Monday, March 15, 2010

I haven't pre-ordered an iPad (and I'm not going to)

The iPad comes out in just under three weeks. Pre-orders began this past Friday morning. The wifi version will be delivered on Saturday the 3rd of April if you pre-order, and the version with 3g can also be pre-ordered though you will not get it until late April (date TBD). I have a large number of clients participating in the pre-order. Quite a few of my fellow Apple nerds are doing it as well. But not me.

I did wait in line twice for the iPhone - once for the original, once for the 3G. When the 3GS came out I had it shipped to my house instead since that was an option. I'm not planning to order this years' iPhone either, though.

Why did I wait for an iPhone in 2007? Well, back then I had a Treo 700p. It sucked. Hard. I got tired of it right around the same time the iPhone was nearing launch. Had the timing been different, I would likely have sucked it up longer. I waited for the 3G because heck - it had been kinda fun the first time (of course the massive activation Fail Apple and AT&T teamed up on with the 3G subsidy took the fun right out of it). By the time the 3GS came out the only reason I got one then was because I was looking to get an upgrade for my wife, who had a 4GB original iPhone and needed more space. So I took the 3GS and gave her my 3G.

There's nothing falling apart in my technological life that compels me to go get an iPad sight-unseen. It looks like a really neat device. It takes the iPhone metaphor up properly without giving too much away. The prices are pretty reasonable as these things go, though the 3G version is being sold at a hefty premium.

But there's nothing I do in life that screams "I have to have an iPad!"

Whenever I leave the house, I have my iPhone (which I now refer to as my "iPad nano") in my pocket. That gets me email, some music, quick webpage referrals, Yelp, Wikipedia, and some news sites along with a few games. Pretty much my essentials. There's a charger in my car, a pocket for the Bluetooth headset in my jacket, and I usually have my Mophie JuicePack Air handy to give me a full day's talk time if I need it.

For my work, I almost always have a MacBook in my bag. It's a 13" that will be replaced with an Arrandale if they ever ship 'em (let's hope this Tuesday brings laptop joy). If I'm working I have it with me.

When I go on a trip longer than overnight I also have the laptop with me. Staying in a hotel, going on vacation, or visiting family and friends I bring the laptop along. That's pretty much a necessity on anything but weekend daytrips.

And back in November I got a Kindle (the little one). It holds all my tech reference material plus an occasional book for vacation trips (and I've bought a couple of bestsellers rather than getting them as dead tree versions). I don't take it everywhere but I do have it in my bag a lot.

In other words, the iPad doesn't really fit any of my typical use patterns. If/when I get one, here's what it'll do for me:

- Keep me from bringing my laptop downstairs to sit on the sofa

- Give me something to take on overnight weekend trips

- Provide another, less battery-efficient way to read my e-books and reference material

Will I still get one? Of course I will at some point. And I'll find ways to use it that aren't covered by this list, either. But I figure that isn't a sufficiently compelling reason to buy one the first week.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A couple more reasons why I'm not a Republican

These are all mine:

In 2000, George W. Bush was awarded the Presidency by a bitterly divided Supreme Court after a razor-thin winning margin was established in Florida by a count rigged as best as possible by a virtually all-Republican state political hierarchy. Post-election analysis established clearly that had the count been allowed to proceed, by virtually all measures Gore would have won the state.

This was considered by Republicans to be a mandate in their favor.

In 2004, another virtual dead heat was decided by a late-night count in Ohio that, while not established to be fraudulent like Florida in 2000 was, had a lot of irregularities. This was also considered to be a mandate by Republicans.

In 2008, the Democratic candidate won in an electoral landslide and a popular vote margin of 7% (or 8.5 million votes). Republicans consider it a mandate in their favor. And a plurality of these same Republicans believe that the current President is constitutionally unqualified for the office. And that the election was likely stolen by a single community service organization.

In many ways I could call myself conservative (with a small "c"). Most of the time I would rather government keep the purse shut. I would prefer if pregnant women elected to have their babies (though I believe they have a right to decide not to). I believe in marriage over long-term cohabitation (though I see no reasons why same-sex couples can't marry as well). I think taxes should be moderate, and government should mainly keep out of my way and let me try and be productive to society. I'm not interested in doing drugs (but I think most of them should be legal, regulated, and taxed).

But I also believe that there is a place for government to provide benefits. A place for regulation. That the private sector sometimes fails - and in the health care arena it already has failed. I believe government can do that better. I don't like political parties that legislate morality and try to use religion as an excuse to deny reality. I'm annoyed when government tells me how to run my business. But I'm deeply offended when they presume to tell me how to run my life.

So until that changes someday, there's no way I could possibly be a Republican.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why I'm not a Republican

This fine list was compiled by Slashdot user "Boronx".  I copied/pasted it with a couple of typo corrections.  Democrats believe occasionally weird things, but this goes way over the top of anything mainstream Democrats think:

Republicans believe:
That there were WMD, but Saddam moved them to Syria.
That there weren't WMD, but we had good evidence he did.
That even if we didn't have evidence, Saddam said he had them, and wouldn't let in inspectors.
That we've put on more debt in 1 year under Obama than 8 years with bush.
That the best thing to do in a recession is to balance the budget.
That social security is in crisis.
That Barney Frank forcing banks to loan to black people is what caused the crash of 2008.
That tax increases on the ultra rich are class warfare, but tax increases on everyone else are fair.
That gay marriage threatens marriage.
That the US has the best health care in the world.
That the most conservative, free-market based healthcare overhaul you could imagine coming from a Democrat is a dangerous socialist experiment.
That contrary to the Democratic plan, the best way to fix health care is a combination of tort reform and letting insurance comapanies pick their favorite state to regulate them.
That invading Iraq wasn't a war crime.
That torturing people isn't a war crime.
That we only tortured terrorists.
That waterboarding isn't torture.
That holding people without trial forever is ok.
That an illegal, dictatorial system of counter terrorism is better than a legal one.
That Bill Clinton was one of the most corrupt presidents.
That Sarah Palin might make a good president.
That Rush Limbaugh isn't a toxic zit on the ass of humanity.
You probably don't believe *all* of these things, but any one of them is obviously false or flatly ludicrous, and if you don't believe any of them, why would you be a Republican?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Followup on yesterday's race

Looks like NASCAR's in a box now. They said that drivers would police themselves. Well, Carl Edwards just did. Granted, the end result was a flying crash, but what if Brad's car had stayed on 4 wheels and just spun out? Then we're talking about payback and nobody's calling for Carl's head. That's the problem. If they can hit and wreck each other, you can't really talk about the way the wreck happens. For what it's worth, Carl hit him in the straightaway (not in a turn) and put him into the SAFER barrier. Bad Things happened to the #12 afterwards, but that's the randomness of physics. If I'm going to punish him for anything, it's for going the wrong way down pit lane.

My verdict? A fine for that (stupid move) and "double-secret probation" for the rest of the year for dumping Kesolowski. Not so much because I'm a huge Edwards fan but because that's the boundary that NASCAR set. And at the driver's meeting in Bristol 2 weeks from now? "Gentlemen, now you know where the line is. We don't want anybody else over it, or they're going to be staying at home for a while." That ought to tamp things down.

(Update 3/13/10: A draft of this was published on Yahoo Sports - link is here)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Global Warming with no BS

I'm not a Certified Science Nerd.  On the other hand, I've read a lot of data, and I have a good solid understanding of basic physics.  I work in a technical profession, and I can do math.  So that's the extent of my qualifications.  So without further ado, I will now do my darndest to clarify Global Warming for the layperson.

First of all: despite some data that is incomplete, or has had fudge factors added, two things are clear.  One is that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been generally and gradually increasing over the last century or so (we can't be absolutely sure of measurements before then, but we can use cues in the environment like drilled ice cores and tree growth rings) and probably for somewhat longer than that.  Average global temperatures are rising at a level that approximately corresponds to the rise in carbon dioxide.

Besides that, we have other empirical evidence that the climate is getting warmer overall.  Glaciers are retreating.  Mountain ice and snowpack levels are declining.  The polar ice cap in the Arctic is clearing during large portions of the year.  This was not the case in decades past.  Other micro-events have affected climate in the short term - for instance, major volcanic eruptions like Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines have caused short-term cooling for a season or more.  But the overall trend is towards warmer temperatures.

Now as I write this, I'm seeing snow flurries outside my window.  We've had historic snow storms affect the mid-Atlantic states this year.  A few weeks ago, we had snow on the ground in 49 out of 50 states.  In other words, that means that global warming is false, right?  Wrong.

The mistake the deniers make is this: Weather and Climate are two entirely different things.  Most people don't seem smart enough to understand it.  I occasionally forget it, too.  An average increase of 1 degree Celsius isn't a lot.  But that increase means more of the Sun's energy is stuck in our atmosphere.  And that energy in turn means more water vapor (which also contributes to warming) and as a result rainstorms can be heavier, snow can be heavier, and tropical storms can grow more powerful.  They won't always do that, but there's increased potential.

The other risk with global warming is that a lot of the systems on Earth that produce the climate we know are delicate.  For instance, the current flow in our oceans depends on differences in temperature and salinity to move warm water around the globe.  Europe's generally warm climate (though they are at northern latitudes) are due to the warm water pushed to them via the Gulf Stream.  Should enough fresh water disrupt the Gulf Stream as a result of glacial and icecap melt, it is likely that the flow will be disrupted and Europe will have a relatively sudden shift to significantly colder temperatures.  This affects weather patterns on a global scale.  And it's happened before.

There are other similar risks.  A sea level rise triggered by icecap melt can easily inundate coastal cities, costing billions of dollars.  More intense storms cause heavy damage when they hit land.  Islands can pretty much vanish.  All bad things, and all have varying degrees of likelihood.

Now we're a pretty long way into this process.  The level of CO2 has been increasing more and more sharply in recent decades.  And even if we stopped completely, as a result of processes in place already we'd still have a rise before leveling off.  On the other hand, we don't know how much warming is strictly a result of our atmospheric tinkering, and how much is a result of natural processes outside our control like solar cycles.  We know we have an impact, but not exactly how much impact we have.

Is there a solution?  Not really.  I think we need to try and generate less CO2.  Use less power.  Pollute less.  Try and reduce our impact as a species.  On the other hand humans need a functioning global economy.  We can't shut it down to save the planet - there are costs that are internal and external.  I believe we can and must mitigate the damage as much as we can over time despite the fact that reducing pollution costs money, simply because the externalities are so potentially expensive if we don't.

Right-wing jackasses want to laugh at Al Gore every time it snows in DC.  Mainly because they aren't smart enough to see outside DC in the first place.  Left-wing dolts want us back in an agrarian society singing kumbaya.  Not happening, either.  What we need is to make things better, do reasonable things, and work on giving our kids a better planet.

Steps you can take that are simple:

- Reduce your home energy use.

- Replace your incandescent light bulbs with CF or LED bulbs.

- If your heating/cooling system is old, replace it with a more modern system that's more efficient.

- Reduce your driving if you can.

- Turn devices off if you don't need them.  Use timers as well.

- Buy local food products whenever you can.

- Turn lights off when you're not using them.  Turn off the TV when you go to eat dinner.

- Get rid of the extra fridge in the basement (if you have a house you probably have one)

- Insulate your house.  Use better windows.  Seal leaks.

- Be considerate of your fellow humans.