Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shared Google Reader Items, 2/26/2009

It's been almost a week since I last did this! Doh! Here they finally are, my shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Art:
  • I love Photoshop, but I'm not as good at it as I should be after using it for... holy jeebus, about 15 years now! I want to get better, so I need to start using VunkySearch's tutorial finder thingy.
Technology:
  • Researchers found a way to make solar power cheaper. Any time now solar should make sense (sadly, it usually doesn't right now; it hurts the environment enough to make solar cells that their benefit probably doesn't offset it). How long after that do you think it'll take for it to actually be used?
  • I'm so in love with this key finder idea that I want to elope with it and bear its children.
Psychology:
The Internets:
Politics:
  • Legalization of marijuana is more popular than key conservative leaders.
  • 538.com examines the same question I had: Was volcano monitoring really the worst thing Kenneth Jindal could find in the stimulus bill? Really? The Governor of Louisiana can't see the economic benefit in paying people to make sure people aren't killed by volcanos? Really??
  • News organizations can now show photos of returning war dead, after an 18-year ban. The reason reversing this was important was so Americans could get a clear picture of what these wars are costing. I think we're already starting to get that, but better late than never on the reversal.
  • The economy tanking may have a good result: states are scrapping barbarism because it's too expense. Woot.
  • Obama has picked former Washington Governor Gary Locke for Commerce. Let's hope third time's a charm...
  • Because I like to be fair, here's FactCheck.org's run-down on Obama's speech. I think most of those "exaggerations and factual misstatements" are what I'd call "rhetorically true," meaning that the truth fits at least one interpretation of what he said, whether that's the interpretation most people would jump to first or not... but anyway, it's good to check this sorta thing.
  • The Senate has passed the DC Voting Rights Bill 61-37. The idea sounds great, but, dammit, it's illegal. You can't just change the Constitution because it sounds like a good idea. You need to ammend it. It's not that complicated: "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed." That's quoted from the 14th Amendment, because we already realized once that the original was broken. Fixing it again wouldn't be a big thing, but you can't change the Constitution through a bill, no matter how good of an idea you think the bill is.
Science:
  • Researchers are getting close to a universal flu vaccine. Neat. Someone was talking about something similar at a party recently (because that's the sort of party I attend), but they had the process all wrong.
  • Learn all about nanotechnology and why it's cool through the Nano Song. Strong work.
Entertainment:
Atheism:
  • Teehee. (BTW, for those who think I filed the comic under the wrong heading, "atheist" and "agnostic" pretty much mean the same thing, I just prefer the taken-as-more-shocking term. If you aren't sure that you believe in something, particularly something that damns you to eternal torment for not swearing fealty to it, you don't believe in it.)
  • The UN has passed a resolution trying to ban making fun of religion. The response to that is obvious: Fuck you, religion! In case that's not specific enough, I'm talking about you, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. Are you such a bunch of pussies that you need special protection? Aw, what's wrong, religion? Is free speech telling you you're unnecessary? Suck it up and take it like a man.
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Curious Case of Jon the Stamper

It began innocently enough. I was, as is often the case, chatting with my older sister. "Any idea what this film is?" she asked, sending me to a stamping blog she frequents called Cinema Saturday. I was intrigued. I'd tried to play along before, but this time they claimed to be doing something special. I got sucked in.

The next morning, when the movie was revealed, one of the women who runs the site posted, "Jon and Libby - i love that you have made this a family affair - now Jon, we are expecting you to play along - can't wait to see your card!!!" I have no desire to work with scissors and ink, but, after some consideration, I got an idea. I could use the challenge to play with some CSS and Javascript tricks.

The result is here, with a small version to the right. Over at the site, you can click to hide/reveal each individual element of the card, to see how it's put together.

The pieces are:
  • A gear cut out from this clock at The Clockworks Unlimited. Cutting out the gear was more tedious than I hoped, so I just cut out the top-left corner of the gear and the center, then duplicated the spokes to build a gear (you can tell if you note the repeating white spots). All three gears are the same image file, resized on the fly as necessary.
  • Brown paper from an Australian stamping store.
  • A vintage calendar that was way too hard to find, and then I closed the tab that had it, and now I can't find it again!
  • A clock from the awesome Clipart, Etc project at the University of South Florida. If you are or know a student working on a school project, that site is great. I wish that had existed when I was in school.
  • A plain HTML/CSS block for the text, using the Papyrus font if you have it, but defaulting to other fonts if you don't.
Please click through to see how it's all put together. I'm really happy with how it all came out.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Name This Food

Updated with info from Cindy + pointing out something I missed in the instructions.

Today my coworker Cindy and I made something delicious. The idea was all hers; all I added was the banana peppers to mine. Are these a thing? If so, what are they? If not, how did nobody think of this before?

Ingredients:
  • Buttery croissant dough stuff (I'm trying to find out exactly what it was from Cindy, will update when I hear) Update: Pillsbury crescent rolls, extra large style. Update 2: Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Big and Buttery 50% Bigger style, to be more specific. And the butteriness is vital.
  • Maple-honey-baked ham
  • Provolone cheese
  • Horseradish mustard
  • Banana peppers (optional)
Stretch out 2 of the croissant dough pieces. Pierce each with fork. Lay one down on a sheet, and layer on ham, cheese, and peppers. Update: Spread mustard on the other piece. Place that piece over the top, and seal the edges (and crimp with a fork). Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Eat, and be contented.

They weren't quite pierogis. Were they a thing? Note: If you make this a thing, you can use virtually any sandwich ingredients. For that reason, I am temporarily calling them "dumpling sandwiches," although I guess "Cindy's Dumpling Sandwiches" (or whatever else she might decide to call them) would be more fitting.

Shared Google Reader Items, 2/20/2009

It's time again to discuss some shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Astronomy:
Technology:
  • I was in love with this G1 Android-controlled robotic blimp the first time I saw it, but I think I've accepted that it isn't worth the $600 or so it'd take to put it together.
  • I. Want. So. Bad.
  • A new company is working on commercial, space-based solar power within a decade. Sweet. There's a cool Asimov story about that in I think it was I, Robot (the collection of short stories that has zero relation to the movie, if for no other reason than that the short stories are entertaining).
  • Ok, bear with me. DARPA's remote-controlled insects are absolutely awesome, and not at all creepy. But I understand that it probably sounds like they're creepy. Here's the thing: Imagine a spy camera, tiny speaker, microphone, and transmitter on these things. Now imagine a rescue crew at the other end of the remote control, searching through rubble for earthquaker survivors or whatnot. Now imagine a cockroach crawling up to someone's ear and whispering, "Stay calm, we're coming for you." Ok, you're right. That's creepy. But it's still freaking awesome.
Politics:
Entertainment:
Atheism:
Art:
Science:
  • Very briefly: One of Einstein's problems with quantum mechanics was that it allowed for entanglement of particles, leading to "spooky action at a distance," where things done to one particle happen to the other one, too. It turns out the human eye may be sensitive enough to detect it. If so, the people detecting it would briefly become entangled with one another. This is leading me to visions of the precogs in Minority Report or perhaps the pilots in Dune. Very strange, very potentially cool.
  • Damn you, YouTube! How can you not have a clip of "Your Komodo Dragon" from The Freshman? Is it because only about six of us actually saw that movie, and nobody bought the DVD to rip it? My comments about this story of a thought-to-be-extinct bird being photographed and then promptly sold as food would now only make sense to the six of us. But seriously, isn't that tragically hilarious, fellow Freshman-viewers?
  • I am absolutely going to have to buy one of these posters to frame and hang.
The Internets:

Jeebus, this post has 26 links in it. As always, leave your comments on these or anything else (but seriously, you could probably keep it to these this time) below.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blogless

No blog tonight. I was thinking about knocking out a quick share recap, but then I shared something for which I want to draw a diagram (and, no, it wasn't the sentence diagramming thing). 'Cuz that's how I roll.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shared Google Reader Items, 2/18/2009

It's time again to discuss some shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

The Internets:
Science:
Politics:
That's it today. As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shared Google Reader Items, 2/17/2009

It's time again to discuss some shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Digital Rights:
The Internets:
Technology:
Science:
Politics:
  • Burris didn't talk to any of Blago's people only talked to his brother, but not about money when they talked about money Burris wasn't able to raise any. Jeez, isn't that close enough to what he originally said? Why's everyone down on Burris?
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shared Google Reader Items, 2/16/2009

It's time again to discuss some shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Art:
Science:
Politics:
Digital Rights:

As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shared Google Reader Items, 2/15/2009

Here are today's shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

The Internets:
Technology:
Politics:
Psychology:
  • I don't know what Cognitive Daily is planning with this survey, but it looks interesting.

As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 2/12/2009

Here are today's shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Science:
Atheism:
Politics:
Random:
Technology:
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 2/11/2009

It's technically 2/12 now, but close enough. Here are today's shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Politics:
  • Americans might get reminders about the fact that people actually die in Iraq. It's nice that it's finally happening, but I think people are already starting to understand that.
  • Twitter is great for political organization. The tweets calling for volunteers as needed during this election cycle were great. It turns out Twitter is even more useful when Republicans learn how to use it.
Technology:
Random:
Digital Rights:
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Firefox Keywords and Chrome Search Engines

In my last blog, I mentioned Chrome search engines, and how you can use them to make your address bar smarter. I had never noticed these in Firefox, but they're also there. Chrome makes them a bit more obvious (with the "Press TAB to search..." thingies), and adds them automatically for pages that you search on that are formatted in a way that Chrome can recognize, but they're there for all of us (well, except weirdos using IE or Safari; they might be there, too, but who would know?). These things are very useful if you have to poke around within a site a lot with just slightly changed URLs (I need to do this several times a day, loading different itemIDs in an author view or student preview), but they're also useful if all you want to do is search. Here's how they work.

Firefox:
  1. Create a new bookmark. It can be any page; we're going to edit it to make it what we want. Starting from Google for a Google-based keyword wouldn't be a bad idea, though, to get the favicon right.
  2. Click Bookmarks, then right click the new bookmark and choose Properties (or whatever the equivalent is on Mac).
  3. Change the Name to something to remember it by in case you need to edit it in the future, such as "Google Map Search" (or whichever one you might be setting up).
  4. Change the Location to the url you're going to search, with %s for the word or phrase you want to search on. To put that in concrete language and hopefully make it more comprehensible, let's do one of my favorites, "map" (for looking something up in Google Maps). We'll do a cooler version of this in a sec, but this is an easier place to start. For this one, your Location is http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=%s
  5. Most importantly, change the Keyword to something short to type, "map" in this case.
  6. Save changes.
Chrome:
  1. Right click the address bar, and choose "Edit search engines."
  2. Click "Add"
  3. The name, keyword, and url are the same as Firefox. The only difference is that Chrome will give you the "Press TAB" clue to let you know that you have a keyword setup with that name.
To use these things, type your keyword in the address bar, followed by your search (for example, "map 123 Fake Street, 78754". The page will load, with your search.

Note that these don't have to use search engines; any time you can fill in a phrase in a url to go to a page you're looking for, it works. It's hard to give you examples of that, since I can't show you the ones I use at work... but, well, for example, this one will load an xkcd comic by ID number:
  • keyword: xkcd
  • location: http://xkcd.com/%s
Typing "xkcd 526" in your address bar would then load one of my favorite xkcds, which you should keep around for reference.

Here are some others (note: in Chrome, I highly recommend just going to most of these pages and searching to get them into your list, and then editing the keywords; the url they grab has some extra trickiness that's neat, but I'm not going to sort out all of how those extra bits work):
  • YouTube: you, http://youtube.com/results?search_type=search_videos&search_query=%s&search_sort=relevance
  • Amazon: am, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/external-search/?field-keywords=%s&mode=blended
  • IMDB: imdb, http://www.imdb.com/find?q=%s
  • Merriam-Webster: mw, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/%s
  • Allrecipes.com: cook, http://allrecipes.com/search/recipes.aspx?withterm=%s
  • Images.google.com: i, http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&hl=en&q=%s&btnG=Search+Images
  • Maps.google.com: map, http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=%s
And this brings me to my favorite: mapto. This one is slightly trickier. The easiest thing to do is probably to search for your starting address (I have this set as my work address for my work lappy, and my home address for my home desktop) using "map YourAddress," and then copy that string into this.

Here's an example, with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20006 (the White House) as our starting address:
  • Keyword: mapto
  • Location: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&saddr=1600+Pennsylvania+Ave+NW,+Washington,+District+of+Columbia+20006&daddr=%s&hl=en
Notice the +'s; if you're careful, you could just change that to your address. You can actually shorten that a bit; for example, this would also work:
  • Location: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&saddr=1600+Pennsylvania+Ave,+20006&daddr=%s&hl=en
Once you have that set up, you can type "mapto DestinationAddress" (for example, "mapto 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, 20006"), and a map from your starting address to that destination address will load.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other creative uses of keywords.

ETA: Be sure to check out the follow-up to this post, where I discover way cooler tricks.

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 2/10/2009

Here are today's shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy!

Science:
The Internets:
Technology:
Politics:
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 2/9/2009

Here are today's shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy.

The Internets:
Art:
Science:
  • I love you, Conan O'Brien. I'm sorry I've been neglecting you. After this, I may have to add you to my DVR (which, now that I think about it, would be a much better way to watch Conan anyway).
  • Yay! The Bad Astronomer had some pro-vaccination news! Go Canada! BTW, it's only may-be-embarrassing-for-people-to-overhear-at-work, not so much NSFW (depending where you work).
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 2/7/2009

Here are today's shared items from Google Reader. Enjoy.

Politics:
The Internets:
Science
  • Oh, look. The anti-vax thing is even worse. It turns out the paper that started it all, in 1998, was not only bad research, but possibly also fraud. Perfect.
  • Many renewable energy technologies rely on non-renewable materials, like indium and platinum, that could be dry in 10-15 years. Lovely.
As always, leave your comments on these or anything else below.

g1 blog test

I'm writing this on my newish G1, aka the "google phone" or "gphone." I'll be back later to talk about my shared items, but I wanted to try this out. Typing isn't too bad, but I'm really missing copy and paste (coming in a week or two), and the width of the entry window doesn't fix itself to fit my screen. Fix it, google! You have to expect that people who would buy your phone would also use your blog software...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 2/6/2009

Hey, I think I'll give you a thread to comment on my shared Google Reader items again. What a novel idea!

The Internets:
Technology:
  • A company has an idea for universal power cords, so we can use the same cord(s) for all of our various devices (which would also, now that I think about it, make things like portable solar chargers more likely to come along). I love the idea. Makers of electronics... less so. We need an outcry to make this happen.
Science:
  • Goddammit, people. Vaccines save lives. Vaccines have drastically improved our quality of life. If I had to pick one medical discovery to keep out of all of them (other than, perhaps, doctors washing their hands), it'd be vaccines. So STOP IT, MORONS. You're killing people, not just your own kids. Less people being vaccinated means the viruses have more places to hide, and it makes it more likely for even vaccinated people to get exposed to levels their particular immune system can't handle. This is something that already drove me crazy, and then I found out this week that I work with one of these loonies. You people have no scientific leg to stand on. STOP IT.
That's it for today. Hopefully I'll be back with more on Monday, if not before!

Welcome Pickles

When I moved into my current rental house back in July, the previous occupants had left many things: spices, cleaning chemicals, even a vase in the bathroom full of some sort of scented oil. The thing that weirded me out, though, was a large, unopened jar of pickles in the fridge. Why would you buy a large jar of pickles just before you moved out? And pickle juice isn't exactly a color that instills trust. I threw out the pickles.

A few months later, I was watching a repeat of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. In this episode, two of the characters moved into a new apartment, and were starving after the move. One of the characters complained that there was nothing in the fridge, not even pickles.

Wait, what? Are the pickles a thing?

I decided that, regardless of whether they were a thing, they're a thing now.

The next time you move, leave a jar of unopened pickles in the fridge. I recommend labeling them "Welcome Pickles," and possibly even attaching a note to the new occupants of your former home. Let them know the tricks and quirks that it took you a while to figure out when you moved in, such as tips on how to get the thermostats to play nice with the changing weather, or a warning that the guest toilet doesn't flush properly unless you hold down the lever for a couple seconds.

We can make this a thing.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Doggies (without pics)

This post should have pics, but I'm trying to knock out a post to appease the masses, while still not taking any sizable time-wasting from work... so there's no time!

I just wanted to share that we got those cord keeper thingies in the office recently. We didn't do this to make things look nicer. We did so to make sure none of the various dogs that have been known to hang out at the office pulled any monitors off of desks, as one almost did last week.

Today we have an Irish wolfhound mutt (the boss's sweet but timid dog) and a chihuahua. It's funny when the chihuahua chases the Irish wolfhound into an office.