Thursday, December 13, 2007

Whos Scarier ?

I was watching the Democrats and Republicans debate themselves ... the now infamous "youtube" debates ... Now I'm really afraid !

Democrats: "We need a fairer redistribution of the Wealth"
Republicans: fighting each other over belives in "The Bible" more

Man ... Is there anyone who isnt a Comunist or a Zealot running ?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Indiana changes timezones again ...

Looks like I'm moving back to Eastern Timezone, and I dont even have to pack my bags !

This Wikipedia article has a good history of the Indiana timezone story

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Alice Wins Dubois County 4H Queen

My step daughter, Alice Brescher, wins the Indiana Dubious County 4H Queen to represent the county in the 4H fair, and then will proceed to the State 4H competition in Indianapolis.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New ! (Horse)

Last month we finally found a new home for our Horse, "King". He wasnt working out with us very well ... and janet just didnt like him. Yesterday we got a NEW horse which we think is going to work out very well. His name is
"Chance Man".

This time we took 2 days and drove to the far side of Kentucky and went to this horse farm G & G Flatshod Farms. We spent 4 hours browseing through stables and picking 3 from 40 horses to try, then was taken on a trail ride. We picked out "Chance" due to his very gentle and calm disposition. While another horse jumped and spooked at some stupid thing like a shadow of a shadow, Chance just stood there calmly. His ride is smooth as a cloud, and he is very calm and gentle. Just perfect for us after some "unscheduled dismount" experiences on King ...

By the way, this is a great way to get a free trail ride, just show up at this farm and claim your looking to buy a horse, you can get free rides !

Monday, June 18, 2007

"New" Gambling machines .. where did the fun go ?

I spent a night a the new French Lick Casino ( They recently spent about 100 million to totally redo this hotel and its 'sister' hotel the West Baden Inn, both historic landmarks of southern Indiana.

Glossing over the fact that they did a really nice job and the hotel is in great shape, looks great, and the casino is really nice, and especially glossing over the fact that in Indiana you have to be "over the water" to have gambling, and I have no clue how this casino abides by that law ... I was really dismayed at 'state of the art' of modern gambling machines.

These modern machines are a joke. They simply are no fun !

Cashless ...
Totally cashless, you insert either cash or a bar coded receipt into the machine. No clinks, no flashing. Just a computer readout with your credit amount. Winnings simply add to your credit, losses deduct. When you 'cash out' you are printed a receipt with your credit and a bar code. No coins clinking. No satisfying sound of hundreds of quarters hitting the well tuned metal pay tray. When you win you just here a 'ding' 'ding' as your credits add up. Again, no clinking, so 'feeling' of winning, just numbers up or down.

Complicated ...
Gone are the simple slots and video poker. Every game is COMPLICATED. Your simple 3-wheel slots have turned into either full fledged video game screens, or 4 or 5 wheel slots with no mechanical interaction to the arm (if there is one). Winning isn't simple either. Most games have multiple pay-lines, from 1 to 9 lines which mean you never know if you win unless the computer tells you! The lines can zig-zag across the board in no obvious pattern. You are inclined to believe that more lines are 'better' but really no intuitive way of telling if you actually have a higher chance of winning. And that's just the "simple" slot machines. I soon found myself lost in a maze of incomprehensible machines with a multitude of displays and betting opportunities and no clue at all what would constitute a win or lose. Just lots of themed icons flashing, when you hit the "spin" or "draw" or "bet" button more icons would flash, float, roll, drop, slide, or otherwise change, sometimes pop, explode, move over, ding... then you looked at the pay-out line to see if you won. No way to tell by looking at the screen full of clowns, pyramids, ducks, balloons, ice cream sandwiches, fruits, and various icons. The "payout help" screens didn't help either as they were more complicated then the game.

2 cent slots = $1.80 / pull
I was at first shocked by the amount of "2 cent" slot machines. But on further examination I found out that was simply the 'denom' (in gaming lingo) of the smallest bet. It is true you could do a 1-line 1-credit bet for 2 cents ... but you are encouraged to do a 9-line 'max credits' bet (10) which comes out to 90 credits ($1.80) per pull ... on a 2 cent machine !. Its extremely non-obvious what your actually betting, and many of the machines I found once you ramped up your bet you couldn't get it down, you had to cash out to cancel or go ahead and bet and then the NEXT round try something lower. It took a math degree to even figure out what you were betting ...

At the end, it all was down to just sticking in your $20, push some buttons and see how fast it took to get to $0.

Where did all the fun go in losing your money ?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Scratch Me

I've been thinking about this for oh 25 years now but never did get around to doing it myself. Thanks to some good folks at MIT, there is now a simple graphical programming language, Scratch !
My idea was something more advanced, but this has huge advantages. The authors claim that they Kindergarten age kids have been successful at using this. I tried it out for a few minutes and am very impressed. Its certianly not going to replace "real" programming languages for complex things, but its amazing how simple it is to create apps like simple games, animated cards, talking characters. The best part is its FUN, and teach logical thinking in a way that doesnt look like "learning". I plan on setting this up for my son John and seeing if I can get him interested.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

See David Lee at "Xtreme Markup 2007"

Looks like I'm speaking again !


2:00 - 2:45 From Word to XML to mobile devices
David Lee, Epocrates

The clinical content delivered by Epocrates to the mobile devices used by medical practitioners is sent to the mobile devices in an efficient form of binary XML. But much of the content was created in Microsoft Word; Epocrates does not control the creators’ authoring processes. The task of ‘matching the impedances’ of the Word sources to the delivered XML has been approached multiple times in multiple ways, including ways that use Word macros (VB scripts), RTF, HTML, Word 2003 XML, and a variety of tools. An XML-oriented pipeline process has evolved, that makes heavy use of the Saxon XQuery implementation; it has proven to have great advantages and may serve as a design pattern for others facing similar problems.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Defragmentation ... thats for ancient OS's right?

Thanks to Carlton to get me thinking about disk performance again. He just put together a nifty 1TB NAS system so I was benchmarking some basic disk copy on my Hot-Shite RAID=0 system ... expecting to blow him out of the water ...
when I tried to copy a 1.4G file ...
First I copied it from internal to external firewire ... that went prety fast, 57 seconds. So I tried from internal disk array to itself (C: to C:) and WHAT ? 2 minutes 30 seconds !!! ... no way ....

So I spent a long time looking at various things like BIOS RAID settings, "write cache" disabled, even gave DELL a chat ... (funny, they just said "We just test that the drives 'work' thats all). And to pour salt into my open wounds ... my friend Carlton has an identical disk drive ("raptor") but not in a RAID-0 (no raid) and his was copying the same file size in 48 sec ! ARGGG ... it cant be SO !!! RAID-0 is supposed to be faster then no raid ! not 3x slower !

My brain was racking ... why so slow ? I even dusted off some benchmark programs I had run when the system was new, and it came up with the same hard drive speeds as before ... ARG ...

In the "old days" a fragmented drive could cause problems like this .. but I thought that NTFS was beyond that. Furthermore, I was just trying to copy 1 file to 1 file, not create a bunch of small files. There as 30% free space on the drive and windows defrag showd lots of free contigous space so it should be efficient ..

I downloaded the pro version of Diskkeeper, set it to auto-defrag and let it run overnight. Next day, I tried the same test on the same file ... and the copy took only 45 seconds !! YES !!! Defragmentation to the rescue. I'm sold. I'm going to buy the pro version and just let it run to its hearts content.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Trailer Trash"

I've lived in Southern Indiana for 5 years now and have gotten used to the distinction between "Trailer Dwellers" and "Trailer Trash". It still amazes me when I see it. Now bear in mind I used to live in a "double-wide" myself (Sunnyvale, CA era 1991). I understand not having enough money for a "real house", in fact back then I could barely pay RENT on my trailer ... so people who have managed to actually buy land and a trailer and live on it, I respect that.

But what I saw yesterday just blows my mind. I was driving around southern Indiana checking out "Horse Campgrounds" (places you can camp and ride horses) and drove through some of the most amazing areas. Places where the term "Trailer Trash" just pops to mind. Imagine a 'major' county road (by 'major' I mean paved and 1 lane each way with a real yellow line down the middle). Along the highway, Hundreds , ney, THOUSANDS, of small plots of land with modest dwellings, largely of the trailer ("mobile home") variety. But ... here and there, and in some areas I drove through, mostly EVERYWHERE, was the "Trailer Trash" ... How literal a word that is. I always thought it was a stereotype ... but I've come to learn its a real-type. Front yards literally full of trash. Rusted car wheels with worn out tires half off, weeds growing threw them. Beer cans, bleach bottles, black plastic bags strewn all over. 30 year old rusted out cars with the hood open as if they were just working on it today (but weeds growing under the car prove otherwise).

In several (and I mean MORE THEN ONE) place I saw totally destroyed mobile homes just sorta pushed out of the way and newer ones installed behind them, leaving a corpse of a home in the front yard (along with multiple dead cars). Even a few cases of the stereotypical engine block ... but for the most part, just total trash with no obvious intent to reuse, fix or dispose of. Oven there are hills where dead cars were just pushed over the edge but didn't get very far ...

I've been scratching my brain for a day now trying to figure out why people do this ?

MP3 Player for outdoor use

Well I finally got an MP3 player which satisfies my constraints.
I wasnt asking for much ... just some decent output power ...

a bit over $100 from amazon ... 2GB and 60mw output power ! (about 4x most players).
Too many features but hey, I can ignore the 1" video screen ! geeze ... who's going to watch videos on something the size of a lighter ?
but its got enough room to display full title information, and the EQ feature is actually quite good.
I thought it would be useless but at full volume the bass was clipping so I got to cut the bass and preserve good volume.

Added to my Etymotic ER-6 earplugs and I'm styling.
The ER-6's are prety amazing. While I can hear the lawnmower ... its extremely subdued ... Add 60mw and I can actually hear the music !

so now I have about the same output power as my PPC in a more portable device (can use a neck lanyard)
I think the sound quality of the U3 is slightly worse then the PPC but still very good.