Monthly Archives: January 2012

Cyborg Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking missed his 70th birthday party this past weekend. He was not feeling well. There has been quite a bit floating around the Internet about how he as survived decades after getting an estimated months to live. Even Intel talked up how they are working on a way to help him speak faster.

Speaking late Sunday on the sidelines of a conference celebrating Hawking’s 70th birthday in the English city of Cambridge, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said his company had a team in England to explore ways to help the celebrity scientist communicate more quickly.

There is a job available assisting him with the computer.

Given research into thought powered devices, I would really like to see a cyborg Stephen Hawking controlling things digitally. There are some cool bio feedback techniques to control cursors and pick out items from a screen. From what I understand, picking out the word he wants with where he looks from choices is getting slower from missing. Bypassing the eyes which used to be fast and going straight to the brain through electrodes could be very cool.

The problem is… Electrodes are invasive, often heal very slowly, and get infections. Too bad helmets which read our brain waves a la Macross proved much less effective. (Accuracy is paramount and anything sitting on a head is likely to miss.)

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4

Read Later Shotgun

Back in my Netscape 3 days, my bookmark.html was incompletely saved losing about 2/3rds of the file. Researching how to fix it revealed to me the file was just an HTML file. My new editing skills could not recover it, but I could make a new copy and fix individual entry losses. Making a copy onto a floppy disk meant I could take my bookmarks with me. I noticed that saving them longer enabled me to preserve a bunch of sites I did not go back to see.

Somehow I decided to maintain my own home page that lived on the floppy disk. Pages I wanted to read later, I would add to the bottom of the home page. A few years later, I created a password protected secret page in my work personal web site to replace the floppy. The strategy was the same of keeping an HTML file. Stuff I did read, I removed from the file. Ugly, but it worked.

Then I started blogging. Reminders to myself to read something came by posting them to my blog. As I was constantly in my blog, I did go back and read things. Not removing read links meant confusion and sometimes multiple reads. Eventually I stopped reading links saved for later.

Bookmarking and clipping web sites arrived, especially their exploiting code placed in the toolbar to record bookmarks. I tried several: Evernote, Delicious, Magnolia, Diigo, Instapaper. However, I found I rarely went back to look at what I saved. Saving entries was easy. To see what I saved required going to the site, which I rarely did. Often by the time I did go back to read bookmarked items, they had slid behind the paywall or expired, so pure bookmarking sites were awful. Clipping had its own failure in that multiple paged articles made saving content a pain and reduced the likelihood I would save it to read later.

Most of my online reading came from blogs, so I tried to use my RSS reading to handle it. First with bloglines and later with Google Reader, I thought starring entries would perfectly handle what to read later. Keeping entries marked as unread certainly did not as it has the annoyance of automatically marking as read anything older than 30 days. The feature to tag posts with something like “read later” helped. It works but only for posts in GReader.

Chrome added an Apps feature. Surely Read Later Fast would be the solution. It is in my web browser, so like the home page it is around all the time. Like the saving web sites it preserved the whole page. With a single click I could dismiss it as read. I just… forgot it was there. (I just re-installed the app and connected it to to find over a dozen items from over a year ago.)

Guess what I really need is something like Read Later Fast to have an icon in the address bar to remind stupid me there is stuff for me to read. (I use One Number to remind me I have Gmail and GReader posts to read.)

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4

To Blog or to Share?

This blog has suffered from my sharing on social media. Where I used to post every day, even just one liners to go check out a web site or a story, that activity is now all on Facebook, Twitter, Google+. HackEducation does a weekly post of news. I am thinking about doing something similar for the things I would normally just share.

First, other sites tend to die. screwed me by my not understanding their technology. By using it to cross-post, every link and every image used their shortened URLs. When they lost the database, every link and image was broken. I think works better, so I have it making a backup of this blog at and (Well, except the tags do not go over.)

Second, I can control the format and quotes better on this blog than social media. Sometimes I wish I had quoted more of an article when it disappears behind the paywall, is moved, or removed.

Finally, it would be good for me to spend more time thinking about things before I post. About a tenth the things I intend to post on this blog, I give up on posting and instead share on social media. I feel like there is more thought and intention that goes into a blog post.

P.S. Originally this post started before Christmas. I had it scheduled for today. Setting the goal for the year ought to help.

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4

Some Stats

According to Google Analytics, between Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2011 this blog saw:

  • 146,718 Unique Visitors
  • 208,520 Pageview
  • Sources:
    • 138,144 Google
    • 20,055 No referrer (application like desktop email? Twitter?)
    • 8,445 Bing
    • … 843 Facebook
    • … 68 Twitter

These could be somewhat under reported depending on the rates by which visitors prevent the Google cookies.

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4

Fee or Discount

In this day and age, I find it surprising enormous corporations have not figured the difference in the perception of a fee vs a discount. Adding a fee causes consumer uproar. They feel the faceless no good bully is trying to make money unfairly. Even people who probably will avoid ever paying the fee on grounds feel it takes away an option. In the aftermath of the consumers taking to social media and winning against the big banks, this is not the right time for a corporation.

The way to change consumer behavior is to provide a discount for the option you want them to pick. A $1/month discount ($12/year) for customers who routinely pay through non-automatic payments options for them switching probably is enough to get most to change.  They feel like they gained something by doing so. Fair probably would be to give the same discount to those already using automatic payments, but I could see only offering the discount as encouraging the problem customers.

In the Verizon fee case, they wanted customers to setup automatic payments so they will not miss payments as often. It is good for both sides. Consumers are more likely to avoid late fees or service interruptions. Corporations will get a steadier flow of money from the consumers. A $2 fee to continue making one time payments was exactly the wrong way to encourage the correct behavior.

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4

Resolutions 2012

The reading list went pretty well last year. The only problem is it made me buy a bunch of books. Inventorying my books (thanks to the Goodreads app) made me aware I own a ton of books I ought to read. So this years goals are books I already have.

    1. Reading goals:
      1. Complete unfinished novel series. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is mostly a loaner from a coworker. The Wicked Years series is all a loaner from another coworker. I have not read A Song of Ice and Fire in almost a decade, so I’ll go back and read the first four before I read book 5.
      2. American History and Decision Making. We have a primaries and major elections this year. Figure these would be good for keeping in mind to make a good choice.
      3. Science. I like tech.
    2. Publish an average of four blog posts a week. In 2011, I published 156 posts. Four a week would be 208. That will be more than 1 every other day. Private posts will not count.

Yeah, I still avoid things I think are too hard like losing weight, fixing my finances, dating, or anything really meaningful.

Old resolutions: 2011, 2010, 2009.

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4