Waiting ‘till the last minute

There were long lines both on the website and at enrollment centers to sign-up up for insurance in the days leading up to the end of the ObamaCare open enrollment period. But these lines lacked the enthusiasm of an iPhone release. James Taranto wrote in his WSJ post, Yes, We Can Wait:

The first thing we thought of when we saw the pictures was the photos we’ve recently seen on Twitter of Venezuelans waiting in bread lines. Waiting in line to purchase necessities is a characteristic not of a prosperous free society but of command economies under repressive regimes. Closer to home, one doubts even the Transportation Security Administration would be so tone-deaf as to advertise long airport lines as an indication it’s doing a great job.

So what in the world could the White House have been thinking? Here’s a guess: They look at the ObamaCare lines and think not of communist subjects queuing up for bread or toilet paper, or Americans for driver’s licenses, but something more like the lines of consumers eager to be the first to get the new iPhone or the latest Harry Potter book. Affluent people often wait in line for things about which they have a particular enthusiasm—or for special experiences, like an amusement park ride, concert or meal at a favorite restaurant.

One obvious difference is that whereas the iPhone and Harry Potter queuers are eager to get the new thing first, the ObamaCare ones are presumably anxious not to miss the deadline (even if it’s not rigorously enforced). ObamaCare lines might have been impressive if they’d begun to form in the last days of September. At the end of open enrollment, the White House boast is akin to the IRS’s citing a “surge” in filing of tax returns two weeks from now as evidence that the income tax system is popular and well designed.

Long lines on the last day something is available usually means something far different from long lines on the first day.

My wife took this photo of my two youngest kids playing on our new back porch.

My wife took this photo of my two youngest kids playing on our new back porch.

It’s all sports

Jason Kottke sees liking something publicly as a sort of spectator sport.

Coffee, like almost everything else these days, is a sport. Everyone has a favorite team (or coffee making method or political affiliation or design style or TV drama or rapper or comic book), discusses techniques and relives great moments with other likeminded fans, and argues with fans of other teams. The proliferation and diversification of media over the past 35 years created thousands of new sports and billions of new teams. These people turned hard-to-find nail polish into a sport. These people support Apple in their battle against Microsoft and Samsung. This guy scouts fashion phenoms on city streets. Finding the best bowl of ramen in NYC is a sport. Design is a sport. Even hating sports is a sport; people compete for the funniest “what time is the sportsball match today? har har people who like sports are dumb jocks” joke on Twitter. Let people have their sports, I say. Liking coffee can’t be any worse than liking the Yankees, can it?

Right on.

I’m moving to a new house

I’ve lived in the same apartment since January 2009. That’s the longest I’ve lived in one place in my life (almost). Leaving is bitter-sweet. It has been home to the best years of my life. Gabi was pregnant with my first child when we moved in, and we are moving out with three children (who are in desperate need of more room to run). Goodbye house. Goodbye Parkcrest.

Front of house

I’ll have to say goodbye to this view…

day time view

…and this sunset.

night-time view

I look forward to sharing pictures of the new place once we get settled.

Quiet please

Noise canceling headphones, quite car interiors, silent retreats—there is a big move toward quality, high-end quiet. Silence has always been valuable, but increasingly, people are showing that they are willing to pay for it. Chloe Schama discusses in the New Republic why silence is becoming a luxury product.

Unwanted noise is perhaps the most irksome form of sensory assault. A bothersome sight? Close your eyes or turn the other way—eyesores are, generally, immobile. An annoying taste? Spit it out. (Why was it in your mouth?) Sound, on the other hand, is ambient, elusive, enveloping. Even the softest drone can echo cacophonously if it worms itself into your head.

For silence—as in many areas of modern life—technology both causes the problem and provides the solution.

Technology has both increased our perceived need for silence and created (or at least improved) the means of attaining it. We’re assaulted by incessant technological “noise” and reliant on technology to control it. We’re battered by a ceaseless stream of emails and memos and tweets and status updates, but we plug into the latest iPod to tune it out.

Ghost ships

How long will it take for drone cargo ships to set sail and start crossing the high seas?

Military drones already fly frequent missions and civilian operations using unmanned aircraft are coming. Driverless cars are clocking up thousands of test miles. So why not let remote-controlled ships set sail without a crew? Indeed, the maritime industry has started to think about what would be required to launch a latter-day Marie Céleste.

There are many potential benefits to drone cargo ships. Most cargo ship accidents involve human error. Removing that variable from the equation should increase maritime safety. Drone ships will also need far fewer people to run. That will let them save on labor costs and fuel. Unmanned ships will be able to travel slower on long voyages than traditional cargo ships, burning substantially less fuel.

Monitor: Ghost ships | The Economist

These unmanned ships will have to watch out for a different sort of pirates.

As for piracy, with no crew to be taken hostage it would be much easier for the armed forces to intervene. Of course, more modern pirates might try to hack their way into the controls of an autonomous ship to take command. Which is why encrypted data communication is high on the maritime industry’s list of things to do before ghostly vessels ply the trade routes.

Drone ships will probably still run with a skeleton crew aboard, but it sounds like a job as appealing as being the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel.

Cats with jetpacks

What weapons of war do you need to defend your territory? Consider the following from the Guardian:

You’re a 16th century German prince plotting to crush a peasant rebellion, or perhaps you’re leading an army against the Ottoman Empire or settling a score with a rival nobleman. What’s a guy looking for a tactical edge to do?

The answer, of course, is rocket cats.

Cat wearing jetpack in 16th century drawing baffles historians | Death and Taxes

The illustrations from a 16th century guide on siege warfare show what looks like cats with jetpacks strapped to their backs. However, it turns out they’re cats being used as fire bombs to set fire to a besieged city. Alex Moore from Death and Taxes wrote:

The idea was set forth by artillery man Franz Helm, who had apparently seen action in Turkey and witnessed first-hand the power of gunpowder. His idea went like this: Rather than try to lay siege to a castle or otherwise protected town, you could simply kidnap a cat, attach a jetpack to its back, set it on fire nearby and release the cat, which would run back home in its panic wearing the jetpack and set the whole town on fire.

Fur flies over 16th century 'rocket cats' warfare manual | world | theguardian.com

A first Android first

I’m sure there are other examples, but adding Handwriting for Android into Evernote is the first time I’ve seen a major mobile feature, from a mainstream software developer, introduced on Android before iOS. I’m sure the feature will come to iOS soon, and I will probably try it once—for the novelty—and then never use it again. I have a hard time reading my handwriting on paper, much less on a touch screen.

Evernote handwriting

The web of relationship advice

David McCandless and Kathryn Ariel Kay made a word-cloud of the most repeated relationship advice from across 25 popular relationship guides for the website, Information is Beautiful.

Good Relationtips - Most common relationship advice - Infobeautiful

The graphic is filled with good advice, albeit from sources that disproportionately cater to women. I also like how the graphics on Information Is Beautiful always show their work.

Becoming Geek

John Siracusa’s post, The Road to Geekdom brings up some interesting points about geek culture:

Geekdom is not a club; it’s a destination, open to anyone who wants to put in the time and effort to travel there. And if someone lacks the opportunity to get there, we geeks should help in any way we can.

John spoke in-depth about this article on a few recent podcasts:

As geekdom becomes less of a fringe quirk and more an aspirational badge, those who consider themselves true geeks might start to feel threatened as the walls of their knowledge kingdoms come tumbling down. However, if they are concerned about the object of their interest becoming less cool as it becomes mainstream, that would make them hipsters, not geeks.

What ever the object of attention—comics, cars, computers, sportsball, etc.—the information needed to become a geek is out there, readily available to anyone who cares enough to seek it out. However, there is nowhere to download the required enthusiasm.

Embedding Getty

There’s been a lot of excitement on the web today about Getty Images allowing visitors to embed their photos across the web.

With people increasingly turning to imagery to communicate and tell their stories online, the embed capability opens up Getty Images’ award-winning imagery for seamless sharing. Through the embed tool, individuals can draw on Getty Images’ latest news, sports, celebrity, music and fashion coverage; immense digital photo archive; and rich conceptual images to illustrate their unique passions, ideas and interests. This innovation opens one of the largest, deepest and most comprehensive image collections in the world for easy sharing, thereby making the world an even more visual place.

The embeds look like this:

This isn’t a radical new feature. Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Instagram, and many other web media companies have made their content available to embed for years. This often results in their content going viral and being spread far and wide across the web. The difference is those companies don’t earn their primary revenue from licensing their content for others’ to publish.

Introducing the feature is a smart move on Getty’s part, but it is surprising that they waited so long to release it. Their management team must have finally accepted that the network value of viral media was worth the amount it would undercut their licensing revenue. The feature will bring more links to their site and show off their work and brand to a wider audience.

Automatically including the attribution for each photo is useful, and it opens up their library of images to publishers who would not or cannot buy a proper license. However, there are a few key features missing from their embed code—features that were probably left out on purpose or because of some backroom bickering—such as being able to edit the image size or make the image fluidly resize on a responsive web page. These limitations protect Getty’s image licensing business, making sure it is still attractive to better funded web publishers and news organizations. However, the limitations will slow the adoption of the feature, since the embedded images will show up strangely in many website templates. Perhaps these features are coming soon, but until they do there will be some goofy looking pages.

The clarity of experience

Dustin Curtis:

Being there–in the arena–gives you the clarity of experience; it’s a sixth sense that is the ability to know which pieces of advice are important. Unfortunately, the most important lessons you can learn from people with experience tend to be things you don’t think are important until you have experience.

Turning two

Today we celebrated my middle child’s second birthday. His buddies and their families gathered together for a fun get together at his favorite playground.

It’s amazing to think “I have a two-year old!” And then even more amazing to remember that he’s not the oldest or the youngest. He’s the best friend to his older brother and a loving protector to his little sister.

He has been such a joy to be around for the first two years of his life. I look forward to watching him get bigger, getting to know him as he starts to talk more, and being there for him as he grows into a young man.

Happy Birthday, son!

little saint

One sided football

Jon Bois created one of the most lopsided football games ever. Sunday’s Super Bowl should be closer. I remember fixing games by creating souped-up players with unbeatable abilities like this in one of the older PC NBA games years ago, but I never achieved a point spread like his.

no fair

Meet your new robot overlords

Google is building an army—a robot army—through a series of recent acquisitions. It’s interesting to see the variety of real world applications these robotics companies are already pursuing and imagine what they will be able to do in the future. Gizmodo recently took a closer look at what the eight most recent acquisitions are making.

Robot technology would help with self-driving cars, certainly, but the range of these acquisitions hints at even broader ambitions. Again, we don’t know much. They’re all a part of the Google X division, which is top secret by definition. We do know what the new companies in the Google family are up to, though, and that might offer us some clues.

Personally, I’ll feel safer driving in South Florida once robots pilot more of the vehicles on the road. Robot drivers will be far more predictable than the ones on the road now. However, I’m not sure how I’d feel about this guy walking down the street towards me…

Meet Google's Robot Army. It's Growing.

…or have this thing galloping in my direction.

A Closer Look at Google's New Robot Army