March 31, 2004

Wow

Cool new robots from Sony. Their mobility is impressive, but the choice of dance style is questionable. I would have chosen break dancing power moves (popping would be too easy for them and wouldn't show off their smooth mobility). The first move my robots are going to learn is the windmill.

Posted by kstroke at 02:10 PM | Comments (17)

March 29, 2004

Glad I don't Work There

I often get gas at the local cheapo place. I noticed a little hole in the glass from the first time I got gas there, but I didn't really think about it much since that robbery attempt could have happened 20 years ago for all I know. The last time I got gas there, I noticed a new bullet hole in the glass. This reinforced, in my head at least, the common knowledge that gas stations get robbed a lot.

The funny thing about the new hole, though, is that it's covered by a small square of duct tape. I'm no materials scientist, but unless that tape is made with kevlar and has a super duper strong adhesive, it serves no purpose. Another odd thing is that only the new hole was covered by duct tape. What about the old hole? You already have the duct tape out...

And what kind of bullet-proof glass lets bullets make neat, circular holes straight through it? That's what you get for buying generic...

Posted by kstroke at 11:43 AM | Comments (27)

March 26, 2004

Statistics Fun

This is a criticism of fib-by-numbers. There's a little bit of white vs. non-white in here, but that just relates to one of the fibs.

According to Bush, 68% of Americans own their own home. If you look at the Census Bureau breakdown towards the end of the same story, over 75% of whites own their own home and less than 49% of minorities own their own home. Bush is using the 68% home ownership figure to rally the minorities around his "ownership society", but the details of the numbers don't paint such a rosy picture for minority homeowners.

According to the Census Bureau population estimates, whites make up 68.9% of the American population. 75% of them own their own homes so that means that 51.7% of the population (75%*68.9%) is made up of white home owners. 15.2% of the population (49%*31.1%) is made up of non-white, a.k.a. minority, home owners. Comparing apples to apples, this means that 77.3% of home owners are white and 22.7% of home owners are not. This implies that the wealth distribution (assuming a direct relationship between wealth and home ownership) is still skewed towards whites. If the wealth were distributed equally among the races, home ownership percentages should mirror the race percentages. Of course, the wealth distribution is probably actually more skewed than this. We haven't considered the ownership of multiple homes, incomes, and other assets.

So basically, Bush is running around trying to rally minority voters by using numbers that really say "whites still have way more homes and money, proportionally and otherwise, than you".

Outside of the whole minority thing, Bush's use of the record high 68% overall home ownership rate is still misleading. That 68% figure is very tenuous and like to drop quite a bit within a few years. Home ownership rates are high because interest rates are at record lows and people are buying based on how much mortgage payment they can afford. Low interest rate driven demand has helped push housing prices way up. See the irony?

If rates go down and prices go up, you basically get the same house/mortgage payment for an overall higher price tag. What was a $300k house with a $3000/mo mortgage becomes a $500k house with a $3000/mo mortgage. For the higher price tag, you don't get any more land, rooms, bathrooms, fireplaces, etc. You do get higher property taxes, though, since property taxes are basically pegged at the buying price and moved incrementally from there and not necessarily in step with the market value of the house. If you went for an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or an even more risky interest-only mortgage, you're screwed and totally screwed, respectively.

The interests rates are going to jump higher. You kind of want them to. The interest rates are low now because the Federal Reserve thinks that the economy is weak and needs the help. Interest rates get bumped up when the economy is doing really well and needs to be slowed down a little so that it doesn't get tired out early like the hare. You want the economy to get better than it is today, right? Doesn't that seem inevitable?

When the rates go up, the people with ARMs will find that it's much harder to make their mortgage payments. The housing prices will probably also drop because of cooled demand caused by higher interest rates and the fact that many of the new home buyers today are people that would have bought homes later if it hadn't been for the attractive interest rates (and therefore won't be in the market to buy a home later [even if they are, it's presumably with the sale of their existing home resulting in no net change]). This is when the people with interest-only loans will commit seppuku.

Their interest rates will go up when their interest-only payment period ends, they will have no equity in their home, and after years of payments, they will be looking at refinancing a $500k loan (the full amount, remember that none of the payments applied to the priciple) for a house now worth $300k. "Oh ... the agony ... I didn't realize-this-would-hurt-so-much-please-chop-off-my-head-now..."

Inevitable. I'm going to start learning about how to buy foreclosures.

Posted by kstroke at 01:59 PM | Comments (20)

What the?!?

We're supposed to be the most industrialized nation in the world and yet we can't seem to supply our soldiers with essential equipment. What the hell is that? And the reservists get second-rate equipment? Isn't the defense budget really huge now? Is all that money allocated towards the Star Wars program and pay raises? Not that pay raises are bad (Stars Wars sure is), but a couple of extra bucks in the pocket probably don't stop bullets nearly as well as an armor vest... The Star Wars technology sure isn't going to zap those bullets.

"Uh, we made an error in judgement with this whole liberation thing. It turns out that they don't really like us over here. Oh, and by the way, we don't have our supply chain set up correctly so you'll have to have your family buy your armor and mail it over.

And for you reservist volunteers who aren't career military people, thanks for leaving your much higher-paying jobs to help out. You're going to be out here a lot longer than we said you would be. Hopefully, you'll still have a job when you get back. We don't have any armor for you either. And you'll have to make due with these muskets. Good luck, soldier."

Posted by kstroke at 11:43 AM | Comments (17)

March 25, 2004

Blowfish

In the Gellar article here, it mentions that her castmates stopped her from eating a 3rd serving of blowfish because it was $85/plate. Don't you die from eating more than a couple of servings even if it's properly prepared? I'd think that would be a greater concern than the cost. Especially for highly paid movie stars.

Posted by kstroke at 03:58 PM | Comments (17)

w00t it's here!

Yay! MobilePlanet wasn't lying. It was shipped when the guy said it was and it's here now. This thing is so cool. I'm so glad it's here for my grubby fingers to go over. I don't have a Firewire port on my work computer so I have to wait until I get home before I can actually load songs. All I can do now is charge it up and touch it. Grub, grub. The packaging is so well thought out. I'm not a Mac fanboy, but I have to give them kudos for their smart designs from the product to the packaging. I think I'll set up a little review page that chronicles our journies together. Me and my new little friend.

Posted by kstroke at 12:40 PM | Comments (17)

March 23, 2004

IPod Deal with Audible

I ordered a 20GB IPod from MobilePlanet.com ($271, $300 after tax and shipping) through an Audible.com deal for $100 off if you agree to subscribe to their service for a year. I'm excited. Downloaded an Audible audiobook already. It's pretty good. I've used a process I found on Google to convert them to MP3 format and it seems to have worked really well. There was a little lag between Audible and MobilePlanet's systems that gave me some concern this morning, but I called and everything is supposedly hunky-dorey. We'll see.

Posted by kstroke at 04:05 PM | Comments (17)

March 22, 2004

Bored in class?

Nothing to do while the teacher drones on in a useless way rather than feeding your hungry mind? Try this. I'm going to try this one day. If I succeed, my stuff is totally going up on eBay - or in a glass box under some museum-style spotlights.

Posted by kstroke at 12:09 PM | Comments (29)

March 18, 2004

Mario Movies - Flash

Cool-ass Mario Bros. Flash movies. For the movies in the first group, click the down arrow to view after you click the link. And the third movie goes with the first group.

Posted by kstroke at 02:10 PM | Comments (18)

March 17, 2004

Go Figure

I was downloading something off SourceForge, and it was way faster to get it from the Ireland mirror than any of the three US mirrors.

Posted by kstroke at 02:52 PM | Comments (17)

I want Chickens

One day, I wanna have chickens and a nice garden like this guy. There are some links there on how to raise poultry. I have to remember to check those out later.

Posted by kstroke at 11:13 AM | Comments (18)

March 16, 2004

I'm Jetpac Man


What Video Game Character Are You? I am Jetpac Man.I am Jetpac Man.


I love the outdoors; the sense of freedom, of adventure. I love the sensation of free-fall, and would parachute and bungee jump on a moment's notice. I know where I want to be, and I strive to get there, making great effort to collect what I need. I let nothing stand in my way. What Video Game Character Are You?

Posted by kstroke at 01:15 PM | Comments (17)

Clean up on Aisle 3

I just wet myself. Check out the trailer for I, Robot. I loved the Asimov short stories, and I love Will Smith as an actor. I have high hopes.

Man. I didn't even know this was coming. I just happened to see it mentioned on boing boing. I guess that's what happens when you mostly don't watch network tv and when you do, you have commercial skip on.

Posted by kstroke at 01:09 PM | Comments (17)

Paper, The Toy of the Next Generation

This is awesome! Found it off boing boing. Turn 3D drawings and models into real-life paper models. Very Eames-esque.

Posted by kstroke at 12:31 PM | Comments (17)

Kids

I bet this would get blamed on video games if it happened in the US.

I think that the kid never would have done that if corporal punishment had been in effect. Not that corporal punishment is a cure-all, but it sure seems to work in Korean households. In the past, I guess Americans have taken that way too far, though. I'm not talking about beating your kids black and blue for accidentally spilling milk. I'm talking about spanking them when they've been evil and they need to know that what they did was wrong and shouldn't be repeated. Otherwise, you need strong-and-silent parents who have sensitive kids who notice and are affected by disappointed looks. Yeah, that combination's likely.

Posted by kstroke at 12:13 PM | Comments (13)

March 15, 2004

There's Hope

I'm a huge fan of cool inventions. In fact, I fancy myself a talent at the art of invention. Penny Arcade's Tycho posted something that gives me a small bit of hope to conquer the cat pee and poo market. I will invent something better and be known and the Cat Poo King.

Posted by kstroke at 10:54 AM | Comments (19)

March 11, 2004

English Subtitles

Here's a link to a post (the long one) for how to create subtitled DVD files out of separate avi and smil files.

Posted by kstroke at 10:45 PM | Comments (29)

Asterisk (*)

When you're sitting by the front desk of an auto mechanic's shop, you might be so lucky as to hear how funny other people can be when they don't take the time to pause for a moment and consider the possible consequences of their actions before they proceed. A lady pulled into the parking lot in her SUV. She comes up to the desk and asks the guy for a quote on an tire alignment and the conversation went something like:

"blah-budi-blah, I drove over a curb."
"Once? That's probably not going to require an alignment."
"Um... about 12 times."
"By accident?"
"No. On purpose. I figured it was okay to cut the corner since they drive over big rocks in the commercial."

Ha, ha. As far as the average suburbanite is concerned, those SUVs aren't really for going off-road. They're for killing people in smaller cars. Get it straight. For the people who really do need to use them to travel through rough terrain, they know that it's hard on the vehicle and that the vehicle will require regular mechanical maintenance. Jeez.

Posted by kstroke at 03:14 PM | Comments (20)

March 10, 2004

Tasty Smoothie?

Had a weird dream last night that I just remembered. It had to do with a smoothie someone else made at some party. I don't really like smoothies so it was kinda weird that I was having one, but that isn't the really odd part of this dream. The smoothie was brownish so I guess the main flavor was chocolate, but the thing I really remember about it is that there were chunks of stuff in it. They were the cause of the tingly, gee-is-this-refreshing-or-painful feeling in my mouth and throat. The chunks turned out to be those dried, spicy, red peppers that you see in Kung Pao stuff sometimes. Someone go and add some of that to a smoothie and tell me if it's any good. Sweet and spicy are supposed to complement each other.

Posted by kstroke at 02:35 PM | Comments (15)

March 08, 2004

Htmldeluxe mode

Try out Htmldeluxe mode for emacs. Purported to have sub-region highlighting. That'd be pretty useful for web-scripting.

Posted by kstroke at 01:59 PM | Comments (29)

Meximelt

In case you've been finding yourself standing in front of a Taco Bell menu wondering this same thing a surprisingly often number of times lately, a meximelt is a beef soft taco that's been heated through to make the cheese melt. It also has monterey jack (or some other white cheese), tomatoes, and cilantro. Is it better than a regular soft taco? Yes. Is it worth $1.09 + tax? Debatable. I'm going to try for even longer starting sentences.

Posted by kstroke at 12:30 PM | Comments (14)

March 04, 2004

Options

If this whole software engineering thing doesn't work out, I have options for other careers - poker player, English tutor in another country, model, etc.

After last night, I can add another option to the list - bowler. I've always been a sucky bowler. Sub-100. I'm usually pretty pleased with myself if I break 100. Last night, something clicked and I finally understood how to throw the ball straight. I started off with the usual sort of score (81) while I tried out balls with different weights and size of finger holes. Next game, I got 101. Then 121. After that, I played another 3 games where I didn't score below 120. These 120s were all personal bests until I bowled a 163! That game also included my first Turkey (3 strikes in a row).

Let's say computer programming becomes a commodity and quits paying well. Everyone would still pay to see some pro-bowling action, no? Long live sport.

Posted by kstroke at 10:43 AM | Comments (16)

March 03, 2004

Compulsion

I put some stuff up on eBay, and I can't stop myself from checking on the auctions every couple of minutes. I just put them up, and I know that even if there are people who want to buy this stuff, they'll probably wait until the last day to bid. I still can't suppress this urge to know, in real time, what happens to the auctions. I keep track of the counter and hope that the counting service is smart enough to count me only once. I think it does.

Posted by kstroke at 12:50 PM | Comments (26)

March 02, 2004

Samoas and Tagalongs and Trefoils, oh my!

We got our girl scout cookies, mm mm!

They went back to the old-fashioned names and box colors for the cookies this year, which makes me happy. Why did they change the names in the first place? These past few years, it just went against the grain to have to order boxes of "Caramel deLights", "Shortbread", and "Peanut Butter Sandwiches". Don't Samoas and Trefoils and Do-si-dos sound so much more interesting?

{random aside: For a $3.50 box of cookies, $.81 is the actual cost of the cookies, and the rest go to various girl scout things. Those girl scouts sure know how to work it. The ones in Boston were particularly evil/clever -- they would set up tables right at the busy T-stations around rush hour (Harvard, Porter...), and stand there screaming at the top of their lungs. It was pretty funny to see the stream of people veering off from their usual exit route straight to the table.}

Posted by jocy at 10:52 AM | Comments (14)

March 01, 2004

LG VX6000 Software

Other than its use as a charger, without software, there's really no point in having the cable. Install the BitPim software and the patch from here.

Posted by kstroke at 10:36 AM | Comments (14)

LG VX6000 USB Cable

The cable I got from TangShop.com hasn't disappointed, yet. I was getting worried b/c I was looking around and saw people having issues with it, but some of those posts seem out-and-out false. Having ordered the charging cable (it has a box in the middle of the wire, the picture on the site doesn't show it so make sure to read the description), the cable does, in fact, charge the phone. My phone went from 3 battery bars, to 4 battery bars in the time it took me to figure out how to install the drivers. The drivers from FutureDial do work, but it took a little bit of installation gymnastics to get them installed. I installed them on a Dell Inspiron laptop running Windows XP Pro.

The "advanced" installation where you can download just the drivers you need doesn't work at all. Those drivers are absolutely useless and you shouldn't bother downloading them.

The "automated" installation where it's supposed to install the proper drivers after you pick your phone doesn't quite work either, but you should open and install this program anyway. When you plug in your phone, your laptop will say, "Huh? What's this?" and you'll say, "What the hell. I thought the thing I just installed was supposed to tell the laptop that what I just plugged in was a phone." Relax, it's going to be ok. When the "Add New Hardware" wizard comes up, tell it you're going to find the drivers yourself in the FutureDial folder that the auto-installer created. Root around and select the drivers directory for your operating system (probably something like c:\Program Files\FutureDial\USB Installer\Drivers\LG5350\win2k). Assuming the wizard likes your choice, it'll move on to do the same thing another couple of times. Choose the same directory each time and you're all set.

Posted by kstroke at 10:28 AM | Comments (19)