Browse Month: August 2009

08/30/2009

Friday night we had our annual S’mores Night in the backyard. Basically we borrow a portable fire pit from some neighbors, and invite the whole block (27 houses, around a hundred people). Not surprisingly, the same group of maybe thirty people show up every year.

There was a twist this year: our newest neighbors (right next door) have their own fire pit, a trampoline, and three little kids. Since there’s no fence between our yards, it made the party even more fun because we had two trampolines, about fifteen screaming kids bouncing and chasing each other, and the two fire pits with roaring flames. The adults sat around talking and enjoying the beautiful evening and occasionally telling kids to stop throwing things into the fire, and that five marshmallows at a time was maybe too many. Oh, and when it was fully dark and the neighbors brought out the strobe light and shone it on the trampoline, the kids really started having fun. It was hilarious to watch.

The party lasted around three hours– finally around ten o’clock we decided it was time to wind down the hyperactive kids. As it turned out, our kids had invited several of their friends to sleep over for the night, so we all moved inside and ended up with five surprise guests that night. Everything worked out, though, and I think we can consider it another rousing success.

Now we have some leftover s’mores material: a bag of marshmallows, a dozen Hershey bars, and a few boxes of graham crackers. So in the evenings I’ve been making my high-tech s’mores in the microwave:

A carefully-prepared cracker, with the microwave set to 1:40 at power 4, and voila, I have an awesome mess of warm white and brown sugary glop oozing out from between the crackers. Whee!

08/29/2009

Seen on a LinkedIn profile:

I am currently working on building out metadata driven hierarchical data navigators with vertigo inducing Javascript effects.

Buzzword Bingo strikes again.

08/27/2009

Holy nanotech, Batman.

Researchers at IBM spent 20 hours using an atomic force microscope to image a molecule. This puppy has a “needle” that’s only a few atoms wide, and moves half a nanometer above the surface of its subject. For 20 hours. That is an amazing piece of technology.

The molecule:

Pentacene, or C22H14. It doesn’t look all that remarkable until you compare it to a ball-and-stick model of the same molecule, similar to what you might build in high school chemistry class:

In other words, these guys actually took a “photograph” of a single molecule at the atomic scale. And you can actually see the individual atoms and bonds.

Science is so cool.

08/27/2009

Someone had the idea that a dual-screen laptop would be sweet. And indeed, the marketing bling looks kind of cool (minus the Windows logo, heh):

Keep in mind these are dual 15.4″ displays with a full-size keyboard. I think we’re really starting to stretch the idea of a “laptop” here…

08/26/2009

Facepainting is such a girl thing.

Peace, yo.

08/26/2009

Kyra is very excited about middle school. She loves her French class, loves playing volleyball, and loves the idea of playing the flute. Today I met her at school to go flute-shopping. Half a dozen local music stores had set up in the common room, hawking their wares. You could rent any instrument for your kid in band, pick up the song books, and so forth. It was really quite nice to be able to comparison-shop by simply walking around the room and talking with the various salespeople.

In the end we decided to rent a Gemeinhardt 2SP, which is supposedly a pretty good one. It’s a thousand-dollar instrument (wow!) but we can rent it for twenty bucks a month so that was an easy decision. Thankfully she didn’t choose the saxophone or some of the brass instruments, which rent for around sixty or eighty a month.

Kyra practically skipped home with it, and upon arriving promptly put it together and started working on it. Since she doesn’t really know how to play (she’s only had a couple days of band class) it was a little funny to watch. But I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it soon, and then we can look forward to nice music wafting from her room.

08/26/2009

Alex went fishing with his Boy Scout troop today (there are three boys in the troop, including him). When I went to pick him up, he thrust his hands in my face and said happily, “Hey Dad, smell my hands! Fish guts!” Mmm.

As we walked home with his friend Connor, I was entertained by tales of how they whacked their fish on rocks to crack their skulls, how the blood spurted around, how the leaders showed them how to slice the fish from jaw to tail and yank out all the guts, and so forth. Yummy!

As someone who has never in his life caught a fish, I don’t really get into the whole fishing scene, but it was fun to hear Alex get so excited about it.

08/26/2009

The Cash for Clunkers program is, thankfully, finally over. What a waste of 2.9 billion dollars.

Interesting parting shot: all of the top 10 vehicles traded in were American. And 8 of the top 10 vehicles purchased were foreign.

Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles
1. Ford Explorer (4WD)
2. Ford F150 Pickup (2WD)
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee
4. Ford Explorer (2WD)
5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan
6. Jeep Cherokee
7. Chevrolet Blazer
8. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup
9. Ford F150 Pickup (4WD)
10. Ford Windstar

Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Honda Civic
3. Toyota Camry
4. Ford Focus
5. Hyundai Elantra
6. Nissan Versa
7. Toyota Prius
8. Honda Accord
9. Honda Fit
10. Ford Escape

How, exactly, did this help the American auto industry?

08/23/2009

I saw an article called “Songs in Code” which uses programming languages to describe famous songs. It’s like the Song Chart Meme on Flickr about a year ago, but much much geekier.

A few that I identified:

[fixed:if (withU) ‘a’ to ‘z’ else (‘a’ to ‘z’).filter(_ != ‘u’)]
“With or Without You” by U2

[fixed:if ( time < 9 ) { Bed.tumbleOutOf(); Kitchen.stumbleTo(); Ambition.pourMyselfACupOf(); }] "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton [fixed:var city = {type:"paradise", grass:0x00FF00, girls:"pretty")}; transport(this, city);] "Paradise City" by Guns 'n Roses [fixed:self.is_a?(Walrus) == true] "I Am the Walrus" by John Lennon Awesome.

08/22/2009

Tara and Derek just stopped in for an overnight visit on their way home from a cross-country trip, and Derek had the most awesome t-shirt I’ve seen in a long time. It was all black, and had a little name tag over the breast:

It looks like a real name sticker, of course, and he says people ask him about it all the time but not many of them really get the joke. And I suppose that’s true: either you get the joke or you don’t, and if you don’t, then a bunch of explaining (“no, there is too much… let me sum up”) isn’t going to make it funny.

Sweet.

08/21/2009

Funny comment paraphrased from a Linux newsgroup post:

We live in a Post-Cluetrain world.

08/20/2009

Twenty years ago today, Voyager 2 completed its tour of the solar system with a flyby of Neptune’s moon Triton.

The two Voyager probes were probably one of NASA’s– indeed, mankind’s– greatest scientific triumphs. Truly amazing stuff, not to mention the source of breathtaking photographs of the outer solar system.

08/20/2009

Mmm… foosball…

(I had my camera at the office today so for fun I took a picture of the table.)

08/20/2009

Last week I was kind of bored so I decided to get back into computer gaming. I’m hardly a big-time “gamer” and in fact I probably only get this urge about once every six months. But I figured this might be a good opportunity to involve Alex and perhaps Zack in some fun “guy stuff”.

Age of Empires is really cool, but doesn’t work very well under Linux (and I don’t have any Windows computers). Space Empires IV is a classic but I’ve played it so many times it’s not really even a challenge– and more than likely it would be a little too complicated for the boys. So I poked around for some native Linux games. There are a ton of first-person shooters, but they’re usually pretty violent and we’ve already outlawed Halo in our house because of that.

I discovered Warzone 2100 which is a sweet real-time strategy game. It takes place in the future on a nuclear-ravaged earth, and the objective is to research technologies and build tanks and cyborgs and so forth to take over the world. Everything is done in beautiful 3D, with textures and sweet sound effects and lots of action.

Alex absolutely loves the game, and we’ve played a few missions and skirmishes against the AI. Right now Zack is content to just watch and comment on the battles (“Alex, Dad has ten tanks and he’s blowing up the bad guy base!”). I’m sure he’ll get involved soon, and we’ll have three computers running a networked game.

What a great way to waste some time!

08/19/2009

I’ve got my AmaroK music player on “random tracks from collection” which means it picks anything it wants from my 10,000-song collection. It makes for some interesting transitions in music, to be sure.

Loreena McKennitt just popped up: one of her songs from The Mask and Mirror. AmaroK displays the album cover, related tracks, and other interesting tidbits of information about each track it plays, so I saw the album cover for this one:

Whoa. That is most certainly not a very flattering picture of Loreena. Maybe she’s not the most beautiful singer but wow, you’d think they could have done something more with this.

Don’t get me wrong– I thoroughly enjoy her music. But the packaging could use work.

08/19/2009

Just got back from dirt biking in the mountains with my friend Rich. It took me a little practice to get used to riding a motorcycle (this was a big bike) and making corners and climbing rocky trails, but after a couple of hours I had the “feel” of the bike and the trails. I wasn’t exactly speedy out there– Rich had to wait for me around every turn it seemed– but now that I’ve done it I’m excited to go again. Good times.

08/18/2009

Well, summer vacation is officially over. The kids start school tomorrow. It sure flew past.

On the bright side, it means we’ll have a bit more structure in our days and schedules. On the down side, it means I won’t be able to roll out of bed at 8:00 any more. Got to start setting that darn alarm again.

08/12/2009

Random factoid: the population of Colorado has an obesity rate of 18.9% (meaning that percentage of the people can be considered obese).

Related factoid: no other state in the country has an obesity rate lower than 20%.

08/11/2009

Another fun season of summer league ultimate has come to a close. We started out a little slowly this season, but picked up momentum and won a long string of games to finish in third place overall.

The tournament was last weekend. We struggled in the beginning of our first game and couldn’t recover, losing a tough battle to find ourselves in the beer bracket. That meant our later games were a lot of fun, because we weren’t playing for glory or fame.

Our team name was “Better off Red”, for obvious reasons:

As always, it was a great group and a thoroughly enjoyable season.

08/11/2009

Tonight was the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Unfortunately the moon is gibbous and quite bright, and the city lights– including the streetlamp across from the house– make it difficult to see any. There were some scattered cirrus clouds as well.

Still, I turned off all the lights and went outside for a bit, hoping to catch at least one. I was rewarded after a few minutes as a bright one streaked across the zenith.

My best memory of meteors remains the time Thom and I were laying out in the desert somewhere in southern Utah, the Milky Way spread above us. I don’t remember what shower it was, but we saw a lot of shooting stars that night. There’s something magical about them.