Here’s to normal family relationships!

The house I live in has a strange living arrangement. Originally, my landlord’s plan was that this house was where his parents could live in their retired years. He was going to turn the basement into a living space for them and rent out the other rooms. I rented out the smallest of the rooms and there were 3 other people living in the two other rooms. Well, then the landlord lost his job and moved into the master bedroom, displacing two of the people that had lived here. He finished the basement apartment and his parents moved in. Then his ex-wife and daughter lost their place, so they moved in. They slept in the front room for a while until the remaining tenant’s lease ran out, then they moved in there. is parents didn’t like living in the basement, so they went back to Bolivia and I moved into the basement.

So for a while, it was me in the basement and my landlord (who is employed again), his ex-wife, and their daughter were sharing the three rooms upstairs. When my lease ran out, he asked me to move into the master bedroom. Part of that was because he was going to have to do some work on the basement but a large part of it was that he and his ex-wide were at each other’s throat.

Is it any wonder? For a long time, people were urged to keep marriages together “for the children.” I think we now all understand that often times it’s better for the children if the fighting parents are separated. If nothing else, it allows everyone to get on with their lives. Imagine deciding to call it quits and then have to live with the ex. Ugh. Now their daughter has to live in some sort of purgatory. Every kid dreams of their parents getting back together again, and hers are but in a really bad situation.  It’s the worst of all worlds.

I feel really bad for all of them when I come and they are eating dinner together, silently.  Never felt so thankful for normal relations between divorced parents and family in general. It’s weird how you never notice healthy relationships until they are contrasted with unhealthy ones. I’m feeling thankful, that’s for sure!

Exciting technology that is coming soon(ish)!

Driverless cars! Imagine being able to get in the car going to work, travel, whatever, and be able to do something else along the way? Yes, I know that some people already do this on a bus or train, but those don’t go directly to your house and then precisely to your end destination. A car that drives itself will start at your house and take you wherever you want. If I want to go see my dad, I could hop in the car and catch a nap along the three hour ride. Or surf the web, or watch a video, etc. Because computers have much better reaction times than humans, it will be possible to have many more cars on the road at once and traffic will be much more efficient. The vast majority of accidents occur due to driver error, automated cars will be able to eliminate a lot of those problems.

The technology is already here and is being used. There are a few problems though. First, computerized directions have to get much better before I will trust it. How many times have we been steered wrong by GPS directions? A bigger issue is liability. I am perfectly willing to believe that most accidents are caused by human error and that almost all of those could be avoided by automated cars either through avoiding dangerous driving and/or much better reactions. There will still be accidents though, who will be liable when something happens? While the frequency of accidents may go down, the more litigious of us out there may see bigger targets when something goes wrong. Will the manufacturers be willing to take on that kind of risk? How will the laws have to be rewritten to accommodate driverless cars?

Man, overnight trips would be so much easier and nicer like this. Imagine the boosts to autonomy people with disabilities could have! Blind people wouldn’t have to be reliant on public transport or friends and family. Speaking of public transport, can you imagine how that would change with this type of technology? The possibilities boggle the mind… Please oh please let this start coming soon!

 

Another bit of technology that is super exciting is the possibility of using light as a means of transmitting data. Radio waves are handy, but the spectrum is crowded and congestion is getting worse. Some very clever people have come up with a way of modulating visible light so that it can be used for all sorts of networking purposes. Here’s the basic idea…. If you replace regular light bulbs and fluorescents with LED lamps, you can switch the light on and off millions of times a second. That’s far faster than the human eye and brain can cope with so it would look like continuos light to us. That switching on and off would create ones and zeros, and then BAM! we have digital communication. Potentially any and all light sources could be transformed into networking spots. All of the lights in your house, all street lamps, headlights and tail lights (see the driverless cars above), absolutely any place that is illuminated could take advantage of this. Check out this talk that explains it:

 

 

 

There are still a lot of questions surrounding this. How do you turn it into a two way communication, what about the backhaul issues, how would you wire your house/office for this etc. The good news is that this technology is all sorted out. There are no technical limitations in the way of this being used. People are talking about a 2012 introduction of this sort of technology. Here’s another great thing, even if we discount the awesomeness of this wireless technology, can you imagine the efficiency gains if a significant number of lightbulbs are switched over the LEDs? There are all sorts of amazing possibilities with this, and who knows what other sorts of uses will be thought of once essentially free, high speed connections are available in many places.

 

The future is looking good, and close!

Jesus and Taxes

I’m getting sick of the recent meme going around asking the rhetorical question, “Surely Jesus commanded us to help the poor. What kind of Christian nation is this really if we don’t do that?” It’s considered a “gotcha” when critiquing the tea party stance on paying taxes. Surely good Christians (and the Tea Party and Republicans in general are overwhelmingly Christian) shouldn’t object to helping the poor. In fact, their resistance to paying taxes proves that they really don’t give a shit about the poor. Using Christian’s duty to help the poor is trying to be used to paint the entire tax resistance movement as heartless hypocrites that are only interested in their own money and inexplicably invested in rich people keeping all of theirs too.

 

The first thing that comes to my mind is how odd it is that every left leaning person automatically equates taxes with charity. They act as if paying taxes is the same thing as donating to the Red Cross. Never mind that a considerable portion of those taxes go towards wars and other things that the left is supposedly against. Incredible incarceration rates of blacks? Done by the government. Deporting Mexican workers? That’s the government. The ongoing futile war on people getting high and relieving their pain? Guess who? The biggest outrages committed against poor people, minorities, and people spread across the world are funded by your tax dollars either directly or through proxies.  Never mind all of the bailouts and handouts to corporations and other types of legal graft that our taxes contribute to. Nope, it’s all about charity! What would Jesus think of that?

 

I can’t speak for all Christians, but here’s this Christian’s view on Jesus and taxes. Yes, Jesus did tell us to take care of the poor, the weak, and the imprisoned. Funnily enough he didn’t mention that the government was the only way to do that. Taxes? He did say something about taxes… I’m going to paraphrase here, but He said something along the lines of, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” The bottom line? When you pay taxes, you are paying for Caesar’s ambition, Caesar’s wars, Caesar’s folly. If Caesar helps the poor, that’s a bonus, but remember, you are supporting not only Constantine, but Caligula. You have to pay taxes regardless of who is in power, but we are always capable of helping the poor on our own.

 

Not a great morning

I went to the gym yesterday. It has been time for me to get back to it, I’ve been really weak and have had zero energy for too long. WIth my vast experience of going back to the gym, I knew well enough not to overdo it. I did a rather leisure 20 minutes on the bike, and then did some core exercises. I did just enough for the muscles to know that I’m getting back to them, nothing more.

I slept really well, another benefit I had been hoping for. I noticed that my legs, back and abs were a bit stiff. I hadn’t done enough to make them sore, but it was clear that they hadn’t been used in a long while. Then I got my normal bought of spasticity. It’s totally normal for my legs to lock up when I wake up. They turn rigid and I can’t do anything with them for a couple of minutes. On my less good days, they cramp up too. This morning had a little more kick to it than I had expected, and I literally mean kick. Instead of simply locking up, my left leg went into a pumping motion, kinda like your dog when you scratch in just the right area… That’s happened before, but it hadn’t done that in a while. The thing that got to me was that my stiff core muscles decided to lock up on me too.

So there I was, with my right leg stiff, my left leg pumping, and my abs and back stiff as a board. I couldn’t move and I’ll admit to freaking out a bit. My legs calmed down like they always do, but my abs and back were a bit more tenacious. They would relax, and then I’d try to get up and they’d stiffen up on me again. This went on for some time, probably less than I imagine, but it seemed like a long time. I lay as quiet as I could, and I ended up dropping off to sleep again. I woke up a while later and repeated the process. By the time I could get out of bed, it was almost noon (right when I was supposed to be at work). I called into work and tried to limber up.

I probably could have gone to work, but I was a bit freaked out. I wonder how many more lovely little surprises I’m going to get as the years go on. I also wonder what it’s going to be like once I start doing some upper body exercise. With any luck this won’t happen once I’m in better shape and if it does, I’ll be a little more sanguine about it.

Went to a few stores today

There were a few new stores around one of the shops I go to every couple of months. One was called Cavern Cairo. I had no idea what it could be. A middle east restaurant? A shisha bar? It turned out to be a place dedicated to card games of all things. It was almost all Magic the Gathering oriented, but there was the inexplicable mix of UNO decks mixed in too, I spied a few board games on the walls too. Nothing I was interested in, so I moved on.

There was a “newsstand” next to it. I was curious what a newsstand looked like in this day and age. I used to go to one in Ithaca to get my copy of Goldmine. Back in the early 90’s there were a slew of interesting magazines and a good newsstand was an amazing place to go. Goldmine was a paper/magazine that specialized in record collecting. There were all sorts of ads for places selling any number of different types of music in all sorts of formats. Yeah, I used to have to read a newspaper to find obscure songs and albums… This newsstand was really kind of sad. There was a smattering of magazines, but they were mostly catering to gun, tattoo, craft builders, and with some titles like Mother Earth News, Architectural digest, etc. Nothing I was interested in. There was the mandatory “adults only” section. I didn’t go back to check that out. I assume that the adult stuff is what is keeping the store in business, but I’m amazed that market exists at all. I would have thought that the internet would allow anyone to find whatever it is that floats their boat, and in their own home to boot. Hmm, there’s also an adult video store in Springfield, that’s another business I would have thought would go under in modern times. Maybe it’s Springfield that keeps those types of businesses around…

 

I also went into an HH Greg store. I had seen their ads on TV before, but I had never been in one. What a strange place. I mean, I guess they have a  similar product range as Best Buy (with one exception) but it felt rather odd in there. I can’t put my finger on why, but things seemed to be just… sort of plopped in there. There were a ton of TVs, and as usual, I was mesmerized. They are so beautiful, if I watched TV I wouldn’t be able to resist one of those. Luckily for me, I don’t really watch anything… The salesperson was rather put off when I told him that I don’t watch TV, LOL. They also carried appliances, cameras, computers, vacuums, etc. Two things they didn’t seem to have as compared to Best Buy were cell phones and car audio.

Like Best Buy, a lot of their demos weren’t working. Unlike Best Buy, several people came up and asked if I had any questions. One thing that was different was that HH Greg sold mattresses. It was an odd thing. Lots of electronic things, and then tucked back into a corner, in it’s own walled off area, were beds. I don’t see the connection, but I can guess why they were there. One thing that really struck me was how inexpensive things have gotten. Flat screen TVs are now down below what I remember tube TVs costing, and these are bigger. It looked as though I could buy a decent stovetop and oven for $600. The mattresses? $1200 for a twin. Granted, they were Temperpedic, I’m pretty sure those are going to be expensive anywhere you go. I’m also positive that they have a lot bigger profit margin in them than anything else in the store. I can’t imagine that designing and manufacturing mattresses is all that high tech, especially when compared to the TVs there. I can’t be the only one wondering about the value proposition of a bed that costs as much as a 50″ TV. A rather nice 50″ TV at that.

I also got to play around with a few Android tablets too. The Galaxies from Samsung were the ones I wanted to try the most. They weren’t working of course… I did try a few others from Archos, Sharp( I think), and a smaller one from samsung. Ugh, not impressed. A couple of them seemed to run OK, not that there was much on them. The internet worked OK, and I assume that gmail would be good on there. My big problem was that they just felt terrible to hold. Not one of the large tablets were comfortable to hold. Plus, they just felt cheap. The 7″ one was rather nice, I can see the appeal of that size for internet, ebooks, and email on the go. I was disappointed to get mobile versions of sites though. There’s probably a way around that. In any case, maybe the Samsung tablets are amazing performers, they’d have to be to get over the way they feel. Several of them were plastered with stickers announcing features like SD card slots, USB, HDMI, etc. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell me what they could do with those things. Even if they did, I’d have to use my imagination to see how they worked since most of them were dead. I understand why the iPad is going so well, there doesn’t appear to be any actual competition…

 

Anyway, an odd store. I guess I’d go there if I wanted a TV, not sure what else I;d go there for. Oh well, at least I know where to go for adult magazines and Magic the Gathering cards… Oh Springfield, you are a shoppers dreamland!