Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No shaving in December

http://www.noshavingindecember.org/
Argh! I forgot all about it. I learned about this special holiday last year and intended to partake in the festivities this year. I'm going to add it to my Google calendar so I remember in 2009.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

An attempt at sushi.

Tonight I made my second attempt at sushi. My first attempt was at least six months ago and it went OK. Today I used a book I purchased probably eight years ago called Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art to guide me through my sushi making.
There are many types of sushi. I made the traditional maki-zushi (巻き寿司) or rolled sushi.The main thing that makes sushi sushi is the rice. Sushi rice is more dry than regular rice and is made with vinegar. Sushi rice can also be made with some kelp during the beginning of boiling. I tried using seaweed. The trick is to put the kelp in for just a few minutes when the water starts to boil and remove it. I left it in too long, and either that or the texture of seaweed is not good for this, because when I tried to remove it it was all squishy.
To really get in to the spirit of things I made myself a cup of monkey picked oolong (烏龍) tea. Back in the day monkeys where trained to climb tea trees to pick the best leaves off of the top.Today that's all handled by machines, but the important part is that only the best baby leaves from the top of the tea treas are picked for this oolong tea. The price is over a $100 per pound, but the taste and the longevity of just a quarter pound of this tea makes it well worth it. It is also worth noting that oolong tea is Chinese in origin, not Japanese.
Once the rice is cooked it is supposed to be placed in a hangiri (半切). Usually the chef tosses the rice in the hangiri while his apprentices fan the rice. The purpose is to cool the rice as fast as possible. The hangiri is made of cypress. The wood pulls water out of the rice. I do not happen to have either a hangiri or any other wooden bowl, so I found the largest bowl I could, which is made of glass. As well as not having a hangiri on hand, I also didn't have any apprentices, or anyone else on hand for that matter, to fan the rice off so I had to go between tossing the rice and fanning it off. The process of properly tossing and fanning the rice can have a substantive impact on the quality of the rice, but I just fumbled through the process as best as I could. Overall I did the best I could with what I had, which I don't think was all that bad. The worst part was that I burned the bottom rice while cooking. I tried my best to not scrape any obviously burnt rice into my glass bowl.
After the rice has cooled the vinegar is tossed in. The vinegar is prepared by heating up rice vinegar and dissolving sugar and salt into it. The vinegar is surprisingly sweet, but adds a lot to the taste of the rice.
The vinegared rice is the reason for the original sushi. To keep crucian from spoiling it would be salted and set in a bed of vinegared rice to mature. The rice would later be discarded and the crucia eaten. This eventually evolved into multiple dishes served with vinegared rice, including the modern maki-zushi that most Westerners identify so strongly with Japanese food.

As much as I like real sushi with raw seafood, I do not know where to find seafood fresh enough to eat safely raw, so I just picked up some shrimp and boiled it. It is hard to go wrong with fresh boiled shrimp. I purchased half a bound which I peeled by hand. The secret to boiling shrimp is to do it no longer than absolutely necessary.Shrimp cooks really fast in boiling water and is best removed immediately if it is not being cooked with other foods, such as corn, sausage and cabbage. In fact, I use this rule of thumb in most of the seafood I cook. This is especially true with tuna and salmon.
I also picked up some carrots and avocado for vegetables. I think if carrots or cucumbers are used they are supposed to be pickled, but I don't know that, and I didn't do it either. I cut the carrots into small "sticks" I think if nothing else I should have steamed them, but I'll get into that later. The avocado was also cut into small strips.
With all of my ingredient ready I was ready to put them together. First the seaweed gets slightly toasted. Next it is placed shiny-side down on a bamboo mat. Finally a bed of rice is placed on it and spread out to cover about three-fourths of the sheet. The ingredients are then placed in line down the bottom of the rice bed. This is then rolled up. The idea is that the bottom of the seaweed sheet should reach the top when rolled. I missed the mark, but I don't think it had any overall negative effect on the roll. I simply had rolls smaller than I should have, but they where still just fine. The final process is to take the roll and slice it into rolls. The dullness of my knife really showed. I really need to get a good knife sharpener and give my blade the love it deserves. When I hit the carrots the knife had a hard time cutting through them without squashing the bottom of the roll, making sushi rolls that where not a good circular shape.
I set the table with a fresh cup of oolong and a dish of soy sauce and wasabi (山葵). I also boiled four clams to go with my dinner. When picking wasabi it is important to make sure your wasabi is not made from radish. Real wasabi is made from the wasabi plant. I prefer nice harsh wasabi that will clear your sinuses right out given just a small dab. When shopping for soy sauce look on the label for it to advertise that it is made from a natural brewing process. Most soy sauce is made using newer methods that speed up the brewing process, but decreases the quality. Good soy sauce is still extremely cheap so there is very little benefit from buying cheap soy sauce. Kikkoman brand soy sauce is always guaranteed to be of good quality.
Overall the sushi was good. The biggest mistake I made was in burning the rice. The burnt flavor came through and was the biggest detractor. Everything else about it was very good.The clams where also a nice compliment. The oolong washed it all down very nicely. After finishing my first plate I was satisfied, but got up and made another roll of sushi. This second time I successfully rolled the seaweed all the way through, but I had put in too much cream cheese which dominated the sushi too much.
After my second plate I was full. I made a third roll and put it in the fridge for lunch tomorrow. The sushi is not suppose to keep well overnight, but I will give it a go and see. I'm sure if I was a master sushi chef and connoisseur it would make a marked difference, but I'm not sure if my beginners sushi is going to be affected too much by half a days worth of time.
This was a good experience and I look forward to doing it again, keeping in mind all of the lessons learned from this time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Caroling, Christmas, and Naga Jolokia hot peppers.

Monday night Kim, the girls, and myself joined some friends for a night of caroling. caroling It was an incredible experience. We had a printed list of Christmas songs with lyrics and we ran around a neighborhood knocking on doors and singing songs to unsuspecting residence.
Yesterday, for Christmas, we started off with Judith, Stephen, and Nanny coming over to open up presents at 10:00. We all had a great time. Athena was Santa and passed out the present to everyone.
Around 11:30 my mom, Danny, Missy, Cody, Bo and Erica came over. Everyone brought over some food and I made some waffles from scratch. After eating we opened presents. The highlight was Danny's gift. He got guitar hero from Missy and Bo. We hooked it up to our Wii and took turns playing. Danny picked it up pretty fast playing the easy songs.
Missy had grown some Naga Jolokia hot peppers from seeds and brought them over. She offered five dollars to anyone who ate a whole pepper. The thing about these hot peppers is that they are considered to be the hottest pepper in the world. At one point I took one out with the intent of slowly eating it. I found the smallest one and cut off the tip and ate it.
The heat in hot peppers lie in the white plasenta wall. If you eat around that part you will not get any heat. The tip was not hot and I was going to cut further when Bo walked up and just popped the whole thing in his mouth. I grabbed some milk and immediately poured him a glass.
The heat comes on slowly so he was okay at first. When the heat finally kicked in Bo started at the milk. Eventually tears began to pour from his eyes and sweat from his fore-head. As long as he kept the milk in his mouth he was alright. He downed about three glasses of milk before he was alright to just be in pain and deal with it.
When he was done I reached in the bag and found a regular sized peppers and popped the whole thing in my mouth. Like Bo, the heat did not hit me very hard at first, though I had a glass of milk on standby. After a couple of minute the burn set in. Keeping milk in my mouth helped dull the pain a little. After each swallow I had to immediately drink more.
Everyone stood around while Missy took pictures.
When the pain first hit I could feel my forehead throbbing. My whole face felt like it was on fire with my mouth being the focal point of it all. The motion of breathing, the air going in and out of my nose or mouth, hurt pretty badly as well. The least painful position was a mouth full of milk and breathing through my nose.
As time went by the pain began to subside to the point that the pain was bearible and the ability to maintain some sort of composure was again restored.
The experience was quite amazing, and I probably wouldn't mind doing it again sometime.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My first AJAX

Today I got my first AJAX script working. It's a very simple exercise that requests a list of tables inside of a schema in a MySQL database and displays it to the user. Woot!

Monday, December 8, 2008

First open source program

I have created my first open source project. The name is tentatively MySQL Explorer, but I am looking to find a better name. The project can be found at https://code.launchpad.net/~maxolasersquad/+junk/MySQL_Explorer. I really just started it to help me learn JavaScript better. I don't know how far I plan on taking this.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finals are over

I had my last final last night and I made an A on it. I now have two of my weeknight back for the next three weeks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Creative Commons member.

Today I became a member of the Creative Commons Network. My CC page is at https://creativecommons.net/maxolasersquad/ The Creative Commons group is the best chance we have at fighting the corrupt and technologically prohibitive intellectual property ideals we currently have employed in our legal system.

Facebook

I will be updating my Facebook status every day of this month. The theme is disdain for imposed unhealthy social expectations. I have about a week and half worth already written.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A standards compromise

I say we make a pact with the rest of the world. We will go fully metric if every other country will agree to drive on the right-side of the road. Automakers should definitely back this one as it would make their job much easier on two accounts.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Soup update

The soup I made last night made a good lunch. I committed myself to no salt, aside from what was in the bouillon cubes, so that did make it a little bland, but the veggies for very good. I am looking forward to next weeks lentil soup. I will try to make more next time so that Kim and I both have enough soup for lunch through the week.

Compost pile

Tomorrow I will start a compost pile. I have been wanting to do this for a very long time and I am committing myself to making this a reality tomorrow. I have the location picked out, all I've got to do is a little digging. I even have some scraps saved up already to start off. Being it is fall, getting leaves is easy, and a hose is right near the spot. I will hopefully have pictures up tomorrow.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Window frames

In our backyard we have a play house for the girls. It has been needing to make some improvements to it but have neglected to until recently. A few weeks ago I set installed carpet. Today I started building windows.
It already has holes cut, but there is no way to close the windows and so rain gets in. Today I started building a frame for the windows. I measured everything out and ran up to ACE Hardware and got some wood, nails, a hand saw, and some other materials.
Getting everything right is a lot of work. The measurements have to be exact and cutting without an electric saw takes a lot of effort. Especially if you are going to keep the cut straight.
This first frame is only half of what will be the first out of four windows. Another identical frame will have to be built and a glass pane glued in between them and nailed together.
These windows will be able to open out from the inside.
I have also bought some twine and beads to make a beaded entryway. I am looking for a cool pattern. I Googled for "Egyptian Pattern" and only came up with westernized patterns with Egyptian influence. I have asked Judith, Aurora's grandmother, for help finding something cool. She is a big math nerd and knows about all sorts of crazy mathematical patterns. I am excited about finding a good pattern and building it with the girls. Will will also eventually build a full door to keep the rain out that way as well.
The next job after that is to put in sheet rock and finish the walls. This should make for a really awesome play house for our girls and future children that may occupy our current residence after we have moved on.

Random Veggie Soup

I have been eating Tabatchnick soups for lunch at work for the last number of months. I have been wanting to make my own soups and today I finally took initiative to make that happen. I am starting off with nothing in particular. I simply boiled some water with some vegetable bouillon cubes. I added carrots, broccoli, yellow squash, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and a portobello. I then took all of the scraps and I am boiling them in a pan. Once the water has boiled in the flavor I will remove the scraps and add flour to make a sort of roux to add a little consistency to the soup.
I have absolutely no idea how well it will turn out, but I am sure it will be good. Next time I am going to try my hand at some lentil soup.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mystery Tea

A few weeks ago Kim found a red tin in our pantry that had a large bag of tea. The tin is completely in Japanese except. I have no idea where this came from. My first thought was that Aurora's aunt Morgan, who lives in Japan gave it to us. Kim doesn't think this is true, and I asked Judith if she recalls giving us this red tin when she got a shipment from Morgan and she said she doesn't recall getting it. I have not yet asked Morgan, but I will.
But, if Morgan did not give this to us then I don't know where it came from. The stuff is damn good. It smells great and taste just as good. There is so much I don't know how I could possibly consume it all in a reasonable amount of time. I still have three other types of tea to go through as well. I can at least count myself lucky to have a healthy collection of superb teas making residence in my pantry.
Many intellectuals pride themselves on their knowledge or wines, spirits and bears. Others love to talk about their extensive knowledge of cheeses from around the globe as well as various other foods. For me it is tea. Okay, I don't really know that much about tea, yet but it is my tunnel in to the world of snobbish knowledge about bland subjects, so there.

The first sign of Obama fail

I am very concerned with the number of Clinton-era officials that Obama is appointing. This troubles me because it was Clinton, not Bush, that championed overseas offshoring, giving tax breaks to companies that moved jobs out of the US. He also championed the so-called "free trade" agreements that pushed out fair trade and sovereign independance to developing nations. These free trade agreements made profit king and human rights took a back seat. Obama ran a campaign challenging these ideas, but is appointing people to his administration that sat in while all of this was being hashed out.
Another major problem that Clinton gave us is the beginning of what became the housing crisis. Clinton held on to this lofty idea that some how home ownership (as opposed to renting) instigated wealth. So the idea is that if I purchased a home instead of rented I would be more likely to accrue more wealth in the future. This is idea is completely unfounded in research and so there was never any really good reason to pursue this ideal aggressively. Clinton started it, Bush brought it to fruition. Do we really want Clinton-era politicians running our future economy and foreign economic policy?
I hope Obama brings in differing opinions that are able to guide is in a new more healthy direction.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflections on a sugar free week.

This no sugar thing turned out to by much more difficult than I had thought. Sugar is everywhere in our food and drinks. An ounce of katsup has four grams of sugar. An eight-ounce glass of juice has thirty grams of sugar.
I didn't get around to making a gallon of tea Sunday night, and I didn't find a glass of water for the morning so bad. At work I still drank a lot of sugar-free Indian tea. I had a cup of sweet tea with my lunch. Someone left out some chocolates and I had two.
I don't think I have anything great to take away from this except a newf ound dis-appreciation for the amount of sugar that we inundated with in everything we consume.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last sugar free day

Today I complete my sugar free week. Yesterday started off prety tuff. We went to the fair at night and I thought that would be hard, but it really wasn't. As much as I love elephant ears, I just didn't have a hard time turning them down. The big difficulty was sweet tea and juice again. I think I am getting used to water in the morning. It still doesn't hit the spot like juice or tea in the morning, but it's not so bad. I have been wanting to get back into drinking mainly water for a while and I think this little exercise may be the key to that. I will makw some tea tonight to enjoy tomorrow morning, and see how easily I am able to convince myself to choose water primarily while the tea sits in the fridge.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

You know you're a nerd...

...when you are reading a web programming book and can't help but to shake your finger at each line of code in the book that is not written properly.
Example from the JavaScript book by Wrox Press I am currently reading.
<h2 align=center>Online Book Buyer</h2>
This should read like this.
<h2 align="center">Online Book Buyer</h2>
But it would be much more proper if done like this.
<h2 span style="text-align: center;"> Online Book Buyer</h2>
Another example is as follows.
<img src="pro_asp.jpg" border="0" onlick="return showDetails('pro_asp_details.htm')">
<br><br>
This is how it should look.
<img src="pro_asp.jpg" onlick="return showDetails('pro_asp_details.htm')" style="border: 0px">
<br /><br />
I think it is unprofessional to teach beginners bad practices from the start. I am hesitant to purchase thier XML or CSS books because I am not strong in either of these (hence why I would purchase the book in the first place) and do not want to learn bad practices from their books.

No sugar diary

Oops, it looks like a missed posting yesterday. Thursday I ate some noodles with sauce that has nine grams of sugar per cup. I probably had a half cup to three quarters cup of sauce on my noodles. everything else has been completely sugar free.
The real challenge for this sugar free week has not been food. Sure, my has browns this morning would have been better with katsup, but that's not where the temptation has lied. I really just want to drink sweet tea and juice. This desire has permeated my being all week long. This is what it must be like to be a junkie on detox.
Yesterday I ate at Bandido's Burritos with Aurora and Joe Brightbill. Without thinking I ordered myself a soda. When I started to pick out a drink I realized my mistake. Luckily Joe ordered a water. I offered to swap cups and he was happy to oblige.
On the plus side I have been drinking a lot of my specialty teas and have been really enjoying them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No sugar diary

My Internet was down last night so I had to wait until today to give an update.
Each day it is getting harder and harder. In the morning I really like to have a half cup of juice or sweet tea. Water just does not do it first thing in the morning.
For cereal in the morning I use soy milk. The soy milk I am using has seven grams of sugar per cup. I probably use about a cup and half for a bowl of cereal. I am pretty sure that the soy milk was my only source of sugar for all of yesterday. The soup I ate was completely sugar free. I went to the Subway at TCC before my class. They do not have water. It is either soda or nothing. The TCC food court has a water fountain nearby, so I was able to use that, but it is not as enjoyable as having a cup of water at your table while you eat.
According to Subway's Nutrition information, the twelve inch Philly Cheese sub I had had ten grams of sugar. The site does not list the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. I only had jalapeño peppers for my toppings.
Today's soup has a total of six grams of sugar.
According to the Honolulu Advertiser a gram of sugar has about four calories. The article also recommends one only consumes forty grams of sugar a day. I am definitely going well under that each day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The maturing of computer technology.

I am not one to make predictions about the future of technology because most any attempt at this effort is in vain. Technology usually advances much faster and in different ways than can be foreseen. Nonetheless, I would like to make a very general and subjective prediction about technology.

Within the next five years we will finally see a real maturity in technology.

I have long held that in all of our technological achievement in the area of IT we have been living in immaturity compared to what computers are really capable of. I think that era is finally coming to an end.
There are three hurdles that need to be overcome before technology can properly mature. First, computers need to be fast and cheap. This is quickly becoming a reality. For stationary computing this is already a reality. My brother built a decently spec'ed PC for $250. I think it has a 1.7Ghz processor and 1 Meg of RAM. The system is very responsive and does everything he needs a computer to do. This sort of power at a low price point needs to migrate to the portable space.
Internet access must be cheap and ubiquitous. Technologies the WiMAX are starting to make this a reality. The FCCs approval to use the "white space" freed up by the soon migration from analog TV airwaves to digital is also a huge push in this direction. Soon we will never have to worry about being in a coverage area or near a hotspot to get Internet access. The White Space Consortium (which consists of players such as Google and Microsoft) claim they can bring free broadband to 95% of the United States.
Standards must be universal. In today's world proprietary protocols are standing in the way of innovation. To understand this, look at the Microsoft Word format. It can only be reliably read and written to using Microsoft Office. Office, while not a bad product, is very expensive and exists with pretty much no competition. There are other document processing software solutions on the market, but nobody is using it because the need to be able to read and write in the Office format is crucial because everyone uses it. Another way to look at this is the Internet. The Internet has had a set of standards to operate for a long time, but because for the longest time everyone used Microsoft Internet Explorer, and it was designed to force developers into using non-standard code that could not or would not interact with other web browsers. This lock-in resulted in large amounts of web pages running on poor code that wouldn't work anywhere else. The success of Firefox has changed this. In Internet Explorer 8 Microsoft is committing themselves to web standards for the very first time. It is important that regardless of where you are bringing up a web page, on your iPhone, Playstation 3, or Mac that the page renders properly. This sort of interoperability is only possible through open standards. Consumers should not care about what hardware or software is powering their devices. It should be immaterial to them. Consumers should be able to reliably send data to each other without any thought at all as to whether the recipient will be able to receive that data properly. Software engineers should be able to design and implement systems that will naturally work across devices. They should not be forced to rewrite code for every piece of hardware and software in the marketplace.
Once these three challenges have been met, and I think we will reach this within the next five years, we can start to fully unlock the real potential of computing. It will only then be on the software engineers to write the applications that will make it happen.

I believe there are also some more specific predictions that I think are likely to be true, but are more likely to just be words.
I think in the coming future the desktop will be meaningless. We will all carry around a PDA. This device will be very similar to what the iPhone and gPhone do now. Through a limited interface you will be able to do most of the same things you do on your personal computer. Like the iPhone they will not just be really small computers, they will also be a phone, GPS device, and support other technologies.
When we get home we will simply plug this PDA in to a base station which will provide us with a full sized keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, etc. When we plug it into our TV it becomes an IP-TV device and a full gaming system. On an airplane we simply plug it into the back of the seat in front of us and we will again be presented with a full sized keyboard, mouse and monitor. In fact, everywhere we go we only have to plug our PDA in to the provided base station and we have the experience of full computing. Even at the grocery store we can simply plug this device into our cart and know what groceries we need to buy.
Another powerful feature of this device is that it only really acts as a gateway between yourself and the Internet. It will not actually store much of anything. All of your data and services will reside on the Internet. All of your work and/or school documents, pictures, phone list, etc. will be on a web server somewhere. If you don't have your device with you, you can simply borrow a friend's and login to your web services and you won't miss a beat. The same thing is true if you lose and/or replace it. Even the video games you purchased will only physically exist somewhere on the Internet. You will never have to worry about losing or breaking any of your information or digital services. Data recover will become obsolete for the average consumer.
There are two problems I foresee. The most obvious problem with this scenario is security. Once our data is online, it only takes a smart hacker or a simple security flaw for our personal information to be made immediately public. The issue is that currently the average user is personally controlling the security of their own data, and they are not doing a very good job at it. By placing the onus of security on highly paid experts we may actually be more secure in this situation. Better encryption and security models will have to be developed to ensure that these experts don't make serious mistakes that potentially threaten the data security of millions.
The second problem I foresee is privacy. The consumer must trust the company hosting the data to be honest with that data. I think this will be real problem. ISPs are already writing EULAs that essentially give them full reign over the data that their customers transmit over the Internet. They are following this up by taking that data and selling it to third parties that implement data mining to build maps about consumer habits that they can then resell to advertisers. I believe that this dangerous financial scheme will hit the online data storage service market in full effect. There is too much money to be made for this to not happen.

So that is where I see the future of computer technology to be headed. Time will tell.

Chomsky and Nader on Obama





I voted for Nader in the last two elections. I have also seen him speak and met with him shortly. I really like Nader.

Chomsky is a legend in his own right. Nothing more than that needs to be said.

I have been following Obama since before he announced his candidacy and he was not yet a household name. I was consistently impressed by him up to his vote for telecom immunity. That vote spurred a lot of reexamination by the progressive movement. Arianna Huffington properly summed up the progressive view on this vote, though I cannot find the article.

So what do I make of Nader and Chomskie's opinions on Obama. I think I mostly don't disagree, but I don't completely agree. Obama is not going to be the progressive savior that we wanted. But, then again he never sold himself to be as such.
On specific foreign policy I disagree with Obama. We need to start working with the leaders in South America that are stabilizing the region, not fight with them on minutiae, creating advisories where it is unnecessary. I would like to see him put a stop to the drug war, fight for stronger state power and smaller national power. I would like him to fight the corrupt patent system we have in place. I don't expect him to take a lead on any of these issues, which are very important to me. However, I do expect him to end the war in Iraq, stabilize or economy and return stop our military from acting like a terrorist organization (i.e. torture.)
While I do not think that the progressive movement should vote for the "lesser of two evils" by trying to elect someone like Al Gore who made his last name a household world for Metal Heads by working diligently to demonize (no pun intended) artists and scare parents into believing that Metal was the cause of all of their children's problems. Nor should we be supporting Clinton, who was one of the most rationally thinking conservatives of our time, or Kerry who is just another politician. None of these three men come close to supporting progressive values.
Obama is a little different. I think of him as being "good enough." Obama's mantra goes beyond "vote for me to initiate" and extends to "go out and make change happen yourself." He calls on us to do what's right, not asking us to trust him to make things right.
I see him as being a road map to having progressive politics a part of mainstream America. If his ideals and values can succeed, then we can take it further. If he can show that making peace with Iran is a successful policy, then maybe it can be shown that working with Venezuela is also good foreign policy. If a rational scientific approach can be brought towards stem-cell research, maybe it's not so crazy to do the same towards medical marijuana research. If sustainable energy power plants can produce the power we need to power our houses, maybe a sustainable policy towards manufacturing goods, such as buying hemp products instead of cotton, can also work for us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No sugar diary

Yesterday I desired sweet tea more and more as the day drug on. I stayed this off by drinking a lot of Darjeeling Tea, but the desire for sweet was pretty strong. Today I had a smoothie, but I'm pretty sure that it was very low in sugar. Oulong tea was my drink of choice at home. I am making some chili. Sweat tea and chili go great together.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sugar Free Week

This week I am going to cut out as much sugar as I can. The most drastic area this will affect is my sweet tea drinking. I easily drink gallons of the stuff every week. I will instead be drinking some specialty tea from Darjeeling, India. Sodas are out too, but I don't drink much soda. Foods that are high in sugar, like barbecue sauce will be a no go as well. I will not be paying attention to foods that turn in to sugar after digestion, such as rice.
My intent is not a long term sugar-free diet, but it is just a go at paying attention to how much sugar is in the different foods I consume.

Image from image.bizrate.com
For cereal I have Kashi's 7 Whole Grain Puffs, which is completely sugar free. For lunch I will continue to eat my Tabatchnick soups.

Image from slim-people.com
Today's soup is the Tuscany Lentil Soup which has 3g of sugar. This is about par for Tabatchnick soups. Dinner will probably prove to be more difficult and I don't have any plan yet. I should probably run up to the grocery store tomorrow and plan out the week.
I will be posting each day about how things are going. So far I have only had about a quarter cup of apple juice. Everything else I have consumed has been sugar free.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Dream of Bowie

I had a pretty strange dream last night. I had met David Bowie and become friends with him. He took a picture of himself holding Arianna, and then hand knitted a hotpad with that picture in it and gave it to us as a gift.

Relating to the conservatives


Image from flickr.com
In the wake of the Obama victory the far right is really reeling in pain right about now. They feel that The USA has been played for the fool. The fear that terrorism, Satan and Karl Marx have jointly achieved a large victory.
On Tuesday The United States of America rejected fear, divisiveness, prejudice, and the status-quo. There seems to be a recognition by most that the time is now for our country to move forward in making important decisions that will determine our place in an increasingly globalized world. There is little doubt that our international stance is slipping fast (Bush openly rejected raising our stance in the international world in the 2004 debates) and that our current policies will only make it worse.
So in light of the major victory that we have gained by electing Obama it is easy to criticise and attack those who are scared by this new presidency. I think I may be able to relate to what they are going through.
In 1999 when Bush won I was shocked. This man had failure written all over him. Aside from his many failed attempts as a business man, he put a higher value on nationalism than patriotism. This guy represented the many kids I despised in grade school. He came off as an arrogant bully that thought that not only where his values and culture better than everyone else's, but that action needed to be taken to demoralize those who where not like him.
So when he was put in the oval office I was devastated. I could not imagine a worse person to lead our country. This was a rejection of all my values. How could my country be so stupid? It was inconceivable.
It turned out that Bush was much worse than I thought. I thought he would be bad, but I just didn't fully comprehend the scale of destruction he would institute. Torture, false wars, economic failure edging on the scale of the great depression, illegal domestic spying followed up by retroactive immunity, the destruction of the constitution, "with us or against us" politics, abortion rates go from declining to stagnating, etc. I just thought his policies would fail, I didn't realise they would destroy.
So now we have Obama and the religious conservatives are beside themselves in national disappointment. If Michelle Obama is proud of her country for the first time, they are disappointed in their country for the first time.
The USA didn't just reject Bush, the accepted a man who's pastor said "Goddamn America!" His wife was only recently proud of our country "for the first time." He sat on a board with a man who blew up domestic building in the sixties. His name is not "American." He is an advocate for the "Pro-Choice" movement. He wants to "spread the wealth around." Worst, he may be a Muslim in disguise, might not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and is probably being guided by Satan. He belongs culturally to the humanist atheists.
This is what the religious right is having a problem with. They don't see politics and people as nuanced. Sure, life has its curve balls, but problems are as easy as using as what they see as God's way to solve them. You do what you are suppose to and then you pray that the rest is just sorted out on its own.
The religious right will not do a self examination because they don't believe they where ever wrong. Sure, Bush had his problems, but overall he was pushing us in the right direction. He appointed two judges to the Supreme Court that bring us closer to overturning Roe V. Wade. The war in Iraq may have been mismanaged, but the ideal of bringing American (i.e. Christian) values to them with a gun and bomb was the right choice, even if the execution was less than stellar. They see this as God's country, and any efforts to build a pluralistic, inclusive society are dangerous. They don't see what good there is in compromising with the Pagan east.
For them these values are good, have been good, and always will be good. The see the last eight years as being great spiritually. They do not view the problems we face as being necessarily Bush's fault, and those that are do not trump the issue of abortion or unifying inclusion of those that do not agree with us.
Having had their values rejected is hurtful. Of course they are angry and baffled. I have been there too. My only hope is that Obama is able to use all of his talent and intelligence to bring about economic, social and global prosperity. I hope that in four years from now people are able to look back and say, "Thing have been going pretty good. I am happy overall with the direction of this country and optimistic about its future."
Four years is a short time to reverse the problems caused by the last eight. Destruction is much easier than construction. I believe with the right tone and the right policies Obama can do good and even make believers of his detractors. I hope this not because I want Obama to be glorified, nor because I want people to accept my point of view. I hope he does this because I want our country to succeed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Day for the Books

Today has been a momentous day for our country. The world has been watching us.
This morning Kim and I started by dropping Arianna and Athena off at daycare and then heading to the polls. We arrived shortly after the seven o'clock opening. There was probably around fifty people already there. The wait was not very long.
On accident I voted against Amendment One, which I felt pretty dumb about. Amendment One was to remove a provision that allows the legislature to discriminate against the property rights of legal aliens. The reason it is not a big deal is that Florida has never used that power, and it is very unlikely it ever will. It did not pass anyhow.
Kim cast her ballot first and then I cast mine. The ballots where paper scantrons. You simply bubble in the name and put it through the machine. When I put mine in the machine read that the ballot was read, but jammed. The lady with the key to clear the jam took her time to clear it and a line quickly formed of voters who had voted and needed to submit their entries. Finally the jam was cleared and my vote was in the system.
The act of filling in the bubble for Obama seemed very powerful, yet very simple. I knew that the moment I cast my vote for him I was fulfilling a broken promise of liberty for all Americans. The reasons for this are many. The most obvious is the strong movement forward this is for a mostly stagnant civil rights movement. The gravity of this action goes beyond that. It is a small part of a larger change of the direction of our country. Bush's presidency has been more disastrous than any hardcore liberal ever dream. He didn't just work against liberal values, he systematically worked to destroy America from every facet. He used fear and blind nationalism to destroy our credibility as a free and far country. He destroyed our economy, fought to institutionalize and legalize torture, recklessly gave to the wealthy while leaving the poor to defend for themselves, and worked against any and all positive values of conservative ideology. He was an ideologue and crony. More on all this.
Aurora cast her ballot for Obama, and I think she was pretty proud to.
The event was just surreal. I had voted for Nader the past two elections, and did not expect myself to actually be in a position where our country had a democrat on the ballot with values similar to mine. Growing up in the middle of all the racism I encountered as a grade schooler, I didn't think our country had it in us to nominate a black man with a funny name.
All day long I was giddy about the prospect of the nights results. I was just feeling good all day.
We had dinner tonight at Sue's. Kim and Katie made some eggplant Parmesan that was awesome. At seven, the time of the first poll closing, I turned on the news. It was useless like usual, but my excitement to start consuming election data had to be quenched.
At home we do not have TV. Fortunately the Internet has matured such that one does not need the TV. In Firefox I had, at minimum, the following websites opened in tabs:

  • http://www.npr.org/#/president?view=race08

  • http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/main.results/index.html#

  • https://www.google.com/reader/

  • http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/

  • http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21376522-Official-election-night-results-tracking

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home


I also had NPR streaming in Firefox.
McCain's speech was very good. McCain began by highlighting how important this event is for the hopes and dreams of many who have fought hard for civil rights. This received what seemed to be earnest applause from the audience. Then McCain went on to say that we have to move forward and that he would work with Obama to bring about the policies our country needs to strengthen us. McCain's crowd went from gracious to mean spirited. They were interrupting him and being very disrespectful to what must have been a very difficult time for McCain. Many have commented that they wish the McCain that delivered this speech was the McCain that ran for president. This sentiment was echoed across the political spectrum. I mentioned it before I read anyone else said it, so it must have been a universal thought that crossed most people's mind.
Shortly thereafter came Obama's acceptance speech. I discovered C-SPAN's live video stream and watched it, with what was probably a thirty-second delay, streaming on to my computer.
Everything about the speech was good as far as acceptance speech goes. He highlighted his call for change and action. You could tell the crowd was beside themselves in joy. The camera showed Jesse Jackson and Oprah a lot. You would have thought their first daughter was getting married by the look on their faces.
Tonight has been a moment of history. Obama has four years to tackle some very difficult problems. It is probably unreasonable to believe he can tackle them in only four years, but it is his assignment and he fought hard to be assigned the task. I believe if anyone can do it, it is Obama.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Biden campaign

On Sunday Joe Biden held a rally in front of FSU's Doak Campbell Stadium. I met up at Joe Brightbill's house and we walked to the stadium. There was a long line that took about twenty minutes to get through. At various points in the line there where members of the Obama campaign recruiting volunteers. There was only one person that approached us to sign something pledging to do something green, I don't remember and I didn't sign.
The entrance had metal detectors and secret service checking each person and their belongings. The area was covered in police cars, and some uniformed men where standing watch at the top of the stadium. The event was held in front of the stadium, not inside the stadium.

There was easily a few thousand when we arrived and probably about another thousand entered after we did.
The music at the event was a rotation of more-or-less bad songs with the exception of about two oldies. Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America" was also heavily in rotation, which was hands down the worst song they had on their list. Waiting for the event to start was similar to purchasing a car. You are made to wait and wait in what seems like an obnoxious amount of forever.
While waiting I discovered I was standing next to Mary Rozofsky, friend's mother. She is an exceptionally nice lady and it is always nice to meet up with her.

After long amounts of waiting people stood up and start cheering. Then nothing for a long time. Finally some people came up and started talking. One lady was some one from congress I think. The next was an Obama volunteer that packed up and left California to fight for Florida. She spoke about the importance of volunteering these last two days to make sure Florida goes blue this cycle.
Once they where done it was more waiting. Joe's dad, David, gave up his spot in a comfortable seat to come stand with us.
During the wait they had people they selected to sit behind the podium and cheer. Someone down below had them practice different chants. This would later be put in action to create some video camera magic for the news.
David and I had a long talk about computer and technology such as the EEE PC, I-Phone, G-Phone, Linux, Mac, etc. David also has his own audio-cast and blog at http://www.tallycast.com/ He had his camera and handheld audio recorder. Each time people stood up and cheered for what turned out to be no reason, he would start his recorder and then turn it off once we realized there was no action yet.
Finally Senator Bill Nelson, Jill Biden and Joe Biden took the stage. Bill started off and gave some forgettable speach and then introduced Jill. Jill gave a quick synopsis of Joe's past and current life as a senator and then brought him to the podium. Joe's speech was exactly what you would expect from any person running as the Vice President under the Democrat ticket.
Sitting just outside of the blocked in area where just under thirty McCain supporters. Their presence would have otherwise all been in good political sport, except someone brought a siren with them that the blasted during the whole speech. I thought they where being very childish in their disrespect. Thousands of people came to see history in the making and some sore losers found it their duty to do what they could to ruin it. The more inevitable the Obama win looks, the more desperate the other side becomes. On the positive side, at least we don't kill each other in events like this, such as what happens in too many other countries.
Joe did have one good line. The first time the siren went off I think most of us assumed it was an ambulance. The second time the blasted it Joe said something to the effect of, "At first I thought that siren was an ambulance, but now I see it is just some people on the edge whining." That evoked some good laughter.
The most interesting part of the whole event was the crowd seated right behind Biden. There was a person running down below camera level telling this group when and what to chant. These people where on mic so it came out loud through the speakers. I can imagine that from the point of view of the camera's the crowd was cheering Joe on. In reality, most people listened silently and the vast majority of cheering came from those behind Joe. I guess it looks good on camera.

I was pretty glad when Joe was done speaking. My legs hurt and most everything about the event was, well, non-eventful. Joe and I walked back to his house, eating at a place I think was simply called "burrito" (my treat) on the way. He treated me to a rib sandwich later on so it was all good.

Events like this usually make better stories than they do make for good experiences. Standing for hours to have a politician make a very canned politician's speech isn't really all that exciting. I wonder how running around a state and giving canned speeches to groups of people already in agreement with you inspires anyone that is undecided, or leaning the other direction to vote for you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Useless fact

Here's a useless fact I just discovered while programming leap years. I was born February 28, 1980, a leap year that began on Tuesday. This year, 2008, is the first time since I was born that a leap year began on a Tuesday. A leap year will not begin on Tuesday again until I am 56.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Computers and education

Our local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, had a call out for people willing to be interviewed about how the use video games to promote their child's education. I called the lady doing the article and told her about my setup. She seemed pretty excited about the things I was telling her and we agreed to have her and a photographer come over and watch the kids play on their computer and ask them questions about it. I also told her about our XO, which she seemed pretty excited about seeing.

Updating goodness

The new version of Ubuntu comes out on Oct. 30th. After running my machines through beta versions of Ubuntu during the last development cycle, I decided to be a bit more patient this go around. I left my laptop and primary desktop machines alone, but last weekend I updated the girls machine to the beta version last weekend. It seems I updated during a window in which a bug was causing some upgrades to fail. The bug would cause the machine to bootup and right before login would just give you a brown background. I filed a bug, which got marked as a duplicate of https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/rarian/+bug/284074 After it was fixed, a fix for broken systems was posted and I got the girls machine back up and working.
The wallpaper was going to be this, which looks like poop through a kaleidoscope. It looks like they finally changed it to this, which looks amazing and is on par with their previous wallpaper's quality.
The next major noticeable difference is that everything feels a lot more responsive.
Wallpaper candidates can be found at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Artwork/Incoming/Intrepid/Desktop_Background_Submissions There are some really great pieces of art in there.
About a month ago I tried to update our XO. The update left me with an unusable machine. I couldn't even get to the terminal to try any repaired. After some searching last night I found out how to restore it to factory default settings. Once that was done I did a clean upgrade which essentially wipes the drive clean and builds the latest version off of a USB key. The latest updates give a better user interface and it also feels a little more responsive. I even gave it the brand-spanking-new Flash 10 which seems to run fine.
In just about two weeks I will be upgrading my primary PC and laptop with the final version of Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Almost lost my fingers

Monday night I was working on my new Vanagon. I came in side after a while to eat dinner and get everyone tucked in to bed. By that time it was dark, so I was working with my trusty flashlight that is powered by shaking it to charge the cell.
I was attempting to locate the slave cylinder. I had crawled under it during daylight and was very sure that the only thing going in to the transmission from the front was the rod that connects to the shifter. Somewhere the clutch has to go in to the transmission at the slave cylinder, but I could not locate it.
After I had everyone tucked in I used the instructions at http://www.type2.com/bartnik/clutchslave.htm It says to take of the rear-"left" wheel. I assumed left meant driver-side. Note to everyone, always say driver-side or passenger-side, not left and right.
So I jacked up the rear driver side. The jack that comes with the Vanagon is pretty cool in that it has a bar that goes in to a hole in the van so there is no possibility of slippage. The only problem is that the base is about 2.5" x 2.5", so there isn't a lot of base to carry the weight of the vehicles back end. I found some wood and stuck it under the jack. On the last turn of the jack the handle broke. This was pretty frustrating, but I trucked on and got the wheel off. I stuck my flashlight back in and thought I saw the slave cylinder, but on the other side of the vehicle.
I broke out another jack and jacked up the other side, leaving the driver-side up, unable to crank it down. When I finally had the passenger-side jacked up I pulled at the wheel to get it off when both of my jack slipped and jammed my fingers between the tire and the frame of the bus.
My neighbors got their fair share of late-night choice words. I seriously did not think I was going to be able to get my fingers out by myself and was not sure how I would be able to signal anyone, with everyone asleep at this time.
With my left hand I put my palm under the frame, knelt down and with my whole body pushed up. I was not able to push the frame off of the tire, but was able to push it up enough that I could pull my hand out.
My adrenaline was pumping pretty hard and I was shaking. My fingers didn't hurt that bad and didn't immediately appear broken. I moved them around and they appeared to work just fine. There was a few layers of skin peeling back, but it just peeled right off and there was no bruising, scabbing, or broken bones. With a bag of ice and some time to calm down I put all my tools away, including both jacks and called it a night.
I was worried that I would be unable to type at work, but aside from a little pressure from some minor swelling, my fingers where just fine.
I already don't' trust jacks, and I don't even feel comfortable climbing under a vehicle with all four wheels secured, but now my trust levels have gone even further south.

Friday, October 10, 2008

As

I just got my grades in for the first half of the semester. I got two As. Next week starts the second half of the semester with a philosophy class and a database class. If I can get As in those two classes as well I will have had my second ever straight-A semester.

Canonical's place in the Linux ecosystem.

Greg Kroah-Hartman recently gave a talk in Portland, OR on Canonical's contribution to the core of Linux. The talk was at the first Linux Plumbers Conference. The conference was designed to get as many of the core Linux developers together and talk face to face.
One key point to open-source software is upstreaming and downstreaming. Project developers, like Mozilla's Firefox, are the core of a product. Downstream companies grab and reuse the code of the upstream core team. So when Ubuntu pulls down Firefox, they package it for their users.
When users have problems they report them to their provider. So if I notice a bug in Firefox I go to Canonical's launchpad and file a bug. What should happen is that bug report, once verified, should go upstream. This means that the bug may be fixed by Canonical, or may be fixed by Firefox. If Canonical fixes it then they push that bug fix upstream to Mozilla, and downstream to their users. So not only do Ubuntu users get the bug fix, but all users of Firefox get the bug fixed as well.
This sort of collaboration amongst upstream and downstream users across the web of providers is one of the most powerful parts of open source software.
Another important aspect of open-source software is that upstream doesn't have to accept patches from downstream. If Canonical fixes a bug, but the patch for the fix does not meet Mozilla's quality standards, or Mozilla doesn't consider it a bug, that is fine. Canonical is responsible for producing what it views as is best for its users. Ubuntu users could also demand a feature in a product, and Canonical could implement it an upstream it, and the upstream could not accept the new feature. For example, Ubuntu users may want to use Firefox as a file-system browser. Canonical could add this support and send it up to Mozilla. Mozilla could simply conclude that being a file system browser is not part of its vision and not implement these changes. Other downstream could get these patches and put them in their product if they wish, or not if they don't.
What is important is that downstream communicates with upstream so that all downstream users of a product are able to benefit from each others work.
Back to Greg and the LPC. Firefox is none of their concern. They are interested in the core of what makes up the Linux OS. Firefox is not part of the OS. It is simply a browser that happens to run on Linux (as well other OSes.) The LPC is for people who work on core parts like the kernel, xorg (the graphical part of Linux), and other specific components.
Greg has two arguments:
  1. Canonical's contributions to the core components of Linux are too small.
  2. Canonical does not upstream their core work very well.
  3. Ubuntu is too many degrees downstream to effectively get its work back to the core.
A small review of Ubuntu's relationship to upstream projects. Ubuntu is based off of Debian, another Linux OS. Debian packages together programs from across the OSS Linux communities and builds their distribution. Canonical takes the Debian OS, tweaks it and ships Ubuntu. Every six months Ubuntu synchs up with the latest stable Debain, applies all of their patches, makes all the new adjustments, and ships a new version Ubuntu.
So, in practice Ubuntu doesn't actually upstream to projects, they upstream to Debian. Debian accepts what they like and then upstream that up to the main project. The problem, according to Greg, is that these never make it back to the main project, and thus never trickle down to the rest of the OSS community. The accusation is basically that Canonical is not acting a good member of the community, effectively free riding off the rest of the group. His proof is in the low number of contributions to the core of Linux.
In the context of the LPC this makes sense. So what if Ubuntu has made major strides in fixing problems, and implementing new features in Gimp, Gnome, various translations, Nautilus, etc. In the context of LPC these are not important, just like an engine designer is not concerned with the improvements made in a car's dashboard.
Greg's mistake is pointing this out as if it is relevant. He completely misunderstands Canonicals place in the Linux ecosystem. Mark Shuttleworth did not set out to build a stable and secure operating system. Linux had been both stable and secure long before he come on the scene. The problem was that the stability and security of Linux was out of the grasp of users. It took months to learn how to install Linux, and then even longer to figure out how to use it. It was like having a car that never broke, but was more difficult to drive than a space shuttle. The strengths of Linux where irrelevant as it was obfuscated from usability by the average human being, indeed even the average computer geek.
So Mark set out to build on top of the Linux's greatness, and conquer its weakness. He wanted to bring Linux to the masses. He built a distribution that is easy to use and install. Linux is still not easy enough. In fact, no OS is easy enough. The fact of the matter is that every OS has really crapy usability. Mark is looking to fix that problem, and to make Ubuntu not only more user-friendly than Windows and Mac OSX, but to bring it to the level of usability that users are expecting of our future technology.
This is why you see him personally attending to bugs like this one. When you look at his comments, he is only commenting on the usability aspect of the bug, not the technical aspect of the problem. When you read his interviews he is always talking about the user experience. You will never hear him say that in the next version of Ubuntu he wants to bring killer features to the file system, or really great caching in the kernel. These aren't the things that he stays up late at night thinking about. He understands that there is already a really large team of great engineers working on these problems. He also understands that Linux lacks such a team for fighting for usability and the end-user experience.
Marks fight and Greg's fight are different fights on the same team. Greg is the butcher and Mark is the chef prepping the plate that is going to make the customer want to come back. The two should be patting each other on the back for doing such a great job.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Another trip out to Saint Marks.

Andrew and I had planned on camping in one of the primitive camping spots in Saint Marks, but when we called the for a permit we where informed that they where only for people hiking the whole forty-mile trail. Not to be deterred from a great weekend, we just hiked out for an afternoon stroll.
What made this walk better than the first was that there where no mosquitoes. We started around 5:30pm, so it was also much cooler.
The whole trail has waters on both sides, and we saw a lot of alligators.
We turned around at one of the primitive spots. It was a very cool camp site. It was a circle off of the trail that had a little pond in the middle. We walked from here to here.
Unfortunately, I could not locate my camera, but Andrew got plenty of good shots, and I took a few too.
The moment we reached the camp ground the sun ducked under the horizon. We ran about half of the way back, and spent about the last third in darkness. Andrew had his bicycle light, and the night was pretty bright, but it was not what we would have preferred with snakes and gators that like to come out at night. But, we made it back healthy, and we had an excellent time. Photos start here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lard marketing

I really hate lard marketing. It is very demeaning and cheapens the products in question. Lard marketing is when someone takes a product, ads a bunch of crap to it, and sells it as a better product. By crap I mean 'X' marketing, and things of the such. For example, I saw a Jimmy Johns advertisement that said, "Subs so fast you'll freak." Another example, lots of companies are using the following format for their business name, "X-Treme Verb" For example, X-Treme Auto-Care, X-Treme Lawn Care, X-Treme Graphics Design. Unless these companies yell at you when you enter, I doubt there is anything extreme about their services, and if there was I would be sure to not use their service. When someone fixes my car, I want it to be as unextreme as possible. I want to tell you the problem, hand you me keys, and have it fixed. To me, extreme would be you give it back with more stuff broken, or you argue with me about something. I don't want that. Just fix it and let me go away.
Gatorade has also bought heavily into the lard marketing. They have flavors like Fast Lightning, and Tropical Snow. These aren't real names, I don't think, but it's the format they use for naming their drinks. I want names like Lemonade or Fruit Punch. I have purchased a few of these lard drinks out of curiousity, and more accurate names would be Dangerous Feces or Insane Barf, because these names more accurately describe their flavour.
Throwing Green on everything is another one. I saw a sign for YellaWood. It simply had their mascot guy with a very smug grin and read "Envrionmentally Preferable Product." Preferable over what? The other guy selling plutonium made houses? That's a pretty relative claim that doesn't really mean much without any context. This is thrown on so much stuff today. Everything is Green this or Green that, when it seems that what would be really green is not purchasing your product at all and stop the overconsuming that is depleting our resources and filling up our dumpsters.
When I buy something I don't want bullshit. Bullshit doesn't help me make a better decision. Tell me what you are selling me and for how much. Once you start going off on tangents, my BS meter goes off and I start looking elsewhere.

I joined a movement, and didn't know it.

A few months ago there was a lot of news about the exponentially growing food shortage problem, propelled recently by the use of corn and other produce to produce fuel. Kim brought up the idea about reducing our meat consumption, since the meat industry really drains the food supply by diverting vegetables away from markets and into cows, producing less food out than comes in. We agreed that we would stop buying meat for the house. We would still eat meat, but we just wouldn't prepare it around the house. Over the last couple of months I think we have broken this twice.
So apparently this is a new fad called flexitarians. Basically, people who have no desire whatsoever to cut meat out of their diet, but are interested in drastically reducing their meat consumption to much more sane levels.
During a work day my diet usually consists of a bowl of Kashi cereal with soy milk (I'm looking to go rice milk for a while once this last jug is gone.) For lunch I eat a bowl of Tabatchnick soup, which is vegetarian, and most are also kosher. And for dinner I eat whatever we are having at home. Some school night I pick up some fast food, which usually consists of a chicken sandwich, and about once every-other week Kim and I eat out, which usually includes a meat dish too.
I don't really feel any different (people often have "Whoa" stories to accompany diet changes), but the food I'm eating isn't any less good either. In fact, I've always enjoyed vegetarian food.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My take on the bailout

It's been repeated at least a few times that it is apparent that those in charge, both Democrats and Republicans, seem to believe that one fundamental rule when legislating our economy is to privatize profits and socialize the losses, but primarily for the rich.
So, when the rich are making lots of money, we dare not tax them or else trickle-down economics will kick in and everyone will be damaged. But if the rich lose large amounts of money, tax payers must socialize those losses, because again, trick-down economics will kick in and everyone will be damaged.
This makes Obama's cautious support for the bailout less bad than McCain's cautious support for the bailout. Obama wants to eliminate the corporate tax moratorium. He is socializing both large gains and losses, versus McCain wants the rich to have their cake and eat it too.
I disagree with both of them though, in that we should not bail out these companies. Yes, there will be short term consequences. By short term I n probably a couple of years at least. Those/these times will not be easy, but that is part of how capitalism works, and I haven't hear anyone explicitly suggest in all this an end to capitalism. Bad market ideas are suppose to yield losses, which should encourage future venture capitalists to not try anything like this, knowing they will go under if they do. That's the theory at least.
Anyways, lending will start back up sooner rather than later, even without the bailout. In trying times people come up with really creative ways to make money. If there are potential lendees out there, and it seems reasonable that they can pay back their loans, then there will be an entrepreneur looking to lend that money. The number of people able to pay back their loans will certainly decrease, but it will only be for the short term. Once financially stable people are making loans and paying them back, the lending system's gears will start to greased, and the train will eventually be back in full motion. It may take a little longer than artificially inserting 7$bill, but it will happen, it will just happen more responsibly.
Let's look at the history of bailouts. The first bailout was in 1970, and in 2008 dollars Penn Central Railroad was awarded $3.2 billion. Since then a total of $662.5 billion has been awarded in tax-payer funded bailouts. Over half of the $662.5 billion has been under George W. Bush, and all of it has been under a Republican administration. Bush has already more than doubled the amount of bailouts we have paid out, and this legislation would double it again.
What is interesting is that this legislation is largely backed by Democrats, though many are strongly opposing it, and has little support amongst Republicans. Also, all Republicans not up for election support it, while all of the Republican dissent comes from congressmen up for reelection. That certainly seems to imply the reason for the dissent is primarily political and not practical, but the same is probably true for most of the Democratic side as well, even if the numbers crunch differently.
Another large problem with the bailout is that we don't actually have $7 billion. We are in the hole, big time. The only way we can come up with this money is to borrow it, which is pretty ironic in and of itself. The idea of borrowing $7 billion from other countries who actually have their finances together to pay rich bankers for screwing up our economy so that they can fix the problems they created, and that is must all be fast tracked without much deliberation is astounding.
What may be a good idea is to put a moratorium on all foreclosure for at least six months, and then use tax dollars to subsidize those loans as conservatively as possible in a fashion that allows those who became a victim of predatory loans to make their payments. Then make those reasonable payments that are affordable to the borrowers static so that they never go up. This will allow home owners to keep their houses and not file for bankruptcy, it will make good (in the long run) on those debts, and the banks that took out insurance on these bad loans to not have to pay out on those insurance claims. It will be a long way from fixing everything, but it should be less expensive and offer a better long-term solution to the problem.

http://www.propublica.org/special/government-bailouts
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/09/more-bailout-thoughts.html

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tea

When I was in California over the Christmas vacation last year I stopped in a store named teavana and bought some really great tea. One of the teas that I bought was called Monkey Picked Oulong. At $25 for 2oz it is not cheap, but since you can make ~4 cups per teaspoon out of it, it's not that bad. Today I put the last bit in my percolator. I will get four more cups and then have to buy more if I want it. This is truly the best tea I have ever had that I can drink without sugar and worth every penny if you can swing the money.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Good Day for Music

On Monday Athena was sick so picked her up from day care and take care of her for the day. Around noon she was feeling better and getting bored of sitting around the house so we went in to town. I stopped at Goodwill and looked through their record collection.
I ended up getting about four Peter, Paul & Mary albums, a Mamas and the Papas record, an Alice Cooper record, and The Very Best of the Lovin' Spoonful.
The Lovin' Spoonful record was really good. I really enjoyed it. When I went to put it away I noticed I had another album, The Best of the Lovin' Spoonful. This one was great too. So here I was with two albums, one I didn't even know I had, that I was pretty pumped about. Then in my Best of the Lovin' Spoonful album I notice a second record in there, its the first album by Moby Grape.
I had first heard of Moby Grape on NPR. I downloaded some of their music and really enjoyed it. I had never gotten around to actually buying an album. I had mentioned them to my mom and she said that she used to like Moby Grape back in the 70s, so I had picked up their "best of" album last week for her birthday.
Now here I am with their first album, and I had no idea I had it.
So Monday was a really good day for my music collection. Once I get some time I am going to rip the lot to my computer for easy digital listening.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hiking in St. Marks




Last Sunday Andrew and I went hiking out near the St. Marks light house. You can view our walk here and pictures starting here and here.
We started around 1:30 or 2:00. We brought plenty of sun screen and deep woods off. The mosquitoes are really bad because of all the rain brought in by the tropical storms. Andrew wore long pants, which would have been a good idea for me to have done as well. I brought a water-bottle filled with water and ice. Andrew brought his man-purse thingy with his water bottle.
The mosquitoes surrounded us, but the off did a pretty good job of keeping them away. It is still annoying when the buzz around your head and in your ear, even if they aren't landing on you to bite. Next time I'm going to wear my safari hat.
At the start of the trail we saw a deer and a place where hogs had been digging in the ground looking for food.
Along the way we saw a few more dear, a large vulture flying low (if he was waiting on us to kick the bucket, he left disappointed) and panther prints. About 3/4 of the way down there was a primitive camping spot as well.
Just after the camping spot the trail continues as an unmaintained trail. This part was actually much more pleasant. Because nobody had knocked down any trees to make way for the trail, there was lots of shade no grass. The problem with a maintained trail is that if it is not maintained enough it gets grown in.
In the unmaintained part we found a banana spider. These are very common, but right as we looked at it a bug landed in its web. It ran over and began eating it immediately. Andrew got plenty of pictures of the event.
The trail ended at the St. Marks River. It was absolutely beautiful. We where pretty tired by this time. We would have been happy to end there, but walking back our only option.
As soon as we left the unmaintained part, and got back to the maintained trail Kim called. I was gone a lot longer than she expected. Right after my call Andrew got a text message. We both thought it was ironic that we where out in the middle of the woods in nowhere land and getting calls and texts on our cell phones.
The walk back was pretty rough. On major problems with trails that go East-West is that the shade of the trees doesn't really hit the trail that well at any time of the day.
The very last stretch we ran back as much as we could. The mosquitoes where getting worse, and the bug spray wasn't keeping them completely away. We where too tired to run too much, but we mustered all the running we could. Our water has also run out and we where both really thirsty.

The trip was a real success. I enjoyed every minute of it, even when I was tired, thirsty, and being eaten alive. As much as I enjoy being out in the woods, a seven-mile track through the woods can really make you appreciate all we have. I was very happy to take a nice-long shower and lay down in a soft bed with my AC blasting.
The worst part was finding two ticks on my feet. I really can't stand those things.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Kinks

I feel another bat of listening to The Kinks back to back for days on end.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An hour and a half

I have been in my Human Management Resources class for over an hour and a half and we have yet to do anything but complain about our jobs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Business Administrations

I am currently in my second business administration class. I am having a very difficult time paying attention. This must be what it like having ADHD.

Friday, August 1, 2008

This is how awesome Ubuntu is.

I was interested in trying out some bug tracker tools and found a program called Mantis. I found an installation guide at http://www.gbbservices.com/prog/mantis.html
If you go and view that page you will see that it takes quite some time to get this up and running, but not in Ubuntu. I got everything working by simply typing the following in at the terminal:
sudo aptitude install apache2 mysql-server php mantis

In about a minute Ubuntu had downloaded, installed, and configured everything. Go back and review the above page for installing on Windows and then review my instructions for installing on Ubuntu.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Megadeth

I have been listening to a lot of Megadeth lately. It feels good.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Programming

In many way, being a programmer is like being an artist. Inspiration comes and it goes. You can't always force useful work.
Many times I get on a project and I rock that project for hours on end. And then it will all putter out. It may be that I completed the project, or that I have to wait for someone else to complete something. It could be that I have coded up until I reached a point that there are now a few jams that have to be backed out. I need time to step back and rethink everything. Resort the puzzle in my mind so I can get a good idea of how to proceed, which will usually be followed by hours more of useful work.
When I reach these points it is best if I just go home. They usually come within an hour of the time I leave anyhow. I simply cannot get back to a highly productive state before it is time for me to leave, and even if I did, I would have to stop in just a little bit of time anyhow.
Other times I have the opposite problem. Four-thirty will come around and I'm rockin' code, but I have to abandon it and go home. Being in the middle of a productive streak and having it cut short by having to clock out, a meeting, or something else is very bad. It takes a while to go from cold to productive, sometimes up to an hour.
Code is big and it depends on so many other things. To get everything working just right takes putting a lot of pieces together and delicately placing them just right. Like in Operation, a single slip causes the buzzer to go off and you have to start from the beginning. And like doing taxes, there are so many rules you have to be really careful to get everything just right or you end up with the IRS a down your door, or in a programmers case, your boss. You round a number the wrong way, that number gets passed around and multiplied, and then you ended up billing hundreds of customers too much and they are upset.
It would be nice if my end time was not set in stone. I leave when it is best, not when the clock does its thing.