Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rose Parade Invasion

My area of Pasadena has been invaded. It happens this time each year. An army of RVs rolls in and sets up camp along every available inch of side roads within a block of Colorado Blvd (the parade route). I just drove to the grocery store, taking side roads the whole way to avoid road closures, detours and stuff. In my area, the barriers and road / lane closures started 2 days ago. As I approached the store (Vons) from behind along a back road (that happens to parallel Colorado Blvd), I was startled to see a football land in the road right in front of my car. I braked hard, it wobbled underneath and past. And then I saw the group of young guys who were tossing the ball. They were part of the inhabitants of the 8 RVs parked along that road in that block. No biggie really. If I remember, I'll take pics (and post them) of the disgusting aftermath of trash piles on Colorado Blvd late on parade day.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

How to Block Flash Cookies

Several web sites track you using a little known feature in Flash that lets them write files to your hard drive. These have been generally named "Flash Cookies". For example, I discovered that Amazon was using this. Even if you delete your browser's cookies (and cache and all else), they sometimes use the flash cookies to recognize you and flash your name in bold atop the Amazon web page. That's exactly what I don't want to see when surfing from an Internet cafe, or even from my own laptop sitting at Starbucks. Maybe I'm strange. I also don't wear my name on my shirt or hat.

Anyway, here's how to stop those flash cookies for people using Mac OS 10.3.9. I haven't yet examined this on my Windows XP system, and I don't yet own Tiger. The flash cookies are stored in 2 locations:

~/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/#SharedObjects/[some-strange-folder-name]
~/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/macromedia.com/support/flashplayer/sys

For a while I was routinely deleting the entire contents of these two folders. That has given me the confidence that this wasn't breaking anything. Lately, I went ahead and changed the permissions to these two directories using the simple "chmod -w" command from the shell. So far I haven't noticed any bad effects from this. So far all flash content still plays just fine.

Stock Pick For the Week

Here's my latest stock picks. Manitowoc Co. (MTW) Precision Castparts (PCP) Paccar (PCAR) Sherman Williams (SHW)

I am placing these on my watch list and am considering them as candidates for 6+ month trades. By "trades" I mean that they appear attractive opportunities for making some returns in the short term (less than a year) and are not necessarily good long term "investments." Note: I have no intention of buying these right now, but MTW and PCP might continue going up after the new year. PCAR has a seriously dropping MACD and so I'll just be watching that one for a while.

As always: NEVER buy a stock just because I mention it. Always do your own homework. This way, if you lose money and blame me, then I can point to this "fine print."

Friday, December 29, 2006

I Got A Boo Boo

I got myself an owie! One minute I was healthy and walking toward a chair, and the next I was in pain. It happened so fast. I was barefoot and stubbed my toe into the chair leg. I wasn't even hurrying or rushing or anything. Of course, it's the little toe. The pinky toe. The little piggie that went to market (or something like that). Now it's swollen to 150% of normal size and it's all purple. It's probably broken. It's not the first time this has happened and probably won't be the last.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Toddlers! Cheap Renewable Energy!

Today I have a renewed appreciation for what parents go through. Yesterday I was visiting friends and was playing with their 2.5-ish year old boy. He really enjoyed being lifted up and carried about while laying flat with his hands out front - exactly as if he were Superman (which he calls "pooperman"). Today I have a sore lower back.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Another Comic I Made

Here's my second attempt at using the clever program called Comic Life. This one describes some of the fun I experienced while cat sitting for friends recently. Click on them to see larger versions.



Friday, December 15, 2006

Meaningless Blog Post

I think that Justin Long is going to have a very successful career. I've liked him since Galaxy Quest (which is a very funny movie). I figure he wont go down the notorious paths of Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson.

Yes, I realize this is a stupid pronouncement of my personal opinion. But, hey, it's my blog and that's what I'm posting today.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Life Improvement

I've discovered a terrific blog containing a lot of useful tips for getting the most out of life. The RirianProject blog is authored by a young man named Ririan who lives in Bucharest, Romania. I strongly recommend it. It might take you several visits to go through the archives, but it's worth it.

A few posts that I've found interesting are: 6 Ways to Boost Your Mental Acuity at Work, Blast Away Bad Mood with These 11 Fast Fixes, Ten Commandments for a Stress Free Life, How to Survive a Bad Day, 11 Great Ways to Start Your Day, 22 Ways To Overclock Your Brain, Remember to Say Thank You, What to do When You Make Mistakes, and many more.

Read, learn, grow, share, enjoy, live.

Earthlink Loses Your Incoming Emails

This came out Friday. Apparently a friend of Robert X. Cringely has done some testing to discover that Earthlink mysteriously loses a large fraction of some of their users' incoming emails. Very very unprofessional. Worse yet ... I have an Earthlink account. I think this will be the final straw causing me to switch to another ISP.

Friday, December 08, 2006

New Puzzle - Hotel Bill

OK, I had some comments that the last puzzle wasn't that hard. And so while I search for a harder one, Matthew has submitted this one. It's not necessarily super hard, but it is interesting.

Three men check into a motel. The clerk tells them that the room will be $30 so each man pays $10 and they go off to their room. The clerk then realizes that they were actually staying in a $25 room, and sends the bellhop to the room with $5. The bellhop decides to keep $2 and gives each man $1 back. The men ended up paying only $9 each for the room. So, the men have paid a total of 3 times $9 or $27 for the room and the bellhop has kept $2. That's only $29. Where's the missing dollar?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Difficult Puzzle

Here's a new puzzle. It's not easy. And it lures people into an incorrect answer. We'll see if Dr. Kim has ever used this one for his class.

For a round-trip flight between New York and Los Angeles and back to New York, how will a constant and uniform wind affect the total elapsed time of the flights compared to having no wind? Will a constant wind, uniform across both legs of the trip, make the total flight time longer, make it shorter, or have no effect?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Audacity Audio Editing App

Audacity is an easy to use program for editing audio files. It's multi-platform with versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Check out the screenshots. Best of all, it's free. I tried it this morning and decided I liked it and I'll keep it in my software tool box. You never know when you'll need to edit the audio track from a video I've taken with my digital camera - to _enhance_ the story. hehehe

Blocking Ads and Flash in Safari

I've come across a very easy way to block ads and flash content when using Safari. Note: this also works with Mozilla, Firefox, Netscape, and others! I found several sites offering the same explanation so I guess it's been around for a while. It involves changing your preferences to use a local CSS style sheet. That CSS file has all the patterns defined for a variety of ads and flash junk. This even works for me using the old Safari in Panther. Here's one of the sites with the helpful explanation. I'm currently using their CSS file. It's also easy to toggle this off: simply go into your Safari Preferences and change the local CSS style to "nothing". It's really that easy.

I have to admit that it isn't perfect. For example, while it does block the flash ads on TitanTV, it doesn't block all of the flash ads on Yahoo Finance and it doesn't block any of them on weather.com. This is important because FlashBlock for Firefox does block all of those I just mentioned.

Over the past several months I have adopted the practice of using Firefox to visit specific sites who choose to use aggressive or annoying dynamic ads (including Yahoo and Weather.com). I haven't switched entirely over to Firefox because it starts up very slowly on my mac - compared to the more compact Safari. Firefox is also more likely than Safari to have a new security vulnerability. For my tastes, Firefox has way too many features and crap. But I figure there will never be a perfect browser for me, or for anybody else for that matter, and so I'm fine with using multiple browsers.