Thursday, October 30, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 10/30

There's some interesting stuff in my shared items today:
That's it for today. As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 10/29

I already have a reply to one of today's shared items, so I'd better hurry up and get this thing posted! And, for the record... darnit, you're right, Jessica. Harder is better. I'm a hypocrite!
  • This video synchronizing the debates is really sad. My favorites are the ones with 4 clips from the 3 debates; ie, sometimes McCain at least (I don't remember if Barack had any) said exactly the same thing twice in a single debate.
  • Best "mashup" of the Google Maps API, using roughly 1 line of code from that API to make something useful. I'm surprised Google Maps doesn't let you select something to turn this feature on in the normal maps.
  • Pixolu is a cool research project to create a smarter image search engine. It was really slow when I tried it out this morning, but that's probably due to the Lifehacker link.
  • A video comparison of a song on both Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2. I mentioned when I shared it that the sustain-one-note-while-moving-on-others seems impossibly hard, but, as Jessica pointed out, I complain when people complain about things being hard; hard is good, so I'll have to try that out to see if it's fun hard or just annoying hard. Let's hope for fun hard.
  • Great holy jeebus, are the Beatles coming to Rock Band 2? We should know for sure tomorrow.
  • In case you missed it like I did (we were carving more jack-o-lanterns at my sister's), here's Barack's 30-minute infomercial. I heard good things. I think I'll vote for the guy.
As always, comment below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 10/28

Things I've shared in the last 24 hours or so:
  • Samsung has announced carbon nanotube-based color digital paper. As a lover of my Kindle, the idea of that in color makes me drool.
  • Lifehacker has a thing about buying $25 gift certificates from for $2. I still can't figure out if I can recommend this. I bought some ($100 worth for a grand total of $8), but I haven't taken the time to sort out exactly how much of a pain it'll be to redeem them. Sure, most of the restaurants have a largish minimum when you use the gift certificates at them, but that just means a group of us get a huge discount going to restaurants we go to anyway.
  • Dinsmore shared a story about a solar system that looks simlar to our own about 10.5 light years away. That's really, really cool. If there's an Earth-like planet there, and it eventually develops intelligent life, and that eventuality overlaps with the existance of civilization on Earth... we could talk to one another, with the relatively tiny time lapse of only 21 years. Way cool.
  • Dinsmore's books are available online! Woohoo!
Leave comments on these or any of my other shared items below.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 10/27

Here are the highlights from the things I've shared roughly since the last post:
  • How to get time off to vote, state by state. If you have early voting, use it. If not and you'll have trouble making it to the polls, definitely check this out.
  • Austin sets Thriller dance record. I was planning for a month to go for this, then we scheduled a cookout during it. Oops. I still should've gone, but I managed to convince myself it was too much work. Remember: you more often regret things you didn't do than things you did.
  • I don't so much want to share this article by Christopher Hitchens endorsing Obama as to name drop. I've been to a party with Hitchens, and he was as much of a pretentious jerk at that party as he is on TV; it isn't an act. When I first heard he'd endorsed, it made me question my votes for Obama.
  • This site, which helps you figure out where to meet people centrally between input addresses, is freakin' awesome. I wish I'd thought of it. That makes me want to move on another idea I have, before "I wish I'd thought of it" becomes "Huh, that could have been my private fighter jet."
  • Finally... Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens has been found guilty on all counts! Hehehehehehehe. As Nate points out on 538, get a pollster up there to AK post-haste! Is there any chance this will demoralize Alaska Republicans enough that they don't bother voting???
As always (being the whole point of these posts), leave your comments on these or any of my other shared items below.

Elitist Presidents

A coworker discovered something interesting today. In 1876, while serving as a member of the House of Representatives, James A. Garfield, future President of the United States, wrote a novel proof of the Pythagorean theorem.

Can you even imagine a President knowing enough math, and being clever enough, to propose a proof to a  mathematical theorem? I couldn't, so I decided to do a quick bit of research to see which Presidents would  plausibly know enough math to come close.

To be fair, it doesn't take a ton of math to propose a proof to the Pythagorean theorem. Garfield's proof is mostly visual, backed up with algebra.  But let's pretty much ignore the inspiration for this search, and just pick something that we can estimate: which recent presidents, if any, knew calculus? I'm sticking to recent presidents only mostly because I'm lazy, but also because it becomes harder to estimate these things the further you go from the modern education system; I'll bet Jefferson knew calculus, but I'm not sure how I'd estimate that from his biography. I'm going with the last 10.

So, without further ado:
  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Graduated from West Point in the upper half of his class in 1915. West Point has always been primarily an engineering school. Chances are fairly good that Eisenhower took calculus; if he went to West Point today, he'd be required to have three calculus courses, and the school has become less focused on engineering since he was there.
  2. John F. Kennedy: According to one biography I found online, Kennedy "disliked math and physics and refused to apply himself in those courses." It's possible he took calculus (I can't find information one way or the other), but it's highly doubtful that he "knew" calculus.
  3. Lyndon B. Johnson: "Doubtful," according to someone I won't specifically name because there's a chance she could get in trouble for not saying, "Of course, LBJ knew everything!" But, yeah, doubtful. Maybe it's just Austin bias, but I'm pretty sure San Marcos still doesn't teach calculus.
  4. Richard Nixon: While the interwebs have a calculus joke about a Nixon misspeak, I can't find anything either way about whether Nixon ever studied calculus. His education was far from anything where I'd expect calculus, but I can't say with any certainty whether he did or not. (side note from that Nixon misspeak link: holy crap, Joseph Biden knows at least a little calculus!)
  5. Gerald Ford: Ford graduated from U of M with a degree in political science and economics. I find this absolutely shocking, but it's absolutely possible that Ford studied calculus.
  6. James Earl Carter, Jr.: Jimmy Carter received a BS in physics from the Naval Academy. He likely has studied calculus more than I have.
  7. Ronald Reagan: Reagan majored in economics and sociology at Eureka College. As with Ford, it's possible that Reagan studied calculus. Holy crap.
  8. George H. W. Bush: BS in economics. Again, huh, who'ld'a thunk it?
  9. William Jefferson Clinton: Studied foreign service, government, and law. Possible but unlikely that he ever had a calc course.
  10. George W. Bush: Studied history, but lots of prep schools and such. It's possible Bush has had a calc course. There's simply no way in hell Bush has ever learned calculus, but he may have had a calc course.
I'll score it as:
  • Definitely/very likely: 2
  • Maybe: 4
  • Probably not: 3
  • I refuse to believe that it's even possible: 1
Then again, what do I know? I never would have thought Biden would have had enough calc to remember what an inflection point was.

Update: For anyone wondering:
  • John McCain presumably got some sort of degree when he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, but I can't find what it was. Reportedly McCain did "just enough to pass the classes he didn't find stimulating," and that included math. He may have taken calc, but he didn't learn it.
  • Barack Obama, much like Bill Clinton, spent a lot of time in college, but in areas that didn't likely pass through calculus (BA in political science, law degree).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Barack-O-Lantern Photos

My friend Jessica has photos posted of the two best Barack-O-Lanterns from our Yes We Carve session. The pattern for the face is here, and our pattern for the symbol is here (with instructions).

Fixing Craptastic Blog Layout

My blog is too narrow to fit a YouTube video. That's ridiculous. I guess this'll be the kick that finally gets me to move off of a default blogger layout...

This Weekend's Shared Items

My Google Reader is clean! It's been a while since I completely emptied out my feeds; this feels surprisingly and geekily good. That means it looks like it's time for a round-up of what I've shared recently:
  • Lots of stuff on Lifehacker. Lifehacker is a great site, but it's almost too active. I may have to cut it out of my feeds, unless I can learn to speed read my feeds.
  • Right-wingers are spreading this around because they think it makes Biden look bad. I'm very excited that the guy interviewed in this is going to be my VP. Imagine how Caribou Barbie would do with a similar questioner for comparison. This is "gotcha journalism," Sarah; asking you WTF you meant about the "I can see Russsia!" nonsense isn't: (video at the end while I figure out how/if I can get YouTube an bullets to play nice).
  • My friend Flip is a talented guy. His map of newspaper endorsements is spreading through the blogosphere. Next he wants to flashify this thing about Palin's wardrobe malfunctions. More power to him, but I suspect they'll have some new ridiculous story for us to focus on before we can get that app put together.
And... two stories have come in on Reader in the time it took my to type this up. I really should look into that speed-reading thing...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Barack-O-Lantern Pattern

As promised, here's my favorite of the designs we used for Barack-o-lanterns. This is the first time I've included an image in a post here on blogger, so we'll see how well it turns out. The Barack-o-lantern using this design turned out quite well (better than mine, which used one of the designs from Yes We Carve). Photos coming as soon as I get them.

  1. Hollow out your pumpkin.
  2. Print this design, and tape it to your favorite face on your pumpkin. You'll have to crease it creatively, depending on how curved your pumpkin is.
  3. Stick a pin into the pumpkin along the edges of the design, to draw your pattern. You don't need to do so more than every inch or so, but the more holes you make the easier it will be to cut the pumpkin.
  4. Cut out the black spot completely; that becomes your bright, glowing sun at the center of the O.
  5. Cut along the edges of the gray spots, and then cut under the skin inside of them to remove the skin. This may take some experimentation to get it to work perfectly, but it's not too terribly hard.
  6. Thin out the inside of your pumpkin behind the design. Test with a candle in the dark every once in a while to see how you're doing; you probably don't have to thin it out much.
  7. Get it out on your porch as a really cool way to show your neighbors who you plan to vote for.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Carving Barack-O-Lanterns + Shared Items

If they don't suck, I'll have pics tomorrow... and hopefully a more complete blog!

For now, feel free to comment on these two shared items (or any of my other stuff):

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items

Two friends have pointed out how lame it is that you can't comment back on things people share in Google Reader, so I'm going to try to remember to give people a place to discuss my shared Reader items every day.

You can see what I've shared (and my comments on them) by following the link in my sidebar, or that link above. Here are some interesting ones from the last 24 hours:
  • Ron Howard does something he swore he'd never do.
  • Particularly for fellow Texans: Does anyone know any Republicans (everyone I know in Austin is at worst neutral; most are loudly liberal)? If so, let them know about this.
  • Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy finally has a release date (after 10 years of "almost done, really!"). So it looks like we'll actually see Chinese Democracy before Chinese democracy!
  • This graph makes my black, joyless, atheist heart happy.
Leave your comments to these and really anything else below.

Happy Mole Day!

Today is Mole Day. My high school chemistry teacher was very, very, very into Mole Day (even getting it officially recognized by my hometown, and he's also the guy who maintains the official National Mole Day Foundation website, currently down from traffic flood, always in need of some attention... where was I (note: I literally got lost in that sentence and didn't finish it when I first published, oops)? My high school chemistry teacher was way into Mole Day, and it rubbed off on me.

How to celebrate (by level of chemistry geekiness):
Note: In this context, I consider myself "intermediate."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Setting a new goal...

...and almost failing already.

Last night (probably around 10:04pm) I decided to try to blog every day. I just realized that I haven't done so, and I only have 38 minutes left. Oops.

To be extremely meta (and add a new keyword to my sidebar), that's all I'm going to say today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Early Voting

I voted for Obama for President for the fifth time today. Today was probably the easiest process of the five, but it felt so very, very good.

Early voting has begun or is about to begin in many states (I know OH and TX for sure so far, and CO, FL, and AK start later this week). I highly recommend it if your state has it. It's usually more convenient than election-day voting. But, even better, the more people who do it, the more the media reports about it, and the more people in your state can find out how easy it is. It's a self-reinforcing cycle!