Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Diet Pop Challenge!

A challenge to try every diet pop available in Microsoft's refrigerators. Furthermore, to attempt to go through a few full workdays, drinking no full-sugar pop.

A few reasons. Admittedly, on some gentle prodding from The Irishman, bringing up the many health benefits of avoiding high sugar intake.

First, the obvious one - sugar, without the matching exercise, is going to immediately translate into fat. While I'd like to gain some weight, I'd prefer it to be thick muscle mass that makes a fine lady swoon, and men cower in fear. I am not overweight, but I could lose 10lbs in fat without any serious detrimental effects on my health (and certainly don't want to gain any at all at my current point).

Second, diabetes. A few friends have pointed out that high sugar intake can lead to risk for type-II diabetes. I don't like drugs, having to see doctors, needles, or having to significantly curtail my diet. Diabetes could mean all of that.

Finally, my Mountain Dew tower just scares me. I'll take a picture soon.

Not Covered:
Home time, meals out. This is purely workday. My leisure time, I will have my sugar. I like my sugar, thank you! Also, no caffeine-reduced drinks. I know of no serious health issues around regular caffeine intake unless you take huge amounts (forming a moderate physical addiction), or do not keep hydrated (caffeine is a diuretic). I also like my caffeine.

I got to try a variety of sugar-free pop; as far as I know, the full selection available in my building. I drank everything that had a diet variety, including caffeine-free if there was no caffeinated version.
  • Diet Mountain Dew
  • Diet Pepsi
  • Diet Coke
  • Diet Coke Cherry
  • Diet Dr. Pepper
  • Diet Mug Root Beer
  • Diet Sprite

I was going to review these, and comment on the overwhelming taste of aspartame and relative flavourlessness of each of them. But, having just had a second Diet Mountain Dew (after cycling all the pops, where Diet MD was also my first), I realize something. I've become desensitized to the taste of aspartame, in just three days! I hated my first can of Diet Mountain Dew. Loathed it even. But after a few days of drinking these sugar-free drinks, it doesn't bother me much at all.

Still, Diet Coke Cherry comes out on top for pleasantness. Also Diet Mug and Diet Sprite take a prize for being a bit truer to the taste of their sweetened counterparts, but they have no caffeine so are therefore not important to me.

I've done three full diet days, and a few mixed days (it's been a rough week). I'm at the point where it is something I can drink subconsciously as I work.

On a side note, on suggestion of The Irishman and Popple, I gave Coke Zero a try at home (they don't seem to have any at work). I must say, it was the the closest to something I found with any real flavor, and I found myself chugging at it pretty aggressively. It still lacks that distinct boldness that corn syrup provides to a decent pop, but definitely a good substitute if you're going to be drinking a lot.

Given conditioning, one can in a very short time become accustomed to diet pop, even growing to like it.

Given this revelation, am I likely to switch to diet full time? No. However, I am definitely going to find one kind I like enough to drink regularly (the Diet Coke Cherry, I think), and start replacing at least some of my workday's consumption with it. I'm also going to drink a bit of Coke Zero at home, but only for those long nights of Warcraft. Probably with alcohol.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Vista voice recognition

I saw an interesting movie on YouTube today, which shows a programmer struggling to enter Perl code using Vista voice recognition. It took him 10 minutes to enter a simple five line program in notepad. While obviously not designed for the rigid needs of a programmer, it seemed to recognize the things that he did say quite readily. This inspired me, as an avid Vista user, to give the Vista voice recognition a try for myself.

I must admit, I'm quite impressed. Especially in applications set up for dictation, such as notepad or Internet Explorer, the performance even with minimal training is exemplary. In fact, the voice recognition probably spells better than I do with a keyboard. When the occasional mistakes are made, the dictation interface is extremely powerful in terms of its correction commands. While it is more difficult to talk to an application that does not expect dictation, such as Windows Live Messenger, you can still operate largely with your voice ( albeit a bit slower ). It even knows to scan things like emails and other data on your computer to build a dictionary of words that you might want to say.

In fact, my biggest problem I'm finding is that I can type my thoughts far better than I can articulate them. For some reason, it's harder for me to come up with what to say when I actually have to say it out loud.


To prove my point, the above paragraphs were dictated entirely with Vista voice recognition in notepad, copied, and then pasted into a Blogger window [including website navigation] using nothing but my voice. I was going to start typing at this point, but both voice dictation is actually staring to be kind of fun for me. Not fast... At least not yet. But still cool.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Eight Hour Workday

Sometimes I just read something online that says something so perfectly, so well-researched, that rings so true, that I couldn't hope to add anything to it. So, I submit to you the following.

(credit to Cryponomicon for sending me the link)

An interesting discussion of the relation of the length of the workday and the work week as it applies to productiveness and quality. The ten-second summary: for more or less 100 years now, all the greats of organizational design have known that the 8 hour x 5 day work week produces the best level of productivity out of people for a large selection of activities.

Of course, he ties this in with the "ea_spouse" scandal, and how in many technology companies, the lessons of the past have been forgotten.

Read it, you'll enjoy it. Though I hope it does not ring too true for you.

I have to wonder... those 5 hours a night I often do... perhaps when I feel frustrated at my lack of productivity or ability to work through a problem, perhaps I'm just drunk on fatigue? It sure would explain a lot...

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Well, I got my wish. In the past twenty-four hours, I've been hit by two cops. First, at night, an instant-on K band in Kirkland. No warning - BLAM! My little radar device goes nutsy and I brake ASAP. The next morning, heading off to work, turn a corner..... ALARM! Lasered!

So, there's some good news to all this.
  • I've experienced the two most common forms of speed trap that I'm likely to encounter (instant-on K band radar, and stationary laser trap), and know what to expect.
  • Both warnings were very obviously true positives from the sort of signal I got. None of this wishy washy echo crap.
  • I was driving legal speeds in both cases, and thus didn't get pulled over. I'd feel EXTRA bad about getting a ticket at the 156th St cash grab, which they do to shake up money from Microsofties weekly.
  • My detector had no trouble picking up the laser signal, even at close range. This is actually a non-trivial task.
But of course, the downside being in neither case did the detector save me since I wasn't speeding. More to the point, they wouldn't have saved me even if I was speeding! The laser and instant-on gave me no warning before I was hit. Sure, at least for radar that may not always be the case, but it certainly could happen.

So yeah... you're never really safe....