Google Reader “Next” Bookmarklet Fail

One of my peeves about using various Google products is that sometimes bugs can sit around unfixed for ages. Like this one: Google Reader provides a bookmarklet that allows you to easily skip directly to the URL of the next unread item in your reading list, bypassing the Reader interface completely. It is nice if you like to read blog entries and stories with full formatting, rather than just the feed content. It is also nice when you subscribe to feeds that only post a summary, and require click-through to get the full content of an article.

However, when using it, sometimes you get this:

Google Next Bookmarklet 403 Error

Sometimes using Google Reader's "Next" Bookmarklet Causes a "Forbidden" error.

This problem has been reported in Reader-related forums for months. It has something to do with viewing other people’s shared items, and you can work around it by going into Reader and reading the next item there. Still it’s very annoying.

Now, I develop software too, and I recognize that every team has a long backlog of work, and some things fall to the bottom, but it seems like a long-standing, customer- user-facing bug like this would eventually offend some developer enough that he or she would just go and fix it out of pride.

Turtle Graphics In Python? Cool…

I just learned that Python has Turtle graphics built in.  Very cool.  How did I not know about this before?  Now I guess I know what Maggie’s first programming language will be. Inspired by this nice post showing how to draw fractal trees, here’s a quick Sierpinsky triangle algorithm in Python:

import turtle

def striangle(depth,base):
   turtle.down()
   if depth == 0:
      turtle.fill(1)
      for i in 0,1,2:
         turtle.forward(base)
         turtle.left(120)
      turtle.fill(0)
   else:
      for i in 0,1,2:
         striangle(depth-1,base)
         turtle.up()
         turtle.forward(base*2**depth)
         turtle.left(120)
         turtle.down()

turtle.reset()
striangle(6,5)
turtle-sierpinski

Depth 5 Sierpinski Triangle

Fun!

Cool Seattle Thing No. 3429: Dev Workshop for Transit Data

Too bad I found out about this after the fact…  Apparently King County Metro recently hosted a Developer Workshop for transit data.  Apparently they’re looking for more people to write innovative transit-related applications like the super cool One Bus Away, which I use every morning and evening on my Android phone.

Having spent years riding Port Authority buses and light rail in Pittsburgh, I still find it astonishing that an event like this can happen at all.  I mean, transit authority officials (including the KC Metro general manager!) hosting a workshop where they encourage third parties to take their data and play with it?

O brave new world that has such county officials in it!

Real Estate — How far can prices fall?

A month or two ago I was walking the dog in my neighborhood and I ran into a real estate agent who was about to list a home around the corner from me.  The owners were moving out.  She was surprisingly chipper and upbeat.  It was all I could do not to laugh at her.  They initially listed the three-bedroom two-bath house for $680,000.  They’ve already come down to $630k.   Up the street, another 3/2 is for sale for about the same price.  Apparently these people are all smoking crack.

I recently was discussing the question of how much farther prices can fall around here and a friend made the argument that houses like those above (i.e. 3 bedroom houses in Bellevue) were over $700k last year.  I think they can probably still lose another 15-20%, maybe more.  Here are some reasons:

  • Since I’ve been here, people have been showing the same retarded optimism about local housing that we saw in the rest of the country just before it started crashing.  Everyone was trying to find reasons why Seattle was exceptional, but the prices are totally irrational.  I read recently that transactions in the Seattle area in September were down 42% from the previous September.  This means that the bid-ask spread for houses has gotten too wide: sellers are still clinging to the hope of high prices but buyers are unwilling to pay.  The spread will have to close eventually, and its pretty obvious in this economy that it’s not the buyers who are going to move.
  • The economic fundamentals of homebuying haven’t changed.  The old rule of thumb has always been that you shouldn’t buy a home for more than three times your annual income.  That means that the homes above would require buyers making more than $200k/year.   These are not big homes.  I just don’t see it.
  • Seattle is overvalued compared to California.  In the past, Seattle was always cheaper than Cali.  Now housing is currently more expensive in here than in San Diego.  Remember, in the winter it can rain continuously for days here.  Just in the past week we’ve had multi-day rain spells, and at most a couple of hours of sunshine.  Wait til January.
  • People don’t seem to believe how bad it can get.  In the spring of 2006 I had an interview for a job at HRL in Malibu.  The closest place that seemed like it might be affordable was Thousand Oaks, CA.  I drove up there and took a look.  It was a nice suburban community.  Pleasant, with an area with sidwalks and shops, and nice looking housing.  Not big McMansions, but normal suburban split-levels and ranches.  At the time, the cheapest three-bedroom detached house listed on realtor.com in Thousand Oaks was $525k, and there were very few under $600k.   When I asked one of my potential co-workers at HRL how anyone who worked there could afford to own a home, he suggested that I could get an ARM.  The guy telling me this had a PhD in computer science or some kind of engineering.  Smoking Crack.  Anyway, how is Thousand Oaks faring today?  Right now, the cheapest three bedroom listed there on realtor.com is $240k, and there are 32 homes listed under $400k.  And remember, these are asking prices, not closing prices.

I would not be surprised if a 3/2 around here comes down close to $500k.  In fact, I think the only thing that can stop an enormous loss in nominal home values is massive inflation, which could bring down the actual values of the homes without bringing down the nominal values.  This situation could actually be good for the sellers because it would allow them to pay off their debt even as the value of their home has fallen.

[Update 8/2009: I walked by that house in my neighborhood again.  It's still for sale, 10 months later, with a new realtor, listed at $498,000.]

Yes We Can!

EOM.

Guido Van Rossum’s new Blog

Neopythonic. Thoughts from the creator of the Python programming language, now working for Google.

Buy Obama!

I noticed today that Electoral-Vote.com‘s composite of national polling is giving Obama a 338 to 185 lead in electoral votes.  The interesting thing about this is that Intrade‘s state-by-state prediction markets have been giving him roughly the same margin for several days, maybe a week — i.e. the prediction markets have been leading the polls.  Right now I think the only difference between EV’s electoral map and Intrade’s is North Carolina: EV calls NC a tie while Intrade gives the state to McCain.  It will be interesting to see if the polling in NC turns back toward McCain in the next week or so.

Looking at Intrade’s market for the overall outcome of the race, it’s worth noting the technical indicators (as I did in the primary).  Obama’s MACD is strongly positive, indicating upward momentum.

Intrade chart for Obama prediction market

Intrade chart for Obama prediction market

The MACD also shows Obama’s momentum went negative just after the Republican convention, and then reversed again around September 20, just as the shit was hitting the fan on Wall St.

One thing I wonder about the state-by-state prediction markets is how much liquidity they can have?  I mean, how many people are trading in these markets?  Are is there really enough volume in the West Virginia, Indiana, or Missouri markets to get accurate predictions?  Those states polls are all within the statistical margin of error (I think).  Florida and Ohio are also pretty close, but I guess those are more liquid, because they’re known battleground states.

Anyway, it will be fun to track this as the election gets closer.

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