Today’s Crazy Idea

I’m constantly coming up with ideas. Much moreso than I suspect is normal. (At any given time I have about half a dozen ideas for new businesses floating around in my head.)

A lot of the times after a few minutes in my mind I’ll reject an idea for one reason or another. Other times I realize that it’s a really good idea and act on it. But today’s idea I’m not so sure about.

I think it’s very important that have a good retirement account. The money you earn is basically time times interest rate, and, while I can shop around for a good interest rate, you just can’t beat 40 years time when it comes to interest earned. ($2,500 today, with no money ever added, earning 10% annual interest, left alone for 40 years, would be a $113,000 retirement fund.)

I also noticed that I had a pretty ‘good’ schedule that I constructed back when I was on my ‘late’ sleep cycle: go to bed late and wake up late. I’m currently not on that sleep cycle, which means I’ll have lots of free time during the days. Mostly joking, I proposed that I should get a job to fill the time during the days.

And then these two random thoughts collided. The obvious result: why not get a ‘light’ part-time job during the days and earmark 100% of the earnings for contribution to an IRA?

Realistically, I doubt I’ll carry through. But I wanted to share the idea, because I really like it.


If I had more time right now, and was more familiar with how to parse EXIF data in shell scripts, I’d write a script that could parse a directory (or set of directories) and:

  • Weed out duplicates. (MD5 hashes would be fine.)
  • Adjust (based on manually-inputted corrections) timestamps on photos for a given camera. Mine was a day off. Someone else had the right date but set the year as 2008. This is just what a shell script is for, no?
  • Optionally, sort photos by:
    • Date (imagine 4,820 photos from about five people, being sorted into 14 folders, one for each day.)
    • Camera (indirectly, person)
  • Resize photos

Imagine if one command could transform these 4,820 photos into a set of 14 folders, one for each day, and resize them all to 1600×1200.

I come across needs like this often enough that I might just have to look into writing this…

Storage Challenge

I think I mentioned that everyone in Ghana ended up copying their photos to my computer. Initially I said I’d post them online for everyone.  Then I said I’d just send out a CD, realizing how many there were. Over time I changed the offer to 2 CDs. And then a DVD.

Overall, I have a total of 4,820 photos. They take up 6.3 GB of disk space.

So the question is what to do… I have a few ideas, but I don’t really like any of them:

  • Resize the photos. Nautilus (the Ubuntu file manager) makes it as easy as right-clicking to resize photos. Dropping everything to 1600×1200 might be enough. This would be very CPU-intensive, though. One photo is quick, but 200 takes several minutes. I don’t want to know how long 4,820 would take.
  • Send two DVDs. The DVDs are on the school anyway, so this is kind of a good idea. It just seems absurd to send out two DVDs for 14 days of picture-taking. (Assuming, erroneously, that 6.3 GB is 6,300 MB, that’s an average of 344 photos and 450 MB a day.)
  • Weed out the junk photos. I know I have a lot. I’d just copy everything from the card to my computer, format the card in the camera, and go on shooting the next day. The problem is that this would be somewhat labor-intensive, and that I don’t think it’s my place to decide which of other peoples’ photos are junk.

The other reason I’m averse to burning 2 DVDs is that I want to try using Picasa’s “Gift CD” option so it’s not just a huge mess of folders with photos.


Since we’re living somewhere else now, I think I can finally say what I’ve wanted to say for a long time:

The combination to our apartment last year was 12345.

We didn’t pick it. And it wasn’t quite 12345, you had to press two of the numbers at the same time. It was awfully unimaginative on the part of whoever set the combination, though.

My roommates looked at me like I was an idiot when I complained on the first day that there was no way I’d remember the combination. That was before I realized that it was 12345.

Suffice it to say, our combination next year is not 12345.


So a month ago I was working until 1am or so. I’d wake up around noon.

Then I traveled to Ghana, which is 4 hours ahead. And we had to get up by 8 every day, sometimes earlier. There’s nothing to do at night, so we’d usually be in bed by 10:30 or so.

So you can imagine how messed up my sleep cycle was when I came back. I’d be exhausted by 9. Not like a little sleepy, but so tired that I felt like I might be sick. It was a struggle to sleep past 6 in the morning. I’ve now had enough time that I can stay up until almost midnight and get up around 8. This is probably what people would call a “normal” sleep cycle.

Two big realizations about this “normal” sleep cycle:

  • The day seems much longer. When I wake up I haven’t missed half the day. And being up at 3 a.m. really isn’t worthwhile, since there’s nothing to do at that hour.
  • Mornings, though, are dull. When I’d get up at noon, people would have already replied to the e-mails I sent at 3 a.m. Now I’m sending e-mails at 8 p.m. and checking at 8 a.m., and people haven’t gotten to work yet to reply. My e-mail to Res Life still is unanswered and they’ve had 27 minutes!

The other problem, though, is my schedule next semester. Tuesdays and Thursdays my first class is at 2:10. That’s the earliest.  I have Fridays off. (The sign of a good schedule.) I apparently also have Wednesday off. I don’t remember planning that. Mondays I don’t have class until 6:30 at night. I suspect I’ll fall into a later sleep cycle. But boy will I have free time during the day if I don’t!

Stupid, Stupid!

Web forms should be designed to minimize data loss. Let me explain two scenarios in the past 24 hours:

  • I spent a while getting the wording just right on my Craigslist post. I found one minor thing to fix, so I clicked back. But stupid, stupid Craigslist dynamically generates the names of the forms (probably to combat spam), which meant that none of the data showed up when I clicked back, since, as far as Firefox was concerned, it was a brand new form. So I had to rewrite it from scratch. Grrr! This is a really bad design idea.
  • I spent even longer crafting a reply to an e-mail in OWA. I finally got it just right and clicked “Send.” And got the login screen. It seems that, even though I was actively working on the e-mail, I timed out due to inactivity. Of course, the e-mail I wrote wasn’t sent, and wasn’t even saved as a draft. It’s just gone. To me, this is a major bug.

I can’t do much about Craigslist, but it’s a “Fool me once…” thing with OWA. I think this was the third time I’ve lost an e-mail I spent a long time working on due to the inactivity bug. So I think I’m just going to start forwarding my school mail to GMail.


I’m not a big movie watcher. I probably watch half a dozen movies a year. That might be a high estimate. And probably not more than 10% of the movies I watch are horror movies. But I still like them.

You have to watch scary movies alone in the dark. There’s just no other acceptable way of doing it. So I just watched Disturbia. My parents described it as a modern version of Rear Window. So my expectations were pretty low.

I am now terrified. I’m lying in my bed with the covers almost pulled over my head. My closet door is partially open. I can’t really see in. Someone could very easily be lurking in there with a knife. I kind of want to shine my flashlight in, but that would almost certainly trigger them to come out. I also don’t know if anyone is under my bed. Little kids worry about monster under the bed. I’m worried that Mr. Turner might be under my bed, waiting to plunge a knife through the mattress and into my back as I lie here in utter terror.

I have my cell phone by my bed. I always keep it there since it’s my alarm clock. But tonight it’s so I can call 911 when Mr. Turner tries to kill me. Trust me, I’ll be sleeping with one eye open.

I keep a pocket knife around, as a handy tool. I kind of think I should get out of bed and get that for when he comes to kill me, but I don’t want to leave the safety of my bed.

How absurd is that? I legitimately feel much safer lying in bed, and am exponentially safer if I pull the sheets way up. My body’s natural reaction to someone (potentially) lurking in the shadows of my closet waiting to kill me isn’t to get up and get the knife just out of reach, but to pull some thin covers of me, to the extent that I can’t even see the threat coming. It’s probably the least safe thing you could do, second only to putting on a blindfold and then trying to on an offensive using styrofoam.

I tried rationalizing it. Mr. Turner isn’t real. But… I bet there are people like him in the real world. Maybe even worse. And surely, you couldn’t stick a knife through my bed and kill me, because it’s too thick. (And while a sword would do the trick, you couldn’t maneuver it underneath a bed.) But when was the last time you inspected the underside of your bed? He could easily have cut out a hole so he only an inch of mattress or so remains in one area. And, once I’ve dozed off comfortable that no one is trying to kill me, he’ll plunge the knife through my back.

It was nice knowing you all.

Besides his pasttime as a serial killer, BTW, Mr. Turner just radiated a really, really unlikable personality. He’s played by David Morse. You might recognize him. From House. He’s Detective Tritter. No wonder I disliked him.


Most people probably like to read the comics in the Sunday paper. I like to read the circulars. Every week there are good deals. But sometimes, there are great deals. And this week, there are several. (N.B. that most of these have rebates attached to them.)

  • $600 buys an HP Pavilion notebook with a dual-core AMD Turion processor, 120 GB hard drive, 14.1″ LCD (“Brightview Widescreen” no less), CD/DVD burner (with “LightScribe Direct Disk Labling”), a built-in webcam, Vista Home Premium, and, get this, 2 GIG of RAM. This is a monster of a machine, and $600 is just insane. [Office Depot]
  • What I think is three reams of (store-brand) recycled paper, $16.99. [Office Depot]
  • eMachines Athlon 3800, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB disk, dual-layer CD/DVD burner, Vista Home Premium. No monitor, but an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. Not a spectacular machine, but $299.98. [Office Depot]
  • Refurbished HP all-in-one machine, with a card-reader and 2.4″ LCD. I’m not a huge fan of refurbished stuff, but $49.99. [Office Depot]
  • Store-brand 75-pack DVD-R and 25-pack CD-Rs, $7.99. [Office Depot]
  • 300-amp jump starter kit, $19.98 at Pep Boys. Or pay $49.98 for a combination jump-starter (rated at 450 amps) and an air compressor.
  • Lexmark X1240 all-in-one machine (printer + scanner + copier). $27 at Target. Why shouldn’t I buy this? (The fact that I don’t need one is not a valid answer.)
  • $37 at Target gets you your choice of a Uniden 5.8 GHz cordless phone system (two phones!) with answering machine, or a Philips DVD player. Both seem absurdly cheap.
  • 30-pack DVD+R or DVD-R, just $4.99 at CompUSA.
  • 500 GB external Seagate FreeAgent drive (USB 2.0), $117.99 at CompUSA.
  • Intel Q6600, the quad-core 2.4 GHz processor. $289.99. I swear these were $600-900 a month ago.
  • 7-inch LCD digital picture frame (no brand mentioned), $49.99 at CompUSA. At several hundred dollars these picture frames were pretty silly. At $50, it’s a potential gift.
  • An Iomega 1 TB external drive (based on size, it looks like it may be 500+500 or something), for $249.99 at CompUSA.
  • A pack of eight good ol’ Dixon #2 pencils, one cent at Staples. Limit 3 per customer. I stopped using pencils when I realized that I’d just scribble out mistakes instead of erasing them, but 3 cents for 24 pencils…
  • Brother QL-500ec [on Amazon] computer-based label printer, $64.99 at Staples.
  • $750 at Staples gets you a dual-core AMD Athlon 4200+, 2 GB RAM, 320 GB disk, 19″ HP LCD, DVD burner (LightScribe), built-in tuner [no word on HDTV?], 15-in-1 card reader, and Vista Home Premium.
  • $19.98 buys a 1GB Micro SD, xD, or Memory Stick Pro Duo memory card for your cameras. (Or Treos!) If you’d rather 1GB in SD or CF, it’s just $12.98. [Staples]
  • Also at Staples, $69.98 gets you an HP all-in-one machine (apparently not refurbished).
  • 10-ream (5,000 sheet) boxes of paper are $29.99 at Staples.
  • Amazon has this nice OBDII reader for $69.99. Most of our cars are pretty new so we don’t have a lot of problems, but I’m still tempted…
  • Amazon also has my shoes for $30, which is an absurdly good deal. Considering that I’m perfectly happy with them and was going to spend like $90 on a new pair of shoes, it seems silly not to buy them.

I think I’m off to go shopping…


On our trip to Ghana, we had ten students, two faculty members (who we basically considered students), and two professors.  We tried to pull tables together so that all fourteen of us could have our meals together, but sometimes we’d be lazy and just sit at individual tables.

One morning, I had breakfast with one of the professors and another student. When I sat down, the professor and student were talking about the career track of a professor. I think both of us students walked away convinced that it was something we wanted to do. There are lots of reasons: the pay is good; the job comes with some level of prestige; you get summers off, a month off at Christmas, and Spring Break; but, most of all, I think it’s because I would just enjoy it, and I think I could do a better job than many incumbents.

We were talking about prices in Africa, and someone mentioned the conversion rate, but then added that because of PPP, things were a lot cheaper. When I learned about PPP, we talked about exchange rates, inflation rates, a “long-run equilibrium,” and some complicated formulas that no one understood.

In Ghana, a dollar could buy me three bottles of Coke. In America, a dollar might not even buy me one bottle of Coke. Why don’t discussions of PPP start there? It’s a really simple concept if it’s explained in terms that real people understand.

Accounting is probably the most boring subject I’ve ever taken. The problem with this is that accounting is a fascinating field. Understanding accounting principles helps you know enormous amounts about a company’s earnings. Understanding accounting can help you spot fraud. (Or conceal fraud.) But no professor ever taught it that way.

I think part of the thing is to throw out the textbooks. You need books, absolutely. But textbooks, almost by definition, are boring. This book has good reviews. (Of course it doesn’t cover the whole field of accounting.) You might throw in another book on fraud. Keep the assigned readings short. I think that, if you actually choose an interesting book, some students might actually read it! And maybe they’ll even want to come to class and learn.

Step One

A few e-mails later, it’s occurred to me that I never actually mentioned that I was back from Ghana. I had an incredible time, and we came back right as I was beginning to miss home, so it worked out well. JFK has got to be the worst airport on the planet. I don’t think I saw a single happy person the whole time I was there. (Also, for all of the American, pro-English-language jingoism, you’d think that we might go through the trouble to ensure that the first person that one landing in America has to speak to speaks English?) I have many tales, but don’t really know where to start and don’t want to give too much away so I can have lots of great stories for when school starts.

What I’m actually posting about is The Dangerous Book for Boys. I’d seen it mentioned somewhere and thought that it was a really neat idea. It just showed up on the front page of Amazon as a most-popular selection. It’s hard to tell who the target market is, because it sounds like it’s something that anyone, or at least any male, would enjoy. I think I may have to pick a copy up.