Monday, August 31, 2009

Genius Idea of the Day

Basecamp should allow you to opt in to an expertise exchange, at which point an "I need help with this" button would appear next to your to-do items. If you clicked it, you could write up a brief summary of what you're trying to do, and it would send that message out to people with similar to-do items, so you could send out a request, "Has anybody been able to get captioning to work in Flash with Adobe CS4?" and it would automatically pop up for people who are working on similar projects.

Crucial information about healthcare

Okay, maybe not crucial, but funny.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Placebo and Alzheimer's patients

Boing Boing: Placebo effect is getting stronger

Apparently, Alzheimer's patients get less kick from pain meds because they aren't getting the placebo effect that everyone else does. In other words, when you take pain meds, you get the painkilling from the drug, and the painkilling from your brain. But Alzheimer's patients can't clearly envision the future, so they get no placebo boost.

Monday, August 24, 2009

xkcd reveals my secret tech support magic.

Timing things with Music

This post from Lifehacker reminds me that my first year out of college, I was crazy broke, but still had all my stuff from college. So I had a CD player, but no kitchen timer, and couldn't afford to buy one. So, inspired by Hudson Hawk, every time I'd cook something, I'd hunt down a song that was about the right length, or maybe a sequence of songs, and use that as a timer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Words, words, words

Her: She [our daughter] is getting really good with her words. She doesn't sign as much, but she says "done" very clearly.

Me: Definitely. I was feeding her eggs while she sat on my lap yesterday, and she was really loving them. Giggling and laughing when I held out the fort, all that. Then she started turning her head away from the fork, so I asked her if she was all done, and she looked me right in the eye and said, "Done."

Her: Fantastic.

Me: And then she threw up all over me.
Cool clock

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Funny, sad, and funny

What happens if you tell you're girlfriend that you're going to Europe for two weeks, but she's not listening? This: While I was away.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Computer Wallpaper as a productivity tool

This is a cool idea: Getting Things Done with Workflows and Quadrants, but I never look at my wallpaper when I'm working, because I'm busy actually doing stuff. What I need is a single window that combines email, chat, my to-do list, and my calendar.

Actually, I have that. It's Gmail with various lab widgets in it. The only thing missing from it is my work email, because that's stuck in Lotus Notes. Sigh.

Dancing with the Stars Season 9

Look, I know I was going to be having to watch it anyway, but Mark Dacascos and Chuck Liddell will make it a bit more interesting for Theron and I both (I don't know if Dionne makes him watch it or not). This season's WTF contestant is Tom DeLay. Seriously, WTF? I bet he tries to kneecap somebody, the crooked son of a bitch.

Full list is here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Real American Hero? Sigh.

Christie thought it was funny/cute that I wanted to see GI Joe, but it didn't happen this weekend, I was really was okay with that. Life is short, and I'd rather spend that two hours playing with my kid. I figured I'd catch it on DVD. Now I'm reading various takes on it, and I'm starting to think that if it doesn't show up on Netflix streaming, I'm not going to bother.

Mike's Rules - Say you're sorry

There's an old Heinlein quip that, when arguing with your wife, if you find that you are wrong, apologize, and if you find that you're right, apologize. Take out the sexism, and it's still a good rule. It's particularly important to apologize when I least want to, because that's usually when I'm being a jerk. So here's the rule:
Apologize. It'll only hurt for a minute.

I suppose it's worth noting again that I've made these rules for myself because they're things I'm not good at.

There's a corollary to this rule:
Let the other guy go first; it's good for you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Imagine a brilliant title here

I had an absolutely brilliant idea for a blog post this morning. I can remember everything vividly: It was 3:22, and I was listening to my teething daughter cry herself awake for the 5th time that night. I was counting minutes on the clock, and staring at the baby monitor, wishing I could fall asleep and worried that if I did, I wouldn't hear Christie if she asked for help. To distract myself, I started thinking about some social problem or another, and while I don't believe I came up with any actual solutions, I did manage to come up with some very witty takedowns of the people I disagree with, and one or two highly original insights.

If only I could remember what I was thinking about. Because I remember it seeming really, really cool.

Data data drives out good

That's the data geek version of "bad money drives out good", and it very much applies to the sex offender registry. I wonder if there's any politician out there with the courage to suggest that we clean it up. Of course, that would open them up to charges of being "soft on child molesters", which is the sort of accusation that ought to lose the accuser credibility almost instantly, but that's not the kind of political system we have these days, is it?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Opposition for opposition's sake

That seems to be the only value of the Republican Party these days. If Obama comes out in favor of sunshine and apple pie, then they're against it. In some ways, I guess they're stuck living with their own rhetoric. After all, they spent the campaign painting him as The Destroyer of Everything Good, so they can't exactly come out and say, "Hey, yeah, that's a pretty good idea," even when he proposes things that are, in fact a good idea.

Which is how we end up with Republicans arguing that the AARP is part of a conspiracy to kill old people. They don't have any reasonable arguments available to them.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Impact of the healthcare system on my life

Since we're in the middle of a healthcare reform debate, I thought I'd share a little of how our current healthcare system has impacted my life, and why I'd like to see it fixed. It's not something I think about every day, but it has definitely shaped my life.

I had my first migraine when I was eleven. It wasn't a big surprise, since my mom always had them. At the time, treatment for migraines was basically done with narcotics and other brute force techniques, but the chemistry has been advancing steadily, as has our understanding of migraines and the brain. That's meant a lot of doctor appointments over the years, catching up with the latest meds and such.

Not a problem, as long as we had insurance, which we almost always did. I vaguely remember a stretch when my mom changed jobs, and she was without coverage for a while, at least for the migraines, which were defined as a pre-existing condition, and not covered for the first 3 months of her new policy. Not long after, they changed the law so that pre-existing conditions were covered as long as coverage remained continuous.

That's meant that I have made damn sure to have continuous coverage. When I was in college, my parents covered me. When I graduated, I got private insurance with a high deductible, and I never, ever let it lapse. That first year, I made about $7,000, and at least $1,400 of that must have gone to health insurance. When it came time to pay bills at the end of the month, electricity was optional, and food left plenty of room to economize (beans and rice, homemade bread), but the insurance bill always got paid and always got paid on time.

Once I worked my way up the ladder to the point where I had insurance, it wasn't such a hassle, but it's definitely affected my career choices. For instance, at one point I had been doing some freelance work, and was considering going full time as a freelancer/consultant. The fact that the most effective migraine drugs are $20 a pill without insurance pretty much shut that door for me.

In a world where people have lost their houses, had to choose between food and heart medicine, or declared bankruptcy because of medical issues and insurance problems, this is pretty weak sauce, really. I've just had to be careful. But there have been risks I haven't been able to take because doing so would have meant losing that continuous coverage that has allowed me to live relatively pain free. It's not a big impact, but it's there.

Tool want!

I have absolutely no need for a $300 stud finder, but, man, does this thing look cool.
Perfection, Inc. - a Boston Globe profile of Christopher Kimball

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Here's another take on the Pollan article, asking what, exactly, constitutes cooking?

Actually, I'm not that interested in that question, but it's a good excuse to tell a funny story about Christie's cousin, Eric. He was visiting us just before our wedding, when he was about 16. Christie and I walked into the kitchen, and there he was eating ice cream from the carton. Christie pointed out that there were bowls in the cabinet, right within arms reach, and he said, "Oh, no thanks. I don't really like to cook."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How To

Fabric Mail Box

Working with the world

This Michael O'Hare piece on engaging with the physical world is worth a read. It's a riff on a Michael Pollan article bemoaning that we spend more time watching cooking shows than we do cooking, but it goes beyond that to talk about fixing cars, working on the house, etc.

I'd take it even further and throwing making music into the mix as well. Assembling a bookshelf from Target is not "building furniture", and playing a CD is not "playing music", but I've heard people use those phrases. Microwaving a box is not making dinner, either, I suppose I should point out.

Now that the kid is eating real food, Christie and I (mostly Christie, some of you might be surprised to hear) have been cooking almost every night. We do it because we want her to be healthy, and to have a healthy relationship to food as she grows up, certainly, but some of it is that peculiar idealism that comes with being a parent. Sure, we believe it's better to cook than to eat out, that it's better to read than to watch TV, etc., but when it's just us, it's easy to get lazy and take shortcuts. Now that we have a kid, we're trying harder to walk our talk.

And it feels good to make meals somewhat from scratch (we're not exactly grinding our own flour), just as it feels good to build a piece of furniture, or make a quilt from scraps. For Christie and I both, part of the joy of doing those things is that it ties us into a tradition. We learned to cook from our mothers and grandmothers, and had parents and grandparents that were more likely to be out doing than inside watching.

But there's a tension as well. Watching Ask This Old House and reading Fine Homebuilding have definitely raised my comfort level in taking on projects in completely new areas. Watching America's Test Kitchen and The Minimalist podcasts have introduced me to new techniques and flavors that I never would have tried if they weren't showing up on my Tivo.

But I also have to throw a little love at the Tivo. I remember back in the day when a Saturday afternoon meant choosing between watching home improvement shows and doing home improvement projects. Now, I can save a cooking show, watch it while I cook, and pause it when I need to. I can work on the house all day on a Saturday, then watch Tom Silva fix a rotting threshold while I'm taking a lunch break. Having a DVR makes it a lot easier to use these shows as a reference, not just entertainment.