Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Nation Divided


I know the title is more than a little bit of click bait, but we do seem to stand at the cusp of a great divide. We have held yet another election where the result of our process did not align itself with the popular vote. As CCP Grey covers in the video embedded above, that brings our presidential election error rate up to roughly 7%. While I don't entirely agree with the thought of a direct democracy, I do feel that the continued failures of the present system indicate a more important, systemic issues with our nation. (If you want to learn more about why the electoral college is just so broken, watch this video, and if you, like many, have no idea how it's supposed to work at all, start with this one.) We have a government that grown increasingly less representative of the wishes of the governed, all the while opening itself to more and more infiltration by special interest groups that would sell the soul of our nation for a quick buck. It's time that we actually move for change and make America great again by demanding better election practices that allow a diversity of representation, instead of the current two-party system. We need to push for more rational voting schemes that prevent the spoiler effect, resist gerrymandering, and allow more of the people to get the representation in government that they actually want. A good place to start learning more about how voting can be better is here with CCP Grey again.

In this series of videos, he discusses the problems with first-past-the-post voting, and he talks about other methods of voting that, while still not perfect, at least fix most of the major issues with first-past-the-post. We, as a nation, need to take the time to learn why we use the methods we do for selecting who becomes part of our government, and we need to learn about the better options that exist. Then, we need to get involved in our local government and push for changes in how we cast our votes and how we get represented by our elected officials. It's only by taking a ground up approach that we can actually change this nation for the better.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Whatever Happened to Tom's Hoodie?: Tom Scott at Thinking Digital 2013

In a world where we cling to so many things, both physical and digital, it is all too easy to become burdened by the weight of the past we carry with us. Perhaps it's time for us to think about at least reducing that weight, even if we are not yet ready to rid ourselves of it entirely.



You can find more of his videos on his YouTube! channel here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thoughts By Night

Not in the normal vein of things I post here, but the words touched me in a way that I can't quite explain.

After our last meeting, I was more relaxed and at peace with myself and the world than I had been in ages; yet I could not sleep -- did not want to sleep, for fear that in sleeping I would wake to find it had all been but a dream, as moments of such perfect bliss have no place in this fractured world of ours. All I wanted was to lie there for an eternity, contentedly basking in the warm glow of remembrance.

Fragments From a Diary
Author Unknown

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quirky's Spotter

I have been ogling this device for a while, and I finally picked up one, as well as a Pivot Power Genius and Porkfolio, during Think Geek's recent clearance event. I'm glad I didn't pay full retail for it, but it's still an interesting device, despite its severe limitations.

Given my experiences thus far with the other products, I'm surprised at just how bad this one device is. Although, the included instructions with all of them need work. (The master power button on the PPG could be better labeled, and I still haven't taken the time to find out how to change the batteries on the Porkfolio.)

I have a major investment in X10 based controllers, so I'm used to having to deal with a certain amount of eccentricity and peculiar limitations in gadgets. (Imagine having loud clunks sound whenever you want to turn a light on or off just so you can have CFLs, or having to map the electrical wiring in your apartment and pulling drop cords behind furniture just so you can make sure all of your controlled devices are on the same phase.) In any case, the lack of any kind of meaningful logging, control over sensitivity, or immediate display of status in the app is really disappointing.

The simplest of these issues to resolve would be the in-app display. Whenever I launch the app, on iOS or Android, it shows my Porkfolio, and I have yet to find a way to change order of devices. As much as I like being reminded that I have money, it's not really what I'm looking for. Then, once the Spotter is selected, I get pretty but essentially useless menu. It would be easy to include the last temperature measurement and the light and vibration sensor state on that screen at least. If I want to configure triggers, then I can tap through to another menu. It would also be nice to be able to see and configure all of the possible triggers from one screen, instead of separately for every sensor. If I had more than one Spotter, I would probably give up before I had them doing anything useful.

Sensitivity adjustment… I understand the desire for simplicity, but that's what hidden menus are for. Make me have to jiggle the device three times, point my phone to the North, set a trigger with a magic word for the name, and draw the secret sigil upon my touch screen before you give me the extra dials and switches, but put them in there for those of us who are willing to do the calibration to suit our environments.

As far as logging and graphs over time are concerned, my bathroom scale does a better job as a temperature monitor, while running on batteries and connected to wi-fi. It was also somewhat easier to get connected to my wireless network. (For those of you wondering, it's the WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer from Withings.) It even has a website, so I'm not limited to just the mobile device platforms supported by the manufacturer for viewing the information it's collecting. (N.B. I would still need one for the initial configuration, but if it came down to it, I could likely borrow one from a friend for a few minutes, if I did not have one myself.)

These really need a full-featured, openly-documented API to make them useful for integration with other services and devices. It would also be amazing, if there were a way to poll them locally. I don't expect Quirky to disappear overnight, but I'm not spending hundreds of dollars on devices that depend entirely on a third-party to continue providing basic functions. (If the Withings devices didn't function at least as well as non-connected versions without the web-services component, I wouldn't have purchased them either.)

I look forward to seeing what happens as things continue to evolve, and I will probably buy more products from Quirky — the Egg Minder is what I have my eye on now. However, I'm not picking up any more Spotters until the situation improves, nor will I be recommending them to anyone I like in the foreseeable future.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Amazon.com Getting a Facelift?

I was shopping for books on rammed-earth construction on Amazon when I noticed that one of these pages was not like the other.
Whereas the following one has a different and more modern look to it.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Even Google Makes Mistakes

Despite its enormous resources, even Google had trouble with English. Note the obvious typo in the change log fit Google Earth fit Android.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Boy And His Atom: The World's Smallest Movie

It's amazing what Science can do when in the hands of scientists with too much free time, a lot of very expensive equipment, and a good imagination. The making-of is here.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Spotify + Facebook = Suck

Yes, the headline is extreme, but I mean it. I've been using Spotify since it was first available in the US, and I love the service. However, they crossed a line, and I don't think there is any way they will ever regain my trust.

In preparation for deactivating my Facebook account quite some time ago, I did what I could to detach it's tendrils from my on-line life. I thought I had covered all of my bases, but it seems I was wrong. Using the Spotify client had never reactivated my Facebook account, but the moment I signed in to the Android app, it came back to life like some overly-clingy zombie girlfriend. So, this time I think I'm actually going to delete my Facebook account permanently, as I don't think I can trust a company that will let a third-party app reactivate my account without at least requiring it to warn me first.


Good by and good riddance to Facebook!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

EBS Jingle


This would have done more to get my attention than just a tone and scripted warning.