Wednesday, December 29

Local Man Flees Tsunami, Tracks Journey Online

A guy from San Diego was in Thailand when the Tsunami hit journaling about his experiences abroad ( His blog has now been documenting his experiences escaping the tidal wave and helping in the relief effort.


Year's Worst Gadgets, Tomorrow's EBay Items

This article talks about the flops of this year's gadget market:

* Sony introduced a hard-drive-based digital music player that WON'T PLAY MP3-ENCODED SONGS.
* A Japanese company created a USB Flash drive that is designed to look like a piece of sushi... and charges $99 for them as compared to $20 or less for comparable non-"designer" drives.
* Hot Cubby USB Cup Warmer: a coaster that plugs into a computer's USB port to keep drinks warm.
* Griffin Technology, who spawned the amazingly useful iMic USB microphone adapter, came out this year with the iBeam laser pointer attachment for the iPod. Why?
* Procter & Gamble's "Scentstories;" a CD-like "player" that emits smells to describe such events as exploring a mountain trail, relaxing in a hammock, or wandering barefooton the shore. If you really want to confuse yourself, you can even play all three at once.
* Toshiba developed a Bluetooth wireless washing machine that can download clothing care instructions from a PC or send out a signal to the connected computer in case it breaks down.

All novel ideas, of course... but in what way are they at all useful?

SwapAGift : where gift cards meet their match

Did you get a gift card this Christmas? Do you think you'll actually visit the merchant whose logo adorns that bit of plastic?

If you have any gift cards that you don't think you'll use, you can sell them (for a bit less than face value) or trade them with other SwapAGift participants whose friends don't know them very well either.

This is a great idea... you can also visit the site to purchase gift cards at a discount. Currently there's a $100 Best Buy gift card on sale for $95 and a $178 CompUSA gift card available for $148 (to name just a couple). I think this is a great idea!

Friday, December 17

Bush Signs Intelligence Overhaul Legislation


While what's *in* this intelligence reform bill is decent, I worry more about what has been left *out* of it. Namely, a program to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration is, without a doubt, the greatest problem threatening our country today... Southern California in particular. We spend billions upon billions of dollars a year to cover services for illegal immigrants, not to mention the poor enforcement of federal immigration laws create such a porous border that terrorists have almost an open invitation to enter the country.

I could go on and on, but as I've already posted on this subject I'll just let it go. My main political issue of interest is illegal immigration, and in future I intend to vote for any candidate that supports closed borders, without regard to the side of the aisle on which they sit. I've heard that Hillary Clinton might run a closed-borders campaign for the 2008 Presidential election, and if she does she'll have my usually-Republican vote.

Conductor Shoots Himself Dead in Cathedral

This is a sad story... I heard about it as it broke on the news last night at about 5:45. At that time I wasn't aware of the gunmans identity (the Crystal Cathedral's orchestra conductor), but I heard about the random shots he had fired. It seems that he finally shot himself at about 2am this morning.

My mother-in-law, who works with the Crystal Cathedral's crisis hotline service, had left the church less than an hour before the news broke. I'm sure they'll have something special to honor the deceased Johnnie Wayne Carl in church this Sunday, and I'll see what I can find out about the service.

Deadly Motorcycle Crash Shuts Down Highway 163

I drove past this accident on my way to work this morning. It was mostly cleaned up when I saw it (and I was on the southbound side, which had not been diverted to side streets), but it definitely looked very serious. Several CHP cars and tow trucks were present.

Lord of the Rings' Gollum Gets Health Check

This is actually kind of funny -- students at University College London have studied in-depth the behavior of the character Gollum from LOTR in order to attempt a diagnosis of his personality disorders. Apparently, he fulfills seven out of the nine basic criteria for determining the presence of a schizoid personality disorder.

Some thought that his disorder might be schizophrenia, but since his two personalities communicate with each other that couldn't be it... patients with Multiple Personality Disorder are unaware of their alternate "identity."

It seems that they were basing their diagnoses on the Andy Serkis/CGI interpretation of Gollum from the Peter Jackson films and not specfically from the book, as this article cites a suggested thyroid problem due to bulging eyes and grossly low weight.

All in all, I think that this study is entertaining but ultimately just silly.

Thursday, December 16

Yahoo Maps Offer Live U.S. Traffic Conditions

I tried this new Yahoo! service (at, and I'm not very impressed. It might get better eventually, but I think I'll stick with to monitor traffic conditions.

Concert Review: Keith Urban

I first looked at this article because I know my wife likes Keith Urban. However, after reading it I was intrigued myself. Even though I'm not a big country music fan, I can appreciate the musicality inherent in (most of) it.

I liked the fact that this article describes his playing style and instrumentation instead of dwelling on the concert atmosphere and a bunch of tunes I don't know. I've heard him on the radio a few times, and I really like the fact that he plays real music instead of the chord-based "I don't know what I'm playing, but it got me a recording contract anyway" that is so ubiquitous in modern pop.

Wednesday, December 15

Hot off the shelf: DVDs for a dollar

Cool! Target and Wal-Mart are selling "Stocking Stuffer" DVDs of old movies and TV programs for $1. This doesn't list the titles that are available, but I think it's a great idea and I've wondered for quite a while why DVDs of every type (no matter how old the content) still have $10-and-up price tags.

Google Bets Big on Bringing Libraries to Web

This looks like a promising companion product to the recently-released Google Scholar. Digitizing books is certainly the way of the future, and who better to do it than a company that's already a search-engine giant?

The Onion | World's Scientists Admit They Just Don't Like Mice


Netflix CEO Rates Blockbuster, Amazon Threats

I found this article interesting since I recently became a Netflix customer. I looked around at the various US online-rental places (Netflix, Blockbuster, Wal-Mart), and I definitely think Netflix is the way to go. Blockbuster has a *slightly* lower price, Wal-Mart is a little quicker at getting new movies to you (they use the USPS tracking system to ship a new movie to you as soon as you send one back instead of waiting until they actually receive it), but Netflix blows them both away in terms of DVD availability. I even rented the BBC TV version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" from them, and that's not even available for purchase in the US! Admittedly the TV version sucked as compared to the books and the radio, but I just like the fact that nearly anything you could want is available. I even have the entire Monty Python's Flying Circus (14 volumes) scattered about in my Queue right now, and eventually I might add the 14-volume DVD set of Roger Moore playing Leslie Charteris' "The Saint" (which was the inspiration for the 1997 Val Kilmer movie).

Netflix has it all, and they have nothing to worry about. Also, Netflix Freak is a really cool OSX application that lets you manage your Netflix Queue and browse DVDs without needing to plod through a slow HTML interface.

Monday, December 13

Jewish "Hey Ya!"

This is hilarious... it's Flash music video parody of that Outkast song "Hey Ya!" with lyrics about the Jewish holiday season ("Ha-nukah!").

Wednesday, December 1

With today's data-storage gadgets, you can have your computer to go

Cool! I want one. I didn't know they were this cheap already.

Prodigy, 12, Compared To Mozart


This article is about a 12-year-old kid who, in addition to hearing complex compositions in his head, can write them all down without a moment's hesitation. The first part isn't *quite* as spectacular to me (while not a "composer" per se, I have studied the art of composition and have even written enough to present an original recital), but the ability to translate aural sensations into written music is utterly amazing. I, a college-educated musician with a degree in Music Theory, can't even begin to describe how difficult that is... much less how much respect I have for anyone with a gift this developed.

Again, wow.

From 'The Onion': Iraq's New Homeland Security Alert Levels

The Year in Review: Apple Thrives in Surprising Ways

Apple, while having been a great driving computer-industry force for quite a while, has exceeded all expectations this year. Read the article for more info... Go Apple!

'Blog' Tops Dictionary's Words of the Year

Merriam-Webster says that "blog" was one of its most looked-up words (they remove constant lookups like "affect/effect" and profane words from their word of the list), and it has earned itself a place in the 2005 edition of their Collegiate Dictionary. Huzzah for bloggers!

Historic Game Show Winning Streak Comes to End

I didn't actually get to see this episode of 'Jeopardy' since we don't get NBC at our new place, but I'm almost glad this whole winning streak is over. I don't feel sorry for Ken Jennings, with his $2.5 million prize, and I'm willing to wager that he's relieved to be finished with his stint on the popular quiz show.

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The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.