:: Tuesday, December 21 2010 ::
A week ago we got certified for SCUBA. I'm still not a great swimmer, but when you have lots of stuff on you that is intended to make you float, it makes the whole process easier.
Well, that last embed wasn't the best - here's another one - the US Census today released some of the data for 2010. They also have a map you can embed on your website which includes a cute map widget. Let's see if it works:
:: David (15:42 in Arkansas, 22:42 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, November 23 2010 ::
I was just looking at this slide show, and noticed at the end it suggested I could embed it. So, here's the best deals for Black Friday 2010 (or, here's a broken link. We'll see what happens!)
:: Monday, November 22 2010 ::
I've spent the past several weeks building a more energy efficient server for the house. It was relatively easy to buy the key components, but once I got into the details everything started to go a little pear shaped - RAM, for example, takes a lot of electricity! I was finally able to cut the energy use of the server by a bit, but the results were mixed.
In a similar but totally unrelated vein, I've been watching the auto market to see if anything good was going to be released. We have a 40MPG (more or less) car now, so I see no real need to upgrade if we can't get something even better. We spent, according to mint.com, about $600 on fuel last year. There's room for improvement there, but not a lot - we'll have to get something seriously more efficient, and right now there isn't anything on the road (in the US) that meets that need. So we'll keep waiting.
:: Sunday, October 24 2010 ::
It seems odd to me the discourse on retirement in the USA. Our obvious bias has been out in full force over the recent months over strikes in France against an increase in the retirement age. Exampleshere, here, and elsewhere. Actually, it's not just retirement, it's work. In general. It's frustrating to me to see so many people in this country working non-stop for years on end, with their only hope that at some point a long time in the future they can maybe stop and relax (one wonders how they will when they've never learned), and rather than saying 'we would be better off if we were more like the French' they say 'those lazy Frenchies who don't work themselves to death!' People are so quick to assume that the only options for a country is to continually work harder or die. There is a third way. The interesting thing is that it is recognized and talked about - people who take, generally, something called 'cushy government jobs' and produce, reportedly, 'nothing' and get to retire 'early'. For example. It might be worth deconstructing some of those words and phrases - in the context of the above, those words are all negative, yet taken apart, if you ask someone, for example, if they would like to 'retire early', the answer is generally 'yes'. So if an 'early retirement' is what we all want, why aren't we willing to tell the government to make it happen (they do, I am told, work for us)?
:: David (21:51 in Arkansas, 4:51 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, October 7 2010 ::
I realized I'm starting to feel cramped by facebook, so I'm trying to blog now when I have a thought that isn't a sound bite. It may be that I return to programming as well, to try to get all of the social media beasts working together...
Having partially decided that an electric car is in our not-too-terribly-distant future, the question then becomes what to do with two cars, to still hit all the sweet spots. Example: a sports car is most likely never going to get good gas mileage. Therefore, having a sports car as our non-electric car (the one that can go further than 100 miles) doesn't make sense, as the non-electric car would most likely be used for road trips, where mileage is at a premium. Particularly mileage on a highway, which intros point two - highway mileage is really the only important spec on the non-electric car. So, for example, the Audi A3 TDI, with pretty crappy city mileage but excellent highway, becomes an option. And hybrids are probably out, since they don't work on the highway. On the other hand, an electric sports car probably makes a good deal of sense, since it will have excellent torque, and unlike a regular sports car, excellent gas mileage (so to speak). The downside, of course, is that to benefit from that electric car you have to drive it, a lot. So you better get a sports car you're happy driving every day to work.
:: Monday, October 4 2010 ::
I recently read that there was a proposal to increase the fuel average requirement for vehicles to 62 miles per gallon by 2025. That made me curious, so I did a little math:
:: Sunday, October 3 2010 ::
Lots of cat adventures around the house recently - first Mina fell off a window ledge and hurt her leg. Then Squeak somehow managed to eject himself from the house via a second floor window, scaring the heck out of both himself and Mina (and me, when the big lurking thing in the bushes leapt up into the window sill - I nearly had a heart attack before realizing it was Squeak). It's not clear if Mina hurt herself further when Squeak fell, but regardless, Saturday morning she was still limping, so we took her to the vet. In the process, apparently she decided to vociferously object by peeing all over Sasha and the car, so today the car was... odiferous. We headed over to the pet store to acquire some anti-stinky fabric stuff, and we'll see how that does. Happily, the vet said nothing was broken, so hopefully she'll take it easy and heal up.
:: Sunday, September 19 2010 ::
Birthday weekend, complete with party! Nothing too crazy - travel will have to wait for other weekends. On the one hand I miss being able to take a weekend in Belgium or some random French city, but on the other hand there are so many places in the South I need to visit - I can't believe it's been two years here and I haven't been to (for example) New Orleans or St. Louis. Hopefully this will be rectified in the coming year!
:: Friday, September 10 2010 ::
Investing has gotten more interesting recently - I usually don't pay much attention - drop my money into index funds and forget about it. But lately I've been playing with money I actually wanted to see again, and that makes it harder. Treasuries are a no-brainer, and are super easy to buy, but pay next to nothing. So I looked at gold. Gold is in a bubble - let me say that straight off. If you think it isn't a bubble, you're wrong. Sell everything, put it in a savings account, and stop playing the market, because you're wrong. That said, you can make money in a bubble - that's why bubbles form. So I had a look at the history, to see what kind of bubble we're looking at.It's not pretty. When this thing goes, it's going to go hard. I'd give it another year, depending on the recovery - the stronger the recovery, the sooner it will burst. Obviously we're not there yet. But it's going to hurt a lot - 10 plus years of lots growth is never good, and I can't see why it wouldn't return to baseline once people have something better to buy.
:: David (22:32 in Arkansas, 5:32 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, August 23 2010 ::
In addition to keeping busy with random things around the house, and socializing, and adapting to the return of the school year (when the mice are away, the cats will play, so to speak, but now the mice are back, so the cats have to work again), I've been keeping one eye firmly planted on the American economy. It's not wonderful. There are a number of factors that seem to be pointing towards trouble on the horizon (or rather, more trouble on the horizon). The number of areas things are bad is impressive, although, given how much of the pre-crash economy was based on, effectively, interconnected delusions, it's not surprising everything that went up together now seems to be going down together. I consider myself extremely lucky to be, for the most part, escaping the mess unscathed, though if the housing value decline is as bad as some assert, I am either barely above water or underwater on my house. Fortunately, I like living here, and intend to continue doing so, so I don't pay too much attention to what the current situation is in my neighborhood. I haven't decided yet if we're actually in for a 'double dip recession'. My heart says 'yes', my head says 'no, but barely'. Happily, if I just wait long enough, I'll have my answer!
:: Monday, August 9 2010 ::
Life's been a blur the past few weeks. Driving all day up to Michigan and another day driving back down. Socializing, which is nice, and working, which is... working. Nonstop changes, it seems, at work. Being in charge of hiring someone when there's a recession and fifteen million people out of work is tough - it makes you want to hire everyone, even though you can't. It's been really dry here lately, so trying to keep the plants from shriveling takes a goodly amount of my spare time, as does keeping the lawn mowed, though the house across the street has sold, which makes me hope there will be less pressure in the form of warnings from the city. I have continued to resist the urge to buy the rental across the street, though I do feel the 'slumlord' achievement calling my name.
:: Monday, July 26 2010 ::
My father passed away over the weekend. He was 71, and hadn't been well for some time, but it still came as a surprise. I guess it always does. My phone rang at 2am, but it had miscategorized my uncle, so I couldn't tell who was calling, and then when my mom called I figured something was wrong with my phone. At least halfway - I woke up the next morning and checked my messages first thing, as I wondered whether the whole thing had been real or not. Google voice had done its usual half-assed job of converting my uncle's voicemail to an email message, but it had gotten enough of the words right to tell me what I needed to know. Once the phone calls had been made, we headed down to Little Rock to do a workshop on building an interactive exhibit, which the sidewalk group I run hopes to do for Ecofest here in town. It was a good distraction, but even now, a day later, I'm still in a bit of a fog.
:: Thursday, July 15 2010 ::
I remember once having a conversation with a friend, and I hadn't thought about it when the question was asked, what his views on the subject might be. So I responded honestly - I think those against gay marriage will pass out of society, and in time we'll view it as we do sexism, or racism. It was an awkward moment, as it turned out he did not think that way. At all. But it was brief, because, as all people should, we didn't focus on what made us different. We talked it thru, agreed to disagree, and moved on.Argentina legalized gay marriage, becoming the first Latin American country to do so. Given the poll numbers (70% in favor) I would be surprised if this doesn't stick, and I expect this will bolster movements in other Latin American countries to also press their claims.
Closer to home, now that I live in a more conservative part of the country, it's easier to gauge how far there is to go, to swing public opinion of the more conservative elements around to supporting the movement. But I see progress.
It's funny - being that I see social mores as cyclical, victory seems as inevitable to me in the short term as an eventual movement back towards conservatism seems to me in the long term (centuries). If there is an underlying trend toward a more progressive view of human rights, I think it takes a very long time indeed to come all the way around to the point where the pendulum will not swing back. But this is the way we are, and the big picture is far less important right now to, for example, gay couples in Argentina, than is the fact that they can finally marry the person they love.
:: Saturday, July 10 2010 ::
I updated the page where I compare LED and Compact Fluorescent lightbulbs, adding information from my more recent LED lightbulb purchases. The short form is that the LED bulbs are definitely more efficient, but the cost advantage is a bit up in the air, depending on how much you pay for electricity. I think everyone should move to LED, on general principle, but I can see where others will disagree.
:: Wednesday, July 7 2010 ::
Please don't ask how, but I recently ran across a site which reviewed natural cat litters. I read the review, and decided I would try the 'world's best cat litter' (with a name like that, why wouldn't I?). If I had looked attheir website, it probably would have struck me before this evening, when I was putting it into the litter box, but the litter is made from corn. This strikes me as a seemingly bad plan - I'm pretty sure corn is supposed to be eaten, not put in your toilet (or burned as heating fuel, either). In general there's a lot of anecdotal evidence (or rumour) that regular kitty litter is bad (special bonus - note how easily the author decides that strip mining is actually a warm fuzzy thing done by unicorns). But as with all things internet-y, finding authoritative information seems to be tough.
:: David (22:17 in Arkansas, 5:17 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, July 5 2010 ::
Just got back this evening from a trip to Long Beach Island, located in New Jersey. Jeff has been going there forever, and talks about it all the time, so we figured it behooved us to see what it was all about. The fact that he recently purchased a boat, which meant we could go sailing while we were there, may have factored in to the equation. It was a good time, if a touch more energetic than we are used to. I expect I'll use this week to recover.:: David (22:30 in Arkansas, 5:30 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, June 29 2010 ::
read about it in the same paper that not that long ago had a very interesting story about how too much relationship examination can lead to bad things. Perhaps there are relationships that need close examination, but it's hard not to feel like this is yet another creepy outgrowth of the confessional society. Of course, this is not really new thought - Foucault said in 1976: "We have since become a singularly confessing society. The confession has spread its effects far and wide. It plays a part in justice, medicine, education, family relationships, and love relations, in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life, and in the most solemn rites: one confesses oneís crimes, oneís sins, oneís thoughts and desires, oneís illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, what is most difficult to tell." Perhaps it is only that the tools for confession are so much more numerous. And, to bring things back around, the grant the feds have given will be used to build another such tool, used to help open the doors couples may have kept closed for a reason.
:: David (23:37 in Arkansas, 6:37 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, June 27 2010 ::
World Cup madness was briefly upon us, before the US was knocked out on Saturday. Now I'll pin my hopes on Japan, and go back to my regularly scheduled life, where the entire office doesn't stop working to go around high-five-ing each other because a goal has been scored.
:: Wednesday, June 23 2010 ::
I discovered some of the stuff I wrote at Eastern on the subject of the anti-globalization movement is doing very well on google as a search term. Whenever I discover something like this I add some ads to the page, in the hopes that the website will generate a bit more income for me (I'm only three dollars from another google check).
I'm always torn when I see that stuff I wrote so long ago is getting hits - especially when it's academic stuff that I have long since rethought (not to mention I am a much more coherent writer these days). On the one hand, it would be nice to correct or update it. On the other hand, it is what it is, and dressing it up is probably not the correct path either.
:: Monday, June 21 2010 ::
Went to Florida last week for work, stayed the weekend for play. I've got about a million photos to sort through, which I've been doing that last couple hours, but it doesn't look like it'll get finished tonight. I also, courtesy of the 100 degree days planned for all this week, finally managed to get a haircut (it's been months and months). Next up: mowing the lawn, and dealing with the backlog of stuff for Walking Conway, which I should have dealt with weeks ago!
:: Monday, June 7 2010 ::
Conway had their pride parade over the weekend (I have heard it is the biggest in Arkansas, though the complete lack of coverage by the news media down here (!!!) makes it difficult to know). The folks who run the parade have set up a website -Conway Pride. It was hotter than all get-out, but great fun anyway! I took a whole pile of pictures, which are now online.
As an aside, I think this is the first time I've realized how intolerant certain elements down here are - generally speaking, hundreds of people descending on downtown, plus a parade (and protesters) would warrant a photo and story. The lack of either in our hometown paper is... amazing to me. I'm hoping it's just that they had some kind of crazy website failure or personnel issues or something, because I can't even begin to imagine a newspaper in the year 2010 trying to make gays go away by ignoring them.
:: Friday, June 4 2010 ::
I have seen a lot of discussion of the recent incident in which Israel killed 10 people on a boat bound for Gaza. The boat was, as it turns out, not full of weapons, but whatever. The debate revolves around all sorts of this-and-that, like theIsraeli ambassador's op-ed piece in the NY Times, but mostly seems to concern itself with 'these people are bad', or 'Hamas is bad', or whatever. In fact, so often that is the debate. This is a red herring. The question is never 'what does our enemy do' and always 'what do we do'. That is what a civilized nation concerns itself with. A nation of rational human beings knows their actions define their humanity, and acts accordingly. Using the excuse that 'the other side is crazy, so we need to be crazy too' is no excuse at all.
:: David (15:04 in Arkansas, 22:04 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, June 2 2010 ::
It's back to the grind around here, with meetings all day every day, and then other meetings at lunch and in the evenings. My time is consumed with community groups (Conway 2025, Safe Routes to Schools, and Walking Conway, along with occasional visits to other events). It's terrific, but it's busy! Of course, the goal is to make Conway a better place to live, so it's totally worth it. It's weird to have taken on these projects that, by necessity, move at a less-than-rapid pace. But since I know I'm here for a while, it seems like a good time to do it!
:: Sunday, May 30 2010 ::
For the holiday weekend, Sasha and I headed up to the Buffalo River to do some camping and canoeing. I took along my camera (interestingly (to me) not my Canon - this is pure cell phone / pocket camera) and have just postedthe photos. As you will see, we camped on the rocks next to the river, which was a bit pokey, and the next day rented canoes from one of the many providers. This being a holiday weekend, the river was packed! The only mishap came when Ty flipped his Kayak and then hung it up, which for a moment was quite scary - flashes of medical emergencies did go through my head. But it was fine, and once the kayak was emptied out we carried merrily on.
:: David (14:07 in Arkansas, 21:07 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, May 26 2010 ::
There's something so wonderful about the fact that the oil leak in the Gulf has been going on for so long they've had time to write a widget to show the leak on your blog. In honor of that, I give you the leak widget:
:: David (22:49 in Arkansas, 5:49 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, May 20 2010 ::
We headed up to Michigan for most of last week to allow Sasha to attend the Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University, and to allow me to check in on my family. Since then it's been nonstop local stuff, as everyone and their cousin seems to have decided to have a meeting this week. To be fair, I don't have to go, but I really do enjoy trying to make the town a nicer place to live. As to whether or not I'll be successful, that remains to be seen.
:: Saturday, May 8 2010 ::
For reasons that mostly escape me, Sasha and I thought to watch the 2008 film Iron Man this evening. We have a Mac and a Blu-Ray player, both of which allow us to rent films online, so it shouldn't have presented any problem. Rentals are four dollars, which seems a bit high when there's no delivery costs involved, but whatever - we don't want Hollywood to go broke. So we hit Amazon, and the film is up for sale, but not for rent. OK, fair enough. On to iTunes. Same thing. Blockbuster (which my Blu-Ray connects to) doesn't have it either. So let's review: a couple wants to watch a movie (a two-year-old movie which has a sequel in the theaters now) in the comfort of their own home, but they can't. There is no excuse for the film industry whatsoever. None. Are they afraid their film might be pirated? Two years after its release, if they think this movie isn't available at every pirate site in the universe, they are sadly mistaken. The only thing I can even remotely come up with is that there is some crazy thought that if you can't rent it, you'll buy it (ten dollars). All they need is one in two people doing that to make it work. And if that's working for them, good for them. And good for me, honestly, as it saves me from having to spend money on a movie. Of course, it also means I don't watch the movie, but that's probably ok, too.
:: Wednesday, May 5 2010 ::
I feel like the site Formspring, which currently features in the latest 'scary shit your kids are doing online that you don't know about but which will scar them for life'article in the NY Times, actually mirrors an idea a friend had for a business site. It will be interesting if it survives long enough to be used in more interesting ways, now that it is 'a threat to our children'. It could, for example, be a powerful way to elicit anonymous feedback from employees. Just as an example. Of course, anonymity with no danger of reprisals often leads to bad things - a level of professionalism has to be maintained to make it work, which is of course why it doesn't work among 13-year-olds.
:: David (22:31 in Arkansas, 5:31 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
It looks as though I'm not alone in my thoughts on the ratings agencies: The European Unionís financial services commissioner, Michel Barnier vented his spleen against the ratings agencies today, as three people were killed in protests against austerity measures in Greece. His solution was not... quite... what mine was - he thinks Europe should have its own ratings agencies. While I don't disagree (to be honest, I don't think of such globally powerful companies asMoody's and Standard and Poor's as being American - I tend to think of them as supranational. But the fact is that they are filled with Ameri-speak and Ameri-think, and that might have had an effect in this case. Of course, I think a European agency would be even less reliable, as it would (I suspect) be much more beholden (slash in-bed-with) European governments. But more points of view - or, if you will, competition - might mean that information gets out before it has devolved into a crisis that causes a panic that causes a crash that causes THREE PEOPLE TO DIE. So far.
:: David (21:42 in Arkansas, 4:42 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, May 1 2010 ::
So Greece is getting ready to explode. Or implode. Or something. It's all anyone can talk about (well, besides the oil spill, and a whole lot of random national stories...). And the Economist has a piece this week which rails against the populism of denouncing 'speculators' who are causing the financial crisis. But here's the thing: until Standard & Poor's (and later Moody's) downgraded Greek debt, there wasn't a problem. Don't get me wrong - I'm going to be the last person to say Greek statistics are reliable (I used to work with them). But it's the market reaction to a seemingly large shift in the quality of Greek debt that has caused the current crisis. But the debt hasn't changed. The quality hasn't changed. Or rather, hadn't changed - now that there's capital flight from Greece, the quality of the debt has changed - but that's a reaction to the downgrade - not to market fundamentals. The long and the short of it is, we can't continue to allow perceived changes to quickly drive the world economy off a cliff. Sadly, I'm not offering a solution, though I do wonder if a more nuanced scale of debt ratings would help prevent these sort of precipitous drops in confidence.
:: Friday, April 30 2010 ::
Once again, it's time for the annual Stuck on a Truck. I really need to watch Hands on a Hard Body one of these days. I do know that every year the winner is completely outside of the known universe when they win. And, of course, all of this is part of our dear local festival,Toad Suck Daze, which looks like it may get rained out for the second year in a row - I hope not! The city could use the cash!
:: David (15:38 in Arkansas, 22:38 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, April 29 2010 ::
This is the way a house eats your money:
1 - 'Our gate is busted. We should fix it!'
Total estimated cost at step (6) - approximately $30,000.
:: David (14:58 in Arkansas, 21:58 in Paris) - Comment
I finally fixed the editor, so now in theory everyone should be able to make comments with a nice GUI editor! I suspect I should use Internet Explorer more often when working on the website, as pretty much everything seems to be broken in it (especially all the Facebook stuff, which is also behaving badly everywhere else).
Nice to see that our Senator is finally somewhere near ethical - according to the NY Times, Blanche Lincoln had planned to hold a fundraiser at Goldman Sachs, but decided it might be a bad idea after the lawsuit was filed. I guess up until then they were fine. I really can't wait until she is gone!
:: Sunday, April 25 2010 ::
As you may have noticed, Facebook has me blogging again. First, the day - we had students over for dinner. Fun! One of them had bought a dinner with us (actually, just bought a dinner, we debated whether the 'with us' was implied or not) at a charity auction. OK - now the tecchie stuff: I've been looking at a group forming a more open (as in 'not owned by one company') 'like' button. They call themselves (are you ready?)openlike. There's a good article about why the 'like' button is scary at FactoryCity. It all boils down to the question of who owns your identity. Or maybe, given what will be built from like buttons, who owns the metadata about the web - which is basically like asking 'who owns the web', since metadata is like spice - who controls it, controls the universe.
:: David (22:35 in Arkansas, 5:35 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, April 24 2010 ::
Well, I did it:
:: Friday, April 23 2010 ::
Next up, besides fixing the darned layout, is incorporating a like button into each story. It's funny how much time I've spent on this blog, considering I could just get something off the shelf for much cheaper, with more functionality. That said, at least I can say this is all mine (though the ease with which plugins can be added has made 'all mine' a matter for debate)
:: Wednesday, April 21 2010 ::
Overall the new Facebook stuff is a bit rough around the edges. The like button, as you can see, doesn't fit well in with the other items in the top menu bar. The activity banner (on the left) doesn't seem to quite fit everything. Overall it's rough. But we'll see how it gets fixed. Someday.
I'm finally whipping my blog back into shape, in part because I'm either (a) going to incorporate lots of the new facebook features, or (b) because I'm going to start using it in place of facebook because of their scary new privacy (or lack thereof) rules. It's the future, I expect, but it's scary - sooner or later we have to ask ourselves whether we really want everyone to know quite this much about us.
:: Thursday, April 15 2010 ::
So, having spent three days surrounded by nothing but the highest of high tech moviemaking equipment, here's my predictions for what you will be subjected to in the coming few years: 4K HD (yes, even higher high-def TV). 3D televisions - I don't know whether the glasses will be involved or not, but 3D was everywhere. Mobile content - one way or another, you will watch movies on your phone. More obviously, LCD screens are going to get prettier. Oh - and Apple will make a lot of money off the iPad - I saw one guy using it as a clipboard, of all things.
I've been thinking a lot about Vegas and wealth, and what I'm going to call 'performance of wealth'. I'm sure this has been researched to death, but here's what I see: Vegas has various levels of wealth, and different ways of signaling that you are wealthy. Example: bottle service and specially sectioned off areas for high stakes gambling. But these are also aspirational - conspicuous consumption type things. And I wonder how much of the behaviour of the young wealthy (or perhaps the wealthy in general) is shaped not by how they would ordinarily behave, but by how they understand they are expected to behave. Which leaves the question: who is actually deciding how they behave? Is it them? Is it the casinos? Is it marketing people?
:: Tuesday, April 13 2010 ::
I'm in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters' 2010 conference. It's interesting seeing how wide a swath of professions it covers, especially these days where IT gets its grubby little paws into everything (which, by the way, makes me feel like I can talk sensibly about crap I know nothing about). I saw aninteresting talk that had not much to do with broadcasting by Ray Kurzweil - mostly it was about how tech just keeps getting better, faster. Other than that, it's been primarily talking to vendors, looking for new tools for work. I apparently will also be seeing the Blue Man Group downtown this evening, so it's overall a busy life!
:: David (17:17 in Arkansas, 0:17 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, April 4 2010 ::
This is why we can't have nice things!
(graph lifted from mint.com)
:: David (16:10 in Arkansas, 23:10 in Paris) - Comment