Thursday, December 11

That book thing

So, I've seen this a bunch of places now, and I decided to finally do it.


Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your wall.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.




So, the closest book to my chair at work is the Unix System Administration Handbook. Unfortunately, page 56 has no sentences as it's a bunch of charts and tables. However, from A Practical Guide to the Unix System (the next closest volume):
Refer to grep in Part II and to Appendix A, "Regular Expressions," for more information.

Purchasing Gift Cards?

If you're intending to buy gift cards this Christmas (or anytime, really), go to this site to purchase them. Not only is there a huge selection, they ship quickly and up to 8% of the proceeds go to support my friends who are missionaries in Germany with Greater Europe Mission.

With the holiday rush, you need to order them by the 17th if you want to get them by Christmas.

Thadd and Laura Davis Gift Card Center

Saturday, November 29

Dr. Fun

I was poking around some of my old bookmarks today and ran across the following comic. It's over 14 years old now, but it's still great (and probably my favorite from the entire run of Doctor Fun).

Dr. Fun - The shocking truth behind zucchini nut bread

Friday, November 21

Tuesday, November 18

Today's Dilbert

Dilbert.com

Heuristics!

Friday, November 7

In the wake of recent events

As is often the case, Dave Barry's humor column makes an important point.

You know what I miss? I miss 1960. Not the part about my face turning overnight into the world's most productive zit farm. What I miss is the way the grown-ups acted about the Kennedy-Nixon race. Like the McCain-Obama race, that was a big historic deal that aroused strong feelings in the voters. This included my parents and their friends, who were fairly evenly divided, and very passionate. They'd have these major honking arguments at their cocktail parties. But unlike today, when people wear out their upper lips sneering at those who disagree with them, the 1960s grown-ups of my memory, whoever they voted for, continued to respect each other and remain good friends.

What was their secret? Gin. On any given Saturday night they consumed enough martinis to fuel an assault helicopter. But also they were capable of understanding a concept that we seem to have lost, which is that people who disagree with you politically are not necessarily evil or stupid. My parents and their friends took it for granted that most people were fundamentally decent and wanted the best for the country. So they argued by sincerely (if loudly) trying to persuade each other. They did not argue by calling each other names, which is pointless and childish, and which constitutes I would estimate 97 percent of what passes for political debate today.


The rest of the column is good and funny, but this bit struck me as immensely poignant.

(hat tip to Doc Searls)

Dave Barry: And the winner is . . . the man with the martini | MiamiHerald.com

Friday, September 19

Have you heard the new piece by W. A. Mozart?

I haven't either, but a fragment at a library in Nantes, France, was recently confirmed as being written in Mozart's hand.

Unknown Mozart fragment found in French library - Yahoo! News

Sunday, September 14

Highway "zippers" helping traffic

Interesting... Tom Limoncelli mentions on his blog about a machine he's seen that moves the barrier between the eastbound and westbound sides of the Tappan Zee bridge depending on prevailing traffic. This lets there be more lanes for westbound traffic in the morning and then allows more eastbound traffic in the evening as needed.

Pretty cool, and interesting to watch in action (Tom put a picture up on his blog, linked below).

Everything Sysadmin: The Zipper Machine

Friday, September 12

A little '80s movie nostalgia...

So, this guy (apparently his name is James) went to the mall they used when shooting the first time travel scene in Back to the Future. He shot some pictures and put them up next to screen grabs from the movie so you can see him in some of the exact same places as the actors were.

Great Scott!

Twin Pines Mall | Cinemassacre.com

Thursday, September 11

Sudden realization

Oh yeah, I have a blog, huh?

Friday, June 27

So…

First of all, I realize that this will be the third time I’ve had a blog post with this title, which might make this one a bit more ironic.

In any case, last night I was thinking about the American tendency to end sentences by trailing off into the conversational ether. For example, when people start a story or thought and then finish with “so…” without really coming to a full stop. I know I'm guilty of this myself at times, and I can’t really point fingers, so…

I’ve decided that the reason for this is mostly laziness. It’s basically saying, “I’ll lay down the tracks for this train of thought, but hopefully you can see where it leads and I won't actually have to articulate the whole thing.” Of course this is mostly done between people who know each other well enough to finish each others’ sentences anyway, but that still doesn’t excuse the ennui that leads to deliberately unfinished thoughts.

After all, when I used to be an editor (the links at the beginning of this post are quite old; that’s no longer my job) I would never let an author end a phrase with an ellipsis. Granted, I mostly dealt with sheet music, but I also edited the accompanying text and I'm passionate about the written word as well.

The “…” punctuation literally stands for an undefined, and possibly unuttered, group of words. For instance, if you wish to quote someone and leave out a portion, you'd use it in the place of what you blanked out: “Mary had a […] lamb.” When it's used deliberately (by that, I mean “not editorially”) at the end of a phrase or sentence, it leaves the intention of the writer completely up to the interpretation of the reader. And since my number-one priority as an editor and a writer is clarity, using an ellipsis in such a way is completely anathema to my preferred style.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its uses. In casual conversation (i.e. the spoken word, personal email), I suppose it can be tolerated quite a bit. And, in the hands of a skilled writer, it can be an interesting rhetorical device. However, when the intent is to convey information clearly, three dots in succession just don't belong anywhere.

My thoughts on this matter were perfectly punctuated this morning by the new Wondermark (link below). I don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry over the reference to modern lack of expression. I’ll probably do both.

Wondermark by David Malki ! - 420: In which One Thing sparks Another, and So On

Tuesday, June 10

Shiny New Toy

Recently the Netflix DVD-rentals-by-mail service introduced a new product, a set-top box that lets you stream movies from the Internet directly to your television.

They've had the "Instant View" capability for quite a while now, but you needed to watch the movies on a Windows PC. Now, though, they've teamed up with media-device company Roku to produce the Netflix Player to put those movies from the Internet onto your TV screen.

When I first heard about the Player, it seemed interesting, but I doubted that it would be worth it in my home. First of all, my wife and I cancelled our Netflix subscription back in 2005 after only about three months with the service. While it's a great service, we found ourselves feeling that we had to watch the DVDs as soon as possible and send them back for new ones so that we were getting our money's worth. Those red envelopes consumed nearly all of the free time we had (especially since we were on the plan that let us have three movies at a time).

However, I read a blog post by a fellow member of the local Linux Users' Group that changed my mind. He wrote about opening and setting up the machine, and I was really intrigued; especially by the mention of the television shows that were available for viewing with this method.

I looked around on the Netflix site to see how the pricing works, and it turns out that even the $9/month plan allows for unlimited Instant Viewing on the device (the plan includes one DVD in your home at a time). Well, that's barely more than the price of two Blockbuster rentals. Regardless of whether we went through the physical DVDs quickly, we could definitely get a good bang for our subscription buck with the Netflix Player. Granted, the device itslef costs $100, but we hadn't put any of our tax rebate into the US economy yet...

So I restarted our Netflix subscription a couple of weeks ago and ordered the Player. It was delivered by FedEx last Friday, and I've been really impressed by it. The only difficult part was entering the 64-character randomly-generated strong password for our wireless network on the little 9-button remote control. However, the onscreen keyboard was versatile enough to provide all the characters I needed, and the box downloaded my Instant Queue list immediately and was ready to start playing movies.

You have to choose the movies for your Instant Queue list by visiting the Netflix website on a computer, and then your only options on the Player itself are to change a few settings or play one of the movies you've pre-selected online. Most of the titles available are fairly old, though there are some newer movies. In a really cool twist, some recently-aired NBC shows (Heroes, 30 Rock, The Office) are already available for Instant Viewing. If more television gets added to the list in such a timely manner, we might even be able to cancel cable.

All in all, this is a great device that I recommend to anyone with a decently-fast Internet connection. Check it out!

Sunday, May 25

xkcd in NYT

Randall Munroe, creator of the oft-linked-here online comic xkcd, was interviewed by Noam Cohen of the New York Times. The resulting article appeared online today (link below).

Link By Link - This Is Funny Only if You Know Unix - NYTimes.com

Saturday, May 17

The rise and (please, come quicky) fall of Microsoft

It's obvious that Microsoft won't be a big technology market force forever, and here's a great piece from the New York Times detailing their inevitable (and, in some senses, current) state of decline.

The Computer Industry Comes With Built-In Term Limits - New York Times

Sunday, May 11

Another comic link

I know I've linked to a lot of Webcomics of late, but when there's a talking musical instrument I'm just compelled to share it...

Wondermark by David Malki ! - 406: In which there's a Problem in the Orchestra

Friday, April 25

Malki does it again

Today's Wondermark is great... especially, of course, the mouse-over text.

Wondermark by David Malki ! - 402: In which Martin could rethink his Pastimes

Monday, April 21

Andy Ihnatko's Pearls of... Something

Andy noticed something new in his grocery store, and (wouldn't you know it) he just had to write something witty about it.

Nature's Most Perfect Food on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Sunday, March 16

My interest in Grisham novels: an obituary

For some time now, my “guilty pleasures” have been found in reading the novels of John Grisham. I'm almost embarrassed to partake in them: the writing is itself not spectacular, and I’m sure that any resemblance to the reality of practicing law in America is of the sort found by comparing Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of James Bond to the actual operations of the British secret service.

Nonetheless, I have found joy in much of his writing. In large part, it has been due to the obviously-invented intricacies in the plot lines: the mysterious informant in The Pelican Brief, the terror-stricken life of The Broker, and (of course) the web of lies exposed by the naïve law-school graduate who finds himself hired by The Firm. Many of his books have also made excellent movies, though of course Hollywood’s abbreviated version never truly does justice to the 300-plus-page written story.

I’ve actually read almost all of his books. I never got around to Skipping Christmas, and I just saw on his Web site that last year he published a new football story called Playing for Pizza, but I’ve managed to find and devour every “legal thriller” he’s concocted. Lately, though, I’ve been less than thrilled. A couple of years ago he wrote a non-fiction account of a baseball player’s legal troubles in The Innocent Man. Don’t ask me how that one turns out; I quit reading after just a few chapters due to his obvious and blatant bias toward one perspective of the story.

And today I finished reading his most recent work of fiction, The Appeal. Suffice it to say that I’m no longer a fan. My interest in his writing has dramatically waned, mainly stemming from the fact that I now find him bludgeoning me over the head with his personal point of view. When I read fiction, it’s for fun; I don’t want my entertainment to be wrapped around a heavy dose of someone else’s ideology. Whether I agree with his moral stance is immaterial: I’d rather be entertained by suspense, drama, and intrigue than be immersed in the intricate details of litigating and political campaigning from either side of the fence.

In short, I don’t think I’ll be anxiously awaiting Grisham’s next novel. Whether he goes the fiction or non-fiction route, I’m not enjoying the road he’s taking. And since I had been turning to his writing explicitly for the enjoyment of it, all reason for partaking in this “guilty pleasure” is now gone.

Friday, February 29

TED's "T" falls over, Robin Williams brings the funny

At the TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, and Design), a technical glitch caused some "dead air" that was promptly filled by actor/comedian Robin Williams, who was in the audience.

Since I'm no longer sharing things via Google Reader, there'll be a lot more link-bloggish stuff like this on this blog...

Robin Williams Saves the Day at TED When Tech Fails | Epicenter from Wired.com

Wednesday, February 27

I thought *we* had it bad...

Here in San Diego, gas can get between 3.25 and 3.50 per gallon. However, an AP photo today showed how things are going in Los Angeles:

L.A. gas prices photo

Webcomics Extravaganza

First, a pair of strips from Wondermark, the second of which actually made me laugh out loud. Thank goodness I got in earlier than everyone else this morning so nobody could hear me...

Wondermark by David Malki ! - 383: In which a Fortune is sought
Wondermark by David Malki ! - 384: In which are tried Unconventional Methods

And, since xkcd expressly allows republishing, here's today's strip (this one speaks to me very personally, of course):

Keeping Time

As usual, check the text you see when you hold your mouse over the images for all three strips.

Monday, February 18

Goodbye to Google Reader

Well, it turns out that my stint with Google Reader only lasted a couple of months this time. I liked the fact that it was integrated with my other Google services, but the whole time it felt like I was making too many compromises... mostly because I couldn't see the actual post times of items and I couldn't see when items were updated.

It seems like Google Reader is a great solution for somebody who skims lots of RSS, but it just won't cut the mustard for somebody like me who follows all the content in a carefully selected list of feeds. Back to Bloglines I go... and the beta version of that service is getting pretty slick by now, too.

βloglines (Beta)

/me laughs out loud...

Humorous Pictures
moar humorous pics

Sunday, February 17

Friday, February 1

ImprovEverywhere does cool stuff in NYC again

This is all over the Internet today, so my apologies if you've already seen it. However, if you haven't run across one of the 49 bajillion links yet, this is really cool...



YouTube - Frozen Grand Central

Friday, January 25

Art for Geeks

"Paul the Wine Guy" has started a photoset on Flickr entitled "Understanding art for geeks." In it, he has taken famous works of art and overlaid some geeky "explanations" to help the visual-art-impaired figure out what is going on. It's also continuing to expand; he's added a few more since I looked at it a couple of days ago.

Here are a few of my favorites:
Andy Warhol
Paul Cézanne
Caravaggio
Auguste Rodin

The whole set is pretty great, though...

Understanding art for geeks - a photoset on Flickr

Monday, January 7

National Academy of Sciences Rejects Science-Religion Dichotomy

Linked below is a brief book review of Science, Evolution and Creationism, a 70-page volume published by the National Academy of Sciences. Its basic tenet seems to be encapsulated in this quote from the NYT article: “attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.”

I couldn't agree more. There needs to be a balance between science and religion; leave science to the scientists and theology to the theologians. If someone from either side wants to make comments on an issue that concerns both camps, it should be done with an attitude of engendering harmony, not dismissing others' findings out-of-hand.

I make no bones about the fact that I am undeniably a Christian, and I believe in the truth of the Bible. However, that doesn't mean that I have to subscribe to knee-jerk Creationists' beliefs that God must have created the Earth in six literal 24-hour periods. I can believe in theistic (God-directed) evolution, with the "days" of Genesis corresponding with "ages" or "eras" of undefined duration, without compromising my belief in Scripture as the inerrant Word of God.

Evolution Book Sees No Science-Religion Gap - New York Times

Tuesday, January 1

OS Virtualization on a Mac: Parallels vs. VMWare

Now that Apple's computers use Intel processors like the rest of the desktop computing world, it's become easy for Mac users to run other operating systems in tandem with OS X. Sure, PowerPC Macs can dual-boot certain Linux distributions that distribute a compatible version, but a lot of Linux software packages are written only for Intel's x86 platform.

With the change in processor architecture, a Mac can run all the mainstream desktop operating systems... including Windows, if you want. In fact, you no longer even have to reboot the computer to switch the running OS; virtualization software is now available to let you boot a virtual "guest" system within your OS X "host."

The two competing commercial programs for virtualization within OS X are Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion. (There are a few free-software alternatives, but I haven't successfully used any of them.) It seems that VMWare and Parallels are both very good at what they do, and they seem to be playing a constant game of leapfrog such that "who's better" is constantly switching sides.

It was really hard to make a distinction between the two, but after reading an intense comparison on MacTech.com I discovered that:

  • Parallels is a little bit faster than VMWare

  • However, the faster the "host" Mac, the less speed difference there is between them

  • VMWare is much better at virtualizing operating systems other than Windows (i.e. Linux)

Since I have a fast, recent Mac, and I plan to run a lot of Linux virtual machines, that clinched it for me. In fact, I ran into a poll on MacResearch.org that showed that people virtualizing Windows tend to go for Parallels those running Linux VMs tend to go for VMWare. Since my primary application will be Linux virtualization, I bought VMWare. I tested it before I bought it, and it's been running the latest version of Fedora (one of my favorite Linux distributions) just great. It also looks like I'll have plenty of cool features whenever I decide to start virtualizing Windows.

And, since I bought in 2007 (December 31, but it counts), it looks like I'll be able to take advantage of a $20 VMWare rebate as well. The website says it'll take a few days for my order to be fully processed and for my rebate eligibility to be verified, but it looks like it will go through.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author (use the link above).




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

-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
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+
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------


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.