New House, New Flash

February 7, 2009

Well we made the big move from apartment to house.  We got all our stuff moved last weekend and have been working to get everything unpacked, so everything is a mess and I can’t find anything.  It is nice to be in a real house again, we have a yard, space for a garden, and a garage.  But most important of all, God has promised not to destroy our house with a flood.

No Flood

RainbowWhile neither of those are exactly out house, they are the ones across the street and ours is the same layout as the one on the corner.

I also got a new fancy flash for my birthday.  I haven’t had a chance to use it much but so far I am quite happy with it.  Personally I hate using a regular flash indoors I think it looks washed out and terrible, this has lead me to try and shoot without a flash.  This works ok if you have image stabilization, a little better with a very fast lens (if you can afford one), but it still struggles if people are moving around.  I am hoping with this I will finally be able to get good indoor shots.  The top photo is with the camera flash, the bottom photos is with the new flash bounced off of the car ceiling.  Even in this setting where the old flash looks ok, the new one is still much better.

Old Flash

New Flash


November 18, 2008

I decided to uninstall Visual Studio 2008 from my work computer today to try and fix a problem I was having.  Logically I went to the Add or Remove Programs control panel and selected Visual Studio 2008 and hit uninstall.  After about 15 minutes the uninstall completed and I noticed there were many other programs listed that were related to Visual Studio 2008 that hadn’t been removed.  I did a google search to figure out which to remove and found the official instructions on how to remove Visual Studio 2008.  From Microsoft’s website:

Manual uninstall instructions

  1. Go to the Control Panel and launch Add/Remove Programs
  2. Remove all instances of Visual Studio 2008/Codename Orcas products
  3. Remove any remaining supporting products in the specified order.
    1. Remove “MSDN Library for Visual Studio 2008”
    2. Remove “Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5”
    3. Remove “Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5 Design Tools”
    4. Remove “Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5 for Devices”
    5. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio Performance Collection Tools”
    6. Remove “Windows Mobile 5.0 SDK R2 for Pocket PC”
    7. Remove “Windows Mobile 5.0 SDK R2 for Smartphone”
    8. Remove “Crystal Reports 2007”
    9. Remove “Visual Studio Asset System”
    10. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio Web Authoring Component / Microsoft Web Designer Tools”
    11. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System Runtime”
    12. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System Runtime Language Pack” (non-English editions only)
    13. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office Runtime 3.0”
    14. Remove “Microsoft Document Explorer”
    15. Remove “Microsoft Document Explorer 2005 Language Pack” (non-English editions only)
    16. Remove “Microsoft Device Emulator 3.0”
    17. Remove “Microsoft .NET Compact Framework 3.5”
    18. Remove “Microsoft .NET Compact Framework 2.0 SP1”
    19. Remove “.NET Framework 2.0 SDK”
    20. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio Codename Orcas Remote Debugger”
    21. Remove “Microsoft Visual Studio 64bit Prerequisites Beta” (64-bit platforms only)
    22. Remove “Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5”

22!! I kid you not, 22 seperate “programs” to uninstall to get rid of this beast!  They also provide a handy .exe you can download that will do it all for you but you have to go to their website to get it.  WTF did the one that I ran do?  Conveniently removed 1/22 of the installed product.  Who designs this stuff?

Race to the Bottom, Part 2

October 30, 2008

There are two great clips I found from the daily show relating to my previous post.  The first makes fun of both parties, the second is just McCain bashing.  To be fair I do think the McCain campaign deserves more criticism on this one.  I think Colbert said it well, “if you want a transformational figure…endorse John McCain, this campaign has transformed him into everything he hated!”.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

link to “Daily Show – Rallies of Fear“, posted with vodpod

Vodpod videos no longer available.

link to “Daily Show – 10,000 McCainiacs“, posted with vodpod

Race to the Bottom

October 24, 2008

I have been following the election fairly closely this year and if nothing else it has been interesting.   I think both candidates are normally fairly respectable and not your usually slimy politician.  Going into the election I would have thought we might get some respectful discussion about the plans each candidate has if they were elected. While we have had a little of that we have also had a lot of idiotic name calling.  Does it really matter that John McCain has a bunch of houses or that Obama’s middle name is Hussein?  Obama does not hate America and “pal around with terrorists” and McCain is not a senile old man.  To suggest so is dim witted and extremely insulting.  It says that we the American people are not intelligent enough to decide based on the different tax and economic strategies or the ideas on diplomacy, so instead we will vote for the one with fewer houses or the one who’s name doesn’t rhyme with Osama.  It is pandering to base emotions and the least intelligent of voters, and terrifyingly it appears to work.

It is understandable that at the political rallies the crazies and idiots (extreme left and right respectively) will come out and say stupid things, but what is wrong with calling them on it and having them removed from the crowd?  To his credit John McCain has done this he defended Obama’s character from his own supporters and got booed for his efforts.  For me that speaks more to the character of John McCain then anything else I have seen and I don’t know why it hasn’t received more coverage in the media.  He should be applauded for it and Obama should be challenged to behave similarly.  However, at the final debate with everything pre-planned he said he was proud of the people that come to his rallies.  To me this says the real John McCain is an honest and intelligent person, the scripted PC John McCain is shamelessly trying to claim the crazy vote.

Another troubling trend is the popularity of the “common man” political figure, politicians who cultivate an image of a “normal” person just like me (I’m looking at you Bush and Palin).  People apparently like someone that seems like the neighbor from down the street with “small town values”, whatever that is.  Why having a folksy accent would help convince some voters and attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world would discourage some voters is totally beyond me.  I don’t want someone just like me to be running the country, I want someone much more intelligent than me!

For once I would like a candidate to treat me like an adult tell me that we are going to have to raise taxes and cut programs to realistically balance the budget.  If the budget can’t be balanced in 1 year show a plan to do it in 4.  Pie in the sky tax cuts, no major program changes, and a budget surplus sound nice but so does a 3 day work week, I’m not holding my breath.  The only politician I know that has done this is, not suprisingly, not a real politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He presents a responsible balanced budget with contains program cuts and raised taxes and the result was a deadlocked legislature for 85 days.

I plan on voteing for the candidate I think we reduce the deficit the most, ironically right now this appears to be the Democrat.  I’m not sure when fiscal responsability left the Republicans (ok it was Regan) but until it returns I will be looking for greener pastures.

Particles Called Protons

September 10, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) started up today and it was a success.  I saw the the story come up this morning and headed over to the BBC to read what was going on.  The article greeted me with this great sentence “They have now fired two beams of particles called protons around the 27km-long tunnel” (emphasis added).  Really?  Who doesn’t know a proton is some sort of particle?  Did they think someone would think, “protons, those are beach balls right?”

If you haven’t read about it, it is a really amazing project.  While the physicist in me thinks this is spectacular I can’t help wondering, how did they get someone to pay for this?  It cost £4.5bn, that is $8.9 billion with a B, US dollars.  Not exactly pocket change.

They still haven’t collided any particles called protons yet, so the predictions of creating a massive black hole that eats the earth still might come true.  I’m not to worried, mostly because I don’t think it would be that easy to destroy a planet.  Everyone knows that you need a moon sized machine to destroy a planet, not a measly 27km ring.


August 23, 2008
New Computer

Well the pictures pretty much says it all, my new computer is enormous and I like it.  This is the first Mac I have had since I started buying my own computers, this is also probably the first time I could afford one.  It is a lot to get used to and so far it is about a dead heat between PCs and the Mac:

Mac PC
Networking and File Sharing Actually Work! Games Actually Work
Nicely Designed and Quiet Maximize Button Maximizes the Window
Plays DVDs Out of the Box ??

Ok well I guess the Mac is winning by a little bit, which is a good thing as it is brand new.

Color Blind

August 21, 2008

I was reading about my favorite elected official Kwame (his mother is up for re-election) and found out she was president of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).  This sounded interesting so I was off to wikipedia to read more.  Turns out it is exactly what is sounds like, a caucus of the black members of congress whose goals are to “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation,” and “achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services.”

All very laudable, they also include “others of similar experience and situation” so at least they say they are trying to help anyone who might be in need regardless of race.  Further down though it is somewhat less positive.  Rep. Clay issued an official statement from his office regarding whether they would allow white members:

“Quite simply, Rep. Cohen will have to accept what the rest of the country will have to accept – there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for over 200 years, and now it’s our turn to say who can join ‘the club.’ He does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives.”

I am guessing the logic goes something like this: there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for 200 years (which is unjust), so in retaliation we now have a black caucus so we can do to them what they did to us.  I understand this position, it is simply the desire for revenge, you hit me I want to hit you back.  I am guessing, however, that a more productive and mature approach would be: we want to help people who are disadvantaged and in need, and we will accept help towards this goal from anyone who wants to give it.

Rep. Clay is the worst form of hypocrite, they want to decry the injustices perpetrated by another group (in this case white congress) and at the very same time publicly stating that they want to do the exact same thing!

Obviously it is a problem that more black leaders have not been elected (Barack Obama is currently the only Black senator) but the solution is not to form a black caucus and exclude the whites, especially considering that any white congressmen who want to join the CBC would presumably be their closest allies.

Czech Climbing

July 14, 2008

I recently took a trip to the Czech Republic and Croatia to go climbing.  Before leaving we had trouble finding good information on climbing in the Czech Republic in English so I thought I would write up a summary.  This will be followed by a section on climbing in Croatia.

Before leaving we tried to do some research on climbing in the Czech Republic but we could not find an English climbing guide.  This should have been our first clue that perhaps the Czech Republic wasn’t the end-all-be-all in the European climbing scene but we missed it.  We flew into Prague with some limited information from with the idea of finding more when we got there.  We found a climbing shop in Prague and asked asked about good areas to climb, we got a guidebook and some maps to Adršpach from them and took off.  Adršpach is a beautiful place that has tons of amazing looking stone pillars but the rock is very crumbly sandstone and therefore no metal protection is allowed, instead you are supposed to use knotted slings.  In case you don’t know that is a length of webbing or cord with a large knot tied in the end that is used as a nut or stopper.  We thought the routes would have some bolts as knotted slings aren’t the most versatile of protection, but when we arrived we found that bolts were almost non-existent and the ones that were there were very rusty.  This meant the only way to protect the routes was top rope, and you couldn’t get up to the top of many routes.  I suppose you could use the bolts but they were very sparse (maybe three on a 90 ft route) so you would be very run out on very rusty bolts.  Also, many of the rock towers are worn smooth so even routes that are marked as 5.8 have almost no holds, I can only figure that the routes are very old and the holds have been worn off or torn off over the years.

It is a large area and there was a lot of evidence that it used to be a very active climbing area (log books on top of many of the stone pillars and lots of rusty protection) but we were unable to find any decent routes in the 5.10-11 range or any way to protect a route besides top rope.  The area is so big, many of the older routes are not climbable (worn smooth), and the guidebook was so poor we concluded that if you did want to climb there you would have to hire a guide or get a local to take you around.  All in all it is a beautiful area that is fun to visit, but if you want to climb I would head elsewhere, like Croatia.

Victory for Zim!

July 14, 2008

The PhD qualifying exam for biomedical engineering at Wayne State is a five week long crucible of pain.  You are asked to write a grant proposal on a topic you are not familiar in four weeks without getting feedback from your peers or faculty, you are however allowed to interview experts in the field.  In short they are asking for the impossible: it is nearly impossible to write a grant in four weeks, practically impossible to write a grant on a topic you aren’t intimately familiar with, and completely impossible to write a good grant without having it reviewed by colleagues.  Putting all three together is a recipe for mediocrity.  It is extremely frustrating to know that something isn’t right but not having the time or expertise to do it right.  It is by far the hardest thing I have had to do so far and I would rather write another Master’s thesis than have to retake the qualifier.

Because of this it was with great relief that I recently found out I passed the qualifier.  I didn’t pass initially, I was asked to do a 10 page follow up report which took another week extending my time invested in this monster to six weeks.  This was followed by three weeks of nervous waiting as the slowest grading process in the history of the world took place.  The good news finally came through late Thursday night.

My emotions have run the gamut during this, from disappointment and anger when I found out I didn’t pass initially to elation on Thursday night.  Most of my friends have had to listen patiently on the phone while I railed about how the test was written, designed, and graded.  The reason I didn’t pass initially was simply that I thought I had clearly stated an idea in the proposal that was actually entirely absent.  Unfortunately the solution to this type of problem is to have colleagues read and comment on your grants which I was not allowed to do.

Most of what I have said over the last few weeks about the exam has been venting over my frustration and anger due to my inflated sense of entitlement and the possible wasted effort.  Now that I have calmed down my largest criticism of the test this year is also what I thought was good about it, the question was open ended.  This was great as it allowed us to choose a topic that is in our field of interest so the 200+ hours we spent on the exam won’t be completely wasted.  This was also terrible for two reasons, it allowed some of us to misinterpret the question (causing myself and others to almost or actually fail) and it setup a situation where members of the committee didn’t know much about a student’s chosen topic.  If the student misses a key technical concept in a paper they are relying on no one will catch it as they are not experts in that field.

It is over and I passed, what a relief.

to Skoda, verb: to drive recklessly

July 4, 2008

The great eastern European road trip is over, from Prague to Split and back again with stops in between.  Overall, more than 1500 miles covering a good chunk of Eastern Europe.  I would say renting a car is a very good way to see Europe, it is quite economical (even with the expensive gas and rental fees) and lets you easily go to out of the way places that most tourists don’t make it to.

For our trip we rented a Skoda, it was a little 4 door wagon with absolutely no power.  For comparison when I got back and started driving my 4 cylinder Toyota Corolla I was surprised by its pep.  The speed limit on most of the highways is 130 km/hr, so of course I tried to cruise at around 140 km/hr.  Getting up to this speed in the Skoda took a little effort, the Skoda was only about 1000 rpm from red lining, and it seemed like we were going really fast but it was only 10 km/hr over the speed limit, and every Audi and Mercedes on the road was still passing us like we were standing still.  Upon returning home and looking at the conversion I realized that 140 km/hr is 87 mi/hr, meaning I was cruising at 87 and sometimes getting up to around 95 mi/hr which might explain most of the painful noises our little Skoda was making.  The scary thing is the expensive cars were still flying by us, they must have been cruising at around 100-110 mi/hr.  If I ever move to Europe I guess I need to buy an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes as apparently that gives you license to drive however fast you want.

We also discovered that a big “L” on the top of your car means you are a terrible driver.  The first time we saw this (but not the last) was in Poland so we dubbed them “Learnskis”.  We decided they must be drivers ed students as that was the only explanation we could come up with for their insistence on driving less than 30km/hr all through town.  If you are ever driving in Europe don’t get stuck behind the Learnski.