Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday Travel

  • Changing four airline tickets on Delta: $75/ticket = $300
  • Adding new rental reservation for 5 days = $250
  • Being able to let kids recover from pneumonia before traveling = priceless
Interesting side note... I couldn't just extend my current rental car (a minivan, Chevy Uplander) because we had made the reservation through Priceline. This completely stymied both Budget's national and local offices. So I we just made another reservation through Priceline for the same kind of vehicle, picking up on the day we were to drop off the current rental. One would think that they will simply let us keep the current vehicle, but who knows. Their inefficiency has cost them. We bid a lower rate on the new reservation, since it won't be during peak holiday season, but would have been happy to pay the old rate if we could have just extended the current reservation. That comes out to about $15/day = $75, plus whatever take Priceline is getting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Favorite Music of 2007

Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails -- Favorite artist releases very good concept album. I can't ask for anything more.

Carnavas by Silversun Pickups -- This came out last year, and I put on my list last year as well. I listened to it even more this year though.

The Boxer by The National -- This is probably my favorite music to listen to while programming or writing. The only problem is that the songs can be so engrossing that it can be distracting.

Neon Bible by Arcade Fire -- If somebody told me "there's been no good music in 2007" my retort would begin with Neon Bible.

Because of the Times by Kings of Leon -- The consensus criticism of this album is that it was too fractured and all over the place. Maybe that's true, but the songs are excellent. Put this whole album on your iPod and hit shuffle. Every time one of the tracks comes up, it's an instant joy.

In Rainbows by Radiohead -- This is a great album -- also a good retort to any "2007 sucked" claims. I have a feeling that it will remain in heavy rotation for me next year.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon -- This is another enjoyable album by Spoon. This is one of those albums where each time I listen to it I ask myself "why don't I listen to this more often?"

Robbers & Cowards by Cold War Kids -- I think this also was a 2006 album, but I didn't hear it until this year. A very good album overall, but I especially love "Hang Me Out to Dry."

Icky Thump by The White Stripes -- This was a disappointing album to some people. To me it is a great listen, even though it is probably not as memorable as previous albums by The White Stripes.

Graduation by Kanye West -- I go through love/hate cycles with this album. I tend to listen to it way too much, get sick of it, then two weeks later start all over. This definitely has some weaknesses, but there are too many good tracks to ignore it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Les Miles

I find it funny that Michigan has wanted Les Miles so badly. I am terribly unimpressed with Les Miles. He has had a great team the last two years, but that's because of the tremendous talent that Nick Saban left for him three years ago. Saban is well known as one of the best recruiters in college football. Les Miles got a great team. Look at all of the great players on his team, and all of the best ones were Saban recruits. His coaching has been quite questionable this year. Personally I thought he got incredibly lucky in many games this year. He made many questionable calls. Worse, when questioned about some of these calls after the game, he often left the impression that he was not completely aware of the situation when he made the call. Some people mistook this for "gutsy" calls, but they were actually just ignorant calls. He was dumb, but got lucky. His team could have easily lost two more games because of his mistakes. They still wound up losing two games when they clearly have the best team in the country. I was amazed that he prepared a double spy defense to play against Darren McFadden, and they still gave up 200 yards on the ground to him. Yes McFadden is a great player, but if you prepare a "trick" defense for a guy and it fails, then some of that failure has to attribute to the "trick" defense. Anyways, Les Miles does not seem like a great coach despite his team's success. His team is successful despite his poor coaching. And yet, Michigan can't stop salivating over him...

Mitchell Report

I don't care about athletes using drugs. Most people would agree that I have a minority opinion on this. But who cares about my opinion? Most people think that athletes using drugs is a form of cheating. It is bad. Period. If I was one of those people, I would be very happy about the Mitchell Report.

A lot of people have pointed out that the evidence in the Mitchell Report would not hold up in court. They point to Roger Clemens in particular. It's as if the Mitchell Report was supposed to produce evidence to be presented to a grand jury or something. If that would have been the purpose, then it would not have been worth releasing.

I think the point was to justify stricter measures to prevent the use of drugs in baseball. Obviously you can only prevent future use, you cannot change the past. If that is the purpose, then I think it does a very good job. It shows that by only getting two people to cooperate, they were able to find evidence against dozens of players. There is no way the public could not come away feeling that drug use is widespread in baseball. It's not just the guys hitting 40+ home runs. It's the starting pitchers, the relief pitchers. It's the low-power, fast running infielders and outfielders, as well as the sluggers and wannabe sluggers. It's the utility bench players. It's the upcoming players and aging veterans. It's future hall-of-famers and guys struggling to get at-bats.

If the public thinks that everyone is using, then it will be hard for the player's union to stop the owners from instituting testing that is on-par with the NFL or maybe even the Olympics. Smart and/or cynical folks will say that players will still find ways to use drugs to get an advantage, but it does not matter. All that matters is that most fans feel like order has been restored. They feel like they are watching a "fair" and "clean" game. The Mitchell Report forces the players' union to accept this kind of testing, or baseball will lose fans, and players' salaries will fall. It's that simple.

Now if three years from now, Alex Rios leads the majors with 25 homers... Well that would be pretty interesting, wouldn't it? I don't think it will be the case. There will the usual fluctuations in hitting vs. pitching, but no amount of drug testing will have much affect on the general proclivity of home runs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ActionScript Reflection Workarounds

ActionScript has some nice reflection features. However, if you are used to Java or C# (for example) then ActionScript can seem kind of sub-par. One of the easiest things to do in Java is to create a new instance of a class dynamically:

Class<MyAwesomeClass> clazz = MyAwesomeClass.class;
MyAwesomeClass instance = clazz.newInstance();

Clearly this assumes a default constructor, but you get the picture. The equivalent in AS is:

var x:MyGreatClass;
var clazz:Class = flash.utils.getDefinitionByName("MyGreatClass") as Class;
var instance:MyGreatClass = new clazz() as MyGreatClass;
A couple of things to notice here. First, you have to declare a variable of the given type. Otherwise the AVM2 virtual machine is not smart enough to load the class and will blow up on the second line (thanks Wikipedia!) Next the standard AS Function getDefinitionByName returns an Object, not a Class, so you have to cast it. The only nice part is that you get to use the new operator with the instance variable clazz. Ah, finally we get a job-of-dynamic-language moment. To improve on this, I add a boilerplate method to my classes:

public static get clazz():Class
return MyGreatClass;

This let's me do the following:

var clazz:Class = MyGreatClass.clazz;
var instance:MyGreatClass = new clazz() as MyGreatClass;

Not quite as nice Java still, but close! The first line causes MyGreatClass to get loaded by the VM while at the same time providing a handle on the Class in question in a very convenient manner.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This is the Team We Want to Move to the South Bay?

Clearly one of these guys must go.

Nolan won't go because it would "send the wrong message" to the team.

Smith won't go because it will kill them with the salary cap.

So they will both be back and the Niners will be very bad ... again.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Yeah, I'm pretty happy that Tim Tebow won the Heisman. He certainly deserved it. It was kind of sweet that Colt Brennan finished a distant third place. So much for June Jones and his attempt to raise up his guy by degrading Tebow.

I was reading the newspaper in Tahoe on Saturday, anticipating the Heisman ceremony that evening. They mentioned "Tebowisms" which appear to be similar to Chuck Norris Facts. Mildly amusing.

Anyways, Tebow gets one more team to wallop on this year, and it's another Big 10 team: Michigan. If you can't beat Appalachain State... heh heh. Vegas has Florida as 10 point favorites. Only USC is a bigger favorite among New Years day (and after) bowls, at 13.5 points over in the Rose Bowl. The SEC is heavily favored this year in general. SEC teams are favored in six of the eight bowl games they are playing in.

Next year should be interesting for Florida. Tebow says he will not leave for the Pros no matter what happens next year. He's certainly not your prototypical NFL QB anyways, so this may well be the case. Percy Harvin on the other hand is definitely going to be a high NFL draft pick. He is a little short for the pros, but his speed is ridiculous and his hands are very good as well. If Ted Ginn, Jr. is a first round pick, Harvin definitely is as well. So next year becomes make-or-break for Florida.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Heisman and System QBs

There has been a lot of talk about "system" QBs. People point out Andre Ware or Texas Tech as examples of how systems can lead to inflated numbers. Sure they can. But the real issue is level of competition, not systems. That's why Texas Tech puts up big offensive numbers. That's why Hawaii does, too. A low level of competition will always cast extra scrutiny on star players.

Nobody complained about Tommie Frazier winning the Heisman. Clearly he was in a "system" albeit one where he ran the ball much more than he threw. It didn't matter. Nebraska played and beat the best out there. It takes a great player to perform at such a high level against tough competition.

June Jones and others have also made a point about the NFL potential of players being a factor in Heisman voting. That is just ridiculous. If NFL talent was relevant at all, then Peyton Manning should have won three Heismans. There has never been a more sure-fire future Pro Bowl quarterback coming out of college, but he did not win the Heisman and for good reason.

There have been many Heisman winners to have no little or no NFL success, particularly quarterbacks: Ware, Frazier, Charlie Ward, Danny Wuerffel, Jason White just to name a few. There is nothing wrong with this. It's part of the beauty of college athletics that it's not just the most physically gifted individuals who have the most success.

So sorry June Jones. Maybe your boy will be good in the NFL, who knows? Nobody runs your "pro" offense there, so I don't know how much his experience in Hawaii will help. Whatever the case, Hawaii has not played against formidable competition at all. You can't claim to be the best without playing against at other good teams. That is why Hawaii's undefeated season will not get them a shot at a national title game, and that's why Colt Brennan could throw 100 TDs and not win the Heisman.

As a side note, there was one thing that made me really happy when I read about June Jones's disparaging comments about Tim Tebow. I learned that Hawaii opens its season next year at The Swamp. Talk about sweet justice! Hawaii is going to torn up by Georgia in a few weeks, so that will demonstrate how meaningless their perfect season is... But it will be even more demonstrated next August. And before anyone brings up Boise State from last  year, try to actually remember that game. They had every break in the world, and still had to gamble on a trick play to be able to win that game. If that game was played nine more times, how many times do you think Boise State would win? Let's be honest here, maybe once?

Rails 2.0 Released

If you are upgrading, I recommend upgrading Gems first (gem upgrade -system) and then using it to upgrade Rails (gem install rails --server There are some nice features. I especially like some of the Ajax security and JavaScript aggregating. The (expanded) JSON and XML support in ActiveRecord is also nice. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Confused Microsoft

So which is it Microsoft? Is Popfly a download, or not?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Oodle: Fail

I like reading Uncov, it almost always makes me smile. Harshness is fine its own right, but it's always better when mixed with technical harshness. So in that spirit, let's take a look at Oodle 2.0.

First, a disclaim: Oodle and eBay are (or at least were) partners. Obviously everything here is my opinion, and has nothing to do with eBay. I'm not going to comment on their business, just a few things I saw in a browser...

Now I came across Oodle because they are hosting a Lunch 2.0 in a couple of weeks. I got the Facebook invite from Terry, and started poking around Oodle. They've supposedly re-done their entire site and made it very Web 2.0-ish, hence the launch of "Oodle 2.0."  So what's the secret to their new UI? Let's find out.

I opened up Firebug on a page and saw 7 HTTP requests for JavaScript files. That seemed excessive. I started opening up each JS file that was coming across. Here's the start of the first one:

/*Copyright (c) 2007, Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
Code licensed under the BSD License:
version: 2.3.1

Alright, so they are using YUI, at least they didn't re-invent the wheel here. I kept reading this file and one line 11 I see:

/*Copyright (c) 2007, Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
Code licensed under the BSD License:
version: 2.3.1

Fail. But wait, there's more.  Starting at the end of Line 18 we have:

/*Copyright (c) 2007, Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
Code licensed under the BSD License:
version: 2.3.1

I'm seriously not making this up. See for yourself:

Ok, so that file is pretty bad. What about the other six? Here is the contents of another JS file (see it live in all its glory at :

function focus()


var focusElement;

if (document.getElementById('home-what'))


focusElement = document.getElementById('home-what');


else if (document.getElementById('search-what'))


focusElement = document.getElementById('search-what');


else if (document.getElementById('email'))


focusElement = document.getElementById('email');


else if (document.getElementById('sender'))


focusElement = document.getElementById('sender');





That's right, an HTTP request for 20-freaking lines of JS. FAIL! There was also three CSS files loaded for a single page. The ten combined external files are all loaded in the first 20 or so lines of HTML. It's like these guys are trying to make their site slow...

I looked at their house listings. You can click a "see details" for each listing and it makes a slick XmlHTTPRequest call. How very Web 2.0. The response to this is XML. What year is it? Haven't you guys learned about JSON? You would think using YUI they would have figured this out.

Here is one the URLs to a search:
That looks very Ruby on Rails-ish (or maybe Django.) I looked at their cookies, including their session cookie, but nothing cried out RoR there. Still RoR would fit well with their slowness strategy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Weekly Football Musings

Will this year be enough of a reason to unseat the Big 10's resistance to a playoff? I don't think so. They have such a $weet deal with ABC and the Rose Bowl. But could you just imagine if today would have been tournament seeding day, a la basketball, instead of bowl schedule day? Let's say we could do an eight team tourney (three weeks like the basketball tourney.) We would have

Ohio State vs. Kansas : This would be #1 vs. #8. Would Ohio State even be favored in this? Yeah probably, but not by a lot. This would theoretically be the most lopsided game, and it would still be very competitive.

LSU vs. USC : How awesome would this game be? I could imagine a lot of people predicting that the winner here wins the next two weeks as well. Also, would this be the first college football game ever where ever defensive starter would go on to start in the NFL one day?

Virginia Tech vs. Missouri : This game would be very interesting if for no other reason than the contrast in styles. You gotta think that Missouri would come into this game feeling very disrespected.

Oklahoma vs. Georgia : Wow, another slugfest. Georgia's offense really clicked down the stretch... Bob Stoops knows all about SEC football, but this might be a case of too much physical difference. Georgia is bigger and faster than Oklahoma at every position... Ok maybe not, but you know people would be making arguments like that.

That's the kind of amazing games we would see out of an eight team playoff. And of course West Virginia and Hawaii would both be freaking out that they are not part of the eight teams. You can just hear Hawaii complaining about going undefeated but not going to the big dance...

The Heisman
Let the buildup start. I am ridiculously biased, I know. But how can Tim Tebow not win this? If somebody told you last summer that a QB would throw for almost 3000 yards and 30 TDs and also ran for over 800 yards and 20 more TDs ... you would say that guy would win the Heisman. Somehow Tebow only being a sophomore and Florida not being in the BCS championship have decreased Tebow's amazing season. That is just crazy. Florida lost three games, in a year where everybody lost at least two. Anybody who watched Florida knows they lost games because of their completely inexperienced defense. The offense was much better than last year's national championship team, and Tebow was the biggest reason for that.

Tebow must win the Heisman. Chances are that this will be his best season, statistically. I think Coach Meyer would prefer to have more playmakers (not just Percy Harvin) around Tebow at WR/RB. If that is the case next year, Florida will run the ball a lot more. It will translate into less pass attempts for Tebow and less rushes for him, too. I think his efficiency will stay very high, and he will probably still score a lot of rushing TDs, but gross numbers will probably drop quite a bit.