Monday, November 09, 2009

Berlin Wall vs Sesame Street

Or, "Can you show me how to get; how to get to West Germany?"

I know Google is not required to agree with me on their choice of homepage logo doodles for a particular day, but doesn't the fall of the Berlin wall on this day twenty years ago seem a little bit more significant than the fortieth anniversary of the Sesame Street show?

Could be just me, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordle Word Cloud From Your Twitter Stream

Apparently I went about getting my previously mentioned Wordle word cloud of my Twitter stream in a extremely roundabout way and didn't realize that it isn't as simple as I thought.

From what I can tell, Wordle will create a word cloud from any url that supports an RSS feed. To find the RSS feed of your (or anyone's) Twitter updates, go to http://twitter.com/username (replace username with the one you want) and click on the "RSS feed of ___'s tweets" button on the lower right-hand side. This will give you the RSS page address that Wordle needs to create a word cloud. Copy the url from the location bar and paste it into the appropriate box at www.wordle.net/create and hit Submit.

Unfortunately, there are only 20 updates included in Twitter's RSS feed at a time, and I'm not sure exactly how many of those Wordle decides to use. It's not very many, so you end up with a really crappy looking word cloud with a lot of @s, usernames, and tinyurl links. Not very entertaining.

The way I stumbled upon my really cool looking word cloud was pretty convoluted. I started out at the TweetStats site graphing my tweet timeline, tweet density, and some other cool aggregated statistics about my tweets. (Which, incidentally, you can check out here.) There is some really nifty info there, and if you click on the little "Tweet Cloud" button near the top, you get their version of a word cloud made from you tweets.
Kinda near the middle-right of that page there's a little blurb that says "Don't like the TweetCloud? Well then, go make a Wordle! (no @'s)" Click on the link (I like the no @'s version) and it takes you to a Wordle page with all the hard work done already. Then you just mess around with the colors, layout, etc, and take a screen shot of what you like. Bam!

There's also a "save to gallery" button, but I wouldn't waste your time there, since the gallery is chronological and cannot be searched, therefore rendering it basically useless to find your creation in the future.

I have to assume that there is some RSS-foo going on in the background of TweetStat to get a better sampling of data than I was able to find using the RSS button on Twitter. I also assume that if I spent long enough messing around with the public API, I might be able to figure it out, but since someone has already done it, I'm not gonna waste my time.

Also, I'm pretty sure that your updates cannot be protected for all of this to work, but since mine are public, I can't tell you for sure.
Happy graphing / clouding!

Things that make me happy, things that make me unhappy.

Well, since I just can't neglect my blog any longer (it's been nearly three months!), and since I'm pretty sure I don't have any regular readers anymore, this post is all about me. What makes me happy and what makes me unhappy.

First of all, since I was passively watching TV and this commercial just caught my eye, I love the music they use in the Lincoln car commercials. They always have some really sweet remixes of classic songs, and that makes me happy. They need to release an album.

Pretty good, eh?I've kinda gotten into the AMC show "Mad Men" this fall, and while I am way behind on the plot and don't really watch with any regularity, I'm really intrigued by the setting and props used on the show. I love the old houses, appliances, clothes, furniture, and especially the cars that make their way into the show.

Anyway, what I wanted to share is the "Mad Men Yourself" page on the AMC Mad Men blog. It's pretty awesome. You start by selecting your gender, body type, skin tone, and facial features, then you move on to your clothes, accessories, and setting. And all the while there's a swank, loungie theme song playing in the background. The best thing is that you can download the results in several different sizes and the results can be pretty spot-on.

This "wordle" also makes me happy. They take your most common words from your Twitter tweets and turn it in to a picture. The larger the word, the more often it has occurred. The shape is pretty random, but I like the way this one turned out. Since the whole site is a java app, you can't directly save the image, but you can link to is, so go check it out. Make your own; share it.
Wordle: good

The fact that "for a limited time" you can get 155 Mojo Nixon tracks for free from Amazon mp3 makes me happy. If you're not familiar with his music, it's pretty much as trashy and lowbrow as it gets, but it's quality rockabilly goodness just the same. Go here for the deal.

This doesn't make me very happy. In an article on MSNBC.com asserts that "higher jobless rates could be the new norm" and quotes a really good economist to back it up.
"This Great Recession is an inflection point for the economy in many respects. I think the unemployment rate will be permanently higher, or at least higher for the foreseeable future," said Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com.
With unemployment headed to 10% and no real relief in sight, it's kinda discouraging.

Well, there's a review of the things that are currently making me happy and unhappy. It's too bad that the bad thing is so bad, but at least there are more good things. Let me know what's making you happy in the comments.

Also, my hornet sting from Monday still itches like hell. Not happy about that.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

Well, more like, Breakfast of Someone-With-Time-On-Their-Hands, but still extremely yummy.

Fried eggs with cracked black pepper, Kosher salt, and a dusting of cayanne; topped with homemade (and home grown) basil pesto.

Follow that up with a mocha latte made with espresso from Kona coffee, dark chocolate syrup, and topped with homemade whipped cream.


Pretty much doesn't get any better than that.

And really, other than having the pesto on hand from a masive pesto making session at my parents' house, the whipped cream left over from a previous dessert, and owning an espresso machine, this could all be made any time! ;)
Posted by Picasa

I'm getting hungry just looking at it!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Blame Twitter! Kinda

I've been a bad blogger lately.  I only have one post since May, and that was just a YouTube video of Obama's teleprompter falling over.  And while funny, there was no real thought there. 

A few monthes ago I even signed up for a service called "Plinky" that is supposed to prompt you with interesting questions to answer / ponder on your blog.  I've done a grand total of one of those.  When the email comes I just hit delete and move on. 

The other think that I blame this lack of blogging on is Twitter.  Twitter has seriously made me lazy.  If I can just bang out 140 characters at a time from the status bar of my browser with TwitterFox or from my BlackBerry with UberTwitter, why would I spend the time to go to my blog, think of something thoughtful, carefully word it into something semi-coherent, think of a good headline, and finally post it?  Who knows, but apparently that's what i've been doing, since I have nearly 700 Tweets since last fall. 

The other thing, and more likely to be a the root of the problem, is that since I haven't had a real job in, oh, almost eight months, I have had a serious lack of ambition and motvation to do anything creative.  I don't even take pictures anymore.  I used to cary my camera around litterally all the time, and now one of them sits in my office and I'm not even sure where the other one is. 

But speaking of no real job and no motivation, I do have a ton of work for my psuedo job to get done today that I have, of course, been putting off all week, so I'd better get to it. 

What did you expect?  Some sort of revelation?  ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

RIP, TOTUS

The TOTUS (Teleprompter Of The United States) just couldn't bear lying to our Fearless Reader, Mr Obama, anymore, and apparently took a nasty spill the other day.


Too bad, I think TOTUS is the hardest working member of the administration!

Oh, wait, this just in... he's okay!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What does the market think your house is worth?

As off-the-wall as I think Glenn Beck is most of the time, it'd be a lot easier to not like him if he didn't make so damn much sense.

In this video from February he explains (with the help of a gigantic graph!) the historical price of houses in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, of course, and finds that they tend to stick around $100K. You can ignore the parts with Obama, if you'd like; they really don't affect the analysis.



Now, I haven't independently confirmed his figures, but they do seem reasonable, and if the trend line he draws actually continues like that, we're totally boned. I don't personally think that prices will continue to plunge like they have been, but we were long overdue for a major correction in housing prices.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Because "He is Latino," eh?

So when Democrats choose (behind closed doors, of course) to exclude an otherwise qualified individual from a U.S. Supreme Court nomination because "he is Latino" it's totally acceptable, but when Republicans raise valid concerns about a Latina's potentialy dangerous opinions, statements, and actions, they're racists and sexists.

Read for yourself how congressional democrats borked president Bush's Supreme Court nominee Miguel Estrada in a November 7, 2001 memo to Senator Durbin:
"The groups singled out three--Jeffrey Sutton (6th Circuit); Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit); and Caroline [sic] Kuhl (9th Circuit)--as a potential nominee for a contentious hearing early next year, with a [sic] eye to voting him or her down in Committee. They also identified Miguel Estrada (D.C. Circuit) as especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment. They want to hold Estrada off as long as possible." [My emphasis.]
Wall Street Journal, Saturday, November 15, 2003.

Sounds about like typical Democrat shenanigans to me. The sad part is, the uninformed public will let them get away with it, time and time again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In-Box Overload

That is an awfully large pile of work for someone who doesn't have a real job!

Those are all anonymize surveys (remember my "data collection?") that I have to enter by hand into web forms. Talk about crappy and carpal-tunnel inducing. Oh well, at least I make a few bucks doing it.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 22, 2009

Global Warming - Brought to you by The Climate-Industrial Complex

If you've talked to me or read this blog at all in the past you are probably already aware of my stance on Anthropogenic Global Warming -- I think it's basically an overblown farce designed and presented by rich scare-mongers (like Al Gore) to give people something abstract to worry about and line their pockets with cash in the process.

Now the U.S. House and Senate are debating a European style "Climate Change" bill, complete with handouts to the worst carbon-emitters, coal companies, and this weekend the Copenhagen Climate Council is hosting the World Business Summit on Climate Change hoping, as Bjorn Lomborg writes in today's Wall Street Journal "to push political leaders into more drastic promises when they negotiate the Kyoto Protocol's replacement in December."

Lomborg continues:

Naturally, many CEOs are genuinely concerned about global warming. But many of the most vocal stand to profit from carbon regulations. The term used by economists for their behavior is "rent-seeking."

The world's largest wind-turbine manufacturer, Copenhagen Climate Council member Vestas, urges governments to invest heavily in the wind market. It sponsors CNN's "Climate in Peril" segment, increasing support for policies that would increase Vestas's earnings. A fellow council member, Mr. Gore's green investment firm Generation Investment Management, warns of a significant risk to the U.S. economy unless a price is quickly placed on carbon.

So really, these businesses stand to gain significantly from radical (and radically expensive) climate change legislation being pushed on countries rich and stupid enough to sign their citizens up.

And don't believe for a second that these "green jobs" being "created" by the clean energy companies are free:
Spain has been proclaimed a global example in providing financial aid to renewable energy companies to create green jobs. But research shows that each new job cost Spain 571,138 euros, with subsidies of more than one million euros required to create each new job in the uncompetitive wind industry. Moreover, the programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs for every job created. [My emphasis added.]
So with the global economy in the state that it is in (not so good), do we really need to be costing tax payers billions of dollars in additional taxes while at the same time ensuring that many more will join me in the ranks of the unemployed? That doesn't sound like good policy to me, it sounds like pandering to some self-serving interest groups.

President Dwight D Eisenhower famously worried about the Cold-War era Military-Industrial Complex that "there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties." The same can now be said about the unholy alliance of self-interested businesses, grandstanding politicians and alarmist campaigners making up the new Climate-Industrial Complex.

*****
Also, I highly recommend Mr Lomborg's 2007 book, "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming." Among other things, it is an eye opening look at how much good we could be doing with all the money we are throwing at global warming -- like eradicating malaria, providing everyone in the world with clean drinking water, or controlling AIDS.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coolest thing I've seen about Linux yet!

So, I've been using Ubuntu (first 8.10 and now pre-release 9.04) on my IBM laptop (thanks Lana!) for the past several months, and in general, I have been very impressed with its usability, capabilities, and function.

First of all, Ubuntu, like most Linux distributions is free (as in beer and speech), so that instantly gives it a leg-up on Windows for the computer tinkerer who occationally messes up their system beyond help and needs to reinstall. It also has a great update manager that keeps your system up to date without hitting you over the head with "genuine" versions and involuntary reboots. The out of the box folder organization leaves a little to be desired for users who are not used to Linux, but that's a pretty minor point of contention.

To further my uber geeky experiments, I recently setup a headless (no monitor or keyboard) file server to share, um, "data" between a small group using Ubuntu Server Edition 8.04. The setup was mostly smooth and the updates and installation of the pertinent programs was very straight forward, but using a text-only Comand Line Interface really left something to be desired when it came to renaming and moving files around. It's a long adventure of typing in the full path of the file you want to move and then the full path of where you want it moved to. Not really my idea of fun.

This brings me to my point of the coolest thing I've seen about Linux yet. While I was Googling around to figure out how to use SSH to access my server from off-site, I found this gem:
Re: How to use sshd

You can also do:

sftp://username@IP.add.re.ss

in nautilus or konqueror and it will allow you to do drag'n drop file moving.
How friggin' awesome is that? Not only does it get me a secure connection from any computer running Linux back to my server at home, it gives me a graphical environment to manipulate files and folders! Rock on!

Now, there's probably a Windows version of this, but it probably isn't free and definitely requires more work than I just invested in figuring this out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My first job: landscaping

This is my first experiment using the website Plinky.com to help avoid "blogger block" by answering their daily prompts. The prompt that, um, prompted this post was "What industry ushered you into the workforce?"

I worked the summer I turned 16 for the landscape maintenance division of a local real estate developer. I made a little over $6 an hour and was the only native English speaker on the crew. For the first three weeks of work my dad had to drop me off at the yard in the morning and pick me up in the afternoon because I was still 15 and hadn't gotten my drivers license yet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who has time to vote for town hall questions? Oh yeah, stoners!

Yesterday, President Obama hosted an online "town hall" campaign stop, er, meeting where he took questions submitted by the public and answered the most popular ones. In addition to the obligatory softball questions, thanks to the winners over at NORML, many of the top rated questions had to do with the legalization of marijuana. As Politico reports:
In this moment of national economic crisis, the top four questions under the heading of “Financial security” concerned marijuana; on the budget, people voted up questions about marijuana to positions 1-4; marijuana was in the first and third positions under “jobs”; people boosted a plug for legalizing marijuana to No. 2 under “health care reform.” And questions about decriminalizing pot occupied spots 1 and 2 under “green jobs and energy.”

Luckily, even though Mr Obama does have some experience in the drug world, he stuck to his political and reasonable guns and answered the question directly: "'The answer is no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,' he said, as the audience in the room applauded and joined him in a laugh."

Even though I think that the "War on Drugs" has been an abysmal failure and is really misdirected in its goals and tactics, I am still against the blanket legalization of pot and most other drugs, and this was certainly not the format for it to be addressed. It does seem kinda obvious though that it's the pot-heads that have the time to vote those questions to the top of the list.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blackberry Upgrade, A Week Later

Okay, so last week I posted about the firmware / operating system upgrade from 4.2 to 4.5 that was offered to Blackberry Curve users (and others, I would imagine). Well, after a three hour installation process (hands off, thank God!), having to reset my ringtones and alerts, and fiddle with a few apps, I have to say that I am quite pleased with the upgrade!

I'll go through the features and give my impression of each:
  • Video recording capability - Freakin' cool! I've never had a phone that could do that before, so it's a lot of fun to mess with. Not the best quality, but I've also seen worse.
  • HTML email for
    Internet email accounts - I know what this should do, but since I have my mail working with the Gmail app, I'm unaffected by this one. Only thing I'd like Gmail on my phone to do better is to be able to click on embeded links.
  • Music and Video Streaming video capabilities - Also freakin' cool. YouTube and other embedded flash video on a phone that's not an iPhone. The quality is pretty crappy (as it is on the iPhone), and it doesn't quite go full screen, but it's spiffy nonetheless.
  • New browser home page design - I could take or leave this. Could be good for non-tweakers, but I had my iGoogle page setup for my phone, and it worked perfectly. Luckily you can reconfigure this to your liking.
  • Improved downloading experience - Seems quite a bit faster... that's all I can tell.
  • Improved UMA and data performance - Definitely faster. Feels like you're on a 3G connection when you're really still on the older EDGE. I'm impressed.
  • Attachment downloading and document editing - Downloading good, haven't tried editing yet, but the upgrade did include Word To Go and Slideshow To Go, so it should work.
So now my only gripes are with Google. You can view attachments sent via Gmail, but that's it. No saving, editing, etc. But, I suppose if that's the worst thing, it's still not that bad.

In conclusion, good work, RIM!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BlackBerry Upgrade!

Finally, BlackBerry sent out an upgrade to the newest version of its operating system (4.5) to upgrade those using the older (4.2) version. There's some sweet new stuff in this upgrade, including video recording and video streaming (YouTube?).

Here's the new features list for my phone, the Curve 8320:

  • Video recording capability
  • HTML email for internet email accounts
  • Music and Video Streaming video capabilities
  • New browser home page design
  • Improved downloading experience
  • Improved UMA and data performance
  • Attachment downloading and document editing
These are all fancy things that the new BB Bold is supposed to do, and I couldn't understand why they didn't push an upgrade out to their existing users sooner. However, in hindsight, I should have known that it was a ploy to get users of older phones to upgrade to the fancy (and expensive) new models instead of waiting for an update. I'm glad I waited it out!

I'm currently installing it on my phone and I'll follow up with my impressions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Inanimate Valentines

Happy (late) Valentine's Day!

Thought this video might serve for some inspiration (or retrospect) for you weekend.
See more funny videos and Technology Videos at Today's Big Thing.

(Nice stop action work, though, eh?)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Bad-ass 3-D scanner and printer

Also known as a rapid prototyping machine. This thing is sweet.

NextEngine's 3D Scanner

Everything you need to scan and digitize 3D models at a reasonable price. Made in America.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Farewell, Dubya

Well, I'm not sure what I can say that hasn't already been said by someone about today's inauguration of our new President, Barack Obama, other than to say, "good luck, and try not to screw up too bad."

To paraphrase on commentator that I recently heard, "Obama is going to be a very activist president. He's going to get a lot done. We're going to enter this administration as a capitalist nation and we're going to leave it as France." I hope he's wrong.

But I'd also like to say something that isn't getting said very much: Thank you, Mr Bush. Thank you for protecting the country after 9-11. Thank you for lowering taxes. Thank you for working towards free trade in the Americas and standing firmly beside Israel in her trials. And farewell.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wacky weather, Bill like's Bush's carpet, Obama's "tax cuts"

So, today, January 8th, the high temperature was 60 degrees here in Northern Colorado and the low temperature was -60 in Fairbanks, Alaska. I know, Alaska is supposed to be cold, but their normal January lows are closer to -30 and our normal highs are closer to 30. What's up with that? Good luck telling Alaskans that its global warming.

By now you've probably heard or seen former President Bill Clinton at the White House today expressing his love for the rug in the Oval Office. But what you probably didn't know is that that rug was custom designed by Laura Bush and is heading back to Texas with the Bushes very soon. It really is an impressive rug.

You've probably also heard about President-Elect Obama's "$300 Billion Tax Cuts" that he wants congress to pass ASAP. Investor's Business Daily has a good piece examining why these so-called "tax cuts" are nothing more than plain, old income redistribution: taking money from the successful and giving it to the unsuccessful. Rewarding failure does not promote success, it reinforces failure.