Browse Month: October 2008

10/31/2008

Laralee bought juice boxes to hand out to trick-or-treaters tonight. I was astounded. Juice boxes? Really? I mean, how exciting is that? I figured the kids would pause for a second as I handed them a little fruity drink, then drop it wordlessly into their bag, and make a mental note to themselves not to come back to that house next year.

To my great surprise, many of the kids were thrilled. They would run down the sidewalk yelling to their waiting mom, “Mom, we got juice boxes!” Maybe they were really thirsty from walking around so much, maybe there’s a rising generation of kids who crave healthy snacks (okay, scratch that), or maybe it’s just different.

In any case, it was kind of cool to see.

10/29/2008

Is it wrong to think this Halloween costume is funny?

10/28/2008

Now that we have a Wii, the spending begins.

My first purchase– using some Amazon gift cards– was another remote (Wiimote?) and a steering wheel.

That way the fam can play Mario Kart head-to-head, which is much more fun than beating a bunch of computer players. And there’s nothing quite so humorous as listening to a ten-year-old girl talk smack as she’s ahead of me in a race, only to laugh right back at her as I blow past her to the finish line.

10/28/2008

You can’t argue with a weather forecast like this for late October:

Game on for ultimate!

10/26/2008

I was at a book fair the other day and this caught my eye:

Heck, for a buck it’s worth it. Maybe it’ll make me smarter about how to take that hard-earned money and put it to good use…

10/25/2008

We’ve had the Wii for a few days now, and I just have one thing to say.

Mario Kart frickin’ rules.

10/25/2008

We watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade tonight, and it reminded me of how awesome it would be if I had a tie like Sallah:

I would totally wear that to church. So if any of my three loyal readers are thinking of Christmas gifts for me, a short tie (it can’t come past mid-belly) with an obnoxious pattern on it would be the bomb.

10/25/2008

Zack came running into the house around 6:30 tonight, yelling about how cool “the light” was outside. He practically dragged me out the door, insisting that it was totally awesome.

Indeed, it was a pretty spectacular sunset and interesting clouds.

10/22/2008

I have my mail-in ballot for the upcoming election, and I spent a couple of hours going through all of the candidates and amendments and referendums the other night. I left the presidential box empty, because I wanted to vote for Ron Paul, but strangely there wasn’t a write-in box. There was one for senator, which seemed strange.

I contacted the Boulder Election Authority to ask how to cast a write-in presidential vote, and received this reply today:

There is no space for a write-in candidate for the Presidential race due to the fact there are no certified write-in presidential candidates in Colorado.  However, there are three certified write-in U.S. Senate candidates, that is why this option appears on your ballot.

For some reason, I thought one could vote for anyone for President (realizing that the odds of that person winning are pretty small). Bummer.

So I guess I can’t vote for the candidate (well, ex-candidate technically) with whom I most closely agree. It looks like Bob Barr– the Libertarian candidate– is going to get the coveted Jeff Vote this time around. Although I considered Chuck Baldwin– of the Constitution Party– there are just too many things about him that don’t jive with me.

Go Bob!

10/22/2008

This year when Kyra’s school announced their fund-raising program, Kyra decided she was going to win the grand prize: a new Nintendo Wii. All of the kids who sell a certain amount of stuff ($100 or more, I believe) get a ticket to place in the Wii raffle, and then after the program is over a lucky winner is chosen.

Fired up about the Wii, Kyra (with some help from mom) went out and sold a ton of stuff. When the dust cleared, she’d sold a little over $500 worth of restaurant cards, cookie dough, and various other trinkets! She was the highest-selling kid in school, followed closely by her best friend Hannah ($450 or so). Pretty amazing.

So they held the drawing this week, and… Kyra won! She brought the Wii home yesterday and we had a lot of fun making our little Mii avatars and then playing their goofy sports games.

As George McFly once said, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

10/16/2008

You know how some songs evoke strong memories? Funny how music has a way of connecting to something deep within us…

It’s after midnight and I’m hacking away, listening to some great tunes, and here’s one of my all-time favorite songs: U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. I remember when I first heard the song: it was in college, on a warm spring day, playing sand volleyball while we cranked some CD’s my friend Dempsey had brought along. This song came on and it was just amazing for some reason.

I can’t explain it, but this song resonates with me. Maybe someday I will find what I’m looking for. Whatever that may be.

10/15/2008

Of course I’m a Linux bigot, and I shake my head at those poor souls who still use Windows on their computers (and, to a degree, OS X). I mean, why pay so much money for so much mediocre software when there are all of the other possibilities in the open-source world?

Take AmaroK, for example, which is arguably the best media player on the market today.

It’s got every feature you’d ever want in a digital music player, and many others you’d never even think of. Playlists, album covers, lyrics, MusicBrainz, last.fm, filters, visualizations, iPods, and on and on. All for the bargain price of… well, nothing.

Every now and then I think about how effortlessly I navigate through all of my applications– not only to do my job, but also to just be a part of our internet society. And how Linux and KDE and a hundred other applications make it possible in such a fabulous way.

Those poor souls.

10/15/2008

My current laptop is a four-year-old Dell Inspiron 8600, which is a hefty beast. It has a sweet 15″ display and a full-size keyboard, and it’s a real workhorse. It’s served me well for many moons as I’ve worked in bed or downstairs or on the road.

But hey, technology marches on and these days we’ve got faster, smaller, more powerful laptops out there. So I decided to plunk down some change on a Dell Inspiron Mini 9.

It’s the latest in the “netbook” arena– a miniature laptop, basically. From all the reviews I’ve read it’s a pretty nice machine. It doesn’t have a hard drive (all solid-state disk) and uses a low-power CPU so it doesn’t need a cooling fan. That makes it completely silent, which is nice. But nicer still is the fact that it’s the size of a paperback book. Sure, the 9″ screen and the 80%-size keyboard are a little cramped, but I can practically slip this thing into a jacket pocket as I head out the door.

Of course the first thing I did was wipe the disk and install KDE, and now I’m configuring everything to be just so. My desktop environment has evolved over the past decade into a finely-tuned piece of art so highly customized I hardly know what to do with a stock install any more.

Once it’s up and running the way I like it, I’m pretty excited to see if it’ll live up to the hype. And it’ll be great for trips and just lazing around the family room.

10/15/2008

Two weeks ago, we heard Ben Bernanke screaming, “Holy crap! If we don’t vote this $700 billion bailout package into law this very week the entire economy is going to implode and everyone will die!”

Or something like that.

Regardless of his actual words, the message from the Treasury and the Fed and all of the other so-called “experts” was that we needed the bailout package and we needed it right away. So Congress caved and gave them their money.

Now things aren’t looking that great, we’re still sliding inexorably into recession, and it’s clear the bailout really isn’t all it was advertised to be. But never fear– Bernanke is back, except this time he’s saying “Well, hey, it’s going to take some time for stuff to happen.”

So which is it? Quick action? Or wait and see?

I suspect I could do a better job running this economy than the clowns in charge right now. And I’m a physicist.

10/13/2008

Tony admitted that I was right and he was wrong just now. Clearly it’s a red-letter day.

10/11/2008

Kyra certainly defines her own style.

10/11/2008

I tried hard to be proud of my service, but all I could feel was shame. Racism could no longer mask the reality of the Iraq occupation. These are human beings. I’ve since been plagued by guilt. I feel guilt any time I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt any time I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt any time I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists; the real terrorist was me, and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war.

I threw families onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families thrown onto the street in this country, in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis. Our enemies are not five thousand miles away, they are right here at home, and if we organize and fight, we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world.

— Corporal Michael Prysner, U.S. Army Reserve Aerial Intelligence Specialist, in an excerpt from Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan

10/10/2008

Like everyone else, I’ve watched my stock portfolio get demolished the past few weeks. I kissed several years’ worth of retirement savings goodbye. But I suppose my losses pale in comparison to those felt by Bill Gates (who lost about $2.5 billion since September) and Larry Ellison (who dropped $1.6 billion). In fact, it’s Warren Buffett who has shown us how smart he is about investing, because he’s made $8 billion in the same period and now stands as the richest person in America.

Must be rough.

10/10/2008

I started reading Seth Godin’s blog and found some good articles. In one that caught my eye he discusses how many people perceive “effort as a myth”, meaning we are always seeing examples of others who are extraordinarily lucky and thus have an easier life than us, or accomplish things we never think we will.

But he dispels that myth by talking about luck, and what he says is insightful:

The thing about luck is this: we’re already lucky. We’re insanely lucky that we weren’t born during the black plague or in a country with no freedom. We’re lucky that we’ve got access to highly-leveraged tools and terrific opportunities. If we set that luck aside, though, something interesting shows up.

Delete the outliers– the people who are hit by a bus or win the lottery, the people who luck out in a big way, and we’re left with everyone else. And for everyone else, effort is directly related to success. Not all the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the time.

Effort takes many forms. Showing up, certainly. Knowing stuff (being smart might be luck of the draw, but knowing stuff is the result of effort). Being kind when it’s more fun not to. Paying forward when there’s no hope of tangible reward. Doing the right thing. You’ve heard these things a hundred times before, of course, but I guess it’s easier to bet on luck.

I think this is true, and it inspires me to use more effort and less luck.

10/10/2008

“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”

— Richard Feynman

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