Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tenzing the Cat has Smacked Katrina the Cat Once Too Often

That's one pissed-off kitty.

The Mom Song

First, imagine these lyrics sung -- at full speed, mind you -- to the William Tell Overture.

Now realize that you needn't imagine it. (She isn't exactly the world's finest vocalist. For me, that's what makes this video. That and the entire audience bouncing to its feet, roaring, the moment she finishes.)

Get up now
Get up now
Get up out of bed
Wash your face
Brush your teeth
Comb your sleepyhead
Here's your clothes and your shoes
Hear the words I said
Get up now! Get up and make your bed
Are you hot? Are you cold?
Are you wearing that?
Where's your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and gloves and your scarf and hat
Don't forget! You gotta feed the cat
Eat your breakfast, the experts tell us it's the most important meal of all
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at 3 today
Don't forget your piano lesson is this afternoon so you must play
Don't shovel
Chew slowly
But hurry
The bus is here
Be careful
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside, don't play rough, will you just play fair?
Be polite, make a friend, don't forget to share
Work it out, wait your turn, never take a dare
Get along! Don't make me come down there
Clean your room, fold your clothes, put your stuff away
Make your bed, do it now, do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn? Would you like some hay?
Can you even hear a word I say?
Answer the phone! Get off the phone!
Don't sit so close, turn it down, no texting at the table
No more computer time tonight!
Your iPod's my iPod if you don't listen up
Where are you going and with whom and what time do you think you're coming
Saying thank you, please, excuse me makes you welcome everywhere you roam
You'll appreciate my wisdom someday when you're older and you're grown
Can't wait till you have a couple little children of your own
You'll thank me for the counsel I gave you so willingly
But right now I thank you not to roll your eyes at me
Close your mouth when you chew, would appreciate
Take a bite maybe two of the stuff you hate
Use your fork, do not burp or I'll set you straight
Eat the food I put upon your plate
Get an A, get the door, don't get smart with me
Get a grip, get in here, I'll count to three
Get a job, get a life, get a PHD
Get a dose of,
"I don't care who started it!
You're grounded until you're 36"
Get your story straight and tell the truth for once, for heaven's sake
And if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump, too?
If I've said it once, I've said at least a thousand times before
That you're too old to act this way
It must be your father's DNA
Look at me when I am talking
Stand up straighter when you walk
A place for everything and everything must be in place
Stop crying or I'll give you something real to cry about
Brush your teeth, wash your face, put your PJs on
Get in bed, get up here, say a prayer with mom
Don't forget, I love you
And tomorrow we will do this all again because a mom's work never ends
You don't need the reason why
Because, because, because, because
I said so, I said so, I said so, I said so
I'm the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom!!
Ta da!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jaron Lanier to Geeks: Grow Up

I'm being a little unfair here. But the patron saint of virtual reality just published an op-ed in the NY Times excoriating the everything-is-free Internet culture. He points out that eventually, those creating the content ought to get paid for their work, and that advertising is not likely to pay the freight.

And yes, he closes the piece with "We need to grow up."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Evoluent Keyboard and Mouse: Good On 'Em

I am chagrined to discover that it was so long ago that Evoluent LLC sent me their products for review (way back in May of 2006): The "Mouse-Friendly Keyboard" and "Vertical Mouse 2" (they've since gone on to the Vertical Mouse 3, pictured at right).

The reason I feel embarrassed is that these are really good products, and I wish I'd told you all so a year and a half ago. I found them innovative relief for the ergonomic problems posed by the standard keyboard/mouse setup, and well executed into the bargain.

The keyboard flies in the face of convention. It's small, for one thing, in an era of ever-more-enormous competitors. (Microsoft: "If It's The Size Of An Aircraft Carrier, It's Got To Be Good." I mean, honestly!) Small is good, wasting less desk space and not forcing your fingers to stretch anywhere. Oddly, for a keyboard claiming ergonomic chops, the Evoluent is perfectly rectilinear (which helps keep the size down). But the real idiosyncrasy is the key layout. The numeric keypad is on the left side.


Wait, it's not as insane as it sounds. For one thing, with your home-row fingers centered naturally in front of the monitor, the keyboard extends only a few centimeters to the right, so your right hand only has to twitch to be on your mouse. Less reaching, less stress, less delay. For another, with a bit of retraining you can turn off Num Lock and use the cursor-control keys on the keypad -- there's the full Home/End/PgUp/PgDown set -- with the left hand while you mouse with the right. The control keys are duplicated on the right side too, although they're dribbled somewhat willy-nilly around the perimeter. There's the row of by-now-de-rigeur dedicated special-purpose keys across the top (myself, I never use 'em, but YMMV).

The keyboard is quite flat, but has a completely delightful feel: Short travel so you can really rip, with that elusive perfect combination of soft touch but positive tactile feedback. I rarely press a key by mistake, yet my fingers don't get tired or sore as they do with my standard 'board (I have Microsoft Naturals on both my Mac and my Lin+Win boxen).

My only real complaint with the keyboard is that I gave it away before I'd completely retrained on it, so when I sit down at the Finn's machine I have to hunt for those repositioned cursor-control keys. (His need was greater than mine; what's a hacker to do when your partner is going carpal?)

As for the Vertical Mouse, it's a honey. Conventional mice make you flatten your wrist parallel to the desktop in order to grip them. It's not painful, but if you work your hand around to find its most comfortable position, you'll find that the least strain is when the thumb points about 25 deg. inward of vertical. And, surprise surprise, this is exactly how your hand falls upon the Vertical Mouse. There are a total of five buttons: Three in the standard positions (OK, they're on the side instead of the top, but your hand grips that way so you know what I mean), a clicky-wheel in the junction of the forefinger and middle buttons, and one on the other side, just above where your thumb rests. The current model (3) appears to have a more sculptured shape that looks to be even more comfy, but I haven't tried it; the 2 model is still available as well.

Despite the unusual hand position, it took all of 15 seconds before I was pointing without having to think about it. The high-res optical sensor works flawlessly, and the buttons have that same quality feel as the keyboard. The wheel on the model I tested does not have a detent, but rather scrolls smoothly; they changed that for model 3. If you're using Windows, Evoluent supplies drivers that allow you to program the 5 buttons (I really like mapping one to double-click and one to the Back browser function); the mouse works fine in 2-button mode on a Mac, and Evoluent gives links to freeware drivers that enable programmability. For Linux, Evoluent says that multiple buttons are available with recent versions of XFree out of the box.

Mind you, I'm a trackball guy myself. I gave up mice when I started having repetitive-motion stress problems in my wrist and forearm. So I'm a pretty tough sell for a mouse. I can tell you that if I had to give up my old Logitech trackball, I'd be getting a Vertical Mouse to replace it -- it's the only thing I've tried that gives anything close to the same level of comfort. The reason I chose the Logitech and Microsoft models that I did was the hand position: Tilted, like on the Vertical Mouse. (The old discontinued enormous-ball Logitech is much better than the Microsoft, BTW; current Logitechs don't compare at all).

Overall, this pair is pretty hard to beat. My only quibbles with the keyboard were the flat rectangular shape and the need to make my decades-entrenched habits conform to a new layout. Programmers have a much higher navigation/text entry ratio that standard typists, so having to hunt even a hundred milliseconds for a cursor key is much more disruptive for programming than writing (I know, 'cause I do both). Since the latter is a necessary consequence of the left-hand-control and adjacent-mouse features, I don't ding Evoluent for it. Pays your money and makes your choice, sez I, and it is possible to accustom yourself. The Finn is even older than me, and he has adapted without complaint. In fact he was sufficiently happy that he sold one of our professors on the setup, so we're pretty darned Evoluent around Soil Science these days.

And the Vertical Mouse is just a joy. Ten minutes with it and you'll grumble every time you twist your arm to feet a conventional mouse.

One caveat to this setup, however: If you work on multiple computers, think before you pop for these unless you can adapt readily (or unless you can afford to outfit them all). Although I love Apple keyboards, I use a Microsoft on my home AMD box as well as my University Mac just so I don't drive myself batty changing over.

The keyboard lists for $42 (sadly, you can no longer get the purple color shown above, they're all silver/black now). The Model 2 mouse is still available (in both left- and right-hand editions) listing for $80 ($70 if you want black-on-black), and the 3 lists for the same price (sorry, righties only for that one).

These days, keyboards and mice are so cheap they're practically disposable, so Evoluent's price tag might come as a bit of a shocker. If you spend a significant proportion of your life tied to a keyboard and mouse, though, cheap tools are very definitely false economy, and you will never regret the good ones. Now let's see, if I can get this one back from the Finn, I only have to buy another one for home...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


There's an Apple iPhone commercial out with a little story from a supposed flight crew member, who evades a takeoff delay by checking the weather on his iPhone.

Apparently a passenger tried to do the same thing recently, and got put in his place with consummate style by the flight crew. I sure hope it's true.

Story here.

Well done "Cat Speech" clip on YouTube

Panic In The Sceptred Isle

From The Register (who else?). Perhaps one should point out to the boys that the "crap weather" likely is the result of global warming...

Beer set to hit four quid a pint

Stuff global warming, this is serious

Booze industry experts have issued a chilling warning that the British pint could hit £4 a pop - a price hike provoked by crap weather which has forced up the price of hops.…

Monday, November 19, 2007

Airborne Again

Just went flying yesterday for the first time since my little tete-a-tete with a parking lot last month. I am delighted to report that Redbird treated me with kindness and sympathy, and pulled no fast ones. Cardinals do not have a wide reputation as very forgiving airplanes, I dunno if that's just a complete crock or if we got the sweetheart of the bunch, but she has always been very patient with me.

Little by little. One step at a time. (I hope I get a couple weeks of "fully recovered" before senility really kicks in.)

Man, it's good to be back!

Hey, It's Julie Singing the Ninth!

Our own Julie S. was recently in Germany for a big international sing-out of Beethoven's Ninth.

I have no idea what they're saying in this German news clip about the thing, but if you look fast you can spot her. That's her in the lower right of the frame about 0:25 in, just before they pan down to the pair of blondes.

Julie said that the American and Iranian contingents exchanged apologies for their respective Big Honchos. How much violence would the world save, I wonder, if we could just give more people the opportunity to tell their counterparts "Geez, we're not all like that. Really!"

I never got to do that when I was a grad student.

I guess, never having been admitted, technically I never was a grad student. I just took all the fun grad-level comp sci courses because the Systems Lab, where I worked, also ran the enrollment system. I suppose they figured that they'd never keep the labbies from hacking it, so why not make a virtue out a necessity and let them insert themselves into whatever they want? (The Lab was also where I learned the useful phrase "went into hunker-down mode" to describe relationships with vendors.)

Heck of a perk, those classes, for which I am duly grateful. Probably would have bagged a recommendation that would have let me into graduate school if I hadn't been in quite so far over my head. It all came crashing down when I vaporized 105 student and faculty accounts two weeks before finals, but that's a story for another day. Let's just say that I've still retain the skepticism -- nay, paranoia -- about backups that I acquired that night.

Just because your backup procedure reports no errors does not mean that your tuchis is covered. Mine ran without complaint for a month and a half -- without writing a thing to the tape. Oops.

By The Way, It's Not Too Late To Order Armor Of God PJs

They may be designed to help kids get to sleep without worrying, but I gotta tell ya, they still scare the bejesus out of me.

Not to mention any thoughtful person in the Islamic world.

Shameless Plug: My Talk This Spring at SD West

If you're at the Software Development West 2008 conference, why not drop by?

Idiomatic Ruby

If you happened to be at my intro-to-Ruby talk last year, I have sad news: Conference director Tami has not, in fact, bought me a new laptop, despite a number of evaluation comments requesting that she do so.

On the other hand she did let me have a food fight with her exceedingly adorable toddler, so I guess I'm well out in front on the deal.

My Favorite Campaign Ad So Far

I know, I know, I say that I never watch them. I don't -- on TV. But my sister sent me this one, and it's delightful.

OK, it's for Mike Huckabee. Still. I'm delighted to report that there's a Neolithic abolish-the-IRS reactionary with a sense of humor, or at least with a campaign staff who possesses one.

Some Guys Just Don't Get No Respect

Poor schnook tried to sign up for Facebook and got dissed by its captchas. Ouch.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Not Just You

CNN reports that yes, there really is a high and growing proportion of idiot drivers. They base this conclusion on the results of a written test administered by GMAC Insurance; about a quarter of drivers on the road, if their sample extrapolates, would flunk the written. What to do when the traffic light turns yellow was the single biggest error.

They also rank the results by state. Frighteningly, Wisconsin is #4, which means that other states have to be truly terrifying. I mean, really!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More Hilarious Video

You know, I'm not a smart, sassy, beautiful woman, so I can't claim to know how they think or feel.

On the other hand, I do live with one. And when we get to flingin' the banter back and forth, a putdown from her can be almost this devastating.

Janet didn't laugh until the final half-second, then she just pealed. And said, "How many takes do you think they had to do to get the timing that perfect?"

Thanks for the vid to Warren, whose dual status as my friend and a fellow former SD columnist is a source of great pride to me!

Striking Writers on Viacom and Getting Paid

As Jonathan Schwarz says (Tom Tomorrow's blog), "If I were Viacom, it would be worth a lot of money to me to get them to stop making fun of me this effectively".

Hilarious YouTube vid

Moral of the story: Don't **** with writers. Especially not ones who write satire for a living.

You Know Those Secure Email Services? Ha!

Don't bet on it, Bunky. (From Bruce Schneier's blog). Hushmail was compelled to give up some of its customers' email; they were using a Web app interface, so their passwords were briefly snatchable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coke Might Come Out Your Nose

If you read this with a drink in your hand, and wind up with foam shooting from your nostrils...don't say I didn't warn you. Chris Bucholz, via John Scalzi.

A Modest Challenge To Your Mentation

If you can listen to this and not go "HUH?" at least once, Mensa needs you.

Or perhaps Mendota.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Beautiful Visualizations of U.S. Air Traffic

Oh, very cool! Researchers parsed FAA traffic data into various sorts of static and animated visualizations. The results are doubtless interesting to the data geeks, but they're just out-and-out lovely.