Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mormon Walmart Conscripts Customers - Consumerist

Look at this post, then realize that someone's using what looks like a great program, which encourages good behavior, to rail against WalMart.

All victims, all the time.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sandpiper Montessori and Skype

Spent some time yesterday helping set up a web page for Sandpiper Montessori on Google Pages. I can link the email address to a "mailto:" URI, so that clicking on the address brings up an email client with Sandpiper's email address filled in, but the phone number is harder.

What would be nice is to let folks click on the phone number and launch a Skype call (assuming Skype's installed).

Looks like Google Pages doesn't support "callto://" (or "skype://"). Whenever I try to link Sandpiper's phone number on the page to a call-via-Skype URI on a Google page, Google Pages sucks it back out before publishing.

I'll have to try Blogger, see if they allow this. Can I set up a "call me" link, right here?

Why yes, I can. Cool.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Book Burro

Jo, who reads books, will want this Firefox extension.

Show Me the Money

Even if I don't know what it is right away.

Dating Rule #57

Lyn Mead reminds us that we've forgotten
Dating Rule #57: Don't forget the exact spelling of your girlfriend's pet's name.


Clickable Numbers = Easy Skype Calls

Larry Wall says, "The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris."

Every good aphorism can be turned into a programming methodology. (Okay, make that "every aphorism, good or bad.")

I ran into Jeremy Hinegardner at Caffe Sole, this afternoon.

"Now that SkypeOut calls are free in the US and Canada, there should be a Firefox extension that lets you click on phone numbers within web pages to launch a Skype call," I said.

"Yup. Sure should," said Jeremy.

"Only thing is," I said, "I'm not sure I know enough to do one."

"Well," he said, "I think you can say things like 'skype://+15551212' in some browsers, and it'll just dial."

"Hmm. I'll try Google."

"Yeah," he said, "here it is. Try googling 'skype phone uri safari.' Looks like it works in Firefox, too."

"Okay, let me see. 'skype phone uri firefox.' Ooh. I got a different result. Check it out -- there's a Greasemonkey extension."

Two minutes of talking, following links, and installing Greasemonkey and Skypelinkify, and I have something that lets me click on phone numbers within web pages to launch a Skype call.

If you've heard of "pair programming," this is even better: "pair laziness."

Follow the link in the title of the post to get it yourself.


Well, for Memorial Day, a free, Medal Of Honor Coloring Book sounded like a good thing to me.

Then I took a look.

If you were a child who didn't know what the Medal of Honor was for, after coloring the pages of this free book, you'd know:

  • Blacks have received the Medal of Honor
  • Indians have received the Medal of Honor
  • Only one woman has received the Medal of Honor
  • Civilians have received the Medal of Honor
  • Children have received the Medal of Honor
  • The Medal of Honor dates back to the Civil War.
  • President Truman always presented Medals of Honor with great respect and admiration for the men who earned it. (Other Presidents didn't?)

And little else.

Jeez. What's next? Something to teach kids that the Medal of Honor has been awarded to Hispanics, or disabled Americans, or Japanese-Americans, or pacifist-Americans, or Ruritanian-Americans, or even non-Americans?

Its theme of diversity über alles seems to go out of its way to avoid what the Medal of Honor is about:
You get a Medal of Honor by being a war hero. It's an award to an individual, not a group.

You get it for doing something in combat that's miraculously brave and important. Often, you die getting it. Often, you also kill other people who are trying to kill you and all the men around you. Lots of people have to see you do whatever earns it, and live to testify.

It's America's highest, rarest, most prestigious combat medal. You're statistically less likely to meet someone who has one than you are to meet someone who has a Nobel prize.

It's Memorial Day, for heaven's sake. Go on: name a Medal of Honor recipient. One.

It's usually ordinary people who rise to extraordinary actions.
My father found himself seated, in a train, across from a Sergeant wearing a Distinguished Service Cross, an award one step down from a Medal of Honor. Pointing at his own Distinguished Flying Cross (an award not to be sneezed at), my father said, "Hey. I'll trade you."

The Sergeant said, "Hell, Major, I was just defending myself as fast as I could."

Even with its PC emphasis, I suspect if I took the coloring books down to the Memorial Day Boulder Creek Festival, or my local elementary school, and offered them to school children, I'd quickly be surrounded by a flock of adults saying, "Don't question our patriotism, but don't ask us to teach children any, either."

Better to teach them fake Thomas Jefferson quotes. They can wait until they're adults to read
New York Times and learn about the Purple Star.

It gets better. Today, the NYT is back with everyone's favorite Winter Soldier, John F. Kerry, and the Blogosphere Full Employment Act of 2006.

Perhaps this act of anti-vet nostalgia was encouraged by Jesse Macbeth's recent attempt to pull a Kerry.

Recent, unsuccessful attempt. Unfortunately for Macbeth, Kerry, and the New York Times, Memorial Day brings back real memories for a lot of us, too.

This post in memory of Lance Corporal David Belver, 26th Marines, KIA 23 February, 1969. Not a Medal of Honor winner, but still a valiant Marine.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Oh. That explains everything.

According to the New York Times, the reason American college students hate science is ... unimaginative teaching.

Well, yeah. Science teaching is much more imaginative in places like India, I'm sure. Oh, and was much more imaginative when Einstein was in school. Or even, say, 60 years ago when Jim Watson was.

That explains it.

Well, all except for why the author of the NYT article can't think his way out of a wet paper bag. But maybe that's unimaginative J-school teaching.

Conspicuously absent is any mention of nonsense like this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

'Unbreakable' glass launched - - the route to all good wine

David Cobbold, who presented the glasses (pictured), said 'They are virtually unbreakable.' He then banged his on his table to illustrate the point. Journalists enthusiastically followed suit, but none succeeded in breaking the glass.
What kind of mischief do you think this could do at a khasene?

The Douchenator

Who would need to shoot a waterbaloon 500 feet? Oh, you do?

Here you go.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fire from Ice

How to make fire from ice, and other skills that may not actually be useful, but are cool anyway.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thanks. No.

For years, I've been responding to most unsolicited email with either pointers to the appropriate article, or "Please don't send me politispam. I don't do it to you."

Now, I can also use Thanks. No.

Free Digital Camera

(Okay, it's the middle digit, especially when we can no longer buy film.) Until then, this is cool.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Automatic Noam

Joining Evan Coyne Maloney's Automatic Bob
we have The Lefterator

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Space, the final frontier.

Everybody's using Blogger these days.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Free SkypeOut

I suppose it would be even better if they paid us to use Skype, but for now, this is as good as I can imagine it'll actually get.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

And why shouldn't Will Eisner do graphic novels in Yiddish?

I just stumbled on a surprising collection of links to Yiddish stuff at growabrain: Yiddish Archives

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV

Elvis Costello hit it in one:

Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
when I hear the silly things that you say.
I think somebody better put out the big light,
cause I can't stand to see you this way.

When I hear someone express an "Ohmygod! Things in Iraq are going soooo badly" opinion, it seems it's inevitably someone who wouldn't know a hand grenade if she saw one rolling down the street.

Sometimes, I'm annoyed. Sometimes, I'm just embarrassed for them.

Today's "Could you either learn something or just shut up?" comes from -- now don't let this shock you -- the New York Times. Here you go.

Haitian Creole?

Haitian Creole is the 14th most popular language to be translated over the new Skype translation service?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ontology builder?

Could this be used as an ontology builder?

Okay, okay. "Heh."


Monday, May 08, 2006

Advertising Engineering

Helen Gray sends this beautiful Honda Accord Ad, which she says was not faked, but a real Rube Goldberg machine.

Skeptical geek that I am, I looked it up on And she's exactly right.

voo2do : simple, beautiful web-based to-do lists

Here's Joel Spolsky's Painless Software Scheduling, implemented.

Not just for software, I suppose. I like the author's response to "Why is this free?"

Because I made it for myself, and it wasn't that much extra work to just let anyone use it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bang for the Buck

Compare and contrast:

A European, $300 million, socialist approach versus an American, $2.5 million, capitalist approach.

Now guess which one's going to get better results. Okay, make that any results.

All I want for Christmas

Of course, getting this would be problematical if you didn't have the storage space for it.

On the other hand, if you needed to stash a body, it contains a ready-made solution. So to speak.

Cultural Differences

This story speaks for itself, and no amount of "we just have to learn to get along" is going to make it go away.

We didn't have to just learn to empathize with Jeffrey Dahmer. Harris and Klebold weren't just kids with a different value system. No matter how many beers you've had at a party, saying "Amerika is the real terrorist," sounds just as moronic.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Come On and Let's Do the Taster

Come on and let's do the taster/When my love is so grayster.

Where is Wild Man Fischer when we need him?

Go to the bottom of the page, and read Frank Zappa's original liner notes. Then think about the fact that Merry-Go-Round was released as a single.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How About These Nice Beads?

As Valleyschwag points out, this at least gets you a $20 shirt for $15. Not bad.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Most Trusted Name in News

What's interesting about this report, to me, isn't that Fox is the most trusted name in news, but that the most trusted name in news is only most-trusted by 11% of the population.

Contrast that with, say, the Egyptians to see how far we've come.

Our most trusted outlet? Fox, at 11%. Egypts? Al Jazeera at 59%.

No, I don't know (many) people who'd think it's because Al Jazeera is just more trustworthy than any American media outlets.

The Most Trusted Name in News

What's interesting about this repor, to me, isn't that Fox is the most trusted name in news, but that the most trusted name in news is only most-trusted by 11% of the population.

Contrast that with, say, the Egyptians to see how far we've come.

Our most trusted outlet? Fox, at 11%. Egypts? Al Jazeera at 59%.

No, I don't know (many) people who'd think it's because Al Jazeera is just more trustworthy than any American media outlets.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thanks for the memories

Nu, I finally got that general blogging gig I was hocking the velt about, so in the realization that I'm not likely to post here in the foreseeable future, I am going to formally unplug from A Mentsch Trakht. Thanks for the khavershaft, the varemkayt, the odd Chanuka gifts! And remember: Man trakht, un Gott lacht!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Saving the Newspaper

The Boulder Daily Camera has returned to littering my yard.

They dump papers on my lawn free samples, I call them, they admit that their computers mark me as "No samples," and then promise me it'll never happen again.

Last time, I explained that I thought it would be overkill to call the police or sheriff and have them charged with littering, but that I'd like them to agree that if they dropped off any in the next year, they'd buy me a subscription to the paper of my choice. This worked: it's been a year and a half.

I have another call in, and will ask for a similar deal, but I have to feel sorry for them: they're just trying desperately to find a way to slow their circulation drop.
Another year and a half and they may be gone.

I'll suggest that one way they could cut costs is to run columns created like this on their editorial page.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Passing the Turing Test

Another cute idea for robot avoidance, this one from Blogger.

T-Mobile gets it! (Well, in England).

T-Mobile will let you use your cell as a broad-band pipe. You no longer need a land-line, even for DSL. The price? $15/month: less than you're paying for DSL, too.

Oh. That's in England. In the US, I still can't even run Opera Mini on my T-Mobile phone. Or Google Maps for Mobile.

Heck, it took me three months of service calls just to get My T-Mobile to stop rejecting my Zip code.

T-Mobile: Great voice service, embarrassingly bad data service.