Thursday, March 31, 2005

gmail's New GUI Editor

gmail's New GUI Editor
Originally uploaded by cote.
Cote points out gmail's new GUI editor. Apparently, I'm not special enough for the smart-folks at google, because I've still got the same old non GUI editor on my gmail. Still, it looks pretty swanky, and can't wait for it to "trickle-down" to little ole me.

Update: As Cote kindly points out, I'm an idiot.

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Yahoo 360°

So, I got an invite to check out Yahoo 360°, and now I can invite other people too. If you want to check it out...specifically you non-techie, weenie friends of mine, then shoot me an email.

My account will probably sit there rotting unless you other folks step up and get me interested in it. I've discovered with these social network things that if you don't have a groundswell of users they are typically useless, and most of my friends and family don't spend any time at their computers away from work. They just use email, arguably the most bass-ackwards mode of communication in existence today as the extent of their computer use.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

MS-Office Tip

MS-Word: To remove all the formatting from a particular piece of text (sentence, paragraph, document); select the text and hit Ctrl-Shift-N. Absolute lifesaver when cutting and pasting something garbles up your document layout.

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Paging Dr. Frist...Dr. Bill Frist

While I've got my opinions on the Schiavo case, I'm going to be kind to my gentle readers and not air them. However, when it comes down to the political grand-standing our spineless politicians are doing in order to squeeze some more blood from the stone of political opinion, I feel more than comfortable commenting. In particular:

Speaking on the Senate floor "more as a physician than as a US senator," Senate Majority Bill Frist, MD, said he believed there was "insufficient information to conclude that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state."


Frist apparently used a digital video of Schiavo to determine that the Florida woman who has been fed artificially since she was brain damaged in 1990 might not be in a vegitative state. Think that's against a few ethical standards, but moving on...
from [Personal Democracy Forum]

Now, if you want to let your religious convictions sway you one way or another, more power to you...but to get in front of a nation and say that a twenty to thirty minute video allows you to come up with a more accurate diagnosis than teams of doctors, nurses and other specialists who have had key access to this woman for several years is nothing short of ignorant, disingenuous pandering. To use this case as a springboard for reelection is sick.

Which is why I'm fully endorsing this idea. Upload pictures of your medical ailments to flickr, tag them with the word Frist, and get them sent to our esteemed "doctor," who will then diagnose them. via [boing boing]

Update: apparently, someone else has the same ailment that I do.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Vonage Problems with 911 blamed in death

Since this deals with Vonage AND my hometown (two topics near and dear to my heart), I feel compelled to post this. Harris County wants internet phones to have enhanced 911, as a result of a mother dying from a gunshot wound, and her daughter being unable to use Vonage to dial 911.

First, let me state that any time violent crime takes an innocent life it is truly a tragedy. And anything I say going forward should not be construed as me being flip or trying to assign blame on the victims.

Having said that, the article is a little unclear on what the family's Vonage account set up was. On the features screen of your Vonage account (where you set up Call Waiting, Forwarding, Voicemail, etc.) the first box bolded in red states that dialing 911 is NOT automatic and must be set up. Setting it up takes you to another bolded link which discusses the difference between Vonage's 911 service and traditional 911 dialing. Both of those things are set up in a way that they grab your attention on the screen.

While I'm not going to try and guess as to what actions the family had taken beforehand or if they realized the differences in service, I'm hard pressed to come up with an idea of what Vonage should have done differently. I'm also hard-pressed to understand how you can assign guilt to them, when the central issue is that 911 call centers are very secretive and selective (as the article states) about who they disclose information to. Also, the article doesn't state clearly whether the 10 minutes it took to place the 911 call were truly critical to the situation. Finally, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the real criminals here are the gunmen, and not the phone company. I would argue that more effort should be placed on finding these criminals, as that is a higher priority.

This is an issue that Vonage has been working on since before I became a subscriber. In fact, when we signed up there was absolutely NO 911 service in our area, and we were told so during the sign-up process. The fact that they've managed to put limited service in place is proof that they're trying to do the right thing here.

Still, the article is a good reminder to test 911 service when you get a VoIP phone setup. via [slashdot]

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

MC Chris

MC Chris (best known as the voice of Hesh on Sealab 2021) is also a geek rapper extraordinaire. Check out his online collection of mp3s. I especially like "Fett's Vette" (an ode to Bobba Fett and his cool rides).

Slice you open like a Tan-Tan,
faster than the Autobahn,
Or a motorbike in Tron,
do the deed and then I'm gone
Jabba has a hissyfit,
contact calrissian...

Also, be sure to check out this interview with mc chris on slashdot.

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Marginal Revolution: The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs:
One interesting reason why the drug war reduces consumption less than people imagine is that prohibition reduces some costs. Drug sellers, for example, do not pay social security taxes for their employees, they do not follow minimum wage laws and they do not obey costly FDA regulations. On net prices are still pushed up by the threat of prosecution but the lack of taxes and regulations is a countervailing factor.

I wish our legislators read blogs.

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Muay Thai Fights on Flickr

Originally uploaded by saadiq.
Check out these awesome pics from various Muay Thai championship fights that people have posted to Flickr.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Feynman Lectures

Does anyone know if there is a torrent available of the mp3s and pdfs at this site? I'd like to listen to Feynman's lectures, but the time requirements to download each individual file are a bit much.

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We are living in an enlightened age, indeed!

Apparently, CNN is reporting that some guy sees Satan on a turtle shell. Now, before I go out on a limb and bash the guy too terribly, I want to take CNN to task for making news out of absolutely nothing. Despite the fact that it's a slow news day, there is no reason to give people who refuse to think anymore ammunition.

From the article:
Owner Bryan Dora now says he sees Satan's face on the critter's shell. He can spot lips, eyes, a goatee, shoulders and a pair of pointy horns on Lucky's back.

"The marking on the shell was like the devil wanted us to know he was down there," Bryan Dora said. "To me, it's too coincidental that the only thing to come out unscathed would have this image on it."

I guess the first, most obvious question to me is, "why would Satan want to burn down your pet store?" The second question to follow would be, "okay, assume Satan wants to burn down your pet store, why would he leave you a Satan-gram?" Then, "okay, assume Satan wants to burn down your pet store AND he wants to leave you a Satan-gram...why not appear to you and jump up and down and say, 'Bryan Dora, I burnt down your pet store, come to me and feel the power of the Dark Side'?"

At the very least, make it more obvious than a crude outline of a Satan face on the back of a turtle shell!

Besides, how do you know what Satan looks like? The stylized horn and goatee devil is a relatively recent phenomenon (last 100 years) and I believe is mostly popularized by cartoons, comics and tattoo parlors. This smacks to me of the same phenomenon that causes "alien abductees" to draw pictures of aliens that look remarkably similiar to each other...and remarkably similiar to aliens in science-fiction magazines, TV, and movies of the time period the abductees grew up in.

I'm not dogging on anyone's religious beliefs, I just get really sick of these miracles (remember the Jesus Tortilla?) that really aren't. They always seem to stem from a combination of the need to feel significant and a lack of understanding of how the visual system operates. Humans, and most other animals are wired to recognize patterns. It's a mental shortcut that allows us to recognize faces at a glance from various angles. It's what allows us to rapidly process incoming visual data and assess whether we are in danger, or safe. It's what kept your ancestors from ending up as lion-food long enough to propagate the genes that eventually became you. It's also what causes you to see shapes in cloud formations, or tortillas, or turtle shells.

Get over far, not a single "miracle" in recent history has stood up to true scientific inquiry. More often than not, there's either been fraud or duplicity involved...or simple random chance.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Technorati Tags Bookmarklet

Checking out the Technorati Tags Bookmarklet I found on oddiophile. Pay no attention, nothing to see here.

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Update: NICE!!!


I'm a little late to the bandwagon, but after dealing with and flickr, I've decided to start incorporating Technorati tags into my blog posts. I'm trying to figure out if there is an easy way to just drop a whole bunch of tags in at a time without having to edit them all by hand. If I can't find something I may just have to code up a quick firefox extension someday when I have free time again.

For now, I'm just typing em in.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Google gets Mac-ified!

Check out GoogleX for some Mac OSX Dock style action on your favorite search engine. It saddens me that I'm that susceptible to eye candy. Note to Google: don't be evil. Save me from myself and my eye-candy addiction. via [The Tablet PC Weblog]

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Back to VoIP again

Ross Rader chimes in on the VoIP debate in response to a post by Om Malik.

I agree with Ross...the feature-set of VoIP doesn't have to be nearly as reliable as the telcos for a number of reasons.

1. People have redundant, instantaneous communication systems now. Back in the days of yore, when my granpappies used to ride their dinosaurs to school, I had two options: mail a letter, or place a phone call. One was instant, the other was not. Now if I can't call you on your main phone line, I can get you on your cell phone, or I can IM you, or send you an email, or even fax you. This redundancy in the systems makes the reliability of any one medium less important.
2. The key purpose of phone calls is communication. As long as people can communicate effectively and not get distracted too much by the medium, they will be okay with minor distractions. I will deal with some jitter, some echo, some tinniness in VoIP as long as one basic criteria is met: I can communicate with more people, more effectively than I could before under the old system.
3. The level of distraction tolerated is directly proportional to the added value of the new service offering in question after subtracting out switching costs.

VoIP meets these criteria without question. Under my old phone plan I was paying $45/month + long distance charges. My out-of-state friends, my international family, and my wife's out-of-state employer all caused us to rack up long-distance charges that caused our bills to average around $80-$100/month. Now, we pay $25/month. Even after talking to relatives in South America for several hours at a time I've never had a bill above $33 (since Vonage's new price scheme went into effect). That's real money in my pocket.

In addition, I get lots of valuable services that I didn't have under the old system. Voicemails get sent to my email, I have number portability, additional lines are cheap and require little to no new infrastructure, and I get 3-way conferencing free of charge. I don't have to wait for tech support personnel to show up at my house when something goes wrong. I have the ability to keep long-term records of my voicemails as WAV files to be sorted, catalogued, remixed into songs, or what-have-you.

Switching costs are absolutely non-existent.

When you tack on the added bonus that additional features are easier to implement because they require no new hardware infrastructure and are programmatically introduced, you get a long-term cost-benefit curve that is almost flat.

All those things combined are the appeals of VoIP. If you want to try and tell me that a little static is going to send me running back to the telcos you're crazy.

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Afghan Warrior: Afghanistan's first blog

After the election the new government established a new ministry by the name of Ministry of Women's Affairs and the women can easily solve their problems and they also have representatives in other provinces. During the Taliban we didn’t have internet system in Afghanistan but now there are about 25 net cafes in Kabul, and also some in Herat, Kandahar and Balkh provinces. People are really interested to use the internet but its too expensive for people to use it - only rich people can afford it. Under the Taliban Government we didn’t have any TV channels but now we have 4 TV channels in Kabul and for the first time in Ghazni, Balkh, Herat and Kandahar provinces.

Awesome. I really hope this is legit, and not some 16 year old kid in Orlando playing a prank.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Don't know what you got til it's gone

Man, I come in this morning, fire up the ole' computer, and discover that Bloglines is down. And the amazing thing is that I start freakin' out! I'm thinking to myself, "How will I ever remember all the sites that I have feeds for?"

Then I take a few deep breaths and remember that the beauty of RSS is that I don't have to worry about'll give me everything I missed when the service comes back online/routes correctly/whatever. It's amazing how a sudden unexpected shift in environments/habits can cause such panics. I mean, I read bloglines in the morning! Doesn't everybody know that? Didn't the internet plan around that?


In other news, I stayed up WAY too late last night and got up WAY too early. Now, my eyes seem to have trouble focusing on the monitor. I hope this goes away soon.

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I'll show you a poo poo head!

For those of you who couldn't bear to sit through an episode of the "OC" to catch a glimpse of the Star Wars trailer, I present to you the (Not Quite) Episode III trailer. via [#joiito]

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Friday, March 04, 2005

As if there weren't enough reasons to want a Powerbook

This Powerbook + iTunes hack is the coolest!

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Translate This!

Lost In Translation: Extreme Tactical Weapons Force...words simply cannot describe the pure comedic genius that you will follow down that link-click. The rest of the site is top-notch as well, though some of it may be NSFW. Site found via [All Things Christie]

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Whatever happened to

I keep getting these really annoying spam messages (I'm sure I solicited them eons ago when I first graduated from college...but still) from Of course, they have the requisite "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the email, but when you click it refuses the connection. Really annoying. I get the same when I try to go directly to I thought they were profitable at one point. Did they go bankrupt? If so, where do these emails come from?

More importantly, how do I successfully unsubscribe from this crap-fest?

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Balloon Baby