Great Backyard Bird Count Begins

Friday, February 17th, 2006

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. Like many Brooklynites, my backyard is the wall of the next building.

My backyard

House sparrows are regulars there, along with an occasional European Starling or Rock Pigeon. Two or three times I’ve even had Mourning Doves perch on my air conditioner, but otherwise I normally count in local parks. I wasn’t sure if I was going out today, but most of my work was blocked waiting for other people. When I walked Shayna this morning, the weather proved exceptionally warm and sunny for February in New York so I decided to walk over to Prospect Park and see what I could find.

Bad Pricing: Epidemic or Fluke?

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Twice in the last two days I’ve caught programmed cash registers scanning a different price than was clearly advertised. Once was in a fairly nice restaurant that added $2 to the price of a glass of Bourbon; once was in a sporting goods store that added a $1 to the price of a pair of rubber boots.

Maybe it’s just a fluke, and I only took note because it happened to me so close together in time; but maybe it’s an increasing problem as more pricing gets automated without effective checks and balances; and just maybe it’s not a mistake at all but a deliberate and dishonest way to raise prices.

Spammers getting smarter

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

The comment spammers are getting smarter. I had a pretty effective antispam system of moderating any comments that included two or more URLs. However recently I’ve noticed several comments that included zero or one URLs. (The zero-URL spams work by shoving the URL on the commenter.) Plus they aren’t showing the usual gibberish I was seeing in comment spam. They’ve got plausible generic content in the comments. So far the amount of spam isn’t crippling; but if it continues to get worse I may have to take more serious measures.

#329-333 at the Glory Hole

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

Yesterday I went on my first pelagic trip. It was led by Paul Guris of See Life Paulagics. The Captain Lou VII left out of Freeport, New York bound for Chicken Canyon and the Glory Hole (I don’t know how these undersea features got their names; possibly the same way the Grand Tetons did.) around 6:20 A.M. I hadn’t been on an extended boat trip for 25 years; and the last ones I went on made me horribly seasick, so I was more than a little nervous. However the seas were calm and so was my stomach. The trip was full with 50 or so people, but I only noticed one person chumming over the side of the boat the whole day.

Birding on the Captain Lou 7, February 11, 2006


Malcolm Gladwell Misses the Boat (Again)

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

A lot of people have been talking about Malcolm Gladwell‘s books lately in the blogosphere. Based on multiple recommendations, I’ve recently finished both The Tipping Point and Blink. He’s an exceptional writer. It’s rare to find intellectual nonfiction of this sort–i.e. books about ideas–that’s as much of a page turner as a good mystery novel. I devoured both books very quickly.

Fast User Switching Rocks

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

I turned on fast user switching in today to try out some new software I didn’t trust with my normal administrator account. This proved surprisingly useful. I love being able to switch to a clean account while keeping other tasks running in the background. It’s also useful for problems like checking out a site with various different configurations of browsers. As a book author, it helps me set up a really clean default environment to take screen shots in. As a developer it enables me to test my software with various preferences and configurations. As a speaker, it will let me set up custom demo environments, and present to audiences without showing my embarassingly messy desktop to the world. I haven’t tried this yet, but it might let me do some simple load testing by hitting a server from multiple accounts at once.