Archive for August, 2007

data and information

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I went to a really cool day-long seminar yesterday – noted information design guru Edward Tufte was in town presenting his course on Presenting Data and Information. Totally fascinating – he pulls together sources from all over to demonstrate effective and ineffective presentation of data. There’s a ton of information on his site, and in his fantastic and beautiful books too.

Examples of effectively presenting data which he cited were Galileo’s documentation of his evidence of sunspots, Jupiter’s rings and the almost infinite number of stars, and also the first English translation of Euclid. He even brought along first editions of the books – wow.

Examples of ineffective presentations of data were a bit more up-to-date and focused a lot on the inappropriate use of PowerPoint. It’s worth following the link to see his detailed essay on how use of PowerPoint caused extremely poor decisions to be made at NASA.

Overall, really inspiring, thoughtful and stimulating. I hope that I’ll be able to use what I learned.

the day today

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Pretty good day today: firstly, had a dentist checkup and still no cavities, all looking good. Secondly Toby had a great soccer class. The pitch was good and muddy, it wasn’t too hot and he was really into the whole thing. He ran and ran, played really well and had a great time. Thirdly I found out that at least some of the upcoming Rugby World Cup is going to be on a channel we get through our cable provider.

criminal musings of a very pregnant person

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Last night on the way home from dinner with friends we were driving past the light rail depot, and saw a few trains parked in the shed. Here’s what Emma had to say: “Look, the trains are all going to sleep. Hey, I wonder how easy it would be to steal a train? That would be really cool.” I pointed out that you’d need the tracks and points to cooperate, plus the light rail line is just a single line from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America and back, so you wouldn’t get very far. Plus with an electric train they’d just shut off the power and you’d be stuck. Sorry to be a killjoy, but really.

Unperturbed, Emma said “Yes, but it would just be really fun. I should do that some day. However, it would just be a short step from that to joyriding. Maybe I shouldn’t.”

windows xp registry permissions fix

Monday, August 20th, 2007

I have been getting a really annoying problem on my home machine, trying to install the latest patch to iTunes. The install seemed to go fine, until Windows XP was installing the QuickTime specific files, at which point I would get error

Could not open key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\ Classes\ QuickTimePlayerLib.QuickTimePlayerApp\ CLSID. Verify that you have sufficient access to that key, or contact your support personnel

at which point the install rolled back, and failed.

Being my own support personnel I spent considerable time running regedit to look at this registry key. Even though I was logged in as an administrator, I could see a whole list of QuickTime keys, but when I clicked on any of them I get an “error while opening key” message.

I tried all the usual steps suggested on the Google to find a way around this but nothing. Nothing on Windows support forums either. A lot of them suggested changing permissions on the key. To do this, you would right click on the key and select Permissions… then add users and the permission levels, but when I clicked OK, I got an “access is denied” message.

Then, tonight, success!

Here’s the fix, buried at the bottom of this forum:

1. Download and install subinacl, which is a Microsoft command-line tool that enables administrators to obtain and update security information about files, registry keys, and services.

2. Create a file named reset.cmd in C:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kits\Tools folder.

3. Edit the reset.cmd file with the following content.

subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE /grant=administrators=f
subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CURRENT_USER /grant=administrators=f
subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT /grant=administrators=f
subinacl /subdirectories %SystemDrive% /grant=administrators=f

subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE /grant=systems=f
subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CURRENT_USER /grant=system=f
subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT /grant=system=f
subinacl /subdirectories %SystemDrive% /grant=system=f

4. Back up your Windows registry (just in case)

5. Enter into CMD prompt (click Start, Run…, enter “cmd” and click OK).

6. Enter the following commands one at a time and click Enter.

cd "C:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kits\Tools"

The tool took a few minutes to run – I tried not to freak out about all the text zooming by. Once the utility had completed, I went back to regedit and saw that the QuickTime keys which had had no information now had key values and permissions. I re-ran the iTunes installer, and everything worked smoothly.

You’re welcome.


Sunday, August 19th, 2007

We’ve often thought that gymnastics might be Toby’s ideal sport. It’s got a lot of things that he enjoys – at soccer class he seems to prefer the solo exercises more than the team game, for example – and the people who seem to do well tend to be stocky, flexible and self-aware – all of which he is, for his age – and don’t have to be tall and thin – which with his genetic heritage he is unlikely to be.

Tonight just before dinner Emma had the TV on and they were showing a gymnastics championship. They were showing the girls’ events, and I’m not sure Toby had seen anything like it. He took a break from his Lego adventures and was transfixed by the jumping, tumbling and balance. Emma was telling him how strong the gymnasts need to be, telling Toby to see how strong one girl’s muscles were. Toby said, “Yes, she’s pretty strong. If we had a fight, I think she’d probably win.”


Friday, August 17th, 2007

Today is the 30th 25th anniversary of the compact disc. Fun facts about CDs:

  1. The first CD released was The Visitors by Abba
  2. Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits was a big popularizer of the CD
  3. The first CD I heard was a Greatest Hits compilation by Supertramp at my friend’s house – I was amazed at the new technology.
  4. One of my favorite pedantically pluralized abbreviations is “CDs-ROM”, which my friend Robin coined a few years ago.


Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Tonight Toby and I walked home from school – I really enjoyed it. When I walk that way on my own it takes about 20 minutes; with Toby also it took about twice that length of time, but was a lot more fun. We saw all kinds of cool things including a feather, some green glass and a dead dragonfly. Cool four-and-a-half-year-old boy stuff.

Outside the church in which Toby’s daycare is located, some of the church people were giving away free cookies and bottles of water. No way Toby would walk past a free cookie, so he got one and we picked up a bottle of water too. The bottle’s label was a custom one – it said “Jesus – the water of life”. Nice.

On the way home I noticed a bumper sticker on a car, which said in big rainbow 70s letters “Try Jesus.” I thought this was kind of nice until I noticed underneath in very small letters “If you don’t like him the devil will take you back.” Um, passive aggressive or what?

politics and religion

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Conservative thinker, writer and blogger Andrew Sullivan today posted a fantastic analysis of the impact of religionism and specifically christianism on the current Republican party. He states where it has been a force for good and a force for not so good in clear and rational terms (easy for me to say because I agree with him on it). Well worth a read.

going well

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

A couple of nights ago on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard (watch it at thinkprogress if you are interested). Kristol seems to be quite a right-wing shill guy, and said again and again that things are getting better in Iraq, and how the surge is working and the people running it should be trusted. Then, the news today: Deadly Iraq sect attacks kill 200

toby’s tummy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

There have been a few nights in the last week when Toby has woken up complaining of a sore tummy, which is very unlike him. There doesn’t seem to be anything physical going on, but it does seem to be a real thing. He has told me that he’s been having bad dreams which is also unusual for him.

We think that he’s probably a bit anxious about all the change going on around him – obviously the baby coming soon but not knowing exactly when, plus at school the older kids in his class are getting ready to go to kindergarten in the next couple of weeks. During the day he seems to have no problems with this at all, but we’ll have a chat with his teachers.

UPDATE: It seems, after long conversations with Toby and a short conversation with his teacher, that it’s a major growth spurt and he is just hungry all the time. He stayed home yesterday and basically ate all day, including a huge “snack” before bed. He’s eating lots of healthy stuff, and is getting to be just bones and muscles so we’re not worried about health – he’s just burning a lot of energy right now.

END OF UPDATE, back to regular programming…

I was very proud of him at swimming class last night. He’s getting ready to go to the next class up (he’s currently in Little 2 and getting ready for Little 3 – here are the levels), where they’ll be working on flipping from front to back, then back to front. Now that they are generally swimming without floats, this is a good skill for little people to learn to help them with breathing if they are swimming a long distance. Toby’s current coach has been trying this out with him and the other two kids in his class to start preparing them for this new skill. Last night Toby’s swimming seemed to go really well – his form was spot on and he was zooming around. When they did the flips, his coach said that she didn’t have to help him at all – he just did it with no problems. So she told me afterwards that next week if he’s doing it that well she will recommend that he skips a level and goes right to level 4.