Monday, March 27, 2006
Here's a cool little MacroMedia Shockwave program that supposedly tests your brain speed in about 10 minutes.
It juxtiposes two shorter and shorter sounds that either sweep up or sweep down. You have to think about what you hear and then click the up or down buttons in the pattern you think you heard. It's kind of like playing that old game of Simon, where you push the buttons in the order you think you heard them.
The score seems to get better the more you try it. I got 31ms the first time and 29ms the second time. I think I could do better because I sometimes had the feeling that I was pressing the wrong button, and it really was wrong.
I wonder if being a musician helps. I think it would be interesting for people to leave (anonymous if desired) comments with their score and whether they are a musician or not.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Here is a very useful page. There have been times when, for whatever reason, my "safely remove hardware" icon wasn't available in the task bar.
One time I dug around for a good 15 minutes looking for an alternative way to safely remove my external disk drive, but there is no way in the Windows user interface to get that icon back!
This web site not only gives you a link to a Microsoft utility that you can invoke from the command line, but also tells you how to bring the icon back. Yay!
Sunday, March 19, 2006
I found a calculator, provided by the Federal Government, that calculates buying power for any two years using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data between those two years.
It's limited to amounts under $10,000, but you can work around that limitation by moving the decimal left and right.
Now, if I could just get my hands on some past price data for some things, I could verify my hypothesis about the middle class.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
The Decline of the Middle Class
A friend sent me a link to an article about "offshoring" and engineering careers. I think the logic in the article is amiss:
Are we doomed? Of course not. There will always be a healthy demand for engineers in this country. If college enrollments really are declining then the demand will increase. Salaries will go up.
I think our expensive people drive the offshoring. Companies can't afford to pay US engineers' bloated salaries and compete with companies that use Indian or Chinese workers. Man-made things are getting cheaper every day; especially electronics. Those things are increasingly designed in the US and shipped off to India or China to be developed or built because our people are too expensive to use!
Sure, those companies will still need "engineers", but the majority of jobs between the designers and the foreign workers will be for liaisons; not real engineers who engineer things. A company that designs things in the US and ships them off to india or China to be developed or built is only going to need a few really good designers, and they can afford to pay them top dollar. The remaining engineering jobs are going to be pretty unfulfilling.
Is the US going to have anyone left who can take pride in building things for a living? It seems that very soon, the only way to make a living will be to entertain and service an ever-decreasing pool of designers and CEO's.
When man-made things get too cheap, it endangers the welfare of the people who build them and keep them working. For example, many already make the decision to sell their old cars because the labor to repair the cars is too high. At some point it becomes cheaper to just buy a new, disposable car. I'm actually considering replacing one of my toilets rather than hiring a plumber to come and unclog it for a couple of hundred dollars. That's a relatively new thing, and I think it means we're heading for time where it's not just ballpoint pens that are disposable; it's everything we own.
I think we will soon have no middle class. There will be people with skills in high demand who win fierce competitions, and then everyone else. Are the remaining people going to be around only to work at companies like Wal-Mart and McDonalds? Pretty soon the competition for even those jobs is going to allow those companies to require advanced degrees to qualify, just because they can. What will happen to the vast majority of citizens who don't have the "right" qualifications? How are they going to afford to live? Doesn't that endanger the US economy that relies on growth to diminish its debts?
We've got to find a way to restore the middle class in this country before we all leave its ranks. If we want the US to be producers only of know-how and design, we'd better find a way to train the majority of our citizens who are completely unprepared. We can't afford to have the world's worst grammar schools and most expensive, selective colleges. Something has to give!
Do you agree with me? If not, why? Leave a comment to tell me what you think!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Awesome news! Not only can you enjoy the endorphins released from hot peppers, you can prevent prostate cancer!
The only problem is acclimating yourself to eating three to eight habañeras every week!
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Ever heard a weird sound on a CD and wondered what it was? It may have been a picture!
My brother found a cool article on spectrographic imagery that shows some cool examples.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
The other day I came upon an awesome game that's coming out, called Spore. It's designed by Will Wright, the designer of SimCity and the Sims.
You start the game as an amoeba in a drop of water, running away from brown blobs as you try to find something to eat. Each time you lay an egg, you can go into an editor and mutate your offspring a bit. If they survive, your progeny evolve into creatures that can make their way onto land, go through a tribal period, war with nearby tribes, build cities, and eventually spaceships.
All of that is just the tutorial for the game!
Once you have a spaceship, the real game begins. You can terraform planets, abduct other lifeforms to transplant them onto your planets, use a SETI listening device to find other life forms in the galaxy, and so on. And it sounds like it's multiplayer!
Will says this is his 200th prototype of the game. It doesn't look like a prototype to me!
There's a video of an early demonstration of the game over on Google. It takes a long time to get to the actual demo, but it's an hour well spent!