Sunday, August 31

Spreading the word: Is Sarah Palin Pro-Choice?

Cait made a helpful new website: Is Sarah Palin Pro-Choice? Click for the answer.

Also, fair shot she and McCain to rollback Griswold, too. Hope you like babies! (Or not having sex.)

Monday, August 18

In which e-commerce confidence is not inspired

I’m ordering a replacement charger for my drill because I lost my old one. Here is the exact entirety of the only e-mail I’ve gotten from the company to confirm my order:
EVEN THO IT MAY WORK THE TOOL OR APPLIANCE OR TOY READ THIS FIRST!!
CHECK YOUR ALL USED BATTERIES BEFORE USING THE CHARGER! USE A VOLT METER TO MAKE SURE THAT THE USED BATTERY HAS NO LESS THAN (.6) VOLTS LESS THAN THE STATED VOLTAGE OF THE BATTERY.
EXAMPLE: IF A USED BATTERY THAT SAYS IT IS FOR A 12 VOLT TOOL READS WITH METER 11.6 OR HIGHER IT IS (IN MOST CASES) A GOOD BATTERY GO AHEAD AND CHARGE THE BATTERY.
IF THE USED BATTERY READS WITH A METER 11.5 OR LESS IT IS A BAD BATTERY AND NEEDS TO BE REPLACED!
CHECK YOUR CHARGER WITH A VOLT METER TO MAKE SURE IT IS PUTTING OUT THE CORRECT VOLTAGE!
IF THE CHARGER IS PUTTING OUT A UP TO 2 1/2 VOLTS HIGHER THAN STATED VOLTAGE (RELATIVELY STEADILY) IT IS
(GENERALLY) A GOOD CHARGER AND OK TO USE TO CHARGE YOUR BATTERY.
EXAMPLE: CHARGER STATES 12 VOLTS. WHEN USING THE METER IT READS 14.6 IT IS A GOOD CHARGER.
IF THE NUMBERS ARE MOVING ALL OVER NOT NEAR STEADY AT ALL OR LOWER THAN 11.6 OR HIGHER THAN 14.6 CHARGER MUST BE REPLACED!
YOUR CHARGER IS YOUR MOST DELICATE TOOL! IT MUST NOT BE DROPPED, HIT OR GET A VOLTAGE DROP OR SPIKE!
NEW BATTERIES NEED TO BE CONDITIONED TO GET A GOOD READING BEFORE USING!
TO CONDITION A BATTERY BEFORE FIRST TIME USE CHARGE FOR FOUR DAYS WITH A DAY OF REST BETWEEN EACH CHARGE!
THIS WILL CONDITION YOUR NEW BATTERY FOR LONGER LIFE!
A PLACE LIKE RADIO SHACK WILL TEST YOUR USED BATTERIES FOR YOU FOR FREE!
THERE ARE NO RETURNS FOR ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT.
ALL RETURNS MUST RMA ASSIGNED NUMBERS ON THEM OR THEY ARE NOT ACCEPTED!
Is even a "Dear Mr. Hopkins" too much to ask?

Luckily for them, only two other companies on the Internet appear to sell this product, and my first choice, the official Black and Decker parts website, had a bug that kept me from logging in at all.

Friday, August 15

Braid is Sweet. So is Chronotron.

If you have an Xbox, go play Braid. The gameplay and presentation are near-perfect and, as far as I can tell about a third into it, well-deserving of the megascore.
For more time-bending fun, try out the Flash game Chronotron on Kongregate (it’s free!). You play a robot who can go back in time. This lets your present and past selves interact with each other and the environment, sometimes several times over. It’s much more explicitly puzzle-y than Braid, and less touchy-feely artistic, but its gameplay is brilliant.

Thursday, August 14

OmniFocus Tip: Linking to Gmail

Gmail is my alpha and my omega at work. (I didn’t get much done on Monday.) Almost nothing I do is not either prompted by an e-mail thread or significantly informed by one. And, in my attempt to get things done, I try to pour all of those tasks from my inbox into my good friend OmniFocus.

This can present a problem, however, when I’m working through a context and realize I need some of that information from an e-mail in order to complete an action.

Handily enough, Gmail is very clever about creating unique URLs for all of its “pages” by appending URL fragments. When there’s an e-mail conversation I’ll need to refer back to when working on a project or specific action, I just copy the URL from the browser and paste it into an OmniFocus notes field. Example:
https://mail.google.com/a/google.com/#inbox/11bc36975726453b
I used to use a combination of starred conversations and search (inbox is, of course, at zero), but linking directly to the thread works several hundred times better.

The one tiny problem with this technique is that it will open a new Gmail page rather than re-using an existing one, but that’s no more than a few seconds wait. Gmail itself is quite capable of handling two windows open at once with no consistency issues.

Sunday, August 10

Next Vacation: Laptop

I resonated a bit reading John Dickerson’s recent Slate piece giving the presidential candidates lifehacking advice for their vacations. The piece touches off from Obama’s recent admission to Tory leader David Cameron that he searches for chunks of time during the day to just think.

Dickerson’s advice is to take the opportunity during vacation time to think, and he zeroes in what the candidates do for their best thinking:
Barack Obama will probably spend some of his vacation writing. It's clear from his autobiography, and from the model answers he gave students when he was a law professor, that he processes ideas by working them out on paper. … McCain would design the opposite regimen for his vacation. He's not a writer; he's a talker. … On his vacation, maybe McCain could schedule off-the-record bus tours with reporters, editorial writers, and experts in various fields.
Having just come back from a short vacation of my own — which was certainly pleasurable but leaves me feeling even more rushed and hectic heading into the week — I wonder if camping in remote Maine was necessarily the best possible vacation.

I’m struck by a bit of a paradox: given that I am in the admittedly extremely lucky position of loving what I do for my job (coding and blogging), my vacation from it took me away from my best thinking. Of course, it also took me away from what I don’t like about my job (see Clich├ęd List of Knowledge Worker Gripes, Volumes I–III), and for that I’m quite grateful.

I think that for my next vacation, that campground in Maine is still a good idea, but I should bring a sand-proof laptop and copy of Coda.

Tuesday, August 5

The Rock-afire Explosion at ShowBiz Pizza Place

As with all important things, should should consult the exhaustive Wikipedia article on the subject. Choice quote:
Eventually, the ShowBiz restaurants themselves were converted to Chuck E. Cheese's locations, in a process called "Concept Unification". The company had decided to shift its focus away from animatronics and more towards video games, food, and quality of service.
You can bid to get a song performed by the band. Coming next, Arcade Fire.

Make sure that you watch at least through the rap break. 

You’re the birthday, you’re the birthday, you’re the birthday boy or girl.

Important addendum:
There are a few restaurants still using the Showbiz Pizza Place name and animation. All are located outside the United States, and have no connection to the original company. Known locations are in Lebanon; Dubai, UAE; and Kuwait. [via Wikipedia]
It gets better: The ShowBiz Pizza fan site. Exhaustive!

Saturday, August 2