Wednesday, December 2, 2015

President Gingrich

In the 2016 Republican Primaries, Trump's back up as Carson's down, but there's still plenty of time for things to change. This time in the 2012 election, we were gearing up for President Gingrich! POLL AVERAGES: RealClearPolitics

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Great Scott! We're in 2015, Marty!

UPDATE: I've added some additional thoughts at the bottom, after seeing some impressive ad campaigns during the day.

They day has arrived. In the movie "Back to the Future II," the plot had Doc Emmit and Marty McFly going 30 years into the future... that date was October 21, 2015.

I've blogged more about how the movie got up-to-the-second weather forecasts on your wristwatch correctly over on my blog. Here, I'll gush a little more here about the Trilogy, which we'll be watching tonight with my stepdaughter and parents-in-law.

To me, the first movie, showing in 1985 (I can still remember seeing it in the theater!) was one of the greatest movies of all-time (it's #47 on IMDB but shares a rating with other 8.5 movies which are as high as #29). Marty McFly was the ultimate role model to 11-year-old me. He defeated the bullies, got the girl, and did it all with a crazy scientist wearing a Hawaiian shirt who harnesses THE WEATHER for time travel in an insane sports car. Are you kidding me?

I'm disappointed they didn't remake the movie -- in a year when so many other 80s and 90s films/series are being resurrected, but I understand why -- Michael J. Fox is struggling with Parkinsons and Christopher Lloyd -- my God how is that man still alive? And for the original movie, so many things came together to make the perfect film -- nothing, even with today's movie effects, could do it justice.

CollegeHumor, by the way, has made a hilarious spoof of how Doc & Marty would *really* feel if they were in the actual 2015:

Universal has also posted a "new" message from Doc Brown:

10/21/15! The Future is NOW! Doc Brown has a special message just for you. #BTTF2015

Posted by Back to the Future Trilogy on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Needless, to say, the anniversary has been heavily handled by advertisers (myself included)... USA Today decided to reproduce the front page from the movie as a wrapper for today's paper (brilliant):

And although Toyota is offering a "Back to the Future" truck (as seen in the first movie), perhaps the most impressive advertising campaign is the one they fully executed with scenes from the movies, to introduce their first fuel-cell car:

Well done, Toyota, well done.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's the Bozo Filter, Stupid.

I read, with amusement tonight, this article "Fuming Bernie supporters: Why is CNN deleting our comments?" As a long-time Moderator of Facebook Pages and other Forums, I hear this "censoring comments" claim everyday, and I know what's going on "behind the curtain." TRUST ME: There's no conspiracy.

There are actually three different technical events that could be going on, when you're dealing with Facebook Comments -- either on a Fan Page, or on a website:

1: Facebook hides comments that they believe are obscene, automatically and programmatically. Trust me, this is a big help for the Facebook Page's moderators -- who can restore any comments that got accidentally hidden by the filters, without letting the spammers get their SEO, or letting obscene comments start off-topic, unnecessary flame wars that don't add to the conversations and weaken the brand.

The moderators can also create their own list of "trigger" words that temporarily hide suspicious posts until they can be approved or removed. For example, I like to keep words like "paycheck" in my filter list to filter out spam. Things that indicate that people are going down the conspiracy rabbit hole can also be helpful.

The technical way that these filters work are that the person who posted the offending comment (and the moderator) can ALWAYS see the comment, even (in most situations) if they are banned completely from the system. This is called a "bozo filter" and it's one of the most brilliant inventions on user discussion boards. The person thinks they posted their comment successfully, but they never get any responses, which teaches them that it isn't worth their time (trolls are, after all, only there to get a rise out of people). (It also avoids a confrontation with / retribution to the Moderators, which is a big pain in our collective ass).

What I'm saying is: If the system is working correctly (programmatically speaking) you wouldn't know that your comment has been hidden. If there's a bug in the code, or a server has a hiccup, see #2.

2: The second problem is that Facebook's servers are out of sync. It's challenging to keep millions of databases on millions of computers in sync. If you post a comment then immediately reload, you're guaranteed to be on a different server. They should sync within seconds but that's only in a perfect world and comments on websites are probably not at the top of Facebook's priority list.

3: Thirdly, and this is a "feature" on Facebook's end -- when you get a Notification on Facebook that someone has replied to your comment, you'll sometimes get directed to a page which shows ONLY their comment -- this is an attempt to help you more easily locate the comments, but it sometimes freaks people out and they think all other comments are deleted. If you do see most comments, but not yours, see #2.

Conspiracies are great way to make you the poster feel smarter, but Occam's Razor always overrides them. Is it more likely CNN has employed hundreds of censors to delete each Bernie Sander's comment, or that Facebook, the largest computer server farm in the world, has some issues keeping up with the comments in a plugin on a website that isn't even theirs?

Even if there were a conspiracy, and CNN was censoring comments, the commenters have no legal leg to stand on. Commenters have previously agreed to both CNN's and Facebook's terms & conditions before commenting -- there is no "freedom of speech" when you're on a private website, you're playing by their rules (not by the government's). If you're posting something threatening or obscene, they have every right not to show that, and writing something reasonable as your second sentence doesn't buy you a get-out-of-jail-free ticket.

*"It's the economy, stupid" is a slight variation of the phrase "The economy, stupid" which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist of Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H. W. Bush.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Weekend of the Jesse Has Begun

41 years ago tomorrow morning, at 9:54 AM, I was born unto this world. As such, I'm taking a 3-day weekend this week, and upon changing my Facebook profile picture to "Baby Jesse," I declare that the Weekend of the Jesse has begun.

To me, it's less about celebrating my birthday and more about making this MY day. I have so many hobbies that I treasure my time away from work. This weekend I aim to dip back into the archives of my childhood and remember my former glory. Organize some digital photos and files. Scan in some old photos, digitize some old tapes. Buy some new music. Add in some good food for good measure, maybe a trip to the Drive-In or the movies with the family this weekend, and I'll have a blast.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lions and Dreams and Tigers, Oh My

I had a weird dream Thursday night, about lions and tigers running around at AccuWeather HQ, where I work. I don't usually remember my dreams with such clarity; when I do, I like to write them down. I also believe that dreams are made primarily from things that you see or hear during the day, but don't fully process (don't think about too deeply).

In the dream, I was testing a new binocular-camera type gadget. I saw some deer run out of the woods behind the building, and focused the camera on them. I was excited to have captured the deer up close as they ran past me. Unfortunately, that wasn't all that came out of the woods -- they were followed by two tigers, two small elephants, a panda, and a lion. I believe the tigers were in the dream because I uploaded this silly AccuWeather graphic to Facebook on Thursday:

And I believe the setting came from a walk -- the first of this year due to warmer weather -- around AccuWeather and the parking lot next door, as shown on the map below.

By the time the lion walked up to me, I was at the edge of the yard sitting up against an electricity station (you know, those big green electrical boxes). The lion rubbed his head on the corner of the box as I was snapping pictures but I was terrified that he, or one of the other animals might attack me.

Eventually, however, he moved on. Some of my coworkers and my wife emerged from the building and I excitedly told them what had happened. At this point, someone pointed out that the animals were being herded into a blue tour bus behind me, in the parking lot of the neighboring building.

I said we should chase them down or at least call the police with their license plate, since they could let the dangerous animals out again at another location. My wife, a couple coworkers and I jumped into someone's SUV and gave chase down Science Park Road. We were able to get next to them on the right (not possible... in reality it's a two-way street) and I attempted to take a picture of their front license plate. I remember that it said "MON ==> 10" or something very close to that, and that it was a North Carolina plate (I used to live there so I know what they look like; I've mocked up the plate below).

(Goofs: North Carolina license plates go on the back, and the arrow character is not one of the special characters allowed. They do allow #, ? and !, and I once tried to get just a question mark and they said no, but that's a story for another day).

I think at this point I woke up, because I don't remember anything else. I'm not sure where the tour bus came from, or the North Carolina license plate, but I may well have encountered them both in passing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Vint Cerf: Hide Yo Pics, Hide Yo Scans

Vint Cerf (yes, the father of the Internet, I know it's ironic what with "surfing" being an old Internet term) is quoted as saying:
"Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week, Google Vice President Vint Cerf warned of a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” that awaits us when "bit rot" takes hold and our digital material gets lapped by the new hardware and software racing around it."
In other words...

He even recommended printing out your favorite photos. What?? Look, I understand, the guy's a futurist and I think his point is that the technology to read digital archives is moving much quicker now.

If anybody knows the pain of trying to digitize and convert one's Quantified Self, it's me, I've been working for years to digitize my own stuff, my father's art & music, and my family's photos. And yes, it's hard to get photos off old floppies or VHS tape, but it's not impossible. CDs that were produced 25 years ago still play. Yes, I remember when GIF animations came out in the mid 1990s, but everybody still uses them.

I think Cerf's point is that it's not a commercially viable project to make sure digital files survive in the future. While that may be true, I don't think that will cause the death of photos. There are enough corners of the Internet that will still keep those things running, as long as we stick to major image formats.

And a weird AP Photo to go with that? Sure.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Fought the 'Larms, and the 'Larms Won

The girls were down in York, PA last weekend when I was awakened by one of the smoke alarms in our house at 10:00 PM. Full-on alarm, not just a "dead battery beep." In a half-daze, I somehow determined the house wasn't on fire, and found the errant alarm in the hallway, disabling it by taking the battery out and disconnecting it from the power, and went back to bed, turned up the air purifier, put earplugs in, and drifted back off to sleep.

11:00 PM: I was awakened again by the smoke alarm's incessant ringing. Disconnected the alarm in the bedroom. Went back to sleep:

12:00 AM: Same thing. Disconnected the downstairs alarm. Went back to sleep.

1:00 AM: Same thing. Disconnected two remaining alarms, once again checked for smoke or fire, crashed back in bed.

9:00 AM: After a sleepless night, I closely read the instructions on the bottom of the smoke alarm and notice the text highlighted below:

The damn things were networked. So no matter how many I unplugged, if it wasn't the one that triggered the alarm, it wouldn't have stopped alarming.

I never really thought that they could be networked, but our house was built in 2003 (I bought it in 2006) so that's a nice piece of mind to have. Literally wiring smoke alarms together in house wiring seems amusing in a day when we can install smoke alarms that network amongst themselves and via the Internet, but it was a nice addition in 2003.

So why did the (one) smoke alarm think it detected smoke that night? I have no idea, but since it was only one, we can rule out fire, and ghosts. I remember once when I was a kid, a spider crawled into a smoke detector and set it off. Though you'd think they'd have spider-detecting smoke detectors by this year, it's possible that's just what happened.

I didn't cook anything, or even take a shower, before bed so I doubt it was anything in the air. The one thing I did not do though, was poke my nose out the door -- perhaps a temperature inversion forced smoke from nearby homes to enelope ours. I guess we'll never know. But next time... I'll know to look for the alarm with the little blinking red light.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Puppy Bowl, With Katty Furry Halftime Show

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sports just aren't my thing, so today I'll (once again) be watching the Puppy and/or Kitty Bowl today (complete with the "Katty Furry halftime show"), Superbowl Sunday. This is pretty much what I think of football:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Childish Gambino and the Countdown

(UPDATE 1/9/15 @ 7:30 AM)

About six months ago, I saw an especially lame, badly designed ad on It was an ad for an album by an artist I had never heard of.

Oh great, Donald Glover. The guy from the TV show "Community." Let's see, he's named "Childish Gambino" and the name of the album is "because the internet." That's what I need, another lame actor trying music. Probably a comedy album, I thought. Ugh.

For the next couple months the ad followed me around everywhere I went on the web (Amazon, and many ad providers, read your cookies and try to present you with "relevant" ads). This was a FAIL in my opinion. Why would I like this album?? Eventually, the ad went away and it fell out of my memory.

Fast forward a couple months more, I'm surfing Amazon's $5 albums (they put out new albums every month and I sometimes bolster my music collection, or try out new artists). And there the album was again. It was labeled "Rap & Hip Hop."

I took the chance and hit the "Preview All" button, and found one of my favorite artists of all-time.

See, Amazon had it right all along. Donald Glover's stage name for his alter-ego rapper's latest album wasn't far from the experimental and brilliant "Yeezus" by Kanye West (yes, I listen to rap). Amazon matched me with it because it knew I would love it, based on the other hip-hop albums I had purchased over the years. And once again, Amazon's algorithms sparked a sale. Actually, several.

Childish Gambino is brilliant and transcends the entire rap genre in a way that few have. He's less of a gangsta rapper and more of a spoken-word poet who uses experimental music - music he wants to invent, not something he thinks he should invent, to get air play - to describe stories of life. When you explore his four albums, especially the later one, you'll be taken on a brilliant, heart breaking experience of a child growing into a man in Atlanta (OK, being from the South, I'll admit that is part of the allure). He's also a brilliant comedian, as proven on "Community," and for people who don't "understand" rap music: The comedy of the rhymes is part of the attraction of the genre.

And finally, he seems to enjoy Hawaiian shirts, though they, I suspect, are part of a statement that he's not a typical ghetto rapper, he's well-off, educated, preppy, and not afraid to go against the hard-core rappers out there.

He's also a bit of an enigma. Despite the name of his last album "because the internet" and a crapload of references to technology in his lyrics, he literally disappeared off the web on the one-year anniversary of the album dropping (12/10/2014). He zeroed out all of his Social Media accounts and his website, and had not been heard from again online... until yesterday when he put up a simple countdown clock on a random URL via one tweet that was live for only minutes.

The countdown ends tonight.

UPDATE: The countdown gave way to a new video premiere for his recently released song "Sober." I agree with what NPR said about the video:

As with much of Childish Gambino's work, it's both comical and kick-ass. Just when you think it's all a joke, he busts out some genuinely cool moves. And when "Sober" starts to feel a little too cheesy, like some steamy seduction we've heard a million times, it erupts into a gnarled, dark grind. Is this guy for real? Is it all a put-on? Not knowing is part of the joy in watching it all unfold.