what it will be like. I am excited!


link friday: same-sex marriage, Wii U!, scandals
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-11-16 14:07:00
Tags: gay referrer politics links
Words: 455

Things have been busy so it's been over a month since I've posted a batch of links...but the wait is over!

- Same-sex marriage section: after the historic victories last week (wow, that was only last week! How time flies...), my marriage map was linked from Sociological Images, which is a pretty awesome name for a blog. (and no, the map isn't wrong, Maryland doesn't allow marriage until January. But that's OK!) Dan Savage reminds us that we couldn't have done it without lots and lots of straight allies: thanks straight allies! And the New York Times points out that Obama won LGBT voters by a lot, while there was roughly a tie for straight voters.

- Wow: Dick Morris (who predicted a Romney landslide) is now saying "I Felt It Was My Duty" To "Say What I Said". Regardless of who you wanted to win, that is a terrible terrible thing to hear from a pundit who makes predictions. (perhaps it's not unrelated that Dick Morris is notoriously almost always wrong when predicting things)

- I just found out an old high school friend of mine started CheckedTwice, a place to put up gift lists and such. Perfect for the holidays! It got a nice writeup in a local paper.

- For some reason, a bunch of Princess Bride references in an NFL pregame show.

- Someone wrote a Chrome extension that automatically fact checks crazy chain letters - pretty cool!

- Speaking of Chrome, the new 100,000 Stars is a very cool visualization of our stellar neighborhood. Man, browsing through this makes me want to play Master of Orion again...

- After playing Nintendo Land for the Wii U, David and I have been convinced to get a Wii U. Lots of fun!

- With regards to the Petraeus scandal, David Simon has two (NSFW-language) posts: part 1 and part 2. Short version: this shouldn't be a scandal.

- Speaking of scandals, I still don't really understand what the Benghazi "scandal" is supposed to be about. (obviously it was a tragedy, and we need better security, but I've never understood why people are trying to make political hay out of it) And apparently I'm not the only one!

- Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota Refuses to Confirm Pro-Equality Teen - worse than that, they're refusing his whole family communion. Ick ick ick.

- Sixth man infraction spotted 19 years after Rockets/Sonics game - pretty incredible that no one caught this, even though it didn't make a difference in the play. Once you know what to look for it's pretty blatant :-)

- From the Onion: Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On (re Hurricane Sandy)

- Pentatonix has a new Christmas album coming out - here's their version of Carol of the Bells.


mostly happy links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-10-09 16:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 175

But first, a link I missed from my last angry links: this guy caused a lot of college tuition inflation and is proud of it.

- In Paris, they put up a statue commemorating Zidane's head-butt in the 2006 World Cup finals.

- Should I have a different opinion about not having opinions? - as someone who can be indecisive, there are some good points in there. Mostly that always making the other person decide can be a burden on them, so it's OK to just choose randomly if you really don't have an opinion!

- In 2008, Focus on the Family wrote a list of 34 predictions from 2012 if Obama got elected - and, generously, half of one prediction came true. (the repealing of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but without the disastrous consequences)

Fun videos:
- A series of covers of "Somebody That I Used to Know".

- Pentatonix's cover of Gangnam Style!

- I obviously don't have a lot of love for Ohio State, but credit where credit's due: their marching band puts on a good video game halftime show.


links that made me angry
Mood: angry
Posted on 2012-10-02 11:36:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 185

So I read this month's The Atlantic magazine and there was this long article about Jim Bopp who believes the problem with money in politics is that there's not enough. Somehow it's even more frustrating that the guy seems to honestly think that unlimited contributions from anonymous sources is a good thing for democracy. And, post-Citizens United, he's totally winning! (other depressing articles in the issue: gerrymandering and voter suppression. Whee.)

Then I read this article about how the very rich feel "victimized" by Obama. A few of the people quoted compare Obama to an abusive spouse or, say, Hitler. My favorite sentence:

In 2010, the private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, compared the President’s as yet unsuccessful effort to eliminate some of the preferential tax treatment his sector receives to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

And then, on a totally unrelated topic, this morning I read this article about sexism at software conferences, which for some reason is a kinda pervasive problem that really really shouldn't be happening.

And then I sighed and was sad for the rest of the day. The End.


link dump: tax deductions, paid apps are not like cups of coffee, video streaming copyright laws
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2012-08-30 14:17:00
Tags: taxes links
Words: 332

- When I talked about Paul Ryan's tax plan, one of my complaints was that the plan talks about closing tax loopholes, but didn't specify which ones. Here's a handy list of the deductions and how much they cost, and you see how hard this would actually be. Two of the three most expensive ones are pretty popular (mortgage interest and 401(k)), and of course one of the the fourth most expensive one is "lower rate on dividends and capital gains", which the Ryan plan would actually make a bigger deduction by taking the rate down to 0%!

- Speaking of Paul Ryan, there were a lot of lies in his convention speech last night.

- Stop Using The Cup of Coffee vs. $0.99 App Analogy - a good article on paid apps. Apparently a lot of people are making money with apps by making them free with ads (and in-app purchases). Maybe I should aim for this model more, but I'm apparently atypical because I like paying for apps and am not a huge fan of ads in apps. But getting people to pay is a big hurdle, and "free" is very enticing...

- Why Johnny can't stream: How video copyright went insane - a good Ars Technica article about how ridiculous streaming/time-shifting laws are.

- New Zealand is taking a step towards legalizing same-sex marriage, and they say the catalyst was Obama's endorsement of the same!

- This is old news, but SpaceX got a NASA contract to work on the next Space Shuttle and take people back into space. Congratulations to them, and I heart SpaceX so bad it hurts!

- Gotye made a "Somebody That I Used to Know" mashup of YouTube performances of the song, which is pretty cool. (and features Pentatonix's a capella version)

- Did you know you can totally buy a 3D printer for under $2,000? I did not.

- Another awesome Old Spice ad - this one's interactive!

- Astros Not Even Good Enough To Play For Pride - from the Onion, but still, the truth hurts.

1 comment

links: Obamacare description, Romney's tax plan, NYT trial, a capella BSG cover!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-08-01 14:43:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 197

- Here's a concise description of what Obamacare does, complete with citations. (from a subreddit called Explain Like I'm Five) Very thorough from what I've seen!

- A new analysis from outside groups shows that Romney's tax plan will raise taxes on anyone making $200K or less, and lower them for anyone making more than that. So...yeah. I don't mind higher taxes to reduce the deficit, or investing in infrastructure/education/etc., but raising my taxes so millionaires can get a tax cut...not so much.

- Speaking of Romney and taxes, here's a striking graph comparing the past 5 presidents + Romney's yearly income and effective tax rate.

- The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers - glad to see their online strategy is working, even if they did still suffer a pretty big loss. Related: anyone want to try an online subscription for 99 cents for 4 weeks? Drop me a line and I'll send it your way!

- This a capella cover of BSG's All Along the Watchtower is awesome. (thanks, Jessica!)

- A story about the LGBT student group at Rice back in the 70's. Spoiler alert: Annise Parker makes an appearance!

- idreambooks.com is kinda like Metacritic, but for books.


videos: bizarre anti gay marriage video, TED music talk, The Newsroom opening credits
Mood: confused
Posted on 2012-07-16 12:50:00
Tags: links
Words: 170

- I saw this bizarre anti gay marriage video, and was like: ...wait, what? The organization that created it looks real and not a satire, which was my first thought.

To be fair, there's approximately one reasonable argument made in the middle: a wedding photographer in New Mexico was fined for refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding in 2006 (even though gay marriage wasn't and isn't legal in New Mexico!), and that does bother me some. But the first 1:20 of the video is: super super crazy.

(having watched The Newsroom, I realize that this is the best form of the argument against same-sex marriage, but it is funny and I ain't no journalist...)

- Speaking of The Newsroom, do yourself a favor and watch the opening credits a few hundred times in a row, like I'm doing. Now I want to play this music when I walk into the office every morning to get me going :-)

- Another good (but longer) video: TED talk by Benjamin Zander about (classical) music and passion.


whole lotta non-healthcare-related links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-06-28 14:00:00
Tags: links
Words: 158

Programming stuff:
- Both true and false: a Zen moment with C - legit, but pretty funny.

- Why is processing a sorted array faster than an unsorted array? - understanding how hardware works is important when optimizing software.

- VIM Clutch is hardware pedal to toggle vim between insert and normal mode. This is actually kinda tempting!

Other stuff:
- How we die (in one chart) - wow, I didn't realize how big of a problem tuberculosis/pneumonia/influenza used to be. Yay science!

- What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? - interesting discussion on Quora.

- Navy Plan To Fire Dust Clouds At Space Junk Would Take 10 Years - hmm, that's kinda neat.

- Video of a Mercedes racing a golf ball - yeah, that's pretty cool.

- Map of MLB player hometowns - pretty much what I expected, although some kinda heatmap might be nicer - there are a lot of markers in the US. (thanks Shawn!)

- The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever


rushed links: gay parents, poetic justice, algebra app!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-06-18 11:07:00
Tags: links
Words: 94

- A study came out last week (funded by a conservative organization) claiming to show that children same sex parents tended to have more problems. Unfortunately, the study included same sex parents that had been involved in a heterosexual marriage and gotten divorced, so really the finding is: hey, divorce is bad for kids.

- Rockstar condemns Max Payne 3 cheaters to play only against each other - that is some awesome poetic justice!

- DragonBox is a popular app that teaches kids algebra (to some extent, anyway). Cool!

- An amusing way of dealing with a slug problem


links: the webOS story, businesses forced to serve gay couples?, dad on NPR!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-06-06 10:44:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 260

- Pre to postmortem: the inside story of the death of Palm and webOS - an epic tale of webOS from start to finish. A very well-researched piece by The Verge. It was somewhat cathartic to read, but I'm just about done cathartizing myself over webOS.

- NM Court: Company Can’t Discriminate against Same-Sex Commitment Ceremony - I'm not sure how I feel about this. It's clearly discrimination, but should private businesses be allowed to discriminate against gay couples? Of course, they aren't allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, but there's just something weird about forcing a photographer to take pictures of a couple they don't want to. (I can't imagine the pictures would be any good!)

- Analysts Try To Define Romney's Foreign Policy - hey, my dad got interviewed on NPR!

- In a story that's weird on many levels, the Department of Defense just happened to have two better-than-the-Hubble telescopes lying around that they gave away to NASA. From the article:

This is the state of our military-industrial-scientific complex in miniature: The military has so much money that it has two extra telescopes better than anything civilians have; meanwhile, NASA will need eight years to find enough change in the couches at Cape Canaveral to turn these gifts into something they can use. Anyone else find anything wrong with this state of affairs?

- Politifact, Politifact, Who Is The Truthiest Of Them All? - offered without comment, except that those graphs looks statistically significant.

- What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S. - be on time, don't discuss politics, and give people personal space!


kinda down, but interesting links nonetheless
Mood: depressed
Posted on 2012-06-01 15:01:00
Tags: links
Words: 137

- Maybe US soccer is getting better? I watched them lose 4-1 to Brazil this week, and while there was definitely some sloppiness and head-scratching mistakes, they showed some promise on the attack that has been rare up to this point. Go USA!

- Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran - the New York Times claims that Stuxnet was the work of the US and Israel.

- A federal appeals court struck down DOMA this week - the next stop is the Supreme Court, if it gets appealed.

- The Power Of A President's Words, Ctd - or, "hey, there are gay comic book characters now".

- Compressing "Never Gonna Give You Up" lyrics - not a whole lot of entropy there!

- Surely the Nook isn't doing this on a regular basis, right? Seems like we would have heard about it by now...


Tired of rants? Here's some links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-05-24 17:30:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 383

- Since Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, support for same-sex marriage in Maryland has gone up 12%, almost entirely from blacks. One word: wowowowowow! Minds have been changed!

- If you're at all interested in Windows 8, the Building Windows 8 blog is full of juicy content, like this ridiculously long post about the Windows user experience, past and present. For developers, the Windows 8 app developer blog has a lot of good posts, too.

- I feel like I've posted this before, but here's a good summary of how to spend your money to make yourself happier (buy experiences instead of things, help others instead of yourself, etc.)

- An interesting-looking new book says 20 minutes of being active provide a ton of benefits.

- When half a million Americans died and nobody noticed - wow, could Vioxx really responsible for that??

- Interesting look at Microsoft's "Signature" service to clean off a bunch of crapware the PC makers include. It's nice that you can buy computers from Microsoft Stores, and although some people are making fun of the fact that you can pay $99 and bring in a PC you bought elsewhere to get cleaned off, I think it makes sense. Presumably the PC maker got kickbacks for including that AOL (or whatever the modern equivalent is) software and that made the PC cheaper, so you're just paying more to offset that.

- Iran photoshopped a missile test image...but forgot to take Jar-Jar Binks out. (the image they posted was a joke created after the last time they photoshopped an image of a missile test!)

- An algorithm to help you play the perfect game of Battleship - looks neat, but I'm skeptical about this. His analysis only holds if you assume the position of the ships is random, and if you know your opponent is using Berry's new algorithm, couldn't you deliberately try to place your ships in "unlikely" places? (thanks Jessica!)

- A good discussion of the ESPP tax rules, which are pretty complicated. There are graphs!

- Polarization is real, and mostly on the Republican side.

- Check out this crazy non-stick coating invented at MIT - it makes ketchup flow out of a bottle like, well, a liquid!

- For Eurovision fans: a look at which countries tend to vote for each other.

- Why People Loved webOS - so true.


a little down, with music to bring me up
Mood: depressed
Posted on 2012-05-08 10:05:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 84

Sigh. The past few weeks have been pretty rough in terms of stress and things going on. North Carolina votes today and the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions seems likely to pass. I am tired.

To cheer me up, I found this awesome a capella cover of "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Pentatonix. Then Adam pointed me to this cover by Walk off the Earth where they only use one guitar, followed by a pretty good parody of said video.


bleg: help stop an anti-gay amendment in North Carolina! (and a few links)
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2012-05-04 10:50:00
Tags: activism gay links
Words: 174

Give to stop an anti-gay amendment in North Carolina! They vote on Tuesday!

The amendment would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions - in marriage map terms that would turn North Carolina from beige to the darkest red. Unfortunately, it has been looking like it's likely to pass, but polling has been turning towards the "No" side.

(if anyone out there is in North Carolina: please please please vote against Amendment 1!)


- Are Apple's Tax Games Bad for America? - the summary says it perfectly: "The great global tax maze deprives the United States of revenue and jobs. But there's not much we can do to prevent it."

- A new study shows all-white juries convict a higher percentage of blacks, and having just one black person on the jury is enough to eliminate the effect.

- Bruce Bartlett (who served under Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and on the staffs of Jack Kemp and Ron Paul) shows yet again that lowering taxes probably won't increase employment, and the US's taxes are among the lowest in the world.


links: same-sex union ceremonies in the Episcopal church!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-04-27 13:31:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 210

- The Episcopal Church in Texas is going to allow same-sex covenant ceremonies! It sounds like one church in Houston and one in Austin will be allowed to perform them, and St. David's church in downtown Austin is being asked to be the one in Austin. Wow wow wow!

- Most of the brain-training type of games only help you get better at that specific task, but there's some evidence that an N-back test can help short-term memory. My short-term memory stinks...maybe I should try it!

- A good article on ego depletion. (although if you've read the Willpower book, it covered ego depletion more thoroughly)

- IT'S OFFICIAL: Keynes Was Right - strike up the band!

- Might upgrade to the paid version someday - why I limit the trial version of FlightPredictor to adding 6 flights.

- An interesting article about a checklist that seems to be lowering domestic violence in Maryland by prompting the victims to get help. Since 2007, domestic violence homicides there are down 40%!

- 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses - doing my best...

--whimsical links below here--

- This is an extremely trippy story, from a NY standardized test, of all places!

- Steve Jobs' Plan for a Willy Wonka-Style Celebration of the Millionth iMac - I really really really hope this was true. Really!

1 comment

links: the 501 developer manifesto, etc.
Mood: okay
Posted on 2012-04-18 13:18:00
Tags: links
Words: 238

- I read The 501 Developer Manifesto and was going to comment on it, and then I read I Guess I'm Not A 501 Developer and it was exactly what I wanted to say, so...nevermind. (the short version: not working long hours = good, but it's OK to program on your own for fun, amirite?)

- Doctors Urge Their Colleagues To Quit Doing Worthless Tests - it makes me sad that it's so easy for doctors to rely on "conventional wisdom" instead of staying up to date on the latest studies on the efficacy of tests/procedures/etc. To be fair, it's a hard problem, but one worth solving!

- On Being Gay In Medicine: A Leading Harvard Pediatrician’s Story - powerful stuff, we've come a long way!

- Calling Radicalism by Its Name - it's general election season, and don't believe anyone who wants to reduce the deficit and cut taxes.

- Poll: Google's More Popular Than Facebook, Twitter, and Even Apple - not too surprising, I guess, but why is Twitter so unpopular?

- Caine's Arcade - if you haven't seen it yet, 9-year-old Caine runs his own arcade made out of cardboard!

- Evidence: Fat People Can Be as Healthy as Thin People - as someone who is overweight but has generally healthy habits (more or less), yay!

- SpaceX on why the US can beat China - whenever I read about SpaceX I feel awesome inside...and not just because they use LabVIEW.

- QArt codes - making art out of QR codes. Very clever!


bonus links: xkcd april fools, programming stuff, other stuff
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-04-02 13:57:00
Tags: links
Words: 225

- If you missed xkcd's April Fools comic yesterday, you should check it out. Here's the reddit thread with details.

Programming-type stuff:
- An article about being careful how you handle NaN keys in hashtables - his solution is to add randomness to the hash function!
- A discussion of the infamous Girls Near Me app and how the problem is not the app, but having all of that data in one easily-accessible place. Privacy is fast becoming a thing of the past....
- API Design is UI for Developers - as someone who often has to use APIs, there's some goooood stuff there!
- For Windows Phone 7, Back means back. Not forwards, not sideways, but back. Being able to go "back" between applications was a bit weird at first, but I think I like it now and it's mostly consistent.

Random links that got orphaned and now have a home:
- 'What to do with Astrodome?' - hopefully something awesome! It's a neat building.
- A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney - I laughed at the Feynman diagram :-)
- (I was going to put a link here about how Rick Santorum wants to make pornography illegal, but we've all agreed Mitt Romney's going to win the nomination now, right? Right.)
- For the Prosecution, Justice Clarence Thomas
- Why is health care expensive in the US? Well, for starters, our prices are much higher than other countries'.


links: FlightPredictor makes a list!, the penny is gone (in Canada), and some robots
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-03-30 15:18:00
Tags: projects links
Words: 155

- FlightPredictor for WP7 is on a top app list in the Windows Marketplace!

Apparently this is by number of downloads as opposed to ratings. (and most of those downloads were trial, not paid. But still!)

- Making big decisions about money - wise words from Seth Godin. And I am particularly prone to this...

- Canada is getting ready of the penny - our neighbors to the north are wise! (although I'm glad to see that Canadian local news isn't immune to some terrible sentences to end a story)

- A day in the life of a warehouse robot - that company Kiva that Amazon bought (not the microlending Kiva) makes pretty awesome robots!

- More robots: Look how high this robot can jump! Spoiler alert: very high.

- An interview with Batman, or at least the Batman of Route 29 in Maryland.

- Finally, a good way to start your weekend: Drunk Man Sings Entire Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody In Police Car - with video!


links: NH protects same-sex marriage!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-03-23 15:23:00
Tags: links
Words: 134

- New Hampshire voted down an attempt to repeal same-sex marriage by a convincing margin of 211-116 - and it needed to pass by a 2/3 majority since the governor (a Democrat) had said he would veto it. More than 100 Republicans voted against the repeal!

Unfortunately, there are a bunch more states that are considering repeal - give to the Win More States fund to defend same-sex marriage!

- The Odd Link Between Commute Direction and Marital Satisfaction - bizarre, but I can kind of understand - anything can help you make a connection with someone!

- Ben Bernanke is going around to college campuses...and one of the things he talks about is why going back to the gold standard is a bad, bad idea.

- The Story Behind That 9,000-Word Quora Post on Airplane Cockpits - and here's the original!


links: Goldman Sachs, Santorum v. Romney, rubber ducking
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2012-03-16 09:55:00
Tags: links
Words: 185

- Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs - written by a guy who was high up and seemed to really believe in the company. As Lawrence Lessig points out, this is not surprising given the market incentives - once Goldman Sachs went public and a bunch of regulations were removed, it's a race to the bottom. Related: Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader.

- A cool triangle viewer of who voted for Santorum and Romney - most of this stuff is fairly obvious (rich people tend to vote Romney, "true conservatives" tend to vote for Santorum) but it's a neat way to visualize it.

- Rubber Duck Problem Solving - at NI we call this "lamp-posting", and it works. Is there something about programming in particular that makes this work, or does just saying other sorts of problems aloud help too?

- The Browser You Loved to Hate - Even Microsoft is making fun of old versions of IE now! (and, yeah, IE9 and 10 are definitely steps in the right direction)

- What America Sells To The World - a lot of stuff!

- Flying people over NYC! That is some clever marketing.

1 comment

beta links!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-03-09 13:25:00
Tags: links
Words: 271

Good crop today! In descending order of personal interestingness:

- 6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying - a bit over the top (and NSFW language), but I mostly agree. The one that annoys me the most is when people talk about "punishing success", as if taxes are imposed punitively to piss people off as opposed to, you know, paying for things the government provides. Wait, no, the one that annoys me the most is "If I Can Do It, So Can You!", implying that the only reason rich people are rich is that they're just better/work so much harder than the rest of us. Of course, many rich people did work hard, but so do lots of people that aren't rich and weren't as lucky. Wait...well, they're all pretty good.

- The story of Keep Calm and Carry On - the poster was never actually publicly seen during WWII! Nice short video, though.

- Four Reasons to Root for the Windows Phone - yay Windows Phone! (do yourself a favor and ignore reason #4...)

- A cool visualization of entitlement spending across the US over time, broken down by type. That unemployment insurance view is kind of depressing.

- Looking for new webcomics to read? I am not, but if I were I'd do it through Just the First Frame, which is exactly what it sounds like.

- Pretty charts of where NBA players score the most points from - interesting that there is a "low-point scoring gap" between very close to the basket and further away.

- Amusing ad for DollarShaveClub.com.

- How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies - mostly for destroyerj, but I have some fond memories of SWG...

1 comment

Independence Day links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-03-02 11:52:00
Tags: links
Words: 120

(Texas Independence Day, that is)

- Ze Frank (of The Show with Ze Frank) just launched a Kickstarter project to do another show! It's already met its goal, but the more supporters the more awesome it will be. I'm very excited, and hooray for Kickstarter!

- Right versus Pragmatic - I am very much a pragmatist. (although I agree with Andy Ihnatko's complaint about the sense of entitlement...)

- The White House's Economic Case for Reelection in 13 Charts - or, politics + charts = linkbait for me.

- The Power of Being Pulled Over - pulling over drivers affects their behavior for a long time!

- Sprinkles Cupcakes Explains Its 24-Hour 'Cupcake ATM' - Houston's going to have round-the-clock access to cupcakes!

- Giant Prehistoric Penguins Stood Nearly 5 Feet Tall


frustrated links
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2012-02-24 14:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 189

It's Friday! It is Friday, right? TGIF.

Serious links:

- Mitt Romney's Tax Plan Is a Mathematical Disaster - you mean cutting everyone's taxes by 20% won't help the deficit? I'm shocked!

- Aside from the recent dustup with Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen foundation has a nasty habit of "blaming the victim" when it's pretty clear that, while mammography is better than nothing, it's definitely not a panacea for the quickly metastasizing cancers that tend to be more fatal.

- Rick Santorum Wants Your Sex Life to Be 'Special'...and I want Rick Santorum to stop talking about my sex life. (of course he's not talking about me, he wants my sex life to be nonexistant, I assume)

- Why Do We Still Care About the Dow? - even just as a stock market index, it's pretty terrible.

- Contraception’s Con Men

Less serious links:

- What Jeremy Lin Teaches Us About Talent - spoiler: it teaches us that sports teams are terrible at predicting it!

- Now George Lucas says that Han never shot first, you were just confused. Le sigh.

- How Much Would it Cost to build the Death Star? - it would cost a lot.


monday morning links: wall street, cat parasites
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2012-02-13 10:14:00
Tags: links
Words: 245

Because I meant to post these on Friday but ran out of time...

- The governor of Washington state is going to sign the marriage equality bill today! Woohoo!

- Loooong article on how Wall Street bankers are no longer "masters of the universe" because of, among other things, the Dodd-Frank legislation. Bonuses are way down, etc. This seems like a good thing, not least of which is the quote:

“If you’re a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you’d never go to Wall Street now,” says a hedge-fund executive. “You’d go to Silicon Valley. There’s at least a prospect for a huge gain. You’d have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. It looks like he has a lot more fun.”
Fun aside, I think Silicon Valley creates a lot more value for the economy than bankers do.

- How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy - I've read bits about Toxoplasma gondii before and how it changes our behavior, and apparently there's a little evidence that getting the flu will make you more sociable (presumably so you'll have an opportunity to spread the virus). Crazy!

- Obama the Moderate - the graph is a little tricky since the 0.2 line looks (to me, anyway) bold while the 0 line does not. That aside, Obama's definitely more of a moderate than we've had since LBJ or Eisenhower.

- The new OK GO music video (teased at the Super Bowl) is pretty neat, if you like cars and driving and crazy musical instruments.


it's-been-a-while links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2012-01-27 17:00:00
Tags: links
Words: 84

- A heavily annotated State of the Union. Having not watched the actual address, I found it pretty interesting.

- The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that tracking someone GPS counted as a search, and requires a warrant - yay!

- Apparently Washington state has the votes to legalize gay marriage. Yay!

- How to nap - I've never really been much for napping. But maybe I should!

- Uncloaking a Slumlord Conspiracy with Social Network Analysis - graph theory to the rescue!

- Very odd story about a break-in in Philadelphia (via kottke)


pre-Friday links (or; first links of 2012!)
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-01-05 10:42:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 219

- Rumor is Nokia will be announcing the Lumia 900 at CES next week - if they do, I'll almost certainly pick one up...even if I have to switch to AT&T. (grumble grumble)

- Speaking of Nokia, here's Nokia Maps 3D (using WebGL!) May not work with every browser - worked for my Firefox at home but not at work, but Chrome seems to handle it. Unfortunately there's only city-level data for a few major cities, but it's pretty awesome to pan around London...

- How Doctors Die - pretty sure I linked to a similar article some time ago. Anyway, it's hard to know when to "give up hope", and I hope if I'm in that situation I can get good advice from my doctor.

- The Battle Over Gay Marriage Set To Go Nationwide - looks like 2012 will be a big year. Go Washington, Maryland, and Maine! (and boo North Carolina, Minnesota, and New Hampshire)

- Welcome to the Age of Overparenting - thoughtful article about backing off and giving kids more independence. (thanks David!)

- The United States Government Debates Whether the X-Men Are Human Beings... In Real Life

- 2011 Lesson #2 : Don’t Carpe Diem - don't stress about enjoying yourself every single minute! (also, things are more fun in retrospect, which if fine) (thanks Liz!)

- Why do we pay sales commissions? - good article from Fog Creek.


final links of 2011
Mood: confused
Posted on 2011-12-30 14:02:00
Tags: links
Words: 212

- Is Windows Phone's consumer focus killing it? - sad article suggesting that one reason WP7 isn't succeeding is that the carriers can't customize it enough. (i.e. bundle crapware, etc.)

- Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion - this is one of the toughest areas where the rights of the Catholic Church to serve who they want meet the principle of the government not funding groups who discriminate. I think the government's made the right call here, but it's very tricky. (also: Catholic Charities received almost $3 billion from the government in 2010? I had no idea they received so much...)

- A long article about how hard it is to lose weight for some (most?) people, and how your body works against you. Depressing!

- Information about "Big Bird" was just declassified: in the 70's we were taking extremely high resolution pictures of the Earth and then jettisoning the film canisters to be collected in midair!

- Everything You Know About Education Is Wrong - money isn't enough, and teacher feedback and instructional time matter.

Year end stuff:

- The 11 best psychology books of 2011 - I got "Thinking, Fast and Slow" for Christmas and haven't read any of the others...

- Finally, a best articles of 2011 list if you're looking for more time to waste.


just a bunch of links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-12-13 14:30:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 264

Sorted by the amount of politics, in ascending order:

- The Day I Saw Van Gogh’s Genius in a New Light - was Van Gogh partially color deficient? His paintings, viewed through a filter, suggest they might be.

- A technique for memorizing the two-letter Scrabble words...or at least the ones that start with "a".

- Looks like we're pretty sure the Chinese military have been attacking US companies such as Google, Lockheed Martin, and RSA. Frightening but not surprising.

- Fancy tax graph - the graph is a little confusing, but the different colors/percentage indicate the marginal tax rate, and the y-axis is how much percentage of the total tax revenue that was generated from that marginal rate. You can clearly see the effect of the Bush tax cuts, as there was a sharp drop in the amount of income that was generated by higher tax brackets.

- Speaking of tax policy, a comparison of Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain's tax plans. The graphs are very tall because the tax cuts for the rich are so huge.

- Lowe's pulled its ads from the show "All-American Muslim" because right-wing groups complained that it was "propaganda" for Muslims or something. This really really makes me sad. Lowe's has faced some backlash but is not planning on restoring their ads.

- I angrily tweeted earlier, but: Rick Santorum says that "science should get out of politics". This is the backward-est thing I've heard in a long time, and still angers up my blood every time I read it...

- Romney Accidentally Crashes Married Gay Vet’s Date While Trolling for Anti-Gay Votes - whoops!

1 comment

FlightPredictor progress, a few links
Mood: determined
Posted on 2011-12-02 13:41:00
Tags: projects programming links
Words: 407

The sales of FlightPredictor for Android have still been pretty flat, but it did at least get 2 5 star ratings! And it looks like more people are downloading FlightPredictor Lite, which will hopefully translate into more sales down the line. (as for the ads, I have made a whopping 3 cents so far...so that's not looking too promising)

Having said that, I'm excited to jump into the Windows Phone version. Having just finished a port makes it easier to know how to start, although I'm trying to be careful to port it intelligently, using the nice features of C# and XAML, rather than just making it a direct port. I plan on working in Windows Phone for the foreseeable future so I'd like to take the time to learn how to do things right.

One of the big wins from the Android port was being able to test the updating in the background functionality relatively early. This is one of the riskiest parts, as it's done almost entirely differently on every platform, and it's also somewhat time-consuming to test. I've made a list of basic stuff I need to have ready before I can test that, and I'm just working down the list...there are a lot of parts to FlightPredictor and just sitting down with no plan can be overwhelming, which this helps with.

In the meantime I've been reading a lot about Silverlight and such, and I discovered this free ebook by Charles Petzold(!) about Windows Phone programming, which has been excellent so far. (ironically enough, it's been very handy to read on my TouchPad...) There's also the 31 Days of Mango covering features that are new (and less discussed elsewhere).

A few links:

- The Democrats are trying to extend the payroll tax cut, but the Republicans won't vote for it because they're paying for it by raising taxes on people that make more than one million dollars a year. People affected by the payroll tax: 160 million. People that make more than one million dollars a year: ~350K.

- News Corp (parent company of Fox News) made a gay marriage guide! I know corporations aren't people (ahem), but the cognitive dissonance level is still pretty high.

- Crazy story from the New York Times: apparently Ambien can help people in vegetative states become more responsive and, in some cases, recover to some extent. This makes the long-term prognosis for people in vegetative states even more uncertain...


mostly politics links, plus a good list of board games
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-11-30 15:54:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 170

BoardGameGeek has a holiday gift guide full of good games. I think we own (and like) half the games on the list :-)

- Why we need an individual mandate for health insurance - a short explanation by comparing it to the used car market. Adverse selection is a big problem! (thanks David!)

- Why conservatives can't get people to work hard is a good look at how hard it is to motivate people, and why building a strong middle-class seems important. (thanks David!)

- The Era of Corporate Profit - corporate profits (after tax) are the highest in the last 50 years, while wage income is at its lowest over the same period (both as shares of GDP). And (surprise, surprise!) corporate taxes are way down.

- A former conservative asks When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

- The Tuesday Birthday Problem is a long article about a tricky probability question. (the answer depends on how you ask it) I like probability questions, but I tend to steer clear of not-entirely-well-formed ones like this one.


links: supercommittee, budgets, webOS, Fox News
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-11-22 10:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 186

The supercommittee failed to reach a deal on reducing the deficit. Reports are that the Democrats on the committee offered the Republicans a "fair deal" roughly in line with the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan deficit reduction plan. They agreed to cut entitlements, but the Republicans refused to raise taxes. Remember this the next time you hear about "fiscal responsibility" and such.

The latest xkcd is a cool graph of money. I wish I had a wall at work to put a poster of that or Death and Taxes on. Budgets are fun!

HP had their conference call and remarked that they've lost $3.3 billion on webOS this year...considering they also paid $1.2 billion to buy it in the first place, that starts to add up. I can understand why they might be hesitant to continue with it. It sounds like they're planning to make a decision in December, and one sticking point may be getting to license webOS for printers. Sigh.

I've seen studies saying that Fox News viewers are less informed, but here's one showing they're less informed than people than people who consume no news!


CrashPlan and a few links
Mood: calm
Posted on 2011-11-17 10:22:00
Tags: reviews links
Words: 204

I checked in on The Wirecutter and noticed they said good things about CrashPlan, a backup service, including the fact that they have an honest-to-goodness Linux client! After installing it and reading more about it, I signed up and couldn't be happier. Prices are cheap, it seems to just work, and you can encrypt your data with a password so even they can't recover it (this is a good sign they're doing it right). $25 a year for 10 GB of storage sounds just perfect for backing up my source code! (they also have an unlimited plan...)

In this month's Atlantic, there was a long and scary article about Pakistan, probably our least friendly "ally".

A reminder: Obama says waterboarding is torture, and he's against it. (unlike some of the Republican candidates)

A beautiful five-minute time-lapse video of Earth from the ISS.

Life without stimulus - when the UK took austerity measures instead of a stimulus, their GDP is still way below where it was pre-recession (while ours is around the same). (thanks David!)

A new Rick Perry ad is both inaccurate _and_ grammatically incorrect!

The story of a last minute trip to St. Louis to try to see Game 7 of the World Series.


pretty music video links, and FlightPredictor for Android beta testers!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-11-11 13:41:00
Tags: projects links
Words: 86

Busy week, so just a few links. But first:

Hey Android users! Want to beta-test FlightPredictor for Android? It should be ready some time next week - send me an email!

- An awesome music video made out of lots and lots of Jelly Bellies. The music is nice too. (thanks Adam!)

- A montage of classic video game deaths.

- A visualization of which words Republican presidential candidates used during debates, also broken down by policy. Neat idea but I wish there was more information here (quotes, or something)


Baseball is awesome! (so is Ken Jennings)
Mood: impressed
Posted on 2011-10-28 13:45:00
Tags: baseball links
Words: 209

Game 6 of the World Series was last night, and it was pretty amazing. Twice the Cardinals (boo!) were down to their last strike (in the 9th and 10th innings) and twice they managed to tie the game up before winning on a walk-off home run in the 11th. And after watching the replay, the David Freese triple to tie it in the bottom of the 9th really should have been caught by Nelson Cruz - not quite Bill Buckner, but pretty close.

Here is the win percentage graph, which is pretty dramatic when you compare it to, say, Game 5's graph. It also amuses me that David Freese's WPA was .95, meaning he basically won two games by himself! (not far behind is Rice and Astros alum Lance Berkman with .82 - he hit a home run in the 2nd and drove in the tying run in the 10th) Poor Josh Hamilton (.53) only won one game by himself (mostly by hitting a two-run homer in the top of the 10th), which wasn't enough...

Unrelated: Ken Jennings posted this awesome "I am the 99%" parody, then after it went viral made it clear he was supporting the protests, not mocking them. He's a stand-up guy. I need to buy Maphead...


mobile OS's and updates
Mood: curious
Posted on 2011-10-28 10:42:00
Tags: palm links
Words: 185

The impression is that Apple is very good about updating older phones to newer versions of iOS, while manufacturers that make Android phones are not as good. Michael DeGusta did some research and produced this lovely chart that absolutely confirms that theory. Although it looks like HTC is a little better than average, while Motorola is worse than average (although hopefully that will change since they're owned by Google now).

Happily, the Windows Phone update will be delivered to all (or nearly all?) phones.

In the increasingly sad webOS world, some people are still "all in", although sadly that group does not include HP which will make a decision on webOS...in the coming months. I hope it finds a nice home somewhere, but I will be very surprised if it ends up on phones in the future. Sigh.

Unrelated: I am instinctually a bit skeptical when I hear about teaching kids to be entrepreneurs (probably because of Rich Dad, Poor Dad), but this story of learning about cash flow through running a vending machine is kind of awesome. I want to own a vending machine!


occupy wall street via cookie monster, scientologists, etc. links
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2011-10-25 10:37:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 481

Cookie Monster explains Occupy Wall Street. No, really, here's the text:

Yes, there always going to be rich and poor. But we used to live in country where rich owned factory and make 30 times what factory worker make. Now we live in country where rich make money by lying about value of derivative bonds and make 3000 times what factory worker would make if factories hadn't all moved to China.

Capitalism great system. We won Cold War because people behind Iron Curtain look over wall, and see how much more plentiful and delicious cookies are in West, and how we have choice of different bakeries, not just state-owned one. It great system. It got us out of Depression, won WWII, built middle class, built country's infrastructure from highways to Hoover Dam to Oreo factory to electrifying rural South. It system that reward hard work and fair play, and everyone do fair share and everyone benefit. Rich get richer, poor get richer, everyone happy. It great system.

Then after Reagan, Republicans decide to make number one priority destroying that system. Now we have system where richest Americans ones who find ways to game system -- your friends on Wall Street -- and poorest Americans ones who thought working hard would get them American dream, when in fact it get them pink slip when job outsourced to 10-year-old in Mumbai slum. And corporations have more influence over government than people (or monsters).

It not about rich people having more money. It about how they got money. It about how they take opportunity away from rest of us, for sake of having more money. It how they willing to take risks that destroy economy -- knowing full well that what could and would happen -- putting millions out of work, while creating nothing of value, and all the while crowing that they John Galt, creating wealth for everyone.

That what the soul-searching about. When Liberals run country for 30 years following New Deal, American economy double in size, and wages double along with it. That fair. When Conservatives run country for 30 years following Reagan, American economy double again, and wages stay flat. What happen to our share of money? All of it go to richest 1%. That not "there always going to be rich people". That unfair system. That why we upset. That what Occupy Sesame Street about.

After the South Park episode that mocked them, Scientologists tried to "infiltrate the writers room" and get dirt on Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

A former skeptic agrees after doing his own study: global warming is really and truly happening. (thanks David!)

The Wirecutter is a "list of the greatest gadgets". (written by a former Gizmodo writer) Obviously if you're interested in gadgetry, you should do more research, but if you just want a good camera or TV or whatever, this is a great resource!

The Venn Piagram!


mostly politics/economics links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-10-21 13:41:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 296

Politics/economics: (more economics towards the top, more politics towards the bottom)

Back in 2000 (i.e. when we had a surplus, before the Bush tax cuts), the government wrote a report on why getting to 0 debt isn't a great idea.

Why Greece, Spain, and Ireland Aren’t to Blame for Europe’s Woes - they were invited into the eurozone so they could provide a good return on investment to the more developed countries. Then when the financial crisis hit, other countries cut back on foreign investment., meaning giant deficits. (although this wasn't the only thing going on, but it was a big factor)

Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) has a plan to let Starbucks customers lend money to small businesses through Community Development Financial Institutions. Kinda crazy but I'm interested to see how it turns out!

Robert Reich's seven biggest economics lies - trickle-down economics doesn't work! and so on. And as a reminder, just because 47% of Americans don't pay any federal income tax doesn't mean they don't pay other taxes like payroll taxes, which are somewhat regressive.

Biden Takes Senate Republicans To School On Tiny Millionaire’s Surtax - or, this is how marginal tax rates work!

Lemony Snicket on Occupy Wall Street

The Untold Story Of The Actual Obama Record - hopefully Obama's campaign brings these points up close to next November...


Michael Winslow does a pretty convincing electric guitar!

The coffeeshop fallacy for startups - just because you like hanging out at coffeeshops doesn't mean you'd like running one.

Adobe's deblur plugin which doesn't ship yet (and there are still big technical challenges), but nice!

Rick Santorum is still really really really anti-gay marriage. (I think when he said "he'd die on that hill" fighting for a federal same-sex marriage ban, he didn't mean it literally, but still...)

1 comment

Exciting thing #1! and lots of links
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2011-09-27 11:24:00
Tags: links
Words: 203

As promised: exciting thing #1 is my first An Engineering Mind video! I thought it went decently, but watching myself on video is really hard...

Now, a bunch of links:
- A rational theory behind the Netflix/Qwikster split is that it helps Netflix in negotiations with content providers (a similar Wired article). This makes more sense than anything I've read so far, and the link to an explanation of affiliate fees was very helpful.

- An article showing that salt probably isn't linked to heart disease unless you're hypersensitive to it.

- A good description of why teenagers are so reckless - their brains are still forming in various ways. (thanks David!)

- The MOB makes the New York Times! (although the article is pretty short)

- An example of a particular highway in Massachusetts whose speed limit is artificially low so the police can write more tickets. I think that Texas has a law saying that towns can get no more than a fixed percentage of their budget from traffic tickets, and that's helped similar shenanigans from taking place down here. (thanks David!)

- Don't shine laser pointers at airplane/helicopter pilots - worth it for the video of a guy doing it being arrested.

- A good logic joke (thanks David!)


a few nifty links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-09-16 14:22:00
Tags: links
Words: 155

- Meet James Wilkinson! This Commanding General of the US Army has the following to his credit:
- Allegedly was part of a conspiracy to depose George Washington as Commander in Chief
- Conspired with Spain for a brief while
- Allegedly plotted with Aaron Burr to start an independent nation in the west, who he later betrayed
- Blundered away the Battle of Crysler's Farm (which led to a court-martial, although he was cleared of all charges)
- Bravely ran away at the Battle of Lacolle Mills

- In the recent Republican presidential debates, the Tea Party audience has cheered Rick Perry's 234 executions as governor of Texas and a moderator's suggestion of letting a sick person with no insurance die.

- Why I Try Not To Do Things For Others, But Instead, Do Them For Myself - an interesting philosophy. I think it's good to do things for others sometimes, but doing household chores "for someone else" can definitely lead to resentment.


usual friday links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-09-09 13:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 111

- Guys, we did it! Texas had the hottest June-August of any state, ever. So...can we get some rain now, please?

- Americans Should Be Able to Sell Stuff Without a Permit - well-said. (thanks, djedi!)

- Views Differ on Shape of Earth, Climate Edition - sigh. 98% of climate scientists think that manmade global warming is happening, but most Americans think that the number is closer to 50%. This is the sign of a successful disinformation campaign.

- Long article on why Finland's schools are successful. Their schools sound almost KIPP-ish...

- Did the CIA Do Enough to Protect Bin Laden's Hunter? - these days it's harder and harder to protect identities.

- The MOB mocks Rick Perry


sort of links, without many actual links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-09-02 15:07:00
Tags: projects programming links
Words: 477

I watched two excellent movies this week: The Hunt for Red October, and Clue. Both included Tim Curry. Make of that what you will. (I forgot he was in Red October!)

I also went to a podiatrist and got some orthotics which I've probably needed for the last 10 years or so. (thanks Dr. Newman!) Apparently my feet are as flat as a pancake. It amuses me when I stand barefoot in front of podiatrists and they flinch...

An iOS Developer Takes on Android - I haven't developed in iOS, but I am also new to Android development and sympathize sooo hard! Especially:

"You’re going to just hate Eclipse. You’re going to hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. It’s going to feel slow and bloated and it won’t taste like real food."
It takes the Android Emulator ~2 minutes to boot up on my perfectly-modern machine. But what really hurts is the edit/debug cycle. Every time I change a bit of Java and need to rerun the app, it takes about 30 seconds to redeploy and start up in the Emulator. Compare that to 5 seconds on the iOS Simulator. It may not sound like much but remember you’ll be doing this hundreds of times throughout your day.

Fortunately, it turns out to be much quicker to deploy and boot up your app on a physical device over USB.
But the reality is, it’s not HTML and CSS and so it’s another thick layer of stuff that you have to learn and understand and fight with when things don’t work like you expect.
So here’s the catch with the wonderful flexible layout system in Android: You must be very careful. If you animate certain kinds of properties, you can easily force the CPU to do all that fancy, expensive layout on each animation frame. And the CPU is very busy right now parsing some JSON from a web API or something, OK?
Anyway, I'm considering getting a real version of Eclipse and just installing the standard Android extensions. And maybe buying a Nexus S to get a better feel for the phone (and make debugging easier), but I haven't decided whether I'm that dedicated to finishing the FlightPredictor port yet.

Samsung basically says they're not going to use webOS (although they left the door a tiny bit open, I guess) - after HTC said a similar thing, this is very very bad news. Maybe someone will license webOS but the future is looking pretty grim. More likely (it seems to me) is that someone will buy the patents off of HP and call it a day. And then I will be sad.

Cool stop-motion ad, which made me eat at the place that made the ad. (stating obliquely so as not to "spoil" it...as much as you can spoil an ad, anyway. Nevermind.)

1 comment

following through on a promise: links!
Mood: feisty
Posted on 2011-08-31 14:00:00
Tags: links
Words: 199

- Why Summer Vacations (and the Internet) Make You More Productive - especially, I'm guessing, for creative-type jobs.

- Do property rights increase freedom? (Japan edition) - interesting story of a "libertarian's paradise" in Tokyo, where taxes are (presumably?) lower but there are few free roads, parks, and benches. While this might sound more fair in theory, having to constantly decide whether it's worth buying a coffee you don't really want to sit down is exhausting. This reminds me a lot of the ice cream book and how making choices is mentally taxing.

- Van Gogh's Paintings Get Tilt-Shifted - a very cool way of changing the focus of paintings! (b/w/o @hujhax)

- The Future of webOS: What it Could Have Been... - juicy details about, among other things, slab-style phones that were cancelled because they took too long.

- Why most people don't finish video games - short version: as gamers get older, they have less time. So publishers are shrinking the size of single-player campaigns, which is fine with me. If I get as much enjoyment out of a 10 hour game than a 20 hour one, hooray!

- A Super Mario Bros version of Portal?! - it's Mario with a portal gun! And it's going to be playable!


squirreled away links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-08-16 11:48:00
Tags: links
Words: 243

I stashed away some links and forgot to include them last time. So!

- Debate Showcases Pandering That Repels Voters - to summarize, at the Republican debate, a question was asked if the candidate would walk away from a deal that required one new dollar in taxes for every ten in spending reductions...and every single person said yes. I understand that this is primary season, but for the love of all that is good and holy, if no Republican is open to compromise at all it's going to be impossible to get anything done.

- It's the Economy, Dummkopf! - long Michael Lewis article about Germany, the economy, and (fair warning) excrement.

- 102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes - I like the quote at the end from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.

- Warren Buffett again says to raise taxes on the very rich.

- A new study suggests that people want to avoid being at the bottom to the extent of not wanting policies that help them if they would help people below them catch up.

Non-economy themed:
- Super creepy Pokemon hack - I know very little about Pokemon or even if this story is real, but this description of a hacked Pokemon game is, indeed, super creepy.

- Apparently, Herman Cain likes to quote the theme song from the Pokemon movie. Hah!

- A brief history of FIFA corruption - shorter version: FIFA has had a lot of corruption, yo!


the best part of linking up...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-08-12 11:32:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 167

Warning: I've been saving these up so there are a ton of them. Enter at your own risk!

- The Teleporter Library: A Copyright Thought Experiment - interesting take on file-sharing. But I'm not sure how to solve the "too few people need to pay for a thing" problem. (thanks David!)

- What Happened to Obama? - pretty damning article about Obama's lack of passion.

- Study: Strong Catholic support for gay rights - a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage? If those results are correct...wow!

- How Plan B found the Droid I was looking for - exciting story of tracking down a lost phone.

- A big story broke accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of stealing signs. Grantland is a bit more skeptical, but also links to this account of the Dave Bresnahan Potato Incident, which is awesome.

- The Trivialities and Transcendence of Kickstarter - interesting story about getting a project on Kickstarter.

- An oldie but goodie: And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles.

- Ah, okra

- If Mario Was Designed in 2010


link smattering
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-08-01 18:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 181

- LabVIEW 2011 has released! You should totally go buy it or whatever. I made that unable to find the run-time engine dialog. Well, I added a sentence and some buttons. I'm sure this is as exciting for you as it is for me!

- Long read: retelling of the bin Laden raid with some new information.

- Girls Go Geek...Again! - in 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women. I had no idea!

- If the world lived in a single city - mostly posting this for a good visualization of how sprawled Houston is. (very)

- The Centrist Cop-Out - op-ed by Krugman about the debt ceiling brouhaha.

- The Platinum Coin Option - thinking outside the box to avoid debt ceiling catastrophe.

- What Happens if We Don't Raise the Debt Ceiling? - short answer: things get crazy.

- Hollywood is about to repeat the mistakes of the music industry - sigh! (thanks David!)

- In Time trailer - sci-fi action thriller that looks pretty darn good.

- A cool use of high-frequency and low-frequency images to see if you're nearsighted. (when I take off my glasses I see a giant blob :-) )


links, insomnia style
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-07-25 15:59:00
Tags: links sleep
Words: 176

I lay in bed for 75 minutes last night before giving in and getting up. It wasn't even normal insomnia - it was angry insomnia, where I got annoyed that I couldn't get to sleep and worked myself up into a light rage by the time I got up. Probably caused by some combination of drinking Dr Pepper too late, sleeping late, and being irritated at two games on my TouchPad. (new rule: no frustrating games right before bed!)

- Still Counting Calories? Your Weight-Loss Plan May Be Outdated - in summary, food is a bigger effect than exercise, eating yogurt and nuts is good, milk is OK (even full fat!), french fries, potato chips, and "sugar-sweetened drinks" are bad.

- It's official: developers get better with age. And scarcer. - summary of Stack Overflow users by age and reputation. Older developers give more answers, but their average rating is about the same as the younger developers. (via David - thanks!)

- Quit Being a Dick, Cowboy Up and Pay Your Taxes - well said!

- Russia classifies beer as alcoholic - not from the Onion.


holdin' on links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-07-20 16:04:00
Tags: links
Words: 167

Going to be out of town this Friday (yay webOS event in Dallas!), so link Friday comes early!

- Lady Gaga's solo piano performance of "The Edge of Glory" on the Howard Stern show - more like this, please.

- Why I will never pursue cheating again - depressing story from a tenured professor about how tracking down cheaters isn't worth it, although he does offer some suggestions for making assignments less prone to cheating.

- Out of Poverty, Family-Style - interesting article about how the Family Independence Initiative is having good results helping poor families.

- This Simple Graph Explains Why Unemployment Refuses to Go Down - yikes. Consumers spending less is presumably good for the consumers (less credit card debt, etc.) but bad for the economy.

- Fake Apple stores in China! That is impressive.

- Why the Defense of Marriage Act Is on the Ropes - Obama is calling for repeal of DOMA, which is very exciting!

- Classic Ze Frank episode about "Brain Crack" with commentary (NSFW language)

- All of Modern Politics in One Chart


Netflix for X, other random links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-07-15 14:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 106

"Netflix for books": Goodreads (except for the whole paying money and getting books in the mail part). The mobile app has a fun way to scan books in (no webOS version :-( ), and it's easy to organize lists, etc. If you read a lot, you should sign up and friend me!

"Netflix for art": turningArt - neat idea! (but we're not members)

What Google's Famous Cafeterias Can Teach Us About Health - wow, charging per gram of sugar, fat, etc. is genius!

The CIA's Fake Vaccination Program - is it just me or was this a terrible idea? It's hard enough to get people in developing countries to trust doctors...

1 comment

summer links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-07-08 11:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 155

Summer musical rehearsals have started. See you in August!

- When Crime Happens in Major Cities - interestingly Austin seems to have a higher percentage of crimes during the day than at night.

- People given Medicaid in Oregon reported better health than the control group. It was almost across the board, except the people given Medicaid didn't go to the emergency room any less, which is somewhat disappointing.

- Why the Republicans Resist Compromise - good analysis by Nate Silver on just how dependent Republicans are on conservative voters (in a way that Democrats aren't on liberal voters)

- The Brain on Trial - long article about how to deal with punishing people who commit crimes because of, say, a brain tumor. As we learn more about the brain, more crimes are going to be "justified" by looking at physical problems like this. The author suggests punishment based on the likelihood of committing another crime, which seems reasonable.

- Haydn's Head Fake


Some good #longreads
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-06-23 13:41:00
Tags: links
Words: 137

- The Blind Man Who Taught Himself To See by using echolocation. Pretty impressive, but it sounds like it's difficult to do well.

- My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant - the story of a journalist who is just now "coming out". Pretty powerful, and it's disappointing the DREAM Act didn't pass, which would have provided him a path to citizenship.

- Kind of Screwed, or "getting sued really sucks, even if you're pretty sure you would win".


Shorter reads:

- How Many Households Are Like Yours? - 0.22% of US households are "male unmarried partners". Which feels really, really low.

- Hypersonic Jet, ZEHST, Revealed At Paris Air Show - this sounds pretty cool (it goes Mach 4!), but it will take 40 years to build. It seems odd to even talk about the specifics when probably all of them will change by then.


happy Friday eve! PreCentral interview, Atul Gawande
Mood: complacent
Posted on 2011-06-16 10:53:00
Tags: palmpre gay politics links
Words: 184

I got interviewed at PreCentral yesterday! I think it went pretty well, and a surprising number of people clicked through to look at my apps and stuff.

Here's Atul Gawande's commencement address at Harvard Medical school. He talked about how medicine needs to move from a "cowboy" culture to a "pit crew" one.

The New York same-sex marriage bill passed the State Assembly (as it has several times before), but its future is unclear. Supporters say they have 31 of the needed 32 votes in the State Senate, but the Republicans (who have a majority in the State Senate) aren't even sure they're going to bring it up. But it sounds like it's either going to happen or it won't by the end of this week.

What to say to someone who's sick and how to help without being an imposition.

I'm not paying a great deal of attention to the Republican primary, but apparently Tim Pawlenty has proposed more tax cuts that are significantly larger than the Bush tax cuts. (and of course, the vast majority going to the top 1% or 0.1%...)


monday is for linking: financial geekery, NY same-sex marriage, DVR sports
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-06-13 16:56:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 150

Britton Gregory, a friend of ours, is getting into the financial coaching business, and he has a new excellent blog called Financial Geekery. Check it out! I've already learned that I need to check my American Express credit card to see if I can get better rewards...

There's probably going to be a vote on same-sex marriage in New York this week, and apparently the count of confirmed supporters is up to 30 (out of 32 necessary). Go go go! (skipping obligatory link to map)

Chuck Klosterman tries to explain why watching sports on the DVR sucks the fun out of it. I have had similar feelings, and his explanations seem pretty close to the truth.

Taking Cold Showers - I like the idea but not sure I can force myself to do this. I'm not a very determined person in the morning!

A cool time-lapse video of Manhattan traffic, etc.


Unusually good links
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2011-06-06 13:15:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 240

I usually wait and queue these up a bit, but these are too good to hold on to!

- Our Fantasy Nation?: I'll quote the beginning, and let you read the article for the punchline.

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.
(via flamingophoenix, which is also an excellent username!)

- Slate uses Rotten Tomatoes data to chart the course of an actor's or director's career, and even lets you make graphs of your own!

- The Alamo Drafthouse is serious about not texting during a movie. See their latest PSA featuring an angry voicemail!

- This Daily WTF made me blink in disbelief. The first four lines:
/* this is my function to conveniently divide even when things are zero */
function safely_divideByZero($numerator,$denominator)
    /* check to see if the denominator == "php" - remember, 0 == "php" */
    if ( $denominator == "php" )

1 comment

it's-been-a-little-while links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-06-01 13:29:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 189

- A cool visualization of various countries' "life indices" where you can weight the different factors. And the countries look like flowers! (via djedi)

- A new poll shows Americans estimate 25% of the population is gay/lesbian. To which I say...where are you living?? Admittedly things like this are hard to measure (some people are closeted, not to mention sexuality is somewhat fluid), but this is way higher than any estimate I've seen. 7-10% or so sounds right to me. (via djedi)

- In a similar vein, a story from the AP suggesting the same-sex marriage tide is turning, maybe. Unfortunately the map is still pretty grim, and Minnesota just put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage.

- Over at the Atlantic, there's a series on the 10 biggest constitutional myths. Here's a good debunking of "originalists", and here's why the Constitution's purpose wasn't to limit Congress.

- Facebook devalues birthday greetings - yes yes yes! I've been saying this for years!

- Being Frugal Makes You A Loser - inflammatory title, and please don't read the comments, but I generally agree with the message, assuming you can afford good-quality things. (NSFW language)


many links categorized
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2011-05-18 10:33:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 204

long reads:
Details on the Google Skyhook lawsuit with lots of details on the power Google has over handset manufacturers who use Android. A long New Yorker article about a whistleblower of sorts being prosecuted, and how the Obama administration has been prosecuting whistleblowers just as much as the Bush administration.

John McCain writes an editorial explaining how torture didn't help catch bin Laden (although it did give false intelligence) and we shouldn't do it anyway.

gays in sports:
A former Villanova basketball player comes out and says his teammates knew at the time (and no one cared). An executive for the Phoenix Suns comes out, and players are supportive. Charles Barkley (God bless him) says pro athletes have almost certainly played on a team with someone who's gay (himself included), and who cares?

gays in New York:
Wealthy donors to the Republican party are backing gay marriage in New York. Surprised? I was. But it just goes to show a New York Republican is in a very different class than, say, a Texas Republican.

fun baseball videos:
A fan runs onto the field at an Astros game, and it doesn't end like you expect! And during a rain delay, college players joust.


Deadwood and Osama bin Laden
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-05-06 18:35:00
Tags: links
Words: 73

- As part of Cheapass Games's grand reopening, they've released a major revamp of Deadwood. I found the article that discussed the redesign and reasons behind it fascinating!

- So, we killed Osama bin Laden. Yay! The New York Times did a neat infographic about people's responses in a 2D grid - one axis is emotional response (negative vs. positive) and the other is how big an impact it will have in the war on terror.


links with short commentary: lady gaga, doma, progressive insurance
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2011-04-25 13:39:00
Tags: essay links
Words: 451

(today is going to be a LJ-spammy kinda day. My apologies in advance.)

Weird Al was going to do a parody of a Lady Gaga song for his next album. Unfortunately, after a lot of back and forth and wasted time she said no. Then he posted about the saga and it turns out her manager had been speaking for her and she loves the song and gave permission. That's one of the downsides to fame that I hadn't thought about: it's hard enough to protect your reputation as it is, but when people contact "you" and have an entire conversation it seems downright impossible. The only reason this got sorted out is because Weird Al is also famous enough and posted about it. Of course, I don't know what the alternative is - surely Lady Gaga's manager deals with tons of stuff that Lady Gaga doesn't care or doesn't have time for.

The Obama administration has said that they're not going to defend DOMA in the courts. So the House of Representatives hired a law firm to do it for them. Now, presumably under pressure, that law firm has changed their mind and pulled out, and a senior partner has resigned from the firm as a result. My first response: DOMA is bad, so yay! My second response: actually, this isn't a great thing. Our legal system is based on the fact that lawyers will defend unpopular people, and it's up to the jury to decide. (Clement, the senior partner who resigned, made this point in his resignation letter) My third response: Well, this isn't exactly the same thing - law firms aren't obligated to defend things they don't want to, and defending an unpopular person is a lot different than defending an unpopular cause. So I don't know.

I've been hearing ads from Progressive about their Snapshot program, which gives you "a discount for good driving". Apparently you get a discount based on how much you drive and when you drive, as well as if you avoid sudden braking, etc. On the one hand, hey, more data! It would be very very cool if you had access to this data so you could see how "safe" your driving is. I remember reading in a book that programs like this for beginning drivers helped them a lot. On the other hand, plugging a device into my car and giving my insurance company access to this data is not something I particularly relish. They say that your rates won't go up based on the data (and there's no GPS data), but I wouldn't be surprised if both of those change over time. Could they make the Snapshot program mandatory? Or would consumers rebel?


no time links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-04-25 11:16:00
Tags: links
Words: 164

- Is Sugar Toxic? is a very long article in the NYTimes magazine. The title is sensationalistic, but the evidence is kind of scary. On the other hand, what foods are worst for us seems to change every year, and it's hard to keep up.

- Speaking of the NYTimes, since moving to a paywall they've gotten 100K digital subscribers, which is pretty good. Although the first four weeks were discounted to 99 cents - we'll have to see what happens when it's time to renew. (disclaimer: I subscribed and am thinking of continuing)

- More NYTimes fun: a project called Cascade for tracking the sharing of stories on the web. Unfortunately they just have videos up (and no live demo) but it looks pretty neat!

- Nintendo pre-announces its followup to the Wii, meaning they said they'll announce it at E3 in June and it will ship next year.

- Is Garfield Dead? - I remember reading these strips as a kid (in a book) and being kinda freaked out.


birthday links!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-04-20 16:07:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 80

- Nate Silver says: Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority. Yay! (although older people are more likely to oppose gay marriage and more likely to vote, so...yeah.)

- This is a little depressing, but a little freeing: The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything

- British Spy Secrets Still Much Cooler Than American Spy Secrets

- The Creativity Killer: Group Discussions - not always true, but often true it seems. Has some interesting suggestions for making group discussions more creative.


links a million
Mood: excited
Posted on 2011-04-19 14:11:00
Tags: links
Words: 119

- Justice is served, but more so after lunch - the more recently the judge has eaten/taken a break, the more likely he/she is to grant parole. We're only human, after all...

- A nice profile of David Eagleman (a Rice alum!) and how the brain measures time. Long (it's the New Yorker, after all :-) ) but worth reading!

- The White House has a "tax receipt" so you can see what your taxes go towards. The top three categories for income taxes are "National Defense", "Health Care", and "Job and Family Security".

- Ignore the customer experience, lose a billion dollars (Walmart case study) - or, why asking people what they want is really unreliable.

Portal 2 is out! Looking forward to playing it tonight...

1 comment

new work background!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-04-11 12:53:00
Tags: links
Words: 150

- My old background was the pretty Facebook friends map of the world. But I have found something even more awesome: Trexels! (or: pixel versions of 200+ Star Trek characters) Gotta catch them all!

- A top official of the National Organization for Marriage now believes in civil marriage equality.

- Ah, Mississippi, where 46% of Republicans think interracial marriage should be illegal, while 40% say it should be legal.

- The government didn't shut down - yay! Now there might be a big fight over raising the debt limit, but Nate Silver points out John Boehner doesn't have a great hand to play. Defaulting on our debts would be even more catastrophic financially than the government shutting down, so hopefully we can not do the same wait-until-the-last-minute type of strategy and move on to other things. Apparently Obama's working on a plan to reduce our debt that is hopefully less crazy than the Republican's.


politics: shuttin' down the gubmint
Mood: angry
Posted on 2011-04-08 12:37:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 92

The proposed Republican budget: here is the problem. Or, in graphical form:

Apparently the Democrats have agreed to $38 billion of spending cuts (more than before), but the Republicans are now insisting on a rider that defunds Planned Parenthood, which the Democrats (rightly) will not agree to. Planned Parenthood provides lots of services including birth control (which, hey! reduces the number of abortions), and government money isn't used to fund abortions per the Hyde amendment. So, yeah. This is what the government of the US is going to shut down over. Whee.

1 comment

links amid the downtime
Mood: calm
Posted on 2011-04-06 13:40:00
Tags: work links
Words: 193

LiveJournal has been under a DDOS attack/really flaky this week. I know because I keep getting emails LJ for WebOS users. Sorry, everyone!

- SpaceX announced the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is the world's most powerful (excluding the Saturn V), and launches will only cost ~$100 million. More stats in the press release. Hey, and they use LabVIEW!

- Should You Give Money to Homeless People? - from the article:

The short answer is no. The long answer is yes, but only if you work for an organization that can ensure the money is spent wisely.*
- Perhaps the best Reddit question ever begins with
I like big butts and I cannot lie, but is there some evolutionary reason as to why?
- A Murder Foretold - long New Yorker article about the "ultimate political conspiracy" in Guatemala. Reads like a Tom Clancy novel or something. (but with fewer submarines)

- Kindle and Nook readers bash high e-book pricing with angry one-star reviews - this annoys me SO MUCH. Review the book, not the price! If you don't think the book is worth the price, say so, but some people seem to think no book in the world is worth $15.


I am the linkman
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2011-03-22 11:15:00
Tags: gay taxes links
Words: 161

- Firefox 4 is out today! Read about some of the changes (I've been using the beta for a while: it's significantly faster than 3.6) and download your copy today!

- Another poll shows more than half of Americans say gays and lesbians should be able to marry, which shows a "dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes". In 2004 only 32% of Americans did, compared to 53% now. That is astounding!

- Another graph of tax rates over time - it uses relative colors rather than absolute, so it's less data-heavy than this old one, but it's certainly prettier! Yet another indication that taxes are quite low historically.

- Newly packed trains a mixed blessing for MetroRail - turns out they are meeting their projections, but they don't have money to buy more trains or expand the existing ones.

- After the Carmen Sandiego flashback, here's the story of Oregon Trail.

- Hurley from Lost visits a Lost-themed bar, appropriately named "Bharma". Jorge Garcia seems like a cool guy :-)

1 comment

can't buy me links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-03-15 14:35:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 250

From the Atlantic:
- A neat map of the counties of America by how their median family income has changed over the last 30 years. Austin is a "Boom town"!

- Secret Fears of the Super-Rich - the most surprising thing for me was that the survey respondents (with an average net worth of $78 million) don't consider themselves financially secure, but would need 25% more than what they have to feel that way. Some of the big problems are ensuring their children grow up without a giant sense of entitlement, and constantly wondering if people like them or are just being friendly for their money.

- How 2 Colbert Staffers and a Game Journalist Rewrote Carmen Sandiego for Facebook - she's back!

From other places:
- Sadly, a same-sex marriage bill got sent back to committee in Maryland. But, tomorrow a bill will be introduced to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Probably doesn't have a great chance of passing, but it's good to know people are fighting for it. It surprises me that according to an HRC poll, 51% of Americans oppose DOMA! Maybe there is some hope after all...

- One of the four Democratic state senators in New York who voted against the same-sex marriage bill...lives with his gay partner. Yes, it's still hypocritical if you're a Democrat.

- Katamari Hack - make a Katamari on any web page! (works in Firefox 4 and Chrome...and maybe others)

- Weatherspark has a ton of weather data in a nice format. Here's data from Camp Mabry.


touchy-feely links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-03-10 11:06:00
Tags: links
Words: 104

- Sleep is more important than food - hmm, I've never thought about it that way.

- The power of lonely - or, being alone can help you form memories better and develop your sense of empathy.

- The need to code - this is pretty much how I feel. I'm lucky that I get paid to do so :-)

- Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges - self-compassion = important!

And, not touchy-feely:

- Has Santorum Slipped On Outlawing Gay Sex? - Santorum is my least-favorite Republican presidential probably-candidate, which is saying something...

- There’s Nothing Special About Ohio - included here for gratuitous slams on Ohio from Nate Silver, a native Michigander.


sir links-a-lot
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-02-28 13:10:00
Tags: links
Words: 108

- This is old news (apparently), but Kayak has this neat map of places you can fly to for a given price. You can also filter by activities, spoken languages, and temperature!

- On Kickstarter, the Haptica Braille Watch is very cool, but running out of time and needs a lot more money. Chip in if you can!

- Just a reminder: we spend a whole lot of money on health care, but we're kinda average compared to other countries.

- A beautiful time-lapse video of the Milky Way in the night sky.

- At the rate the Kindle price is dropping it will be free by November. (maybe for Amazon Prime customers?)

1 comment

Ken Jennings is a standup guy
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-02-17 13:12:00
Tags: links
Words: 88

He did a Q&A with readers of the Washington Post, where he comes off as generally awesome. Best response:

Believe me, I was enjoying (almost) every second. Getting beat on the buzzer is frustrating, but are you kidding? I AM PLAYING A PRIME-TIME GAME SHOW AGAINST A SUPER-ADVANCED ROBOT! This is the coolest thing I will every do in my life by a factor of a million. The future is here.

He wrote a short article about the experience for Slate.

Also, Conan had some fun with Watson.


Happy @TheAtlantic day! and more links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-02-15 15:13:00
Tags: palm links
Words: 271

It started out a little slow, but there are a lot of good articles in this month's issue. Like:

- Mind vs. Machine, an article about the Loebner Prize (i.e. Turing Test) written by one of the people trying to convince the judges he was human. Particularly topical now that Watson is playing Jeopardy...

- How Skyscrapers Can Save the City. High density development=good in my book!

- Inside the Secret Service - unprecedented access gives a good view how the Secret Service protects people. Also: I forgot President Bush had a live grenade thrown at him in 2005, and Clinton may have been almost assassinated in 1996. Scary stuff!

- When Freedom Is Bad for Business - remember when President Bush said that invading Iraq would help them rebuild their economy? Yeah...not so much. Iraq is currently 174th out of 183 countries for "ease in starting a business".

- The Moral Crusade Against Foodies - pretty hard hitting piece.


On to non-Atlantic links!

* Apparently Palm is giving away Pre 2's to "all qualified developers". They're certainly supporting their developers, almost to a comical extent at this point :-)

* A fancy treemap view of Obama's 2012 budget proposal. Always good to remember where we spend most of our money, and why cutting earmarks to balance the budget is patently absurd.

* Speaking of Iraq, remember "Curveball", the source who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons program? He now admits that he made it all up. Whee!

* Neil deGrasse Tyson on why science should invest for the long-term and not just on practical problems: basically, because we've gotten a lot of practical use out of long-term ideas.


cleanin' out the old linkbox
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-02-11 14:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 56

- A map of US states, labelled by which country their economy is the same size as. Texas is Russia!

- That Netflix graph of ISP download speeds I posted earlier - here's a cleaned up version that's much easier to read.

- A reminder: The IBM computer Watson plays on Jeopardy this coming Monday-Wednesday. Should be fun to watch!


link me baby one more time
Mood: peaceful
Posted on 2011-01-28 10:36:00
Tags: gay links
Words: 178

A recent poll shows again that the nation is split in thirds on gay marriage (with one third supporting civil unions but not marriage). 46% of Republicans support either marriage or civil unions! And there's the usual age related pattern as well. HRC has some more encouraging polling. (.pdf) But there have been a bunch of anti-marriage and civil unions legislation introduced in the states - if you see your state on that list, write your representative!

Netflix published the averaging bandwidth of their customers with different ISPs. Unfortunately the chart is a little hard to read, but I think that's Time Warner near the top? (Time Warner and AT&T are, annoyingly, very very close in color...)

An article on Slate about Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a really cool idea (get people to fund your project, nobody pays if you don't reach your funding goal), and I chipped in for the Hip-Hip Word Count because I love me some data :-)

Health care reform: not exactly popular but support for repeal is not particularly strong.

A cute live-action level of LittleBigPlanet.


things that inspire emotions in me
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-01-17 13:16:00
Tags: palm work links
Words: 264

(yes I am terrible at subjects)

First up, anger: Vaccines do not cause autism, and the original study (based on 12(!) children) done by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 appears to be fraudulent. No one's been able to reproduce the study, and Wakefield was paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers. Meanwhile vaccination rates are down, and more kids are getting measles, seemingly because people like Jenny McCarthy keeps pushing the connection even though there is none. I hope Wakefield is prosecuted - he's already lost his medical license...

Surprised: The Austin MetroRail now runs during the day, starting tomorrow! I'm surprised because it sounded like this would be impossible because of contracts with freight rail companies that use the same track, but apparently they worked something out. It's still only on weekdays (and only every 45 mins-1 hour), but this seems like a big step forward.

Excited: HP/Palm is having a "special event" February 9 to announce presumably new hardware, and they invited developers for a small event after the official announcement. Sounds like a good time, but vacation/plane tickets/hotels are expensive. I will be eagerly following from here, though, and desperately hoping for a new Sprint device!

Intrigued: More details on Stuxnet, the virus that set back Iran's nuclear efforts by years have emerged. It's looking increasingly likely that either the US or Israel or both were involved.

Inquisitive: NI is hiring software engineers, so if you're interested in a job in Austin, drop me a line! (working here is generally awesome) Vaguely related: Advice to a college sophomore programmer.


motley links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-01-14 16:46:00
Tags: pictures worldofwarcraft links
Words: 358

IBM's been working on a system that can play Jeopardy! called Watson. It had its first practice match against champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and it won the brief game they played! Here's a liveblog with Q&A afterwards. You can clearly see in the video that Ken Jennings was trying to buzz in for questions that Watson got - I wonder how much the precision timing for hitting the button helps it? But still, being able to answer questions that quickly is dramatically impressive to me, even if it takes 10 racks of servers, 15 TB of RAM, and 2800 processors operating at a combined 70 teraflops. You can learn more about Watson at IBM's site.

One advantage to having to stay up late because of medicine: getting things done! Here are pictures from December, as well as socks:

I thought Obama's speech at the memorial in Tucson was very touching.

Comprehensive post about which states may take up same-sex marriage legislation this year - some good, some bad. Happy to see that my old state Maryland may at least get civil unions!

An interesting response from Senator Akaka (D-HI) about making election day a federal holiday - apparently it doesn't increase turnout in states that do it now, which I found surprising.

Neato Google Translate for Android into which you can speak English and it will say the corresponding Spanish (and vice versa). Universal Translator, here we come!

I found this post about working in an ICBM missile silo pretty fascinating. Also, the title is "Death Wears a Snuggie", which is a play on an actual patch they had, both of which are awesome.

Now that we're playing WoW again (and I hit level 85 last night!), I read this article about quitting WoW with interest. I don't think it's entirely fair, though - certainly people can get addicted to WoW and spent far too much time there, but if you use it as a source of entertainment I don't think it's any worse than watching TV or whatever. Not every waking moment has to be spent improving your life in some way...

The Dow Piano - data presentation through music!


video links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-01-11 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 99

I'm pretty sure I linked this before, but the opening sketch from the Emmys was pretty awesome. (and the reason I've been humming "Born to Run" incessantly, people who I've spent any time with!)

The theme music for Law & Order: UK makes me want to put on a wig and boogie!

Why are birds dying? Obviously because Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed.

A fan-made commercial for NASA. (that borrows heavily from Carl Sagan)

Various videos of Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" translated to sign language.

Bonus non-video link: A Brief Visual History of US Taxes, because graphs + taxes = Greg bait.


late links
Mood: awake
Posted on 2011-01-09 01:02:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 170

More on the shooting of a congresswoman - she was awake after surgery and recognized her husband, which is pretty amazing given that she was shot in the head at close range. James Fallows looks at this and other political shootings and points out that, while the shooter is usually deranged and not really related to the normal opposition to the figure, "the political tone of an era can have some bearing on violent events".

An interesting graph of stock market returns based on when you enter and exit the market. Note that the light red actually means a 0-3% return over inflation, which confused me for a bit. The 20-year median is 4.1% over inflation, which is not bad but not the 7% that I've seen mentioned elsewhere. David made a good point that it would be interesting to see how this looks with dollar-cost averaging - possible project sometime?

Thanks to Obamacare, more small businesses are offering health care to employees because of a tax credit for doing so. Hooray!


Don't Ask Don't Tell update, and some fun links to make up for wall-to-wall DADT coverage
Mood: hopeful
Music: Zero 7 - "Destiny"
Posted on 2010-12-16 15:11:00
Tags: activism gay politics links
Words: 761

So, yeah, sorry about all the Don't Ask Don't Tell stuff. But hey, some neat links after that!

The big news: The Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal bill passed the house 250-175 which is better than the previous bill did. Apparently it now has at least 61 votes in the Senate, which is one more than is necessary. Now the question is whether a vote can be held in time before the recess. Here's hoping!

Senator Cornyn emailed me back about DADT; here's his response:

Dear Mr. Stoll:

Thank you for contacting me about current Department of Defense (DoD) policy regarding sexual orientation and military service. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.

As you know, in 1993, Congress passed legislation to codify the existing military “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy, which governs homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces. This policy has served our nation well, and I oppose any effort to repeal it. The readiness of our Armed Forces must always be the foremost consideration in any decision regarding military personnel policies, especially as our troops are serving in harm’s way in two active theaters of conflict. Now is not the time to increase the level of stress on our force through such a dramatic policy change.

Moreover, as you may know, three of the four military service chiefs recently testified before Congress as to their clear reservations with repealing the policy at the present time. I believe that it would be a profound mistake to disregard the informed opinion of these military leaders, and I am deeply concerned by the blatant disregard that some members of Congress have shown to their concerns by including provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 5136; S. 3454) that would repeal this law. For these reasons, I opposed the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 3454, and I will continue to oppose the attempt to repeal the DADT policy.

The United States Government has no higher purpose than keeping the American people safe from harm. Our national security depends on the ability of our Armed Forces’ to maintain military readiness at all times. The linchpin of military readiness lies in maintaining cohesive units consisting of competent, fully trained personnel who share a sense of common purpose and confidence in their unit’s ability to accomplish its mission. Our Armed Forces recruit the finest individuals possible and help them develop into world-class Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

My father served in the military for thirty-one years, and I was privileged to grow up around men and women dedicated to protecting our country. As such, I remain committed to ensuring that our military is the best-trained, best-equipped force in the world and able to maintain a strong national defense. I appreciate your thoughts regarding current military policies, and you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind as these matters are discussed. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

United States Senator

Comparing with Senator Hutchinson's response, it's interesting that he doesn't even mention the study the military conducted to see how repealing DADT would affect them! Instead he talks about "reservations" that three of the four military chiefs had...


- The ten best visualization projects of 2010. One thing that's missing is the Facebook friendship map, which is my new background at work. Here's a view of what's missing from the Facebook friendship map and why. (mostly other social networks that are popular)

- A long piece on income inequality and whether it matters. He makes a good point that the "inequality of personal well-being" is down compared to one hundred years ago. The second half of the essay is an investigation into the finance industry (where a lot of the very very rich come from these days) and ways to make them stop taking huge risks knowing that the government will bail them out. The depressing conclusion: we don't really know how. A response points out that although some things (big TVs, etc.) have gotten cheaper and more accessible, health care has not.

- "Homosexual activity" is illegal in Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup. The FIFA head honcho has a solution - gay people don't have sex there! And they got picked over the US...sigh.

- A great interactive map to explore Census data - similar to the city maps of race I posted a while back, but interactive and you can plot income, etc.

- A followup to the Peter Orszag leaving for Citibank story I posted before.

1 comment

Don't Ask Don't Tell, and some non-DADT things
Mood: content
Posted on 2010-12-13 14:34:00
Tags: activism gay politics links
Words: 477

As I guessed last time, it looks like the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal's chances are not good. It's pretty disappointing especially considering that it's not going to get any easier with the next Congress.

I emailed my Senators about DADT, and Kay Bailey Hutchinson responded:

Dear Friend:
Thank you for contacting me about our nation's "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Officials from the Department of Defense previously testified before Congress that the current policy has served the military well. However, in recent months, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly stated his support for repealing the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, pending the results of an internal Pentagon review.

The internal Pentagon review report was released on November 30, 2010, and its findings indicated that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would bring about limited disruption to unit cohesion and retention. I respectfully disagree with the report's findings. I will not support a repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. After speaking with military personnel and former leaders of our armed services, I remain very concerned about how repealing this policy could negatively impact unit cohesion and overall troop readiness -- especially during a time of war.

Our military has obligations around the world, including intensifying efforts to topple the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. I, along with many others, am concerned that a drastic change in the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy could hurt morale, recruitment, and retention at a time when our armed forces need to maintain a strong presence at home and abroad.

Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to keep in touch on any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

Her response is disappointing but not surprising. I'm at least glad that's she's reduced to disagreeing with a Pentagon report based on anecdotal evidence...

Other politics things:
- A good chart of taxes by type. Taxes haven't been this low since the 1950s! And they're getting lower, which seems unsustainable.

- Peter Orszag, who until recently ran the Office of Management and Budget for the federal budget, is now taking a job at Citibank. I agree that this shows a problem with structural corruption even though there may be no actual corruption going on here. But it sure looks fishy.

- Today, a federal judge ruled part of the health care overhaul to be unconstitutional, although what this means in practical terms is very unclear, even if it stands on appeal.

Other other things:
- The Atlantic (now officially My Favorite Magazine(TM)) is currently making money. Hurray!

- Due to a giant snowstorm, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed and let in a bunch of snow. Really crazy footage there! (an HD version available here)


pretty cool link friday
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-12-03 11:38:00
Tags: links
Words: 149

- Striking RC plane video of NYC, including closeups of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. Best of all, no one was arrested!

- A very detailed post on Pac-Man ghost behavior, including the description of a bug. I found the description of the ghosts' "personality" interesting.

- Beautiful HTML5 ad for a iPhone app - scroll down!

- The Daily Show slams John McCain for supporting Don't Ask Don't Tell. Honestly, I've lost all respect for John McCain. If you're always and forever going to support Don't Ask Don't Tell, just say so, instead of constantly changing your story to hide behind another very thin line of reasoning.

- 23 and me is having a big sale, although apparently now you have to sign up for a subscription service ($5/month sounds pretty reasonable though).

- Bruce Schneier says we should close the Washington Monument as a symbol of how much we've overreacted to terrorism.


just some links: movies, money, voting
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2010-11-29 16:21:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 126

Animated Films for Grown-Ups - I really liked Spirited Away, and I think I need to watch more of these.

The best investment advice you'll never get - surprisingly interesting article wrapped around "index funds, not managed funds".

What Voters Really Care About - I'm not sure how trustworthy the results are. (since it's easy to ask this question but very hard to see how it would play out in practice) Still, it surprises me that "cheating on taxes" is worse than "convicted of violent crime"! And "homosexual" only makes it slightly less likely to get votes, except for Republicans. (and "believe in evolution" is pretty negative for voters over 65...)

XKCD strips classified by topic - good excuse to go back and view my favorites again, like this one!


back in the US links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-11-17 14:12:00
Tags: links
Words: 106

- A Post-Apocalyptic Tour of the Abandoned Six Flags In New Orleans - very creepy. You can read more about Six Flags New Orleans on wikipedia. Which seems a little redundant, as you can read about _anything_ on Wikipedia, but there's a handy link :-)

- Why, despite the fact that it looks amusing, I'm not going to see the movie Megamind.

- Warren Buffett gives the government a thumbs up for saving the economy a few years ago.

- Here's a clip of amazingly bad soccer in the quarterfinal match of the 2010 Asian Games.

- Did you know you can specify floating point numbers in hex in Java? I did not.


pre-German links
Posted on 2010-11-04 11:51:00
Tags: links
Words: 209

I'm going to Germany next week! Looks like I'll be busy with work stuff, but hopefully I'll have some time to see some sights.

- An off-duty police officer in NYC foiled a robbery by shooting the gunman's revolver out of his hands, which is something you're probably told not to do but is really effective if you can make it work.

- Speaking of people being good at their job, check out this goalie's mad dash back to defend his own goal. If he's really that fast, why isn't he playing a position that requires more running? (or maybe he's just better rested - it is the end of a 90 minute game...)

- Speaking of sports and other hobbies, the Austin Comic Con is coming up next week, with Billy Dee Williams, Adam West, Burt Ward, and Lee Majors. I didn't know we had a Comic Con!

- Speaking of things that make me happy, the rumor mill is suggesting there might be an even better Palm phone coming out next year on Sprint. Please please please!

- Speaking of things that interest me to the point of obsession, a psychologist suggests some tips on being happy: buying experiences instead of things, buying many small pleasures instead of big ones, and so on.


links on a friday
Mood: calm
Posted on 2010-10-22 10:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 171

Shameless self-promotion: I'm singing the Durufle Requiem as part of an All Souls Requiem mass at St. David's church in a few weeks. It's a beautiful piece of music and the choir sounds very impressive. You should come!

Now, for a somewhat subpar set of links:

Brits Stiffen Their Upper Lips, French Take to the Streets - even though the world is fairly globalized, national characteristics are still alive and kicking.

Helpful snapshot of what online TV services (Hulu, Netflix, etc.) have access to which shows. We've vaguely talked about doing the whole no cable thing for a while, but it sounds like kind of a pain to make it work with the shows we watch.

The legend of gay astronauts!

A very clever malicious page that disguises itself as the Firefox "this page is malicious" page.

President Obama did a video for the "It Gets Better" project. Of course the commenters are ripping him a new one for opposing gay marriage, appealing DADT even though he doesn't support the policy, etc.


long-awaited links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-10-14 13:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 233

Wow - it's been a month and a half since the last one of these. In my defense, I was out of town for a lot of that time...

- A sample receipt from federal taxes showing what they go for. This is a great idea!

- A five minute overview of 200 years worth of progress in medicine and the economy. The video uses Gapminder which is a neat tool to plot demographic information. I like videos like this because I am a hopeless optimist :-) (most days, anyway)

- Malcolm Gladwell explains why the revolution will not be tweeted. This is one thing that bothers me a bit about Facebook in particular - if I get a reminder that it's someone's birthday and take 2 seconds to post on their wall, how much does that birthday greeting really mean? Very very little, in my view.

- OKCupid's latest data analysis is on gays vs straights. I'm a tiny bit skeptical of these sorts of data (people tend to lie about such things), but it's definitely very interesting.

- How to stack a deck of cards such that no matter where it's cut, you win the hand of poker. Clever!

- Report of a test drive of a Chevy Volt. Tempting but pricey. Maybe it'll be cheaper by the time we need a new car...

- The UK street artist Banksy (wikipedia) wrote the latest Simpsons couch gag, which is pretty dark.


insert clever title here
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-09-01 13:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 193

Palm announced some of the new features in webOS 2.0 - Stacks and Just Type are the most exciting to me, although I might spring for a Touchstone to play with Exhibition. As a developer, nothing jumps out at me in terms of ways to use these features in my apps, but I'm still thinking...

Re Sex at Dawn: a discussion of jealousy, someone who doesn't like the book and one of the authors responds to the criticism.

More conservatives are "coming out" for gay marriage, which makes sense but is so completely backwards to what I'm used to that it's hard to believe. Yay!

Depressing links: Building a Nation of Know-Nothings (yeah, it would be really nice if we could argue over opinions rather than facts), With Neighbors Unaware, Toxic Spill at a BP Plant, Reasonable Doubt: Innocence Project Co-Founder Peter Neufeld on Being Wrong. (most depressing quote: "I'd say, just based on my own experience, that about half the time police and prosecutors bury their heads in the sand and insist that they were right no matter what the evidence says.")

Apparently tennis players should challenge more calls, like Roger Federer does.


link bankruptcy
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-08-27 12:46:00
Tags: links
Words: 227

I've been accumulating these links, and then I kinda forgot about them, so here goes!

The LA Times just did a big investigation on teacher performance. I fully support using data like this (they use a "value-added" approach, where they compare students performance at the beginning and end of the year) as part of teach evaluations. Surely people can study what the good teachers are doing right and use that to help all teachers.

Comparing the tax plans - the graphic is a little confusing. What surprised me is that Obama's plan (which is to keep the Bush tax cuts for incomes < $250K and index the AMT to inflation) costs $3 trillion over 10 years, while just keeping all of the Bush tax cuts only costs $.7 trillion more.

In last week's Futurama episode, one of the writers (who has a PhD in math) proved a theorem that was instrumental to the plot - they even showed the proof briefly!

Did you know: the Blue Power Ranger quit the show because he was harassed for being gay by the producers, etc. In other news, Ken Mehlman (who ran Bush's campaign in 2004 and was head of the RNC) came out and is now supporting the legal challenge to California's Prop 8.

The evolutionary case against monogamy - I'm in the middle of reviewing their book. It is very interesting.


cordoba house, ricky gervais
Mood: relaxed
Posted on 2010-08-20 16:54:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 133

As Nate Silver pointed out, there are two ways to be "against" the Cordoba House (Islamic center near ground zero). If you think it's a bad idea, insensitive to 9/11 families, but that the government shouldn't step in, then I disagree with you but we can discuss it rationally. If you think the government should step in and stop it, then I would encourage you to read the First Amendment and get back to me. (if you call it the "Victory Mosque", then we're probably not on speaking terms to begin with)

Random videos: Ricky Gervais had this series Extras with famous people guest starring. Here is David Bowie embarrassing Gervais, Sir Ian McKellen teaching him the secrets of acting, and (mildly NSFW language) Patrick Stewart being creepy. Good for a Friday afternoon!


audition tonight
Mood: bored
Posted on 2010-08-19 13:58:00
Tags: reviews links
Words: 118

Tonight I'm auditioning to sing the Durufle Requiem and Handel's Messiah this fall with David Stevens. Luckily, my voice has finally recovered from talking/singing pirate-y. Wish me luck!

Hipmunk is a brand new flight search engine that's pretty darn cool. As you can see in this search page, it sorts by "agony" (a combination of when the flight leaves, number of stops, and price), and automatically hides flight combinations that are strictly dominated by others (i.e. arrives at the same time but you have to leave earlier). The main display is such a relief to read after doing searches on Orbitz, etc.

Here's a depressing article about how Washington sucks without any good answers how to fix it.


bizarro world?
Mood: impressed
Posted on 2010-08-12 12:58:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 159

Wow. A CNN poll came out yesterday showing a bare majority of Americans supporting gay marriage, the first (real) poll to do so. In fact, it looks like support for gay marriage is accelerating over the last 16 months. Most astonishingly, Glenn Beck doesn't oppose gay marriage. Wow!

On the ground at JFK airport, after a passenger stood up early to get his luggage, a JetBlue flight attendant named Steven Slater told him to sit down. The passenger refused, and opened the overhead bin as Slater approached, and his luggage fell out and hit Slater in the head.

Then Slater got mad - cursed out the guy on the PA system, deployed the emergency slide, grabbed a beer from the beverage cart, and slid away. The police caught up to him at home, where he was allegedly having sex with his boyfriend.

For your enjoyment: a firsthand account, lots of people rooting for him, and the Ballad of Steven Slater.


hospice care
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-07-29 15:58:00
Tags: links
Words: 499

Atul Gawande has a new article about how our health system does a bad job at end-of-life issues, and how hospice care is really a pretty good idea if the patient wants it, and how really the most important thing is to decide what kind of treatment you want before something terrible happens. WARNING: really really depressing! Here's a good summary:

The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.

More often, these days, medicine seems to supply neither Custers nor Lees. We are increasingly the generals who march the soldiers onward, saying all the while, “You let me know when you want to stop.” All-out treatment, we tell the terminally ill, is a train you can get off at any time—just say when. But for most patients and their families this is asking too much. They remain riven by doubt and fear and desperation; some are deluded by a fantasy of what medical science can achieve. But our responsibility, in medicine, is to deal with human beings as they are. People die only once. They have no experience to draw upon. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come—and to escape a warehoused oblivion that few really want.

To cheer you up, here are all the title sequences to Doctor Who played back to back.

I had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen today and they were running an interesting promotion. When the waitress gave me the check, she also gave me a "thank you card", which had some sort of prize in it (probably 10% off a meal, but first prize is $100000). She then explained how it worked: I had to bring the card back next time I ate there and a manager would open it for me and reveal the prize inside (if I opened it on my own it was void). Also, if I won one of the big prizes, she (my waitress today) would get a share of it.

This struck me as a pretty clever gig: since you already have the card, it makes you want to go back to see if you're "already a winner", even though that's basically equivalent to getting a card next time you go and opening it then. You can also feel good about potentially helping your waitress, I guess? That part was a little weird.


happier when busy, sorta
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-07-26 10:22:00
Tags: asmc links
Words: 43

We're happier when busy but our instinct is for idleness - interesting study and it kinda jibes with what I've noticed about myself.

Seemed appropriate since yesterday was the beginning of Hell Week for the summer musical. So I guess I should be ecstatic :-)


a few links
Mood: awake
Posted on 2010-07-21 10:27:00
Tags: links
Words: 113

The Big Lies People Tell In Online Dating - more fascinating data from OkCupid; people lie about height, income, etc.

A graph of tweet volume during the World Cup by country - those Brazil fans are really representing! Although the highest volume (3283 tweets/second) happened when Landon Donovan scored that goal against Algeria to advance the US to the knockout round.

Top 10 and bottom 10 state/province flags - Texas is #2! And look at that lettering on "Kansas" and "Montana" - yuck! Also, I learned there is a group that studies flag designs, which is pretty neat.

There is a Wells Fargo ATM on Antarctica - actually there are two, but one is basically for spare parts.


a handful of interesting links
Mood: calm
Posted on 2010-07-15 12:24:00
Tags: links
Words: 129

to celebrate my last free day until the summer musical opens!

- A plot of where beverages fall on the caffeine v calories scale. Adding the word "frappucino" to a drink seems to add around 200 calories.

- The "bee sting" theory of poverty - once you have seven bee stings, treating just one of them really doesn't seem that important.

- Apparently, just just exercising may not be good enough if you spend the rest of the day doing sedentary things. It sounds like making your sedentary activities less sedentary is helpful, too.

- Jewel does undercover karaoke - exactly what it sounds like.

- Chart of how many people live in places where gay marriage is legal - right now around 3.7% of the world population. Also, Argentina passed a gay marriage bill just yesterday!


Old Spice: awesomeing it up
Mood: amused
Posted on 2010-07-14 13:42:00
Tags: links
Words: 77

Yesterday, the guy from the Old Spice commercials (first one, second one) spent some time answering questions from Twitter/Facebook/YouTube. He posted a ton on his Twitter feed, and here are some good ones: one, two, three. (she said yes!)

Word is that the guy (Isaiah Mustafa) and the writers read the comments, wrote up quick snippets and filmed a bunch of them in front of a shower. Well done!

(also, this probably goes without saying, but: mmmmmmmmm)


quick linkies
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-07-09 13:19:00
Tags: links
Words: 286

Bad news: The Republican governor of Hawaii vetoed the state's civil union bill.

Good news: A federal court in Massachusetts has declared part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional! The decision will probably be appealed by the Department of Justice, even though Obama is supposedly against DOMA. (and yes, the DOJ would probably appeal regardless, but I'm still a bit annoyed at the fact that Obama is "against" DOMA but unwilling to spend any political capital about it)
Edit: A friend informed me that if the ruling is not appealed, it will only apply to Massachusetts (because that's the jurisdiction of the court that made the ruling). So we actually want it to be appealed, assuming that we can win again. Learn something new every day!

Funny and kinda sad news: A trader moved the global price of oil to an eight-month high in a "drunken blackout".

Exciting local news: The Chevrolet Volt will be launched in Austin (among other places) this year. Were I in the market for a new car, I would consider getting one. Maybe someday...

Thoughtful news: Why is cheating OK in football? (soccer) May be a little biased since it's from an English paper about England's non-goal, but it raises a good point. Just because you can get away with it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. The ethics on the pitch seem to be "win at any cost" which is somewhat disappointing (see also: diving/faking injuries).

Somewhat surprising news: Mortgages over $1 million are being defaulted on at a much higher rate than cheaper ones. Although this quote:

“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.
seems probably a bit unfair.


so it begins
Mood: grumpy
Posted on 2010-07-07 10:44:00
Tags: asmc palmpre links
Words: 246

Tonight is the first real summer musical rehearsal. I know it'll be fun (as it always is), but rushing home most nights to have dinner and then rush off to rehearsal gets a bit tiring. And the rehearsal schedule is brutal - WFSa this week, MWFSa the next, and then eleven days in a row until we open.

My Palm Pre's screen wouldn't turn on on Saturday, and the Sprint store told me it was out of warranty and would cost at least $100 to fix. Later that day, it started working again, but it conked out last night and hasn't come back. So I guess I have to argue with them about why it's out of warranty (I think their stance was that this phone is already a replacement, but the warranty should carry over, right? I'm still within a year since I got the phone...)

And I cut my finger last night just enough to be annoying. And my legs/feet/ankles are sore from ice skating, which means rehearsal tonight might be kinda painful.

Anyway, enough whining: check out this story about the Russian spies. Apparently one of them made contact with someone who she thought was from the Russian consulate, although none of her actual contacts vouched for this guy, who was in fact an undercover FBI agent. She was having trouble with her laptop that she used to contact the Russians, and then handed over her laptop to the FBI agent to fix it.


world cup links
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-06-30 13:17:00
Tags: soccer links
Words: 292

Totally unrelated: happy 10 year anniversary to my wonderful husband!

Sadly, today is the first day since the start of the World Cup with no games. So, to pass the time:

- A cool visualization of which World Cup players play in which leagues - there's a lot more cross-pollination these days, with the English, German, Italian, and Spanish leagues benefiting the most.

- Why Lionel Messi is so awesome. Go Argentina!

Another fun soccer story:

In the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup, Barbados and Grenada were playing their final group game, with Grenada ahead by 3 goal differential, so Barbados needed to win by 2 to advance. This tournament was played under weird rules, including the fact that no games were allowed to end in draws, and if the game was a draw after 90 minutes, it would go to sudden death extra time, with the winning goal counting double.

Barbados was up 2-0 until Grenada scored to make it 2-1 in the 83rd minute. Since Barbados needed to win by 2, and Grenada was playing very heavy defense, Barbados instead deliberately scored an own goal to tie it 2-2. That way, if they could manage to win in extra time, they would get the win by 2 they needed. (since the winning goal would count double)

It didn't take long for Grenada to figure out what was going on, and so they tried to score an own goal to put Barbados back ahead by 1. But Barbados was planning on this, and started defending both goals while Grenada tried to score on either one.

Amusingly enough, Barbados was successful in preventing Grenada from scoring, and it went into extra time where Barbados did in fact win! Here's a Snopes article about the whole thing.

1 comment

everybody's linking for the weekend
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-06-24 14:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 231

I lack the time to make this post shorter, so:

One of my new favorite blogs is You Are Not So Smart - each post is about a different sort of bias or self-delusion. Dovetails nicely with the ice cream book and my general interest in neuroscience!

Also related: this earthquake simulation game shows people are terrible at planning - even though they know an earthquake is coming, they wait to improve their house until it's too late.

IBM has built a system that can play Jeopardy decently. You can even play against it and see how you do!

Another awesome music video by Ok Go - this one goes from very slow motion to very sped up.

Apple censored an image of two men kissing in a graphic novel. Although now they say to resubmit it, so I guess it was just a mistake? I wonder how many other mistakes are not reviewed unless they get wide attention...

Yes, cosmic rays can flip bits in memory. Now I know what to blame my bugs on - cosmic rays flipping neurons in my brain :-)

Giant spike in Internet traffic following Landon Donovan's winning goal

The Fellowship of the Vuvuzela

An analysis of the crazy 1000 point and subsequent recovery of the Dow.

Lots of people are moving to Texas. (and Austin, specifically)

Random: a banana equivalent dose of radiation. Bananas are radioactive! Didn't know that.


more world cup goodness
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-06-17 10:25:00
Tags: soccer links
Words: 108

I'm accumulating quite a stack of non-World Cup links, but to hell with them!

Nate Silver's World Cup odds update. To advance, the US has to either beat Slovenia tomorrow, or draw and then beat Algeria next Thursday.

My bracket which isn't looking too great.

Missed the England-US game? Here's a video recap with adorable Lego players.

The Guardian has this neat visualization of events during the games and popular terms on Twitter, so you can see how quickly Twitter reacts to goals, etc.

The Wall Street Journal is tracking every goal scored in the World Cup and breaking it down by player, team, country, day, stadium, etc.


The World Cup starts tomorrow!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-06-10 14:25:00
Tags: soccer links
Words: 108

and in its usual awesomeness, the Alamo Drafthouse is showing a bunch of games at Lake Creek and at least the US/England game at the South Lamar location. Tim League (the founder) recently took over as CEO of the Drafthouse, which means cooler events and preshow stuff at Lake Creek, like this!

A comprehensive calendar of World Cup games, organized by team, group, stadium, and date.

A neat visualization of which countries are most successful in the World Cup (hint: Brazil, Germany, Italy)

Personally I'm rooting for the US and Italy, but I picked Argentina to win it all, and I'm just happy to watch some good soccer!

1 comment

marriage and such
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-06-09 11:54:00
Tags: links
Words: 111

I find the fact that Al & Tipper Gore are getting divorced after 40 years of marriage horribly depressing. Some marriages are not meant to be, but usually the people involved figure that out within the first few years. I guess it's important to keep working on a relationship no matter how long you've been together...

Similarly, this ad showing a married gay couple [mildly NSFW] depresses the crap out of me!

Unrelatedly, Bing Maps has this new feature called Destination Maps (it's a Silverlight app) where it will draw out a map and make it look hand drawn. Here's a map to our house drawn in "sketchy" and "treasure map" styles:


No more depressing links!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-06-02 14:03:00
Tags: links
Words: 404

I keep reading about how the financial regulation bill was defanged, and how BP is forbidding photos of dead dolphins covered in oil, and how BP's safety record is terrible by oil company standards, and this live underwater video of the oil spill.

So, instead:

- Patrick Stewart was knighted!

- 12 things that good bosses believe - I like "My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods."

- From Wired: The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic - he created a giant spreadsheet (.xls) of data indicating how much each extra car/bus/etc. costs the city in extra traffic slowdowns for others. Cool!

- Apple rejects an iPad app because they "are not allowing apps that create their own desktops", according to Steve Jobs.

- FlightPredictor gets some love from the official Palm blog. Yay!

- Citizens Against Retail Discrimination (or CARD) makes me laugh. It's clearly a front group for credit card companies: see

This amendment would shift this merchant cost of doing business to consumers. Giant retailers don’t want to pay their fair share, and they want consumers to foot the bill.
and more specifically:
Consumers Will Pay for Merchant Windfall; Small Financial Institutions Will Suffer

The Senate recently added an amendment to S. 3217 that would arbitrarily limit the cost that merchants pay to accept debit cards, and eliminate important rules that are in place expressly to protect consumers.

Retailers are lobbying for a law that shifts their share of the cost for accepting debit cards onto consumers. Retailers want consumers to start paying their bills. They say it helps consumers, but really it's a ploy to increase profits. It’s unfair to have consumers pay for a retailer's business expense.
Of course the other side of the coin is the even gianter credit card companies that want the right to charge high fees for debit cards. I'm not sure how I feel about the regulation, but if you're going to play the "small business" card, there are thousands (millions?) of small businesses, and I bet there are very very few small credit card companies.

Also: "retailers want consumers to start paying their bills" - don't consumers pay retailers bills already, like electricity, etc? This is like the opposite argument that retailers will pass the extra cost to customers - here retailers will be charged less, and...that's bad? That is one confusing sentence.


happy memorial day!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-05-28 11:28:00
Tags: links
Words: 108

Austin news:
- According to Kiplinger, Austin is the best city for the next decade. Yay!

- Parts of Second Street will be renamed for Willie Nelson, who incidentally cut his trademark braids a few days ago. (this made the NPR news :-) )

Other stuff:
- Yesterday the House voted to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell", although it still has to be passed by the Senate and the amendment lets the repeal happen after the Pentagon finishes studying it and it's signed off by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So...still a ways to go.

- A very bizarre profile of Lady Gaga. Text is NSFWish.


"it's monday and I'm tired" links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-05-24 10:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 112

The LOST finale was last night - recaps from the AV Club and Time. Overall I liked it although I'm still thinking it through...

A 15 page comic about the now retracted autism/MMR vaccine study - holy undisclosed conflict of interest, Batman!

A long article about teacher's unions and how the Obama administration is pushing to remove teacher tenure and pay solely based on experience.

As part of a Music Hack Day, someone wrote a hack to make songs swing by lengthening the first half of the beat and compressing the second half - here are the results.

A cool World Cup ad - only 18 days until it starts!

Lesser known but cool data structures.


linkin' up a storm
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-05-21 13:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 169

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released a game where you can try to stabilize the national debt. (unfortunately it's been flaky today) Spoiler alert: don't renew the Bush tax cuts and it's really easy - keep them around and it's basically impossible.

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books - long and interesting article about the future of ebooks.

What America spends on food and drink - Austin is #1 per capita!

International Number Ones - because every country is the best at something. The US is "best at" having the most serial killers!

The ESPN consensus on who's going to win the World Cup - I filled out my bracket but still might change my mind...

The security screening at the Texas Capital opened today, even though you can carry a concealed weapon inside. The article makes the halfway valid point that people that have concealed carry licenses have to undergo a background check, but still...come on!

A grocery store in New Orleans baked BP an oil spill cake.

1 comment

friday links of the third kind
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-05-14 10:55:00
Tags: links
Words: 179

Something for everyone!

Randomly awesome:
- North Korea reports nuclear fusion success except, of course, no one believes them. Includes this gem:

Pyongyang says its latest scientific breakthrough coincides with the birthday of the country's founder, and eternal president Kim Il-sung - not the first time it seems that the laws of nature have been bent in his honour.

According to official biographies, when his son, the current leader Kim Jong-il was born, a new star appeared in the sky.

- The difference between "red" and "blue" families - they summarize it as "In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families.", meaning that in "red America", adults become mature after starting a family, while in "blue America", adults become mature, then start a family.

- A graph of US miles driven versus gas prices over time - now we're around the same miles driven as in 2000, which looks unprecedented.

TV/Video Games:
- Chuck got renewed - yaaaay!

- We bought 3D Dot Game Heroes (link is to review) last night. So far it's pretty fun, especially if you like old video games.


neat startups
Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-05-11 16:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 181

I like tech startups - probably comes from reading Hacker News a lot. If I were in a different place in life I'd probably want to work for one (or found one!), but I'm pretty happy where I am now, so instead I shall live vicariously through others.

- FlightCaster - predicts ahead of time whether flights will be delayed using machine learning and lots of data. I like this idea so much I wrote FlightPredictor (a WebOS client for Palm phones) that uses their data.

- SproutRobot - tell it where you are, and it will tell you what to plant when, and even send you the proper seeds. Just looking at the website makes me a little happier.

- Groupon - coupons with a twist. Each coupon is only offered for a day, and only if enough people buy it does the transaction take place (more about how it works). You can see the recent offers for Austin have included Precision Camera & Video, the Round Rock Express, Austin's Park and Pizza. I just signed up today and am hoping for more cool stuff in the future!


meh links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-05-07 10:36:00
Tags: rant links
Words: 461

Honestly, these links aren't that great. Fair warning:

- The Onion AV Club previews movies coming out this summer and how they compare to Marmaduke.

- Bruce Schneier on why there haven't been more terrorist attacks - the short answer is that they're harder than they look to pull off, and not that many people interested in doing them. Which is comforting, I guess.

- Star Wars pregnancy announcement

- So there's this bill that would strip people of their citizenship if they have suspected ties to terrorists. First of all, what happens to someone who has no other citizenship or ties? Secondly, the bar seems way too low here - the Secretary of State can deem anyone (as far as I can tell) to have provided material support, no need for a trial or anything. Sheesh.

A quick rant: From the article Flash is not a Right:
This strikes me as a very strange sort of attitude to adopt. There's no question that Flash is useful and popular, and it has a large and committed user base. There's also no question that it's often convenient to be able to program for different platforms using environments one already knows. And likewise, there's a long history of creating OS stubs or wrappers or other sorts of gizmos to make it possible to run code "alien" to a platform in a fashion that makes it feel more native.

But what does it say about the state of programming practice writ large when so many developers believe that their "rights" are trampled because they cannot write programs for a particular device in a particular language? Or that their "freedom" as creators is squelched for the same reason?

I wonder if it doesn't amount to an indictment of the state of computational literacy.
That is...what? Let's not get confused here - not allowing the Flash plugin to run on the iPhone/iPad is one thing, sure - I may not agree, but there are valid technical reasons, and it would require Apple to do something.

But not allowing people to write apps in other languages and convert them to Objective C - that doesn't cost Apple anything and they're going out of their way to lock developers in to their platform. That's what people are really angry about. There's no technical obstacle, they're just blocking it for basically political reasons. (and yes, I know it makes it harder in the future to upgrade components without breaking compatibility, but this feels like swatting a fly with a tactical nuclear strike)

What I write my app in is my business, and as long as it runs on the target platform I feel personally offended that Apple is telling me how I can do that. (well, not me since I don't develop for the iPhone, but you know...)


MetroRail and links
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2010-05-04 11:53:00
Tags: pictures links
Words: 205

On Saturday, we took the MetroRail downtown to the Pecan Street Festival. It was quite crowded, but apparently that doesn't mean there will be Saturday service in the future. The single track problem is really a big obstacle at this point. I took some pictures:

while we were there, we walked by a booth for the Austin Planetarium, which doesn't exist yet. Did you know that Austin is the biggest city in the US with no planetarium? Or that Dallas has 12 of them? So we joined, mostly to stick it to Dallas. Jerks!

At the Palm Developer Day, I had my picture taken with my app. Nerdy, I know!

The Alamo Drafthouse is looking at eliminating lines at the South Lamar theatre and moving to a Southwest-style system. (with a followup post) They're also looking at more healthy food items.

Why do we root for underdogs?

A visualization of what color cultures associate with ideas - interesting that ones like heat, anger, truce, success are relatively uniform but death, peace, love are not.

Amazon is releasing a little bit of data about what people are reading on the Kindle, specifically the most highlighted passage - I mentioned the possibility earlier, but now I want more data!


Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-04-28 12:51:00
Tags: taxes links
Words: 122

The Comprehensive Guide to Better Naps - a lot of good advice, although I'm not much of a napper.

A neat visualization of tax rates over time - the change in the late 80s is very dramatic - before that there were around 20 different marginal tax rates, afterwards there were 4. Also kind of surprising that the first tax bracket was 0% for a while.

The Data-Driven Life - I'm heading that way, I think!

The Only Thing That Can Stop This Asteroid Is Your Liberal Arts Degree.

Now that Ze Frank's show is over, he does neat stuff like this chillout song. (although honestly the woman sounds seriously depressed and should probably see a doctor)

A giant flowchart to help you pick a font.


birthday links!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-04-20 10:09:00
Tags: links
Words: 139

A growing scandal in Philadelphia: the Lower Merion school district assigns each of its high school students a laptop that they can take home and do work on. Well, these laptops have webcams that could be activated remotely (ostensibly to find the laptops if they were lost), but the students didn't know about this until the principal reprimanded a student for "improper behavior in his home". Now it turns out 56,000 pictures were taken in the past two years. Happily, no one seems to be defending the program and the school district is getting super-sued.

Another take on why Texas weathered the recession better than the rest of the country. (previous take here)

Lots of songs use the same four chords (illustrated in song form)

Another gay marriage map, which looks suspiciously (ok, not really) similar to my own.

1 comment

clearing out some tabs
Mood: anxious
Posted on 2010-04-14 13:09:00
Tags: links
Words: 158

How Texas avoided the worst of the real estate meltdown - by limiting what you can do with home-equity loans. (until 1998, they weren't allowed at all)

Personality and the Census - response rates have been highest in the states whose people are more agreeable and extroverted. (apparently, that doesn't mean Texas!)

Yes, 47% of American families owe no income tax, but when you take payroll taxes into account that number drops to 10%. Payroll taxes are pretty regressive...

Tina Fey doing another Sarah Palin bit.

Price anchoring, and why even knowing how it works isn't enough to protect you from it.

Optimizing Your Wife - this is an old problem (if you know you're going to meet 100 candidates and can rank them relative to each other but have to decide when you meet one whether to marry or not), but with more data on what to do if you care about maximizing happiness, not just finding the best one.


Mood: optimistic
Posted on 2010-03-30 13:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 155

Merton (who I mentioned last time) is back! Here's the original chatroulette piano improv thing, and here's a followup.

Why you need to be excited about SpyParty - a game under development that's kinda like a Turing test. But it's way more fun than that makes it sound :-)

Cool data amazon could gather about books read on the Kindle - the privacy side of me is not so happy, but the happy-about-lots-of-cool-data side of me is overjoyed.

Don't forget to send back your census form - apparently the response rate in Central Texas is lower than it was in 2000, which means they'll have to send more people out to do interviews, which means it costs us more money.

Attitudes on homosexuality vs. prostitution over time - fewer people say homosexuality is "never acceptable" over time, but for prostitution the rates are about the same. Also, only 4% of Swedes say homosexuality is "never acceptable" vs. 35% of Americans.


cakes! and other stuff
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-03-26 09:59:00
Tags: links
Words: 153

My friend Jennifer Bolton makes amazing cakes like this one:

A few other favorites of mine:

but if you haven't taken a gander at the whole gallery, you really should. I'm not sure if she makes them for hire, but it couldn't hurt to ask... :-)

After Google pulled out of China, China issued these instructions to domestic news sites about how they are allowed to cover it. It's one thing to know that China practices censorship, but another to read the actual rules they issue - makes it much more creepy.

Ben Folds being awesome on chatroulette (NSFW language) - apparently doing tribute to Merton, who did it first. (and now is taken down from YouTube)

After a Mississippi high school cancelled a prom rather than allow a same-sex couple to attend, a Georgia high school did allow a same-sex couple to attend...and then the guy's parents kicked him out of the house. Sigh.


health care (basically) passed! and a local shoutout
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2010-03-22 14:28:00
Tags: lj for webos essay projects politics links
Words: 409

The health care bill passed the House! The plan is for the Senate to pass it this week and then Obama will sign it into law.

The bill: Here's some information on the final bill - it was confusing for a while with the House bill and the Senate bill, but this is the final one. It expands coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. It prohibits lifetime limits on insurance coverage and denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. Yes, it's not a perfect bill, and it's hard to predict how well the cost control measures will work, and there's no public option, but there's a lot of good stuff in the bill. And it will be easier to adjust this bill in the future than if we had started over or given up because it wasn't "good enough". As James Fallows said:

There are countless areas in which America does it one way and everyone else does it another, and I say: I prefer the American way. Our practice on medical coverage is not one of these. Despite everything that is wrong with this bill and the thousand adjustments that will be necessary in the years to come, this is a very important step.

The politics: A bunch of reactions. My thoughts: elections matter, and this is why. (why yes, there is a difference between the Republicans and Democrats!) It's certainly possible this will be a political loser for the Democrats (although I think it will be popular in the long term), but the point of having power isn't to maintain power, it's to get things like this done.

Other randomness:
After canvassing the house for my lost camera, I bought a new one today from Precision Camera and Video. I was happy there - they let me play with it a bit and even open a few cases to find one I liked, and I get a free basic photography class which I might actually take advantage of. Good service and good prices!

Today marks the 100th sale of LJ for WebOS - thanks to all who have purchased it! I have a few new features I'm planning on working on soon. Coincidentally, I just got my first PayPal deposit from Palm, so that's exciting :-) I put myself up on theymakeapps.com.

Capital MetroRail opened today! Finally, commuter rail in Austin. Unfortunately, turnout wasn't great this morning, but I'd give it at least a few months to see how it goes.


Mood: stressed
Posted on 2010-03-19 13:14:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 155

It looks like the health care bill is going to have a vote on Sunday. TPM has constant updates. Nate Silver thinks things are looking relatively good for it to pass, although there's still time for it to fall apart. Firedoglake is keeping track of the whip count.

Remember that NY state senator who slashed his girlfriend in the face with a broken drinking glass? He got expelled from the state senate but was running for election again. Thankfully, he got crushed by another Democrat, who supports marriage equality to boot!

Wal-Mart is adding "MoneyCenters" to more of their stores, which offer check cashing at a much cheaper price than most other places. Neat!

It's official: the first Millennium Prize has been awarded to Grigoriy Perelman for solving the Poincaré Conjecture, although odds are he won't accept it. Who's up for proving the Riemann Hypothesis next?

Advice for filling out the Census for same-sex couples.

1 comment

Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-03-15 09:48:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 73

Nate Silver now gives health care slightly more than a 50% chance of passing.

A map of South Austin that looks like an old Zelda map - he used some software to autodetect trees, roads, etc.

MST3K Haiku - I think this one's from Prince of Space!

(this post is mostly an excuse to show off my new userpic. Been using it at work for a while and people are geeky enough to recognize it :-) )


links n' such
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2010-03-11 12:33:00
Tags: palmpre gay projects links
Words: 221

My Board Game Geek app for WebOS is now available in the Palm App Catalog!

What If Everybody in Canada Flushed At Once? - or, Canadians really like hockey.

A map of the most common fast food restaurants across the US, made by calculating the "burger force" (proportional to one over distance squared). McDonalds obviously reigns supreme, but Sonic makes a pretty good run in Texas!

LOST: Baywatch intro

The subscriber rates cable companies pay to carry each channel. ESPN and Fox Sports Net are by far the most expensive, and even the FOX Soccer Channel (which apparently exists) costs more than Comedy Central.

Florida (like many places) offers tax credits if you film a movie or TV show there. Now they're considering a bill that would deny these credits if the show has a gay character. (among other things)

As a Michigan fan, I'm not sure how to take the fact that Jim Tressel (the Ohio State football coach) answered questions from a local gay publication. (and said some very nice things) He's probably the first major coach to do so.

An interview with David Boies and Ted Olson about their Prop 8 case. Nothing earthshaking, but it's interesting to hear them talk about the trial and what they think their chances are. They're expecting a ruling by late April/early May.


link drop
Mood: restless
Posted on 2010-03-05 10:55:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 227

In New York state, various churches are supporting an anti-gay State Senator. This particular State Senator (Hiram Monserrate) was convicted of slashing his girlfriend in the face with a broken drinking glass and expelled from the State Senate. But, you know, he's against gay marriage!

It looks like Valve is starting up some sort of Portal ARG which is a pretty good sign there will be a Portal 2. Looking forward to it!

Is Obamacare a Favorite to Pass? - Nate Silver thinks it's about 50/50.

I think Apple might be turning evil. (to clarify, "evil" in the sense of "winning by taking advantage of people instead of by doing good work") They sued HTC over some pretty questionable patents - these days the way things work is that companies try to patent anything they can, including blindly obvious "inventions", but just hold on to them as a defensive mechanism. That way if they're ever sued for infringement they can countersue and usually both companies are infringing and so a settlement will result. But actually suing another company is pretty aggressive...not to mention a lot of the patents seem like stuff that shouldn't be patentable in the first place.

Now apparently they're trying to stop music companies from participating in Amazon's MP3 Daily Deal, which is pretty anticompetitive.

Pictures of NYC and Las Vegas from above at night - pretty!


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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".


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 distraction.gov to combat distracted driving.


willpower is hard work
Mood: calm
Posted on 2009-12-28 15:16:00
Tags: psychology links
Words: 194

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, willpower is a very limited mental resource. Check this out:

In one experiment, led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad.

Here's where the results get weird. The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a "cognitive load"—making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation.

Crazy, no? This might explain why I just had like 10 Altoids while concentrating on a problem at work.

1 comment

stuck at work links
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-12-21 10:24:00
Tags: links
Words: 189

This is a 70 minute video review of "The Phantom Menace" (some NSFW language). The voice is a little weird, and there are some weird offtopic bits, but overall it's entertaining and pretty spot-on. The bit at the end of Part 1 where he asks people to describe the characters in the original trilogy vs. the prequel is pretty awesome.

'Tis the season for cable company disputes. Here's Time Warner's take on the issue versus Fox's. I find it amusing that they think that setting up websites is going to lead to consumers reading both of them, weighing the facts, and deciding who to be mad at or something. Hint: I get my cable through Time Warner, and if all of a sudden I can't see shows on Fox, I'm going to be mad at Time Warner, regardless of whose "fault" it is. I better be able to watch Lost in February!

The health care bill in the Senate passed a critical test early this morning and it looks like it's going to pass on Christmas Eve. Now to the conference committee!

Heading out to Houston tonight. Happy Christmas!


are the holidays here yet? links
Mood: bored
Posted on 2009-12-17 13:33:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 163

Health care reform - is it going to happen, and is the public option-less bill even worth passing anymore? Nate Silver asks 20 questions for people who answer "no", responds to people who answered them, and explains why he thinks it's still worth passing. Meanwhile, Atul Gawande (the guy who wrote that article about the rising cost of health care in McAllen) says that having lots of pilot projects (like the Senate bill does) is a good way to go and has worked in the past for farming.

For me, the holidays now have an odd association with Mythbusters since we seem to watch them when we're at my folks place a lot. Here's an old interview with the Mythbusters which I found pretty entertaining.

You know those Predator drones the Army is using in Iraq to target insurgents? It turns out the video they transmit is unencrypted(!) and insurgents have been able to intercept it easily.

A computer scientist looks at ICBM security.


links to keep me awake
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-12-10 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 79

Not two days after my previous post about the Austin commuter rail fiasco, Capital Metro fired their rail contractor. They said it shouldn't affect the schedule - it's scheduled to open early next year. Maybe there's hope?

ABC showed "A Charlie Brown Christmas" this year and cut out parts to show more commercials. The irony, it burns!

Is gay marriage 'inevitable'? - short answer, yes.

Make your own Mondrian painting! Click the squares to change color and drag the lines. Clever!


links so I can upgrade to Firefox 3.6 and don't want to lose my open tabs!
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-12-08 11:42:00
Tags: links
Words: 107

The Austin City Council might push for a November 2010 referendum on expanding passenger rail. This is fairly hilarious to me, since the "existing" passenger rail is over a year and a half late, and they still haven't set a start date on it. I'm a big supporter of passenger rail, but even I'm not sure I'd vote for more after the boondoggle it's become.

8 Great Gifts for Your Data Geek - hmm, I own one of these and at least one is on my Christmas list :-)

Good summary of the hacked climate change emails - yes, some bad things were done, but the evidence is still overwhelming.


links for what should be friday
Mood: hyper
Posted on 2009-12-03 15:10:00
Tags: palmpre programming links
Words: 137

Seriously...long week anyone?

I put up WebOSJournal on the PreCentral homebrew gallery. Still plenty of work to be done, of course...

What every programmer should know about memory - really long article (and it's only Part 1!) but I learned a lot. (and remembered a lot from college classes :-) )

Apropos of net neutrality, How Robber Barons hijacked the "Victorian Internet" (i.e. the telegraph system). The short version is that there was no government regulation and Western Union/AP fixed an election and conspired to keep non-AP newspapers out of business. Less government regulation doesn't always equal more open markets!

Drug-Makers Paying Off Competitors To Keep Cheap Generics Off Market - pretty much what the headline says. It sucks, but apparently it's legal.

No one wants America to be the sole global superpower, but no one wants to share the load.


pre-thanksgiving links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-11-25 14:20:00
Tags: links
Words: 58

The Muppets cover Bohemian Rhapsody - excellent!

After some depressing articles about football and head injuries, the co-chairmen of the NFL's committee on brain injuries resigned. They were mostly discrediting studies that showed brain injuries happened a lot, so the fact that they're no longer there means that maybe the NFL is taking the problem more seriously. Here's hoping!

1 comment

health care optimism?
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-11-24 17:17:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 84

Based on the fact that the Senate health care bill barely got to the floor, and the fact that it sounds like 4 Senators (Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln, Nelson), were going to vote against it if it contained a public option, I was pessimistic!

But now after reading this article, I'm more optimistic that even if the bill that passes doesn't have a public option, it could still make a difference in health care costs. Also, that article is required reading in the White House!


no-longer-quite-as-rainy link friday
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-11-20 14:59:00
Tags: 23andme gay politics links
Words: 233

I finally took the plunge and ordered a 23andMe kit. I got the kit in the mail last night and spit into the tube (they wanted a lot of spit so it took 5 minutes to do), sealed it up and sent it off this morning. Now the waiting begins...

- The District of Columbia is proposing a same-sex marriage law. (yay!) The Catholic church, upon hearing this, warned that they would stop providing social services for DC if the law passed, despite the fact that they law specifically exempts religious organizations from having to recognize the marriages. They would, however, have to obey city laws preventing discrimination against gays.

- In other church news, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders have signed the "Manhattan Declaration", saying they will not cooperate with laws about abortion or same-sex unions that they don't agree with. Again, every same-sex marriage law that I'm aware of carves out a pretty wide exemption for religious groups, so I'm a bit put out by this. HRC responds along the same lines.

- In other other church news, the Catholic Church has found that gay priests were not a factor in the sex abuse scandal. Who woulda thunk it?

- Gay Marriage & Marijuana: You can't stop either. Why that's good. I agree, although his timetable for 10 years having all states recognize same-sex unions seems a bit optimistic given the current state of affairs.


origami success!...mostly
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2009-11-13 11:08:00
Tags: origami gay politics links
Words: 139

After a few hours of assembling, here's what I ended up with:

(more pictures behind the link) It's pretty unwieldly...hopefully it will survive on my desk for a little while.


- I've seen this around, but this support for same-sex marriage by age and state is pretty striking. Hopefully the 18-29 crowd will keep their opinion as they age :-)

- A US interstate map drawn like the London tube map. Really, I'm a sucker for anything that looks like a London tube map :-)

- Anyone else use Steepster? It's a neat way to keep track of teas and stuff. I might start recording ones I like...

- Because of some of the issues with Obama/the DNC I mentioned, a DNC donor boycott is being launched by the people at AmericaBlog. I signed up, although I don't know if I'll stick with it.

1 comment

a lotta links
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-11-06 12:11:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 146

Washington voters passed Referendum 71 which gives same-sex couples the right to domestic partnerships. So at least that's good news!

A bird with a baguette damaged the Large Hadron Collider - apparently it's not going to delay it going operational later this month, but it does bring to mind the whole fate bringing down the LHC theory. Alternatively, as someone near me at work commented, it sure makes the fears of it destroying the planet seem overblown if a bird with a baguette can damage it :-)

Austin extends COBRA benefits to partners of city employees - apparently Austin is the first city in the US to do so.

Since it's been so rainy, the drought in Texas has gotten much, much better.

Big Ben is on Twitter!

A crazy idea to build a dome over Houston (a la The Simpsons Movie) to protect it from heat and hurricanes.


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

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!


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!


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)


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.


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.


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.


spilling links
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2009-08-17 09:52:00
Tags: pictures palmpre projects links
Words: 128

Pictures from New Mexico and Barbara & Alex's wedding are up. Note that the pictures from the wedding itself aren't that great...I did my best!

Published a Pre version of PasswordHash - it was relatively easy to port. A new feature (in the web and Firefox versions as well) lets you force a special character to appear in the password.

Apparently men who "strongly endorsed old-school notions of masculinity" were half as likely to get flu shots and other preventative medicine. Can't say I'm surprised.

Also, "for men, sexual boredom was correlated with variety in partners (or lack thereof), while for women, it was more related to variety in activity." Good to know? (the Coolidge effect description at Wikipedia is pretty funny)

Finally, an Obama protest I can get behind.


link friday
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-08-14 13:26:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 97

A 3D animation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field - pretty cool!

Someone diagrammed out a Choose Your Own Adventure. It turns out you're fairly likely to die!

If you like cuddly subatomic particles, you could do worse than the Particle Zoo. I would imagine it's Sheldon-approved.

Bill Clinton talks about Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA.

The American Conservative Union hit up FedEx for money for support on a bill, and when FedEx didn't bite, they recommended UPS instead. Shady!

An interview with Jim McGreevey, five years after he came out and resigned the New Jersey governorship.


post-honeymoon link friday
Mood: cheerful
Music: Bobby McFerrin - "Wanna Be"
Posted on 2009-08-07 10:15:00
Tags: wedding politics links
Words: 138

If you haven't seen it, here's a time lapse version of our wedding.

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale in a neat way. Wow, he's looking old! I will always love him for his song on Square One.

These slides on Netflix's corporate culture are really really impressive.

Wal-Mart goes after the Girl Scouts - as is usual with Wal-Mart, theoretically good for its customers, bad for everyone else.

Rick Sanchez goes after a health care CEO who's against reform.

If you're interested in publishing your own games, TheGameCrafter.com is kinda like CafePress, but for games.

Spot the cyber-security tip that seems a bit out of place...

Speaking of Netflix, now that the Netflix Prize is over, their CEO says there will a Netflix Prize 2 coming soon. Cool! Perhaps I will be sucked back in...


pre-wedding links
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2009-07-15 13:10:00
Tags: reviews gay books politics links
Words: 202

The Episcopal Church voted to start putting together same-sex blessing ceremonies, which, you know, would have been awfully convenient. But still awesome!

In news that should surprise no one, scientists are way more likely to be Democratic than Republican, like 55%-6%.

The sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (my review here) has been announced: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!

I recently bought a few comic books (or "graphic novels"?) after rewatching V for Vendetta and liking it. Quick thoughts, in the order I read them:

Batman: Year One - shorter than I expected but still pretty entertaining.

V for Vendetta - I was disappointed. The book is really long, and while there are some differences between the book and the movie, I mostly (horrors!) prefer what the movie did. I also found it somewhat difficult to tell what the hell was going on.

Batman: The Killing Joke - The artwork is really nice and I enjoyed the story. Wish it was longer (it was only 50some pages)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Only halfway done (it's long!) but I'm enjoying it.

Anyway, after absolutely loving Watchmen my interest in comic books has kinda subsided - they're fun but not something I'm hugely interested in.


link friday!
Mood: groggy
Posted on 2009-07-10 09:58:00
Tags: movies programming links
Words: 380

And since it's 8(!) days until the wedding, presumably my last one as a swinging bachelor.

This fascinating NY Times graphic shows the various business cycles and the recession we're in now. And maybe some hope that things will be better in 6 months.

A 60 foot Gundam robot has risen in Tokyo. I really really hope this is real.

Short article on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. Found this surprising:

In 1966, three years before Stonewall, Time, then the voice of middlebrow, middle-class respectability, published a long essay on “The Homosexual in America.” The magazine, while acknowledging that “homosexuals are present in every walk of life,” concluded that homosexuality
is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste—and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.

Sacha Baron Cohen's (Borat, Ali G, etc.) new movie Bruno comes out today- this character is a gay fashion person or something. He went out of character on Letterman describing how he interviewed a terrorist. Salon thinks it's bad for the gays, Slate thinks it's good for the gays, and Ebert surprised me by liking the movie.

Ricky Gervais's The Invention of Lying looks like a good movie, and it has "every other Hollywood actor and comic in the world" (Patrick Stewart! Tina Fey! Jason Bateman and Jeffrey Tambor! John Hodgman!)

Cool jQuery plugin to dynamically make nice-looking graphs - uses the new canvas feature, like my marriage map does. Wish I had thought of this!

California v. Texas - take that, California! Although
Despite all this, it still seems too early to cede America’s future to the Lone Star state. To begin with, that lean Texan model has its own problems. It has not invested enough in education, and many experts rightly worry about a “lost generation” of mostly Hispanic Texans with insufficient skills for the demands of the knowledge economy. Now immigration is likely to reconvert Texas from Republican red to Democratic blue; Latinos may justly demand a bigger, more “Californian” state to educate them and provide them with decent health care.


weekend, life update
Mood: okay
Music: Nine Inch Nails - "The Perfect Drug"
Posted on 2009-07-06 13:08:00
Tags: health wedding links
Words: 222

Thursday I went tubing with some people in New Braunfels. I'm generally not super excited about water activities, but it was fun and relaxing. It was also really, really hot. I didn't fully reapply suntan lotion while floating down the river (not really sure why I didn't, except that I didn't feel like I was burning) , and thus I ended up horribly sunburned on most of my chest, upper legs and feet.

I've been using some aloe lotiony stuff which helped a lot, but even still it's still sensitive and (worst of all) itchy, especially at night. Saturday night I took a Benadryl which successfully knocked me out, and last night I tried to get by with just some cortisone cream. Gave up on that after a while of itching and not sleeping and took the Benadryl, but it didn't work as well...got to sleep after about an hour and didn't sleep well. (neither did djedi, for unrelated reasons)

12 days until our wedding! Everything seems in order and we're keeping up with our todo list but I'm still generally stressed. Picked up honeymoon tickets, etc. today and I'm looking forward to that part :-)

A somewhat rambling but interesting talk by Stephen Fry about America's place in the world.

Propaganda posters for World War III. I think this one is my favorite.


happy 9 years!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-06-30 10:22:00
Tags: links
Words: 148

And on the same day of my 1000th LJ post! Clearly this is an auspicious day. Except for the fact that I broke a glass this morning :-(

Firefox 3.5 is out today! Looks like it's not automatically updating yet. I've been beta testing for a while and it's speedier and more responsive than Firefox 3. You can see some of the new features here.

I'm becoming somewhat obsessed with the Palm Pre - been reading reviews from Engadget and Gizmodo (here's the flash-heavy Sprint page) and I'm kinda excited about it, although I'm under contract with T-Mobile until March. I even signed up to develop an app for it - gonna try porting whereslunch.org to it and see how easy it is...

Sometimes I step back and marvel that I can buy 16 GB of storage that fits on my keychain for $35.

Internet is out at home until Friday.

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linky in spirit
Mood: cheerful
Music: Michael Jackson - "Black or White"
Posted on 2009-06-26 10:58:00
Tags: movies gay politics links
Words: 305

We watched Dial M for Murder last night. I had high hopes for it, having enjoyed Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" a few weeks ago, but this was even better! The opening 15 minutes or so were packed with tension, and although sometimes older movies don't hold up today since their twists have become terribly commonplace, this one holds up quite well. Highly recommended.

The Alamo Drafthouse had a tribute Michael Jackson singalong last night, and they say there will be more this weekend. I went to one of these in 2005 and it was a lot of fun.

Supreme Court rulings: strip-searching a 13 year old because you think they have Advil = very not OK (Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter), and crime laboratory technicians must testify to admit lab results into evidence, which sounds like it might be a fairly large change. That was a 5-4 ruling with an odd majority: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Scalia and Thomas.

If you're interested in the Supreme Court (and who isn't?), here's a chart of the justices' ideology over its history, which explains why seeing Stevens and Thomas agree on anything is pretty weird.

The DNC gay fundraiser I mentioned last week happened, and apparently Joe Biden gave a good speech and got a lot of applause. But it's hard to read this:

He said that gay and lesbian concerns will not be "delayed, put off or not end up on [Obama's] plate" because he is dealing with so many other issues.
since that seems to be exactly what's happening. I appreciate that they're pledging to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, but talk is cheap.

For you non-Austinites: it hit 107 degrees yesterday at the airport, and it's supposed to get up to 106 today. It is very very hot. Pity us!


teh gays !<3 Obama
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2009-06-17 16:08:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 230

Last week the Department of Justice filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, DOMA is the law and the Justice Department is required to uphold the law (although apparently previous DoJ's have published opinions saying they thought laws were unconstitutional), but the brief itself is pretty terrible - saying DOMA is consistent with equal protection, comparing it to laws banning incest, saying the right to marry isn't fundamental when it comes to marrying someone of the same sex. And according to Robert Gibbs (the press secretary) Obama stands behind the brief

So. This pissed a lot of people off. There's been a lot of unhappiness already about the lack of movement on DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell, and even the HRC published a kinda mad letter. A lot of people are pulling out of a DNC gay fundraiser next week. People generally feel betrayed.

Presumably to address these issues, Obama announced the he would grant same-sex benefits to federal employees, which is great except that said benefits don't include health insurance. Although it does include relocation assistance. Which is, ahem, something.

Anyway! Rant over.

A story of homeless Sims in The Sims 3. The narrative is pretty touching.

GameFAQs recently ran a Best Game Ever bracket, which Zelda: Ocarina of Time won. I was happy I've actually played a lot of the games in the final bracket!


better living through science
Mood: geeky
Music: that "Jai Ho" song
Posted on 2009-06-12 15:32:00
Tags: essay links
Words: 218

A while back I wrote a script to analyze our GnuCash account. A few months ago, I added a quick little feature to predict how much money we're going to spend this month - basically just taking the existing values and extrapolating to the end of the month, disregarding stuff that is largely the same like the mortgage payment and bills. So every time I run the script I get an updated projection of how much money we'll spend this month.

For something so simple, it's surprising how it's changed my behavior. I'm very much more conscious about spending money now, and last month we spent the least amount we have in a while. Of course, that's just one data point. It's similar as the idea behind the Google PowerMeter - if you can measure something well you're more likely to think about it more and conserve when you can.

In a similar vein, the Wall Street Journal writes about not getting enough sleep and a device called the Zeo which tells you how well you slept the next morning. Again, the idea is that you can try out different things (cutting out caffeine longer before bedtime, etc.) and see how they affect your sleep patterns. Cool stuff! Yet another study shows that sleep is important and helps you learn.


just this guy, you know?
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-06-10 11:49:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 99

A new poll came out showing that 69% of Americans favor allowing openly gay people in the military - up from 64% 5 years ago...and even 58% conservatives support it! For a point of comparison, when Truman integrated the army only 13% of the population supported it. Stephen Colbert is doing his show from Iraq this week (in front of troops) and last night did a segment on Don't Ask, Don't Tell which was pretty ballsy.

25 Great Calvin and Hobbes Strips

Remember that long health care article? Turns out Obama read it too and is taking it pretty seriously.

1 comment

I'm in a hurry to get things done...
Mood: stressed
Music: Dave Matthews Band - "Funny the Way it is"
Posted on 2009-06-05 13:34:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 166

Obama gave a big speech in Cairo yesterday - here's the full text and the hour-long video. Pretty impressive and even-handed.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, and the Chinese government tried to block foreign reporters from recording by...using umbrellas.

New Hampshire passed a same-sex marriage bill into law this week, leaving Rhode Island as the only New England state that hasn't legalized it. Which is pretty crazy when I stop and think about it. The map is turning more green!

A long article about gay marriage from a Burkean conservative point of view.

Loving Day, the anniversary of the Supreme Court striking down anti-mixed race marriage laws, is this weekend.

Cool guys don't look at explosions (video).

A long "screenplay" about how hard it is to get security right - this really opened my eyes!

Pixar vs. the Rest, or "Pixar movies, they make a lot of money and people like them".

Stem Cell Contact Lenses Cure Blindness in Less Than a Month - um, wow.


other odds and ends
Mood: distracted
Posted on 2009-06-02 10:49:00
Tags: movies worldofwarcraft links
Words: 259

As a wedding present from djedi I got a new monitor! Whereas my old one could fit 4 xterms without overlapping, the new one can fit 9 (and 12 with just a little overlap). This makes a huge difference when I'm programming - being able to see larger sections of the file I'm working on (and having more xterms open in different directories, etc.) lets me get distracted less by switching between virtual desktops, etc. Also, the screensaver of pictures looks much more impressive :-)

We saw "Up" on Saturday (in 3D, no less). It was sweet - the first five or so minutes were really really great. I hope I can be Ellie to David's Carl. Or something. Overall I liked it but less than Wall-E and The Incredibles.

Last night we put in 10 or so attempts on Hodir and got him down to 23% or so. It's pretty overwhelming at first - I have to find the fire and stand near it, avoid icicles, dispel frost novas, heal like crazy through the frozen blows, and not screw up the flash freeze. I got pretty good by the end except at the avoiding icicles while healing through frozen blows. Maybe next time...

If you installed .NET framework 3.5 SP1, you probably got an unwanted silent installation of a Firefox addon that makes it less safe - the link has directions on how to remove it. That kinda sucks.

This whole post is really just an excuse to post this short video which I won't spoil. Also: 100 movie lines in 200 seconds.


Yeah, yeah, my heart's in a whirl
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-06-01 11:53:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 145

May had some high points, but overall it kinda sucked, what with being stressed out with work stuff all the time. June looks to be somewhat better, but still stressful. July will be hectic for 17 days, then awesome, then more awesome. (August will be extremely stressful for about 4 days, then presumably back to normal) This would all be more managable if I hadn't been so moody. Hoping that goes away when the stress is gone.

This is a terrible, terrible attack on Sotomayor. Something tells me G. Gordon Liddy thinks women shouldn't hold any positions of power anywhere.

Bing is Microsoft's new search engine. It seems decent so far.

Nevada gets domestic partnerships (over the governor's veto) and Illinois's civil union bill makes it out of committee but not to the house floor although it's still possible it will in a special session.

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days go by and still I think of you
Mood: calm
Music: Dave Matthews Band - "Dive In"
Posted on 2009-05-29 10:13:00
Tags: music worldofwarcraft links
Words: 156

Had a nice relaxing week, apart from being sick Tuesday and Wednesday. Oh, and we downed a few new bosses in Ulduar-10 last night (Kologarn and Auriaya), although no loots for me.

Despite being sick most of the week I found some good links:

- Dave Matthews Band has a new album coming out next week, and you can stream the full thing at Pandora. So far it's pretty good!

- This article about health care in the New Yorker was both fascinating and a little depressing. It looks at why McAllen is the most expensive city for health care in the US, and basically the answer is because the culture for doctors there is to try to maximize revenue.

- How an Intern Stole NASA's Moon Rocks

- A rebuttal to those who claim that the new Star Trek movie threw away a bunch of continuity...short version, Star Trek has been throwing away continuity for quite a while now.


in the merry month of may
Mood: distracted
Posted on 2009-05-22 14:12:00
Tags: gay projects links
Words: 155

My same-sex marriage map got some link love from Metafilter (thanks kernelm!) and somethingawful, oddly enough. And twitter, come to think of it. This added up to 225 hits over the past 3 days, which is a lot for me.

I'm not sure why it makes me so excited to see people linking to my stuff - there are no ads on the page, and presumably most people click on it, take a look, think "Neat!" (or "What a piece of crap!") and move on with their day. I guess it's a measure of fame or prominence, however slight.

The government just released data.gov which is a collection of parseable data from various government agencies. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of too interesting stuff there yet, but there is a a contest to write a cool app. (the first entrant is FBI Fugitive Concentration!)

The Dallas Cowboy's new stadium has the world's largest HD video screen.


marriage: the gayening
Mood: chatty
Music: Michael Andrews -"Mad World (Alternate Version)"
Posted on 2009-05-20 14:54:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 189

The New Hampshire legislature narrowly didn't pass the gay marriage bill (amended as the governor requested), but sent it back to committee so it might come up for a vote again in two weeks. Of course, then who knows if the governor will sign it?

Supposedly the California Prop 8 lawsuit decision will be handed down tomorrow. If it overturns Prop 8 it's possible gay marriage will be legal in California again. Not having followed the proceedings at all I'd bet against it, though.

The Nevada legislature passed a domestic partner bill but the governor has said he'd veto it.

Gay Marriage Slow to Draw an Opposition in N.Y. - good?

All these things are keeping me on my toes updating the same-sex marriage map. Hoping to add a few small features later this week.

Non-gay marriage links:

You know how everyone says the divorce rate is 50%? Apparently that's not true if you look at it as how many people have ever been divorced.

Lost Season 5 recap with crazy crazy theories.

A review of "Glee" which we watched last night. I thought it was kinda (and surprisingly) good!


rumsfeld flashbacks
Mood: okay
Music: "Star Trek" soundtrack
Posted on 2009-05-18 10:41:00
Tags: happiness politics links
Words: 575

Apparently the President's Worldwide Intelligence Updates (prepared by the Pentagon) often had verses from the Bible on the cover, which makes me a little queasy. I agree that, if you're religious, there's nothing wrong with looking to your religion/God for faith and guidance, but this seems more like "Hey, the Bible says this whole war thing is A-OK, carry on!" The accompanying article is full of new information about Rumsfeld, including

The next day, three days after landfall, word of disorder in New Orleans had reached a fever pitch. According to sources familiar with the conversation, DHS secretary Michael Chertoff called Rumsfeld that morning and said, “You’re going to need several thousand troops.”

“Well, I disagree,” said the SecDef. “And I’m going to tell the president we don’t need any more than the National Guard.”

The problem was that the Guard deployment (which would eventually reach 15,000 troops) had not arrived—at least not in sufficient numbers, and not where it needed to be. And though much of the chaos was being overstated by the media, the very suggestion of a state of anarchy was enough to dissuade other relief workers from entering the city. Having only recently come to grips with the roiling disaster, Bush convened a meeting in the Situation Room on Friday morning. According to several who were present, the president was agitated. Turning to the man seated at his immediate left, Bush barked, “Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what’s on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I’m watching? What the hell are you doing?”

Rumsfeld replied by trotting out the ongoing National Guard deployments and suggesting that sending active-duty troops would create “unity of command” issues. Visibly impatient, Bush turned away from Rumsfeld and began to direct his inquiries at Lieutenant General Honoré on the video screen. “From then on, it was a Bush-Honoré dialogue,” remembers another participant. “The president cut Rumsfeld to pieces. I just wish it had happened earlier in the week.”

Another excellent article I read this weekend was What Makes Us Happy? in The Atlantic. (a magazine I consistently enjoy) It looks at a study that started following Harvard students in the 1930s and kept up with them until now, trying to determine what factors were most important to living a happy life. What they found was
Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.
(bolding mine) The "mature adaptations" they mention consist of
altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship)
(bolding mine)

One more: here's Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame.


hurried links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-05-15 14:34:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 198

Is it the end of May yet?

A Roomba's path (by taking a long exposure time picture) is pretty chaotic!

Yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a torture episode.

In The Fierce Urgency of Whenever, Andrew Sullivan is pretty pissed Obama hasn't done much for gays yet. I mostly agree, although I'm a bit more patient. It turns out Obama wrote a personal note saying he's "committed to changing our current policy" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The governor of New Hampshire says he'll sign the gay marriage bill if religious protections are added, which the legislature has indicated they'll do. Sweet! For the record, I have absolutely no problem with saying religions don't have to recognize gay marriages. (even though, to my understanding, they don't have to even without the wording he wants in the bill) After all these bills go into effect, Rhode Island will be the only state in New England without gay marriage. That is some craziness, folks.

With The 'Gay Tax,' Love Doesn't Come Cheap - why, despite the awesomeness that is states allowing gay marriage, the fact that it's not recognized at a federal level still costs couples a lot of money.


flu marches on
Mood: bored
Posted on 2009-05-04 14:51:00
Tags: swineflu links
Words: 133

and apparently Travis County has its first confirmed case! That's exciting, I guess. Keep washing your hands, etc. Here's an article describing how schools decide when to close - it really makes a big difference in the spread of viruses if they close as soon as they see a few cases. Of course, then the virus doesn't spread and people complain about "overhyping" the threat and such...which is true, but if we hadn't taken it as seriously it would have been worse.

Car Warranty Racket Exposed on Today Show - I wonder if these are the jerks that keep calling me? I hate those guys.

Talking Gadget Theater II: The Kindle 2 and iPod Shuffle perform Wrath of Khan - their enunciation is pitch-perfect!

Space-racism is bad: And 17 other not-so-subtle lessons learned from Star Trek

1 comment

neat things
Mood: relieved
Posted on 2009-04-16 13:36:00
Tags: links
Words: 39

This giant poster of the 2009 budget is pretty darn awesome. (here's the full image)

Also good: This guide of things to invent if you travel back in time shirt and poster, courtesy of Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics!


a cool toy and some anger
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-04-15 13:21:00
Tags: rant politics links
Words: 204

Cool toy: This ToneMatrix thingy. Note that if you right-click, you can copy and paste music in. My two quick compositions:

The scale is a pentatonic one (do, re, mi, so, la) which means that basically any combination of notes sounds good. The lack of dissonance gets a little...creepy? after a while, but it's fun to play with. There's actually a real instrument called the tenori-on that does something similar, and an iPhone version. (as well as another iPhone version by Brian Eno that looks even cooler)

Now. Today is Tax Day, and some conservative-types are holding tea parties to protest government spending. (and presumably the deficit?) Let me just say this - if you disliked Bush's expansion of government spending (specifically the Iraq war, Medicare expansion, etc.) and you're protesting, at least you're consistent. If you just hate Obama and everything he stands for, well at least you're being honest. But if you cheerleaded everything Bush did and started worrying about government spending and the deficit on January 20th, then you're not being serious. If you have no suggestions for what you want to cut, you're not being serious. If you favor tax cuts and lower deficits, you're really really deluding yourself.

1 comment

Stuff I've been following: Time Warner, gay stuff, dentist
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-04-10 10:03:00
Tags: health activism gay links
Words: 480

Time Warner

After my somewhat indignant email, I called Time Warner Austin customer service (800-418-8848) to express my displeasure. Had to wait on hold for around 10 minutes and when it went through, I just talked for a few sentences. It wasn't particularly eloquent, but I said what I wanted to say, namely that if they did this tiered bandwidth cap thing I was going to leave. I could hear the rep not taking me very seriously, but oh well.

More information: destoyerj found this article showing just how expensive the plans will be per GB (very). Here's Time Warner's latest statement - basically they're increasing the caps (slightly), adding a 1 GB cap tier (the only plan, I believe, that's cheaper than the current one), and delaying the start of the trials in Austin and San Antonio until October. And here's a kinda long response to the letter, point by point.

Since apparently a house just across Metric has AT&T U-Verse but we can't get it here yet (grumble grumble), I'm hoping it's available before October. I'd really like to switch away for cable as well, but AT&T doesn't have CableCards which would make our TiVo very sad.

Gay stuff

With last week's Supreme Court ruling in Iowa and this week's dramatic governor's override to allow same-sex marriage in Vermont, it's been a pretty good 10 days or so. Unsurprisingly, there has been some negative reaction.

Here's a ad from the National Organization for Marriage. Storm clouds aside, the three stories that are told are:
- A California doctor cannot refuse to treat a lesbian based on religious belief. Cry me a river.
- A New Jersey church group had a pavilion that was open to the general public for events but refused access for civil union ceremonies. Here I kinda sympathize with the church group - although it's kind of a dick mode, I think they should be allowed to deny people the use of their pavilion. Of course, this isn't a huge infringement on their rights...it's just a pavilion.
- A Massachusetts parent complaining that the public schools teach her child about same-sex couples. Well, she certainly has the right to disagree at home, but not teaching something in school (that happens to be the law in their state) because somewhat might object is just the sort of political correctness that conservatives are always complaining about.

Less importantly, the National Review came out with a truly homophobic editorial. Andrew Sullivan does the breakdown.


My tooth still hurts from the filling I had done last week. Why?? Is this normal? I'm tired of this crap and think I might switch dentists.

Finally, some links

Actually, just one link, but it's a good one: The Road to Area 51, featuring actual interviews with people who worked there talking about what they worked on. (some programs were recently declassified) The truth is out there!


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!


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?


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.


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: savethewords.org - a bunch of neglected words beg for you to adopt them. With sound.


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.


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.


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.


anti-gay monday!
Mood: amused
Posted on 2009-02-23 12:56:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 158

- Anti-gay ad in the Salt Lake Tribune - this is good wingnut territory. Takes a quote about "enhanced equal rights" and says that "Gays will have MORE RIGHTS than anyone else". I'll be sure to let you know when that happens, but equal rights would be just fine with me. Also apparently there was a Homosexual Declaration of War in 1987 where the gays want to sodomize your children? News to me.

Also, my word is this an ugly ad! Lots of random BOLDING and capitalization :-)

- Gay Snipers Attack Marriage In West Virginia Campaign Ad (VIDEO) - the gay snipers appear at :58 and it just gets better from there. (foreboding music! whooooo will think of the children?? religious liberty is losing to the gays!)

I certainly don't feel discriminated against on a daily basis, but it's good to remember that just because I'm lucky enough to live in Austin doesn't mean crap like this isn't going on other places.


friday links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-20 10:18:00
Tags: weight links
Words: 164

- If I were unhealthily obsessed with my weight, I would say I should get sick more often. But then I remembered I got my hair cut too! I should have kept it to weigh it and correct for growing hair weight...

- 25 reasons we love Austin - Salt Lick! cupcakes! breakfast! bookpeople! alamo drafthouse!

- The Clinton Economic Record and Rising Tides - that first graph was startling. The obvious point is that the poor did as well as the rich under Clinton whereas they did much worse under Reagan/Bush I/Bush II, but everyone did better under Clinton than they did under any of those.

- The Futile Pursuit of Happiness - long but interesting article. People generally underestimate their long-term emotional resilience; losing a partner/family member makes our "emotional immune system" kick in and we feel better faster than we think. The "immune system" doesn't kick in with chronic annoyances (that door that won't close, that aching ankle) and so they make us more unhappy than we predict.


early morning links!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-02-17 07:31:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 256

I took quijax to the airport this morning and am now at work, so here are some links so I don't fall asleep!

- George Will writes a column saying global warming is bunk. (and then I had to check my nonexistent watch to ensure that it was still the year 2009) Nate Silver and Talking Points Memo point out the crazy inaccuracies.

- I was grabbing breakfast and caffeine at Starbucks this morning, and happened to see this story in The USA Today: Supreme Court case with the feel of a best seller. The lede:

In a small town, a local resident claims wrongdoing by a big corporation and wins a multimillion-dollar award after a jury trial. The corporation's CEO then pumps enough campaign money into a judicial election to get a new judge on the state supreme court. During an appeal, that judge casts a critical vote siding with the corporation — and reversing the resident's victory.
It's a Grisham novel and West Virginia, all in one! That is some terrible...something.

- Michael Lewis (he of Moneyball fame) writes a basketball piece about Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets. (go Rockets!) Despite his terrible "traditional" statistics, he does a lot of things that make the people around him play better, especially defense. I haven't watched a game of basketball in a few years but still enjoyed the article a lot.

- 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

- Nate Silver predicts the Oscars - he's kinda the golden boy of predicting things now!

- Magenta Ain't A Color - neat, weird.


*insert witticism here*
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-12 10:34:00
Tags: links
Words: 109

- Jon Stewart Nails O'Reilly on Right to Privacy - pwnt! That last clip is priceless.

- After watching last night's Lost episode (and really, all of Season 5 so far), this Time Travel for Dummies article was quite helpful. It was written before last night's episode, so no spoilers for that. Also, here are some Jackfaces.

- Is the world ready for an Asperger's sitcom? - article about "The Big Bang Theory" and how Sheldon demonstrates a lot of Asperger's characteristics. (although the show's writers deny that was the intention)

- 10 Take Aways From the Bush Years - living in reality is a good start. Also, Rumsfeld sure comes off as a jerk.


a few links with no coherent theme
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-06 14:43:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 97

- The world gets its first gay head of state (although it's a little backdoor - the actual head of the party is taking a leave of absence).

- Obama Justice Department Re-Hires Attorney Fired By Goodling Because Of Lesbian Rumor - aww, nice! Also, that's a pretty crappy thing to do in the first place.

- Obama explains why we need a stimulus bill in an editorial in the Washington Post. The best line is the tagline: "The writer is president of the United States."

- Surveillance Pic Shows Man Robbing Stores With Klingon Sword - the clerk recognized it as a Bat'leth.


the world is depressing links
Mood: grumpy
Posted on 2009-02-03 10:22:00
Tags: essay links
Words: 784

I was pretty grumpy last night, and while I'm somewhat less so, I also had to get into work 2 hours earlier than I usually do. So, behold:

- The pope promoted an ultra-conservative Austrian bishop who said things like Hurricane Katrina was "God's punishment" for New Orleans' relaxed attitude towards sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. He's also your more standard fundamentalist with regards to Harry Potter books being evil, and apparently blamed the 2004 Asian tsunami on "rich western tourists" who had "fled to poor Thailand". Good to know where the Catholic church stands on such things. *sigh*

- This article about the new Battlestar Galactica by the guy who played Starbuck in the old one is really pretty amazing. I will excerpt, but you should read it all to appreciate teh crazy.

Starbuck was meant to be a lovable rogue. It was best for the show, best for the character and the best that I could do. The Suits didn’t think so. “One more cigar and he’s fired,” they told Glen Larson, the creator of the show. “We want Starbuck to appeal to the female audience for crying out loud.” You see, the Suits knew women were turned off by men who smoked cigars, especially young men. How they “knew” this was never revealed. And they didn’t stop there. “If Dirk doesn’t quit playing every scene with a girl like he wants to get her in bed, he’s fired.” This was, well, it was blatant heterosexuality, treating women like “sex objects.”
OK. You wanted to play Starbuck as a "lovable rogue", the writers didn't want that. Fine. I'll point out that treating women like sex objects maybe isn't the same as "blatant heterosexuality", whatever that means.
The Suits were not impressed. They would have their way, which is what Suits do best, and after one season of puffing and flirting and gambling, Starbuck, that loveable scoundrel, was indeed fired. Which is to say, “Battlestar Galactica” was cancelled.
Um, yeah, the show was cancelled. I guess he's better there was no Starbuck spinoff or something?
There was a time, I know I was there, when men were men, women were women and sometimes a cigar was just a good smoke. But 40 years of feminism have taken their toll. The war against masculinity has been won.
(bolding mine) Normally when I read a sentence about the war against masculinity is about when I stop reading.
In the bleak and miserable “re-imagined” world of “Battlestar Galactica,” things are never that simple. Maybe the Cylons are not evil and alien but in fact enlightened and evolved? Let us not judge them so harshly. Maybe it is they who deserve to live and Adama and his human ilk who deserve to die? And what a way to go! For the re-imagined terrorists (Cylons) are not mechanical robots void of soul, of sexuality, but rather humanoid six foot tall former lingerie models who f**k you to death. (Poor old Starbuck, you were imagined too early. Think of the fun you could have had ‘fighting’ with these thong-clad aliens!) In the spirit of such soft-core, sci-fi porn I think a more re-imaginative title would have been “F**cked by A Cylon.” (Apologies to “Touched by an Angel.”)
OK, that's actually a pretty funny title. But then:
One thing is certain. In the new un-imagined, re-imagined world of “Battlestar Galactica” everything is female driven. The male characters, from Adama on down, are confused, weak and wracked with indecision, while the female characters are decisive, bold, angry as hell, puffing cigars (gasp!) and not about to take it any more.
Maybe I've been watching the show wrong, and there are certainly moments when Admiral Adama is wracked with indecision, but by and large he's a pretty strong authority figure. And not all the female characters are angry. And I can't figure out whether that gasp is supposed to be sarcastic or not.
”Re-inspiration” struck. Starbuck would go the way of most men in today’s society. Starbuck would become “Stardoe.” What the Suits of yesteryear had been incapable of doing to Starbuck 25 years ago was accomplished quicker than you can say orchiectomy. Much quicker, as in, “Frak! Gonads Gone!”
Unless there's a major plot point I missed, Starbuck still has gonads. Also, methinks this is reading waaaaay too much into things.

Anyway, I guess we should go back to the days on TV where women were subservient and uninteresting and men were testosterone-driven sex machines and that would be more interesting. Or at least we could end the war on masculinity. I think the fact that my sarcastic comments are basically the same as the article means that it's a good time to stop.

1 comment

random amusements
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-01-28 11:08:00
Tags: links
Words: 42

- Champion of Guitars - a Zork-like Guitar Hero.

- Do You Talk Too Much? - the stoplight idea is interesting. iPhone app?

- Ten sci-fi devices that could soon be in your hands - I've read about the invisibility cloak but the other ones are pretty interesting!

1 comment

happy 2009!
Mood: awake
Posted on 2009-01-02 10:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 168

Games I played for the first time in the last few days: Agricola, Dominion, Stone Age, Fjords, Shadow Hunters. Life is good!

- Outline of "Predictably Irrational" - lots of examples about how we are not rational. Take that, economists!

- Alberto Gonzales Can't Find a Job, Whines includes this amazing quote:

for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror.
This makes me angry. There are many casualties of the war on terror (victims of 9/11, US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan) and you are not one of them!

- Remember all those weird commercials for shows on the Cartoon Network? (djedi does! :-) ) Here's links to a bunch of them, including the ones I remember: "Signal in the Sky" by The Apples In Stereo, "Courage the Cowardly Dog" by They Might Be Giants, and "Back to the Lab" by Prince Paul.


just so I feel caught up
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-29 10:52:00
Tags: travel gay politics links
Words: 326

Back from vacation! Christmas and related activities were good and fun and relaxing. Enjoyed spending time with family and got a lot of work done on whereslunch.org - only remaining things on my list of "must fix before launching" are dealing with IE and possibly adding tag editing (which will be a pain).

Driving back to Houston tomorrow to watch Rice play in the Texas Bowl, and driving back the next day - glad I have a plan for that now.

There has been some controversy about Obama inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. He's the pastor of Saddleback Community Church and while he has focused on poverty and the plight of AIDS victims, etc., he did endorse Prop 8 in California. It turns out he did so on a Friday 10 days before the election on his church's website (not anywhere more public) and neither he nor his wife donated money to the campaign. Obviously I don't agree with him, but I'm all for engaging people we disagree with, and Rick Warren is no James Dobson or Fred Phelps. Plus, it's just an inauguration - not like he'll be writing policy or anything like that!

Oh, what the heck...some more links:
- 90% of the copies of World of Goo are pirated - yeah, yeah, I know not all of those people would buy the game, but this is kinda depressing. It's cheap ($20), it's DRM-free, and it's a good game!
- The US Census Bureau just released the 2009 version of the Statistical Abstract of the United States = tasty tasty data. Maybe I will do a project in R...
- A Russian professor predicts the breakup of the US in 2010. The map at the bottom is pretty awesome. I definitely think states like Kentucky and Tennessee would be excited about joining the European Union. Sheesh!
- No big surprise: text messages costs carriers nothing - I didn't realize SMS was designed to fit inside a control message, neat!


big pile o' links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-19 14:18:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 211

- Brett Favre beats Lizard People - the Minnesota recount goes on, and things get weird.

- The Strange and Bizarre Story of Wallace Scarborough’s Fight Against Democracy - hopefully the South Carolina House of Representatives does the right thing here, as it looks like the guy just lost.

- Scientists debunk the myth that you lose most heat through your head - my mom was wrong!

- Music Industry to Abandon Mass Suits - umm, a few years too late?

- In 2006, a Embraer Legacy 700 hit a Boeing 737 over Brazil. Vanity Fair just printed an article about the crash and how it happened. There was a writer on board the Embraer - here's his story in the NY Times about a week after the crash.

- Austin is the fifth safest city of cities of reasonable size! (500,000+ people) Houston is the 10th most dangerous of those.

- Austin 3G speed test - AT&T wins overall, although it's terrible downtown.

- Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman' - ah, the Onion...

- Air Traffic in 24 hours - seen it before but always interesting to see the pattern of flights as the sun comes up and goes down.

- A three-time wrestler explains why "The Wrestler" is good - interested in seeing this movie although I'm not sure why.


links to cheer me up
Mood: grumpy
Posted on 2008-12-17 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 61

- The Muppets Sing - Beaker singing Ode to Joy is a must watch!

- A good guide to board games (from Wil Wheaton's blog)

- 10 Useful Techniques To Improve Your User Interface Designs - UI design is hard, sadly.

- Bernard Madoff just got busted for running a Ponzi scheme and taking something on the order of $50 billion, which is a lot of money.


links links links links links links links links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-12-11 14:31:00
Tags: travel gay politics links
Words: 87

I'm trying out Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 - the new fancy Javascript engine makes things (like whereslunch.org, which I really should work on more) much faster!

- A collection of tourist scams that I found interesting.

- James Franco and Sean Penn kiss on camera in "Milk" and get lots and lots of questions about it.

- Obama is crazy popular these days, way more popular than Bush or Clinton were when they came into office. 79% say they won't miss Bush and 48% say he's been worse than most presidents.


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!


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


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.


"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.


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.


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!)


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.


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.


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.


oh my goodness please count the votes already!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-10-31 13:42:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 420

This cheery bit by CNN asked people to say something nice about the candidate they're not supporting. Here's mine: John McCain served our country honorably. I can't imagine being locked up in a POW camp for five and a half years. I appreciate what he tried to do with campaign finance reform. I like that he believes in global warming. I think he really would try to reduce lobbyist influence. Sadly, before this campaign this list would have been a lot longer...

Here's my list of things I want to happen on Election Night, in order of importance:
- Obama is elected, preferably by a fairly wide margin to avoid shenanigans.
- Prop 8 in California (the one banning gay marriage) fails - the polls show it will be a tight race and I'd like to stay up until it's called. Prop 8 passing would be a huge huge setback for the gay rights movement.
- Democrats get to 58 senate seats (60 is required to stop a filibuster but 58 is probably close enough for most issues) - seems pretty likely.
- Larry Joe Doherty wins our congressional district (TX-10) - seems fairly unlikely now.
- Rick Noriega wins the TX senate race - seems pretty unlikely now.

I'll post my predictions on Monday. In the meantime there's this neat Google electoral map to play with.

Looks like abstinence-only education is losing support. (I wrote about abstinence-only education pissing me off a while back)

"Spreading the wealth" as an attack on Obama doesn't seem to be catching on. I would add that raising the tax rate on income above $250,000 from 35% to 39.6% is not "socialism". If you're against higher taxes on those making more than $250K a year, fine, but is it too much to ask to have a reasonable discussion about it? (yes is it, mostly) I also read an editorial (well, OK, the first few sentences of an editorial) in the paper this morning about how raising taxes lowers the incentive of entrepreneurs to make more money. I see how this is true in the abstract sense, but who says "well, I was going to make millions but it's not worth it if I might have to pay slightly more of that extra money in taxes! I'll just keep watching football or whatever."?

We drove by the early voting place at Randall's (183 and Braker) and the place was packed - the line to vote was well out the door. Burnt Orange Report has been tracking the early voting stats - here's their latest.

Happy Halloween!


hodgepodge of whatever
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-10-29 11:22:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 275

NBC is back on Time Warner! Yaaaaay! And just in time for 30 Rock, too! (first episode is Thursday, I believe) A sure sign the dispute is over: thetruthhurtskxan.com is no more.

More Thriller: another video of the Austin event and an a capella version all done by the same guy with 64 tracks. (too bad his voice isn't that great) I think I'm done with Thriller links for now.

Charles Barkley might run for governor of Alabama in 2014. From the interview:

Brown: So are you going to run for governor?

Barkley: I plan on it in 2014.

Brown: You are serious.

Barkley: I am, I can't screw up Alabama.

Brown: There is no place to go but up in your view?

Barkley: We are number 48 in everything and Arkansas and Mississippi aren't going anywhere.

An old report on the disaster in election coverage that was Florida in 2000.

Obama is sorry to see McCain stoop so low:
We've tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush's way. It hasn't worked. Deep down, Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

That's why he's spending these last few days calling me every name in the book. I'm sorry to see my opponent sink so low. Lately, he's called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class.

By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in Kindergarten.

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where's lunch rolls on
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-28 11:07:00
Tags: whereslunch projects links
Words: 108

Finished the adding of restaurants last night! Now I just need to add an editing interface and do some more testing...

A long lipdub of Thriller - impressive camerawork! I wish I could keep the camera that steady while I walked. (obviously I should have combined all my Thriller links into one post, but oh well)

A federally funded group is sponsoring a contest to find an engaged couple who hasn't had sex yet. No takers yet...

Election data: lots of people have already voted early. Deadline in TX is Friday, and I'd recommend doing it today or tomorrow because I bet Thursday and Friday will be quite busy...


life keeps rolling on
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2008-10-27 14:14:00
Tags: whereslunch projects links
Words: 192

Thanks for responding to my where's lunch poll! As I had hoped, it motivated me to code some more this weekend. I implemented the suggested restaurants (although it's pretty weak right now since there's not a lot of data) and am about halfway done with the adding new restaurants thing. Once I get that done and put it through another round of testing (haven't tested on IE for a while...*shudder*) I'll post it for real!

We voted this weekend, and while it was a little anticlimactic at the time, I'm still pretty excited by it. We went to the Randall's at 183 and Braker - happily it was during the UT game so there was no line. Voted against Prop 2, for Obama and Noriega and Larry Joe and most of (but not all) the other Democrats. Election Day is only 8 days away!

As a followup to Austin Mayor Will Wynn dancing to Thriller, this weekend Austinites shattered the Guinness World record for the largest synchronized Thriller dance. The previous record was 140 (only 140?) and we got 881(!). Here's a video of the whole thing although it's of disappointingly low quality.


politics, whereslunch, magazines: an entry in three parts
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-24 10:19:00
Tags: whereslunch projects poll politics links
Words: 410

Will Ferrell was on SNL last night as George W. Bush and it was pretty good (although maybe not "one of the best skits ever"). It still looks like Obama is way ahead. It warms my heart that someone who wants to investigate all members of Congress to see whether they're pro-American or not (hello, Joe McCarthy!) can suddenly find that most people won't stand for that crap. Obama makes a good fantasy football partner. Also, politics has always been sleazy - this is not a recent phenomenon.

Where's lunch:
This is my project for a google map of lunch places in Austin. It's kinda stalled out, because I haven't had a lot of free time and I can't decide what to do next. Right now you can view restaurants, rate them, leave comments, color the markers based on rating and some other things, and filter which markers are shown. (if you're interested in trying it out, drop me a line and I'll hook you up) Things I want to add at some point:
- letting people add restaurants themselves. This is kind of a pain to do, and raises some security issues and means I have to police the data to some extent.
- suggesting restaurants you might like based on other people's ratings. This isn't too hard to do but since there are few ratings in the system it won't be interesting for a while.
- add user profiles where you store where you work and you can limit lunch places by their estimated time for lunch (2 * travel time + time it takes to get food).
- putting ads on the site to make $$$
So, how interested would you theoretically be in these features?

Time vs. Newsweek:
When I was a kid, I had a penchant for stupid rivalries. We got the Houston Chronicle, a friend got the Houston Post so I immediately assumed the Chronicle was better, "rooted" for it, and was not exactly happy when the Post folded but I felt victorious. Same thing for Newsweek and Time - we got Newsweek and it was clearly better for no particular reason.

But now I'm wondering - maybe Time is the better magazine? I like some of the columnists Newsweek has (Fareed Zakaria, Anna Quindlen) but Time has Joe Klein, and I read a copy randomly this week and it was pretty interesting. I barely get through the magazines we have, so getting both is not a reasonable option. Which should I get?


what's a good subject for the same old collection of politics links?
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-10-15 12:08:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 127

This account of Republican-leaning voters is pretty amazing:

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."
She thinks he's a terrorist! And still voting for him over McCain!

Just in: White House attempted to influence congressional elections in 2006 by traveling to campaign events with taxpayer dollars. Somehow I'm not surprised.

A CNN account of a guy doing The Great Schlep. Obviously anecdotal but still kinda neat.

Counterinsurgency tactics: running a laundromat in Northern Ireland back in the day. Pretty clever/awesome!


the usual mindless collection o' links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-13 13:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 112

I heard on NPR this morning Weird Al Yankovic just released a song about the current economic crisis. The neat part is that since he did it digitally it's very relevant, instead of having to wait a year or two for a whole album.

The famous Obama "Hope" poster with many many parodies.

Austin mayor Will Wynn does the Thriller dance and he's actually pretty good!

While listening to This American Life's "Another Frightening Show About The Economy" (which helped me understand what's going on) I checked on my 401(k). Bad bad idea. Thank goodness I'm not retiring anytime soon...

A nice story about Obama that may or may not be true.


two quick politics articles
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-09 15:44:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 148

Work = good. Throat = about the same as yesterday = meh.

The Obama Surge: Will it Last? - good short article that highlights the fact that Americans might be ready for the real change in health care Obama is proposing.

Rage in the Town of Bethlehem - more ugliness at McCain rallies. Includes this bit:

Even the opening prayer was politically charged. "O God, we are in a battle that is raging for the soul of this nation," the preacher said. "You, O God, have raised up Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin for such a time as this." The preacher went on: "Help them, O God, to strengthen our economy, to keep our taxes and spending low . . . and grant them the privilege of being elected the next president and vice president."
I guess God is for lower taxes and spending. Who woulda thunk it? (actually, this makes me kinda mad)


random whatevers
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-10-03 14:16:00
Tags: links
Words: 766

Feeling a bit on the crappy side today - anyone else's allergies bothering them?

I've heard of Desktop Tower Defense but hadn't tried it until this week. Warning: quite addictive! (there's also now Whiteboard Tower Defense which I haven't tried)

For some Cold War nostalgia (which is a little weird since I wasn't alive/aware during the interesting parts), check out the Wikipedia entry on CONELRAD, precursor of the Emergency Broadcast System which preceded the Emergency Alert System (doesn't the logo for the Emergency Alert System look kind of frightening, like the country's falling apart?) CONELRAD's purpose was to control electromagnetic radiation by shutting down all radio stations except for a few frequencies (a station would stay on the air at one of two designated frequencies for a few minutes, then cycle off and another station would start broadcasting on that frequency) to confuse enemy planes that might try to use the signals to home in on cities. Apparently Japanese planes used a Honolulu radio station to home in on Pearl Harbor.

The British version was the Four minute warning (the estimated time between the detection of a nuclear attack and when it would hit). The announcement is pretty chilling:

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger.

If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.

Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.

Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don't waste it

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.

If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The "all clear" message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the "all clear" on the sirens.

Here are the main points again:
Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for 14 days or more.

We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours' time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

(here's an article about that nuclear script)


vp debate wrap
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-10-03 09:46:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 199

Actually getting a little tired of national politics(!) - here's my quick debate summary:
You can check out my twitters during the debate (that was kinda fun but I'm not sure I'll do it again). Palin did well enough - there were a few awkward silences but certainly nothing like the cringe-worthy Couric interviews. (and she got the wrong name for the commander of our forces in Afghanistan) Biden started out very stiff and unanimated, but by the end he was doing much better - got his shots in at McCain and showed he has a command of the issues.

Most insta-polls show people thought Biden won. Probably the important thing is that Palin didn't falter or hurt herself/McCain. My guess is she'll avoid giving interviews until the election.
Also, McCain pulled out of Michigan yesterday (yay!) and there's a new poll showing him up by one in Minnesota. (boo!)

In its stead: local politics! Lots of local businesses are for Proposition 2, which would Stop Domain Subsidies. The other side is somewhat amusingly named Keep Austin's Word. I'm leaning towards voting yes on Prop 2 but I'm gonna read about it some more first.

Austin's commuter rail starts March 30 - yay!


TX voter registration deadline is monday!
Mood: hungry
Posted on 2008-09-30 12:02:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 310

Barack Obama wanted me to remind y'all that the voter registration deadline for Texas is this Monday, October 6. You can register and find more information at voteforchange.com.

"But Greg," I hear you say, "why even bother? It's not like my vote matters here in the Lone Star State!" Good point, hypothetical friend, but here's why you should anyway:

Been reloading fivethirtyeight.com a lot recently - seeing that 83% chance for Obama to win makes my heart sing!

Why is America so religious? - very strong negative correlation between country wealth and importance of religion to that country. We are the great big outlier.

Michael Lewis rents a mansion and ponders why having a big house is so important to people. As someone who recently purchased a bigish house (bigger than the other ones we were looking at, anyway), I found it interesting.


Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-09-22 13:41:00
Tags: 23andme genetics politics links
Words: 146

Busy today - links!

- Rock Band 2 is out for XBox 360 (PS3 version coming soonish) - it looks good (here's the new track list, all downloaded songs are automatically transferred and you can transfer almost all of the Rock Band 1 songs for a one-time $5)

- Really leaning towards getting my genes genotyped by 23andMe.

- Banning gay marriage in California is now losing 55-38. Yaaaay!

- short Bruce Schneier column - if liquids are so dangerous to take on planes, why aren't people arrested for trying to take them on (like guns)? The answer: because they aren't dangerous...there shouldn't be a class of stuff that you can't take on a plane but you don't get in trouble for.

- fairtax.org has what seems to be a pretty reasonable tax proposal.

- wonderjess posted this dialogue between Obama and Jed Bartlett - written by Aaron Sorkin! Oh this makes me miss West Wing...


interesting things
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2008-09-17 15:06:00
Tags: video games football politics links
Words: 330

I have a list of tabs open in Firefox mentally filed under "to post about" but I'm only really interested in about half of them - this half!

- GM reveals Chevy Volt design
The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid car that scheduled to be released in 2010/2011. This is a car I could see buying (hopefully I won't need a new car by then!) - it goes 40 miles solely on charge alone, and after that there is a gasoline motor but it's just used to charge the electric battery, not for propelling the wheels (like the Prius does). Downsides - it's going to be expensive ($40Kish?) and only hold four people. Apparently the battery pack takes up room where the middle back seat would be. I've been keeping my eye on this - it would be nice for an America car company to take the lead in green technology for once, and plug-in hybrids are cool!

- Familiar Ground May Be Election's Deciding Factor
Right now, it looks like Obama's easiest path to victory is Kerry states + Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado, which is very doable. fivethirtyeight.com's numbers are favoring McCain now but I'm confident they'll swing back the other direction.

- Federal bank insurance fund dwindling
I don't claim to understand what the hell is going on, but our financial system seems to be going to hell and it's kinda scary. The subprime crisis has the classic hallmarks of a Black Swan in that apparently few thought it was possible, and the amount of money that's been lost is pretty staggering. If there's one thing I learned from "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it's that things are more uncertain in Extremistan than we think...

In NCAA 09 news, the U of H Cougars lost to Florida in the Fiesta Bowl 14-6 (sooo close to tying it up at the end...) but finished the season #10 in the nation, and had a good recruiting season. We're about to start season #2!

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the usual
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-09-15 10:40:00
Tags: music politics links
Words: 165

Clinton and Palin on SNL:

Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes - one of the things I'm most looking forward to the end of is cronyism - hiring friends for the job rather than the most qualified person. It looks like Palin wouldn't be the end of that at all.

Picked up a few new albums yesterday (I looooove me some amazonmp3.com!) - "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns N' Roses and "Speak for Yourself" by Imogen Heap. I didn't know that Guns N's Roses first album had both "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" on it! Interestingly:

According to Rose, the inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a man while they were sleeping in a school yard in Queens. When they were approached by the "little black man", he yelled at them, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die!" This incident inspired the main lyrical declaration for the song.


Mood: thoughtful
Music: Death Cab For Cutie - "I Will Possess Your Heart"
Posted on 2008-08-26 12:59:00
Tags: essay poll links
Words: 260

I read this article on panhandling and it brought some things to mind.

I've never been quite sure what to do about panhandlers - they're somewhat common in Austin (and Houston) and so it's not infrequent that I'll be stopped at a light and one or two will be on the median. Back when I first started driving, I leaned towards giving them a dollar and feeling good about myself. "After all", I'd tell myself, "even if they are just going to spend it on alcohol or whatever, it's not my place to judge them, and I have the right to spend my money on stuff that isn't great for me, so why shouldn't they?" I thought it was the Christian thing to do.

After a while of that, I got a little jaded, and thought about the fact that economically I was encouraging more panhandling by "rewarding" those who were. (cold-hearted economics strikes again!) My mom tended to have a bag of non-perishable food (cereal and the like) that she would give instead of money, which is actually a pretty good solution.

Now I'm generally torn on the issue. Since we moved further away from downtown I don't see panhandlers as much so it hasn't come up, but reading the article sure makes me less likely to give. I like Denver's solution of converted parking meters where you can drop money and the city will give it to homeless shelters, etc. - that way you can give at the time you're being asked while ensuring it goes to a good cause.


pretty contentless
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-08-22 13:34:00
Tags: referrer computer politics links
Words: 216

I got another link to my runs per inning calculator. Yay!

There's this new IM/email/social networking app called Digsby. It's pretty awesome - I can do Google Talk, AIM, and Facebook chat through it, as well as twitter, regular Facebook stuff and it checks my Gmail too! And it's written mostly in Python and there will be Mac/Linux clients soon. If you're gonna give it a try use this installer - apparently it fixes some memory problems. (hmm, it just crashed...but that's the first time that's happened)

Obama should announce his VP soon! Speaking of which, FiveThirtyEight.com shows he and McCain essentially tied. If Obama loses I'm am going to be quite distraught. On the other hand, politics is always entertaining: yesterday McCain couldn't say how many houses he owns and Obama hits back with an ad. Some scummy right-wing group trying to swiftboat Obama made an ad that even Fox wouldn't air!

A New York Times article about The Daily Show points out that it is actually a pretty substantive source for news, covering long-running scandals like prewar intelligence in a way most places don't. Also, this comment about how the staff finds footage to air from a former Daily Show employee is pretty interesting.

Here's a panoramic view from the high diving board of the Olympics.


the usual
Mood: busy
Music: Peter Gabriel - "Down to Earth" (from Wall-E soundtrack)
Posted on 2008-08-12 14:31:00
Tags: pictures programming links
Words: 90

Since we're leaving tomorrow, I put up the pictures I had built up. Here are a few more ASMC pictures (check out my awesome chart!), here are a few recent random ones, and the most recent puzzle we did.

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner is out!

Barack Roll - memes upon memes...

I downloaded the iPhone SDK and may play around with it some, although I don't have a great idea for an app.

My throat gets tired talking for hour-long chunks at a time!


history of marriage
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2008-08-11 14:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 25

Interesting Salon interview about the history of marriage. It's easy to forget that the idea that one marries for romantic love is actually pretty recent...

1 comment

random stuff friday!
Mood: determined
Posted on 2008-08-08 10:01:00
Tags: asmc politics links
Words: 164

Back to the summer musical grind tonight. It should be fun though - only one show and then the silent auction and a cash bar! Wooo!

random stuff:
- What I Learned Buying a Rug in Turkey - a narrative of good salesmanship. By the end I want a rug, too!
- The Tire-Gauge Dust-Up - contains this gem from Obama: "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."
- Women would rather carpool with Obama: because that matters for the leader of the free world. I'm glad Obama's winning that question (and the coveted "Who would you rather vacation with?"), but come on people!
- Nasty Democratic primary ends - I think "Jew-baiting" is a little strong for the ad that was aired, but it was nasty, and she lost.

Ever had that experience where, months or years after the fact, you discover there were crazy things going on you never expected behind the scenes that would have totally changed how you acted or felt? That always weirds me out.


three days to go! eep!
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-07-29 16:03:00
Tags: links
Words: 63

- How a warp drive (faster than light) might work - neat and maybe possible!
- Are Revolving Doors More Energy Efficient? - yes they are. Neat!
- Face Swapper Privacy - some software to put someone's facial features on someone else's face, resulting in a strange but human-looking hybrid of the two.
- Amazon has really really cheap generic pills.
- Executive Summary: charting the act of debugging - so true...


today is good
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-07-25 16:08:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft referrer links
Words: 71

Yay, somebody likes the frost mage dps page!

Hot on the heels of this shocking video suggesting Bush and Batman are the same person (thanks omega697) comes an op-ed saying the same thing. Oy.

"Last Lecture" professor dies - I hadn't watched the Last Lecture before but I'm glad I did today.

Totally reinstalling my laptop is painful, but it's going OK so far. Next up - downloading billions of patches to WoW.


Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-07-23 16:39:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 84

McCain says Obama would "rather lose the war in order to win a political campaign".

Now, look. I understand if McCain thinks Obama is going about the war the wrong way, or if withdrawing our troops on a timetable (which 60% of Americans want to do, including Obama and al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq) is bad, etc. But saying he's trying to lose a war to score political points is pretty offensive.

Also, cause and effect relationships undermine American troops. Take that, causality!


Mood: bouncy
Music: Death Cabie for Cutie - "Long Division"
Posted on 2008-07-16 15:22:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 105

Lots of links for no reason!

- Sean Tevis is running for Kansas State Representative, xkcd style. Help him out! (I'm #384 or so to give)
- Rock Band 2 tracklist - you can also use songs you've downloaded and "most" of the ones off the first Rock Band.
- President Bush: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter". Kind of a jerky way to end a meeting.
- Super rich tax cheats outed by Liechtensteiner bank clerk
- Division Emerges Among Foes of California Same-Sex Marriages - if Prop 8 passes I will be extremely sad and angry.
- John McCain is against gay adoption. Sort of.
- Your guide to the Wall-E controversy.


just the usual
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-07-14 13:33:00
Tags: music links
Words: 134

Feeling more normal today. Had fun with my family, with whom we saw Wall*E again and then Esther's Follies which was pretty awesome. Wall*E was good again - the good parts I appreciated more (even during the second half of the movie). It's a very good movie. Gonna grab the soundtrack (which almost by definition was good given the limited dialogue) tomorrow as well as Nas's new album, both of which I'm excited about. Yay Amazon mp3 store!

Links I was going to post on Friday:
- A little more about Phil Gramm's "mental recession" and "nation of whiners" remarks. What a stupid stupid thing to say.
- Video of a lightning strike...hitting the video taker. She's fine, but it's a little loud.
- The growth of Walmart across America - neato timeline map thing. I love data visualization!


not the ideal situation for starting 3 solid weeks of rehearsals
Mood: tired
Music: Nas - "Black President"
Posted on 2008-07-09 13:33:00
Tags: asmc worldofwarcraft programming politics links sleep
Words: 260

I've been unable to get to sleep the last two nights. Last night was particularly bad so eventually I got up and programmed some and played a little WoW. (won a close AB battleground on my 46 pally) Even then after returning to bed it took me a while to sleep. I had no sodas yesterday, which is the most common cause of insomnia for me. Hopefully it just kinda disappears. The alternative is that I get so tired that falling asleep is no problem, but I'd kinda like to avoid that :-)

White House, 2005: Setting the Record Straight: Democrats On An Artificial Timetable In Iraq

The President Explains Why Timetables For Withdrawal Are Bad Strategy. PRES. BUSH: "Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies - that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder - and invite new attacks on America." (President Bush, Remarks On The War On Terror, Annapolis, MD, 11/30/05)

Iraq, yesterday: Iraq Wants Withdrawal Timetable In U.S. Pact
Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.

Unrelatedly: you can't protect your HTML source and it's a waste of time to try.


nothing much
Posted on 2008-07-03 20:28:00
Tags: movies politics links
Words: 68

Wow, I can't remember the last time I posted on a weekend. (ooh, maybe my LJBackup stats page should have a day of the week analysis!)

Obama's been taking a bit of flak for saying he'll vote on the FISA bill - here's his well-written response. (some analysis)

I'm really excited about The Dark Knight, mostly because I loved Batman Begins. We saw Wanted today - it was pretty good.


Big Bad John
Mood: amused
Music: "Biig Jooohn"
Posted on 2008-06-19 13:46:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 64

I'm no fan of John Cornyn (although I do like his government transparency efforts - even cosponsored a bill with Obama!), but this ad of his is being unfairly maligned. Isn't this like the best ad for a Texan ever? Now I'm going to be humming "Biig Jooohn.....Biig Joooooo-oohn" all day!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Abridged Script (via kottke)


best day ever
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-06-17 09:16:00
Tags: movies rant links
Words: 288

You can download Firefox 3 starting at noon our time. (you might be able to Help->Check for Updates... as well - not sure when that will be turned on)

Gays can marry in California today! Here's an interactive map of the legal status of gay marriage/civil unions in all 50 states.

Last night at Kung Fu Panda (which is still good, by the way, I'd probably even see it again) we saw a trailer for Fly Me to the Moon which is about three stupid flies that tag along on the first moon landing. This makes me angry. The graphics quality looks meh, it's filled with bad and stupid and pointless puns and the smart fly is named "Iq". Judging by the trailer, you're supposed to think that the idea of the fly on the moon is just so awesome, we'll have a bunch of characters say "Nat's going to the moon!", "Your boy is going to the moon!", "We're going to the moon!", etc.

Also, (and here's where I go off a bit) apparently there's some problem with the capsule and the flies have to save the day. This (aside from being stupid) I find offensive - it took years and years of hard work and dedication and lost lives to get us to the moon, not some stupid-ass flies fixing some problem or whatever. Next up: some scorpions are going to Normandy! And the Allies can't win the battle without them! So they go around and sting some Nazis or something! After that: well, you get the idea.

Maybe the 3D will make it way more awesome but somehow I doubt it.

In the vein of bad movies, a review of The Happening that contains all the spoilers.


The good news
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-05-29 13:07:00
Tags: work links
Words: 131

I'm feeling pumped! Got a debugger working that should help me out and one of my problems looks like the same as another problem someone else is looking at. Also, I think I finally got the right number for 3 card straight flushes of a specific suit!

Other things that make me happy:

- Making good progress in GTA IV. (incidentally, so far it's affected my brain less than Katamari Damacy...after playing that game for a while I kept looking for things to roll up!)
- Six Degrees of Wikipedia - very interesting. Billie Jean King is better connected than the United States!
- New York state will recognize gay marriages performed in other states!
- This clip from 30 Rock about the uncanny valley.
- This Starbucks commercial. Glen! Glen!Glen!Glen! (think "Eye of the Tiger", here)


this has been a long week
Mood: rejuvenated
Posted on 2008-04-18 10:59:00
Tags: work worldofwarcraft links
Words: 237

mostly because I've been horribly unproductive at work. Luckily, the Productivity Fairy has waved his magic wand and yesterday and today have been much better.

Rolled out the new version of the Frost mage DPS calculator (hopefully soon to be arcane and fire as well) - here's the old version for comparsion. I think it looks a lot nicer now.

This story about a non-doctor having a breakthrough in curing cancer makes him sound like a crank, until you get to the part where his method is being tested in hospitals now, including M. D. Anderson. The late Dr. Smalley (that felt weird to type) helped out by providing some nanoparticles.

I'm hesitant to link this story about elevators because it discusses a guy who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Make sure you're in a strong mental state before watching the sped up security camera footage of the ordeal. The piano music makes it even more tragic.

Last night's Zul'Aman run went well - we downed the Bear and Eagle bosses with 9 minutes (plenty of time!) before the sacrifice and killed Hex Lord Malacrass for the first time. Did a decent job on Zul'Jin - almost got through phase 3 before we called it a night. Unfortunately wowjutsu hasn't picked up our new loot yet because it's slow and unreliable. (I'll admit to being bitter I didn't think of the wowjutsu idea first...genius, I tell you!)

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weekend shenanigans
Mood: peaceful
Posted on 2008-04-14 09:18:00
Tags: projects worldofwarcraft links
Words: 185

This weekend we ripped through Zul'Aman - first time for downing the bear boss in 20 minutes, downing the dragonhawk boss, downing the gauntlet and eagle boss (one-shot!), and downing the lynx boss. (I got a nice new chestpiece - now my frostbolts cast in 2.45 seconds!)

I've also been working on a new design for my frost mage DPS calculator - here's the new version versus the old version.

We also went to a few birthday parties and bought a new bed from Austin Discount Mattress, and took a very few pictures of said events. I'm going to take my camera places from now on instead of relying on my cameraphone - while it works in a pinch, the pictures are blurry and the color is always a bit off. I also learned that alcohol + hot tub is bad news for me, even after just one glass of wine. I got extremely woozy and lightheaded after a little while, and it all happened very fast. Anyway.

We need a Wikipedia for data - as an avid consumer of data, I heartily agree!

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People


RIP webmajig
Mood: peaceful
Posted on 2008-04-07 11:00:00
Tags: projects links
Words: 168

So I've been working on this startup in my spare time with some people, and it died Saturday night for reasons I'm not going to go into. The consequences are I'll have a little more free time and I'm looking for a new project! More work on the WoW Frost Mage DPS calculator is a possibility, but it doesn't honestly sound that interesting. I'm working on rewriting my gift list site in Django, but that's not really catching my fancy either.

We watched a lot of Battlestar Galactica this weekend, including the Season 4 premiere. Here's an primer to catch you up, or alternatively a video version called "What the frak?". Here's an old feature on what the heck Donnie Darko was about, which I found interesting.

And if you like people talking fast (long live ze frank!), check out Zero Punctuation, which is a 4-5 minute weekly review of video games. The gay jokes get a little annoying, but honestly it's worth it because it's pretty hilarious.


random stuff, because that's how I'm feeling
Mood: random
Posted on 2008-04-02 15:07:00
Tags: smashbros referrer links
Words: 101

I have the #1 result on Google for numCoins. My lifelong ambition!

Video interviews with people who are really really good at Smash Bros. Their favorite characters - Metaknight, Dedede, Marth, Game & Watch, and sometimes Olimar(!) and Diddy Kong (he talks about how the bananas are so awesome). Least favorite: Ganondorf, Sheik.

A friend of mine has a DonorsChoose proposal.

If you're in the market for an HD TiVo, they now have an offer that lets you get it with lifetime service (and a TiVo plush doll!). Still rather expensive, though.

I think I'm finally getting my Rock Band guitar back. Woo!


captioning sucks
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-04-01 17:12:00
Tags: links
Words: 27

I stumbled across Captioning Sucks, a new site from the Open & Closed Project. It reminded me of Stanton's comment on closed captioning ads.

Food Court Musical - awesome!


SxSW music
Mood: accomplished
Music: Bodies of Water - "I Guess I'll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess"
Posted on 2008-03-25 10:19:00
Tags: health music links
Words: 262

Bands coming to South by Southwest (never been - gotta make it one of these years!) can release a free MP3. Paul Ford listened to all 763(!) of them and gave them six-word reviews. (short interview in the Houston Press, in which the interviewer mentioned he once listened to 24 hours straight of Houston radio, changing the station every 3 minutes) It even manages to be pretty amusing along the way.

If you're looking for a distraction, you could do a lot worse than listen to the 4 and 5 circles tunes. I was going to listen to all of them and pick my favorites, but I'm really busy now apparently, so here are the ones I got to listen to and liked.

* Creature - Brigitte Bardot - Didn't like them quite as much as Paul. Reminds me of Freezepop.
* Alabama3 - Woke Up This Morning - it's the Sopranos theme! I loooove that guy's voice - nice deep baritone.
* Wisely - Through Any Window - catchy guitar and vocals.
* Album - Stab You - "Mexican alt-rock" is a pretty good description.
* Black Tie Dynasty - Tender - as promised, kinda 80s-ish.
* The BoDeans - Everyday - nice guitar backing, sounds...good. (this is why I don't review albums)
* Bodies of Water - I Guess I'll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess - interesting mix of choral folk singing and jamming and stuff. Nice harmonies. Very very good!
* Chiwoniso - Kurima - catchy African drumming and xylophone and guitar and stuff.
* Dr. Dog - The Girl - interesting Beatles-esque sound.

Also, randomly: this neat patientslikeme.com where you can share your experience with drugs/treatments. Article in NY Times about it.

(all via waxy.org)


positive surprises
Mood: happy (somewhat forced)
Posted on 2008-03-19 13:52:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 262

The cable guy said that in houses, you can't do internet and cable off of the same jack like you can in apartments. Indeed, when I tried the internet got slow and flaky.

We have a cable jack on the other side of the room, though, so I was looking at some sort of wireless box like this, but I wasn't sure if it would work with the cablecards or not.

After they didn't have any such products at Fry's, I went to Radio Shack and asked a guy if they had anything. Luckily another guy was working there who was pretty knowledgeable (surprise!) and didn't think it would work but suggested some other things that ended up not working, then said the easiest thing to do would have them just put in another cable jack. This seemed problematic since there's a room above our living room.

But, I saw they had a cable signal booster, so I figured it was worth a shot. Put it in front of the splitter and then the internet went back to working as normal (surprise!). Last night I hooked up the TiVo and the cable cards worked without any fuss. (surprise x 3!)

Cool things:
- If you liked Portal and World of Goo, you will almost certainly like Crayon Physics Deluxe which looks pretty awesome.

- Video and text of Obama's speech on race and his pastor yesterday. It was impressive. (The Onion's take on Obama's campaign)

- The Google Chart API now lets you make maps which is awesome.

- Solving Algebraic Equations Using Regular Expressions - yes!


fridays - meh
Mood: okay
Music: U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name"
Posted on 2008-03-07 13:26:00
Tags: projects politics links
Words: 181

For some reason Fridays haven't been very exciting to me lately. I am excited about the weekend though (smash bros!). I'll feel better when house crap is taken care of (Time Warner is supposedly coming out this afternoon so hopefully we'll have internet there at least...).

Nixon's plan to end Vietnam was to make the Russians think he was crazy enough to bomb them. That is rather frightening.

Map of Starbucks and Walmarts per capita. Vermont has the lowest combined total by far.

Why is it taking so long to total TX caucus results? (short answer: they're being sent in by mail!) Right now Obama's ahead 56-44 with 41% reporting, so it looks like Obama will end up with more total delegates from TX.

Has anyone used Processing? Not that I need another project, but you can do some neat stuff with it (examples) and there are a number of books about it. Maybe I'll check one out next time I'm at a bookstore.

This is an excellent example of being so close to a good approach but just missing it!

1 comment

I won't mess up your game, dear reader
Mood: not bad, really
Posted on 2008-02-26 14:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 38

Early voting in Texas is way, way, waaaay up, especially on the Democratic side.

Barack Obama apologizes for "messing up your game".

Interview with Summer Glau aka River Tam aka that Terminator robot in the Sarah Connor Chronicles.


I'm living in my own private Idaho
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2008-02-21 15:20:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 51

Debate is tonight. Check out this sweet donut-shaped poll!

I get to play Ultimate tonight - hopefully the rain will hold off.

In West Wing, Matt Santos was based on Barack Obama! And not like "is similar to" but like "the writer called up an Obama aide to learn more about him".


happy v-day!
Mood: creative
Posted on 2008-02-14 10:13:00
Tags: haskell programming politics links
Words: 272

Appropriately, the ban on selling sex toys in Texas was overturned (although it doesn't take effect until March). I swear, the laws we pass in this state. I wonder if there's a count somewhere of which state has had the most laws overturned by a federal court?

I think my stomachache yesterday was caused by the large mocha (four shots of espresso!) I had in the morning to try to curb my headache. Then I wasn't hungry for lunch, then I was very hungry for dinner. Anyway, that's all sorted out, and my head is doing significantly better. I slept much better than I thought I would. Hooray!

From this article about Clinton campaigning in Texas:

Delia Guajardo, 63, a retired administrative secretary, was among several in the crowd who said they don't foresee Obama swaying them: "Just the Obama name scares me. It's not a common name."
Seriously? Seriously?? Maybe that's why Kucinich never wins the primary?

Apparently the right way to read binary files in Haskell is to use this BitSyntax library. bitSyn is totally awesome but I wish I knew how it worked - the source is available but it uses some crazy template stuff. (here's an example of parsing a JPEG file with it) I think what I need to do is work on two projects - one in Haskell or O'CaML or whatever crazy language strikes my fancy and another in Python or C++ or something I know better to keep from losing my mind. Maybe I'll give Django another shot!

The writer's strike ended! Clinton and Obama will debate at UT next Thursday! (although good luck finding tickets...)


MacBook Pro: October 17, 2007 - ?
Mood: anxious
Music: Radiohead - "Sulk"
Posted on 2008-01-31 07:59:00
Tags: work house worldofwarcraft mac computer politics links
Words: 366

While kicking butt in Arathi Basin last night, I knocked a big ol' glass of tea right onto my $3000 laptop. A good chunk of it went in the keyboard (which made the laptop turn off which is probably a good thing given the alternatives), so djedi hurriedly mopped as much as we could off, disconnected it and moved it to higher ground. (it's currently sitting upside-down on our dining room table in the hopes that it will drain or something) I didn't have the heart to try to turn it on this morning - guess I'll see about that tonight. I did buy the AppleCare for it, although I don't know if that covers spills or not.

The weird thing was that I wasn't super panicked or angry or whatever. I was upset at myself, but I know that I'm prone to clumsiness when I'm tired. (like when I burned my thumb on the oven last week!) And if the laptop is unrecoverable, well, that would suck, but I could get by for iPod syncing and WoW playing and whatnot. It would be nice if it worked though.

Ironically, I was just yesterday reading about jwz's backup strategy and thinking it sounded like a good idea. Not that I had anything particularly interesting on the laptop data-wise (I always back up my iTunes database), but still...

Other than that, work has been going really really well this week. My mom visits next Wednesday, Friday we close on our house (!), and that weekend djedi's parents are coming to hopefully buy carpet for us and stuff, which will be quite helpful.

I'm going to miss campaigning in Florida, specifically hearing about Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani saying that English should be the national language, and then advertising in Spanish. That's some good hypocrisy, there. Via dailykos, an article in Rolling Stone about how Republican's immigrant-bashing is not going to help them, especially in the Southwest.

Finally, on the way home I heard this kinda-brutal story on NPR about how Giuliani should have taken his advice from his leadership book, complete with excerpts from the audiobook itself. (it's the story on top, not the longer story on the bottom)

1 comment

a collection of links that suddenly accumulated in my firefox tabs
Mood: hopeful
Music: Radiohead - "15 Step"
Posted on 2008-01-29 13:04:00
Tags: activism programming politics links
Words: 245

5 attributes of highly effective programmers - the title is cheesy, but it's a very good article, and it quotes The Screwtape Letters which was a nice surprise. Also on that site is The Effective Software Developer's Book List which is an impressive collection.

For Gay Democrats, a Primary Where Rights Are Not an Issue, This Time - the headline says most of it, except for this gem:

In an address last week honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a black church in Atlanta, Senator Obama made waves by lecturing the audience about homophobia. “We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them,” he said during the speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King served as co-pastor with his father.

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay lobbying group, said he thought Mr. Obama’s speech was the first time a presidential candidate had brought up gay issues in front of a nongay audience without being prompted to do so. “This is dramatically refreshing,” he said. “It’s a great day when we can look at a field of candidates and determine that we are comfortable with all of them on gay rights and move on to other issues.”
Awesome! (via dailykos)

I saw this press release from the National Organization of Women (NY chapter) about how Ted Kennedy betrayed women by supporting Obama instead of Clinton. It made me angry, until this rebuttal made me feel better.


more links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-01-10 15:54:00
Tags: links
Words: 105

I'm not really happy about posting 2 links every day - maybe I should combine them more? Or link less? I dunno.

Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die - absolutely chilling retelling of one of those "To Catch a Predator" segments gone wrong. NBC's response to the article. (via kottke)

After a bunch of bank account details were lost in the UK, a TV star said it was no big deal and published his own bank account number to prove it...and somebody gave some money from it to charity. Oops!

Video from CES: Bill Gates is looking for a job!

Rock Band drumming tips from Harmonix


links when I should be preparing for a meeting
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-01-09 12:01:00
Tags: links
Words: 36

Star Wars Guide to the Candidates - Tom TanGreedo cracks me up! (via kottke)

Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House? - funny Microsoft "children's book". More things should be explained in terms of children's books!


posthumous blog entry
Mood: moody
Posted on 2008-01-07 15:10:00
Tags: house links
Words: 49

This is the final entry of a blogger who died in Iraq. Sobering stuff.

Some gay-targeted ads which are pretty clever/amusing.

We might make an offer on the house this week or next week. This is exciting!

Pride and Palpitations - an account of seeing Obama win the Iowa primary.


happy caucus day!
Mood: curious
Posted on 2008-01-03 09:11:00
Tags: election politics links
Words: 154

And remember, caucuses aren't elections nor particularly democratic (with a lowercase "d"), so when whoever wins try not to get too excited even though presumably the media will crown him/her tomorrow morning because it's not like the media has a blatant interest in making the caucuses overly-relevant with their millions of dollars in media ads.

Also, I will say to supporters of Hillary what my mom said to me about Howard Dean in 2004 (paraphrased and mostly remembered): "Son, feel free to support whoever you want, but if Dean wins the nomination and then loses to Bush you're in big trouble".

I heard this interesting story on NPR on the way to work: a study seems to suggest the placebo effect can make you lose weight and lower blood pressure, although there are some other possible explanations. Interesting stuff, the placebo effect.

100 things we didn't know last year from the BBC (via kottke)


last links of 2007!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2007-12-31 15:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 26

Minesweeper: The Movie - this is awesome. Just awesome.

The HDMI cable scam - I was just grousing about this at Fry's a few weeks ago! Digital > analog...

1 comment

one christmas down, one to go!
Mood: optimistic
Posted on 2007-12-28 10:57:00
Tags: pictures links
Words: 66

Here are pictures from the first Christmas. (not the first Christmas ever, mind you...)

From Daring Fireball, why 6 megapixels is the sweet spot for compact digital cameras and anything more than that just creates noise.

Why Starbucks actually helps mom and pop coffeehouses - that's kinda cool!

Why having a new programming language created every week for the last 50 years isn't necessarily a good thing.

1 comment

Gore coverage in 2000
Mood: angry
Posted on 2007-12-11 10:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 29

Excellent article about media coverage of Gore in 2000. (via kottke) It may make you angry. Remember this when the inevitable trivial stories start coming out about the nominees.

1 comment

random WTF
Mood: amused
Posted on 2007-12-05 17:50:00
Tags: programming links
Words: 51

I don't usually post stuff like this, but this is possibly the best programming WTF ever. Add() reallocates memory each time (although I guess maybe the C# Array class does the doubling thing for you?), and Remove()...ow, my eyes! O(n^2) FTW.

The explanation at the end, of course, seals the deal.


iTunes rating analysis! Portal, TexRenFest.
Mood: uncomfortable
Posted on 2007-11-19 09:58:00
Tags: pictures music itunesanalysis projects links
Words: 322

I'm "officially" releasing the iTunes Rating Analysis after making a few last minute tweaks. Unfortunately you have to be at your home computer (or whatever computer your iPod is synced to) to use it, but you can at least see see my analysis, complete with fancy charts! Not being able to use it at work means it'll probably be significantly less popular than the WoW Frost Mage DPS calculator (currently the most popular page on my site by a factor of 2 or 3 or so), but that is OK.

We bought and played through Portal this weekend, which is a first person puzzle game and pretty darn fun (and pretty short). The end credits song is extremely cute and catchy, and it's sung by the passive-aggressive computer who's talking to you for the whole game. The song was written by Jonathan Coulton (here's his blog post about writing the song) who happens to have lots of music available for download! So I'll probably check that out this week. Edit: live version of Jonathan Coulton performing "Still Alive" - there's cake!

wildrice13, abstractseaweed, quijax, djedi and I went to the Renaissance Festival on Saturday. David and I were going to see the Bolton's renewal of vows (here are the few pictures that I took - we participated in the ceremony so I didn't want to interrupt too much :-) ) which went well except for their not letting us do it at the festival proper (the words used were "unauthorized wedding" which I found amusing), so we went out to the parking lot and had a nice ceremony. The trip back wasn't so great - we got stuck in the parking lot as everyone else was leaving and then there was an accident 10-15 cars in front of us just as we were about to get to 290, so we didn't moved for half an hour or so. Ugh.

I slept on my neck funny. It hurts.


charts and tables and stuff
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-11-15 13:03:00
Tags: itunesanalysis links
Words: 228

Your results:
You are Derrial Book (Shepherd)

Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
River (Stowaway)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
Even though you are holy
you have a mysterious past.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

I've added a few things to the latest iTunes Rating Analysis, the most of exciting of which is the Summize-style charts! Now for each artist and album you can see at a glance the distribution of ratings. (and mouseover for the exact number) I also added the average rating of playlists, which in my case is pretty boring since most of my playlists are based on ratings. I still have some tweaks to do before it's done, but the charts make me really happy. :-)

Some links:

- The Nerd Handbook - not all of this is me, but some of it definitely is. ("The joy your nerd finds in his project is one of problem solving and discovery. As each part of the project is completed, your nerd receives an adrenaline rush that we’re going to call The High.")

- How to Win at Monopoly - tables and numbers! Partially based on more Monopoly tables and numbers. (via kottke)

- Funny headlines.


the router "saga" continues
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-11-08 10:02:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft links
Words: 142

(it's much less of a saga than the stupid washer)

Anyway, the wireless cutting out problem keeps happening with our Linksys 802.11n router, so I'm returning it today for the apparently more reliable DLink one. Here's a nice review of 802.11n routers that fartingmonkey found - it also mentions weird cutting out issues, which makes me feel a little better.

destroyerj mentioned this neat 2D portal-ish flash game which is neat.

This plot of Japan's Phillips curve (unemployment vs. inflation) looks like Japan itself! Similarly, from the comments, a chart of annual tobacco consumption that looks like Virginia! So awesome. (via kottke)

Mage buffs coming! Hypothermia's back down to 30 seconds in 2.3, and apparently Ice Block will be trainable(!), some sort of buff for mana gems and maybe some more mana-related issues. (which are a real problem for me in longer fights)


remotes, registration, etc.
Mood: thankful
Posted on 2007-10-11 14:54:00
Tags: links
Words: 547

Today, as djedi mentioned, was all things DPS-ish. Last night before bed I made a list of stuff we needed - thank goodness we didn't need proof of address unlike our fun experience in MD. Got going late as usual - first up was the Travis County Tax Office (hi Nelda Wells Spears!) to transfer the title and register our cars. Got there, signed in and were seen within a minute(!), and the people were friendly and helpful and knew what they were doing. I even registered to vote (although I'm not sure it'll be ready before the TX constitutional amendments election in November) at the same time!

Since that went so quickly, we stopped by Wendy's and had lunch - I had a delicious yogurt with granola as a side item. If that's an option to replace fries it'll make it easy to avoid fries in the future. Then on to the driver's license office on Lamar. There was a little line for check-in, but the guy at the desk was pretty amazing. He was kinda brusque but very fast and knew exactly what you needed for stuff. When we got to the front we showed him all our stuff and he gave us the form to fill out, then gave us a number when we returned them. Waited ten minutes for our number to be called and everything went fine.

Total time: 90 minutes including travel time and stopping for lunch. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me! Also, my car has Texas license plates again which is nice :-) (the Texas license plate is a lot more decorative and nice-looking than the Maryland one in my opinion)

We just bought djedi's sister's old TV off of her, and it's pretty nice - HD and all that jazz. We hooked the TiVo to the HDMI port so we can finally see our HD recordings in HD, which is pretty sweet. The problem is that you can switch between all the TV inputs with an A/V button (they don't have the original remote anymore but they have a generic-ish one that works) except the HDMI input. For that, you have to bring up the menu, scroll to the bottom, hit right, scroll to the bottom, and hit right again. And it doesn't stay in this mode when you turn it off and back on.

This is problematic, to say the least. That would bring us up to three remotes needed to watch TV! (TV remote, TiVo remote, and receiver remote to turn on the sound) Not to mention lots of annoying button pressing.

So after doing a little research I ordered a Logitech Harmony 670 universal remote. This thing is pretty darn cool. You set it up by running some software on the computer, telling it what equipment you have and what "activities" (watch TV, watch a DVD, play Wii, etc.) you want to set up and what the correct settings are and such. For the input problem I just had it add the extra five presses necessary whenever it goes into the "watch TV" activity. It is awesome. It's even a replacement for the TiVo remote, technically, although the buttons aren't quite as well laid out.

The "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks - thank you thank you thank you


clearing out tabs
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-10-02 15:50:00
Tags: music links
Words: 106

Radiohead is releasing their new album on October 10. You can order a fancy disc set or download it from them and pay whatever you want for it(!), which is pretty exciting.

And on the topic of downloading music, Amazon opened their MP3 store, from which you can buy and download 2 million MP3 files, unencumbered by DRM. This is great stuff (information about the downloader, which doesn't work on Linux) and I'm planning on buying Radiohead's Amnesiac from them when I get around to it.

It's not happening here, but it's happening now - striking ad campaign by Amnesty International, in the style of transparent screens.

1 comment

and so we go
Mood: impatient
Posted on 2007-09-20 10:54:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft links
Words: 323

So the packers came yesterday, and looked at our stuff, and said they could pack and move it all in a day. So we're without furniture, etc. one day ahead of schedule, but it freed us up to sleep later today! We'll be hitting the road tomorrow morning and we'll lose internet this afternoon after we return our cable modem, so call us if you need to get in touch. I'll twitter and LJ from the road as much as possible.

Do you hate the "Can you hear me now? Good!" Verizon guy? He's known internally as "Test Man", and here's Verizon's style guide to deploying him. There's so much good stuff in there, like

His sole purpose is to test our network. In so doing, he takes a step, or a few steps, and then says the line "Can you hear me now? Good!" He should say "Good!" in a variety of different ways to maintain interest. Occasionally he may put more emphasis on "Good!" That emphasis strengthens the thought that he has gotten a good connection.

Last night WoW was wildly successful - we downed everything we had ever downed in Kara (Attumen, Moroes, Maiden, Big bad wolf, Curator, Shade of Aran, Chess event) in four hours and only wiped once (on Shade). High hopes for Netherspite and maybe Prince next time!

Since we're furnitureless, we sat on the floor while playing. Propping pillows against the wall and leaning on it helped, but I was still crazy sore by the end. I was worried that sleeping on the sleeping bag would make things even worse but I seem to have done all right.

Tonight we're going to do our last meal in Columbia (breakfast doesn't count!) at the place we did our first meal in Columbia - the mall food court. We might catch a movie too if there's anything showing, to alleviate boredom. I want to leave already!

See you in Austin!


MD gay marriage (not!), leaving
Mood: bored
Posted on 2007-09-19 08:30:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 210

The Maryland Supreme Court upheld a ban on gay marriage in a 4-3 decision. Although the majority wrote "Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex", which is nice I guess. Maryland's gay marriage ban was passed in 1973 - that sounds pretty early. Anyway, boo.

I found this wonderful new feature in the Washington Post (how I shall miss thee!) this morning - Fact Checker, for checking claims that presidential candidates make. I wondered why nothing like this existed before. Sam Brownback's "In countries that have redefined marriage, where they've said, 'OK, it's not just a man and a woman, it can be two men, two women,' the marriage rates in those countries have plummeted to where you have counties now in northern Europe where 80 percent of the first-born children are born out of wedlock... And currently in this country -- currently -- we're at 36 percent of our children born out of wedlock." gets 3 out of 4 Pinocchios!

The packers are coming today (hopefully soon). It really feels like we're leaving our apartment now - all the walls being bare did it for me.


baseball, WoW, MacBook Pro?
Mood: irritable
Posted on 2007-09-18 11:22:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft cluesolver links
Words: 370

I got a link from a Houston Chronicle blog ("The Unofficial Scorer") - I'm "this little toy"! Of course this is terrible timing since my website will be going down in a few days for a weekish.

djedi sorta convinced me to get me a MacBook Pro which I've been talking about/considering for a while now. Maybe once MacOS 10.5 comes out. It would be nice to play WoW on an officially supported platform - I'm getting paranoid that a patch will come out and break me somehow and make me cry. Also, Macs are neat.

Wow recap:Things went decently last night. For reasons I don't want to go into we lost our healing Paladin (permanently, it sounds like) so we had to pick up a PuG hunter who did pretty well. After a few tries we downed Shade of Aran, hooray! It wasn't too difficult - we used the strategy of letting him run out of mana and do the massive pyroblast before the water elementals show up at 40% health (which were nicely banished and feared by our two warlocks).

Next we tried Terestian Illhoof. He is tough. The first time I AoEd the imps way too early and ran out of mana in like 30 seconds, and we couldn't DPS the Demon Chains down quickly enough so people died left and right. I managed my mana better after that, but we still couldn't DPS the Demon Chains enough and we didn't make significant progress. Not sure how we're going to handle that but eventually we just moved on. Did the Chess Event, no problem - fun and easy!

Our last boss try for the night was Netherspite - we had tried him before briefly, but we had a better idea of portal management, etc. After a few tries we really started to get the hang of it - got him down to 17% on our last try before people had to go. I started using consumables a lot, so I need to pick me up some more of those...

I'm still working half-heartedly on the clue solver, but I need to sit down, concentrate, and design a UI for the webpage. I've been too busy and way too unfocused to do so.


Happy Fifth of July!
Mood: calm
Music: Radiohead - "Where I End and You Begin"
Posted on 2007-07-05 13:03:00
Tags: microresolution haskell worldofwarcraft links
Words: 334

Yesterday was nice - we got djedi his flying epic mount, finished Super Paper Mario, went out to eat at Copeland's, and didn't let the stormy weather get us down!

Super Paper Mario - pretty good game, and the story was kind of interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the ridiculous amount of conversation, etc. that you have to go through. Still enjoyed it though.

As previously mentioned, we saw Transformers at Bengies. I've only been to a drive-in once before, so it was fun! The place is pretty nice and retro, although the owner seems to be one of those people that sees it fit to enumerate every single thing you shouldn't do. See the House Rules and FAQ for examples. There was a condom machine in the bathroom that had (not exaggerating here) four paragraphs about how the management doesn't endorse their usage, and how it's just there for protection and abstinence is the only sure protection, etc. Yikes. The movie was pretty good for a summer blockbuster. (read: lots of giant robots fighting) I've never seen the series on TV so maybe you'd get more out of it if you did?

Microresolution complete! I spent some time on the hat puzzle genetic algorithm thing in Haskell. It's frustrating to work on because I really have to get in the functional state of mind, but I wrote a few tough methods (randomly selecting which genes to reproduce based on the fitness function) so I feel good about that. The genetic part of this is going to end up being a sort of framework for writing genetic algorithms in Haskell, which is a neat side benefit (although such things already exist).

I'm trying out Twitter. It seems neatish.

In Ohio, you can't get arrested on the Fourth of July! (except for felonies and treason...you would think the penalty for committing treason on the Fourth of July would be more strict or something :-) )

Babies learn to lie when they're six months old - lousy lying babies!


link explosion
Mood: calm
Posted on 2007-06-18 09:56:00
Tags: facebook programming links
Words: 318

I'm going do to something called the "compliment sandwich", where I talk about something good, then something that could use improvement, then end with something good.

You look like snoopy, and it makes me smile.

I tried to work on my new facebook app, and made the same little amount of progress that I had on the previous one, but I just felt confused. I think the ideas I have are all pretty heavily friends based which seems hard to do with the API. I'm probably gonna let this idea die unless I get a huge burst of inspiration, which seems unlikely. Supposedly this is why "fun" projects are better than work - if they don't end up working out, you don't have to force it. I still feel bad about it though, like I'm failing and not good at "this stuff".

You really wowed that rep from the Cincinnati office! (thanks for the real quote, which was a little hard to find)

I had a long weird dream Friday night, the culmination of which was that searching for minnesota guacamole was very important. The results, as you can probably imagine, are not interesting.

Links I was going to share on my now-defunct neato Facebook thing:

Places I visit every day:Places I go when I'm bored:


For taesmar
Mood: confused
Posted on 2007-06-15 10:33:00
Tags: links
Words: 20

Being pregnant and receiving unscientific advice go hand in hand. Also, she spells fetus as "foetus", which is pretty cool!


For your amusement
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2007-06-08 10:37:00
Tags: links
Words: 28

A "map" of North America from a Japanese RPG. (via digg)

Also, if you like crazy programming goodness, check out the entries to the calculator contest at worsethanfailure.com.


where's my burrito? where's my burrito?
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-06-01 09:19:00
Tags: pictures links
Words: 177

I posted a few pictures - nothing earth-shattering, as I haven't been in the mood much to take pictures lately. With people visiting and our visiting people during June, hopefully that'll change :-)

I have a plan: rewrite the hat problem solver in Haskell. Maybe I'll get to it this weekend? I'd be interested in running timing tests to see the speed difference...

Wil Shipley argues for smaller, less flexible code. Yay!

Bush calls for global warming summit. Why do I get the feeling this is like Ronald Reagan not talking about AIDS until well after it was a problem?

I didn't watch the game, but LeBron James took over the Cavs' playoff game last night, leading them to victory in double overtime by scoring 29 out of their last 30 points. That sounds Jordanesque to me!

Blizzard's suing peons4hire, the most prolific in-game gold spammer that I've experienced. Yaaaaay! Although I played a lot last night and don't remember a single gold spam, which would be unheard of before the 2.1.0 patch...

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.


a personal confession
Mood: bored
Posted on 2007-05-16 13:01:00
Tags: links
Words: 84

I don't get Lolcats. They were kinda cute at first, but now I hate them. I find the pidgin English annoying. (and usually not clever) Feel free to correct the error of my ways or (more entertainingly!) call me old.

Two good articles from Slate:

- Alberto Gonzales browbeats the critically ill

- Jerry Falwell's hit parade (a bunch of Falwell quotes)

I like Slate a lot, especially since I don't read any of Mickey Kaus's stuff, which used to make me roll my eyes angrily.


a few birthday links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-04-20 13:02:00
Tags: links
Words: 126

Who's to blame for the Virginia Tech massacre. A helpful guide. (via kottke, yet again)

I think I believe that God doesn't control the world/our lives on such a low level as to determine the weather, etc., and I don't think He "made this happen" as some sort of punishment for something.

How to beat that traffic ticket. Am I alone in guides like this irritating me? It seems the point is to find any technicality ("Scott McCoy, a driver from northern California, recently beat a ticket by filing motions until he found erroneous paperwork.") to avoid punishment for something that you did. (obviously this is different if you weren't actually speeding) Taking responsibility for your actions FTW. (I might feel differently after getting a ticket)

1 comment

hangin' on
Mood: high-strung
Posted on 2007-04-11 14:26:00
Tags: pictures music links
Words: 94

Pictures from Easter are up.

The author of the Joshua Bell street performer article I linked to earlier took part in an online discussion with Washington Post readers. Good stuff!

Now that "The Show with ze Frank" is over, you can buy an album of songs from the show, including the very catchy "Where the Fuck Do Ideas Come From?"

Recent developments have left me a bit jittery.

American Airlines just launched a website for women who travel. Umm, what? Someone please explain to me how this isn't horribly insulting and stereotypical and stupid.


linky linky
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2007-04-09 14:56:00
Tags: links
Words: 71

The Washington Post convinced violin virtuoso Joshua Bell to pretend to be a street musician and play outside a Metro station. Great experiment! (via kottke)

Pat Venditte is a switch pitcher, the only one in Division I baseball! (via kottke)

13 TV Shows That Should Never Have Been Cancelled - it includes Firefly and Arrested Development, so it gets a thumbs up from me. (via digg)

Alberto Gonzales deathwatch - up to 86%!


Mood: curious
Posted on 2007-04-05 20:15:00
Tags: links
Words: 28

(not all scandals end in "gate", stop the madness!)

Here is an excellent summary of what's happened and how the White House keeps making things worse. (via waxy)

1 comment

home sick
Mood: sick
Posted on 2007-03-28 14:31:00
Tags: pictures links
Words: 108

I'm not sure what happened, I felt perfectly fine Monday going to bed, and yesterday I woke up with bad allergies/congestion. I stuck it out at work but after a night of waking up a lot (I hate trying to sleep when my nose is all messed up!) I gave up. Hopefully I'll be back to normal tomorrow.

Anyway, it gives me a chance to catch up on stuff. Like put up pictures! And link to some random things!

- To promote their new book, zug.com staged a prank at the Super Bowl - unfortunately the intended message didn't show up as well as hoped.

- damninteresting.com is making a book!


I like charts
Mood: geeky
Posted on 2007-03-09 14:40:00
Tags: links
Words: 33

The top 100 Wikipedia pages viewed in March. Heroes is more popular than many sex-related terms!

The top programming languages by number of posts to their comp.lang.* newsgroup. LabVIEW is #10! (via waxy)


friday links
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2007-03-02 14:20:00
Tags: links
Words: 76

It's a beautiful day outside - temperatures were in the 60s when I went out to get lunch! There's still a tiny bit of ice on the ground but it's by and large gone. Spring is coming!

The Boring Store (not a secret agent supply store) (via kottke)

This one's for tehfanboi's Boston rant - Boston Police Blow Up Suspicious Looking Man (no, not really)

Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein - yes, that's in the New York Times. (via daringfireball)


Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2007-02-08 13:23:00
Tags: microresolution snow referrer links
Words: 242

It snowed yesterday morning! We got a few hours off from work (which we promptly converted into sweet, sweet sleep) so I'm feeling pretty good in general. It's also starting to warm up a bit - only got down to 19 last night!

My last microresolution was to finish the auctioneer lookup, which I'm declaring myself done with. There's possibly some more data that could be gathered if I did a lot more digging and the web service took a lot longer to respond, but I'm pretty happy with what it does now. I haven't decided exactly what my next microresolution will be, but it's probably either something related to taxes or addressing/sending letters. Or maybe playing around with Adobe Flex.

A few weeks ago I bought and installed Mint for my web site - it's a web site analytics program, much like Google Analytics, but with a much nicer view and more options (or at least, the options are easier to figure out). I'm pretty pleased with the results - you can see what a Mint install on another site looks like. It's also fun to see what searches people are doing that lead them to my site, like "working at national instruments", swat ride, texas shaped sunglasses (hmm, where's my result on there?), etc.

Yahoo! released Yahoo! Pipes today, but it's currently down. Here's an O'Reilly article about it, though, and I'm looking forward to playing with it when it comes back up!


Is the weekend here yet?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-02-02 09:46:00
Tags: microresolution politics links
Words: 306

Thanks again for all of your help on writing that letter! I forgot to mention my impressions on Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which I used to compose it. I didn't try the spreadsheet part (except for a minute), but the word processing part is pretty neat. It has some rich-text options (fonts, colors, bullets, etc.), and it keeps a revision history so it's pretty intuitive to see what changes you've made. You can also save in a bunch of different formats. I'd be curious as to how the collaboration works. Anyway it seems more than adequate for something simple like writing a letter.

To make things interesting, I'm going to add another microresolution. I have a World of Warcraft auctioneer price lookup that doesn't work with the new version of Auctioneer. Microresolution: make it work again by next Friday. We'll see if having multiple microresolutions out at the same time is feasible or makes me fail to complete any of them :-)

Current position of my pages in a search for "microresolution" on:
Google: #3!
Yahoo: not present
MSN: #1!!
Ask.com: #6
The main competitors seem to be pages talking about microscopes and such.

Funny quote in this article about the mayor of San Francisco admitting to an affair with his aide's wife:

Tom Abbott, 36, an executive recruiter, said that having an affair with a loyal aide's wife was "a total slimeball move."

"Any guy who puts that much mousse in his hair can't be trusted," Abbott said. "You don't screw over your own boys."

However, Abbott said, he would probably vote for Newsom.

Venezuelan lawmakers just gave President Hugo Chavez authority to enact sweeping measures by decree. This is a little worrisome. Maybe Venezuelan "President" Hugo Chavez from now on?

I got a nice email from a Google recruiter - if anyone's interested, drop me an email!


almost Christmas!
Posted on 2006-12-20 14:01:00
Tags: ljbackup links
Words: 349

The holidays are upon us! This is our last week in town (we fly out Friday for Christmas & New Year's in Texas) so we've been busy trying to take care of things. Like the TiVo Cablecard adventure djedi mentioned yesterday. I'm leaving work a little early to be home so they'll hopefully come and hopefully fix it.

I got some time yesterday to work on LJBackup. Now, it works pretty well - I was able to use the web page (which I haven't made public yet) to download a zip file of my journal. I even figured out Apache RewriteRule's to redirect from a .zip file to a script. I was planning on giving up on having it done before we leave, but I think a little more work (want to add a few more features) and I'll just put it up. I'd like to have the "finished" product included in my real backup, which I need to do tonight.

Jason Kottke recently had a Celebrity Mii Contest (Mii's are the little avatars you can create on the Wii), and here are the results. I like the winning one a lot, and my other favorites are Jack Black, Admiral Ackbar, and V from V for Vendetta. Kottke's blog is excellent - read it every day!

"Episcopalians Against Equality" - an editorial that ran in the Washington Post this morning about the 7 Virginia parishes that severed ties with the Episcopal Church and threw their lot in with a conservative Nigerian archbishop who supported legislation to criminalize "Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations".

I hesitate to post about this. Michael Crichton wrote a book called "State of Fear" which expressed the view that global warming wasn't a scientific fact (and later professed publicly the same). Michael Crowley, a writer for The New Republic, wrote a long column (subscription required) criticizing him for this view. In Crichton's latest book "Next" he made reference to a political journalist "Mick Crowley" who was a child rapist (excerpt is disgusting). Michael Crowley and "Mick Crowley" are both Washington political reporters who attended Yale. Slimy slimy slimy.


just a day, just an ordinary day...
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2006-12-13 08:30:00
Tags: ljbackup politics links
Words: 465

On the way in to work this morning, I heard an editorial on Marketplace. (by David Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush) He decried "populist economics" (basically the protectionist aspects of them) and sounded concerned since Democrats had just been elected. He said that, if they caused just half a percentage point of growth to disappear, that would be the equivalent of losing New Mexico's economic output, and in 20 years (assuming everything else stayed the same...) our economic advantage over China would be down to 3:2. But it was weird, because he never ever said a word about why assuming half a percentage point of growth would be lost was at all reasonable or anything. I'll excerpt from this Fire Joe Morgan post:

Then he said that maybe if Burnett hadn't mouthed off last year and been benched for the last week of the season, who knows, maybe 5 years $55 million could have been 5 years $75 million. Then, without backing that up, he then proceeded to chastise AJ Burnett for what he labeled a "$20 million dollar mistake."

You can't just make something up out of nowhere and then use the made-up thing to criticize someone for something that actually happened.

Maybe if Paul Konerko had not only hit 40 HR last year but has also invented a cold fusion machine, instead of $60 million from the ChiSox he might have gotten $50 billion from the government. That's a $49.994 billion mistake.

Hee hee. I love that blog!

Speaking of good blogs, Raymond Chen of The Old New Thing has written a book that I want. I'd ask for it for Christmas, but it's coming out just afterwards. Bad timing, publisher! The Old New Thing is an excellent, excellent blog on Windows programming that explains why a lot of the things in Windows are the way the are. (the answer is almost always "backwards compatibility", in case you were wondering :-) ) I don't even do much Windows programming anymore and I still try to keep up with it...

Last night I was working on LJBackup, and was trying to get the stupid AJAX piece (using prototype.js which I'm not terribly familiar with) to do a form POST correctly to a Ruby CGI script (also shaky ground for me). I got so darn frustrated I pounded my desk in frustration, and then my computer fan started making a scaryish noise. And then, when I tapped (fine, "hit") the computer to stop that, the hard drive started going "click...click....click" which scared the heck out of me, so I had to Alt-SysRq-B to get it to reboot. And then everything was fine. And then I gave up for the night and played Wii Tennis and got to the Pro level. So there!

Flu shot today!


Safe-wii first!
Mood: cold
Posted on 2006-12-05 19:25:00
Tags: ljbackup wii politics links
Words: 128

The Japanese Wii manuals safety pictures are hilarious! So darn cute. And here are some equally cute fake Wii safety pictures! I still don't have one, though.

I put up a new version of a sample LJbackup - the only thing of note is the stats page now includes the longest posts. Interestingly, my longest posts is a friends-only meme I posted, probably because the word counting is pretty primitive and inaccurate (counting HTML tags as words, etc.)

Same-sex marriage appeal in Maryland was argued yesterday. It's pretty neat being in a state where this is even remotely possible! Here's a fun quote:

"Our laws should reflect what is best for children, not what is best for adults," she said.

Awesome. Everyone: sex is outlawed! Think of the children!!!


Peppermint Mocha links
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2006-11-16 13:55:00
Tags: worldofwarcraft links
Words: 166

So what with all my efforts to get a Peppermint Mocha being thwarted, I thought fate was sending me a message. Well, I sent fate a message by going out of my way this morning to get one - so there! And it was gooood too. And helped keep me awake until now.

This should be an Onion headline, but it's real - apparently OJ Simpson wrote a book about "how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible. What??? Who thinks this is a good idea? Also, he's being interviewed on Fox about the new book - kudos to NBC for turning down an interview. Yikes.

The story of a Star Wars virgin who watched the films for the first time in order from I to VI. Kinda amusing.

I played Excite Truck on a Wii today for a few minutes. I'm excited! Also, I sure hope I wasn't banned from WoW for using Linux. (not Blizzard's intention, but it sure would be inconvenient...)


last weekend at NI
Mood: cheerful
Music: ze frank!
Posted on 2006-08-11 13:20:00
Tags: links
Words: 439

Yikes, that's scary.

Getting beyond our airport security obsession - An "Ask the Pilot" column about why it's fairly hopeless to try to detect dangerous stuff being brought on an airplane.

A the show with zefrank about terrorism. I like zefrank a lot. He never blinks! Here's his ugly myspace competition and the "winners". Another good show, although they're all good from what it seems. ze frank's homepage has lots of neat interactive toys and whatnot. Whee!

I found the evaluation I wrote for COMP 360. COMP 360 was computer graphics. But, and here's the catch, the projects were impossible. We were given little to no direction and not enough time. destroyerj and I worked on project 2, after which he dropped the class (but not before we finished the project!!), and we were up until 5 AM the night it was due trying to get it to work. I don't think a single project in that class I did worked entirely. And I had good partners, but it didn't matter. Anyway, the last day of class I released my anger in the form of an evaluation. Then I released it again by copying over the evaluation so I could save it. Then my hand hurt.

Dr. Goldman made this class an unreasonable amount of work, grossly incommensurate with a 4-hour class. The labs assigned were quite difficult and took very large amounts of time, even when starting early. Compounding this problem was that the only place we were able to work on the projects (Symonds II) was locked to students - to work in there, someone had to be inside or one of the "babysitters" (some students) had to unlock it. This seems like a ridiculous way to handle access to the lab - why not give us all access? Apparently someone thinks we are common thieves...

More often than not, the lecture notes (and lectures) were not helpful in doing the labs, and we had to find some other resource or try to figure it out ourselves. This was extremely frustrating.

Most telling was the fact that around 70 people started the class, and about 20-30 are in it now, and I know that quite a few of these are graduate students who can afford to spend large amounts of time working on projects. Unfortunately, we undergrads don't have that luxury, and this class alone was cause for many stressful days and very long nights.

This class should be heavily revised so it is no longer a "weed-out" class for COMP 460. Never have I been so disappointed in a class in the Computer Science department here at Rice University.

1 comment

look what we can do!
Music: Dave Mathews Band - "Steady as She Goes"
Posted on 2006-08-07 15:28:00
Tags: links
Words: 299

(the asmc-related subjects will taper off, I'm sure...)

Work is starting to die down, and I'm spending more of my time on quitting-related activities. Which means I'm probably not going to finish the last project I wanted to, but so it goes. Also, I was amused to find they're going to use my BCD clock for a demo at NIWeek, which starts tomorrow.

Due to my resurgence in baseball interest, I've been reading Fire Joe Morgan, a blog about bad sports writers and announcers. It's pretty negative, but also extremely amusing. (I bet spchampion would like it!)

Speaking of spchampion, I've added two new feeds of non-LJ blogs - spchampionblog, which is spchampion's (Stanton's) blog, and haunspergerblog, which is Doug and Teresa's blog. You can add them to your friends list and their posts will show up like normal friends posts. You'll have to go to their blog site to comment on them, though. (well, you can comment here but they'll have to know to check here to find them, which sounds annoying)

Cricket Explained (An American Viewpoint) - I like watching the occasional (every 5 years or so) game of cricket, and I learned a lot from this article.

Computers just can't seem to get past Go - an article about how not good computer Go programs are. I'd like to play more Go...

Iran to supply Hezbollah with surface-to-air missiles - this seems seriously bad. How far from this to an Iran-Israel war?

Virginia is for Haters - Andrew Sullivan points out the Virginia is the "most anti-gay state in the union", as it denies gay couples even the right to "legally-binding private contracts to help them support their relationships". That sounds fairly unconstitutional to me. Anyway, I would have figured some other state (Mississippi? Tennessee?) would be worse, but maybe not...


a few links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2006-08-01 14:49:00
Tags: links
Words: 77

Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It... - date a geek or nerd today!

Rice is adding two more residential colleges, to which I say "pah".

Late addition: a horrible commercial type thing for Appalachian State University. Apparently it's HOT! HOT! HOT! Also, if you're going to throw out "best in the country" and you're not an Ivy League school, you might want to clarify or qualify that statement somehow. Otherwise you just look like a big liar.


the future's looking good to me
Mood: ready
Posted on 2006-07-28 13:49:00
Tags: asmc links
Words: 129

So we only did one runthrough last night, and we got yelled at (well, not actually yelling) because it sucked. I screwed up at least three different times, lines were dropped, etc., etc. Which should mean that opening night (tonight!) should be fantastic!

I found this pointer to an amazing presentation about Sustainable South Bronx. Maybe I'll send them some money. Wow.

Army Dismisses Gay Arabic Linguist 'Outed' By Anonymous Email Campaign. Note that Sergeant Copas didn't "tell", yet he was certainly "asked". I don't understand why "don't ask, don't tell" applies to non-field personnel, anyway...

The congresswoman involved in the security dustup in April is losing in the Democratic primary. The system works!

A story from a former airport security person. Another example of "teaching to the test".


Mood: grateful for the little things
Posted on 2006-07-27 14:57:00
Tags: asmc poll links
Words: 205

Rehearsal went well last night, except we didn't get a chance to do a runthrough because we had to re-setup the sets (someone used the theater Tuesday night) and lots of other stuff. So we're doing two runthroughs tonight, which we need, but is going to totally exhaust me. On the plus side, I'm not too exhausted since we didn't runthrough last night :-)

There's a part of the show where me and some other guys lift Vixen (a doll) up in the air. Last night it didn't go well, and we sorta half-dropped her, although she ended standing up. I hold her legs and feet, though, so I got kicked in the jaw. Totally not her fault, of course, but it's still bothering me a bit today :-/

Lance Bass (member of NSync) is gay! Neat!

Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder - I have this, most certainly.

Clips from the new Simpsons movie look good so far. Maybe it really will come out next year :-)

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis tests positive for testosterone, although the results aren't final yet. Hope it isn't true, but if so...ouch.

TIOBE ranking of most popular computer languages - wow, didn't realize Java was #1. Ruby's only #17. Also, go LabVIEW! (#34)


it's only wednesday??
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-07-19 10:18:00
Tags: music links
Words: 127

I was gonna save these until Friday, but I'm tired and bored (waiting for a looong compile) now.

Christopher Tin composed the opening Civ4 music (there are more nice samples of his compositions), and when I read that I thought it was the same guy who did the music for Futurama. Turns out that's Christopher Tyng...so close!

Ken Lay was compared to Martin Luther King, James Byrd (black man lynched in Texas), and Jesus himself at his funeral. I understand respect for the dead, but this is ridiculous.

Daily Show segment on Mr. T - I love Mr. T!

Sound files created with pirated software shipped with Windows XP.

AOL Retention Manual - a followup to the story of the guy trying desperately to cancel his AOL account.

1 comment

since lj is slow
Mood: skid marks on my soul!
Posted on 2006-07-11 14:13:00
Tags: links
Words: 23

Pole Position commercial. HEEEEEY!

US detainees to get Geneva rights - woohoo!

More info on the Zidane headbutt. Materazzi said some nasty things, maybe.


aren't you supposed to be well-rested after a long weekend?
Mood: tired
Music: Ragtime - "Justice"
Posted on 2006-07-05 12:42:00
Tags: links
Words: 141

Apparently, no. Here are some links I found to keep me awake...

The Urban Etiquette Handbook - this is great! And entertaining to boot. My favorite page is the one with proper cell phone conduct and the four levels of iPod interaction.

Infared photo gallery of nature. The fact that the trees are white gives it an otherworldly kind of feel.

11 "Don't-Tell-the-Wife" Secrets All Men Keep - this is mildly entertaining and somewhat true (Secret #1: Yes, we fall in lust 10 times a day -- but it doesn't mean we want to leave you). Mostly applies to gay men too, just so we're clear :-)

CIA: Osama Helped Bush in '04. The website doesn't look horribly...reliable? But it was always pretty clear that the bin Ladin tape released four days before the election helped Bush, and the article suggests this was his intention.

1 comment

bad news, good news
Mood: calm
Posted on 2006-06-29 14:35:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 325

Random news items that have left me thinking recently:

Bad news - High court upholds most of Texas redistricting map. The Supreme Court ruled that it is essentially OK for state legislatures to redraw Congressional districts whenever they want, and not just every 10 years (after the Census) as required by law. This to me is really horrible news. A Daily Kos article opines that the Democrats should take advantage and do this in states where the state legislature is more Democratic than the congressional delegation. I consider this whole thing to be a non-trivial threat to democracy. Guh.

Good news - High court blocks Gitmo military tribunals (CNN really likes to refer to the supreme court as "high court", apparently :-) ) This is a big rebuke to Bush's claim that, since we're at war, he has broad overarching powers to hold people as enemy combatants. Andrew Sullivan points out the court seems to have reinstated the Geneva Conventions in the "war on terror", which is also good.

Bad news - Israel hits Gaza as Hamas lawmakers held. This has been a rapidly-escalating series of attacks between Israel and Palestine and it looks like things are getting much worse. This latest conflagration started when Palestinian militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier, and they have killed an Israeli settler since then. To put pressure on the Syrian president to stop aiding Hamas, Israeli fighters buzzed his home yesterday (anti-aircraft guns fired on them). Scary stuff.

Good news - Buffett to give away billions. Warren Buffett is giving away $30+ billion dollars, most of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. The Gates foundation does great stuff in global health and education, and $30 billion dollars goes a looong way. Good for him!

I read this great speech by Barack Obama - it's a little long, but very powerful. The last 10 paragraphs or so I liked a lot for personal reasons. I hope he runs for president in 2008 or 2012 or sometime...


warning: good weekend ahead
Mood: happy! not sick!
Music: Lordi - "Hard Rock Hallelujah"
Posted on 2006-05-26 09:37:00
Tags: pictures music ruby palmtogooglecalendar links
Words: 500

Already this weekend (starts on Thursday!) has been good - we finished Maraudon last night in WoW, which was fun (despite an infuriating part where Dextra and I (the two people who can rez) died and had to spirit rez and fight our way back. Scary!), and I got a shiny new dagger and orb.

Another good thing - I'm not sure yet, but I think I've solved my work problem...but not in a great way. It's like finally arriving at Disney World in Georgia (the country, not the state), and you're tired but happy you finally got there, and then getting out and realizing that Tennessee (where you started) is really right across the street from Georgia (the country, not the state). And you think everyone is mocking you for taking such a roundabout journey when you were right there, except they presumably aren't. Whee. I think I'll put this analogy to rest :-)

I have a problem...I cannot stop listening to "Hard Rock Hallelujah"! Seriously. Sometimes songs stick in my head so long, it actually makes my stomach hurt (and can keep me up at night). This song isn't there yet, but it's headed that way...

I put up pictures of Stephen's graduation. Next up - pictures from wonderjess's graduation! And then the pictures I will have acquired in the intervening time. Yikes.

Had a breakthrough in the palm to google calendar thing last night.

So the problem I had been having was that, when you connected to start the syncing process, it wouldn't return until it was done, which means that you couldn't poll for status updates. (actually, I guess you could, but then you'd have two connections open at once unnecessarily) So, I tried something like this:

# Create session and return session id to browser
pid = fork do
# Do long-running stuff

Interestingly, this works when you run the script from the command line, but not when you're doing a POST to it! I'm not sure if this is an Apacheism or something. After digging around for a while, I found the solution is to do something like this instead:

# Create session and return session id to browser
pid = fork do
# Do long-running stuff

(Note: this is incorrect. See update here) and this makes everything work well. Except that I'm having some difficulty access variables declared in the pre-fork section inside the forked process. I bet they're getting destroyed or something when the parent finishes. But, on the whole, I'm closer to getting it to work. Yay!

"How to cheat good" (by a college professor). Tip number 8 is hilarious!

Top 50 Places to Have a Beer in America - I was a little disappointed/surprised there were no Texas places in there. (although this is just the places with highest scores on BeerFly - maybe there's some geographic bias there?)

DeLay campaign cites Colbert bit as evidence of innocence...um, wow. After the White House Correspondents Dinner thing, I thought everyone had figured it out!


a few random things
Posted on 2006-05-25 12:42:00
Tags: music palmtogooglecalendar links
Words: 140

If you haven't seen the winning Eurovision song, and you like seeing people from Finland dressed as Klingons (or something), you owe it to yourself to check it out!

So I saw in my referrer logs that some MySpace page was using my spade image (), so I decided to look at the site. Aaand...wow. I think my eyes exploded just looking at that.

I made some good progress on the palm to google calendar thing - it's mostly working and the server is updating status as it goes. Now I need to figure out why the client doesn't poll for status until the server is done, and make the client display status in some nice and friendly way. Oh, and make it a bit more secure, too, just in case. Hopefully in another week or two it will be doneish!


Mood: happy
Music: Pink Floyd - "Time" (imh)
Posted on 2006-05-19 09:49:00
Tags: links
Words: 111

Whee! Friday! And I'm visiting wonderjess and watching her graduate, so I'm looking forward to that. And I'm flying JetBlue, which I've never done before! Man, I like travelling. They show DirectTV on the plane and everything, which intrigues me.

These "seamless pictures" are very very cool. They're the work of Rob Gonsalves.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a group funded by lots of big companies that, among other things, argues that global warming isn't really happening. They have decided to start a PR campaign to defend...wait for it...CO2. The ads are hilarious, especially the one on the left ("Energy")! (from Andrew Sullivan)

Random Jon Stewart quotes

Have a nice weekend!

1 comment

aww yeah
Music: Pink Floyd- "Hey you"
Posted on 2006-05-10 09:51:00
Tags: pictures weight links
Words: 128

So after the weekend where I ate lots of bad stuff, I was sure I was going to gain at least a pound. Flash forward to Tuesday morning....I step on the scale...plus .2 pounds! Awesome. So my goal this week is to lose weight, and next week to get below my low since I started in December (I'm only .8 pounds away, so this is very doable). Woohoo!

Some fun Daily Show videos: Hayden/Goss and "Oh, Really? bin Laden? Who?". Well done! Also a fun trailer for a "Pac-Man" movie made by Uwe Boll.

I put up the pictures from last weekend. Cute pictures of the nephews :-)

Fun information about US interstates. (thanks medryn)

Oh yeah - here's the Onion's preview of summer movies. (hint: they're not terribly excited)


link friday
Mood: drained
Music: Hoobastank - "From the Heart"
Posted on 2006-05-05 15:27:00
Tags: links
Words: 309

Ugh, this day hasn't been so great. Nothing horrible, but I'm (as usual) stuck on a problem at work. Hopefully these links will cheer me up!

I've spent some time this week looking at the exploits of Improv Everywhere. Wow, these people really make me want to live in New York! Some of their more entertaining missions: Best Buy (80 people enter a Best Buy store dressed in blue polo shirts), Surprise! (surprise birthday party on the subway), The Moebius (repeating time loop in a Starbucks), Look Up More (a bunch of silhouettes dancing in the windows of a building), Even Better Than The Real Thing (impersonating a U2 concert on a rooftop), The Dollar Dudes (handing out dollar bills on the subway), Best Gig Ever (massively attending the gig of an unknown band, and the band's response), and Ted's Birthday (pretending to know a stranger and throwing him a birthday party). Wow!

Sesame Street Video Clips! (from kottke). There are videos for a lot of songs on Songs from the Street, like "Furry Happy Monsters". Also an awesome Celebrity ABC song - Ray Charles plays piano, and Patrick Stewart really nails "T-U-V"! Born To Add is good too.

Apparently people are using laptops to steal cars with keyless entry and ignition systems. Um, great.

They're going to be selling the original unaltered Star Wars DVDs for a limited time! (from waxy)

I come across Damn Interesting every once and again - there are some cool articles there, like America's secret plan to invade Canada (and their secret plan to invade us!), and the creepy story of Centralia, PA (which was the basis for the movie Silent Hill. Their article on the parasite Toxoplasma gondii was the first article I read there, I think (and I may have linked it before...)

OK, I'm all linked out. Have a good weekend all!


I went to the 108th best high school in the country!
Mood: bored
Music: Rent - "Rent"
Posted on 2006-05-03 10:31:00
Tags: movies palmtogooglecalendar links
Words: 178

At least, according to Newsweek (here's the full list). Ed Felten points out that their methodology is a little suspect...

Disney is toning down Mission:Space ride - at first I thought they were toning it down for everyone, but they're just providing a toned down version in addition to the original, which is good. I can see why some people have trouble with it, though - the ride is pretty intense. Good stuff!

LJ was slow yesterday because of a DDoS attack. Guh. Although that thread does contain a somewhat entertaining flamewar!

Superman Returns trailer - ooh! (from kottke)

Made some more progress on my Palm datebook to Google Calendar importer - now I can delete entries, as well as add entries that don't repeat. Repeating entries are annoying (that was the block of code I posted, although I later learned that everything after the first three lines will always be the same, since it describes the timezone and daylight savings time), and I don't get any useful error message, so I guess I'll just tweak it some more until it works...


just a few links
Mood: happy
Music: Firefly - "Main Title"
Posted on 2006-05-02 12:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 203

Apple has some new ads out comparing the Mac to a PC. I like these ads a lot - the tone seems to be just about right (except in "Better", which is the worst one IMO). I think I like "Network" the best, although the benefit they're showing in that one is probably the least impressive. I also find it amusing that in "iLife" they criticize the PC for not having more bundled apps - isn't that what the whole antitrust thing was about? Also, the Mac guy is quite cute :-)

They've found the gene that causes "stone man syndrome", a condition in which muscle is turned into bone. I wish the article had more information. Also, it ends with the mind-boggly dumb quote:

“The substitution of one genetic letter for another out of six billion genetic letters in the human genome is like a molecular terrorist that short-circuits a functioning set of muscles and connective tissues and transforms them into a second skeleton, in essence turning a light bulb into an atom bomb,” Dr Kaplan said.

A "molecular terrorist"? And how is this at all like turning a light bulb into an atom bomb?? Don't use analogies to make a good sound bite. Yeesh.


weekend, everybody's working for the
Mood: excited
Music: University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers - "Mr. Brightside"
Posted on 2006-04-28 15:35:00
Tags: links
Words: 91

What a crazy crazy crazy week.

White House press corps member asks Air Force One to change TV's from Fox to CNN - hehe. It's also amusing because it's an article on cnn.com :-)

House Speaker Hastert gets out of a hydrogen car and back into his SUV a few blocks away from hold a press conference talking about high gas prices. Classy!

That's about it, I guess. Checking in code today that I've been working on for almost a month (yay!). Backwards compatibility is sweet for users and a pain for developers...


passing the time...
Mood: chipper
Location: work
Posted on 2006-04-27 14:05:00
Tags: palmtogooglecalendar links
Words: 173

(compiling can take a while)

Senator Specter threatens to cut off funding for secret wiretaps - wow! Good for him. This could be a major battle...

David Copperfield robbed after show - the amusing part is that when the robbers got to him, he pulled out all of his pockets to show they were empty...except he had his cell phone, passport and wallet. Man, that's cool!

A reasonably entertaining interview with Matt Groening where he talks about the Simpsons movie and Futurama straight-to-DVD movie-like things.

Google released a free 3D modeling program today. (more information) There's some sort of integration with Google Earth where you can, say, build a house and put it on the Earth, which sounds a little weird but like a lot of fun. Wow, they sure do crank out (or in this case, buy other companies and release) the free software!

djedi gets home today - yay!

Still working on my project to upload data from my palm to Google Calendar...maybe I'll have some more time to work on it someday.


happy San Jacinto day!
Mood: upbeat
Posted on 2006-04-21 11:05:00
Tags: movies palmtogooglecalendar links
Words: 307

Today in 1836, the Battle of San Jacinto took place, where the Texas Army defeated the Mexican army (sneaking up during their afternoon siesta) to gain our independence. To commemorate the victory, the San Jacinto Monument was built on the battleground, which is the "world's tallest memorial column", taller than the Washington Monument by around 5 feet.

Yesterday, I saw the movie Inside Man, and enjoyed it! Denzel Washington was good (so was Clive Owen) and Jodie Foster was good although a little creepy.

If you haven't tried the new Google Calendar, you should give it a shot. I've changed my mind - my next project will be using the Google Calendar APIs to import events from my palm. Still gonna try to use Ruby, though...

In other Google news, the Da Vinci Code quest is pretty fun - there's a new puzzle every day for 24 days. I've solved all four of them so far - not too difficult (although they keep sending me to the official movie site, which is loud and takes a while to load).

Cute Metroid cartoon

So the Kryptos sculpture (constructed on the grounds of the CIA in 1990) contains four encrypted messages. People have solved the first three, but no one has been able to crack the fourth (which is thought to refer to the first three heavily, as well as possibly other physical elements on the CIA grounds. The creator just announced there was a typo on the second section, which had caused the last eight letters to be misinterpreted. I'm hoping this will lead to a breakthrough on the last section :-)

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense." Darn...


workin' for the weekend...
Mood: chipper
Music: Aural Pleasure - "Enjoy the Silence"
Posted on 2006-04-19 12:47:00
Tags: music links
Words: 182

(apparently today is "play songs Greg has a capella versions of" on Austin radio...on the way home from Jason's Deli I heard "Rosanna", followed by that Beverly Hills song I'm sick of, so I switched stations to hear "Come Undone". Neat!)

LiveJournal just announced a new account level (Sponsored+) that gets you most of the benefits of a paid account for free, while showing ads on your journal. I'm not huge on advertising, but this is the right way to do it - it's up to each person whether to show the ads or not (and there is incentive to), while free accounts maintain the same abilities they've always had. And paid accounts don't see ads on any pages to boot!

Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain - interesting article!

Play Syzygy! The creator of the game emailed me after seeing my Syzygy pictures (random!) I didn't realize it was created and distributed by one person - good stuff! It's a good game, although one I haven't played too recently...

Work is frustrating, but I'm not gonna let it get me down! (hopefully!)

1 comment

Mini-link monday
Mood: happy
Music: "RBI Baseball" music
Posted on 2006-04-10 16:36:00
Tags: music links
Words: 69

A little out of the ordinary, but these two links totally made my day:

Seven Songs with Factual or Logical Mistakes in the Lyrics (via waxy)

This one is crazy - someone re-enacted the 1986 World Series Game 6, bottom of the 10th inning in RBI Baseball! The original radio commentary is played over the video, and the guy really took care to get everything right. Well done! (via kottke)


perhaps perhaps perhaps
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2006-03-24 13:07:00
Tags: computer links
Words: 94

I just heard 94.7 boast about how their studio was "AMD-powered". Neat!

Got a new motherboard (third one this month, for those of you keeping score at home) that will undoubtedly work out of the box and not have any problems ever.

How does one become a ninja? - now you know!

Kotaku has some awesome features today - first showing the endings of two horrible Zelda games (not made by Nintendo, thank goodness), and then showing the beginnings of them as well. I'd point out particular parts that are bad, but really they're all hilarious!


Mood: angry
Posted on 2006-03-17 08:59:00
Tags: phone music computer links
Words: 238

So originally this post was going to be about how angry I am that my new hard drive is dying, which I am. Although the upside is that I can return the new hard drive I got because presumably the old one will still work with a new motherboard, which is almost certainly the culprit. But, upon further reflection, meh. I'll fix it, it'll keep working eventually, and all that jazz.

Things that cheered me up:

- My new phone is out for delivery and should be arriving any minute now!

- Wednesday morning, as I drove to destroyerj's house to let him in, I was listening to KUT. Since this week is SXSW, they have lots of good live music on, and I listened to Sonya Kitchell, whose new CD I will be buying when it comes out (maybe I'll buy it at Starbucks just for fun!). I've been listening to the two songs from it that are available from the website quite a few times.

- This article "Who Can Name the Bigger Number" is interesting.

- The wikipedia article on recurring parts in the Colbert Report gave me a laugh. I should watch more of it!

- This site (NSFW, although it's not dirty, and only the sound is important) that destroyerj pointed me to is hilarious! -50 DKP for my motherboard.

- This SNL segment about a pirate convention is good stuff, although I may have linked to it before....


math problem not so interesting
Mood: disappointed
Posted on 2006-02-28 08:51:00
Tags: pictures links
Words: 337

I mentioned an interesting math problem last entry -

OK, I lied, it's not too exciting. I implemented the interquartile range method first (because it was easier than calculating the standard deviation) and ran it on a set of markers. It found a lot of markers that were in the correct city, but were definitely outliers from a statistics perspective. These markers are all dental clinics (more or less), and it turns out they're not evenly distributed throughout a city. So I kept the interquartile range method but added a test to only reject it if the distance from the median point was more than .25 latitude or longitude. This got rid of the false positives (and kept something that indeed wasn't categorized correctly!), so that's what I'm using. The sad part is that I'm pretty sure that that would give the same result if I just did that test and not the interquartile range, but I don't have the heart to test that. So, not so interesting problem after all, but at least it's presumably solved.

I'm definitely making more progress on this side project, and hopefully I'll work on it tonight a bit and maybe be "done" for now ("done" because it's never done, stuff keeps getting added, which I'm going to have to deal with at some point. ugh...) On the plus side, I'm writing a lot of stuff that can at least be theoretically reused for some other project. *shrug*

Here's a good article about lobbying to get your industry millions. Ugh. Hopefully the fact that the article was written will shed some light on the system. I am proud, however, that my former congressman Lloyd Doggett was mentioned as trying to end the offending credit. Good for him!

Some indie rockers are refusing to license their songs for Hummer commercials, turning down big money in the process. Good for them!

Wow, this is turning into Link Tuesday. One more: here are the local commercials that Rudy's aired during the Super Bowl. Good stuff!


Link Friday!
Mood: cheerful
Music: Rent - "Take Me or Leave Me"
Posted on 2006-01-13 13:39:00
Tags: links
Words: 345

I was informed at lunch that today was Link Friday, which surprised me at first, until I realize that most linkdays are Friday. So, why not embrace it?

A vintage Nintendo shirt with a funny slogan

So, you may have heard of the Million Dollar Homepage, in which a clever student raised a million dollars selling pixels on a 1000x1000 grid at $1 a pop. It inspired some copycats like the Five Hundred Thousand Dollar Home Page and the Million Penny Homepage. The most amusing spinoff I've seen is Fill My Room, which is selling blocks in his room in an effort to fill it up with lego-looking blocks. Hehe!

The Prejudice Map - a map with what "the internet" thinks of people from different countries. People from Norway are known for thriftiness and love of fish, while people from Canada are known for liking their beer and being tolerant.

The Aargh Page - a matrix (based on the number of "a"'s and "r"'s) of the number of spellings of aargh on the internet. Nifty! The funny part is the weird outliers, like why Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgh (12,7) is significantly more popular than the spellings near it.

After reading fairydust1's complaint that one's posts are locked in to LJ, I found a way to retrieve all your old posts. Unfortunately, that doesn't include comments, so I'm thinking of writing a script to read each post and store the comments in XML as well. The other main project on my mind is writing a World of Warcraft mod to automatically record guild information and post it to the guild website, or something.

When buying organic pays, courtesy of Consumer Reports.

I really like the Rent soundtrack, especially "I'll Cover You" and "Take Me or Leave Me".

Is Apple working on a full-blown mobile phone network? (including a phone made by Apple that will hopefully be better than the ROKR) This seems crazy to me. But I am interested in one of their new MacBook's, although maybe some other models are coming soon, or something different but also exciting? Who knows...


it begins...
Mood: chipper
Music: Depeche Mode - "Just Can't Get Enough" (Pandora)
Posted on 2005-12-30 12:43:00
Tags: links
Words: 300

So New Year's has kinda started, so if anyone needs to get in touch with me, probably the best way is my cell phone for the next few days. Looking forward to the festivities!

kottke.org has posted his Best Links of 2005 and The Rest of the Best Links of 2005 - if you're stuck at work and have some time, there are some very interesting articles in there. Like capturing an identity thief, or the story of a fake bathroom attendant at McDonalds, or even how to destroy the Earth, if your tastes swing that way.

I had a scary two hours this morning when the power blipped at work, and then my computer turned on, but nothing showed up on the monitor. Tried switching video cards and monitors and booting into DOS - nothing. So I tracked down the warranty information (still under warranty, hooray!) and called Dell Support, expecting they'd have to ship me a new motherboard or something. After waiting on hold for a little while, a guy (sounded like he was from India) talked me through some steps, and he got it working again to my great surprise! There must have been some static left in the AGP slot or something - he had me unplug the computer and hold the power button for 25 secs to discharge, er, something. Anyway, it worked fine after that. So that was nice, although I did waste my morning...

Happy New Year!

Pah, I forget again. There's an interesting story at the New York Times about the SNL video "Lazy Sunday" - it includes the fact that "chronic" is slang for marijuana (which I didn't know). So that makes the "chronic(what?)cles of Narnia" chorus part make sense, and funny! Also, an idea from a Boing Boing reader for a related T-shirt. Hehe!


holidays, book reviews
Mood: chipper
Music: Everything but the Girl - "Walking Wounded" (Pandora)
Posted on 2005-12-28 10:59:00
Tags: reviews books links
Words: 520

Quick summary of holidays: they were good! I had fun at home, wonderjess made me delicious mochas. Funny things happened, played a lot of Taboo and some other games, and watched a fair bit of Arrested Development (and read about the Simpsons (one of my presents), so I have a lot of quotes in my head. Watch out!).

Outrageous Firsts in Television History (not entirely SFW)

Christmas is a bad time to try to lose weight. Also, weighing one's self right before bed can lead to having an angry sleep. Ugh.

I got a lot of books for Christmas, so I'm going to review them. Here are the ones I've read so far:

The Scorpion's Gate by Richard Clarke. The tagline for the book is "Sometimes you can tell more truth through fiction", and the book seems fairly realistic. It's a tad...idealistic, maybe, that a few people could stop such a major thing from happening, but then again maybe that's how it works. The secretary of defense is evil, and although his name isn't Rumsfeld, you get the idea. It's a pretty good thriller, similar to Tom Clancy but a lot shorter.

Bait & Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich (borrowed from my mom, who had checked it out from the library). I liked her other book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, where she tried to live off of the salary of very blue-collar jobs (working at Wal-Mart, being a waitress in a diner, etc.). In Bait & Switch, she tried to get a white-collar job by hiring image consultants and resume guidance counselors and things like that, but I didn't quite see the point. Overall it was mostly depressing and I didn't get much out of it except being worried about losing my job. Not really recommended.

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter. I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting too much out of this book (maybe because in my copy the pages weren't cut correctly, which irritated me at first), but it blew me away. He talks about lots of things that have changed under this administration that he credits the rise of fundamentalism to, and although the list of things that have changed wasn't terribly new (science vs. religion, separation of church and state, etc. - you can see the table of contents at amazon), he presents his case very well, and manages to maintain a sort of composure while still conveying a sense of urgency. He includes a few chapters on foreign policy and nuclear proliferation which had material that I wasn't familiar with. Also, the writing style is very straightforward, and he often talks about what the Carter Center (nonprofit organization that he and his wife started) are doing to alleviate the problems he lists. Overall, I was highly impressed, and would definitely recommend it.

I really like Pandora when I want to listen to music but nothing in particular. You should try it if you haven't!

Oh, and this SNL rap video about the Chronicles of Narnia has been making the rounds - quite amusing!


special home-for-the-holidays post!
Mood: relaxed
Posted on 2005-12-22 20:35:00
Tags: links
Words: 168

I'm home for the holidays! That's nice. Houston is...about the same as Austin. Since my last two trips to Houston involved hitting a deer on the way home and calling 911, I'm hoping nothing totally crazy and out of the ordinary happens this trip. Doing well so far.

I'm liking mochas more and more the more I drink them. This may be a bad thing.

Brokeback Mountain - very good. Someone (Heath Ledger?) should win an Oscar for this. Also very, very sad. You can read the original short story, if you'd like. The movie is pretty darn true to it. Also, the "straight dude's guide to Brokeback Mountain" may come in handy. *shrug*

Just a note in case y'all don't have news as a friend, free users can now have 6 userpics. Enjoy!

Hope everyone has a happy holidays (hate me, Bill O'Reilly!) and I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of y'all at New Year's! :-)

Oh, and I'm getting close to level 3 on Yahoo! Answers. Woohoo!


I've got to admit it's getting better...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2005-12-15 10:58:00
Tags: links
Words: 133

Why today is better than yesterday:

Yay Ford!

So I did spend all night working on the project, but I made good progress on it, and I feel a bit more confident in general.

The meeting turned out to be no big deal, although it was slightly awkward.

We're moving cubes here at work, which means I get a bigger cube (although not window-adjacent). However, that means I have to pack up my stuff tomorrow. At least it's a good excuse for cleaning off my desk, which is scary covered with stuff and dust. It looks better already, though!

Maybe Showtime will pick up Arrested Development!

Oh, and also I got a Peppermint Mocha yesterday which, although certainly not as good as anything wonderjess makes, was pretty good. And it cheered me up!


early morning thoughts!
Mood: determined
Posted on 2005-12-12 09:49:00
Tags: links del.icio.us
Words: 84

Well, not really early, but you know...

Yahoo! bought del.icio.us late last week. Between that and flickr, Yahoo has some pretty nice stuff these days. Good for them!

Good tips for using del.icio.us.

I'm now level 2 on Yahoo! Answers. Woohoo! Next up - level 3!

If you're looking to get a USB drive for someone, why not get them a weird USB drive? I can't decide which is creepier - the thumb or the Barbie whose head you rip off to plug it in. Heh.


linka linka linka
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2005-12-06 13:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 189

So I was going to write a real entry, but I'm busy, and have stressful things to do. So, I'm going to reduce some stress by posting some links I've been meaning to post. (these are not guaranteed to be interesting; check your owner's manual for details)

(oh, the other thing is that I got a small job doing some google mapsish stuff for someone. Neat!)

A puppet version of Serenity (not a video). Very very cute. The other movies he's done are pretty good as well.

Boo Ford! A CNN story on the same thing.

A story about a Fawlty Towers book that apparently has the script for an unaired thirteenth episode. Neat!

So a professor at the University of Kansas (I hate Kansas, by the way) was going to teach a class debunking intelligent design. Then he cancelled the class after sending out an email insulting religious conservatives, which seemed appropriate (the cancelling, not the insulting). Then he was sent to the hospital after being beaten up on the side of the road by men who referred to the class that didn't happen. That's really quite scary.


almost thanksgiving!
Mood: lazy
Music: NEScover - "Eye of the Tiger"
Posted on 2005-11-22 10:12:00
Tags: todolist charlottesweb links
Words: 316

Ah, one (and a half) more day at work, and then the holidays. That's good stuff!

So after the big push at work last week, now I'm doing very little. Which is relaxing, but it's always tough to adjust from "crazy stressed-out fixing mode" to "do nothing mode". It is a nice change right before the holidays though. Hopefully nothing else major comes up this release.

Just got my video of Charlotte's Web in, so I'll probably show it to my sisters over break.

Had fun at game night/onefishclappin and krikwennavd's receptionish event. That's twice I've played Mario Kart in the last week, which is kinda neat.

Been working on my TODO list some more. I'm learning a lot about XMLHttpRequest, and why Firefox (the 1.0 branch) seems to do weird things with it sometimes. I'm hoping 1.5 will fix these problems (should come out this month or early December).

I know everyone and their dog is posting about this, but give pandora.com a shot - you tell it a group or song you like and it tries to find music like that. The algorithm is based on the Music Genome Project, in which they listened to a bunch of songs and characterized each one (heavy bass line, melodic vocals, etc.). So when it picks a song it thinks you will like, you can see why it thinks that, which is usually pretty interesting. (it's free and all that jazz)

I put these remakes of popular songs on the original Nintendo sound system on my iPod. They're quite fun to listen to!

Fans of Harry Potter might find this celebrity recasting amusing.

I spent a while yesterday reading through the stories of making the Macintosh and other Apple-related things. Interesting stuff!

For those of you experiencing LJ-slowness, maybe this is the problem?

One more: if you've ever lost a button-mashing minigame in Mario Party, check this out!


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