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Get Off the Phone!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard


If you have a phone that’s equipped with a camera, you’ve likely noticed how easy it is to lapse into observing life vicariously, through the lenses of our cameras, instead of truly savoring the moment. Afterward, we regret that we were passive observers and we didn’t fully immerse ourselves in the experience. Be honest, who hasn’t let their food get cold while they scrolled through Instagram filters or “staged” the corned beef sandwich in an attempt to share the goodness with friends and family on Facebook? Even if  you have decided to eschew participating in this Brave New World of head-nodders milling about, you will find yourself accosted on all sides by serial selfie-snappers at family events, restaurants — even at funerals!

In a new video, Buick teams up with “intertainers” Rhett and Link, asking us to take a step back to evaluate our relationships with our phones through the parody song, Get Off the Phone:

Get off the phone now!
It’s gonna be okay
There’s no need to be afraid.
It doesn’t love you
Its gonna die one day.
The government is probably
Spying on you with it anyway.

Rhett and Link’s song, and the accompanying #IntheMoment campaign, turns the camera lens back on those of us with our heads buried in our smart phones — those of us watching virtual life on four-inch monitors while the real world transpires around us — sometimes without us. In one scene, a young dad is shown missing his son’s first taste of birthday cake as he’s busy Facebooking — about his son’s birthday. This hits a little too close to home for some of us.

There’s something tangentially related to a Buick in the ad/PSA/parody (Rhett and Link drive a Buick Regal in the video), but it’s mostly a secondary, subliminal message. As we continue down this road of smart technology and on to Google glass and whatever the Silicon Valley geniuses think up next, Buick asks us to consider some boundaries going forward. Technology shapes us — the way we work, play, and relate to one another as human beings. It’s important to pause now to consider how our increased dependence on technology wreaks existential changes to our relationships and our daily lives.

Should we dial it back at this point? Is that even possible or have we crossed the technological rubicon from which there is no return?

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Red Star on the Moon

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Rick Moran


China has become the third nation to land a spacecraft on the moon. It was the first soft landing of a probe on the moon in nearly 40 years.

NBC News:

The achievement marked the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

The unmanned Chang’e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth’s nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” the goddess’ pet in the myth. Within hours of its landing on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang’e lander and embark on a three-month scientific exploration.

The achievement marked the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

The unmanned Chang’e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth’s nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” the goddess’ pet in the myth. Within hours of its landing on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang’e lander and embark on a three-month scientific exploration.

China’s military-backed space program has made methodical progress in a relatively short time, although it lags far behind the United States and Russia in technology and experience.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the United States to achieve manned space travel independently. In 2007, it sent its first probe to the moon, named Chang’e 1. A follow-up mission, called Chang’e 2, was launched to study the moon in 2010, and then left lunar orbit to make a close flyby of the asteroid Toutatis in 2012.

China plans to open a space station around 2020 and send an astronaut to the moon after that.

Space entrepreneur Dennis Wingo sees more to the Chinese space program than mere nationalistic pride:

China is spending billions on resource acquisition in Africa, South America and other places around the world,” he told “If you look at the design of their system for this mission, it is very much a mineral prospector as much as a science mission.”

The strong possibility that there is water on the moon in the form of near-crystallized ice located in craters at the lunar poles opens up exciting possibilities for permanent mining operations on earth’s satellite. Water is not only vital for cooling machinery and drinking, it’s oxygen molecules can be separated to make breathable air. The hydrogen can be extracted and when combined with small amounts of other elements, an efficient fuel for rockets, vehicles, and machinery — methane — can be created.

In short, any viable, self-sustaining mining colony can be profitable if water ice existing on the moon can be tapped and the resource exploited. China is going to have a head start on private US companies who also have been eying the moon for its minerals.

NASA is not going back to the moon, which is as it should be. From here on out, the space “race” is for those who seek to gather the riches that can be found out there. Our government has no interest in joining this race, and NASA is better suited to helping facilitate the private space industry’s development of hardware that will assist us in the commercial exploitation of resources on the moon and elsewhere.


Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

image illustration courtesy shutterstock / Bruce Rolff

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Another Blow for the Chevy Volt

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll


“Chevy Volt doesn’t make 2014 list of fuel economy leaders,” the Washington Examiner reports:

The Department of Energy released its 2014 fuel economy guide, complete with a list of fuel economy leaders, and yet again, the Volt didn’t make the list.

In fact, the Volt — a compact car — doesn’t even perform as well by most metrics as some midsize plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the guide.

The Volt gets 37 combined mpg (35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway) using premium gasoline. That’s better than most non plug-in vehicles, for sure. But compare that to the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, which gets 46 combined miles on gasoline — with no mention of it being premium — and 47 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. Or the Toyota Prius, which gets 50 mpg combined (51 mpg city, 49 mpg highway).

With a starting price of $34,185 (before the $7,500 tax credit, $26,685 if you get the full credit), the Volt isn’t exactly cheap. Compare that to the Prius, which outperforms the Volt on most measures and has a starting price of $29,990 before the tax credit.

The Volt has a range of 344 miles with premium gasoline. Compared to the Ford Fusion plug-in (602 miles with regular gasoline), the Accord plug-in (561 miles with regular gasoline) and the Prius (530 miles with regular gasoline), and the Volt falls further behind.

Perhaps the Government Motors vehicle simply isn’t as hot as it seemed when it was first envisioned — on the other hand, it can on occasion, get too hot for the wrong reasons. If so, here’s news you can use from car blog, Jalopnik: “What To Do When Your Electric Car Catches On Fire: An Explainer.”

On the other hand, perhaps this California proposal might light up Chevy Volts — or at least their sales:

One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn’t a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.

The California Air Resources Board is now embarking on a program that would help poor people buy energy-efficient vehicles. In one scenario posed by the agency, a “voucher” might even pay the full price for a Nissan Leaf, an electric car with an MSRP above $21,000, or for used cars with lower price tags.

Perhaps the state could even design a low-cost “people’s car” for the masses…


Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog

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Are Republicans Sabotaging Obamacare with Fraudulent Websites?

Friday, December 6th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard


Here’s the latest chapter in The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

According to Forward Progressives:

There’s a saying that goes, “If you can’t win, cheat like hell” and it’s apparently the motto that the GOP has taken to heart across the country in their latest attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

What does their newest attempt involve? Creating fake websites with misinformation that look like state insurance exchanges in order to confuse consumers trying to find out what their new insurance options are under Obamacare.

Forward Progressives cites three websites recently shut down by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, including, which, according to the Kentucky AG, was “deceptively similar to, Kentucky’s official health insurance exchange website….[S]ome consumers attempting to locate the site through search engines were being deceptively steered to the website instead of, where they were provided false information about their options under the federal Affordable Care Act, including being informed that there were no plans with federal subsidies available to offset a portion of their insurance premiums.”

In a conspiratorial whisper, Forward Progressives blames Republicans. And what passes for proof with this crowd?

“f you were running a sabotage campaign, why not run it in a state with a fully functional health insurance exchange site and (not coincidentally) a GOP Senator who is facing a battle for re-election both from Democrats as well as from within his own party?

So apparently, as this conspiracy theory goes (if I’m following it correctly), because Kentucky is operating one of the only (mostly) functioning state exchanges in the country, Republicans, wishing to protect Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s immense Power to Control Everything have been running around creating bogus websites that would not only give Kentucky residents misinformation about their insurance options under the exchanges, but would also potentially leave their personal data in the hands of hackers. (Which, thank goodness, is totally unlike the actual Democrat-created marketplace website that gives Americans misinformation about their insurance options and leaves their personal data in the hands of hackers.) And Republicans have been doing this “across the country” according to Forward Progressives.

And you thought Bush Derangement Syndrome was bad? Progressives, usually content to wait a few years to start their revisionist history, are now revising on the fly. In their alternative reality, they’ve found a way to blame Republicans for (arguably) the most epic website failure in the history of the internet.

[Note to Sen. McConnell’s campaign: After the site was banned by the Kentucky AG, is once again available on Go Daddy for the low, low price of $69.99 plus commission.]

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So, Who’s Ready for a Sky Full of Amazon Drones?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

60 Minutes previewed the future last night. Amazon is planning to use drone aircraft to enable 30-minute delivery of many products that we order online.

Charlie Rose: This is?

Jeff Bezos:…is…these are octocopters.

Charlie Rose: Yeah?

Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.

Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?

Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.

Charlie Rose: Wow!

Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still…years away. It drops the package.

Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.

Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.

Charlie Rose: Half hour delivery?

Jeff Bezos: Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.

Charlie Rose: And what is the range between the fulfillment center and where you can do this within…

Jeff Bezos: These…this…this…these gener…

Charlie Rose: 30 minutes?

Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.

Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.

Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give ‘em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.

Charlie Rose: What’s the hardest challenge in making this happen?

Jeff Bezos: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood’…

Charlie Rose doesn’t know what a drone is? Sheesh.

This idea seems cool until you think it through for a bit. Amazon’s drones will be eyesores in the air and electromagnets for lawyers when one of them goes haywire and crashes in someone’s yard or in the middle of a street or, heaven forbid, kills a guy. Human nature can be a nasty thing. Lawfare is strangling innovation in America. Watch octocopter-chasing lawyers have a heyday over Amazon’s drones and its fat wallet. Watch the newspaper Amazon owns defend whatever the company does. And watch environmentalists slow this whole thing down in court.

The hardest part technologically probably isn’t building in redundancy. The hardest part is making sure these things don’t become magnets for thieves (other than the aforementioned lawyers). Where you have valuable product moving, you have the potential for heists. These drones could and probably will become targets, especially if they’re in operation at night. So game that out, and Amazon will end up working with the FAA to either create sky lanes through which its drones will have special permission to travel, which would be protected either from the air or the ground against theft, or they’ll have to arm the drones with countermeasures.

When Amazon merges with Google to perfect the drones’ accuracy, it’s all heading toward SkyNet.

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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10 Beautiful Sunrises from Southern California

Sunday, December 1st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle


When I set my New Year’s Resolutions 11 months ago – 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal – #4 was:

Start Developing Some New Hobbies Beyond Internet Trolling. Something New Each Season Sounds Like a Good Goal.

I’m not sure when it began but this year I’ve really started getting into photography much more. I think the effectiveness of the iPhone camera and the ease of use of Instagram are the main culprit. It’s now just so quick to snap the image you want, crop and adjust it, throw on a caption and some categories, and send it out to the world moments after it happened.

One of my favorite things both to photograph and see of others is a great sunrise photo. I’ve gotten in the habit of trying to take them every morning when there’s something that seems worth sharing. It seems like Sunrise is usually the best time of day for me to be able to break for a few moments. Taking the photo and thinking about it tends to double as a time to slow down and meditate and mentally prepare for the day. In an ideal world I’d also take photos everyday at Noon and sunset too.

When I can’t or when the weather doesn’t bless Southern California with something worth remembering then others around the world help out.

There’s something kind of strange and comforting about seeing many images of the sun rise or set from different points around the world at the same time. It’s as though for a moment human beings can stop and though they may have nothing else in common at that moment they at least share that common uniting experience of awe at seeing the sun rise.

So I’m going to try and start sharing more of my best sunrise photos here at PJ Lifestyle. I also invite all the PJ Lifestyle and PJ columnist regulars to share their beautiful images of the sun rising, setting, or standing high at noon too. Just a photo and a sentence or paragraph or inspirational quote or something uplifting to accompany the image. If you haven’t started playing around yet with Instagram you should — it’s very easy and can be a helpful tool for blog posts.

I’m also intrigued to experiment with opening this New Media troublemaking up to PJ Lifestyle’s readers. Please send your photos to

I request that you include:

1. The image itself as a JPEG formatted for web. (Not super large or the raw image from your camera. 700 width across maximum.)

2. The time/date and (approximate) place it was taken.

3. A brief, positive statement or sentiment. (This can be as mundane as “I hope everyone has a great day today!”)

4. Your preferred attribution — and if you have a link to a website or twitter account or something then that’s fine to submit too.

You can also send images to me on Twitter and Instagram. Just tweet them at me or tag me on Instagram and I’ll see them.

Here are my 10 favorites from this month, the first three (one up top and two below) are from this morning:

December 1, 2013:


I was sitting at my computer this morning editing a delightful Rhonda Robinson parenting post for tomorrow morning when I looked up and gasped at the sunrise above.


Just spending a few minutes each morning focusing on beautiful images like this makes all the difference in the world.

November 29:


November 28:


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Here Comes the Maxi iPad?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


Mac Rumors has the report:

Following a September report stating that Apple may be working with Quanta Computer to develop a larger-sized iPad, Digitimes is now reporting that the Taiwanese-based manufacturer has landed the contract to mass-produce the tablet for the second half of 2014. Just last week, a report had claimed that the larger iPad was being targeted for an early 2014 launch.

The article also mentions that Quanta is expected to face difficulties when assembling the larger iPad because of its unique industrial design and assembly, which could also lead to constrained supplies:

Quanta is expected to encounter several challenges in terms of industrial design and assembly when making the large-size iPad. And since the size is not the mainstream specification, order volumes are expected to be limited, the sources said.

Leaving aside Digitimes’ (ahem) uneven reputation, that last bit doesn’t really pass the sniff test. Apple is hardly known to expand a product category just to fill a niche with low-volume sales.

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Xbox One… Step Short

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Stephen Green


I thought Xbox One was the right product marketed correctly. Sony has enjoyed more of a lock on the hardcore gamer audience, even if the PS3 was harder on developers. PS4 looks to have corrected that slight, while keeping the marketing focus (and product specs) on the gamers. Xbox was from the first generation meant to be more of a living room device. To that end the hardware, especially comparing the 360 to the PS3, was made easier for developers to work with. Taking things further with this third generation, the “One” in “Xbox One” is supposed to mean it’s the one device you have to plug into your television. It even offers HDMI In so that the console can act as the go-between with your TV and cable box.

But it all depends on execution, and that’s where things aren’t looking so great at launch time:

After about a week of using these voice commands every chance I could, I found them to be adequate but far from perfect. As evidenced by the above video, the voice commands were accurate about 80 to 90 percent of the time, depending on the command, the clarity of the voice, and the location of the speaker. The one significant exception to this rate was the “Xbox on” voice function, which only registered about 25 to 50 percent of the time when the system was in Instant-On mode. The system didn’t do much worse than normal at picking up commands through crosstalk, occasional stutters, and mumbling, but it occasionally refused to acknowledge slow, deliberate commands.

The 10 to 20 percent of commands that the system either ignored or misinterpreted was right on the line between “annoying but usable” and “frustratingly broken” to me. Having to repeat yourself once every eight or nine times is annoying, sure, but scrolling through a cluttered menu just to find the settings screen is arguably more annoying than saying “Xbox go to settings” even if you have to do it twice.

Reviewer Kyle Orland later says, “It would be nice if the system overall was a bit more forgiving or smarter about how it interprets voice commands as well.” Considering Microsoft has been pushing “natural language” use for years and years, it’s difficult to understand why they can’t make anything nearly as good as Apple’s Siri or Google Now. Another complaint is that it took two hours to transfer one particular game from Blu-Ray disc to the hard drive — and that’s a mandatory process. Apparently you can’t play directly from the removable media with these new-generation consoles. But if you’re going to require players to do that, you must absolutely make it as quick and as painless as possible.

Sony is going to make gamers (and developers) happy with PS4. Microsoft will almost certainly have more than enough high-quality, Xbox-exclusive titles to make the One a success, too. But if they’re going to conquer the whole living room, they’ll have to do better than this.


cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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How to Install a New Faucet in 7 Easy Steps

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 - by Builder Bob
Old Faucet - Lame.

Old Faucet – Lame.

I hate plumbing. I really, really hate it. Given the choice between doing a plumbing project or listening to a Miley Cyrus album, I would choose a root canal (at least a drill can stay on pitch). About the only thing I’m good at with plumbing is displaying copious amounts of hairy butt crack while working.

On the surface plumbing sounds relatively simple: pipes bring clean water in, and separate pipes take the poop water away. But with changing building codes and new developments in materials there is no standardized system, so you often don’t know if you’re going to be dealing with iron pipe, copper, pvc or cpvc, or new pex fittings, until you actually dig into a project.

There is a reason plumbers can charge $60+ per hour, and if you have more money than time or patience then I strongly recommend hiring one, particularly if you are dealing with a difficult issue. However, if you want to save a bunch of money and improve the look of your bathroom or kitchen, replacing a faucet is within the ability of most homeowners.

What You Need:


1. The first step in any plumbing project is to shut off the water to the area where you are working.

Most fixtures have shut off valves in the cabinet underneath. If yours are in good shape simply turn off the valves for both the cold and hot water, and move to step 4.  If however, you have ancient shutoffs from the 1970s and need to replace them you will have to shut off the main water supply to the house.  Most mainline shutoffs are located outside the house in an enclosed box underground. Beware if you live in the southwest like me; critters love the shade and moisture provided here, so look out for black widows, scorpions, and snakes. (Man aren’t you glad you decided to do this?) The other shut off should be located on top of the water heater. 

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How to Kill Internet Piracy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


Maybe the Germans have a word for something which amazes you without shocking you.

The end of the report also stuck out:

Meanwhile, file sharing continued emaciating on many fixed-access networks as streaming video options like Netflix, YouTube, and others proliferate.

File sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America, down from the more than 60 percent it netted in Sandvine’s first Global Internet Phenomena Report released more than 10 years ago.

Five years ago, it accounted for more than 31 percent.

So it turns out, if you make movies and TV shows readily and easily available at a decent price, people don’t pirate them nearly so much.

Go figure.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Florida Project

Less than two months before his death from lung cancer, Walt Disney wrapped production on a short film detailing his plans for the 27,443 acres his company had purchased in Central Florida. He shared his grand vision for what his inner circle called the “Florida Project.” With writing help from Marty Sklar, Walt explained his ideas for more than just a theme park:

Right now our plans include an airport of the future (down here in Osceola County), an entrance complex where all visitors will enter Disney World, an industrial park area covering about 1000 acres, and of course, the theme park area way up here. And all these varied activities around the Disney World will be tied together with a high-speed rapid transit system running almost the full length of the property.

But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything well be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT, spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Here it is in larger scale.

EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.

The futuristic city included a domed urban area with climate control for shoppers and hotel guests, along with transportation throughout the city via People Mover and Monorail. Residents of EPCOT (or Progess City, as some came to call it) would always have the latest technology at their fingertips. It was a bold dream, for sure, and some believed it would die with Walt.

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The Grave Unhappiness Wrought by the Failure of the iWork Pages Update

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 - by Roger Kimball


Even as the world careens from crisis to crisis—will Iran get (and use) The Bomb? Will the euro finally fail? Will ObamaCare put the nail in the coffin of the U.S. economy and America’s tradition of self-reliance and individual liberty? No one’s crystal ball is sharp enough to say. But even as the world conjures with these and other pending catastrophes, there are still local tempests to conjure with. In the somewhat rarefied world of word-processing software, the corporate giant Apple has precipitated a category five storm in the teapot inhabited by users of its iWork suite of software: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, the Word, Excel, and Powerpoint of the Apple eco-system.

Last week, in the course of a big Apple event in San Francisco, The Corporation announced, to considerable fanfare, new versions of iWork. There were smiles everywhere as a couple of Corporate officials took to the stage and demonstrated that, at long last, users would be able to collaborate on the same document simultaneously over the internet, on their Macs and/or their iPads and iPhones, even on PCs. This is a feature that Google has offered for some time, but Apple’s implementation was supposed to be more elegant (if less robust technically). The software had been rewritten from the ground up, they announced, adding many new features. It was a particularly welcome announcement for those who use the software because the last major update to the iWork software was in 2009, eons ago in the chronology of software. Patience was about to be rewarded. A new Apple triumph was about to be born. The new software, which Apple was offering for free, would make serious inroads into the hegemony of Microsoft’s Office suite, which is a de facto world-wide standard.

The celebratory mood lasted for about 15 minutes. Then a few people downloaded and started using the software. Uh oh. In its effort to make iWork compatible with the version that runs on the iPad and iPhone, Apple decided to neuter the desktop version of its software. “Big deal,” you say. “Use Microsoft Office.”  More and more people will do just that, I suspect. But in the meantime, there is high drama at the Apple support site and App store, where the hostile comments about the software vastly outnumber the positive comments. One independent reviewer summed up the verdict: “Pages 5: An unmitigated disaster.”

I’ve been using Pages myself for a couple of years. I’ve never liked Microsoft Office, and I’ve always harbored a particular dislike for Word, which I find bloated and unwieldy. Before using Pages, I wrote using a DOS- and then Windows-based programmer’s editor. It was a bare bones approach, but I liked the simplicity of the software and the control it offered over text manipulation. Together with a DOS-based PostScript layout tool, I was good to go.

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The Future Just Got Closer

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


What to get to go with your 3D printer? A 3D laser scanner, of course.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Will Netflix Beat HBO?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 - by Stephen Green


That’s from Derek Thompson who asks, “How long can Netflix’s amazing run last?

But I think that’s the wrong question.

The right question might be, Why is HBO’s subscriber base nearly static?

HBO has seen Netflix grow and grow, yet have clung to their same old model. There was some brief excitement here at Casa Verde when they announced HBO Go, but the excitement quickly subsided when we found out it’s a “halfway pregnant” effort. Even at that HBO Go is available only to existing cable subscribers. Their growth model is… well, it’s there on the chart.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Wikipedia Stunned That Companies Pay Users to Write Favorable Articles

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson


Wikipedia announced today that it’s investigating “as many as several hundred” users who may have been paid to promote organizations or products on the massive online encyclopedia.

“Our readers know Wikipedia’s not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way. Our goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and anything that threatens that is a serious problem. We are actively examining this situation and exploring our options,” Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.

Wikipedia said it has already blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts for “non-neutral editing.”

Available in 287 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 29 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people.

“Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature. Unlike a university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise, paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a ‘black hat’ practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people,” Gardner said.

“What is clear to everyone is that all material on Wikipedia needs to adhere to Wikipedia’s editorial policies, including those on neutrality and verifiability. It is also clear that companies that engage in unethical practices on Wikipedia risk seriously damaging their own reputations. In general, companies engaging in self-promotional activities on Wikipedia have come under heavy criticism from the press and the general public, with their actions widely viewed as inconsistent with Wikipedia’s educational mission.”

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Shhh! Don’t Tell the President and Mrs. Obama This Awesomeness Exists

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard


Remember when President Obama groused about the rise of job-killing technology?

There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate. All these things have created changes in the economy, and what we have to do … is identifying where the jobs for the future are going to be.

Let’s hope the president hasn’t seen these high-tech Japanese restaurants, devoid of human servers — the concept will undoubtedly cause him to make statements that will give the stock markets the jitters as he predicts our country’s impending demise.

Called “kaiten,” translated as “revolving” in Japanese, the automated sushi restaurants deliver food on microchip-embedded plates. Instead of a waiter taking your order, a conveyor belt meanders past your table and you select plates as they go by. The plates are covered by special ”sendo-kun” — “Mr. Fresh” — domes. The transparent domes protect the food and maintain the optimum temperature. The microchips keep track of the dishes so the kitchen personnel know how long they’ve been floating around the conveyor and which dishes have been consumed so they can keep their inventory stocked and fresh.

If you want a special order, there’s a touchscreen tablet conveniently located above the table and the conveyor belt will promptly deliver your special request within a couple minutes. After you’re done eating, simply deposit your plates into a slot next to your table where they are scanned and your bill is tabulated.

And then comes the part that will likely get Mrs. Obama’s kimono all in a twist: For every five plates you send down the shoot you are rewarded with a spin of your tablet’s roulette wheel where you can win small prizes. The more you eat, the more you win

Mothers of picky eaters everywhere will rejoice when this comes to America.

And if they can find a way to replace the raw fish with pulled pork, I’m all in.

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Leave the Nikon, Take the iPhone

Saturday, October 19th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


A nature photographer takes his iPhone 5S to Patagonia — and no other camera. The results are pretty impressive.

No fooling, the 5S might be the best camera ever for taking pictures of the boys. I can snap ten frames a second, choose the best one, delete the rest with a single swipe — and all in camera. The big Nikon still gets hauled out for portraits and (linked story not withstanding) nature trips, and any time I’m shooting in low light. But otherwise, it’s all iPhone, all the time.

Here’s a snapshot I took just this morning of some of the fall colors coming into our back yard. I haven’t edited, retouched, or cropped this at all — just used the phone’s built-in (and instantaneous) High Dynamic Range. Click for the full-size image and enlarge in your browser window if you need to, and you’ll see the sharpness is pretty impressive.


That’s as much detail and more color than I used to get out of my then-current Nikon D200 just six or seven years ago. The only thing my current Nikon D7000 does better is shoot in low light, provide more megapixels, and change lenses. It can shoot only 4.5 frames per second to the iPhone’s ten, with a buffer limit of about 15. If the iPhone has a buffer limit, I’ve yet to hit it. It seems to be able to shoot 10FPS, every second, until you completely fill the memory.

Hot-dam, but if you’re chasing kids around that’s the greatest thing ever.

Even the front-facing camera produces decent results under crappy conditions. Since I take the boys to school most mornings, I cram the three of us into the frame for a three-man selfie to text to Melissa. The sun is coming in at a bad angle, everybody is trying to squeeze down to the level of Nate’s car seat, we’re in a rush — but the phone still does a passable job.


This shot is also unedited — just cropped to square and resized for your browser.

Then there’s the iOS version of iPhoto. It’s hands down the best general-purpose photo editing software for mobile, and plenty powerful enough for editing the kinds of pics you’ll take with your phone. That means I spend way less time alone at my desk, poking around with Aperture or Photoshop.

If I were Canon or Nikon, I’d be getting plenty worried about what cellphones are going to be doing just a couple of years from now. With phones this good, there’s no reason for anyone other than pros and dedicated hobbyists to own an SLR. And you can forget about point-and-shoots. They were always pretty lousy; now they’re also redundant.

Me, I’m going to enjoy hardly ever having to carry a camera bag around, and missing fewer shots of my overactive kids. And I’m going to enjoy it with one of these.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Sebelius in Ohio: ‘ Is Up and Running’

Friday, October 18th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard


So how’s that working out for you? To hear Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, talk, the website is just humming along and everything is peachy. (I’m sure all Americans breathed a sigh of relief when they found out the Obamacare enrollments would continue unhindered during the Great American Shutdown of 2013.)

Sebelius joined a panel at the Columbus Metropolitan Library this week to discuss Obamacare’s impact in Ohio. She said her trip to the state was part of the “final phase” of implementing the law. I thought the final phase was when you gave your grandma the pain pill instead of  letting her have the heart operation, but maybe that’s the final final phase of Obamacare.

Anyway, the website has been widely criticized since its October 1st launch with complaints of long wait times, crashes, buggy architecture, and security concerns. Sebelius addressed some of those concerns during the panel in Columbus.

“There is no question the website had a rocky start and I am first to say we wish it could have been a lot smoother from day one,” Sebelius said. “I can tell you it’s a whole lot better today than it was two weeks ago and, the website, is up and running. It will get better each and every day.”

Sebelius defended the decision not to delay the launch of the obviously not-ready-for prime-time website. “I think people have waited for decades for affordable health care,” she said. “We had a responsibility to get that product to them as quickly as possible. Waiting for another season would be totally unfair to those who have been desperate for affordable health care.” The subtle message seems to be that it’s better — more fair, even — to have crappy government services that don’t actually work than no services at all. This is the best we can aspire to in America in 2013.

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4 Safety Systems Steering us Closer to Autonomous Cars

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner


Autonomous cars have been creating some buzz in the news lately.  From coverage on their capabilities and advantages to warnings about their limitations and security issues, everyone seems to be curious about the autonomous car.  Something else is brewing within this new-age driving hoopla: a battle for control of the stick shift.  Computer-operated driving systems are quickly infiltrating our beloved cars, crossing the line from “human driver” to “automated chauffeur.”  Are you ready?

A lot of the talk surrounding these systems is acronym-heavy and the names change depending on the car manufacturer.  (I see they are already creating aliases to confuse the human competition!)  Here’s an easy-to-read, short guide to the systems that are bringing us closer to autonomous cars.

1. Park-Assist

This is the system that allows drivers who dislike parallel parking to sit back, relax, and let the car do it for them.  The existence of this system does not indicate an fully autonomous car—the driver still needs to help the car out with shifting.

How does it work? Although the computer takes over to maneuver the car into the parking spot, most systems still allow the driver to press the brake, controlling the speed of the system’s parking throughout the entire maneuver.  To begin, the car will indicate to the driver when to stop alongside the car it intends to parallel park behind.  The driver will need to shift into Reverse to allow the system to back the car into the space.  When the car determines it has finished this procedure, it will notify the driver to shift into Drive.  The car will then pull forward, evening out the spacing.  Finally, the car will notify the driver to put it into park.

Available in: Ford Focus Titanium, Toyota Prius V, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GL350 (just to name a few)

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Driving You to Distraction

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


Windows Phone 8 is getting a nifty new feature:

Something that may appeal to motorists: a new Driving Mode will automatically silence incoming calls and texts so that you can focus on the road. You also can configure the feature to automatically send out a reply to say that you’re driving.

It can be activated automatically when the phone is linked wirelessly with a Bluetooth device in the car, such as a headset. Apple has a Do Not Disturb feature for iPhones, but that needs to be turned on manually.

What the Driving Mode won’t do, however, is block outgoing calls or texts. And there will be ways to override it. The feature won’t stop a teenager from texting while driving, but it will help reduce distractions for those who want that, says Greg Sullivan, director for Microsoft’s Windows Phone business.

During six years of iPhone use over three different models, I had to turn off the “Ask to Join Networks” feature under WiFi — and leave it off. Every time I drove somewhere, it would pick up local WiFi routers for just a few seconds each, and ask me each and every time if I wanted to join them. The popups were a noisy nuisance. The M7 motion chip in the new iPhone 5S tells the phone when it thinks you’re driving, and automatically stops hunting for WiFi networks for the duration of the trip. I like that a lot, and have switched “Ask to Join Networks” back on for the first time since 2007.

But this Windows Phone feature would be a very nice addition to iOS 7.1.

Hint, hint.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Facebook’s Ad Algorithm Is A Poopy Head

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

Last week I wrote a piece about bullying. My take on bullying is about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be. I don’t agree with school “anti-bullying” programs, and do not believe that bullying is an issue worthy of the President of the United States’ time. Especially since the current president is the Bully in Chief. I believe that most cases of childhood bullying can be solved by allowing kids who are bullied to defend themselves. The community should back victims up if they do defend themselves.

The piece I wrote last week centered on a study that shows that school “anti-bullying” programs may really be bully training programs. The study found that those programs show bullies how to be more effective bullies, while they also show bullies that no one will be allowed to stand up to them. I posted the link to Facebook to share it with my legions and legions of friends and fans.

Today, Facebook is suggesting this.


The link goes here, to the unfortunately named “The New Bully” website. Was the old bully defeated, or allowed to roam free by a leftist system that empowered him? Promoting that article to me may be due to an algorithm kick from the article I posted, or it may be part of Facebook’s latest anti-bullying drive.

“We are in this together and we can create change,” Nicholas says. Sure, and change is needed, but what kind of change are you proposing? The way we handle bullying now empowers bullies and leaves their victims to be victims for life. If you’re not about changing that, I’m not interested.

Are we going to change the way leftists bully everyone from attentive parents to veterans to the entire South to anyone and everyone who disagrees with them? If you’re not about changing that, I’m not interested.

As for Facebook’s “anti-bullying” drive, look out because it’s being done alongside the habitually bullying government of the state of Maryland. Soon enough criticizing that government on Facebook will end up being labeled “bullying” and censored.


Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Don’t Be Evil or Whatevs

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

Dont Be Evil


Google is facing a backlash over plans to put people’s faces and comments about products and places into adverts.

The “shared endorsements” policy change starts on 11 November and covers the comments, “follows” and other actions people do on Google+.

One protest involves people swapping their profile pictures for that of Google boss Eric Schmidt so his image rather than their own appears on ads.

Google said it had made it easy for people to opt out of the system.

But they’ll still collect and collate and who-knows-what your data.

Reminds me a bit of a digital version of one of the scariest moments of my life. Summer of ’84, I spent a month in Germany with our German teacher and a dozen other 15-year-old boys. We were there during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics — the games the entire Warsaw Pact (minus Romania) had boycotted in protest of… Reagan or whatever. Really it was just payback for our boycott of the 1980 Moscow games. Needless to say, tensions were high.

And there I was with my friends, getting ready to cross a Berlin Wall checkpoint to travel from West Berlin to East.

Guard towers with machine guns, soldiers with automatic rifles — the works. The worst part was sticking your passport through a slot in an otherwise blank concrete wall. You’re standing on unfriendly territory, without your passport, while people you can’t see are doing who-knows-what to it.

Every American ought to experience a police state like that at least once, although right now maybe I should be more careful about what I wish for. But I digress.

Google reminds me a bit of a much-friendlier version of that East Berlin border crossing. In exchange for free services like Google+, Gmail, and Google Docs, you surrender pretty much all your browsing information and tons more — to Google. And what are they doing with all that data and metadata you provide them?

It’s a lot like that slot in the wall in East Germany. You put your data in and Google does …stuff… with it.

Good stuff? Bad stuff? I dunno. Just… stuff.

I avoid Google’s data wall slot as best I can, by using Dogpile as my search engine, using my own, paid-for email as much as possible, and avoid signing in to Google at all. Except when I need Google Voice for conference calls or to upload YouTube videos. The rest of the time I’m signed out and using DoNotTrackMe at all times.

But I get the feeling I’m fighting nothing better than a rearguard action, and probably losing.

Crossposted from Vodkapundit

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Can Google Make You Sick?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Whatever you do, don't tell the doctor you're suffering from Housemaid's Knee.  He might have read Three Men In A Boat.

Whatever you do, don’t tell the doctor you’re suffering from Housemaid’s Knee. He might have read Three Men In A Boat.

When I was very young, reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, I came across the passage where he’s left alone with a medical encyclopedia for a few moments, and becomes convinced he suffers from every possible disease excluding only Housemaid’s knee.

Since then, and particularly in my household since I got married and formed my own family, the name for any unspecified and most likely imaginary malady of the type that prevents kids from doing homework and adults from going to work when there’s a snow storm out is “Housemaid’s Knee.”

Apparently, due to google, a lot of people are suffering the same syndrome as the main character of Three Men In a Boat.

Imagine my delight when this Telegraph article refers to precisely that passage in Three Men in a Boat:

The finest medical advice in literary history comes in the opening pages of Three Men in a Boat. The narrator recounts how, on going to the British Museum to read up on some passing ailment, he starts flicking through the pages of a medical dictionary. To his consternation, he discovers that, in every instance, the symptoms correspond exactly to his own. From ague to zymosis, via cholera, gout and St Vitus’s Dance, it turns out that the only disease he has escaped is housemaid’s knee – an omission he cannot help but find rather vexing.

In something of a panic, he visits his doctor, and informs him of this melange of maladies. He is given this prescription: “1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer, every 6 hours. 1 ten-mile walk every morning. 1 bed at 11 sharp every night. And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”

The hypochondriac impulse is universal. We don’t all take it to the extremes of a Florence Nightingale, who spent a good two thirds of her 90 years confined to her bed, convinced she was at death’s door. But who hasn’t felt the temptation to translate a fevered forehead into a full-on case of swine flu, or – if you’re Norman Baker – a conviction that the men in dark suits have finally resorted to the old polonium cocktail in an effort to silence you for good?

While there’s no doubt they’re right, and that there is a bit of hypochondriac in all of us — a reason they warn medical students of this tendency — if you’re levelheaded and scientifically literate, you can usually narrow down your possible ailments for your doctor’s consideration. On the other hand, you’d best make sure your family doctor knows you very well, or he’ll roll his eyes and think you’re suffering from housemaid’s knee.

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock © William Perugini

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Ohio Insurance Director on Obamacare Glitches: ‘This Is What We Expected’

Friday, October 11th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard
Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor

Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor

Ohio Lt. Governor and Insurance Director Mary Taylor told a group of small business owners on Wednesday that the state insurance office struggled to send information about Ohio’s health plans to Washington by computer this summer and they began bracing for problems, the AP reported. “This is what we expected,” she said of the “glitches” with the website for the federal exchanges. Ohio chose not to set up a state exchange, instead directing eligible citizens to the federal exchanges.

Taylor told Ohio members of the National Federation of Independent Business that while exploring the federal health exchange website she experienced the same problems that many consumers have reported. “I’ve been on,” Taylor said. “The note that comes up to be patient, high volume — experiencing high volume of users. You know, it is frustrating.”

Taylor’s office is suggesting that people try the new website during off hours. “Maybe if we all get up at midnight and try to get on the system — well, if we all do, it won’t work,” Taylor quipped to the business owners.

Taylor, a frequent critic of the Affordable Care Act, also said she doesn’t know how many Ohioans have enrolled in the federal exchanges because Washington is running them.

On October 4th, Taylor and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned of scams associated with the new exchanges.

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