April 22, 2008
I made it out to Chicago last week, but never had any good pictures to share. And after realizing that my “travel camera” is a steaming pile of a dog crap, I only managed to get one good picture from Denver. My wife keeps the nice new camera, but since it’s very large and bulky, I wouldn’t likely carry it around and use it when I’m on business. I think it’s time for me to buy a new camera, and I’ve got a few things I’d like in that camera:
1. Small/slim (fits in a pants pocket easily).
2. Good value (good pictures, but not overly expensive).
But luckily, the picture I did get happened to be of the entrance to my favorite beer bar:
April 1, 2008
Richard Branson is taking space tourism to the next level, with the help of Google.
For thousands of years,
the human race has spread out across the Earth, scaling mountains and plying the oceans, planting crops and building highways, raising skyscrapers and atmospheric CO2 levels, and observing, with tremendous and unflagging enthusiasm, the Biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply across our world’s every last nook, cranny and subdivision.
Earth has issues, and it’s time humanity got started on a Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars.
I’m so there!
I think I should file this one under “travel”, right?
February 5, 2008
Well, I just found something new. What would you say if you could have a completely customized radio station, that played only the music you selected and other music similar to that? What if that station, unlike something like iTunes, still kept you up to date with new releases and introduced you to new artists that are your kind of music?
Well, it sounds like a pipe dream to most. Yet I just found a site last night that fits all those requirements. Pandora is a free internet radio station that is customized to a listener. Tell them you like an artist, and they’ll play music from that artist and those like him/her. Add a few artists together, and you can have a station that plays your favorite styles of music, with a self-correcting feature that allows you to rate music you like and don’t like to refine your selections.
It’s powered by a group called the Music Genome Project, musicians who rate music based on a wide number of factors about the type, style, vocals, instruments, beat, etc present in the tune. From this and some software algorithms, they are able to link artists together based on those factors and help listeners find new artists.
For most radio listeners, this isn’t a big issue. If you’re a “Top 40″ type, you have no trouble finding music like what you already listen to, because it’s blared out on every third FM station, in the mall, in movies, and everywhere else. For someone with more eclectic tastes like me, though, it’s a lot more difficult. I’ve tried to look through amazon.com’s recommendations, but they don’t give you the opportunity to really evaluate an artist by listening to them for a while. Pandora allows me to do that.
For example, I’m a big fan of the sort of folk/blues genre. An artist that I’ve listened to quite a bit over the last few years, simply after hearing one of his songs on an acoustic compilation, is Chris Whitley. I own a few of his albums, but had no way to really found other music like his, until now. Today at work I put his name into Pandora, and over a couple of hours, had found a few potential artists and songs to pick up on iTunes.
I have a feeling that over the next few weeks, I’m going to become a lot more familiar with the workings of Pandora. After all, if a radio station where I’m the general manager fails to satisfy me, I have nobody to blame but me!
Hat Tip: Atlas Blogged
And for those of you who haven’t heard of Chris Whitley, here is the song that I first heard that got me listening to him:
January 16, 2008
My wife, despite past experience, drives a European automobile. It’s nearing the end of its warranty, so it’s getting about time to sell it. In fact, the check-engine light went on a few days ago, so we were planning on taking it in for service.
Well, I was at a homebrew club meeting last night, and my wife was on her way back home from her parents’ house. She called me to inform me that the temperature gauge was going up!
Not a good thing. We had her last POS Euro car overheat on us driving from Vegas to LA one year (strangely, just after the warranty expired), and it cost us a horrendous amount of money. So when I heard the car was overheating, I was a bit concerned.
Then she told me it had stabilized, and it only went up while she was accelerating. Given that it was stable, I told her to keep an eye on it, and if she saw it rise, to open the windows and crank the heat. It was a bit chilly, so she could probably have gotten away with that without getting too uncomfortable.
For the rest of the homebrew meeting, I was a bit worried, but I didn’t hear from her again. So I called her when I left to tell her I was on my way home, and check on it.
Me: “How’s the car?”
Wife: “It’s okay, it actually wasn’t a problem.”
Me: “Really? How so?”
Wife: “I think I was looking at the wrong thing.”
Then it hit me… I know how the dash is aligned, and put two and two together (it only occurred when she was accelerating)…
Me: “You were looking at the tachometer, weren’t you?”
Wife: “Uhh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t tell you about these things, huh?”
And I laughed so hard I’m surprised I didn’t run off the side of the road…
January 8, 2008
Jonathan, in my post about my new brewing toys, asked for a review of the refractometer once we used it for the first brew session. Overall, I would say that having both toys made the brew day an unqualified success.
First, of least interest to anyone, is the scale. Given that we don’t have a grain mill, it wasn’t used for measuring grain. The recipe was generated with the intent of using even 1-lb increments of grain, so we ordered what we needed and didn’t have to measure. However, it was important for hops. The recipe for the stout called for 0.5 oz of Magnum and 1 oz of East Kent Goldings, two hops that we only had available in 2 oz bags. In addition, I realized that the alpha acid content of the Magnum was lower than what my brewing software expected, and I suddenly had to change the weight ot 0.6 oz. Also because the alpha acid was lower on the amber’s hops than expected, I added 0.5 oz of Magnum to that recipe in order to bring it into the correct range. These are things that I could only do with a scale, so it came in handy.
Even more useful, though, was the refractometer. I was able to keep tabs on my gravity during the sparge and boil, in order to ensure that I was in the range I wanted to be. Jonathan, in an email, asked if I thought it would make “better” brew. I said no, not necessarily, but it would allow me to make my brew more consistently and monitor the process while I still had a chance to change it. The amber nearly hit our targets exactly, without any special help, so I doubt the refractometer made any difference whatsoever on that batch. However, the Milk Stout started life slightly low in gravity, so I knew that it would be helpful to extend the boil, even though it might reduce my total volume of beer, in order to hit my targets. I boiled a good 40 minutes to drop volume before I started counting down the intended 1 hour of boil time. Thus, I probably got a bit of a low yield on the batch, but it was a lot closer to the intended original gravity.
As with anything, the first time using a refractometer had a few learning steps, but it is still about as easy-to-use as a hydrometer, and given that you can sample liquids at any temp, much more useful. I was able to purchase it quite cheap on eBay, so there’s really *NO* reason for an all-grain brewer not to own one.
Does a refractometer improve your beer? No, understanding brewing is what makes better beer. However, a refractometer allows you to understand where you beer is at any point in the process, and thus can allow a competent brewer to adjust to changing conditions on the fly. It’s not a substitute for having a full understanding of the process, but it’s a tool that gives you greater ability to change the process before making a mistake.
October 17, 2007
As I pointed out, my phone died about two weeks ago. I now have a new phone, but because it’s on a different carrier, I can’t access any of my stored phone numbers. So for those of you who know me in real life, e-mail me your phone number so I can program it in, and I’ll send you my new number.
For those who are interested, it’s a BlackBerry 7520. The new job standardizes on that phone, so it made my choice of phones rather anticlimactic. It’s still far too early to really give my impression of the phone. It seems slightly harder to use than my old Motorola Q, but that may be simply the fact that I’m not used to it. Given the amount of time that the BlackBerry has been available, I’m expecting that once I get used to it, it will become much more powerful than the Q was. Battery life (so far) is pretty good, as I’ve gone two full days on one charge. But at the same time, I’m not really spending much time talking on it yet, and don’t get many emails yet at the new job, so I really won’t get a real test until my first business trip.
August 6, 2007
Last week, my old boss jokingly asked me why I was selling pharmaceuticals on the internet. It seems he’s been getting emails from a “Brad Warbiany” (with rotating hotmail email addresses) trying to sell him medications to increase the size of his… confidence.
This appears to be one issue with having a unique name that is easily found on the internet that I hadn’t considered. I now have spammers using my name to peddle their wares. And frankly, that’s the last thing I need, especially if it’s widespread enough that someone who actually knows me is getting this spam.
But I don’t know what to do about it. I doubt I could find whoever is responsible, and even if I did, I doubt they’re in the USA. I’m not sure I have any recourse to stop these guys. About the only thing I can think of is to contact Microsoft/Hotmail and see if there’s anything they can do about it.
July 21, 2007
This is an angle that I haven’t quite seen exploited on this story:
Poker champion Phil Laak has a good chance of winning when he sits down this week to play 2,000 hands of Texas Hold’em â€” against a computer.
It may be the last chance he gets. Computers have gotten a lot better at poker in recent years; they’re good enough now to challenge top professionals like Laak, who won the World Poker Tour invitational in 2004.
But it’s only a matter of time before the machines take a commanding lead in the war for poker supremacy. Just as they already have in backgammon, checkers and chess, computers are expected to surpass even the best human poker players within a decade. They can already beat virtually any amateur player.
This is a really interesting test of AI. Games like chess are fundamentally different than poker, because a computer knows precisely where all of a competitor’s pieces are located at all given times. In poker, you only have imperfect information. Knowing how to calculate odds is important, but reading your opponent is often more important. You can only guess from your opponents betting trends and behavior as to what cards he holds, and a good pro knows how to vary those trends enough to fool just about anyone.
The question of computers and poker are not new, as I mentioned here. Typical poker programs are set up with a varying level of aggressiveness, willingness to bluff, risk tolerance, etc. Setting up a computer to play a moderately “correct” strategy will usually be enough to beat mediocre players, but against a pro, won’t work at all.
So this will really be a good test of how far AI has come. The better they teach the computer to read Laak and vary its own behavior, the closer we’ll get to a computer that can really “think”. So for geeks, this one is pretty interesting.
There’s a bit of a different component, though… Phil Laak has a nickname, due to his fashion sense (hooded sweatshirts). He’s known as “The Unabomber”. The Unabomber, of course, was the guy who was attacking technology companies. Does anyone else find it a bit coincidental that he’s the guy picked to go against the highest level of artificial intelligence and technology?
June 26, 2007
At the end of this month, I’m forced to give up my Motorola Q, because I’m no longer a “field” employee… I’ll have to go back to paying for my own cell phone, and looking around, that really means that I won’t have a shot at getting a smartphone with a data plan, because I just don’t get enough utility out of it to spend $45 each month just for data.
But it looks like AT&T’s got my back. If I can find a way to buy an iPhone (perhaps if I win an competition that I’m currently involved in), they’re offering plans that actually have pretty reasonable unlimited data plans:
AT&T’s service plans for the Apple iPhone will cost $59.99 to $99.99 a month, the companies said Tuesday.
The $59.99 monthly plan includes 450 minutes of voice time; a $79.99 plan includes 900 minutes; and a $99.99 plan includes 1,350 minutes. All three offer 200 text messages, unlimited data services, minutes that roll over month-to-month and mobile-to-mobile calls. There also is a $36 activation fee.
I’m not huge for talking on the phone, and the most I talk is to my wife, which would be free mobile-to-mobile minutes, so I could probably get by with the $59.99 plan. I was worried just getting any smartphone that I’d be in the $100/month range. I’m too cheap to pay that much every month for the cool geek factor. I’d rather buy beer. But at $59.99, I’m in my price point…
I can see it now… I’ll be the hip dad with Wyatt wearing his anarchy shirt as I carry him in a Baby Bjorn, while rocking out to tunes on the iPhone. I’ll definitely be the coolest dad at the beach!
March 2, 2007
I think it’s already starting…
One thing that I had requested for a gift with the news of the pregnancy was a “BabyPlus Prenatal Education System”. It’s a system which plays varying tempos of a sound similar to a heartbeat to a child in the womb. Starting at 18 weeks or so, it goes through various “lesson” of increasing complexity, which is supposed to help the baby’s brain develop a better abilities of “distinction”.
Now, I’m already an overprotective father who is willing to do anything I can to make sure that my son has every possible advantage in the world. If he’s smarter, taller, more athletic, and better looking than his peers, I’ll be pretty happy. With my wife’s instruction, he may even be well-dressed and socially adept (two things I still haven’t mastered)! This is just one option to get started early.
The only question, though, is whether it works. The site contains glowing testimonials, but that doesn’t mean a thing. If smart people who desire to be good parents buy this and end up with smart kids, is it the Babyplus or the parenting skills that made the kid smart? Correlation doesn’t equal causation, right? Well, week 18 is quickly coming up, so the wife will be starting this program, so we’ll have to see how it goes.
What do you guys think? Am I being obsessive?
January 13, 2007
Many of you are familiar with Digg.com, a news aggregator site where the actions of the community of readers propel “worthy” stories ahead of the rest. Essentially, they’re designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, Digg has some inherent biases and a herd mentality that usually forces smaller blogs and news items, despite their worth, to be overlooked. That being said, I have submitted stories there, because free advertising doesn’t have to be incredibly effective to still be worthwhile.
Recently a new site devoted to the libertarian side of the internet has opened. Liberty Loop operates on the same sort of principle as Digg, but the content is mostly libertarian-oriented. It’s also a new site, so submitted stories are more able to rise to the top and be seen than on the larger sites, and based on it’s libertarian theme, the stories are likely to be seen by their true target audience. Check it out, I’ve been browsing a bit already and it looks like there’s some good content over there.
Hat Tip: Hit & Run
December 21, 2006
Or is it…
Looking to waste time? Check this game out, and I guarantee you’ll meet your objective.
Hat Tip: VRB
December 13, 2006
And this is what Ted Stevens thinks of the internets:
Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got… an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why? [...] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.
I hate it when my coworkers send me an Internet and it gets delayed!
Now, I knew there were people less knowledgeable about computers and the internet than my father. I just didn’t know they were in the Senate.
always usually funnier than I am, really gave it a more complete treatment. Responding to Stevens’ question of why the “Internet” was delivered late:
“Maybe it’s because you don’t seem to know jack shit about computers or the Internet â€” but that’s okay â€” you’re just the guy in charge of regulating it.“
Watch below for as hilarity ensues.
December 8, 2006
A huge study from Denmark offers the latest reassurance that cell phones don’t trigger cancer. Scientists tracked 420,000 Danish cell phone users, including 52,000 who had gabbed on the gadgets for 10 years or more, and some who started using them 21 years ago.
They matched phone records to the famed Danish Cancer Registry that records every citizen who gets the disease â€” and reported Tuesday that cell-phone callers are no more likely than anyone else to suffer a range of cancer types.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is the largest yet to find no bad news about the safety of cell phones and the radiofrequency energy they emit.
But even the lead researcher doubts it will end the debate.
“There’s really no biological basis for you to be concerned about radio waves,” said John Boice, a Vanderbilt University professor and scientific director of the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md. “Nonetheless, people are.”
I think I know why everyone is concerned about radio waves. You can’t see them. You can’t touch them. And they magically carry voices and sound around inside them. Isn’t that just a bit creepy?
Cell phones may not cause cancer… But being afraid of radio waves definitely causes crazy.
Below The Beltway linked with What We Know Ain’t Always So
December 5, 2006
I now have an iPod nano, and I’m looking for links to worthwhile podcasts. I currently have QandO and Craft Beer Radio, but could use any suggestions… If you have anything that you particularly enjoy, drop a link in the comments.
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