Thursday, March 31, 2005

Am I a Luddite?

Here's a quote from a NY Times article (subscription required)
"Everyone who is going to pay for TV already pays for it," said Todd Mitchell, an industry analyst at Kaufman Brothers Equity Research. "The only people without it are Luddites and people too old to appreciate it."
Yes, everyone who is willing to pay for TV already pays for it. No, The rest of us just watch PBS because it has the only good shows on. Wait, it's pledge week, I am paying for my TV. Yahoo, I'm no longer a luddite and my gray hairs are going away.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Right on Target

I went to Target yesterday to look at their cheap furniture. I've about decided they have the most stylish cheap furniture around. I think it looks really good, or at least is just what I wanted.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Terri Schiavo

I found this interesting article on Slate about the case of Terri Schiavo.

I don't see what harm there is in letting her live if it is only a feeding tube. I was under the impression she was on massive life support. If she is really vegetative, then she won't care. I guess the worst case is that she is aware and feeling trapped, but as the article said, surely after 15 years, she's probably become accustomed to it and might not want to end her life. She isn't suffering, so as long as someone is willing to pay for it, why not let her live?

I think a more interesting question would be, if her husband was tired of paying for medical treatment and decided that the tube should be removed, would the case be treated the same way?

Is Science Faked?

Is science faked? I remember in high school I managed to disprove the "law" of conservation of mass. To this day, I have no idea what I did wrong. Later in college, I seem to remember doing a lot of fudging on numbers in labs or I'd report my true findings which didn't seem to support what the text book said would be happening. This makes me wonder, is there proof for the equations used in science? It seems that the equations are more a predictor of what kinda might happen, instead of what really will happen. How do I know that generations of scientists haven't been fudging data to get the results they want? How do I know that the "laws" really are laws if I need a multi-million dollar machine to see the expected result?

Now it may be that the "laws" taught in the introductory science labs I took were overly simplistic, ignoring other factors to make the math and concepts easier to understand. But, if the students don't have all the information, then don't give them labs where they are expected to show something happens, when it doesn't or can't be seen with the lousy equipment provided.

I guess on the bright side, it did give me a healthy skepticism in science.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A man walked into a bar

Some day, when I have a data base, web space, time, and I've googled to makes sure no one else has done this already, I'm going to start a list of all the jokes in the world. I curious about how many unique jokes there are. I'll probably group them by punch line because there are a lot of variations on the same joke, but the punch line is the same. For example, the one about throwing the lawyer out the window, I've heard at least 2 versions of that joke. I'd store all the variations, but they'd only count as one joke. I'd also group the jokes by topic.

Current favorite joke: I was wondering why the flying disk kept getting larger and larger. Then it hit me.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Check to the dealer

I recently ran out of checks. I had meant to order more, but had not. I immediately ordered new checks on-line and waited 2 weeks for them to arrive. Alas, no checks. Today I checked the website and realized the check company did not show my order. I had a confirmation e-mail. What was going on?

(Did I mention I was pretty upset at this point. I had just enough time from when I ordered checks to when the first bill was due, that if they came, I could pay all the bills on time.)

I called my credit union and ordered checks over the phone. I sent an e-mail to the check printing company asking: What happened!!??!! in what I hope was a polite way. I tried various on-line ways of paying my bills, none of which was any easier than writing out a check. So all the bills were paid and I was left with a lingering question.

Later that day, I got an e-mail from the check company saying they had tried to deliver the checks, tried to confirm my address with my credit union, but were unable to, so the checks were sent back and destroyed (the implication seemed to be it was the credit union's fault, whatever).

I'm torn on whether I am upset or not. I am actually glad they are taking the security of my checks seriously. But I'm still a little mad they didn't let me know via e-mail. I guess this means I'll be sitting home waiting for the mailcarrier to come so that I'll get my checks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

For Sale, your personal information

The other day I came across this story about how companies like TransUnion Credit Bureau will sell your personal information (including social security numbers) to companies like Comcast. The basic story is Comcast asked a woman for her Social Security number when she signed up. She refused and so had to pay a security deposit. Then late she found out they got her social security number from one of the credit bureaus. Now Utah lawmakers are considering a law that would allow customers to tell the credit bureaus not to sell their information. The credit bureaus do not like this idea because they say it will hurt their business.

I'm going to write a letter to my state representative about this. I don't think it is right or safe for credit bureaus or data aggregators to be able to sell my social security number. I have mixed feelings about phone numbers and address. For most people, that information is freely available in a phone book, so I think that information is OK to collect. One of my former co-workers said that he had no problem with companies selling his information, as long as they gave him a cut. I might be willing to go with this model because companies would be less likely to buy the information if it cost more. I also think there should be a law that if a company has personal information stored that it doesn't "need" for normal business purposes and that information is misused, the company should be liable. We'll see how this turns out.

(It looks like the bill passed in its committee. See here)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Let Google choose your Pre-Paid Cell Phone

There are plenty of sites that review and compare prepaid cell phones based on benefits and costs. As far as I can tell, there isn't any one cell phone that is particularly better than another. So, I decided to be unscientific and let google queries decide. I reviewed Tracfone, Virgin Mobile, T-mobile, and Cingular. (In the table below [company] means I inserted the name of the company. The number in the table indicates the number of hits.)


TracfoneVirgin MobileT-mobile PrepaidCingular PrepaidWinner
[company]rocks21,100134,00090,30034,100Virgin Mobile
[company]sucks4,0604,86075261Cingular Prepaid
[company]is a chick magnet43253871,200Cingular Prepaid
[company]attracts hotties23213T-mobile Prepaid
[company]attracts alligators0011Tracfone / Virgin Mobile
[company]caused my breakup11594745Tracfone
[company]caused my hernia1632Tracfone


The safest prepaid cell phone choice appears to be Tracfone, with 3 points. The other phones have similar numbers of points, and are reviewed in depth below.

By Company
Tracfone: A safe choice, least likely to attract alligators and cause medical problems. However, if you are looking for love, this isn't the phone for you. It rated lowest in attracting the opposite sex. However, if you do find love, you are less likely to break up.

virgin Mobile: This company rocks. Single men, take note, it is also the second best for attracting women. However, you might not keep your love long since it rates highest for causing breakups. It also doesn't attract alligators, a plus if visiting Florida or the zoo. On the downside, it is most likely to cause a hernia; if you own one, don't do much heavy lifting.

T-mobile Prepaid: Single ladies, this is the phone for you. It is most likely to attract hotties. It also might attract alligators, so watch yourselves. It is solidly in the middle in the other categories.

Cingular Prepaid: Ladies, this phone attracts the gentlemen and is least likely to suck. It may attract alligators, so be careful.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Pasta with hearty lentil and spinach sauce

I checked out "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" from the library before I bought it. We've tried a few recipes. The two best are the yogurt biscuits (using yogurt instead of shortening) and the pasta with hearty lentil and spinach sauce. I was the only one who would eat the cream of baby carrot soup. The other things we tried were spoon bread, a curry soup, and chocolate oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were ok, but not worth making again.

The pasta recipe is really good, although I did cheat and use spaghetti sauce flavored with meat. It is a lot like a warm pasta salad. I used shell noodles for the pasta and the lentils got inside them, making them look like oysters with pearls in them. I got a kick out of that.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Upgrading my web hosting

I've finally decided to upgrade my webhosting so that I'm not using the lame URL masking. I'm hoping that will make google like me more too :) I moved all my files up yesterday and everything seems to be working.

Check out my "new" webpage at