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Benjamin Oakes

Photo of Ben Oakes

Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize TechCorridor.io, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Filtering for the month November, 2004. Clear

One-minute vacations

by Ben

I found this website that has ambient noise from many different situations. I’ve been setting things like rain and thunder on a continuous loop and listening to it when I’ve gotten tired of hearing music. Bonus points ’cause it’s free.

Incredible

by Ben

We don’t have a big family around here. For Thanksgiving, it’s usually just my sister, my mom, and I. Usually, we don’t bother making a turkey. That would be more than a little too much food. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a vegetarian.

So, the tradition is to go to a casino in Council Bluffs and eat the buffet. No dirty plates, no cooking, just eating, family, and enjoyment. After that, we usually go see a movie.

I really wanted to see Ray, as did my mom. However, my sister doesn’t even know that Ray Charles is a musician. Obviously we made a compromise. They both wanted to see National Treasure. You’d have to drag me screaming to see that. Maybe not screaming, but I definitely would have to be forced.

We settled on The Incredibles. It’s a Pixar flick, and, likewise, I knew I would probably enjoy it. That was an understatement. It was very good and worth my time. (I’m trying to avoid using the word “incredible.” Honest!)

At the expense of being overly analytical, I’m going to tell you why I liked it so much.

First of all, because it is a cartoon, the characters are not proportional. This adds to the humor immensly, especially when Mr. Incredible is in his cubicle (view the trailers to see what I mean). The man is so huge and powerful, everything else around him is dwarfed. The timing of the characters actions contribute to the feel well; obviously very well directed.

I personally love the music. It was big band Jazz during most of the movie, giving a great underlying feel of energy and excitement. By the way, in the trailers they use the Propellerheads’ song called “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on the CD Decksanddrumsandrockandroll, one of my favorite songs of theirs. I recognized it instantly; a very good choice.

I could go on and on about this movie, and some time in the future I might. But as of yet, I still need to work on homework and stop blogging. If you can read Spanish, here’s an email I wrote partially about the movie:

Querida Señora,

¡Ay, olvidé! Fue el pavo, te digo, ¡el pavo! Me duerme fácilmente…

Esto fue un mentira. No pudo el pavo porque soy un vegetariano. No sé que fue, entonces… Tal vez porque soy tanto.

¿Disfrutó usted el día de gracias? Lo disfruté. Porque hay solamente tres personas en esta familia (y un no come pavo), nosotros usualmente vamos a un casino (Ameristar, Harrah’s) y comemos su buffet. Es siempre agradable; no platos sucios, no trabajo dificíl haciendo la comida, y después de la cena… ¡Nosotros vamos a una película! No hay mucho de elegir, no obstante. Quise mirar “Ray,” la película sobre el músico quien, tristemente, murió, pero mi hermana no sabe quien él fue. Así, nosotros miramos “The Incredibles.” Es un película por los niños, pero lo disfruté.

Sé que yo no estoy el sólo que olvidó escribir una carta. Ah, los días feriados…

Su estudiante,

Ben Oakes

P.S. Puse esto en un traductor y… me gusta como mi nombre es traducido:

Loved Lady, Ay, I forgot! It was the turkey, I say to you, the turkey! To duer to me easily to me… This was a lie. The turkey could not because I am a vegetarian. I do not know that it was, then… Perhaps because I am as much. Enjoyed you the day of thanks? I enjoyed it. Because there are only three people in this family (and he does not eat turkey), we usually go to a casino (Ameristar, Harrah’s) and eat their buffet. He is always pleasant; dirty nonplates, work dificíl not making the food, and after the supper… We go to a film! There is much no to choose, despite. I wanted to watch “Ray, ” the film on the musician who, sadly, died, but my sister does not know who he was. Thus, we watched “The Incredibles.” It is a film by the children, but I enjoyed it. I know that I am not only who forgot to write a letter. Ah, the holiday days… Its student, Horseradish tree Oakes

Ay, el tecnología…

Thanksgiving plans

by Ben

This being Thanksgiving vacation, I had some major goals:

  1. Eat. Watch a movie. (The easiest and best goal, if you ask me)
  2. Finish up all the chores I had been neglecting (which took an entire day–I was expecting more)
  3. Get all the homework that I can done
  4. Do tons of research and order a new computer
  5. Blog

I’ve been living with this computer of mine for far too long. It has a multitude of problems that reside in the hardware of the computer itself–enough of them that I don’t want to replace anything else. It was a computer from circa ’97 that I had outfitted with new hardware. So, after three (or four?) motherboards, processors, a new hard drive, optical drives, and many other substantial upgrades of which I will not delve into, it’s an entirely different computer than it was. You wouldn’t recognize it if it were not for the case.

Of course, now it has some problems. One of the hard drives is the original one from the computer, which I have since filled to the brim with MP3s. It’s dying. Quickly too. I think I have a backup of most of the data on it that’s important, but it’s mainly just music. Plus, I have most of the source CD’s.

But that’s not it. The main hard drive is starting to fail too. And it’s not very old. Every time that I want to boot up the computer, I have to take a can of air and clean out the connections on the mobo and HDD, just so that it will work. If I’m lucky, it will work for at least an hour. This is not enough time to do an English paper without major annoyance. It tends to crash right as I’m saving changes, too.

Add to that the fact that the case doesn’t like to stay together anymore, the keyboard is about as old as (insert favorite religious figure here, preferably one that is rumored to have created the universe), the mouse is an el cheapo piece that refuses to do most anything, and the monitor is about 14-in and covered with smoking and coffee stains (not mine).

But the graphics card isn’t half bad. Unfortunately, I’m not a gamer.

So, if it still needs to be said, I want (almost need) a new computer. I’ve been out of the loop for far too long. The sheer amount that you can get for such little money these days is staggering. I decided on a laptop mostly because I don’t want the computer to be a permanent fixture if it need not be. The little bit of extra money will be worth it just for that, I think.

My friend Sean just got his Sony Vaio PCG-K33, and I was blown away with what he got for only $1500. Then I started looking around. This is what I’ve decided on:

HP zv5000t series

Operating System Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Home Edition with SP2
Processor Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 2.80A GHz
Display 15.4″ WXGA BrightView Widescreen (1280×800)
Graphics Card ATI Mobility Radeon(TM) 9000 IGP
Memory 1.0GB DDR SDRAM (2x512MB)
Hard Drive 60 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
Primary CD/DVD Drive 4X DVD +/- RW/R & CD-RW Combo
Networking 54g(TM) Integ. Broadcom 802.11b/g WLAN & Bluetooth
Productivity Software Microsoft(R) Works/Money
Primary Battery 12 Cell Lithium Ion Battery

Editor’s note: this was quite possibly the worst computer I’ve ever owned, looking back on it from 2010. I’ve since vowed never to get an HP again after they wouldn’t do an in warranty repair after it died within a year. I’m now on the Mac and couldn’t be happier. I can’t even believe how much I spent on this thing too…

The processor is 200 MHz slower, but the 512 MB more RAM than the Vaio K33 will more than make up the difference. In many other areas, it’s just a tiny bit better, but still very comparable. I love the fact that he went down to Nebraska Furniture Mart to buy his and ended up paying around $1700 after taxes, etc. I’m paying less than that and getting a 802.11g router and a printer, no taxes, no shipping. The great part is that I would have been buying these anyway.

If you know anything about computers at all, you might just be drooling over these configurations. Or is that just me? In case you’re wondering why I’m going with such high specs, it’s because I do tons with digital video.

There’s still a big road block to me ordering though. I didn’t like the Sony notebook because they only supported their own proprietary Memory Stick. I thought that the HP had one of their 5-in-1 media readers, but I’m not sure at this point. Their specs page doesn’t mention it at all, but the 3D tour (requires Internet Explorer, bleh) devotes a section to it. I’m still waiting for their sales team to get back to me–the sooner the better.

Oh, and by the way, here’s a wholehearted thank you to Mel (she’s the one that took the pictures of me and my “fan club”) for helping me decide on specs.

Success

by Ben

The senior class voted a few weeks ago for awards for members of our class. My friend Tom got “Most Artistic,” Krissy got “Best Hair,” and so on, without much surprise. I was expecting to get “Most Musical,” if I were to get any award at all. So, when student council members interrupted our class to give out awards, and I didn’t get anything, I was actually somewhat depressed for a moment.

Then, about ten minutes later, they came back with two other awards–one being mine, and another for Ross. I couldn’t believe what I had gotten: “Most Likely to Succeed.” I didn’t expect that one at all. I was definitely expecting someone–anyone–else to get that one. I mean, I don’t even know what I’m going to do for sure in the future.

Who knows what will happen? The class hit the nail on the head with most of the other students, maybe I’m just to hard on myself. I could see myself being successful. Heck, I think that’s sort of one of my goals, although loosely defined.

Either that, or they didn’t know who to vote for, and for some reason a majority just happened to vote for me. I like those chances. I still can’t believe I’ve been put up in the ranks with Jamie, the female recipient of the award. If you would have told me about this anytime before this year, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. Ever.

Oh, and by the way, Eric got “Most Musical” for males. I’m glad it went to him. It was rather decidedly between us two for choices. Congratulations!

Time Travel

by Ben

Some of my favorite childhood movies are on TBS right now: Back to the Future Parts I, II, and III. I don’t know if they were good movies to watch when I was only a few years old, but they’ve always been my favorites. I think I’ve seen Part II enough times that I can quote most of the dialogue fairly accurately (which really annoys my sister, especially since she’s only seen it a few times).

I’ve always wondered what would happen to language if time travel were actually developed. Okay, I’m a geek–let me explain myself. The part I’m most interested in knowing about is how tenses would work. I would think that the current compliment that exists in our languages today wouldn’t cut it. Think about how confusing it would be to go to the future and talk about something that hasn’t happened yet, but will soon. Or, if we can change the outcome of the future (however unlikely that might be), and we have come across circumstances that existed differently in another timeline. It would just be a mess to get others to understand the concepts we’re trying to convey.

The only reason that we have the perfect tenses is because we have the ability right now to know about the past, or actions still occurring from the past, or continuing from the present into a set time in the future (but without much accuracy). If you assume a person in the future could have a good idea of what is to come, he could speak about this in a standard way that most people would comprehend.

So, I would imagine that over time another tense would develop, similar to the perfect tenses (has been, had been, will have been, etc). Sure, the future perfect might fit the bill in some cases, but it would ultimately conflict with other meanings.

This has just been running through my head for a couple of years now; I’ve finally written it down. Could be a good premise for a Science Fiction book about time travel. If I find time, I might write it.

Oh my…

by Ben

I think we can all satisfactorily admit that technology has gone to far. Usually I can follow the thought process of most tech gadgets, but this… Wow.

Honestly. What were they thinking?

I love it

by Ben

Defective Yeti is one of the most hilarious web logs out there, in my opinion. I like these jokes he found on the internet, but especially this one:

Q: What’s the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?

A: George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

Firefox 1.0 impressions

by Ben

It’s been too busy with school to do much web surfing and, finally, I upgraded to the full 1.0 release of Firefox. For the most part, it remained very similar to the Preview Release. One thing that I have noticed is that a little green icon appears next to “Help” in the menubar, particularly when the browser opens a new window. However, it stays visible only for a matter of seconds, so I haven’t yet discovered it’s purpose.

Check back, I may soon find the answer.

The elections are finally upon us

by Ben

I haven’t made this into a political blog (nor much of a blog at all, some might say), mostly because I’m just shy of voting age.

Even so, I’ve been more politically active than most I know who are of voting age. I spent some time with friends watching one of the debates, which was complemented by the fact that my host’s parents are both lawyers. It gave an interesting (better informed) perspective. I was even asked to be part of Kerry’s campaign here in Iowa just a few days ago. Unfortunately, I misunderstood and didn’t call back soon enough because I was waiting for a friend’s response. However, if I were to work phones, which I would utterly despise, I don’t think I would have been a good volunteer.

I found a good summary of why Kerry will (or, at least, should) win. Especially interesting to point out is that the almost 170 million cell phones of the country were not included in phone surveys. You might be thinking that most of these people have a separate home phone, but, as the author points out, many between 18 and 29 do not, and these people are more likely statistically to vote for Kerry.

If he were to win, it would certainly be strange to have another JFK as president…

Oh, this is interesting also, he was born December 11th. That’s he on the 11th, and Bob Barker and I on the 12th; maybe this says something about the accuracy of astrology.