November 01, 2006

Flood Maps

For a few years, Heidi and I have been looking for a new house. We recently saw a property near some water and thought, "I wonder if it floods." When an architect friend informed me that Town Hall should have FEMA flood maps, my first thought was to try to save a trip to Town Hall and look for the FEMA data on the internet.

And, of course, the information is right there on the FEMA web site. FEMA flood maps can be browsed here at the FEMA Map Service Center. They are pretty interesting. And they are totally free.

To compute flood lines, FEMA estimates the BFE around each body of water. That stands for "Base Flood Elevation" - it is the estimated high water mark that occurs with 1% probability in a year. If the stream near your house is normally at 115 feet, it might have a BFE of 122 feet. If your house is below that elevation, you should not be surprised when you find yourself underwater before your mortgage is up.

Google Earth gives nice elevation data superimposed on satellite images, so you can see how high your house is. I wonder how accurate it is.

Posted by David at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2006

Walkie Talkie Web

"Are you there? Can you hear me? This is Anthony. Over and out."

"Yes I can. This is Daddy. Over."

My son Anthony, mister Python guess-my-number programmer, stormed into my office last Thursday afternoon asking "hey Dad, can we program a website?" Apparently he has been telling all his schoolbus mates about his grand plans for a website where all the members of his "apfund" club can communicate with each other....

Continue reading "Walkie Talkie Web"
Posted by David at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

A Geek Tries the Enlux

The lights in my house are always burned out. Even though I buy a whole pile of bulbs every time I go to hardware store, I guess I don't get enough. I am always out.

Last week, the floodlight above my desk went out, and I decided it was time to try something different....

Continue reading "A Geek Tries the Enlux"
Posted by David at 04:33 PM | Comments (9)

November 07, 2006

Vote Today

Remember to vote today if you are in the U.S.

Usually we vote at the fire station near my house; but that's closed for construction today. So Pennsylvania voter services tells me that the location has been moved to a local retirement community building.

For other states, start at Vote 411 to find your polling location.

Don't know who is running? Project Vote-Smart has candidate lists and bios for every district. Unfortunately, the site seems overloaded today, and I needed to try several times before getting it to answer my query...

Here in Pennsylvania we have the pleasure of participating in the Santorum-Casey Senate race: Very close, very pivotal. Remember that Santorum was the PA Senator who raised his reelection money on TV at Terry Shiavo's bedside. Every time I drive around here I am assaulted by frontyard campaign signs "Santorum Santorum Santorum," reminding me that I shouldn't forget to vote.

Hm, who do you think I voted for?

Posted by David at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2006

Boston IQ

Heidi and I are considering a move to the Boston area because of a job offer she has at MGH. We visited last weekend to try to get a feel for life in the area.

According to Mark Twain, in New York they ask, "How much is he worth;" in Philadelphia, "Who were his parents;" and in Boston, "How much does he know?" After spending a few days back in Boston, I can see why knowledge is so important in that city. You can't get anywhere without an advanced degree....

Continue reading "Boston IQ"
Posted by David at 10:36 AM | Comments (10)

November 15, 2006

Yahoo Beats Google

In a "battle over the net," Yahoo beats Google by a narrow margin. Yahoo relishes the win; some pictures.

Discussions for a rematch are already underway.

From Cedric.

Posted by David at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2006

Syrian-Style Politics in Lebanon

While in the U.S. we have Electoral College gerrymandering, Supreme Court stuffing, and pay-to-play fundraising, there are different ways to stuff the ballot box in Lebanon. More direct. More brutal.

The Syrians naturally want to shut down the current Lebanese administration, before the UN-mandated Hariri assasination tribunal gets going (previous investigations implicated Syrian leadership in the killing). But there are only six pro-Syrian ministers who have been willing to resign. Nine must step down in order to break the quorum and force the government out of power.

A classic political problem: how to go from the six they have to the nine they need?

A few days ago, Samir Geaga anticipated the next political maneuver by the Syrians, and it turns out he was right. All the Syrians need is to eliminate three votes. Why bother with backroom lobbying and election year muckraking? That sort of sneakiness is so Western, so imperialist.

In the Middle East, you can be more direct. So today, Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon's Minister of Industry, was killed.

Only two more to go.

Posted by David at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2006

Innovation, Copying, and Eukaryotes

Is it bad to copy-and-paste code?

When you are just beginning to learn to program, you discover that it is not easy to start from scratch. The easier way to program is to copy somebody else's program and then modify it.

But as you get further along, you quickly learn that the copy-and-paste technique is verboten in programming...

Continue reading "Innovation, Copying, and Eukaryotes"
Posted by David at 06:39 AM | Comments (10)

November 24, 2006


On this black Friday, NTDOY continues its climb beyond 28....

Continue reading "An NTDOY Poem"
Posted by David at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2006

A RoShamBo Walk

As NTDOY cracks 30, I am feeling a little overconfident in my investment there.

Peter Lynch, investment cowboy and famous prior pilot of the Magellan ship suggested famously "invest in what you know."

But William Sharpe, investment professor and Nobel-winning inventor of the theory of efficient capital markets countered, "attempts to beat the market carry the seeds of their own destruction."

Who is right?

Continue reading "A RoShamBo Walk"
Posted by David at 05:30 PM | Comments (2)