Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Eye Dull Photo - Birch Tree

I stumbled across this old photo I shot back in 2000 somewhere on the Lincoln Woods Trail in Lincoln, New Hampshire. It's pretty low-res since it was shot with my old Sony Mavica camera. That camera took 3.5" floppy disks as media!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nintendo DS game boosts kids test scores

Here's an interesting story from the BBC. Back in March a school in Scotland reported they did an experiment where one set of elementary school students played a Nintendo DS "brain training" game for 20 minutes before regular lessons and another group did not. After many weeks, the group that played the video game before the start of regular school lessons performed significantly better on math tests than the other students.

Thinking those results might be a fluke, they did an expanded study including 600 students at many schools. They just released the results today and it turns out it wasn't a fluke. The students that played the video games for 20 minutes in class each day on average had a 50% better improvement in their performance vs. students that only had regular school lessons. You can read about it in detail here.

Now, it's important to remember the students weren't playing just any video games. They were playing those "brain training games" (like Brain Age) that are specifically designed to improve your cognitive abilities. Don't go thinking that playing some Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty before class will help your exam scores. Although... come to think of it, my favorite way for preparing for exams in college was to spend my study time right before the exam in the video arcade on campus. I'd study for a while, take a break with some arcade action, study some more, and repeat. Maybe that helped with my test scores after all?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Random Eye Dull Photo - Zebra

In honor of my old employer, I post this photo I took on the Masaai Mara in Kenya back in January.

It's been a month now since I left Zebra to start my own business. (For the record, this is the first time I've actually mentioned my previous employer by name in this blog.)

It's definitely a much better life style working for myself - I should have tried this years ago! I tend to find myself working a lot more hours than my old job, but it's all voluntary and it's something I'm enjoying. So far I haven't made a dime on my own, but it's still early and I didn't expect to have any income yet. My first iPhone app is getting some good feedback and there is the potential for more (paying) work to come from that. We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile I am working on more ideas...

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. With the new business, almost all my attention has been focused there for the past month.

Oh, and thanks to everyone who has sent me words of encouragement. It is appreciated!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WRNI Radio - my first iPhone app!

I'm happy to announce my first iPhone application is now available in the iTunes App Store! It's called WRNI Radio and allows listening to WRNI - Rhode Island's only NPR radio station - over the Internet. Here's a link to it in the iTunes Store.

Here's a screenshot of it as seen in the iTunes store:

It was made available for free so people will have a free option for listening to WRNI on their iPhone. At the time the app was made, there was no free iPhone app that allowed adding a custom streaming radio URL on the phone. The only options were apps that cost money. Since this is free public radio, the radio station wanted a free method for the public to listen.

A friend of mine works at the web design company that was developing WRNI's new web site. He knows I'm getting started writing iPhone software, so he asked me if I'd be interested in making a free app for WRNI. Less than a week later we had a working app submitted for review in iTunes and today it is now officially available for download in the iTunes store.

It's a happy day for me today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Infinity breeds contempt

While experimenting with my new iPhone app, I was listening to the NPR program called Fresh Air. On today's show Alan Ball was being interviewed regarding his new HBO TV show called True Blood. I don't have cable TV, so I've not seen the show, but it's about Vampires in modern day.

Anyhow, Alan Ball was talking about the concept of living forever (which vampires do unless killed) and he said something very simple which I found very profound. The gist of it was this:

"It's the finite nature of life that makes it important."

If you live forever, why should you cherish any particular day - you'll have an infinite number of them. And that idea struck me as very important. As I've mentioned in the past, sometimes I tend to get bored with life and wonder what's the point. But that is the point - life itself. It's such a short span of time we have to walk this world - we may as well make the best of it and value every day. We each only have a limited supply!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On the qt

A few weeks ago I was chatting with some friends after karate class and the usage of the phrase "on the qt" came up. Surprisingly to me, a couple of my friends hadn't even heard of it and thought it was actually supposed to be "on the dl". Now that was a phrase I had never heard. Apparently, it means "on the down low" - i.e. hush hush. And this basically is the same meaning as "on the qt."

But, we wondered, what does "qt" stand for? Well, I finally just remembered the conversation and used that helpful intarweb thang and came across this link. So, it appears "qt" is an abbreviation for "quiet". The phrase has been around since the late 1800's, too! I guess that's why only my older friends seemed to know what it meant. :-0

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Peaceful Swamp

On this past Labor Day holiday, I went with some friends to Lake Chaubunagungamaug, also known as Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (seriously!), and a bit easier to say, also known as Lake Webster. (No, really, I'm not making those first two names up.)

The idea was to go kayaking on a nearby lake. From looking at a map of the area, this long-named lake seemed like a good place to try - none of us had ever been before. Unfortunately, this was a very very busy lake. It probably didn't help that it was the last holiday of the summer, but kayaking on this lake was akin to kayaking down a busy city street. Jet skis and motor boat were constantly buzzing about, the smell of gasoline fumes filled the air, and the shoreline was what might be politely called "thickly settled" - lots of houses one on top of the other directly on the lake shore. (Next time I'll remember to consult a satellite map before picking a kayaking destination.)

This definitely was not an ideal kayaking spot. However, after paddling around for a while, we did manage to find a small patch of solitude. The southern end of the lake turned into a lilly pad filled swamp. Just paddling into it about 100 feet was enough to completely remove all waves from the boats and the wind. Here's the view looking further south into the swamp.

We hung out in the swamp for about 45 minutes or so, just drifting and watching the occasional turtle pop its head out of the water. It was definitely a much needed break from the chaos on the lake.

A Blog for Intellectuals

I ran across a blog today that had the following description:

...present interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature, current affairs, art, and anything else we deem inherently fascinating. We want to provide you with a one-stop intellectual surfing experience by culling good stuff from all over and putting it in one place.

It's called 3 Quarks Daily. A lot of the stuff is a bit too intellectual for my tastes, but there are some tidbits nonetheless that appeal to my lessor lesser intellect.