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Give someone a boiled peanut and tell them it's a boiled peanut, they'll be like, "This is disgusting". Give that same person a boiled peanut and tell them it's a bean that tastes peanuty, they'll be like, "This is pretty good." It's sad that people are so mentally jailed by their own expectations.
Fish tacos are good unless:
We might also note that fish tacos are not the same kind of tacos you eat in a crispy corn shell with ground beef, lettuce, and shredded cheese, in case anyone doesn't know. (I could see that being a little weird.) Fish tacos are actual Mexican tacos, which means fish, shredded veggies, a squeeze of lemon or lime, and a bit of salsa or avocado maybe, on soft corn tortillas. Lots of people who claim to hate fish tacos would love it if you threw the same ingredients on a bun and called it a fish sandwich, or if you serve it without the tortilla and call it fish slaw. Hell, if you serve you serve it with a tortilla, i.e., the exact same dish, and called it fish slaw.
Papers I've Written for School
These are some academic papers I've written for school, all for Aerospace Engineering courses. Although none of these are genuine research, nor were any published in journals, I have encountered an occasional proceedings or business publication that cites the web version of these papers.
Three months in Los Angeles without a car
It can be done.
Today I got my car back after two months in the shop after a month sitting in my garage unused (when I was too busy to attend to it). 
But I want to make it clear that good public transit was a big part of my decision where to move to where I live now (Santa Monica), and that my job is fortuitously right across from a bus terminal on the other end of the line.  In fact, I had been taking the bus to work for about a month before my car's transmission started to go. Around the same time I had a big project at work that was nearing a deadline, and so I never got around to taking the car in for service till a month later.
So for that month and the next two, I took buses (and, in a couple cases, a train) everywhere. Granted, I don't exactly have a vibrant social life, and I have a lot of the stores I need within a few blocks of my apartment. Also, I found that at no point did I have a need to hit anything like a Target , which would have been a pain. But the bus was able to get me where I needed to go: doctor's appointments, destinations here and there, and downtown L.A.
So, the next time someone tells you it's impossible to live in L.A. without a car, I am proof that it's definitely possible.
Still, I'm really happy to finally have the car back. In fact, I was so happy I went to the supermarket and filled up a whole cart.
Nickling and Diming
One of the main complaints consumers have is about companies who "nickle and dime" them all the time, meaning that they charge small fees for a bunch of things that aren't part of the up-front, advertised cost. Airlines charge fees for baggage, food, and earphones that aren't part of the ticket prices. Banks and credit cards charge all sorts of financing and usage feeds. Hotels charge for extra blankets. And so on.
Personally, I say bring it on.
First of all, we have to address a common myth. People think that companies resort to nickling and diming in order to squeeze out every little bit of profit they can, no matter how petty. Although it's true that the goal of nickling and diming is to increase profits, the idea isn't to profit directly off of petty things.
The fact is, these companies already know how much money to charge so as to maximize their profit margin (or, for airlines, to minimize their losses). Nickling and diming customers will acutally reduce their margins, unless the price increase is offset by a lower base price. And that is exactly what the real purpose of nickling and diming is: to allow those companies to charge less money for their basic service while maintaining their margins.
"But isn't that false marketing?" you ask.
Well, yes, sometimes it is, when the fee is unavoidable. But here's the thing: most nickle and dime fees aren't unavoidable. They're mostly for add-ons: optional amenities on top of the basic service.
Personally, I hardly ever use these optional amenities, and I'm rather happy to know I'm not subsidizing other customers' usage. In fact, I sometime rue how many amenities the basic service includes, thinking how many dollars I could have saved if I didn't have to subsidize those amenities for other customers (especially in hotels). And, when I do use optional services, I'm happy to pay for my own consumption, rather than burden other customers with it. The sword cuts both ways for me.
I don't deny that the actual economics is more complicated than I've presented here, nor that there are many shady uses for the "hidden fee". But the bottom line is, most of the time, nickling and diming customers reduces my price. So I say, more nickling and diming.
Nonfiction Book Title Rules
Nonfiction is one of the most popular genres of books sold today. It's also the genre with the absolute least amount of imagination when it comes to book titles. In fact, all nonfiction titles follow five basic rules.
Rule 1: All nonfiction books must have both a title and subtitle.
There are no exceptions to this rule. All nonfiction, every single book ever published, adheres to this rule.
Rule 2: The title will be in one of these three forms:
Rule 3: The subtitle will be in one of these five forms:
Rule 4: Only the subtitle is allowed to identify the book's contents.
The title alone should never, ever be sufficient to allow someone to guess what the book is about. Preferrably, the title shouldn't have anything to do with the contents except in the most abstract, metaphorical sense.
Rule 5: The word "secret" may appear anywhere in the title or subtitle even if it violates Rules 2 and 3.
That's it: these five rules are sufficient to cover the title of all nonfiction books ever published. Let's take a look at some examples of valid titles.
Photographs of Me
I've had a web presence since 1995.
In those 15 years, many things about the World Wide Web have changed tremendously, but one thing has remained the same: my web pages have been almost entirely static. Except for a few minor cgi-bin applications (including the Oracle of Notre Dame in a previous form), all my web content was edited on my desktop, uploaded, and served as-is.
Well, I've finally jumped on the dynamic content bandwagon. Welcome to my new blog. Like any respectable web app, it stores content in a database and retrieves it upon request.
So what pushed me over? Well, it's mostly a matter of the right technologies coming together and getting support from inexpensive web hosts. Until recently (last few years), most inexpensive web hosts only supported dynamic content with PHP (which I will never touch) and cgi-bin scripts. CGI is terrible for anything more than trivial apps. But lately web hosts are supporting a wider variety of web frameworks (largely due to the success of Ruby on Rails, I think).
With that development I began considering to implement my own dynamic content in Python. There are now tons of libraries one can leverage to take care of the gory details (and that's all I wanted—which is why I didn't go with a framework like Django). I found CherryPy to be especially helpful to take care of all the HTTP aspects, while not being overly formulaic to use. The major libraries that came together for my blog are:
I threw together a couple small apps with CherryPy and SQLAlchemy, and then decided I was ready to try for a blog, and here it is.
List of Facebook Apps I've blocked
August 6, 2010
Facebook added an application kill switch, which I invoked, so now all applications are blocked. Yay.
Here is a list of Facebook apps I've blocked. With one minor exception, my policy is not to allow any third-party Facebook apps.
Even though I use Facebook sparingly (it's mostly there just in case people want to find me), I find Facebook apps irritating enough to stomp out and brag about it. Besides being annoying information vomit, they are often also security risks (they can phish information from your Facebook profile if you allow them).
The first 20 or so apps on this list I blocked before even having used them; when I first signed up I browsed through the most popular apps and blocked them all. I take great pride in having blocked SuperPoke without ever having been SuperPoked.
Here's the list:
An Open Letter to all Job Recruiters
Dear the five or so job recruiters per day who try to contact me:
First of all, I would like to thank you for your interest. It is comforting to know that I always have options. However, several aspects of you methodology have been a source of irritation to me, so I thought I'd write this letter to make you aware of this.
I think you for reading this, and I would encourage you to pass this on to any of your friends to that all may be enlightened.
The Apostrophe Rule
The Apostrophe Rule is a rule I made up while advising someone on an Internet forum what to do about his wife who would always talk his ear off. I've been told many times how clever the rule is, so I thought I'd share it with the whole world.
The husband in question here didn't want to shut his wife down completely, I guess because he thought gossiping was the highlight of her day, or something. Anyway I gave him this rule which is designed merely to set boundaries about who she can talk about, and it's pretty clever. Here is the rule as the husband would dictate it to his wife:
You may not gossip about anyone you need an apostrophe to name.
If you think about it for a moment, it's clear how and why it works, but I'll give some examples anyway. First of all, people who are on first name basis with both spouses are acceptable, since they can be named with their actual name, no apostrophe needed. Any relative or friend of the wife would be acceptable; she could name them as "my sister", "my mom", "my best friend", "my coworker", "my dentist", etc. However, the rule kicks in once she starts getting to "my sister's friend", "my coworker's niece", "my mom's psychiatrist", "Dawn's hairdresser", etc. Those people need apostrophes to be named, so she is not allowed to talk about them.
This rule has two benefits. It limits the number of people available for the wife to gossip about, ostensibly reducing the overall time she'll be able to spend gossiping. Also it helps limit the gossip to be about people that the husband is less uninterested in.
As far as I know, I am the first person to come up with this rule. I've had a lot of people follow-up with praise for this rule whenever I post it. They will write, "Wow, that's a really good rule." I've even had women say they would respect men who instituted it. It seems that a lot of people like rule.
The Apostrophe Rule is slightly related to an observation I made about urban legends, which I'll call the Apostrophe Theorem even though it isn't a theorem and isn't even always true, for that matter. It's just cool to call things theorems. It goes like this:
Whenever someone claims a dubious, urban-legend type story really happened to someone they need an apostrophe to name, it isn't true.
Point is, stuff you hear from the grapevine, even short grapevines, isn't trustworthy, which is why gossip about your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate is so inane. What's the point of listening to all that when it's probably not even true? Some people have an instinctual filter to that causes untrustworthy information to bore us; others don't. That's why we need the Apostrophe Rule.
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