2014-12-27

Review: The Hobbit -- The Battle Of The Five Armies (HFR-3D)

This movie made the rest of the trip worth while, but I'm not sure by how much. It can't stand alone as a singular work as it depends too much on what has gone on before. But what is there is well done, including sweeping, gorgeous action sequences showing large armies in action.

(Assuming you count the eagles as the fifth army.)

And yes, if you stand each of the six movies on its own and rate it only by itself, there is an argument that this movie exceeds Return Of The King and Two Towers. But these movies are ultimately trilogies, and the first trilogy is ultimately stronger.

HFR is a vastly more satisfying experience than is IMAX-3D, even if it is visually darker. I suspect this is due to the fact that each eye is only getting half the light that it would get in a standard frame-rate. But the detail and motion is gorgeous.

Now that it is done, I am torn as to whether or not The Hobbit is a good series. The first one had some moments, but the second one ultimately failed to deliver... well... much of anything. This third one is a triumphant cap that is a reward for sticking it out. I'm not sure I have the urge to see any of them again.

2014-12-23

Review: The Black Hole

1979 was a long time ago, and this attempt at high-brow sci-fi still holds up fairly well. Follows the 2001 formula a little closely, not every movie needs an incomprehensible ending (even if this is Disney). I watch it every couple of years and I still enjoy it.

2014-12-22

Guardians

Todd Alcott: "That a movie as rushed as Guardians stops for a moment to consider the feelings of an alien thug for his favorite knife is an indicator of Guardians’s essential humanity; everyone has a story, everyone feels loss, even for, especially for, the dumbest of things. It’s the dumb things, Guardians suggests, that we love the most."

2014-12-20

Still Flying: Fueling Station-1

So another revision (0.25), another game.  I've been trying to get into the habit of playing more regularly so that Nathan gets used to the idea of playing games.  He also likes watching me play, since I do different things than he does.

I've also been experimenting with recording my game play sessions.  I've been using Open Broadcasting System, and having a hit-and-miss record with it.  Several sessions ended up being black screens with the audio.  After some fiddling around I seem to have a sequence of actions to do in order to end up with a recorded session, although I have no idea if the changes/updates I made ended up making any difference or if the sequence of starting things up is necessary.  The photos in this article are still screenshots, rather than video stills.  I don't know how I'm going to end up dealing with the video.  There are some good sequences but there are hours of crap, I could probably do a 30-second highlights reel but since large periods of time went by with no video at all it would be pretty disjointed.

Previously to this set of posts I launched a space station core.  It ended up in orbit, although a pretty eccentric one (96x131 km).  So the next step was to launch a brown fuel tank and then fill it, and use that station as a base for further exploration.

This was my first idea:
Tanker-1
Launch a tank of fuel on top of a ridiculously over-powered lifter arrangement, then put a tug-type ship on top of that.  For efficiency, since the tug wasn't expected to return to the surface, the tug has a nuclear engine on it.  For extra style points there is no engine underneath the brown fuel tank.  Once the boost stage is exhausted, the tug has to perform an Apollo-style separation-and-reconnect maneuver and then guide the tank to the station.

The weakness in this design is that the boost stage isn't enough to get us into orbit, and the nuclear engine isn't powerful enough to push the full tank into orbit after doing the separate/flip/dock/orient dance to get everything pointed in the right direction.  I tried this three times before giving up.

Tanker-2 series flights were more straight forward:
Tanker-2 Boogey Woogey
I put an engine on the bottom of the brown tank to get us into orbit.  It also has a self-guided RCS-box called a 'bot on the nose.  This configuration is extremely wobbly and it took three flights to get into orbit.  Eventually I hit on the strategy of basically going straight up with the lift and boost stages before gravity turning on the brown-tank stage.  This isn't efficient but it does have the benefit of actually working.

Once I made orbit, I finally got Tanker-2c to the space station.  Note that the capsule at the left end with no drive section was there because of an accident during staging.
Before
You can also see that the 'bot is on the nose of the brown tanker module -- this was the entire point of the 'bot, to manuever around the various components once they are delivered into the space station's general area.

Finally, you'll note that the picture is labelled as "Before".  That is, as in "Before The Next Staging Accident".
After
So now I have two crews up there and no return modules.  I also have a second Tanker-2 nearby the space station, which I tried multiple times to dock with no success.

So this leads us to the Tanker-3 series.
Mandatory Glamour Shot:
This way to space
Tanker 3 is the same as Tanker-2 with two small differences:
Two docking ports at the base of the brown tank.  This means that you can dock a 'bot to each side.  And once you do that, the tank is much more manueverable.  
In this configuration, docking is a doodle, even with a half-full tank.  And with this tool, I could do teh following dance:
  • Dock with Station 1, dump all fuel from Tanker-3 into Station-1
  • Send Tanker-3 to rendevous with Tanker-2d, and drain all its fuel except for a small amount needed to return Tanker 2-d back to Kerbin
  • Space Is Really Big:
    Tanker-3 shuttling fuel back to Station-1
    This picture is pretty because it shows Tanker-3 in the middle, Station-1 above it, and Tanker-2d just on the lower horizon.  I like pictures that show the emptiness of space.
  • Send Tanker 3 back to the station, and top-up the fuel there
  • Detach Tanker 3
  • Have Tanker-2d dump its brown tank module, redezvous with one of the orphaned capsules, and return to Kerbin
  • Synchronized Landings
    The secret of synchronized landings is to have the two capsules docked for the entry and descent configurations, then undock at about 15000 meters, just before the parachutes open.
    Eh, pretty close
  • Use the engine on the base of Station-1's brown tank to lift it it into a 150km-by-150km orbit (actually a 152x148 or so, but still acceptably better and easier to catch than was the 96x131 orbit I was dealing with up until now)
  • Tanker-3 catches Station-1 for the last time
  • Send Tanker-3 after Station-1 in its new orbit and top up the fuel
Which is what I did.  Most of those items were single game sessions lasting up to an hour each.  So I've logged a bunch of time in the game over the last three weeks or so.

The end result of all this:
Look at all that fuel in orbit
So that's where I've left it.  Right now I have something like 3km/s of delta-V in Station-1 so I could probably send it to Jool if I really wanted to.  Tanker-3 has a full load of fuel in the capsule, plus more in the brown tank.  I really don't want to throw expensive fuel away by de-orbiting it, so I have to keep Tanker-3 present for now.

The only real liability that I've got in orbit is a lack of RCS -- I have four big tanks, but only enough propellant for one and a bit.  I guess shuffling that big tank around is expensive as far as RCS goes.

My current missions list:

In the immediate term, I want to send up a RCS refueling tanker so that the 'bots can all be recharged.

In the medium term, I want to get rid of the Tanker-2 series fuel tank and replace it with the Tanker-3 tank, mostly so I can free up the third 'bot for shuffling duties.  There's also a 'bot in an eccentric orbit that has to be recovered and returned to Kerbin.  I might also send up a proper "tug" module that uses the nuclear engines for efficiency.

Finally, I want to launch some probes to the Mun so we can practice landing, which sets the stage for a manned Mun mission.

I doubt I'll get to all that, but it's been interesting anyways.

2014-12-19

Stalker Not Looking Good

I'm not sure there's anything wrong with Stalker. After the first few episodes it is settling down into what it can become. I think the problem is that what it is becoming isn't really anything special. Stalking crimes can be pretty unpleasant and while the rest of the cast around that premise isn't bad, they don't rise to the exceptional level needed to overcome the core unpleasantness. So at this point I would not be surprised if they didn't get renewed for next year.

2014-12-09

Ferrari Ending HotWheels Licensing Program

Seen here. Ferrari is announcing an exclusive licensing agreement with another model maker. This implies that there will be no more new Hot Wheels Ferraris in the moderate future.

This is sad to me because over the last few years my primary focus has been Ferrari models. I don't know why, they just appeal to me. Most of the cars I have acquired have been Ferraris, the latest (maybe last?) a yellow F12 Berlinetta. I don't know what it is, but the majority of the offerings recently have just not appealed to me. I'm not in to these wild fantasy cars, I prefer something more grounded in realism.

Maybe I'll turn into a Matchbox collector, I don't know.

(The article also mentions that Mercedes is no longer licensing to Mattel. Maybe this slow erosion of manufacturers is what is driving the more fantastical offerings.)

2014-11-27

Review: Interstellar

That. Was. Awesome.

Very Clark/Kubric-esque, a real 2001-type vibe, right down to the incomprehensible ending although this one tried not to be incomprehensible. Gorgeous in IMAX. Sound was muddy in places, and although I wrote that off to the usual IMAX-sound-is-always-muddy-to-me problem, apparently this was a "creative choice" made by the film maker.

People complained about the relationship with the daughter although I think that you couldn't really do it any other way. Story is always about people, and people means relationships. No matter what else is going on around them, it is the relationships that matter.

But: Awesome.

2014-11-08

Review: Big Hero 6

Good fun, even if it is a children's movie. Rough pacing in the beginning and the transition between acts 1 and 2 was a bit messy. The resident 7 year old really liked it.

I liked it more than this brief review implies.

2014-10-21

Review: Dracula Untold

Tight at 90 minutes or so, no excessive fights or gore scenes; a reasonable story type story. The movie knows what it is and delivers capably. I was surprised.

2014-10-02

Public Transit

Watching the Reddit slapfight on r/ottawa about Uber, I find reinforced my perception that

A) everyone thinks the local public transit they have to use is crap, and

B) everyone thinks everyone else's is nicer.

Personally I think that no matter how nice or efficient or modern or affordable a mass transit system is, the perception of how good or not it is is overwhelmingly driven by your interactions with other users -- and thus you will always have a generally negative opinion of it, if not a specifically overwhelmingly negative opinion of it.

AKG K545

Thus far my exposure to headsets has been limited to two pairs.

The Sennheiser HD 500A pair is a set that came with an active listening program that we got for Alex when he was small. He didn't do well with the product so we stopped using it. A few years later I found the headset in the basement and decided that I could use them at the office for general listening. My initial review of them could be summed up as "they are better than the MP3s I listen to with them".

These are over-ear, open headphones. They are superbly comfortable, even over extended sessions of use. The sound is the best I have personally heard. They leak sound both in and out -- I can comfortably hear what is going on around me, and those I am talking to can hear soft, tinny music coming out.

I decided to look for an alternative because I am spending more time on the phone these days and it is annoying to flip the headphones on and off, and using a handset (office phone or cell phone) is itself an irritation.

On the advice of Marco's headset roundup, I picked a set of AKG K545 headphones. I found them at a reasonable price at Costco.ca. I did so hoping to get more isolation from my environment as well as an integrated microphone for phone use. The initial plan was to use my PC as a speakerphone and playing music from iTunes on the PC, but at some point iPhones lost the ability to peer with Windows computers. So I decided to skip the middle device and plug the headphones into the iPhone directly. The 545 fits this usage model perfectly.

After a couple weeks of using them, I think that the passive isolation is pretty good. Not perfect, but still very good. The sound is OK, and I can wear them for long periods of time. The cord is long enough that my phone can sit on the desk and be charged by the laptop, while at the same time short enough that with my phone in my pocket I can still walk around with the headphones on. From a phone perspective nobody's complained that I am inaudiable or sound funny since I started using these headphones. And they are small enough to fit into my work bag, although things are a bit tight in there right now.

Unfortunately the iPhone does not feed your voice back to you when you are using it for phone calls rough a headset, so I have started the habit of flipping one ear cushion off its ear when on the phone so that I can hear myself. The sound quality is noticeably not as good as the Sennheiser, but better than the iPhone earbuds. They are also not as comfortable -- I find the clamping force on my head to be firmer than I like and the ear cushions get sweaty.

So bottom line they are pretty good and I plan to continue using them. But it seems to me like the Sennheisers have spoiled me for both comfort and sound quality.

2014-08-26

Stay Classy, National Home Services

So one day a couple weeks ago, we got a aggressive door knocker -- someone who rings the bell and knocks loudly on the front door. Most of the time when a door to door comes around, I just say "we are not interested in participating, thank you for coming" and close the door, but aggressive door knockers irritate me.

So I open the door and the guy says "Hi, I'm $NAME" -- and I cut him off and say, "Hi $NAME, I guess you can't read?" and I point to the sign on the window next to the door:


Yeah, a pretty jerky thing to do, I admit it. But this guy quickly recovers and says that he's not actually a solicitor because we're actually paying for his service, and he starts to talk about hot water heaters. Before he finishes saying "hot water heaters" I'm laughing and going through my "we're not interested in participating" routine and closing the door.

The next morning I'm leaving to go to work and I find this love note stuck in my door:


Classy. So what do you think the odds of me seeking out this company to business with them are? Did he really think that insulting me is going to somehow change my mind?

And that's not even addressing the fact that most of the flyer pictured above was about telling me how Direct Energy was evil for trying to squash door-to-door water heater sales, and didn't tell me at all how it might be better for me to do business with National Home Services instead.

I've heard anecdotal stories about others who have had... lets say "issues" with door to door hot water heater people. One person reported that when she declined to participate, the person on her step cussed her out. Not that this person was necessarily associated with National Home Services, mind you, it just seems the mentality of the people doing the sales, which is driven by those hiring those people who do the sales...

Most of the time I don't have a problem with door to door salespeople or telemarketers. They are just trying to make their way in the world and there's nothing to be gained by being mean to them. And most of the time I don't give them a window to be mean to me. But sometimes... sometimes they just ask for it.

2014-08-14

Review: Into The Storm

I don't like watching "movies" shot by teenagers running around with steadicam cellphone cams. But it wasn't as terrible as it could have been. Jenn thinks all the "good" disaster porn shots were in the trailer -- and I think that yes, most of them were. So if you've seen the trailer, you've seen most of the movie already.

On City Parking

Speaking as a spoiled suburbanite, if you want me to go downtown and spend my money there, there had better be parking around where you want me to be because there's very little I will sit on a bus for 45min each way for.

2014-08-05

Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy

This movie lives up to its reputation, but not its hype. Now that's more because the hype was OMG BEST THING EVER and frankly nothing can live up to that.

(I also classify hype like Star Wars for a new generation as ridiculous hype that nothing can live up to. Star Wars was Star Wars because you were seven when you first saw it, and nothing can live up to the experience of a seven-year-old unsuspecting brain getting wowed by something they've never seen before, especially when you are trying to do it to a brain that's seen everything that's come since Star Wars. So stop trying to convince me that whatever you are hyping will do that, because I can guarantee you that it won't.)

But its reputation, it meets Marvel's standards for fun and entertainment. It sits in the comic book pantheon comfortably above such offerings as The Fantastic Four (either one) and possibly both of the Thor movies.

2014-07-30

Review: Iron Man

OMG this movie is still awesome.

2014-07-29

Review: Lucy

Part of the problem with marketing a movie as once genre and then delivering a different one is that when the clientele who arrive expecting the first don't like the second, they tend to go away disappointed and negative. As far as this particular movie goes, there's a joke somewhere in this about how this is 2001 without the monkeys, only with one monkey, and (a slightly) less incomprehensible ending. The USB thumbdrive at the end is kind of neat too. A little bloodier and more violent than I might like. So overall it was OK, but I don't think I'll be screaming off to see it again.

2014-07-03

Review: Amazing Spider-Man

I'm pretty sure this movie wasn't good, being frustrated with a main character who doesn't understand the "secret" part of a "secret identity". However I'm not sure if my reluctance to classify it as a "bad" movie is more to do with the movie, or if the exposure to Transformers movies the month previous has lowered the bar for a "bad" movie.

2014-07-02

Sea Change In America

It looks like the US religious right has given up on trying to use the government to force their religious views on other people, and instead is trying the argument that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot prevent them from forcing their religious views on other people.  And the Hobby Lobby decision sort of validates that.

(I don't have anything more for that thought right now, I thought it interesting and it is just too long to coherently fit in a tweet.)

Update: ok maybe I do have more.  I'm not sure I totally disagree with the gist of this decision.  The Supreme Court isn't saying that you can't have contraceptive, all they are saying is that employers are not obligated to pay for it.  Which is fair.  Frankly if contraceptive is something worth making employers pay for, it should be something worth making the government pay for so that it is more generally available.

Update the 2nd: OK, I see now -- my first principles were wrong. Obamacare did mandate that contraception was a mandatory part of health care. So in that case, I disagree with the court ruling. Doesn't invalidate my observation off the top, though. See what happens when people debate policy from headlines and twitter postings?

2014-07-01

Review: Spider-Man

Happy Canada Day, eh! What better way to kill time before the fireworks than to watch Spider-Man? Still an excellent movie. Sony will probably never give this franchise up, and since they are not screwing it up, I don't see why they'd want to.

2014-06-20

Review: The Matrix

The Matrix movies were not science fiction, and when the third movie proved that it made a lot of people unhappy. The Matrix movies were Anime or Manga. Crazy technology, crazy fighting, and an incomprehensible ending.

See? Anime.

2014-06-17

Review: Edge Of Tomorrow

Pretty good, better than some we've seen recently. Probably will get the video. Possibly not true to the original source, but North American viewers don't really go for the whole Manga thing (see also: The Matrix).

2014-06-10

Declining To Vote

Here's what declining to vote says:

I paid attention, weighed the options, and I don't see anything here I want to vote for, so I am not going to.

I spent the time to come out and say none of these options are good enough.

I am engaged and willing to vote for the right platform.

None of the platforms engaged me.

My vote is there for the taking, should the right platform be offered.

That's totally different from just not going out to vote -- that is a solid "I don't care".

And frankly, if enough people go out and decline their votes, it will be a graphic illustration of the block of voters willing to vote, but not finding what they want to vote for.

If more people decline to vote than elect a party, it speaks volumes to the legitimacy of a government.  You can hand-wave away those who just don't show up, but if people show up and essentially say "Not you", that's a message.

Today that might be pointless.  But if nothing changes, and we can turn the failure-to-voters into vote-decliners, we just might create change worth voting for.

(Edit: here's a timely and informative link about the process from a source other than me: I Decline: A Guide To Refusing Your Ontario Ballot)

2014-06-09

Review: Transformers 3 - Dark Of The Moon

So for years I went to see maybe one movie a year, and for the most part I never wanted to see anything else that was in the previews. I could pick out the one movie months in advance and have a pretty good idea that it would be a good movie.

Jenn and I have been going to movies monthly (or more frequently, last little while) and for whatever reason there seemed to be more movies in the previews I was wanting to see. And my question was: is exposure to the previews increasing the number of movies I am aware of, therefore increasing the number of movies I wanted to see -- or was exposure to the previews lowering my standards for what would constitute an acceptable movie?

This becomes relevant because the previews for Transformers 4 looked like it had the potential to be a good movie. And Jenn said not to get my hopes up because she'd been watching Transformers 2 on an airplane -- where it was free, available, and there was a lot of time that needed killing -- and despite all that, she'd still turned it off.

So in the run up to Transformers 4, Transformers 3 made it on to TV. To whet everyone's appetite or something. So we recorded it, because how bad could it really be?

And:

A) My god, this is terrible. I mean, not *terrible* terrible, but still terrible; and

B) Jenn says this is *better* than Transformers 2.

I was pre-disposed towards liking this movie. I wanted to like this movie. High tech robots clobbering everyone? Leonard Nimoy? My history of watching the original animated Transformers? All biases in favor of this movie. It created a very, very low bar to clear. And it failed to do so. Heck, it smashed through the barrier like it was a truck that couldn't jump.

There's so much wrong with this movie I don't know what to say. How about:
  • none of the apollo missions went to "the dark side" of the moon;
  • it isn't "the dark side"; you might call it "the far side" if you are earth-centric, but really the only thing you can call it is "the other side";
  • some guy had a nice model of a Saturn-V rocket on his desk -- in 1961, before the rocket had been developed;
  • none of the astronauts noticed the tracks around the crashed alien spaceship? There's no erosion on the moon to wear tracks like that away;
  • when the Autobots go to the moon, there's a nice apollo lander sitting there -- including the part that should have left with the astronauts when they returned to the orbiter
...and that's enough for now.
The end orgy of violence in Chicago was incomprehensible to me. I could not follow who was doing what, let alone allegedly why.

I'm watching it for free and frankly I'm paying too much.

So now Transformers 4 is off the table for the theatre. I may give it a try on TV when it comes out, but based on what I recall of Transformers 1, Jenn's abandonment of Transformers 2, and… THIS… well I don't see how I can justify spending money on it.

2014-06-01

Review: X-Men - Days Of Future Past

I guess if you are going to ret-con your entire universe, why not be blatant about it? Very fast and loose with the past-and-future-coexistence, but over all no worse than anything else we've enjoyed.

2014-05-27

Review: Iron Man 3

So listed because we watched it front-to-back tonight on the Apple TV.

I think the second one was better, but this one is still pretty good. Definitely in the top half of the Marvel Superhero Franchise Universe movies.

2014-05-26

Review: Enders Game

Hey, it was in the two-for-$10 bin at Walmart, so why not.

After watching it, I thought that since I knew the book I felt the pacing was awkward as it desperately tried to hit the beats from the book.

And I think that if I had not known the book in advance, it would have been incomprehensible.

2014-05-25

Voting Rant

So if I don't vote for your political party in an election, that's because your platform didn't appeal to me.  And that's not my fault.  It isn't my job to make you have a platform that will appeal to me.

So if none of the political parties have platforms which appeal to me, and I don't vote for any of them, why is that my fault?

If I don't vote for you, you have not captured my imagination, my vision, and/or my trust.

If nobody captures my imagination, my vision, and/or my trust, that's a condemnation of your political vision.  It still isn't my job to make you have a platform that will appeal to me.

If more than 50% of the electorate doesn't vote, that's a gigantic condemnation of the entire political process.  It means that more than half of the electorate has decided that none of the options are good enough.

Trying to shame me into voting won't work.

Trying to claim that it disrespects our sainted veterans who fought and died for my right to vote won't work.  I would venture to say that the majority of those veterans who fought and died for that right would be horrified to learn that I was being demanded to vote for someone I didn't want to.

I think those veterans who fought and died etc etc did so in order that I could stand up and say: none of these options are good enough.

Why is that not participation?

In the old days, the USSR would hold an election, and the General Secretary routinely won in excess of 95% of the vote.  Of course, this was mostly because he ran unopposed, but never mind -- his people had the vote.

Why if I have the "option" of three or more people I don't want to vote for, suddenly that's democracy?

2014-05-23

Day 96: Lots Of Progress

This whole strategy of updating when a mission completes isn't going to work, since missions all tend to blend together now.  Also my sessions are strung out and not in any consistent order.  So I think I'd better just do a snapshot update of where we are now.

Since the last update:

  • I sent the rover out to collect the floating transfer stage that was lurking a couple dozen km away from the station.  It was dropped there by one of the Skippies -- maybe the one that brought the rover, I've lost track -- and has lurked there ever since.  It had a non-trivial amount of fuel in it, and had a docking ring on it, so sending the rover to collect it made good sense.  After much tugging around I finally docked it with the rest of the station.
  • I've launched a second Silverado mostly as a fuel truck to add more fuel to the station's gas tank, then returned that Silverado home.  That return missed its landing target and ended up in the water.  Everyone survived.
  • Jeb (of course) commandeered Skippy II and he and Ronwell did a Munar orbital intercept, to see if it was possible.  It was.  Jeb tried to show boat on his return, trying for an immediate aerobrake capture from an orbit that was practically Munar orbit.  He guessed high -- a 48 km atmospheric periapsis wasn't sufficient to capture Skippy II, so he's going around again.  At the peak he dropped his periapsis to 30km, so this time through he should land.
  • Grand Theft Orbiter: Jeb brings Skippy II into Munar orbit
  • A Silverado with a bigger fuel tank, nicknamed a Boomer, was launched directly into Munar orbit from KSC.  Up there the crew is performing orbital change operations to learn how various operations require delta-v.
  • Far From Home: Kerbal from Munar orbit
  • Boomer II has been launched with a prototype (unnamed at this point) lander.  Once orbit was achieved (timing for a direct Munar insertion was wrong), the delta-v left was considered too low to risk going to the Mun.   After separating from the lander so that Siding could put it through some basic maneuver experiments, Boomer II collected the lander back up and intercepted the space station.  Both the lander and Boomer II individually docked with the station to refuel.  So at this point the plan for Boomer II is to take the lander into Munar orbit, where a decision about attempting a landing will be made.
  • Future launches with Boomers + landers will either be separate (ie a Boomer, then a Silverado + the lander) or I might just upgrade the launcher so that I can get a decent amount of fuel into orbit.
  • Also on tap will be at least another Boomer with fuel for the tank, if not a replacement tank (I'd sort of like an orange tank on orbit -- and I would like to re-arrange things so the rover is available again) plus fueling missions to fill it all up again.  That will almost certainly require development of a larger launcher.
And that's how we get here:
Almost A Full House
Texaco-1 is hosting the transfer stage with the rover, Boomer II on the back, Silverado I across from Boomer II, and the un-named lander in between.

It might be a little aggressive to go right to a manned (kerballed?) landing on the Mun without doing robotic landers first, but we'll see how we do with delta-v once we get into a suitable orbit.

2014-05-19

Review: The Lego Movie

Courtesy of Nathan taking me out to a movie for my birthday. I don't think there is any way to criticize this movie without coming off as some kind of pretentious prick. So I think I liked it.

Review: Godzilla

Why do people even try to write reviews about movies like this? There are three things which will inevitably happen:
  • the critics will say it is a typical, boring summer action movie;
  • the fans will say it isn't a worthy successor to examples of the genre which have come before; and
  • it will make gobs of money at the box office.
So never having seen one of these before(*), I think I can say I liked it. It was thin all around but the monsters were the circumstances of the movie, not the focus, and I think I liked that just fine. What do you want? It is a big lizard smashing things.

(*= Jenn has proven to me that I have seen the Broderick one, I have just blotted it out of my memory.)

2014-05-14

An Oatmeal Misstep

The Oatmeal has been a source of entertainment over the past few years, yes.  Terrible art, simplistic jokes, and lots of really, really bad language.  However its strength has been that it, for the most part, is about things that its audience can relate to.

The Oatmeal's latest offering has been an ode to his Tesla Model S.

When he's going on at length about how great a luxury car most of us will never be able to afford is, if he hasn't jumped the shark, he's at least letting us know he knows it is there.

Writers write best when they write what they know.  This can become popular when it speaks to people, because they can relate to what is written.  However when an author becomes successful and then starts writing about the trappings of his success -- this is where much of the audience can fall off the bandwagon.

(I've seen this theory applied to rap music.  Gangster ghetto rappers rap about the mean streets and their audience in the mean streets relates.  Then the next album comes out and the rappers are rapping about their mansions and cars and problems with their record producers, and the audience -- still in the mean streets -- isn't interested.)

Personally I've got nothing against him owning a luxury car.

I just don't need it rubbed in my face.

Hudak's Economic "Expert"

This is the guy who endorsed Mr. Hudak's million jobs plan.


Dammit Hudak, you are supposed to be making it harder than this.

2014-05-12

Rules? What rules?

Hudak's announcement on transit was kicked off of a Toronto subway on Saturday because nobody had bothered to get a permit for it ahead of time.

Also, the announcement of the Conservative intention to have the province take over responsibility for light rail is for Toronto only.  Ottawa doesn't get the same consideration.

2014-05-09

Math On Hudak's Million

...are Mr. Hudak's million jobs measured before, or after, he puts 100000 public servants out of work?  Come to think of it, is this "I'm gonna create a million jobs", or "in eight years, net employment will be one million jobs higher than it is on election day 2014"?  And does that million jobs number include the 8 years of job creation that would happen anyways (ie in 2012, that number was 95000 jobs)?  So in 8 years at that rate, before Mr. Hudak's revolution, we could have expected 760000 jobs to be created, leaving Mr. Hudak's policies getting credit for only 240000 jobs -- nothing to sneeze at if you are the one getting one, but a far cry from "a million jobs".

2014-05-08

Vote Compass

Hey, CBC has a Vote Compass up for this Ontario election to let you know who you should vote for.  I did it, and there isn't really a surprise in the landscape results:
That's right, I'm solidly neutral.  Just a hair right and a hair Libertarian -- barely moving out into a quadrant away from all the parties.  And, as expected, the Liberal party is closest to where I lie on the spectrum.
What is more surprising, perhaps, is this:
...apparently I am closest to a PC person, although there really isn't much to choose between any of them -- a 53% to 60% range is simultaneously statistically insignificant and not very high.

So this tells me what I already know -- that I don't really fit into any of the neat little bins that the parties provide.

2014-05-05

What's The Million-Jobs-Plan Baseline?

Baselines are important when you are taking credit for something.

The PCs claim that they can create a million jobs in 8 years.  Is that total, or an increase over some baseline?

For example, the Ontario government claims more than 95000 jobs were created in the province in 2013:

...so is the 125000 jobs target in addition to the 95000 jobs that might already be created?

(Hint: no.  The PCs will assign full credit for every job created after being elected to their "jobs plan".)

If we have to spend money, we are getting less value out of it if we only net 30000 jobs than if we were to net four times that number.

(Also pay no attention to the fact that the linked document talks about both training initiatives and reducing bureaucratic red tape, making this million-jobs-plan a three-point plan, not a five-point one, and proving my point that everyone everywhere has always talked about both of these things.)

2014-05-04

Frankly This Election Is Already Boring Me

So because I was curious -- a newspaper article accused PC leader Tim Hudak of answering any question with "I have a million-job plan" -- I looked up this so-called million job plan.

It is a five point plan.  Since five is a small enough number to fit into my short attention span, let's have a look.

Point one: reduce taxes and debt.  Who could argue with that idea?  Pay no attention to the conflict of trying to reduce debt with less in the way of revenues.

Point two: make energy more affordable.  I assume that "affordable" means "cheaper".  Who could argue with that?  Pay no attention to the fact that messing around with hydro rates in the past is why we have a "debt retirement charge" and ridiculously antiquated infrastructure, and that a subsidy on energy prices (which is what "making it cheaper" comes down to) puts more pressure on the low-tax vs no-debt conflict raised in point one.

Point three: train more skilled workers.  Who could argue with that?  Pay no attention to the fact that governments and parties have said this constantly since time immemorial -- to the point that the heavily advertised federal jobs program from 2013 never actually existed -- and frankly it never seems to make any difference.  Even if it were to actually happen, Training up skilled workers economically only serves to increase the number of those skilled workers available, diluting the talent pool and depressing wages (supply increases, price decreases).

Point four: increase trade with our neighbours.  Who could argue with that?  Well, first someone would have to understand it.  I sure don't, what hope does Joe Plumber of understanding it?

Point five: reduce the bureaucracy that is preventing people from starting, or moving their business to Ontario.  Who could argue with that?  Again, pay no attention to the fact that political parties have said this forever and it nothing ever seems to change.

So this "million jobs plan" seems to boil down to stereotypical pandering to the conservative base (lower taxes, less government, and "free trade"), one stereotypical non-promise (more training), and one naked populist plank (more affordable energy).

Figuring out exactly how this will all net "one million jobs" (125000 per year over the next eight years) is left as an exercise for the voter.  

2014-04-27

Economics 201: Foreign Workers

Foreign workers need to be treated with respect, but most of them shouldn't be here.

Foreign workers are useful in cases where certain skills are not available in the Canadian employment pool.  Using a foreign worker in this scenario gives a company the ability to move forward with business, and hopefully adding incentive for Canadians to acquire that skill.

But in the cases that have come up in the media recently, the "skills" that certain employers seem to be seeking is "a willingness to work for ridiculously low wages".  And with all due respect to McDonalds, that isn't what the program should be used for.

If McDonalds can't hire Canadians to do these jobs, then there are a couple of possibilities:
  • Canadians are not willing to do that work for the wage paid; or
  • the job sucks
In either case, McDonalds is competing for workers willing to do that work, and therefore must adjust the wages paid for the job, or the terms of the job itself, in order to attract willing workers.

In the case where businesses can not afford to attract willing workers, I would argue that business is not economically viable.  And just not being economically viable should not qualify said business from benefiting from what is effectively a subsidy program.

If you can't find people, you have to offer to pay more.  Or do something else to make yourself an attractive employer.

Or find a more lucrative business to be in.

2014-04-25

Day 89: Some Assembly Required

Continuing on with the orbital assembly of Texaco-1.

I decided to be optimistic and launch two habitation modules and one cupola modules tied together, as well as a robotic tug module.  The robot consists of a remote control module and one large monoprop tank with RCS jets bolted on the side of it.  The whole thing is somewhat ungainly, but with appropriate struttage made orbit with a ton of fuel to spare:
Piloted By Jeb "Balls Of Steel" Kerman, of course
It was really heavy and took a long time to make orbit.  However I suspect that there was enough fuel in the upper stage to have sent it to the Mun had I been so inclined and not been fussing around with trying to rendezvous with the already orbiting spine.

Once I arrived on station, I undocked from the upper stage -- it is still floating around there as I write this -- and then disconnected the robot from the habitation module.  I discovered that although the cupola module has RCS tanks, they appeared to be empty by the time it came time to use them.  No problem, I chased the habitation module down with the robot, topped it up with its 10 units of monoprop, and then undocked the robot again.

Turns out that 10 units of monoprop is not a lot for a module this big and heavy, and after trying to rush the docking I went sailing past with empty tanks.

No problem. send the robot to collect it again.  I decide at that point I'll use the robot to bring the habitation module in to any docking point, and then settle things down before putting the module where I want it.

On this second pass, I had an accident with the time acceleration Jeb had a brain fart and we went sailing past again.  By the time everything was settled down, the habitation was 9km away and receding at 30m/s.

A gratuitous burn of monoprop later (over 100 units) and I had it going back in the right direction again.

Third or fourth "final" pass
This time Jeb didn't rush things and successfully docked with one of the back rings.

Docked, initial position 
I could then shuffle Skippy-II to another of the back rings, and then gingerly send the robot and the habitation modules to the front:
Habitation docked, by the tug in the final position
And then with a simple back-out, disconnect-the-robot move, then slide-back, and the habitation module is where I want it.

Tug removed, habitation in the final position
...crooked, but where I want it.  I will probably straighten it out.  But now the boys have someplace more comfortable to hang out than a Skippy/Silverado (which is actually identical accomodations, as the only differences are aft of the command pod).

And that drive section I disconnected from is still on the scene, less than 3km away, so I could send the robot out to collect it trivially.

One thing this has shown is that the docking rings at the back on the side are probably not going to be useful unless the relevant gigantor is retracted first, otherwise there will be a collision.  But frankly I can't see there being that much traffic here.

The next step is to lift an orange tank; the step after that, to fill it.

All this has actually taken place over three or four gameplay sessions, and it was only the last session when I didn't have a time crunch that I relaxed and just let physics do most of the work.  Most of my problems occurred when I got impatient and then time-acceleration got in the way.

One thing that does bother me a bit is that when I'm concentrating on performing a maneuver I don't think to take pictures of what is going on.  So my misses, and the rather clever (if I do say so myself) slipping out of the robot and redocking is lost.  I keep thinking that a mod that took a screenshot every second would produce a ton of crap, but would automatically collect most of the moments I want to collect.  I'm not sure I want to get into programming for this game, but I can't see that mod being terribly difficult to make... this probably won't be the last time that "how hard can it be?" gets the better of me.

2014-04-21

Docking Exercises

So after beginning with a pair of mapping missions, fully intending to proceed to robotic landers and rovers, I've switched to manned (kerballed?) missions for absolutely no good reason.

This sequence has had four launches: Skippy I, which was a launch vehicle and orbital dynamics test (ie: would the launcher get into orbit, be able to maneuver, and return without killing the occupants?):
Skippy I  Launch
This was such a success that before it even returned I launched the identical Skippy II with an eye towards trying for a docking.  I modified the lifter a bit because Skippy I ended up on orbit with less fuel than I would have liked; the extra boosters made enough of a difference that I ended up with plenty of fuel on orbit in Skippy II. 
Skippy II: solids for a little extra push into orbit
....and after chasing Skippy I all over the sky and not getting any closer than about 20km, I gave up and returned Skippy I to Kerbin while there was still fuel aboard to make that a worth while pursuit.  The immediate follow-up mission was Skippy III, which was also targeted at a docking with Skippy II.  Interestingly, the exact same crew from Skippy I, Jeb, Bill, and Bob, was drawn for Skippy III.. well I found it interesting.  

It turns out that if you read the documentation on the navball *before* trying an intercept, the glyphs make a lot more sense.  This time the intercept happened much more smoothly, and shortly before orbital dusk I had Skippys I and II in the same postal code ready for final dockings.  And of course this meant that this attempt was going to happen in the dark. 
Like two teenagers fumbling around in the dark
It wasn't totally unaided -- I had Kerbal Engineer going to give me the separation and velocity vector component values.  But I did fly it in, and...
First Docking!
Success!  I took the requisite screen shots and transferred fuel back and forth because I could now.

So the whole point of docking is to have something to dock with, right?  Right.  So even before separating the two Skippys, I built a primitive space station spine, and sat it on a modified Skippy called a Silverado, and then put the whole thing on a suitably-overkill lifter arrangement: 
Station Spine with lifter
Launch went so well the station found itself in a 150x150km orbit after only a few tweaks.  And then I thought... why not send one of the Skippys up to it?  I put all the fuel in Skippy II, and sent the three rock stars in Skippy III back home (well, back down anyways -- landing navigation is something we still need to work on) on the strength of the RCS (which was totally sufficient for that).  And then I sent Skippy II chasing off after the space station.

I like this picture since it shows Skippy II approaching the space station, while conveying how vast and empty even near-Kerbin orbit is.
Skippy II approaches Texaco I
This time I had the extra Docking Port Alignment plugin enabled, and after a bit of trying to figure out what it was trying to tell me it guided me right in: 
Contact!
Between watching the Navball, Engineer, and the DPA I didn't spend much time actually watching the docking.  I'm doing more and more by flying the ball and instruments rather than looking at the screen, so I'm thinking I might have to actually start recording my dockings and intercepts so that I can actually watch them later.

But I am pleased that I've managed two rendezvous and dockings this weekend and figured out a bunch of the plugins.

My ultimate goal is a couple of orange tanks on the space station, and I'm thinking I need some proper orbital facilities for Kerbals to live in, as well as both a manned and remotely operated tug vehicle.  So we'll probably do the tug next, and then send up some habitation modules as well.

2014-04-18

Review: Captain America - The Winter Soldier

This is the lead up to the second Avengers movie, where the world is supposed to be irrevocably changed. And they delivered. It had the usual plot holes, and seemed a bit more blood thirsty than previous Marvel offerings (to wit: the bad guys emptying semi-automatic weapons at other cars across traffic -- the body count for this movie is probably horrendously high) but it is pretty much what you want in a superhero movie.

2014-04-14

Now That's A Good Song

You know a song is good when you get it suck in your head as a ear worm through, and during, the "active" parts of a gastro bug -- and you don't hate it afterwards.

"Do you want to build a snowman" from Frozen. Last night. All night.

2014-04-12

Zing

Being a separatist is like being a Maple Leafs fan: the only people left doing it are old men lost with dreams of glory from the past, and young people who don't know any better.

2014-04-10

Mission Report: DMap2 "Macroscope"

And so here we are with mission 2.

"Macroscope" atop a "Javelin" IPL.
The objectives for "Macroscope" are pretty straight forward:
  • Flight test the "Javelin" IPL
  • Test a more immediately optimal polar orbit
  • Conduct a high-res scan of Kerbin
  • Conduct a biome scan of Kerbin
The "Javelin" lifter was better than the first one.  I discarded the fully-fueled transfer stage rather than use it, to simulate the amount of delta-v that the orbiter alone would have.  I still had to use half of the orbiter's fuel to circularize (for 220km x 145km values of "circular") and in that elongated orbit, we began scanning.

The goal about a more immediately optimal polar orbit: DMap1 goes behind Kerbin once per orbit.  This starves the solar panels.  Now S.C.A.N. doesn't use any electricity right now, but I like to play fair.  So we launched at dawn, which put our orbit in view of the sun throughout the entire orbit.  At some point in the year as Kerbin moves around the sun we will go into shadow, but I'm betting that the mapping mission will be complete before then.

Revised Orbit
One interesting thing that this map shows at this point is that the high-res scanner doesn't work near the orbital periapsis of 145Km. So I raised the periapsis up to 219Km -- making this probably the most circular orbit I've ever manually flown -- and the scanning of the southern hemisphere almost immediately improved.

Mapping with the high-resolution scanner is slower, but after 7 days and 10 hours, we had more than 92% of the surface covered, resulting in this map:

That looks like more than 92% to me
I've inspected all the dark spots -- as you can see, most of them are over the water, and the rest are very small ones that don't look like they are in interesting locations.

"Macroscope" is also flying the "multispectral" scanner, which is the biome/anomoly mapper.  So at this point I shut down the high-res scanner and started the "multispectral" scanner in its place.
Oooh -- Extended Multispectral
This scanner seems to have a wider footprint, so if DMap1 is any guide, the prediction was for more or less full coverage in less than another week -- a prediction which was hilariously overkill.  Again less than two days to get the biome map:


...and the slope map:


...and a beautiful composite map showing the anomalies:


So while I could probably continue on in order to try to pick out the missing data, I think at this point this mission can be classified as almost a complete success.

Lessons learned:

  • The revised "Javelin" may not be sufficient for interplanetary missions.
  • The flight path for polar orbit was better executed this time.
  • The high-res scanner is slow, and doesn't seem to work below 170km.
  • The biome scanner is about as fast as the low-res scanner.
  • Both scanners can be operated at the same time.
The next mission will be a polar mapper to either the Mun (because it is closer) or to Minmus (because it is easier to get a polar insertion around Minmus because it is out-of-plane with Kerbin).

I will probably also upgrade to 23.5, and I might add MechJeb to assist with the interplanetary navigation.  Or I might try to find another interplanetary navigation plugin -- I would like to fly these missions myself, but sometimes you need robotic help...

2014-03-25

Flying Again: DMap1

So I decided to get back into KSP.  Well I've been trying to get back into KSP for a while, but I just have not been having the time to sit in front of the computer to actually play.  I have managed to find some time here and there again, so we're flying again.

This time I've downloaded 0.23, and ended up adding a few mods:
  • SCANsat -- because having something to do when you reach your objective adds a point to the fun of getting there
  • EnhancedNavBall -- I've been thinking that my terrible flying skills aside, landing would be easier with some of the information on this Enhanced Navball.  Landing attempts are quite some ways away as of yet, but I've added this mod now to help.
  • Aviation-Lights -- because if I am going to spend hours looking at these things I want them to be pretty.
  • Docking Port Alignmnet -- I have not decided if I want to do docking, but this seems a useful add-on.
  • Kerbal Alarm Clock
  • Engineer-Redux -- all the info from MechJeb (and more!) without the autopilot and autoguide functions.  If I'm going to crash these things, I am going to crash these things.
For our first flight, I present DMap1.  It has the following objectives:
  • Flight-test an early design of the interplanetary lifter.  This probe is only orbiting Kerbin, but we might as well flight-test the lifter to see what kind of delta-v we have once we make our orbit.  
  • Enter a polar orbit for mapping purposes.
  • Gain familiarity with the mapping mod by performing a low-res scan of Kerbin.
Flying Again
The flight-test of the interplanetary lifter (which doesn't have a snappy code-name, sorry) didn't go particularly well -- we had to finish the circularization from initial launch on the transfer stage, which wasn't intended. And that didn't go well because we had a staging accident after the circularization burn started, which pushed our apoapsis out to 7Mm before we could roll the orbiter off the staged, firing transfer stage.

So lessons learned:
  • Insufficient lift in the IPL launch stage(s); and
  • I still can't fly worth a damn.
Fortunately the orbiter is a fuel tank with a tiny motor strapped to the back, so there's plenty of delta-v available to fix things.  After some flying around, we got into a suitable orbit:

DMap1 on orbit
...and after less than three days of mission time, we had a low-res scan of 99% of the planet's surface.  That's clearly not terrible.

Mission 1: Success
The eventual goal is to send probes to nearby planets -- Eve, Duna, and Dres -- and possibly their moons and also planets and moons further out.  From the maps generated, we'll pick some landing targets and send some ground landers and maybe some rovers.  And maybe I'll get into flying actual Kerbils, although for some reason I don't like killing the little guys so I tend to do everything robotically.

DMap2 "Macroscope" (because missions should have snappy code names), launched from a "Javelin" IPL, is in progress as I write this.

2014-02-18

Review: Ghost Rider - Spirit Of Vengance

Watched on TV on Bravo, so probably horribly chopped, but since it is a Marvel movie that wouldn't make much of a noticeable difference. Would have like to have seen Keith Ledger's Joker do some of the "I'm crazy" scenes because Nicholas Cage can't sell that kind of crazy. Frankly I don't understand why the fire is blue at the end. Another fine movie, only because you cue it up on the PVR knowing in advance it is a bad movie and you are willing to take the ride.

2014-02-17

Let's Complain About The Weather Network

(or, because it's Family Day and I have nothing better to do.)

So we moved to Bell Fibe in January (there's a post on that coming up, I just can't finish it properly) and one of the changes we've noticed is to The Weather Network.

We have Autism in the family, so we watch a fair bit of Weather Network.  The kids like it, it is soothing, and it is better than some of the other things the kids want to watch to death.

First: the HD network for Ottawa is Toronto.  Why no HD for Ottawa?  Dunno.  So we have to watch SD Weather Network.  And while this is still an improvement over SD Weather Network On Rogers, it is still pretty terrible when compared to the shiny HD channels.

Second, the format of this Weather Network channel is terrible.  Instead of providing you with a local forecast and then a long-range forecast, you get much less information duplicated four or five times.  Yes, instead of telling us what the long-range outlook for next weekend is, The Weather Network thinks we'd all rather know what the current conditions for Ottawa, Vanier, Gatineau, Aylmer, and Ottawa CDA (whatever the hell that is) is.  And what each short-range forecast is.  And what each precipitation forecast is.

Critical Information Differentiation

Guess what -- most of the time, it's within the margin of error for the Ottawa forecast.  The most I've seen is a deviation of one degree C.  And precipitation is always the same.  So: less information, provided even less usefully.  Frankly I don't think the fine people of Vanier will revolt if they don't get a special mention every time the local forecast is on.  I think they would be like the fine people of Kanata, and just approximate from the Ottawa forecast.

Thirdly, every time the local forecast is on, we get a faint voice over detailing the local forecast for some part of Atlantic Canada.  Every. Damn. Time.  It is just audible enough to be annoying, and just irrelevant enough to be... well, annoying.

So I don't know if there's a programming difference between Rogers 21 and Bell Fibe 505, or if there was some kind of programming change at the same time we switched providers, but frankly I miss the old channel.

Review: Robocop (IMAX)

Loud, frankly -- this was the same theatre as we saw >>The Hobbit Part II in, and although it wasn't 3D, it was IMAX, and it was so loud that I could not tolerate it while the credits were running. Screenwise we sat about 2/3 of the way up the hill in the middle so the screen wasn't excessively big the way it was last time.

The movie itself was OK. Violence was a little on the gratuitous side, and the inevitable inexhaustable ammunition clips syndrome. The human element of Robocop wasn't really played out and the movie was a little vague as to exactly what happened in the end.

Just about everything else can be explained away with "Hey, it's Robocop, what do you want?"

Verdict: OK. Won't buy the DVD.

Review: 300: Rise Of An Empire

A big, arty comic book on film. Gratuitous blood and spraying. Lots of "big moment" speeches. Obvious "insert previous movie here" moment. I read about it ahead of time and thus knew that the film took ridiculous liberties with what really happened.

Did not like.

Income Splitting

Let's distill this income-splitting debate down to its basics:
My wife and I earn a combined $100K, with my $85K being the bulk of it.
Compare this to a hypothetical couple earning two $50K salaries.
Take kids and everything else out of it.
My family pays more in taxes.
Why is that fair?

2014-02-12

Spring De-Archiving

So because I'm almost sick and got this idea into my head, I went through my gmail archive culling stuff.

The final body count: from 22000+ conversations down to less than 6000.  All deleted in blocks of 20, which seems to be the only way that gmail will show you search results.  And that was a lot of clicking, let me tell you.  Probably about two hours of work over two nights.

Most of it was archival stuff from when I still thought email lists were a good idea.  CentOS lists, several versions of RedHat lists, Cobbler and Kickstart lists, even several years of autsupott (the Ottawa support list for families with Autism).  None of which I would ever want to see again.  There was also a metric ton of old spam reports, cron barfs, root log reports from several systems long gone by, and the inevitable nonsense from our good old friend Mailer Daemon.

All gone.  My mailbox now occupies only 290M of stuff instead of the several GB it did before the clean up.

I mean, sure you can keep all this stuff, disk is cheap -- and in the case of gmail, largely free -- but if you can't find it and never look at it, what's the point?

Besides, now Gmail disk space is shared with Google Drive space, and I actually *use* that.

2014-01-21

Review: Jack Ryan - Shadow Recruit

Another franchise reboot. Not terrible (I've enjoyed worse), but I'm not buying the DVD.

2014-01-05

Terrible

The quality of the text emitted by the IOS Blogger app is, without a doubt, terrible.  I wrote the previous article in the IOS app, then tried to polish it using the web interface and it looked (at risk of over using the word) terrible.  I eventually copy/pasted it into gVim, fixed it, then pasted it back into "HTML" mode.  Then trimmed it up.

Terrible.  There really is no other word for it.

This isn't entirely surprising, as Google would rather I had a stiff drink of the Android kool-aide, but we've addressed that already.

I'm gonna have to find a text editor for IOS and a sharing mechanism that works somehow.

Social Media Taxonomy

It occurs to me that social media is a continuum of offerings, with different services bringing different thighs to the table. What got me thinking about this was the sudden realization that Twitter is a terrible device for dealing with the past. A tweet's effective usefulness period is "now" and no longer; very few people will be interested in trolling through someone's history of tweets.

Blogging, on the other had, is different: it is about writing for the future, something that will have a longer period of usefulness. This is illustrated by the fact that most blogs have an index of posts readily available, usually already sorted by date, making it very easy to refer to the past. And this transmission into the future encourages most to write properly, in a very different from the txt-spk that can dominate tweets.

So with that obvious observation in hand, one can start classifying various services:

  • Twitter. Written for: now. History: useless. Very short form. User interaction is indistinguishable from user use of the service -- threads get lost very easily.
  • Tumblr. Written for: now. History: can be less useless, but not much. Longer form and mixed media formatting. Probably more of a long-form Twitter. Has more tools for Tumblr users to interact than does Twitter.
  • Facebook. Written for: now. History: slightly less useless than Tumblr, but has pretentious of permanence with its "timeline" way of organizing hints, although I bet most users never use it. Much better user interaction through the dreaded "like" and comment facilities. From a posting standpoint it is less flexible than Tumblr, but most users don't care.
  • Google Plus: closer to Tumblr (all about the now!) than Facebook. I think this is one reason why the Facebook crowd doesn't like G+ is the lack of Facebook's venir of the past.
  • Instagram: Twitter for pictures. Or at least it was, I bailed on it when Facebook bought them. Really is only about the now -- eg: show me your lunch. Nobody cares about the past. It has it's own sharing and following, but since it's origins was as a Twitter rider, I never used them.
  • Flickr: blogger for pictures. Stronger history tools.
  • Blogger: blogging is about writing things today that might be interesting in the future. Long form writing, strong history tools. Commenting is available, even if spammers have effectively broken it.

So what does all that mean?

Personally, I use Twitter for my short form/now microblogging. Also, my "audience" (such that it is) is there. That feeds a Facebook account, where the rest of my audience is. Google Plus is used only for a KSP group. And long form writing gets dropped into one of *cough* five Blogger blogs, from which I pollute Twitter (and therefore Facebook) with links when they get published. "Now" photos are tweets, more interesting things are usually Blogger posts. I've used G+ for photo albums, but I'm not really sold on it.

I think this is beause I am interested in history. I am the kind of person who will go back and read my own "back catalogue" periodically. Twitter makes this painful. Facebook makes it awkward. Blogger makes it easy.

Over all I am most attracted to G+ but I don't really understand why. Also there is no audience there so there isn't much point in dumping lots of content there. If I really want to write to no audience, I'll just use Blogger. I feel like I shouldn't trust Twitter, and Facebook gives me an uncomfortable feeling. But, audience.

Every so often I think it is a good idea to reconsider what I am doing, even if it doesn't result in any changes.

2014-01-04

Interference

Possibly related to my previous post...

In the garage, we have four light bulbs.  Two are on the ceiling, and two are on the garage door opener machine.  Originally all four were incandescent bulbs, and in the previous house they were actually attached to motion sensors so that they only turned themselves on when there was movement in the garage.

Two problems arose: first, the motion detectors got lost and never replaced.  This meant that the lights were burning 24/7/365, the vast majority of the time with nobody in the garage.  So I decided to replace those with compact florescent (CF) bulbs.  This worked fine, sort-of, but you could tell in the winter that they were struggling -- they took forever to get bright, and they were very noticeably dimmer during the coldest parts of the year.

The second problem is that the garage door opener absolutely eats bulbs.  The bulbs need replacing every three to four months.  Along with the damage caused by the vibration every time the opener operates, the sockets seem to attract enough moisture that they rust -- causing connection issues between the sockets and the bulbs.  I couldn't put the original CF bulbs in there because the socket is flush-mounted beside the opener, and there just isn't room for the ballast mostly.  Modern CF bulbs fit, but they still suffer from a high mortality rate (several have physically broken the lighting elements) and from the rust connectivity issue.

So recently I bought some fancy LED lights (at $17 for two 40W equivalents -- that's a huge markup on the cost of CFs, especially now that they've come down in price -- and even that's cheap for LEDs, thank you WalMart).  LEDs work well in both locations, on the ceiling and in the opener.  I would expect that there are fewer fragile parts in the LED light so it would be more vibration resistant.  It starts instantly, even in the cold, and is fully bright no matter what the temperature.

But.

Jenn was complaining that her garage door opener wasn't working correctly.  It would open the door, but not close it.  I figured that the batteries in the openers were done -- they've never been replaced in the 11 years we've had the opener.  So I replaced the batteries in both units.

And the problem persisted.  This caused much head scratching and dis assembly and reassembly of the two remotes.  I could open the garage door from the end of the driveway, but not close it.

So since I was only experimenting with the LED bulb in the opener, I had one old incandescent bulb in one side, and a LED in another.  I pulled the LED to try it somewhere else for some reason, and guess what, the remotes work again.

The only thing I can conclude is that the LED bulb is putting out some kind of radio interference that makes the opener not able to hear the remotes' signal.

So the plan for the garage is now to get a couple of motion detectors, maybe even those big security motion detectors, and fill them with LED bulbs.  That will give us the fast start as well as the low-energy consumption we are looking for in there.  I'll keep an incandescent bulb in the one working socket for now and once they all die just take the bulbs out of the door opener completely and run without them if possible.

But this all got me thinking.

I was explaining to visitors on New Years Eve about my wifi to apple tv problem, and said -- you tell me why it doesn't work, pointing at the separation.  And my guest said, because there are two CF bulbs in the path of the wireless signal?

That stopped me and made me wonder.  There's clearly radio interference from a LED bulb.

Is there any from a CF bulb?

Don't know the answer.  (Neither did my guest, he was just guessing.)

Maybe I'll have to try more experiments with the lights off as well as with the lights on.  I doubt it, since we've had trouble at all times of day with the Apple TV (although admittedly more at night, something we attributed to all the neighbours being home and blasting their WiFi networks).

Not that it really matters now, since we've resorted to the ethernet wire for connectivity.  But it is interesting to think about.