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January 26th, 2013


09:14 pm - The sad stories of Kickstarter

About a year ago, I was at a rock concert at the local arena called BFD (Sponsored by Live 105, our local Clear Channel affiliate). It was one of those 20-something-acts in one affairs with five stages, a bunch of indy bands on the outlying stages, and a main stage with a bunch of top acts.

The highlights of my experiences were:

* Seeing Garbage Live, and seeing the connection they have with their fans.

* Seeing Cake live, and seeing a similar connection.

* Realizing that the most technical, gimmicky, and prop-heavy show (Jane's Addiction) was just plain terrible.

However, while I was there I also came across some technologists who had put a project forth on Kickstarter and were doing their soft launch at the venue. This was, after all, in Google's backyard.

The project was the iCache Geode, and it's a brilliant piece of technology: An iPhone case that has a fingerprint reader on the front, a credit card slot on the back, and basically gives you the ability to clone any of your credit cards onto a single, dynamic "geocard": so you need only carry your phone (and ID) and you've got the full compliment of affinity cards, credit cards, and the like. Because I'm a geek and I know quite a bit about the internals of how the readers work, I had a bunch of questions about how such a thing actually works. And their engineers were on site and willing to talk. Their dyanmic "GeoCard" was more than just a smart card; it was actually a credit-card-sized computer that had an antenna where the magstripe would be, and basically "replayed" your credit card when it detected it was being read. It was a *brilliant* implementation, and I geeked out for a good hour picking their brains.

It was bloody cool. I wanted to buy one on the spot, but their ship times were long, and prioritized for their Kickstarter backers, so I held off.

Cut to now.

Their website is up and running, still, but their support desk license seems to have expired. The "checkout" button is strangely absent from the "buy" link on their page. No twitter updates from them, but a whole lot of mentions from Kickstarter backers who are somewhat upset.

For a company that was so strong on social media, and the crowdsourced kickstarter feel, I think a dryup like this is attributable to one of three things:

1) They took the money and went to aruba. I don't believe this happened.

2) They just outright ran out of funds, couldn't secure additional funding despite having an already-developed and strong product, and shuttered.

or....

3) They got patent-trolled, got hit with a cease-and-desist order on prior art, pending a long and drawn-out settlement.

I don't know for sure, but I'm incredibly curious. As I don't have a real stake in this show, the curiosity is nothing more. In my next post, I'll be going into detail on a similar product, where I was in fact one of the lucky ones who got their product, and others seem to be out in the cold.

Stay tuned.

Note: this is my first post using the LJ client for IOS. I tend to prefer the one on my shell account, where I have Markdown to play with. I'll see how things look once the final entry posts.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.


Current Location: US, California, Redwood City, San Mateo, Charter St, 962

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December 17th, 2012


12:36 am - You are not Adam Lanza's mother.

There's a post currently very heavily circulated on the blogosphere, of someone literally mommyjacking (look that term up) the recent horrific disaster in Newtown, CT.

I won't bother linking it, because it's all over the place. Go search for "I am Adam Lanza's mother" if you like. I personally believe that Americans have latched onto this example of bad parenting because that seems to be what we do. I call this the "Honey Boo Boo" effect.

Our blogger literally starts her post off with a lie: a grab for attention that no matter what, her life is horrific. She describes her life with her other children as being terrorized by this 13 year old child.

Let me speak, for a moment, from the perspective of that 13 year old child.


It's time to [re]tell my story.

Many of my closer friends know this about me: I grew up inside "the system". My parents' divorce was rough. My parents' and siblings' coping mechanisms were rough. Dealing with other issues in my family was rough. A common tactic of my siblings was to provoke me, to get my mother to wake up and parent. I never experimented with drugs. I never tried alcohol. I was physically agressive with siblings, but usually in response to provocation rather than as a direct behavior of its own. I had other bouts of unexplainable and bizarre and impulsive behavior. Home was not a stable place.

My mother put whatever spin she wanted on these things when speaking to professionals. Or her friends.

I stopped going to school, and just stayed at home, and got tutoring so I could finish the 8th grade. In 9th grade the same sorts of symptoms surfaced. I got dropped from one class after another for excessive absences because I couldn't wake up to get to them.

I was "at risk". I was "in placement". I spent a good portion of age 13 on mind-altering medications designed to treat a bunch of conditions which I may or may not have suffered, and which at one point left me so dazed I have a clear memory of not being able to double-click a mouse on a mac.

I spent a good year of age 14 in a psych ward, and another several years immediately after in "a residential school for children with learning and adjustment difficulties". Officially, my diagnosis was PTSD.

At the school I went to, I had a hundred other siblings, and as one counselor put it, "nobody's here on scholarship". Common issues of the day was people who had suffered depression, or "behavior problems", or Tourettes syndrome, or minor forms of autism (this was before Asbergers became the go-to diagnosis it now is). Not things severe enough to warrant criminial action, this was more for the "overwhelming" children. We all had our issues, and we all dealt with them as best we could. I focused on school better than I might have otherwise, was able to explore my love of technology, and even took some classes at the local community college. I was "the guy" who would help counselors format their wedding invitations or their resumes. I had all the other at-risk kids robbing me blind (it was cultural, I think), and I got into some trouble of my own, in various ways. I still wasn't always a pleasant person, but I survived in whatever ways I could.

On the weekends where most children went home, I would visit with my cousins or other family, or stayed with other friends from school, generally avoiding my mother and father or seeing them only in passing. When I did return home for a visit or a vacation, I felt very much like an outsider: I did not have a bedroom in the various houses where my mother had moved, and my stuff was in boxes or storage.
I lived with my mother after high school for a few years. It never felt like home, even years later.

And it got better. I came into my own. I built my own support system. I fell in love, and I met a circle of close friends. I aligned myself more with them than with my family, and many of my friends (the gamers, the geeks, the nerds) could relate to some of the same issues of not being understood, or being alienated at school, and of being "weird" for being smarter than the rest. My friends weren't always the most well-rounded folks.

Today, I don't see a therapist. I don't hold myself to any specific diagnosis. I'm not on medications. I hold a job that I love, work in the tech field, and believe I'm pretty good at what I do. I still feel socially awkward at times, but not as badly as other people tell me they do. I still don't engage in a lot of the "typical" social behaviors that make us normal people. I don't get sports or politics, and when I'm nervous, or sad, I retreat into myself a bit, and suffer from what looks like depression. The group atmosphere has made me not like being alone very much, although I can spin into bouts of super-productivity and get past that too.
I've nurtured my gifts, and I'm grateful to have them.

I still respond somewhat angrily when hurt badly enough, or provoked hard enough. I have inside me, a hurting little kid who, when hurt, wants to hurt the thing back that hurt him. I can be a bitter person, and tend to have a long memory of things that have upset me. I'm trying the best I can to get past that, but it's hard sometimes.

It's been several years since I've seen my family. My sister has two children now. My brother's girlfriend is expecting around christmas. While I'll drop a card in the mail to them, or mail them some candy for the holidays, they are not "my family". My family is self-defined. My partner, Kat. My friend Kelli. My ex, Michelle. These are the people who I feel know me. These are the ones who can read me, who know when something's wrong, and what to say (or sometimes, just know that there's nothing TO say).

As for the many children I grew up with? Some are successful, and some not. My roommate, and best friend, Ben, always a chronic depression sufferer, took his life a few years ago. My love, Kat, took his hebrew name when she converted, as a way of rememberance and honor for his memory.

I admit that hindsight may have tempered some of this. It may have been more stressful for me "in the moment"


So, "Adam Lanza's Mother" here's some thoughts on compassionate parenting for you:

  • By your own admission on your blog, you believe that as a result of your divorce with your husband, you had a breakdown, and you're an adult with 30-something years of presumably being able to grow, communicate, adapt to changing situations. Please, put yourself in the mind of your kid for just a while. It's clear to me that both you and your son need to learn empathy, and empathy is a tall order when you're 13.

  • You talk about punishing your child by taking away his access to his electronics. Does that work, or is it just you attempting to hit him where it hurts? Perhaps an attempt on your part to assert control over something in your life? Could I resolve this in a ten minute conversation with your son, introducing him to these things we call books? Do you think your son's capable, perhaps, of understanding this desire of yours to exert control, and simply defusing it by not reacting? What would you do then?

  • Childhood is ROUGH. Emotions flare at 13, and generally will continue to flare until we're 25 or so. Many of us will not truly feel like ourselves, and like "a real grown up" until we're 30 or so. Even then, can you honestly say you haven't had some points at which you've been ready to melt down because it just wasnt fair? Imagine yourself in, perhaps, the military or a courtroom or a prison, where a person has ultimate authority over you, even if it doesn't seem to have any guise of fairness. Do you still think you'd be able to hold it together?

  • You talk about bringing your son to the emergency room because he threatened suicide. Nobody can say whether or not it's a real threat, and nobody can say you did the wrong thing by ignoring it, but 13 year olds are impulsive, and don't always have control over what comes out of their mouths, and sometimes, they have a talent for saying the worst possible thing. Maybe he's learned that that's a shitty card to play, and that it's a real crap way to get out of having to go to school, but just maybe, he wanted something from you other than indifference.

  • Most importantly, the internet never forgets, and some day, your son will grow up, and will read what you've written while using your real name, and your son's image, where today you've compared an "otherwise bright kid" with someone who just murdered 20+ people in cold blood. Maybe today with the media coverage you're getting, your son will go to school, and his friends will call him "Adam". The adults at school either won't notice or won't care. If your son tells them, he's a snitch and more alienated.
    You've done him no favors in writing what you wrote.

  • This will follow your son for the rest of his life, now. He will, someday, maybe tell his friends "yeah, I was kind of a bastard when I was young, my mom was the one who wrote that blog article". Maybe they'll all laugh. Or maybe, he'll hate himself, secretly for the rest of his life. Maybe, one day, if he were to take his own life, then you'd realize this.

  • Maybe he'll turn out allright, and maybe he won't, and you can't know what way it will go, and neither can I.

  • Maybe one day, you'll tell him you were sorry for saying such a horrific thing. And maybe, one day, he'll forgive you.


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December 10th, 2012


02:33 pm - On the Postal Service

Okay, so I admit I haven't blogged in a while. Maybe I can do some of that now.

For varying reasons, I like being able to mail letters. I like being able to buy a sheet of stamps, and keep them in my wallet, and be able to toss off a postcard to anyone when I'm traveling. I like being able to buy greeting cards at the store and toss them in any mailbox. Stamps are cool. Not as a collector, but as a useful anonymous alternate currency that one should have around.

I believe I've written before about the US Postal Service's "13 Ounce Rule". The rule, in its simplest form is that if you want to mail something greater than 13 ounces, you need to hand it to a clerk. One could assume this is for reasons involving not clogging the mailboxes, or could even assume that it's to make sure such larger items were properly packed.

But it's not. It's all about security, and in terms of obscurely worded rules, it can get close to the Infield Fly rule in terms of its annoyance.

You can see on the side the sticker describing this rule that's been clearly plastered on mailboxes and postal drops. The wording issue comes where they use the line "that bears postage stamps". You see, information-based-indica such as would be done with a postage meter doesn't imply stamps. Franking the mail with a "Postage Paid" rubber stamp of course doesn't imply stamps (even though it's a big rubber stamp (i.e. the thing you press down onto the stamp pad is a Postage Stamp). And, according to this blog article from stamps.com, using internet postage such as issued by stamps.com is also excepted from the rule. Even though the site is called, well, stamps.com.

So here's the fun question: why the odd wording. What's clearly meant by this rule is: ANONYMOUS Stamps. Things that don't have a barcode that can be used to track the purchaser. Why not print that on the label?

As useful as the anonymous, "Forever", postage stamps may seem, the postal service seems to really not want to sell them. They've recently (within the past year) retired all their stamp vending machines (citing that they were hard to get parts for, citing that they couldn't do a software update to support the new $5 and $10 bills).

One other place you could buy them, for a while, was at the USPS' Automated Postal Centers. Someone, either at a government contractor, or at the Postal Service very cleverly figured out that it was possible, if you printed a sheet of stamps the same size as a dollar bill, that you could use the same commodity equipment that is used in ATMs to vend sheets of stamps. You can see them (front and back) here: . And because they were the same size as a dollar bill, you could easily fit them in your wallet without folding them, and they seemed to adhere to their backing better than the over-the-counter variants. The postal service made these not only for themselves but for other ATM's which had been modified with a function to dispense stamps (as well as cash).

So now, we come to the fact that I went to an APC last night, to attempt to buy some stamps, and discovered that now, these stamps were no longer available, but the APC happily offered to sell me from 1-5 "Forever First Class Stamps" that it printed on the fly.

What it printed was similar to these: . Embedded in that stamp are:

  • A unique serial number
  • The location it was printed
  • Other information.

Short answer: since the APC's don't take cash, this is linked to all my payment info. With a warrant, of course. The government never investigates or eavesdrops without a warrant. Except that they're the ones holding all the data.

Most people don't care. I do. I've found that you can go to USPS.com and buy the ATM-style stamps (although it's not straightforward, you can't browse for them, you need to search for them, using the magic word "sheetlet", and I think I'm just going to continue buying them this way. Given, now there's a $1.25 surcharge on them, but at least I'll never be without one.

Other Notes: ATM Vended Stamps


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April 20th, 2012


08:09 pm - Why isn't this a solved problem?

I have three devices on my desk that connect to my ears, and my mouth in some way:

  • My desk phone. This currently has a plantronics headset hooked up to it, on a "qd" connector.

  • My iphone, which may be docked or undocked. My iphone has the ability to send music down the dock connector, but calls can only go out the top connector, or over bluetooth. (This is the subject of a different rant).

  • My computer, which makes noises out a pair of speakers, as well as over headphones via the classic "the speakers go mute when you plug in headphones" answer.

Every one of these devices has a microphone as well.

What I want: The ability to connect one pair of headphones, and have all the sound, from all devices route through it, and out to the sources of my choosing, without plugging and unplugging more wires than the one headset that at the end of the day, I take home with me, at the volumes of my choosing.

For my sound-in sources, I just want the ability to route them to the devices in question, with no real amplification other than attenuation to the level those devices expect.

I basically want the windows "Volume Mixer" but for physical devices (which may not all be standard 1/4 inch connectors, or standard impedance levels).

  • Perhaps such a device would be mixer-like, with either physical sliders or virtual ones (i.e. touch a button to select an input, then drag a virtual slider, on the device).

  • Perhaps it would have an API to set rules such as, say "if there's noise coming in the phone connector, mute the other sources", or "drop computer volume (i.e. the level coming out the connector) to 20%" or even "set the computer's volume level to 20 percent (as in, the volume control in the OS) or even "run an applescript to tell the iphone or itunes to stop if they're playing".

  • Perhaps the device would also appear as its own USB sound device, so with a standard pair of shitty headphones and a standard shitty headset, I could get the benefits of sound-out-my-speakers, but skype-in-my-ear.

  • Perhaps such a device would also be bluetooth capable, so if I were wearing an a2dp headset, all sound could be sent to that.
    Perhaps if bluetooth capable, it would also pair to the iphone and accept calls that way.

  • Perhaps such a device would even just come with a small dongle that's not a2dp, but something higher-quality, that you just plug your (non-wireless) headphones into, and clip on your belt, and roam around.

I would love a device like this for my home. I would love a device like this for my car. I would love a device like this for my office.

...if we can raise a million dollars to Reboot Shadowrun, I'd give $100 toward development of a thing such as this.


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April 15th, 2012


07:25 pm - Apple still can't get some things right.

So, you have a smart device like an iphone. When you connect it to your mac, it helpfully offers to sync all your photos over, then prompts you to delete them from the phone (presumably, this assumes it's like any other dumb camera, we fill up the 4m flash, we dump it off, we're done). Separate to this, is the "photo stream" which is a totally different, cloud-like stream of all photos you've taken on all devices that syncs to everything, over the last 30 days.

You can have photo albums on your phone, that you add items to (for example "covers of books I need to buy" for those of us who use the thing as a second brain).
But the photos will be synced over and deleted, with no indication of which library they were in. There's no preference that says "only sync photos in the main camera roll (which is really "all photos -- so the preference would have to be "don't delete photos that are in some other album")

You can also create albums in iPhoto, which you can then tell itunes to sync -- but you CANNOT add new photos to those albums without connecting the phone to your computer.

In iphoto, you can't seem to drag items into an album, nor is there the "click to tag" interface familiar to the iphone.

If you add a "photo stream" photo to an album, does it simply disappear from that album after 30 days? I don't know. It's totally non-obvious.

You also cannot simply manage the albums on your phone, FROM your mac.

This is really stupid.


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March 27th, 2012


07:16 pm - Bad Software Design

So I admit to having started playing Words with Friends. The app for iphone is a piece of crap.

The big annoyance? There is, near as I can tell, no way to log out, and no way to mute the sound. You can mute the sound when it's actually foregrounded, but you can't shut off people's ability to send you moves while you're, say, sleeping -- and have your phone at full volume because you need to wake up if the network is down.

Thusfar, the only "mute" I've found is to delete the app, then reinstall when you want to play again, which definitely feels like the wrong answer.


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February 16th, 2012


03:50 am - What the iphone means to me (four years later)

Three and a half years ago, I wrote this rant about the lack of value the iphone holds for me.

It's now three and a half years later, and I own one.

My geek friends will ask "Why not android?". Somehow the odd issues my friends had experienced with Android OS, coupled with the spectacularly shitty battery life my friend Jeff has gotten from his Droid 1.0, have soured me.
Buying an android phone seems very much like buying a mattress to me: all providers have their own individual options, with individual hardware and individual plans. It's rather hard to compare apples to apples (no pun intended).

As for why I went to Verizon, a spectacularly shitty customer service experience at the AT&T store has me deciding that I'm done here. I'm going to finish paying off the netbooks to keep the early termination fees down, but after that, we're through.

I bought one because a friend visiting from out of town had no service, so I figured it was a good way to both try one, and give them a way that they could have a local number. Verizon gave me 14 days to cancel, and during that time I tried very hard to embrace the experience to see, if at all possible, if it would suck little enough to switch over.

During the same time, my old, trusty, Sony Ericsson p800 was finally developing signs that time might be nigh for it: more random crashes, and the spectacular failure mode whereby menu options would simply DISAPPEAR off the screen, and the menus would renumber as though this was normal.

However, I wanted to re-touch on the major reasons that I hadn't bought one till now, and cover the use-cases where my ten-year-old phone might still be superior.

My original complaints (again, the original post is linked from the first sentence of this post):

1) No tethering. Well, it seems Verizon allows this over a cable, bluetooth, or wifi, and while they will actually charge you for the privilege, they will also give you another 2G of data to use, which can also be used by the phone.
I consider this a fair compromise.

2) Useless bluetooth, which didn't support things like bluetooth keyboards, or file syncing. This has been fixed, as well. Here's an apple technote that details it.

3) No ability to sync via wifi. Fixed.

4) No tactile feel. Well, I still don't have this with an all-glass screen, but Siri makes up for a lot of this. I'm also investing in this to cover my need to SSH into systems. (And siri's not so useful for typing unix shell commands).

5) No IRDA. I had complained about this because it restricted ways in which you could share data with other non-apple devices. In the past few years, data networks have become a lot more prevalent, and virtually no new devices come with IR support. Assuming you still want to use the IR for actually controlling your home media center, there are options.

6) No voice dialing. Yeah, I think with Siri this one's more than fixed. And then some. In spades.

7) Lack of ability to make calls over wifi (with your own number). Well, this was originally written when AT&T was the only option for an iPhone, and when in places like NYC, they just plain sucked and you couldn't actually get voice service. I'd still like to see verizon offer a nanocell option, that I could use at home, but at the moment there's not much use case for it since I'm in an area that doesn't suck.

8) Lack of input options. Well, the onscreen keyboard is much more adaptable now, as is the bluetooth keyboard I'm getting, and the inbuilt ability of "just say what I want to write" is pretty much a killer of this complaint.

9) The Jail. Oh, it still exists, and it still pisses me off quite a bit, on both my iphone, and on my ipod nano.
More on that in part 2.

10) Non-transcribed voicemail. I'm getting around this with simulscribe, but I'd really love to see it as an option, and I suspect it's only a matter of time before you can have siri itself transcribe your voicemail. Also, no app for phonetag? Boo.

So yeah, almost every major issue's been resolved to some degree. However, there's a new class of annoyances, more minor than before.

1) Itunes still sucks. Apparently, you can sync your music collection with only one computer at a time.
Additionally, itunes can only sync with one iPod at a time. If I have all my music on system "A", and synced to my ipod, I cannot play those songs on computer "B". Even if I "authorize" my computer as a second machine, I can't seem to play the songs on the ipod directly through my computer. I must "transfer the purchases" which requires eating the same 8G of HD space over and over. The ipod is effectively an external drive, why can't I use it as such?

1a) Oh, and apparently Mac-formatted phones can't be read by windows machines, but windows-formatted phones can be read by macs. Why then, are all phones not shipped windows formatted?*

2) There are gaps in the feature matrix. Despite the iphone being the most expensive device, there are things the ipod nano can do, that the iphone cannot.

2a) For example, the nano has a pedometer (which I use) that's based solely on an accelerometer. The iphone's, on the other hand, wants either a nike sensor in your shoe, or wants to use a GPS. And there's no simple "start counting my steps" option. By the way, the GPS-based-pedometer? Kinda useless on a treadmill, which is how I do my walking.

2b) The nano has an FM tuner. Which, I understand, with the iphone I can just stream audio over 3g -- but at the gym, where the TV's are broadcast over FM, the nano has the option I need. So it would be really nice to just have two checkboxes in itunes that tell me which device to sync which songs with. The "workaround" here seems to be to resort to having to manually copy files to at least one of my devices.

3) The in-vehicle options kind of suck. With my old phone, I could dock the phone in the car, and it basically became part of the car. It would mute the radio to take calls, the cradle was solid and bolted into place (and docking it was a simple, fluid motion). Apple makes no "official" car kit, and as this guide points out, the iphone only routes calls over Bluetooth or the Headphone port, not the bottom dock connector.

  • Which means even though I'm docking my phone, with a wire, in my car, I have to use a radio link that's subject to interference.

  • I also don't want to have to have a separate accessory to keep a battery charged on when I'm effectively stationary within my car.

3a) In a car, specifically, I want an option that lets me push actual buttons to do things without having to slide or swipe. It's only a "handsfree" phone if I can do everything -- EVERYTHING -- that phone needs to do, without touching the phone. Yes, I can tell Siri to go to next track, or whatever, but for base functions, I may resort to using this thing and mounting it somewhere near my steering wheel, and routing it through a cassette adapter.

4) Siri isn't listening full time. She listens when you raise her to your ear and talk, or when you push the button.
But I'd love to be able to give it a "keyword" to answer to. The argument here is that this will deplete the battery.
My counter-argument is that the times when I'd like it to do so are only going to be times that I have it docked: when it's on my desk or in my car.

5) Siri sucks as a GPS. I can ask siri where I am, and I can ask her "how do I get to San Francisco", but while she'll give me directions, I must manually key in each turn with a series of "next, next, next". I strongly suspect this one will be fixed soon, and I'll eventually have an interface where siri slowly fades the music, and speaks over it, and brings things up to speed.

5a) Siri's still lacking on a few things, questions that have "simple answers". "Siri, how far is it to redwood city?" Literally means, I'm asking a question that you can answer with a number, without displaying something onscreen. Or "Siri, how long will it take to get to redwood city." Also strongly lacking are things like "Siri, please redial the last number that called me" or "Siri, list the last three incoming calls." Anything I could answer with google's unit conversion should also be siri-fied. (Siri, what's 32 degrees celsius in fahrenheit?) The ability to say "Set sleep timer" and have it actually be the sleep timer, or the ability to set multiple timers. The ability to say "raise volume" or "lower volume".

5b) Location-based reminders still suck. You can say "remind me when I get to the office to do X" but not "remind me when I'm near a grocery store, without adding the grocery store as a custom address to YOUR info.

6) I strongly suspect alternate siri voices are coming too (for a premium price, I'm sure.).

7) Finally, the classic apple problem: The fact that I have to wait two years between devices if I want the newest, shiniest, without paying full price. At least, however, it seems Verizon lets you trade in your device and gives you some value for it. I just plugged in my phone's numbers and found it's worth $272 -- where retail is in the $600 range.

Let's see how things go from here. That keyboard has shown up, and I'll be writing a review for it shortly.


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February 15th, 2012


03:49 am

I don't know what set me off on this web search today, but I somehow became fascinated with the fact that in the movie "Jurassic Park" there's a point at which a breaker has to be manually "primed" like some sort of pump. This felt like some kind of crappy scriptwriting to me, to make the procedure seem overly elaborate in the race against time. Here's a relevant clip:

In doing the search, I found a forum post where someone wanted one for their home.

Now if you look at the clip above, while the big "park systems" buttons are clearly constructed mock-ups, the fine writing and detail on the main breaker itself looks a little too real, especialy around 0:45, you can see it has extra carefully-labeled buttons, and internal moving parts.

As it happens, it's a real thing. And in reality, it works exactly that way. Now, the big ratcheting handle, isn't priming a pump, it's actually a ratchet that puts tension on a giant spring.

Unsatisfied, I had to find the exact thing. As it turns out, it would appear to be a Westinghouse (Cutler-Hammer) SPB-65 (or another model in that line).

Cutler Hammer SPB 65

So two things amuse me.

First, that the movie got it Exactly Right. It's probably the only realistic thing in the movie, but there it is.

And second, that breaker, new, retails for about $15K. For ten seconds of screen time.

Clearly, they spared no expense.


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February 9th, 2012


12:04 am - On the Feeling of Feelings

It was the weekend of September 23rd. I was in Seattle, a new town to me, for a convention. But I had other plans. I rented a car (a Crown Vic with all-leather interior), and drove the hour+ north to Bellingham, to see my long-time internet friend ravynwolf . Me, her husband and I spent the day hanging out and experiencing a city that was new, fresh, foreign and breathtaking to me. The entire time, I was astonished by its beauty, and the way nature seemed that much closer.

The entire time, I was wishing someone close to me were there with me.

When I headed home, around midnight, I tuned in a local radio station, and happened to hear a live music concert: it was Lady Gaga doing live renditions of most of her album, for the "IHeartRadio" debut, live in Vegas. At one point, Sting came on stage and sang "Stand By Me" with her, as she retold how many people in the music business had been cruel and cold, and Sting had been genuine.

She dedicated her song "Hair" to a Jamey Rodemeyer, who was a victim of bullying and had recently committed suicide.

And the crowd loved it. Driving through the pacific northwest, I shared in that.

All the music, everything, the scenery around me, felt real in a way that nothing else did, and at the time time, surreal and dream-like. Cruising in my couch-on-wheels through the darkness, I teared up.

And for weeks after, I tried to find a recording of that concert, to be able to explore these feelings some more. To evoke feelings brought about in my mind, by a series of sounds. Because I've hardened a bit, and being able to feel things -- is good.

I've found both a cut of that song, as well as a recording of the original concert in its entirety, on the kind of site where the MPAA and "the copyright holders" would have you believe you shouldn't download from. Because they own the content, and they would control your ability to feel what these things evoke.

Fuck them. I'd highly recommend anyone give it a listen. Here


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December 16th, 2011


05:36 pm - Please Do Not Fight: The Wikipedia Page

In playing with wikipedia recently, I noticed that one of my favorite local bands had no page, so I attempted to re-create it. Upon looking, I discovered that it had been previously deleted in 2007, citing that they weren't notable, according to the guidelines here. It's a few years later, and they've gotten some press coverage (time will tell if it's "enough").

I've gone on an article search for them, including finding a few relevant items, but if anyone wants to help, please feel free. It's wikipedia after all.


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