Friday, October 13, 2017

Go Go Gadget VR!

Virtual Reality may be about to hit the masses. I think the Oculus Go *could* be a game changer for VR.

People have been trying to get VR to catch on since the early 90s when I was in college (see magazine cover from 1995 below, courtesy Sean Clark). Back then, it required a suit and a huge computer, ala "Lawnmower Man" -- I kid you not.

There was a company that brought VR games to campuses for a weekend -- these were basically triple-sized arcade games that you had to sit or stand in (in addition to wearing VR goggles and gloves). One tank game (not unlike "Spectre VR" if anybody remembers that) and I was hooked. And so were the teenagers that setup the equipment, with a tired look and bags under their eyes.

Fast forward to a few years ago... the idea to attach Google Cardboard to a phone made sense, because most people had phones already and the device was cheap. Oculus Rift could also be attached to a PC, if more computing power was needed.

Sidenote: I tested the Rift at Social Media Week in New York City this February, and was disappointed that it didn't have better resolution than Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear, both of which I own (Gear shown below). We're not even up to Lawnmower Man standards here, man.

The holy grail, however, has been the all-in-one device, and with a price of $199, it could *maybe* catch on in the masses. Any more expensive and they'd rather get a better solution like PlayStation VR. Any cheaper, and it won't be able to have the power needed for basic VR. An all-in-one device can battle VR motion sickness by having close-to-zero delay from head movement to screen, which is one thing that has held Google Cardboard back.

What do YOU think?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Clouds in my Covfefe

Yes, Donald Trump is still president. It wasn't a dream; it wasn't a nightmare. But no, he's not getting much done. Ironically, he's a lot like Barack Obama. He saw his election as a directive to "fix" government, but after getting in office, he realized how difficult it is to change anything in the red tape of Washington.


Really at this point, the only thing he has managed to officially pass is a bi-partisan veterans' bill. Even his attempt at an executive ordered "travel ban" the first week in office just last week was approved by the Supreme Court for a temporary stay.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What Does Facebook's "Jesse 2016" Video Tell Us?

It's almost a new year, and you know what that means -- Facebook is attempting to summarize it all for me. Here's their video of my "highlights" for the year:

 

 It wasn't a great year, but Facebook's algorithms were smart enough to leave out most of the bad stuff -- and so was I.  It picked events from June on -- which makes sense since the first half of the year really sucked ("The Year of Suck" as my wife would say.) 2016's about over -- "Another Trip Around the Sun," Facebook says, and good riddance, we say.

What Facebook thought was "important" were these items (in reality these are probably picked based on popularity & engagement):

- June 14th -- I give a tour of AccuWeather HQ to my brother-in-law and his wife
- June 24th -- I finally meet Reed Timmer in person at AccuWeather hQ
- July 30th -- I get a cat (I think the cat got short shrift, as this was a major milestone)*
August 5th -- I spill Mountain Dew into my laptop (hilarity ensues, except in our IT department)
- August 27th -- I pose with a skeleton at Home Goods
- September 25th -- I go to Kristi's family reunion
- November 8th -- I vote in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (you know, the one where love lost?)

It does allow you to also edit these events, so I stuck in a second picture of the cat. Then I realized I had forgotten to create a "life event" that would probably have triggered additional shrift for said cat in the Facebook algorithms. Well, consider that problem fixed.


Facebook also sends me these additional statistics: 

I became friends with 294 people this year, most notable of which are (I think) Jesus and Santa, indicated by the red arrows. A couple of buildings and a storm made it in there too!


Some of the people in this graphic, however, I have been friends with for even longer so it's possible this is also based on some sort of engagement algorithm. Facebook also summarized where I visited on this map. I checked into 144 places this year. 



This map is very telling. Because of the hospitalization of our daughter, 100% of my travel in 2016 was related to her care -- I never left the state except for when she was in New Jersey.  This was the first year I hadn't taken a Summer vacation since probably 2006, when I had just purchased a new house and dog and couldn't afford the trip or the time off. 

And finally, Facebook Reactions -- the new emoticon buttons that launched this Spring. I clicked the "Like" button over 4,000 times, and 95% of my reactions were "Like" alone. No offense intended, it's just the easiest button to hit. I was most likely to be sad, and least likely to be angry. 


I can tell you that most of those sads were for my friends pet's passing. Because I've been through that sort of thing too many times before (most recently in 2012), I make it a point to always "Sad" peoples posts when they've lost their pets, and post "Sorry to hear" in the comments, because it was important to me to hear those things when Star passed away. 



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dewey Defeats Truman

At 3:01 AM on November 9, 2016, in Alabama, newspaper printing machines at two locations grinded to a halt. The unexpected had happened: Donald Trump had won the presidency. Per normal procedure when a front page is printed and the headline changes overnight, hundreds of printed front pages were destroyed and the "alternate" front page was loaded in, and printing started again. Few, if any, paper copies made it out into the world and were promptly retrieved. 


Unbeknownst to the technician who saved the day, 60 seconds earlier a computer had automatically and electronically transmitted their "first print" papers over the Internet to Newseum.org, just like 900 other newspapers do every day, and have been doing for years.

The Birmingham News in Alabama proudly displayed their headline "Madam President" but listed the electoral count for both candidates as "XXX" -- awaiting a final count from their editors. A truly "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment.



The Huntsville TImes hadn't loaded the winner's picture in yet, but carried the same headline, with the entire lead text in nonsense Latin placeholder text. 

Preparing two different newspaper editions is not unusual, of course, because historically print media has had to be created far in advance of its release date. The double edition of Newsweek Magazine caused a stir when the Trump-only version was leaked. "The election was rigged!" was the chant, because everyone, including Trump's supporters, didn't expect him to win.




Newseum.org is currently not responding, and when it comes back up, it will probably not have these copies anymore. I have the PDFs saved if anyone is interested. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Where To See (Real) Election Results Tomorrow

By this time tomorrow night, we just might know which of these Newsweek magazines will be published:



Here's how to watch the election results: 

1. Watch Cable TV (stick with the big guys, CNN or FOX probably) or use their apps. They will probably make a final call around 10pm-12am, depending on results.

2. Type in "Election Results" on Google.

3. Don't believe ANYTHING you read on Facebook or Twitter unless it's from a reliable source.

Here's one more possibility: The VoteCastR app (or visit their website). Here's what it's all about:

Today we're making HISTORY... not just with the election but with Votecastr REAL-TIME voting data & predictions, without the pundits. Who knows how accurate this will be, as this technology is untested, but it will be interesting.

"This will break a decades long journalistic tradition whereby media outlets obey a self-imposed embargo on voting information. For the first time, you’ll have access to the same kind of data that campaigns use to monitor voting activity." --Slate

Whether or not you use this is up to you. If you're on the fence, I certainly wouldn't look at this before you vote.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Final Thoughts on Polls Before Presidential Election 2016

I don't think many people took me seriously when I predicted that Trump and Clinton would be close in the polls close to Election Day. And yet, here we are. In fact, the sine wave has already reversed and by Election Day, Clinton could be significantly ahead again. A few final thoughts before the election:

First and foremost, I've said for a while, this is a really Presidential weird election year, and I think the least likely to match outcomes between polls and results.

Last week, Trump saw the biggest rise in the last 30 days of any election of any candidate since 2004; Obama's rise in 2008 was about 2.2 heading into the election, and no other years featured any rises in the last month. Despite that rise, the outcome of an election has never changed in the last 5 days.

People ask me why I follow the RealClearPolitics polls and no others. It's because, statistically, their average should be more accurate than any one poll, especially ahead of the election. Here are their results for the last three Presidential elections, with final Popular Vote at the top and the one-day-before-election RCP poll average below.



They correctly called all three one day before the election. In 2004 & 2012, the winner took even more than they predicted; in 2008 it was about the same. As such, the RCP average on Monday should determine the winner (this is all about Popular Vote; Electoral is a different thing).

This year though, I'm worried about their accuracy for the first time. For some reason (that didn't happen in previous elections), the LA Times Poll is way off from any other poll. It's so far off that in statistics, we would call this an "outlier" (and in many cases, ignore it). But RCP takes every legitimate poll, so they include it. Here's what it has looked like for the last four months:



Compare that to the RCP average:

 

While the average has predicted that Clinton would win for all but a few days during that time, the LA Times poll is opposite -- insisting that Trump would win on most days. This could give Trump voters false hope -- but more importantly could skew the entire poll average enough to make the race look less close than it is, for all voters.

If this poll proves to be way off from final results, I believe that RCP should remove it from its list of legitimate polls. There's obviously something wrong with their methodology if they are that far off (and incorrect in the end). If it's correct, then it's a brilliant poll which we should all watch closely next time. LA Time also polls people on who they *think* will become president (regardless of who they are voting for). This, interestingly, looks much like the RCP polls, which I think makes the LA Times voting poll even more suspect.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1 Week Left to Election 2016; 7 Shoo-In Predictors!

Well, ladies & gentlemen... the bewitching hour is close at hand. No, wait, that was last night. Tonight, we're 1 WEEK from the most contentious Presidential Election in U.S. history. over 22,000,000 people have already voted (about 15% of the last turnout) and that number may hit 50 million before election day. One week from tonight, history will be made (one way or another), and we may know the results earlier than ever.



The race is as close as it's been this season -- and we may be headed for an Electoral/Popular vote split!

Here are tonight's predictions from people who have been right before! 

Real Clear Politics



PROS: I have trusted this website's Poll Average since they jumped on the scene in 2004.
CONS: Polls aren't always right (see bottom)




PROS: Nothing's more accurate than people putting a bet on something
CONS: Or is it?

-  Nate Silver's 538:










PROS: Correctly predicted presidential election outcome of 2008 & 2012 in 49 & 50 of 50 states.
CONS: Statistician failed to predict Trump's primary victory


- Artificial Intelligence: (Oct. 28th)


PROS: Correctly predicted presidential election outcomes in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
CONS: Doesn't take sentiment into account (LOL)


- Some Random College Professor (Oct. 28th)


PROS: Correctly predicted the last 8 presidential election outcomes
CONS: Criteria, hair style, and dress were defined in 1984 and haven't changed since.


- Halloween Masks (Aug. 25th)

PROS: Correctly predicted the last 5 presidential election outcomes
CONS: Have to wear mask from one of these jokers


- New York Times Upshot (Polls)



PROS: Uses actual data
CONS: Popular, Not Electoral, and Polls aren't always right (see below)

Infographic: How Accurate Are Final US Election Polls? | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista