Thursday, January 31, 2013

Which Smartphones Will Win? Blackberry (1):

This morning I weighed 219.4 pounds.

It's too early to decide how good the Blackberry 10 is. We need to see how it behaves when the networks are full of them, when hackers try to hack them, when their native apps are pushed hard to produce. And we need to find out why the keyboard version of this new phone was not the first version out of the gate. But I have a good word of advice for you today:

The  BB10 is engaged in a four-way race. Everyone is wondering whether the BB might find its way into a universe ruled by Android and Apple. But don't forget, Microsoft is already trying to crack into this world. It is really, really, really difficult to imagine both Microsoft and Blackberry being successful in the competition to sell smartphones based on different operating systems. If BB can succeed, how many app developers and users will have time for Microsoft?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Donner & Blitzen!

This morning, I weighed 200.2 220.2 pounds. Borinng...

The Fitness center where I swim has an asinine rule that if there is thunder or lightning:  Everybody out of the pool! The security expert, Bruce Schneier, coined the term "Security Theater" to refer to exaggerated responses to overhyped security concerns. I think this pool rule is "Liability Theater", a trumped-up excuse for calming the misplaced liability fears of the owners. It's obvious that we fitness center members are at much greater risk walking to our cars in a storm, when we are suddenly not allowed to swim.

And why am I complaining about this issue today? Because, here on January 30, the forecast was for a thunder storm. I mentioned the pool rule to the lifeguard after my swim, expressing my thanks that I was allowed to finish.

"I did hear a rumble," the lifeguard said. "Not quite enough to shut us down."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


This morning I weighed 200.2 pounds. (I'll let you know when my diet gets interesting again.)

I'm not too good with East/West, Right/Left and Clockwise, so it was hard for me to remember which way to turn the shower dial to cool the water. The dial is low on the wall, so it's also hard for me to read the dial with my glasses off. I needed a mnemonic to remember which way to turn the dial to control water temp, and I came up with a nice one:

Cooler: Clockwise.
Warmer: Widdershins.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Geometric Power Bars:

Last Thursday I weighed 200.4 pounds; then on Friday, 200; today: 200.2. My body has told me that I can maintain a five pound weight loss. That’s good, but I want to do better.

If you have a smart phone that uses s serious battery, you are probably familiar with bars that mislead. When your phone drops one bar, the battery hasn’t lost ¼ of its power. It has lost a lot more than that, and it might be time to panic about a recharge.

I’m wishing for a new ideal when it comes to power bars. Instead of desiring them to show a consistent linear draining process, I wish that they would more accurately align with the fear and anguish that they wring from my heart. I want geometric bars.

When my phone loses one power bar, that ought to mean what I fear it means: that my battery is half drained. When a second bar goes, I should have about ¼ of my power left. And so on. I’m not asking for much! Those power bars come pretty close to meaning what I’m asking for, already.

Similarly, when my car’s gas gauge is down ¼, I ought to have half a tank left, and so on. (In some cars, that’s exactly what it means!) It would be less annoying, I think, to deal with geometric gauges and geometric power bars.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Verinnthal vs. Verinnthal:

This morning I weighed 220.6 pounds. Bummer.

When we first moved to our current town, the best internist there was also acknowledged to be an incredibly nasty doctor. His nastiness (but I never heard specific details) was legendary. Yet his rep as a doctor was so good that a man once walked into his waiting rom and said to the receptionist, “I hear that one of doctor Verinnthal’s patients just died. Would Dr. Verinnthal accept me as a new patient?”

By coincidence, our veterinarian’s name was also Verinnthal (I’m not using the real name). We liked him a lot, and he was a very nice man. We heard that someone asked him if he was Doctor Verinnthal the Internist. He replied, “No, I’m the veterinarian who treats animals like people.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Have you heard of: Glittens?

This morning I weighed 220 pounds. It's getting frustrating, waiting to see 218.x on the scale. I must diet more diligently.

Have you heard of Glittens? If you own a spork, and it's not warm all year round where you live, you might want to buy a pair. They are a combination of gloves and mittens.

We understand the tradeoff: mittens keep your fingers warmer, but you can't DO anything wearing them. You can work a cellphone with gloves, until your fingers ice over.

Glittens consist of gloves with an attached "mitten hood" that flips over your fingers to provide that extra mitteny warmth. There's quite a variety out there! Do a search for "glittens" and then click on "image search."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

TV Screen, Stop! I'm looking at you.

This morning I weighed 219.2 pounds, my lowest weight in the current diet.

The fitness center where I swim has many TVs hanging from the walls. Some of these TVs display cable channels. Some of them display exercise videos. And some of them display a slide show of static images that we are supposed to find interesting.

I did find one interesting. The screen showed a picture of a fine middle-aged woman, and the text began: Last year at age 48, I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer.

“I want to read this,” I told myself, and I stepped forward for a better look. Before I could read another word, the screen changed, going on to the next, totally unrelated slide.

WELL I HAVE A SUGGESTION FOR THE PROGRAMMERS OF THIS SLIDE SHOW! We’re in the 21st century here. Billboards know when people look at them. The program running this TV doesn’t have to change slides every 15 seconds. It can change slides if no one is staring intently at the screen. A camera and a little software is all that’s required to realize that someone wants to read the rest of the text.

I haven’t found time yet to make this suggestion to my fitness center people, but I will.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Woody Allen Comes to Exxon Office Systems:

Today I weighed 219.6 pounds.

In about 1980, Exxon consolidated the most successful of its computer ventures into a single company: EOS, that is, Exxon Office Systems. The separate parts of this venture had shown vague hopes of success in the office market. Together, we formed a great dud that took several years to properly crash.

One of the first challenges for EOS was to define internal standards to enable the company’s various parts to evolve its products together. This goal, very synergistic, was imposed from above. Each segment of the forced marriage that created EOS knew that its own development procedures were far and away the best. They hoped to be left alone while the rest of the company fell into sync with their own distant drummers. But in order to appear to acquiesce, we formed a few committees.

I represented the Princeton Faction on one committee. At our first meeting, I got a good intimation of how little we might ever accomplish. At the second meeting, our hopeless prognosis socked me in the face, because one of the two largest factions sent a newly-hired employee to represent their interests. This man – I’ll call him John – knew nothing of his new division’s history and methods, and clearly carried no weight with his more entrenched superiors. But there was, still, something very special about John.

He looked exactly like Woody Allen.

John represented the North Jersey faction of EOS. This second meeting took place at the other large division’s headquarters, south of Philadelphia. People generally believed that the Philly division had built their building in a highly synergistic location, if you can restrict the concept of “synergy” to computer development and gourmet food. There was a superb restaurant nearby, a restaurant suitable for expense account dining. We ate lunch there, that day.

We were a four-person committee. We had not had a chance to exchange words in private, but I was sure my friends were thinking the same thing. He looks just like Woody Allen! Does he know? What does he think? And of course, we were also thinking how impolite it would be to say anything.

We sat down to eat, and soon our table was lit by a highly bright light. A good half of the small restaurant lit up, quite the opposite of what one expects. (Even in the 1980’s, many restaurants preferred to keep their patrons in near darkness.)

Well, there was a reason. The manager of the restaurant appeared at our table and apologized. He explained that the local Philadelphia network TV station was doing a segment on his restaurant. If we preferred privacy, he would be glad to move us to the darker half of the room.

When the manager made this suggestion, John drew himself up and said, “What’s it worth to you to have Woody Allen in your restaurant on TV?”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WHO CARES what my friends prefer?

Today I weighed 220 pounds. I’ll make progress in my diet, if I can resist a big Chinese Dinner tonight.

Facebook has a ton of data that’s not available to Google, Bing, or any general search engine. Facebook has initiated the first of (I suspect) several brave attempts to provide its own search capabilities, searches that utilize the preferences, habits and actvities of your friends.

Excuse me while I yawn.

A few years ago, there was a lot of excitement about the marriage of the social web and reviews. We could trust reviews better because we could see whether they came from real people, people whose social milieu was often open to inspection. We know now that reviews remain susceptible to manipulatuion, but reviews in our current social web world are a true improvement, I believe.

I rely heavily on reviews. Not so much to decide what to buy, as to discover new products, websites, blogs, activities, ideas and trends. When such good things arise, people write about them. If I restricted myself to the opinions of my friends, I would be looking for new directions within a small pond of knowledge. I want to get out there and see what the world, and some reviewers I can trust, have found.
 Who cares whether my friends share the same knowledge?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shrinking Calories in a bag of uWave Popcorn:

Today I weighed 221 pounds.

Some foods give you more than one list of food values. Dry Cereals, for example, will specify the value of eating them straight, or with milk. But I recently discovered that some Microwave Popcorn products tell a different story: that a portion contains fewer calories after it has been popped. There’s a mystery here, and perhaps a good story must be unveiled to explain it.

For example, one product drops from 130 to 100 calories after being microwaved in its sealed sack. I wonder if the “butter” sprayed on the popcorn drips to the bottom of the package and need not be counted among the final product. My wife suspects that the law requires the popcorn manufacturer to count all the popcorns before microwaving, but to leave an allowance for unpopped, inedible grains when the package is opened.

I wish there were other foods that lost calories when microwaved. Ice cream and pie, for example, not to mention General Tso’s Chicken.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nobody Expected...

This morning I weighed 220.6 pounds. One of these days I expect to get started on losing the next five.

Here is an exact quote from a sports announcer on TV. I have replaced the actual team name with two words that, I think, make the observation more interesting:

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition to play so well.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Morning Glory Road:

This morning I weighed 220.4 pounds.

There's a flap on the Internet about a company in, I believe, Utah, that has managed to change the name of the road that it's on. For reasons too childish to discuss here (and that's why I'm not linking to the story), the old road name was an embarrassment to be avoided.

There's a road by the same name in New Jersey, and I suspect it got its name the same way as the nefarious road in Utah. NJ's Morning Glory Road snakes up the mountainside of the lower Watchung. I've been on that road when the sun came up, and I enjoyed the superb view of Central Jersey that unfolded in the dawn light.

Morning Glory Road. Let it be.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My diet: five pounds lost in five weeks.

This morning I weighed 219.6 pounds. I've lost more than five pounds in five weeks. Thanks to all of you who are watching me diet and keeping me honest. (According to David Brooks in today's New York Times, a similar and effective way to diet is for the dieter to call his weight in to a nurse, daily.)

I will continue to diet. I have not yet reached the weight that will allow me to tell you the anecdote that helped me get started.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

CD-Gougers, I hate you!

This morning I weighed 220.0 pounds. Tomorrow I expect to weigh more.

I often listen to Books-on-CD: at home and in my car. I get them from our local library. The library has a privacy policy. It forgets who took anything out, once an item is returned. So there is no way to identify the SCUM OF THE EARTH who put their greasy fingers all over the CDs, rub lint into the grease, and score hideous gouges in the CDs.

The ideal CD book to take out of the library is a long, complex novel. Most listeners will give up before the end, so that the CDs become progressively cleaner and clearer. The worst book to take out, I think, is a gripping murder mystery. I can be sure that most people have finished it, getting progressively more agitated in their treatment of the last few CDs.

I wonder whether the gouges in the CDs are the fault of cheap, defective players. But I suspect that many borrowers take the CDs out of their sleeves and leave them lying around for young children and lovers of pliers and nail-files to play with.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

We have the perfect defense against Aliens:

This morning I weighed 220.6 pounds.

Last Saturday, the Frank and Ernest comic strip, one of the most popular off-the-wall strips, came up with a great joke. This joke feels to me as if it has been lying there for years, waiting for someone to express it perfectly. I’ll never feel the same about spams and scams again. Please see this.

Monday, January 07, 2013

I could have flown there, in less time than it took to buy the tickets:

This morning I weighed 220.8 pounds.

Yesterday I made flight reservations for a vacation we will take in the far, far future. It took over FOUR HOURS to accomplish this. I’m sure you’ve all heard of, and experienced, the like.

The whole process was irritating and mind-numbing. Part of the nuisance was deciding how to pay: airline flight points, amex points, cash, or using our flight club’s $99 companion fee. Much over an hour disappeared in three debugging sessions, with the Airline’s IT department trying to decide (1) how I should buy a flight with dividend points (the IT guy steered me wrong), (2) why I got a crazy error message instead of: a simple explanation that they couldn’t let me do something that the website tried to let me do, and (3) why their website site insisted I did not have enough dividend miles (which turned out at last to be a bug known to IT). The "correction" was to have me make two separate phone calls to specify all the details twice, details that I had already entered into the website three times.

It’s enough to make a person want to stay home. Maybe I will...

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Bigger than Christie:

This morning I weighed 220.4 pounds. Once again I'm ready to duck under 220, at which point I will have lost five pounds in my diet. I'm hoping...

My Ggovernor, Christie, has announced that he wishes to be reelected in a landslide. That will make my own vote more precious to me. I'm impressed by what Christie has done for, and to, New Jersey. He is at heart the type of Republican who wants to balance his budget by removing funds, and support, from some of New Jersey's most needy people. I shall vote against him.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Bathroom Rule:

Today I weighed 221.4 pounds.
These days I carry a tiny notbook in my pocket to help me remember ideas. I lost it this week and I’m glad it was returned to me. Years ago, I made up an excellent rule to avoid losing things: When finished using a bathroom, any bathroom, examine the floor to see anything that has fallen.

Sadly, this rule works best when invariably applied.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

How overweight am I?

This morning I weighed 222.6 pounds. The New York Times had an Op Ed piece today claiming that people who are regarded as overweight have better mortality statistics than people currently regarded as weighing a correct amount. (I have no idea where this guy is coming from, and I expect to learn a lot from whatever firestorm he stokes. And the writer is a lawyer, not a statistician or a doctor.)

Personally, I had to decide whether I'm the sort of overweight person who can look forward to better mortality statistics, in which case my diet is quite unnecessary. But I don't believe it. I want to set down that ten pound weight I am currently carrying everywhere, at least.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

In which Wayne LaPierre saves the US Economy:

This morning I weighed 221.6 pounds. It was a great New Year’s Eve party, but next time I must NOT just sit next to the big bucket of cashews. More bad news tomorrow? I ate Chinese tonight, another celebration.

A few days ago, I made fun of Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion that we post armed guards at all public schools, and by implication, just about everywhere. I wondered how we would pay for all these guards, and complained that these guards’ work would not add a whit to the nation’s productivity.

I wish to apologize.

I was wrong.

How simple it is to make LaPierre’s plan both practical and productive. The cost of arming these guards, and their salaries, can be paid – of course – by the gun manufacturers. They will have to raise their prices a bit, but the second amendment says nothing against that. I look forward to the gun industry paying the salaries of the 10,000,000 armed guards, and paying for the humongous bureaucracy we will need to oversee them. Perhaps some of the gun manufacturers from other countries will agree to pitch in.