Sunday, May 28, 2006

What did *you* do this weekend?

I hiked 25 miles through Bandelier National Monument, with a total elevation gain of over 7,000 feet. It took two days, 9 liters of water, a freeze-dried meal, and gorp. Tons of gorp.

I haven't backpacked in 3+ years, and this was my first solo overnight trip. So yeah... I'm retarded. But I set a goal, and met it. My next goal is to visit a chiropracter and a podiatrist. I have blisters the size of Rhode Island. Or maybe Maine...

What did you do? I hope you take some time to choose a goal that has only to do with personal achievement, something not related to career or recognition. Just don't be a dork and post it to a blog, like I did.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

First I Beat You In Chess, Then I Fix Your Heart

Heart surgery by robot, performed in Milan, monitored in Boston:
The Italian expert has used the robot surgeon for at least 40 previous operations, some of which have been described in detail in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology .

The novelty of this latest experience is that the robot was able to conduct the entire procedure by itself. In the past it needed specific orders from its operator along the way .

"It has learned to do the job thanks to experience gathered from operations on 10,000 patients," Pappone said, explaining that the expertise of several human surgeons was used to boost its software .
The article notes that the monitoring was done through a PC. That would give new meaning to The Blue Screen of Death.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Marketing is Everything

I was taking a rare excursion away from my beloved SciFi channel to see what was polluting the rest of the satellite TV frequencies. In doing so, I discovered that 'American Inventor' is in the final stages of discovering America's next great invention.

As an aside, I wouldn't consider a revamped bicycle built for two, a revamped Simon Says game, or a revamped baby seat (didn't stick around for the 4th invention) to be 'great'. I don't really even consider them inventions. Among America's great engineering and inventing feats, which include the telephone, light bulb, automated assembly line and the Hoover dam, the crap on that series doesn't even come close.

But I digress...

My real focus is that they all had to try and direct a commercial to sell the products. Well, the two I actually saw involved huge egos and no design sense whatsoever. Which goes back to the 'great' thing, and makes me think these people got lucky with one idea. Meh.

I started to think about poor marketing attempts. is a good place to start down that path. Anyway, here in the US, marketing is as close to a science as any profession can get. Tons of money is spent in branding, market research, focus groups, etc. So I wondered what if a large company had a truly novel product, but wanted to market it in relation to an established, well-recognized, and even iconic brand.


What if Hormel decided to produce a vegetarian alternative to Spam (wikipedia)? Let's say it was made out of soy beans, and processed to resemble the stuff in a can of Spam. Of course, they'd want to capitalize on the mark, so a name is very important. Think they'd call it 'Spoym' ?

Imagine the canonical TV ad for Spam, where dad stands up at the B-B-Q and yells 'MORE SPOYM!!!' Or walk into a Brooklyn deli and ask for a Spoym sandwich. I bet you'd get something completely different.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


This is one, sweet, AJAX-based IM client. Hopefully they're not doing some not-so-nice stuff with your account after you trust them with your password.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

UN still pushing for global gun bans...

I've been getting lots of email and calls from the NRA about the upcoming UN Conference on small arms. Let me disclaim myself up front...
  • I'm a member of the NRA. I endorse the safety and education aspects above firearms rights.
  • I do not support sport or trophy hunting in the US, only population control.
  • I am in favor of nationalizing certain firearms rights, like concealed carry, but with caveats like proof of competence and background checks.
  • I have not talked with the owner of this blog about these views - they are entirely my own.
After reading lots of articles from the UN, its supporter and detractors alike, I can say I am very afraid of the power they think they wield. While I trust that the American people will look beyond the issue of controlling firearms and to the bigger spectre of allowing a foreign power to dictate our laws to us, I nevertheless will keep a wary eye on the procedings.

In short, I feel the UN seeks a total ban on private arms ownership. Hunting rifles, sporting arms, BB guns... if it goes 'bang', they want to ban it. There are numerous examples of world wide tragedies that began with removing a population's ability to defend itself. The justification from the UN is that by removing guns, we remove violence. Yet this has been proven false again and again. In the US, Washington DC and New York city have the highest gun-related murder rates, and among the most restrictive gun laws.


All the statistics and arguments for both sides are readily available on the web. Google to your heart's content - I'll wait...

What I want to ramble about today is the presentation of each side, and my gut feelings. I found this site which purports to demonstrate how evil guns are. Read the bulleted list. See any statistics? I do. Vague, inaccurate statistics, right at the beginning. After that, vapid little statements like "
Firearms are used in crime. Firearms theft fuels other crimes." Wow. That's just amazing. Firearms used in crime, you say? Surely not!

What about knives? Cars? How about your computer, phone, Home Depot's plumbing aisle, and even other people? Every one of these things is routinely implicated in violent crime, from internet predators to pipe-bombing radicals. The anti-gun groups point to everything but the person pulling the trigger. And it's almost uniformly done with emotional yet absurdly wrong blurbs. The UN's statue of a revolver with a knotted barrel, the endless "it's for the children" cries, and "only criminals need guns" fairy tale.

But the other side is just as bad in its own way. The NRA seems to pander to hunters, as they typically represent gun owners with money. Messages generally include statistics and reports that clearly (and mostly truthfully) report actual relationships between guns and crime, but also include appeals to conservatism, inalienable rights (uh...), and God. Personally, I think God would decline to comment on gun ownership, but rather look at intent and use. And as far as I can tell, the only inalienable rights are to live without fear and make choices for yourself. Then there's the popular myth among gun owners that people who hate guns are really just mini Hitlers in training.

So, your homework is to consider your own position on private ownership of firearms. Try not to assume that guns are only use for crimes (they are just tools), nor that anybody has a God-given right to own one. Think about what really drives your view. Were you subjected to gun violence in some way? Were you in a situation where a gun would have saved your life? Do you think hunting or sport shooting (meaning at non-living targets) is fun and entertaining? Do you think guns represent someone having power over you?

For myself, I know I don't intend to commit crimes, nor to shoot at animals for amusement. I believe an armed population is one that keeps its government and criminals in check, but only when that population is protecting eachother, not subjugating. I believe most legal gun owners are responsible, rational and otherwise reasonable people, and that criminal owners make up a very small percentage of the total ownership. And I know from history that disarmed people are much easier to round up and kill.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


It's the thin client paradigm. Or the network computing paradigm. Or the WebTop paradigm. Whatever it is, it's goowy.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wait... a day without WHAT??

MSNBC has this provocative headline:
Nation braces for a 'Day Without Immigrants'

Eh... am I missing something? The problems along the Mexican border have been brewing for a very long time, and it's always been about illegal immigrants. Somewhere along the line, we have not only lost the term illegal, but have apparently made 'immigrant' synonymous with 'Mexican'.

There is only a single mention of someone who is not of Latino descent, somewhere in New York. I bet his papers are in order.

Immigration is the flavor of this country. Not just Mexican or Latino, but Irish, Itialian, Serbian, German, French, Viet Namese, Chinese, Japanese, Cuban, Canadian (still with me?), Russian, blah blah blah. You name the country, we have a legal citizen or approved visa to represent them. I'm sure we also have varying numbers of illegal immigrants from most of those countries. But the issue here seems to be solely one of Mexican workers who want to be granted all the rights and privileges that others fought hard to obtain. All for the price of crossing a hellish desert.

So, we have a day without immigrants. I guess that means virtually every single American citizen should take the day off, too. Except, of course, native Americans.

I wonder if hospitals will see a roll-off of patients during that time? Will schools that serve lunches miss students that otherwise don't attend classes, anyway? What about the state assistance lines, whose checks come in on the first of the month? Will those who cross the border tonight bother, or even know about the efforts which are, ostensibly, to protect them?

More importantly, will my lawn get fertilized tomorrow?