23andMe – A Scientific Look into Myself

European.  Whoddathunkit?
My genetic backround

A couple months ago, a friend pointed me to the website 23andMe.com.   Their mission statement is pretty straightforward.  “23andMe’s mission is to be the world’s trusted source of personal genetic information.”

Here’s how it works.

After signing up online and coughing over my $100, 23andme sent me a small kit.  Inside the kit is a little plastic tube.  All you need to do is fill part of the tube with saliva, seal it up, and mail it back to them.  It’s all postage paid, so it’s just a matter of dropping the box in the mail.

About 4 weeks later, you’ll get a piece of email saying your results are ready to be viewed.  And then things get interesting.

Continue reading “23andMe – A Scientific Look into Myself”

My bosses are audiophiles.

It’s interesting working for a music distribution company – our upper management tends to the audiophile / retro-geek crew.
Witness our CEO’s office:
And the CTO’s office:
I do wonder at the massive old-skool speaker stacks and tube amps… in a 15×15 standard drywall office, but it does look sorta neat.

The Blog is Resurrected… for now.

Well that was no fun.
For a while, I was in a funk because the Planet-Geek.com site was not posting ANY of my articles. And when I logged into the maintenance pages, I couldn’t see any of my articles for the last year.
Now, the site has something like 1600 articles on it. I was pretty cranky at the possibility of losing all my content. But the database itself seemed okay, and I could see entries in it. Just new content was not showing up.
Tonight I decided to sit down and figure out WTF was wrong with it.. It took about half an hour to determine the root of the problem…
I was logging into the wrong site.
We migrated the blogs off msb to msb2 a year or so ago, but I never a) removed the old bookmark in my shortcuts, and b) never updated the maintenance page to point to the correct toolset.
So I was editing the old site.
Boy do I feel like a dork.

The Ten Commandments from IT / Sysadmins…

Thou shalt not release software to production on the eve of a weekend or a holiday.
Thou shalt not use corporate email servers to distribute full page pictures of your kitten, or your child, or your horse, or your hamster.
Thou shalt not browse porn from your work computer or laptop. Ever.
Thou shalt use corporate / IT mandated applications for corporate related work, regardless of whether you think RandomFinancialTool is better.
Thou shalt choose Microsoft products ONLY when all alternatives have been thoroughly reviewed and considered objectively, and using the criteria of “But it’s not compatible with Microsoft products” is usually a red herring.
Thou shalt not rely exclusively on the ‘genius’ or ‘vast experience’ of a single person within the company or organization. They might be wrong. How would you know?
Thou shalt consider a laptop expendable and subject to imminent destruction.
Thou shalt understand that IT and sysadmin staff are employed to HELP the users do their job. We may know what we’re talking about.
Thou shalt not page a sysadmin at 2am because you’ve forgotten your password. Next time be more careful.
And last but not least…..
Thou shalt respect us. We’re people too.

Vox is Dead. Long live Vox!

As little as 5 years ago, Six Apart was the undisputed gold leader of blogging platforms. Movable Type was the largest and best known blogging platform, and corporate entities were making moves to acquire competing services.
During this time, SixApart launched Vox. The idea was to blend blogging with social networking. Shared questions and trends, bring the whole blogger community together into one big happy family.
It never worked.
Bloggers are individuals. They want their own sandbox, their own domains, their own content. Not only from an individualistic stance, but also when it comes to money. It’s hard to make a buck when your blog is buried in with a thousands other bloggers.
Vox lurched along for a few years, but never got any traction. Perhaps due to its muddled target audience. Were they targeting bloggers? Facebook folks? The then-dominant MySpace crew? It wasn’t clear.
I had a Vox account, and I posted perhaps 3-4 things on it, and lost interest. There was no draw or anchor. I never went back.

Quicken Online Shutting Down – One Guy in Mattawan Surprised

Quicken® Free Personal Finance Software, Money Management, Budgeting, Personal Finances

Well THIS will come as a shock to absolutely no one:
>Dear Valued Customer,
> For the past several months, we’ve been working hard to combine the best features of Quicken Online and Mint.com into a single online personal finance solution–Mint.com. With the improved Mint.com, you can enjoy the features you love in Quicken Online, plus new benefits such as connecting to over 16,000 financial institutions, including Canadian banks–as well as tracking your investment and retirement accounts. There is also a new Goals feature that takes the tool you enjoyed in Quicken Online to the next level.
> As a result of these changes, Quicken Online will no longer be available as of August 29, 2010. Creating a new Mint.com account is easy, but for reasons of security and accuracy, we cannot create one for you. Once you’re signed in, you can add your accounts and see your financial picture in just a few minutes.
Color me shocked. NOT.
It was obvious from the beginning that Intuit was never going to make anything serious out of Quicken.com – they’re far more interested in Quickbooks. When they announced the aquisition of Mint.com, the writing was on the wall.
I recently switched my online accounting over to Mint.com, and I have to admit it’s a helluva good system. Fast, very well designed interface, and good integration with my other finances.
So, there ya have it folks. If you can’t code it, acquire it.

Beating the Heat – How I Did It

Sounds more grandiose than it is, really.
We’re going through a heck of a heat wave here on the east coast. The last 2-3 days have been 90+ degrees with high humidity, and it’s showing no signs of really letting up until at least next week.
I don’t react well to heat – I mean, I can deal with it during the day while puttering around, but sleeping? Bad things happen when Mr. Geek doesn’t get his beauty sleep.
With our super efficient buildings, we really don’t need to air condition an entire building just to make it habitable. But I’ve found that even with proper ‘behaviour’ (closing windows during the day, opening at night, using fans if necessary), I still need to cool the space down when I sleep.
Here’s how I set up my bedroom to use the minimal amount of cooling necessary for me to get a good nights sleep.
A few months ago I built a loft in my bedroom so Zach could have a place to sleep when he was over. I found that on super-hot-humid days (like this week), the upper part of the loft got too stuffy, even with the room AC turned on. I was also uncomfortable ‘turning up’ the AC just so my upper space could get cool. “The rest of the room is fine, it’s just this spot. Hmm.”
So last night I moved the room AC under the loft, turned it on LOW, and dangled one of my sheets over the end of the loft. With that loose enclosure, the low-power AC was easily enough to keep the space cool. I flopped on what is normally Zach’s bed, and slept like the dead for almost 8 hours.
I’m able to cool that space down in about a half an hour. I can turn off the AC when I leave, so in the end, I run the AC only about 9 hours a day on lower power. Just enough for me to get a good nights sleep.
Works for me!

An Open Letter to MoveOn.org

To Whom it may concern…
I joined MoveOn during the Bush presidency because I felt it was a strong voice against what I saw as a rabid conservative bias in the government. MoveOn was taking a strong (sometimes too strong) liberal tack against the hawks, and I found this to be an excellent way to express my horror at what was happening in Washington.
Later, MoveOn took some positions I did not necessarily agree with, but, just as some choices by the ACLU are ones I might not support, I chose to remain a member because I felt the mission was still important.
Recently though, I’ve been bothered by MoveOn’s policy of taking political stances and setting up petitions to protest something, without really getting the constituency’s feedback as to whether this is something we, the members of MoveOn, would like to support.
Recently, MoveOn sent a request out asking for it’s members to sign a petition :
> **burning endangered sea turtles alive**
> News has emerged from the Gulf Coast that BP is burning endangered sea turtles alive.
> That’s right. BP is using “controlled burns” to contain the oil spill, and any turtles that are not removed from the area before the fire is lit are literally burned alive.
> With BP already facing so much public outrage, we can step in and stop this from continuing. But we have to speak up right now.
What does this have to do with balancing political change in Washington, where the populace needs a voice to counter right wing ideology? Even your home page states:
> **Stand for Democracy**
> It’s time to rescue our government from corporations and lobbyists. Endorse the blueprint to take back our democracy.
MoveOn is using petitions to be a ‘voice of the people’. Petitions are a poor mechanism for gauging the opinion of the membership. The only answer to a petition is “Yes!” – the other answer is silence.
MoveOn, when you ask your constituents to weigh in on an issue, offer them the opinion to say No.

My First Sailing Rescue

Paraphrasing Elton John… “I saved someone’s dignity today…”
This weekend had me up in Maine lounging about on the dock during some pretty windy weather. We regularly get gusty days across the lake, but this was unusual in that the wind held steady for almost 2 days – probably 15-25mph gusts. Enough to whitecap the lake pretty regularly.
Around midday on Sunday we had gotten the boat settled in at the dock, and were getting ready for a nice quiet afternoon when Cat’s mother pointed out onto the lake “Hey, someone just flipped over.”

Continue reading “My First Sailing Rescue”

StarCraft II – Release date of July 27

Well, guess I’ll be booking my PTO early. According to Slashdot :

Blizzard announced today that StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the first game in a series of three, will be released on July 27. The game will contain the Terran campaign (29 missions), the full multiplayer experience, and “several challenge-mode mini-games,” with “focused goals designed to ease players into the basics of multiplayer strategies.” It will launch alongside the revamped Battle.net, which we’ve previously discussed. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said, “We’ve been looking forward to revisiting the StarCraft universe for many years, and we’re excited that the time for that is almost here. Thanks to our beta testers, we’re making great progress on the final stages of development, and we’ll be ready to welcome players all over the world to StarCraft II and the new Battle.net in just a few months.”

I remember being completely addicted to StarCraft when it first came out. We recently tried getting it running on Zach’s Windows XP setup, but we weren’t successful (Starcraft ran on Windows 95… that was 15 years ago. Sheesh!).
I wonder if we could have a release / lan party. Hmmmm 🙂

Snake Oil? Visualization of Science vs Health Supplements

Once again InformationIsBeautiful hits one out of the park.
Today’s fun is an interactive page ranking the scientific evidence proving a certain health supplement is effective vs it’s popularity.
Some surprises: Fish oil, folic acid, St Johns Wort, and green tea are well established with proveable scientific evidence to their benefits.
At the other end of the spectrum, Green tea, anti-oxidants, vitamin A and vitamin E have very little evidence as to their effectiveness.

The Loft Project – Building a custom loft bed

Over the winter break I moved into a shared house in Mosaic. My new bedroom had to serve a couple purposes – it needed to, obviously, be my bedroom, but it also had to provide sleeping space for when my son visited, as well as be comfortable and easy to relax in. I needed a space for my bookshelves, my desk, my nice comfy Aeron chair, and naturally my clothing and some other bits. Beds take up a ginormous amount of space and I was working with only about 120 square feet total. A queen sized bed takes up 30 square feet, plus ‘navigation’ around it – I needed to figure out how to use that space the best.

So, a loft.

Loft: space before building
The design for the two bedroom unit master bedroom includes a sort of ‘niche’ area – that space is exactly the size of a queen sized bed (okay, not EXACTLY. It’s 2″ wider and about 15″ short), but after staring at the space, it was pretty easy to picture a loft bed build into the space. The ceiling was high enough, there was an awesome highly-placed window, I was ready to go.

I have a fondness for heavy lumber and carriage bolts, so naturally that’s what I ended up using. I borrowed the Mosaic pickup truck and headed over to Home Depot. Total materials cost was around $160, which, all things considered, wasn’t too bad. I only had to buy one new tool – a 1/4″ boring drill so I could make holes through the 4×4 support posts – everything else I could do with my existing tool set (a very nice feeling I must admit). The hardest choice was trying to determine what to use for the decking – initially I had thought to use sanded 3/4″ plywood, but holy cats that’s expensive ($40+ for a 4×8 sheet, and I’d need two). I ended up using OSB plywood, which was inexpensive and quite strong (but holy cats is it heavy). Not as elegant, but I also determined I’d paint the entire structure (rather than stain or leave as raw wood), so the material for the decking wouldn’t really matter – it would be painted and covered with the mattress

Loft: framing mostly doneOnce I had all the lumber back home, I started building the framing. 2×6 wood for the sideboards and the head and footboards – 4×4 post wood for the corners. The back posts were made ‘taller’ so that I could build what will amount to a headboard against them, with a built in shelf. I set the height so that the decking would be below the window sill but high enough to make ‘bunk’ space underneath accessible. The other design step was to put the 2×6 lumber ‘outboard’ from the posts – this would mean the corner posts woul dbe ‘away’ from the walls and corners, therefore trimwood around the floor would not push the loft away from the wall.

I used 1/4″ x 6″ carriage bolts to hold all the pieces together, boring pilot holes with my drill. This was quite a challenge in several respects. One was making sure the whole thing aligned properly, another was some of the holes needed to be bored while the structure was standing in the space. Not a lot of room to work with!

The lower supports on three sides are simply standard 2×4 studs, also bolted into place. The decking is held up by 5 2×4 stringers. These stringers are hung from the 2×6 side rails using aluminum joist hangers. I have to say, these hangers are one of the niftiest little accessories I’ve used. They made installing the stringers a walk in the park (once I had the right length screws. Grr. 🙂

Loft: painted in placeOnce the framing was done, it was time to paint. I decided to paint the entire structure flat black, mixed at the local hardware store. I overbought on the paint, thinking I’d use a half gallon or so on the whole project, but after I had painted all the structural members, I had only used about 1/10th of the gallon. Later, when I started painting the decking, I was using MUCH more paint. More surface area? Didn’t seem like it… but I guess it just costs more to paint OSB.

Putting the decking on was a bit of a challenge due to the size and weight of the OSB, and the space I was working in. It’s impossible to carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood upstairs in these houses, so I had to cut the sheets down before carrying them up the stairs. The second challenge was the lack of a table saw, so all cuts needed to be done with my skilsaw. Time consuming and inaccurate. I mis-cut one piece (the OSB is tongue-in-groove, and I mismatched the side :-/), but eventually I had the 2 pieces of decking in place and screwed down. Yay!

By this time I was getting pretty tired, and I ended up painting only about 1/3rd of the top of the decking – enough to cover all the edges and a chunk of the surface – everything that would be visible once things were in place.

Loft: As it stands nowAnother community member offered up a very nice queen sized mattress which we schlepped up and put into place. Perfect fit! The drawback was I had calculated based on what I remember mattresses were like. Unfortunately, I have been sleeping on futons and waterbeds for the last 20 years. Mattresses got thick! Fortunately, not THAT thick – I could still sit up comfortably up in the loft space, but there’s slightly less headroom than I had planned. Oh well!

There’s some steps left to do – I still need to put the backing board and shelf along the posts for the ‘headboard’, and I’d like to mount a reading light or two back there as well (with a remote switch I can turn on when I’m climbing into bed). However, I’m ecstatic with the end result as it stands. The loft is secure and doesn’t wobble – it’s comfortable and very ‘cozy’. I adore having the window right next to me when I wake up in the morning, and the mattress is a delight to sleep on.

Total construction time (sawing, hammering, drilling, painting, etc) – about 12 hours. Incidental work (driving and shopping and the like) another 4 hours. Cost: about $180.

I like it.