Monday, December 27, 2004

Software Defined Radios

Wouldn't it be cool to have a truly universal radio, one that can receive or broadcast any frequency or format at all, including cell phone, HDTV, or of course any shortwave frequency?

This is all possible now, with the recent introduction of special chips that can receive any signal, and software that can decode it.

Here's one company that sells commercial ones for $450:
FlexRadio Systems - Software Defined Radios: Home

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Amabuddy - 617-712-3574

Amabuddy - dont buy not knowing

Say you're at a bookstore and trying to decide whether or not to buy a book. Call this phone number, enter the 10-digit UPC number on the book (or CD). It will read back to you the Amazon info about price and recommendations.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Megan's Law on-line in California

Californians can finally see their local list of registered sex offenders through an on-line database:

I counted two whole pages of listings for our old zipcode, most of them in apartment buildings closer to El Camino.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Reasons to shop CostCo

Kevin Kelly gives several good reasons why he likes CostCo, especially how they seem to concentrate on the best high-quality product in a given category, so you are saved the trouble of looking around for the best deal.

Note that they sell tires here, which is something to keep in mind given our need for snow tires.

What to do if you're stopped by the police

A Legal Briefing written for people who are being hassled by the police makes several good suggestions:

1. Don't consent to a search (except for a hand-pat to check for weapons) unless you are under arrest. Say "I don't consent."
2. Unless an officer specifically arrests you, don't give him your name or anything else. If he seems interested in detaining you, ask "Am I free to go?" Unless you are under arrest, you may leave quietly without identifying yourself.
3. If you are not free to go, then you may simply be "detained" while they decide whether or not to arrest you. Don't speak except to say "I'm going to remain silent. I would like to speak to a lawyer."
4. If you are arrested, you must give your name and show ID. Otherwise, remain silent except to ask for a lawyer.

I am a law-abiding citizen, so I have nothing to hide, but I have heard stories of people who somehow come into contact with the law and it could happen to me someday too. It's nice to remember your rights, even if you think you have nothing to hide.

me-tv videobrowser: watch your community

Here's a site that hosts tons of amateur video feeds, each of which comes with RSS, so you can subscribe and watch for updates: me-tv videobrowser: watch your community

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Toogle Search

Toogle is a search engine that returns a text version of an image found on Google. Try this search and you get my family photo.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

UTMA is a bad idea?

Maybe I made a mistake putting some stock in an UTMA account for the kids.

Susan Dynarski is a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government who is critical of the financial aid process. She calculates that saving $1000 in a child's name for 18 years, instead of in your name, will lose you $1,881 in income taxes and financial aid.

A list of fee-only financial planners is at

Also check out the site

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Pricenoia - Get the best prices on books, the international way!

Pricenoia - Get the best prices on books, the international way!

This site checks all the international Amazon web sites to find if there's a better deal someplace outside the U.S. My quick check of some Matt Ridley books didn't find it worthwhile to order elsewhere, but I'm told that often the prices can be cheaper, including shipping.

"Discovery Learning" debunked

From - Science Journal: David Klahr of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh did a study to test the concept of "discovery learning", which says kids learn better when they discover something on their own than if they are explicitly taught. In the experiment...

"Students receiving direct instruction were explicitly told to change one property at a time and were given explanations. The discovery learners got neither. In both cases, the kids worked with ramps and balls, so everyone did hands-on science. The result: Not only did more kids master the control-of-variables lesson from direct instruction, but -- and this strikes at the heart of the claims for discovery learning -- the latter approach did not give kids a deeper, more enduring knowledge. Those who learned the one-variable- at-a-time idea through direct instruction extended and applied their newfound knowledge just as well as those few who discovered it by themselves.

'I'm not saying kids never benefit from discovering something on their own,' says Prof. Klahr. 'But especially for complicated, multi-step procedures, there are just no data that discovery learning offers any benefit.'"

Friday, December 10, 2004

Google search complete

Google has a beta of a very nice search tool that completes your answers in real time. Try it at: Google

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The paper this morning said: The Seattle Times: Local News: Gregoire: I had no role in lawsuit

But look at the email I got:
Dear Richard,

I need your immediate help. You've probably heard about the extremely close race for governor here in Washington. Only 42 votes separate my opponent and me, and thousands of ballots across the state haven't been counted.

This is by far the closest race in the history of our state, and one of the closest the nation has ever seen. That means we must make sure that every single legitimate ballot has been counted -- and that means a statewide manual recount of every vote.

Washington state law requires the party requesting the recount to pay for it, and it will cost at least $750,000. The Democratic Party is committed to this recount, but they need your immediate donation today to make it happen. Please give today.

Signed Chris Gregoire

Is she behind the lawsuit or not?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

MapPoint Location Server

Here's an app written by a guy whose cell phone is hooked up to a Mappoint Location Server: Where is Steve?

It tells you where he is, using cell locating technology built into lots of phones these days. I can't wait till all cell phones support this.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tuesday Reading

Study: Use of Computers Might Hinder Students' Learning
Christian Science Monitor - 12/6/2004
A mammoth study by German researchers has found that extensive use of computers by young students might hamper their learning, particularly in math and reading. (Christian Science Monitor)

Slashdot published something about Google Groups.

Bach Discusses Microsoft's Consumer Strategy
BusinessWeek - 12/7/2004
In a Q&A with BusinessWeek, Xbox chief Robbie Bach talks about Microsoft’s wide-ranging pursuit of "integerated innovation" and how these moves could play out.

Excel and RSS

I know Excel 2003 is capable of reading XML data sources, and I keep meaning to try it out someday, but it looks like there is a good example in Today's Seattle PI , written by Sam Radakovitz, a 27-year-old program manager on the Excel team. He posts his Excel sheet on his web site:

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The FTC's website on Credit

Washington, California, and other Western States just came under a new law that requires credit companies to give us free reports once a year. I checked The FTC's website on Credit to see how this works and I got my credit report quickly.

I'm completely in the clean, which is nice to know. Other states come on line over the next few months.

Man of the Year

Conrad sent these entries:

Man of the Year: Ireland

Man of the Year: Serbia

Man of the Year: Albania

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Freelance translators, translation services and translation jobs

The Internet changes everything. Of course it's not a big deal anymore, but I saw this site offering Freelance translators, translation services and translation jobs

I remember ten years ago working as a freelance Japanese translator, making what I thought was big bucks back then -- on the order of $50/hr, as I recall. Nowadays, between the much better machine translation tools and sites like this, I bet it's very hard to get that sort of money any more.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Blazing a path to very old age

Blazing a path to very old age: "Dr. Robert Butler, a longevity expert at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Besides the Leisure World Cohort Study, other large, ongoing longevity studies in the United States include:

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging: This is the longest-running study of human aging in the United States, begun in 1958 with just a small group of male participants. The study is now following more than 1,400 men and women, ranging in age from 20 to 90 and older. So far, the study has found that older people cope more effectively with stress than young adults and that personality seems to stabilize after age 30.

The New England Centenarian Study: This research project, begun in 1994, currently involves 1,500 people, including centenarians, their children and siblings. The study has so far determined that Alzheimer's disease is not inevitable and that at least 50% of centenarians have first-degree relatives who also achieve very old age.

Exceptional Longevity Family Study: This is a new study funded by the National Institute on Aging that will collect health and genetic information from more than 3,000 long-lived volunteers in the United States and Europe and their descendants. The study will look for genetic links to the major diseases as well as examine the influence of personal health habits."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Buy marijuana at Target!

I am not making this up:

Check out this page from

Tankless hot water heaters

In Japan, people don't have big tanks for hot water; the water is heated on the fly, whenever you open the faucet. I always wondered why people don't do that in the U.S. also. Turns out others are wondering the same thing, as this NYTimes article shows:

NBC to make 8-part miniseries on 9/11 commission book

NYTimes publishes an interview with Graham Yost, the writer of an 8-hour miniseries based on the 9/11 commission book.

I'm wondering how Hollywood and others will eventually get involved in making the definitive documentary/movie about this. You could imagine very dramatic reenactments, but will they go that far?


JC Penny is selling diamond-like jewels, "made by science". Are they the new synthetic diamonds mentioned in Wired last year?

No. Those gems are made by Gemesis, in Florida, and Apollo Diamond in Boston. Moissanite is different.

From HowStuffWorks:

In 1893, Nobel Prize-winning French scientist Dr. Henri Moissan discovered minute quantities of a new mineral, natural silicon carbide. The mineral was located in an ancient meteorite found in the Diablo Canyon in Arizona. Later named "moissanite" in honor of Dr. Moissan, this mineral's supply was too limited for jewelry use.

More than a century later, Cree developed a process for producing large, single crystals of moissanite. In 1995, a master diamond cutter observed samples of the silicon carbide crystals and suggested to the founders of Charles & Colvard that, if properly cut, the crystals could make a beautiful jewel. Charles & Colvard recognized the mineral's potential. They also realized that in order for the moissanite jewels to be used, they would have to be manufactured -- there is essentially no natural supply for this stone. In 1995, Charles & Colvard partnered with Cree (a NC-based R&D lab) to develop larger gemstones for Charles & Colvard to use in the Cree colorless development program. In conjunction with Cree, Charles & Colvard is the exclusive worldwide manufacturer and marketer of lab-created moissanite gemstones.

Friday, November 26, 2004

NYTimes: State of Iraq

The New York Times publishes a handy Fact-based update on the current state of Iraq.

(Click on the image to see the details)

Note that although the percentage of people who say the country is better off since the war is largely unchanged from last year (about 40%), those who are optimistic about the future remains high too: 65%.

Also note that on many other dimensions life is greatly improving: in the past six months oil revenue is up 25%, telephone subscribership is almost double, electric production is up, etc.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Yahoo! News - Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents

Cool! Apparently most color laser printers include a special chip that prints tiny, near-invisible yellow dots throughout the page that can be used to identify the printer manufacturer and serial number: Yahoo! News - Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Americans and Evolution

A recent Gallup poll shows that One Third of Americans Say Evidence Has Supported Darwin's Evolution Theory, the same number who also believe that every word of the Bible is literally true. Another third say it is one of many theories and is not supported by the evidence.

I was surprised to see that George Gilder, normally a pretty thoughtful guy, is one of those.

A lot of people interpret this as more proof that Americans are stupid, but I disagree. Americans are skeptics, far more suspicious of "the establishment" than you might think. How many people who consider themselves to be "open-minded" or "scientific" can really explain the principles of Evolution? Admit it, you can't explain natural selection at a microbiological level, and you ultimately rely on your trust that the "experts" are right. This Gallup poll just says that one third of Americans want a little more proof before they blindly trust "experts".

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Hillary is born again!

While visiting the Holy Flame Pentecostal Church of Little Rock, Ark, Hillary told parishioners that

As you know, I consider myself an evangelical Christian, really a Christian conservative, if you want to know the truth, so it's nice to be 'home' again in the South, which I really consider my quote-unquote home even though I live in New York most of the time.

Quoted in the National Review, from the "Light the Lamp" newsletter for the church [but I couldn't confirm this on line]

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Marc's Voice: AppleCafe and MediaBar

Marc Canter, founder of Macromedia, writes his history of AppleCafe and MediaBar, mentioning

But this guy Amelio (or was it Spindler?) just insisted on poo-pooing all over the Apple brand and consistently acted like an idiot. Oh yah, and that guy Satjiv Chahil as well.

I worked for Satjiv at the time, in Apple Japan marketing, and boy do I remember those days! I think Apple Cafe made more sense in Tokyo than it did in the U.S., but people forget that Japan tends to go from fad to fad. The Japanese like new ideas because they're new, and I think Apple execs often forgot that. When a whole bunch of important Japanese musicians and actors tell you they love your idea, it's easy to think it's because you're onto a great idea, when in reality you're just the flavor of the month to them.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Default Password List

Hackers, check this out: an exhaustivedefault password list for just about every router, OS, server package you can think of.

Of course many of these are relics of the good ole days before serious viruses and bad-guy hackers showed up and ruined it for everyone. Most modern security-conscious SW requires you to change the default password upon setup.

Free music downloads at : just announced a deal with MSN Music, making hundreds of thousands of songs free to download.

Most of it is probably crap, I bet, but this is ultimately a very good idea. Some of the most dedicated musicians are doing it for the love, not money, and this is the only way some of them will get recognized.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

MSN Messenger inside scoop

Mess with MSN Messenger: msn emoticons nicknames skins download addons bots

A place where all they do is discuss MSN Messenger secrets.

World-Wide Media eXchange: WWMX

World-Wide Media eXchange: WWMX is a project partially sponsored by Microsoft Research where people post photos from various locations around the world. You get to see real people at various locations around the world.

Note: so far there don't seem to be (m)any images from Mercer Island.

Shocking news! Democrats outnumber Republicans in academia

The New York Times > Education > Republicans Outnumbered in Academia, Studies Find

Two new studies show that professors at Stanford and UC Berkeley are overwhelmingly Democrats -- by at least 9:1.

Possible reasons:
1. Federalist Papers points out that a "small republic" can become dominated by a cohesive faction that using majority voting to outnumber and oppress the rest.

2. Lakoff thinks it's because academia attracts people interested in "helping society as a whole", which tends to be more consistent with Democrats' values. This is Robert Bork's view also.

I think that no matter what the explanation, it's bad news when academia is no longer a place where ideas are debated from all sides.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Review of basement biotech kits

Kevin Kelly, of Wired Magazine, lists his favorite biotech hobby kits.

Note the reference to Biotech Hobbyist magazine. A great idea, although unfortunately it appears to be an online publication from UCSD.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Peak Oil and the decline of civilization

This week's Barron's has an opinion piece by Charles Maxwell, an energy analyst at Weeden & Co. He repeats the "Peak Oil" argument and describes the consequences:
Barron's Online - The Gathering Storm: "Our country's leaders have three main choices: Taking over someone else's oil fields; carrying on until the lights go out and Americans are freezing in the dark; or changing our life style by deep conservation while heavily investing in alternative energy sources at higher costs."

I'm skeptical of these conclusions because (1) the changes will be gradual, thereby giving the economy time to adjust, and (2) the adjustment process includes development of alternatives that become economically viable only when oil prices go higher.

Still, the consequences are dire enough that I would be interested in hearing thoughtful counter-arguments.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Best election map

Here's the best map I've seen yet, from Robert J. Vanderbei:

The shading represents the proportion of Bush vs Kerry voters, and the "mountains" indicate the population.

Liti holo - hologram kits

Liti holo - hologram kits

$99 homemade holograms.

'Moral Values' Myth (

Charles Krauthammer does the best summary I've seen on the
'Moral Values' Myth (

The only evidence for 'moral values' as an election issue is a poorly-designed exit poll question. By lumping all 'moral' issues into a single choice, but leaving other issues spread among several choices, 'moral values' becomes the top issue percentagewise. But if you read the answers a different way, the collection of issues related to 'national defense' or 'the economy' were more important to the exit poll participants.

I happen to believe in moral values myself, but too many liberals are trotting this out as an excuse for why they lost the election but it's untrue. "We lost, but at least we we aren't a bunch of crazy Jesusland idiots", they say.

Friday, November 12, 2004 music, links, related artists music, links, related artists

Type an artist name and it does a cluster analysis to give you some other artists that you might like.

The Onion | Nation's Poor Win Election For Nation's Rich

The Onion | Nation's Poor Win Election For Nation's Rich

As usual, the Onion perfectly captures what a lot of people think, but dare not say explicitly: America is full of dumb hicks who are too stupid to see how badly the Republicans are hurting them and of course, how sincerely the Democrats are trying to help.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Solutions to the GLAT

Turns out that one of the founders of Google was an intern at Wolfram Research, the company that does Mathematica. So Wolfram posted the solutions to the Google Labs Aptitute Test.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

More on why Jesusland is so wrong

More on why Jesusland is a stupid, irrelevant concept that says more about liberals than it says about reality:

David Brooks points out correctly that "evangelicals" make up the same proportion of the electorate that they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.

[T]he same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?


No guns in NYC?

Lots of people are reporting on that guy who committed suicide at Ground Zero, apparently distraught over the Kerry defeat.

But wait a second: don't they believe in gun control in NYC? Obviously not if he was able to bring one into lower Manhattan. I would have thought in one of the bluest states of all, they would have passed a law by now that makes it a crime to carry a gun.

see Paul Lewis

MarryAnAmerican - No good American will be left behind!

Hey, what a great idea: MarryAnAmerican - Homepage - No good American will be left behind!

Now that George W. Bush has been officially elected, single, sexy, American liberals - already a threatened species - will be desperate to escape. These lonely, afraid (did we mention really hot?) progressives will need a safe haven.

You can help. Open your heart, and your home. Marry an American. Legions of Canadians have already pledged to sacrifice their singlehood to save our southern neighbours from four more years of cowboy conservatism.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

What is "moral values' and how did it decide the election?

Slate's Paul Freedman offers a convincing case that Terrorism, not values, drove Bush's re-election.

Similarly, the New York Times notes that the exit poll question causing the "moral values" buzz was confusing: it should have been asked as a "personal characteristic", not as an "issue" like terrorism or Iraq.

Personally, I agree with the Economist :

When asked directly about their attitudes to abortion, the responses this time were no different from 2000: 55% said it should be always or mostly legal. On gay marriage, 26% approved and 35% supported civil unions. So it is possible that “moral values” are not just a matter of social conservatism but also code for trust in the candidate, or respect for a man's willingness to take a stand—where Mr Bush won easily. Mr Kerry never quite managed to persuade voters of his leadership qualities.

Michael Moore's response to the election

Michael Moore has posted 17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists, and once again the Blogosphere fights back with a point-by-point rebuttal.

One of the classic Moore misleading statements is about Kerry getting more votes than Reagan. Yes, technically true (55M for Kerry, 54M for Reagan in 1984), but doesn't take into account the 20 years of population growth. Comparing electorate sizes, Reagan got today's equivalent of 67M votes.

John Cross points out that, as a percentage, Kerry did worse than the following presidential losers:

Richard Nixon (1960)
Gerald Ford (1976)
Winfield Hancock (1880)
James Blaine (1884)

Friday, November 05, 2004

More about Ethan Zuckerman

Stuart Berman says exactly what I mean and some things many anti-Bush people can't understand. He responded to Ethan Zuckerman's recent post from a super-blue part of Massachusetts with several thoughtful reasons why an intelligent person might still vote for Bush.

I'm an intelligent person too, educated at name-brand schools. I read the New Yorker, listen to NPR, interact regularly with Kerry supporters. But the arguments of the Left do not persuade me. And part of the reason they lost, I believe, is that very few people on the Left really understand "normal" America.

Update: Ethan Zuckerman saw my post where I dismissively suggested that he was out of touch with the rest of America. He sent me an email, taking some offense at my claim that he had never met a real live Republican. Turns out I was wrong and that he appears to be a sincere and self-critical kind of guy.

Here’s my reply to him:
Sorry for my incorrect characterization of you as someone who has never met a Republican. I know too many well-educated Democrats and “liberals” who were literally stunned by the election results and somehow I pictured you like them, supposedly well-read, open-minded and self-critical, but now completely unable to comprehend the majority of your countrymen.

I spent much of my twenties and thirties living and traveling outside the U.S., and I came away with the belief that you really don’t understand another culture until you learn to enjoy, and in some sense, agree with it.

I don’t know too many Democrats who are up to that. It’s too easy to dismiss the Red State people as under-educated hicks living in “Jesusland”—the sort of caricatures that completely miss the point of why Bush won. Of course, most Republicans have their own equally misguided dogmas, but at least they’ve got political power.

> To: Richard Sprague
> Sender: Ethan Zuckerman

> I think you've slightly mischaracterised my post and offer. I certainly know
> a number of Bush supporters. Until recently, I worked closely with the
> National Security Council and USAID, where many of my associates were Bush
> appointees and supporters. My circle of friends includes the former chief of
> staff for a Republican senator.
> It's not that I've never met a Bush voter, as you dismissively suggest. It's
> that I'd like to see more dialogue between blue-state progressives like
> myself and open-minded red-state conservatives. It's my sense that this sort
> of dialogue is necessary if we're all going to live together and face
> challenges, collectively, as a nation.
> I'm sorry that you appear to feel differently.
> Regards,
> -Ethan

Make your child's art into a steel masterpiece

Here's a company that, for $99, will take your kids silly artwork and turn it into a permanent steel sculpture:

Home Page: "Transform your child�s or grandchild�s artwork into a steel masterpiece for the home or garden. A complex picture or a simple circle is a treasure to preserve forever. "

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Church-Going and Voting Behavior

Virginia Postrel, a libertarian I respect has these thoughts about the election results: Dynamist Blog: Church-Going and Voting Behavior

Quotes a Harvard doctoral paper on why Republicans and Democrats have become so divided on religious values.

Crawling out of the woodwork

They're crawling out of the woodwork, these out-of-touch Democrats who just can't understand how they lost. Ethan Zuckerman is a guy somewhere in Massachusetts who has never met anybody who voted for Bush.

Compare this image (from USA Today):

with this one (from this one from Civic Space Labs):

So many Democrats I know like to look at this and chuckle, but I ask: who is the real extremist here? The USA Today map is the real America.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

George Lakoff

He's mostly known in the linguistics community, but George Lakoff is also now promoting himself as a liberal blow-hard, one of those guys who can explain everything and is never wrong.

He believes that liberals and progressives don't know how to frame the national debate. He's so sure of himself that it never occurs to him that maybe the so-called conservatives are winning because they're right about something more fundamental than "framing". Human beings are genetically programmed for what Steven Pinker calls the Tragic View, and conservatives get it but liberals don't.

Bush's Mandate

Note that today's election results show that George W. Bush won about 58 million votes. That's the most, by far, of any President in history.

Combining with his 2000 total of about 50M votes, that means that over 108M people in two elections went to the polls and said yes to Bush over any other challenger. Compare that to Ronald Reagan's lifetime total of 97M, or Bill Clinton's 92M.

In spite of the record turnout, John Kerry's 54M votes won't even match the number that Ronald Reagan got 20 years ago, when the population of the United States was much smaller.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Online Chess game

My friend Brian Coleman sent this link to an online chess game called Thinking Machine 4.

I have no idea how good it is, but the cool part is that it shows graphically what the computer is thinking about before it moves.

Augmented Reality

Slashdot points to this:

pershino writes "Augmented reality is gaining real world application to take us backwards. The BBC has a story about a European Union-funded project providing tourists with computer-augmented versions of archaeological attractions like Pompeii."

The Augmented Reality Homepage
A bunch of links to VR-type views of various historical sites. Might be interesting for kids.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tools for WMA and media players


Adam Meltzer suggests you can purchase MediaFour’s XPlay ( It will plug in to WMP and handle synchronization as well as transcode WMA into MP3 before transferring it to your iPod.

The Joy World Pacific $28,000 calorie counter

I wonder how this device works? I checked out the company's web site [Japanese], and it appears to be one of those small tech-oriented places with some kind of university connection. They offer no proof that the product works well, but who knows. Here's a chart they publish showing how much variance there is between two servings of sirloin steak from different sources.

Joy World Pacific have concocted “Calory Answer,” a microwave-looking calorie counter that can display a food item’s macronutritional content using near-infrared analysis. By placing a food item in the unit, one can get the protein, sugars, and fat content of any food. The unit runs on Windows, although it was initially intended for Linux. Cost is currently at $28,000 (do you really need to know there are exactly 48.6 grams of fat in that Cinnabon?), but Joy World hopes to bring that down significantly. Otherwise, we know of a couple personal trainers who will take significantly less than that right now, and they will even hang out with you and tell you if that crap you’re eating is bad for you.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

More online audio recording options

I've been enjoying Replay Radio so much, but now Engadget just published HOW-TO: Record all audio playing through your Mac. Here is a list of more audio recording options for Windows:

TotalRecorder (
Loop Recorder (from
Streamripper ( needs WinAmp
I Record Music (

Dremel Pumpkin Carving Kit

From Gizmodo: 

dremel_punkin.jpg imageIt's an idea so obvious that it's probably been around for years and I've just missed it. Dremel, makers of the "Tool Most Likely To Destroy Something That Was Working Fine Already," is selling a translucent orange pumpkin carving kit, with templates and tools to carve your own intricate designs. It looks like it's available at Lowes and other hardware stores, although you can try to order online if you want (it's a little late now, isn't it?)

If you can find them, they look to be about $20 for the whole kit.

Product Page [Dremel]


Friday, October 29, 2004

Finger length predicts academic aptitude

A report from Mark Brosnan, the lead author from the University of Bath, UK, whose work has been submitted to the British Journal of Psychology and reported in New Scientist says that men have slightly shorter index fingers than ring fingers, while with women the two are the same length. Finger length is known to be associated with the level of hormone exposure in the womb.

Interestingly, however, a study of academics showed that people with the "female" pattern tended to gravitate to math and physics, while those with the "male" pattern seemed attracted to social science departments.

gladwell dot com / The Ketchup Conundrum

Malcolm Gladwell writes about ketchup. How come there aren't any gourmet versions, like we get with mustard or spaghetti sauce?

Answer: Heinz ketchup is "high amplitude", with a broad appeal across all your senses, and it's associated with the broad, good tastes learned early in life. You can change it, maybe even make it taste better, but then it's not ketchup--it's sauce.

I don't quite buy this argument. I bet I would try a good gourmet ketchup if it existed.

HBR says creative people will rule

Tom Peters posts this clip from the latest Harvard Business Review

"America's Looming Creativity Crisis," by Richard Florida:

"The Dawn of the Creative Age": "There's a whole new class of workers in the U.S. that's 38-million strong: the creative class. At its core are the scientists, engineers, architects, designers, educators, artists, musicians and entertainers whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, or new content. Also included are the creative professions of business and finance, law, healthcare and related fields, in which knowledge workers engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment. Today the creative sector of the U.S. economy, broadly defined, employs more than 30% of the workforce (more than all of manufacturing) and accounts for more than half of all wage and salary income (some $2 trillion)—almost as much as the manufacturing and service sectors together. Indeed, the United States has now entered what I call the Creative Age."

"The global talent pool and the high-end, high margin creative industries that used to be the sole province of the U.S., and a critical source of its prosperity, have begun to disperse around the globe. A host of countries—Ireland, Finland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, among them—are investing in higher education, cultivating creative people, and churning out stellar products, from Nokia phones to the Lord of the Rings movies. Many of these countries have learned from past U.S. success and are shoring up efforts to attract foreign talentâ€â€including Americans. ... The United States may well be the Goliath of the twentieth century global economy, but it will take just half a dozen twenty-first-century Davids to begin to wear it down. To stay innovative, America must continue to attract the world's sharpest minds. And to do that, it needs to invest in the further development of its creative sector. Because wherever creativity goes—and, by extension, wherever talent goes—innovation and economic growth are sure to follow."

Monday, October 25, 2004

Keyhole: interactive satellite maps

Keyhole is a very cool site that outdoes MapPoint or MapQuest by giving you a satellite image instead.

Social-network sites scramble for prosperity

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Social-network sites scramble for prosperity: " Nice summary" of the state of sites like LinkedIn and Orkut. They need to decide whether or not to repeat the "Get Big Fast" strategies of the dot-com days or find more efficient ways to make money.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bush has a higher IQ than Kerry

George W. Bush got a 1206 SAT, or roughly 97th percentile of the US population as a whole.

While GW is a famous ‘C’ student, John Kerry’s grades at Yale are unknown, as are his SATs. However, Kerry has released his military records and you can see his score on the Navy Officer’s Qualification test: 58 out of 115 questions correct, which maps out to roughly the 50th percentile. Although that's nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering the test is only administered to a select group of people, GW by contrast scored 67% on a roughly comparable test.

See the NY Times article here.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Set Windows Time

Cool!  An XP Home machine can set its time automatically every week with the super-accurate NIST time server.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Replay Radio - Internet Radio Recorder

After knowing about it for months, I finally bought a copy of Replay Radio, basically a Tivo for Internet radio streams. It comes with a huge database of all the times/URLs for any radio program you'd want to record (from NRP to Rush Limbaugh).

I programmed it this morning to record Morning Edition for my commute to the office, and I have to say it was amazing. I was able to listen to a full hour of NPR in less than 15 minutes through a combination of skipping segments and using the double-speed playback option. Talk about efficient!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

New magazine for DIY technology

Make is the title of a new magazine/book that will specialize in do-it-yourself technology projects around the home. How to make a video camera stabilzer, etc.

Wired has a story about the magazine.

Social Software metalist has a huge list of sites useful for finding people you want to associate with. Everything from LinkedIn and Orkut to photosharing and pets.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Am I at my desk?

Click here to see live video from my office.

Make your own photo mosaics - Engadget -

How-To: Make your own photo mosaics - Engadget -

Hey, this looks like fun.

Anonymously access registration-required sites is an idea whose time has come. If you need to view content on one of those sites (like NYTimes) that requires registration, type the URL into bugmenot instead. They enter a fake ID for you so you can view the content without telling the site who you are.

I don't mind registering at NYTimes or other places I use a lot, but sometimes I don't want to be bothered with entering fake info about myself just to view something once.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

the friend of a friend (foaf) project and other social networks

the friend of a friend (foaf) project is something I need to look at more closely. I'm told it's a way to set up a peer-to-peer social network without using a service like Friendster, Orkut, or LinkedIn.

Another similar one is XFN:

Household wealth: median for white families is $80K

The New York Times: and others report on a "Pew Hispanic Center study, being released Monday", that calculates the amount of household wealth (i.e. savings, homes, etc.). I'd like to know more about how they did the calculation and what other groups they may have surveyed (e.g. by education, geography, etc.)

Use Gmail as an extra hard drive

Here is - GMail Drive shell extension. I haven't checked it out yet, so I don't know if it's got spyware or anything. I saw it referenced at Techbargains.

But if it works it's pretty cool.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Japanese blog site from MSN

Richard Sprague is the name of my new Spaces account on MSN-Japan. You have to read Japanese to see it. I'm told that MSN-Japan is testing some photo-blogging software there too, so when I get some time I'll check it out.

Sunday, October 17, 2004 - Digital Focus: The ABCs of Scanning Old Photos - Digital Focus: The ABCs of Scanning Old Photos

Stowe wants to put some of her old prints into digital form, and has asked me to look into buying a scanner. A couple of observations:

1. The size of each scan is enormous--at least 10MB and maybe way more if you want high quality.
2. Will she want to scan negatives? or prints?

If negatives, then the quality is much better, but the cost is at least $300.

Fahrenheit 911 makes me want to vote Bush

Some friends lent us their DVD last night, and we finally watched the Michael Moore film to see what all the fuss is about.

Frankly, we were disappointed. It's so over-the-top slanted and biased that you leave feeling like "what's this guy's problem".

I watched it with my laptop open to a web site documeting all the mistakes in the film.

I respect bias as much as the next guy, but I left with the same feeling I get when listening to Rush Limbaugh: yes, lots of humorous slams on the other guy, but at the expense of really getting to the bottom of the issues.

We concluded that the movie would have been a lot more effective in the hands of somebody like Oliver Stone, who would have made it far more subtle, and dangerous.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Data recovery services

I have a hard drive that failed last month. Nothing super important on it--it just has some old video .avi files that I can recreate if necessary. But it would save a lot of time if I could somehow retrieve it.

So I called diskdoctors, which has a office in Bellevue. They say it would be at least $500.

A1-Best Computer in Seattle says they'll charge $60 for one hour of labor. If they get the data in one hour, that's all you pay. They're open till 5pm on SAturdays (closed Sunday).

PC Doctor, in Bellevue, charges $75

Millionaires for Bush, Billionaires for Kerry (Slate)

Why the super-rich favor the candidate who will raise their taxes. By Daniel�Gross

This Slate author shows just how out-of-touch some writers are. He thinks millionaires and billionaires base their political opinions on who will give them more take-home income. There's another explanation: maybe self-made people prefer less regulatory government policies and they support Bush in spite of his failings because they feel that, all things considered, the Republicans are less likely to interfere with an entrepreneur's ability to create new things.

And maybe many of the super-duper rich prefer Kerry for a totally different reason: they inherited their money and, because entrepreneurship and industry doesn't matter to them, they think of the government as another charitable organization doling out unearned gifts on little people in need.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Test web site: Squarespace

I'm going to try hosting a few pictures at this new hosting site I found: Sprague Topics a>

Secret to world's nicest coffee revealed

Secret to world's nicest coffee revealed

apparently you get a different, chocolaty taste when the beans pass through the digestive tract of a civet.

Sells for something like $45/lb.

Maven review sites

Maven reviews Kevin Kelly is a Wired editor who wrote this helpful summary of the best review sites on the Web. Look at all the geeky details for new products ranging from coffee machines, bird watching equipment, etc. etc.

My wife also suggests this site for
Web Reviews of community data sites.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

92% of new hard drive-based MP3 players sold are iPods - Engadget -

92% of new hard drive-based MP3 players sold are iPods - Engadget -

You wonder why I'm having a hard time deciding which MP3 player to buy. I hate iPod -- it only plays AAC, only works (well) with iTunes. I want WMA, I want a choice in music sites. But when something's so popular, you don't want to be left behind.

Watches and other supplies for geeks

ThinkGeek :: Gadgets :: Watches

But I still can't find a decent calculater watch, like the kind I bought back in the 1980s. I want something that can do logarithms on my wrist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Predicting California earthquakes

Scorecards is software from NASA for predicting earthquakes in California. So far it's predicted 15 out of 16 magnitude 5 quakes.

But I couldn't quickly find a list of where/when they expect the next ones to happen.

Tom Peters recommends self-help books

Tom Peters says you should read these three books:

GETTING TO YES ... Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton.
LEARNED OPTIMISM ... Martin Seligman.
CRUCIAL CONFRONTATIONS ... Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler.

CoffeeGeek - News, Reviews, Opinion and Community for Coffee and Espresso

CoffeeGeek - News, Reviews, Opinion and Community for Coffee and Espresso

Kevin Kelley thinks this is the best coffee site out there.

Podcasting with Windows Media Player

Jake Ludington's MediaBlab - Podcasting with Windows Media Player - Podcasting

I'm still trying to decide whether to get an iPod (the market leader) or something based on Windows Media. This how-to article may make the difference for me, since one of my main reasons for getting a portable player is to do podcasting like this.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Peers determine your behavior - Science Journal: discusses how "the National Science Foundation gave anthropologist Scott Atran, a research director at the National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, emergency funding to study groups that sponsor suicide attacks".

Also see Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University, whose research says that the peer group you identify with--not your individual personality--determines your behavior.

What Paul Bremer Really Said About Iraq

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: What I Really Said About Iraq

Paul Bremer is annoyed that the media thinks he says there aren't enough troops in Iraq. He believes that America will win the War on Terror by being on the offensive, and that our enemies are not limited to Al Qaeda.

George has something on his back and others are gossipping about a photo of George W. in the first debate that shows something apparently under his suit jacket. Of course the implication is that he has a tiny radio transmitter and that he's cheating on the debate questions.

Spread the news! George W Bush is so dumb he has to cheat! Don't take him seriously--he's not very bright. Yes, that's right: his IQ is lower than Kerry's! Repeat as needed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Recruiting at Google

There's a huge billboard in downtown Seattle that says:

{ First 10 digit prime in consecutive digits of e }.com

If you look up the answer and go to

you get:

Congratulations. You've made it to level 2. Go to and enter Bobsyouruncle as the login and the answer to this equation as the password.






If you solve this you get the following URL:

Project Ocean: Stanford University And Google

Apparently there is this thing called Project Ocean: Stanford University And Google where the two orgs are teaming up to digitize the entire collection of the Stanford Library published before 1923 (books that are now copyright-free).

Google already has that can search books for you.

Measure how much electricity an appliance uses

Here's a device for calculating the amount of electricity a product actually uses: Kill a Watt (Killawatt) P3 - Reduce your power bill and save money

Cost is $25.50 after a coupon.


SCREEN IT! PARENTAL REVIEW: THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN Washington Opens Digital Archives Washington Opens Digital Archives

Cool! The documents go all the way back to "the state's territorial period."

Personal blog by Pyra Labs founder

evhead might be an interesting personal blog. It's by Evan Williams, founder of Pyra Labs, the creators of Blogger.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Physics Illustrator for Tablet PC

Hey cool! Looks like Microsoft makes a free Physics Illustrator for Tablet PC. Reminds me of the old Macintosh program, Interactive Physics that let you draw various objects on your screen and give them a push to see where they land, all following the laws of Newtonian physics.


Obesity: the next big drug target - New Weight-Loss Drugs Are Under Development gives a list of new drugs under development to combat obesity:

Meridia: Abbott Laboratories Appetite suppressant
Xenical: Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. Blocks the absorption of fat
Acomplia*: Sanofi-Aventis SA Reduces overactivity in the body's system that regulates food intake and energy expenditure
PYY (3-36) Nasal Spray* Nastech Pharmaceutical Company Inc. Binds to receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain to signal satiety

Supplements to avoid (R) has this handy list of "nutritional" supplements that have been linked to various physical problems. They're not really "nutritional" of course, but many people take them, thinking they are natural or organic remedies to various aches and pains.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Celsius 41.11

Well lookee here, somebody finally made a movie to counter Michael Moore's: The Celsius 41.11 Interactive Media Center - A Citizens United Production.

Celsius 41.11 is the temperature at which the brain starts to die.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

NYTimes about companies that do home video editing

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > For Neglected Video, a Hollywood Touch

lists Pergamon, in Portland Ore., plus FamilyMemoriesVideo as examples of a cottage industry of companies that will edit your home videos ($50-$2000 depending on the amount of time in the finished product).

Other companies: YesVideo and

Amazon adds $1B to the Variety Revolution

Virginia Postrel of says what I mean: the variety revolution is making us all richer in ways not usually reflected in mainstream economic statistics.

She shows calculations about the "consumer surplus", the extra benefit to consumers when the precise item they want can be purchased for less money than they're willing to pay, is $1B at In other words, there are obscure books for which I'd be willing to pay extra to buy, and I only found them because of the Internet, where I'm able to buy them at the normal price.

You can find the author of the paper, Erik Brynjolfsson from MIT, at

Friday, October 01, 2004

Kerry Wins Debate

Kerry Wins Debate according to the instant polling conducted by Gallup last night. But interestingly, the very same polling shows that the debate viewers still think Bush would do a better job in Iraq or as Commander in Chief.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Intellectual Morons by Daniel Flynn

Here's a potentially interesting book I may want to check: Intellectual Morons by Daniel Flynn

Anyone with intellectual pretensions will have to ask now and then why the vast majority of "intellectuals" at American universities are politically liberal and nearly universally Democrats. If soooo many smart people are Democrats, how could anybody with brains be a Republican?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Wired News: Free Content Still Sells

Wired News talks about the 9/11 Commission report and other works that sell well as books even though they're available free on line.

The idea is that you get people to start reading it online to start sales, since they'll want to pay for a printed copy once they get hooked.

Documentary footage available for remixing

The guy who made that Anti-Bush movie about Fox News is putting footage he collected for the film online for remixing. He uses the Creative Commons license to enable normal people to download 48 minutes of his source interviews, and he encourages you to edit them yourselves.

Welcome to the next wave of news collecting.

Finding trapped people with rats

Article: Rats' brain waves could find trapped people�| New Scientist: "In a project funded by DARPA, the Pentagon�s research arm, Linda and Ray Hermer-Vazquez of the University of Florida in Gainesville " insert probes into a rat's brain so that it will signal the location of explosives or humans buried underground in places only rats can crawl.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Leaving town

I'm taking the red-eye tonight: Seattle to Detroit, leaving 10:25pm for a weekend visit to Illinois and my cousin Katie's wedding.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Code Flaws Open Linux Apps to Attack

People who switch to other operating systems because they're afraid of the security problems on Windows are making a naive mistake. All software contains vulnerabilities, but the differences is that Microsoft and Windows's security issues are well-known. Linux has problems too, as this eWeek article shows: Code Flaws Open Linux Apps to Attack

1.57% discount on Amazon to users of A9 search engine

Amazon wants to share the "pi", so they're giving half of 3.14, i.e. 1.57% discount to search users.

The A9 engine uses Google in the back end, so it's not a big deal to use it instead of Google.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Speech recognition sites

Here's a long list of sites about Speech, mostly from a research point of view.


I've been looking into text-to-speech lately, and saw this:FreeTTS 1.2beta2 - A speech synthesizer written entirely in the Java(TM) programming language

If you have the JVM installed, just click on the .WAV icons on the left to hear some samples. Very good quality.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Blogging tools

Here is a list of recommendations I've compiled for the best blogging tools compatible with MSDN blogs:

Adobe Premiere for hobbyists

Finally, Adobe is making video editing software for people like me. Offhand I can see several neat new features:
  • 16:9 support
  • Great audio control over individual waveforms
  • Real-time rendering that takes advantage of your GPU
I'll look at this more carefully and maybe I'll switch instead of upgrading from the Pinnacle Studio 8 that I use now.

Lawyers, welcome to Japan!

So much for a non-ligitious society. [subscription required] - Japan Lawyers See Seismic Shift is a report on the changes expected now that it's legal for foreign lawyers to practice in Japan.

Monday, September 13, 2004

MIT Classes on speech recognition

Someday it would be nice to audit this class from MIT:

MIT OpenCourseWare | Electrical Engineering and Computer Science | 6.345 Automatic Speech Recognition

Open source speech recognition

There are at least three open-source speech recognition projects out there:
CMUSphinx: The Carnegie Mellon Sphinx Project, and HTK, and Julius (Japan).

Books suggestions from Slashdot

This suggestion from a Slashdot article I read in the context of IBM's announcement today:

Slashdot | IBM to Open Voice Recognition Software: "For those of you who haven't read it, check out The Unfinished Revolution [] by Michael Dertouzos. I don't agree with all of his analysis (he was a little lacking in pragmatism on some points), but overall this book was very insightful. This book, along with Weaving the Web [] by Tim Berners-Lee, caused a big paradigm shift in my thinking about computer technology."

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Airline Seats

Check out this site the next time you fly: - Your Enlightened Guide to Airplane Seating

They tell all the details about seats on just about every plane: leg room, windows, power ports, etc.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

How to read my notes

I write in a number of places:

sprague: my work-related log
Ensembio: specific notes related to biology