Browse Month: October 2010

10/22/2010

Ahh, orange juice… the sweet, sweet nectar of the gods.

As I do every day, I’m enjoying a snack which includes a nice tall glass of orange juice. I’ve been drinking this stuff daily for as long as I can remember– probably 30 years or more. I chug about two quarts of it a day, and apparently a single 8-ounce glass will give you 100% of the recommended dose of vitamin C for the day. Doing the math, I’m getting about eight times the C I need. Good stuff.

10/20/2010

Yep, autumn is finally here. Despite beautiful 70-degree sunny days, the trees have decided it’s time to bunk down for the winter. The tree in our backyard has turned a brilliant red and yellow and looks awesome.

10/19/2010

Alex just asked me what letter is most common in the English language. I told him it was “e” (everyone knows that, right?) and following that is either “s” or “t”.

But I’m a curious kind of guy, and since I was sitting on the bed using my laptop anyway, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to set up a series of shell commands that would do this for me. I knew how to access the spell-checking dictionary, and from there it was just a matter of chaining together the right pipes to take all of the words from the dictionary, break them down, and count the letters.

Here’s the command:

aspell -d en dump master | tr A-Z a-z | sed s/./”&\n”/g | grep [a-z] | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr

And the results:

127009 e
125815 s
97486 i
93927 a
82464 r
81679 n
72800 t
69631 o
60813 l
43910 c
40123 d
35710 u
31921 m
30971 g
29675 p
27042 h
22359 b
19136 y
14482 f
11675 k
11287 v
9917 w
4603 z
3016 x
2950 j
2070 q

It’s not surprising that “e” was on top, with “s” right behind, but I could’ve sworn “t” was more popular than that. Upon further thought, I suspect the data is a bit skewed because this is the dictionary and words like “the” only appear once. In spoken or written English, it appears much more often than words like, say, “phlegm”.

So to be more realistic, I should use a book instead of the dictionary. Of course I have a copy of Moby Dick handy… I use it for all of the testing I do in web sites. One change to the command above gives me the count from the novel instead:

cat moby-dick.txt | tr A-Z a-z | sed s/./”&\n”/g | grep [a-z] | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr

The answer? Things are a bit different:

115020 e
86552 t
76491 a
68135 o
64553 n
64381 i
63105 s
61778 h
51157 r
42048 l
37656 d
26316 u
22902 m
22141 c
21774 w
20493 g
20475 f
16961 p
16602 y
16600 b
8418 v
7937 k
1544 q
1061 j
1006 x
621 z

Once again “e” trumps the rest, but now it’s “t” in second place and “s” has dropped down a bit. How odd. Even more interesting is the fact that “q” isn’t dead last– it’s 22nd. My theory on that: there’s a character in Moby Dick named Queequeg, and the mere mention of his name probably bumps the letter up the list.

This is hardly scientific, but all in all it’s a decent test. And yes, I’m a complete geek for taking three minutes to figure out how to do this.

10/19/2010

It was October 1990 when I was first introduced to the sport of ultimate by my friend Matt Groves. I was hooked immediately, and absolutely loved playing. For the next five years in college I was legendary (well, at least in my own mind) and was always the guy rounding up a group to go out and play. “Bah, that homework can wait until later,” was probably used many times as I worked to convince my friends to head down to Schuman Park in Rolla for another game.

What’s funny is although we knew the rules, we really didn’t know a lot of the mechanics of the game. The forehand throw was completely unknown. Hammers and scoobers? Never heard of ’em. Even something as basic as the force was outside our experience. But no matter– we had a great time and eventually built up a big group of ultimate players. We took road trips to play in tournaments, where we discovered these new techniques and took them back to hone our skills.

Since that fateful day, I don’t think a month has gone by where I haven’t played at least a few games here and there. In the summer, of course, I typically play four days a week, and on occasion I’ve played five and six days in a week (Sunday is my only day off). As the weather gets colder and the league seasons wind down, it’s a little more sporadic, but you’ll still find my local pickup group out on the field wearing long sleeves and gloves, slogging through the snow just so we can get in another game.

Twenty years. That’s a long time to do anything consistently. I guess it means I really love the game.

Here’s a photo from the early 90’s. That’s me at the bottom center, and although you can’t see it from the picture, I’m not wearing shoes. Even then, two decades ago, I was Shoeless Jeff. And I still am.

10/15/2010

So recently I’ve received a total of twenty-five pounds of Tootsie Pops from grateful clients. That’s 500 suckers. Awesome.

What I’ve found interesting is that not many people know about the legend of the star on the Tootsie Pop wrapper. Each pop has a printed wrapper with little pictures of kids playing sports or whatever, and every now and then you’ll find one with a little Native American boy shooting his bow and arrow at a star.

I don’t know the percentages, but not every pop has the star. It’s maybe one in five. You can’t really tell before you unwrap the sucker, because the paper is all crinkled around it. So it’s sort of a crapshoot whether the one you’ve picked from the box has a star.

The legend is that if you get one with a star, you’ll have good luck. In the distant past, there were even small drugstores and corner groceries that would give you a free Tootsie Pop if you brought in a wrapper with a star. I never experienced this personally– probably because there weren’t any mom-and-pop groceries nearby when I was growing up. But I have friends who tell that story from experience.

I guess they’re not teaching today’s kids about the star. Or maybe you have to grow up in a certain part of the country. Whatever the case, maybe one in ten people I tell about my sudden deluge of Tootsie Pops knows what I’m talking about when I mention the good luck star. Go figure.

10/09/2010

My annual trip with Thom was awesome, and we saw some really amazing scenery while we were hiking and backpacking. While I’m sure the photos he took during the trip are much better than mine, I’d like to think I’m getting better at picking out some nice angles and capturing good shots.

Interestingly, it’s the post-processing that can really make a photo come to life. Take, for example, this shot of South Window in Arches National Park:

Not bad, but for one reason or another the camera doesn’t capture the deep rust color in the rocks, nor the full azure of the sky. I’m still learning how to use full-manual mode on the camera to set the ideal aperture and shutter speed, so although I’m getting better I feel like a lot of my shots are washed out a bit.

So I pull the image into GIMP and make some adjustments: shift the levels to get a better contrast between light and dark, adjust the color balance of the rocks, and remove the noise from the sky. The result looks much more like reality:

Of course it’s easy to go too far and overcompensate, which leads to pictures where the rocks look unnaturally red or the sky is a creepy blue. I’ve seen that here and there on Flickr and elsewhere, so I’m careful not to overdo it.

Too bad it takes so long to adjust each of these photos. I have hundreds, and would love to really play with them…

10/09/2010

The hardwood project is finally complete. We started about a month ago and although the floor itself has been finished for a couple of weeks, it took a while to get everything moved back into the rooms.

The most dramatic change is the family room. When we started, it was carpeted… but given the high traffic to the back yard, the carpet was getting pretty well worn. With the furniture cleared out, you can see two pretty distinct rectangles of lighter carpet: one for the coffee table, and one against the wall for the couch. This photo really doesn’t do justice to how worn and dirty the carpet had become.

While Laralee tore up the carpet in her office, I tackled the family room. It was actually kind of fun to yank out the carpet and pad. Removing the tack strips and staples wasn’t quite as exciting, but in the end the family room had the base plywood floor:

Bring in the heavy equipment: sander, vacuum, mini table saw, and stacks upon stacks of wooden planks.

Because the kitchen had been hardwood and the family room hadn’t, it was necessary to rip out some of the planks in the kitchen and slide in the new ones. The goal was a seamless transition– pretty tricky since it was a diagonal join and the old planks were eight years old.

All the boards have been laid, but they look pretty dull. They’ll need to be sanded (along with the rest of the downstairs) and then refinished.

The finished product looks pretty sweet. As it turned out, you can’t even see the “seam” between the kitchen and the family room. The wood matched perfectly, the staining was consistent, and the sanding was beautiful (no obvious circles).

Now, with everything moved back into the room, it looks fabulous. Laralee comments every few days about how she loves the new floor.

Caveat: we didn’t do the actual work on the floors– we hired a local guy. But he did such a great job that we paid him more than we’d agreed on. It was that good.

10/09/2010

Kyra braided her hair last night, left in the braids all night, and then undid them this morning. It’s a fun look– very different than her usual straight hair.

10/04/2010

Actual e-mail conversation between Alex and his cousin Gabe, over the span of about a week:

Gabe: sup alex

Alex: sup gabe. was happenin?

Gabe: not much. what about u?

Alex: nutin.

Gabe: me neither.

Wow, deep thoughts from teenagers! And to think that when I was a teenager, we didn’t have all this new-fangled communication technology. We had to have conversations like this in person.

10/03/2010

I’m downloading a free app for my iPhone and apparently the terms of use have changed. Of course I have to agree to the new terms, even though the app doesn’t cost anything and thus shouldn’t need any of my personal information. Nonetheless, I have to login and read the terms… all 55 pages of them. That’s right: there are fifty-five pages of text, where each page is several iPhone screens long.

Naturally no one really reads those terms. Apple could insert whatever they want in there, and then later come back and say “But you agreed to them!”. Whee.

10/01/2010

I’m looking to buy a new USB cable for a printer, and came across a great review. The user had rated it four stars but mentioned a few problems with it:

Cons: It does not make pancakes.

I used it to extend the distance of a webcam so I could spy on my stupid dog while I was at work without her knowing about it. This cable is not great if you want to determine how to better grow your 401k to beat the Lipper Average.

Sage advice. I don’t need pancakes and don’t have a dog or a 401k account, so perhaps this is the right cable for me.