Friday, November 19, 2010

Sent this to my Senators and Congressman this morning. I figure subtle attacks on the stupid, invasive airport screening system are more likely to succeed than a frontal attack on the system as a whole.

It recently came to my attention that TSA screeners working around the backscatter x-ray scanning machines are not regularly given radiation monitoring badges that are commonly used by workers in other professions that work around similar equipment. I've even heard anecdotally that TSA screeners are prohibited from visibly wearing radiation monitoring badges even if they purchase the badges themselves as it is considered a violation of uniform standards. I think it would be very unfortunate if we were collectively exposing the TSA screeners to an unknown amount of radiation because it would look bad to remind the traveling public that they are also being exposed to radiation.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

How I Make Apricot or Plum Jam
We have an apricot tree in the back yard that produces a lot of fruit.  My favorite thing to do with the surplus is to make apricot jam.   Here's my quick and simple recipe:

  1. Halve and pit the fruit.  I use a paring knife to slice around the apricot, the pit comes out easily.
  2. Run the fruit through a food mill using a disc with relatively large holes, like 0.8 cm.  The food mill breaks down the fruit (particularly important with plums), and removes the skin.
  3. Weigh the processed fruit on a kitchen scale.  Add 14 oz (2 cups) of sugar per pound of fruit.  This may seem like a lot at first, but it easily mixes in and the resulting jam is not too sweet.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil in a large frying or saute pan.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  A light colored foam will develop on the surface.
  5. Turn off heat and let cool in the pan.
  6. Skim off and discard the foam with a spoon.
  7. Ladle or pour jam into containers.  Refrigerate for immediate use, freeze or can for later.
Keep notes of what you did and how you liked the resulting jam.  You can adjust the amount of sugar in future batches based on your sweet tooth, and adjust the cooking time based on your preference for thickness.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Traffic Services Around Pasadena, CA

Summary: If you have a choice between Clear Channel and NAVTEQ get Clear Channel.

I have a Garmin nĂ¼vi 660.  It came with an introductory subscription to the Clear Channel Total Traffic Network (TTN) traffic service.  At the time that was the only available option, so when the introductory subscription ran out I purchased a year subscription.  When that one ran out there was now a second option from NAVTEQ.  The NAVTEQ service was $10 cheaper than the Clear Channel service, so I purchased a NAVTEQ subscription.  Both services are now available only as a lifetime subscription (but for the same price as a former one year subscription.)  In my experience around Pasadena, CA the Garmin has a harder time picking up the NAVTEQ signal.  Traffic data loads slower and more sporadically.  It definitely wasn't worth saving $10.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

College Student and Intern Resumes

Having just reviewed over 200 resumes for an intern position on my team I have a few words of advice for college students writing a resume.
  • The two most important things on your resume are your education and interesting projects you've done.  And by interesting projects I don't mean homework, as I've just seen at least a dozen resumes from USC students with the same list of projects from their classes.  I have no way to distinguish whether you did a better job on the "Flickr-Facebook Mashup" than your 11 classmates.  I mean something unique that you worked on.  Be specific about the tools and technologies you used, and if you were working as part of a team what specifically you contributed.  Your unique and interesting projects could be unique classwork, work experience or just things you've done in your spare time.  Don't be embarrassed to list spare-time projects on your resume, they're just as real as work.
  • Skip the Objective statement, I know you want a job or I wouldn't be looking at your resume.
  • A Skills list is good, as long as you limit it to stuff you know fairly well and don't list everything you've ever heard of.  If your Skills list is longer than mine would be I'll just assume you're lying.
  • A little section at the end with extra-curricular activities or interests is good, it makes your resume interesting and tells me a bit about you the person.  Hiring someone is as much about personality fit as technical ability, some give me a reason to think I'll like you as a person.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday, April 03, 2009

A comment I sent to NPR this morning about a story on Morning Edition:

I was listening to the story about US/Mexico border security this morning and was surprised to hear the reporter (Jason Beaubien) apparently confuse fully-automatic machine guns with semi-automatic guns. For most of the piece he talked about Mexican drug cartels buying semi-automatic rifles ("assault rifles") legally in the US and then illegally transporting them to Mexico.

But then he comments that "in Mexico there is widespread indignation that AK-47s, M-16s and other military-style firearms can be purchased legally just across the Rio Grande". While that is technically true, it is extremely misleading. Import of fully automatic machine guns like the AK-47 was banned by the 1968 Gun Control Act, and manufacture of new machine guns in the US for civilian ownership was banned by the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act. Machine guns legally purchased before those bans can still be possessed and sold by civilians, but the limited supply means they are very expensive (often over $10,000) and almost never used in crimes. (

The guns actually being purchased and trafficked are more likely to be like the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle similar in appearance to fully-automatic military rifles, that can be legally imported or manufactured and purchased by civilians. The US government and media commonly refer to this class of rifles as "assault rifles" as that was the term used in the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (which expired in 2004). However, the term "assault rifle" is used by the US military and others to refer to fully automatic rifles like the M-16 and AK-47, so the use of that term can be confusing. (

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I find it completely staggering that the voters of California would elect a black man as President and put anti-gay language into the state constitution in the same election. WTF? Are we going to go back and re-ban interracial marriage next?