Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Next generation consoles? Or just buy a PC?

Edit: Sorry, I screwed up when this was initially written; I realize there's no article attached to this.


Apart from the "motion controls" mentioned at the end, almost this entire article is just an argument for buying a PC and gaming with that:
  • Backwards compatibility
  • VoIP options
  • Update management
  • Video services
  • Mods
Why buy a console?  Why buy whatever the "next" console provides?  Apart from the simplicity, PCs are obviously just better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fuck Petland

If you are a customer of Petland, stop going there and be sure to tell them why (as well as sign the petition).  Sadly there's only one protest going on about this.

More on this.

Bad support experience

So a few weeks ago I was really loving the great Rhapsody service which allows you to listen to entire songs before you buy (awesome!) when I had an issue: I pressed pause and got up.  When I sat back down and pressed play I was hit with white noise at FULL VOLUME.  It was deafening.  Whoa.

I thought this was scary enough that I should send something about it to support.  My response was one of those generic ones followed by another message 3 days later:

While we typically respond in less than a day, its taken us much longer to get to your issue.

Due to this delay, we believe you may have already contacted Rhapsody support again by either phone or chat and had your issue resolved.

If you did not reach out again to Rhapsody support and still need help, please reply to this email and we'll make sure you get the help you need.

My response:


This reminds me of a "wait for it and maybe they'll go away" method of issue resolution.

Waiter: Hey I know you didn't like your food.  Did someone else come out and bring you different food yet?

Airline: Hey I know we didn't take you to your destination.  Did you already get a flight somewhere else or would you like us to take you where you initially wanted to go?

My cat: Hey I know I peed on your stuff.  Did you want me to keep doing that or did you put litter all over the house yet?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Magna Carta? That's one of the Transformers, right?

The ACLU's action page on how to help stop the legalization of indefinite detention.  Its taken almost 800 years, but we'll finally edit out the basic protections set out in the Magna fucking Carta.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

David Cross on breakups

Although the only similar breakup in my life happened now years ago, I found an uncharacteristically honest bit by the comic actually made me feel better.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

1/2 of US GDP goes to banks

I'm mostly posting this because I'm a close follower of the news, but was stunned when it was covered by -- of all people -- the Daily Show.  Additionally, the fact that it was secret and kept hidden from Congress, which has long held the 'power of the purse' is disturbing at the minimum.  Wow.

Slate has a good breakdown.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You might not live in a democracy if...

A UC Davis Police officer Lt. John Pike pepper sprays a bunch of peaceful protesters.  I love how he looks like he's on a Sunday stroll as he puts a group of people in astonishing pain.  What a bewildering sadist.

Interview with one of the people sprayed.  Evidently the pepper spray is required to be at a minimum of 15 feet, but this looks like he was trying to paint his house.

As I'm nowhere near the situation, I can only sign the petition.  If people like this are given any kind of authority, there is no authority.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revelations from the Penn State coverup

As sick as I am of hearing about it already, the situation has provided a variety of good things including the notion of a "nice guy" sexual predator who is nobody's friend.  Additionally, in a uniquely unfunny move, Jon Stewart attacks the riots that happened in the wake of the firing.  An outstanding response to a hideous public response indicative of a frequent and terrible institutional response to sexual abuse.  In light of how difficult sexual assault is to prosecute, a little community support would have gone a long way.  Now these kids have to deal with a riot supporting someone who looked the other way.  If their names enter the public record, are they going to get harassed?

Fortunately, RAINN has put together something for people who want to be proud of their college while still supporting the victims.  Good news.

Bullying teachers

Its nice to see a teacher getting at least suspended for bad behavior, but I recall with a surprising amount of bile the teachers who bullied me and my classmates when I was growing up.  Its not as if people walking past couldn't hear Mr. Auwen flipping out and yelling at the kids.  Its not like someone didn't already know the guy was a nutcase.

Having known school teachers, I know there's kids who will report problems just to be anti-authority or because they're angry about something else, but there was an institutional blindness to the whole thing that still very much disturbs me.  I bet someone knew this guy was unstable and didn't say anything.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bleachbit system cleaner

An excellent community-developed free software program, Bleachbit cleans up all the space-hogging temporary files on your computer and can even wipe these files to protect your privacy.  The program isn't the most beautiful of the computer cleanup group (an award that would go to CCleaner), but its power, ability to work on Linux, and open source code make it a very reliable system tool.

Congress and Insider Trading

A look at how the rule makers don't let the rules apply to them and make a pretty hefty profit from it.  Among the other problems mentioned by the article, I can see a few more issues why this is scary.
  • Careers in public service shouldn't come with a free pass to easy money, as you're more likely to get people serving themselves.
  • Members of congress are already paid by taxpayers and paid well.
  • Regulators who make money from changes in the law are more likely to change the law even when it doesn't need it, making this a huge conflict of interest and potentially damaging.
  • Good regulation that doesn't interfere with business, but prevents environmental and economic disasters is the best ideal of government.  Issues like this make that goal even harder to achieve.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wuala backup service review

When I purchased a LaCie drive, I got a free subscription to the Wuala service.  Although initially the program was just what I needed, I wanted to add that various problems have cropped up on my Windows XP drive.

Good things:
  1. Cheap, good upload speeds, and secure
  2. Cross-platform
  3. Reasonably easy to share files and folders from your library.  Not as simple as Dropbox.
  4. Located in Germany, which has better privacy laws than most countries

  1. High processor usage - anytime I'm uploading something, its frequently using 100% of my system.  On a modern computer, file uploads (even encrypted ones) should not require this kind of power.
  2. High disk usage - even if you set the temporary directory to only a few megs, it will still save a ton of temporary data to C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Local Settings\Application Data\Wuala\Data.  I have to manually zap this whole directory every week or two.
  3. High RAM usage - about 45 megs.  This isn't too bad for machines with lots of RAM but backup programs that run in the background should be -- you know -- efficient.
  4. Frequently requires you install updates (and restart the computer) to enable the listing of a "W:" drive on your computer.  Why does this constantly need to get reinstalled?
  5. Does not support encrypted volumes (e.g. TrueCrypt).  If you use the Sync program, it will constantly get confused by your encrypted volume and try to update your files with older versions.  I don't even use the included Sync program now and have instead switched out with DSynchronize.
I'm now looking into Netdrive + Tunnelier to plug into a remote SFTP account.  Before that was a lot more work, but with Wuala's poor performance, it would probably end up a lot easier.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Making fun of Dubstep

Although I really like many entries to the genre, I definitely acknowledge its faux-hardcore edge:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Selling your conversations

Running an instant messaging service (such as AIM, Facebook chat, or Google Talk) isn't cheap.  Companies running these programs need to make money somehow, so knowing what people are exchanging and selling that to advertisers / marketing types is one way.

What can they sell?  How about every time someone mentions the latest action movie?  Advertisers can know if they've played too few or too many of a given commercial.  That might sound innocuous, but what about if you're arguing with your wife?  Wouldn't you like to see ads for divorce attorneys?  Customized search results sound like a great thing, but are only good for the companies that compile them.  It might seem like paranoia, but the more information search companies can get about an individual, the more targeted their searches and advertisements.  For Google and Facebook, that's most of their business.

Instant messaging service privacy reports don't paint a pretty picture and, as you might expect, Facebook is the worst.

Solutions?  Many online services host their own chat servers (known as XMPP Servers), but another option for Windows is using Pidgin with OTR installed or Adium for Mac (with OTR installed by default).  That way you can benefit from the fast, reliable commercial servers without giving up your privacy.

Yet another scam: "career change services"

They evidently exist and probably doing well in this economy. If a company calls you up with a generic name, is vague about what the company does, and wants to have a meeting with you immediately with a higher-up, you might want to be suspicious.

Fortunately Google Voice service offers a "block call" option.  Its your friend.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Myth of the Intuitive Interface

An outstanding article critiquing the format and systems behind Android and iOS menu systems.  It also provides a little background on the conventions and thinking behind interfaces over the last 20 years.  A great read.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I got the 2011 blues

Sort of a departure from my regular posts but don't really have anyone to express these ideas to.

There's a kind of post-modern state I'm in.  Somewhere that many have gone before between nothingness, embracing nothingness, and fearing the real evil of the world.  I'm almost afraid to express it as it gives a name to my fear.  But I read somewhere that the knowledge of a limitation is itself a step ahead of it.

This comes up a lot it seems.  Halloween is coming up for example and with it this kind of weird embrace of horror.  Its more than just roller coaster fear, its a kind of flirtation with real evil as if it were a sort of friend.  Of course, this is far away from actual life for the vast majority of people don't really fear for their lives at the hand of some demonic murder-spree type.  Even thought there is real evil in the world, the torture-porn and slasher movies somehow package in a palatable way.

The really jarring and uncontained horrors of our world are so remarkably hateful that we collectively sort of flinch.  We cut it off like a gangrene foot.  Child soldiers, real-actual-no-joke torture, proximity to almost any war (which is primarily composed of civilian casualties), child abuse, and sex and human traffic.  That's not what Halloween is about.  Halloween is about temporary fear about false monsters.  The fear associated with the "real world" is like a too-bright light you can't really look into.

People in communities that deal with "real world" fears almost seem congratulatory if you're conscious of them.  Like you're a member of a strange and burdensome club.  I don't know how they cope with it.  For some victims, its a day-to-day slow progression.  You just do it because there's not much else going on and depression -- for all its attractions -- is fundamentally dull.

Now its not all pain and horror (obviously) and there's no sense dwelling on the ugliness.  Yet we're almost traumatized by the helplessness of protecting or trying to save people who are far away or out of our reach.  Charities are nice, but the problem is not solved; we can't seem to cure murder and poverty the way we cured Polio.  So we invent false heros (pick most revenge-themed or superhero movies) to sate real needs, but don't actually do anything. 

The new century has added insult to the injury of the World Wars some I suppose by looking a great deal similar to the century before.  It looks so much like things are going to stay on course for nowhere.

My best response is this analysis is no cause for a lack of response.  To just take on all the world's cares and pains is either a profound act of godhood and some sort of Jesus response, but unlike Jesus, we can't take on all the sins and die.  As humans its just a form of inaction and yet another superhero fantasy.  Similarly, to do nothing and ignore the pain is exactly the sort of thing this article is trying to avoid.  As usual, nothing is not an option and everything is not an option.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unhelpful Highschool Teacher

Ordinarily I don't think of memes as really valuable, but there are SO many in this series that I've seen in real life.  Upbeat, optimistic, and yet really terrible teachers must be a lot more common than I thought.

Thanks for crashing

Recent death of an Indy car driver makes me wonder if that's not something the organizers actively were hoping for.  Although its technically Nascar who has openly encouraged reckless driving, its entirely possible that Indy also felt that push.

Then I wonder if the joke isn't sort of on me: racing is going to be dangerous.  We can solve this whole dying problem if we just make everyone race at 30 mph or below, but who would watch that?  What's the point of high performance automobiles if they don't actually race?  Couldn't we surround the cars with impact-absorbing springs and big pockets of fire retardant?

What are reasonable safety precautions?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Republicans give more to charity than democrats?

So a 3 year old article by conservative thinker George Will caught my attention, suggesting that religious Republicans are more likely to give to charities.  The statistics are in dispute and I can't find any reputable media sources that have looked into this.

Assuming that conservatives give even just equal to liberals, it does challenge the criticism of conservatives who attack programs for the poor as simply bloodless and instead as genuinely seeking a non-government solution.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Information your wireless carrier keeps

If you don't want information you text or call about kept until your children's children are grown, maybe you should choose a carrier who doesn't retain that information.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

That awesome camera doesn't make you a photographer

So for a few years a professional photographer has been trying to explain to me how photography takes real work and training.  I've long felt that way, but here's some proof.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Google puts out new Facebook competition

When I tried to think of something that would effectively compete with Facebook, I actually thought of something very similar to what Google just introduced.  Fine-grained controls for specific groups.  For example, you really don't want to start a fight with your crazy sister about a particular image of your kid eating sweets.  Your coworkers really don't need to know you went on a date last Thursday or that your dad has the flu.

Unfortunately, Google has a terrible reputation for privacy so launching their service with that emphasis is borderline silly.

Also fun: look up "google privacy" on Google's search engine and then Bing's.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Learning a language with mind maps

If you can filter through the rather tedious and overt commercial for an only tacitly related software, there's a great and simple way to learn a new language.  Using a mind map, students can connect words with concepts in general topic clouds rather than just drawing up random flash cards or lists of word associations.

Although I think there's great value in actually drawing out a map by hand, there are also software tools that are great for this, such as Xmind (video introduction) available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

(Note that the video lists its speaker as "Tony Buzan, inventor of MindMaps", which is totally untrue.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

1st world problems

After yesterday's rant about my iPhone, a friend pointed me to a collection of 1st world problems.  After some humility, I found my favorite: The Middle East riots over their lack of freedom, Vancouver riots over a hockey game.

On a related note, America gets compared to other first world nations.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I hate my iPhone

After the recent frustration with this bewilderingly stupid device, I came up with a list of things I hate about my iPhone:
  • Requires entry of a valid credit card before using the phone
  • Extension cable is not an acceptable accessory
  • When downloading updates, the device cannot go into an off state or it will quit downloading them.  You have to keep messing with the phone.  This would be fine when its not plugged in to save power, but when it is?  Annoying as hell.
  • On 2 occasions now has deleted all my settings, folders, and organization
  • On 2 occasions, I've used the iTunes program manager to organize things and it just drops my changes and reverts to the original.
  • Poor battery life is manageable by turning off Wifi but its 4 button presses before I can get to a wifi management screen.  It doesn't sound like much until you're doing it 3 times a day and wonder "why isn't this on the home screen?"
  • Voice memos tool that comes with the device is unresponsive until about 10 seconds after the program actually comes up
  • Device usage must be reset every month to keep track of data use.  It doesn't do this automatically.  The AT&T app you can download to handle this in the iPhone's place is not easy to use, probably because they have a financial incentive to let you go over your minutes.
  • iTunes is bloated, difficult to use, and doesn't back up my device correctly.
  • On a Mac, if you don't have iPhoto installed, it won't copy over your pictures.
  • When using the App Store and surf through categories of programs, every time you download a program, you must start over at the beginning of that category and can't keep surfing through that section.
  • I "authorized" a second computer to manage my music and now when I connect it to the first computer, it insists on deleting all the present music before I can manage my library.  Ugh!
  • Much prefer my Android music player to the iPod program included on my phone.
  • Can't connect my iPhone via BlueTooth to my computer and transfer files or sync the devices.
  • No system for backing up iPhone programs or settings outside of the iTunes software.  If iTunes doesn't work or messes it up for some reason, you're screwed.
  • If an application update causes problems, there's no way to go back to the previous version.  This isn't easy on Android, but can be done.
Anticipating the question: "Why don't you stop complaining and get another phone?" I'm working on it.

The bible and evolution

Having a great deal of familiarity with the evolution vs. intelligent design argument, it was refreshing to see some new points about why evolution isn't in contrast to biblical ideals and where intelligent design isn't solving problems.

Beware iOS 4.3

  • More than half my applications, including stuff I paid for, including settings
  • When I was able to restore some of those apps, it dumped all the categories I'd set up
  • Lost a text message I got during the process of updating
After frustrations with accessories, lack of media support, lack of openness by Apple, and continuous problems with iTunes of one kind or another, I won't be buying iAnything.

Loud fans in your computer

Lifehacker finally addresses this consistently annoying problem.  Very happy to see it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Amon Tobin stage show

In the early 80s, Pink Floyd was legendary for the creativity and beauty of their Wall album's stage show.  It combined animation, stage craft, metaphor, and more.  For when it was made, that was completely unheard of and nothing I've seen since has really matched what I heard about that stage show.  It looks like this could take the crown.  Here's a bit more, including some background.

For me, Out From Out Where by Amon Tobin is one of my all time favorite electronic music albums so here's hoping they make a bigger tour out of this.

Mac: Download Youtube videos

So with a lot of Youtube videos lately getting dropped or copyright or other reasons, its necessary to download them to your computer to have access to them.  While there are many for Windows, there are none for for Mac that I could find, but there is a very simple workaround in Safari.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I can cure that disease I gave you

I have an AOL email account from a long time ago and just got some spam from them.  Having wrestled with AOL's system-slowing, garbage-dumping software on many occasions, this killed me:

"AOL Can Help Clean Out and Speed Up Your PC"

Yes, you too can give AOL $5 a month to help remove crap like AOL.

High end graphics card for Photoshop?

So a photographer friend of mine was curious if getting a better graphics card would translate into faster Photoshop.  Ordinarily I wouldn't think so, but Apple has been trying to play up the fact that its handing off more and more to the video card and Photoshop has advertised increasing integration with the OS.  This is why I was confused about the issue.  Turns out its all smoke and mirrors.

A brief look into this shows this doesn't mean jack when it comes to Photoshop.  Unless its an Intel graphics card or a no-name company listed as "on board," definitely go with a basic graphics card.  In my case, my friend was only going to buy a Mac and they don't even sell "on board" video cards anymore.  Power on the graphics card doesn't translate into Photoshop power.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The appeal of a direct approach

Despite the balancing between the sexes, men are still supposed to be the initiator in all but a small percentage of cases.  Thus, a guy who is direct, confident, and focused is fundamentally more attractive because they are (at least on a gut level) seen as more likely to initiate(Thanks Silver)  This doesn't explain the interest in "broody" types mentioned in the link.

A somewhat related XKCD comic.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today in your total lack of privacy

More stuff that maybe you thought you owned, but no really you don't...
  • Be careful you don't sign something at the doctor's office that says the doctor owns (and can censor) any reviews you write about them online. I'm sure they'll follow up this terrific news by suing you if you just say something negative about them in public. Having given two very angry reviews of terrible health services people, this obviously boiled my blood.
  • Any photos you post to TwitPic.
  • As usual, your iPhone
Oh and there's a secret patriot act.  Since you have to be a Senator to read it, try finding a lawyer to represent you if you accidentally violate it.

Modern Warfare 3: Fuck Yeah edition

You get all the exciting "I heart Michael Bay" of the Modern Warfare series with an appropriate soundtrack.

Explosions?  You becha.

(Thanks Wes)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Recommended iPhone freeware

Based on experiences with an iPhone 3Gs.  Includes some crippleware and trialware, but nothing too annoying.

Strongly recommended:
  • Dragon Dictation - a must-have voice-to-text program.  Wish it was a little more integrated into the OS the way Android's voice-to-text is.
  • Siri - works really well for quickly finding things around you.  I can see this as critical for very busy people.
  • iMailG - a Gmail front-end that works really well.
  • Google Phone - text message for free when you have a net connection, get your own forwarding phone line, and other Google services
  • Gorillacam - a must-have photo program with all sorts of tweaks and boosts, including taking 3 pictures at a time, camera stabilization
  • Wifi photo - get pictures and videos off your phone over a network connection quickly and easily.  Big help if you didn't install iPhoto.
  • TuneIn Radio - has the best ratings of anything on the App Store, even above Angry Birds.
  • Soundhound - great for finding out what artist is playing on the radio around you
  • WavePad - the audio is TERRIBLE on the default speaker unless you turn it way down in options, but very good on headphones.  Has a variety of basic audio-editing capabilities including cut, echo, voice-triggering, and more.  Doesn't save to a compressed format, but great quality and feature-rich.
  • Sleep Machine - simple but effective sleep assistance
  • Mint - won't sync correctly with some banks, but still great.
  • Motionize - just a silly video/photo toy, but I've had a ton of fun playing with it
  • Photosynth - creates amazing panoramas, but you've got to sign up for Microsoft's service in order to save them in a panoramic format off the phone.
  • PS Express - great little picture toy for tweaking images
  • Glympse - tired of trying to tell someone where you are or want to keep track of someone else?  This service transmits your location to a person of your choice or a duration of your choice.
  • PDFReaderLite - not oustanding, but the best file viewer program if you want to read your PDFs and other documents on your phone.
  • Wuala - great backup service and tool
  • Dropbox - similar to Wuala, with less space but more convenience

Also good:
  • Alarmed - outstanding, but can't use a regular alarm when the phone is on silent like the default timer.
  • TouchMouse (free) and Mobile Mouse (not free) - lets you use your iPhone as a touchpad for a computer or media center.
  • TeamViewer - a remote desktop client with a long list of uses.
  • Speed Test - check your internet connection speeds.  Very helpful to compare different wifi spots.
  • Opera Mini - simple, easy to use, and a little smarter than other browsers.  Sadly it runs a bit slower, too.
  • Mercury - lots of tweaks and improvements on Safari, including password protection, privacy mode, tabs, skins, and more.  Some restrictions too for the free version, but not too bad.
  • The Weather Channel - their Android program sucked, but the iPhone one is nice.  Wish they wouldn't use national weather service for severe weather.  Barely readable.
  • Flight-Light - my flashlight program of choice.  Either on or blinking -- simple.
  • AroundMe / Localscope - prefer these to Google Places.  One of them isn't free anymore, not sure which.
  • SpyVid - important if you ever end up in a situation where you want to record someone or something unnoticed.
  • Gloop Free - kill about 45 minutes with this cool (tiny!) program.  Sort of interactive screensaver.
  • Indeed job search - the best job search program I've found so far
  • Errands - great todolist program, but doesn't save to any servers or back up to anything
  • CraigsPro - surprisingly feature-rich craigslist tool.
  • RPG Roller - good for table-top games like D&D
  • Stellarium - if you've ever wondered what's above you, this program will tell you in an altered reality format.  Just point it up at the sky and watch.

  • Physics Box - simple and fun
  • Overkill - not outstanding (in fact pretty hard), but if really bored, you can kill several hours
  • BTD4 Lite - so far the only "tower" game I've found for iPhone, its just as good as the online flash version
  • Pictoral - imaginative, interesting, and Challenger.  Save for the fact that its only visual, all the other brain teaser programs suck compared to this.
  • Beyond Ynth - a cool puzzle program, but anything past initial levels was genuinely difficult.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Modern cults

An excellent and accurate interview about cults.  I discussed the issue with a friend who grew up in one who found an enormous amount about it both interesting and accurate, especially with regard to the disconnection and circular thinking.

If someone will quit talking to you because you're not in their club or because you quit going to meetings, they're not your friend.  They're a tool.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Cleaning mildew-ridden shoes

Somehow mildew keeps creeping into my shoes and then spreads to my other shoes.  Cleaning them turned out to be a huge headache and I dislike throwing away almost-new shoes.

After many failed attempts (detailed below) the following tactic worked.  This damaged the pair that I used it on but as they were white running shoes and the material under the first layer was also white, I didn't mind.
  • Get a high-percentage Isopropyl rubbing alcohol.  I used 90% alcohol, 10% water.  You can buy this at almost any grocery store or Walgreens/CVS.
  • In a well-ventilated area or outside and FAR AWAY from open flame, douse shoes in the alcohol.  They should not be soaked, but you should be damp.  I used about 1/2 cup on each shoe.  Might not need this much.
  • Wrap in two plastic bags. 
  • Wait a few days.
  • Open the bags (which will stick a little to the shoes), set the shoes -- as open as possible -- in direct sunlight for another day or two.
(Stuff you can do with the left-over rubbing alcohol.)

Failed attempts:
  • Soak in soap for 3+ days, leave out in sun for several days.  Smell came back almost immediately.
  • Soak in diluted chlorine-bleach for 2 days, leave out in sun for several days.  Smell came back almost immediately.
  • Anti-mildew spray I bought at Home Depot: Concrobium Mold Control.  Worked for a few days, then the smell just came back. 

I did not try this, but might soon.  Feedback on this process is welcome.

Flash Game: Cursed Treasure sequel

One of my favorite online games ever has released another.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Vatican: climate change is cheaper to fix now

Not often accused to be the most forward-thinking organization, the Catholic church stands up against CO2 emissions.

The Sky in Motion

Of all the nature shows and time-lapse bits I've seen over time, its quite an accomplishment to play something that beat all of them.

Make sure you watch in HD on full screen on a reasonably fast computer.  When the video hesitates or lags, it really destroys the effect.

(Thanks Kim)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Composting cat waste

Been doing the composting thing lately and really enjoying the results in the garden so I started looking into ways to expand this.

There are two links from Washington State and UMN that say this is a bad idea, as the potential health risks outweigh the possible benefits.  Another link says that its pretty much its like human waste: you gotta leave it alone for a year.  If you aerate it properly and have a thriving compost bacteria/worm combo, you can speed that up as much as 6 months.  Without testing facilities, I'd still wait an absolute minimum of 9 months.

Regardless, the biggest find here looks to be sawdust: you can actually make it very cheaply and cats apparently love it.  If its not quite covering up the odors, you can just add the stuff all the commercial litter uses: baking soda.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beauty pageant concession speech

While it is possible to buy a pageant speech for only $20, I was concerned that there was no examples online of a concession speech, so I wrote one:

"Just moments ago, I spoke with my challenger Charline Charlemagne and congratulated her on becoming the 43rd Miss USA.

I offered to meet with her as soon as possible so that we can start to heal the divisions of the pageant and the contest through which we just passed.

Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you."

Well, in that same spirit, I say to Miss USA winner Charline Charlemagne that what remains of pageant rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless her stewardship of her title.

Neither she nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions the Miss USA pageant judges. 

Thank you and good night, and God bless America."

(Adapted almost verbatim from another important concession speech.)

Background: I thought it would be great to say goodbye to short-term contract job I'm leaving where I barely know anyone to get everyone in a room and read from a real life beauty pageant concession speech.  I thought it would be delightfully awkward and weird.  That idea spawned this post.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tech support doesn't mean to hate you, but it certainly does

A terrific example of how good customer service is hard to do. (thanks Silver)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Android phone user tracking

An update to the recent iPhone notice -- although not as bad as iPhone, Android has some similar issues with user tracking. (thanks Silver)

My new favorite band is doing things other than being my favorite band

If AC/DC is "distilled rock" then Idiot Pilot takes every form of rock I've heard in the past 10 years and smashes it together beautifully.  Although I never could get into their first album, Strange We Should Meet Here, I thought Wolves was bordering on greatness and, assuming that the album stays in my regular playlist, I won't consider any border at all.

Unfortunately they broke up.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Followup: iPhone tracking

That only local cell towers are used to determine location, its still disturbingly clear how one's location can be tracked.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

iPhone is watching you

Recent statements by Richard Stallman that he would not carry a cell phone because he was concerned he would be tracked were not as paranoid as they sounded.  And its not just shadowy government controls, the Apple iPhone is actively tracking you.  And here I thought Android was less privacy-respecting than iOS.

Looks like I'll be keeping it in Airplane Mode.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Write it in mind-map format

I've increasingly been using a program called XMind for almost everything.  A PC World article notes it could go even further.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Money and friends

Unfortunately interconnected, who we spend time with can be financially unpleasant.  Although this advice may seem obvious, when you're close to someone you frequently don't see a clear way out of the forest when financial issues start to pop up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

iPhone 4.2.1 vs. Android 2.2

Following up on my "The Future is actually going to be Linux" article, I can safely and easily say that at least in one aspect, yes:

Customization: absolutely outstanding.  Makes the iPhone look like a complete and total joke:
  • Tons and tons of great widgets and the terrific Zeam interface.  Awesome.
  • Ringtones of whatever you want.  If you already own the MP3, you don't have to buy anything else.
  • Change the amount of data you want to cache in Google Maps
  • Multiple different mapping programs that will cache huge data sets (Mapdroid, Locus)

More software that so far much better with tons more features:
  • Multiple broad-format audio players including WinAmp, DoubleTwist, and the awesome network-audio capable 2Player
  • Calendar: Jorte
  • TodoList: Astrid
  • Browser: Firefox
  • eBook, text file reader: CoolReader
  • Barcode tool: Barcode Scanner
  • Navigation: My Tracks
  • Remote Desktop: Remote RDP Lite
  • Mail client: K-9 Mail

Other strong points in Android's favor:
  • Dramatically better selection of freeware applications, including some great GPL'd software that Apple legally will not allow (Weight Chart, KeePass, AppsOrganizer, and many more)
  • A torrent client, file manager, and capability to open many different file types with a variety of available programs
  • Adobe Flash support and a great game selection via the Kongregate client
  • Super-simple WiFi, Cell Phone, and GPS on/off switch via Elixer
  • Better keyboard and "landscape" interface (that doesn't occasionally work as with the iPhone)
  • Multitasking via "Perfect Task Switcher"
  • SSH, SFTP, and Samba client (all tested and work great) and an FTP server (SwiFTP)
  • Open standard encryption tool (APG)
  • Figure out what the device is doing what with OSMonitor
  • Built in voice-to-text is way more accurate on Android than the free Dragon Dictation
  • Almost all Google's services seem way better on the Android, although this isn't fair to say since Google could conceivably cripple their iPhone offerings.
  • Usually much higher resolution pictures and video, as well as the ability to usually just swap out a tiny SD card to double the amount of space on your device.

So far the only places that iPhone comes out on top is ease of use and generally smoother, easier to use hardware.  Battery life seems to be a bit better, but the yawning difference between these two devices very much shocks me.  Essentially, Android is an actual computer while the iPhone is just a gadget.

The press constantly seems to be talking about issues in Android's future: patent issues and the fragmentation of the Android OS.  For me, Android is so far ahead, it would take a very long time to lose its standing on the points listed above to Apple.

Apple goes the way of American car makers

Part of the reason many people prefer Toyota is the prevalence of very generic, easy to replace components that don't require taking it to the dealer.  Now Apple has decided its going to do what American car makers do with vendor-only toolsets.  Taking it one step further, Apple won't let you even buy these unique tools.

You might have blown $500 or more on an Apple device, but don't pretend you actually own it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How school gets it wrong.

An excellent look at how the traditional model of school has some problems.  Whether they can be fixed is a big question, but more importantly is informing students of the contrasts they will experience when they leave school.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Customize your fail

When Widows crashes, its known as the "Blue Screen Of Death" or BSOD.  Now, a program is available to customize the colors of this formerly blue-only screen.

This reminds me a bit of how they paint the slums bright colors in Rio to cover up the fact that they are in fact slums.  When programming effort is spent on painting over the blue screen of death, you might hear a distant funeral bell ringing.

Now, you might be thinking: oh wait, this can't be a BSOD if its not blue.  You would be wrong.  A black or beige screen can still do the job.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Outstanding Obama speech

Likely the speech he will be remembered for at the memorial for the deaths of those killed in Arizona.  Heartfelt, uniting, and uplifting.

State mental health

An excellent article on the dismal state of mental health resources.

If you have a friend with mental illness, getting resources from the state will usually make the problem much worse, not better.  For those that I've talked to (especially in the South), these places are essentially prisons.  Even psychologists who have a legal requirement to notify the authorities if a patient threatens to harm themself or others strongly hesitate to do so, knowing it will make the problem worse.

Tragically, paranoid schizophrenia is a completely treatable illness.  However, if a loved one is suffering mental illness, seek private assistance.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NYT: "Single, Female, Mormon, Alone"

An excellent and personal story about an outsider.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Do not put members of congress in "crosshairs"

An article on the the increasingly violent rhetoric of many right-wing leaders including Presidential hopefuls may be inciting people to violence.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Apple vs. GPL

In what may be the greatest blow to my interest in anything Apple, my favorite open source program has been denied a place in the new apps store.  This shortly after the same application denied entry into the iPhone's app store.  This is a real failure for Apple, who started with an open operating system and has progressively become more and more closed and restrictive.  Given the wide variety of open-licensed software that won't be ported to the iPhone, this is unfortunate for Apple and its users.

Meanwhile, plenty of GPL'd and other open source software is available for Android, whose OS is based on openly licensed Linux software.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Never going to drink Ozarka again

I used to be a regular customer for their big bottles, and Aquafina on occasion.  Apart from Nestle, it seems filtering tap water is the only way to go.  Full report here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Firefox #1 in Europe

Finally the Internet Explorer dominance is coming to an end.