The Internet is Smarter Than Me

I had one of those moments where something went through my head from a long time ago and suddenly I had to look it up.  Usually it’s “that guy who played that role on that TV show with the one lady” and I’m off to IMDB.  But today it was “Faraday constant”.  

That’s right, Faraday constant was in my head. For the life of me I don’t know why but I just had to look it up. 

And in looking it up I had another moment. One of those moments where I realize how little I know relative to what there is to know.  I figure these moments happen more since the advent of the internet.

In looking up Faraday constant on wikipedia I came across this:

Related to Faraday’s constant is the “faraday”, a unit of electrical charge. It is much less common than the coulomb, but sometimes used in electrochemistry.[5] One faraday of charge is the magnitude of the charge of one mole of electrons, i.e. 96485.3365(21)C.[6]

Expressed in faradays, the Faraday constant F equals “1 faraday of charge per mole”.

This faraday unit is not to be confused with the farad, an unrelated unit of capacitance (1 farad= 1 coulomb/1 volt).

I’ve read that passage 5 times and still have no idea what the hell it is talking about.

Luckily the next paragraph was:

The Simpsons episode “Dark Knight Court” (RABF10) has Mr. Burns asking Comic Book Guy how much he wants for his entire comic book inventory. He says “the speed of light expressed as dollars” and Mr. Burns says to Smithers, “give him Faraday’s Constant.” The check is written for $96,485.34.

I read that paragraph once and I laughed, remembering the episode.  And then I understood a bit more about the Faraday constant than I had a moment before.

So that’s three of “those moments” I had in one day:

  1. the moment where the random thought I had to look up went through my head
  2. the moment where I realized how little I actually know
  3. the moment where I learned something from the Simpsons.

That third moment is something pretty much all of us have on a weekly basis.



The Most Defeated Sigh I’ve Ever Heard

The great thing about combining airport waits with cell phones is you get to overhear the best conversations and you only hear one side.

I started hearing the following, had my laptop open and started typing. When he hung up the man rubbed his face and sighed the most defeated sigh I’ve ever heard. I can easily imagine the other side of this one.

(Ellipsis indicate a pause when he was listening to other person)

Use the tv remote…
How do you not know which one?….
They are labeled. See how the tv says samsung? Use the remote that says Samsung….
Yes that’s the name of the company….
A brand name is a kind of label….
Does it matter?….
Why would you think comcast is a tv manufacturer?…
Do you ever watch commercials? What about the commercial makes you think they make tvs?….
Right. Samsung….
Did you point it at the tv?…
Why would you point the samsung remote at a comcast box…
Yes! They are labels!…
Can’t you just read a magazine?
No, I’m not being snarky, I just want to stop explaining how remotes work…
I’m sorry….
Samsung and samsung….

Synchronization Shouldn’t Be This Hard

We live in an era of software making access, visualization, and understanding of data easier than all previous generations even imagined. And now we are entering the era of “big data”.  So, you’d think that people can get relatively small data right. And by right I mean synchronized and accurate.

I can withdraw money from the ATM and get a text message receipt before I finish getting the money in my wallet. I order groceries on my laptop and in less than a second my phone knows.  My twitter account can be hacked and instantaneously hundreds of people are told about a miracle weight loss berry.

This is some pretty cool magic! And the reality of it is that we’ve gotten to the point where it really isn’t that hard.

So why is it that Amtrack can’t seem to figure it out.  These pictures are from a recent trip from DC to NY.

Note that both the monitor and the phone are at 7:02.  This wasn’t a momentary lapse of synchronization or a race condition that was soon self corrected.  Each status staid the same all the way through 7:10 when were boarding.


Antlers that Glow Like the Devil’s Own Eyes

Saw this over at Gizmodo.  Okay, Gizmodo wasn’t the original article,  but they link to it and I don’t read Finnish. If you do, you can read the original.

In the US hitting deer with your car in the middle of the night is a real problem, not just for the deer and your car, but for your health. In Finland they have the same problem but with longer nights and bigger animals: reindeer.

Rather than continue to run over Santa’s four-legged helpers, they use reflectors to draw the attention of drivers.  But reflectors worn by reindeer are less than perfect because the light has to catch the reflectors at the right angle.  But spraying their antlers with a reflective substance takes care of the angle problem (360 degrees of antler!) and makes the animals very very noticeable.

A simple, elegant solution to an every day problem (at least every day for Fins driving in the night through Reindeer territory).

A Crap Resolution

It’s New Years so of course I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about New Years resolutions. I don’t want to. I was actually hoping to avoid them this year since I’m currently batting .000. But they are hard to avoid since talk of them is everywhere.

There is so much I want to do better, so much I want to do new, so much I want to keep doing, and a few things I want to stop doing. To list them all would only intimidate my resolve and I’d be done from the start. And of course is miss something, which would just give me a dull ache in the extremities of my subconscious.

Where the hell do people find the time to constantly tick through the never ending list of self improvement?

But — glory be! — I realized this morning that there is a resolution abstraction that can be made. If I can do one thing moderately well then I will get healthier, keep my thoughts fresh, and have tons of time for all manner of tilting at resolution-like windmills:

Avoid crap.

It’s that simple. I want to do the best I can at avoiding crap. If it isn’t interesting, or needed, or redeeming, or enjoyable, or important to myself or my friends or my family then I don’t want it. This should free up time, emotions, space, calories, etc. and make lots of room for the self improvement that the specifics were all pushing towards.

So there you have it.

In 2014 I resolve to avoid crap.

Where does the money go?

Earlier today I posted on how education had to change and I wasn’t happy with the current system and options for my kids. My grandmother replied within minutes with basic premise: we should talk about this but no one wants to pay more taxes.

I agree, no one does. Especially into a failing system.

But let’s talk money.  I’m using here and here as sources. The data is from 2010 – 2011 but I can’t imagine it changed much from year to year.

The Chicago basics:

  • Average classroom size: 25 kids
  • Money spent per student: $13,000

That’s $325,000 per classroom.  This is pretty damned good. This is more than pretty damned good.  $325,000 / class room should be a world class education!

The solution cannot be that we need more money. The solution has to be that we need to spend the money better.  If a CEO had such bad results with $325,000 / classroom the CEO would be on the street. Where is this money going? It certainly isn’t going towards quality education.

Education — Change is Needed

The brilliant, yet fictional, Sam Seaborn once said:

education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

He isn’t kind or right or on the right track; he is exactly right. Whichever of West Wing’s writers penned those lines (was it you Aaron Sorkin?), I solute you.

With a nearly-4-year-old, school selection is weighing heavily on my mind and the options — public, private, or parochial — aren’t looking all that great. The issue isn’t necessarily the schools themselves, it’s this whole horrible system we’ve created.

And then last night I heard Sal Khan on the Commonwealth Club podcast, speaking about Khan Academy. I urge you to listen to it. Not only is the story of its start entertaining and interesting, but some of the ideas he puts forth make me want the whole system rethought.

My daughter goes to pre-school that is year round and deftly mixes creative activities with learning, similar to what Khan speaks about. I ask her what she did at school and she says “we played and we played and we played” and then tells me what she learned. This is what school should be! So why does it seem to only exist in a private pre-school?

Facial Hair Envy

Carlos’ facial hair is getting better and better with each passing game. I’m wondering how long it lasts once summer comes. The chin strap might have to go in June/July but man am I hoping he keeps that waxed ‘stache.

Remember when thousands of fans would wear fake Matt Clement beards to games he started? We should do the same for Carlos.

Shame on 54 Senators

Below are the names of 54 senators who are OK with your child being shot in the face.

Think about that for one minute. They sold their vote to a vocal minority in the hopes of keeping their job and in doing so they failed to do everything they could to protect children from getting shot.

Two days ago bombs went off and civil servants ran towards the danger to save strangers. These 54 senators had to vote yes. That’s it. Not risk their lives. Probably not even risk their livelihood. They just had to say “yea” and instead they ran away.

These senators are not civil servants. They are the opposite of civil servants. They are out for themselves.

They will trade your child being shot in the face for their own status quo.

NAYs —54
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hagan (D-NC)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lee (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Pryor (D-AR)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warner (D-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)