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August 28th, 2014

05:25 am - Don't worry geek boys, there are lots of geek girls out there
When I was in my early teens I was a complete nerd.  Almost all my time was spent in front of a computer or video game console.  One aspect of that was that I was taunted and ridiculed by my peers since I didn’t fit in.  The classmates that didn’t actively ridicule me ignored me.  As a result I despaired of ever getting into a relationship with a girl I was attracted too.  I couldn’t even get the time of day from the attractive and popular girls in my class.  In the end that turned out not to be a problem.  But when I was 14 I had no idea that it would ever change.

Not too long ago my own teen-age son expressed similar concerns.  He’s in advanced placement in school, he’s highly intelligent, is into video-games, comic books, roll-playing games, and trading-card-games.  In other words he’s also a nerd.  While talking one day he mentioned that he didn’t think sexy girls would be interested in someone like him.

I was able to help him and I think sharing this could help other boys out there since I’m pretty sure there are a lot of teen boys that have felt the same way my son and I felt.

What I shared with him can be summed up in one word:  Cosplay

If you think sexy girls aren’t into geeky or nerdy things than take a look at these cosplayers.  Keep in mind that all of these young women think enough of these characters to hand make these costumes and go to science fiction and gaming conventions wearing them.

Take a look at this young woman doing a cosplay of Vanille from the video game Final Fantasy XIII:

Your into comic books, how about Harley Quinn from the Batman series:

How can a trading-card-game be sexy?  How about this cosplay of Liliana Vess from the game Magic the Gathering.


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02:49 am - Why a De-Centralized Economy is Unfeasible
A person I know online asked me to watch a YouTube video where some post-grad student with no practical experience with the world was talking about how important it is to de-centralize our economy.  For the most part he was talking about food resources, but he emphasized over and over that the same plan could be put in place for almost every industry (picking out car making in particular).

The overall idea to eliminate the huge costs involved in transporting good from where they are produced to where they are used.  This is not an insignificant cost.  With some goods the cost of transportation can consist of as much as 90% of the end cost of providing the goods to market.

There is one simple fact that he completely ignored in his lecture, it only works if raw-resources are evenly distributed.   It makes the foolish assumption that all the different kind of foods you might want can be grown locally. He did admit that there would be some few things that wouldn’t be available based on location, but they would be limited and most of them aren’t critical.

Let me show you how much of an idiot this guy is.

Examples of things that would be impossible in a de-centralized economy:

Produce and Goods Based on Produce:
I live in Minnesota.  Here is a short list of produce and goods based on produce that cannot be grown out doors in Minnesota.  Yes, they can all be grown in-doors.  However, to produce those in sufficient quantity for commercial use would require more energy (and money) to maintain an appropriate indoor climate for them than to ship them from places where they will grow without climate control.

·         Pineapples
·         Bananas
·         Red-wine
·         Citrus fruit (which could lead to an out-brake of scurvy)
·         Tequila
·         Pomegranate
·         Olives (and olive oil)
·         Vanilla bean orchid (hope you don’t like anything with vanilla in it)
·         Cocoa beans (people won’t mind giving up chocolate)

Gallium for Electronics
There is a material called gallium that is essential for electronic manufacture.  It is used in semi-conductor production for making things like lasers, integrated circuits, diodes, and transistors.  In other words, if it uses electricity it probably has tiny amounts of gallium in it.   In fact, if you are reading this you are in the process of using a gallium containing electronic device.  Since those involved in promoting a de-centralized economy also tend to promote green power usage, they should know that without gallium it’s impossible to make solar panels or LED light bulbs.

The most abundant source of gallium is bauxite (aluminum ore).  The availability of bauxite and other gallium containing ores is minimal in the United States.  In fact its availability is so small that the U.S. doesn’t have any industry level production of purified gallium.  We buy almost all of our gallium from over-seas sources (there is a limited U.S. production from recycling of electronic devices).

With a de-centralized economy there would be no electronics production in the U.S., and based on the concepts of a de-centralized economy no electronics.  That also means no modern manufacturing, and would basically set the entire U.S. back to the early 1900s in terms of technology.  All because we consider shipping gallium from the parts of the world that have abundant resources of it a waist.

Iron & Steel:
For those that don’t live in Minnesota (or Michigan) I hope you don’t want anything made out of iron or steel.  97% of usable ore produced in the U.S. comes from Minnesota and Michigan.  Florida has no ability to produce iron ore at all, it simply doesn’t exist in their geology.  I don’t think I need to list the things that you’ll have to give up without access to iron and steel.  I’m pretty sure none of us wants to go back to the Stone Age.

Centralized Economy and Trade

The result of one group of people having an abundance of one resource, and others having an abundance of another is trade.  I arrange to have my iron brought to you in Florida and you send your oranges to me.

However, Florida and Minnesota are awfully far apart and there are lots of other places that need my iron and your oranges.  Also, just because they need my iron doesn’t mean they have anything I need.  So instead we sell our iron and you sell your oranges to people in Chicago, and those people in turn sells the iron and oranges to people that need them.  We then use the money they paid us to buy all the things we need.

Welcome to a centralized economy.

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August 10th, 2014

09:39 pm - Why I bought a Wii U instead of the Xbox One
There is no doubt that the Xbox One beats the Wii U in several critical video game areas.  Graphics, processor speed, storage, and quite a few other areas.  So why pick the Wii U.

Price:  The Wii U is $100 less, and it comes with the camera and microphone unit, which costs an additional $100 on the Xbox one.

Family Fun:  As a whole Xbox One doesn’t have a lot of games designed around having several people in the same room all interacting together.  The Wii U (like it’s predecessor) has many games designed around family interaction.

Space:  The Kinect is a space hog.  It requires a relatively large amount of space directly in front of your TV to be clear, and requires that you be able to stand about 8 to 12 feet away from it.  I don’t think my living room is event 12 feet wide.  The Wii U space requirements are minimal.

Movement Capture:  In my experience the ability of the Kinect to track movement is hit or miss.  Things like the color of cloths you are wearing, what lights are turned on, and even what time of day it is (sun coming in windows) greatly affect the Kinect’s ability to track movement.  On the other had the Wii U uses a proven and effective accelerator technology.

Franchise:  This very much depends on what games you like.  The Xbox gets games from franchises like Halo and Fable, and the Wii U getting franchises like Zelda and Super Mario.  But I’ve never thought Halo was as great as most people do (campaigns that can be completed in 6 hours are a rip-off) and Fable 2 was just lame.  On the other hand, I have been a diehard Zelda fan since I bought my 8-bit NES with my news paper route money.

Backward Compatibility:  This is the BIG one.  The Wii U is backward compatible with our Wii hardware (controllers including the balance board), and games (including downloadable content).  On the other hand the Xbox One can’t play Xbox 360 games, or uses Xbox 360 controllers.  This means that you can count on an initial investment for the Xbox One being at least an additional $200 more to get extra controllers and games.  Bringing the total initial investment for the Xbox One up to around $700, while the Wii U is still at $300.

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September 19th, 2011

05:56 am - Oldest rocks in the U.S. in our back yard
Ok, not quite in our back yard, but at least the same state.

This weekend we were watching Eureka and the episode in question metioned several times that the town didn't get Earth quakes.  Since they mentioned in was in Oragon in several episodes and because I'm a disaster freak, I knew this was wrong.  All the Pacific states are at a high risk, including Oragon and I mentioned this.  Little-J then said, well of course, no place is safe from Earth quakes.

So I told him there were places in the world where Earth quakes are all but unkown.  He asked where and I pointed out Minnesota.  The bedrock of most of MN is iron impregnated granite (they don't call it the iron range for no reason).  It's hard, it's solid, and it's deep.  As far as Earth quake danger, we're the lowest risk in the U.S., with no recorded history of quakes over a 5 magnitude and only 2 recorded over a magntude 4 (5 could crack the plaster in a wall, 4 feels like a large heavy truck is driving by your house).  

The conversation made me decide to do some research on the subject, and one of the things I found out is that this reagoin is a lot more seismically stable than even I know.  It turns out that the geology of MN is some of the oldest in the world dating back 3.8 billion years (plus or minus a hundred million years).  The rock outcroppings at Granite Falls MN are the oldest exposed rocks in the U.S.

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September 16th, 2011

06:51 am - Why People Believe Weird Things
I'm currently reading Why People Belive Weirrd Things by Michael Shermer.  As a whole it's a very enjoyable read, and I totally agree with the base line phelosophy of the book.  The idea that humans are inharently programed to believe, but are not inharently programed to be skeptical.  I also firmly believe that to truely understand the world around us skepticism is required.  However, I find some of his arguments down right foolish, and some of his statistical analysis to be seriously lacking.  He has a nasty habbit of ignoring the background of beliefes.

One example of his foolishness:  "Shouldn't we know by now that ghosts cannot exist unless the laws of science are faulty or incomplete?"  Yep, I do know that.  I also know that the laws of science are indeed incomplete.

Another is a poll of supposedly foolish things people believe amoungst which are:  Witches, The lost continent of Atlantis and Noah's flood

Ok, I know several people that would self identify as witches.  So, witches do indeed exist.

The lost continent of Atlantis is likely a volcanic island in the medatraining.  The archilogical remnants indicate that before the island was distroyed it was home to a culture that was at the cutting edge of technilogical advancement for the era.  And Noah's flood was almost certainly a story based on the orriginal flooding of the dead sea.  I don't believe in every detail of these stories, but I do believe they were based on real events.  And my belief is based on scientific information (NOVA did great documenteries on both). But I could say the same thing for the Apollo moon landings.  I firmly believe they happened, but I don't nessasarely believe every detail of the "offical" history of them.

I'm sure as I read on I will find many more examples of this kind.  But to me it doesn't really take away from the core message.  Be skeptical, do not believe because you are told to, believe because you have a reason to.

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August 18th, 2011

09:28 pm - Gotta love the fine print
So recently we signed up to use Comcast cable internet service.  To put it bluntly USI Wireless was simply too unstable.  The fact that several dozen times a day we'd loose connection to the internet for any where from a second or two up to 20 minutes.  Was simply too big a problem to deal with.  Especially since I occationally work from home.

On the plus side with Comcast our speeds have increased dramatically. With USI Wireless I was on 3Mb download connection package (that rarely got higher than 1.5Mb), on Comcast we're getting around 19Mb download.  Our upload has gone from 500Kb to around 2Mb.

So far stability also looks good.  In the week we've been using it we've had fewer disconnects than we had in any single day with USI Wireless.  Also, all the diconnects have been less than 2 seconds.  We wouldn't  have noticed them if I hadn't been running software to trake connection stability.

However, just today I found out that we have a maximum data transfer per month of 250Gb.  I'm sure this was listed some where in their agreements, but I don't ever remember seeing it.  In all reality, this would normally be more than enought.  However, it just so happens that I started the "first time" backup after upgrading to Windows 7 using BackBlaze a couple days before we switched providers.  In the last week it's uploaded 175Gb of data from my PC to my BackBlaze account, and it still has 190Gb to go.  For the entire rest of the month we only have 75Gb of transfer, and I'm not at all sure that's going to cover things.

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August 12th, 2011

05:22 am - Windows Firewall: I HATE IT!

Back in XP a new feature design flaw was added to Windows to help protect users from them selves, Windows Firewall.  The basic purpose of any firewall is to the network, and how they have access to it.  In theory this is a great security feature, in practice it's a royal pain in the ass.
In XP it wasn't to big a problem.  The firewall was turned off by default, and most people never turned it on.

In the newer versions of Windows it's a complete a source of major problems.  It's turned on by default, and it's almost impossible to predict how it will work.

  1. A couple of months ago my teenage son tried to log into his Blizzard Battle.net account to play Starcraft II, and it wouldn't authenticate him.  After much fussing and a call to Blizzard tech support we found out it was the Firewall and turned it off.  All of a sudden he could connect again.  What was really strange is that 2 weeks before he could connect without a problem.  At some point the firewall decided all on it's own that it should start blocking the out going ports used by Starcraft II.
  2. Today while setting up an application server and a database server, I all of a sudden couldn't connect to the database engine.  All the settings were correct, and I'd tested them several times earlier in the day, and everything was working.  Then all of a sudden I started getting messages saying the SQL Server wasn't running.  Checking the DB server everything seemed fine, the database was there and running.  Back on the other system, still getting errors.  The firewall on the server running the database had decided all on it's own to block incoming connections on the ports used by SQL Server.  Once the firewall was turned off everything connected fine.
What really pisses me off is that there is NO GOOD REASON for this software.  The reality is that software firewalls are not and never have been an effective method of protecting a system.  That's because the software firewall is setup and controlled by the same computer the malicious software is running on.  That means the malicious software has access to the controls of the firewall, and can let it's self through.

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July 19th, 2011

04:03 am - Clive IA Shoot
 This last weekend I worked the fireworks shoot for the Clive Festival in Clive IA.

On the up side of this shoot, I got to "push the button" on the 1 minute teaser shoot we did on Friday night.  So when it came time to shoot I was the one actually firing the shells at the control panel.  This is the first time I've done that for a professional shoot.

On the down side it was HOT!  95+ degrees with 80+% humidity.  The heat index on Saturday when we were setting up was something like 110.  To say we were all miserable during setup would be an understatement.  By the end of setup I'd pushed myself as far as I could get away with.  I was feeling dizzy and nauseous and ended up having to sit in the truck with the AC on for a while.  I was sooo happy to get back to the hotel and get into the shower.

At the festival they had the worlds coolest slip and slide.  

Yes, they are wetting down the slide by spraying water on it from a fire truck hose.

Unfortunately it was so hot out side that walking back up to my hotel room (3rd floor, out-door stairs) to change into a swim suite, walking back down and over to the slide, and then back to the hotel after sounded like too much work.

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July 6th, 2011

11:54 pm - What a weekend
800 miles of ridding in the cab of a truck, around 5 miles walking, and 3,500lbs of fireworks fired off in a total of 50 minutes.

I want to start by saying that we had two fantastic crews this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how big a difference it makes to be able to have 100% confidence in the people you’re working with.

Friday - Travel to Waterford WiCollapse )
Saturday – Setup and shoot at WaterfordCollapse )
Sunday – Travel and setup at BoscobelCollapse )
Monday – More setup and shoot at BoscobelCollapse )
Tuesday – Travel back homeCollapse )

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June 21st, 2011

10:10 pm - Watching a show on animal intelligence
Some dolphin trainers give the dolphins a two piece command (using sign language), first piece "create" second is "trick". The dolphins dive under water, "talk" (the have under water mics so you can hear their clicks and whistles) to each other for several minutes, then come to the surface, and start swimming around on their back's together. They were never taught to swim around on their back as a command.

So not only did they understand they were supposed to do something they were not taught to do as a trick. They worked cooperatively together so they would both do the same trick.

I must say I'm very impressed.

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