Older blog entries for BenFrantzDale (starting at number 43)

My friend who'd been in Iraq is now back. Him being on the left cost and me being East means I havn't gotten stories yet, but I've heard his voice, which is very good.

I was in Boston yesterday. It's a really cool city; I miss living around there. I got to see my brother's appartment and such, as well as visit tmrc.

I've been thinking, we are told “drive defensively”. I think a more appropriate motto would be “drive decisively”. I have no data to back this up; it's just a theory. Still, would you rather be on the road with someone going 90 but using their blinker to change lanes, or with someone going 60 in the middle lane with their left blinker on? Similarly, enterance ramps are for getting up to speed to merge. I suspect it is much safer to get up to speed and perhaps have to break to enter traffic than it is to stop for a gap in traffic.

After commenting to Snapfish that they didn't do as well as Shuttefly with a print (mentioned in an earlier diary entry), they said it was a fluke and that I should try again. I did, but with the same results. The pine tree is grass-green and there are chromatic issues around small details. Shutterfly continues to do well, plus it ships faster and integrates with Gallery.

I've started reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Having always seen it as a self-help book, a genre I've had a poorly-grounded distaste for, I was a bit aprehensive. However so far the ideas it expresses are sitting well with me. It does have it's down-sides. In particular it was written in 1987, so the words it helped to popularize like “proactive” and “paradigm shift” seem a bit dated now. Still, it appears to be a good book so far.

I have found many parallels between Seven Habits and Fight Club, particularly with regard to the “human sacrafice” scene in Fight Club. I'll have to re-read and re-watch Fight Club. It just keeps getting better. :-)

I saw 13 Conversations About the Same Thing. It was reasonably good and reminded me of Magnolia in some ways.

After way too much looking around (I was on vacation), I decided to get a Samsung SPH-A460 with Sprint. Unlimited Sprint-to-Sprint was the clincher in the end, although they make you pay $5/month extra for that if you don't get a two-year contract.

I took several pictures through the airplain window of Arazona and New Mexico on the way home. (The pictures aren't online at the moment.) They turned out pretty grey at first, between the window grime and the haze, but using The GIMP to stretch out the value range all the way made for a vivid print. The histogram tool makes it easy to see how much you can adjust to get the full dynamic range.

With regard to printing digital pictures, Shutterfly continues to out-do Snapfish. I ordered from Shutterfly on Wednesday night. The pictures shipped around noon on Thursday and got here today. I ordered from Snapfish on Thursday night and the order just shipped tonight. This is just one datapoint, but Shutterfly has been winning every time.

23 May 2003 (updated 23 May 2003 at 07:25 UTC) »

I spent the evening looking for cell phones. Again.

I was realizing that the crux of the problem is that, unlike most purchase decisions, cell phone packages are high-dimensional. Consider the monthly payments, the number of anytime minutes, the coverage, reception, and service quality. Then there's the phone. Not all phones work on all networks. Not all phones have the same cool features. The same phone on different networks costs different amounts. Yuck.

All this prevents me, I think, from being able to apply my fundamental rule of purchacing: “If I were an expert in the field, would I buy this?” (BTW: That rule works wonders to avoid Sharper Image catalogs and other trendy gadgets. I may write some more on this topic later.)

I wish there were a good way to display some of this information so I could actually think about it rationally.

It does look like Amazon is a good place to get cell phones, though, particularly if you want to go with T-Mobile.

I'm finding that it's suprisingly easy to get used to a 28.8 modem again. Scary.

I learned today that, as I suspected, the process Ritz uses to develop normal print film is now all digital. That is to say your print is a third-, not a second-generation print. I don't really mind now that I'm just shooting digital, but it seems pretty deceptive to me for them to switch the process on people without telling them. If I bring in film to print I want a copy of it, not a copy of a copy of it. The artifacts are pretty clear if you look closely, particularly the quality of the noise in regions with very-high or very-low spacial frequency.

I just graduated college. Wow. I'm now looking for a place in Santa Monica so I can work for 3i, a company doing digital microscopy. There I'll be doing “graphics programing and algorithm development”. It should be fun.

Amazon recently had a deal: $175 for a 1GB CompactFlash card. Now I have crazy amounts of storage on my camera. (Did you know that Compact flash is exactly as thin as a floppy disk?)

I got The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint by Edward Tufte. It's a bit of a rant, but it has a very good point. It basically says of PowerPoint: “the emperor is naked; projecting a series of bullets onto a screen is no substitute for a good speach.” Take the 6×6 rule for making slides: “6 lines of text, 6 words per line.” Tufte gives this quote from a 1950s book to show just how trite 6×6 is:

Jane said, “Here is a ball.
See this blue ball, Sally.
Do you want this ball?”

Sally said, “I want my ball.
My ball is yellow.
It is a big, pretty ball.”

Giving a real talk as opposed to a 6×6×n PowerPoint talk is a high order. I'll see what I can do. My research presentation used PowerPoint (Prosper, actually) only to show a title screen and to show pictures. That's a good start, I guess.

I've been looking for a cell phone. Between seeing what's available with that and my digicam, I must say, technology is amazingly cool.

I saw this sign at PHL on the way home. I can't decide if this piece of art was intentional, but it is the most profound piece I've ever seen in an airport.

I finally figured out how to get a LaTeX table of contents to look the way I want, with no dot leaders and with the page numbers just to the right of the section titles.

  \ifnum \c@tocdepth >-2\relax
    \addvspace{2.25em \@plus\p@}%
      \parindent \z@ \rightskip \@pnumwidth
      \parfillskip -\@pnumwidth
       \large \bfseries #1~~\hb@xt@\@pnumwidth{\hss #2}\hfill}\par
  \ifnum \c@tocdepth >\m@ne
    \vskip 1.0em \@plus\p@
      \parindent \z@ \rightskip \@pnumwidth
      \parfillskip -\@pnumwidth
      \leavevmode \bfseries
      \hskip -\leftskip
      \mbox{#1}\nobreak\nobreak\hb@xt@\@pnumwidth{\hss #2}\par

\setcounter{tocdepth}{1} % Only show sections and higher \def\@tocline#1#2#3#4#5{% \ifnum #1>\c@tocdepth \else \vskip \z@ \@plus.2\p@ {\leftskip #2\relax \rightskip \@tocrmarg \parfillskip -\rightskip \parindent #2\relax\@afterindenttrue \interlinepenalty\@M \leavevmode \@tempdima #3\relax \advance\leftskip \@tempdima \null\nobreak\hskip -\leftskip \mbox{#4}~~#5\hfill \hfill\par}% \fi} \makeatother

I've accepted “blog” into my vocabulary. I used to think it was dumb, but it's a lost cause. It clearly means what it means.

I helped a Linux newbie yesterday. That's always fun.

I wish OpenGL supported anisotropic mipmapping.

It appears that while MySQL can change column types easily (date to timestamp, for example), in PostgreSQL it's not a one-liner.

BuddyZoo is quite a cool idea.

I went to a talk today Jonathan Kozol. If you havn't read any of his books I highly recomend them. he is a major player in the cause for improving public education for children of low-income families.

A funny picture from someone on Slashdot.

I finally installed spamassassin. My email address survived pretty well for two years, but I've started to get 5 or more emails per day now.

In the spamassassin docs it mentions that you can use your old email addresses as a source for spam. This makes me wonder if distributed spam-finding systems involve disseminating email addresses for spammers to find. Has this been done?

15 Apr 2003 (updated 15 Apr 2003 at 07:29 UTC) »

I learned about tsort today. It's a UNIX utility that takes as input partial orderings and returns sorted output. This can be used to determine if a directed graph has cycles since it prints to STDERR if it finds one.

It would be nice if /dev/null/* could be written to. For example echo "foo" > /dev/null/foo gives an error, but really, why should it? (In that same discussion the facetious idea for subdirectories of /dev/random came up. For example /dev/random/even, /dev/random/prime, and /dev/random/gaussian.)

I recently found a new use for my digital camera. I was hiking in a park in Portland and needed a map. There were no paper maps available, just one big plywood one. One snap later and I had a great 4MP map of the park ready for me to zoom in and scroll around on.

It would be really cool if digital cameras could digitally sign the pictures they take. I'm not sure how feasable this is to do securely since the private key for the camera would have to live in some form on the camera. Even if hardware modifications would be needed to extract the key, that would probably be enough for most use if the camera were tamper-evident.

This might improve the admissability of digital photos in the courtroom. It might also make it easy for editors to avoid the recent LA Times photo that was doctored. For photojournalists one would probably want a wrapper format that included the full, signed image, along with cropping and color correction information.

I'm quite impressed with MichaelCrawford's Living with Schizoaffective Disorder article. I have had some experience around someone who was mentally ill; seeing someone smart and rational discuss these issues publicly is a great step towards destigmatizing this class of illness.

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