Browse Month: November 2008

11/28/2008

Here’s a hilarious Christmas card…

11/25/2008

Seven point eight trillion dollars.

11/22/2008

My favorite Mario Kart character:

Yoshi rules.

11/21/2008

Laralee and I just got back from our second-grade science enrichment class. We finished our unit on the solar system with an activity where we paced off a scale-model solar system (with appropriately scaled planets too), and then had a presentation via laptop and projector where I ran Celestia and took the kids whizzing around the planets.

It was a blast, because the kids are so excited about this stuff. They kept oohing and ahhing as we talked about things like Quaoar and Sedna, how far Pluto really is from Earth, and even the volcanoes and sulfur lakes on Jupiter’s moon Io. But the real fun was with Celestia as we zoomed over to Saturn and watched a hundred moons whiz around it in one-million-times normal time, or rode Halley’s comet as it whipped around the sun every 76 years. The kids were literally yelling about how cool it was, and one of them said he was getting sick to his stomach on the Halley’s comet ride.

Not only do I enjoy spouting all of my crazy scientific knowledge, but it’s such fun to see a group of second-graders who are enthralled and excited about it.

They’ll really like it when we mess with lasers. And chemical reactions. And rocket propulsion. I can’t wait.

11/19/2008

Because it’s another unbelievably gorgeous day, I decided to get up from my desk and go biking for a while.

I just bought some new tires for my bike a few days ago, because I keep getting flats, and these puppies are sweet. They’re Kevlar-lined and tough as steel, so pesky thorns don’t even get through them. And a good thing, too: after today’s ride I picked goat’s heads out of the tire. There were forty-one of them stuck in it. Wow.

11/18/2008

70 degrees on November 18? I suppose global warming isn’t all that bad, if it gives me a chance to go out and play ultimate…

11/18/2008

“No audience member in the history of presentations has ever said, ‘it was exciting, useful and insightful but far too short””

— Seth Godin

11/16/2008

Last Friday Laralee and I taught our first “enrichment” class of the school year. It’s nine second-graders who are considered gifted, so they get to skip an hour of reading time and come to a class we teach. Although there’s a recommended curriculum for the class, most of the topics are pretty dull. So we make up our own lessons, which is not only more fun for us (although more work) but also seems to excite the kids.

So we started with the solar system. We talked about the planets and what’s interesting about them (Venus is the hottest! Neptune has winds that blow at 1,300 mph! Uranus is flipped on its side!). The kids were so excited to learn that stuff that we’re going to do a second class this week.

I’m playing around with some software called Celestia, which I’m hoping I can figure out and get running on my laptop so we can take a “tour” of the solar system. The graphics in the program are amazing:

In addition to being cool to watch, you can move in three dimensions, through time, across space, and watch the planets spin and orbit and moons whiz around them. Awesome stuff.

11/16/2008

The kids are upstairs sending e-mail messages to one another. Alex pointed out “Of course we could just walk into the other room and say it, but there’s something fun about doing it in e-mail.”

I remember my first exposure to e-mail, back in 1990. I heard someone mention there was a way to communicate with people anywhere in the world instantly and for free. Imagine! I could write to a pen pal in Germany (hey, I’d just finished three years of German in high school) without licking a stamp. It was a pretty new medium back then– few people actually had e-mail addresses, and you had to fill out a ton of paperwork at the university to get one– but it sure seemed cool.

Now it’s a key part of modern communication, and something most of us take very much for granted. So it’s fun (and a little funny) to watch the kids suddenly realize what it can do.

11/16/2008

“To initiate great things, you must truly not give a damn about what people think about you.”

— from Tribes Q&A, based on Seth Godin’s Tribes

11/15/2008

Kyra has suddenly jumped on the e-mail bandwagon and is writing messages to relatives and a few friends. She sent me this last night:

Dear Dad,

I love you so much! It’s fun playing Mario Kart with you. Thank you for
being a good dad. I know it’s a little early for this, but here is a
Christmas list for me:

1. earrings
2. Americangirl clothes and/or shoes (look on Americangirl.com)
3. dolls
4. barbies
5. littlest pet shop set(s)
6. shoes (I’m size 3)
7. i pod
8. stuffed animals
9. books
10. clothes (I’m size 10/12)

I love you so much!

Love,
Your Only Daughter!

What a sweet girl. At least she knows how to butter me up before sending me her gift list.

11/14/2008

I just read an article about how the current (crummy) market is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and people willing to take a little risk while everyone else hunkers down.

This paragraph– discussing how to build a great product from a great idea– caught my eye:

If you can’t find something that delights folks, well, then you suck. Give up. No really, you suck… give up.*

* Note: That’s just a test to see if you’re a real entrepreneur. When you read that, did you think of giving up? If you did, than you really suck and shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. If you read that and said “What does this guy know anyway?” then you’re a gangster entrepreneur and should keep up the good work.

There have been times in the past eight years when I’ve been tempted to give up and go work for The Man somewhere, because quite honestly it’s easier to have someone tell you what to do than to come up with all the to-do’s myself. And it’s easier to be the quiet programmer slamming out code in the back room than the Front Guy writing the proposals and pitching to the customers and managing the projects and making sure everything continues to run as smoothly as it can.

But then I stop and think. And I realize that no, in fact I’d rather be the entrepreneur. Now I just need to find that great idea and take a little risk…

11/14/2008

As the Senate prepares to debate a $25 billion bailout package for American automakers, I can’t say it enough times:

It is not the job of the government to prop up failing businesses. Period.

Banks, auto manufacturers, airlines, trains… these are all private corporations who need to make it on their own. If they can’t compete in the marketplace, then they should close their doors. Things are slower in the web programming arena these days, but you don’t see me asking for a handout from the Gov, nor do you see the Senate even considering what to do about a hundred thousand small businesses that are having a much harder time of it than a few dozen mega-corporations which gobs of liquid cash and executives who earn a hundred million a year.

What happened to capitalism? It looks more like an unpleasant mix of cronyism and socialism to me…

11/14/2008

The Halloween candy is almost gone, but down at the bottom of the bags, hidden beneath some old Whoppers and Dots no one wants to eat, lurk a few last good boxes of

which are basically crunchy wads of colored sugar. Yum.

11/12/2008

At 9am Pacific Time on November 10, a hosting company called McColo was shut down.

I’m sure hosting companies go out of business all the time, but this was significant because a company called MessageLabs– which specializes in large-scale e-mail systems– noticed a bit of a drop in the number of spam messages it saw crossing its servers.

Other companies hosting vast e-mail farms, or otherwise measuring e-mail traffic on the internet at large, saw a similar precipitous drop in the amount of spam flying around. It’s clear that McColo was home to a huge group of spammers– some estimates say as much as 25% of the global spam came through their servers.

Woo hoo! Now let’s find the other hosting companies enabling these spammers…

11/12/2008

A parody group called the Yes Men put together an awesome duplicate of the New York Times web site, complete with articles dated July 4, 2009.

It includes such rousing headlines as

Iraq War Ends: Troops to Return Immediately
Ex-Secretary Apologizes for WMD Scare
Court Indicts Bush on High Treason Charge
National Health Insurance Act Passes
Nation Sets its Sites on Building a Sane Economy
USA Patriot Act Repealed

If only.

If. Only.

11/12/2008

In our family bedtime prayers with the kids, we encourage them to be thankful for things in their lives. Every now and then we get an interesting one.

Last night Alex was on deck, and he expressed his gratitude thus:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for aqua lungs…”

Aqua lungs? That was a new one to me. And Zack’s heart was full tonight as he prayed:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for video games…”

I guess the Wii has a divine influence on young minds.

11/10/2008

I’m reviewing some servers that I manage for Google and found one that’s been running for a while…

[fixed: 19:15:40 up 990 days, 22:16, 2 users, load average: 0.13, 0.03, 0.01
USER TTY LOGIN@ IDLE JCPU PCPU WHAT
root pts/0 18:13 1:01m 0.00s 0.00s -bash
root pts/1 19:14 0.00s 0.01s 0.00s w]

Holy cow, that’s more than two and a half years without rebooting. Go Linux!

11/10/2008

As a system administrator who has spent countless hours installing, configuring, and tweaking spam filters to keep customers (and myself) happy, I found this Dilbert gem priceless.

It’s only a matter of time. In order to defeat the spammers, the filters will need to be smarter than the spammers themselves.

11/10/2008

I’m writing an e-mail to a client and I noticed that my e-mail client spell-checker doesn’t approve of the word “sheesh”– it highlights it in red.

It also doesn’t like “noob”.

What kind of spell-checkers are they writing these days? Clearly these are legitimate words that have their place in professional correspondence.

(With apologies to Chancellor, who was the recipient of this message.)

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