Changing Search Engines

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

I’ve become increasingly concerned about Google’s storing of search data. I use various cookie blockers, page rewriters, and other tools to limit the information Google gets about me. Nonetheless I still have a static IP address that’s only shared with a few other people; and if any company has the skill and talent to aggregate search requests to build profiles of people and invade their privacy, it’s Google. Consequently, I’m switching over Firefox to use a different search engine. I thought I’d start by trying which promises not to track me. (The regular does track users.) Here’s how:

Biscuit Dough

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

I’m overly fond of Pillsbury Hungry Man Biscuits, which I’m sure means they’re incredibly bad for me. One can of 10 is roughly a day’s worth of calories. In Kentucky, Uncle Hamp used to buy cans of five biscuits each, which is a little more reasonable. However, all that seems to be sold in New York are cans of 10, and 10 is just way too many for one person. (My wife won’t touch them.)

Does anyone know a way to store the dough such that it’s still good the next week? or even the next day? Refrigeration doesn’t work. Freezing doesn’t work. Whatever I try, the second day biscuits fail to rise and end up tasting like half-burnt, gooey dough. How does the dough stay fresh in the pack in the first place? Airtight packaging? Any ideas?

Little Miss Sunshine

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Yesterday Beth and I went to see Little Miss Sunshine. Wow! This is the single funniest movie I’ve seen in years. It’s up there with South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut; Clerks; and There’s Something About Mary. (It’s completely different from those movies, and never goes for the silly, teenage, gross-out humor those three are known for. It’s just that those are the only other movies I can think of where I laughed so hard tears were rolling out of my eyes.) If there’s any justice in Hollywood, Little Miss Sunshine will win the Best Picture Oscar in a landslide, along with every acting and writing award there is. There hasn’t been a comedy this good in a really long, long time. It is simply perfect. Don’t wait for the video release. Go see this movie now.

Seeking Voting Records

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

For a quick project I’m working on, I’m looking for the complete voting records of the U.S. Senate, ideally going back about 20 years. All I’ve found online so far are individual records for particular senators. What I’m looking for are the complete records for all senators on all bills in a reasonably computerized format; e.g. tab-delimited text or a spreadsheet. (XML would be even cooler, but I don’t really expect that. I can convert the data into XML if I have to.) It needs to contain senator names, party affiliations, and votes on individual bills. I also need to know whether each bill was a roll-call vote or not. Surely this is available somewhere? Any suggestions?

Dynamic IPs and Anonymous Surfing: an Open Letter to my ISP

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Dear Speakeasy folks,

I’m sure you’ve heard about AOL’s recent release of search engine data. I’m sure you also know that various other search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and MSN store their search data indefinitely. While one hopes that they take greater precautions than AOL did to protect their users, the simple fact is it’s still accessible via subpoena and search warrant, as well as system cracking, bribery, and other illegal attacks. I know none of this is your fault, of course. In fact, I suspect you’re as concerned about this as I am. However, I do need your help in your capacity as my ISP to do something about it.

Towards the Paperless Office

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Like a lot of geeks, I’ve been working lately on Getting Things Done. My tickle file has essentially failed, and I’m not keeping up with my weekly reviews like I should; but the parts of the program I am doing have really helped. It’s led to a noticeable increase in my income, sanity, neatness, and general quality of life. If you’re drowning in a sea of papers, you owe it to yourself to try this.

One of the principles of this system is that you have to file everything rather than just letting it stack up. It occurs to me that I could file pretty damn effectively if I could simply digitize everything, and let my computer search it. I’ve seen a few systems try to do this, but they’ve been pretty weak. Here’s what I think is needed: