Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The need for the impractical

The video is from the last episode of the 2009 season of BBC's Top Gear and it moves me.  It's not that I'm particularly taken with the Aston Martin V12 Vantage but rather about why it's important.

Although I don't reflect it much in these pages I am at heart an incurable gearhead.  I don't look at the automobile as a mere means of conveyance but rather an expression of the soul. 

We live in a world bent on the disposable.  Nothing we own is designed to be held, cherished or valued beyond its immediate purpose.  Our busy lives cluttered with the trappings of a rudimentary survival leave little room for the seemingly impractical.

I understand the need for the purely practical vehicle but it should hold no higher rank than one that evokes the emotions.  We seem to forget that life is a gift meant to be embraced not suffered.  The soul needs as much nourishment as the body but its frequently denied. 

146032_PrimaryAnd we suffer.  Our minds trapped in the narrow constraints of our profession.  Our relationships never fully realized, our dreams never known.  A sad construct reinforced by the demands of the mundane.   We tell ourselves that someday we will be able to live our dreams if we just deny ourselves a little longer.  The focus is on the destination but sadly we find ourselves unfulfilled when we get there.  All the time, all the effort for little more than a brutal survival near our inevitable end. 

Practicality has its place but we need to take advantage of all the journey has to offer.
For me, the sight of an early 70's pony car starts my mind racing.  Perhaps it's in sad shape.  Oxidized paint, a cracked taillight or mismatched wheels, it doesn't matter.   My heart doesn't see an impractical jalopy destined for the crusher,  I see a cry for rebirth.

And given the opportunity, I'd gladly play midwife...

Yes compared to a hybrid, it will probably swallow fuel like a drunkard swills cheap wine, it will require constant attention like a young child and will never meet the measure of practicality.  It doesn't matter.  I'll form a connection that feeds my soul and that's its purpose.  

Anything can get me from point A to point B. 

I want to be conscious of the journey and I want the opportunity to make it to continue on.  That can't happen in a Prius.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Much ado about a Tesla

Article first published as Much Ado About a Tesla on Technorati.

After 2 weeks it seems everyone has an opinion on why New York Times journalist John M Broder had such a disappointing experience with the Tesla Model S.  From his original article it appeared that the car of the future wasn't quite ready for primetime in spite of claims to the contrary and 13,000 pre-orders for the model.

Broder's extended test drive was meant to simulate a long distance road trip to measure the practicality of the car with a focus on "future" charging stations.  What he found was a vehicle and an infrastructure  unprepared for "the real world."  A reality underscored by woefully inadequate vehicle support and a mileage range that was overly optimistic at best.  Broder wasn't aware, for example, that the Model S batteries could lose most of their charge in cold temperatures.  An event Broder experienced during his  trip. 

Shortly after Broder published his misadventures with the car, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk shot back on the company's blog accusing  Broder of  improperly operating  the car.  Musk revealed that the cars detailed data logging showed that Broder appeared to be trying to run the car out of charge and deliberately ignored warning indicators. 

Musk appears to believe Broder has it in for the electric car and cited a previous article of his as proof.  In Musk's blog he quoted Broder,

"Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate."

146032_Stylin' Trucks Brand Logo 120x60Musk again relying on the data logging of the car revealed that Broder had driven the car at the "excessive" speeds of anywhere between 65 and 81 MPH for the majority of the trip with the heater set to 72 F.  Which apparently is unreasonable for a long road trip in middle of a New England winter.

What's been lost in the dust-up is a very real truth.  The all electric vehicle may be part of our motoring future but it's not exclusive to it.  Should Broder have spent a few hours reading the owner's manual and mapped out his route more carefully?  Probably, but just as the superior music quality of the CD lost out to the convenience of the MP3, a successful all electric vehicle will need to be easy to operate.

The excuse of failure because "you didn't use it right" doesn't hold any water anymore.  The "real" world rarely offers up ideal conditions and consumer products need to be able to cope with that fact.  If you claim an average range of 265 miles on a charge but base it on ideal weather and traffic conditions at  50MPH speeds you're not reflecting the "real" world. 

After reading Musk's blog entry I can't help but draw similarities between him and Jimmy Fallon's patronizing Saturday Night Live character of Nick Burns, the computer guy.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Still "Not Advertiser Friendly" (update)

Denied yet again in another round of the YouTube monetization follies I gave the response below when challenged on my "commercial use rights" for the video above.  I won't get my 27 cents but at least my response makes me feel better.

"I am me, this is all you see on your little internet TV.  That said the only way you can disagree is if you find my content, "not advertiser friendly"

Mobile Fit Guide
146032_Generic 428 x 49

For an example of "Advertiser Friendly" Check the video out below.

Hmm, now this is interesting.  I just did that video as a test and you know what? It was monetized immediately!  That pretty much proves what it takes to get monetized on YouTube.  Either brown nose or have crap content.  Nice...

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mail Run?

Mailed a letter lately?

Yeah, me either except when I need to stuff a bunch of mail into an envelope and send it off to relatives that haven't lived at my address for 3 years.  I have to do that because the last time I tried to get a forwarding order for them all the mail, including mine, went to their new address.

It took almost two years to straighten out that mess. 

Which really makes me wonder what I've been paying for over the past decade of regular postage rate increases.  Since 1991 the cost of a first class stamp has risen 17 cents.  Meanwhile, the post office has been reducing hours, cutting staff and playing outsourcer for UPS and FEDEX. 

Ok, so we've all heard the jokes about poor service, rude employees and mishandled mail.  Almost immediately after the advent of electronic messaging the postal service earned the moniker of "snail mail."

So now comes news less than a month after the latest rate hike that you won't be getting any mail on Saturdays  Packages will still be delivered but that's about it.  The move is supposed to save some 2 billion dollars but even Postmaster General Donahoe knows it's not enough. 

Donahoe's been "officially" claiming Internet messaging and carrier competition is driving down revenue and putting him in the red. 

In reality, the reason for the nation's mailman being in such dire straits has nothing to do with business operations.  It has to do with an accumulation of  20 Billion in debt since 2006 thanks to a document called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

Regardless of the spin, no amount of cost cutting or employee attrition can offset it.
You've heard of taxation without representation, right? 

Well, if the postal service were a real person it would be the poster child for it.  You know, just like corporations are people to certain political parties. 

Technically, the postal service is not a government agency but a public entity created by the constitution.  Only congress has authority over it.  Unfortunately, that also makes it a vulnerable to politics.  The same kind of politics that have been seeking to privatize more and more public entities like Medicare, Social Security and now the U.S. Postal service. 

You see, the problem with the Postal Service has nothing to do with the Internet or competition from other carriers.  It has to do with a burden placed on it by congress that mandates that it fully fund pensions for 75 years.    No other federal entity under the authority of congress is required to do this.  In fact it actually funds pensions for employees that will likely never be hired.  Do the math and you'll soon find that an unfair burden has turned a successful business model into a organization starved for resources and failing.   

While First class mail has been on the decline, parcel shipments have been on the rise according to Donahoe's own charts.  Without the extra burden of an overfunded pension plan there'd be no deficit and no corresponding need to cut anything.  And there's the rub.

Donahoe either has no clue about what's wrong with the postal service (unlikely) or he's trying to bluff congress into fixing the real problem.  If he is, he runs the risk of turning public opinion against him with fewer service days and higher prices.  With a 113th congress much more receptive to the electorate than its predecessor that could spell final doom for the U.S. mail. 

You've placed your bet Mr. Postmaster, let's hope you're holding a royal flush.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday's Super large Sportsball Ubergame (updated for 2014)

A non-sports fan's guide to Sunday's Super large Sportsball Ubergame

I'm not much of a sports fan.  In fact for many professional sports I only have a passing interest in seeing their respective seasons end.  That stems primarily from a desire to see the end of the propaganda that accompanies said professional sports when their season is over.

I don't hate sports, I just don't buy into the glorification of them.  Hey, these guys get to play a game for a living.  Yes it requires training, skill and intelligence to participate but in the end it's just a game.  We should all be so lucky, but we aren't.

And so it was with Sunday's major sporting event which shall remain unnamed because last year they sued a bunch of people just for saying its name without permission from the council of elderly rich people who own it.  

It had a lot to do with large men repeatedly assaulting each other usually in pursuit of another large man in possession of an oblong shaped object.  Possession of said object is paramount in this sporting contest by the way.

As I understand it, the game is divided into 4, 15 minute quarters that for some reason take 3 hours to complete.  There is also a lavish performance event in the middle of it where they stop the game and a popular entertainer sings songs with accompanying fanfare.  After which they resume the running and assaulting of each other. 

(The 2014 version featured a matchup between a group of large individuals representing angry equines versus another group representing seafaring birds of prey.)

The 2013 version of the Super large Sportsball Ubergame took place on February 2nd and involved 2 teams.  One team represented a group of black scavenging birds and the other a group of 19th century freelance laborers with pick axes.

During low spots during the game a small group of middle aged men wearing headsets would have heated discussions about what just happened.  It's not uncommon for discussions of 30 seconds of the game's proceedings to be discussed for 15 minutes, for example.   

Some of these men could also be heard during play of the game when something of interest to them occurs.  These men are known as Sportscasters.  They're much like the players in that they get paid to talk about professional recreational events without having to take part.  Some of their membership includes former game players who have "retired" from participating in these professional recreational activities. 

For most of the game it appeared that the team representing birds were very agitated while the team representing the laborers were largely disinterested.  Except during the early part of the game after the popular entertainer was done singing or the "second half" as they call it. Perhaps they were motivated by the performance of popular entertainer.

During an opportunity for the laborer team to best the bird team's score, one of the playfield judges dressed in a prison shirt appeared to have a lapse in their judgment.  It seems that the decision of the judge in the prison garb disheartened the laborer's team.  The effect of which was for the laborer team to stop trying to best the bird team's score. Apparently the effect of the popular entertainer's performance had worn off.

(For the 2014 game it appeared the team representing the angry equines shared the same motivational psychology as 2013's team representing laborers. Throughout the event the equine team's leader was shown many times with a concerned, unfulfilled demeanor.  In the end the seafaring birds of prey triumphed over the angry equines by apparently just showing up.  Proving once and for all after 2 examples that you never want to go up against a sportsball team representing angry birds. )

 (During the weeks leading up to 2014 edition of this annual sports event many late night comedic hosting personalities made note of how both teams apparently heralded from areas of the country where the consumption of exotic flora was deemed acceptable.  With some proclaiming the sporting event the "Bowl Bowl")

Now admittedly, I could care less and was actually flipping between coverage of this sporting event and reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Still, I saw enough to know that my time was better spent on the reruns.  Although even with my limited knowledge I surmised 30 minutes before the game ended that the birds were going to leave the laborer's with excrement on their pick axes. 

Luckily, the Star Trek reruns were presented marathon fashion by BBC America proving to be a far better use of the majority of my time.  I was also able to gain the most minimal of knowledge so as not to bring harm to myself should devotees of this sport find irritation with my lack of interest. 

In short, I can fake it.  If you know the score and a few highlighted moments you can keep this sport's  devotees postulating on individual player performance for days without fear of having to interject anything except for the occasional head nod.

Mission accomplished.