Hover Zoom/Hover Free

Last Friday, I met Shane and Katie at the Post Office in Azusa to get their passports, but the Post Office camera was broken.  We walked up the street to the CVS to get passport photos and make some copies of documents.

Shane and I were talking Reddit on the walk back to the Post Office, and I mentioned a Chrome extension I use that makes Reddit a lot more efficient — Hover Zoom.  Once installed, instead of having to open a new tab to view an imgur link, you just hover your mouse over the link, and the extension pops-up the image inline.  It works for Facebook and G+ image links too, but I find it most helpful in Reddit.  (I used to middle-click all the image links on a Reddit page to open them in new tabs, and then blast through the tabs to view the images.  On at least half the tabs, I didn’t remember the Reddit subject, and had to go back to the Reddit page to figure out which link went to that image.)

After some checking, it turns out that Hover Zoom by default will send a limited amount of anonymous data to a third-party marketing firm.  This caused some concerns, so someone forked it and removed the offending code, and published it as Hover Free.  I’ve now converted to Hover Free, and it has been working well for me.

Hover Free

Damtour 2009 Stats – Stats and Factoids from the 2009 Season

While last year we had two Canadian Finishers(our first not from OR or WA), this year we had our first California finisher. Brian Casey made the distance saving the closest for last. And this rider wouldn’t even except a near miss for Scooteney. After getting back home from a northwest swoop of several dams, Brian noticed he had the wrong dam for Scooteney, so repeated this dam to get the right one on his own, even after I said he could have credit for it. So this rider really put in some extra miles.One other California rider almost finished , but to due to schedule and some bike tire problems along the way, he had to call it quits at 18 missing out on a trip to Montana.

Damtour 2009 Stats – Stats and Factoids from the 2009 Season.



I’m a Chrome person now

I’m an old-timer – I actually remember using NCSA Mosaic for browsing the web, and then Netscape. When IE came out, I recognized it for the steaming pile it was, and only used it for my company’s apps that would not run on anything else. I ran Firebird for a few months before its name was changed to Firefox, and have happily claimed Firefox as my primary web browser since late 2004.

Until now.

When Chrome came out, I tried it, and liked it — it was fast, clean, and painless — but I continued to use Firefox as my primary browser, even though it is slower and clunkier than Chrome. Two things caused me to change over to Chrome: first, I got a Nexus 7 tablet, which uses Chrome as the default browser, and syncs bookmarks and tabs with my desktop version of Chrome; second, Chrome has an Open in incognito window item in their bookmark context menu, while Firefox makes you start up Private mode, and then load your bookmark.

You wouldn’t think it would be logical to use incognito mode with a bookmark, which is public enough even without automated cloud-based sync. But there’s more than one reason to use incognito, and I use it most often to bypass annoying pay walls.

So, after almost 8 years as a Firefox user, as of now I’m a Chrome guy.

Why Explore Space?

Many people wonder why we spend big money on exploring space — like last night’s successful landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars — when there are so many problems here on earth that could be addressed with the money.  The site Letters of Note published a letter from Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, then associate-director of science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, to a nun based in Zambia who had asked if the money spent on space would be better spent at home.

Here’s part of Stuhlinger’s letter to the nun:

Before trying to describe in more detail how our space program is contributing to the solution of our Earthly problems, I would like to relate briefly a supposedly true story, which may help support the argument. About 400 years ago, there lived a count in a small town in Germany. He was one of the benign counts, and he gave a large part of his income to the poor in his town. This was much appreciated, because poverty was abundant during medieval times, and there were epidemics of the plague which ravaged the country frequently. One day, the count met a strange man. He had a workbench and little laboratory in his house, and he labored hard during the daytime so that he could afford a few hours every evening to work in his laboratory. He ground small lenses from pieces of glass; he mounted the lenses in tubes, and he used these gadgets to look at very small objects. The count was particularly fascinated by the tiny creatures that could be observed with the strong magnification, and which he had never seen before. He invited the man to move with his laboratory to the castle, to become a member of the count’s household, and to devote henceforth all his time to the development and perfection of his optical gadgets as a special employee of the count.

The townspeople, however, became angry when they realized that the count was wasting his money, as they thought, on a stunt without purpose. “We are suffering from this plague,” they said, “while he is paying that man for a useless hobby!” But the count remained firm. “I give you as much as I can afford,” he said, “but I will also support this man and his work, because I know that someday something will come out of it!”

Indeed, something very good came out of this work, and also out of similar work done by others at other places: the microscope. It is well known that the microscope has contributed more than any other invention to the progress of medicine, and that the elimination of the plague and many other contagious diseases from most parts of the world is largely a result of studies which the microscope made possible.

The count, by retaining some of his spending money for research and discovery, contributed far more to the relief of human suffering than he could have contributed by giving all he could possibly spare to his plague-ridden community.

via Letters of Note: Why Explore Space?.


I had a Facebook account for a few years.  I was never an active poster, but I didn’t see any other way of keeping up with the comings and goings of my large extended family.

A few months ago, when Facebook announced they were going public, I decided it was time to delete my account, for a combination of reasons.  The amount and the type of private information that Facebook collects is staggering, and their pre-IPO advertising revenue wasn’t nearly sufficient to justify their first-day share price.  The only logical way to increase revenue was to leverage and monetize their huge pool of personal data, and their shareholders would demand better returns.

I also felt I never really got much out of my Facebook account.  Sure, I knew when my nephew broke up with his latest girlfriend, and I read some good jokes posted by a friend (but you can always get better, more current, more interesting stuff on Reddit anyway).  The trade-off — giving my potentially valuable personal information to a mindless, faceless corporation in exchange for the occasional nugget of interesting info in a sea of mindless crap — just didn’t seem worth it anymore.

Many of my motorcycling friends have found Facebook to be a valuable tool for keeping in touch with their riding friends, but I prefer my Forums and direct email for that purpose.  A few people I’ve talked to say they’re concerned about Facebook’s reach into their private lives, but don’t see any other good way to keep in touch with their large set of friends and family. But for me, I knew I could live without it — I’d just have to find other ways to keep track of my nieces and nephews.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, former Facebook insider and Zuckerberg ghost writer Katherine Losse discusses her reasons for deleting her account, and they solidify my opinion that I made the right decision.

On the loss of private moments:

Losse’s unease sharpened when a celebrated Facebook engineer was developing the capacity for users to upload video to their pages. He started videotaping friends, including Losse, almost compulsively. On one road trip together, the engineer made a video of her napping in a car and uploaded it remotely to an internal Facebook page. Comments noting her siesta soon began appearing — only moments after it happened.

“The day before, I could just be in a car being in a car. Now my being in a car is a performance that is visible to everyone,” Losse said, exasperation creeping into her voice. “It’s almost like there is no middle of nowhere anymore.”

Losse began comparing Facebook to the iconic 1976 Eagles song “Hotel California,” with its haunting coda, “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.”

On the amount and type of private data being collected:

Among Losse’s concerns were the vast amount of personal data Facebook gathers. “They are playing on very touchy, private territory. They really are,” she said. “To not be conscious of that seems really dangerous.”

On the difference between ‘connection’ and ‘real conversation’:

But Losse’s concerns about online socializing tracks with the findings of Sherry Turkle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist who says users of social media have little understanding of the personal information they are giving away. Nor, she said, do many understand the potentially distorting consequences when they put their lives on public display, as what amounts to an ongoing performance on social media.

“In our online lives, we edit, we retouch, we clean up,” said Turkle, author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” published in 2011. “We substitute what I call ‘connection for real conversation.’?”

For now, I’m using Google+ to keep in touch with my kids and a few friends.  Not everyone is using G+, but its setup is much better suited to what I want out of a social network, and the privacy controls make it a useful alternative to the all-knowing Facebook juggernaut.

Harvard Business Review: I Wont Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. – Kyle Wiens – Harvard Business Review

Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isnt in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “its,” then thats not a learning curve Im comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.

via I Wont Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. – Kyle Wiens – Harvard Business Review.

Nexus 7 Tablet

For my birthday present, Carole got me I ordered myself a Google Nexus 7 tablet back in late June. It came in last week, and my son Jason asked me how I liked it on G+.

Here was my reply:

I haven’t had it long enough to really get to know it, but so far I’m duly impressed.

I’m using it for three things: general things, like Gmail, G+, News, Maps, etc.; entertainment – reading books, watching videos, listening to music, YouTube; and games.

For general ‘net activities, it hits the sweet spot between a smart phone and a laptop.  Take Gmail – on a phone, you get a really limited view of the whole Gmail interface, and it can be a pain if you use filters to move things into various labeled folders.  On the Nexus 7, you get the full label display in the left sidebar, like on a computer browser, so it’s much easier to use than on a phone.  The Nexus 7 also uses Chrome as its native browser, so you get full tab support, incognito tabs (useful for reading certain paywall sites like the LA Times), synced bookmarks (so you can add a bookmark on your computer, and then access it automatically on the tablet).  I made big use of GMaps on my recent road trip to Canada — pdaNet and FoxFi made it super easy to tether to my dInc, so it wasn’t a problem to not have native wireless data on the tablet. Continue reading