Monday, August 29, 2005

It's a beautiful thing...

So, I just checked the wikibook article I added to the other day and found that it has already been expounded upon. Most of my stuff was left in tact, but another user has talked about the benefits of Morse code, and how specifically you would handle a multiple choice test.

It's nice to be part of something so grand.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


The uncyclopedia article of the day. Lederhosen.

And for months I've thought about what my first input might be to wikipedia. What piece of informational nugget might I grace the world with? I had grand plans but things went awry when I came across the wikibook entitled, "A guide to cheating during tests and examinations". The temptation was too great. I added my own two cents when I realized that nothing had been submitted under the heading "Application of Codes". I don't know if my entry will stick. I don't even know if the book will be there much longer, but you can read here while it lasts.

And in case it gets pulled down, for the record, this was my first input to the glorious collaborative effort of wikipedia:

Application of codes

Prior to an examination, you can establish a code with a smarter classmate. A cough might mean, "What is the answer to question 1?" And a sneeze in reply might mean, "The Boston Tea Party". The biggest problem with codes is the number of bodily functions that can be performed during an examination are limited. Essay tests can prove to be particularly tricky, while multiple choice tests are much better suited for the 'code' approach.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Google IM

Nice review of Skype and Google Talk. I'm using Google talk and find it to be nice and easy.

The only downside I see to both Skype and Google Talk is you are limited to chatting with one person at a time. I understand that it might be a technical requirement when you actually talk with somebody, but I often chat with 3 or more folks online. I'm keeping MSN messenger around for that purpose.

Google Talk is integrated with my g-mail which makes things nice and handy.


I posted recently about open textbooks on the wikipedia site. There were a couple of books that looked interesting, but I wonder if this one will last for very long.

A book like this could come in handy...

Why don't we settle?

My 1 year old is at the stage that always amazes me. Or rather he is at ONE of the stages that always amazes me.

The little guy is an expert crawler. He can either crawl on his hands and knees, or his hands and feet if he is on something rough like cement or broken glass. He is very quick. If I drop a chocolate chip in the kitchen, he hears it from the other room and there is a 'tot tot tot tot' as he comes roaring into the room to retrieve his prize.

He has also just started walking. His walking is horrible. He takes two steps, then goes down in a blaze of glory. He lands on his rear, his face, his side, or his gut. He just isn't that good at it.

So the part that amazes me is that he keeps trying. He already has a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation. He is good at it. Why try to learn something new?

I don't have the answer, but it doesn't stop after walking. The human race is always trying to find new 'ways', even when the old ways seem to work just fine. We weren't happy with walking, we had to capture animals and ride them. Then we had to build machines for the animals to haul. Then we got tired of shoveling animal droppings, so we got rid of the animals and just went with the machines. Then we looked up at the birds and though, "That's not fair", and the next thing you know we're up in the sky and beyond.

I guess according to the theory of evolution, you can't ever sit on your haunches and decide that 'this' is good enough. You've got to be moving forward, ever forward, or you're left behind.

So, sore bottoms notwithstanding, I'm sure within a week's time, my little guy will have given up the knees, and moved to the feet. One step forward on the road to a better way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's all in the eye of the beholder...

Some are calling this a disaster. A security robot attacks the Japanese Prime Minister. Apparently it threw up a smoke screen right after meeting the PM.

Politicians, smoke screens... It somehow seems perfectly rational to me.

Monday, August 22, 2005

VR Therapy

Video game developers have moved into a new field. VR therapy allows Doctors to help "combatants cope with the personal psychological effects of war".

This is a photo of the highest jump ever by a human being. It was done back in the 60s as part of the space program. An interesting article on the story can be found here. He jumped at an altitude of over 100,000 feet above the earth (if you convert that to meters, it's a lot of meters too...). He was technically in the vacuum of space.

This guy broke the speed of sound, with his body, he was going so fast.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Bit of Sunday Poemtry

I started reading Shel Silverstone to my son when he was barely old enough to talk. He could never understand why a single verse was called a poem, and a collection of poems was called Poetry. So he always called it poemtry, and somehow the name has stuck...

Anyway, I've been reading the Spoon River Anthology (that can be found here in its entirety) and came across this verse;

Conrad Siever

NOT in that wasted garden
Where bodies are drawn into grass
That feeds no flocks, and into evergreens
That bear no fruit—
There where along the shaded walks 5
Vain sighs are heard,
And vainer dreams are dreamed
Of close communion with departed souls—
But here under the apple tree
I loved and watched and pruned 10
With gnarled hands
In the long, long years;
Here under the roots of this northern-spy
To move in the chemic change and circle of life,
Into the soil and into the flesh of the tree, 15
And into the living epitaphs
Of redder apples!

For some reason, that verse strikes my fancy.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What won't they think of next?

Looks like Wikipedia now has text books?

Open Application List

This is a nice list of some of the open, free and reliable programs availbale out there. While I can't vouch for all of them (I haven't used some, and don't like a few on the list), I do us use many of them. Those that I do use (and vouch for) include; Firefox, Sharpreader, skype, google toolbar, iTunes, Audacity, Picasa, Gimp, Quicktime, and Open Office.

Yet Another Function of Google Maps

Google maps have been 'hacked' (I'm using that word in the original sense, meaning a cool way to do something, instead of the media twisted sense meaning a malicious prank) in yet another cool way. You can now track from where people are visiting your blog. You don't have to give any information out, not even your e-mail. It's quite nice. I registered this blog a few days ago and just got my first European hit.

One interesting thing is that my brother, serving in Iraq, visits my site, and yet it does not show up as coming from Iraq. He thinks that he may be one of the East Coast sites because of the way the military routes their communications.

Anyway, another application and demonstration of the beauty of openness.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Do you Yahoo?

Maybe you should Google instead. Yahoo claims to search more than 20 billion 'web items', to Google's measly 8.1 billion. However, when compared side to side... "a user can expect, on average, to receive 166.9% more results using the Google search engine than the Yahoo! search engine."

Cross Your Fingers

iPodders everywhere are crossing their fingers. It looks like NPR may make more of their programs available online as podcasts. I'm a big fan of many programs on NPR, but if they're not on when I'm in the car (which, granted, is becoming more and more frequent), I just don't listen to them.

The Final Frontier

Having grown up on Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and others, I found this article interesting.

The authors lament the fact that the exciting ideas that came from those authors, ideas about long-distance space exploration, colonies on the moon and mars, etc. are not being realized.

From the article:

"Without taking anything away from the astronauts, the biggest accomplishments of the Discovery mission were that a) it came back; and b) an astronaut pulled bits of cloth out from between tiles.

Maybe Real Time 2030 will fret about how our college kids do little more than steal full-res holographic porn when they're not getting their financial identities stolen by cyber-jihadists eager to build more backpack nukes.

A common theme of those dog-eared, much-loved paperbacks was that the Earth of the future was the dull place, a decadent dead end reserved for the poor, the defective and the luckless. (Think "Blade Runner" with its promise of a new life awaiting you in the off-world colonies.) In fact, we remember flipping ahead irritably to see when the characters' dull visits to Earth would end and they'd get back on the spaceships where they belonged. It never occurred to us that the parts we wanted to skip would be the only parts we'd get to live."

It's a good article.

Friday, August 12, 2005


After reading this article, I'm afraid to even forward an e-mail to somebody else for fear of copyright violation. With the revolutionary changes in technology, can't an argument be made that maybe a revolutionary change in the copyright laws might be in order?

It makes Dvorak's comments about how Creative Commons is unnecessary all the more silly.


So, I got a royalty check in the mail from Covenant today. I finally learned how many copies of my book have been purchased...

It's kind of an eye opener. Covenant initially published 5000 books, and have sold over 3000 of the first printing.

I came into this whole book publishing thing pretty naive to the whole process. It's actually been quite the education. One of the most interesting things I have found has been how my book has sold in Deseret Book, verses Seagull Book and Tape.

I have been tracking DB sales and to date, the entire chain has sold 225 books. I don't know what is normal, but I was pretty sure that those numbers were pretty pathetic. However, as I did book signings at the Seagull stores, I found that they were selling quite a bit better. Now that I've got the 'official number' it's clear that Deseret Book has sold less than 10 percent of the total number.

Why the difference? Isn't it true that if you write a good book people will buy it? Ha ha, that is what I thought. What it actually comes down to is how you sell it. DB takes my book and puts in on the shelf, spine out. SB takes my book and makes a pretty display, right up front. They have me come in and sign copies. Covenant sends 'demo' copies to the Seagull employees so that they read the book before it hits the shelves, then they can tell customers about it.

So in other words, SB has been pushing my book, and DB hasn't.

The long and short of it is that I still don't know if I wrote a good book or not. :) It sells well, but only when people in the stores are saying, "pssst, buddie. Wanna buy a book?" Who knows what will happen when SB moves my book to the back shelf to make room for other new books.

There are two ways for me to sell more books. One is that I can take copies of my book and start pushing them on people. I can hold little Amway meetings at my house, call my friends and family, push, push, push...

That's not going to happen.

The second way is for me to write a sequel. Then I 'earn' a right to have another book put out on the front display. Customers will come in, see the book, maybe recognize the name, and ask the clerk about it. The clerks will then say, "Oh, this is a sequel, it's very good (they will have to say that because they are pushing it, and there is a display), and over here we have the first book in the series..."

I'd like that to happen, but I have writers block like you wouldn't believe (especially if you've made it this far into this long blog post). Who knows if the second book will ever see the light of day? I've got work, teaching, school... Oh yeah, and four kids.

So, it has been a fun little ride, and it may keep going. The highlight for me is when I think that 3000 people have picked up a copy of my book, read a bit about my life, and maybe even chuckled over it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Whipper Snappers

Funny story over at wired. A high school thought it would be a good idea to get all their students laptops. They put filters and monitoring software on them, but of course the kids found ways around these limitations and did horrible, unspeakable things. Like download iChat.

The long and short of it is that educators, unable to stop the kids from 'breaking the rules', called in the cops.

In order for the kids to get around the barriers that educators set up, they needed to know the password. How did they crack it? From the article:

"...the password was taped to the backs of the computers."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ipod, Itunes, and Podcasting

So, have you ever made a large purchase, then been the victim of buyer's remorse? You say to yourself, "What was I thinking?"

Well, I recently purchased an iPod and I'm pleased to say I have no such feelings. I love it. It has become my little travel buddy between Ogden and Logan, comforting me with music, photos, and especially podcasts.

I thought about reviewing the iPod, but I'm quite certain that I am the last living person to buy the little device, so I won't bother.

What I will review are a few of the podcasts I've been listening to. I'll keep it brief since I know you have the rest of the Internet to get around to viewing (when you get to this page, it's time to stop).


Free Talk Live - 4 stars. I've only listened to a few episodes, and while politically they are right up my alley, they too often come across as raving, perpetual whiners. There may be a time for enpassioned speach, but usually clear, brief, logical statements do a better job.

Ebert and Roeper - 5 Stars. Yes, THE Ebert and Roeper. This is what a podcast should be like! It's 20 minutes long. It's to the point. Nothing wrong with these bad boys. You can subscribe through the iTunes service.

Open Source - 4.5 Stars. This is another great podcast. The only 'downside' is the fact that they take calls. I'm all for experts getting to the point, and a friendly discussion, but often when callers start coming in it just gets a bit tedious. If you want audience participation, set up a discussion board. Open Source is an hour long.

Quirks and Quarks - 5 Stars. I've only listened to a few, but another great podcast. 20 minutes long, interesting topics. Very nice podcast.

TWiT - 4.5 Stars. Great podcast. The only reason this didn't get 5 stars is because it's a mite long, and it has John C. Dvorak, AKA The Troll. I've blogged about him before.

Skepticality - 2 stars. This is a popular blog, but I find it tedious. If they boiled it down to 20 minutes it would be very interesting. I also don't much care for the personalities.

Science Friday - 4.5 stars. NPR on your iPod. That sends shivers up my spine just typing it.

Diggnation - 3 stars. Interesting topics, but childish personalities.

Ok, that is enough for now...

Make Those Spammers Pay...

It looks like Microsoft just won a suit against a spammer. 7 million dollars, to be exact.

I heard that Bill Gates is going to use the money to send people to Disneyland. All you have to do is forward this blog to Bill Gates. Or something like that...

Sunday, August 07, 2005


I wrote a short story a while ago, hoping that I could turn it into a script for a machinima movie, using Counter-Strike as my 'camera'. Maybe I will someday, but for those not familiar with the beauties of machinima, this is a great introductory article.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Several months ago I wrote about a group of MIT students who created a random paper generator and then submitted it to a conference. It was quite the joke when they were accepted. Well, they received a few donations, went to the conference, and presented their paper. And, as promised, captured the whole thing on video. You can view it here.

More Booksignings...

Just when I thought I was done!

I just found out I am going to be doing a book signing at education week. I'll be at the BYU bookstore on August 16 from 2pm-4pm, and then at the South Orem Seagull Book Store on August 18th, from 5:30-7:30.


So I've known about snipes for a long time, but just recently heard about Skype.

Since I now work in a different county from where I live, and don't have a cell phone, there is no way to communicate with the homestead. We've been using MSN when we need to, and although I can chat with the best of them (sometime I need to write an essay about all of the wonderful possibilities that the chat medium affords humor). But hey, chatting is chatting. I can't talk to the kids. Actually the oldest can type, but it usually consists of him asking for links to movies.

Anyway, I heard about Skype, download it, and in about 45 seconds my wife and I were chatting. It is easy to use, and although you can only talk to somebody else who has Skype (unless you want to pay), it's a wonderful, wonderful thing.

So, if anybody else out there wants to get it, throw me on your list of buddies and Skype me anytime you want.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What am I supposed to do with the stickers?

So, I did something today I've never done before. Ever.

I bought an apple product.

It's not that I avoid Macs. Or hate them. Or love Windows machines. It's that I'm lazy. I grew up using a PC, I know all the shortcuts, I'm comfortable with them. It would be painful for me to switch to a mac.

Anyway, I don't think I've mentioned that I got a new job, and one of the perks is that I spend two hours a day in a car. Now I enjoy NPR, a few news stations, and every once in a while I'll catch a song I recognize (sometimes I even like the song!), but it's getting old. And what with podcasting now available on iTunes, and all of the time...

Long story short, I am the new father of an iPod.

I'm just installing software and syncing up songs now. I will blather on later about how much I like/hate the device.

Oh, and I have these two apple stickers. What am I supposed to do with them? I can't likely put them on my dell, I'm sure that will cause all sorts of problems with Windows.

Maybe I'll sell them on e-bay.

Monday, August 01, 2005


What do you say when this happens? A man spends almost 20 years in prison, is denied parole because he won't confess to the crime, and then we discover that it in fact wasn't him that did it.

Seriously, what do you say? "Sorry about that... Boy is our face red."

Somehow that doesn't seem to cut it. How do you make up for 19 years of a man's life? How do you make it up to him, how do you make it up to his kids?


My cousin told me yesterday that my book, Chickens in the Headlights, was used in his Sunday school lesson at church. I had to laugh, and then ask, 'what could they possibly have used my book for? He told me the topic was Doctrine and Covenants section 123. I read the first line in the introduction which says, "The saints should collect and publish an account of their sufferings and persecutions."

My book is about life with 7 boys under the age of 10. There is plenty of suffering and persecution. It's been collected and recorded, though I don't think we were necessarily saints.

I guess I can see the connection.

Can't Top That

I may as well drop out of my doctoral program. My younger brother has upstaged me. He has written his masters thesis, a feat for which he should be applauded. And I do applaud him. But what is even cooler, in my opinion, is the fact that he used the word 'fart' in his dissertation. Impressive, no? What makes it even more impressive is the fact that he goes to school at BYU. That is right, a dissertation at BYU using the word fart.

I know I can't make a claim like this without proof, so you can see the dissertation here. It's on page 12. *Edited to clarify* (Page 1 of the dissertation, but page 12 of the pdf document).