Friday, December 31, 2004

White Out

We were starting to feel like we'd never get to go snowboarding. My sister and I drove to Jeff's cabin on wednesday, which took about ten hours. We were making pretty good time until we hit the chain control checkpoint on westbound 50. This was, so to speak, an omen.

Wednesday night a storm blew in and dropped two feet of snow in Jeff's driveway. Thursday morning we spent a couple of hours snowblowing and shoveling the driveway so we could get the cars out, threw our boards in the car, and drove out to find that highway 50 was completely shut down -- white out conditions. We decided to try again tomorrow.

Friday morning we looked out the window to discover that the storm had dropped three more feet on Jeff's street. The only sign of the two cars parked in the driveway were hints of the mirrors and two very large mounds of snow. So, we spent friday morning snowblowing the driveway. Again.

Around 9AM, we checked the Caltrans report and found that highway 50 was closed, but Jeff says that they don't update the status in a timely manner, so we drive down to check it out. We get to 50 and see that traffic is moving, albeit slowly, so we zip back to the house, grab our boards and gear, and drive back to 50, only it find tha it is... stopped.

We check the radio and it mentions that 89 and 88 are closed, but doesn't mention 50. So we take some back roads to get to the head of the line and talk to the Caltrans worker there. He says that it's going to stay closed until noon, so we head back to the cabin to wait it out.

Back in the cabin, the web says that 50 is now closed (thanks), but gives no more information. The radio on the way back continues to fail to mention highway 50 in any way. We snowblow the driveway again, to get my car free (we only cleared the truck the first time), and the sun comes out and starts to melt the remaining snow.

At this point Jeff starts to go nuts. The storm has put down five feet of snow at Jeff's cabin, and probably even more than that at Sierra. The sky is clear, promising a beautiful day of snowboarding on runs of deep, fresh, untouched powder.

If only we can get there.

We get on 89, which feeds into highway 50 just shy of where traffic is stopped. At around 11:30, we get an update that the highway won't open until 1PM. Just after noon, they apparently open the highway to eastbound traffic, taunting us by implying that they'll open the highway soon. At 12:30, they change the sign at chain control from "closed for avalanche control" to "chains required", and everyone scrambles to their cars so they can be ready for the road to open.

This drill is repeated every ten minutes or so for the next half an hour, every time a highway patrol or CDF truck drives by. Finally, they open the road up at a little past one, and we drive up to Sierra behind some really slow cars. We're a little worried that all that fresh powder will be gone by the time we get there, but these fears turn out to be unfounded.

When we get to Sierra, we find that there are a little more than a hundred cars in the parking lots. Not our parking lot. All the parking lots. At 1:30, when we get there, we have the mountain to ourselves.

I spend the day teaching my sister to snowboard, while Jeff cruised down on run after untouched run. The day was probably one of the best days we've had at Sierra ever.

We boarded until close (4PM), then headed back to get ready to go out on New Year's Eve... (to be continued)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


My family went on a hike at Silver Falls state park recently, along the family of my sister's best friend when she was 10 years old, who happen to live in Oregon near where we were for Christmas.

The falls are quite spectacular. The river runs over a large volcanic slab, and the water has eaten out underneath the slab over time, so there's a ledge underneath the volcanic slab. A trail runs down underneath the slab and all the way around and behind the waterfall. I wish I'd remembered to bring my camera.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Another Christmas is past, and I have completed the traditional giving of gifts, and started the traditional post-Christmas shopping. After all, it's on sale.

My family is still at my uncle's house in Salem, so today we hit the local outlet mall. The fact that Oregon has no sales tax always throws you off a bit -- if they say it's $39.95, you get a nickel in change.

The theme for this year's gifts (and post-gift shopping) has been house furnishings, because of course there's always something more you can get to furnish your house. I got a couple of entryway rugs, some nice placemats and napkins, and napkin-ring holders for xmas, then flushed it out with some more ordinary (and more stain-resistent) placemats.

And a book. This is tradition enough in my family that my uncle Bob just gave us all Barnes and Nobles gift cards, and at least once a year, someone gets a photo of me, my sister, and my parents sitting and all reading our respective books.

We plan to spend a few more days in Salem, then my parents head back up to Washington for their New Year's Day party, and my sister and I are driving to Lake Tahoe to test out the all-wheel drive on my Subaru. And we might stop by a party while they're there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Microsoft Gives Ethics Lessons

In the latest from Bizarro world, Microsoft is attempting to convince its (would-be) customers not to purchase pirated software, because it is un-ethical to do so. Microsoft has a lot that it can teach about software engineering, user interface design, and ruthlessly obliterating your competition, but ethics? I don't think so, and neither does The Register.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Brain Power

Recent developments in monitoring brain activity could result in one of Sci-Fi's holy grail's, direct mental control of a computer. Obviously there is significant benefit for disabled people to be able to interface with computers without becoming one of the Borg, but I have a feeling that the first widespread use of this will be when Sony ships the first Mental GamePad for PS3.

Speaking of games, just when you thought you could avoid advertising by turning off your TV, a startup has realized the hours wasted playing video games could instead be spent productively watching commercials. The new company, Massive, is trying to get a lock-down on the in-game advertising market, so as you drive around the streets of San Fiero you can see ads for Maxi-Pads or Pert shampoo on the billboards.

Isn't technology exciting?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

One Nation, Indivisible

Indivisible? Yeah, right. These days it seems like the only thing the red states and the blue states can agree on is how much they hate each other.

Red States: Love It or Leave It
Blue States: Leave It? We made It!

Oh, and since whether or not "God" should be in the Pledge of Allegiance, here's a brief history of changes to the pledge.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


"Woe to the leader whose arguments at the end of a war are not as plausible as they were at the beginning." -- Otto von Bismarck, 1815-1898

I've been reading Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy, a fascinating history of western relations from a diplomat's point of view. I just ran across the quote from Bismarck today, which seems particularly apt in light of current events.

This will probably be my "serious" reading for a while, since I take it a chapter at a time. So far it's a pretty good read, but I'll post a full review once I've digested the whole thing.

Monday, November 22, 2004

You usea dat penguin, we breaka you face

Last week, Steve "Kneecap" Ballmer of the Microsoftia threatened most of the world with a lawsuit if it chose to use Linux, and it would appear that the world did not take it well. Found an amusing quote in this morning's Register article:

"The trouble with walking into someone's restaurant and saying: 'Nice little place, would be a shame if it burned down, know what I mean?' is that the threat is empty unless you also send an enforcer around to collect," remarked one pundit. "Right now, even if the Asian companies Ballmer is blustering to feel scared, their only choice is to close down. They won't do that. They'll hang on and see how much protection money is asked, and how much muscle the protection gang can use."

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Speak Softly and carry a Carbon Fiber Stick

For most of my (short) hockey career, I've used wooden sticks, because they're cheap and I figured I wasn't good enough for them to make a difference. Also, in roller hockey, the surface you're playing on tends to chew them up pretty fast. However, lately I've noticed that everyone from the NHL down to the working schmucks I play with has a new, snazzy, carbon-fiber Synergy stick, so I've been upgrading my arsenal.

For a while I was using a composite shaft with a reinforced wooden blade, but two games ago somebody slashed my stick so hard it popped the blade out. So to replace it, I decided that I'd take the plunge and buy the expensive stick.

I went to Power Play hockey and looked at the Synergy sticks. Tried not to have a heart attack when I saw the $200 price tag. Turned out not to be an issue since their selection of right-handed sticks was terrible, and they all had curves I found unacceptable. I went to Logitech Ice to look in their pro shop, and pretty much came up with the same result -- the only curves they had in stock were Sakic and some other guy, neither one of which is the relatively neutral curve I prefer. So I caved and got another two-piece stick, since it seems the shops carry a lot more variety in blades than they do in sticks.

Whatever it is, it seems to have worked -- tonight in the new (ahem $180) stick's first game, I scored our team's only 2 goals. Unfortunately the other team managed to score four (they are the top ranked team in our division... And we're, um, not), for a 4-2 loss. Still new-stick mojo was apparently effective. My team said I need to keep buying a new stick for every game.

Instead, I think I'm going to claim that this one is my lucky stick and so I should never replace it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Odds of Dating

A lot of people ask me why I can't seem to find a date, since I'm employed, vaguely normal, and free of social diseases. One of my stock answers is that it's hard to get a date when you work in an all-male field.

Apparently someone else had the same idea, because he actually went out and did a study, the results of which you can find here. According to the study, the women of the valley don't have it that easy, either.

War on Drugs Actually A War

According to CNN, a recent U.N. report on Afghanistan shows that it's now responsible for 87% of the world's opium production, and called for the U.S. and NATO to get more involved. The U.S., however, has been unwilling to commit troops to fighting the drug producers, who, by the way, directly finance terrorist operations.


The U.S. is looking at changing its ways:

U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, recommended the creation of "counternarcotics battalions."

The Illinois Republican also said the United States and Europe should encourage Afghan economic development to stabilize the country by embracing "an Afghan trade preference" that would give Afghan products easy access to the U.S. and European markets.

Presumably these "Afghan products" do not include the opium.

Microsoft Outsources Jack-Booted Thugs

Microsoft, apparently having decided that spreading fear and insults will not, unfortunately, make Linux go away, looks like its changing tactics. The Register ran this article about Microsoft using the WTO to enforce its rapidly-expanding patent portfolio world-wide. And this comes not from any Halloween memos, but from a public speech by Ballmer to a number of Asian governments.

Also in the article is a link to what may become my favorite junk patent since Amazon's "one-click shopping" -- MS got a patent on implmenting the C "!=" (not equal) operator in BASIC. Ummm, hint, guys -- putting something in your language that every other programming language already has, and should have been in yours from the beginning, is not revolutionary.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Whirling Dervishes

Katie called me up yesterday, and asked me if I wanted to go see some Whirling Dervishes. I had no idea what this was all about, but didn't have anything cluttering up my Wednesday night, so why not?

The majority of the concert was musical, on traditional instruments. The group had three singers (chanters), one man playing a device which looked like a lap-harp (qanoun), one playing an oud (a guitar-like instrument), one on a wooden flute, one playing a tambourine-like hand drum, and four dervishes (the dervishes also variously chanted and played hand drums).

The whirling part was relatively small, time-wise, but was impressive. They whirled in groups (first two, then the other two, then three, then four) for about five minutes a pop. All the dervishes wear a long robe that's belted around the waist, that makes them shuffle as they walk as it drags along the floor. When they start to whirl, the robe bellows out. During the whole time they were whirling, none of them moved from the spot they started -- with all four of them whirling and the robes billowing out, they covered almost the entire stage. I also noticed that they don't use the ballerina trick of focusing on a single spot and rotating your head; their heads were always aligned with their bodies.

The parts I found most impressive were the instrumental solos -- the flute player had an somewhat haunting unaccompanied piece, and the oud player did a solo that would have made Satriani proud.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Internet Zero

Read an article in Scientific American while at the dentist's office recently talking about "Internet-0", which is some research into applying internet technology to smart home/smart building applications.

Found a draft of the paper here at MIT.

The paper goes into a lot of detail, but the basics are that it's better to build a smart home on top of existing Internet protocols, so that interoperation of devices with the global network is seamless. Very Neuromancer.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Beer Train

On Saturday, I went on my first Beer Train ride. Some background: this was the 7th annual Beer Train trip, and the basic idea is that you use CalTrain to go bar-hopping. We started in Sunnyvale at Scruffy Murphy's and hit four more bars, spending about an hour and a half at each bar. The time was fixed by the train schedule, since the trains run an hour apart on weekends.

The organizers made custom T-shirts for the trip, with different colors for organizers (uber-cool black), conductors (white), and cattle (tan). Everyone got pens to write on shirts (and people) with, which was half the fun. The first thing I ran into was that Kate (who I had not met before that night) and I share a last name, which others found confusing. So they wrote "Not married to Kate" on the back of my shirt. Then, later on, someone wrote "look for my husband Guy" on the back of Kate's shirt. We're still negotiating the terms of the settlement.

The big drawback to the beer train is that CalTrain doesn't run late, so in order to get everyone back home before they shut down, we had to start early -- at one in the afternoon. Scruffy's looked a bit surprised to have that many people pouring it at an early hour.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hockey Photos

So, once per season (6 months), my hockey team gets to play a game at the HP Pavilion, where the San Jose Sharks play. This is pretty cool -- makes you feel all pro. Even better, some of the Shark's photographers come and take photos of you playing.

Hangin' Out
Team Photo

I also drafted Katie to come to the game and film it. I haven't pulled the footage off the camera yet, but hopefully there's some good stuff there.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Political Graph

I found an interesting political quiz on Badnarik's (the Libertarian candidate for president) web site. The interesting part was that it was a two-dimensional graph of the political spectrum, rather than being a strict left-right line.

This is used partly to explain how the Libertarian party is neither liberal nor conservative, but I also think the two axes (social and economic) view is more informative. I'm wondering where most of our politicians would land if you graphed them on this.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Prop 71

Jeff and I were talking over lunch about Proposition 71, a bond measure that would provide $3B of funding for stem-cell research in California.

The latest issue of the Metro had this article which covers some of the basics, and gives some background info.

One of the cons to the measure is something that came up in our discussion: the funding is tied to stem-cell research, which may end up being a research dead-end. The other, of course, is the price tag. With California being in a budget crisis, is now the right time to rack up $6B in debt?

Summary of prop 71 from

Still haven't decided which way I'll vote on this issue, but I think it's worthy of consideration.

Free Software in Brazil

This Wired article talks about the free software movement in Brazil, and the underlying political and social reasons that Brazil has become the strongest national proponent of free software. Brazil is using what I call the "Captain Kirk Rule" -- if the rules of the game are set up so you can't win, then change the rules.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Grace sent me a an article onDiscovery about using rat neural cells to fly an F-22 flight simulator. Over time this tissue network learned to fly the plane straight and level through a variety of weather conditions.

This is fascinating research, leading into man-machine interfaces, smarter neural networks, and all sorts of other fun stuff. The big ethical question, however, is at what point do we consider these devices "alive"? At some point, do we need to talk about what ethical treatment of your computer is?

Digital Crack

I knew I shouldn't have, but I just couldn't help myself. I read that the new "Grand Theft Auto" game, San Andreas, hit stores yesterday, and so I stopped by Fry's on my way home. After a quick, nutritious meal from Taco Bell, I fired up the game and started driving around the streets of San Andreas.

For those not familiar with the series, each recent "Grand Theft Auto" game has had a theme and is loosely based on a real location. GTA happened in Liberty City, which is based on New York City with a kind of "Sopranos" atmosphere, in an unidentified time which feels like the late 80s or early 90s.

"Vice City" takes place in I-can't-believe-it's-not-Miami, and not surprisingly feels a lot like Miami Vice, complete with neon lights, polyester suits, and big old "brick" cell phones.

So the latest installment, San Andreas, is a fictional area that's pretty much California crammed into a 20 mile x 20 mile square. You start out in "East Los Santos" as a black gang member, and it tracks 90s gangsta movies. Most of the early missions give little or no cash, but you get "respect" points as you try to acquire more territory for your gang, and gear up to heavier hardware for an eventual takeover of East S.A.

The game is a lot grittier and more realistic than Vice City or GTA, in keeping with the setting. The cars have more detail, are usually damaged when you get them, and the camera is moved closer to the car so you can see it better. The handling on the cars is more realistic, and the big, American cars you're driving in the beginning of the game drive like the beasts they are. If you get one sliding it happens slower than in GTA, but it's not nearly as easy to recover from.

Combat on foot is better than in GTA or Vice City, but it's still annoying because the camera never seems to track where you want it to, and you spend a lot of time trying to find the bad guys while they're shooting at you (because, naturally, they have no trouble finding you). A nice change is that your fellow gang members back you up in a lot of these conflicts, so you don't have to carry the whole load. Still, the best answer in most conflicts is, like in previous versions, to run everyone over with your car.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Abuse of Patriot Act

Jeff said he hadn't heard of any abuse of the Patriot act since it was enacted, whereas I read it as more of a wholesale removal of checks and balances to give the FBI carte blanche to do whatever it wants to someone as long as they call them a "terrorist" first. So, in search of some hard data, I did a Google search, and found the following interesting items:

FBI and MPAA use the Patriot act to obtain financial information about the operator of an SG-1 fan site: link

Internal DOJ report cites Patriot-act related abuses: link

ABA Summary of changes in Patriot act, including defining most computer-related crimes as terrorism: link

Money quote:
There is nothing new or shocking about the fact that many of the provisions in the Patriot Act have no direct relevance to terrorism, cyberterrorism, or protection of the government or individuals from future acts like those experienced on September 11. It is common that congressional acts include provisions with no relevance to the main purpose and title of the act. What may be unique here are the speed at which the Patriot Act was passed and the purpose for the haste. One wonders whether it was necessary, in light of these extenuating circumstances, to include provisions with far-reaching effects beyond terrorism.

L.A. judge rules part of Patriot act unconstitutional: link

Cato institute gives Patriot act a nay: link

And, just for giggles, here's the complete text of the bill.

Recent article on the Register about part of the Patriot act being overturned.

FBI threatens to throw journalists in jail using the Patriot Act

WOPR Comes to Life

Those of you who are old enough will remember the movie "War Games," one of the first movies to give geeky guys who like computers the idea that they could some day get a date with a real, live woman. It also gave them the mistaken impression that the way to do this was by impressing her with how much you know about computers, but we all know better than to take dating advice from Hollywood, right?

The other part of this movie revolves around a computer (complete with flashing lights on the front) called WOPR that runs military simulations of potential conflicts. According to this article in Wired, yet another part of science fiction has become reality.

This simulator allows the military to model a city controlled by hostile forces and determine how to shut down and contain those forces, while also modelling the effect of actions on the civilian populace. (Gosh, I wonder what conflict inspired this direction of research?)

Although this beats the hell out of "The Sims", it looks like it won't be coming to Fry's any time soon -- the program runs on a Linux-based supercomputer. In that part, at least, SciFi was true to form.

Jurisdiction on the Internet

The Register, one of my favorite online news sources, has this article about some servers that got siezed in the UK. The interesting part about this is that the UK government claims to have had no part in the seizure.

Lemme explain... No, is too complicated -- lemme sum up. The Italians wanted some information on Indymedia's servers regarding possible terrorist activities. They send a request to the U.S. to seize the servers, presumably because they're hosted by Rackspace (the "why"s are quite fuzzy). The servers, which actually reside in the U.K., are seized by some mysterious entity which is neither (by denial) the UK Home Office or the FBI.

Then one week later the servers are given back, and there are more denials flying around than there are fake boobs in a strip club.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Reverse Engineering Under Attack

Found a link on Groklaw about a recent legal case, where Blizzard sued a group of open-source developers for reverse-engineering their network protocol for their network games. They did this through a combination of the End-User License Agreement (EULA) and our favorite law, the DMCA.

The basis of their case is that the game's EULA, like every EULA made since the late 90s, contains a provision forbidding any reverse engineering or disassembling of the source code, for any purpose whatsoever. It was widely understood that while these EULAs claimed the moon, most of the provisions of them were unenforceable. Even the DMCA has provisions within it that allow reverse-engineering for purposes of interoperability.

The worst thing this ruling says is that there is some merit to any claim made in an EULA, which opens the door to nuisance lawsuits any time one is violated. Also may be time for the tech industry to wake up and realize that IP laws can hurt as much as they can help -- every company I've worked for has done significant reverse-engineering of other companies devices in order to build competing products.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Last night, the heavens opened up and the rain fell down in a torrent. The south bay is now getting throroughly soaked. I woke up to this when my phone started ringing at 9AM, because Awais called me to ask if I was going to dial in to the 9AM meeting.

So I hop out of bed, take a quick shower, and zip off to work as fast as I can. See, there's a reason to have a 300hp, all-wheel-drive car. Because it might be raining outside and you need to get to work in a hurry. It could happen.

My last turn before work goes over a small overpass, and as I pull up to the light, the traffic has just gotten a green and is starting to move. So, naturally, I gas it through first around the corner, and the car nicely power-slides around the corner until I drop it into second and power out of it. Nothing terribly dramatic, just a little monday morning commute fun. Oh, and after that I had to dodge the downed tree.

As I pulled into my parking space, another Subaru pulled up behind me to compliment me on my commute driving. Apparently he wanted to do the same thing, but didn't have the right turn on the way to work.

Got to work at 9:35, in time to catch the tail end of the meeting. STi saves the day.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Municipal Wireless

This CNN article talks about a city in Minnesota setting up a municipal wireless network, so residents can get broadband access for about $16/month.

This sounds like a smart move on the city's part, and a number of cities are looking into this sort of deployment. I find it encouraging because they're treating network access like a utility, which I think is the right model.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Cost of Liability

It's always unclear how much liability insurance for doctors costs. It's come up in the recent election campaign, as part of Bush's platform. There are reports in some states that doctors are moving out of the state because they can't afford to practice with current liability law.

It's hard to get a grip on how much liability and such cost, but snippets like this one on implantable ID chips give a clue (full article here):

In pets, installing the chip costs owners about $50. For humans, the chip implantation cost would be $150 to $200, said Angela Fulcher, an Applied Digital spokeswoman.

So, with the same device and the same procedure, it costs 4x as much...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad just turned 70 this year, and so my sister and I wanted to get him something special for his birthday. The problem is that, like his son, if my dad wants something, he buys it. So finding something that my dad wants but hasn't bought is impossible -- you have to find something my dad doesn't know he wants yet. An exercise in mind-reading, so to speak.

This year, my sister had a flash of genius, and managed to find a place in the U.S. where you can get a ride in a real WWII tank. Only problem is that it's in Minnesota. Fortunately, it turns out that my parents, on one of their rambling U.S. tours, swung through Minnesota, so my dad got a tank ride for his birthday.

Very cool, I must say.

Unfortunately, nothing ever goes as planned. While the T-34 was one of the best-designed tanks of WWII, it is still a 60-year old piece of equipment, from an era where you were expected to tear down engines on a yearly basis. So, on the day of the ride, the tank wouldn't start.

Fortunately, the ride was only half the attraction for the day, the other half being allowed to shoot a variety of fully-automatic weapons, including an Uzi, an M-16, and an MP-40. I think he was happy with the day even without the ride in the tank.

And I'm wondering if I need to take a little field trip myself.

Corporate Amnesia

Just read an article on The Register about Microsoft's e-mail retention policy. Apparently, through several means, they have "encouraged" their employees to delete all e-mail older than 30 days.

As a working engineer, this policy seems barely short of insanity. I archive all project-related email I have, and I have email dating back 3-4 years for some projects. This is invaluable in many cases, when you want to find out what requirement somebody e-mailed you 9 months ago about such-and-such. Many of these issues and requirements are never tracked anywhere outside of e-mail.

Now, it's possible that Microsoft simply has much better project management than where I work, and that they track all of this externally, so retaining this isn't required. You've used their software, you make the call. Saving disk space? Google is willing to give you a gigabyte of mail storage for free -- deleting mail older than 30 days seems overzealous even for corporate frugality.

On the other hand, if someone sues you for anticompetitive behavior, all the e-mail evidence they would use against you is now, conveniently, gone. Oops! Sorry. This is not a company that was convicted of anticompetitive behavior and reforming -- this is a company that got caught and is making sure it doesn't get caught again.

Update: Bob Cringely has an article with some details as to how this curious document retention policy came to light.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Attack Your Lawyer

Quote of the day:

"I've contended all along that this guy is nuts, and to be honest, this pretty much confirms it," Garraway said late Wednesday. "... what kind of rational person would attack his own lawyer?"

Original article on CNN

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Where Oh Where Has My IT Support Gone?

One of my coworkers forwarded me this video clip from the Conan O'Brian show. Those of us with global tech support can feel for this guy, who finds it a bit difficult to walk over and chat with is IT person, since they're in Hyderabad.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

News Flash: Daily Show Viewers Not All Stoned Slackers

Bill O'Reilly recently, in a quote I'm sure he will come to regret, called viewers of The Daily Show a bunch of "stoned slackers."

Comedy Central struck back with a few studies showing that Bill's viewers were the ones more likely to have a sudden case of the munchies. A recent CNN article revealed viewer demographics and poll results showing that Daily Show viewers beat out other late-night show viwers, and all of them beat consumers of prime-time news.

The quiz is on the above link, but you have to take it before you read the article, 'cause two of the answers are in it.

Microsoft Takes Flak At Home

A former Microsoftie lashes out at the software giant for failing to support its home town, although it appears much of the blame lies at the feet of the state legislature for handing out corporate subsidies like they're candy.

One of the most embarassing items is that, while Microsoft performs most of its development in Washington, including development of Windows and Office, it has opened up a small office in Nevada where it books all of its OEM revenue, to avoid paying Washington corporate income tax. And then pays a $75B dividend to shareholders because it's got so much money it doesn't know what to do with it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

View Web Site, Get Virus

Found this article via Google news, about a recently discovered IE exploit in a JPEG file. If IE processes a modified JPEG file, it could allow execution of arbitrary code.

In layman's terms, if you view a web site with an affected JPEG, you get a virus.

I could go on a rant here, but why bother? Microsoft gives better reasons for not using Microsoft than I could ever come up with.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Do Not Test Bike Speed In Front of Cops

Grace sent me this link about a kid who got busted doing 205 MPH on his RC51. Grace pointed out that this is jail time territory, but I see the cracks that a good lawyer could get him off on. The biggest one of which was immediately pointed out by the motorcycle community: A stock RC51 won't go 205 mph, or anywhere close.

On the other hand, I don't think anyone's going to believe he was going 55 mph...

The Politics of Open Source

Caught this article on the politics (or lack thereof) in the open source (or FOSS) movement. Heavy reading -- the author's love of big words and convoluted sentences puts me to shame.

One interesting term that came up halfway through the article is "neoliberal." I've heard of "neoconservatives," but this is a new one to me. From context, these neoliberals apparently support the more aggressive forms of intellectual property law. Funny, I always just called them "greedy bastards," but "neo" seems to be a more politically-hip modifier.

Found this quote in the article, which sums up pretty well how hackers feel about politics:

While programming is considered a transparent, neutral, highly controllable realm for thought and expression where production results in immediate gratification and something useful, politics tend to be seen by programmers as buggy, mediated, and tainted action clouded by ideology that is not productive of much of anything while it insidiously works against true forms of free thought.

The most interesting point the article makes is that the FOSS movement's support of free speech is rooted in pragmatics -- free speech is a neccessary enabler for the spread of ideas and peer communication required for good programming.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Sky Captain

Mike and I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this afternoon. Saw it on a matinee, which cuts down a bit on the pain. Not sure if this one is going to make its money back, since the crowds looked pretty thin.

The movie itself has a very interesting look -- the director uses a number of post techniques to make the film look like a very early color film, although the color is used to highlight specific characters and elements rather than being washed-out throughout. The background is 30s pulp fiction, and unless you can buy into the pulp science, the movie is a non-starter. Strange devices powered by Electricity and Robots are the order of the day, although some of the computers towards the end look suspiciously modern.

Jude Law and Gweneth Paltrow do a good job of acting to the blue-screen, but in the end the world ends up being rather curiously empty of people, and when other actors show up, it usually feels like an imposition rather than flowing well.

The concept of a set-less movie is interesting, but it may be a technique whose time has not yet come. Although it lets you film big cinematic sequences much more cheaply, overall it's not an inexpensive technique -- at $70 million, it's the most expensive movielisted in current box-office ratings by a large margin. The next most expensive movie listed is Resident Evil 2, at $50M production cost, although a number of movies released this summer had budgets in the $80M-$160M range.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Laura's Party

My friend Laura helped Shawn and Laurent throw a party on Saturday, up at their place in the city. They have a very stylish place in the south of market, and somewhere around a hundred people packed the place. Interesting mix of people -- native English speakers were a distinct minority. The largest segment was Italian, with France, Spain, and India also being well-represented.

Official party start was 9pm, so I tried to be a little bit fashionably late, by leaving my house at a little after nine. Showed up in SF at 9:45, and spent about ten minutes driving around in circles trying to get to their pad. I was having one of those big-city moments where I know where I'm trying to get to, but due to a variety of one-way streets and no-left-turn signs, I can't actually get there.

When I finally find the door and get into the place, I'm the 2nd guest, and Shawn, Laurent, and Laura are standing around waiting for people to show. Note to self: for European parties, fashionably late looks like it's around two hours.

Shawn gives me a quick house tour. Their place appears to be a converted industrial unit, which is spread across three stories. The top and bottom stories are each a single room, and have been converted to two master bedrooms. Neither the top nor bottom floors cover the whole footprint, so about half of the main floor has a 20-foot ceiling, giving it a very open feel. Shawn and Laurent have decorated the place in hip-batchelor-Spartan, which adds to the impression of space. Whoever remodeled the space left the original industrial diamond-plate steps up to the third story, which meshes well with the 50s-vintage sign that Shawn has hung off the side of the third-story bedroom.

The party ramps up quickly from the original two guests to the point where it's difficult to move around the house. The entire main floor is packed except for a little space around the door. Ben shows up and hangs out for a little while, and I run into another half-dozen or so Building F people.

I hang around until a little after 2AM, at which point my tired-warning starts to kick in. In recent years I've found that my stay-awake-while-driving ability has lessened somewhat, so that I have to head out early from SF or run the risk of falling asleep while driving home. While I've picked up Jon's roadside-nap technique, I'd rather just get home and sleep there.

Party was definately a blast. Looking at S&L's place just confirms that I couldn't live in SF: I just have too much stuff.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Why does Hollywood own Congress?

This story in the Economist covers the purchase of MGM studios by Sony, in a consolidation move. One of the most interesting parts of the article is a chart that prints the box office revenue of the top 50 films of 2003.

The interesting part for me is how small the numbers are. I totalled up the revenue on the chart as $5.9B, with the biggest revenue from a single company being $1.2B. For comparison, Apple's 2Q2003 revenue was $1.9B (source), and their annual revenue was $6.2B (Apple's 2003 10-K).

Realized as I was writing this that this is an Apples-to-oranges comparison (if you'll pardon the pun), so I looked up Disney (owner of Buena Vista, with the largest box-office revenues in 2003) to see what their financials are. Yahoo refused to cough up anything useful, so I resorted to Schwab; S&P's report on Disney lists their 2003 revenue as $27.0B from all operations.

So, how much comes from the box office? I'm still looking. Reuter's report breaks down their expenses but doesn't classify their income. Schwab apparently doesn't provide raw data; finally found their 10-K filing with a Google search. In that they break down revenue between Media Networks ($10.9B), Parks and Resorts ($6.4B), Consumer Products ($2.3B), and Studio Entertainment ($7.4B). The Studio Entertainment group contains all of their movie prodution and distribution.

There is no break-down between box-office revenue and home video revenue, so how much of that is box-office is anyone's guess. Several reports from the game industry put total U.S. box office at $20B annually, but since Disney (for 2003) incorporates not only it's own brand but Touchstone, Miramax, Pixar, and Buena Vista, it's probably responsible for a sizable chunk of that.

So the question of how the RIAA and MPAA have so much pull on Congress relative to small box-office revenues is probably that they're drawing on a much larger revenue pool. In Disney alone, both the Studio Entertainment group and Media Networks have a vested interest in IP protection and more DMCA-like laws. Computer companies, on the other hand, tend to be much more laissez-faire, with correspondingly smaller hand-outs to Congress.

Clearly we're not done with this topic.

Roscoe Pecoe Train Comin' Atcha

Looks like a couple of good ol' boys and their faithful Dodge Charger will be returning from the 80s, along with... pretty much everything else from that decade. Saw an article on CNN that Jessica Simpson will be playing Daisy Duke.

Admittedly, Jessica is an authentic southern belle, but I just can't help feeling that she's not quite right for the part. The original Daisy was sassy and independent, whereas Jessica can't seem to manage to do her own laundry. On the other hand, it's quite likely (especially with Seann William Scott playing Bo Duke) that this is a tongue-in-cheek version, a la "Starsky and Hutch", in which case she's probably perfect.

Monday, September 13, 2004

More Than Meets The Eye

Spotted another really cool mod for Unreal Tournament. It seems that if you live long enough, history really does repeat itself. In my case, I remember coming home after school to watch afternoon cartoons - G.I. Joe and the Transformers were my two favorites. Arguably, almost every first-person shooter is a G.I. Joe reenactment, but the Transformers had been conspicuously missing until this mod came out. Since I'm currently (*ahem*) working, I haven't gotten a chance to try it out yet, but this is just another sign:

The 80s are back.

Back-Yard Manufacturing

Read a Wired article about MIT's Fab Lab project, which illustrates one of the ways I think Open Source ideology can help third-world nations.

The Fab Lab is an effort to create a small lab/machine shop which can fabricate just about anything, allowing an area to jump-start its economy by manufacturing the things it needs rather than importing them. Currently the whole lab runs on open-source software, and one of the lab's stated goals is eventually to use all open-source hardware designs -- one of the prerequisites for a self-replicating lab.

I'm interested to see where this project goes. Like many MIT projects, it's pretty long-ranged. I'm most interested to see how they tackle computer chip fab -- while PCBs are relatively easy to make in small quantities, the making computer chips themselves is off-limits to everyone but a fairly small group of companies. Does the lab have some way in mind to do inexpensive low-volume chip production?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Artist Formerly Known As Prince

Jon got some sort of cheap/promo tickets to Prince, and couldn't go on account of going hiking, so I went with Danielle to the concert on Saturday (surrogate boyfriend -- some things never change).

I was impressed, Prince puts on a good show. I've never been a huge Prince fan, but I grew up in the 80's and knew most of the songs that made him big. The crowd was overwhelmingly female, with the ratio somewhere around 5:1. The line at the girl's bathroom during intermission was absurd; I saw a couple of women who went in and used the stalls in the men's bathroom, and I was surprised that there weren't more.

The concert was broken down into three parts. The first was a medly that ran for a little under an hour, where he worked most of his older songs into it somewhere. After that was an intermission, after which Prince came back on by himself with an acoustic guitar and played a number of songs. He had a humorous little bit where he had a simple blues number about "the rules"; I can't remember all of them, but I'm sure they're on some magnetic thing you can put on the fridge, but it went something like:

  1. My house, my rules

  2. Sunday is sports day.

  3. Shopping is not a sport.

  4. I'll give you my money, my credit cards, anything -- just don't make me go shopping with you

  5. If you have to talk, please, please, please do it during a commercial.

After a few more songs, the rest of the band came on and he transitioned back into his full production. He ended with a cover of Led Zepplin's "Whole Lotta Love", which completely lost the crowd. It didn't help that the female singer he brought on to sing it made Robert Plant sound like a master of precise diction.

After that the lights went out except for a few purple lights sweeping the stage and the Prince symbol (with purple background) on the monitors. The crowd was deafening for about 10 minutes, after which he came back on, having switched the red suit he was wearing for most of the night for a purple one, so he could do -- you guessed it -- an extended "Purple Rain" for an encore.


Getting out of the parking lot looked to be a total madhouse, so Danielle and I walked down Santa Clara street looking for somewhere to hang out. We ended up in a Sharks-themed sports bar next to Speido's because it was about the only place still open. We had a couple drinks and munched on 100-year-old pretzels while waiting for the traffic to die down.

For $15 tickets, it was a damn good show.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Big Brother is Watching You Drive

This CNN article talks about insurance companies installing black boxes on people's cars to monitor their driving habits. Drivers who do so would qualify for a discount on their insurance.

The insurance companies insist that this is fine, because it's completely voluntary, although it doesn't take much of a stretch to see the difference between 'voluntary' and 'mandatory' is all in the size of the discount.

Of course, the weak link in this process is that, according to the article, the device works by plugging into the car's diagnostic port and asking the car for speed information, and works across cars because the diagnostic port is standardized. Which means that a little device that fits between the diag port and the monitoring device could be standardized, too.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Coming in 2nd Place Bites

Last friday, after randomly running into Patrick and one of his co-workers on Santana Row and spending most of the evening bar-crawling, I came back home and cruised through some personal ads. Found one of a girl who seemed like a good match -- looks cute in the photo, reads sci-fi, athletic -- so I fired off a quick response.

This morning I get a response in my inbox. This, in and of itself, is impressive enough -- about 90% of the emails I send go unanswered -- but I even get positive vibe in the email. She says, in summary, that she thought the email was funny, and that she would have been interested in getting drinks if she hadn't met another man this weekend.

This weekend!

This pretty much kills the idea that you can avoid bad things by taking monday off... They just wait until tuesday.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


Warm day in the valley today. My (no-doubt finely calibrated) temperature sensor on my car read 104 degrees coming back home this afternoon; the official weather report puts the temperature at 96 degrees. Toasty either way. I was planning on installing the last of my kitchen improvements today, but now I think I'm just going to try and hide from the heat.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Kick A Man While He's Down

I've been a user of for over a year now, with pretty much no success. I think I've gotten 2 or 3 dates out of it the whole time. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that I'm about as good at picking up women as fish are at breathing air. does provide a bunch of tools to try and do better quality searches rather than just throwing loads of faces at you, but I think sometimes it backfires. I just took their Physical Attraction test, which gathers up some self-reported info about your body type, along with a little survey of who you find attractive, and isolates certain physical features and whether you find them attractive. The little report they mailed to me seemed pretty spot-on for who I like, so I started flipping through the search results and clicking on the "physical attraction" tab (and, for those of you who will quickly point out that beauty is only skin-deep, there is also a "personality" tab, which I have given up on long ago).

My problem with the physical attraction tab isn't the women it picks for me -- it's certainly not 100%, but it does a better job than throwing darts at a wall, so I'll run with that. It's that when I click on the little tab, it gives me a) how attractive they are to me, and b) how attractive I am to them, on a 1-4 scale.

The problem is, in short, my ego. Because on every one of the 20-odd tabs I've clicked on so far, the women find me "not at all" attractive (the lowest of the four). It's a little rough for someone whose dating career is, shall we say, less than entirely successful, to find that most women on the planet would rather date a peniless Mick Jagger than you.

I'm going to go stick a bag on my head. Maybe that will improve my odds.

After searching through over 40 entries (most women have not filled out the physical attraction profile, so there only 2-3 tabs per page of 10 results), I finally found one that found me "somewhat" attractive (2 out of 4). At this point I wisely called it quits and went foraging.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Left My Brain At Home

Took forever to get out of the door this morning. I was going to ride my motorcycle in to work this morning, and every time I got out to the bike I had forgotten something. First I went out and there was a shirt in my tankbag, so I took that back in. Went back out and I had forgotten my 'stitch, so went back inside for that. Got the bike out and my helmet on, but realized my sunglasses were still inside. Went back inside for those.

Tried to start the bike -- click. Not a good sign. Tried again. Nothing. Shove it back inside the garage, turn the key on -- no lights. Must have left the key on last night. So, taking the truck today. Helmet off, gloves off, dump the 'stitch on the bike, go back inside for truck keys, realize that my wallet and badge are still in the tankbag. Back inside the garage for those, get back out, check wallet, check badge, check... no phone.

Go inside house, get phone, see there's a voicemail message. Check the voicemail, it's Jeff saying that we're going to a niners game tonight because he got free tickets, and I should bring something warm. Back inside the house, ponder between sweater and jacket, eventually choose jacket. Back outside (remember that I'm locking up the house and garage for every one of these inside/outside runs, because I swear that this time I've remembered everything and I'm leaving for work), throw jacket in truck, start it up (no problems there, thankfully), and I'm off to work. Finally.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

George P. Bush

Grace IMed me the other day to tell me that George P. Bush is "the hottest guy ever" (with one notable exception, I'm sure). I looked at his pic on Fox News, and... I don't see it. Admittedly I'm not a good judge on whether guys are attractive -- I explained my two category, butt-ugly and not-butt-ugly categorization scheme to Grace -- but I just don't see him as a swarthy Adonis.

However, while searching for a picture of this guy I ran across a few other articles. Found a quote in this article:

Speaking in sometimes halting Spanish mixed with English, he said his uncle was not blame for the gun policy, which has angered Mexicans; instead, he blamed it on "some local INS (Immigration) guy who's trying to be tough, act macho."

The use of the guns is in fact federal policy, and they are in use in several states.

Good to know the fine Bush policies of situational truth and shooting from the hip are alive and well in the next generation.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Intel Demos 35nm Chip

Just saw on CNN that Intel has demoed a memory chip made at 35nm. For those who don't track these things on a day-to-day basis, current state of the art is 90nm, the next generation process is 65nm, and my most recent chip was manufactured in 130nm.

So that means that for the same size chip, you could put 14 times as much stuff in a 35nm chip as in a 130nm. More to the point, it means computers will still keep getting cheaper for the next 5-6 years.

Oil Consumption

New Year's Resolution: I will learn to edit my posts in a real editor that doesn't suddenly forget everything I typed just because the weather over Burma changed.

But back to my (re-typed) point: Jeff and I were talking over lunch the other day about our presidential woes (He hates Kerry more than Bush, and I'm the opposite), and I mentioned that I thought Kerry's energy platform had merit.

Jeff opined that the problem was simply lack of production in the U.S., and that by increasing production we could adaquately reduce our dependence on foreign oil. My gut feel is that we could drill the ANWR until it looks like swiss cheese and we'd never make a dent in our oil imports. But as usual, we're both pretty much talking out of our ass, so I decided to go find some hard data.

There is a recent article in Fortune that talks about the issue, but doesn't give any real specifics (although, to be fair, they give more specifics than Kerry, who just vaguely mentions that he'll address the issue). But there are some good hard numbers in the EIA web site that track historical oil production and consumption.

What I gleaned from this is that, over the time of the data reported, U.S. Oil consumption has varied between a low of just under 15 million barrels per day in 1982, to a present consumption rate of about 20 million barrels/day. U.S. Production has stayed constant with a slight decrease over the last 10 years, dropping from 9.6 million barrels/day in 1990 to 9.0 million in 2000. Over the same period the total Persian Gulf output moved from 16 million to 21 million barrels/day. The raw data is worth checking out, the re are lots of interesting trends in there.

Finding out information on how much the U.S. Could increase its capacity by is harder. The same EIA web site states that they have no idea how much oil could be found in the ANWR. this article in the Petroleum News said that if approved today, production could start in 2013, with a capacity between 600k BPD (barrels per day, apparently a standard unit in the oil industry) and 1.6M BPD.

The obvious consclusion is stated later in the same article:
Because ANWR coastal oil production in 2025 is estimated to be only 0.5 percent to 1.3 percent of total world oil consumption, it is only expected to reduce world oil prices by 30 cents to 50 cents per barrel, based on an estimated world oil price of $27 per barrel in 2002 dollars. “Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could countermand any potential price impact of ANWR coastal plain production by reducing its exports in an equal amount,” the agency said.

So I think I'll stick to my argument: the only way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to either manufacture it or switch to using alternate fuels like methanol.

Monday, August 30, 2004


I saw "Hero" last night with Katie & Keith. It gets an emphatic two thumbs up. It's told in a surreal fashion, with dramatic use of color as the main part of the story gets told three times from three different perspectives. The martial arts are at the fantasy level -- Jet Li does a handspring off the surface of a lake at one point -- but appropriate to the characters, who are all larger than life. Despite a large cast (there many action sequences where huge armies cross the land), there are really only four main characters in the movie, and it ends up being about the interaction between these four.

The movie ends with a strong dose of Chinese nationalism, which undoubtedly gave it the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government. However, it doesn't seem out of place, as this also ties together the story of the four characters.

Note: not a good pick for those allergic to subtitles.

Friday, August 27, 2004

3D Printing

Interesting article in the Economist about how 3D printers (originally for producing rapid prototypes for engineering) are being used by the medical industry.

One question that occurred to me is when any of this technology will hit the consumer level -- a 3D printer would be invaluable for someone making custom parts.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Dumping my Virtual Girlfriend

Grace sent me this link about a service coming out in Hong Kong. With it you can send text messages to your "virtual girlfriend", and she replies by video mail. In order to keep her happy, you need to placate her with virtual gifts such as flowers and jewelry. Strangely, these virtual gifts cost real money.

I don't even know where to start on this one. My gut reflex this it that this is a product engineered by a woman -- your virtual girlfriend gets attention, flowers, jewelry, and whatnot, all paid for with your hard earned cash, and you get -- that's right -- NOTHING.

I don't think I'm going to sign up for this one. I can get nothing from my non-girlfriend right now, and I don't have to pay a cent. And she doesn't nag me if I forgot to buy her virtual flowers for valentine's day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Fry's Sticker of Doom

I went to Fry's this afternoon to return my Altec-Lansing speakers, because they made a hissing noise, like a radio tuned to static. It wasn't particularly loud, but since the speakers have no off switch, it was constant. I don't care what people say about the soothing power of white noise -- I found it annoying, because I knew it wasn't supposed to be there.

So today, I took a little time off work and drove to Fry's to return it. I've found it's good to hit the return line at odd times, otherwise you can spend forever there; there were only about 5-6 people in line at 3pm.

I got to the head of the line and described the problem to the return guy. He looked at my receipt, determined that it was OK, then, without even looking inside the box, he printed out the infamous "Fry's Sticker of Doom*" and a sticker with a discount price on it and slapped them on the front of the box.

This was an object lesson on why someone should never, ever buy a product with the sticker of doom on it. Hopefully someone in the back checks inside the box to see if all the parts are there before re-stocking it.

* For those not in the know, this is a sticker that Fry's places on products that have been returned.

Guy Can Cook

As a result of my recent doctor's visit (high cholesterol), I've been changing my diet, and trying to eat in more. I haven't been hugely successful, but I just cook for two nights in a row, which is especially impressive since I was hungry when I left work both nights.

Tuesday night I had grilled corn, and grilled chicken basted with a mustard and oregano sauce (no sugar and no salt means you need to be creative). Tonight I had plain grilled chicken over ramen noodles with curry and pepper. Tonight's meal ended up a bit on the bland side, so I'll need to work on that one.

Microsoft Busted for Deceptive Ads

In a real shocker, this article reports that Microsoft got busted for misleading advertisements. The shock is not that the ads were deceptive -- when one person says using Linux can save you 30%, and Microsoft says it will cost you 500%+, someone is obviously fiddling with the numbers -- but that someone actually called them on it.

Note that this did not happen in the U.S. Although I don't know if the laws are similar -- it may be that in the U.S. it's enough if what you said is factually true, and that was the case here.

The ad apparently claims that Linux running on an IBM Z900 mainframe is more expensive than a 2 CPU Xeon running Windows. Well, no shit, Sherlock -- a Z900 costs about $400,000 in its cheaper, Linux-only configuration. Needless to say you can get a dual Xeon for slightly less than that.

News Flash: Girls Think Differently

This article on CNN talks about a growing trend in public schools to provide single-sex schools. One of the interesting things about this is that it represents a public admission that men and women think differently, which contradicts one of the basic tenents of feminism, which is that men and women have the same brains but different plumbing (I'm sure there are more eloquent ways of stating this).

On the other hand, this trend looks like it's based in Texas, so it may not be anything other than another flavor of "Screw you -- we're Texas and we'll do it our way".

Monday, August 23, 2004

Marry Ericka

Grace asked me today if the personals on Craig's List were any good. I replied that their primary utility was in their humor value. Case in point, one of the personals was this one to find a groom for Erica. It redirects to a web page which gives the back story to how Erica got to her predicament. The underlying theories here seem to be either a) all men are pretty much the same, so just pick one and get it over with, or b) be careful what you agree to when you're drunk.

I think I'm leaning more towards option b). While there may be some truth that, on average, all men are the same, there are some nasty surprises off in the low percentages (see "Scott Peterson").

I think I'm going to have to follow up on this one and see if she actually got married, which apparently happened today.

The Booth Lives

Just got done looking at the latest pics of Dave's diner booth (an art car project for this year's Burning Man). It's very cool. If you could get it to a golf course you'd be the king.

For those not aware of the history of the driving diner booth, the story (or at least my version of it) starts just after last year's burning man, when Dave was telling me he was done with the nigh-indestructible Honda scooter he'd been using for a few years, and was thinking of doing something new. I was chatting with him and he said he was thinking about doing a driving toilet (I think he'd seen some other piece of driving furniture, and decided that a toilet had the best shock value).

Thinking quickly about all the abandoned items living on my porch (at the time, the porch inventory consisted of one white vinyl diner booth, one black vinyl and faux marble bar, an EX250 motorcycle engine, 4 wheels from various EX250s, 2 motorcycle frames, and a dresser full of assorted bike parts), I said "What about a diner booth?" It took a little bit of convincing, but I was really motivated to get rid of the crap Ash had dropped off at my place "for a month or two" over a year ago.

I also tried to convince Dave that he needed an EX250 motor to power his new infernal device, but in his wisdom he decided to go with a golf cart chassis. My friend Charles later hooked me up with some poor soul who really wanted a whole bunch of used EX250 parts for a bike he was rebuilding.

Dave's latest pics show the amazing transformation the booth has gone though; from being porch clutter to a pimpin' playa-crusin naked-lady-mud-flap sportin' sex machine.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Back From LA

Just got off the plane from L.A., where I went for the weekend. Grace and Jordan organized an outing of 14 people to go trap shooting, which sounded like as good a reason as any to pop down and say hi. I took my shotgun with me, which posed surprisingly few complications. The only restrictions were that I had to check it (for some reason, they don't let you take it as carry-on. Probably because it wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment), and that it needed to be in a locked container. At check in they had me open it up and checked to see that the chamber was empty, and then it had to be checked again by the TSA people.

The biggest problem of the whole affair was that odd-sized luggage gets processed after all normal luggage has gone on to the carousel, so I had to wait (along with the lady with the surfboard) for about 20 minutes for it to come out.

The range in L.A. was a pretty nice set-up. It was about 45 minutes from Jordan's place, and was pretty big -- they had about 10 trap ranges. Since it was a large group of mostly non-shooters, Jordan arranged for an instructor, Warren, and a beginner's package, including loaner guns, birds, and ammo. I thought Warren did a pretty good job as an instructor; he's obviously been a coach for a while and could spot everything you were doing and tell you exactly why you missed the target on any given shot. Unfortunately, a coach will not let you continue to perform an activity with bad form, and he began to grate on some of the shooters by the end of the day.

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all, and we ended up with a bunch of spare ammo. Again. Since it's not clear how much (if any) ammo I could take back with me on the plane, I left it in Nate's good hands, as subtle encouragement to go shooting again soon. Nate, by the way, turned out to be one of our natural shooters, and was hitting about 80% of his birds by the end of the day.

We left the range at about 5pm and headed to the beach to hook up with Jordan's brother, who had a bonfire and beach party arranged. Neither Grace nor Jordan read the directions closely, and only remembered that it was "near the volleyball nets," a misleading phrase from the evite. Naturally, there a large group of volleyball nets on the south end of the beach, which we saw when we pulled in to the parking lot. We walked all the way down the beach, confirmed that there was no one we knew, walked all the way back up the beach, checking out the groups along the way, and then decided to call it quits after wandering up and down the beach for about two hours.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Jordan's brother gives him a call and tells him exactly where the party is. It turns out that we walked right next to them, but there was no one Jordan recognzied as we walked by. So, we turned around, said hi, and hung out for a few minutes, before achieving group consensus and heading back home for food and showers. Best idea of this portion of the expedition was ordering for pizza delivery while driving back to Jordan's house.

After food, showers, and (for me and Nate) more food, we headed over to the night's party, at Howard's house. Howard is a friend of Jordan's, and another one of those people who knows everyone. My intel on Howard at this point was that he throws cool parties and mixes a mean Long Island.

We went and mixed with the beautiful people of L.A., and had a good time. Nate said he was off his game, which was somewhat dissapointing since it was a target-rich environment. A couple of Jordan & Grace's friends (met earlier that day at the gun range, names now long forgotten) are counting sexual coup with J&G, and scored (literally) in the bathroom. There were threats to even the score before departure, but to my knowledge they were not carried out.

I must admit that I didn't look at the bathroom quite the same way after that. Fortunately I'm a guy and I pee standing up.

Spent sunday being hung-over, surprisingly so since I had so little to drink (two mai tais, one long island). Sadly, this too is becoming a theme. Worked my way through half of a Tom Clancy novel that I've already read, and this helped keep my mind off of the small angry dwarf pounding relentlessly on my skull with a sledgehammer. Fortunately queasiness and small dwarf cleared up a little into my plane flight, so air sickness bags were unnecessary.

Also found out while catching up on my email that Mark has started a blog, after a little prodding from yours truly, and that he's taking the plunge and becoming a permanant, landed resident of Minnesota. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Alien Swarm

I've been playing a mod for Unreal Tournament the past few days called Alien Swarm. Not only is it one of the highest-quality mods I've ever seen, but it's also the best game I've seen that captures the look and feel of the movie "Aliens".

All of the key elements are there: The standard issue guns are indistinguishable from pulse rifles, and the minigun from the marines' steadicam-mounted machine guns. Cat, one of the gunners, is a dead ringer for Vasquez. Your marines can seal doors with a miniature welder, set up automatic sentry guns, and use flamers and shotguns.

The other thing that gives a cinematic feel to this game is the pacing. Unlike the franchised Aliens and AvP games, you don't have to start out with wimpy pea-shooters and work your way up. Instead, you go in with a full squad, loaded for bear. The first few aliens that pop out and rush you are blown away with contemptuous ease. As you get deeper, they start to swarm in larger packs, and jump out from walls and ceilings. Eventually they're coming at you in all directions in a near-continuous wave, and having to pause to reload can prove fatal.

It's challenging. It's addictive. I haven't even managed to finish the first mission yet. And when you get better, you can do co-op play with other people on the 'net. And did I mention that it's free?


Saw Tom Cruise's new flick "Collateral" last weekend with my sister. I thought Jamie Foxx did an excellent job as the cab driver, but Cruise was a bit chatty for a career psychopath. The romantic interest and the "twist" ending were fairly predictable; the big draw of the movie is the internal struggle that Jamie goes through in helping Tom carry out his hits.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Dating Crazies Builds Character

Grace just mailed me a link to this guy's web page, where he describes all of the completely insane things he and his girlfriend get into arguments about. I read until I was about to die of hunger, then decided to post it up here because a) I have a certain affinity for men who date women that are certifiable, and b) sometimes I have the memory of a gnat and I'm sure if I didn't post it I'd never find it again.

The most amazing part is, apparently, that they're still together.

Late Night With Guido

For reasons unbeknownst to me, my body has decided that I need to be awake at 4AM. Since that's the case, all I have left is to try and be vaguely productive and hope that it changes its mind soon.

Just flew back into Silicon Valley yesterday evening after visiting my parents for a week. My dad turned 70 not too long ago, but my parents were in Canada on their sailboat at the time, so the celebration was delayed until they were back in town. My sister and I flew out and met them in Sidney, B.C., and then spent a couple days sailing back to Anacortes.

By the way, in this context "sailing" means "travelling on a vessel equipped with sails" rather than "being moved by wind power." Most sailboats in Washington spend more time motoring than sailing. In any case, my parents' boat had cracked its bowsprit earlier in their trip, so sailing was pretty much out of the question.

My dad's belated birthday party was a fun affair. My father has always had fun with language, and creates occational bits of random poetry (think "clever doggerel" rather than Yeats or Frost). So to more properly hoist him by his own petard, my mother sent out with the invites to his birthday party requests for limericks on the subject of my father and his quirks.

Some of these were quite funny. Some of them even named names. Apparently when my father was around my age, he moved into an apartment complex that had around 5 men and over 50 women. "Good odds," as my father put it. One of the women living there was my mother, and another of my dad's friends then-future wife lived in the same complex.

Another of my dad's friends happened to be the father of my best friend from high school, who I've pretty much been out of touch with for the last 10 years or so. We would occasionally shoot an email back and forth in that time, but his access to email has been erratic. Mostly I would get the occasional bulk email and vague updates would get passed back and forth between our respective fathers at the local tavern. So I met up with Janusz' (that's my friend -- pronounced "YAW nuh shh") on sunday and spent an hour or two and a couple beers catching up on old times and recent updates. Neither one of is married, or, I gather, will be any time soon.

I will post my limerick, on the subject of my father's ill-fated motorcycling career, when I get the final version back from my mom.

Monday, August 09, 2004

On Vacation

I took this week of to visit my parents in Seattle. Mike dropped me off at the airport this morning -- it hasn't changed much since I last visited it, which is a surprise for SJC -- and I had an uneventful flight up. No one was here when I arrived, so I snagged the keys to Dad's Miata and went for a spin around town.

I had forgotten how beautiful Seattle is when it's not raining. It's "hot" today -- in the low 80's, which would make it comfortably warm for San Jose. On the other hand, people in Seattle can get around in the rain without applying for federal disaster relief funds.

Went out to grab dinner at a restaurant and bar not to far from my parent's house. While eating, I came to the shocking realization that there isn't a single fast-food restaurant that I can think of within two miles of my parents' house. And, unlike the bay area, it's not because my parents live in a developer's wasteland, with nothing but housing around. There are easily 30 restaurants and cafes within the same radius.

This is one of the surprising things I never realized about my home town until I left it. Living in San Jose I've gotten used to the idea that there are never less than 3 Taco Bells and 2 7-11s within a mile of any given point, and that the challenge of dining is finding a place that isn't a national chain. In Seattle, there's probably a Cheescake Factory or P.F. Changs around somewhere, but you'd have to drive a long ways to find it.

The Village

Went to the Century 21 saturday night with Mike and saw The Village. The movie was a bit slow, which seems to be typical of M. Night's movies, but not so slow that I lost interest. The various characters were strange and intruiging, with lots of potential back-story, but (somewhat frustratingly) this is never explored.

This, combined with the stilted dialog and the reserved manner of the characters, results in a cast that feels dry and leeched of emotion. There's an essential liveliness missing, like they're black-and-white people. Actually, black-and-white is a good metaphor -- there is an overall lack of color that makes the village look bleak and desolate, reinforced by the scary leafless trees which surround it. After watching the village and its near-lifeless inhabitants for a while, the emotion which strikes me isn't pity or fear but a question -- why on earth would anyone want to live here?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Music Man

The other day a brochure from the Santa Clara Adult Education center showed up in my mailbox, listing the classes they had available. This looked pretty attractive, not only because it's a non-profit and the classes are pretty reasonably priced, but because it's about half a mile from my house. So I flipped through the course catalog, and decided to sign up for a class on bass guitar.

I'm not sure what drove me to do this, other than it was cheap and it sounds entertaining. Jeff heard on the radio that Guitar Center was having their "40th Anniversary Extraviganza" (Guitar Center is always having a sale), so we went there over lunch and picked up a moderately-priced bass guitar.

Random fancy? New passion? Only time will tell. Either way I'm sure it will make a good story.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Linking Mania

Added a bunch of "favorite things" to my profile, mainly because I wanted to see what other sort of odd people are interested in the same stuff. "Dark City" yields some predictably Goth characters, and Cryptonomicon... Well, you can see for yourself. Let's just say that they're overwhelmingly male, white, and in their 30s. Including, of course, me.

I hate fitting a stereotype.

I must remember to stick "Pi" in my favorite movie list, I'm sure that will generate some interesting results...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Cross-Cultural Slang

I learned a new term from one of my co-workers today: ABCD, which stands for "American-Born Confused Desi". I was greatly amused. The term is used by Indian immigrants to describe Indian-Americans (not to be confused with American Indians -- and thanks, Columbus, for screwing up your navigation and leaving us with this grammatical problem 400 years later). ABCDs use the term "FOB" to describe recent immigrants (as far as I can tell, this is universal, since my Asian friends -- admittedly all twinkies -- use the same terminology).

Share and enjoy.

After reading the definition of "twinkie" under the second link, I wanted to point out that the definition on that page, while amusing, is somewhat extreme. Almost all of my Asian friends can speak their native language. Usage of "twinkie" by said group seems to be similar to the usage of "geek" about five or so years back -- how it is used and whether you label yourself as such depends on how much you associate with the given group/culture. A self-labeled twinkie may be fully conversant in their native language and culture, but simply choose to spend the bulk of their time in mainstream American culture, just as a self-labeled geek is proud of their high degree of skill in an area that most people consider boring or strange.

Wow, that was deep. I think I need to go shoot something to balance my ying-yang.

Second-Day Blues

Woke up this morning sore all over. My neck is really stiff, which implies I went down harder than I thought in Sunday's hockey game. I'm being punished for taking a month off and then playing two games in a night.

Since my chip came back, I've been spending all of my time in the lab. Spent most of the day today probing the board, having parts re-wired, and theorizing, only to find out that the error was that the configuration was wrong -- one of our guys added '8' and '1' together in his head and got 'A' instead of '9'. Four hours later we fix the problem, and poof! the chip's running like clockwork.

For those who have wondered, this is why hardware engineers have to be able to convert hex to binary in their heads.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Can't Sleep, Therefore I Blog

Played hockey again for the first time in over a month. Thankfully, I acutally remember how to play, and came out of both games without re-injuring my ankle (or any other joints). Unfortunately, my second game started at 10:45, and finished up around 12:30. So now I'm left with the result -- it's 1AM and I'm not tired in the least.

Fortunately, start time at my office is pretty lax. And that's putting it mildly.

I went to Jamba Juice this morning (standard breakfast most mornings -- I'm too lazy to make my own), and there was an all-new crew there. During the week, the guys there know my name and just key it in, but on the weekend I have to take my chances. For some reason, no one can ever grasp the elegant simplicity of my name, and try to shoehorn it into something more mundane. Particularly in high-noise environments.

Today I ended up as "Clyde." I thought that was quite inventive, I haven't been Clyded before. More common variants are Sky, Fly, and Die. Umm, excuse me -- who would name their son "Die"? Talk about being born under a bad sign. For this reason I frequently revert to an alias, particularly if there are a lot of people and I risk missing my order because my name has mutated into "Steven". I prefer "Gary" or, when I'm feeling a bit saucy, "Guido" (which I'm more likely to respond to).

I once asked my parents why they picked "Guy" as a name. I was expecting a story about some long-lost beloved relative on some side of the family. Instead, I was told they picked my name because it couldn't possibly be shortened into a nickname. I suspect some long-standing mutual trauma in their past, because they gave my sister an un-shortenable name as well.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I'm Not Stupid, I Just Have Stupid Speechwriters

I was having an internal conflict between the above title and "Your Tax Dollars At Work," but I decided to save that for another day. There are certainly worse abuses of taxpayer money; what the Bush administration did was just, well, stupid.

Recently Bush slapped down serious travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, ostensibly to reduce "sex tourism" and cut down on human trafficking. The real reason appears to be cultivating the Cuban-American vote in Florida (although I'm not sure why he's worried, they'll just lose the records of the votes. Again).

I'm not sure where to begin. For starters, sex tourism is no reason to slap heavy sanctions on a country. Second, if you're really trying to stamp out sex tourism, then a) you're a hopeless puritan who needs to get laid more often, and b) there are many worse offenders than Cuba around, like Brazil, Mexico, Amsterdam, and Nevada.

What was that? Oh yeah, prostitution is actually legal in Nevada. Here. In the United States.

But the real kicker, of course, and the part about wasting government money, is the quotes by Casto that Bush is referring to, never actually happened. This article explains all the gory details, but the short version is that his speechwriters picked it up from an article on the internet.

I would expect better fact-checking than this out of a high-school newspaper.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Virus Takes Down Google

Apparently it's not Keith's fault that Google was down. The latest MyDoom virus uses Google to find email addresses. Fiendishly clever. Naturally, the hordes of unprotected Windows machines that were immediately affected by variant -O were sufficient to DoS Google with their relentless searching.

Also, if you haven't heard of Senator Orrin Hatch's (the man who brought us the DMCA) latest masterpiece, you should check it out. The one ray of shining hope that could foil this man's quest to litigate the nation into lawfully-bound consumers of corporate-produced content is the computer industry, who have started to realize that the legislation he's spitting out at the behest of the RIAA and MPAA is bad news for selling cool things like iPods and high-powered (and high profit margin) computers that can create and publish content.

Unfortunately, it appears that a mere $159,860 per year buys you a lot of work if you find the right senator (hint: don't get the ones from California, they're too expensive). The potential income difference between the House and the Senate is also staggering -- the total contributions for my representative, Mike Honda, were less than the top industry group for most senators. Okay, maybe not most -- top contribution group for many "poorer" Senators is about $220k, which is still pretty close to Honda's total contributions of $385k.

What always surprises me is how small these numbers are compared to their effect. To a major corporation, $200k is noise -- companies that do ASIC design will spend $500k to fix a minor bug in a chip, why not spend half that to get some laws written the way you want?

I'm Glad These People Aren't My Neighbors

I think I'm about done with I've been on match for about a year now, and the whole time I've only met one girl that I went out with more than once. Today I got a wink from a girl looking for "someone who doesnt mind that I am a little nuts." So, just letting people now, it's not that I look for the crazy ones, they actually track me down.

Speaking of crazy people, I followed a link off of BoingBoing to this article about a guy who reprogrammed the now-ancient Eliza bot impersonate a young girl (or, more accurately, a guy pretending to be a young girl) on IRC. It's fun to read the give and take in the chat logs -- you can see people lose interest, and then they hit a keyword and the bot throws out something appropriate and they're hooked again.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Katie and Keith's Wedding

Katie and Keith's wedding was this weekend, and went off without a hitch. Well, they did get hitched, so maybe it went off with one hitch. It was a fun wedding, which was a nice change. The brief ceremony was officiated by our friend Nate, who managed to instill the occasion with the proper degree of gravity. Afterwards, an impromptu ultimate frisbee game broke out, due to the high number of ultimate players (most of the under-30 crowd, er, make that under-40 crowd).

Apparently Google is just falling apart since Keith left for his honeymoon, because attempting a search this morning I get a generic "server error" on any search. I think this is the first time I've seen Google be completely down for a measurable amount of time. My hands are already starting to shake from anticipated withdrawl -- information junkies need infusions daily, if not hourly.

Sunday called up Adam and went to Charles' 40th birthday, where I ran into a fair number of the AFM 250 production crowd, in various states of injury. Charles pulled out his pocket bike and we did laps up and down the street. Pocket bikes are fun. I need to work hard on not owning one. At least not until all my existing crap manages to find a home other than the floor of my garage.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

I'm a Bridesman

Since a number of people (*ahem* Grace and Katie) have been claiming that Jon and I are bridesmaids, since there's no such thing as a bridesman, I decided to do a little research. And the answer is, you just didn't use the right dictionary. While Miriam-Webster's is fine if you want definitions of the words people used in the 1950's, you need to check elsewhere for a definition of "bridesman".


And apparently Katie's not the only girl who wanted to be surrounded by men on her wedding day; I my search I found this blog of a girl who walked down the aisle with 5 bridesmen.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Chips Are Down

After over a year in development, the prototypes for the latest chip I worked on are now back, although shipping and receiving seems to be taking their own sweet time delivering them. So I have a couple days reprieve while the chips get put on their boards at the proto manufacturing house, and then life gets really, really busy.

It's kind of exciting, because it's the first time in my career that I've been heavily involved in the bring-up process. On all the other chips I've worked on, either the project got cancelled (most frequent), I left the company before the chips came back, or I was doing verification and the design team never asked for help.

My co-worker and I were trying to actually see the chips, which is why we were annoyed that shipping has "lost" them. In a way it's a silly reflex -- by and large all chips look the same on the outside -- but it's cool (and wierd) that we spend so much time working on a project, and it comes back and it's only an inch square.

A lot of the time when people ask me what I do, I tell them I write code. It's easier than trying to explain the difference between a hardware engineer and a software engineer.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Is SCO Linux's Best Friend?

The first of SCO's cases against users of Linux has been summarily dismissed. Ironically, it may turn out that the SCO lawsuits help Linux in the long run:
"SCO's purpose in pursuing a very public, aggressive litigation strategy, would seem to be to undermine the public's confidence in the rival Linux operating system by suggesting that it contains infringing materials," he said. "Ironically though, if it continues to suffer such severe setbacks, it may instead succeed in permanently validating Linux by publicly demonstrating its legitimacy."
Or maybe it's just that any press is good press, as long as your still standing afterwards.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Futher Vinnie Update

More info in the saga of Vinnie, via Mark S.:
Vinny update: Vinny is jacked up. The first MRI read indicated torn PCL,LCL, MCL, and ACL, each either partial or full. Additionally, there's a bone chip floating around, and a lot of fluids where they shouldn't be. He's going to a recommended out-of-network specialist tomorrow for another opinion. His father and brother will be here for a while to help take care of him.


Moral of the story: do not fall out of the raft.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Blogging as PR

Came across this site talking about the convergence of blogging and PR. The short version seems to be that people are paying less and less attention to traditional advertising, and the PR industry is looking for a way to get its messages out to people. Blogging comes up as the tool for forming a "grass roots" marketing strategy.

Of course, another way to put it is that if you build a good product, people will like it and tell their friends about it. Some of them might use a blog. But there's really nothing new here, other than people throw away everything coming in the mail slot that isn't a bill, and use Tivo to skip past their commercials.

I can't say I'm sad to see mainstream advertising in a crisis. Even the superbowl commercials have been dissapointing recently.

Patents Run Amok

Caught this article on LinuxToday (the best central news source for the Revolutionary Movement) about Microsoft's future plans for patents. An HP exec has realized that MS plans to try and choke off the open source movement by patenting, well, everything, and then using the resulting patents to shut down open source projects.

At this point I can just hear thousands of open sourcers jumping up and down and saying "I told you so!" I still haven't figured out the state of patent law in Europe -- the system the EU operates under seems kind of kooky, because the lines of accountability aren't very clear. At least not to me. There is a group trying to fight expansion of EU patent law to bring it "in line" with U.S. patent law (i.e. allow software algorithms and business methods to be patented, instead of just things realized in physical hardware). Unforunately the same lack of accountability I see is styming them as well; it appears that they brought this up to their MPs, and their MPs brought it up in the EU parliament, and parliament just got... ignored.

Perhaps people are still feeling their way around in the EU, but I know in the U.S., Congress gets mighty ticked when they think you're not paying attention to them.