Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Don't ask me who I'm voting for.

The 2016 presidential election is a mess.  Clinton or Trump.  Are these the two best people we could muster from over 300 million Americans to run for president?  I won't get into who is worse; they're both bad.

So don't ask me who I'm voting for.  Everyone is barely FOR their candidate and wildly AGAINST the other.  I've heard and wrestled with all the negatives of each candidate.  I can barely come to a conclusion of who I"ll vote for.  I don't want to debate it with you and moreso I don't want to defend a candidate that I can barely stand.  There's plenty to be disgusted about for either candidate.  I also won't hide behind "I'm not voting for President" unless it spirals into such disarray that I don't care anymore.

I wish I could ask one or both of the candidates what they think about the great numbers of voters who can't decide.  "Madame Secretary or Mr. Trump, I'm very disappointed in my choices for president this election and I'm far from alone.  In fact I'm having a very hard time choosing the candidate I dislike the least. How would you address this substantial number of voters who are wrestling with voting for the lesser of 2 evils or not voting at all?"

The thought of actually filling in a box next to one of their names makes me feel like I've made a deal with the devil.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sometimes I don't know anything

I think I know quite a bit, having traveled, interacted and experienced much in my 56 years, more than some, certainly less than many.  Watching Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown, Japan, made me question just what do I really know.

During the show, the inescapable topic of sushi came up.  A renowned chef, Yasuda-san, owned a sushi restaurant in NYC for 27 years before returning the "mecca" of sushi in Tokyo.  On the topic of the best tasting sushi, many people say, the freshest fish, straight out of the ocean.  Yasuda-san says no.  He doesn't shop for fish early in the morning for the freshest catch, but later.  Some of his fish is aged and then frozen, yes frozen.  

Then Bourdain asked Yasuda-san what is the most important part of sushi, the fish or the rice, or at least what percentage is most important.  Yasuda-san said it is 90% rice.  RICE.  I know the rice is important but 90%?!  The fish is that unimportant?

Sometimes, I don't know anything.

Your online accounts when you go off-line permanently

Here’s a unpleasant thought while you enjoy the rebirth of Spring today. What happens to your online accounts, particularly social media, when you die? You might say, who cares? Yes, but do you really want your colleagues getting LinkedIn notices that you are celebrating 14 years at your company 3 years after you’ve been dead? Should your friends and family be getting reminders of your birthday every year from Facebook after you’ve stopped having them? Let’s go through how to avoid these uncomfortable situations.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org, used with permission

The silver bullet, so to speak, is to have all your online account credentials (usernames and passwords) written down somewhere so your family can access your accounts and delete them or at least de-activate them. And in the event you yourself have to deal with the online presence of a deceased relative, here are ways to log them off permanently. Special note: there may be very special photos or videos in these accounts that you want to preserve. If so, log into the account and save these to your computer before permanently deleting the account.

Facebook. You can de-activate a FB account, which is like deleting but nothing is lost and you can re-activate simply by logging in. If someone has died, then you can permanently delete it. Once you’ve logged into the account, go to https://www.facebook.com/help/delete_accountand you can permanently delete the account. If you can’t access the account, go tohttps://www.facebook.com/help/contact/228813257197480 to make a special request to remove a deceased person’s account.

LinkedIn. Once you’ve logged in, you can delete the account by starting here, http://bit.ly/1TyLdJk. When it’s someone you know that has passed but you can’t get into their account, start here, http://bit.ly/1TyLUCo.

Twitter. First log in, then go to https://twitter.com/settings/account and click Deactivate my account at the bottom of the page. Deactivation starts a 30-day clock after which your account is permanently deleted, unlike FB which is sort of a suspend mode indefinitely. When it’s someone you know has passed but you can’t get into their account, go tohttps://support.twitter.com/forms/privacy.

Instagram. One stop shopping here. http://bit.ly/1TyNNPs You can disable an account, which is similar to FB deactivation, shutdown without deleting. If you know the log-in, you can delete the account. Instagram says on this page that they do not allow for deleting someone else’s account, however there is a way if you’re willing to provide verification of death. Start athttps://help.instagram.com/264154560391256/

Snapchat. With credentials, you can delete an account by going tohttps://support.snapchat.com/delete-account. There are no stated ways to close someone else’s account.

iTunes. Here is an interesting side story. Music in your iTunes account does not pass to your estate according to Apple. For some people there can be thousands of dollars in DRM protected music, movies and videos at stake. When you delete an iTunes account, those digital assets simply go away.

And then there is an endless list of accounts that require attention because they may have monies on account, or due or important documents stored there: PayPal, Amazon, Dropbox, Match, Netflix, Shutterfly, etc. I found a comprehensive site, Everplans, that addresses these accounts and many more, though most information requires you to be able to log in to the account. Save their URL (https://www.everplans.com/articles/how-to-close-online-accounts-and-services-when-someone-dies#S) because you will need all the help you can get when trying to unravel an online life.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Monty Hall Problem.

The Monty Hall Problem is a brain teaser based on a probability puzzle and the famous TV game show, Let’s Make a Deal.  You can read about the puzzle and the expert opinions on many internet sites.  The short of it, courtesy of Wikipedia, goes as follows:

Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

Experts in probability will tell you that it is always advantageous to switch for this simple fact.  When you picked Door 1, you had a 1 in 3 chance of picking the car.  The other two doors represented a 2 in 3 chance of picking the car.  Once the goat is revealed, the odds are better that the car is behind one of the two doors the contestant didn’t pick and therefore it would be better to switch. 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org.  Used with Permission.

I've struggled with this problem for quite a while.  Is it really worthy switching or are the odds truly 50/50, 2 doors, 2 possible outcomes?  At first, I was in the camp that it was a 50/50 proposition.  Then I conducted an experiment that convinced me why switching is always a better probability.

Let's expand the game to 10 doors to make the point more dramatic.  I simulated the game with 10 playing cards.  The king of hearts representing the car and 9 clubs representing the goats.  Regardless of what happened later, I had only a 1 in 10 chance of picking the car.  Monty is never going to reveal the car if it is among the other 9 doors.  He will knowingly only reveal goats.  The remaining door has either a goat or a car.  And while it may appear that that two doors represent a 50/50 chance, my initial choice was a low probability, 1 in 10.  Regardless of what Monty does with the remaining 9 doors, if I stick with the door I first chose, the odds of a car being behind it are low.  My better choice is to switch.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My First Barber Shave

Since I was a kid, I've always had a vision of men in barber chairs, face full of lather, getting an old fashioned shave with a straight edge razor.  I've been told that it is the best shave you'll ever have.  While I don't quite have a bucket list, this is certainly something I've wanted to try.

Yesterday I had some free time and about 3 days of growth so I went to a recommended barber shop to get my first shave.  First thing the barber did was use trimmers to work down the length of my stubble.  He said cutting longer hairs increased the chances of getting cut.  I didn't quite get the logic but I'm not a pro.

Next there was a series of facial oils that were applied and massaged into the skin to soften the beard and the skin.  These oils contained jojoba, aloe, shea butter and other organic ingredients.  Then the hot towels, two sequentially of increasing heat to open the pores and further soften the shaving terrain.

Now comes the business end of the job, the straight edge shave.  First of all, a new blade is used for every shave.  Blades are relatively cheap and there is no need to risk skin or blood disease by sharing.  The shave is generally pleasant experience of a facial scraping of hair, the sounds, the feel, the attention to detail.

My results:

  • I got cut twice, minor cuts, perhaps a hazard of the process.  This barber has been shaving for 12 years so this was not a matter of inexperience.  And to be fair, I have comparatively soft and sensitive skin which is easily cut.
  • The shave was smooth but there were areas of mild stubble left, like along my bottom lip.  When I shave after 3 days growth, it is always a super smooth result compared to shaving daily.  For some reason the longer hair leaves me with a very soft smooth shave.  That was not the case here.
  • The barber didn't use shaving cream, which can have a drying effect if left on the skin for a while.  He opted instead for the natural oils described above.  I was fine with that.  Oil aids in all types of cutting so this made sense, but after the shave he didn't do a good job of cleaning up the oil on my face.  I walked out feeling greasy.  In fact I grabbed some napkins in the car and degreased my face.

Will I get another barber shave?  Maybe but I'm in no hurry.  My expectations were lowered and I was overall disappointed.  The 5-blade Gillette Fusion and Foamy shave I get at home is frankly much better.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Comcast's Voice Guidance feature

Comcast recently launched their (beta) Voice Guidance feature for the X1 cable platform. Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President of Accessibility at Comcast demonstrated it today during his keynote speech at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind’s 85th anniversary celebration and “See the Light” luncheon in Coral Gables, FL. I spoke to Tom about Voice Guidance and the other convergent Xfinity technologies for the blind, visually impaired, and literacy and learning impaired.

People often ask Wlodkowski, “Do blind people watch much TV?” He answers, “Yes! They do watch TV and they want to watch more of it.” If TV is such a visually rich medium, why would blind people be so drawn to something they seemingly can’t enjoy fully? One answer is inclusion. TV content is big part of today’s pop culture, people talk about last night’s episode of Blindspot or The Blacklist the next day at work. TV content is also a significant source of our daily information as well as entertainment.

Most of us are only aware of Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired, but Accessibility now goes much further in the X1 Accessibility features.

  • Voice Guidance navigates the viewer through the channel guide, menus, and info screen. Watch the video in the inset to see how easy Voice Guidance is to set up and use.
  • Video Description adds audio comments between dialog of movies and shows to describe the action or surroundings in a scene that might only be discernible for a sighted viewer. This is not much content equipped with Video Description today but that is growing. In the future you will also be able to filter content that features Video Description.
  • The newest X1 remote control has voice command capability such as “Watch CNN” or “Find Big Bang Theory”. Combined with Video Navigation, the viewer is then instructed to click the left or right button to get to the various viewing options such as “Watch”, “Record”, “Info”, etc., then click OK.

This is certainly just the beginning. Voice control and guidance will continue to expand. According to Wlodkowski, the future will bring partnering with other services, as well as adding voice control to home control and home automation. He wouldn't tip his hand to all of Comcast’s plans, but I believe the technology is solid and possibilities are limited only by our imagination.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ready for (and looking forward to) Surgery

My knee has been bothering me.  Sharp pains when I twist the joint and dull aches when I walk, causing me to limp.  Probably did it playing tennis which exerts lots of stop and twist forces on the knee.

I know my body. Sprains or simple overuse would have started to get better by now.  After several weeks of this, I went to an orthopedic surgeon.  Afterall, the knee is a very complex joint, lots of muscles, bones, ligaments, nerves.  I needed an expert to tell me, ice it or not, use it or not, X-Ray/MRI it to see what the problem is.

Diagnosis:  torn medial meniscus (see image to the right).  Surgery in 3 weeks.  My reaction: great! let's do this.  Why am I happy about this?  My wife has warned me there will be pain.  I know, and surgery always has some risk.  But here is why I'm happy about this:

  • I have one of the best surgeons in the country, an extremely talented and skilled doctor.
  • I have health insurance that will cover most of the cost.
  • It is simple and straightforward surgery (for a orthopedic surgeon, not a DIY project). 
  • Recovery including PT is 2-4 weeks
  • The pain will be gone.
  • He found no arthritis in the x-rays.  Not that I'll never have arthritis, but not having any yet should put it off until later years.
So things could be a whole lot worse.  I'm in good health and my problem is very fixable.  Significant changes to any one of the bullets above could have made this very bad news.  

Shit happens, no one has a perfect life.  I got lucky and hit a speed bump on this one.  So let's get on with it and be grateful for what it is.  I'll post some comments post surgery, maybe a picture if any are interesting.

UPDATE Nov 18, 2015:  Well the MRI revealed that I don't have a torn meniscus but rather a stress fracture on the femur at the knee.  Strongly recommended that I stay off it for 6 weeks or risk a bone collapse and knee replacement.  The doctor has my full attention.  Couch time and crutches for me until December 30.  In some ways I'd rather have the surgery because it would be quicker, but avoiding surgery is ultimately better.  He says the bone will heal stronger than it was originally.  Back to Netflix.