Monday, October 09, 2006

Green Up!

So, my weight, which I post online over at PhysicsDiet, is finally coming back down. For about a week now I've been all green, which means I've been losing weight over

  • a one week period
  • a 30 day period
  • and the entire time I've been recording my weight.

In addition to that, I'm also re-nearing 300 pounds with my average weight, which is a pretty big milestone for me. I feel like I'm starting to get things moving in the right direction again, my chart is beginning do dip nicely, and more importantly, consistently. Now, to get the rest of my life under control! Not that it ever was to begin with.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Degrees of Difficulty

So, I started back to college about a month ago. I'm taking 3 courses, English, Pre-Calculus, and an Introductory C++ Programming class. So far, things have been going well enough. This week, exams start to roll around.

the C++ course has so far been a breeze for me. Computers seem to come pretty naturally to me, programming included, and I have a little prior Java experience, so thinking in code came back to me pretty quickly. So far, I've been able to complete my homework assignments entirely in the lab time, so I haven't had to spend much off-campus time on this course. However, I do need to get caught up in reading my book, especially with exams coming up.

English I've always found a little difficult to categorize. It doesn't seem to be problematic for me, but I can't say that I enjoy it, or that it requires no thought. I don't enjoy writing x-hundred words papers on random subject y, but I don't find it really hard either. This class is Lit II, so it involves analyzing short stories. I've read non-stop most of my life, but usually either for pleasure or for educational value. Stopping, and trying to find deeper meaning in the stories I read for fun is some work. However, this class keeps its own exam schedule, so that is a small blessing. The only problem I've had in this class was not getting my textbook until the day before my third class (which since this is a Saturday class, means the third week).

Pre-Calculus is the class I'm having the most difficulty in. Up until high-school, math was a subject that also came easy to me. In 8th grade, I was skipped past pre-algebra with one other student, and began taking math with the class ahead of me. In late high-school, I slacked off and stopped doing homework or paying attention. I've taken a couple college level math classes before, with passing grades, but they were about 5 years ago. You forget a lot in that time span. I'm finding in this class that I understand the concepts being taught to us, and partially remember many of them, however I often have trouble with some of the underlying algebraic manipulation. I will know what to do, but forget the rules of solving equations, for example: how to handle radicals, or logs, when solving for x. I had a friend who is a math wiz and a math teacher-in-training give me a quick refresher lesson, and I grabbed a College Algebra textbook from the local Half-Price Books to try and refresh myself. However, I'm still trying to fit the time in as the class gives large amounts of homework.

Overall, I've found it takes all my free time to keep up with the homework, and this was when I wasn't working. However, I just started a new job, and am working ten hour shifts. I get home about 2 hours before I need to leave for class, and I have to go to bed immediately upon getting back from class, because I have to get up at 3 in the morning. So, this will greatly affect my study and homework time. Not to mention I may be forced to miss some class due to mandatory overtime.

On top of all that, since I'm getting federal student aid funding, I can't just drop classes, or I have to pay back some of the money. Failing, or withdrawing will also activate re-payment status on my student loans. So, there is a bit of pressure on me to pass, in addition to my natural desire to. And thus, I'd say, for me at least, school just got a whole lot harder.

Monday, September 18, 2006

ARRR!

Well, in case you aren't among the enlightened, tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day! Being a typical geek, pirates fascinate me, and an excuse to talk like a pirate all day can't be passed up. However, so far, I've forgotten about it, and managed to miss it for the last three years. So, today, my wife reminded me so I wouldn't miss it again. Just one more little reason why I'm madly in love with her. Instead of rolling her eyes and calling me a dork, she actually reminds me of it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

August

Ok, last time I checked in, I mentioned my new scale, but didn't tell you which one it was. I got the Tanita HD372, and I still love it. I was a little suprised, but Fry's had a couple of them in stock when I went to look, so I didn't even have to order it online.

Last month, August, was a bit rough. Seeing my weight go flying back over 300 hit me hard. I tried to keep with my rhythm, and thought I was doing ok, but the numbers didn't agree. It's a vicious cycle. Seeing my weight gain would get me down, and when down, one of my comfort mechanisms is eating. On top of this little mini-drama, I had a lot of external pressures dragging me down emotionally as well.

However, it is now well into September. We have done the majority of our travelling for the month, and I'm committed to getting my line back below 300, and back on track to my goal. That goal, by the way, is 195lbs. I had it planned to get there by my birthday next year, however that date may change since I discovered my true weight.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Christmas Decorations

Ok, I realize that the whole "Christmas is over-commercialized" thing is itself commercialized at this point, and that nobody cares anymore, but I just want to note it down somewhere, because I say I'm going to every year.

Last night, August 28, was the first time I saw Christmas stuff for sale in a store. Granted it was Big Lots, but they had a decent amount of it out, near the generic fall, and Halloween decorations. They also had the stocking instruction sheets that diagram hot to lay it out on the shelves, so it wasn't just a case of having happened upon some extras they were trying to unload.

So, that's what, only 4 months of shopping time now?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Double-Edged Swords

So, my birthday has come and gone this year, and one of the presents I asked for, and received, was a new Tanita scale. It is nice and shiny, has a solid feel to it (read: it's heavy), and is nice and accurate. The biggest variance I've seen in two consecutive readings was 0.2 lbs, and that was only one. Compare this with my last scale, which has been observed with almost 30lbs of variation between two readings, and once told me I gained about 45lbs from a reading before bed to one right after getting up the next morning. My impassioned arguments regarding the impossibility of such a sudden weight gain had little effect on the scale.

So, this is all really nice, except that my nice, shiny, accurate, new scale also tells me I don't weigh 277lbs any more, but actually something more like 310lbs. I've been posting my progress over at PhysicsDiet.com, and had actually started getting excited because I was only a pound or two away from making the biggest losers chart. For someone who has never had any success losing weight in the past, I was getting positively giddy. However, the addition of the new, correct, but higher weights basically shows up as a huge weight gain. I was tempted to try adjusting all my old readings upwards by the approximate difference between the scales, but that would destroy any accuracy left in the data. I was also thinking about just wiping out my old data and starting fresh, but that isn't any better. At least by leaving the old data alone, I can still see the weight loss trends, and look at the rate of change. Because even though the readings may have been off, they were still coming down consistently, and there is definitely some physical differences in my body to support that downward trend.

So, I didn't suddenly gain 30lbs, I just got a new scale. And discovered that I have a bit further to go before reaching my goal than I anticipated. However, I will reach it, and I will continue onward, one day at a time.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

EULA'S

I avoided bringing up the Sony/BMG rootkit fiasco back when it was big news The reasons were 1) it's a decently technical subject, and if you understand what I'm talking about, you probably also already knew what is going on, and 2) many people more technically proficient, knowledgeable, or eloquent than I have already said quite a bit about it. I do want to mention the issues inherent in the horrible EULA that accompanies these CDs, and other computer software. I dislike these one sided agreements where terms get dictated, and you have only a binary yes/no choice, usually after you've already paid for the item. Software isn't the only place these are found though, not by far. Admission tickets to almost anywhere are pretty bad, parking garage claim tickets, etc. Here is the exact text from the back of a ticket from our recent trip to the zoo.

"This ticket is issued to Holder as a revocable license which may be revoked at management's discretion for any reason including Holder's acting in a disorderly manner or otherwise violating the rules or regulations of the Zoo. The Zoo shall not be required to issue an exchange or refund for any reason including inclement weather. Holder voluntarily assumes all risk and danger of personal injury and all hazards, which are related in any way to Holder's visit. The zoo and its officers, directors, employees and agents are neither responsible nor liable for any injuries, expenses, claims, or liabilities resulting from or related to Holder's visit and Holder expressly releases each of those persons from any claims arising there from. Holder grants permission to the Zoo and its designees to utilize Holder's image, likeness, actions or statements in connection with any live or recorded video, photographic display or other transmission or reproduction without payment, inspection, or review by Holder. Holder agrees not to transmit, distribute or sell (or aid in transmitting, distributing or selling) any description, account, picture, video, audio or other form of reproduction of the visit for which this ticket is issued. Pets are not allowed inside the Zoo."

So, this license says that no matter what, they don't have to give me my money back. No matter what happens I've agreed not to hold them responsible. They can take as many photos/videos of me as they want and use them any way they want, and I don't get to see them first, or even be notified of it. Finally, I'm not allowed to even show my vacation photos, especially not on the Internet. I can't tell you what I saw, or what they have at the zoo, I can't give you my review of it, etc.

Typical all for me, none for you treatment. Do celebrities get special tickets? That can't afford (and don't allow) their likeness to be given away this freely. What if I don't agree to these terms? Am I out my money? These are the kind of things a lawyer somewhere thought up, and it gets shoved down your throat, and most people probably never even read the back of the ticket.

It's these kind of invisible, legally binding contracts we enter into so many times per day, usually without ever knowing it that bug me. America is already lawsuit crazy enough that the zoo feels the need (or the zoo's lawyers feel the need) to limit their liability, and while we are at it, let's throw some other things into the contract. Now if we get a bad review, we have legal grounds to sue. Not that we would, just in case, you know, we needed to.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Need a New Scale!

I hate my scale!

Or, perhaps my scale hates me instead? I'm trying to lose weight, and one aspect of that is to weigh myself daily.

I'm following The Hacker's Diet, which uses a weighted average to smooth out the daily weight fluctuations that occur, and let's you see the larger trends. So, of course, it's really hard to repeat a reading on my scale. I get up one morning, weigh myself and see 319.9 lbs. "Wow!" I think, "I broke 320!". But, knowing my scale a little to well, I take another reading, and see 328 lbs. I take about 7 more readings before finally getting a rough consensus around 325.6 lbs. That's way too much variance between readings for my comfort.

My wife doesn't seem to have these problems, so it may be due to my being at the upper end of the rated weight. (Seems like it was rated to 330 or 350 lbs, don't remember for sure.) We grabbed this Weight Watchers branded scale at Wal-mart one day, largely because it could handle my larger weight.

Reading online, I've heard Tanita brand scales recommended, so I'm looking into them. My wife likes an analog scale, but they don't support my weight. However, some of these digitals do, and they look nice too. I'm thinking maybe the HD372 or the HD373 model. Has anybody had any experience with any of these?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Update

I'm gonna make this quick, since it is late. Things haven't been going the greatest of late. About two months ago, I was laid off from my job. I've been job hunting ever since. It's been tough, and I've been getting really depressed at times.

There wasn't any advance warning, I showed up on a Monday, worked like normal, and as I was getting ready to leave around 5:10PM, was informed I was being let go because my position couldn't be afforded in the budget any longer, and I could take a few minutes to gather my stuff from my desk, and please leave my access card. This brings up one of my long standing irritations, why is an employee expected to give 2 weeks notice, and frequently penalized for not doing so, but a company almost never shows the same courtesy.

Anyway, I've hit rock bottom fairly hard. I let my pride ("I'm not going to be unemployed for long at all.") Prevent me from applying for unemployment until this week, even though we have hit some financial difficulties. We weren't making on my salary alone, which is why my wife started working a while back. Now we are on just her salary, which isn't cutting it either.

However, I've started trying to turn things around, in all areas of my life. I'm working on losing my weight, and getting back into shape. To that end, you, and anyone else who wants to, can check on my progress right here. What better pressure than having the whole world see your diet log, right?

Well, I have more to say, however I will save it for another time. Good Night!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Smart Fasteners, Normal People

Ok, so I found the story on smart fasteners, as previously promised. Reading it requires free, mandatory registration, so use Bug Me Not. For the most part, the technology sounds interesting, although I'm not thrilled with the idea that my neighbor will be able to disassemble my car without touching it, but hey, that's the price of progress!

Actually, the thing I really dislike is a sub-current running beneath the article, but never actually stated. Not only might this type of technology prevent thieves from removing your airbag, but it might also prevent you from doing any maintenance on your own vehicle. Or you neighborhood mechanic. After all, these unlocking codes will be pretty valuable, so maybe we should only let the auto dealerships have them. They should have been the ones servicing your car all along anyway, right.

Ok, now for my favorite quotes from the article, starting with the worst statement of all.

A potential security breach threat apparently doesn't exist. "I wondered what's to prevent some nut using a garage door opener from pushing the right buttons to make your airplane fall apart," said Harrison. "But everything is locked down with codes, and the radio signals are scrambled, so this is fully secured against hackers."

Now, first, this statement appears to have been made by "Kirby Harrison, a senior editor at Aviation International News, who attended the debut of intelligent fasteners at a trade show in Hamburg, Germany, last year", and not the inventor. However, that doesn't make the statement any less laughable. WEP was locked down with codes and scrambled radio signals too, and it is considered next to useless nowadays. Different situations entirely, but the point stands. As crypto experts are fond of saying, anyone can invent a code that they themselves cannot crack.

The mechanism that holds auto airbags in place is a natural for intelligent fasteners, said Steve Brown, product development director at Textron. Installing airbags with conventional screws is tedious and expensive, and it doesn't provide security. An estimated 50,000 airbags are stolen each year for resale, he said. Intelligent fasteners only respond to radio signals that use appropriate codes. This would prevent removal of airbags by unauthorized people, Brown said.

Ok, as if the first statement wasn't sufficient cause for a cracker/hacker somewhere to decide that the system would be broken (and trust me, a direct challenge like that is more than sufficient), this provides us with a financial incentive. Once the system is broken, stealing airbags just got easier. Instead of breaking in with tools, and risking leaving fingerprints and the like everywhere, walk up with your laptop, and watch the airbag disconnect from the car so you can grab it and take off, no other tools needed. Or, just steal the whole car (perhaps using this method, then disassemble the whole thing easily & at your leisure.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gone in 20 Minutes: using laptops to steal cars

From Digg

A look at how thieves are using laptops to steal the most expensive luxury cars. Many of these cars have completely keyless ignitions and door locks, meaning it can all be done wirelessly. Thieves often follow a car until it gets left in a quiet area, and they can steal it in about 20 minutes. Scary stuff.

You'd think someone, somewhere would have learned by now that software can and will be broken, especially when it is protecting something of value. There was a report a while back on "smart fasteners", basically bolts & screws that can be unlocked by computer. The uses mentioned sounded interesting, but the article had the same "it can't be broken because we know what we are doing" tone that is just evident of a lack of touch with reality. I'll look for the link to post later.

read more | digg story

Americans Sicker Than Brits!

So, I found this article on Slashdot today, and found it very interesting!

In brief, a study was conducted which found that even though Americans spend on average twice as much per person on healthcare than their counterparts in the UK, they are far less healthy. While being richer did tend to correspond with better health, the richest Americans ranked right around the poorest Brits.

Several possible factors and explanations were looked at, such as taking minorities out of the equation and factoring in what would happen if the average Brit weighed as much as the average American (the standard obesity crisis theory). None explained the gap in health. Of course, this excerpt:

Statutory minimum annual leave plus public holidays UK: 28 days (four weeks + public holidays) US: 10 days (0 weeks + public holidays)

taken from this article might offer an insight to certain, let's call them, "environmental factors" which might have an effect on one's health, over time.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Not the only one!

So, my (older) nephew made math nerd of the month at his college. Check it out! It's on page 3, although it's in PDF format, so get your Adobe Reader or Ghostview ready!

And here you though I was the only nerd in my family!

Juggling Miscellany

Ok, so I sent this link to a friend of mine who juggles. It's a video of a juggler called Chris Bliss doing a three ball act synchronized to some music in front of an audience. I shoulda guessed he'd probably already heard of it.

However, he was nice, and responded with links to this video and this rant regarding the original video clip.

So I read the rant, watched the second video, and then watched that video & the Chris Bliss video side by side at the same time. :) What, I'm a nerd, it's what I do!

I see what the rant's author means. I thought the Chris Bliss video was cool when I first saw it, however I also remember wondering how close he came to dropping the balls several times, and wondering how many times he had to practice the routine to make it through. If you watch his facial expression, there is more than once he looks sure he is about to lose control. I also remember thinking that some of the moves looked really awkward and/or painful. These seem to be most of Jason's main points regarding the video, as well as that a 3 ball routine can easily be synced to just about any random piece of music.

I have to admit that in the video, Jason Garfield looked a lot more relaxed and natural doing the juggling moves, and never looked on the verge of losing control.

Of course, in the end, I've never juggled before, and know nothing about it, so this is all purely my opinion. Except I do know that you would need 0 hands to juggle just one ball! (It's juggling humor.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Guess My Picture!

  Ok, here's my picture for you. Name the device pictured and/or the event where this was taken for brownie points! This photo is over a year old, and was takin in Austin, TX, USA. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Desktop Defaults

Ran across this article on /. a while back: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1923402,00.asp

The author makes the somewhat controversial statement that what ends up on users desktops isn't what's best, but what came there to begin with. I tend to agree, based on my experiences with "end users".

The average end user still doesn't understand exactly what a browser is, or why they would want to try a different one. To many home users especially, Internet Explorer is the internet. They do not mentally separate the program from the activity. (The tool from the task.) This is normal for first time PC users. You want to do task XYZ, well you click here on program ABC. Mentally ABC == XYZ. It's only over time and with experience that they may learn they can do the same task XYZ with program DEF as well! For some people, this is like the dawning of the day, and they begin exploring what alternate programs they can use for the other tasks they do on a regular basis. They soon learn that different programs do the same task better, or just differently, have different features, etc., and find the programs that best fit how they want to perform their tasks.

For others, this situation presents overwhelming choices, and is a very bad thing. These are the people who get frustrated with the computer when they have to choose what program to use. It's like ordering coffee at Starbucks. (Or any food from a replicator on Star Trek.) Sometimes you just want coffee, without having to add 15 modifiers to identify a specific drink. They want the computer to just do certain tasks, and do them well, without asking technical questions about how to do them. Layers of obscurity into how things work are not always a bad thing, at least, not if they can be gotten around easily if the user so desires. After all, this same principle lets you drive a car without understanding how a fuel-injection system works. Do you really care what brand spark plugs are in your car, or know if they are gapped properly? Some people do, most don't. If you had to know to drive a car, would you be finding another way to get to work tomorrow?

Usually, single task devices seem to come first, and are extended into multi-function devices, like a cell phone that can check my e-mail, browse the web, play music and movies, and let me instant message people, plus, oh yeah, call someone. However, the argument can easily be made that this is often at the expense of whatever the primary function of the device was originally, and almost always at a price of a steeper learning curve and more complex user interfaces.

However, some people just want a device that does one thing, and does it very well. Do you want your checkbook to play music and have net access built in? Do you really need a TV built in to your fridge? It is my opinion that at some point the idea of computers as specific machines we sit down at to do things will have to fade away, and be replaced with a type of distributed processing. The processing will all be done in the background out of sight, and we will simply perform our activities where they are most natural for us to do so. If I sit down at my desk at home, I can access my bank accounts and pay my bills. I can also do it from the couch or outside if I want to, but it will be what the system assumes I want to do when I sit down at my desk, based on my normal routine. The same system will display recipes for me in the kitchen, if I want, and will have my music follow me as I move around the house, but not into the kid's rooms when I peek in to pull their covers up after they are asleep.

If a system becomes this pervasive and integrated, most people won't want to know what recipe program they are running, or if their lawn maintenance software version is compatible with their new robotic lawn mower they just bought. Yes, some people will know, care, and love every minute detail. They will have custom interfaces for everything, and their houses will literally respond to their every whim. I will probably be one of these people. However, this will be the exception, because everyone else will just want it to work, and won't care if they are using Blinds 3.0 from Windows Corporation, OpenMyBlinds 4.27 from AOL/Time Warner, or GBlinds 2.7 (Beta) from Google World Domination, Inc.

Sit Heer O' Site O'r There!

Our daughter, now a few months past 2 years old, has become quite the little mimic. Last night, she insisted on standing between us and the television to eat her dinner. We told her to sit down many times, which usually caused her to sit right where she was, momentarily, until she wanted another bite to eat.

Of course, her chair was nearby, but she didn't want to sit in it at the time. Finally, getting frustrated, I told her to either sit in her chair, or sit in the big person's chair (the recliner), pointing at each location as I said it. She then echoed my words right back, in her two year old vocabulary. "Sit here or sit over there!", she said very seriously, pointing helpfully.

Her mother began laughing hysterically, at which point Isabelle came up with her solution, and moved her chair to exactly where she had initially been standing, and proceeded to sit down in it. This sent her mother out of the room in fits of laughter.

I tell you, this whole parenting thing is really interesting. It's a ton of work, but it's definitely got it's moments you can't get anywhere else, and the kids double as living tape recorders!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reflection Moment

So, I just finished doing something I could have sworn I'd never do. Driving 20 min both ways to go retrieve my daughter's "blankie" which had been left at Grandmom's house.

Now, I don't have a problem with my daughter having a security blanket. I think it's pretty cute in fact. She isn't actually dependent on it, and will happily go places without it. However, if she hurts herself seriously, or gets really tired and cranky, then she goes looking for it.

Therein lies the reason I went off to retrieve it. Because while she could have gone to sleep without it, that would involve some crying, and some whining, and general unpleasantness. And so, while I once imagined I'd never do such a thing, because I'd never spoil my kids that much, I found myself realizing that it makes lot of sense to just go get it, and keep everyone happy. Besides, I really hate making my daughter cry!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Tooting My Own Horn

Just wanted to point out that on Januray 1st, this blog celebrated it's first birth day. Nothing else of consequence here, so go read a good webcomic or two.