Sunday, December 22, 2013

Old School: Pager Code


There are/were several types of pager codes in the 1990's before cellphones become common with inexpensive data/text plans.

Calculator Method
The simplest (and prolly earliest) pager code was the Calculator Method.  This method replaced letters with numbers that resemble those letters when held upside down (similar to how you'd create words using upside down numbers on a calculator).  These were typed backwards so that the effect was easy to read.  Examples:

  • HELLO would read 07734.  4 kinda looks like an H, 3 is clearly an upside down E, 7 is clearly an upside down L and 0 is O in either direction.
  • GUESS WHO would read 04177*553176.  6 kinda looks like a G, 17 looks like an upside down U, 5 looks like an S, * is a space, 177 looks like an upside down W.
Beeper Codes
Another common pager code system consisted of a string of numbers that were typically 3 letters long used to represent specific words and phrases. Though I doubt there is consensus regarding a name for the collection of these pager codes, these seem most closely associated with the term "Beeper Codes".  Beeper codes were really a collection of many individual codes that were derived from several cipher methods.  Many codes used letter count, but other methods were also employed.

  • I LOVE YOU was commonly typed as 143.  This required foreknowledge of the code, as any combination of words can share common letter counts.  143 could've easily meant I CAN'T FLY if you didn't know the established meaning. 
  • I LOVE YOU was also 831 from the phrase, "8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning."  Again, foreknowledge is necessary to decipher the code.  
There were a lot of these individual Beeper Codes.

Number look alikes
The most versatile pager code was a slightly more formal substitution method.  Letters were represented by a look alike number or string of numbers. This is similar to the Calculator Method, but can be read rightside up and used to spell any word without a lot of forethought (or turning your phone upside). Different varieties existed, but the most common was this:


Pager Code

LetterNumber Look Alike
A8
B8
C6
D0
E3
F4
G6
H4
I1
J7
K15
L7
M177
N17
O0
P9
Q0
R12
S5
T7
U11
V11
W111
X25
Y4
Z2
Spacebar- or *


With this method, complex messages could be sent without a lot of effort. Even after texting and cellphones become more common, this was still a good system to encipher messages from casual interloping.

  • HELLO becomes 43770
  • WISH YOU WERE HERE becomes 111154 4011 1113123 43123 (a special symbol for spacebar wasn't necessary once texting was available)
  • FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO becomes 401112 560123 8170 5311317 438125 860
Pager codes were still used by some people even after texting become available because most early texting-capable cellphones didn't have an alphabet keyboard.  Typing words was still tedious using the texting system.  It was prolly around the time when type-ahead appeared that use of pager codes finally become uncommon.  Once smartphones become common, there was really no need for pager codes anymore at all, except for fun.  I still find myself using some of the old 3 digit beeper codes if I don't feel like typing out a common phrase.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Infinite Universe

Deep thoughts by me, "If the Universe is infinite, then all possibilities will be a reality, which means the Universe was simultaneously created by a God and came into existence without a god. The Universe itself becomes its own quantum superpositional object between all possibilities." [There is a flaw with this logic (infinity does not mean all things that can happen will happen), but it's still a bit of a mind-trip.]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This is America! Wait, what? [Infographic]

This is America! Wait, what? (Confusing to Europeans)

It is funny how many people are taught that "The Americas" is one continent.  Oh, and some people are bugged by the "arrogance" that Americans have for being the only people to call themselves "American" when there is a whole bunch of other countries here too.

Tuesday Two: Tracking balls

Bounce, bounce aroundThe aptly name  Bounce Imaging Explorer is a throwable camera that allows you to see around corners simply by rolling or throwing it into the area.  Great for cops, firefighters, and military.

trakdotYou can track yourself, your kids, your phone and your car.  Now you track your luggage with Trakdot.  This device can send  text messages, emails or updates to an app.  This allows you to know where luggage is, even if the airline doesn't.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Who needs privacy?

Allie said just now, "I don't know why people post everything on Facebook. ...there's no privacy." I couldn't help but post this quote on Facebook just to be ironic.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yahoo's Blunder with unnecessary changes to their services is well explained on slashdot.org

Yahoo's blunder with unnecessary changes to their services such as Yahoo! Groups is well explained on slashdot.org by anonymous poster.

If you have no userbase, the Agile concept of ship (garbage) early and ship (garbage) often even before you really have an MVP actually makes some sense. If you have a 6-month runway of capital before you go belly-up and start over (oh, I'm sorry, "pivot"), there's no point in wasting another month to get it right.
But if you already have a userbase, the developer-centric attitude of leaving what, to users, is core functionality in the backlog while you release half-assed stuff that merely shows off how good you are with AJAX, or how quickly your UX people can change the design from one week to the next, doesn't work. It's bad for your customer base, it alienates them, and it eventually drives them to your competitors.
More of this person's comment can be found here. If you are interested in exploring the topics brought up by this person, click on the links I added to their quote above.  That will take you to Wikipedia articles that will explain each of the terms.  

Senseless Sunday: Mort fog tail

  • Micromort is the unit of measure assigned to determining the risk of mortality in terms of one-in-a-million chance of dying.
  • The invention of the toothbrush has no well defined origin, but the first bristle toothbrush has been discovered in China from the Tang Dynasty (circa A.D. 619–907).  It used hog bristle.  Not quite the same as brushing your teeth with bacon flavored toothpaste, but close.
  • A cubic mile of fog is made up of 56,000 gallons of water.
  • The word coward original comes from Latin word couda, meaning "tail".

Monday, November 04, 2013

Stupid press and their stupid ways (Facebook haters)

From time to time there are articles claiming the end of Facebook.  These articles are all pretty much the same, saying how "kids" are using other social media sites now, such as Vine, Snapchat, Ask.fm, and Instagram.  Really?

Vine is not used instead of Facebook.  Vine is used instead of Youtube.  It's a video app.

Snapchat is only being used for sending sexy videos that cannot be stored.  Again, not something that was ever really Facebook's thing.  Facebook might be losing some use to Snapchat, but I don't think it's much.  Youtube is losing more than Facebook.

Ask.fm is really competition for Reddit and Yahoo! Answers rather than Facebook.  Maybe Reddit is stealing time away from Facebook, but ultimately, even these individuals end up on Facebook for social networking (even as they pretend to hate it).  Reddit doesn't have a strong social interaction and is mostly just strangers posting for strangers.

What about Instagram?  People use Instagram instead of older services like Flickr and Photobucket.  It's a photo app.  There is a stronger social aspect, but photos aren't really a replacement for communicating on Facebook.  It's more like one-way bragging, which ultimately doesn't promote long and engaging interaction.  When people respond to someone else's brags, they are trying to make themselves relevant in the context of the braggartry, and that's what tends to happen on Facebook.  That's something that just isn't possible on Instagram.

You know what kids are using instead of Facebook?  Nothing, ...kinda.  They are using text messaging.  Texting is why Facebook is seeing a small decline in usage in the younger demographics.  Aggressive use of texting is temporary for people, though.  Textings doesn't grow as your network grows.  There's a certain point where texting becomes intrusive.  When that happens, people move their social networking to a more broad service.  When they do, that service still tends to be Facebook.

I'm not a Facebook pumper.  I can live with or without it.  I do know it is the most convenient service right now.  There is just something about it that makes it more usable than Google+.  Anyone that thinks that Facebook will go the way of Myspace and Friendster just isn't paying attention or only seeing what they want to see.  Until something that is actually better comes around, Facebook isn't going to die from a supposed mass migration of its user base.

There is merit to all the services mentioned above.  Some services appeal to certain people more than others.  Facebook's success is that it is a generalist that covers all the bases.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Amazon.com's double-whammy for Massachusetts comes in one more day (Nov 1)

Whammy #1

Despite the illegality of applying a state tax (of any kind) to an interstate purchase (in direct violation of U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause found at Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3), Amazon.com has capitulated to Massachusetts' harassment.  As of November 1, 2013, Amazon.com will begin collecting the state's sales tax on purchases sold by Amazon.com.  This does not include third party vendors which sell their product through Amazon.com's website, who are responsible to handle their own taxation (if any).

The problem I have with this is that is really is illegal.  Until such a time that Congress actually passes a law granting states the authority to apply their intrastate taxes to interstate sales, these states are in willful violation of our Constitution.  There are exceptions this that have been allowed by Federal Courts, but Amazon.com (nor most online retailers) does not have a business that operates in such as way as to fall under these exceptions.  Besides that, there are ambiguities that Congress needs to resolve.  Allowing taxation of purchases that do not originate within the state may be an open door for states to outright tax purchases that have no origin or destination within their own territory, but are rather just passing through.

There are a lot of nonsensical justifications for taxation of interstate sales, and there are a lot of good reasons to not allow such taxation.   I would go into detail here as to why, but I've actually covered this pretty well in a previous article about California's similar attempts to harass Amazon.com and other online retailers.

Whammy #2

Not quit as annoying, but still bothersome is that last week Amazon.com raised their minimum purchase for free shipping.  Instead of the $25 threshold, the minimum purchase for free shipping is now $35.  What does this mean for most casual shoppers who don't buy into the Amazon Prime plan?  There may be some short term gain in sales from customers who are not aware of the change and planned on making immediate purchase.  But over the long run, my guess is that many will wait longer between purchases rather that purchase more each time.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Recent trip to Vancouver, BC

I recently visited Vancouver, BC.  This photo set on Flickr pretty much tells most of the details of my time off. Here's some views:

20131009_213251 20131010_121142 20131010_170428 20131010_173321

Friday, October 04, 2013

Portland, ME

Allie and had a nice weekend in Portland, ME in Sept.  Beautiful town with friendly people, fresh seafood and nice weather.















Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Seriously, who thought of this? Let the rhymes commence

There really is a website for everything.  Well, there is a site for word rhyming called Visual Rhymes. This site is so smart that it can even find rhymes for orange.  I always believed there are no English words that rhyme with orange.  Of course, the website shows the closest rhyme, but I think it is a bit rough, though it is technically correct.  Let me try to use the rhymes with orange in a bad poem that only Vogons will love.

Let me say how I love your skin orange.
Random pieces dogs will scavenge.
Keep your dogs away from that syringe.
Oh, o'er there the bad dogs whinge.
Watchout for the skintle to avoid a cringe
face from roughed up skin.  Oh, I love your skin orange.
Orange, orange, Oh, orange of color grand, 
sometimes impinge.

I did warn that it would be bad poetry.  As bad poetry goes, I'd say that was pretty good attempt and being really really bad.  So bad.  So very very bad. Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex might be proud. Anyway, I'm not convinced it is a good idea to try to attempt rhymes with the word orange, even if there are words that are available for such as task.

Valuable lesson from my first professional job, or how much is a brownie point worth?

My first professional job was in Silicon Valley for a laser company.  My boss was Bob.  Based on my take of things, Bob was stereotypical for a guy named "Bob" in the professional realm.  I'll just leave that to your imagination.  Anyway, Bob was wise and taught this young pup a few lessons.  One that has proven exceptionally valuable is the concept of brownie points.

Brownie points are earned one at a time for doing someting that impresses the boss.  The first time I earned a brownie point for being cleaver (I can't even remember what about), Bob said to me something along the lines of,
Congraluations!  You've earned one brownie point.  It takes 1000 to cancel-out one "Oh Shit".


There it was; the formula that explained everything that happens on the job. 

1000b = 1M 

Do something impressive and you get quick praise "b".  Make one mistake big "M" and you are in trouble no matter how much good you've done.  Unlike your 401K, brownie points don't carry over from job to job either.  Get a new job - start over.  I hope this helps! :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Senseless Sunday: Dog's life

  1. A dog was killed by a meteor at Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911.[1]
  2. The tallest recorded bamboo is 130 feet high.[2]
  3. World's longest beaver dam is found in Alberta, Canada with a length of 2790 feet.[3]
  4. Adwaita, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise died at the age of 255 in March 2006 in Alipore ZooKolkataIndia. It was recorded the oldest Terrestrial animal in the world.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Opinion about epinions.com decline

epinions.com used to be a great resource to get real world, vetted and high quality customer reviews for all sorts of products from books to cars.  Contributing to epinions.com was actually minimally lucrative, as you got compensated for your product reviews.  Fellow members of the website would critique submitted reviews to help others improve the quality and review writing skills.  The higher quality reviews earned a larger share of whatever earnings were made.

I was never really sure just how the compensation worked, but over the years, I made less than $100 total from my nine posted product reviews.  My first review was posted in 2002 about my old Acura TL Type-S, for which I earned the coveted "Very Helpful" rating.  Over a period of one decade, that review has earned me a whopping total $20.

In the past, I've endorsed and recommended the use of epinions.com.  I frequently went there for reviews of products in which I was interested.  Then something starting changing in 2012.  I stopped using epinions.com.  I didn't really know why at the time.  It just happened.  Looking back, I believe it may have been because reviews were getting harder to find.  It was not that there was less of them, but rather the structure of the website had started changing for the worse.

Sometime this summer of 2013, I was writing a review for another product on Amazon.com and figured it was good enough to add to epinions.com.  I thought I might as well make my 3¢ a year. So, I went back to the epinions.com website and searched for the product.  It was a book.

I searched for the book and found a webpage that listed a bunch of sites that sold the book.  There was no product page.  In the past, the product page would come up as the search result.  This is where one would go to add a review.  But now, there was just a listing of other websites.  Sure, older products still had product pages, though you'd have to surf through the myriad of links to other websites in order to find them.  Much to my dismay, epinions.com had become an inferior online mall.  There isn't even a rewards program, like with higher quality online malls such as MyPoints.com.  epinions.com made itself completely irrelevant.

I guess some areas on the website are still maintained, such as electronics, where it appears to be a little easier to find the product pages for newer products.  It's just not enough to justify giving the website a second thought anymore.

Monday, September 02, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope hits stores

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope is a thing. Someone thought it would be funny to convert the first Star Wars movie into a William Shakespeare style play.  Old style prose is included, including the rather annoying "o'er".  It took me years to learn "o'er" is a contraction for "over".  Really?  Just say the "v".  It's not like you are actually shortening the word by not saying the "v".  It's still two fully pronounced syllables.  But I digress.

The book is is pretty funny (including the use of o'er). They really nailed the R2D2 dialogue!




Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Toby relaxing



Toby being a good Tobster

It's not necessarily a world invention, but it's a personal invention

Last night, I intended to bake some chocolate chip cookies.  I had the store-bought Pillsbury cookie dough in the back of my fridge for awhile, and it was time to use it...many months too late.  The expiration was back in March.  Apparently, the dough has been at the back of my fridge a bit longer than I remember.  Not to be deterred from enjoying some sort of cookie based after-dinner snack, I start thinking about ingredients I had around the kitchen.  (No way was I going to make cookies from scratch at that point.  Maybe some other day, but not last night.) 

Nillas!  I have Nillas!  And large marshmallows!  OK, I can make a kind of a smore with some chocolate that doesn't need melting.  Chocolate Syrup, I have that too!  Hmm, there's something missing still.  This endeavour isn't quite decadent enough just yet.

Think.  Think harder!

Coolwhip!

I piled these all together and had an awesome treat.

To repeat this achievement, take 3 large marshmallows and tear them in half.  Briefly roast each marshmallow piece, one at a time over a stove burner.  When just slightly burnt, mash the marshmallow between two Nillas just like smores.  After making 6, add a dollop of Coolwhip on each, and then drizzle chocolate syrup on top. 

Glorious!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boston talk


Learn Boston as a second language, repeat after me, "I luhnd on Shahk Week tha electric eels rahly shak shaks in shaks."

Monday, August 12, 2013

The River of No Return book review

The River of No ReturnThe River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Though the concepts introduced in this book are an inventive twist on the time travel idea, the character dialog and motivations are dreadful.  In this story, there are competing time travelling organizations struggling for control of time travel throughout human history.  Nick, an English nobleman who fought in Spain in the early 1800's finds himself in the 21st Century just before he is about to die.  This is the story of his struggle to dance between these two organizations while sorting out his own role both in the 21th Century and the 19th Century.
I did enjoy reading much of the book as the plot unfolded, but found myself suffering through some dreadful character interactions. Some of this was due to character development that was somewhat engaging, but drowned out by the chorus inauthentic thoughts and experiences. The leading male character, Nick, was a noblemen from the 19th Century and only spent 10 years in the 21st Century, but somehow seemed more in tune with 20th Century social and entertainment elements than us normal people that lived through that time period, even though he did not. His experience with the 20th Century would've have been more authentic if it had been taken from the approach of a child growing up in the Aughties (2000-2010). Also, the characters of British origin often felt more like Americans, often using Americanism and seemed both out of place globally and chonologically.  Additionally, the writing of the characters while in the 19th Century felt more like rejects from Jane Austin novels rather than real people.
This book appears to be the first of a new series. Will I look forward to the next book? Eh. The author has to polish her skills of writing for characters with more authenticity, as her first attempt to do so is a distraction from an otherwise good concept and plot.


View all my goodreads.com reviews

Monday, June 17, 2013

Notion of Creation is not a theory, and scientific theories aren't proposed notions

Bible based knowledge does not lead to new scientific knowledge.  People used to think the Bible was useful to learn about nature.  They did try to use it as a guide to make new discoveries.  However, over time, scientists started finding out that the Bible just gets so much wrong.    The Bible literally has almost every major point wrong about the universe, from its description of Earth as a flat world with a tent over head to its description of rabbits as cud chewers. The value of the Bible is it's a general moral guide taken in the context within the times each portion was originally written/re-written. Taking it for more than that is truly grasping as straws.  People discovered the hard way that the Bible was not a good starting point to learn about nature. That's why the practice of referring to the Bible as a source for science was stopped over time.
So, to that point, Creationism based on the Bible isn't a theory. It is a failed notion. A theory isn't just a proposal. It is a proven working model of the Universe with a lot of peer reviewed data, from which accurate predictions can be made. To extend this further, those predictions often create new areas of exploration and further growth of knowledge, directly leading to new technologies, either in the exploration of the theory or as a result of knowledge learned from the theory. Last major invention spurred by Bible belief was the telescope, and use of that technology disproved that belief; the creator being forced to recant his statements about reality and live under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

On the other hand, Darwin didn't create the Theory of Evolution, he proposed the core concepts based on his observations. Evolution was born out of the peer review process with much more independently collected data. Evolution wasn't a theory until there was a massive amount of data and extraneous amount of analysis of that data, from which the natural model was molded.

Why is Creationism not a theory? Because it doesn't have one iota of this. The supporters want a magical shortcut, using circular arguments and cherrypicked research of other people's works in the form of anecdotes and impressive looking fake equations. No actual proven predictions come from Creationsm nor from its child contrivance called Intelligent Design. Creationism is the end of knowledge, not its birth. That is why is it not a theory and it is not science. Now, that said, the challenge is always there for Creationism supporters to objectively collect data and test hypotheses. Even if they don't prove their hypotheses, at least new knowledge would come from that. This process has yet to be undertaken by Creationist (and Intelligent Design believers), or if it has, results have been hidden.

Examples of observations that would grow knowledge along the Creationist track:
  • Find DNA in mammals that cannot be traced back to a common ancestor or introduced by some other natural process.
  • Show completely distinct lifeforms with no ancestry at all. 
  • Find data that offers new evidence to reinterpret apparent evolution in our own species, from malaria resistance to lactose persistence.
  • Additionally, find data that better explains why pre-agricultural humans did not have cavities and modern humans with no cavities is almost unheard of? (Hint, that has been very well explained with a recent study of mouth-dwelling bacteria and their evolution to adapt to our changing diets, along with our own evolution for such too.)
These examples cannot be explained with anecdotes.  Hard evidence has to be presented from scientific studies using the Scientific Method.  Research doesn't count for this.  New evidence has be presented.  That evidence must be collected and peer reviewed.  Until that happens, Creation Notion can never be put on equal footing with any Scientific Theory, especially the Theory of Evolution.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Article from Northwest University sites big breakthru for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Big Multiple Sclerosis Breakthrough - Phase 1 trial safely resets patients’ immune systems, reduces attack on myelin protein


From the article:
A phase 1 clinical trial for the first treatment to reset the immune system of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients showed the therapy was safe and dramatically reduced patients’ immune systems’ reactivity to myelin by 50 to 75 percent, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

WP on MJ legalizatoin; and the prohibition

The article Five myths about legalization of marijuana has a lot of interesting points about legalization of marijuana and what is likely to really happen.
When the United States’ 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country is not going to turn into a Cheech and Chong movie. It is, however, going to see the transfer of as much as 50 percent of cartel profits to the taxable economy.
I don't really agree with the tone for the conclusions about the 5th myth in the article regarding the politics of the matter. The Marijuana Prohibition (and prohibition on all drugs for that matter) is neither a liberal or conservative battle.  Many individuals from both camps have reasons to support the Drug Prohibition. And, many individuals from both camps have reasons to end it.

For me, these are reasons to end prohibition:
  • personal liberty
  • disproportionate application of the laws massive federal investment into the Drug War has not decreased drug addiction nor substantially affected overall use
  • expensive drug related battles (literally) that only make our enemies stronger and us weaker by the day
  • allows focus on treatment for those are prone to addiciton rather than turning them into career criminals
  • better use of local funds to help other areas of society and infrastructure
  • tax money from the regulation of drugs, etc.
These issues cross the political spectrum.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Radioactive, radioactive radio edit controversy


There's a bit of a controversy about a popular song right now called Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.  There's a lot of complaints by fans who bought the album about how the song quality on the album is inferior to what's been playing on the radio and in trailers for movies and on commercials for new TV series.  (Seriously, this song is everywhere right now.)  The complaints are pretty consistent by fans, not even haters.

Distortion was noticeable on digital format as well as CD. Very poor quality on car stereo really drives home the point.
Somehow, producer Alex da Kid thought that intentionally introducing that awful, cheap sounding distortion (several tracks, most notably beginning on 'Radioactive'), was somehow "artistic". What a stupid idea.
What's this about distortion?  The bass in the song Radioactive has been distorted to sound like subwoofers maxed out.  It's a rough and gravelly sound that doesn't sound good on good stereo systems (such as the stereo systems in the average car these days).  I got the CD, and I agree with the criticism.  It's OK, but not good.

Theres something called the radio edit version of the song, which I like, but it also seems like it's distorted too much too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New England Condo Expo

I am on the Board of Trustees for the condo association that governs the community in which I own my home.

Today, I attended the New England Condo Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA.  The convention was surprizingly crowded with a lot of vendors, including condo management, painting, gardening, insurance, pavers and high-end locksmiths to name just a few.  The swag was great, including some high-end items like cooler bags, water bottles, tons of pens and various tools; not to avoid mentioning the motherload of candy and baked goods.

I attended a very informative seminar about the "Good, Bad and the Ugly" of condo association challenges.  A panel of three lawyers discussed various issues, such as the recent legalization of medicinal marijuana and how that might affect communities, handling discord on a Board of Trustees, current legislation being proposed this year and how that might impact condo contracts, addressing rules for attending board meetings from a remote location via online, and recent changes in law that prevent local governments from banning specific breeds of dogs.  The information was valuable, but of course, if any of these situations arise, legal council would still be preferred in many cases.  Even still, this seminar made was worth the trip into the heart of Boston.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lockdown of Boston

Well, the news today is surreal. Although I don't live in the Watertown area, I do work in nearby Waltham, so I've decided to work from home today. Allie and I are safe. We have relatives in Watertown that are also doing well. Just as I type that, the email comes from work saying that our Waltham Campus is closed due to these on-going incidents. And, as I come to post this article on my blog here, the lockdown of the entire Boston area seems to have just been put in place.

I gotta say, that although any city would be angry that these assholes would attack their home, Boston really was the wrong city to go after. Resolved is heighten, not diminished. The people are not terrorized, they are just pissed. Ironically, these Chechnyan terrorists have misjudged America. US has spoke out against previous Russian actions in Chechnya (de facto support of Chechnya). I'm guessing we won't be doing that anymore. So, instead of forwarding their cause for Chechnyan independence, these idiots have pretty much buried all hope of that ever happening. ...and to spend your entire adult life for one poorly executed blood bath? How sad that they valued their own lives so poorly as to give them up for so little. In America, we say, Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death. I guess these idiots motto is "Give me death because I'm going to make everyone pay for my self-loathing."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013 tragedy

The attack at yesterday's Boston Marathon was horrible.  A lot of people will live the rest of their lives impacted by this henious act.  The deaths are saddening.  However, it is good that more people weren't killed.  This article is not going to discuss any of the gruesome details since there is already plenty of that in the press right now.

The location of the attack in Boston's Back Bay, near Copley Square.  This is an area with a rich history and includes several old churches.  The marathon finish line is on Boylston Street, between Dartmouth Street to the East, and Exeter Street to the West.


View Larger Map

In the direction of Copley Square is the Old South Church

Old South Church in Boston

The tower of this church is visible in the background of the already famous east-facing photo of the second explosion with the smoke of the first explosion visible.  (That photo isn't shown here due to respect for copyright, but it is available on many news sites and blogs, such as these 1 2 3).

From Google Maps, here's what this spot looks like on a normal day, facing West near the site of the first explosion.


The President's statement about the attack about covers the Boston spirit:
Boston is a tough and resilient town; so are its people.
 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Remote Stone

Of what world we wonder true?  Our lacking nature holds fast our corporeal soul upon the bosom of thriving abodes that guise the cradled womb.  In this place stand we, me and all others, bound not in chains but yoked hereto nonetheless.  Grand thrusting spears slice through the wondrous  blue veil, floating on the currents of bent universe beyond this round realm, bringing to the helm  fleshless anthropomorphized cold creatures to cast away the dark cloak, thus revealing remote stone for stone’s sake.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Expose of hate

Wow, it's the 21st Century, and we still have people using the same old tired arguments to justify beliefs that are only marginally covered in some ancient "holy" text.  These are the same arguments used by the Nazis to justify hatred of the Jews and other peoples in the early 20th Century, arguments used by Slave Owners to justify slavery in the 19th Century, and arguments used by racist to justify keeping the races separate during the mid-20th Century.  How are they using these same bigoted arguments now?  ...to attack homosexuals and gay marriage.  I ran into a person spewing this nonsense on a social website the other day.  Here's a brief rundown of the arguments with my opinions as replies (each one of these could be their own meme):

  • Societies that have embraced homosexuality have declined - (Comment: Really? Over-extended borders, reduced/squandered resources, foreign invasions, and heavy debt are all caused by homosexuality?)
  • Statistics show us that it's unhealthy to be homosexual - (Comment: What's really the point of this and how is this justification to deny equal protections under the law? It's risky crossing the street.  Should we stop equal access to education for those kids that happen to need to cross a street to get to school?)
  • God created and defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman - (Comment: Ah, here comes the bible-thumping!  Numerous scriptures were quoted at this point.  But, how many bible characters had multiple wives? A lot!  The bible even sets out rules on how to take captured women from military conquests home as wives.)
  • Homosexuals have a higher risk of mental illness - (Comment: Given the fact that homosexuality was classified as a mental illness up until the last part of the 20th Century, I would question any statistics linking mental illness to homosexuality.  But on that point, as more scientific facts are discovered, it is becoming increasing understood that most mental illnesses have a genetic factor, which means that being prone to mental illness is also something with which certain individuals are born.)
  • STDs, including HIV, higher among homosexuals - (Comment: Teen pregnancy is infinity higher among heterosexuals.  Coal miners have much higher risks of lung related diseases.  Umm, there's about a million other pointless and dubious statistics that can be pulled out of thin air.  All of this is completely unrelated to the fact that we all deserve equal treatment under the law. )
  • Societies that had a spread of Christianity had a decline in homosexuality - (Comment: No, homosexuals where just forced into hiding due to the same kind a bigotry being promoted in our time.  This is a kin to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim that there are no homosexuals in Iran.  Complete nonsense.)
  • The gay marriage discussion is about changing the religious definition of marriage - (Comment: Again, no.  This statement an attempt to re-frame the discussion to pretend that promoting gay marriage rights is an attack on one's own faith, as if gay marriage is somehow violating the rights of unassociated individuals.  This is disingenuous at best.  The gay marriage rights discussion is about equal protections under the law without regard for what beliefs one group of people have about another group of people.)
  • Marriage isn't a human right, but rather an honored institution - (Comment: Talk about grasping for straws!  This is a scorched-earth attempt to argue that marriage is just some sort of contract. Well, even with contracts, we are all entitled equal protection under the law.  In other words, we are all allowed to enter contracts freely.  So, not only does that argument contradict the earlier argument about God defining marriage, it actually makes the opposite point it is trying to make.  The point is, we must have equal protection under the law, regardless the circumstances!)
  • Gay couples wish to force their beliefs on corporations and the government to take advantage of benefit structures geared for traditional families. (Comment 1:  Yeah, again, equal protections under the law is the point.  Do we give corporations the right to deny benefits to other classes of families based on religious beliefs?  No, because that is supposedly illegal.  Comment 2: This statement is a hint about the right of the corporation to have a religious stand.  However, a corporation is an imaginary construct of the law.  The presuppositional argument is that imaginary things (like corporations) have rights that trump flesh and blood people.  Since this person seems to believe that  corporations (which are imaginary) have more rights than actual humans, then let's give other imaginary things rights too, like giving the Easter Bunny the right to vote!)
  • Married couples pay more taxes.  Gay marriage would benefit the government.  (Comment:  First, "oh the horror of it all!  Oh no, the government will benefit from treating people equally!"  Second, married couples pay less, the same or more tax based on their family situation.  Number of kids, owning a home as a marriage couple, and other factors actually significantly reduce tax liability for families.)
  • The point continues: What if our world economy crashes?  Labor unions may fall into foreclosure; employers may have to declare bankruptcy and then won't be able to afford the benefit structures that support gay marriage afterwards.  (Comment: Really?  Argument against equal protections for gays involves what-iffing about world wide catastrophes?  Wow!  First, the inclusion of labor unions (the reason we have a middle class in American) as "foreclosing" is down right silly, and a very backwards way of expressing one's wishful thinking.  I'm not sure how a union would fall into foreclosure, since unions are a free assembly of individuals for the purpose of collective bargaining.  The bureaucratic portion of a labor union may go bankrupt, but that doesn't mean the union would cease to exist. A free assembly of individuals certainly cannot be foreclosed upon, as they are actual living and breathing people, not property.  Second, collective bargaining is used by employers to provide benefits to their employees.  The more employees that are covered, the more economical the benefits.  Having gay couples included actually helps reduce costs, not increase them.  Third, the idea that gay marriage will worsen a world wide catastrophe is completely ludicrous.  Bankers and Wall Street will have far more to do with that than any other minority in our population.)
Much like the average fundamentalist propaganda brochures, the individual who made these points concluded their statements with a bunch of rhetorical questions that they believe they answered in their diatribe.  I reserved my sharpest criticism for my own blog here, but I didn't let these bigoted claims go unchallenged on that social forum, nor was I the only one.  Another Christian and others also chimed in and called out this individual for those statements. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Senseless Sunday: Antarctica Water Pie

  1. Antarctica has two species of flowing planets: Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis).
  2. Boston Cream Pie is the the official state dessert of Massachusetts.  (Go figure.)
  3. Old trees can actually produce more carbon and methane than they absorb.[1]
  4. Currently, 400 species of sharks roam on the oceans of Earth.
  5. The fastest recorded swimming animal is the sailfish, which can swim  up to 68 mph.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tipping point

Wow, there sure has been a lot of back and forth online recently about customary tipping (gratuities) in America for the service provided by waitstaff at restaurants.  A lot of it is playing out on Reddit.  There was this pastor who protested an 18% automatic tip on a split bill for a large party, citing God has her reason for protest.  That event lead to so much buzz that there's no point trying to cover any more it. 

Another Reddit posting appeared more recently of another posted receipt.  This receipt actually shows a reduction of the automatic tip from the final bill.  An interesting backlash has come out of this second posting.  Several problems arise.  First, the assumption is the automatic tips are some how compulsory.  Second, 20% automatic tip is just nuts.  I've seen 18%, and I still have to wonder why so high.  Third, how can a tip ever be considered compulsory!

I suggest reading the comments of the Reddit links.  There are a lot of good statements (some of them even sourced).  Legally speaking, tips are not compulsory.  By definition (IRS and at the state level), they must be voluntarily offered by the customer in order to qualify as a tip.  Sure, a restaurant can charge a service fee, but a service fee is not a tip, and not taxed the same. 

Overtipping is creating a monster

There's a general issue at the heart of all this: overtipping.  There has been way too much overtipping since the late 1990's.  People feel good about themselves when they overtip.  This is pure arrogance and selfaffirmation.  I know, I used to be one of those overtippers.  Why did I stop overtipping?  Sure, it helps the one individual, but it hurts the overall system.  The more overtipping occurs, the more waitstaff come to expect the higher tip rate, regardless to the level of service. Bad servers are rewarded for being bad.  The value of good servers is diminished over time.  Plus, waitstaff often don't connect the dots well enough to understand why they are getting a good tip and why they are not.  I was taught this lesson a very long time ago by a friend of mine who was a former waitress.  It took me a very long time to accept it. 

Another reason I stopped overtipping is because 15% is now considered a standard tip.  Really?  I remember when 10% was considered a great tip!  And now, some in the restaurant industry are claiming a minimum tip is 25%!?  Really?!   Waitstaff aren't the only group of people that aren't making a lot of money.  Overtipping is making it harder for average Americans to go out and enjoy dinner.   That actually hurts our overall economy.  Less people will dine out, consume less when they do dine out, or dine out a places without a waitstaff.  This means less overall money finding its way into the full service restaurant industry. 

No more overtipping

Can I afford to overtip?  Yes.  But I've stopped doing it after realizing the harm it is causing to the overall system.  Since 15% is now the normal and legally recognized tip, I consider that to be the minimum for normal/good service.  I will often push the tip up for great service.  However, that rarely exceeds 18%, and is usually 16-17%. 

And, just as important.  Do not tip on the whole bill.  Tipping is on the subtotal.  Sales tax is what we pay to the local government.  You really want to tax your sales tax?  People who pay their tip on the sales tax portion of the bill may think they are being good people, but this is just another form of overtipping.

How to handle bad service

If service was so-so, I normally just ignore it and move on.  What I have learned, that if service is particularly bad, do not take it out of the tip (or at least, don't wait to take it out of the tip).  Depending on the degree of the problem, talk to the restaurant staff about the issues you are experiencing.  For extremely minor issues, I will say, just get over it.  For simple matters that need to be addressed, talk to the waitstaff.  They should be able to take care of the matter.  I've found that waitstaff will often forward bigger issues to the Manager without you asking.  If the waitstaff isn't helpful or the problems are bigger, then ask for the Manager.  Again, depending on the degree of the service problem, you may wish to wait until after the meal.  Some waitstaffers will resent you for complaining.  If it is a problem that must be addressed before the end of the meal, then if at all possible, wait until the food arrives.

Region

Having travelled much of America now, I've found that some areas are just better than others when it comes to the quality of service.  Set your expectations accordingly.  Of course, it is still not OK to receive rude service.  However, I've found that coastal regions of California tend to have better service on the average than other areas, such as Massachusetts.  Many times, trying to get your waitstaffer's attention can be a bit of a chore at many places in Massachusetts.  Training seems to be biggest cause for issues in Massachusetts, since normally the waitstaffers are willing to serve, they just aren't always as aware on how to be attentive.

Don't punish waitstaff for kitchen and systematic problems


Now, the flipside of this is that there are many areas of the restaurant that are not under the control of the waitstaff. Judge a tip based on the service itself. For example, if a steak comes cooked incorrectly, it's a 50% chance that the waitstaffer got the order wrong. However, it is 50% chance that the kitchen got it wrong too. Give the waitstaffer the benefit of the doubt.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Moon shot (my first successful attempt to photograph the moon with an automatic camera)

First successful attempt to photograph the moon with an automatic camera

This has been my holy grail for nearly 3 decades. I've finally been able to play with the settings of a Canon Powershot (or any other instant or automatic camera) to get a detailed photo of the Moon. Not only that, this was taken through the window glass in a moving car on Masspike! (Dec. 3, 2011)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

SeaWorld Orlando is moderately disappointing

My memories of SeaWorld San Diego have jaded my experience at SeaWorld Orlando.  I actually went to SeaWorld Orlando with high expectations.  Everything just seems smaller in the Orlando, FL version of the SeaWorld theme park franchise.  Even trying to find a cool t-shirt with "SeaWorld Orlando" provided to be difficult.  I will say that the two rollercoasters are actually well designed and fun.  Anyway, here's some photos of me and Allie's day there.


Manatee Dolphin show iii Yeah, eating from Shamu's belly Orca show x Orca show viiii SeaWorld Shark adventure

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Real Soldier vs. Fake Soldier

I am nearly literally sickened when I see a Christian preachers on TV, who are watched by hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans, and who claim that Christians are being persecuted in America.  Here's what's really happening.  Just for he record, this has been reported equally by Christian sources.


But then, here's what other Christian sources claim is going on in the military.  


It's one step more ridiculous than the bully who forces you to hit yourself and asks "Why are you hitting yourself?"  This situation is the bully hitting you directly and saying "Stop hitting my fist with your face!"  Not only that, this story outrageously insults our armed forces by even using them as such an example in the first place!  Disgusting.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

All Seeing Eye sees all, or at least it is translucent

Sometime in Fall of 2011, I was almost randomly driving around MetroWest-ish area of Massachusetts and ended up at this one museum that used to be a lodge of the Free Masons, in Lexington, MA.  At this building, there was this stain glass window with the All Seeing Eye as the focal point.
Stain Glass from 32 Degree Scottish Rite of the Masons II (beware the all seeing eye) 

Look familiar to anyone? If you do a Google image search, you'll find this is not unique in topic for stain glass windows. However, this particular piece is interesting and beautiful in its own way. I serve the eye...I...i...I don't know what came over me there for a second. Oh, Hypnotoad is on. Catchya later!

Senseless Sunday: White House responds to Death Star petition

In this special edition of Senseless Sunday, we learn that plans to build a Death Star will not happen under the current U.S. Administration. On We The People, when a petition reaches 25K votes, the White House issues a formal response. The petition to build a Death Star got 34K+ votes in its first 30 days.  However, it was politely rejected by the White House recently. In short, the White House doesn't support the costs, nor do they support blowing up planets.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tweeter comment: Top Bing search is "Google"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Great time at Islands of Adventure

Allie, I and other friends had a great time at the SolidWorks World 2013 Special Event at Universal's Islands of Adventure at night. Even though time was short, we did a full circuit of the park, enjoying the Harry Potter ride, Jurassic Park ride, Spider-man ride, Mind Eraser ride and The Hulk rollercoaster. The food was great too!
IMG_0274 IMG_0273 Album Cover?  No, Queue for Dr. Doom Mind Eraser IMG_0251 IMG_0270

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fake Geek Girls Vs. Real Geek Girls? Really, this??

An interesting meme is making its rounds on the Internet. There seems to be a bunch of hoopla about “fake geek girls”. What’s a fake geek girl? Apparently Urban Dictionary doesn’t have an entry for it yet (as of today, anyway). Umm, I did find a definition at some site called Geek Feminism Weekly (whatever that’s supposed to mean…kinda sounds like random words thrown together that only vaguely represent what it really is, similar to California Pizza Kitchen.) Anyway, their definition for fake geek girl is:
Fake geek girls - allegedly women who show up at geek events, possibly while hot, with not enough geek cred for you.
This all seems to have started with an article on Forbes (Really, Forbes? Yes, Forbes.) called Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away. In this article, the author talks about being a “geeky girl” growing up and how she now sees “pretentious females” now posing as geeks when they haven’t put the time in to justify the claim.

What’s with all the hate? In fact, why are girls singled out as being fake geeks (especially by other woman) for being posers? I think a commenter on a recent article by @Mikeynerd says it well (article: Fake Geek Girls),
The Fake Geek Girl thing bugs me. Because I do feel there is an underlying sexism at play.
If someone is a poser, then it doesn’t matter if they are a woman or man. But, is it even bad to be a poser? Isn’t a poser just someone whose trying to figure out what everyone else already knows? Aren’t they really an outcast too? As outcasts trying to fit it, doesn’t that make them more geeky (since being a social outcast is technically a major component of geekdom)? The answers to this series of rhetorical questions are as follows: no, yes, yes, and yes.
May your journey to higher geekdom find much success!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Senseless Sunday: Rolling space wax


  • The inability to roll your tongue is a genetic trait that may involve more than one gene.1
  • American pronunciation of tt and dd in words like letter and bladder make the same tongue movement and similar sound as the rolled Spanish “r”.
  • A person in orbit around the earth gets taller while in orbit.
  • Sahara Desert is growing about 1/2 mile southward per year.
  • Before an official name was chosen in Mandarin Chinese, one of many transliterations of the name Coca Cola was “bite the wax tadpole.”   Another was “female horse fastened with wax”.  Current official transliterate trademark is made up of the characters of K’o K’ou K’o Lê which translate as ”to all the mouth to be able to rejoice”.2

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who are we calling producers and who are those who refuse to produce?

One of the sad sign of our times is that we demonize those who produce, subsidize those who refuse to produce, and canonize those who complain. --Thomas Sowell
This is a particularly disgusting statement.  First, those who produce and those who do not is a matter of perspective.  What do you tell the father of 3 who has relied on a job for most of his life, who then lost his job because the company who he worked for was mismanaged by executives and had to shut down?  What do you tell that same father when the same guys that ran his company into the ground got huge bonuses "so they wouldn't leave" before operations were completely shut down?  If the father had stock in that company, he lost on two fronts because of those executives.

Given Sowell's statement above, I would ask, who is he calling the producer?  Who is he calling "those who refuse to produce"?  Would it be the executives that drove their company into the ground, not only losing value in the company, but also within the greater economy?  If anything, they are anti-producers.  This makes them worse than the supposed people who "refuse to produce", whoever they are.  The producer is the father who worked his entire life at his company, making the goods and services that found their way into homes all across America.

Fed has spent trillions to keep a dying financial industry on life support, who in turn gave huge bonuses to the very people the caused the last melt down of our economy.  What did those people do with the rest of the taxpayer's money?  Most of it is locked away, being kept out of the economy (likely for good).

Are we really all that worried about giving a few pennies (comparatively) to people who are likely already not putting enough food on the table because they believed in this very system that eventually let them down?  It's this kind of nonsense that makes communism start to look good to the starving masses.  We would not need to raise taxes had it not been for the massive problems that we, the voters, allowed in Wall Street by putting congresspersons in office that are more worried about the next big donor than they are about the solvency of our system.

How badly do we want to lower taxes?  Well, let's consider something.  Out of the last three crashes of our economy, two were caused by real estate financials games that started happening as a direct result of deregulation of particular financial institutions.  The games these institutions were playing eventually stopped working, but the corporations still needed to pretend they were making money (when, in fact, they were losing massive amounts of money).  So, they created paperwork fantasies to keep showing profits on Wall Street in order to convince everyone that nothing was going on until it was too late.  The third economic crash was caused by too much speculation on Wall Street. The common thread here is Wall Street and all the money that the taxpayer is continuously asked to pay to keep these guys rich when really they should be in jail.