Monday, December 31, 2007

That's Code for, "I'm Lost, Too"

That's the winning headline for the following:

Man: Excuse me, could you tell me where--
Biotech, interrupting: --Look, I don't have time to make up fake directions.


And it's mine. I guess that the fourth time is the charm.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Simone Walking at Christmas

Here it is, definitive proof she's walking. So much fun.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Life Is Too Short For Bad Code

I started a programming blog a couple of weeks ago and figure it's time to share with the vast audience of my personal blog. I thought it might be interesting to see what (if any) kind of audience I could get for programming folks. My personal blog will never grow larger than my family and a couple of friends, and that's just fine. But, it's possible I could find a small community that finds what I have to say regarding programming interesting.

Mostly the programming blog will contain tips for Emacs. During my last 3 years at Intel I had a tip of the week which was mildly popular in my department. I thought I'd keep that up now that I'm outside Intel. But I'm also going to post other ideas/revelations I've had regarding programming. It's an outlet for my programming geekiness.

I don't have any fallacies about making money with the blog (either of them), nor of even getting a readership of more than a couple dozen at most. I certainly don't have the time, and probably not even the ideas, to get a blog to that kind of popularity.

So, without further ado, here's my programming blog: Life Is Too Short For Bad Code

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coolest Thing This December

Johnny Lee is genius, check out this 3-D hack for display, it'd make for an awesome game.



He's also got prototypes for interesting displays, auto-configuring displays, a steady-cam, and low cost interactive whiteboards.

Simone at 19 months

Simone (seen here in a month-old photo):



just turned 19 months, and has begun walking. Here in my first internet video ever (taken on cell phone), Simone is walking with a stroller in a toy shop:

And her rocking on a rocking horse:

Tonight Simone walked back and forth between the two of us about a dozen times, crossing a span of 10 feet or so - she's getting pretty excited about walking. As are we.

Her favorite books are "Goodnight Moon" and "Snuggle Puppy", her favorite songs are "Snuggle Puppy" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" - both of which she'll start for us (singing "ooh..." and "duh..." respectively). She even does the hand motions for the Itsy Bitsy Spider song. And, she loves the thing where you pat the bottom of her feet while singing, "shoe the old horse, shoe the old mare, and let the young colt run bare bare bare."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Nose Blowing

So, Simone's teeth may not be coming in, it looks like she's caught a bit of a flu (cold?, gah I dunno, she's sick). She's phlegmy and not enjoying it, so we taught her how to blow her nose. Being parents, we think it's incredibly funny when she does it on her own and blows a raspberry into a kerchief.

iBike WW52

I was wrong in my last post, I figure I should bike next week (as two of the days are still in 2007). But I biked today, perfectly timing it to end my ride in the sunshine (the first 3/4s was in rain). Simone tagged along quietly, if not happily - she's feeling a bit under the weather, but if she's anything like the rest of us, it feels good to get out of the house.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

iBike WW51

Took a ride in the rain on my single speed (seat still busted on the road bike). A good 45 minutes of slogging along. One more week to go!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Simone Update

At nearly 19 months, she's starting to walk. We think her next set of teeth (#8 and more) are coming in, and a part of that seems to be a runny nose. She's learning how to blow her nose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caprial and John cooking class

I took a cooking class from Caprial and John tonight. Mary had gotten me a gift certificate from there last Christmas, and I finally made time for a class.

What a hoot. They're very much like they appear on their TV show, though John is less obnoxious. The menu was:

Squash and Sage Bisque with Crispy Prosciutto
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder Rubbed with Tomato and Herbs
Crispy Fried Potatoes and Parsnips
Spicy Braised Greens
Walnut Chocolate Cake


John is a pork freak, which I admire. The soup had prosciutto, the greens had bacon, and obviously the pork was ... pork. And he talked about making bacon - which I now need to try.

Anyway, the tips I picked up were: reduce, reduce, reduce - whether it be wine or stock, reduce and you'll get tasty results. Oh, and add bacon to everything, it tastes better. And their secret ingredient for finishing off soups is Ketchup Manis (a sweet, thick, Indonesian version of soy sauce).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

David Lebovitz: The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe...Ever

Using the excuse of having some friends over for dinner, I made this for dessert. I must say, I need to find another excuse for making this, and soon! It really is this easy, and it tastes divine. I might cut out the rum next time (or a little of the Bailey's) because it didn't set up quite as hard as I wanted (though I may not have given it quite enough time).

So smooth, so creamy, so delicious...

David Lebovitz: The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe...Ever

Chocolate and Banana Ice Cream

Four to six scoops

2 ounces (55 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 tablespoons (80 ml) milk, whole or low-fat

6 tablespoons (80 ml) Baileys liquor

1 medium-sized ripe banana, peeled*, and cut into chunks

1 tablespoon (15 ml) dark rum


1. In a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave), melt the chocolate with the milk.

2. Blend the melted chocolate the Baileys, the banana, and rum until smooth.

3. Pour into a plastic or metal container, cover, and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Friday, December 14, 2007

iBike WW50

Simone and I rode downtown to do some Christmas shopping today. A little chilly, but we stayed toasty warm by dressing in layers. She fell asleep on the ride back - exhausted after an hour of shopping.

Water and Fire

Slow motion water and fire.



Hat Tip: Ze

Saturday, December 08, 2007

iBike WW49

Simone and I took a nice ride in the sunny fall weather today, just the standard loop out the Midge Cramer path and back over Witham Hill. What made it interesting today was that I broke my seat post half way through the ride. It felt like a spinning class - 20 minutes of standing (including a 5 minute hill).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mozzarella



Years ago I saw some cooking show where some lady made mozzarella and it looked way easy. But I never tried. I'd thought about making cheese off and on, but ... c'mon, it's cheese, it can't be easy...

Mary recently began reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and came to the part about making cheese. They made it sound easy, so we got off our butts and got the rennet and citric acid, and off to the races we were.

The recipe says it takes 30 minutes, and they're right. It is as easy as: warm milk, add citric acid, add rennet, strain curds, heat and knead cheese. Done!

One gallon of milk made one pound of cheese. We had a bunch of whey left over (3 quarts), and are planning on making ricotta because it sounds just as easy as the mozzarella (we'll see).

Ten Steps To Close Down an Open Society

Mary mentioned this article a couple of days ago, and then I just got a link to it from another source (so I could actually read it). Figured the world was trying to tell me something:

Naomi Wolf: Ten Steps To Close Down an Open Society - The Huffington Post

Every day I have trouble figuring out if I'm more scared about this country going to hell in a handbasket (b/c of things like the above and our country's continual shift away from a secular society toward a religious one) or the world becoming uninhabitable (global warming and other environmental problems).

I feel insecure raising a child in this world... I'm very uncertain of her future.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

iBike WW48

It's getting harder and harder to bike in nice weather, this coming week looks to be nasty for most of it. Simone and I did manage to find an hour of time where the rain wasn't coming down yesterday. She nodded off in the Burley almost immediately, and I biked for the hour - excepting the part where I had to inflate the Burley tires (turns out they go flat after a year, go figure).

We also happened to get our Christmas tree during another part of the day where it wasn't raining. We put it up this afternoon. Woo-hoo!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Even Better Than The Honda Commercial

Brylcreem's Effortless TV Ad:



It's even better than the Honda commercial (check here).

Hat tip to ze.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Seems Apropos

I quit Intel to work for Mentor, and one of the big questions was whether or not things would be better at Mentor. This comic seemed relevant:



My 6 month report of whether working at Mentor is better/worse than at Intel: on par, just different things to complain about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Simple, Clever, Let's Use Them

Pretty cool technology here: solar powered LED road studs, and according to some of the case studies, it's reduced accidents by 70%. While that wouldn't happen everywhere, it'd probably help quite a bit in the right places.

Web Pages

I was looking for an artist I know I'd seen at the Corvallis Fall Festival, and I noticed how many folks don't have a web page.

I think that's nearly inexcusable for almost all businesses, but especially for artists. Mary and I talked about it for her business, and we figured it probably wouldn't be worth the effort (at this point). A friend of hers, however, has a great web page for a naturopathic physician. As good as she is, Portland is inundated with naturopaths, and she probably needs something to help set her apart. Mary's situation in Corvallis is a bit different.

But, back to artists, you simply have to have a web page now. Let's say you're one of the 22 artists who do jewelry. How am I going to remember which one was the one I liked? The name probably isn't going to stick, I need to see your product. Plus, what if I want to contact you to buy something? The Fall Festival at least provided an option for a website - but no other contact information. Even if they didn't provide a slot for the website, a quick google on your name would probably find your website (especially if it's listed on a couple of the festivals you'd frequent in a year).

One of my favorite vendors at the festival is King Wu. And, to be honest, I didn't remember his name (and he's someone I actively look for each year we go). But given the list of artists, I was happy to look through the 6 web sites for photographers at the festival to find his site.

In fact, that's exactly what I did a couple of years ago when I was trying to find a particular photograph Mary and I saw while visiting Arizona. She'd really liked a couple of prints in a gallery in Flagstaff. A quick search of galleries in Flagstaff gave me a couple of phone numbers to call. I called each and asked about their artists, and 10 minutes later I was on the guy's website - looking at the exact print I wanted.

It's just a shame that only 87 of the 171 artists at the Fall Festival have web sites. It's not difficult to do, it's not terribly expensive, and I'd bet that even a simple web page with a couple of representative photos and contact information would result in more sales (provided you produce a unique product - I just don't understand how the dudes who try to sell middle-school shop class quality woodwork at Portland's Saturday Market stay in business... I mean, seriously, a mirror behind a wooden board with a routed edge???).

Every business should have an answering machine/service that at least gives the business name and hours of operation (I should *never* get a busy signal). And secondly, most businesses really need web pages.

Monday, November 26, 2007

1.5 Years

Simone was born 18 months ago today, happy one-and-a-half birthday!

"Bath" seems to be her current favorite word, and while she's not walking on her own yet, she's wriggling around like a slippery eel when she gets excited. She loves to read, and she sings along when we read Snuggle Puppy

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

FreeRice

I've peaked at level 38: FreeRice

Monday, November 19, 2007

SelectSmart.com 2008 Presidential Candidate Selector

A quick survey here:
SelectSmart.com gives you an idea of who you might want to vote for. This is the second time I've been told Kucinich would be good for me. I should check him out (not that he'll make the nomination).

My top 9:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
2. Barack Obama (87%)
3. Dennis Kucinich (86%)
4. John Edwards (82%)
5. Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (81%)
6. Joseph Biden (81%)
7. Al Gore (not announced) (78%)
8. Hillary Clinton (78%)
9. Wesley Clark (not running, endorsed Clinton) (77%)
10. Christopher Dodd (75%)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

iBike WW47

Sure enough, Simone and I braved the drizzle and took a quick ride today. 32 minutes, all of it very wet. Well, wet for me. Simone was very dry and comfortable in the Burley trailer.

And now for Simone's first contribution to the blog:

z.cvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv ddd dddddddv d
z;;;;;qqqqqqqqqqqq

Saturday, November 17, 2007

iBike WW46

I put off riding until the end of the week again, and the weather looked horrible. Luckily, mother nature intervened, and after taking a nice nap, Simone and I rode off into the gray day - without getting rained on. We took a nice, meandering ride by the golf course and out south of Philomath. We were gone nearly an hour.

The trick is next week - as we'll be at the beach most of the week for Thanksgiving, guess I'm riding again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Carnivorous Poncho

Mary is big into knitting, and she's started reading kitting blogs. She ran across this gem today It's titled, "Carnivorous Poncho."

The Impact Of Radiohead's Latest Album

I read the entertainment section of the Corvallis newspaper last Friday and found this article: Can Radiohead kill the music biz? - Night Rider. The short synopsis of the article was that Radiohead's act of putting their latest album up for grabs for a buyer determined price was "[opening] all of us up to a new lowest common denominator." I believe he's mainly lamenting the long-term prospects of independent record shops because he believes Radiohead's choice to offer official downloads signals the death of the local shops.

Ironically, Night Rider admits he's reviewing a CD he got from a friend who downloaded it for free, and Night Rider says he's not going to stop listening to it because he's a "professional":
I’m not going to stop listening to my burned copy of “In Rainbows.” I’m a professional, and I need to know.

I'm not even sure how to respond to any of this. The guy obviously has put thought into the article, and he believes the recording industry has been "ripping us off for years, promising to lower the cost of CDs for the consumer, but mostly reneging on that promise." Yet his critique of Radiohead's choice completely ignores the idea that independent record stores might be disappearing due (in part, wholy?) to the fact that big-box stores undercut their prices, and that kids (that's where new money is) are no longer coming to record shops. Also, some (using RIAA numbers) show the decline in sales has nothing to do with downloading songs for free. And, in some places, independent shops have seen a rise in sales. Recent studies have also shown that "piracy" boosts CD sales. Also, some artists see boosts in revenue when they give their music away.

I'm also confused as to why Night Rider, as a "professional" in the music industry, refuses to pay Radiohead (or their record label, or anyone) for the album he so enjoys, after all, he says, "I personally believe in paying for my music, and not just the band either."

So, because Radiohead cut out the independent record store, he's going to screw Radiohead out of the money he supposedly believes owes? Without bands (like Radiohead) there is nothing for the local stores to sell! What about another option: paying Radiohead $8 and donating $4 to his favorite local record store? He'd still be supporting both the band and local stores, it's a win-win.

What about the fact that Radiohead probably stands to make more money by releasing it directly than through their label? Bands don't usually make money from their record deals with the current system.

The music industry is obviously a complex beast. And I'm all in favor of supporting the local businesses. However, the industry doesn't exist to support our independent music shops. It's the music industry, and therefore it's about the music (and the people that make it). If the independent shops become obsolete, so be it.

Electricity meant the end of lamp lighter's jobs. The automatic elevator meant the end of elevator operators. Accordions were popular until Fender introduced their amped electric guitar (poor accordion craftsmen had to look for jobs). Digital cameras signal the end of photo shops. Heck, the recording industry probably put a lot of bands out of business because bars could play recorded music as opposed to paying a band.

Advances in technology usually lead to shifts in the way things are done. In this case, the internet allows me to find and listen to any band in the world. And because of new services you can actually find new bands, with almost no cost to the bands. And, as Radiohead's album shows (as well as the label Magnatune (among others)), people are willing to pay for "free" music.

This is good for musicians and music-lovers.

Note: The real losers are the recording industry, who has been screwing musicians for years.

Note: I don't listen to Radiohead and have no opinion on any of their albums.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Books, Politics, and Making Judgments

As I mentioned earlier, I've been listening to books on CD while driving to work. It sure makes the time fly past.

The first book I read was Empire by Orson Scott Card (OSC). I really enjoyed Ender's Game, and the Alvin series. The Empire book is a fictional account of the beginnings of a civil war in the United States set during present time. I enjoyed the book - but a review isn't what is on my mind.

While reading Empire I got the distinct impression that OSC was conservative. The main heros in the book were conservative military folks, so I first figured it was just because the way he was telling the story. I actually thought back to his book Folk On The Fringe, where I got a similar impression of OSC.

The plot of Empire revolves around the point that the "left" and the "right" are at such odds with each other, each side pretty much fanatical in their beliefs that they are right and the other side is wrong. In a situation where one side (doesn't matter which) decides to take over - you're either with them or you're against them. And that's how a civil war might begin. So it's actually a pretty realistic scenario, provided you have the right people in the right places.

At the end of the book, OSC talks about how he came up with the idea for the book, and how he, himself, has been attacked by the left and the right with equal fanaticism.

That's what got me thinking...

I looked him up on Wikipedia, and he's a self proclaimed Democrat because of his views on gun control, his views on free-market capitalism, and his thinking that the Republican party tolerates racism. But he's supportive of Bush's war on terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for Israel, and Fox News. I can see how both sides might attack him.

I must admit, my gut feeling is that he's all wrong about the war and supporting our miserable failure of a president, Bush. But his comments at the end of Empire got me thinking, "am I just attacking him because he's pro-war-on-terror?" I had certainly classified him as a Republican based on that.

Honestly, I don't care where OSC stands politically. I'll read his science fiction because it's well-written and is a lot more interesting than a lot of the cruft out there. Empire, Pastwatch, and Alvin are all good examples of alternative histories (futures) that I enjoyed.

Back to my thinking... OSC talked about the polarization of our country, which very real (to some extent), but what I found interesting was how he parroted the "liberal media" line. I used to accept that line, but I cannot any longer. In my opinion, the media has become corporate, not "left" or "right". There are just so many reasons to reject the label "liberal media" - the most obvious is that they're in it for the money - just look at what non-news shows are: sex and violence. Why? Because it sells. It sells to liberals, it sells to conservatives.

The other main reasons I reject "liberal media" is that the news simply repeats the White House press releases. Look at the run up to the war, the news stations were hyping up the impending conflict - not doing any investigation of whether it was warranted or not. Look at the coverage for the '08 presidential election. The 8 or so Democratic candidates were "hampering" the debates, but the 10 or so Republican candiates "participating in the process." What else gets big coverage? Obama not wearing a US flag lapel pin, Edwards' hair cut, Edwards being rich, Clinton's being a woman (her clothes/cleavage/femininity get coverage). I'm not saying the media is "conservative" - but I'd hardly count that kind of coverage as being "liberal" when no such similar views of the Republican front-runners is present. Moving away from the presidential election, how many conservative pundits can you name? How many liberal? I bet you can name three times as many conservatives as liberals - and you can't count Colmes because he's a complete pushover. Lastly, the "liberal media" label seems to be used just like "activist judges" - namely when conservatives disagree with what they're saying.

Ok, so Trey doesn't buy the "liberal media" tag line, where's he going with this?

Turns out the second book I got from the library was Al Franken's The Truth: With Jokes. Good liberal punditry. (And you can't use him for the pundit count because he's now in politics, ha!)

So, am I just listening/reading views I like/already agree with? I guess so, so I'm really no better than the rest of the country. I've got a viewpoint, I pay attention to views that reinforce my thinking, and ignore the ones I don't like, right?

I'm trying not to. Until recently, I don't think I got my news primarily from the standard networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) and OPB radio. While I didn't listen to Rush Limbaugh, I also didn't listen to Al Franken on Air America. And some time around 2004 I read an Ann Coulter book because a Republican friend of mine said he'd read Al Franken if I read Coulter. He didn't follow through with his part of the deal.

Anyway, because of this "left" versus "right" stuff, I tried to think about how I make decisions about who I believe versus who I do not. And it's pretty simple. I believe people who bring facts to the debate, and who (when cross-examined) debate the issue at hand.

Take, for example, Al Franken versus Ann Coulter (I'm listening to her Godless book right now). The Franken book is chock full of quotes and references to studies. The Coulter book (so far, I'm only through chapter 3) has very few quotes and no references to any studies. Coulter does very little work to try to prove her point, she just makes sweeping generalizations with very little evidence. I've read that Coulter uses lots of second sources, which would explain why she puts forward the controversy of Bob Casey not being allowed to speak at the 1992 democratic national convention because he was pro-life. The only problem is that other pro-life governors did speak at that convention. Yes, I agree with Franken's conclusions (Bush is horrible), but he gives me reasons to. Side note: Coulter's first few chapters are on crime, and I think it's disgusting how she goes on for paragraphs describing in detail the horrific crimes (brutal rapes/murders) done by criminals let out by Dukakis. She repeats the graphic tales many times, with no apparent point other than to link the word "liberal" with this imagery.

Another example of the dichotomy of styles of influence was a pair of interviews on Fresh Air. The first guy interviewed was talking about his book detailing the influence of Isreal lobby, and he gave examples of various ways the lobby had influence. The second guy's response to the book was essentially going on and on about how anti-semetic the book's ideas were. Now I don't know anything about the book's subject, but who should I believe? My choices are: a rational man putting forward ideas with evidence, or the man spewing angry rhetoric who fails to address any of the points raised by the first one?

That's pretty much it, I tend to agree with people who present a rational argument for their case. Usually there's only one side that does that, so I don't often have to try to weigh the two different arguments.

If I get a rare case where two sides both seem to have arguments that hold water, then I'm on my own and have to do some research. Thank goodness for the web.

Kung Fu Monkey: Lunch Conversations #4223: Getting In on the Ground Floor

Kind of funny, yet sad at the same time: Kung Fu Monkey: Lunch Conversations #4223: Getting In on the Ground Floor

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SMART I Am

So I took the bus into work today. I get off I-5 in Salem and hop on s SMART bus, which frees me from driving the last half hour. When I started looking for an alternative job to Intel I told myself that I needed to expand my resume. You see, most of my experience is in the languages C++ and Tcl, and while C++ has a good reputation and reasonable job prospects, Tcl is a veritable dead end.

So I've decided to start playing around with Java, and when can I do that??? I'll do it on the bus ride to work.

We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

iBike WW45

Yet another beautiful fall day, I rode to Philomath and back, stopping at Safeway to pick up some yeast for bread Mary was gonna make, and some sweetened condensed milk to complete the Thai iced tea mix Mary bought me.

Nice ride, I came back from Philomath not on the bike path, but up over a hill I'd never ridden. The houses up there have beautiful views of the valley, though most of the houses weren't very exciting to look at.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Week of T

It's been a while since an update on Simone, and with the state of my memory, I figure I'd better write things down.

This week she found her T's, a few of her words have picked up a T on the end. She says the entire word "bath" - even with the th, and she says "hat" - which is usually followed by "dude." She counts "one" "two" "three" fairly well. She leaves off the last consonant from her words, like "boo(k)" "ca(ke)" and "bo(wl)". She's good at pointing out her "shoes".

She knows some animal sounds, her fish sound is cute - she opens and closes her mouth. She makes a low "woof" sound for dogs, and a kissing sound for a duck - because it we have it kiss her cheek.

She's still tentative while walking around the house and wants both hands. She loves running around, chasing you, squealing, and then being chased.

Simone draws with crayons on the large pad of paper, and the swing is still a favorite toy.

She eats most everything, though her current favorites are rice and rice cakes. She'll eat avocado, artichoke heart, olive, spinach, beans, green beans, and most surprising of all: pickled ginger. Simone recently discovered the fork and prefers it to the spoon - I think because she can successfully stab things with the fork.

When Simone is thirsty, she asks for water by making the "ahhh" sound most people make after having a drink of something tasty.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Focus Stealing Windows

I did a quick Google search to see if others felt like I do, and I only found one link in the top 100 that weren't just programming related: IanG on Tap: I Hate Dialog Boxes that Grab the Focus

I too hate how Windows (and certain window managers on Unix) lets dialog and application windows pop up and steal focus. Twice this week I've had windows pop up, presumably asking a question, and disappear as I am madly typing into whatever I'm currently doing (usually programming). My windows machine started to reboot on me because of this (that's what the dialog was for). EH?

Stop Stealing Focus!!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Google Branding

This guy had an interesting question (well, ok, it's kind of mundane, but I'd thought about it recently) would you switch from Google if a better search engine came along?

Sure, if Google were *only* a search engine, I'd probably switch. However, I'm using it for more and more stuff. I use it for my primary non-work email, for calendaring, IM chat, blogging, RSS feed aggregator, the searchbar, and (obviously) the general search engine. So, they've built up enough collateral that I'd need a large jump in search improvement (like 10X better, or natural language processing) to switch.

Plus, I like the way Google does things. For one, their products/services just work. And secondly, they use open standards for their implementation. Which means, I can use their IM chat server with any client (doesn't have to be GTalk), I can read my GMail with whatever client I want (they just added an IMAP interface), and their calendar works with ical format, so I can use it to consolidate my work calendar with home. So, even if I want to move away from Google search, I know I can still use their other services because they don't lock anyone out of using their stuff via proprietary interfaces.

Friday, November 02, 2007

iBike WW44

Simone and I rode to the store to pick up some chili powder, so I continued on to Philomath to make the ride qualify for the iBike.

One thing that was odd was that the store (Safeway, didn't hit the co-op) had 3 kinds of chili powder: traditional "chili" powder, anaheim chili, and poblano chili. The traditional chili powder cost 50% more than the ones I would have considered specialized. Very counter-intuitive.

Biometrics at my bank

On November 6th, my bank is going to start using biometrics for extra security for online banking. I'm not sure if this makes me feel safer or not.

I had actually noticed that the online login page does erase the entire password when you hit the backspace key (as opposed to just erasing just one character). I thought it odd, but now it kind of makes sense, they've been collecting the biometric information for a while now, and they only wanted to record the typing when you type the correct password.

(1:03pm) Edited to add: I wonder how this will work with people who choose to have their web browser remember their passwords. Perhaps the widget on the FirstTech online login doesn't allow that...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Don't Quite Get It...

I joined YouTube because a guy I used to work with has been putting up videos: Randy Helzerman.

I get what he's talking about. Well, not quite, he reads books as fast as I eat junk food, and retains everything.

Anyway, what I don't quite get is why I had to "join" YouTube to get updates on what videos Randy (or anyone) produces. Why isn't RSS good enough? I don't see what I gain by "joining" YouTube, but I do know I have to get my updates via email, as opposed to my favorite aggregator.

Audio Books at the Library

As I drive a lot, I try to entertain myself while in the car. I used to entertain myself with road rage, but that wasn't real healthy. Then I entertained myself with other folks' road rage, but there just isn't enough to be interesting. For a long while I listened to OPB, but now I'm on to audio books.

I've listened to them in the past, but the library seemed to have very few audio books on CD. Lots on cassette, but the CD selection could barely occupy a 5'x5' set of shelves, maybe 100 books total. Plus, the books that were there looked rather boring.

Well, the last time I went into the library, I stopped by the audio books on CD and saw two that looked interesting, one by Al Franken and one by Orson Scott Card (more on them later). But I was curious this time, and I looked at the on-line catalog to see what kind of selection they really had.

Wow, turns out they have a huge selection. Nearly 2000 non-fiction audio books, and a whopping 4367 fiction books. And, nearly half of that is books on CD: 704 non-fiction and 1812 fiction. It just happens that nearly all the CD books are checked out all the time!

I just looked at one of the books I have on hold, The Prometheus Deception by Robert Ludlum. There are 4 variants of the book at the library: CD, cassette, paperback and large print. The CD version has been checked out 73 times, and the cassette 53 times, both are currently checked out. The paperback has been read 14 times, and the large print 35, neither of which is currently checked out.

This extremely un-scientific study shows that audio books are checked out 3 times as often as print versions - and this is a popular book. The Al Franken book I am currently "reading" has two print copies and one audio, the print has been checked out 30 times between the two copies, and the audio 29 times (oh, there's also a large-print version that's been checked out 6 times, and a downloadable version w/no historical information available).

Anyway, the summary is that there's a plethora of choices for me to listen to, I just can't wait to browse them in person because they're never on the shelves.

I have been meaning to check out the downloadable books, perhaps that'll be my next set of books.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Whole Foods behemoth?

I'd heard of the issue of Whole Foods wanting to buy Wild Oats and how the FTC was asked if this was proper.

The link above is an article trying to point out that the FTC shouldn't necessarily look at the effect of the merger on the consumers, but on the suppliers. While that's a fair question, I think it conflates two issues: supporting local (small) suppliers, and building the business.

First, the grist article correctly points out that other, large, supermarkets are opening up their own lines of organic produce/food, and Whole Foods now competes against that. (this is the building the business issue)

Second, the article suggests that Whole Foods will likely turn away from small suppliers and try to "rationalize its supplier base." (this is the supporting local (small) suppliers)


Second point first. While "rationalization" of supplier base has traditionally happened, Whole Foods does seem dedicated to keeping local suppliers involved. See the open letters between Whole Foods and Michael Pollan: one, two, three. Sure, there's no guarantee, but it appears Whole Foods has made an honest effort to bring local suppliers into their stores.

Back to the first point: The argument made here is essentially: "well, Whole Foods used to be good, now they're going to become corporate, and that's bad." grist lets the other super markets (Kroger, Safeway, Wal-Mart) pass on involving local suppliers, but wants to tie the hands of Whole Foods. Sounds like it would just give the other super markets a (potential) edge over Whole Foods which, in the long run, could hurt the chain.

I'm all in favor of supporting local suppliers, in fact, my family buys over 95% of our produce from the local food co-op (http://www.firstalt.coop) or directly from the farmers (through the market or CSA).

Tilting the playing field to burden a single chain seems unfair, and in the long run doesn't directly address the issues raised.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

iBike WW43

Beautiful fall day today. Mary, Simone and I all biked to Simone's swim class and back. Very leisurely, very pleasant. Not too many of these days left this year.

Overheard in New York | It's Getting Difficult To Tell The Tourists From Natives

Third time wasn't the charm, I'm still a runner up. Check out the other winners here: Overheard in New York

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

OMG!

Ok, I was lured over to look at myspace because a friend has a page, and I thought I should finally check it out.

In the 5 minutes I spent looking at their page (and their friends' pages), I'm here to report that I want my 5 minutes back, and the part of my soul it stole.

A while back, Ze had a contest to see who could create the ugliest myspace page (seems as though most have reverted to standard ugly, not contest-winning-super-ugly). At the time, I didn't realize the impetus for the contest, now I understand.

While I don't begrudge the creators of MySpace the $580M they got when the company was bought. I must say that they've done a heck of a job making it difficult for people to create good looking web pages.

The blinking, and flashing, and gawdy images that everyone seems to post on the obligatory comments area ... it's enough to give you a seizure. Plus, most of the pages are wider than my browser - and I've got a huge screen.

I'm glad that 100 million regular folks have the opportunity to create their own personal web pages, and have circles of friends, and never-ending comment areas. I just won't ever be joining the club. I hope the Internet has moved beyond MySpace by the time Simone gets to using a computer.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not Quite Getting The Idea

So, last week I roll up to the vietnamese sub shop to eat a big bowl full of Pho, and I notice I'm the first of the crowd to arrive. So I hang out in the Mazda listening to the radio. It's raining, so the car's dirty interior is totally preferable to the getting wet.

Anyway, I look over and notice the nice Prius next to me (ha, 50mpg? mazda gets 40). No big deal, lots of Prii(plural?) in Oregon (after all, it is one of the greenest states). I then notice the headlights are on, and the windshield wipers are going. But nobody was sitting inside the car!!!

It's not like a diesel engine, that used to need to be idled on fear of the fuel gelling up, or something else.

Friday, October 19, 2007

iBike WW42

Simone and I woke up this morning to no rain, so we hopped on the bike (Burley) and rode off into the world. Nice and cool, with the pretty fall colors.

Simone's First Cold

Simone has a cold, her first illness. Pretty impressive, she's 16 months old, and her first one. Most people I know who have kids have been sick many times over by this point.

Yet another benefit of having a parent at home (i.e. no daycare).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

iBike WW39

Hmmm.... I think my work week numbering is off. I haven't missed a week, really. But I think I should be in the 40's right now.

This week Simone and I rode on Friday evening after work, she provided ballast while I tried to bike around and over Witham Hill as fast as I could. I'm pretty sure if I were in good shape, it would only take me about 30 minutes, but this week it took over 40.

But, it was a beautiful fall evening.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sliming Graeme Frost

Sliming Graeme Frost - New York Times

By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: October 12, 2007 Two weeks ago, the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address was delivered by a 12-year-old, Graeme Frost. Graeme, who along with his sister received severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and continues to need physical therapy, is a beneficiary of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded that program to cover millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured.

Click on the link above to get the opinion piece. Needless to say, it shows the sad state of media and the effectiveness of the right-wing political machine.

Oregonian to the Core

So I'm driving to work this morning, minding my own business, when out of nowhere a blinding light hits me in the side of the face. I'm totally taken off guard and think, "What the f*@k is going on?"

It was the just risen sun.

Which reminded me of a favorite quote I heard on a traffic report in Portland:
"Traffic is really slow at the 217 interchange due to bright sunlight."

Oregonian to the core.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Owner Mark Cuban Trades Stocks on Sharesleuth.com's Advance Info

I read (well, used to read) Mark Cuban's blog. He had a bunch of interesting insights into the NBA, like discussing refereeing, the business of it all, etc. But a while back he stopped writing about that, and it's been dull. Except for a couple of posts about his shorting of certain stocks.

Wired has an article (Owner Mark Cuban Trades Stocks on Sharesleuth.com's Advance Info) on Mark Cuban's company/website that basically does investigations into companies that are over-valued, at which point Mark Cuban shorts the stock, and publishes the information on the web site. It's only done a couple of reports, but many people are fired up over the idea of a company doing investigative reporting solely for the purposes of shorting stock shares.

My two cents on it all... good for Mark. Nobody else is doing critical investigations of companies. You have Enron and all sorts of other accounting scandals that are bilking share holders of tons of money (not to mention the impact of high energy costs in California due to Enron) happening. Where's the traditional media? Hyping up the corporate sound bites w/no critical thinking (exactly the same as it does for the Bush sound bites).

I hope sharesleuth.com does well finding companies that are just smoke and mirrors. As long as it continues to do reporting based on legally sound investigative practices, I'm all for it. Plus, Mark is totally up front on what is happening - he looks for bad companies and tells the world about it. He's not hiding anything, it's the companies that are hiding things.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ha Ha, Good One

I woke up to the alarm clock this morning, it was 6am and going off. My groggy senses wondered, "when did I set this alarm?" If it weren't for that sluggish response, I would have been dressed and almost out the door before I noticed that Simone had mucked with the clock.

See, we've got one of those clocks that automatically sets itself based off the signal sent out over the air. You can't even change the time (well, ok, the instructions don't say how to do it, turns out Simone figured out how to set it herself b/c one day the time was *way* off, not just the wrong time zone). Generally all you do is select which time zone you want, and everything else is set up properly.

Evidentially, yesterday Simone set the alarm, and she changed the time-zone to Central time, so it wasn't 6am, it was really 4am.

Sneaky, sneaky girl. Gotta keep an close eye on her.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gutters

I like our house, it's got a number of fun, interesting features.

However, the guy (gal) who designed it showed remarkable lack of design skills in a couple of areas. Today (because it is raining), I feel like ranting about the roof and the gutter (drainage) system.

First, the roof lines are fun and visually interesting from the street. Whee.

However, on one side of the porch, the major beam that runs across the porch juts out past the roof line. What does this mean? Horizontal wood (painted) is exposed to rain. Not only that, but an entire roof drains onto this piece of wood. They (as an afterthought) added a piece of flashing over the top, but only made the flashing extend to cover two-thirds of the exposed wood. Eh? The 15 cents of aluminum saved was not worth it. I repainted the wood with several coats this summer, but failed to put up a bigger piece of flashing (it will go up before the winter has really begun).

The downspouts all around the house are "aimed" at the pipes that drain to the sewer. yes, they "aim" in the general direction, but they don't really drain directly into the pipes. Most are rectangular downspouts that end 1/4 inch above the beginning of the circular drainage pipes. And, no, they don't line up exactly. A couple of the downspouts are crimped at the bottom to "ensure" the water all goes into the pipe. While that makes sure more of the water gets in the pipe, it creates a wonderful blockage for any debris that falls down the downspout.

The best feature is a drainage area behind the garage. See, the two north/south peaks in the front of the house drain to a flat area above the front porch, which is serviced by two downspouts. The one in front of the garage seems to be OK, as it's surrounded by a sea of aluminum flashing with no seams (thank god). So debris in that area has plenty of space to collect and not cause any major problems. However, the one behind the garage is just a mess. First, it all collects to a single channel that runs east/west, continuing to collect rain from a third peak above the master bedroom. So an inordinate amount of rain collects in this tiny location. The flashing is pretty high along the vertical surface, so all is not bad. However, it drains to one point where it dumps into a square section of gutter, perhaps 4 inches square.

Yes, about one-tenth of the roof drains into a 4"x4" section of gutter. That's roughly 4000 gallons of water draining into 16 square inches of space. (1/10 * 1600 square feet * 40" of rain per year)

Of course a couple of leaves and a few pine needles are all that's needed to clog up that little space. Why? Well, if water builds up just before it reaches the gutter, water will flow along the south-facing exterior wall and drain down the wall, flowing over the garage window, and continuing down to the ground.

Oh, but it gets better. Presume, for a second, that there aren't any blockages at the gutter. The downspout immediately bends 45 degrees, flows 5 feet, and then makes a 90 degree bend into a jury-rigged connection with another downspout. Yes, they crimped the end of the 90 degree bend and shoved it into a hole in the other downspout, and liberally applied caulk. This little junction commonly fills up with gunk (usually sediment from the shingles) and the rain backs up to the 45 degree bend where it pours out, and, you guessed it, down the side of the house, over the window, and to the ground.

I have added wire mesh to all of the downspout/gutter connections, so this helps prevent debris from entering (clogging) the downspouts, and it also allows water to drain longer. But the fundamental design of the area behind the garage just blows. The water pouring over the window is certainly what has caused water damage inside the window (in the garage), and I'm sure the design has let water come into the garage and cause the mildew bloom we had in the garage.

Hopefully the occasional cleaning of the gutter and the wire mesh will keep us from having any problems. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to redo the downspout in that corner and just have it drain under ground into a French drain. I'm still not sure how I'll manage ensuring all 4000 gallons get into the downspout, but something will come up.

It just means that when it rains every fall I watch the water pour over the window and get to go out in the wet to clean the gutter.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

MSNBC:Right :: Democrats: ???

Remember the analogy section from the SAT?

Well, on my jog the other day I put together an analogy I hadn't heard anywhere else (I know, possibly an original idea, from me).

You may or may not know the (his)tory behind Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC (read some about it here or in this book. The short story is that MSNBC wanted a show to compete against Fox New's O'Reilly Factor, and started off with the liberal-leaning Phil Donahue. However, over time, the executives at MSNBC forced the show to become more "balanced" - so much so that it had 2 or 3 conservatives for every liberal on the show (Phil Donahue (the host) counted as a liberal). The ratings plummeted (to a level still above the rest of the shows on MSNBC), and they canceled the show. It turns out, the executives thought Donahue would be "a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war".

So, you have a major news network starting off trying to present an alternative to the conservative Fox News, but the suits panic and force the shows to get in line with the administration. Heaven forbid any media actually question the administration.

Now, look at the Democrats. They've been saying, "out of Iraq," "Republicans have a culture of corruption," and that Bush has overstepped his authority. Sure, that sounds great, but what happens when it actually comes time to doing anything?

They vote for continued funding, they refuse to impeach bush or do much of anything to shed light on the corruption surrounding this administration and the war.

They're just like MSNBC, gutless.

Oh, and the solution to the analogy is: Executive Branch


Note: Democrats have more than enough votes to cut funding for the war, they simply don't want to (just need 41 to filibuster any funding bills).

Note: I'm not certain an immediate pull out is wise, but we should certainly be starting the withdrawal now (and, no the proposed draw down to pre-surge levels doesn't count b/c 1) that's the definition of "surge", and 2) it's known that our military simply lacks the bodies to maintain anything about 130k troops in Iraq.

GM & UAW

So the strike is over, I've no idea what the details of the new agreement are, but it got me thinking.

Sure, GM is now spending over $5B (yup, Billion) each year on health care for it's workers (current and retired). Yes, that's a lot of cash.

Still, they were the most profitable company in the U.S. off and on for the past 45 years!!!! Hell, they made $1.4 BILLION in 1963 (after making just under a billion the previous 3 years).

And it's not as though they haven't planned for their employees' retirement, they've got $90B in their pension fund. But, it sounds as though they do not have a health care fund, but just have a liability. (To "fund" the UAW health care fund, they're considering handing over $30B).

What happens to poor folks (or even average folks) who are delinquent on their auto/house/boat payments? We get our stuff repossessed. Well, GM should have been paying better attention to their financial state and saved for the retirement costs like they did their pension.

I have no sympathy for GM. They promised to pay the bills, they've made a TON of money over the years, there's no excuse for not living up to their obligations.

iBike WW38

Simone and I biked on the damp streets (no rain for us, luckily), picking up some cover crop for the garden, and checking out all the new houses up behind the Timberhill area. We looked at one for $924,000 on 2 acres. Kind of an ugly exterior, but a beautiful interior.

Stats: 45 min of riding

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who Should I Vote For?

WQAD came up with a survey you can answer and it compares your answers
with the candidates positions.

Select a Candidate 2008

My top three (in order) are Kucinich, Clinton, Obama (Clinton and Obama are tied).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peak Oil Is Here

A write up on The Oil Drum: ...To Grandmother's House We Go: Peak Oil Is Here. Not a doomsday story (well, not until the last three paragraphs) but a well written analysis of what has just happened and what it will start to mean.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Progress

From: One Gigabyte: Then and Now

Well Said

Scott Adams has a great post discussing the visit of the Iranian president to the U.S.

And, of course, a number of people read his post and completely missed the point. So he clarified with a follow-up. The best quote in the follow-up was:
You can only fool me five or six dozen times before I start getting suspicious.


Evidentially, the number of times his readers can be fooled is higher than six dozen.

Runner-Up for Overheard in New York

Persistence pays off, I'm a runner-up in the bi-weekly contest on Overheard in New York:

Overheard in New York | Plus, She's Deaf. And German.

I was excited to think I was the first runner-up, but then I noticed they are posted in alphabetical order.

Note: while this quote/headline is PG-13, some are not, so don't go browsing if you're easily offended.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Sock Sponge

I pulled a new sponge out of its wrapper and started using it this week. The first thing I noticed was that it was big. But, unlike some of the other sponges we've used, it wasn't super-stiff, so the size wasn't a drawback. It's also kinda fuzzy, like an animal (as Mary noted).

I must admit, I kind of like using a sponge that reminds me of a hedgehog.

PeeChee and Gilmore

Mary and I are watching Gilmore Girls (yeah, I know, chick show, but the writing is awesome - it's the West Wing of the genre (whatever genre that is)). Anyway, in the first season's finale, Rory is carrying her books around school and she has a Pee-Chee, which I think is totally odd. The show is set in Connecticut, and as far as I know, they were only ever popular (and available) on the west coast.

See, in 1990, I left the west coast to go to school in upstate New York, and I spent probably half an hour combing the campus store looking for a Pee-Chee folder. When I asked the store clerks, they stared at me blankly and responded, "Peachy?"

I've also confirmed with my friend Miles who did a similar thing (grew up in LA, went to school in Boston), and he had the same experience.

So I thought it odd that Rory would have one. However, the show tries to be kitschy, so it kind of fits (as she's the only one in her school with one that I noticed).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gmail -> 1-2-3?

Joel (the author of probably the world's most popular software blog) thinks Gmail might go the way of Lotus 1-2-3:
Strategy Letter VI - Joel on Software

Sunday, September 16, 2007

iBike WW36 & WW37

Another double weekend, woo-hoo!

Saturday was the standard ride to the market, just Simone and me this time. We got some fruit for Simone, russian fingerling potatos for Mary, and a watermelon for me. Oh, and the best corn on the cob we've had all year, yum!

Today the three of us went on the Passport to Healthy Garden tour of gardens in Corvallis. We got to 4 houses last year (all of which were pretty slick), and this year we improved to 7 gardens (one wasn't a house). The first was probably the best, it was older and established - they had a large lot with a big ornamental area and a beautiful food garden. And, as a bonus, it was right next to a friend of Mary's - so we poked our heads in and I finally got to see the straw-bale house they've been building (it's very pretty).

The rest of the tour was so-so. The gardens were impressive - lots of food packed into small, residential lots, it's just that they were pretty young (most were 2 years old), and mostly focused on just food (and not ornamental plants). There's a limit to how many times I can gaze at other folk's bounties w/out thinking, "gee, if we just put a little more time into ours..." so it ends up being a little bit of a guilt trip (I'm that self-absorbed).

Anyway, the last garden we hit was a research project at OSU on green roofs and how they respond to different irrigation (rainfall levels). It's pretty interesting, the plants are just getting settled, the research doesn't really start until this winter.

I'd have to see a lot more information on a green roof, but it does sound interesting. Some even go as far as to have goats on their roofs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards"

I like this guy's art/comics. gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": selling more stormhoek

What I find interesting is that he publishes his stuff with a Creative Commons license, meaning anyone can use it for non-commercial purposes.

I think this one is pretty funny:

Borborygmus

Turns out Mary's favorite word from medical school is: Borborygmus

It only took her 8 years to spill the beans.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fireplace

A couple of months ago we had a mud party to make adobe bricks for a fireplace. Well, the fireplace is finally going up. Just thought you'd like a picture of what we have so far:


Kiko is building it for us, and he's got lots of good ideas. You can see the bench on the right side, along with some light weight bricks resting on top of the bench. The light weight bricks (just sawdust and clay) are for the tall chimney.

Initially, the actual fire pit looked too small. But after a couple of little test fires, we found it throws off a lot of heat. Plus, it's of the Rumford design, which is good at pulling the smoke up the chimney, and is very efficient (for a fireplace).

It's tough to tell from the photo, but the chimney in this photo stops about 6 feet off the ground (right at the top of the photo). While it looks cute, the smoke curls back down into the sitting area when the wind blows north. So we're going higher, about 5 feet higher. I floated the idea to Kiko to make a spiral design up the chimney, which I think intrigued him (he talked about one guy he knew that made columns spiral by slightly offsetting the square bricks).

We're very excited to see how it turns out. And just in time for cool weather!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Troop Drawdown

General Petraeus just gave his report to Congress and suggested we begin removing troops to the pre-surge level. President Bush is expected to agree to that tonight.

I wish someone would point out the obvious irony here. A quote from Bush in 2006:
Remarks by the President at the 2006 President's Dinner: "An early withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda and bin Laden. An early withdrawal, before we completed the missions, would say to the United States military, your sacrifices have gone to vain. There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House."
How is the current withdrawal proposal any different than what Bush railed against in the past?

Oh, right, it's because Bush is proposing it, so therefore it is good.

It's obvious our troops kick @ss, but as Petraeus knows they're not suitable for what they're doing in Iraq (because he wrote it in his PhD dissertation:
“…committing U.S. units to counterinsurgencies appears to be
a very problematic proposition, difficult to conclude before domestic
support erodes and costly enough to threaten the well-being of all America’
s military forces (and hence the country’s national security), not just
those involved in the actual counterinsurgency.”


Depressing...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review: Things That Go


(image taken from Amazon)

I read Things That Go tonight for the first time. Someone had given us a 3-pack of the Happy Baby books (we like the Happy Baby Animals book).

The construction of the book is great - nice padded covers, solid paperboard pages, bright colors, neat pictures, etc.

However, I have an issue with some of the content, as it could easily confuse a young child.

First off, a number of the cars are British - and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, whereas other vehicles are American and the steering wheel is on the left side. That's pretty minor, but it's just the beginning.

There are two sections that feature trains (yay! trains). However, both prominently feature the sound, "choo, choo!" (one being in a 'what sound does this make' section). None of the trains pictured are steam engines (they're either electric or diesel). I don't know where these folks get off trying to teach my daughter that electric/diesel trains sound like steam engines. This isn't the 1920's.

The ambulance pictured has the word "police" prominently displayed, which is rather confusing, especially considering the fact the car next to it is labeled as "police car." Are they not both police cars?

The "Kids on the move" page is probably the most egregiously misleading section. All of the kids are obviously at rest. The skateboard guy's picture is blurred to make it look like he's moving, but the wheels are not blurred (it's standing still). The ice-skating girl isn't standing on ice. The snowboarding person looks like they are overdressed and is in a studio. And the cute little girl on the bike... her kickstand is down and is what is holding her up. The only positive note on this page is that everyone is wearing the appropriate safety gear (forgiving the ice skater not having the blade protectors on her skates).

The "Truck puzzle" page has a subtle right-handed bias. You're supposed to find the features in the pictures on one page in the bigger picture on the facing page. The three pictures that contain items that can be found on either the right or left side of the truck are all on the right side of the truck (from the truck's vantage). I worry about the psychological damage to left-handed children (which Simone might be).

The biking girl on the "How do I sound" page appears to actually be biking (or at least balancing) has am improperly set-up bike - her seat is way too low.

The last pages are a "Matching pairs" puzzle where you match the professional worker (builder, pilot, firefighter, astronaut) with the appropriate vehicle. The politically-correct terms are used, but all the professionals are male. Granted, the fields chosen are male-dominated, but they could have used a woman in one of the positions. Note: you cannot see the astronaut's face, but the picture is taken from the classic moon picture, and only men landed on the moon). Additionally, the astronaut is paired with a "space shuttle." There are several things wrong with this, first of all, all moon landings happened way before the space shuttle was even conceived. Secondly, the space shuttle pictured is an obvious model - it has X33 prominently displayed on the side and the model pictured is not even of the X33 design. Compounding the confusion is the fact that the X33 is an unmanned ship. The other space shuttle pictures were real, it is very disappointing the authors skimped on the last picture of the last page.

That being said, I did think the giant excavator and dump truck pictures on the "Construction site" pages were pretty cool. They're both of the really heavy duty variety. The dump truck is of the variety used in (icky) pit coal mines, and the excavator is just huge .

Overall, I found there to be way too many damaging elements to the book. I will continue to read the "animals" book, but this one may have to be shelved until Simone is more mature, perhaps 3 or 4 years old.

Seriously, Did We Need To See This?

From Yahoo! News Photo

Saturday, September 08, 2007

President Condemns Terrorist Attack in Najaf

Surprise, surprise, yet more hypocrisy from W: President Condemns Terrorist Attack in Najaf. That's just one of many statements W has made about terrorists targeting innocent civilians.

Yes, it's bad. Shame on them.

What's worse, though, is pretending that you're not having an effect on civilian deaths. You see, the US invasion has caused 600,000 deaths (range of 426000 to 790000 with a 95% confidence interval). And we continue to use air strikes, knowing full well that they are likely (guaranteed?) to cause even more civilian deaths (a sniper uses a rifle, not a 2 ton bomb folks). But W and the military and all the supporters of the war brush the civilian deaths under the rug because the military "is targeting known terrorist locations."

Gee, don't mind us folks, we're gonna wipe out your family because we think there's a bad guy in there. No, no, we're the good guys, we didn't mean to kill civilians. again. and again. You can't be mad at us.

And to think, people seriously can't figure out why large percentages of Muslims around the world hate the United States.

No disrespect to our troops, it's their leaders I'm angry with, obviously the head honcho most of all.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pot, Kettle, meet W

It's not funny, it's sad. It's depressing. It's more than depressing, and I'm sure that W feels he's been wronged by Iran yet again: ZNet | Activism | Blowback, Detainee-style

Bush and company are outraged that Iran would hold some people, essentially calling them enemies of the state.

Oh, but it gets better, they're of course being held in a jail known to be where folks are tortured.

It boggles the mind that W has the gall to be outraged/indignant over this.

pot meet kettle, kettle ...

NPR : Statistics the Weapon of Choice in Surge Debate

Driving to work yesterday I heard this piece (full text) NPR : Statistics the Weapon of Choice in Surge Debate

The executive summary is that both sides are using various statistics to either to show progress in Iraq or that there isn't progress. It ends with the line:

"So is the surge working? The short answer is that no one can know for certain because statistics only tell a small part of the story."


I found that to be a very odd concluding statement. Every example given in the story followed the same pattern: [the White Hhouse/Pentagon says X, but if you look at things it's really !X] (where X is some measure of success). Every example in the story (success in Anbar, success in Baghdad, total attacks, troop casualties, etc.) was a narrow statistic by the White House/Pentagon and a wider, more contextually revealing statistic showing the opposite. How could the conclusion of the story be essentially, "gee, I dunno which side is right."

Um... the story pretty much says the White House/Pentagon are spinning things their way, and looking deeper reveals they're hiding things from you. Just say so.

Big Stories You Missed

Worth a read: Censored! The top 10 big stories the US news media missed in the past year.

Also, the 15 missed-story runners up.

They're things you probably missed while getting ample coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death, drivel about Britney Spears, John Edwards' haircut,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yay Simone

Simone continues to grow like a weed. She's walking around with help, even getting good enough to walk with only one hand helping her. Her favorite word seems to be "beep". She's very excited about seeing babies in books/magazines and photos.

She loves to pull things out of bags and put toys into cups and bowls. She gets super excited when you chase her, or when she can chase you. She's playing the piano - even reaches up while standing on the ground to play some notes. She plays the marimba while standing - she knows which ends of the mallets to use, and she can pound on the drum. I'm still trying to get her to play the harmonica - that'll probably take a while.

She loves making faces and sticking her tongue out. When you curl your tongue into a tube she giggles hysterically. She still likes the water, and still enjoys rides in the Burley.

Rice cakes are a new thing for her, and she thinks they're the neatest thing since peaches and nectarines. Plain rice is also a favorite - makes going out for Chinese and Japanese food a cinch.

She's much more gentle with books and magazines, used to be she'd rip the cover off immediately. Now she opens the board books and looks at each page, and she likes looking through the magazines for pictures of babies.

We can spend lots of time swinging in the swings. We just got one of those bucket seats to hang up around home. At Gearhart, we spent a lot of time in a super recliner deluxe swing that was like a barcalounger hung from the sky.

Each day is better than the last.

Old People's Memories or Actual Numbers

Little rant here.

The news has had several stories about how hot or how dry the summer has been. And I'm sure it has.

But why talk to old-timers who say, "This is the hottest/driest it's been as long as I can remember."

Gee... that's real useful to me. I'm sure that they could tell us how tough it was walking to school, uphill both ways, through snow, etc.

Just find me the facts, was it or was it not the hottest/driest summer in the past 70 years?

Voting and Religion poll

Interesting spin on the recent Pew poll on religion in the '08 presidential campaign.

This Framing Science post plays up the fact that over a third of Americans wouldn't hold an atheist's non-region against him/her. Muslims and Mormons fare a little better, but still, almost half of Americans would hold a Muslim's religion against him/her.

Perhaps there's some positive trend nobody mentioned, but at face-value, it's a disgrace. Religion is not much more of a choice than race. Most everyone takes the religion of their parents. So... would it be good news if things had gotten to the point where a third of Americans wouldn't hold the fact that someone is black/asian/hispanic against them? Being of a certain religion (or even of any) is not something on which we should judge our leaders (or any individual for that matter).

I thought that we were supposed to judge people on their actions, and on their morale character.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Interviews

I just don't understand it. Almost everyone I interview is pretty clueless. It's very frustrating to go into an interview with a list of questions and have the candidate strike out on nearly every one.

My group is looking for a person who would be a good lead developer for the GUI portion of one of the Calibre tools. So, obviously a NUB probably wouldn't qualify. But to be honest, the recent grads probably know more than the two ... um ... candidates (biting my tongue here) I've had the ... joy of interviewing.

The first was someone already working for Mentor. He'd been there for 7 years. Turns out he had a masters - of mechanical engineering (I didn't notice the area of study until after the interview). I lined up my standard line of questions, the first couple of which I'm embarrassed to even ask. Because the the first set of questions are embarrassing, I begin by saying something to the effect that I always ask these questions and if they seem too simple, we'll blow right through them, it's not to be taken as an indication of my first impression of the candidate.

Here's essentially what I ask:

  • Name some basic data structures. What are the trade-offs of using one over the other?

  • Define the following C++ terms:
    • inheritance
    • virtual functions
    • static functions/data
    • abstract base class
    • pure virtual function
    • operator overloading
    • templates
    • polymorphism

  • When do you use templates and when should you use inheritance?

  • First programming question, complete the following:
    int string_to_int(char *str) {
    /* convert string representing a number into an integer */
    }

    Restrictions come in as appropriate: (can't use atoi, strlen, exp, use only O(n) multiplications.

  • You are given a long line and are told to cut it up into pieces.
    The restrictions are:
    .) No piece can be shorter than some MIN length
    .) No piece can be longer than MAX length
    .) Every cut must be on a unit boundary
    .) There are locations that cannot be cut, presume the function can_cut(x) tells you whether or not you can cut at a location x

    Describe how you would do this.
    Can it be done in linear time/space?
  • A design question from my brother: design a messaging system to handle arbitrary messages of a variety of types, with listeners and senders who may be geographically diverse.
  • And lastly, because we had a little time:
    Write a function `samepattern' that takes two string arguments, 
    and returns true iff the strings have the same pattern. Two strings
    have the same pattern if when elements are equal in the first string,
    the corresponding elements in the second string are equal, and vice
    versa.



Well, the first guy barely answered the data structures questions - which is a bad sign. He did marginally better with the C++ questions, and then we hit the first programming question. He had a horribly difficult time realizing that 123 is 1*10^2 + 2*10^1 + 3*10^0, and finally, after I provided that information he had a tough time figuring out the solution (we never went through refinements, I needed a break). The rail-cutter problem simply baffled him - he had no idea where to start when his algorithm reached a point where he couldn't make a cut. The design question was abysmal, I got a couple of class names out of him, but I had to hold his hand to get each one. I forget how I ended things, but I tried to keep a smile on my face.

The second guy I interviewed did better. He got a little flustered with an impromptu virtual function question I wrote, but it was obscure. He had written string_to_int sometime in his long history (he'd graduated college before I was born), so he nailed that. At that point I noticed he didn't write anything down - no big deal as he nailed the question. We moved on to the rail cutter question and he had some trouble. His code (once I got him to write things down) was horribly ugly and showed he had no idea how to actually return the results. Furthermore, he had NO confidence his program would work, and simply guessed at the runtime. The design question was like pulling teeth, he didn't seem to like talking about design, nor did he seem to think about the scaling implications of a large system. Then, with the few remaining minutes I thought I'd throw him a softball, the 'samepattern' function, so we could end on a high note. He stared at the problem (only responding by saying he understood it) for 8 minutes before giving up.

The first guy just bombed, the only feedback for him would be to go back and study your CS101 and other introductory courses. He, at least, was eager and energetic and put forth a great effort.

The second guy, well, he's been around long enough to know better.

First, be confident about what you're doing, and if you're not, have an idea where the problems might be. He literally told me he didn't think his solution would find all the test cases. Ok, that's honest, but it tells me he really didn't understand the problem he told me he did, nor can he recognize the exhaustive search he just wrote (which did cover all cases).

He then said it'd run in polynomial time, which covers most everything. I asked him to refine that, b/c that covers everything from linear to N^100000 and beyond. He had no idea, letting me know he'd just guessed. His solution ran in exponential time, much worse than polynomial.

Third, write stuff down. It's fine to talk, I encourage people to talk, talking is good because it lets me know your thought process. But if the interviewer passes you a piece of paper and a pen and asks you to "write a solution" then you'd better do that. Hand-waving only gets you so far and I, as an interviewer, am going to ask specific questions to get through your hand-waving.

Lastly, never simply give up on a problem. Try talking through it, brainstorm, do something. Staring at a problem for 8 minutes w/out saying anything is a sure way to lose the interview. Especially when the problem was literally taken out of an introductory CS course.

Lastly, at the beginning of the interviews I ask candidates how they think they rate on a scale of 1 to 10 (clueless to expert) for each of their programming languages. People seem to respond 7 or 8, regardless of their actual background. For C++, I find it very interesting that someone would answer that high of a number when they either don't use STL, or have only used STL. Now a scale is rather arbitrary (and the geeks who're reading this far are thinking, "well, is is the scale linear, logarithmic, what?"), but still. If you've never done template programming, nor can you explain *why* you'd want to do template programming, you're likely not an 7, surely not an 8. And if you stumble horribly on a virtual function question, you don't rate above a 6.

Ironically I think I'm a 7 or 8. At least I can answer all my questions.

iBike WW34 & WW35

Two rides happened this weekend. The standard "go to farmer's market" on Saturday, only this time Tom joined us, riding on my single speed. You could tell Tom really grooved on riding a single speed by his constant praise, "um.... why?"

And on Sunday, the Wyatt's came down to see us and ride. We went down town, then through campus, over the covered bridge, and back on 53rd. It was a beautiful day for a ride, and we finished by picking a quart of black berries to make dessert. yum!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NPR Touts Pro-Nuke 'Environmentalists'

I remember hearing the NPR piece about nuclear power which talked with David Whitford. When I got to work I briefly tried Googling him to see what his ties were, but didn't get much past the fact he is a writer for FORTUNE. And I couldn't remember the 'environmentalist' mentioned in the piece, Stewart Brand, who turns out to have strong ties to the nuclear industry.

I'm glad FAIR did a little critique of the piece and of NPR's coverage of nuclear power, as even I found it to be woefully one-sided: NPR Touts Pro-Nuke 'Environmentalists'

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Problems With 401ks

I'd heard the same logic applied to Bush's plan to privatize social security, namely that it'd be a horrible idea because it ultimately would just give Wall Street incentive to skim money off the top, and puts the onus on Joe Blow to properly invest that money (which is *exactly* what pensions/social security was to solve). If you look at the stats, over 80% of actively managed funds fail to beat the S&P 500. A big portion of that is the fees involved are often 1% or higher of the the value of the funds (not just off the profits). That has a huge impact on the returns you'll make in the long run.

So, it seems obvious to me that when investing, you should invest in the index funds (perhaps S&P 500, maybe a mid or small-cap fund, a european/asian fund (to diversify outside of the U.S. market)). Do you really think you're going to do to better than people whose job it is to invest? And given the fact that 8/10 of them cannot reliably beat the S&P 500...

And you can always find short-term winners. I know people who are gung-ho on AAPL because it's done great things for the past couple of years, and that's great. But like others who I know who are still heavy into INTC and MSFT (which have essentially been flat for 10 years), all quick risers come to an end. The regression toward the mean is really strong.

Anyway, that's a long intro to the same analysis of 401ks done here:

Joe Ponzio's F Wall Street

And he agrees with me, invest in index funds with low overhead.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

6 Years!

6 years ago Mary and I tied the knot on a beautiful August day at Belknap (holy cow, they have a web site). Today we went out to a movie (Once - thumbs up) to celebrate.

Hoping the next 6 years are just as good (or even better).

iBike

Three weeks of updates here.
Today I took a nice ride toward Philomath, cut across Bald Hill, and back over Witham Hill. 45 min

Last week, Simone and I took a beautiful ride on a Friday (was working from home for the first time @ Mentor). 45 min

And the week before we rode downtown as a family and played in the fountain. Lovely time had by all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pollution is Bad

Ok, this is kind of a 'no duh' article, but to carry any weight with the "the market solves everything" crowd, you need to quantify how much of an impact bad environmental policies have. Turns out that nearly half the deaths world wide are caused by pollution. The researchers are from Cornell, so it must be true (Go Big Red!!!!), but even if they're off by a factor of 2 or 4, that's still a heck of a lot of deaths attributed to pollution.

Check it out: ScienceDaily: Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide, Study Finds

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Do Biofuels Mean Inexpensive Food Is a Thing of the Past?

Ok, so it seems I was a bit wrong about the connection between farm subsidies and food prices. A new study is out that explains things in plain English: Do Biofuels Mean Inexpensive Food Is a Thing of the Past?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving - Yahoo! News

There are studies out there showing that talking on the phone while driving is equivalent to driving drunk. Some states are legislating against driving while talking on the phone. Turns out people are pretty unanimous in wanting texting while driving to be banned.

What I find ironic about all this is that almost everyone you talk to seems to agree with the above statements, but will say that they think they're an exception to the rule. "Oh - yeah, that's true, but I'm really careful when I'm talking on the phone."

Ha ha ha, right.

I'll go on the record and say I'm sure I'm not as safe when I'm talking on the phone while driving.

Nice Math Proof

I was never very good at math proofs (I could do math classes, but I'm sure I never came up with anything that wasn't an answer to a textbook question). This proof is pretty neat in that it's solving something relatively complicated, but the math works out so beautifully.

Polymathematics: Trekking Into the Desert

The New Math Of Global Warming

The math geek in me + the environmentalist just can't resist this set of slides:

The New Math Of Global Warming

Saturday, July 28, 2007

iBike WW29 (1) (2)

Double the bang for your buck, two biking posts in one.

Last Sunday was Da Vinci Days, and we took part in the festivities by watching the mud bog portion of the kinetic sculpture race, and walking around the main area checking out the booths. Fun was had by all (Tom, Mary, Simone and me). Mary and I rode our bikes (Simone jogged alongside), and I'm sure we rode at least half an hour.

Today, Simone and I took a nice long ride toward Oak Creek on the single speed. We rode around some of the neighborhoods out there - neat houses and yards. Simone napped for over half an hour (probably a little bored). Stats for the ride: 1h50min, average speed just over 10mph, for a total of nearly 18.5 miles.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sleep and Jogging

I went for a jog last night with Simone. She decided it was her turn to ride in the Burley and I had to push her, so it was to be.

As she's not much of a talker, and I have trouble breathing, let alone talking, while running, I usually listen to my MP3 player. Last night's selection was an
episode of Radio Lab on sleep. A fascinating listen I must say. Did you know that birds, aquatic mammals and reptiles can put half of their brain to sleep at a time? Imagine 4 ducks sleeping on a log, the two in the middle sleep with both eyes closed, the ones on the ends sleep with one eye open, and after a chunk of time, the ones on the end stand up, turn around, and sleep with the other eye open.

I highly recommend giving it a listen. Radiolab in general does interesting stories and mixes the stories in a very unique and interesting way.

Duck!

Bad news for my grand kids (or perhaps their kids).

July 16, 1862: This Comet Has
Earth Written All Over It


Don't forget to duck come August 14th, 2126.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

iBike WW29 (1)

Another Simone ride. We kind of perused around the outskirts of town today, going over the hill by the country club, then back along the duck pond, out the midge cramer trail to oak creek and back. Simone slept for 45 minutes, and if she hadn't woken up when she did, we would have gone over Witham hill too.

Time: 1h15min

Monday, July 16, 2007

Smart Simone

Wanna know how smart Simone is?

She made a meta-rattle the other day and played with it.

And you probably don't even know what one is...

(a rattle made from another rattle)

iBike WW28 (1)

Last Saturday was another ride to the market with Simone, though we took the longer route (via Walnut) to get there. We picked up some berries to eat and played in the fountain - which she loved. A nice day all in all.

Ride stats: time: 55min, distance ?

Innovation at Risk

I've had many a discussion with friends about patents (specifically whether or not they should be applied to software). Here's an interesting book that's about to come out that looks at patents from an economic point of view - basically, are they adding to our economy or dragging it down.

Innovation at Risk

Three chapters are available on-line. The first is the introduction (worth reading), and I imagine that I should read the ninth so I can win the next debate.

Popcorn prices popping up

The demand for ethanol is forcing up prices for ice cream (b/c dairy herds are fed corn), and popcorn.

globeandmail.com: Ethanol demand sends corn prices popping

Of course, nobody seemed to care when Mexico complained their tortilla prices went up...

But rising food prices kind of misses the point. We now spend less than half of our disposable income on food than we did 75 years ago. The other day I saw an ad for meat at Safeway and beef was selling for $1.50 a pound. That's simply ridiculously cheap. It takes 10 times the energy and resources to grow a pound of beef than it does to grow a pound of produce, yet I can buy it for less than much of the fresh fruit at the store. Between 50% and 70% of the total cost of a beef cow is feed cost, and since most of the beef in the US is finished with corn, the price of corn will have a definite impact on the price we see at the store.

Needless to say, corn-fed beef isn't as healthy for you as grass-fed beef (higher CLA and Omega-3 fatty acids). Corn-fed beef have much higher of bacteria in their guts - requiring them to be fed antibiotics.

Anyway, considering the health impact of beef in general, and the environmental impact of growing beef (corn is a very petroleum-heavy food b/c of pesticides and fertilizer), I'd be happy if beef costs were higher in the store - something more along the line of the cost of fish ($7-$15 a pound).