30 June 2008

concentrated water

i shit you not:
Desalinated seawater from Hawaii, meanwhile, is being sold as "concentrated water" -- at $33.50 for a two-ounce bottle. Like any concentrated beverage, it is supposed to be diluted before drinking, except that in this case, that means adding water to . . . water.
(HT: wife)

29 June 2008

what qualifies as food?

Wife brought me a receipt for the items necessary to make s'mores. here's an odd statistic: graham crackers and hershey's milk chocolate bars qualify for the 2% food tax rate, but marshmallows and higher-grade dark chocolate do not. rather than focus on the disparity between the two groups, which strikes me as corporate favoritism, i'm more baffled by the fact that crackers and chocolate bars could ever be considered food.

seems food policy is at odds with health policy. wonder where i've heard that before.... well, one thing's for certain: nationalized health care would never be subjected to this kind of favoritism.

25 June 2008


i just returned a disc of Spooks to netflix. considering how long it's been since A&E stopped showing it, i had forgotten how awesome the show truly is. this latest disc (2 episodes) was practically on par with a Borne movie: suspenseful and engaging. one of the major features of the show is that no character is safe. at any moment, each could be taken out by a sniper, bomb, or knife-wielding midget, enhancing suspense to no end. (maybe that doesn't fly with a general american audience accustomed to celebrity fit club and milf island.)

highly recommended. as with every show from the beeb, wife and i also have fun trying to recall where we've seen each actor.

quote of the day-or-so

On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823

23 June 2008

us constitution: get yours today!

i have an extra copy of the Cato pocket reference containing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. let me know if'n you want it. first come, first served.

22 June 2008

bad news bears ain't got nothing on me

my nigh last place softball team (14th of 15) just won two straight playoff games against 3rd seeded teams. turns out overconfidence truly is a weakness. apparently these guys had been betting all week who would win in their game, having assumed right off that we would lose immediately.

the problem here is that i had already made plans contingent on our losing the first game. what is a champion to do?

why html + javascript sucks

first, i'll start with one of the arguments that i've always disliked. well, not always, because i made it once upon a time ago.

As I look at apps like Gmail, Mobile Me, 280 Slides, Yahoo! Mail, etc etc…. I say screw it. People upgrade their computers when they want to run things faster, why can’t we ask them to upgrade their browsers.

If you have a simple content site, then it is fine to support everyone, but as you build rich apps, maybe it is time NOT to be a crutch and support these browsers.

i got better. i also got clobbered with the reality of this world that is missing in the idea above: there's no such thing as a free lunch. that and no one gives a rat's ass about your app if they can't use it on their machine, especially my grandmother, who has a dual-core Ford. just because you like to tinker on a computer doesn't mean everyone else does.

you'd think that after over 12 years of doing this web thing that i'd love html and javascript. we're tight, to be sure, but i still want to drown these guys in a tub and dump their bodies in the bay. if you haven't heard, i dislike xml and strings. while not quite xml all the time, html is still one big string, a string with all kinds of whiny, browser-specific needs.

some folks have done some pretty amazing things making browsers not suck as much, but that's just lipstick on a div. all of it is a balsawood crutch to make 'all' browsers into the same platform. well, as it turns out, some other crafty folks have done some decent work making browsers into the same platform. their work appears to me to be more like a VM inside a browser, letting me take advantage of simpler UI designs and letting the server concentrate on making non-UI things happen.

i'm pretty keen on trying Flex + Rails to get the best of both worlds, though as microsoft provides more and better support for ruby in .NET, silverlight starts to look better, especially in an internal, ms-centric environment: ruby in the client and on the server.

anyone hiring web developers? i know html and javascript and have a great can-do attitude!

20 June 2008

Milton Friedman on ending the drug war

conservationists should embrace high gas prices

as Mark Perry noted,
High gas prices are working - consumers are changing their behavior by driving less and conserving gasoline. In fact, high gas prices have probably done more to change behavior and inspire conservation of fossil fuels than all of the Earth Days, and all of the efforts of groups like the Sierra Club, combined? Consumers have "found the religion of environmentalism and conservation" through high gas prices.
high gas prices, minus gubmint intervention, will drive greater competition among energy suppliers, including wind and solar. artificially low prices prevent investment in 'green' technologies that are necessarily more expensive, lacking expansive markets.

so while i don't care for the extra cash i'm doling out to get to work (of all places), my electric car will now be coming into my price range. funny how prices communicate so much information to people without any kind of press release.

19 June 2008

jack of all rants, master of ceremony

i attended a talk by Rick DeNatale the other day. he is an engaging speaker and seems to know his business inside and out. one word he used has stuck with me : ceremony. (sorry, Rick, i have a poor memory these days.) the definition i came away with (though perhaps not intended) was basically all the cruft that i have to type (or generate!) to communicate with the compiler or framework-of-the-day rather than with the humans who read it next (should you be so lucky).

while he spoke, i started to think more about ceremony in all the work i've done throughout the yarons. one of the reasons i like ruby is its ability to cut out much of that cruft. like declared fields that duplicate what's already in the database. or differentiating between short, int, and long. 99% of the time, i just want a number with or without decimal places. don't get me wrong, i appreciate having the option to conserve memory if i have to process a billion records simultaneously, but i don't do that often.

so why are we left with the cruft? why can't the direction setters ("architects?") understand the value in all the code that doesn't have to be written? the answer seems simple to me: intellectual laziness. not the kind that refuses to see the light, but rather the kind that doesn't show up for the debate, the fingers-in-ears-humming-tom's-diner version.

not all laziness is bad; we've all heard the quip that a good programmer is lazy, meaning they are smart enough to know that automating things is good. which brings me to a key underpinning of this laziness: tool support. i came to love eclipse when i was working in java, coming from c# that had a horrible IDE. eclipse let me run circles around the code without ever leaving the keyboard, provided i could remember the magic keystrokes. i thought it was the best thing since slicedbread.com. but i got incredibly tired of all the code, the shear volume of characters that had to be typed or generated to achieve the simplest things. (i won't even go into my dislike of xml/@xml overuse in javaland.) my circles were (are) ever-growing laps around a tangled maze of IoC, if i'm lucky.

but how much cleverness do we really need to inject into daily life before we take a collective step back and admit that we're too clever by far, that this monster we've created has escaped its pen and is wreaking more havoc than is worth the credentials of bringing this corpse to life? why can't we evolve this love of tool support into something more? why can't people recognize that smaller is better? let's use a language that speaks volumes in few words, delegates as much optimization as possible to a kick-ass VM, does NOT make me type any more than necessary to convey purpose, and is cleverly extensible out of the box.

just ahead: why html + javascript sucks.

pick a name, any name

i talked with a couple of home school fathers today who introduced me to a new fact: home schools must have a name, one that appears on transcripts. i never thought about it before, but it makes sense. the discussion revolved around picking a good name that showed how serious you are as a parent about your children's education. i've been wondering throughout the day what i would name mine. what have/would you name yours?

14 June 2008

your driving sucks

mine, too, at times. the explosion of signs doesn't help either. here are some simple rules that you should learn.
  1. don't be a dick. treat everyone on the road as if they're your best friend. or in my case, someone you like. apparently, you shouldn't put bumper stickers on your car either.
  2. learn some lane discipline. be in the proper lane at all times. if someone is passing you on the right and there isn't anyone in front of you, you've violated rule 1. i include 'keep right except to pass' in this rule.
  3. pay attention. get off the phone. stop eating. wake up. otherwise, you've violated rule 1 and all those crazy people are simple reacting to your inadequacies as a driver.
udpate: no bumper stickers.

09 June 2008

munger money bomblet

more of a hand grenade really. 3 July 2008.
We aren’t interested so much in the AMOUNT you contribute. But we want a large NUMBER OF PEOPLE to join us.

08 June 2008

tipping guilt

once again, i've left an insufficient tip for a waitress. it always makes me feel guilty--to such an extent that i remember it for a long time. this time, i was a bit tipsy after a few beers, but i had to pay so i could use my credit card since i didn't have any cash. apparently, i forget my tipping rules when this happens.
  1. calculate 10%
  2. double it
  3. round up to nearest dollar
the math is generally easy and it only costs me an extra dollar or two to get me some good karma. and, of course, i've known people who have been waiters, though none that truly made their living at it.

the hitch here is that it was for three pitchers of beer. i don't usually like to tip much on alcohol since it's always overpriced at restaurants anyway. in my role as miser, i still feel i came up short. should i donate to some wait staff charity to make amends with the universe?

schools: you know the solution

it's time for a quick quiz. what is the #1 criterion for success for a graduating high school student? i'll give you some time while i think of more snark. ok, time's up, what's your answer? i don't even have to guess what you said, because your answer is an opinion. and not even a very good one if you're not the parent of a graduating high school student.

more and more, our own futures are governed by the whim of 'experts' and bureaucrats whose jobs don't really align with our desires and responsibilities as parents and citizens. and yet these people are empowered to supplant the value systems of parents all over this country with their own priorities. the people most at risk of being controlled are those that cannot afford to pull their children from a failing system.

once in a while, i get some kind of freebie from the Reason Foundation, most likely due to my huge influence across the webs (hey, you're reading this). the latest item is a dvd of a reason.tv episode, plus some extras. the episode highlights the problems of a public school system that has lost touch with the community it serves. one that places teachers ahead of students.

one day we'll have our goals straight. we may even try to use persuasion rather than coercion to achieve those goals.

07 June 2008

consider the bigger picture

Ezra Klein discusses the results of a new study that may or may not be a surprise to you regarding the carbon footprint of the food you eat.
Carnegie Mellon researchers recently broke down the carbon footprint of foods, and their findings were a bit surprising. 83 percent of emissions came from the growth and production of the food itself. Only 11 percent came from transportation, and even then, only 4 percent came from the transportation between grower and seller (which is the part that eating local helps cut). Additionally, food shipped from far off may be better for the environment than food shipped within the country -- ocean travel is much more efficient than trucking.
a lesson here is to broaden one's view of the issue at hand to include more variables. kinda similar to the idea of what costs there are to recycling, no?

06 June 2008

Megatron deemed national security threat

a man was stopped at a security checkpoint at Heathrow for wearing a transformers t-shirt.

Mr Jayakody said the first guard started joking with him about the Transformers character depicted on his French Connection T-shirt.

'"Then he explains that since Megatron is holding a gun, I'm not allowed to fly,' he said.

'It's a 40ft tall cartoon robot with a gun as an arm. There is no way this shirt is offensive in any way, and what I'm going to use the shirt to pretend I have a gun?

He was cooperative with the supervisor and took off the the 'offensive' T-shirt, replacing it with another shirt in his carry on luggage.
i wish i could make this stuff up. then i could laugh at it.