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


I've peaked at level 38: FreeRice

Monday, November 19, 2007 2008 Presidential Candidate Selector

A quick survey here: 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

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


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.