Blog Archive for April 2007

The More Efficient Elevator for Skyscrapers

Joel on Software said he recently visited the new 7 World Trade Center building, which includes new computer dispatched elevators. Here's how he describes it:

Instead of having up and down buttons outside the elevators, there's a numeric keypad, where you key in the floor number you're going to. Then an LED display tells you which elevator to wait for. Once you get in the elevator, you don't have to press any buttons (and there are none to press).

Anyone who, like me, has played hours of SimTower knows that when people are coming or leaving in large numbers, the elevator system can be very inefficient. With this system, a central computer plans trips to neighboring floors instead of just going up or down. According to the Wikipedia article, these new elevators may reduce travel time by 30%. Sounds like some cool stuff.


Google Buys Majority Stake in Internet

OK, that's not exactly true. Google has announced the acquisition of DoubleClick, which has been the leader in Internet advertising as long as I can remember. Although most had valued the company at $1 billion, the $3.1 billion cash purchase will make Google, by far, the biggest player in the online ad game. Not surprisingly, other players in the Internet advertising market such as Microsoft and Yahoo! are crying foul.

Should you, as a consumer care? Probably. Besides Google, DoubleClick has the best profile of what sites you visit and your purchasing habits through their DoubleClick cookies. Of course, there is the possibility of Google trying to use this data to better target and identify you. Of course, DoubleClick quickly tried to destroy that rumor. However, a full acquisition from Google, a merging of systems, and/or a change in their terms of service could easily change that.

While Google by no means has a monopoly on Internet advertising, they're quickly becoming the evil empire of the Internet that we somehow just can't help but love. And, heck, as long as my Google stock keeps going up, I'm OK with it, I guess. ;-)


Communal Life Through Thick and Thin

Life in the People of Praise is so amazing. We had a fun weekend with a big party for J-T Kelly's CD release - it was a great time with the house full of friends. But it's more the daily things that make life in the People of Praise so great.

For example, I'd not been feeling that great towards the end of the weekend through Monday. I had a bit of a headache and was kinda feverish, it seemed. Plus, there was a pain starting in my leg and I didn't know if it was that I had knocked it against something. Anyways, it wasn't an easy day at work, but about 3:30pm I got a tap on my shoulder. (Most of my coworkers don't tap me on the shoulder; they usually IM me or just yell "Dan" until I hear them over the music in my headphones.) I look up and it's my sister Catherine, who goes to school a mile away. She brought me cookies and Hershey's Kisses along with a nice note! It was great to have a bit of encouragement, and those cookies made a good desert on Tuesday too.

The pain in my leg was getting progressively worse, so I called my mom like any good post-college kid who doesn't know what he's doing. She recommended calling a doctor who I'm not sure I've ever talked to but was also a People of Praise member. I called her up and she offered to stop by my work that afternoon and take a look at my leg! From what I hear, this busy mother of two serves her brothers and sisters in the People of Praise in ways like this almost daily. Thank you, Lord, for such a rich and abundant life, in the glamorous times and the hard times.


Real-Life Mario Kart 64 Achieved!

The folks at, of course, have done it again. Not only are they providing useful things like the RFID Blocking Passport Billfold, but they also have a large remote control go kart with Mario sitting on top of it. And, if that wasn't cool enough, the zany minds at ThinkGeek have even provided us a snappy video of it in action, complete with plenty of Nintendo sound effects and drama.

Now, all I need are some of these M.C. Escher Japanese toys.... Weird stuff.


The Solution

It's really easy to get down about tragedies like what happened at Virgina Tech last week, but, thankfully, there is a solution to all those problems. Here my friend Rus lays out the answer for a group of students in Indianapolis:


Summer 2007 Movie Preview

I wrote a post on about this summer's movies. Check it out:

Summer is fast approaching as the last couple days have been in the 70s even here in Minnesota. No doubt, as there is every summer, there will be lots of fluff to keep us entertained, not the least of which is the end of the movie hat trick. With new episodes of Pirate of the Carribean, Shrek, and Spider-Man, Hollywood hopes to bring everybody (and their friends) back for another million or so. Plus, I'll outline the others not to miss this summer. Here's my thoughts on this summer's movies.

Read the entire article.

To be honest, last year I went to some blockbusters just to get into an air-conditioned building (well, and to hang out with friends). We'll see what actually happens in this summer's movie watching.


What's New?

Well, that snow that came last week only lasted a couple hours after the sun came up, but it was fun. This weekend was in the 60s and 70s most of the time, so it was perfect. But first, let's go back a bit further. (The next paragraph is geeky, so if you don't want to do that type of stuff, just skip it.)

Just after Easter I purchased a cheap, old computer from the University I live near. It's an old Dell OptiPlex that they sold new about 4-5 years ago and was nice and thin for putting under your monitor. I set it up on its side under my desk and hooked it up to my KVM switch. I installed the generic Debian distribution on the machine and, for the first time ever, have a working Linux desktop with Gnome. It can browse the Internet nicely and I'm working it into being a Linux development server. I have MySQL, Apache, PHP, and Subversion set up on there and I got Eclipse running on the desktop as well (although it seems like it might be a bit sluggish). I'm looking forward to really digging into a couple more personal projects on this machine. It's definitely an upgrade from the old IBM Aptiva that was originally purchased in 1999.

This past Friday we kept our household night plans mostly unscheduled, and that meant some spontaneity. We ended up hiking 6.7 miles from River Ridge all the way to Kevin's house. That, of course, included illegally going over the old Cedar bridge as well as getting the short tour of the Blackdog power plant. Fun times. Oh yeah, and you can't forget watching Chain Reaction after that. Keanu Reeves, as usual, was, welll.... his usual character. Rachel Weisz had a really bad haircut. Oh well, it was 1996, I guess.

This weekend there was also a wedding and a car on our street spontaneously combusted. (OK, not exactly.) Plus, there was Chipotle, lots of walking, and three hours at a bar to celebrate Joe's birthday. (I would mention the bar's name, but sadly even though it's the best bar in the state, it has a terrible website.) It was a very good weekend.


Enjoy the Snow!

Seriously, the state of Minnesota should start revoking state IDs from people who are complaining about the weather. It sure beats rain anytime of the year. I love it!


Joost: The TV of the Future?

Joost LogoIf you tried to talk to me recently about a TV show, there's no doubt you heard the words, "What is TV?" or "TV is so last century." I've not had a TV for four and a half years, and I don't regret a minute of it. Sure there might be one or two decent shows on TV right now, but if I wanted to watch them, I'd do that on my own schedule.

The newest player in town is Joost, and thanks to a good friend, I have access to the much-sought-after system. From the founders of Skype comes this way to bring television into the world of the Internet. By all indications, this system will be going places fast.

So what does it do? You can stream TV-quality video to your computer if you have a decent broadband connection. You can choose any program at any time, so there's no schedule to be on. There are currently something like 50 channels, some of which have only a couple minutes of programming on them. Content from Viacom's Comedy Central and MTV channels take up a handful of channels, but there's nothing that I'd really want to watch. They don't have prime content like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report on there yet, most likely because they're getting a buck or two per viewer on iTunes.

The interface is nice, and it's going to bring it a long way. There are many widgets that you can overlay transparently on the top of the show you're watching, from a chat window with other watchers of the program to your RSS feeds or even your whole Google Chat interface. One that program or channel runs out of content, it will randomly pick something from your subscribed channels.

The Pretty Joost CrystalsThe future of advertising on this medium will be interesting. Right now the advertising is entirely a 10-second graphic where "This program is brought to you by" and then a logo of such things as T-Mobile, Eclipse gum, etc. However, it seems to me that since there's no way to skip through the program that channel owners could put ads right inside the program (maybe some do and I just haven't watched those yet). The other possibility is the ability to custom deliver ads to users. The system could display different ads to each user depending on their preferences and viewing habits. Their system could also keep perfect track of who has seen the ads and maybe track some responses, which everyone would like more than Nielsen ratings.

There's still a bunch of questions. Will it ever do live television or will I have to tune into another service to watch the Twins in the ALCS championships? And seriously, when will I get to watch the Daily Show or 24?


What Is Church?

Shaun Groves is an artist I have seen play a couple times and also talked with one of those times... briefly. I always thought the guy was great and his message was great, but (sorry, Shaun) I never really got into his soft-rock sound. Then, a year or two ago, I discovered Shaun's blog and then begins the real liking of the guy. He knows plenty about the music industry and seems knowledgeable about just about everything else.

People of Praise’s Newest House in Shreveport, LAShaun recently posted a very intriguing post called, "The Church I Want". He outlined what he's looking for in a church within driving distance. First, he explains what he's not looking for because he already has it, from people to hang out with to a place to serve. Second, he explains his criteria for a church, which includes a commitment and a purpose for being.

Fixing up and old house in Minneapolis, MNAlthough this definitely is the ideal definition of church, it's not how I commonly use the phrase. To me, "church" is just going to a service on Sunday morning. It's a building a couple blocks away. That's not what Shaun is talking about.

I think what Shaun is really looking for is what we call "Christian community" or more specifically, the People of Praise. We're not just a community that lives in one cul-de-sac, we're in cul-de-sacs in 20+ cities across the country. Our purpose is to spread that type of richly lived Christian life where we have meals together on a regular basis and live our lives more in common. We're not just about cleaning up a poor neighborhood, but we're about moving in with them and making their burdens our burdens. A summer camp for youth in South Bend, INWe're also working on meaningful ways for young people to live high school and college life with much more than a social scene. Not only are we reaching out through preaching, but we're also reaching out through creating useful businesses that are Christ-centered and support our work in other ministries.

By most definitions, People of Praise is not a church. There are no pastors. We are a group of laity who all are a part of our respective churches but seek a more purposeful and communal life. I myself am Roman Catholic, but regularly share life with Lutherans, Baptists, and many more Christians.

If you want to learn more about the People of Praise, I recommend reading our publication. Sorry, Shaun, but we're not in Nashville yet, but maybe we'll be starting up in Music City in the future.