Dec 07

Have you noticed the recent explosion in social networks?  It's funny how a few successes (ie: MySpace & Facebook) can make the world suddenly full of niche producsts such as: “The World's First Jewish Social Network”.  I've seen some other interesting ones before, but this actually seems to take the proverbial cake.  They also seem to be spending a serious amount of money on marketing.

Check It Out if you feel that you need a social networking site that “aims to become the Jewish alternative to Myspace”.

Nov 29

Although this is just an out and out plug for a site, I think it's a worthy one and I feel like they deserve it!

We're talking (of course) about Wallhogs.  The company offers you (the rarely indifferent consumer) the simple oppurtunity to blow up any photo you legally own to an asonishing 7×4 foot monster.  The process is as easy as simply signing up, uploading the picture(s), and waiting for your masterpiece to be mailed. 

What I really like is the fact that you can get it in vinyl.  Not the record type, but the static cling type.  That stuff is the best for this sort of thing (in my humble opinion).  Basically, it's a pretty cool way to make a cool picture really come to life. 

In the near future, they'll even have an on-line “Hogalogue” of licensed pictures in endless varieties that should help you find something really cool if don't have anything worth printing yourself.

Plus, the company owner proudly states:  “They are super durable – I once shot an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) at mine. The wall came down but the Hog survived”.

Now that is tough!

So, if you have any interest in getting yourself a giant picture of any type, consider checking out Wallhogs.
 

Nov 27

True or False: “In space, if unprotected pieces of metal touch each other, they stick
together permanently.”

Believe it or not, it's TRUE!

Somehow, I had totally missed this fact in all my years of knowing random facts.

Click Here to read more about the reasons why (I found it pretty darn interesting and sadly obvious once I understood why).

Nov 24

I stumbled across a pretty interesting site today.

Basically, you are looking at a nicely formatted readout of the best of hate groups in the United States.

It's got most of the most popular: Black Separatist, Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, Racist Skinhead, Christian Identity, Neo-Confederate, and “other”.  Oh yeah, all kinds of fun.

Anyways, if you are bored and need something to do, check out your state and see what's around you.

Click Here to check it out.

Nov 17

I spent a good amount of my freshman year of college and several summers there-after working at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage as a loan pricer.

It was really good money for a college student, and I learned more than I could have ever imagined about the mortgage process. 

I also saw a side of the mortgage industry that most of the public has absolutely no clue about (and likely would shudder knowing).  My job was to take phone calls from brokers from small banks and mortgage companies throughout the country.  The broker would give me lot's of pertinent information regarding you (the borrower) and depending on factors such as loan amount, property value, ltv, your credit rating, and even the state you are in… I would quote the broker a “price” for several different rates and lock the loan with them.

I quickly learned that rule number one for the broker is to make as much money off of you as humanly possible.  Ok, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but I shudder to think of how many poor people I saw completely reamed by their “trusted” broker.  Truthfully, not all brokers are out there to “screw” every customer, but choosing the correct lender/broker can make a significant difference in the overall cost of your home mortgage. 

Anyways, at the time I worked at Wells Fargo, a single broker could make a maximum of around 7.00% (depending on the circumstances of the loan), which meant $7,000 on a $100,000 loan and $14,000 on a $200,000 loan and so on.  This 7% is split amongst two primary areas: origination and a secondary mortgage credit. 

The origination is agreed on by the broker and borrower up-front and is usually straight-forward and rarely exceeds 3% (although I always had a strange feeling that most borrowers didn't really understand how much 3% of their loan amount was even if it was stated clearly on the good faith).  

The secondary mortgage credit (smc) is a bit trickier though.  This part is determined based on how high the broker can get your mortgage rate up.  This is the part that many borrowers don't realize: the higher the rate, the more smc the broker can expect on the back-end from the big lender (up to a certain point at least).  The process is a bit more complicated than that, but you get the idea. 

The point is, most brokers don't really have your best interest at heart.  The difference between 5.5% and 5.75% can mean $6,000 to the broker's pocket book, but may cost you nearly $30,000 in extra interest over the life of the loan (which is why it's a good deal for the lender's to promote higher rates).  Sadly, these are fairly conservative numbers and we are assuming that the broker is honest.  If he or she doesn't have the best intentions, there are some serious and illegal ways to completely rip a borrower off, so watch out!

So, what's my point?  My point isn't to distrust all brokers or anything silly like that; just be careful.  Consider shopping around and even looking on the web for your home loan.  Not only can you save a bundle at closing (with less origination), you can also save a LOT over the life of your loan by just being careful and taking your time.

Please feel free to ask me any questions if you are unsure about the process.  I would easily take a few minutes out of my life to save you massive amounts of money.

Nov 14

I got a good laugh out of this article I found over at Treehugger (and no I'm not a tree hugger myself). 

Basically, it's a “Hybrid” emblem that you can put on any car you own.  At the current time, I don't own anything that qualifies as a gas guzzler, but I guarantee I'll by putting this emblem on my Ferrari when it arrives (just like the picture says).

Sadly, I don't think this emblem is really available, since Sky Maul (the source) is only a parody magazine of the in-flight shopping catalogs found on planes and what-not.  Regardless, I'm betting someone will produce this thing for real in the future.

Click Here to check it out!

Nov 11

When I was in college, RateMyProfessor.com was all the rage (and I think it still is for many college students).  There was nothing better than having pertinent information about the best/easiest professor who taught all those lame general ed. classes I had to take. 

RateMyProfessor was a great tool, but in the scheme of things, choosing the correct professor wasn't life threatening.  However, Vimo, that's a totally different story.

Vimo is basically a service that allows you to search and review your doctor.  From specialists to general practicioners, most seem to be in there.  It's pretty interesting to just go and read about my doctor and hear what people have to say.  It's even more interesting to read about other “bad” doctors and how they've supposedly screwed up big time.  Anyways, right now, Vimo will even give you 5 free mp3 downloads from emusic.com (which is on top of the 25 songs emusic.com gives you for just signing up). 

I thought it was a pretty useful site, so go Check It Out!

Nov 09

Thanks to Jim, I happened across some nice video of a “stinky” problem at Paul Davidson's house (former co-worker).  I immediately criticized the video because he could've easily done a much better job of the camera work, but he's not good at things like this.. so can we really blame him?  I'm not really sure what he's good at truthfully (except for climbing around in rafters pulling cable). 

Regardless, check it out if you get a free moment.  It's mildly entertaining.

Nov 06

I'm hoping by now, you have at least heard of VOIP and preferably use it (if you have a home phone). 

If not, shame on you!  You can save some serious money over your traditional home telephone service.  Anyways, back to the point:

The inherent problem with VOIP stuff is that it's invariably finicky and a tad more difficult to install than simply plugging your phone in like POTS

I recently switched to Vonage and have been very happy with the service except for some odd quality issues I've had (things such as an echo and random phone calls getting dropped).  That is why I found a humble site, Vonage Forum, really helpful.  Within just a few minutes, I was able to quickly discover the problem and solve it (it turned out to be a bandwidth saving feature I forgot I had changed).   I really like that it's a totally independent service, so they aren't any inhibitions… the forum members will really let you know about all the “secrets”.

So, if you are having trouble with Vonage (or are just interested in the service) and need un-biased help, Check It Out!

Nov 04

So after lots of job interviews, offers, negotiations and a bit of stress… I finally settled on a sweet new web development job with a company called Consumer Testing Labs located in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Consumer Testing Labs handles the testing of almost any type of consumer product available in your local retailer from food to shoes.  They test products that you use each day make sure everything you eat is safe and the labeling is accurate, everything you wear will last, and everything else you use fulfills expectations.

So what can I contribute to the company?  Well, with the experience I gained working with the talented programmers at Eponym and my Computer Science background, I hope to really make a difference in the company in many subtle and obvious ways.  Our goals as a team (myself and two other skilled programmers) has been outlined to deliver high quality web apps and systems quicker and more efficiently than using traditional application programming.  With the help of talented and passionate leadership, James (Manager), Paul (Director), & Rick (CIO), we hope to use the amazing array of technology available for rapid web development to move the company into the future.

I'm truly excited to work for this fast-growing company and look forward to seeing where it takes me in the future.

I can also admit that the tour of the testing facilities located here is awe inspiring, fascinating, and completely incredible.  I had absolutely no idea as to the amount of quality and safety testing that goes into each and every product on store shelves.

Sep 14

I recently had the pleasure of visiting {name hidden} in my local shopping plaza.  When I arrived, I was greeted by a nice girl who took my name down on the sheet of paper and told me “It'll be about fifteen minutes”. 

An hour later, already running late for work, I realized this nice girl had messed up the “wait estimate” just a tad.  To top it off, when it actually was my turn.. she skipped my name and told me I was gonna have to wait some more since she skipped me.  This was very frustrating because this was the THIRD time I had been to this business over an hour waiting for service and been told it would be “fifteen minutes”. 

Anyways, here's my advice:  If you own a small business who has a nice girl at the front who takes names & estimates wait times — make sure you interview her really carefully.  I would recommend a test interview question such as: “Can you estimate how long it takes a person to get frustrated waiting for service?”  If she answers “fifteen minutes”, find someone else.

This company teetered on loosing my (very lucrative) business simply because this girl wasn't on top of things. 

Oh yeah: If, by some change, you are a nice girl who works at a front desk… make sure you think carefully about that estimate!

I wonder if the solution would be for me to just start pretending I'm “frank” or “george” who apparently got frustrated and left without removing their name from the list?  It's always so tempting to just say “yeah, that's me”. 

Would that be dishonest?  Sigh.

Sep 11

I can't really claim that you'll see God by checking out the image below… but you will at least be slightly impressed by the results of the image if you actually follow the instructions properly.  Basically, this is just a simple persistance of vision image, but this particular one has really neat effect (of seemingly visions of God or some similar spiritual being).

Important note:  The image below is not a subsitute for a belief in God.. it's just a trick!

Make sure you stare at the four dots in the image for 30 seconds straight, then lean back and shut you eyes.  Keep them shut!  Now look for the circle of light.. do you see it?

Sep 08

Caught this story on The Allen Almanac earlier today.   Apparently,  there are some Dolphin's that have done some pretty amazing things!

Excerpt from Guardian Unlimited:

“At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in
Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the
dolphins at the institute are trained to hold onto any litter that
falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade
the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools
clean.

Kelly has taken this task one step further. When people drop paper
into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The
next time a trainer passes, she goes down to the rock and tears off a
piece of paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes
back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so
on. This behaviour is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a
sense of the future and delays gratification. She has realised that a
big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so
delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in
effect, trained the humans.

Her cunning has not stopped there. One day, when a gull flew into
her pool, she grabbed it, waited for the trainers and then gave it to
them. It was a large bird and so the trainers gave her lots of fish.
This seemed to give Kelly a new idea. The next time she was fed,
instead of eating the last fish, she took it to the bottom of the pool
and hid it under the rock where she had been hiding the paper. When no
trainers were present, she brought the fish to the surface and used it
to lure the gulls, which she would catch to get even more fish. After
mastering this lucrative strategy, she taught her calf, who taught
other calves, and so gull-baiting has become a hot game among the
dolphins.”


I wonder if anyone is concerned that maybe the Dolphin's might attack one of the trainers?  I can see the headline now: “Dolphin kills trainer, buries under rock, trades for fish“.

Click Here to check out the entire original article (an interesting read).

Sep 05

I found this little game really quite odd, but strangely intriguing.  It's a simple simulation called “Falling Sand Game”.  After a few minutes of tinkering, I found out this thing was fairly complex and had a large variety of rules governing this fake “world”. 

I soon let a bit of time slip away and began experimenting with all the variables and options. 

If you have some free time, you should check out.  It's just another diversion from your busy work day.

Click Here to check it out!

Sep 01

Have you ever done any reading on the major dimensions?  It's hard to contemplate the realistic aspects of all of this stuff, because so much of it's a “theory”. 

However, that doesn't mean it isn't interesting to discuss and critique!

It is in fact possible to understand this stuff, no matter how little you may know about Quantum Mechanics, Particle Theory, Particle Physics Phenomenology, or even Physics in general, & the relationships amongst all of them. 

Anyways… I stumbled across the following ultra-simplified explanation of String Theory that should help with the quantum gravity conundrum and give you a little taste of what some of this stuff is like.   Prepare to imagine ten dimensions….

Click Here to check it out!


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