Friday, May 30, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: IQ Test and Mars

The 60 Second IQ Test is hosted by the IQ League. I haven't taken the test yet, but am more interested in looking at which sites, countries, browser, OS, and age group they say are the smartest (go fogies!)

The Phoenix has landed on Mars and is getting to work. There are some amazing pictures coming back. JPL's Phoenix site has some great video as well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blogs That Turn Up Like a Bad Penny

I'm not sure what happened, but some old attempts at blogging just appeared in my blogging dashboard. Here is a post i wrote in 2003:
Cannot find Weapons of Mass Destruction
this page is kinda funny. you have to read carefully. it looks you are getting a 404 error or something, but you aren't.
So quaint. That old blog (that just reappeared) had a total of about four entries. Here is another:
spamex is quite a cool service. with it, i setup various e-mail addresses that i give to anyone who needs one. once i start getting spam on an address, i can turn it off. to tell the truth, i think the spammers avoid sending to addresses because they know what will happen. i have had my spamex account for a year and have never received any spam on that account.

i know this was just basically a plug, but i think everyone needs to do something about spam. the marketers aren't going to change (and it's their right to send stuff), so the two ways to combat them are to insulate yourself and to report spammers (more on that when i want to blog spamcop). insulating is really effective. i'm a big fan.
Five years later, I still use Spamex. My rule is that if I can't shake your hand, you do not get my real email address. All companies and organizations get a spamex address from me. If I start getting spam on one of those accounts, I can just turn off the address.

Anyway, These failed attempts at getting going are why I am so pleased that I have been actually sticking with it this time. Now to delete those failed attempts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Caught Up and Keeping Up

Those of you who subscribe to this blog's RSS feed (that would be one of you) or actually check here often might have noticed that last Tuesday-Friday's posts were a bit late. Specifically, they popped up Memorial Day evening. Last week was a tough one for me. I had a busy work week and had a community meeting one evening.

In case anybody cares, my solution to falling behind is not to sit down and whack out a bunch of posts from scratch. I generally have a bunch of drafted posts just sitting in my account. All I have to do is finish them off and I am good to go. On a good Sunday evening, I can draft a few entries so I can finish them quickly during the week. The other thing is that when I get an idea, I just create a new entry and save it for when I have time to finish it up. These saved entries might end up being published (so they are on the site) days or even weeks later.

Keeping up with posts isn't always easy, but with some forward thinking, keeping up (or at least catching up) is usually bearable.

I know this is a lame post, but you had probably written last week off as lost, so consider us even. Go back and read some of those posts and enjoy.

Soundtrack: Art Blakey (A Night at Birdland, Volume 1), Big Audio Dynamite (This Is Big Audio Dynamite)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: Homestar and Mobile Google

Homestar Runner is really great. Very fun stuff. I first discovered Homestar back in 2001 and every time I go back, it makes me laugh.

Google Mobile allows me to check my gmail, view Google Maps, and check my Google Reader reading list all on my crackberry. They have versions for other phones as well. Very nifty stuff.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What a Life!

Huntington Hartford II passed away recently. He was 96. Here is my favorite quote:
Mr. Hartford began reaping the financial benefits at age 6, when his grandfather died and provided him with an annual income of $1.5 million.
That was back in 1912, when $1.5 million was a lot of money. Anyway, this guy was pretty incredible.

Barbara Sears Rockefeller also passed recently. She had quite the life and the obit leads you to find out more.

I like to read the obits. Some of them are really great. Through obits, I have discovered people and music that are new to me (e.g., Max Roach.) It's often a sad occasion, but this is how people can achieve a share of immortality. When a life can inspire others after it's over, that is really special.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kids with Markers

Most people want their kids to be creative. I prefer to have our kids drawing on a blank sheet of paper than coloring in a coloring book. Conformity is not my thing.

On the other hand, Girl Kid tends to take this idea too far. Here is a story that is eerily similar to something that happened in our house. The episode described with the fourth sentence of the second paragraph is similar to something that Girl Kid did a few weeks ago--right down to the color of the marker!

Many parents look forward to quiet moments at home. We get worried any time we can't hear her. Silence means she is getting into trouble.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Techie Continuum

There is a great continuum of geeks out there. However technically savvy you are, there are almost certainly people who are more and less geeky than you. Many people probably think I'm the geekiest person they know, but they have no idea how great the continuum is. When it comes to technology, I am pretty much a dilettante. I know lots of technological words and can understand and even use many of them accurately in conversation, but I am not a very technical person. I know many people who are far more technical than I (though I admit that I am more technical than the average American.)

It's actually more complex than a simple technical continuum. There are different ways to be technical. For instance, I have friends who are math geeks, while others are computer programmers and others are IT/networking folks who can make anything work.

A completely different type of techie is more of a technofile than anything else. A Technofile Techie (TT) knows just about everything that's going on in the world of technology. TT reads technical blogs and sites and probably has fine-tuned opinions about operating systems, hardware, file formats, networks, and other such stuff. Frankly, a TT has opinions about technical things that most of us never knew existed. For instance, most normal people who have a passing acquaintance with technology have heard about Linux and think it's an operating system. You could imagine people having arguments about whether Linux is better or worse than PCs or Mac, but that's as far as many people go. A TT knows that there are flavors of Linux and has opinions about each one.

Note that a TT isn't necessarily a programmer or anyone who fits into the other technical categories. TT could be an artist, a project manager, a consultant, or a retiree. Being a TT is an avocation, not a vocation.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Music Monday: Dr. Demento Favorites, Volume II

Here are more of my Dr. Demento favorites.

I Like Chinese

Fish Heads (a tremendous video)

Dead Puppies

Friday, May 16, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: Google Reader

An uber-hip techie friend from work told me about Google Reader. It's an RSS feed reader that makes it easy to view and manage your subscriptions. As he says, "going to websites is so 1997." With RSS, you can subscribe to all the sites you like, then they come to you. For instance, I have subscribed to Slashdot's feed and now when I go to Google Reader, I can see what the most recent updates are. I use a widget to include a view to my Google Reader on my iGoogle personalized homepage.

Drunk Darth Vader video Geeks on film are always fun. My favorite quote: "Hughes claimed he couldn't remember the incident, having drunk the better part of a 2 1/2-gallon (10-liter) box of wine beforehand." He's no Ghyslain Raza, but the story has its own charm.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Global Pool of Money and the Dalai Lama

This American Life had a show on the mortgage/credit crisis called The Giant Pool of Money. Wow. Listening to how all this happened is really scary.

Studio 360 had a show about a guy named Pico Iyer who has known the Dalai Lama for years:

One thing that struck me about the interview was Pico's observation that the Dalai Lama doesn't want people to convert to Buddhism without understanding it completely, but rather would like people to take from it what makes sense to them without leaving their own traditions. Getting some insight into who the Dalai Lama is as a person was really interesting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The First Six Months

This is the six-month anniversary of the first post and I am pleased that I have been pretty persistent with the blog (the only days I have missed and not caught up with are days when I was quite sick.)

Just when I am feeling good about my blog, I see some other blogs that are really, really good. It's a little depressing. I hope that somebody has found something worthwhile in my rambles, but if not, this forum is one I want to continue. Even if I am just writing to myself, I'll keep on writing because I like it (though I might miss a few days here and there.) The blog has really been therapeutic for me because it forces me to think and write a bit about something other than math.

What I need to do is put together a "Best Rambles" post. If you have suggestions, let me know. Regardless, in a few days I will post links to a few of my favorite blog posts.

Soundtrack: Marvin Gaye (What's Going On)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Kudos to John Favreau

Mrs. Kid and I saw Iron Man this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Robert Downy, Jr. was a good choice for the MIT-educated, brilliant playboy who dons an iron suit as he finds he really does have a conscience. The movie was good, but the ending is really good.

** Spoiler Alert -- Plot Details Follow **

The movie's climax has your basic epic battle between the good guy and the bad guy. It's standard "how will he survive this against such terrible odds?" stuff that makes for a satisfactory ending. Once the climax has ended, a brief denouement wraps things up, but just as you are calmed down and ready to just saunter out of the theater, Tony Stark (who is standing at a podium for a press conference) announces "I am Iron Man" and then the ending credits roll accompanied by one of the great comic book inspired songs of all time.

Other comic book movie adaptations have theme songs by Danny Elfman (Batman, Dick Tracy, Spider-Man, Hulk, etc.) , but Iron Man is different. Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath did the ultimate song for Iron Man years ago and it still works today:

When Tony Stark says "I am Iron Man" and then the movie kicks straight into the Black Sabbath song for the closing credits, I was ready to watch the movie all over again. It brought it all full circle and tapped into my adolescent love of the song's primal heavy metal drive that seemed to dovetail so nicely with the comics I enjoyed as a kid.

Soundtrack: Black Sabbath (Iron Man), Led Zeppelin (Houses of the Holy), Menomena (Friend and Foe), The Crystal Method (Legion of Boom)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Music Monday: Dr. Demento Favorites

I used to listen to the Doctor Demento radio show on Sunday nights on DC101 when I was in high school. The show was really fun. Weird Al Yankovic made a name for himself on the show, but there were other great artists as well. Here are a few of the (non-Weird Al) songs I still remember.

Funny Farm

Existential Blues

Pencil Neck Geek

Psycho Chicken

Friday, May 9, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: Copter and Pulpbard

fun copter is a simple, briefly addictive game.

pulpbard is a shakespearean version of Pulp Fiction. Here is a great scene. This makes me want to rent the DVD and read along.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Am a Blubbering Sissy

Earlier this week, I saw a story on SportsCenter about some amazing sportsmanship and it made me mist up. The written article won't have the same effect, but the video really got me.

I can watch all sorts of sad shows and deep drama and they don't induce any tears. Sad documentaries? Nothing. Depressing reality show like Intervention? Nothing. But show me a touching sports story involving underdogs, and I react like a parent at their youngest daughter's wedding. It's really amazing. SportsCenter does this to me once every couple months. It's ridiculous.

After watching a story like that, I need to grab a beer and watch some UFC. Anything to get my testosterone levels back up.

Soundtrack: Lee Morgan (The Sidewinder)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Well, *&$%

I played in a couple softball games last night and have the injuries to prove it. I was on first when the batter after me hit a grounder. At the urging of my third base coach, I tried to take an extra base when the other team didn't field it cleanly. Unfortunately, I am neither fast nor good at sliding, so I really should have stayed at second. This is the last time I trust a third base coach known as "Stinkie."

Anyway, I slid awkwardly into third base, and then as he tagged me, the third baseman fell toward me and stepped on my right hand. He must have weighed 220 pounds and was wearing baseball cleats. My reaction was to yell a really bad curse word.

The umpire told me at the time to watch my language. This annoyed me, but I brushed it off. Later, when I was settling in behind the plate as catcher in the bottom half of the inning, he repeated his admonition. This really got me. I am not someone who curses often and in this case, I certainly wasn't cursing at anybody. I was in acute pain and yelled out. It was 10:30, so there were no kids around and I didn't repeat it or become confrontational. There is a time and place for everything and lying on the ground with a 220-lb man in cleats stomping on my right hand seemed like the right time and place for a nice F-bomb.

So here I am with an aching hand, a sore butt, and the feeling that I have been chastised by a pedantic jerk. Last night's umpire made me miss the ump from our games on Saturday who only had about 6 teeth, but was reasonable and nice, and I'm pretty sure he would have had more empathy for my pain.

Soundtrack: Lalo Schifrin (Thx1138)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Points for Effort

A colleague (let's call her Royal) sent around a link to this article. The point of the article is that a recent study shows that kids who breast feed are smarter than kids who don't. This didn't make one of our office mates (let's call her Slice) happy. Slice had tried unsuccessfully to nurse her son, so this really wasn't a happy subject for her. When Royal made the comment that nursing was "so easy," I couldn't keep quiet any longer and stepped in with some thoughts on the subject (who better than a man to discuss breast-feeding?)

Breast-feeding is beneficial in many ways, and it is natural, but it isn't always easy. Mrs. Kid had big challenges with nursing Boy Kid. In those first few weeks, she had blocked ducts and nursing gave her pain that felt like needles shooting through her certain parts of her skin. When she then pumped, the milk was pink because of all the blood that was coming along with the milk. It was a real low point. She was depressed and Boy Kid was unhappy. With the help of doctors and a lactation consultant, Mrs. Kid worked it out, but it was a physically and emotionally painful journey.

I know several women who have had problems with breast-feeding, so I know it's not always easy. Mrs. Kid has said to me that I shouldn't judge women by what they do with breast feeding, but I do anyway. In this area, I judge on intent and effort. For instance, Royal gets points for intent, but none for effort. Slice gets points for intent and big partial credit for effort. Mrs. Kid gets extra credit. She wanted to do it and persevered through great pain to get it done. Any woman who gets to that painful place and backs off still gets partial credit.

Aside from physical challenges, there can also be great logistical challenges. For instance, a mother who returns to the workplace has to pump and that is really not easy. I had an office-mate who pumped three times a day. This was logistically incredibly difficult, but she made it work. I acted as bouncer at our office door while she pumped behind me (the whir-whir-whir of the pump is the soundtrack of those months for me.) It still fills me with great joy that I was able to help her out in some little way.

So, I'm sure I have pissed off women who didn't breast feed, but such is life. Anyone who wanted to do it and really tried (through physical and/or logistical challenges) gets big points in my book. I'm sorry for anyone who wasn't able to make it work.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Music Monday: Surf Guitar

If I had to spend the rest of my life in a single 4 square mile area, I'd pick the north shore of Oahu in a heartbeat. Whenever I hear the cascading opening licks of Pipeline or the fast-paced Misirlou, I am transported to the north shore and that's a happy place.

BTW: Here is an interview with Dick Dale on NPR's Fresh Air that I remember hearing one weekend on my way up to see my then-fiancee in King of Prussia, PA. Things I still remember from the interview:
  • Dick Dale really was a surfer and the sounds of the waves really influenced him.
  • When he plays in his inimitable machine-gun style, he melts picks, so he has a special pick holder that keeps his fingers from burning.
  • His playing style and thirst for volume used to blow up amps and speakers until Leo Fender built the Showman Amp for him.
Dick Dale: Misirlou

The Ventures: Wipe Out

The Chantays: Pipeline

Friday, May 2, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: Best-of-Craigslist Favorites, Volume 2

Here is another installment of my favorites from the Best-of-Craigslist.
I'll try to remember to check out BOCL every once in a while and post some of my favorites. This is actually an edited list since I like to keep this blog no worse than about a PG-13 rating. I have some other favorites, but they are pretty raunchy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Empathizing with Austrians

I think I can empathize a little bit with Austrians these days.

When the story about Wolfgang Priklopil keeping Natascha Kampusch in his basement came out a couple years ago, it seemed like an isolated incident. Now with Josef Fritzl, it is starting to look like a trend. The next time there is news about a man imprisoning a girl in his basement, Austrians around the world will probably be thinking "please don't let him be Austrian."

Every time I hear about an athlete who has done something stupid or (more significantly, but less frequently) a man who has gone on some crazy murderous rampage, one of my first thoughts is "please don't let him be black." I know it's self-centered of me, but I don't want everyone to think that blacks are either criminals or stupid. Most of the time blacks are in the news, it's because they are athletes or entertainers or criminals, or (quite often) a combination of these. (Having Obama in the news is a welcome change, but as I've said before: He's not black. He's African-American.)

Similarly, Austrians probably feel like the world sees them as deranged people. The International Herald Tribune's article called Dungeons and Austrians puts it nicely.

Austrians aren't like Josef Fritzl any more than blacks are like Pacman Jones, but we all cringe a bit when we see our "brands" being shaped by current events.