Monday, September 1, 2014

It’s almost that time of year when Florida stops trying to kill me and starts being awesome.


It’s almost that time of year when Florida stops trying to kill me and starts being awesome.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Make your own telemprompter.

I wanted to make some videos for my online students, but I didn’t want to memorize a bunch of scripts or pull a Bachmann. Here’s my solution. I used about $15 of hardware from Lowes and some stuff I had lying around the house from SoundNotion.

Go full screen with the slide show (controls in the bottom left) to read the text. Here’s my list of materials:

  • Logitech C920 webcam (Any webcam will work as long as it has a spot for a tripod screw.)
  • smartphone or small tablet (I used a Nexus 7, but any Android or iOS device will work as long as you can fit it in your design. A big iPad probably wouldn’t work. An iPad Mini would still be a stretch.)
  • cheap tripod with quick-release plate
  • random hardware bits from the hardware store
  • slim CD jewel case
  • recycled old shirt
  • binder clip (There’s always a binder clip.)
Monday, July 14, 2014

My comment to the FCC on Net Neutrality

The big project is due tomorrow. I tried to keep mine short, given that they’re probably going to receive close to a million comments. Here’s mine:

I urge the Federal Communications Commission to protect the open, egalitarian nature of the Internet by classifying internet service providers as Title II common carriers and requiring open loop unbundling of the “last mile” to homes and businesses. This will ensure that we get the competition for Internet service enjoyed by other countries who have much faster and more reliable connectivity at much lower costs. American startups are losing the race for technological and business innovation to startups in other countries, and allowing tiered Internet traffic will only serve to exacerbate this problem.

You can see the status of this comment here. More importantly, you can leave your own comment here. (It’s pleading 14-28.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 Friday, June 13, 2014 Friday, May 30, 2014


I’ve seen, heard, and played Copland’s Appalachian Spring a lot, as any American musician probably has. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything quite like this performance by the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

Just you try to get the tenured musicians in Chicago to do that, why dontcha?!

(H/t to Greg Sandow for linking to this on his blog.)

Thoughts? Is this a new and engaging presentation of a dusty warhorse or a gimmicky distraction? Somewhere in between?

Monday, May 26, 2014


It’s a swan taxi of cute.

Monday, May 19, 2014

My friend Benoit built a home here in Orlando, the central feature of which is a fantastic, small concert venue. He has a weekly concert series in his home!

Thursday, May 15, 2014 Friday, May 9, 2014

Another year into my body-hacking project

I first wrote about my weight loss project in this blog post one year ago. It’s now a whole year later. And things have continued to progress since then.

To briefly recap, when I started this project two years ago, I weighed (I think) about 435 pounds. I now weigh just under 185, the top end of the healthy weight range for a 6’0” man on most BMI tables I’ve seen. Here’s the obligatory then-and-now photo.[1]

It’s certainly been weird and disorienting couple of years. I fit into the world differently now. I fit into my car differently, my bed, the shower, my chair at work, elevators, doorways. I’ve completely turned over my wardrobe several times, head to toe. Even caps fit differently.

I don’t want to tell a story or anything about the last two years. That doesn’t really seem very interesting. It would be like telling a story about how I learned to play trumpet as a kid. I tried it and sucked; then I tried it again and sucked marginally less. Practice. Rinse. Repeat. It’s not hard as much as it is extraordinarily tedious.

If you know me, you know how much I like digital technology—things that plug into other things. And I’ve certainly used (more than) my share of those kinds of technologies to aid in this project, but they aren’t the only thing that has helped. When people ask me about my weight, they always ask “how I did it.” That’s a big question with a lot of answers, both small and large. The most effective things I’ve done, aside from writing everything down (see my post from last year), are the “thought technologies.” Here are a few simple mind-hacks I’ve employed.

  • I bought small plates and bowls. Yep. I’m an idiot. And seeing the same amount of food in a smaller vessel makes my brain think it’s more food. That, in turn, makes dumb-monkey-Dave feel more satisfied with the meal.
  • I say “I don’t want it” instead of “I can’t have it.” Not sure where I picked this up, but it’s been very powerful. For some reason, saying that I don’t want a thing makes me feel less tempted to eat it anyway. If your office environment is anything like mine, you have lots of opportunities to eat terrible food. It seems we have a rule that any gathering of at least three people must also include at least 17,000 calories of food. Saying “I don’t want it” is sometimes a short-term lie—after all, those cupcakes look amazing—but it is also a long-term truth. I know that eating one (one? who am I kidding?) will be unlikely to result in my desired outcome of getting or staying healthy.
  • I exercise the most discipline while shopping. I tell people all the time that eating better is not about being disciplined at the dinner table, but rather being disciplined at the grocery store. I find that it’s very difficult for me to sit on the couch and eat cookies if I don’t have any cookies at home. Admittedly, as a single guy, this is much easier for me than it might be for people who share their pantries, refrigerators, and freezers with others.[2]
  • I go out of my way to go out of my way. My office building has two restrooms. My desk is nearest the one at the west end of the building, but I always walk to the one at the east end of the building. This is still a relatively short distance, but if I drink enough coffee—and I really do—it adds up over the course of the day to an extra couple thousand steps. Plus, I get to see lots of nice colleagues that I ordinarily would miss and clear my head a bit from reading all those ridiculous Reply All emails.

I wouldn’t call those prescriptions, or even suggestions for that matter. Those are just some things that I found helped me. If you have any to add, let me know.

The last thing I want to write here is probably the most important one for me, personally: thank you. Thank you to all my family and friends who have been so supportive of me during this project. I would make a list of you, but it would be long and boring for most readers. And, I would feel bad about inevitably forgetting some people. Suffice to say, if you have mentioned my health or weight to me in any capacity over the last two years, it has been more meaningful than I probably let on at the time. Each person that says “hey, you look great” just gave me another reason to put up with the tedium of my project. Thanks. And I promise I’m not done.

  1. Thanks to Corrina for letting me use the photo on the left side, even though it’s kind of embarrassing. In the photo on the right, I’m just trying really hard not to squint. It’s very sunny in Florida.  ↩

  2. I’ve thought about how to solve this problem. Admittedly, I’m writing from a place of total ignorance, but here’s what I came up with. Try having a special place in the pantry or freezer that is [other person]’s stuff. That doesn’t exist for you. It’s not yours. To eat it is to steal it from somebody else, and you’re not the kind of asshole that would steal somebody’s lunch from the break-room fridge, are you? I didn’t think so. You look like a nice person.  ↩