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House hunting

Nov. 17th, 2009 | 08:34 am

Back on the 12th I put in an offer on a condo, I was thinking of making them wait a bit so I could then haggle further, but after looking at the other options in the area, I realized that their counter was in actuality a fair price, and I further realized that the reason I was worried I couldn't afford it was because I was confusing interest rate and APR in my little excel sheet.

The end result is I signed their counter and emailed it back sunday night. But I haven't heard anything from the sellers. I did check with my agent and she'd received the signed offer and had forwarded it to the agent. (And called, and texted him)

But no response.

We wonder what's going on with them. *sigh*

Although house hunting does have the advantage of much more of it can be done via email than apartment hunting, there's a lot more opportunity for disappointment.

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Dialing plan

Nov. 11th, 2009 | 12:00 am

Thank you all for answering my survey.

Basically thanks to living in an area rich with Overlay Area Codes there's a good chance most people around me have mandatory 10 digit dialing. In some places the 1 prefix is required for calls that are billed as long distance, sometimes it's always required -- however the 1 prefix is rarely harmful.

As a result if you're able to use your mobile phone book to call out over a land line it's pretty likely to work if you enter things with the 1 + 10 digit format for phone book entries. (The only issue might be if the mobile phone caller id to name mapping would match an incoming 10 digit number to the 11 digit number in the phone book.)

Because of the feature of the 1+10 -- that it's the string likely to work on both mobile and land line phones, I've always wondered why PBX systems aren't using 1 as the indication a person is trying to make an outside call. Most of the office PBX I've used are set to dial internally, unless you dial 9 first for an "outside line", however there's no technical reason why 1 couldn't do the same job, and would have the advantage that you can always dial the same thing, regardless of what type of phone you're using.

For my own small scale PBX purposes I realized I could solve how to differentiate between "external numbers" and "internal extensions" by using digits for external and sip addresses like "desk@server" or "diane@server" as my internal phone numbers.

Alternatively VoIP hard phones support on hook dialing like a mobile phone, so I don't have to parse the digits being dialed one by one, I can parse the whole 3, 4 or 10 digit blob. However that requires that the user hit a "call" or "send" button to indicate they're done keying. Though as a big advantage using on-hook dialing gives you the chance to check what you typed in before the call connects.

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VoIP Dialing plan

Nov. 9th, 2009 | 10:55 am

I was playing with VoIP over the weekend and managed to configure my mobile phone and an old sip hard phone to talk to each other, go to voice mail, paging, and receiving calls from google voice all using freeswitch.

One difficulty with the insanity of setting up a PBX system in your home is the "dial plan" -- AKA what happens when you start pushing buttons on the phone.

Imagine you encounter something like the following phone in my home in Los Angeles:

Poll #1483025 What would you try to dial?

What would you first try for a local call

Dial the 7 digit local phone number
Dial the area code + 7 digit phone number
Dial 1 + area code + 7 digits
Dial 9 + area code + 7 digits
Dial 9 + 1 + area code + digits
Something else

What would you first try in an emergency.

dial 911
dial 9911

What would you actually do first for a non-emergency call.

Use your mobile phone
Ask for help on how to use the desk phone
Try your dialing pattern from above

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Home buying reminds me of EVE

Nov. 5th, 2009 | 12:26 pm

We put a back up offer in on a Townhouse a few days ago, and the primary buyer is asking for their second inspection extension, and still hasn't decided if the property passes inspection, and the seller is getting tired of the delays.

So as the first backup offer, my agent was offering us as a quick alternative but wants us to have a loan ready OMG right now.

I only have access to about 10% down, the randomly selected lender seems to think that a 3.5% FHA loan would be fine, even if the condo complex needs to be approved by the FHA.

My agent doesn't want to go through the FHA approval process and wants me to use a different lender to get some kind of alternate loan product that requires 5% down. The lender has no idea what type of loan she's talking about and seems to think that FHA approval is something relatively easy to obtain and the FHA loan would be fine.

I have no idea whose right, or what needs to happen next.

I'm really developing the feeling that they're all motivated strongly be self-interest and I shouldn't trust anyone involved as, to simple approximation, they're all just trying to steal my money.

(And wandering around not knowing if someone is about attack steal all your stuff is a definite part of EVE).

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God is hate.

Nov. 4th, 2009 | 08:34 am

The loss of gay marriage in Maine reminds me of my childhood growing up in a Fundamentalist Christian Church and watching my parents fight constantly.

The christian groups motivated to hate gays are (at least in my experience) the ones most likely to engage in child abuse.

I couldn't find a link to the primary reference, but On Christianity, Fundamentalism, Spanking, and What Constitutes Child Abuse discusses some of the research linking religion and child abuse.

I guess the conservative christians have experience with just how violent, angry, and wretched of parents they are, and since their insane god tells them gays must be worse then them, that's what lets them rationalize the need to "protect" children from gays. At least their advertisements against gay marriage in California, seemed to revolve around if we had gay marriage, children might be exposed to gays.

Speaking as a child raised in a fundamentalist church, why the hell can't we talk about how religion is abusive? Why do the christians get to claim the "moral" high ground of "protecting children". Children bloody well need to be protected from them!

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(no subject)

Nov. 1st, 2009 | 03:45 pm


House hunting is not a activity for pessimistic impatient people.

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House Hunting

Oct. 29th, 2009 | 09:31 pm

We've been occasionally attempting to purchase a home, at first we were thinking a house would be good. But then we realized just how well we'd handle dealing with yard work, and how convenient it is to live near transit options.

So started looking at condos, most condos aren't that exciting, but town homes are looking like a good compromise between fewer shared walls, but being closer to transit.

We found a neat place last weekend, but the buyer accepted the first offer before we could see it and submit our second offer. However today the real estate agent told me we were accepted as the first backup offer.

So that's kind of exciting, its the closest to a home purchase I've ever gotten.

However we'll probably need to continue looking at places.

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(no subject)

Oct. 19th, 2009 | 10:47 am

One of my typical sources of depressive news, linked to something I found positive.

There’s No Place Like Home -- Fewer Americans are relocating than at any time since 1962. That's good news for families, communities ... and even the environment.

Apparently as we move around less we become more interested in and willing to help our local community.

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Oct. 14th, 2009 | 11:59 pm

I've been playing D&D with a group including one of my coworkers, and tonight they did something interesting.

We had a ghost who was using mage the ascension rules for magic while the rest of us were doing standard D&D 3.5. (Well pathfinder). It was an interesting way to show the powers of the old elvish civilization.

Also it was my birthday, and that was at least one good thing to happen. I really wish I'd gotten to see my girlfriend awake today though.

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Health care

Oct. 9th, 2009 | 06:48 pm

Where do those without health insurance live?, Floyd Norris looked through some of the recently published census data on who's uninsured.

Though it tends to be the "red"/"conservative" states that have the uninsured groups, the actual population in those states tend to be poor black or hispanics who vote strongly democratic.

The Public Imperative argues that one thread in the resistance to a public option is that many in America are deeply offended that there's a chance someone could be freeloading off of their hard work.

Combining this leads me to think that conservatives think we shouldn't extend health care, because that'd just be for the lazy freeloading brown people.

(Obviously sad conservatives probably have never encountered being at the wrong end of social privilege).

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Real estate hunting

Oct. 5th, 2009 | 01:12 pm

Our lease is about to expire, which makes a great time to go look at places to buy.

It looks like prices are going to start climbing back up, as properties around here have scores of offers. Yet at the same time there are large swaths of rental signs up.

I feel like I'm likely to end up like Hiro Protagonist, living in small home but with a cool VR environmnt.

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Depressed again

Sep. 18th, 2009 | 10:38 am

My mind has gotten stuck on a train of logic leading me directly back into severe depression.

I'm pretty miserable when its warmer than 90F outside, one of the most likely effects of global warming is the increase in number of days above 90F.

My only conclusion is that every year that passes, my life is going to directly and at a very basic level become more miserable.

And that's not even counting the almost certain impact of water stress. (due to the earlier springs, there's less snow meaning less available water, due to the continuing climb in population there's increasing demand for water, implying that the per capita availability of water is rapidly declining.

Atmospheric trends in CO2 at Mauna Loa shows definitively that CO2 concentrations are still climbing.

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Health care

Sep. 15th, 2009 | 09:18 am

So I was trying to compare socialized medicine to the crazy US healthcare system.

Did you know that Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US List of countires by infant mortality?

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Pasadena Community Update

Sep. 2nd, 2009 | 06:19 pm

There's a City of Pasadena Fire Update Community Meeting tomorrow Sept 3, at 7pm.

Also I just learned that the "Pasadena Public Information Officer" has both a blog and twitter feed.

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Dear Stupid People,

Sep. 1st, 2009 | 11:32 am

Please stop building expensive homes in the tinder forest. Or if you do, don't expect us to spend money saving them.

warming climate encourages wildfires through a longer summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread. Westerling et al. (2006 — see here) found that, in the last three decades, the wildfire season in the western U.S. has increased by 78 days, and burn durations of fires >1000 ha have increased from 7.5 to 37.1 days, in response to a spring-summer warming of 0.87°C

“the majority of [Forest Service] large fire suppression costs are directly linked to protecting private property in the WUI [Woodland Urban Interface],” with Forest Service managers estimating between 50 and 95 percent of large fire costs spent on that purpose alone.

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Pasadena Fire Press Release

Aug. 31st, 2009 | 04:20 pm

I received an official City of Pasadena Press Release about the Station Fire. I did simplify the html generated from their MS Word Document to fit in LJ better.

Full Press ReleaseCollapse )

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Dealing with Smoke

Aug. 31st, 2009 | 09:47 am

So the air around my apartment is varying between "unhealthy for sensitive groups" and "unhealthy".

However a few weeks ago I'd made a small purchase that I think has helped my indoor air quality. I picked up a an air filter that's designed to trap dust and pollen, and last night I left the AC fan on.

Most air conditioners have an intake vent, and the standard fiberglass filter is designed to just remove lint to protect the blower. There are now also AC filters that are designed to filter out smaller particles. At OSH, the replacement fiberglass filter for my AC was less than a dollar and would last for a year, the middle of the road particulate filter was more like $4-$6 and should last for 3 months.

The important thing to know about swapping a filter is the length, width, height dimensions. (If you've got a standard size, everything is easy).

The one thing I'm concerned about is this is probably making the blower work harder, which might shorten the life of the blower.

There are also stand alone air filters that are likely to be more effective, but much more expensive.

Another possibility to improve indoor air quality, is How to Grow Fresh Air. Some years ago a researcher figured out that some houseplants make good chemical air filters. I don't have the book next to me so I can't check how useful it'd be for cleaning up smoke though.

A google search for "How to Grow Fresh Air" also turned up a TED talk.

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Station fire

Aug. 29th, 2009 | 09:17 am

Pasadena Star News has an impressive late night video of the station firehere

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Still hate the duck walk

Aug. 26th, 2009 | 10:46 pm

I was staring at the source code for the new linden labs snow globe browser trying to figure out to stop default walk animations upper body from flopping around.

I did figure out how to build it and insert debugging statements, but when I tried to duplicate the code that was updating "mPelvisState" with some velocity vectors, to also update a new mHeadState I kept crashing the client.

I thought I understood what was going on as llkeyframewalkmotion:doUpdate was computing both ankle position and the pelvis position. But after staring it for a while, it looks like its just computing the ankle positions to figure out how far the pelvis is going to move in the next frame.

So I downloaded QAvimator and the Second Life BVH files, and determined that yes they used animation files and not code to define how a character walks.

However when I played the official walk animation in QAvimator, and in Second Life, it looks significantly better in QAvimator as the animation is rendering smoothly than the SL viewer. Though even with a better rendering, I think the head flops around too much.

Also I wonder what'd happen if I replaced the LLUUID for ANIM_AGENT_WALK_ADJUST with some random other walk animation. (I was going to try it with one of my purchased animation overrides, but the Copy UUID link was grayed out.

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Making Society Work

Aug. 25th, 2009 | 12:21 am

Jamis Casco has a story Paranoia is a pre-existing condition which links to two other outside views of our health-care debate.

The quick summary, Charlie Stross, thinks that America has lost any bit of mercy. Adam Greenfield thinks that the opponents of health care reform are taking advantage of an exploit in our political system, their victory condition is merely to break the reform process. They don't actually have to produce anything constructive, so they can make continuous completely irrational attacks.

I'm tempted to say we should just take a page out of Diamond Age or Snow Crash, and fragment into different polities.

We can kick the frothing the government should do nothing but give me free shit while I pretend I did it all myself out to live in their own private Hobbesian failed state. And then the people who believe that a "citizen has responsibilities to their society" can get on with building something better.

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Economic Recovery?

Aug. 19th, 2009 | 08:51 am

One of my favorite pessimistic thinkers recently had a post, No Consumer Recovery.

Part of his opinion why we're not going to escape this recession (AKA recreate the bubbles of the 2000's) is based on some of the analysis done in the book The Two-Income Trap. They key finding there, was that the family of 1970 was fiscally healthier than a comparable dad, mom, two kid family of 2004. (link to presentation.

Comparing data on where the and 1970 and 2004 families spent their money, families now are spending less on food (even with eating out), less per car (by keeping them longer), less on clothing, less on appliances, but a few hundred dollars more on electronics.

The major expenses that jumped up for the family of 2004, were mortgages, health insurance, the cost of additional cars (a 1970s family typically only had one car), and cost of child care (which was zero back when women were stuck in the home).

Additionally though household income increased during this period, the inflation adjusted wage increase for the average male wage earner stayed basically flat during that 30 year period.

The author then goes on to argue that part of the jump in housing costs was from families competing to use their new income to buy housing in areas with desirable schools.

In my opinion worker wages probably also stagnated with the increase in labor pool from women entering the workplace, and then the increasing impact of globalization and the outsourcing of jobs to lower wage countries. Yet at the same time worker productivity climbed, so the business owners were able to keep a larger fraction of the profits, which they then reinvested in real assets, for example, stocks, real estate, and commodities, like oil. However prices for all of those things were pushed up past what the average working family could afford, and since the average working family was the primary market, each of those bubbles collapsed. (Ok stocks might not count there).

One possible conclusion, from the two-income trap, would be to send women back to home. It'd likely drive up wages by reducing the number of workers, and housing prices would probably decline as no one would be able to buy anything for a while. But there are a lot of psychological costs associated with keeping a person from having more opportunities for personal fulfillment.

However this story is a good example of unintended consequences from a social reform.

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Jul. 23rd, 2009 | 08:47 pm

A few months ago I learned about epub via dragonblink from Wil Wheaton, and after reading a bit about it decided epub was a really good idea, as it solves one big problem with pdfs--the inability to reflow text for different sized displays.

I was feeling depressed yesterday, and so I went over to the oreilly.com store and picked up some books.

First off, the epub books are only a couple of megabytes for 300 to 400 page books, and it only took a couple of seconds for me to download them. It was sufficiently fast that it was easier to just re-download them into stanza than from my desktop. Also unlike Kindle, these books are DRM-free files that I can copy and back up to my heart and conscious' content, and can't be suddenly destroyed by some central authority.

Stanza's a really nice handheld ebook reader, and after reading a few chapters of Erlang Programming I've run into a couple of minor issues.
  • An authors name with Latin-1 accents got munged (unicode conversion issue I suspect)
  • fixed width code samples don't re-flow properly, so I had to discover stanza's ability to show raw unformatted text to read the sample
  • since there are no pages, all footnotes become section end notes, and its hard to find where in the text the end note was referring to.

On the plus side, the reflow does work well, and since the book is internally broken up into multiple sections there's only at most a second or two loading/reformatting when moving on to the next large section.

For comparison, in PDFs I've had page rendering issues just on moving between different pages.

Overall I think I like epub + stanza. And now I can start buying books again, I'd run out of space in my apartment to put new books and hadn't gotten around to purging enough old books. (Well Ok, so its mostly computer technical books I can get this way, fiction is still more restricted).

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Cyborg/Human Culture Clash

Jul. 14th, 2009 | 09:30 am

I want my cyborg life.

An interesting discussion about the culture clash between laptop toting, twittering, cyborgs and the traditional scholars giving a talk.

As a speaker talking to a wall of laptops is tough, as a listener its nice to be able to look up what the speaker is talking about--or if they're failing at communicating go do something to rescue the block of time.

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Life Lessons from the Next Decade

Jul. 10th, 2009 | 03:46 pm

Life Lessons from the Next Decade

I really need to watch that, Bruce Sterling describes the tone of the next decade, mocks hair-shirt environmentalism, and then offers some practical advice on how relating to stuff differently.

Also I thought it was funny.

The story of Steve Jobs being the Gothic Man in the Castle, was pretty amusing.

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Kind of like climbing the corporate ladder?

Jul. 9th, 2009 | 09:55 pm

I was reading Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders. A report attempting to explain to more traditional business leaders how MMOs can provide real leadership experience.

Though some concepts fail to make the translation.

One of their interview subjects was talking about her difficulties as guild leader mediating a dispute between some officers.

And I found it very difficult to mediate between them. So eventually I left
to go raid with another guild that was more advanced.
Q: Kind of like climbing the corporate ladder?
CHENG: Something like that.

Is there any way where climbing the raid progression ladder is like climbing the corporate ladder?

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