Around the web 24Jul2009

  • [Failblog] Creepy bear is creepy.
  • [Autoblog] One off “Dearborn Doll” Mustang has one worthy styling element: The rear wing.  I’m a big fan of the color contrast to the body (orange) and even the internal contrast (black stripe).
  • [Flowing Data] Venn diagram explains perfect business.
  • [Boy Genius Report] “It’s that we took 10 leaps forward with the Hero but took 12 back. With every brilliant addition HTC made, the device suffered a little bit in terms of performance.” – Another fairly damning review of the Hero.

Pardon the dust

After using WordPress to create a campaign website and then a campaign blog, I’m a total convert.   Sorry, Blogger, but I’m moving everything immediately.

Cable cleanup!

Spurred by the addition of a lovely Blu-ray player from my lovely girlfriend, I decided to finally clean up the rats nest behind my entertainment center:

Using about 40 velcro cable ties, I was able to reduce the 37-wire rat nest into this simple arrangement:

I’d be able to get rid of 14 of those wires if I went to HDMI. I can’t afford a new receiver just yet.

Beautiful sentiment from Hemingway:

Could you say something of this process? When do you work? Do you keep to a strict schedule?

When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and you know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

I love Craigslist but I abhor their search and categories

Craigslist is a bastion of depravity and deals, home of the creep and the cheap…  I’ve sold quite a few items on CL, mostly items that would be prohibitive to ship and thus I wouldn’t want to put on eBay.  I’ve sold mostly furniture and gave away a few things like a queen bed frame.  Selling items is easy, especially if the buyer can use keywords properly.   If someone is looking for an IKEA dining table, using “IKEA dining table” as your search terms would bring up perfect results.  The problem hits when you are searching for something without clear-cut keywords.

My example would be my current search for an inexpensive road bike.  Sure, CL has a “Bicycles” section.  Sure, I can set a maximum price of $400.  Sure, I can only pull up results with a picture.  Beyond that, my hands are tied.  What terms do I use to narrow the results?  Right now, that search brings up 855 results.  I’m looking for a road bike, so what happens if I add “road” to the search?  I’m down to a manageable 98 results but I have LOST potential bikes.  The most basic of posts would just say “Cheap bike – $40” and boom, I wouldn’t see that bike.  
How would I fix that problem?  Since I’m only looking for bikes that have pictures, an image view for the results would be handy.   I can quickly determine if the result is a BMX, mountain, cruiser or road bike.   CL could also use categories, but most sellers would be too lazy to categorize properly.  Having “bikes” versus “bike parts” would help tremendously though.  Another solution would be the proper use of negative keywords so I could explicitly exclude the bike types I do not want.  CL seems to only support a few of these keywords otherwise a “-mountain -BMX -kid -kids -women -womens -cruiser” search would work just fine.
The second issue is sizing.  Some people use the proper frame sizing in their listing, others give a random dimension or even state the height of the person they believe the bike would fit.  If you search for  “56”, results that list “56cm” would not come up.  Again, this is a seller issue, not a CL issue.
Third-parties have provided solutions, but CL blocks almost every single one.  Yahoo Pipes had amazing results for CL searches, but BAM blocked.  CL is not making money off these searches, but come on.  They are basically just taking their ball and going home.  They could easily partner up with a service like Pipes, having those search results also link to their for-fee services.  
I’m just frustrated and want a cheap bike.

Learn to love your car again

Is your car losing that new-car smell/feel/taste?  Are you simply bored with it?  Have you lost appreciation for the subtle nuances simply because you drive it every day?  I have a great way to learn to love your car again.  Drive something worse for at least a few hundred miles.  That’s all it takes!

While in Paris, we decided to rent a car and go bomb around the countryside.  We visited numerous chateaus, putted around quaint towns and circled about 60% of Paris.  Renting through Europcar, we were graced with a fairly-new (~6,000km on the odo) petrol Peugeot 206 5-door.   Some highlights:
  • 75 horsepower!
  • 0-60 in just under 15 seconds!
  • 44 MPG!
Filling up in Europe is deceptively expensive.   “Oh, hey, somewhat over a euro per liter, under four liters per gallon, not terrible!”   This is sort of like the “Roughly how many piano repairmen are in Chicago?” type problem; estimates here and there can compound how far off you are from the true total.   After driving about an hour and a half, the refueling bill was about $70 USD.  This is for a sub-compact!   I looked a less-efficient cars in awe for the rest of the trip.  I saw a GTO a day after my return to the States and thought to myself  “That car gets 16 MPG; my equivalent fuel bill would have been almost $200!”
When I slipped behind the wheel of my car, everything was right with the world.  The clutch wasn’t a hilariously-light affair with a three-inch engagement point.  The steering wasn’t so light that I felt as if I was steering with a soggy baguette ring.   The engine could accelerate!   Acceleration is banned in France.   I like accelerating.   I really did enjoy the shifter in the 206.  The 6-speed Getrag in my car is getting a bit notchy at only 50,000 miles.  
My car is nowhere close the the optimal configuration for automotive enjoyment.  It’s an open-diff, nose-heavy FWD with a funky rear suspension (Ford ControlBlade).  If I was coming home to a mid-engine RWD vehicle, my appreciation would be that much greater.

Mystery Meat UI in Blender

As a certified masochist, I’m trying to teach myself the basics of 3D modeling. Blender has quite the large userbase and it’s free so that seemed like a good place to start.

I’m trying to follow the various online tutorials and while comprehensive, they are occasionally tough to follow. Most are based on older versions of Blender so some of the functions are different. The biggest flaw is not in the tutorial specifically, but the explanations of some of the odd windowing concepts of Blender itself. For example, this tutorial has a great explanation of all the various settings you can tweak on the User Preferences panel. The issue? It doesn’t explain how to GET to this panel! You need to find out on a different page that you need to “click and drag the area between the 3D window and menu header”. What? They have basically put the preferences panel ABOVE the menu bar, hidden by default. You have to drag the menu bar down to find it.

This is impossible to find unless you read the documentation. This is silly:

Adobe Help, you’re on notice!

Adobe Help, especially for Flash CS3, is invaluable. I have learned Flash much faster due to the quality of examples and organization. Unfortunately, some of the help articles can be hundreds of pages and Adobe has decided not to hook up Page Up or Page Down. What? No, it’s not a case of the wrong window having focus. I can use the up and down arrows to move a bit. Even weirder, pgup, pgdn work on the Help table of contents!

Hey Apple, what’s wrong with Backspace?

Navigating in iTunes, you’d think they would use Backspace to navigate backwards. It’s used in almost every application that has a concept of “backwards”. What does iTunes use instead:

“Go to the previous page in the iTunes Store Control-Left bracket ( [ ) “

Yep, it’s so easy to ctrl-[ my way around!