Sunday, August 31, 2008

This is cool

I love stop motion animation. This is a great piece of reinterpreted household objects.

Stop Motion Spaghetti Cooking

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I love this guy's columns. This week, he talks about using market incentives to get computer companies to do a good job with security. We've found, through trial and error, that making computer security flaws totally public is the only way to get manufacturers to fix broken crap.

Unfortunately, individual institutions and companies still get grumpy when the secret of their failure are made public.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Explaining Evolution

I really like how the teacher in this story explains evolution. I especially appreciate how he explains that the existence of God is a non-science question.

This is something that came up in the food books too. A lot of people have unscientific ways of dealing with the world. (And that's ok, a lot of the time.) But they often demand that scientific evidence be ignored, even on questions where there is a scientific answer. That frustrates and saddens me a lot. How can we get to a place where more people understand each other?

I wonder if an absolutist worldview can't tolerate anything that threatens the foundations of its self-justification. If we need Jesus to save us from the original sin of the first people in Eden, who were made in God's image, then evolution is a threat to your entire faith. That's a problem.
I want theologians to come up with a justification for conservative, born-again Christianity that's compatible with human evolution. That's a tall order. But we've let go of slavery, which the bible clearly tolerates, even offers guidelines on distinctions between good slavery and bad slavery. I feel like Christianity can change. And I know that it must. (My bet is that it will accept homosexuality first. It looks like I'm about to win my past bet that a black man would be president before a woman. I hope.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm reading a book about food, and I'm sad. Scared, even. (Also heard an interview with another author on the radio on the cab ride from the airport a few days ago, ironically.)

The FDA, over the last 50 years, has slowly had power drained from it until it's unable to keep us safe from poisoned meat, spinach, peppers, and so impotent it's not allowed to keep us away from medicines that will kill us.

This is Congress' fault. And every president since 1980 who's signed these crappy laws. Yes, the FDA can be slow. Making sure that a new drug is safe takes a lot of testing, which takes a long time. But I'm tired of people dying because we're in a hurry.

I was shocked to learn that you can die from overdoses of vitamins A or D. I could be persuaded to let go of the idea that herbal supplements have to be proven effective. But why the hell can't the FDA require proof that they're safe?

The FDA should be way more powerful and way better funded. We should have inspectors making sure our food won't kill us, and our drugs work the way they're supposed to. Hopefully we won't get to the point where we have antifreeze in our toothpaste, but I'm not hopeful.

Other interesting food facts - the fruit and vegetable growers of america can't get along. They see each other as competition, so they don't promote their products, which would make us healthy if we ate them, and make them lots of money.
On the other hand, Michael Pollan used the fact that we eat mindlessly in front of the TV to trick his child into eating vegetables. Put a plate of bite-sized broccoli in front of a child who's watching TV, and they'll gobble it down.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Election is Over - in Our Minds!

Yes, our subconscious mind has already decide who we'll vote for in November.

Unless we get some startling new information that changes our minds, "undecided" voters just don't know their true opinions. Reminds me of how I learned to detect how a job interview would go in the first 5 minutes. I hope my instinct is as right about this election.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Air Travel

My first time in North Carolina. Boy are they proud of their high wind. Although their airport police use Segways, so that's pretty cool. And I entertained a child at the baggage claim with my juggling, which I was doing just because I was bored and stiff. Bored stiff, even.

A little turbulence today, but nothing major. What was major was the line at the airport. Boy, Sunday morning at 5 AM is rush hour for United in Portland. Flights to each of their hubs every few minutes, and a massive crowd of people. Security went well - I was able to use a TSA-compatible bag to speed through the line. What with the work laptop I'm typing this on and everything.

Update: I forgot to mention the most aggravating part of the long lines at the beginning. United, in their grasping at dollars, wouldn't give me a boarding pass at checkin, because they wanted me to pay extra for an exit row. Since I refused to give them money, they gave me a pass that got me into the secure area, but not onto the plane, and then I had to wait in another line for my actual seat assignment.

Makes me think Southwest's totally random seating is the way to go. Charge everyone the same price, don't nickel and dime, just make us pay what it costs. If only the internet worked that way. Alas, since the cost of the "ticket" is what we see on flight search engines, added fees are the wave of the future. Maybe I should suck it up and get a bunch of 3 oz bottles and a 1 quart bag.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vaccines are good

The press is all over the fact that measles is on the rise. And it's sad that after 100 years of success with vaccines, some people are ignoring the evidence and avoiding vaccines because they're afraid of autism.

Eight of the 10 greatest causes of death 100 years ago are no longer in the top ten, thanks to clean water and vaccines. There's not been mercury in vaccines for years now, and autism continues to increase. It's not the vaccines.

But I learned something new from the stories about measles. Mercury never was in the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine. Never. So even people who feared the vaccines should have gotten their kids vaccinated with that one vaccine, just not the other ones. But they're not rational, they're running on fear.

I hope we figure out the cause of autism soon. And I'm really glad none of the kids who got measles this year died.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fascist bullshit

This news is bullshit.

The FBI is going to write new guidelines on investigation that allow them to investigate anyone. Anyone. They don't need proof, or even suspicion of criminal activity. They just have to feel like it.

That's crap. It's totally unconstitutional for the government to spy on people, subpoena documents, harass your family and friends - without the oversight of a court. I hope this gets shot down quick. Law enforcement should have the ability to catch criminals and put them in prison, but that power has to be kept in check or else we'll end up like China. Which is a bad thing.

It seems like every week we find out about another crazy move by the Bush white house to try to create new laws that are way outside the mainstream. Maybe they're bitter that the press is ignoring them, but I think they're just using the lack of attention as cover to pull off all the stuff that was too crazy to do before.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gah! Stupid patents

Microsoft is applying for a patent related to "browser privacy". The idea is that you can easily adjust how much information is stored in your web browser, so you can plan a surprise party, buy a birthday present, or look at porn without others knowing about it.

It's a good idea, and I'm glad Microsoft is going to add the feature.

But here's some text from the article:
"Microsoft watchers have spotted two patent applications covering ways to manage the amount of information a browser logs.
When introduced the privacy mode will match features found on other browsers."

If the mode will match other browsers, they shouldn't be able to patent it. BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T INVENT IT! God, I hope the patent office notices that slightly important detail and rejects the patent application. But why is Microsoft so arrogant as to apply for a patent for something that others already are using? So... frustrating.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's America that's dumb, not the internet

There's an interesting essay at Wired about whether the internet makes us dumb.

There are lots of books out there, dissenters not withstanding, that argue that our dumb tendencies against reason are being spread more quickly because of the internet.

They're right. But so are our smart tendencies. I wouldn't be a professional diet soda/Mentos exploder if not for the internet. Lots of fads and memes are spreading faster now, but we cultivated lots of stupid, irrational ideas before the internet.

The internet, like other technologies, just lets us be people faster. The struggles of reason vs. faith, liberal vs. conservative, bear vs. velociraptor, all will continue in new ways, but not fundamentally altered by the new technology.

Although the modern newspaper is dead. Brought to life by the telegraph, killed by craigslist. Thanks, craig. Thanks a lot.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Polaroid is Awesome

So, not only is Polaroid now making a bluetooth portable printer for quickly printing digital photos, but they're also designing a future digital camera with a built-in printer.

Yes, a 21st-century Polaroid. Woot.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Genetics and Parenting

An interesting story in Newsweek about genetics and behaviour. There are genes strongly correlated with addiction, but they also correlate with learning from mistakes more generally. And there are other genes that have effects on what effect parents have on their kids.

Most kids are harmed by bad parents, but some mutant kids are immune!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Politics and Security

This column is an excellent diagnosis for what's wrong with computer security now, why government is the one to fix it, and how it could be fixed.

There are ways the government can create incentive structures to get good software. And the government can create too many rules, but they have the scale of resources that can actually push the computer industry towards effective results.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Traffic Science

I think I find the science of traffic interesting because it has such a direct impact on my life.

In any event, how much do YOU know about traffic?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Watch the safety briefing

There's an interesting story about emergencies.

People are creatures of habit, and we don't react well to new situations, particularly in emergencies. I was most shocked to read about people in an actual airplane fire opening the overhead bins to remove stuff. On the other hand, I could totally see myself grabbing stuff at my desk in a fire.

Makes me glad I've used the stairwell for fire drills, so I won't die in a fire for taking the elevator. Now I think I should practice my alternative escape route at home, so I won't freak out there in an emergency.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Airport Adventures

I'm spending a lot of time in airports these days.

Recently I've noted how different the lines can be. Most days the lines I end up in are quite short. But sometimes a particular airline has really long lines. A few weeks ago, I flew 3 times, and each time Delta had really long lines. Katy's friend was flying Delta, and I saw the computer check-in kiosk fail to find her name and several other people's names. But today their lines were short, while Southwest was going down the block.

Although, that might have been capacity; the line to leave checked bags at the X-ray machine was quite long. There may have just been a LOT of people flying Southwest this morning for some reason. The line at security was longer than I've seen in a while. I guess I've been flying on less popular days.

My flight today was FULL! I was in a middle seat with a big man at the window, and a lovely 8 month old baby boy (named Sam!) on the aisle in his mom's lap. He was cute, babbling, and had big blue eyes just like me. Not too much screaming, mostly just wiggly. I got occasional massages from his feet, and handshakes and other clutching. Boy, did he want to play with the airline magazine! And he loved the tray table. That was his favorite new toy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I had a great trip to Ohio last week, meeting Katy's friends and family. On the first day, I finally got my vengeance: I saw Katy's baby pictures. She was cute! (She's really pretty now, too!) Her mom gave me a copy of one of the pictures, and I took a copy of this one with my cell phone.

Being so near Cleveland, there were lots of UCC churches, with 2 or 3 near her parents' home.

We also went to a baseball game in Cleveland, which was very exciting and a lot of fun. The score was 5-4, including a home run by the opposing team in the last inning that scored 2 runs. At the end of the game, there was a runner on 3rd!
I did continue my unbroken streak of attending major league games where the home team wins. Both Blazer games I've gone to were won by the Blazers, and now the Indians have received my luck. (Sorry, Winterhawks, you're a minor league team. My luck only favors teams with more money.)

And her parents took us to a concert of the Cleveland Orchestra. It was awesome! They really are one of the best orchestras in the world. Their summer concert venue is also awesome. The acoustics were fantastic - I have never heard such balance. The bass was rich, textured and lovely.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Internet Fad Timeline

This is cool.

It's a timeline of Internet Memes. It seems pretty darn complete.