Monday, December 29, 2008

College as a value-added experience

This is a incredibly interesting post at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. regarding the usefulness and value of college. I won't say much about it, go read it! I will just add I agree 100%.


Must be behind a subscription firewall. Here's some of the big points.

So, no surprise, in the latest annual national survey of freshmen conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, 44.6 percent said they were not satisfied with the quality of instruction they received. Imagine if that many people were dissatisfied with a brand of car: It would quickly go off the market. Colleges should be held to a much higher standard, as a higher education costs so much more, requires years of time, and has so much potential impact on your life. Meanwhile, 43.5 percent of freshmen also reported "frequently" feeling bored in class, the survey found.

College students may be dissatisfied with instruction, but, despite that, do they learn? A 2006 study supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors scored below "proficient" levels on a test that required them to do such basic tasks as understand the arguments of newspaper editorials or compare credit-card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. The students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station.

Unbelievably, according to the Spellings Report, which was released in 2006 by a federal commission that examined the future of American higher education, things are getting even worse: "Over the past decade, literacy among college graduates has actually declined. … According to the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, for instance, the percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined from 40 to 31 percent in the past decade. … Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today's workplaces."

Friday, December 12, 2008

How Saddam was really captured

Story here

Book here

Real interesting stuff. It was done by one guy (in his words), interrogated many low level flunkies, finally caught the head of the insurgency, who lead them straight to Saddam. I guess the rats couldn't wait to finger their boss so they would get executed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Got the house

We did in fact close on the house, a day late but still fine. There were last minute heroic efforts of many (mostly jen and the mortgage guy) to get required docs in order. This certainly would not have happened w/o jen. Whereas the previous home i bought before i knew jen, my income didn't even count on this home because I'm a postdoc and my income isn't stable enough apparently. So yeah, they are really tightening up alot. We had to jump through alot of hoops to ensure that we'd be around forever and to pay off the loan no matter what. Alot of b.s. even with almost perfect credit.

Tonight (maybe) start moving in!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ticketmaster surcharge now up to $10 each

This is the main reason I don't go to concerts much, the prices are ridiculous. We're going to see TSO. No biggie, they come every year on tour, around this time of year. For two tickets, the cheap seats, it's $100 total. Same thing for other acts. If you were to go to a concert a week, that would be $400 a month in just concert fees. So, anyway, this is my yearly purchase of a concert from ticketmaster.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Been thinking about alot of things, especially a change in job field. Science is not easy and it's an up or out system, and I am rapidly approaching the make or break time, which I anticipate will not make the break, only 5% of us do. Anyway one thought was to work in the Obama adminstration, i already submitted a resume. A second though was to do a postdoc as a cancer prevention fellow, to do more statistical work and hopefully interact with M.D.s and patients more.

I think one issue is that there is so little visible job results which ties in directly to job satisfaction. I reached a milestone in one of my projects today, it took two months to clone a gene and to produce recombinant protein. It sounds challenging and it can be, but it's usually quite routine, just takes a long time often. If I was able to interact with actual real people I think I would be happier.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dell Mini 9

Going to be on sale for BF for about 50 bucks off. Ad here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Moving moving

So actually we did find a house in the last batch of 5, we made an offer and they accepted, and it passed inspection, with the option period expiring today. So we have a new house! Its a very nice one with 3 stories and about 2500 s.f. in this area (south Durham).

We close on the 17th of November. Meanwhile I spent all week packing up the lab and cleaning up, we are moving on Monday. So, lots of moving and packing to do.

Update: Here is the MLS data.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Well looks like our search is over and not going to happen. Waiting to hear on the last prop. In the last two weeks it turned into a frenzy, with the best house we've seen having four simultanous offers, then another in our 'final 5' catagory with an offer, then another with another showing while we were there. The one we want is 50k over priced.

Anyway some rental info that we are thinking of.

Nice prop for $1300 in HVF - 2 car ga.

Nice prop for $1200, loc unknown

Location service

Housing Statistics

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Prediction: EC blowout for Obama

I am going on record to say that this election will be a landslide for Obama. People need to ignore poll analysis like this one which predicts a close race as McCain is only down a few points. The points do not matter at all. Look at the EC map prediction here. It shows Obama winning 364 vs 174 EC votes. It predicts all the swing states going his way, but even if they don't, its only about 60 EC votes for FL, NC, MO, and NV.

Obama is not just winning, he is crushing McCain. Even if all the swing states go McCain, he will still lose. And given the recent adverts in NC here, its been all Obama, all election. McCain was nowhere to be found. McCain will definately lose NC, i'll bet on that. Part of the issue is McCain's war chest of funding is so small, Obama is set to raise the most money ever for a presidental campaign. According to the govt, Obama has raised twice as much as McCain. Even Hillary Clinton has raised about as much as McCain has, and she didn't make it past the primary.

My guess is that money in itself will decide future campaigns before the votes are even cast.


In a year I predict the following.

1) Everyone's taxes will be higher. For those above 250,000 alot higher, for everyone else, higher.
2) The economy will finally begin to right itself. Obama will take credit.
3) We will pull out our troops in Iraq, having won, and spend another 4-8 years in Afghanistan, which we will lose.
4) We will have another oil crisis, and gas will be above $4 next summer
5) The politicians will promise the world and deliver nothing
6) There will still be no comprehensive national plan to right our budget, fix our energy needs, or bring growth back to our economy.
7) Pork barrel legislation will go through the roof.
8) A black man will be president, and only a few will care about his skin color.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Penguin Rescue

I love stories like this

In Brazil, 373 young Magellanic penguins were rescued, rehabilitated and released last weekend after their search for food left them stranded, hundreds of miles from their usual feeding grounds.

Cheap vet stuff

Cal vet : Carnivore Care

Also proglycem:

"I get diazoxide (proglycem) from a compounding pharmacy called: Pet
Health Pharmacy 800-742-0516

It costs $36 (plus postage) for a 30ml bottle of 50mg/ml. My ferret
gets .2ml (10mg) twice a day and a bottle lasts about 2 months."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Credit crisis

Here's an interesting newsletter from Ameritrade on this issue. Essentially the advice is always the same. THe market will go up again. If you are risk adverse, diversify.

For us, our main concern is that we can get a mortgage for a decent interest rate. The answer seems to be yes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

McCain vs Obama on science issues

First roundup i've seen on this issue. I think each promises the moon while leaving out who will pay for it. We need to elect a president who is fiscally prudent and doesn't believe in mailing taxpayers thousands of dollars just because. Regardless they are of similar mind on most things, the exception being stem cell creation and NASA.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike

I guess I am fortunate that I left Houston 3 weeks ago. Anyway i've been following as close as I can. Galveston is bad, as is other communities on the coast. It could have been worse. The storm surge was only about half of predicted (12 feet vs 20 feet). It came ashore as a strong cat 2, again could be a cat 4 or something. It unfortunately directly hit Houston, and did major damage there. But again since it was only a cat 2 with 120 mph winds, the damage was limited to trees blown down and that type of thing. Flooding is bad but probably not worse than during Allison.

Most of our friends either evacuated or have power (Med Center didn't lose power since their lines are underground). I haven't heard from my lab so i have no idea how bad it is at MDACC.

Anyway, of the many stories i've read, this stands out.

Been a while

Well its been a while, guess I should update this. Jen and I moved to North Carolina, a stressful 2 day trip. We got our furniture a week later, and started work 2 days after that. This is the beginning of my 3rd week at work. We've been pounding the pavement alot looking for houses. We have 4 more to go through on our list, then we'll go back and look at our strong possibilities. With this housing market, there are alot on the market and it just takes time to go through everything. We started with about 80 houses in our search, now its down to about 20.

Luci is okay for now. She weathered the move okay. A few days ago I got home to find her in a comatose state, she wouldn't respond to food. At that point I dug out the syringe and dextrose solution and gave her that. After convulsions and near cardiac arrest, she came out of it. Since then we've been feeding her as much as we could. Today after feeding she went in and out of a fugue like state, which I think indicates low blood sugar. So...I think time is running out quickly. Who knows. But if she's that way immediately after a high protein meal I'm just not sure how long she's got. She's almost out of treatment options at this point. We can increase the preg dose and that's what we'll do. It's pretty sad but that's life.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moved in, professionally

Our furniture and household goods ('stuff') came yesterday morning. I think Jen and I are both disappointed with the movers. First they talked about coming Wed, then it slipped to Thur then Fri. We were the absolute last stop on their list, and the first stop. However we had a contract that stated we would receive our stuff no later than Saturday.

Lesson 1: The last day to deliver on the contract is when they will most likely deliver, because they have other contracts with other 'last day to deliver' (Or whatever).

Many things got broken. We had to pack essentially everything into small boxes, including things that we would normal stick on a truck as is. The major thing was my mother's lamp, which I had to pack at the last minute without any sort of reinforcement or protection. A real nice ceramic large bowl got broken, as did a champagne flute.

Lesson 2: Pack your stuff as if 500 lbs of boxes will be on top of it, because they were. Also pack it as if they will be tossed around, because they were.

Additionally much of our cheap furniture they disassembled completely, because a) less space and b) it won't hold 500 lb of stuff. We managed to repair (actually our good friend Travis did) almost all of it, but we now realize that particleboard furniture doesn't hold up to professional movers well. On the other hand, the few pieces of solid wood furniture I had, they didn't disassemble, and those were fine. The remainder, that we patched together again, will probably (almost def) not survive another professional move).

Lesson 3: For professional moving, throw away most of your particleboard furniture, it won't survive anyway. (And we did get rid of 3 bookshelves that were in the worst condition, and the 3 bookshelves still have didn't do all that great, so it suggests those 3 left behind would be toast).

Lastly, we're not even sure we got all of our boxes. A box containing coffee cups and plastic mugs is still AWOL. Further, we got two other items that clearly belong to someone else. This is due to the shipping labels being very easy to remove and fall right off. I'm guessing someone has our collection of coffee mugs while we have their inexplicable wood design thing and fairly nice mirror (too bad I'm a vampire).

Lesson 4: Inventory your boxes by yourself, using numbers drawn onto the box. That way there are no surprises. (Incidentally this needs to be done prior to movers arriving).

The other lessons we took to heart is to make sure fragile/expensive things are brought by hand. We took a few nice pictures by hand, if they got destroyed and had to be reframed that would be several hundred dollars. I, inexplicably, moved my fish at great effort/sacrifice (that was a tale in itself). The fish are worth maybe $8. Why did I move a 3 gal. tank full of fish 1300 mi, loading and unloading 3x? Lord knows.

Also be sure you have enough stuff to survive a week without your remaining stuff. We brought a few dishes, silverware, meds, inflatable bed, and two sleeping bags plus pillows. We would have been hard up without these items.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The plight of the little emporers

And how it's all WoW's fault.

An interesting tale of the modern chinese youth. Its so similiar to what is going on today in the U.S.; 4 million graduates from the elite chinese university, only 1.6 million jobs available. And this is when the economy is booming.

I think the world is headed towards a reality adjust, particularly the U.S. and China. We are fast running out of resources and energy. Smart policies will solve the problem, but there isn't a rallying cry, a national policy. We did so great in the second world war because the entire country was voluntarily focused on one goal: ending the war in nothing less than total victory. It was that or extinction under the combine Japanese/Nazi threat.

Nowadays I hear alot of people getting concerned about energy and how they plan to change their lives to fix their problems (ie make the gas bills cheaper by getting a more fuel efficient car, getting solar panels to decrease electricity bills).

If either presidental candidate actually came up with a Apollo type mission for energy independence he would win in a heartbeat.

Anyway these problems have nothing to do with escape/cope mechanisms such as WoW. HOpefully most people get it by now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Luci: Doing better. Went most of the day w/o hand feeding and most of the night w/o hand feeding. Her activity is better than ever, but I'm extremely concerned that she's not eating her kibble. I saw her eat a few pieces this morning, but that was it. We're down to 0.1 cc of pregnisone BID, from 0.4cc TID. I think this is a huge effect, plus the loss of tumor obviously. My guess is that her fasting glucose is pretty stable now. But we really really need to get her on solids.

My current plan is to see how long she'll go before crashing, needless to say this is extremely stressful and draining, but I can't go on hand-feeding her so long, esp since she's able to eat on her own, and is on every drug i can think of (preg, oral antibiotic, topical antibiotic, pain killer, acid blocker, pepto). The fundamentals remain true. She had good surgical outcome (seemingly), she's only 4 years old, she survived the surgery, she's got plenty of body fat (thanks to preg). My hope is a) get her off preg completely, b) get her to eat! c) get her slimmed down (she's about 20% over weight, so its like me being 30-40 lbs overweight.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008



We take it a day at a time. She can eat solids, she had alot of energy
this morning. We didn't feed her during the night (for the first time),
so she went without food for 8 hours. She was in ICU for 48 hours
post-surgery, close to death; since then we fed her every 2 hours
for 48 hours and every 3-4 hours for 48 hours.

Its a hard choice with the feeding schedule. On one hand, we can
maintain her for the forseeable future with the current feeding
schedule, but on the other hand, we want her to have an independent
life (not to mention we want to sleep again and I need to go back to

I'm hoping she will start eating her kibble at some point (real soon).
I think she still has some GI problems such that she's not tolerating
kibble. However, her edema is down, swelling is down but she's still
inflammed or has a fever (prob both). My hope is to wean her off
prednisone slowly, that will help with edema, and hopefully whatever
her GI problem is will heal naturally. Or maybe it's not the GI tract
that's not letting her eat solids...her stool is pretty normal
nowadays. We have a vet appt on Thur, which, frankly, none of us
thought she'd live to see. Wish I was a vet so I can get blood and
diagnostics every day instead of just guessing and hoping.

The fact that she hasn't had a seizure/episode since we brought her
home (esp last night, 8 hours w/o hand feeding) is a really good sign,
her body may finally be adjusting to the loss of insulin production. I
think if we can get her to eat solids by herself we'll be doing good.


Under option as of today. They'll need to inspect it sometime this week and make a final offer. Hopefully they won't lowball us too much.


Ha! I did the definative experiment and it actually works. It's too complex to go into here, but basically I have nothing publishable yet. Not sure I can ever use the data generated in the past 3 years. I still have the mouse project which will get published no matter what.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn't

Well, interesting week! Luci has been critical sick this whole week following insulinoma surgery on Monday, finally pulling out of it yesterday. She is far from being out of the woods, but has staged a huge improvement in 24 hours. 24 hours ago we were wondering if we should have put her down. 36 hours ago, she had a near fatal blood glucose drop, if she wasn't in the ICU and if they didn't intervene, she would be dead.

Wednesday we put Jen's car in the shop, the mechanic wants probably the value of the car to do serious maintenance and body work. He's giving us a good deal actually, and said that the car should run another 70k miles.

Then we picked up Luci, (against medical orders), and got some IV solutions from our very kind vet to prepare for insulinoma attacks. We expected her not to last the day. Lo and behold, no more attacks, she's walking, she's eating solids, she's taking in huge amounts of liquids. She's still very badly off - i think she's got a huge peritinitis - post-op inflammation. But I pray to God, I really do, that she'll continue her mending streak. We refuse to go quietly into the night, and I'll be damned if I let her die on my watch.

Anyway we got a letter from the mortgage company last night saying we paid off the mortgage, and now we have an offer on the condo! So...things are looking good, whereas yesterday, things were not as much.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Xenopus Menace!

Who knew that my fav. research frog was the most deadly thing out there, and apparently the only thing illegal in Nevada. I call shenanigans on this one. It may or may not have a damaging fungus on it, but to say it could destroy entire ecosystems is absurd.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Edouard approaches

Here is the latest NOAA forcast.

I remember blogging about Rita and that being the mother of all storms, ahead of even Katrina in its mightiness. Here is the Rita Wiki site. See that picture? That's Florida to the right, and Louisiana above Rita. Rita was as big as all of Louisiana and Missisippi.

Edouard, in comparison, is the poor bastard step-child's cousin's friend's friend. Low pressure is 1000 mbar (Rita was...895 mbar, nearly a record). Max winds are a wimpy 45 mph. This is a very minor storm, but we're gonna get walluped for a bit unless it changes course. I spent the morning preparing the house sorta, getting some supplies in case of power outage. I spent the afternoon preping work. We're as ready as we'll be for this wimpy storm.


Wimpy indeed. It missed Houston by about 30 mi, Beaumont got hit. Very little damage, very little flooding here. It drizzled a bit in the morning, that's it. I appreciate the day off, since Luci is not doing well at all. She's in ICU at the moment.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life Inside

..Grad school. (This is very tongue in cheek from this article)

How to behave around grad students

Be respectful to other grad students: Striding into the yard like you own the place will earn you enemies, and -- in a place where you have to keep your enemies closer than your friends -- this could prove fatal. Stripped to your bare soul, the only three valuable assets you’ll have left are respect, dignity and pride.

Don’t stare at a fellow grad student: The wrong look inside a grad school will either mean you’re their new worst enemy or new best friend. And you’d better believe that being their new worst enemy is better than being the type of new best friend he’d force you to become.

Don’t become a target: If a confrontation does arise -- and, let’s face it, it probably will -- strike first. You must guard your reputation with your life, and giving in to the first confrontational situation will only make you a target for future attacks.

Don’t be a snitch: If you see anything illegal going on -- such as the trading of drugs or another inmate getting hoe checked (beaten by a group) -- walk away. The moment you snitch is the moment you become public enemy number one. While you may have earned brownie points with the facultys, you’ll pay for it in beatings later.

Assess who you can trust: Don’t give in to the temptation to jump at the first offer of protection. Instead, wait a few days, get a sense of the lay of the land, and establish who you can (kind of) trust.

Take nothing on credit: This includes drugs, food, toiletry items or dirty magazines. Being a debtor to someone in grad school immediately makes you theirs -- in fact, you might as well put a dog collar around your neck and inscribe it with the word “bitch.” Grad school is a game of power -- don’t give yours away.

Avoid becoming a fellow inmate’s “girlfriend”: While being someone’s “girlfriend” will afford you protection from fellow inmates, this protection is fickle; inmates’ “girlfriends” are often traded, sometimes for something as superficial as a pack of cigarettes.

Your first day

Entering grad school is not like your first day at school -- it’s worse. You’ll be taken off the grad school bus and led inside. The noise will be tremendous and grad students will be sizing you up, jeering at you and doing everything they can to intimidate you. Don’t let them see weakness; keep your eyes firmly ahead of you and walk confidently inside, but don’t swagger. You’ll have your photograph taken, you'll be asked a couple of questions. Accept your staple supplies -- including your uniform and pillow -- and follow the faculty to your office.

Passing the time

Your time in grad school is marked by seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years for the worst criminal offenders. Because there’s so much of this thing we call “time” in grad school, it would be foolish to waste it. In grad school, you don’t need to worry about the daily pressures of the outside world. Therefore, you should spend every minute of every day inside developing yourself as a human being.

Remember: While you may want to pass the time you spend inside as quickly as possible, it is still time out of your life and you wouldn’t want to throw that away, would you? Make a habit of waking up early and spending the day doing any jobs you are assigned, studying one of the courses available and reading as much as you can. As well as keeping yourself busy, you’ll beat the system -- even though you’re behind bars, they can’t imgrad school your mind. So many grad students waste the day by watching television and sleeping. They learn nothing whilst inside, and emerge into the real world as inadequate human beings as they were when they went in.

Preserving your mental health

All around you there’ll be grad students with mental health problems. The likelihood is that your fellow students won’t make life easy for you. Similarly, some faculty won’t be as professional as they should be and will make your stay as uncomfortable as possible; they will taunt and bully you to see if they can make you crack. It’s little wonder why some grad students are put on suicide watch; after days of being told they’re useless, they come to believe it.

Believe in yourself: Many of the negative thinkers inside will have you doubting yourself, but you shouldn’t. Explain to yourself that you’re not worthless, that you can’t change the past, that you’re paying the price, and that you plan to change your wayward ways. Spend some time thinking about the good person you want to become and want to be perceived as by others. Exert positive thinking over those niggling doubts and you’re halfway there.

Try not to worry about anything you can’t control: What will be, will be. The woman waiting for you on the outside will either be faithful or she’ll jump into the sack with your best friend; your children will either be forgiving or tell their mother that they never want to see you again and mean it; and your pending appeal will either be successful or thrown out of court, while the judges and lawyers are falling over with laughter. Instead of wasting mental energy on issues like these, place focus on positive thinking.

Keep up prayer and meditation: Just because you’ve wound up in jail, it doesn’t mean the big man upstairs won’t listen to you anymore. In fact, now is the time to be repentant and gain that spiritual peace of mind that you’ve been searching for.

Preserving your physical health

Grad schools aren’t known to be the most wholesome of places, so it’s up to you to ensure that you keep yourself in tip-top condition. With so much spare time on your hands, you can make sure you walk out like Wentworth Miller in Grad school Break -- pumped, strong and ready to take on that big, bad world.

Look after your personal hygiene: Shower as often as you can, brush your teeth twice a day, shave, and comb your hair. As well as making yourself feel good, it will project a powerful message about you to others: You may be down, but you’re certainly not out.

Make sure your living quarters are clean: While you can’t help it if a rat crawls through the iron bars and into your bed, you can do something about it and alert a faculty.

Give up your vices: Throw away the cigarettes, say no to booze and pass on the grass. Keep your mind clear and make sure that you break any habits beforehand if you know you’re due to start a sentence (not only will habits get you in trouble with faculty, but they’ll show a sign of weakness to fellow students and they’ll prey on them).

Keep eating habits to a minimum inside grad school: Grad school food is generally fatty, and contains little to no nutritional value. Drink plenty of water and eat fruit whenever it’s available.

Release date

If your release date is coming up, don’t tell anyone. Some inmates take pleasure in stumping the release of other inmates by getting them in trouble. Don’t even tell the students you think you’ve become friends with. Remember: Nobody is your friend inside grad school. More to the point, don’t say any emotional goodbyes to anyone -- you certainly don’t want to maintain friendships with them on the outside and have them turning up on your doorstep when they’re released. You’ll need to surround yourself with positive influences if you’re determined not to get locked up again.

the lockdown

There is no life inside grad school -- just survival. If you can survive your jail sentence without your face being a permanent shade of black and blue, involuntarily embarking on a relationship with a fellow inmate in the shower and being put in solitary confinement for a fight you didn’t start, you’re doing well. Grad school isn’t glamorous -- it’s mean, nasty and you sure as hell don’t want to run someone over on purpose just to get a taste of life inside. But if you do end up in the slammer, remember that jail has its very own subculture -- one that you must become a part of as soon as possible if you’re to emerge smiling.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Death and Taxes

Only two things constant in this world. Here's a amusing summary of the taxes on a AT&T $40 bill. (From ./ comment)

According to the 4th ed. FC&C Salesmaster's Manual, the taxes on a $40 calling plan is 2d10+2 percent for all classes and alignments of customer.

However, the rules get tricky when adding the data and text plans. If you add those and the customer is any Lawful alignment, or your class is Apple Cultist, the monthly fees and taxes are a d20+30 per month.

If you're Neutral, sales should charge 2d10+2 percent of the total purchase in fees, plus a flat setup fee of 3d20, and whatever the local tax rate is (see Table 13-4.7, "Telecommunication Tax Rates of Municipalities, Provinces, Kingdoms, Shires and Deities").

If your alignment is Chaotic, or you have the Late Bills or Frequent Support Caller flaws, or your class is Go Phoner, your fees are (3d20)d20+(d20)d6, plus (2d20)d20 percent taxes, plus 2d6 in franchise fees, plus 3d20+d6 setup.

If you're identified as Chaotic Hard-to-Please alignment, the Salesmaster may simply escalate fees and taxes and make up complex usage rules (2Gb bandwidth cap except on Fridays and the alternating days of the third week of every fourth month, when it's 256k, for example) until the customer gives up.

However, if sales can't determine your alignment or class - if you're a new customer, for example, or your billing and prior plan history isn't available -Âthey will probably refuse to answer your questions. If a customer immediately submits, they get Apple Cultist treatment. If a customer questions the refusal but eventually submits, they get Chaotic treatment.

If a customer is an insistent questioner, the Salesmaster considers the player in combat and gives the player d6-2 rounds to flee before calling security (see U.S. Government's "Monster and Enforcement Officer Bestiary," table 2.1-1, "Rented Muscle").

Friday, July 18, 2008


What is it about cell phones? All of their ring tones are annoying. Further, pretty much every day around 5pm all the cell phones in the office go off, and much loud conversation ensues. Basically its, in chinese "when are you coming home". Jesus people, give your spouse a break and quit calling every f-ing day.

RIP Michael DeBakey

Dr. Michael DeBakey passed away this week, he was 99. This guy is truely a hero of medical science, so many things he has done, too many to list. The preeminence of the Texas Medical Center as one of the world's best medical centers is due hugely to his efforts. We will all miss him. The flags have flown at half-mast for this week, as befits his stature.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Iraq Blog

Armed and curious What's really interesting is to read his posts starting from April, noted the rocket fire from Sadr City, to the recapturing of Sadr City two months ago, to walking around a peaceful Sadr City currently.

I think this is the sound of victory, and while things could change, it seems that Iraq is on a irrevocable, tangible path of victory. Thus it no longer matters who's President of the U.S. come January, by then (god willing) the hot war will be over.

Really insipiring stuff.

Friday, June 27, 2008

10 reasons Vista sucks

Or ten reasons its supposedly better than XP, exposed.

1. It's more secure than Windows XP. After being implicitly responsible for botnets and security breaches through the incredible popularity of their Windows XP, Microsoft went back and made sure Vista is more secure than its predecessor. And it is. According to security firm PC Tools, Vista had 639 unique threats over a six-month period, whereas XP had 1021. This came from much internal restructuring under the hood, but there's a chance that it might be due to Vista being a smaller target than XP for malware as well.

So the data are based on the number of unique threats? Maybe that's due to Vista being a smaller install base? Like 10 fold smaller? Actually if you look at it as unique threats per install-base, then Vista is far less secure. But we wouldn't say that, because that would be stupid.

2. It's the best looking Windows yet. Despite any complaints users may have about Aero hogging up too many CPU cycles or requiring a video card from this millennium to use, it's still the best looking Windows yet. I mean really, do you remember what XP looked like out of the box? With that gigantic balloon of a task bar and the green Start button. Vista's glass definitely trumps that. And then there's the underlying graphical framework changes which allow new features like live thumbnails. All these visual effects may require more power, but you can't deny that it's pleasing to look at.

Does anyone really care about how pretty a OS looks out of the box? OSes should be flexible enough that they can look like whatever the user wants, like Linux GNOME or KDU for example. I certainly don't care, it has to be functional, and the authors even admit the resources required for this prettiness is way beyond XP's requirement.

3. Games work just about as well as under XP. There's a slight performance degradation under Vista when compared to Windows XP using the exact same hardware. Is it noticeable? Probably, but it's somewhere around the level of 10%. There's also the consideration of DirectX 10 and the visual improvements you'll get in the future when more developers really take advantage of it. With a slightly better video card, you won't even really notice that you're going at 90FPS versus 100FPS.

What modern game is running at 100 fps on Vista? That's right, zero. I mean if you want to play WoW, which is, what, 4 years old, you can get 100fps, at that point the performance hit doesn't matter. The DX10 is a marketing scam as far as I can tell. MS is requiring people to run vista in order to play a game with DX10. But nowadays most games run DX9 and DX10, or only DX9. I'd rather have 10% of my performance back, since most games will be pushing the OS for all its worth. Even with killer rigs, modern games with maxed out settings will struggle to hit 30 fps. We need performance more than fancy tricks.

4. Vista Media Center is a fantastic DVR. Microsoft integrates their fantastic Windows Media Center Edition into Home Premium and Ultimate, and it's pretty much the best DVR you can get outside of getting a TiVo. Combine it with various Media Center Extenders, of which there are lots (such as the Xbox 360), you can get HDTV streamed to anywhere in your house from one computer in your office. Our only complaint is still that Cable Labs doesn't allow you to stick a CableCARD tuner onto just any appropriately spec'd Vista PC—you actually have to buy a machine pre-made for CableCARD.

Tivo is also a fantastic DVR. If you had a full Vista powered PC hooked up to your TV, that's fine. But 99.9% of us don't, its stupid and there is no need, not when tiny Linux powered TIVO is there to do the same thing but with 90% less horsepower/cost requirement. Why would you shell out $1000 for a glorified TIVO? I wouldn't.

5. The sleep mode works. Sleep mode in Windows XP was essentially a shortcut for locking up your computer and forcing you to reboot. It actually does what it's supposed to in Vista.

Admittedly, that's nice. But best sleep mode? The off button. Actually better - remove the plug, since there is still residual power even when off. But yeah, this would be a nice cost saver if it worked.

6. Built-in search is better and more useful. Vista's searching feature relies on cataloging your hard drive, then searching the resulting database to quickly (and easily) find your files. By default it's just limited to a couple user folders, but if you expand it to your entire hard drive, you'll be able to find anything fast, much like the way Spotlight works on a Mac. The downside is that during the first day or two, everything slows down while Vista indexes your computer. Best to leave it on overnight or over a weekend while you're away.

From what i've seen, this causes your HD to run at 100% all day every day. Probably a great way to ruin HDs. But yeah it is an admittedly useful thing. However, google already has google desktop, which does the same thing, on any OS, and it's free, and probably faster.

7. User Account Control is useful for some people. I have to admit that I've turned this off but UAC—the thing that pops up and asks you for your password whenever you do something on the system level—is useful in theory for many people, especially those who share a family computer. Hide the administrator password from your parents/grandparents/kids so they won't be able to install any weird apps they're not supposed to. In practice, it's a bit annoying in that it pops up for mundane things that shouldn't really need system-level clearance. It's a step in the right direction; however, if you want to disable UAC for certain programs, see here.

I have this same issue with Ubuntu. It's extremely annoying to get password prompts for doing things like writing CDs, changing the time, etc. If i could figure out how to turn it off, i would. And really, the physical security threat isn't an issue for almost all users. Its the stuff downloaded from the Internet, which UAC won't do anything to prevent.

8. Drivers support isn't as bad as it's made out to be. Although "Man gets Windows Vista to work with printer" may be an actual non-Onion headline, the root cause of his original woes was that the man installed a Windows XP printer driver instead of the correct Vista one. But there is a smaller percentage of users who—no matter how old or new their peripheral is—can't get it to work with Windows Vista. The blame for this lies on peripheral manufacturers who either can't or won't update their drivers to support the new OS. There's not much you or Microsoft can do here, but it's rarer than you'd think from reading the internet.

Maybe the manufacturer's know a POS OS when they see one? But its a cart and horse problem. I won't upgrade until i know all my perepherals can work on the new OS, while mfrs won't write drivers for OS's with small user bases. However, the OS should be good enough to have a layered driver mode that accepts legacy drivers. Otherwise you are killing off perepherals that haven't been manufacturered in the last few years.

9. It's not any buggier than Windows XP. This is a bit of a corollary to #1, but out of the many, many Vista users we've seen, they almost all agree that the only times Vista has crashed or blue-screened on them was when they were doing something they usually don't do. The OS by itself rarely crashes in everyday use, and compared to even OS X Leopard, it's pretty damn sturdy. In a year's worth of daily use, we think the OS has probably only crashed once, if that.

XP with SP2 is remarkably bug free, it doesn't crash during my normal use. And this is the 64 bit poorly supported version. So, my OS isn't buggy, why should i upgrade?

10. Vista is not slow if you have enough RAM. One of the main complaints that users have is that Vista is slow, but they either upgraded Vista from an old machine or they purchased a "Vista Ready" system with only 512MB to 1GB worth of RAM. You can run Vista with 1GB of RAM, but like OS X, you really want to have at least 2GB. Modern operating systems get fatter because they DO more stuff for you under the hood, such as optimizing your memory for the applications you run often so they load faster.

Translation: Vista requires a new CPU/MB/vid card, and much more memory than XP. When you have to throw over two gigs of memory in there, something is wrong. XP takes up about 300 MB of memory (plus the giant cache it uses). So basically with Vista not only do you have to shell out for the new OS (which is very expensive for an OS), but you have to shell out for new memory (like every other windows upgrade out there). No thanks.

You can take my XP when you pry it from my cold lifeless fingers. Or i'll just upgrade to Linux which is finally becoming stable and user friendly.

We're not saying that Vista doesn't have its faults or that Windows 7 won't be better, we're saying that Vista is just not as bad as people are making it out to be. If you're on XP and you're afraid to upgrade, don't be. It's no worse than Windows XP if you pay attention to the stuff I mentioned above. As long as you've got a reasonably decent machine—and if you're reading Giz it's likely that you do—you're pretty safe in upgrading.

So it's no worse than XP, except the huge resource requirements. So if you have nothing else to do but throw money at a stupid OS and invite all sorts of upgrade nightmares, go ahead and get Vista.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

NK to give up Nukes?

Never gonna happen I say. But the latest news is that NK has created a document saying how much plutonium they have and will dismantle their breeder reactor. In exchange they will get removed from our 'terrorist list' and sanctions will be lifted. So they get lots of money for saying to the world that they have nukes, which was already known. Next they say they will give up these nukes. Yeah right. Cold day in hell. This is nuclear blackmail and the president is a complete idiot for giving in.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I get tired of the media latching on to reports that Gitmo prisoners are tortured. They are interrogated, yes, and there are prescribed interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation and humiliation.

I want to know where those same people are when reports like this crop up (like they seem to do all the time now). Its context. I'm not defending prisoner abuse, but it sure beats the hell out of a mother caging her son, making him stand in his own urine, sexually abusing him, and skinning him alive and feeding his flesh to other cult members. I'm just saying.

Laptop revitalization

From ./

"Where the hell did this laptop go? It looks like it sucked up a ferret (look at the page 5 gallery)."


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Arrested for cheering at graduation?

Just wrong.

One thing I hate about academia is the hoops you jump through. All they have over you is your diploma. But you have to go through so much BS to get to it, by the time you are done you are ready to kill everyone. It seems some high schools are just getting away with murder. I mean, arresting people at graduation ceremonies?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The wife is a moron

That's about the only thing you can conclude from this...horror. Horror I don't think even describes it. That plus the husband was the next coming of Hitler.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Only in Hawaii

Thanks to step-mom in Hawaii

This is how the conversation probably went:

Costco Employee: "Hello dis Costco, how can I help you?"

Customer: "I would like to order a cake for a going away party this week."

Costco Employee: "Wot you like on da cake?"

Customer: "Best Wishes Suzanne" and underneath that "We will miss you."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

antibody bar code

Hmm,interesting. A new way to fingerprint people based on antibodies. Everyone has a unique set of antibodies in their bloodstream, so if you could figure out this set you could have a fingerprinting technology. My guess is they basically try a whole bunch of different epitopes and see what sticks so to speak. Somewhat like an allergy test (actually very similar).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PETA's X-prize

SHOCKINGLY, THIS IS ACTUALLY A GOOD IDEA: P.E.T.A. offers a $1 million prize for fake meat: That is, "real" meat grown In vitro instead of from animals.

Been meaning to comment on this for a while. Nice idea, but I'm not sure it will fly. Do you want to know how we grow cells nowadays? I'll pretend you do. In a monolayer, using *gasp* fetal cow blood (sera) (which is the best source of growth factors). This is hideously expensive firstly, costing about $200 for a 500 ml bottle, which will handle 500 dishes of cells. So that's one huge barrier. Will PETA endorse a method that relys on killing cows, to get their blood, to raise cells, which is a replacement of the meat from the animal that you killed in the first place?

The second problem is that delicious monolayer of cells. Currently we can only grow cells so thick because of diffusion. Its the reason we have capillaries, after all. We would need to engineer a system that mimics a animal's body, including capillaries, blood, pump, and waste disposal. Or, we could just raise cows the old fashion way, which is much better designed for the process, and a heck of alot cheaper.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MS150 is over

The image is of me in La Grange. Not a stellar example of photography (i didn't know they were shooting, or if i did i didn't care).

Woot. All done. It was pretty windy, and headwind most of the way. I forgot there were so many hills. It seemed all I did was climb climb climb the entire way. Then I would get to the top of a hill, have a brief downslope, and still have the wind in my face! So, yeah, it was very exhausting.

Its Tuesday and I'm mostly recovered. The first day I rode alone from Rhodes stadium, which is a 85 mi trip to La Grange. I got into La Grange at 3pm, 3rd rider of my team to show up. Sunday I did the park route (brutal hills for 10 miles), I dropped my colleague Adam at first rest stop (was so mad that I couldn't find him), we met up again at lunch with the two Adams and Steve and Charlotte, and rode the rest of the way with them. I crossed the finish line with S&C and the Adams were minutes apart from us. It was hard to keep everyone together, real easy to lose people.

At about 20 miles to go from Austin, I started having asthma, on top of everything else (sore muscles, rhinitis for two days straight, headache, chapped lips, sunburn, saddle sore), I thought that was the end of the road for me. Somehow i pressed on, the asthma subsided and I was able to finish. I really dont remember the last 20 miles, well the whole thing but especially the last part. Was so tired as to be incoherent.

Statistics: Total miles 160, total time (inc stops) 7.5 hrs Sat 8.5 hrs Sun (total 16 hrs). Total riders: About 13,000, probably more like 12,000. Total times I crashed: zero. Times I wanted to quit: 100.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Liberman & Grahm on the Iraq War

Read this excellent commentary by the two senators from the WSJ.

What was particularly interesting is this quote:

No one can deny the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq achieved by Gen. Petraeus, the brave troops under his command, and the Iraqi Security Forces. From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90%. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70%.

90% is ten-fold, that's a huge decrease. I know this moment is not an easy one for the American public, forced to pay the huge war debt, the American soldiers in harms way, or the Iraqi people, who are usually the target of this violence. My hope is that we remain stead-fast in this endevour until we are victorious.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

China superpower

Hmm, interesting quote. From the Atlantic mag via James Fallows via Instapundit

Susan Shirk, of the University of California at San Diego, recently published a very insightful book that calls China a “fragile superpower.” “When I discuss it in America,” she told me, “people always ask, ‘What do you mean, fragile?’” When she discusses it here in China, “they always ask, ‘What do you mean, superpower?’”

I really worry about the next twenty years as a critical moment in history. At once the Islamic nations are on a collision course either with a new dark age or an age of enlightenment, we are at (or will be very soon) peak oil, which will have profound consequences to the worlds economy, and finally the world is waking up (at last) to the destruction of natural resources. China is a symptom of the later two issues; they are expanding so fast that they are a huge source of the oil demand increase, and they are hell-bent on destroying their environment to achieve superpower status (witness the Three Gorge Dam)

My fear is that if we don't switch from an oil economy and don't wake up to the fact that entropy only works in one direction, and that natural resources are not easily renewable, we will enter a age of darkness the likes of which has not been seen since the middle ages. Think of how catastrophic it would be if there was no fuel for transportation, no resources for consumables, no power for electricity and air conditioning. Go without power/water for a day, and see how desparate you get. Multiply that by 5 bilion. Yes, many on the earth are living without those things every day, but the western world is absolutely dependant on these things.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pinch me, i'm.. oh wait

Not irish. So why do american's do these silly things on St. Patricks day? Cause we can.

Monday, March 17, 2008

70 miles yesterday

Well I'm neck deep in bike training for the MS150. So far i've been doing smaller rides, 20-30 miles, and for the last few weeks my training has fallen off a bit. So i did the great escape ride, put in by my old biking club in pearland. They didn't have a 60 mi route so I sucked it up and did the 70. I was quite pleased with the layout, with rest stops every 10 mi or less. With the wind, that became critical. The wind was blowing at a steady 15 mph at least, gusting to about 30 mph. That kind of constant wind puts a real strain on biking; thank god almost all the ride was with a crosswind, a few parts with the head wind, a few with a tail wind (yes for effortless 20mph!).

Anyway, i did well, i survived for one, and wasn't the last person there (but close), and had a nice steady pace of 18-20 mph in crosswind. I was actually coherent for the rest of the day; usually i get home and collapse and don't move for 5 hours. Today i'm insanely tired but still at work. No caffeine b/c i'm dehydrated slightly (it just makes the dehydration worse). Anyway, i'm much more confident I can do the MS150, now I just need to train harder so i can last the second day.

Real Clear politics?

Take a look at this poll on the right (not the iraq poll, but that's good news). Look at our prez poll. Again (again!) we have a nation who is evenly split on obama vs clinton, and winner vs McCain. So, let me think. Clinton's first election was pretty easy, but not so the second. And of course the two Bush elections have been anything but predictable. Elder bush's election I can't recall, but I do recall the Reagen elections were landslides both times. So we are definatly entering a new era in politics, that of the evenly divided vote. About half the nation is dem and the other half republican (those who bother to vote at all). I imagine this trend will continue for another decade, then switch to more democratic (or maybe more republican??), as the baby boomers die off. But i'm not a polister or pundit.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

photo printers dead technology?

This blog entry in popsci is interesting and mentions the price of printer ink typically runs between $3000 and $5000 a gallon. I know i don't use my printer that much, and hardly ever for photos. I find that when i want to do a photo print, inevitably the ink will be dried up and useless, so I'll have to pay another $40 to get a new cartridge. Might as well send it to one of a zillion online photo print services.

Gary Gygax passed away

Gary was the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, and the father of roleplaying. He was 69. Story here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


What's worse than proposing on TV? Having her reject you. Five good clips here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Writers strike over

World catastrophe adverted.

House new episodes have already started. They are currently producing more to be aired in April/May.

Burn notice will start season 2 in July.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Alone in the dark

Wow this movie just got stellar reviews, we really must see this from netflix. Here are a few gems.

The Producing- Who on earth is stupid enough to put money towards this bomb? I pity the fool... sometimes. Sometimes I'm glad he or she was taught such a lesson to never put money towards garbage worse then dog dung tied up in a bag.

The Writing / Storyboard- Trying to Analise the story is more painful then jamming an ice pick under a big toe and kicking a soccer ball as hard as I possibly could with it right after but I will still attempt it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

NIH budget flat for next year

This is a really bad situation and will just make things worse. It isn't just that NIH will not be able to give out more grants. Its that a) biomedical costs have skyrocketed in the last decade and b) There are many more grant applicants now. So the likelyhood of getting a grant just keeps going down and down. I will vote for whoever can restore the NIH funding to proper levels.

Friday, February 1, 2008

McCain vs Clinton on earmarks

Quite a contrast. (from instapundit) . I'm morel likely to vote for McCain than Clinton due to this and other issues. But I dont know what he proposes to do about science funding, which is my hot button issue. I need a job, and a increase of funding availability will surely help.

In his State of the Union address Monday, reinvigorated public discussion of earmarks — lawmakers’ specific spending items inserted into appropriations bills. While fiscal conservatives in Washington are skeptical about Bush’s ability to do much on the issue, the president may be helping his party by bringing up this issue, which touched on fiscal conservatism, government transparency and political corruption.

Earmarks, and their use of tools of corruption, could play a large role in the 2008 presidential contest if the current front-runners succeed in grabbing their respective parties’ nominations. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is a leading opponent of pork and one of the only lawmakers to forswear earmarks, while Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is Congress’ leading porker.

Clinton’s earmarking is not merely offensive to procedural purists who demand spending go through standard channels. It also is not merely a transgression against fiscal conservatism. Clinton’s earmarks often directly benefit specific corporations and businessmen, who, in turn, make large contributions to her campaign. This “pay-to-play” earmarking, as one left-leaning budget watchdog group put it, highlights the truly dirty side of earmarks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Driver who killed cyclist convicted of murder

More like this please. Yes, it is murder when you kill someone on a bike deliberately. It's at least negligant homicide when you strike and kill a cyclist who is following the rules of the road, because you were driving too fast or distracted by cell phone.

TUCSON, Ariz. — A judge sentenced a woman to nearly the maximum prison term for negligent homicide after hearing a recorded jail conversation in which she made light of the bicyclist she killed.

Melissa Arrington, 27, was convicted two months ago of negligent homicide and two counts of aggravated DUI in connection with the December 2006 death of Paul L'Ecuyer.

She could have gotten as few as four years behind bars, but Superior Court Judge Michael Cruikshank sentenced her Tuesday to 10 1/2 years — one year shy of the maximum.

Cruikshank said he found a telephone conversation between Arrington and an unknown male friend, a week after L'Ecuyer was killed, to be "breathtaking in its inhumanity."

During the conversation, the man told Arrington that an acquaintance believed she should get a medal and a parade because she had "taken out" a "tree hugger, a bicyclist, a Frenchman and a gay guy all in one shot."

Arrington laughed. When the man said he knew it was a terrible thing to say, she responded, "No, it's not."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ipod shuffle woes

We cant get J's shuffle to work. The first one worked for a year and now iTunes wont sync with it. We bought a new one, guess what. Same exact problem. Maybe this solution will fix the problem.

BBB does the eagle boss in ZA

For when we ever get there, this will be a useful post.

More Kara drama last night. The raid group has downed shade/illhoof this week (without me!), and proceded to prince. Last night was the last time we could try prince before reset on Tuesday (today). Anyway before we even got in there was guild drama, the drama always cranks up when a raid group assembles. Anyway this guy, a warrior, had an absolute cow when he was told he couldn't come. He hasn't done kara before, when I played with him he had trouble in normal 70 instances. Despite a whole bunch of PVP gear he was not producing the numbers we needed. And this was strictly, strictly a ranged fight. Melee types are useless on this fight. Not so us ranged ppl.

So anyway we wipe a few times, and finally get a good luck streak (this fight is partally based on luck since these infernals come down and if they land in the middle of your raid you are pretty much SOL). So we were chugging him down to 20% or thereabouts, and we had a real strong chance of defeating him, nobody was down (this is one of those fights that's simple, if the main tank dies, we all die. If the infernal lands on us, we all die.). So it's truely an all or nothing fair. Despite the fact that we only had 2 healers. So anyway we're burning him down and i'm thinking, damn we may have a shot at a guild-first downing, let alone 3 in a week! And my power goes out, preceeded shortly by a muffled explosion. Likely, a transformer blew, and sending us all into darkness (probably the whole complex). But the power people were on the ball, and power came on a few hours later. Too late for us, we were fast asleep.

Now i have no idea if prince is down or if my disconnection killed our shot.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Economy in the crapper?

If so, then why has the S&P500 almost doubled since 2003? Yes, this year it's been pretty flat, but flat <> recession. Anyway the S&P isn't a great benchmark on the economy, but I just thought i'd through that out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Stargate Worlds coming in 08

Interview here. Seems like its coming pretty seen, beta starts in spring 08. That's 3 months. I'm real excited to see this and would not mind switching from WoW.