July 2006


20060731-calm.jpgSlower breathing may lower blood pressure (Yahoo! News)

So maybe this is why we have so many heart attacks in America: we need a scientific study to realize that calming down lowers our blood pressure.

Slow, deep breathing does relax and dilate blood vessels temporarily, but that’s not enough to explain a lasting drop in blood pressure, says NIH’s Anderson.

Here’s a thought, maybe everything isn’t a medical problem, needing a medical solution. Maybe what people with high blood pressure need isn’t a new medicine. Maybe all it takes to calm your heart is to calm your mind.

The concept that high blood pressure is a disease, that being wound too tight is a disease, strikes a sour note with me. It’s just too close to treating obesity as a disease, and the subsequent alleviation of personal responsibility.

When physicians tell people “you have high blood pressure, but we have a pill for that,” they remove the patient’s own attitude as a potential cause of the problem.  What if they tried saying “hey, you’re wound too tight, try calming down a little bit?” I’ll tell you what would happen then, people would get cured and drug companies wouldn’t sell quite so many pills.

So that’s another thing that should happen but never will.

At least until people stop looking for a pill to cure anything.

Is a pothead smoking a joint to take the edge off life really any different from a stressed out businessman popping blood pressure pills on his commute through rush hour?

Both are people without enough control over their own minds to slow them down without drugs.  The only real difference is that the pothead at least realizes that the drugs are there to calm his mind, but the businessman doesn’t even see that his mind and body are connected.

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At last, I’ve gotten my shit together enough to put together the first bits of my guide to free software. At the moment the whole list consists of uTorrent and nothing else…but hey, it’s a start.

Joby’s Free Software Guide

uTorrent installs with a set of fairly good configuration options, but there are a few tweaks that might be useful to some people, as well as a few thoughts I’ve had on how to make it easier on your computer.

do Pre-allocate all files
found in: Options>Preferences>Downloads>Other Settings
By default uTorrent starts with empty files and adds to them as it downloads data. Checking this box will force uTorrent to create a file the size of the file you’re downloading full of dummy data the moment you start the download.

I’m not sure why they chose to make it do this. Maybe so that starting a massive download won’t instantly fill up your hard drive. From a planning perspective, I see not pre-allocating files as being on the same level as buying stuff on credit. Sure, you might want to get every episode of Star Trek (all the generations), but just because uTorrent lets you start the download doesn’t mean your hard drive will let you finish it. With this option checked you know for sure how much hard drive space you have left, even after you finish your current downloads.

Pre-allocating files has an advantage from a performance and stability standpoint too. Since the dawn of Bittorrent I’ve been annoyed by its tendency to create fragmented files. Without pre-allocation uTorrent will write each chunk of each file as it gets it, physically spreading the files all over the damn place on your hard drive. With pre-allocation, though, each file should wind up more or less in one place on the hard drive, in one continuous block of data. This will make your computer access it better, and in the end less prone to file system corruption.

do Auto-Save Files Somewhere
found in: Options>Preferences>Downloads>Location of Downloaded Files

This dialog allows you to automatically save your torrent files in a specific place. That’s nice, but to really make it useful you’ll also want to configure it to move completed files somewhere else. This way adding new torrents to the queue is a snap, as is browsing in windows the ones that are completed.

Mine is configured to save all incomplete downloads in My Documents\My Downloads\My Torrents\Incomplete, then move them up a notch to My Documents\My Downloads\My Torrents when they finish.

maybe Use the Scheduler
found in: Options>Preferences>Scheduler

If you’re like me and your ISP gives you certain times of day when you have unlimited bandwidth you’ll love this one. uTorrent lets you specify, by day of the week and hour, whether to pause everything, throttle back everything, or download like the Internet is about to end. I won’t bother explaining how to set it up, it’s easy.

Google has launched, yes, yet another brilliant piece of web software. At least I think it’s brilliant, I haven’t actually used it yet. I’m going to keep a running narrative as I go through the process of checking it out (no pun intended, and I won’t be buying anything for real because I have no money).

Signing Up
Upon first reaching Google Checkout, the first thing I see is a friendly little welcome message. There’s also a link to Google’s Tour, if you’d rather get what I’m certainly about to tell you straight from the horse’s mouth.

Find it with Google. Buy it with Google Checkout.

Want a faster, safer and more convenient way to shop on-line? You got it.

Stop creating multiple accounts and passwords.
With Google Checkout™ you can quickly and easily buy from stores across the web and track all your orders and shipping in one place.
   
Shop with confidence.
Our fraud protection policy covers you against unauthorized purchases made through Google Checkout, and we don’t share your purchase history or full credit card number with sellers.
   
Control commercial spam.
You can keep your email address confidential, and easily turn off unwanted emails from stores where you use Google Checkout

So after signing in with my Google account, I’m presented with a screen asking for all my billing information. This alone is getting me so excited. The thought of never having to type all this shit in again is thrilling.

060708-gc-1.jpg

Terms of Service

Next up: reading the Terms of Service. It might be Google, but I still like to know what they can do with my credit card number. The interesting points are:

  • Users must be 18, US residents, and legally able to enter a binding contract (i.e. the Terms of Service).
  • Google is allowed to background and credit check users of Checkout.
  • I may be wrong about this one (the legalese is a little thick), but I do believe Google holds your payment until the seller provides proof of shipment. That’s nice of them.
  • No transferring cash, only buying and selling stuff.
  • Google has the right to limit the amount of money you’re allowed to spend in a given period of time (how much money in how much time isn’t mentioned, which makes me think it probably watches your patterns and keeps an eye out for an increase in spending).
  • You can’t sue them if their system goes down and delays your ability to buy stuff.
  • The security of your user-name and password is your prerogative.
  • If somebody commits fraud by buying stuff with your account, take it up with your credit card, not Google. Google doesn’t refund money from bad transfers, or insure the money they hold on your behalf. That’s the credit card companies’ business.
  • You may have to pay sales taxes sometimes (only as often as any other online shopping).

Trying to buy something

As a demo, I’m going to try to take all the steps of buying stuff from a few stores, right up to the final step of actually paying for it.

OK, I tried to order some wireless headphones from Buy.com, but it didn’t work. I got a cryptic and frustrating message, so I’m giving up on this until tomorrow.

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Helpful Links

Google Checkout: the site itself

mad coupons: I found a page with a whole mess of $10-20 off coupons from a bunch of on-line stores, a-la Google Checkout. I don’t know how long these will last, so use them while you can.