The Big Think

March 17, 2006

Inflation is True!

Filed under: Science,Space — jasony @ 1:28 am

Wow. Scientist announce that they have found proof of the inflationary theory. Cool stuff.

March 15, 2006

Roomba Frogger!

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 10:18 pm

Leave it to Austinites. These guys make a Roomba vacuum into a crazy Frogger toy and then proceed to try and race it across traffic. It worked…. for a while.

March 13, 2006

Make Your Own Greenscreen

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 10:52 pm

Very cool. For doing video FX on a budget.

Insurance Companies are Evil

Filed under: Disclosure,Politics — jasony @ 9:30 pm

There’s a form letter that goes out each March like clockwork. It’s from our insurance company and I always dread it. It starts like this:

“Due to medical cost increases and more frequent use of medial services…” And then goes on to say that they’ll be charging us a lot more for fewer services. We’ve all been there before, so I know I’m not alone in my anger. We’ve coped through the years by switching insurance companies, raising deductibles, decreasing services, etc, but still the rates raise inexorably. According to this site, the cost of health insurance has risen 59 percent since 2000, while workers wages have increased only 12 percent. I thought 59% in six years was bad. I thought college tuition increases were exorbitant. Until today.

We just got the dreaded letter. Sorry, but we have to raise your rates by 25%. I’ve looked at the stock and investor return rate for our insurance company and they most definitely didn’t show a 25% loss last year, so I’m confused as to how they can say they need to up our premium by such a large amount. We dealt with this last year by jumping ship and going with another company, but Erin got denied for a really stupid reason. It wasn’t anything that affects her health, but I guess the company we were applying to would rather play it safe. The really bad part is that we now have to check YES on any future insurance application when they ask “have you ever been denied for insurance?” I managed to get on with the new company for a decent rate, and it’s an HSA so I can actually save up some of that premium money and visit the doctor when I’m not at death’s door, but because of the denial Erin is stuck with the current lousy company.

Ask yourself how high your rates have to get before you decide that you’d rather take the risk and be without coverage (like millions of others have done). At what point does a person decide that the thousands of dollars per year (average for a family is $10,000/year) would be better off actually paying to go to the doctor, rather than pay some faceless company that will then turn around and deny you if you try and make a claim. I know, I know. If we dropped out of the insurance scam and one of us got badly injured or got cancer, we’d be sorry that we weren’t paying their usurious rates, but that’s not the point. What happens to the millions of people (not us- yet) who have to make the choice between paying health insurance premiums and putting food on the table?

Our healthcare system is broken, and it’s never been more evident to me that it needs major repair in order to fix it. What will be done?

March 11, 2006

Birthday Boy

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 4:24 pm

Happy birthday (yesterday) to Robert!

Amazing CG

Filed under: Computing,Space — jasony @ 4:11 pm

A CG recreation of the famous Man on the Moon shot.

12 month plane

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 3:58 pm

A cool video of the 12 month build process for a new Airbus A380 condensed to 7 minutes.

I’m a Lesser Man

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 11:03 am

Since I left for Sing exactly one month ago, Erin and I have been on the Atkins diet. We’ve been going through what is called the “induction” phase, where the dieter dramatically cuts out all but 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. The USRDA of carbs is 300 grams, and most people exceed this. I know that Erin and I ate more than this sometimes because we had so much bread, rice, and pasta in our diets. I’m sure we were around the 500gm/day mark, so cutting back to 20 grams was really dramatic.

The first two weeks were (relatively) easy for me since I was gone for Sing. I would typically be busy from 1-12pm so there wasn’t much time for eating anyway. I pretty much ate chicken, cheese, and tuna. After two weeks I was ready to either crow, moo, or swim away. Booooo-ring diet, but it worked. Man, did it work.

The two weeks since returning have been less successful. Both Erin and I have experienced a big slowdown of our weight loss, though we seem to be settling within a pound or two of our desired goal.

So here are some numbers. When I cut out caffeine and soft drinks a few years ago I was 227. I’ve been told by several friends that my 6’2″ frame hid it well, and I appreciate it, but when I could no longer hold my gut in, or when my knees hurt while walking up the stairs, or when my midsection pushed against the front of all of my clothes, I knew that it was time to do something. Cutting out soft drinks and caffeine made a big difference. It took about a year to drop over 30 pounds. I didn’t sleep any better (other issues there), but I didn’t go through the day with a massive sugar/caffeine buzz and my teeth haven’t hurt since I quit. That alone was worth the absolutely miserable first two weeks of self-imposed detox. If quitting cigarettes is harder than quitting caffeine (and I’ve heard that it’s much harder), I have newfound respect for anyone who successfully quits, or even gives it a good try. Cravings suck. I was successful in getting down to around 195 just from getting off the Pepsi and being aware of what I was stuffing down my gullet. My weight slowly crept back up to around 200, however, and I felt like I was destined to never be where I wanted to be unless I did something dramatic.

So we decided to couple Atkins with the no-caffeine regimen and see what happened. Wow! I set my goal weight at 185lbs and told myself that I’d get a nice reward as a motivation. I chose a wood floor for my office/studio. Last week I stepped on the scale and saw 185! I haven’t weighed that little since high school. Erin told me that I was 192 when we got married (funny that she’d remember that), and I have always striven to look like our honeymoon pics (I sound like such a girly-man).

Anyway, my weight has gone up slightly and is hovering in the 187range. Erin is also down to where she wants to be, plus two pounds or so. We’re having trouble getting those last couple of pounds off, but we’ll keep at it, while slowly adding some carbs back into our diet. We had a 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes last night for the first time in a month. Wonderful.

If you’re interested in loosing some weight fairly quickly with very little food cravings, we can both recommend Atkins. It’s not something that I’d stay on indefinitely, though. The dependence on so much protein, not to mention the fact that you have to stay away from all bread (!) makes it very difficult to do it for more than a month or two unless you’re really hard core or have to lose a lot of weight. The only downside of the diet-well, aside from how boring it is unless you’re really creative- is that that none of my pants fit now. I’ve dropped several inches and my gut is gone now. I’ll either continue to belt up my pants Paddington-Bear style or spring for some new jeans.

Feels great!

March 8, 2006

Hotness

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 7:55 pm

A record has been set for the hottest temperature ever created in the lab. Hotter than the interior of the sun. 2 billion degrees (cue Dr. Evil). Normally, this kind of announcement is followed by a press conference with scientists who proudly proclaim that it verifies their theories, or justifies their experiments. In this case, however, there’s an unsettling quiet from the researchers. When asked what their method was, one scientist simply said “we don’t know how we did it”. All hail the accidental discovery!
(thanks to Scott for the link)

*Update*. That’s 2 billion degrees kelvin, or 3.6 billion Fahrenheit. That’ll warm your coffee.

Arrr Matey!

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 5:25 pm

Pirates of the Spanish Main looks like a fun collectible game. At only $4.00 for a basic kit I might try it out. Watch the how-to-play animations (flash req) for an overview. This game might be a lot of fun for families with kids (Sean?)

Media Mac

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 9:52 am

Lots of Mac media center software here. Everything you need to make your Mac a killer media center.

Multi-Touch

Filed under: Computing,Technology — jasony @ 9:50 am

Video of an amazing new multi-touch computer interface. My mind reels just thinking about the applications.

March 7, 2006

New X-Men Trailer!

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 4:10 pm

Holy smokes, this looks cool. Guess I’ll be going to at least one movie this year.

March 6, 2006

It’s The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 10:58 pm

The October/November transition to cold weather is my very favoritest time of the year. Down here in central Texas, which they often use for thermal calibration for the pits of Hell, “cold weather” is defined as “any temperature cool enough to make lead get slightly less runny”. I’m always happy when the trees and birds stop screaming in agony over the heat, and when the grass changes color from “sickly drought-ridden brown” to “sickly under-watered brown”, I get a little tear in my eye. Of course, it quickly evaaporates.

It’s nice when you break triple digits (going down) for a few days. So my very favorite season of the year is late fall, because it’s the greatest distance we can possibly get until it gets hot again. When that first cool spell comes through I always feel happy because I know that it’s several months until I have to pull out the shorts and t-shirts and deal with a car air conditioner that blows tepid air in a desultory fashion.

Conversely, early March is my least favorite part of the year. It signals the start of the ten months that we Texans call summer. Soon we’ll be walking around all but naked, walking fast to cool ourselves with the self-generated breeze, or standing in front of the open freezer so we can get our body temperature into the upper 90’s. Now that I’m grown up and have my *VERY OWN ROOF* to live under, I call and tell my dad that, yes indeed, I AM TRYING TO AIR CONDITION THE WHOLE HOUSE WITH THE OPEN FRIDGE.

Welcome to Texas in the summer, where the best reason to leave the house is to go hang out in a public place just for the air conditioning.

Quoth

Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 2:38 pm

“Good coffee, wine, and cheese are worth the cost, but good bread is worth the time.”
Heavy Hedonist (Cooking Light Magazine)

How to Be An Expert

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 11:24 am

Creating Passionate Users has an article on learning at any age. Short and sweet, this one is really good. It talks about picking up new skills throughout life and how it’s never too late to learn something new.

link

…about that never too late thing… most of us can kiss that Olympic ice skating medal good-bye. And at 5′ 4″, my basketball career is probably hopeless. But think about this… actress Geena Davis nearly qualified for the US Olympic archery team in a sport she took up at the age of 40, less than three years before the Olympic tryouts.

And if the neuroscientists are right, you can create new brain cells–by learning (and not being stuck in a dull cubicle)–at virtually any age. Think about it… if you’re 30 today, if you take up the guitar tomorrow, you’ll have been playing for TWENTY years by the time you’re 50. You’ll be kicking some serious guitar butt. And if you’re 50 today, there’s no reason you can’t be kicking guitar butt at 70. What are you waiting for?

March 4, 2006

The Simpsons!

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 10:59 am

A live action Simpson’s introduction. (Mike, you’re going to love this)

March 3, 2006

Jupiter Has the Measles!

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 4:06 pm

Jupiter is developing a secondGreat Red Spot. Wow. What might happen now?

Upgrades

Filed under: Computing,Macintosh,Music — jasony @ 2:48 am

Geeky post follows.

Now that Sing is over I can muck around with my computer system and see what the future may bring. I have a standing rule that I can do NO alteration to my computer or studio when I’m in a work cycle. I’ve had things go Very Badly in the past and it’s always a nightmare of lost time and effort when I could be working. So as long as there is current work, no touchie computer! Hands off!

Now that the show is over, though, I’m free to tinker. I was lamenting to Erin tonight how my next computer upgrade is likely to be (1) several years off (my current machine is only 2 years old or so), and (2) ridiculously expensive because for various technical reasons I will have to upgrade everything at once. Take a look at what I’m staring at:

new mac (approx $2000 or so street price- a great machine in any modern era)
new flatscreen monitors (preferably two 20″ screens at about $800/pop current price)
updated Midi interface ($400)
updated audio interface ($1000)
updated software (about $300)

So while my last computer upgrade was only $1300 and included a color printer, this next one might run over $5K. Yeowch. So I started looking into ways to cut down on that price, or at least spread it out a little. My monitor still clicks and blinks every so often, but it still works. As long as it doesn’t die on me, I think I’ll be good until prices come down a bit more on the flatscreens. For the kind of work I do, though (lots of Midi sequencing, music notation, and a growing amount of video production), two monitors is becoming more of a necessity than an extravagance. If I can hold off until the 20″ versions get below the $500 mark then I’ll be really happy. Sure, I could spend less on an inferior product, but these are my only eyes, and if Giles and Erin have taught me anything, it’s that going cheap on a piece of hardware that I spend 16 hours staring at some days is a false economy. So it’ll be the nice ones when the time comes.

The midi interface is another matter. I just so happen to have a g4port installed on my current machine. It takes the place of the modem and acts as an old-style serial port, thus allowing me to use my old midi interface (that I paid $800 for 12 years ago and still works fine) with my current machine. Unfortunately, my old Midi interface doesn’t work with OS X… and no current Mac will boot into 9 any more. But then I realized that I could ebay a newer (but still serial) Midi Express XT and use it with the G4port. Lo and behold, ebay had just what I was looking for and it was priced at only .99! (that’s ninety nine cents). How could I go wrong? Well, it will cost $20 to ship, but that’s still better than $400 any day.

So in the mean time I may be able to update the midi interface and all of my software for much cheaper than I had feared. When the inevitable time comes and I have to replace my machine (which, I hope, is still 2-3 years away), at least I won’t have to shell out for a new midi interface. The audio interface is another matter, and I’m not sure about that yet.

As a side note, I try and make my desktop machines last a minimum of 4 years, and the only laptop I’ve owned is almost six years old and still going strong. I just hate to spend money on computers until I’m forced by breakage or business needs to do so. The upside, of course, is when I finally get around to upgrading, it’s like being thrust into warp drive. The new machines are so frigging fast that my head spins for several days. Then I inevitably get used to it and small things start to annoy. Meanwhile the retired machine gets moved down the line to become the current home automation controller. It’s a good system. The only bad thing about my old G3 (and current HA machine) is that it’s as loud as a hurricane. I’m kinda hoping it dies so I can get a silent mac mini.

What a spoiled life we Americans lead when technology is so ridiculously fast and available.

March 2, 2006

404!

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 9:28 pm

Funny 404 page.

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