Sunday, March 31, 2013

Alex Rodriguez can help the Yankees this year (and next year, and next ...):

Alex Rodriguez can help the Yankees this year, and next year, and the year after, and so on. All he has to do is renegotiate his contract. I'm sure he needs two or three million per year to stay out of the poorhouse, but letting the Yankees keep the other $24,000,000 per year will make an enormous difference to them. Come on, Alex! Help your team.

This morning, I weighed 217.8 pounds. Not bad, I think. I am holding on to an eight pound weight loss since last November.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An unlikely (and good) drink:

I previously complained that soda drinks that have been carefully compounded to taste "just so" tend to lose flavor when you add your own flavorings. Diet Coke is one of those beverages. For example, I think that adding fresh lemon really spoils it. And yet, I tried the following drink (before passover of course) and it was good:
Diet Coke plus Kreider Farms Buttermilk (about two to one ratio).

This morning I weighed 217.4 pounds. Good news, considering the recent banquets and matzah I have enjoyed.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Tucson Museum of Miniatures: The Mini Time Museum:

In Tucson, we visited an unusual museum. I suspect there are very few like it, although I hear it has a rival in Chicago. The Tucson Museum of Miniatures features many displays of tiny dolls, dollhouses, period boxes (that is, miniature rooms in which everything is appropriate to a specific time and society), war miniatures, and mini war tableaux.

The miniatures are displayed in a building that was designed, at (I suspect) great cost, to bring out that sense of childish wonder in us all. Some of the displays are under glass floors, and children take great delight in walking over them to see. Other displays are hidden in the folds of a venerable fake tree. Even something as simple as leaving the museum imparts a sense of wonder. Trying to open the exit door can trigger a spark that flits along a wall and manipulates a switch.

In a wonderful coincidence, we hid out from most of Tucson's rare snowfall-in-February in this museum. It is not a museum that you visit because one visits museums. It is a place to see because it is both wondrous and rare.

As Passover begins, I weigh 217.2 pounds. This holiday is dense with sweets and starch. I hope to report that my weight can stay under control.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dear Djaohn:

Friends of ours who live on a distant continent wired us a gift. Think of it as a fruit basket. The gift came - of course - with a personalized note.

There was a whopper of a mistake in the note. I assume that our friends dictated the note, over the phone or via the Internet. The whopper occurred during the hand-transcription of their very nice note.

You've heard me say this before: This is the 21st Century! The gift store should have made it easy for our friends to compose their note in a PDF. The store would then print their note and include it in the gift. It's so easy to do this! Let's leave error-laden hand-transcribed gift notes in the past.

Today I weighed even more, 217.6. I hope this temporary weight gain is due to this week's challenging circumstances.

Monday, March 18, 2013

iPad Mini: Pro and Con:

I’ve followed many analyses of the iPad Mini (which, I understand, is currently outselling the iPad). There is a critical issue about the Mini that analysts never mention! I shall discuss it here.

In general, the evolution of any sort of computer causes earlier versions to become obsolete. Computer obsolescence has been a sharp issue in the Windows world. Apple seems to want to maintain more compatibility for its older hardware, but inevitably older machines become obsolete: their displays are too small or too weak, and sometimes an OS upgrade, required for the newest software, does not work on them.

The original iPad suffers from some of this obsolescence. And note that some versions of the iPad and iPod do not support Siri.

Apple is up to version 4 in the iPad. For how long will the iPad 2 be able to run the most popular apps?

Now let’s look at the iPad Mini. If I were deciding whether to buy one, I would think first about the following Pro and Con:

CON: The Mini has most of the hardware of an iPad 2! When the iPad 2 becomes obsolete, so will the Mini. And with the original iPad already partly obsolete, the iPad 2 (and the Mini) will be next to fall.

PRO: The success of the Mini has placed Apple in a wonderfully awkward position. Think of the bad press they would garner if they made the Mini obsolete within, say, three years. The Mini’s success will force Apple to plan an upgrade path for the iPad that does not obsolete the Mini too soon. This consideration may explain why Apple is (apparently) not about to release an iPad 5. It’s good news to iPad 2 users.

By the way, I own an iPad 2 (with a gorgeous, irrelevant screen crack) and an iPod 5. I do not plan to buy a Mini. I expect to upgrade to an iPad “N” when I need another one of these machines.

This morning I weighed 217.2 pounds. Darn!

Friday, March 15, 2013

I want to Plug in my charger where I need it:

I have shared most of the observations that occurred to me during my recent vacation, but here's one for you hotel chain operators: when we customers return from our vacation adventures, chances are that our iPhone, or Galaxy, or iPod or whatever needs a recharge. Please make it easy for us to plug in, in the bathroom. You know what I'm saying.

This morning I weighed 216.2 pounds.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An IOS App that got better when I was on vacation:

If you follow reviews of iPhone and iPad and iPod apps (I'm sure the same is true of Android), you will sometimes find a review mentioning that the app it's discussing is FREE TODAY. But the review was written months (or days) ago; you're too late.

Wouldn't you like to think about "purchasing" any app on the day that it's free? How do you find these bargains? I use an IOS app called AppsGoneFree, courtesy of the App Chronicles website.

Each day I wait eagerly for the app to update with a new list of five to eight new "free today" apps. AppsGoneFree has a short description of each one, making it easy for me to zero in on the apps I might really want. Checking them out is fun.

AppsGoneFree usually updates between 11 a.m. and noon. (I live in New Jersey). But when we were on vacation in Tucson, Arizona, AppsGoneFree was even better; it usually brought me the good news as early as eight or nine! I suspect the human beings behind this app live in California.

This morning I weighed 216.2 pounds.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Compensatory Action:

You know how it is when you think you have two separate problems, but then you see how they come together, and you realize that what you actually have is: one problem, and one solution.

Our local newspaper, The Times of Trenton, reports that the NJ Department of Transportation will give a grant to the nearby town of Hamilton. In Hamilton, people are distraught about the slaughter of pedestrians by motorists. The Times reports that people hope to find a way to improve the odds of pedestrians versus motorists.

I have a solution to this problem. If the state sponsors a study, I’m sure it will come to the same conclusion. Just two words:

This morning I weighed 217.2 pounds.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A hint about trash cans:

Sometimes, before you begin a task, it's a good idea to move the trashcan to you, instead of going to the trashcan. That's my tip for today. I came up with this idea after:

(1) Trimming flowers at my dining room table, to make a flower arrangement. I had to keep carrying discards to the trashcan, but only because I failed to put the can next to me before I started.

(2) Cleaning junk out of my car and carrying each handful to the outdoor trashcan, which I could have moved next to the car.

This morning I weighed 217.4 pounds. My weight has stayed almost the same for about a week. This is not bad news. It suggests that I have retained some of the weightless that occurred when I was sick. I am now, I hope, ready to lose more weight. I have lost almost eight pounds since December, and I am almost ready to relate the anecdote I could not tell you, when I weighed 225 pounds.

Friday, March 08, 2013

A new iPad spreadsheet named "Permanent": Let's do our own kickstarted:

I am not happy with the state of spreadsheets on the iPad. A newcomer has joined the fight, aiming to give us a better spreadsheet interface. Here's a review from 148apps. As you can see, there's a lot to say for it, but Permanent needs more development. I bought it partly to encourage the developers. Let's get some money to them, and hope that they shake up the iPad Spreadsheet market.

By the way, I think that 148apps is an excellent source of reviews for iPhone, iPad and iPod software.

A Seville Orange Drink:

This morning I weighed 217.6 pounds.

I was lucky to find just a few Seville Oranges at my local supermarket. I've never made any kind of jam. After tasting the orange (very bitter), I tried the following excellent drink:

Juice one Seville Orange (about two ounces of liquid). Pour into a glass and add about six ounces of Sprite Zero. Delicious!

I used to love Coca Cola with half a lemon. The "old" coke (with sugar, not corn syrup), was resilient about mating with fruit flavors. Modern soda drinks that have been carefully compounded to taste "just so" tend to lose flavor when you add your own fresh flavorings to them. I do not, for example, enjoy fresh lemon with diet coke.

But Diet Sprite is a small miracle. I don't think it was created to taste like something else. It just has its own quiet taste, that enhances the flavors you add to it.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A Good-Deed Reward:

This morning I weighed 216.6 pounds.

I wonder if you’ve ever had this experience, most likely when you are far from home: you are paying for your purchases at an unfamiliar supermarket. The cashier asks if you have the card for that particular supermarket chain, and you don’t. When the cashier learns that you do not have a card, he or she turns to someone nearby, perhaps a regular customer, and asks to borrow their card so that you get the lower price bargains. I’m not sure this is what the supermarket owners have in mind, but it gives the visiting shopper a very pleasant feeling.

And that’s nothing. I can take this anecdote to the next level.

In my case, I was at a Fry’s in Tucson. When the cashier learned that I did not have the card, she called to the shopper who had just paid, ahead of me, “Rodney, can I use your Fry’s card for this guy?”

Rodney frantically searched his pockets. “Did you give my card back to me?”

They found the card misplaced near the register. She used it for my purchases, and returned it to a very happy Rodney.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

This morning I weighed 217.4 pounds.

I hear that the movie, Jack the Giantslayer, isn't doing as well as hoped. That's a pity, because I thought this movie was going to start a new, exciting trend.  I wanted to see the IMax version of Three Blind Mice.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The User/Car Interface: Rear View Camera.

This morning, I weighed 216.4 pounds again.

The Ford Taurus I rented on vacation had a rearview camera for backing up. (The car also produced all sorts of beeps to warn me of any motion that might suggest something was approaching the rear of my car. Once, it beeped to warn me of cars driving on a highway behind me, although there was a low wall between me and the 100-foot removed highway. These beeps are a charming work in progress, I think.)

I absolutely loved the rearview camera, even though it was one more thing to look at as I backed up. I still looked at the side mirror, the overhead mirror, the side windows and the inadequate rear window, but I remembered to view the camera screen, and it helped. I decided that when I got home, I must add a rearview camera to our 2009 Corolla sedan.

When we got home, I drove an old Toyota Corolla wagon that has real, true, rear vision. No need for a camera at all. Let me tell you: being able to see, actually see, what is behind you, is far better than a rearview camera. What a difference!

Sadly, the rear view behind my 2009 Corolla is not that good. I still think this sedan needs a rearview camera.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The User/Car Interface: Confusingly Documented.

This morning I weighed 216.4 pounds.

I rented a Ford Taurus on vacation, and it came with a 500+ page manual. There is no excuse for this gigantic tome. Ford has published a one-size-fits-all manual, covering every possible variation of options. The single most common phrase in the manual is “if equipped”. The car owner has to wade through dozens of irrelevant pages to decide how to control the car that he or she happens to own. (I’m blaming Ford here, but I believe most other car manufacturers commit the same manual-publishing sin.)

I think the worst case of these “if equipped” sections concerns the three possible key options. All sorts of matters differ depending on whether you got an old-fashioned car key, a key that can open the doors remotely, or a key that never goes into an ignition (and the car senses its proximity).

This is the 21st century! I’ll tell you how the big car companies should print their manuals: On Demand. The dealer should make the car’s computer communicate with the printing computer. (The car’s main computer must know what options the car has.) Then the printing computer will print a manual with the owner’s name on it, containing only the text relevant to the options in the owner’s car.

It’s so simple. How long do we have to wait for car manuals like that?

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Computer/Car Interface, a game-changer:

This morning I weighed 216.2 pounds.

During my long career as a software developer, everyone held up the automobile as an example of a clean, obvious, trivial-to-learn, easy-to-use, user interface. If you can drive a car, you can drive them all, right?

Not exactly. Not anymore.

Now that manufacturers can design a computer interface for the driver’s convenience, cars can all be different, and it is no longer easy to guess how to perform every function. Fortunately, the most important parts of the interface – the lights, the steering, the brake and the accelerator – haven’t changed much.

My rented Ford Taurus came with a 500 page manual. Many of those pages explained how to control the heating/AC, the radio, the mp3 player, the USB player, the CD/DVD drive, the instrument panel and the computer interface, by issuing voice commands. For most of those commands - trust me on this - if you haven’t learned a Ford Sync car before, you’d never guess the interface; you have to STUDY it.

Leo Laporte, at the TWIT network, loves the Ford Sync features and controls. Having learned some of the commands, I understand his enthusiasm.

Who can possibly learn hundreds of car commands? The owner of the car, that’s who. As you spend thousands of hours driving, you can gradually build up your inventory of commands. And then you have a terrific incentive to buy the same brand of car next time, so that you don’t have to learn an entirely new set of commands.

Within ten years – trust me on this, too – most auto manufacturers will standardize the car-computer-user interface. Most likely, they will make it possible to control a car from any major brand of smart phone. But for now, we have these manufacturer-specific experiments. They place a great burden on the car-rental driver, who – of course – now has a great incentive to always rent the same brand of car.

The bottom line: beyond the basics, Ford, BMW, Cadillac and a few other brands have managed to make the car as abstruse as a new computer.