1/31/2007

01-31-07 - 1

http://www.sketchup.com/

1/29/2007

01-29-07 - 2

Allegiance

01-29-07 - 1

I think the modern literature where people play with "form" is pretty much all really awful, and 100 years from now it will be totally forgotten, except perhaps as a period in a "history of fiction" class.

1/27/2007

01-27-07 - 1

These are super awesome animated music videos I'd never seen before :

Kid Koala

Mr Scruff

1/26/2007

01-26-07 - 2

So I posted about gapminder a few days ago. Kim sent me the link to the talk about it - TED Talk by Hans Rosling . Really great talk, you should watch it.

One thing that's interesting to me is that yes, everything is super linear with development, but there's one major diversion : all the communist countries had far better health than their income would indicate. They're one of the very few consistent and strong deviations from the linear money-health correlation. Also, by pretty much all measures Cuba is doing better than any other country in Latin America, which seems to totally validate Castro's governance (!!).

The UI of the gapminder tool is just super awesome, it's fun to play with, but like most google tools it suffers from lack of help/tool-tips/labels or something to give you a clue about all the ways you can interact with it.

01-26-07 - 1

WTF WTF Science doesn't give me access, why do all these fucking websites not give me access to material, all you fucking journals are subsidized by public money, make the information free!!!!

1/24/2007

01-24-07 - 3

Fucking Alton Brown is such a jackass. He disses garlic crushers because they're unitaskers (even though you'd use them almost every day), but he wants you to buy a cast iron camp stove to do "Welsh Rabbit". Jackass. Also his Myth-Busters episode was so ridiculously wrong and unscientific it totally ruined his scientific credibility (much like the real Myth-Busters show). The real Myth-Busters really makes science look like garbage, they do totally uncontrolled experiments which don't really test the hypothesis and draw conclusions which are in no way given by the evidence. They almost make me believe in Creation.

01-24-07 - 2

60% is the pinnacle of dark chocolate. Any higher percentage and you just lose too much in texture and don't gain anything really in chocolate flavor.

01-24-07 - 1

A microwave is a fantastic tool for gourmet cooking. Say you do something like sear a piece of tuna. You properly sear super hot so only just the outside is cooked. Well, that's okay, you can serve it just like that if you want, but it actually eats better if you cook the inside just a tiny bit. If you put it in an oven or a cooler pan, it's still going to be cooking in from the outside, which will make the outside be way overcooked by the time the middle cooks at all. Your only choices are to either cook it for a long time at very low heat (which is a nice option), or just microwave on low power for half a minute. The microwave gets right to the middle of things. I use it all the time to warm things in the middle that I don't want to cook the outside any more. It's crucial to always use it on low power for this, otherwise you can get the "cooked by a microwave" taste which I'm not sure why it happens but it does.

1/23/2007

01-23-07 - 2

People despise honesty, it makes the uncomfortable, because it exposes them to the reality of the world which they work so hard to hide from.

01-23-07 - 1

Another amazing Google secret : gapminder !! This thing is super cool. Mouse over everything, just about every piece of it is interactive.

In the end it seems like there's primarily only one factor, though, which is something like "developedness" (degree of industrialization) and pretty much all the statistics have a linear+bias relationship to that. It would be interesting to do an SVD, the 1st component would surely be something like that, then it would be interesting to see what the next axes were, eg. what are the next most important factors in characterizing a population other than economic development.

1/21/2007

01-21-07 - 5

Kurobox is a hot platform for doing a home media center always-on mini server. It's a tiny quiet linux box you drop on your net. Some assembly required ;)

01-21-07 - 4

"The Score" was awful. All caper, not one ounce of character development, totally tired cliche's of the old pro and the brash young guy with talent who doesnt respect his elders enough.

01-21-07 - 3

Why don't they make "coveralls" (like what janitors wear) for snowboarding/skiing ? The whole pants/jacket things just provides a crack for snow to get in and melt.

01-21-07 - 2

There needs to be a social network for torrents, with "flagging" like Craigslist, comments like Yelp, similar torrents based on your user profile ala Netflix. Really, every type of data on every site should have those features, and they should all be integrated, not seperate for each site.

01-21-07 - 1

Before I hurt my shoulder I was looking around for some group sport to join. The only thing I'm any good at right now is rugby, so I tried to find a local team. Now, you need to know that in the US there is no professional rugby league, but there are pretty strong college teams, and a decent olympic/national squad. All those top-tier players are just on amateur squads in different places. Well, it turns out San Francisco is one of the hot beds of US rugby talent, and two of the local squads (Golden Gate and Olympic) are two of the top squads in the country. Partly this is due to the Olympic Club which made rugby a prominent local sport here. Anyway, the conclusion is that I can't play for those squads.

On the other hand, there is another local squad right near me that's about my level (in fact I'd be a star, I think). The Fog , the gay rugby team. It would be like "Tootsie" - I spend an hour before each practice trying to look gay (gel in my hair, wax my anus, etc) so I can get on the team.

1/20/2007

01-20-07 - 2

Saxton Freymann, produce artist

01-20-07 - 1

(most) males by default want to screw. If you say anything or have an opinion or a personality, all you can do is change that "screw" to "not screw". The switch is already on, you don't need to flip it on, just shut up and be nice and you'll get it.

1/19/2007

01-19-07 - 2

Arg. Danielle's away on a business trip, and I was going to use this time to really get back into the poker game, since I can focus when I'm alone. Just as I'm about to do it, Neteller pulls out of the US market, which is a giant fucking monkey wrench. Neteller has been the primary way to get money in & out of poker sites, it's an offshore bank/money router. As in the past, there will still be plenty of ways to get money on & off, but it's yet another step in making it harder for the fish to get in and it will scare more of them away,

I'm quiting Ice Wind Dale 2 about 80% of the way through. The story gives me absolutely zero motivation to see how it ends, and the game play is just too tedious to bother with any more. Once again I am convinced that game developers don't actually play the games they make (I know from experience this is true, or if they do play it it's just to test things, not to experience what it's like to be in the game). I think I spend 80% of my time in this game picking up loot, organizing inventory, configuring spells and casting buffs. Wee what fun.

Altus on flickr has some sweet HDR tweaked photos. Remember to use the "All Sizes" button, he actually has some very high res originals posted.

01-19-07 - 1

So I have this great old Calphalon Commercial anodized aluminum frying pan that Lorne gave me; I don't think you can even get them any more, Calphalon has turned into a garage brand lately with their nonstick and all that shit. I was a moron and wrecked it by running cold water on it right after getting it blazing hot, which caused it to warp. Apparently aluminum is really soft even when very thick and expands/contracts a lot with temperature change. I was going to give up on the pan but figured, WTF, let's try to blacksmith it. So, I heated it empty on the stove top to blazing hot, then turned it upside down on a big cutting board and pounded out the warp with a hammer. It worked perfectly! It responds nicely to pounding when hot, in fact you have to be careful to be gentle and just tap it down evenly. Granted, it's really hard to get it perfectly flat again, the bottom has little bumps now, and I've probably wrecked the anodized surface so I'm just cooking on aluminum, but hell it's still a nice aluminum pan.

Later on, I sewed the pockets of my jackets, all of which seem to have holes. I feel like a 19th century poor person, back when repairing was actually cheaper than replacing.

1/18/2007

01-18-07 - 2

I found you a nice little online secret site : bigtray is a restuarant supply shop, but you can buy for home use. Great place to get commercial pots & pans which are insanely much better & cheaper than the home-use stuff.

01-18-07 - 1

Wow, Ghost in the Shell 2 is so beautiful. I don't get the negative reviews, the first one was just as boring and full of high school level "deep philosophy" and people loved it. Once in a while there's some really bad computer backgrounds that look strange with the hand-animated characters, but mostly they integrate very well.

1/16/2007

01-16-07 - 1

Four things I didn't know as a young adult that could've saved/made me a lot of money :

1) Never buy a new car. In general, avoid all things with huge markups, such as luxury items, CD's, etc. If possible avoid driving altogether; cars have tons of hidden costs in terms of maintenance, tickets, parking, gas, insurance, registration fees, etc. etc. OTOH buying a $500 car is a terrible idea because the downtime and service costs will make it more expensive than if you'd just bought a $4000 car to begin with.

2) Try to avoid renting. With most things, buying and reselling when you're done with it is a much much cheaper form of temporary ownership, and if you're a good purchaser/seller it can even be free to buy a car or trailer and resell it.

3) Avoid insurance / get lawyers. Once you have enough money to cover problems, you should have the minimum insurance possible. With car insurance, you should never ever get a point on your license - hire a lawyer & get the violation reduced to a no-points fine. The savings in insurance is much greater than the cost of the lawyer.

4) Cheat on your taxes. Even if you think you have no deductions, there are things a good CPA can do (eg. basically cheat), and he can advise you on investments to avoid taxes. Everyone does it, so if you don't you're just wasting a ton of money. If you've got some clout in your business, ask for payment forms that void taxes, such as "business expense" comps rather than salary.

1/11/2007

01-11-07 - 1

Dang, I want to play Elder Scrolls Oblivion but I suspect my laptop can't handle it since those guys write such performance dogs. I guess I could play Morrowind instead.

So, I'm playing "Icewind Dale 2" because I wanted some retro RPG action (but not too retro). I know, I know, it's from 2002 (hard to believe it's that recent) you don't want to hear about it, but bear with me. (if you all stopped making games right now, I might catch up on the better games in about 1000 years)

It's hard to believe that games like this used to be mainstream, and this was considered high quality. It feels like one step away from "Adventure Construction Set"; the ground tiles are duplicated all over, then you fight the same duplicated monsters over and over; even the unique special guys just have a different name and stats. Everything is incredibly tedious (ZOMG I have to pick up every corpse's loot, arg!!). I think the total gameplay is probably like 100 hours if you do all the quests, but those aren't really quality fun-packed hours. Obviously the tastes of gamers haven't changed dramatically in the last 10 years. What's happened is the market has exploded from a tiny group of hard core gamers who liked this shit to a big pool of general population that won't stand for it.

Ok, so now on to some things that bug me. You start up the game and have to make a party before you play at all. Okay, this is already horrible design. One of Charles's Prime Rules of games is that right when you start you must be in play. How am I supposed to make a good party if I know nothing about how the game plays? So, anyway, to get in quicker I chose one of the pre-made parties. Fucking morons, the pre-made parties all really suck, they're like horribly set up, with Fighters with Str = 12 and shit like that, like if you use a pre-made party you're at a huge disadvantage to making your own. Of course, the beginner/casual types will use the pre-made parties and you gave them a huge penalty, smart move.

The pathing and AI is ridiculously bad. The PC AI will attack my own charmed PC's and shite like that, etc. etc. The insanely bad pathing is really inexclusable when A* in 2d is so easy and well known and fast.

1/10/2007

01-10-07 - 1

I got my new enclosure, it's an "Acomdata" and so far I'm very happy with it, it's a lot quieter than the Lacie junker, and it has an actual hard on-off switch, not a push-button toggle (got I hate fucking push button toggles so much, I love the old hard switches on the back of computers that really gave a good thwack when you flipped em).

Anyway, I discovered something quite interesting. In the Windows Device Manager on the poperties of the external disk, you can either enable or disable write caching! The default is disabled (safe), which is why writes to the external disk are so slow. Of course if you enable write caches you can get corrupted data if you ever flip it off with the computer on or have a power outage. Hmmm....

1/08/2007

01-08-07 - 3

Buy Blockbuster stock. It's at $5.70 now, down from a high of roughly $30. It's rightly crashed because their financials are in a mess and profits are down because of Netflix and video on demand, etc. However, their new online service is better than Netflix and they're advertising like crazy.

01-08-07 - 2

There's a cool little MS powertool to mount an ISO as a virtual drive . I guess "Daemon Tools" is the poppa way to do this, but I like how tiny and simple this little vcd thing is.

01-08-07 - 1

So, about a week ago I sent in some questions to Blue Cross by email (cuz their phone line told me an estimated 30 minute wait). Today I got back the reply : "I'm sorry but we can't answer that question by email, please call our customer service center at 555-fuck-you" , FRIGGLE FRACK!

1/07/2007

1/06/2007

01-06-07 - 1

The more I think about it the more I'm disgusted by the exam I got from the orthopedist. He didn't manually examine the joint or palpate my muscles. He didn't ask about how the injury has progressed over time. He didn't do the simple seperation test, which is to have me hold a weight in that hand and watch for a protuberance at the top of the shoulder. I have a followup exam next week to examine my MRI, so we'll see what happens then. This is also part of why costs are so out of control in our health care, doctors just thoughtlessly order up expensive tests without doing the visual or manual tests that could give you answers. Obviously this is a problem of motivation, as I've mentioned before doctors have no interest in keeping costs down, in fact they usually get paid *more* when they do unnecessary expensive tests and treatments.

1/05/2007

01-05-07 - 2

"Pan's Labyrinth" is indeed super good; I'm not sure about the crazy high scores it's getting, but it's definitely worth seeing. I love Guillermo del Toro, and I love magical realism and faerie tales, so it's right up my alley. I'd say it follows directly in the footsteps of his movies "Cronos" and "The Devil's Backbone", telling sort of a historical story via allegory, horror, and fantasy.

I was thinking that this cross of like political history with faery tale is very effective, and was wondering what other crosses might work. Perhaps a French new wave sarcastic roasting of the bourgeois, crossed with an ultra-violent crime spree flick? Maybe a heroin-addiction descent into misery crossed with a Will Ferrell-esque fake pompous comedy?

01-05-07 - 1

What Einstein Told His Cook seems really good, I just read a bit in the book store, but at a glance it seems a lot better than Alton Brown's book (sorry Alton, I still love you). Read this instead of the popular-ethics garbage food writing that's big these days.

1/04/2007

01-04-07 - 4

Well, I finally went to the doctor today, and so far it's just a waste of money. I went directly to an orthopedist, I got x-rays, they confirmed what I already knew - it's not a dislocation or a break. You can't see soft tissue damage in an x-ray so I'm getting an MRI soon. On the plus side, this confirms the high quality of my self doctoring.

My health insurance is super minimal. That was a calculated risk I took, I'm pretty sure it was the right decision, but like every thing in my life I think I've made the right evaluation of the odds and the EV and gotten extremely unlucky. You have to have health insurance in the US, because you get the negotiated lower prices, and of course most doctors won't even see you without insurance. On the other hand, insurance is inherently -EV (unless you know yourself to be at higher risk that the insurance company thinks you are). If you have enough savings to cover health problems, you shouldn't have insurance. Of course this isn't completely true because our health system is so fucked, the establishment subsidizes some services (such as child birth) and makes up for it by raping people like me with ridiculous overcharges.

BTW the most awesome solution for your normal health care needs is something like Quick Health . $39 fixed fee in & out quickly, no muss, no fuss. Even if you have good insurance this is probably as cheap and much faster. Obviously you can't go for major problems, but to get antibiotics or immunizations or whatever its' the way to go.

My girlfriend and grandma and such are glad that I finally went to the doctor, but really it's a cop out, it's a failure, I didn't have enough confidence in my self diagnosis to be comfortable with my long treatment, so I went crying to the authority figure so I can be told what to do and not have to decide for myself. Yay me.

01-04-07 - 3

Holy crap, I've got competition. There's a Belgian funk DJ that goes by "cbloom" and he's gaining on me in web linkage; I guess their main site is : cbloom+dvine . Can you imagine if I wasn't the first result when you search "cbloom" ? I mean really, the horror!!

01-04-07 - 2

Some quick thoughts :

Talking to my brother the economist, & reading the NYT Business section & the Economist, it makes me realize how completely out of touch these business guys are with reality. They generally cling to this religious belief in efficient exchanges and the glory of capitalism, and fail to acknowledge the many severe ways in which real markets are not ideal. For example, they pretty much all believe that profit-taking does not drive up costs & hurt the lower class, which is insane.

Similarly, it's occurred to me that people starting business now are very different than they were 50 years ago. People starting businesses now want to "go big" and get out of the business in 2-5 years and have it run itself or sell it. They understand marketing and scale and buzz and all that. 50 years ago you would start a business with the minimum capital possible, and the idea was to work in it yourself and have it as your job for the rest of your life, and to pass it on to your family. I think mainly this change is a symptom of the growing gulf between the rich and poor (and also the propensity of dumb rich people to pay 5X what they should if something is branded cleverly; currently if you stamp "sustainable" on something morons will shell out).

A big problem with medical establishment is that they intentionally keep information from consumers. They hide complaints & suits against doctors so you can't really judge the performance of your doctor. They hide their costs, charging wildly different amounts to different people and never giving you estimates up front. If they fail to cure you or mess up in surgery, they generally try to keep it from you, and still charge you for the services. Worst of all, they intentionally keep information away from the consumer about how to treat things, what the right treatments are, what the side effects are, etc. It would be very easy to provide this information, and they intentionally don't, because you could easily know more than your doctor about your illness, and they don't want that. Basically if you imagine everything that crooked mechanics do that you hate, doctors do all those things and worse.

I got another scam letter that tries to look like an official Honda letter offering me a warranty extension, but it's some random company and clearly a rip off. I wondered, who decides to start a business running scams like this? And instantly realized it's really not very far off from almost every business which tries to dupe consumers and get them to overpay for things they don't need.

01-04-07 - 1

Why not put toothpaste in those squirt dispensers like we use for hand soap?

1/03/2007

01-03-07 - 1

I wrote a little program to just ReadDirectoryChangesW and log every disk access. It was quite frightening. Windows XP does tons of crazy disk ops all the time, even if you're just browsing around it descends into subdirs and snoops around. Both of the browsers (IE and FireFox) are insane, you open one page and they touch 100+ different files, not just in the cache but in your settings.

1/02/2007

01-02-07 - 2

My HP printer driver is stuck in Finnish or something. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. Laatu Asettelu Toiminnot Vari. WTF WTF. digitaalinen valokuva !!!!!

01-02-07 - 1

So, the Lacie drive failure was indeed something in the case and the disk itself is fine. Apparently this is extremely common; basically the Lacie cases are totally defective and they haven't admitted it, and their customer support treats you like garbage. This is totally a class action suit waiting to happen if somebody wants to jump on that.

"SpinRite" is a nice product. You make a DOS boot disk and it can do all kinds of good low level hard drive maintenance & recovery stuff. I tried the free "Ultimate Boot CD" thing but I couldn't get it to work in any sort of decent way.

So, I need to buy a new external case to put my disk in. You can get them for $20 now (WOW), but I'd like to pay a bit more to make me feel more confident that the case won't crap out on me. It's hard to find one that's well rated and known to be solid. I think I'm going to go with the "Acomdata 509", which is generally high rated. I might go with the "Vantec Nexstar 3", though there's some indication that the Vantec doesn't take heat away from the drive very well. Of course spending a bit more for quality was the idea with the Lacie as well which didn't work. Lacie is the Mercedes of computer parts, it would seem. Vantec is the only one of the cheapo enclosures that is widely reviewed because they're the only ones who give out free hardware to reviewers, which of course totally skews the review portfolio.

All these cases use my old idea of making the case the heat sink. Dave Moore and I used to talk about how to make silent self-cooling computers. I had one idea to make a combine computer + meditation fountain thingy (for water cooling of course). The best idea was just to make the whole case of the computer out of copper or aluminum and have direct thermal contact between the hot things (CPU, etc.) and the case, so the whole case becomes a huge thermal disipator. In addition to being effective and silent, the case would look super cool. For extreme applications you can make the case like soft coral (corals "fans").

Conclusion : BOYCOTT LACIE , buy SpinRite.

Addendum : Lacie finally got back to me and they say the symptoms sound like power supply failure. I can buy a new power supply through them, but I think I'm just going to door-stop that thing.

1/01/2007

01-01-07 - 1

My Lacie external disk just failed. Apparently that's very common, they're complete garbage. Yay, happy new year. I'm out of warranty so it seems like my best bet is to crack open the case and see if the disk works as an internal disk. Apparently often it's the Firewire junk or the power supply that fail and you can still use the disk as a regular HD.

old rants