The iPad, Pandora and life

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iPad, Pandora App

I’ve said it before but want to  reiterate that Pandora + iPad have made a deeper impact on how I live my life more quickly than any other technology change.  And in some ways that change is more ‘SciFi-ish’ than any other change I have experienced.

Don’t get me wrong other things have had more impact but they were much more profound in and of themselves.

  • Smashing my ankle
  • First Car
  • First Real Job
  • First House
  • Getting Married
  • First Child
  • Second Child
  • First Child going to college….

How can I even compare two pieces of Triviachology like the iPad and Pandora you ask?

Well I have worked from home a significant amount of time since 1997 and I have very consciously tried to limit the amount of paper I generate and find ways to get information in electronic rather than paper form.  I have felt that the eReader was going to reach takeoff eventually and while the pundits always poo poohed it I saw a steady decrease in the Paper load in the engineering world probably a leading edge in the utilization of information that had made it paper heavy for a very long time. When the piles on young and not so young engineers desks began to collect dust I figured it was because they weren’t shuffling through them so often any longer because the primary sources were in electronic not paper form.  The paper was for reference and for making notes on (BtW Paper / print / writing / reading is a fantastic intricate and powerful technology if you stop for a moment to think about it.)

Now I can carry around a single small compact rugged and handsome slab of Al and Glass that is book, magazine, note taking device (typing or hand writing, I take copious ‘ink’ notes on my iPad, Check out the Penultimate app if you want to try it.) calculator with some of the calculators capable of solving and displaying very complex systems of equations (MathStudio or SymCalc HD) and I do some quite complex artwork for fun and other purposes using ArtStudio.  I load a lot of papers and other tech pups (pdf) onto my iPad (iBooks) so I can read them at my leisure. 

Now the iPad is no replacement for a laptop (for me.) But unlike many commentators I do not see that as anything but a special case. It is a fabulous adjunct, extender, even amplifier, but I see it as a reasonable laptop replacement for certain users, especially those who are more interested in consumption than creation.  To be honest I think the combination of an iPad and a smart TV may be all that an even larger cadre of users need.  But that does not denigrate the iPad as a consumption device, it’s an adjunct amplifier to your digital life, that can be a replacement under certain limited circumstances.

So…there you go the iPad as significant life changer, what about Pandora?

Well here my story is a bit weaker and it’s really the combination of Pandora and the iPad and to an extent Netflix streaming service.  And let me tell you right now that I hate TV’s in the bedroom and my wife is addicted to the BBC versions of many US TV procedural cop shows..and insistes on watching them (on her iPad) late at night if she can’t get to sleep……I must have been bad in a very twisted way in some previous life…! Anyway Pandora in itself was a revelation, as I have said before it mix of being able to select music you like and then let it go off and find things similar in ‘feeling’ has opened me up to huge swaths of music I had never heard before.  Add that to the ability to have that music with me most of the time with the iPad and one can feel a bit like one is living in a movie with your own sound track, though I found this soundtrack doesn’t do a good job of foreshadowing the next scene.   And even though I curse Netflix fairly regularly it is nice to be able to browse in ‘the long tail’ of shows, see things I never had a chance to watch, like BBC’s Primeval, or some Nova or History Channel programs. 

So while those two services are not responsible for as profound a change as the iPad is in itself, added to the iPad they are a very profound change in my and my family’s habits…and as one would expect not always for the good.

IPad Neflix App

iPad Netflix App

The Lefty Bosco Picture Show, a cartoon or soul teaser?

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You are the co-star of The LeftyBosco Picture Show. In a variety of styles and subjects, from playful to poignant, Keith DuQuette, aka LeftyBosco, presents a drawing a day. Daily drawings by Keith DuQuette engage, inspire and challenge you to add your witty and wise comments. Play along with LeftyBosco and his friends – or have fun watching from the sidelines. The punch line starts here.

Catch it at GoComics.com

Ferret under the cars, the tables, the … Uh shouldn’t go there…

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Another use for a robot, inspecting for bombs etc, this is the general-robotics Ferret. I find the name of the company interesting it’s turned up in SciFi forever, following General Electric, General Motors, General Mills, General Atomic, etc, etc, it became a claim on greatness then a cliche. The parent company is in electrooptics and it’s influence can be seen in the video glasses. Does not take away from a great idea. I wonder if the inventor was watching his Rumba vacuum under the couch when he had the flash?

The Decline of Violence

From Reason Magazine, I hope this is beginning to percolate, it’s actually a perception I’ve had for a long time, that violence of all sorts is declining not increasing.  The perception of greater danger is completely due to the news cycle and our reduced tolerance to violence of all sorts because it is so much less common today than it was even when I was young (and as ancient as I feel I am not THAT old.)

The article is an interview with  Harvard University cognitive neuroscientist Steven Pinker in his new book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, where he claims that “You are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history. In fact, violence has been declining for centuries.”  

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Read the book I have not yet so this is not a review, just a commentary on my own observations and thoughts.

A couple of anecdotes:  Growing up I heard repeated references to kids fighting, but mostly it was reference to the generations before me. I never got into a fight (I was a big geek living in the suburbs so maybe not representative) I was only struck twice by other kids in my whole school career, both events were unprovoked single ‘hits’ due to me being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In my family’s early days in the US (mid late 60’s) I distinctly remember my father driving us down a country road someplace in southern Indian and seeing two large farm hand types going at each other with bare knuckles with a ring of what looked like relatives and friends surrounding them. This had been typical in the generations before mine but is rare today. Where it exists it is professionalized and as such the repercussions of the violence are ameliorated and diffused (nothing personal about this beating I’m giving you hey mate?)

I hate to say this but all evidence indicates that in our natural state we’re not peaceful types (despite what fringe utopian greens think.) Hunter gatherer clan life was one of constant warfare with nature and other clans (this can be seen even today in the few places where this life style still exists.)  As we moved to more sedentary life violence was reduced.  Again this can be seen, there was and is a distinct difference in the violence levels of farmers vs herders.  As states developed they tended to damp violence, a dead serf is an unproductive serf, also the ‘justice’ of a third-party tended to defuse feuds and vendettas, which had remained very prevalent (and still survive.) Then the violence of the hierarchical despotic governments was gradually ameliorated by various forms of government based on order and not raw power, again a dead serf is not very productive.  Psychologically we began to be able to perceive others points of view as literacy gave us limited insight into the ways others thought and perceived the world.  As mercantilism developed there was more reason to see ‘the other’ as a possible source of value and not a threat, defusing a great deal of hostility.   Then the enlightenment came with the spread of various forms of representative government and a sense of people at all levels of society having worth. Violence of all sorts began to be seen as an evil in and of itself.   Today we are the beneficiaries of a virtuous circle that this long chain of change has wrought, where the less violence we experience the less tolerant we are of the behaviours leading to violence, and so on.

Of course there may be dangers to this: 

  1. We could become so intolerant of behaviours that we begin to make intolerant and anti liberal laws.
  2. In the land of the disarmed lotus eaters the thug with the shiv rules.
  3. Not all places will experience the same cycle or at least not at the same rate and time.  Are we seeing this with Europe vs MidEast, is it a threat  because it leads to self disarmament and then scenario 2 on a large-scale.
  4. People become disinclined to stand up for their rights because all those around them see ‘standing up for something’ as code for unacceptable pre violence behaviour.

But on the whole I like where we are today.  The only real problem I see is that many of us do not take advantage of the opportunities because A) we perceive violence as increasing not decreasing B) lack of self-confidence in one’s ability to deal with violence.  

Now a curious though (stream of consciousness being what it is) do A and B in conjunction with the very real decrease in average violence explain the increasing prevalence of concealed carry laws?   Given the decrease in violence in general does it make perfect sense to have armed citizens able to provide deterrence pressure on the remaining ‘thugs for life’ in society?   It could be argued either way but I think that it is a sensible question to ask.

New and abused

This StratPage article on the LCSs is very good, but has a negative tone that is disappointing.  As the article notes with a bit of hyperbole the LCS is a pretty radical break with the past, LCS 2, Independence being by far the more radical and perhaps deserving of the hyperbole.  Where has our patience gone, whenever something radically new is tried there are problems and with LCS even with LCS 2 the problems seem relatively minor in the big picture.  Also the fact that LCS went from concept to hulls in the water in less than a decade is tribute to sensible expectation setting on the part of the Admiral(s) who have pushed this family forward.  Though tying hull and weapon system together may make sense for the battleships (carriers and cruisers of our age) it makes small craft too expensive and obsolescent before launch. 

The Radical Sister

LCS 2 Independence The Radical Sister

The trimaran LCS 2 is essentially all aluminum built by Austral (relocated Australian fast ferry company.) She was launched later and has had a lot more or at least more serious issues than her fraternal sister LCS 1.  Most pictures of Independence are either slow speed or docked, far fewer deployment pictures than of LCS 1.  This should have been expected (and was by most) when you have this radical a departure its bound to collect a lot of baggage.   But the ship has a huge flight deck and is highly stable in rough weather, as well as being fast.   In the end its possible the Independence will be the more successful sister, though it’s just as likely that both will be considered successful but better at certain missions than the other.  
 By the way the concept of a trimaran warship was originally raised by the Royal Navy and as above the builder is an Australian company experienced in building catamaran ferries (which have had their own issues.) Who says the US doesn’t take good ideas from abroad?
Just as a matter of interest I had the honor of getting a tour of the LCS3 the Freedoms sister ship Fort Worth at her builder Marintte Marine.  The ship has huge empty spaces but the ‘fixed’ facilities are pretty tight . The bridges of these ships remind one more of something out of a Star Trek movie than a WWII flick. 
And while the hull is the size of a WWII destroyer they are (when geared up for the mission) vastly more lethal the crew size is more in line with a WWII PT boat than the Tin Cans of yore. 
The idea behind LCS is for a capable craft that is available in the numbers needed for dealing with busy coastal waters. These are the modern equivalent of the Gunboats of the nineteenth century. They are not the modern cruiser (called destroyers) battleships (called cruisers) or battleliners (carriers.)  These ships are the corvettes, the torpedo boat destroyer, the frigate, of today and with their vast flexibility and high power they will most likely find uses far beyond those envisaged today.
 
 
 
 Mark