Browse Month: April 2008

04/30/2008

Why sit on the couch to play video games when you can sit on two huge Dell server boxes?

04/27/2008

Observation: When I buy a half-gallon of ice cream and a jar of hot fudge, there’s never enough fudge to last through the entire half-gallon.

Theory #1: There’s a vast international conspiracy to make disproportionate amounts of fudge and ice cream, so you’ll never be able to get through a half-gallon and have enough fudge for all of it. (This would be similar to the Hot Dog Bun Conspiracy, where buns come in 8-packs whereas dogs come in 10-packs.)

Theory #2: I put too much fudge on each bowl of ice cream.

Hmm.

04/22/2008

A huge random box showed up on our doorstep today.

Inside was a bunch of dry ice, steaming nicely in the warm spring air, and…

… a bunch of cakes, tarts, and mousse! That’s right– mousse. How cool is it to get a bunch of frozen mousse delivered to your door?

Of course this is another care package from a happy client of mine: in this case it’s Galaxy Desserts, makers of various delectable sweets. Awesome.

04/22/2008

The other day Alex was playing on the trampoline and somehow (it’s still not clear to me how) he swung down below it and slammed his face into one of the metal supports. It blew a chunk off his front tooth.

So now I call him Chip, which he doesn’t think is nearly as funny as I do.

04/20/2008

Laralee and I just finished watching the movie Rendition. If I had to use a single word to describe it, I would call it “powerful”. The message it conveys is delivered with the subtlety of a freight train, but that doesn’t make it any less thought-provoking. Highly recommended viewing.

04/19/2008

From a funny online post about how ABC might have run the Lincoln-Douglas debates back in the day:

LINCOLN: In my opinion, slavery will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me, did an Elijah H. Johnson attend your church?

LINCOLN: When I was a boy in Illinois forty years ago, yes. I think he was a deacon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you aware that he regularly called Kentucky “a land of swine and whores”?

LINCOLN: Sounds right — his ex-wife was from Kentucky.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did you remain in the church after hearing those statements?

LINCOLN: I was eight.

DOUGLAS: This is an important question George — it’s an issue that certainly will be raised in the fall.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce him?

LINCOLN: I’d like to get back to the divided house if I may.

04/18/2008

I’m wading through some PHP programming code written by another company, because I’m replacing it with my own (vastly superior) programming. Apparently they have some speling problems:

Maybe they’re big Lord of the Rings fans, and when they heard “column” they thought of Gollum, and ended up with “collum”…

04/16/2008

New figures suggest that 92.3 percent of all e-mail sent globally during the first three months of 2008 was spam.

Spammers… we hatessss them, yesss!

04/16/2008

Yesterday : 80 degrees and sunny.
Today : 30 degrees and snowing.

Is spring here? Or what?

04/15/2008

“The reason lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn’t there the second time.”

— Willie Tyler

04/11/2008

The European Space Agency just released some graphics showing a fairly comprehensive display of the satellites and orbital debris surrounding Earth.

Of course it seems amazing that there’s so much junk flying around up there. But I’m not very surprised, because I did exactly this back in 1998 or so.

Those were my days at Raytheon Space Systems, where I wrote (amongst other things) software to do orbital analysis and 3D visualization of satellites. For fun, I decided to get the full catalog of satellites from all countries and drop their orbital information into the simulation. The result was a graphic almost identical to the ESA one shown here.

Strangely, I didn’t get the same press they’re getting now. I guess it’s because I was just a brilliant but somewhat quirky analyst working in the bowels of an aerospace giant instead of a multinational space agency. Go figure.

04/11/2008

“May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

— Dwight Eisenhower

04/11/2008

Ahh, another productive meeting with a client. I was at IZZE’s headquarters talking with them about a deal with Amazon, and when I left they asked if I wanted to take any product home with me.

I love my clients.

04/09/2008

In today’s mail I received a little brochure for summer kids’ programs at a nearby school. Although I’m sure the programs themselves are a real hoot, I must say their choice of a photo for the brochure is even funnier.

So we have a bunch of kids all waiting in line for little Maria to stop staring at that rock and get on with the game. Whatever the game is… that looks like a four-square grid, but I don’t see any balls and that’s way too many kids to play a proper game.

Maybe they’re doing some kind of geology study, learning about rocks in nature. Or physics: why an object at rest tends to remain at rest? Although you never know– the rock might suddenly and unpredictably move across the playground or do something equally spooky.

In any case, this makes their summer program look like as much fun as watching grass grow. Sign me up!

04/08/2008

This may be the best spam message I’ve ever received.

If it’s even spam, that is. Maybe it’s a secret communique from my agents in Kazakhstan. Or the al Qaeda. Or a beautiful Russian woman asking me to marry her so she can become a citizen and realize her lifelong dream of working at Burger King slapping patties on a triple-decker. The wonder of it is I just don’t know.

04/07/2008

Today General William Odom, a three-star Army general and former NSA Director, addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq. His condemnation of the Bush administration’s tactics was resounding and to the point.

He starts with a scathing attack on the “troop surge”…

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It is an honor to appear before you again. The last occasion was in January 2007, when the topic was the troop surge. Today you are asking if it has worked. Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability. And I foresaw no serious prospects for success.

I see no reason to change my judgment now. The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims.

… and continued with details about different regions of Iraq and how each and every one of them is less stable than a year ago. Then he denounced the administration’s oft-repeated claims about how the al-Qaeda would rise like a phoenix if the U.S. troops abandon the country:

The concern we hear the president and his aides express about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense. The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq. The Kurds do not allow them in their region, and the Shiites, like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda.

He proceeded into the tenuous alliance the U.S. has with Sunni groups:

Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty. I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day. And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased. You might want to find out the total costs for these deals forecasted for the next several years, because they are not small and they do not promise to end. Remember, we do not own these people. We merely rent them. And they can break the lease at any moment.

Then he addressed the fact that Iraq continues to destabilize into fragmented groups:

We are witnessing is more accurately described as the road to the Balkanization of Iraq, that is, political fragmentation. We are being asked by the president to believe that this shift of so much power and finance to so many local chieftains is the road to political centralization. He describes the process as building the state from the bottom up.

I challenge you to press the administration’s witnesses this week to explain this absurdity. Ask them to name a single historical case where power has been aggregated successfully from local strong men to a central government except through bloody violence leading to a single winner, most often a dictator.

Then he called John McCain and his buddies to task:

To sum up, we face a deteriorating political situation with an overextended army. When the administration’s witnesses appear before you, you should make them clarify how long the army and marines can sustain this band-aid strategy.

And finally, he summed up his arguments with something I (and many others) have been saying for a long time:

Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards. Our ostrich strategy of keeping our heads buried in the sands of Iraq has done nothing but advance our enemies’ interest. I implore you to reject these fallacious excuses for prolonging the commitment of US forces to war in Iraq.

With such harsh criticisms from an experienced military commander, it will be interesting to see how the administration spins this.

04/06/2008

I finally put the finishing touches on my 2007 taxes.

Wow, what a nightmarish adventure of confusion and drudgery to navigate the labyrinthine tax system. For the past eight years I’ve been using software (first Turbo Tax and now TaxCut) because it’s worth the forty bucks to type in all the numbers have a program put it all together for me.

Of course I started back in January; it’s always good to get a good head of steam when you’re running the tax gauntlet. But it took a while to get all of the right paperwork from the various agencies that send that kind of paperwork, and of course it took a while to figure out all the numbers for my businesses and investments and whatnot. Every weekend I’d spend an hour or so crunching through the math, creating spreadsheets, entering numbers, and frowning at the result. I owe how much? And now it’s a week before they’re due, and I’m finally finishing everything and printing the 29 pages that I have to file with the IRS. (That’s not counting the 106 pages that TaxCut prints “for my records”, which apparently include all of the worksheets and calculations it did to come up with the 29 pages.)

In contrast, my friend Amanda had a different tax experience:

Filing was a piece of cake! When you make very little money, and don’t own anything, filing is the simplest thing EVER. Take that taxes! I owned you taxes and I’ll see you again next year! Oh, and thanks for giving me back all of the taxes I paid in 2007. You are really sweet and I love you. KISSES!

She got away with filing the legendary 1040-EZ form, which explains her all-too-chipper attitude. I remember that form from fifteen years ago… ahh, good times.

04/04/2008

Luke has some interesting taste in music, so during the workday we often get to listen to his wacky random selections. I’m listening to some MP3 tracks that he let me *cough* borrow, and out of the blue this crazy song from Leonard Nimoy came on.

I think my ears are bleeding now. Wow.

Coming up: the classic song “Kana’i Aupuni” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, on their amazing album “Ka ‘Ano’i”. It should be interesting seeing what that’s all about.

04/03/2008

Ahh, memories. Here’s a beautiful photo of an Atari 800 desktop computer, circa 1983.

I love the box of “certified diskettes” in the top right– I remember when you’d buy 5.25″ disks and they were always “certified”. And of course you’d cut a notch on the side so you could double-side them (I never understood why they didn’t just manufacture them with the notch; I guess it was so suckers not in the know would buy twice as many disks.)

Good times.

04/02/2008

I’m on the phone with some yahoo over at Chase Bank, applying for a new business credit card. I have no idea where this particular call center is– probably somewhere in India– but the guy cracks me up because he sounds like one of those computer synthesizers trying really hard to sound like a human.

It reminds me of Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesizer…

In fact, it sounds just like him. Maybe it is him! Astrophysics is such a dull field; call centers are probably much more fun.