May 31, 2005

How not to buy happiness

"The choice in each of these thought experiments is one between conspicuous consumption (in the form of larger houses) and what, for want of a better term, I shall call inconspicuous consumption –freedom from traffic congestion, time with family and friends, vacation time, and a variety of favorable job characteristics. In each case the evidence suggests that subjective well-being will be higher in the society with a greater balance of inconspicuous consumption. And yet in each case the actual trend in U.S. consumption patterns has been in the reverse direction."

Daedalus - How not to buy happiness - The MIT Press


Stealth Bomber found on Google Maps

Google Maps - Plant 42 in Palmdale, California



May 29, 2005

Temporarily Stairs

"I like an escalator, because an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You'll never see an 'Escalator Out of Order' sign, only 'Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.'" -- Mitch Hedberg
I flew home from San Fransisco earlier today and in the airports I kept encountering escalators that weren't moving. No reason given, I'm not sure if they were broken down or what.

Anyway, it made me think of Mitch Herberg's bit.


Chernobyl-damaged kids supposedly smarter, healthier

Boing Boing: Chernobyl-damaged kids supposedly smarter, healthier

This is apparently complete bunk, but it reminded me of an episode of Chris Elliot's Get a Life where Chris becomes super smart after living in toxic waste and starts dominating on the spelling bee circuit. From the transcribed script:

WOMAN IN CROWD -- He must have gotten his intelligence from toxic waste.
MAN IN CROWD -- That's the worst kind of cheating.
CROWD -- Kill him. Kill him.

I loved that show.


May 26, 2005

Microsoft gets it

RSS Feed Product Index

To see an RSS feed that lists the most recently published KB articles, select a product from the list below.

RSS has so many potential uses, it's not just for reading blogs. We've just reached the tip of the iceberg.

As pointed out by several people in my comments, IBM gets it too. I'm betting Ed Brill has a lot to do with that, he definitely gets it.


May 25, 2005

Damien Idol, 50-50 Chance of Being Right Edition

Carrie was better, and will win.


May 20, 2005

Wicked Smahht?

Recently Doc Searls wrote some things about intelligence, IQs and what not. I thought I'd weigh in with my own thoughts. At the risk of sounding conceited, I'm going to discuss my own intelligence and its measurements.

I have a high IQ. How high? I once tested as high as 155. That's a pretty high IQ. Impressed? You shouldn't be, it's meaningless.

My IQ has also tested much lower, I once got a score of 120. Ok, that's not exactly low, but it's not uncommon either. Also, my SATs weren't Ivy League numbers either; in my one and only try I scored 1230.

Ok, so the truth is I'm a pretty bright guy. I learn things quickly, I figure out stuff and I've produced some really good work. I'm smart. Right?

Well, I can't play a single instrument. I can't sing. I can't dance. I suck at most sports. I speak one language, english (duh). My 3rd grade teacher told my mother that I'd was dumb and might be held back. My high school GPA was 2.6, and that was after getting an extra grade point for the advanced classes I was in (our valedictorian got a 4.6, if I recall correctly). I'm not sure what a preposition or interjection is. In college, both Calculus and Chemistry gave a hard time.

On the other hand, I did extremely well in Physics I & II. In both semesters, I hardly even went to class. I just read the chapters out of the textbook before each exam and I usually got an A. And when it came to Computer Science, forget about it, it's like my brain was built for it. I never had so much as a blip of trouble with CS stuff. It just came to me and I enjoyed it.

So which is it? Am I smart or not? Well, if you've worked with me, you'd probably say "smart". If you taught me in school, you'd probably say "not".

On the test I scored a 120 on, it was in a Readers Digest. I remember there were lots of wordy problems I had trouble with. Instead of my mind attacking the problem, I would look at them and not even be sure I understood the question. I didn't like that test, it made me feel uneasy.

On the test I scored a 155 on, there were no words. It was a test that was just math or shapes or pictures. Lots of "find the next picture in the sequence" and "what does this object look like rotated sidways". And I blew through it with ease. It was like my brain was built for it. I liked that test, it was fun.

So what is my real IQ? I don't think that question has an answer. There is absolutely no way you can distill my intelligence down to a number and then rank me amongst all other people. If there were an IQ test that measured the parts of my brain that focus on symbolic manipulation (which is essentially what programming is), you'll get a very high score indeed. If you measure the part of my brain that processes, decodes and encodes natural language, you'll get a much much lower score. If you measure the part of my brain that is empathetic, you'd send me to school on the short bus.

Recent thinking is that math ability in the brain is largely separate from language ability. I'm sure also the ability to rotate 3d objects in your head is also separate from language, as is the ability to think about complex machines. And certainly writing code is very different from writing text.

There are many such parts of the brain that can truly excel independent of other parts of the brain. Being a great doctor has little in common with being a great musician, or even a great lawyer.

Recently I did some work with some lawyers. Very good, high priced lawyers at that. After working with them for a little while, it became clear to me that they are very smart in ways that I simply am not. Their ability to read extremely dense documents and actually grok the information they contained far exceeded my own abilities. As was their ability to produce documents, to organize thoughts and structure information in writing. After spending so much time away from stuff like that, I'd forgotten how hard it can be for me. I'd bet they'd do really great on that Reader's Digest IQ test, but I'm also betting not as good on the wordless test.

Doc Searls claims that everyone is a genius. I wouldn't go that far, but you need not score well on a IQ test to be smart. Like Forrest Gump said, stupid is as stupid does, and I think the converse is true, smart is as smart does. And having a high IQ really just means that you are good at figuring out the kind of stuff that's on an IQ test. In life though, there aren't IQ tests that need to be taken before you can do great things. You are either capable of doing them or you aren't, and no general purpose test is really going to let you know either way.

So really, what's my point? Forget about IQ scores, at least on the individual level. They are worse than useless, they pigeonhole people into smart, average or dumb categories. There are plenty of people who are really, really smart in some unique way, and yet don't realize it because their grades or aptitude tests or whatever didn't show it, so they're assumed to be dumb. There are enough obstacles in life, you don't need someone else's idea of intelligence holding you back.


May 19, 2005

For me to poop on


I saw this picture on Yahoo News today. The woman looked suspiciously like the pregnant woman who was heckled by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog during the last Star Wars premier.

A quick Google, and I found this article from 2002, which confirms it's the same woman. Undeniable proof that some Star War geeks do have sex, multiple times even.


I also found the 2002 video of Triumph insulting the geeks, which is absolutely hilarious.


May 18, 2005

Javascript and XUL

I've been poking around inside the Firefox browser and I must say I'm incredibly impressed with the architecture of XUL. Actually, I'm floored. They've done an super slick job separating out structure, style and behavior into distinct layers. Basically, when running Firefox, everything you see is defined in a XML file, the look of it is comes from cascading style sheets, and every action you take has Javascript involved in some way behind the scenes. That means almost everything is customizable.

At it's core, XUL is general purpose development platform, and I must say if you need to build something GUI heavy that also needs to be cross platform, you should seriously consider this. If someone hooked up a replicatable object database underneath it, you'd have a pretty damn good head start on building a Notes replacement. Hmmmm.

I found this comment in a file named web-panels.xul:

<!--XXXBlake XUL sucks! We need autocheck for menuitems. -->

I disagree, XUL most certainly does not suck.

The other thing I discovered in an XUL file, if you middle click on the Back or Forward button it opens the previous or next page in a new tab. If you have a mouse wheel button, that should work. Very useful.

Anyway, I've created an extension that does the right double click back thing, and I've modified it to also close the window if there is no previous document. I'm going to live with it for a little while and see how I like it. Feel free to try it yourself:

Download rightdoubleclickback.xpi


Damien Idol, indecisive edition

Bo, Carrie, and Vonzell. Each is oh so very different, saying one is better than the other is silly.

Bo is a true professional, he brings his A game every time and he has soul to boot. But I tire of the southern rocker routine.

Carrie has an amazing voice, she's probably the most talented singer in the competition. But she's not a great performer and is sometimes awkward on stage.

Vonzell is the complete package, she's got looks, style and charisma, she's a natural performer. But I don't think I'd listen to an album of hers, her voice just doesn't have enough oomph. But I enjoy watching her the most though.

Prediction: Carrie will go. But I think she has the best shot at a successful recording career.


May 17, 2005

Right Double Click Back

I've created a very small GreaseMonkey script that allows you navigate backwards in your browser quickly by right double clicking the page. That's it, that's all it does. But it's super handy, especially to an old Notes geek. Have fun.



Character from the new Star Wars movie?




May 16, 2005

Google Cheat Sheet

Google Help : Cheat Sheet


May 15, 2005

Ship a used monitor to Africa?

I placed an ad to sell a monitor on CraigsList. I keep getting emails about it:

From: "emem emah" <>
Subject: used 19' Dell Trinitron Monitor - $50

my name is mr clark peace. I saw your advert on web and i am
interested in buying your item i am ready to pay you $100 ,i am
based in western africa ,get back to me if my offer is ok by you.
Like i said earlier i am based in the Western africa .there won't
be any problem about the shippment,after payment ,the pick up will
be made at your place. i have made arrangements with the prepaid
shipping company. As regards payment,what i am going to do;I have a
client in the US who is oweing me $3000 i would instruct
him to make out a certified cheque to you in that amount and as
soon as it clears in your bank. you can now deduct your money from
it and send me my balance,i will using part of the money to pay
for the shipping and other expenses .you will then send balance by
via western union

I almost fell for this, I think it was Mr Clark Peace's unusual use of punctuation and capitalization that had me back on my heels. It's spellbinding.

Well played Mr. Peace, your plan almost worked. Almost. See Mr. Peace, I did a little checking. I called Western Africa today. That's right, I dialed Information and they gave me the number. Actually, the operator was a little confused at first, but then I said THE Western africa, then they gave me the number. Anyway, when called the Western Africa I spoke to a nice woman named Ethel. She said she'd never heard of you, and neither did the guy in the next cubicle. I told her there must be some mistake, maybe she was new to the Western Africa? No she said, she had been there for years and so had Doug, the guy in the next cubicle. How could that possibly be, how is it they've never heard of you Mr. Clark Peace? Or should I call you......Emem Emah? Don't ask me how I know your real name, but I know. The jig is up!


May 13, 2005

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Geek Fantasies

Have you ever fantasized about a room full of sexy college coeds sweating over a match of Strip-Counterstrike; or perhaps you long to see young, bikini-clad sweethearts slaving away with soldering irons, installing mod-chips in their home consoles?

Despite initial appearances, it's worksafe.

via Fleshbot


May 11, 2005

Making Peace With Autism

Susan Senator, a friend of my wife and I, has a new book coming out titled Making Peace with Autism. It's about her autistic son Nat:

Making Peace with Autism is a family story, my family, but it contains universal, overarching truths that will appeal to any family faced with great challenges. My husband and I struggled to understand what was wrong with our little son and through the years, we have learned a lot about what works and what does not. Most of all, we have learned how to be a family, with two other, non- autistic boys as well. Nat, now 15, is a viable part of our family though by no means is he easy to know or understand. We have a connection to him that we work to nurture, that is one part hope and faith, and the other part is pure effort and love.

Having had her and her family over for dinner, they are a wonderful, happy family. But I've worked with autistic kids in past, and I'm sure they have their share of hard times too. Anyway, there's a lot I want to know, I can't wait to get the book.


May 10, 2005

Happy Anniversary

Happy anniversary Laura, I love you.


May 4, 2005

Damien Idol, Super Abbreviated Edition

Bo Bice will leave.


May 3, 2005

The blogging backlash

I'm probably late on this, but I'm really starting to sense a rising blogging backlash. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood.


Password Generator

Password generator

Simple solution to an old problem.

A bookmarklet from the same site.

Update 2:
A Greasemonkey version has appeared, but from different site. That was fast. Via The Schwartz

BTW, I haven't used any of these yet, so don't take my links as an endorsement. When using software tools to manage all of your passwords, please be cautious.


May 2, 2005

Getting Flat

Linux Journal - Getting Flat

The article by Doc Searls is supposed to be about the open source movement, but its discussion of the education meatgrinder is most interesting to me. As former academic failure (poor grades and "behavior problems" through all my schooling), this crystalizes many of my own thoughts perfectly. Highly recommended reading.


May 1, 2005

Voluntary Simplicity

Voluntary Simplicity & Simple Living Resource Guide - What is Voluntary Simplicity?

Interesting Article.