Friday, December 16, 2011

The new culture?

What can I possibly think about this?

Meet Sophia Pinto: the 21st century's standard-issue, all-American perfect 10.

The 5-foot-5 Minnesota native -- a sly, funny, 22-year-old natural blonde who spends every summer bikini-clad on the shores of Lake Minnetonka -- works out five days a week. Her slim waist and megawatt smile hearken back to the polyvinyl glamour of the original Barbie doll.

In fact, if Mattel were to redesign Barbie based on the new millennium's ideal woman, she would likely resemble Pinto. Healthy, athletic, alluring, and smart (Pinto will graduate early this month from Northwestern University), she's both a role model and a sex symbol.

And if you were to undress Pinto, you'd find she embodies yet another trademark characteristic of the plastic glamour girl-turned-careerwoman: Like Barbie, Pinto has no pubic hair.

We used to date but now it’s hookups.

Herbenick [Indiana University researcher] recalls one encounter in which a popular, well-liked college student in a class she taught openly professed that he had never hooked up with a girl who had pubic hair, and would frankly be disgusted to undress a woman and discover a veil of genital fur.

We used to go steady but now its …

"I personally find myself a little more attractive when I don't have it," Pinto explains. "But one time I had a consistent hookup and he told me, 'Either way, you're attractive. You're a naked girl, and you're in my bed. Doesn't matter.'"

Consistent hookup?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fracking (Frakking) Republicans

This NYT article was probably written to demonstrate that it is a myth that Republicans are pro-busines:

As energy companies move to drill in densely populated areas from Pennsylvania to Texas, battles are breaking out over who will have the final say in managing the shale gas boom.

The battle is playing out in Pennsylvania as the Republican-controlled legislature considers bills that would in their current form sharply limit a community’s right to control where gas companies can operate on private property. Critics say the final bill could vastly weaken local zoning powers and give industry the upper hand in exchange for a new tax, which municipalities badly need.
The legislation has struck a nerve in a state where land control has long been considered quintessentially local.

“I’m a conservative Republican, and this goes against all my principles,” said Brian Coppola, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Robinson Township, in Washington County west of Pittsburgh. The pending legislation, he said, “is an enormous land grab on the part of the industry. He added, “Our property rights are being trampled.”        

The brouhaha is over the following:

Local governments argue that drilling is an industrial activity, just like that of a gas station or a cement factory, that should be subject to zoning. Dozens of towns, cities and counties across the country have enacted rules on drilling noise, lighting and the distance from homes and, in some cases, outright bans. In New York State alone, there have been at least 70 such actions.

The flurry of local rules comes as the federal government inches forward on a national study of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, the process used to extract previously inaccessible natural gas from shale deep underground.

Frak, I was familiar with from BSG. But it’s a little funny to see how a simple character difference has carried the word into the mainstream media.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unity is killing me

Not quite literally, but I am a little disappointed with it. My initial reaction to converting to Ubuntu had been quite positive but that desktop didn’t have the hardware to run Unity. Naturally, I was curious and a couple of days ago spent some time cleaning up a laptop to get it ready for a XP/Linux dual-boot system.

The installation was painless - I wish I had taken the chance to click on advanced configuration when the installation came to the point of partitioning the hard disk - but other than that I walked away with a dual boot laptop. Overall, it was about 2 hours of elapsed time. The first time I tried booting into Windows it ran a disk diagnostic and I got into the system fine although Windows doesn’t ‘see’ the Linux partition (though Linux is able to to do so). The only other thing that I have yet to figure out is when I’m in Windows and it goes into power save mode, reactivating the computer gives me the Ubuntu login screen.

Back to Unity - oh, I want that application menu item back. I liked the way Ubuntu 10.10 organized all the applications into sub-folders e.g. Internet, Office, etc. I don’t want to have to scroll through all the installed applications just to see what I have! For instance, I want to see what Games came installed rather than typing in “solitaire” in the Unity tab. And what is up with locking the Unity dashboard to the left of the screen. There doesn’t seem to be anyway to move it to the bottom of the screen (or the top or the right). Have read that it supports gestures but haven’t tried it out yet.

Popcorn (non) innovation

Microwave: Popcorn setting
Bag of popcorn with instructions: Do not use popcorn setting on microwave.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More middling ruminations

The Financial Times had some interesting assertions which I would really like to see some data on but unfortunately the article lacks links to any of them:

In short, the middle-skilled jobs that once formed the ballast of the world’s wealthiest middle class are disappearing. They are being supplanted by relatively low-skilled (and low-paid) jobs that cannot be replaced either by new technology or by offshoring – such as home nursing and landscape gardening. Jobs are also being created for the highly skilled, notably in science, engineering and management.

By supplanted, I assume the author means that there is a literal hollowing out of the middle so if I were to plot a histogram of all occupations-wage combinations I would literally see twin peaks, which I have yet to see.

… According to government statistics, if the same number of people were seeking work today as in 2007, the jobless rate would be 11 per cent. Some have moved from claiming unemployment benefits to disability benefits, and have thus permanently dropped out of the labour force.

Now here is something that I have often wondered about - does the unemployment rate fall over the course of the recovery because people are leaving the job market at a higher rate rather than the fact that there is greater job creation or an increase in the job finding rate?

Creativity, leadership and assholes

There were more assholes here than I have ever encountered in any single article.

Steve Jobs was a visionary, a brilliant innovator who reshaped entire industries by the force of his will, a genius at giving consumers not only what they wanted, but what they didn't yet know they wanted.

He was also a world-class asshole.

… middle managers and wannabe masters of the universe who are currently devouring the Steve Jobs biography and thinking to themselves: "See! Steve Jobs was an asshole and he was one of the most successful businessmen on the planet. Maybe if I become an even bigger asshole I'll be successful like Steve."

Running along similar lines MR summarizes some parallel research into teachers and assholes -- I mean teachers and creative students.

One of the most consistent findings in educational studies of creativity has been that teachers dislike personality traits associated with creativity. Research has indicated that teachers prefer traits that seem to run counter to creativity, such as conformity and unquestioning acceptance of authority (e.g., Bachtold, 1974; Cropley, 1992; Dettmer, 1981; Getzels & Jackson, 1962; Torrance, 1963). The reason for teachers’ preferences is quite clear creative people tend to have traits that some have referred to as obnoxious (Torrance, 1963). Torrance (1963) described creative people as not having the time to be courteous, as refusing to take no for an answer, and as being negativistic and critical of others. Other characteristics, although not deserving the label obnoxious, nonetheless may not be those most highly valued in the classroom.

….Research has suggested that traits associated with creativity may not only be neglected, but actively punished (Myers & Torrance, 1961; Stone, 1980). Stone (1980) found that second graders who scored highest on tests of creativity were also those identified by their peers as engaging in the most misbehavior (e.g., “getting in trouble the most”). Given that research and theory (e.g., Harrington, Block, & Block, 1987) suggest that a supportive environment is important to the fostering of creativity, it is quite possible that teachers are (perhaps unwittingly) extinguishing creative behaviors.

Substitute creative with assholes and voila!

All creative people may be assholes but not all assholes are creative. Just because some assholes are creative doesn’t mean we should allow assholes to become bigger assholes or to foster a culture of assholism.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Comcast/Xfinity and Verizon

The other day a Comcast rep knocked and asked whether we’d be interested. They’re offering some specials which definitely beats the Verizon package we have. Given my past experience with Comcast I asked whether their “new” fiber optic lines would allow them to get a line into our house. Of course, he didn’t know. I really didn’t expect him to since he wasn’t the technician who had to do the job. The last time a tech came up he couldn’t find a cable tap.

It is unfortunate that I have to reconsider my attachment to Verizon. Certainly in the early stages of FIOS we have been extremely satisfied. Of late, we have been losing our Internet connection (though not our phone connection). The support on the phone has been great (with and without accents) and the only horrible thing about calling Verizon is the fact that I have to go through this inane robot who tries to diagnose the connection problem and comes up blank (every time!) and the only solution has been for them to reboot the system.

I once asked why it was such a recurring problem and I didn’t get a very clear answer - something about a maintenance software that runs on the weekends that didn’t finish its job. Well, that ain’t much of a maintenance program is it?

I’m tempted to have both carriers for redundancy - is that even possible? I tried Googling having two ISPs but drew a blank.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Technology and my discontents (again)

I had voiced them previously, but I can’t help voicing them again (a different set of compalints this time) because I succumbed to the lure of electronics again.

Got a 10-inch Samsung Galaxy tablet despite my not so positive experience with Android based devices. My conclusion has not changed. Those who claim that their tablet can replace their laptop for work tasks aren’t doing real work. Unfortunately, it was an expensive lesson for me and egads (!) I’m thinking that I should have gotten a multi-touch Kyros instead. (These weren’t out at the time.) On top of the $400 tablet, I blew another $100 on a bluetooth keyboard, a stylus, a folio case, HDMI connector, and a USB connector. The last 4 items were all included in the earlier version of the Kyros I got - all at $170. The one thing that the Samsung has going for it that the Kyros didn’t is the battery life and the camera. That Kyros version I had was also a resistive touch which was almost unbearable and no access to the Android market. It also ran Android 2.1 and the sound while it was pretty good is definitely not as good as on the Samsung.

So off I go to the app market. One app I wanted to try out was the Economist magazine’s Android app. With the latest Android on the tablet, I figured I could not go wrong. Wrong. The Economist app only works with …. drum roll, please, Android 2.1 (or 2.2 or 2.3). What’s going on here? No backward compatibility? Well, I can see the guys at Google think this is a great idea. Not. Or perhaps app production is so straightforward that the guys at the Economist should have just recompiled a new version under the new Android SDK. Whichever it may be this state of affairs is a step backward! App guys who can keep up with Android apps shouldn’t be in the business of producing apps. Platform guys who can’t ensure backward compatibility shouldn’t be producing platforms. Oh, wait I forgot - the guys at Google don’t get platforms.

On to my next new toy, a Dell Latitude laptop with Pentium i-5 chip which is not really my toy but rather one that is on temporary loan to me. What is up with the slow start up? Otherwise I was fairly impressed with the feel of the laptop. Our old Dell Desktop circa Pentium 4 looked and felt so cheap I had decided to ditch Dell. This laptop hasn’t quite induced me to go back to Dell.

But wait, it’s the new (almost 1 year old) HP that looks and feel so cheap that I’ve decided to ditch HP. The DVD player crapped out last weekend - refusing to read DVD+R disks but will read some CDs. I’m afraid to put a movie into it. I’m not sure if the problem is Windows or HP or the player. I tried un-installed and reinstalled the drivers but no dice.