Monday, October 08, 2007

New Digs

For those of you who haven't seen the new blog yet, you can find it at The title is "Daddyhood and a Doctorate," and it focuses on (you guessed it!) impending daddyhood while pursuing a doctorate. Enjoy!


Monday, April 09, 2007

Irony is Beautiful

I really hope this screenshot is readable because it is dripping with hysterical irony.

Abstinence Feels Good offers links to two different Florida-based abstinence education programs that offer such helpful advice like the "Freaky Fact of the Month." On the Hillsborough page, there's a poll that asks, "When should someone be sexually active?" One of the options is--and I am dead serious--"Never."

I just have no words...

Friday, March 30, 2007

On 10,000 and 300

This week, I hit the 10,000 mile mark with my beloved Prius. Let me repeat that a little more clearly: I have driven 10,000 miles in the 4 months I have owned this car. Egad. If I keep this pace up, I will break 100,000 miles in the 3-4 year time frame. That is simply insane.

Looking back on the 10,000 miles, I love my car. It's comfortable, roomy, and it has some cool features, like the video screen where I can keep track of my mileage average. And that brings me to a quick point of discussion for the car.

When I tell people that I get an average of probably 45 mpg with it, they seem shocked. After all, the commercials say 60 mpg. However, the 60 mpg rating is for city driving, while 99% of the driving that I do is highway miles. The highway rating is 51 mpg, so I'm not far off. In fact, I could get 51 mpg if I drove 55 mph. But instead, I drive 75 or 65, depending on what part of my commute I'm on. Also, I've noticed that the weather affects the mileage. During the cold streak a few weeks ago, I was getting about 42-43 mpg. Now, I'm up in the 47-48 range. To make a long story short, based on my experience with the Prius, I do not believe that the mileage numbers are as inaccurate as some news stories suggest.

Another question that people ask is how much money I have saved in gas. That's a pretty easy calculation to make. Averaging 45 mpg over 10,000 miles means that I have used 222 gallons of gas. I'm not sure what the average price of gas was over that time, but I would say that $2.30 is probably not far off. That means I have spent $510.60 in gas since getting my Prius.

As a means of comparison, I used to have a Honda Accord. It was the 4-cylinder model, which meant it was very fuel-efficient, as far as non-hybrids go. I was getting somewhere between 25-30 mpg. I would say 27 would be a good average. Over 10,000 miles that would be 370 gallons, for a total cost of $851.

Thus, in four months, I have saved $340.40, which comes to $85 a month. That yields a 40% savings in gas costs alone. And that's when compared to a vehicle that is already very good with gas.

Net result: I love my car.

Full disclosure: There was a recent report that claimed the Hummer was greener than the Prius when you consider the total cost over the course of the lifetime of the vehicle. As with any report, you must look at the assumptions made. For starters, they calculated the estimated total lifetime on the Hummer was over 300,000 miles, while the total lifetime on the Prius was 109,000. In fact, the ~100,000 figure is Toyota's estimate of how long the hybrid battery would last, not the car itself. To date, no hybrid battery has had to be replaced, despite the fact that there are stories of Prius owners putting well over 200,000 miles on their vehicles. However, even if the battery did need to be replaced at 100,000 miles, does CNW believe that replacing the battery requires replacing the car? There are other problems with the report, as well, but let me just say this: Bad assumptions = bad science = good press.

So that was the 10,000 portion, now let me move on to 300. If you are not familiar, 300 is inspired by the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans led a small army of Greeks (estimated at 7,000), using the natural terrain of a narrow pass, held off the invading Persian army (estimated at 200,000) for three days while other Greeks to assemble their forces. In the end, a local resident betrayed the Greeks and told the Persians of another path, which the Persians used to attack the Greeks from both sides. The Spartans and an additional 700 Greeks fought to the end, while the rest were sent away. The battle was crucial in the Greco-Persian War, which was eventually won by the Greeks. This marked the beginning of the Golden Age of Greece.

The movie 300 is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. For those who have seen the commercials, you can tell that the movie remains true to its roots. Watching the movie is like seeing a graphic novel come to life. And the result is fantastic.

Let me state clearly that this is not intended to be a movie with Oscar caliber acting. In fact, the characters were all fairly trite cariacatures. You had the valiant king nobly fighting for his country, the invading tyrant, the scheming politician, the pitiful hunchback, etc. However, that was not what this movie was about. This movie was a masterpiece of visual imagery, plain and simple. The vibrant red of blood splattering contrasts with the brooding, lifeless, gothic, background of the landscape.

If you enjoy genres that bend the rules of reality in favor of visual effect, you MUST see this movie. The battles are violent, but beautifully done. The costume designs are as elaborate and exaggerated as any that you will find in a graphic novel. For instance, you can compare the ornate piercings of Xerxes with the simple robe of Leonidas.

300 was brutal and unapologetic in its orgy of violence. And it was magnificent.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Idiotic Patent

I thought I had seen some very useless patents before, but this one really takes the cake. Someone applied to patent the linked list in 2002, and it was awarded in 2006. For non-geeks, a linked list is one of the simplest data structures that computer science students learn. A class in data structures is one of the first classes CS students take. Linked lists are the very first thing you learn about. As you can see from the WikiPedia page, they were first developed in the '50s. So why on earth is someone getting a patent for "inventing" a variation of it 50 years later?!? I've read through the text of the patent, and the variation is pretty trivial. This is why we geeks like to scream for patent reform...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thriller on YouTube

The wife and I stumbled across some funny stuff on YouTube a little bit ago. So here they are, three versions of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." First, the original:

I had to post that one because Brianne had actually never seen the video. Of course, considering how young she was when it came out, I guess that's understandable. However, the real reasons for this post are these two funny versions. First, someone recreated it (including the big dance scene), with Legos!!

The one that really made us laugh, though, was this last video. It's not the music to Thriller, but it is someone from India doing a variation on the dance. This had us rolling!

OK, time to end this. It's almost midnight on a Saturday night and we're both on our laptops. But at least I'm not reading about acrocentric chromosomes and centromeres!! :-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

First Letter to the Purdue Paper

I picked up the Purdue Exponent for the first time the other day and found some of the typical hot-button topics on the opinion page. In particular, there was a letter that stated (among other things):

Marriage is a religious institution first. Every major religion has some variant of it. It just so happens that for reasons of inheritance, taxes and custody, the government keeps a tab on it. Let's just keep in mind that real marriage is a religious thing.

The "marriage" found in government hardly rises above the level of other government controlled entities. For instance, to get a driver's license you must meet a certain set of criteria[...] Few would call their license a "right." To call the legal status of "marriage" provided by the government a human right is probably giving it a little too much credit.

Here is my response:

Steven O'Keefe's letter regarding the gay marriage debate was perhaps the most arrogant and flawed argument regarding the topic that I have read. In Mr. O'Keefe's words, “real marriage is a religious thing.” According to his letter, since every major religion has a form of marriage, then every marriage must be religious. This argument assumes the converse of the original statement, which is logically unsound.

Mr. O'Keefe also inaptly compares civil marriage to a driver's license, which requires demonstration of ability and knowledge concerning driving. What unique skills must one show to get a marriage license? None.

Even more to the point, why does Mr. O'Keefe think he can be the arbiter regarding what qualifies as a “real marriage?” I have friends who were married by a justice of the peace in a secular ceremony. Would Mr. O'Keefe argue for denying them civil recognition since their marriage is not religious and, therefore, not real? I consider my own marriage to be an emotional, moral, and loving union, not a religious one. Mr. O'Keefe has absolutely no right to speak about what my marriage is and is not.

The point is that marriage means different things to different people. My Unitarian Universalist church performs religious marriage for gays and lesbians. The fact that federal and state governments decide which of these marriages qualify as authentic seems to be an encroachment of our right to freely exercise our religion.

Civil marriage offers many protections that help to strengthen a couple's bond. Denying these benefits to same-sex couples implies that their relationships are not worth preserving. Mr. O'Keefe needs to realize that his edict that all real marriages must be religious is inaccurate, arrogant, and very insulting to this married, spiritual person.

As a side note, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the quality of writing in the Purdue paper. From what I've seen, both IU's and Michigan State's papers were better.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Hiatus and an Update

So, my lovely wife pointed out that I need to update my blog because I haven't done so in almost two months. Considering I've gone through a week of finals, a move from MI to Ft. Wayne, a move from Ft. Wayne to Zionsville, a minor surgery (with some pretty nasty recovery time), a lot of work to get the house settled, settling into a new school (with an hour commute), and a ton of reading for wireless mesh networks, OS, algorithms, C, and data structures, I think the hiatus was rather called for. :-) That was a lot of work just listing all of those things.

Now that I'm here and looking at my class load, I must admit that I do feel slightly overwhelmed. There is a definite difference between grad classes here than at my old school. Prereqs for MSU grad courses were essentially optional. The grad material was either completely different (e.g., the advanced OS course focused on algorithms for distributed systems instead of actually OS material), or the grad class covered the undergrad and grad material (e.g., my hellish AI class that had about a 1200 page reading assignment). At Purdue, the profs assume that you have actually taken the prereqs or are comfortable with the material. So my algorithms professor is not covering basic algorithms material (e.g., sorting, data structures, basic analysis, etc.), and my OS professor expects that we have a solid foundation of C and assembly language to start writing low-level constructs right away. It's fun and exciting, but it's going to be damn challenging.

In addition to those classes, I'm a TA for the undergrad course in data structures. That was one of the courses at IU that I definitely liked due to the mathematical nature of the material. I'm also working with my advisor on a research project. To get started, I'm looking into something called wireless mesh networks. It's pretty new stuff, so there's a lot of work to do.

Having said all that, I need to get on the road since my office hour is over. I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to post again, but now you understand why!