Friday, December 22, 2006

Mission: make it to Boston

I got bumped on the way to Maine and on the way back, netting me two free round trips on United anywhere in the continental 48. I was hoping to get bumped tomorrow because Seat Counter says my flight is sold out.

Which leads me to tonight's story. One of my friends called me tonight to pick her up at SFO. Turns out her flight to Vegas was so delayed she'd miss her flight to Charlotte, so she decided to rebook. Well, the earliest she can get to Charlotte (out of San Jose, SF, or Oakland) is Monday morning. I would assume it's the same issue for me heading into Boston, Manchester, or Portland. So I'll keep my seat tomorrow, and make sure to arrive on time! (She was in line for 4+ hours between trying to check in and trying to rebook)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No means no, not "maybe next week"

I have opted out of receiving credit card offers based on the lender running my score and then offering me a card. However, that doesn't stop groups you work with from sending you offers.

Both United and US Airways have been sending me card offers to link with my frequent flier accounts. Not only that, but they send an offer every time they mail me something anyway and they send me offers about once a week in the mail. I've had to call both of them and tell them to go away.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Way to bone that one

I use Yahoo TV to see tv listings. Until today, you could look at local listings without signing in. Now you can't. And it's uber ugly.

Ok, so what do I use for TV listings online? Suggestions, readers?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Isn't that strange...

Only two British air carriers and two American air carriers (and two grandfathered other carriers) can fly US-Heathrow routes due to some 1970s agreement.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Plan of the day

Current plan: summer of 2010, take a 3 month leave from work and travel, or bike from California to Maine.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nerd Humor

Nerd humor for you about sudo from xkcd.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A statement I wish were true

I wish this statement were true:

"(I sleep well every night, but) I get my best sleep on planes!"

This year I will do 10 trips to the east coast, and 9 of those have red eyes. Anyone have secrets for bulletproof sleep on planes?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sororities and the maximum number of residents

Carnegie Mellon's sororities only have 16 or fewer females living in them. The rumor was that more than 16 females living together was forbidden as the state considered it a brothel.

Not true, apparently. Snopes says it's not true in general either.

(But a random joke site says it's true!)

Midway

Chicago Midway, most boxed in airport I've ever seen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Port

I don't like wine very much. But I have developed an affinity for port. In fact, I like 6 Grapes a lot, and my favorite retailer carries it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for other good ports to try?

(I still love good beer. If you like beer and want good ratings on beer, check out Beer Advocate)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Opt out of receiving credit card offers

I hate receiving credit card offers. I don't need to receive them, I've got 1.5 credit cards, I don't need more cards. And if I want one, it won't be because I get an offer in the mail, it'll be because I researched it.

You can opt out of credit card offers - Opt out prescreen works with the credit bureaus so you can stop getting them.

Also, if you get credit card offers, don't forget to shred them so no one searches your trash and gets a card in your name!

(FYI: the site is FTC endorsed)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Delta + US Airways = crazy delicious?

US Airways trying to merge with Delta

This is big; as a former Pittsburgh resident, I'm a big fan of US Airways. As a kid, I loved Delta (because it brought me to Disney World).

Summary for those too lazy to read the article: Delta is operating in bankruptcy. US Airways is offering 8 billion, not to Delta, but to Delta's creditors. Delta doesn't want to merge.

The combined company would be called Delta. It won't happen until at least January when Congress re-convenes (they have to make sure it's not violating anti-trust).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tier Matching

I fly too much.

There are three major airline alliances in the world, Star Alliance (Notable partners: US Airways, United, Lufthansa, and Air Canada), oneworld (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific) and SkyTeam (Delta, Northwest, Continental, and KLM). The major benefit of these is earning miles on fewer airlines: if I fly on United, I get miles on US Airways (or vice versa). In effect, you need 3 frequent flier programs to cover the major US carriers. (Jet Blue and Southwest are different - they don't partner, and their miles expire much more quickly)

Well, not only can you earn miles for free tickets, but you can also earn status. Well, I thought that was cool - I flew so much on United and US Airways this year that I got Silver Preferred on US Airways. But the problem is I will probably start flying United a lot more as my work trips to Pittsburgh are going to lessen. And if I had status on United, I could get cool things like Economy Plus seats.

Well, here's the airlines' dirty little secret: you can ask for matching status on other airlines. Today, I requested status on American and United. And you can too. Sometimes you might have to ask for it through a travel agent, or you fax things in. But don't forget this, if you ever fly too much - you can be 'cool' on many airlines even if you don't fly with them much. I know that right now, I select slightly more expensive United or US Airways tickets because I get more miles. Other airlines are smart to compete with that bonus to level the playing field.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I have a problem

I have a problem. I spend a lot of time looking at flight prices and thinking about whether I should travel or not.

I spend a lot of time at Kayak. Every week, I read my domestic and international fare deals from SmarterTravel.com.

One thing I don't get is why I will sometimes see longer, more expensive flights that take off earlier and land later listed by the same airline on a search. For example, let's say I'm traveling to Pittsburgh, I just saw these two flight options listed:

Flight 1, US Airways, departs SFO 10:30pm, lands PIT 6:00 am. $499
Flight 2, US Airways, departs SFO 8:00pm, goes through Chicago, lands PIT 7:00am. $509

Now, I don't know about you, but I'd prefer flight 1 (too bad United has flights for half price that aren't direct). Well, I would go so far to say I don't want to see flight 2 in my results - I have to be at SFO earlier, I land at Pittsburgh later, and I pay more money.

However, people have departure time needs. People want to arrive by a certain time. People have airline preferences. And they don't want their searches to be more complex. I propose that an airline search doesn't even display flights that take off earlier, land later, and cost more that are on the same airline.

This creates another problem. What if I book a couple days after my friend does, and I want the more expensive, less useful flights so I can be on the same flight as him. How do we avoid users being confused that what was an option now isn't?

People who look for the cheapest, or direct with less regard to cost, flights won't often notice the longer flight, more money problem - it's people who are optimizing for both time and money who will. So this is a smaller crowd we're talking about.

I've included pseudocode about the first way I can think to filter. I can't figure out how to make this any better than O(number of flights^2) (but I've only spent 10 minutes), though with airlines separated, it gets to be a bit more reasonable in the real world.
List<flight> logicalChoices = new List<flight>();

for (Airline airline : airlines) {
flights = search(departureDateRange, departureAirport,
arrivalTimeRange, arrivalAirport,
airline);
flights.sortByPriceAscending();
for (i=0; i < flights.length; i++) {
boolean displayFlight = true;
for (int j = 0; j < i; j++) {
if (flight[j].totalDuration < flight[i].totalDuration
&& flight[j].departureTime > flight[i].departureTime
&& flight[j].arrivalTime < flight[i].arrivalTime) {
// assert flight[j].price < flight[i].price - ordered by price asc
displayFlight = false;
break;
}
}
if (displayFlight) {
logicalChoices.add(flight[i]);
}
}
}

Display logicalChoices to user

Friday, November 03, 2006

The magic of voicemail

Attention potential callers:

If you call me 3 times and don't leave a voice mail, that's silly. Voice mail was intended for the type of communication that doesn't need a reply, or even the type that means "Please call me back". Text messaging works too. Also, email. 3 calls with no voicemail? That's just plain strange.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I used to think I was liberal

Proposition 1C is a California Proposition for $2.9 billion in bonds for housing.

The first thing the bill (on some ads, the only thing) supporters mention is that the bond includes money for homeless shelters and battered women's shelters. That's about 300 million out of 2.9 billion - a little over ten percent of the total money. The positioning of the bill is actually a huge turnoff for me on this bill - don't pitch the bill based on how ten percent of the money will be spent!

The other thing that makes me dislike this bill: California housing is expensive. If we subsidize housing, it will only get more expensive for everyone. Let the free market take care of it.

I dislike bonds. On this proposition, over the next 30 years the people will pay off $2.85 billion in principal and $3.3 billion in interest. It's not awesome to spend taxpayer money to pay off bond interest. If I had the option to pay $84 in taxes for this immediately or $182 over the next 30 years, I'd choose the $84 in taxes this year! (Values calculated as $2.85 billion / 33.8 million people and ($2.85 billion + $3.3 billion) / 33.8 million people, assuming the population stays constant. I'm too lazy to factor in how population growth will affect my total amount)

Of course, I probably will leave California in the next 30 years, but I'm also paying past bond interest with my taxes - if all programs were funded by bonds, every tax payer would pay about 2 times as much as she does currently. I say we use bonds as a last ditch measure, and just pay as we go.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Daylight Saving

When I was a kid, every clock in the house would have to be readjusted for Daylight Saving time. I'd often go quickly around the house and update all the clocks.

In 1996, Windows 95 prompted me to change the clock - wow, something that (more or less) changed itself!

This year, on the other hand, my alarm clock and computer both switched themselves - silently! So I woke up and thought I'd only slept in until 6:30 am. I had to be reminded by other people that I'd had an extra hour of sleep.

Some day I could imagine not even knowing that the time had switched, I just sleep in one day too long or too short.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm not cut out for this

I had a dream about snow last night. I dreamed it snowed 4 feet in Palo Alto, and therefore I was happier than all get-out.

This tells me a few things:
1. I probably need to add a blanket to my bed!
2. I probably should consider eventually moving to a colder climate.
3. I can't wait for the ski season.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thanksgiving, redux

Right now, the cheapest flight from SJC/SFO to Boston, Manchester, or Portland for Thanksgiving (Wednesday-Sunday) is about $650.

Direct flight from SFO to Heathrow + hotel is about $700.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Facebook jumps the Shark

This site warns that Facebook will put sponsored stories on their news feed. And today, I logged in and found they have linked to the Washington Post with an article named Celebritology. I can't find a way to turn it off.

I already ditched MySpace in June. I almost just deleted my account - it's that annoying.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On notice: Delta

For Christmas originally my flights looked like this:
San Jose->LAX, 10am-11:15am
LAX->Logan, 12:20pm-8:40pm

Well, tonight I logged in to Expedia and my flights looked like this:
San Jose->LAX, 10am-11:15am
LAX->Logan, 11am-7:32pm

I've had flights rescheduled after booking before, but I've never had them schedule me out of a flight without being notified & automatically booked on a comparable trip. I wonder if they would have notified me before my flights!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Partially hydrogenated oil

I urge everyone who is a fan of Costco to complain about the prevalence of trans fat in many of their foods. For such a progressive company (living wages, trust in the customers and employees) I'm amazed they don't have a policy against it yet.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Youtube



Was this filmed in front of a TGI Friday's?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Getting things done

I have decided I am not getting enough of my 'core job' done (I have lots of things to say I do, but I'm not making enough progress on what I am really judged by)

I will therefore:
1. Attend fewer meetings
2. Make todo lists each day

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On Notice!


Make your own
I just emailed this to Ticketmaster (legal@ticketmaster.com), and I encourage you to do something similar:

To whom it may concern:

I disapprove of the following clause on my user info page (especially the bolded section):

By purchasing a ticket to an event, or completing this registration form in order to be able to purchase a ticket to an event or to bid in an auction, you indicate that you consent to Ticketmaster sharing your e-mail address and other information (e.g., venues, teams, artists' representatives and fan clubs, promoters and leagues), and that you consent to those involved in the event using your information to contact you by e-mail or other means to send you marketing or other messages or using or disclosing your information in other ways. Please contact them directly to learn about their policies.

I believe you need to clearly specify to the artists, venues, teams, etc what is proper use of my email address. They have no right to disclose my email address to a third party. I believe you should work with them to define what is appropriate use of my address (notification of a venue change, show cancellation, one time invitation to the fan club, etc) instead of just passing the buck. I also believe I should be able to opt out of the sharing of my address with a party other than Ticketmaster.

This is completely unacceptable from a privacy standpoint.

Want another reason to hate Ticketmaster?

From Ticketmaster's user info update page:

By purchasing a ticket to an event, or completing this registration form in order to be able to purchase a ticket to an event or to bid in an auction, you indicate that you consent to Ticketmaster sharing your e-mail address and other information ∫ (e.g., venues, teams, artists' representatives and fan clubs, promoters and leagues), and that you consent to those involved in the event using your information to contact you by e-mail or other means to send you marketing or other messages or using or disclosing your information in other ways. Please contact them directly to learn about their policies.


Basically: if you buy tickets to Blue Man Group at the Cumberland County Civic Center (like I have), you consent to Blue Man Group, the Civic Center, and the BMG fan club spamming you. And maybe to them selling your email address to another company.

Not cool.

Google Transit + Pittsburgh = Crazy Delicious

5000 Forbes to Pittsburgh International Airport (CMU to the airport)
5000 Forbes to 300 Waterfront Drive West, Homestead, PA (CMU to the movie theatre)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lost Luggage

I flew to Pittsburgh last weekend (and no, I don't want to talk about last night Steelers' game).

I flew United to Las Vegas McCarran, then transferred to my usual airline. I had an hour and a half layover, but I skipped the slots in Las Vegas.

My checked bag didn't make it. And that's not so rare apparently. Out of the 8 people I talked to who flew to Pittsburgh from California this weekend, 4 lost their luggage. One lost her luggage on a direct flight!

I got my bag 18 hours after landing, so that worked - but I can't find any news about a recent surge in lost luggage. I assume it might be due to more people checking bags due to the new TSA rules. It might just be noise - but it sure is strange.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You down with TSA?

According to the TSA's banned item list I still can't bring gel shaving cream, economy sized saline solution, or drinking water on the plane. Still.

I thought this was resolved! Seriously, no water?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I think some kind of cross referencing is in order

Today, I got an application in the mail from my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon. Ok, so maybe a master's application makes sense - I'm an alumnus! Nope, it's a first year, undergraduate application.

I think that the alumni association could talk to the admissions department and check that people who graduated from Carnegie Mellon don't need to do undergrad there again!

(Jim points out that it might be because I signed up for the Carnegie Mellon Admission Council. I think it might be because my smiling face is in it.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mac Ads

If you haven't seen the Mac ads, I recommend them highly. Even if you're a PC user, you should enjoy them.

I heard about some new Mac ad ideas today, and also enjoyed them - if a little too out there for Apple to use. Enjoy!

September 11, 2006

I had grandiose dreams about writing a long essay about how 9/11/2001 changed me. I never really found the words. Here's a brief account of what I wanted to say, on the fifth anniversary:

On September 11, 2001, at about 9:30 AM, I was in Mr. Haskell's Senior Religion/Theology class. Then, Principal Mullen made an announcement - "Two planes have hit the World Trade Center in New York. If you have family you need to contact, please come to the office." I asked if it was a drill - it seemed too outlandish, too violent to be true.

The class continued, but we started talking about the Just War theory. In my next class, Latin, we went to the library and watched the second tower fall.

I won't lie, living in Maine makes one feel safe and secure. Violence is an exception, not a rule. I lived my life in the belief that nothing bad could happen in America - wars, bombs, hijackings, and chaos were all international. I was innocent. I definitely lost a lot of my innocence that day. I also lost what I thought was a guarantee of a safe life.

(Slate has a graphic novel depiction of the 9/11 report.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

No Ketchup Dinner

I just had an idea for a dinner party: The No Ketchup Dinner.

The idea is simple. A few days ahead, everyone notifies the group what item he'll bring. The item must be something that he consumes with ketchup, like hot dogs, fries, hamburgers, fish sticks, tater tots, home fries, omelets, meat-loaf, onion rings, chicken nuggets, etc (I thought there'd be more. What did I miss?)

Then everyone would bring condiments she likes with those items. For example, I like ranch dressing with fries, honey mustard with chicken nuggets, sauerkraut and mustard with hot dogs, or guacamole with hamburgers. And, of course, everyone shares the condiments.

For desert, we could have Ketchup Cake.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Atrium

I've previously talked about a military base (wikipedia) near my parents' house is closing.

Today, I went to the Portland Press Herald site and saw a story I hadn't expected: Brunswick hotel closing before Navy base does. The Atrium is a hotel near where I grew up, across the street from the base. We used to go there for Chinese food when my grandparents were at their summer cottage.

Over the past 10 years, the hotel has become more run-down and their clientele has become primarily military. Now, the owners can't stay in business.

It's a bellweather of things to come. I'm curious to see what Brunswick will look like after 2011, when the base is officially destaffed.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Misspelled

There are a few words that really bother me when misspelled. For example, I cringe when I see 'definatly'. I must have annoyed a few people before I learned that ridiculous is spelled 'ri' not 're'. The whole it's/its, your/you're, and their/they're/there thing makes my skin crawl when I read the wrong one.

What are the misspellings that make you cringe?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Outsmarted

I tried to get really good tickets to the Dave Matthews Band show at Shoreline Amphitheatre by joining up for the DMB fanclub and buying the tickets in March.

Well, I'm in row S of section 200 (seating chart), which is one of the back seating areas before the grass seating.

Fan club tickets are based on seniority (so I'm a new member, I'll be at the back of the fan clubbers) but I'm guessing some people who bought through TicketMaster will be sitting ahead of me.

I had pretty far back seats in North Carolina and still had a great time, so it should still be a great show. So sometimes, ticket sellers outsmart me!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The first twinge

I smelled the first twinge of autumn in the air this morning, faint but detectible.
In my family, the first hints of autumn always coincide with the first discussions of the ski season.

Ways in which the ski season's ramping up:
* My skiing magazines (Ski and Powder) have started to arrive for the season.
* My family is already talking about a trip to Mammoth Mountain for January.
* I'm thinking about a $399 season pass to Alpine Meadows.
* My oldest sister is coming to town in early December, and we're talking about going skiing.
* I've ordered a Camelbak Scorpion, with a built in insulated tube so the mouthpiece doesn't freeze!
* I've ordered new ski socks, pants, gloves, and a hat. (Hey Carolyn, want your gloves back?)
* Every member of my family has already mentioned the ski season to me!

So I know that ski season is at least 3 months away, but the first scent of fall air reminds me of the snow.

Unlike parents, I mourn the start of the school year

I bike to work on average 2-3 times a week. It's 6 miles, it's safe, I ride in bike lanes for most of the time. All in all, about the perfect ride to work.

Well, today was the start of school in Palo Alto.

I pass by 2 schools on the way to work. I also live in an area where tons of kids bike to school or parents drive the kids in. This makes for lots of fun, as I pass by the schools during peak drop-off time. Bike lanes become temporary parking lanes. Parents cut off bikers to pull into bike lanes, having seen the bikers. It makes my otherwise tranquil ride not so tranquil and a few minutes longer.

So, Palo Alto parents, if your child goes to Addison Elementary School or Duveneck Elementary School, I beseech you, look for bikers!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A veritable crapstorm of Spam

The past few days have seemed to be amazingly bad for Spam. Anyone else seeing this? I'm getting a metric crapload on all my addresses. Sad.

The Stehlik Fund

If you went to the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science and find yourself with some extra money, I encourage you to donate some of that to Mark Stehlik's discretionary spending fund aka the Stehlik Fund.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

National parks visited

I never knew some places were national parks, I swore the only national park I'd been to was The Grand Canyon, and I'd driven around Acadia. So, with no further ado, the national parks (and recreation areas, and monuments, whatever is listed at the national parks listing) I've visited.

Acadia
Cape Cod National Seashore
Fire Island National Seashore
Golden Gate Recreation Area/Alcatraz/Presidio of San Francisco/San Francisco Maritime
Grand Canyon
Lake Mead (at least Hoover Dam)
Minute Man National Historical Park
National Mall/Washington Monument
Saguaro National Park (I believe... it's been awhile)
Statue of Liberty
Yosemite

I want to go to Devils Postpile when I'm next in Mammoth. Only problem, it's only open from mid June to mid October.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bryan!

I'd like to point out my friend Bryan got a post on the Google Blog.

Friday, August 04, 2006

wOOt

Does anyone else think that it's cute that Woot advertises on Adwords for Goog?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Password-storage-busting

Firefox and Internet Explorer store passwords if you want them to. I'm sure other browsers do too, but the big two do.

However, there are times you don't want people auto logged in - sometimes it's unwise. You want to prevent this. (Nevermind that help desk bans password storage like this, that doesn't matter when it's not followed)

So, how do you fix this, with Struts + JSP + JSTL, in a cross platform way?

Let's explore the options:
1. Turn autocomplete off. This is a non-standard (non html-4.01) attribute. Struts doesn't want to pass it through - it's not XHTML. So I can't just do:
<html:form autocomplete="off">

2. Ok, let's try Javascript. Let's say
form.password.value = "";
This legitimately blanks the password field on load - however, when the user's cursor enters the password field, it pulls the password from the browser and automatically enters it for the user.

3. Howabout trying
<input type="password" autocomplete="off">
This is supposed to do the trick. It, upon my testing, does nothing about preventing password storage in Firefox 1.5.

4. Now how about the option I liked the best: Having the following in your jsp:
<jsp:useBean id="now" class="java.util.Date" scope="request"/>
<c:set var="nowInt" value="${now.time}" scope="page"/>
<input type="text" name="username/">
<input type="password" name="password<c:out value="${nowInt}"/>"/>
<input type="hidden" name="salt" value="<c:out value="${nowInt}"/>">

On the backend, you do:

String salt = (String) PropertyUtils.getSimpleProperty("salt");
String username = (String) PropertyUtils.getSimpleProperty("username");
String password = (String) PropertyUtils.getSimpleProperty("password" + salt);

Unfortunately, this doesn't work. strut's config doesn't allow a dynamically named form element name. It works on the frontend, no password is ever stored, across any browser. Close, but not working on the backend.

4a. The final solution works! We use the same frontend from 4, and we ignore Struts to get what we want.

String salt = (String) PropertyUtils.getSimpleProperty("salt");
String username = (String) PropertyUtils.getSimpleProperty("username");
String password = (String) request.getProperty("password" + salt);
verify(username, password);


Basically, Struts sometimes is useful. It makes everything we do regular. But sometimes it gets in my way. However, this is the solution I liked in the first place, it just took beating struts into submission.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Krispy Kreme vs Dunkin Donuts

An intern asked me today "What does Dunkin Donuts have that Krispy Kreme doesn't?"

Muffins.
Bagels.
Bagels with meat and cheese.
Better coffee.
And good dounts.

(of course, the best donuts I've ever had come from Frosty's Donuts in Brunswick, Maine)

[Previously...]

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Blogroll

I've made some additions on my blogroll/siteroll. With no further ado, I've added:

Cute Overload, pictures of cute animals.
Burbed, a blog about ridiculous housing prices
Bill Monk, a site for tracking shared bills among friends

Enjoy!

A good UI

I was in Helen's car (a 2002 Prius) the other day and we used the GPS to get from one place to another.

The UI for entering the destination address was pretty awesome! When you push letters, letters that couldn't happen after disappear. So if I type 'S-o-u', every letter but 't' dims. Ok, so clever use of a trie. But they filled the trie with the street names in the US - so once I type in 's-o-u-t-h-b-r', very few letters are up - it's not trying to build a compound word, but it really only looks at legit street names.

Once you enter the street name, they show you only cities that have streets of that name in the state (I forget how one chooses another state).

I have to say, they could have put a pretty bad UI in the system - one where you enter every little detail - but they seemed to take the extra step and make it that much better. (My only complaint: they do an ABCDEF keyboard instead of QWERTY)

I'm glad I never played with this system before I bought my new car. Otherwise I might have tried to hold out for a GPS system!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Keep Them Afraid!

Homeland Security Advisory System level history:

Although the system in theory consists of five levels, the threat level has never been lowered to blue or green, nor elevated to red. The threat level has stood at yellow for most of its existence. (source)


Yep, it's stayed at Yellow or Orange since its inception at March of 2002. This seems fishy to me...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Biking isn't that slow

Between stop lights and taking back roads to work, my driving commute in is 13 minutes, starting car to parking. (I could take 101, but having to come to a complete stop on an onramp makes my commute much less happy).

My biking commute is 30 minutes, getting on the bike to getting off the bike.

Biking isn't that much slower than driving! I'd never timed it before, but this is surprising - it's only twice as much time to bike!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

DMV

I have complained about the DMV before. I'm going to do it again.

I moved to the area in January, and in April I decided that it was time to get a California license and California registration. At the time, you had to make a separate appointment for each, or risk waiting in line for 2 hours. I made two appointments, and went to the DMV twice (during work hours no less). That went relatively smoothly.

Now, I bought a car. The guy selling it doesn't have a copy of the title, so we fill out a title-less transfer form. I then go to the DMV, and they say we need a bill of sale too. They say that's all I need.

So I meet the guy this weekend for that signature. Again, I go back to the DMV during work hours. The DMV then says "Oh, California has never had the title for that - Montana must have it. Sorry we didn't tell you this last time! You can't use that form, you really need the title or a copy of it!"

I'm tired of the DMV.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Goodbye, Myspace

Goodbye, Myspace. The amount of people I don't know asking to friend me, the number of invitations to events I have no interest in going to, etc was way too much.

Basically: your level of abuse is too high, and the signal to noise is really bad. I'll stick to Facebook.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Baby blogs

Let's face it, baby blogs are the new black. Actually, babies are the new black. It's summer in the valley, and I see many, many babies. Also, I see many pregnant women.

Many of my coworkers' wives have recently had children. Most of my breeding coworkers have baby blogs. They're very trendy!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Taxes and the DMV

The taxes on my new car cost more than the purchase price of the Thunderbird (in 2001), by about $8.

There's something about the way the DMV employees seem to treat me as meat and don't really show joy and are kind of brisk that makes me extremely nervous there.

Bill Monk @ Google

BillMonk came to Google last Friday and gave a great talk.

Who is that handsome devil introducing them?!

Try out BillMonk. It's fantastic if you ever go out with friends and split bills, or live with someone and pay utilities!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Google News in Arabic

I'm really glad that Google is launching Arabic services lately:
Google News Arabic
Gmail Arabic
Google Translate (English <-> Arabic)

I'm sad it has taken this long to do, but part of the problem with Arabic is most programmers design pages right to left, not start to finish!

Saving money on your car insurance

I pay $164.46 per 6 months on my Thunderbird
I get a discount of $117.42 per 6 months on my Audi because I have the Thunderbird.

Yes, it makes me greatly sad that when I remove the Thunderbird, I'll save $50 every 6 months.

Anyone want to buy a used Thunderbird?

Monday, June 12, 2006

New car details!

I test drove a car from Craigslist the other day. If you're interested here's the listing.

Details:
Audi A4 Avant (wagon)
Engine: 1.8 Liter Turbo
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Year: 2002
Color: Silver with a tinge of blue
Quattro (All-wheel drive)
37,500 miles
Moon roof
Climate control

Things it has in common with the Thunderbird:
* Leather
* Moon roof
* Manual transmission
* Pressure intake (supercharger/turbocharger)

Things the Audi doesn't have in common with the Thunderbird:
* It gets 25 miles per gallon
* It will make it up to Lake Tahoe if it snows
* It works!

Jim is already trolling for rides to Ikea... hrm...

I bought a car!

Sometimes, it's just time to give it up and buy a new (used) car.

And I have.

Details to follow...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Burbed

Burbed, the Bay Area Home Price and Mortgage Insanity Blog. Interesting read, $600k for 827 sq feet in a merely OK city. WTF, mate?

Gay Marriage ban vote

List of US Senators' votes for gay marriage ban

I suggest contacting your senators and either thank them for voting against the gay marriage ban, or harangue them for voting for the gay marriage ban.

I thanked Maine's Republican Senators for breaking party lines and said how impressed I am.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I'm a romantic

Is it strange I tried to explain something completely non technical to my girlfriend today by talking about L1 and L2 cache?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Digital SLR Hesitation / Graduation gift

I got a bunch of money for graduation - about enough for a new Canon Digital Rebel XT SLR camera. I'm having a hard time figuring out if I really want to spend the money on it or something else - so I asked my granddad, who has one.


Granddad,

As you know, I'm thinking about getting a Canon Digital Rebel - but I
am having a logical problem with buying a digital SLR.

My dad had his film SLR for as long as I remember - at least 15 years.
Computer technology makes things pretty obsolete in 5 years (although
8 megapixels will still be high quality and usb and jpgs will still be
around).

When it comes time to retire the camera, I only need to buy a new body
since a new SLR body is $600, and I'll be able to reuse lenses.

I just am being cautious about signing up for a lifetime of following
SLR technology and upgrading every 5 years.

What's your take on how long the body will stick with the times, and
whether it's worth getting?

Thanks,

Matt


Dear readers, if you have an SLR - would you have done it again? Can anyone suggest something else awesome to get for graduation? I got a nice watch from my parents - a metal band, professional watch.


[Edit: Friday 8:23 am PDT]

Hi Matt:

It's true that computer technology manages to obsolete older gadgets every few years, but the value of money also goes down at a steady rate (about 3% per year). I think that Canon has the latest and probably the most enduring technology in the CMOS sensors so there you are at the vanguard, if CMOS is the newest sensor technology. The lenses will in all likelihood be interchangeable for a long time, so that's a constant. 8 Megs is a good number for image capacity; I wish I had delayed by a few months to go from 6 to 8 Megs, but I'm not good at forecasting the future.

My counsel would be to think about it and when you feel comfortable, go for it with the thought that you will really enjoy the camera even with obsolescence built in. I still have a 35 mm camera from 1938; it's not very competitive in the current technology, but it's a wonderful antique that I enjoyed when I first bought it in 1942 for $10.00.

Granddad


My grandfather is basically saying go for it, or at least that's the message I choose to hear! I think I'm going to do it... more news to follow!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Well spent advertising budget?

Fox News has bought their way into Facebook with a Fox News sponsored group. If you use Facebook, you can see the group.

Let's break this down for you Fox:
College students: generally liberal
Fox News: slight lean to the right

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pwned

Sometimes, it pays to be a rich nerd - you're unrecognizable.

But sometimes, it's still pretty embarassing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why Expedia is much better than Orbitz

For my trip to Pittsburgh this week, Orbitz charged about $350 for the same flights Expedia wanted $500 for. So I booked on Orbitz.

Orbitz has sent me 4 emails asking if I want to add a rental car and hotel to my itinerary. Once was annoying. Twice was wrong. 4 times is spamming me.

Orbitz: no means no. No does not mean maybe tomorrow.

Goodbye 12" PowerBooks

Goodbye twelve inch pro-sumer Apple notebooks. We'll miss you.

Apple now has a 13" iBook replacement, and 15" and 17" PowerBook replacements. They are not selling any more iBooks or PowerBooks - so this is it folks. Looks like no more ultra portable pro laptops from Apple.

Monday, May 15, 2006

I blame browsers

I blame early browsers for the crappy HTML we see all over the internet - but not because they accept crappy html, but because they don't help developers notice crappy html. (I believe browsers should make a best-effort attemptto render crappy html so it doesn't degrade user experience.)

I blame browsers because there wasn't an easy way to switch to a strict renderer for web page developers. So web page developers could write crappy html, but it looked great in the browser!

BBC can't tell a cabbie from a music expert

The BBC grabbed a cabbie in their lobby instead of an expert in the music industry. YouTube has the video.

Thanks to Martin for finding this!

State power

Does anyone else think it's strange in a country where the states are supposed to do most things themselves, the states are supposed to wield most of the power, that I pay 3 times as much federal taxes as state taxes?

And in political humor: Live from New York... it's President Al Gore!

Friday, May 12, 2006

College was good

Today, I sent in my first college loan-repayment check. Well, I did online bill pay for it.

It seemed so far in the future when I signed up for college debt!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The problem with having a French last name

The problem with having a French last name is having an email address that it's easy for French speaking people to send email to. I've gotten for people looking for Marc Laroche, and Michael Laroche, both in French.

Interesting tidbit: I reply using Google Translator (saying "sorry, you have the wrong email address" but in French) and both times people have replied in English (just a few words).

I feel pretty ashamed for being this lame with French and having a French last name. Whoops!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Clean as a whistle

I may have washed my cell phone (or at least doused it), but it works.

I'm very impressed by the quality of cell phones - they persist in working after I try to kill them.

I'm keeping the one I ordered on eBay as backup. Plus, it's unlocked - better for international travel!

Pimping BillMonk

Bill Monk is a brilliant idea. It's a lightweight lending tool - perfect for busy college student. Bills come in, you list them on BillMonk, then choose people to split with.

Let's say I run an apartment, I pay the rent and utilities and my housemates pay me back. I just enter rent, then select who to split it with - and how (either divide it evenly, or enter set amounts). Then someone else buys TP and paper towels - they put in the total amount they spent and split it among the housemates. Immediately, that person owes me less - it reconciles how much I owe the other person vs how much she owes me.

It also works for lending books - I just entered all the fiction books I have (it's hard to deal with the 99 book limit (which should be lifted soon)). If you want to borrow a book from me, go down to BillMonk, then add me as a friend. Once I approve it, you can browse my library, then ask me for the book. I'll give you it and mark it as checked out.

Why didn't I think of this in college? It sure beats spreadsheets and remembering who bought what!

Monday, May 08, 2006

The RIAA wants to make convenience illegal

Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman (leaders of the RIAA) are at Google today speaking about Digital Rights Management, the music industry, etc.

At one point, they explain that if one records a song onto casette off the radio, then that's not illegal. But if you rip a stream into an MP3, it's illegal.

The reason is because: you can automate the rip so it's unattended, MP3 is much higher quality than radio on casette, and MP3s can be labeled/tagged, where tapes must have seek time.

That's incredible. They're basically saying convenience is illegal!

I'll link to the video when it goes on Google Video.

My problem with PayPal

I have a problem with PayPal. And I have a problem with cell phones.

My problem with cell phones is that when I have the cell phone in a side pocket (nail pocket on carpenter jeans, or in a cargo pocket), I forget the cell phone is there. I often want to wash the pants I'm currently wearing, so I'll take them off, and immediately put them in the wash. This means, in the past 3 years, I've washed 3 cell phones. Last night, I noticed before the cell phone had turned itself off, but after it was immersed. This morning, it's not doing so hot. So I need to order a new cell phone.

The "best" place to get a new cell phone is on eBay. It's also the only one I know about. And about the only way to buy a cell phone on eBay is with PayPal.

Most big PayPal sellers only ship to the address listed on your credit card. For me, my credit card address is my apartment. But I'm never at my apartment during the day to sign for FedEx. So basically, unless I point my billing address for one card at work, I can't get items I buy on eBay shipped to work.

PayPal used to confirm addresses by sending a letter to them and one just had to enter a special code from the letter to confirm an address. However, shipping only to billing addresses does add a certain level of anti-fraud protection.

It's right now that I miss soul-less apartment complexes that will sign for packages. But only right now.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A new Orkut feature

Orkut just added a new 'feature', the ability to see who has viewed your profile recently.

This is both good and bad:
The good: you can see how many random people you'll never meet browse your profile and know way too much about you.
The bad: you can't browse random profiles of people you're interested in or just met without them knowing you're interested them.

Of the past 5 people to browse my profile on Orkut, I know 1 person. Therefore, I removed everything on my Orkut profile. It's just plain odd. My Facebook profile is also sanitized - for a similar reason. I just want people to know me through me, not think they know me because they've read my profile.

Thank you, social network creators, for enabling some level of privacy - to allow me to use the social network to look up phone numbers while on the go, but allowing me to not be stalked by people who aren't in my network.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I just might sign up for this

Valley Schwag promises to deliver, for under $15 a month with shipping, Silicon Valley apparel, pens, and stickers to your home.

I just might sign up. If I do, I might be almost as cool as Vinnie.

[Edit: Vinnie says that this company doesn't pay for the schwag, they beg valley companies for the shirts and stickers, then pocket the $14.95 minus shipping minus PayPal fees. Now that's an interesting business strategy!]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sheer magnitude

Let's assume there are 15 million people with California licenses. It feels like a lowball, and I only want to do an order of magnitude approximation.
Let's assume the DMV prints licenses every business day in a year - about 250 days. Let's assume that IDs last for 4 years.

That means, once every 1000 DMV-days, you need a new license. 15 million people * (1 license per person per 1000 dmv days) = 15,000 licenses per DMV day.

That is just plain amazing throughput on new licensing.

I've also been spending a lot of time thinking about the sorting procedures for the US Post Office. I can see roughly how FedEx works by online tracking. But the USPS' magnitude is just staggering. I know lots is handled without human interaction. Still stunning.

In sha Allah

There's a phrase in Arabic that I want to repeat lots of times in real life. "In sha Allah" - "if God wills" (ان شاء الله). It's said all the time in the middle east:

Example 1:
Person 1: "Great: so I'll see you Thursday!"
Person 2: "In sha Allah"

Example 2:
Person 1: "I'm going to Europe next summer, in sha Allah"

I'm not religious, it's just a great phrase to emphasize how sometimes things are out of control, though we'd like to do something. In America, if you say "hopefully", it really means that it's not firm, not that things might prevent it. Hopefully really sounds negative. Hopefully and in sha Allah really don't have the same connotation, and I don't think there is anything that means in sha Allah the same way culturally in English.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Closed for easter

The following were closed for Easter:
  • Frye's
  • Wal-Mart
  • Target
  • Costco
  • In-n-Out
  • Toys'R'Us
I guess when I was in grade school I spent Easter with family, and in college I spent it doing buggy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mind power

Wikipedia is an amazing exercise in distributed intelligence.
Points:
  • People have written bots to try to automatically detect vandalism
  • There's chat rooms where people watch edits and try to see vandalism
  • Vandalism is often cleaned up within 5 minutes
  • Articles that have 'stub' status (need more detail) get recategorized into more specific groups
  • Articles get cleaned up when someone adds something that isn't wikified (an internal link) or if they have extra newlines.
Wikipedia is just a great example of lots of minds helping out a little, and a few helping out a lot, and getting something done. It, to me, is one of the most amazing clusters on earth - all human, all unpaid.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Intolerence

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment.


If Carnegie Mellon ever overturns their "we shall not discriminate against race, religion, sexual orientation, etc..." in any way, they're not getting a dime in donations from me, and I'll rail against them. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure we don't have to worry about Carnegie Mellon. It's the schools that are just starting to make the right steps we have to worry about. Doesn't everyone deserve the right to be themselves at work, even if it's not in a trait that's a protected status?

The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.


Your workplace has decided the company's morals include not discriminating against people based on sexual preference. I believe one should choose to work elsewhere before choosing to speak out at work against being gay.

Your religion gives you the right to believe views outside the social norm, but it doesn't give you the right to start convincing others of your view.

[Gregory S. Baylor] says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.


I don't think people choose a life of feeling different, of being called 'fag', of being abused in high school. Even if it's a lifestyle choice, does that make it right to enforce your religious views on the world when you can't find a natural law argument against it?

In the public schools, an Ohio middle school student last year won the right to wear a T-shirt that proclaimed: "Homosexuality is a sin! Islam is a lie! Abortion is murder!" But a teen-ager in Kentucky lost in federal court when he tried to exempt himself from a school program on gay tolerance on the grounds that it violated his religious beliefs.


In Middle school a child is so hateful to wear a shirt like that? Even the word 'murder' should keep a shirt like that out of the classroom.

The whole article infuriates me. I know many relgious people who think homosexuality is immoral, but they don't speak against it. They don't wear anti-homosexuality shirts. Believe what you believe, but keep it to yourself. But I wish you didn't believe homosexuality was wrong.

Software patents

Last summer at IBM, we filed a few internal IBM patent disclosures.

Finally, yesterday, I received the materials to actually sign for one.

Say what you will about software patents and how stupid/evil/whatever they are, it's pretty cool to apply for my first one.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If commercial buyers were smart...

TiVo's cool - you can fast forward, and once you see what you want to watch, you press play. It rewinds a bit to account for reaction time, so you press play and see maybe 5 seconds of the last commercial in the break.

If people who bought commercial time were smart, they'd pay more for the first and last slot to advertise better to the TiVo fastforwarding people (and those doing stuff during breaks). I am guessing they already do. But if they were really smart, they'd have the last commercial before a show have a funny punchline. I've rewound TiVo at least twice to see a whole commercial that had a fun ending.

TiVo is actually really cool. I don't watch live TV anymore. I don't discover new shows, but I enjoy the time I'm watching TV more because it's on my schedule and it's the shows I want to watch, not whatever happens to be on..

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The end of an era

The beginning:

And the end:
Maine license plate SC Roach
Today, I retired my old license plates, my Maine plates.

Tomorrow, I request my California license - it takes a week or two to come in the mail.

I know of nothing more on paper that ties me to Maine or Pennsylvania. All mail comes here, I have my own insurance (car/dental/vision/medical), I'm not a dependent, and my car stuff is transferred to Califrnia.

It may have taken 3 months, but I think almost everything is taken care of with moving out here.

[EDIT: I have also registered to vote, and now have a paper California license. In a bit, I'll get my real one - I probably should bring my passport to the airport until I get my new license, since they punched a hole in my old one.]

Monday, April 10, 2006

Using the internet to find cheap car parts

My car needs a new radiator fan motor. Problem is, according to my mechanic, no one sells just the fan motor - they sell the motor + the fan assembly. And it's a spcial order part - to the tune of $480 for just the part.

Just a little searching around today, I found the part for under $200. And by a little searching, I mean 5 minutes with my favorite search engine.

So there's some problem in the car repair industry - car shops look at one or two sources to find a part - they don't hunt around for great prices. Since they mark up a percentage of what they pay, they have an incentive not to look around.

If they did look more, however, I'd create a network of parts buyers & sellers. Buyers get rare parts cheaper, mark them up, but pass on the savings to their customers - who are happier and more loyal to the intelligent mechanics who find cheaper parts and save them money. Sellers don't get quite so much a markup - but they sell their parts more quickly and do more business - if they play ball with prices. And it's easier all around.

Part of the problem, though, when I've searched for parts many aren't really findable without asking "do you have the anti-lock speed sensor for a front passenger brake on a 1990 Ford Thunderbird?" There needs to be a better, more specific part labeling system.

Moral of the story: I'm getting my car back from the shop tomorrow, about $600 poorer on a simple part. The market hasn't become very optimized. It's ripe for the picking.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Coinstar

I think Coinstar would be smart if they could recognize rare coins, like the wheat sheaf penny. I mean, I'd love part of the added value - but analyzing the resale value realtime is probably really difficult. Every time I bring change to the Coinstar, I know I put in a couple wheat sheaf pennies. Multiply that by 5 people using each machine per day times thousands of machines, and they could definitely make a ton more money through a little hard work.

Maybe they do this - I couldn't tell searching around online.

Netflix for books!

I just thought to myself "wouldn't it be awesome if there were a Netflix for books. You could ship books back and forth, you only need 2 books at a time out because it takes longer to read books than watch movies, and shipping could be a bit slower to save money."

Then I realized: yeah, use a library.

But a big part of the Netflix experience is not simply being a place to get movies. It's having a queue of the next movies I want to see, it's getting recommendations about which movies I might like. I would really enjoy a site like that for books.

I use Amazon for that to some extent - Amazon knows what books I own (both through what I've purchased there, and what I've told it I own). But it's not the same as the Netflix experience.

So, for the moment, I still rely on friends for book recommendations. I wonder when that will end.

[Edit: Apparently it exists at booksfree.com. But I'd love some way for my library to do it for me intelligently - some kind of intelligent system tied into borrowing]

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Traffic

I wasn't feeling well today so I headed home at about 4:40 pm. I assumed that traffic would be light - I was leaving work early, right?

Uh, no.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blogger comments

Why the heck can't you use your Google account to leave messages on blogger? Why hasn't Blogger been rolled into Google accounts yet?

Most of the people who read this blog have gmail accounts but don't have blogger accounts. I prefer comments from logged in people instead of anonymous posts with a sig.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomba

I ordered a Roomba today. For those of you who must know, I ordered the Discovery SE.

This robot has 2 purposes:
1. It will vacuum my bedroom floor, and possibly the floor in the hall, my closet, and the living room.
2. It will force me to keep the bedroom floor, the hall, my closet, and the living room floors clear of cords and junk.

But they're cool, and they really do work.

Firefox

Firefox 1.5.01 is seriously broken on OS X, or at least on my work machine. It hangs temporarily, it ignores keyboard input, etc. It reminds me of a Windows 95 machine that needs a clean version of the OS. Though reinstalling Firefox isn't doing anything for me.

But it's fine on my personal laptop. Sad.

[Update] It might be FaultVault dumbness.

Wednesday musing continued

Maine has highways, routes, and a turnpike.
Maine definitions:
Highway: a divided road with multiple lanes (usually 2 or 3) in each direction, and no stop lights.
Route: 2 lanes, usually one in each direction, may have stoplights or stop signs occasionally, but meant for long, back country trips
Turnpike: A highway with tolls

New York has Highways, Expressways, Throughways,
Expressway: See Maine, Highway, but with more lanes
Highway: Like a Maine route, but with more lanes and more stoplights, and not usually back country
Throughway: See Maine, Highway.

Southern California has The Roads:
The 5, The 101, and The 405. I think they call them Freeways, which are really just Highways. Not sure about The Definite Article on it though...

Northern California has HIghways, Expressways, and Routes:
Route: See Maine, Route, but more curvy sometimes due to mountains
Highway: See Maine, Highway, but with more lanes
Expressway: A road with fewer exits/roads and fewer stop lights, but 2-4 lanes in each direction. The Lawrence Expressway has really long greens if you're going the main way, and they're nicely timed!

Wednesday shorts

What ever happened to changing one lane at a time? I see people shift 2 lanes at once frequently around here.

Clearly Pepsi One and Coke Zero are competing in the same market - but Coke Zero is clearly meant for those who zero index.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Another thing I want to see out of OS X Dashboard

I'm posting this from Google's Blogger widget. I'm posting from my personal 12" PowerBook. 

I love Apple's Dashboard. It creates an excellent mental separation from what I'm doing and what I'm trying to keep track of, and helps me check out what I want to check out. What I hate, however, is that I have such limited real estate on my small monitor, and I always have to shift widgets around and close some if I want to track a couple flights or monitor another ski resort. They need an auto-arrange feature for Dashboard that tries to keep things about how the user had them, but lays things out so everything's visible.

In posting this, I realize that the Blogger posting widget isn't great - it expands every time I type a new line, instead of having a scroll bar. Now that's annoying.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Satellite radio

I flew AirTran Airways this weekend to Pittsburgh to see Helen perform in performed by The Pittsburgh Savoyards. And to go to the Beaux Arts Ball.

AirTran provides XM satellite radio in each armrest. Now some other airline provides DirectTV in each seat-back. But I argue XM is a better choice, especially for red eye flights, because on red eyes the TV selection is limited, they charge for movies, and it's much easier to sleep to music than either TV or cabin noise. Plus I would prefer to read on flights, instead watching TV. Maybe if I had kids I'd choose TV over radio.

Plus, XM is better than the canned 12-channels 80-minutes of music that most flights have, because XM has 50+ channels of music, and then more of sports, talk, etc. And they have 2 electronica stations! So I can listen to a similar selection of what I'd listen to on my iPod, but without using battery. On normal flights with normal in flight music, I can't even find a station I like, and then on a 4 hour flight I hear the whole set 3 times.

Now don't get me wrong, AirTran isn't really convenient out of the bay area - they only have 2 flights from SFO, one to Indianapolis, and the other to Atlanta. But XM satellite radio is a great choice. Plus, XM wins: this weekend I realized how cool satellite radio is, and I just might have to get it in my next car. I still love you, Live 105. But I am not always in range.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Features that should be turned off

I think all school systems should disable auto-correct on their computers, and all students should too.

I think auto-correct is actually the root cause of why we have a lot of poor spellers in the US. People don't realize that they're spelling incorrectly because the only thing that knows they're spelling correctly often auto fixes it.

I used to think I was a good speller, until I started using Adium (an OS X chat client). Adium tells me when I spell something incorrectly by underlining it.

I then decided to disable auto-correct in Word. I now am learning how 'ridiculous' is actually spelt.

That reminds me, why do I have to go to a program with spell checking to write out my blog posts, instead of Firefox having integrated spell checking in all text areas? What about Blogger offering spell checking?

Wikipedia is a prime example of this: most articles I've found have at least a few misspellings. They need interactive spell correction in order to help gain more credibility.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'm fast

On January 10, I failed to pay a toll on the NJ Turnpike, so the NJ Transit Whatever tells me.

Only problem with that: I haven't been in New Jersey since August. I flew out to California on January 2 and haven't moved back. And my car was in the possession of the auto shippers from January 6-January 21.

This means one of two things: either someone from the car company was joyriding (unlikely), or my car being on the top of an auto trailer screwed up the sensor on the NJ Pike.

(When my parents called, I was trying to think "I didn't blow off any tolls recently, right? I mean, I have gone through some toll plazas before the light went green, but I paid...")

At first, I thought all hybrid drivers were assholes

I have seen a lot of people driving in hybrid cars, alone, in the carpool lane during rush hour. I thought they were jerks.

Now I know that California allows some hybrid vehicles to use the carpool lane with impunity.

Now I just think the people driving alone in the carpool lane in SUVs, BMWs, and non hybrid cars are jerks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Times you can't be thug

Two different peple blasting music while not achieving the image they wanted:

Target Parking lot, Mountain View: big African-American guy in a Pontiac Grand Am, blasting "It's Your Birthday" by 50 Cent. It sounded like he started that song just to drive in front of the Target. I'm not sure anyone can be thug at Target.

University Ave, Palo Alto: someone with an excellent stereo system in a Jetta blasting "Hit Me Baby One More Time." It's really hard to be thug in Palo Alto (I'm looking at you, angsty skateboarder kids in Lytton Park). And it's impossible to be thug while blasting Britney Spears.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The next thing I want to see out of the internet

I want an application (preferably web based) where I enter in which bands I'm interested, and how far I am willing to travel to see them, and it alerts me when the band announces when they're coming, and when the tickets go on sale. All of this through RSS when anything updates would be even better.

Ticketmaster's UI is just abysmal. It also doesn't register which bands I like very well and give me that custom UI. It thinks that I'd be willing to go to Reno for a concert, too. As it is, I'm relegated to going to band sites and checking them out one by one. It's hard to do.

This would require either fans to aggregate and submit the information, or for bands to supply an RSS feed of their shows - drawing people away from their site. Ticketmaster wouldn't give the data up either.

Though I could crawl it myself.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

S-M-R-T

I bought tickets for Raceday 2006 based on Raceday 2005 (currently does say RD 2005, it might be updated soon) dates.

I've changed them, but it was an expensive mistake.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Yep, I'm smart

You think I would have realized I'd have a hard time parking around my place when there's valet parking right across the street from my front door.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I'm going to go all Seinfeld on you for a post

Almost every counter service place I go to now has a jar on the counter for tips. And I don't understand why.

I feel awkward getting change back and not putting some in the jar, but at the same time, I feel more embarassed if I just put in a quarter. But when my bagel costs $1.90, I don't feel a $1 tip is appropriate.

How about this: no tip jar, and if your service rocks, I'll hand you money myself.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Speed dating

CIA (the organization I used to run at Carnegie Mellon) is holding a speed dating event this weekend. Mark, the social chair who is organizing it, got an email about how speed dating excludes the GLBT community, basically inviting an argument. Mark and the chair declined the bait, but I'll bite.

The event is targetting about 20 males and 20 females, but will probably only get 15 of each - about 30 total people. On average, let's say that 10% of people at Carnegie Mellon are gay. That means if you hold an event with 40 people, 4 will be gay. How do 4 people speed date, when statistically, there will be 2 gay males and 2 lesbians if people randomly show up?

I'm serious: how do you include gay people in speed dating without making it a gay person speed dating event? The guy who emailed to complain didn't even suggest a way to create a GLBT friendly event - he just said "some day you guys will be able to include us." He's creating an "us and them" mentality himself, fighting against what the gay community really should want - unity among all people.

Questions and comments on how speed dating could be gay inclusive while not making it a gay event are very welcome.

[Edit: Friday afternoon, 4 pm PST]
Actual text from the guy complaining about speed dating:

"[Speed dating is] also pretty exclusive of the GLBT community."
"One of these days, you guys are going to come up with some way to include people who aren't just attracted to the opposite sex. It can't be that difficult."

I still maintain this is creating an us-and-them mentality, and I still maintain this is inviting an argument and not being very gay-progressive. But I might as well include the exact rebuttal to speed dating.

I take back half of what I said bad about Krispy Kreme

Throughout college, I had a few Krispy Kreme donuts due to various fundraisers and boxes that friends had. I'd never really liked them, much preferring Dunkin Donuts, or Frosty's. Everyone said "oh, but they're so good fresh and warm." But I'd never had them that way.

This morning I was walking from the automotive shop to work - about a mile and a half. (My Thunderbird needs a new headlight switch) I really needed coffee - at one point I ran a red light because I thought it was a 2 way stop. So I stopped at a Krispy Kreme along the way.

I ordered their version of a Boston Cream donut and a large coffee and handed the cashier my money. Then all of the sudden, another employee hands me a fresh donut, apparently free with my order. I bit in and said to myself "oh, this is good."

So if I'm jonesing for a donut and coffee, and the "fresh donuts" sign is on, I might find myself by Krispy Kreme again sometime. I still, however, wish there were Dunkin Donuts on every corner on the west coast too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Standoff

In a movie, when two people have guns at each other's heads, why does the good guy always kick or punch the bad guy? Don't you think the bad guy would flinch and therefore shoot? Isn't it therefore easier to just pull the trigger? Much deadlier and less likely to aggravate an itchy trigger finger.

Friday, January 20, 2006

East vs West

East coast: "Back East"
West coast: "Out West"

Does anyone else have any other terms for the east or west of the US? The vernacular of the US seems to lend itself to the idea that the East is old fashioned and the west is out there somewhere.

Bailing out airlines

The federal government has spent some money lately bailing out airlines. The industry is not doing so hot.

Here's a new idea: how about we cut back taxes & fees on airfare? My tickets for Carnival cost $295.81. The taxes & fees cost $42.59. That's about 14% in taxes and fees. I know some of these fees are needed for the airports to exist, etc. But I'm sure a lot just goes to the federal government.

Until the airline industry is back on its feet, let's cut the taxes on air travel to induce more people to fly and give the airlines a little more wiggle room on prices. The end consumer will get cheaper flights and therefore fly more. The airlines can also charge a little more without the consumer really noticing - the prices are already way down!

My logic is that the government is using tax money to bail out the airlines; what if cutting out some of the taxes on the airfare would prevent needing to help the airlines federally? The government would probably be losing as much in potential tax income as they're spending right now to help out the industry - so it's just a different accounting method.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticisms? This is all based on high school economics and I have no figures to compare the tax income of flights vs the amount of federal money spent to bail out the airlines, or how many more people would fly with lower rates.

Getting carded

In Pittsburgh, I get carded at bars when they card everyone on the way in, and sometimes at the liquor store, but never at the beer stores.

In Maine, I get carded at bars when they card everyone, grocery stores, but not at the beer store, and not at restaurants.

In Nevada & California, I get carded at the beer store, at restaurants, everywhere. Even with my parents!

Never did I figure California would be more likely to card.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The best article I've ever read about Saudi Arabia

The New Yorker has an excellent article about life in Saudi Arabia.

I've heard from a Qatari friend that Saudi is really that surreal.

(Now on to a global perspective)

It's amazing, living on such a small earth, that we still have people who don't get real news, people who are censored, tribal people who have never seen TV, people who still can't get medical help. What will it take to really flatten the globe, to really have people get equal opportunity everywhere? Ubiquitous internet? Cheap travel? I'm serious, what will it take to have people in China not be censored? What will it take for food to not be wasted in the US, but reallocated months ahead to people who really need it? What will it take for people in rural Africa to get good medical care?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I got lost and ended up in California

Through a thoroughly boring but only minorly noteworthy sequence of events, I am now living on the West Coast. I am in temporary housing until February first, where I hope to have a 'hella' sweet pad.

I graduated, although I'm not sure the school acknowledges it yet - they haven't yet reimbursed me for the spring! I've never met someone who likes their schools enrollment/payment people. If you like yours, please let me know. Carnegie Mellon's HUB suffers from having no competitors.

As a side note, my classmates need to stop getting engaged. Harriet, Trey, and Greg: I'm looking at you. (I really mean: congratulations all! I just feel old now.)

California has a great beverage supplier: Beverages & More, purveyors of great Belgian and American brews. They have almost every beer I'd want to buy. Plus, they carry the official glass ware for custom brews - some men get fine wine glasses, but my beer glass collection will be awesome. Once I have money.

Which brings me to the most fun thing about relocation: I'm shipping my car out to California. The A4 is still in the works, but not for about 6-12 months.

Alright, keep sending me your comments, and I'll keep making fun of your grammar and punctuation. I mean, answer them.