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what day is it again? linked list: framed, tech firms' bias against women, snowden [Sep. 18th, 2016|07:59 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |tiredtired]

- Framed: A Mystery in Six Parts - this is excellent investigative work by the LA Times and one heck of a story! Straight out of a Lifetime original movie or something...

- When tech firms judge on skills alone, women land more job interviews - blind auditions are a great idea. The fact that that changed the number of women selected for an interview from 5% to 54% is about as clear a sign you can get that there's (conscious or unconscious) bias.

- The Leaky Myths of Snowden: Oliver Stone’s new movie about Edward Snowden is a fairy tale and a bore - pretty harsh, but he makes a good point that Snowden released a ton of info that had nothing to do with domestic surveillance.

- 11 Secrets to Staying Productive and in Control - I clicked on this link with low expectations because, come on, look at that title! But I actually enjoyed it. I think forgiving yourself is really hard, but important - instead of getting mad at myself I try to figure out how to not make that mistake in the future.

- How Did G.M. Create Tesla’s Dream Car First? - I didn't realize the Bolt was so competitive with the Model 3!

- What I Learned From Executing Two Men - a powerful editorial

- How to get people who installed a leaked build to stop using that build? - a funny story from Raymond Chen

- Can Teenage Defiance Be Manipulated for Good? - yes it can!

- What Can Hitters Actually See Out of a Pitcher’s Hand? - when you think about it it's pretty impressive that anyone is good at hitting off of a major league pitcher...

- Myst creator Rand Miller on his favorite puzzle that everybody hates - his new game, Obduction, is out now!

- SpaceX Is Cribbing From Boeing's 1920s Playbook - neat parallel!
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The Last Policeman series reviews [Sep. 15th, 2016|06:42 pm]
Greg
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This is my favorite kind of scifi - what if the world was like it is now except for one big difference? In The Last Policeman series, the big difference is that an asteroid is coming to destroy all human life on Earth, and everyone knows exactly when it's going to hit.

The books are pretty interesting mysteries, but what I really enjoyed was the look at society breaking down and how different kinds of people reacted to knowing about the asteroid.

View all my reviews
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baby linked list! Uber in Japan, booo Takata, math is apparently hard [Sep. 4th, 2016|10:46 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

We had a baby! Check Facebook for details and pictures.

(from this point on the links are non-baby related)

- How Uber’s Failure in Japan Can Help Startups Everywhere - interesting look at the cultural differences in Japan that sunk Uber there.

- A Cheaper Airbag, and Takata’s Road to a Deadly Crisis - sigh. Also, sounds like there may have been some fraud a la Volkswagen...

- A surprisingly simple test to check research papers for errors - wow, seriously?? Over half the papers they looked at had a simple math error that is easily detectable! (thanks David!)

- A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories - you guys, I'm starting to think Russia might not be friendly?

- Edgar Allan Poe Had a Time Machine and I Can Prove It - the title is dumb, but that is some weird stuff! (thanks David!)

- Keeping Kids From Toy Guns: How One Mother Changed Her Mind - interesting!

- 'Mystery Shoppers' Help U.S. Regulators Fight Racial Discrimination At Banks - sad that this is necessary, but I'm glad the CFPB is doing it! (thanks David!)

- At Least 110 Republican Leaders Won’t Vote for Donald Trump. Here’s When They Reached Their Breaking Point. - nothing really new here, but it's a nice visualization.

- Colombia’s Milestone in World Peace - yay!

- New Virus Breaks The Rules Of Infection - weird!

- Should you take Tylenol, Advil, or aspirin for pain? Here's what the evidence says. - weird, I usually take Tylenol for headaches and it works well for me. Advil for tooth pain is excellent though!
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Austin escape rooms - my reviews [Aug. 31st, 2016|01:13 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |nervousnervous]

We've done a lot of these lately, because it's going to be much harder once we have a kid :-) But here are my ratings for the ones we've done, in descending order:

Austin Maze Rooms
The room we did was set in the '70s, and the "apartment" was decorated realistically and authentically. The Maze Room claims to specialize in "gadgets", and after doing the room I 100% agree - some of the puzzles blew me away! Even the puzzles that didn't make sense at the time made sense in retrospect after we looked again at the clues we ignored.

There's only one room there now, but they're opening up a new one this fall and I'm hoping we can try it out.
Would recommend: Yes!!
Rooms done: Spy Safe House

The Escape Game Austin
The room was very nicely decorated, and the system for getting clues was higher-tech than at other places. (we could yell for help, and a clue would show up on a monitor) When we were there, they had made a mistake in setting up the room, but they realized it pretty quickly and came in to rectify the situation. There were also some neat gadgets/types of puzzles here, although a minor complaint was that they used the same "puzzle" multiple times, which is a little unusual for these sorts of room.

There are four rooms there, and I'd definitely be interested in trying some of the other ones!
Would recommend: Yes!
Rooms done: Classified! (I mean, the room is Classified!, not that it's classified which room we did)

Austin Panic Room (although it's now a branch of the Texas Panic Room, I guess?)
This will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was the first escape room we did. Although in retrospect, the first room we did (Museum Heist) had interesting puzzles but they weren't particularly themed to the room. This got better in the later rooms we did, where there tended to be a few very nice puzzles. Generally lower-budget than the first two places on the list, but we still had a good time and would go back. Their number of people limits on their rooms are a bit generous. (we did the Museum Heist room with 10, which is really a lot of people for any escape room) The location is clearly a repurposed old house, which is neat!

Right now there are five rooms going on there.
Would recommend: Yes
Rooms done: Museum Heist, Abandoned School, Prison Break

Mystery Room
We happened to walk by this place at the Domain, so we thought we'd give it a shot. The location is partitioned up into six (or eight?) rooms, and the walls don't even go up to the ceiling so it's the opposite of immersive. (they have white noise playing to drown out the sound of other rooms, which is both annoying and doesn't really work) The room we were in was pretty sparsely decorated, and the only puzzles we had trouble with were confusing, not clever. Most rooms let you configure how hard it is, which seemed like a cool idea until we escaped with some clues left unused and two locks, and were told "Yeah, you only need those on the harder difficulty", which is pretty disappointing.

There are eight rooms available there.
Would recommend: Not really
Rooms done: Pharoah's Tomb

Here's a Austin Chronicle piece where they review these and some others I'd like to try!
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why you should vote, and why your vote *does* matter [Aug. 30th, 2016|11:26 am]
Greg
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[Current Mood |worriedworried]

  • This is (to put it mildly) a weird election. Even Texas has had a few close polls. There's a lot of uncertainty this year, so you're more likely to be living in a closeish state this year than in other years.
  • It's your civic duty. Seriously, I don't want to get all emotional here, but democracy doesn't work if people don't vote. (not that our democracy doesn't have other problems! But this is one of them) Especially if you're a woman, or non-white, or non-land-owning: people fought for your right to vote. (and if you're a white land-owning male, well, that's what the American Revolution was about!)
  • If you think there's "no difference" between Hillary and Trump...I don't even know where to begin. The Democratic and Republican party platforms are remarkably different. Hillary wants to raise the minimum wage, Trump wants to build a wall and ban Muslim immigrants (maybe? I can't keep up...), they differ on taxes, etc., etc., etc.
  • More seriously, even if your state is deep red or dark blue, people pay attention to the popular vote margin. I want Trump to lose by the widest margin possible to send a message that we the people reject his anti-immigrant, authoritarian candidacy.
Go make sure you're registered! Check on when your state allows early voting! Plan on voting!
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The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time review [Aug. 26th, 2016|10:05 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a TimeThe Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was decent, although I found it to be a bit repetitive. The message is that sleep is important, and it makes you more effective in basically whatever you're doing. (there are some interesting studies done on athletes showing that consistently getting a good night's sleep can have massive effects on performance!) There are also some good tips on how to get better sleep. (avoid blue light before bed, etc.)

Maybe not the best book to read right before we have a kid, though... :-)

View all my reviews
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friday linked list: the Clinton Foundation, morality of drone warfare, WikiLeaks [Aug. 26th, 2016|02:27 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |nervousnervous]

- So I guess we have to talk about this Clinton Foundation stuff. The best two articles I've seen about this are Vox's The AP’s big exposé on Hillary meeting with Clinton Foundation donors is a mess and how media approaches the Clinton Foundation story through a politics lens. This is the kind of "scandal" that was extremely common under Bill Clinton - people investigate something, find nothing really wrong but then insinuate that there must be something wrong (because it's the Clintons!) if we just investigated more. Doesn't that fact that people did investigate and didn't find anything suggest that maybe nothing was really wrong? (see also: Travelgate, Whitewater, Hairgate, Vince Foster, etc., etc., etc.)

- Is Obama’s Drone War Moral? - an interesting look at the morality of drone warfare. I understand (per the article) that keeping things secret about why we choose particular targets makes it harder to judge whether it's right to target them, but I don't see a realistic way around this.

- WikiLeaks outs gay people in Saudi Arabia in ‘reckless’ mass data dump - harmful and pointless. Why publish data about ordinary citizens? This is how I felt when they published unredacted diplomatic cables (just to embarrass the US?), except this is obviously worse.

- Colombia and FARC Reach Deal to End the Americas’ Longest War - great news!

- Quick Charge and USB-C: Navigating the Next Generation of USB Charging - a great primer on how charging works. My phone has USB-C and it's great! (except for the part where all my old cables are now useless)

- Old Steel Mill Will Soon Be World's Largest Vertical Farm - cool!

- Went on a Weeklong Cruise For Conspiracy Theorists. It Ended Poorly. - starts off kinda funny, ends up sad and depressing. Also: grrrrr Andrew Wakefield!

- How Nextdoor reduced racist posts by 75% - neat!

- More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead - well, that's not good. Pretty creepy stuff.

- Every Joke from ‘Airplane!’ Ranked - pretty much what the title says. I had some quibbles here and there, but all in all it was a fun read! (some NSFW stills from the movie)

- How the KKK Scammed Its Members for Cash - apparently the KKK was more of a pyramid scheme in the 1920s than a hate group. Although there were definitely lynchings while they were active, the number of KKK members doesn't seem to correlate with the number of lynchings.
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clue solver redux! [Aug. 24th, 2016|09:24 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

After revamping gregstoll.com to support SSL, I spent some time looking at all of my projects and making sure that they still worked with SSL. Turns out most of them didn't! (although the fixes were generally pretty quick)

That led me to revisit the Clue Solver, which seemed to have partially broken since I wrote it almost 10(!) years ago, probably because I used an ancient version of the Google Web Toolkit.

So I rewrote the UI from scratch using React, which I'm trying to get more experience in and is just generally a really nice Javascript framework. And now it's done! Here's the new version, and here's the original one.
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friday linked list: a war on climate change, the olympics, not too much about politics, I swear! [Aug. 19th, 2016|02:32 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

- We Need to Literally Declare War on Climate Change - interesting idea. In the US I fear we don't have the political will to do this.

- How Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Differ on Taxes - Hillary wants to raise taxes for people making more than $1 million, and Trump wants to dramatically lower them. What a surprise!

- This Is Why There Are So Many Ties In Swimming - neat! Significant digits are fun.

- This is the best Usain Bolt picture that's ever been taken - hah, that's great! (this was a semifinal, not the final, so maybe that's why he's so relaxed?)

- The Soviet Doping Plan: Document Reveals Illicit Approach to ’84 Olympics - yikes, looks like the Soviets doped for a long time...

- Stealing bitcoins with badges: How Silk Road’s dirty cops got caught - Bitcoin is anonymous but very traceable.

- Learned Optimism - an interesting presentation about the difference between optimists and pessimists, and how you can train yourself to be more optimistic.

- The hottest new board games from Gen Con 2016 - some of these look pretty cool. Anyone played any of them?

- What does it take to be the organist for the Boston Red Sox? - man, that seems like a great job! (although I'm not hip enough to recognize most of the songs he plays in the clips in the article :-( )

- The Seven Ways To Become An Animation Powerhouse - apparently Laika makes good movies! I liked Coraline a lot, and they just came out with Kubo and the Two Strings which is getting great reviews. (although why use Rotten Tomatoes when Metacritic exists and is a better metric?)
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Using Let's Encrypt to make gregstoll.com support HTTPS! [Aug. 12th, 2016|09:18 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

Since I have a few projects that require passwords (most notably LJBackup), I've wanted to set up HTTPS on my website. I had done this with my own self-signed certificate a while back, which works but gives you a pretty scary-looking warning in various browsers. I've blocked out the memory of what I had to do to get this to work, but it was very painful.

So when I read about Let's Encrypt again, I thought I'd give it a shot. They recommend using certbot to automatically enable HTTPS, and I was pretty skeptical but thought it was worth a shot.

And - wow! It totally works! It made a certificate and updated my Apache config that worked correctly out of the box. Now gregstoll.com has a pretty green lock when you visit it :-)
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