August 30, 2015

Hue Lights: fun but flawed

Last Xmas my nephews gave me a set of Hue Lights. (Thanks, guys!) The lights are produced by Philips and they come with software that allows you to change the color of the bulbs. They're a bit pricey but lots of fun. You get three lights (and a "bridge" that you plug into your Wi-Fi router, which makes the lights work) with the original set, which costs about $200. Additional bulbs are sold separately and they cost $60 each. Not cheap.

I didn't install the system last Xmas because I was about to move, and the lights in my old house were way up there on 20-foot ceilings. No way I'd climb a ladder to put a bulb up there -- especially since we planned to move during the coming year. So I waited until I arrived at my new location to plug them in.

The system is great fun. I bought two additional bulbs so I've got five colored bulbs in all. I love being able to display dim, glowing colors in my house. And with a tap of a button on my iPad, they change from red to blue to...well, that's the problem. There isn't much range. The ads make you think you can use any photo to change the colors. Just upload it to your iPad, take the Hue software eyedropper and pick up the color you want. Nuh-uh.

Basically the lights want to be a pinkish lavender. When you "choose" another color, what you're really doing is trying to fight your way away from pinkish lavender. It loves that color. Beyond this, there's no real blue. You can get a tinge of green, but that's it. And there are very few vivid colors you can produce. So it's wildly limited.

But the main problem is that the software sucks. Let's say you add a bunch of bulbs and now have a system of 12 bulbs at your house. The problem is that you can't segment them into groups. All you can do is choose all the bulbs and set them individually. So if you have blue bulbs everywhere, for instance, and you want to change one to white, you either change it permanently (which you didn't want to do; you only wanted to light a white bulb in the kitchen for five minutes; you like your blue bulbs) or you have to make a new "scene" (what they call the saved color schemes) and set all the lights again, this time setting one to white. Then you have two full color schemes and must click between them to have the white light for a few minutes. Tch. Think what happens when you have 50 bulbs in the system. Pain in the butt.

They've had literally years to fix this but they haven't done a thing. Philips' attitude is very PC and not Mac at all. You have to improve your product when everyone's bitching about it. And everyone is, I assure you.

Still, they're fun and I don't know of any product that does the same trick. I just wish they did it well.

August 28, 2015

Big Brother is in the sky and packing heat

Now, this is ominous.
North Dakota’s police agencies can fly drones armed with Tasers, tear gas, bean-bag cannons, and other “less-lethal” weapons, thanks to fierce lobbying from the law enforcement industry on a bill that was initially meant to restrict police use of the flying robots rather than outfit them with weapons. While other local police departments have flirted with weaponizing their drones, North Dakota is the first state to explicitly allow the armaments.
And not the last, I'm sure. How can someone not understand that this is the first step on the road to insanity? An America where drones shoot citizens down from the sky? And someone actually thinks this is a good idea?
The weaponization of law enforcement drones could facilitate police abuse of force. Military drone pilots can develop a “Playstation mentality” toward their deadly work, according to United Nations official. The physical remove of a drone pilot desensitizes him, the thinking goes, and makes it easier to be rash about deploying his armaments. Pilots themselves contest this desensitization claim, however, and there’s reason to think military drone operators experience post-traumatic stress disorder despite sitting far from the battlefield.
Far from the battlefield and far from reality. If this isn't slapped down instantly, we are in for a real sh*tstorm.

August 22, 2015

Another bad move by the pope

So you think Pope Francis is sweet, eh? Not to gays, as I keep telling you. I came across this today:
Pope Francis has become wildly popular in the United States for striking an unusually inclusive tone as pontiff, winning praise — and possibly converts — for encouraging his fellow Catholics to be less judgmental towards the poor, immigrants, and even LGBT people. But when the pope travels to Philadelphia next month to attend the World Meeting of Families, he’ll be rubbing elbows with people known for advocating a very different kind of conversion: Ex-gay therapy.
So now that "ex-gay therapy" has been rejected by most Americans, including medical professionals, the pope thinks it's a great time to go to a conference that says sexual orientation is a choice and it can be changed. No, it can't. There is no gay person on this planet who "became straight". Nuh-uh. Doesn't happen. They just turn into closet cases -- who go on to do what closet cases always do: they attack gays who are happy to be gay. In other words, they become our worst enemies. This is who Pope Francis is siding with.

And as I mentioned the other day, while the pope plans to lift the spirits of gay-haters everywhere by meeting with fictional "ex-gays", his minions continue to attack gay people:
By contrast, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told reporters in June he had no intention of allowing LGBT groups to speak at the conference, saying, “We don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of the church.” 
Indeed. Chaput is one sick cookie. He's always lashing out at gays and the pope is openly siding with him. I think at this point we can assume that the Roman Catholic church hates gay people and apparently always will. But it is church leaders -- not typical American Catholics -- who feel this way. Polls show this to be the case.
Ex-gay therapy is also widely rejected by most Catholics. A 2011 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that an overwhelming majority of American Catholics (69 percent) don’t believe that sexual orientation can be changed, and the group is actually more supportive of same-sex marriage than any other American Christian denomination. Some parishes even march in gay pride parades.
So there you go. For no rational reason (they've never cited one that makes sense), the church under Pope Francis will continue its pogrom against gays.

Because god is good. Or something.

August 21, 2015

Sadly, even the NYT does it

In an editorial at the NYT today, by (ahem) the Editorial Board, I found this sentence:
Recently, NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast, recently invested $200 million in BuzzFeed, the digital media company.
I mean, seriously. No editor or copy editor at the entire New York Times noticed the double-use of "recently" in that sentence? And you know, I might not have mentioned it but this error is online. How hard is it to correct an online error? (Answer: not hard at all.)

Tacky. Really tacky.

August 19, 2015

I found it!

Moving is awful. You think it's going to be really, really bad -- but in the end, it's even worse. Much worse.

I don't know how other people handle moving, but for me it began with total inaction. I couldn't imagine doing it: going through everything, tossing stuff out (since I was moving to a smaller place), packing, cleaning and finally arriving at the new place. I just sat and stared at the wall for a month, unable to do anything. But finally I started to pack. It's not pleasant. For a month or so I had no clue where anything was because all my possessions were in boxes. It made for a shaky period where all I said was "Where is my goddamn (fill in the blank)?!"

But finally the boxes were all packed and moved to the new location. I'd like to say we had people move us, but that would be a lie. We did it ourselves so we could suffer immensely. Luckily, the first heatwave of the year hit exactly as we carted the heavy stuff. You want to be as uncomfortable as you can at a time like this, and I'm pleased to say we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

And then you think you're done but you've got all those boxes to unpack. Sheesh. So you rip them open and stuff things here and there in your new home, and finally you're done -- and you realize you still have no clue where anything is. In the coming days I'm going to walk around the house with my iPad and open drawers and closets as I dictate where everything is. Socks are _____; bedding is _____; etc. And then I'll alphabetize the list so I can find anything easily. I'll just open my "Where's My Stuff" file and presto, I'll be able to locate the item.

The worst thing was that I couldn't find my book of character names. I created the grandest list of character names in the history of the universe, with the idea of using them in upcoming novels. But the book was nowhere! I almost cried, truly. I tore through the house again and again but I couldn't find it. However, I'm thrilled to report that it turned up today. Again, with the almost-crying. Thank Dog! I feel so much better now that I've located it. Sweet, sweet book. Mwa!!

The upshot is that it's just about over. A great craftsman built a huge closet for me this week, so I can store the extra stuff that wouldn't fit anywhere else. This closet is huge. So now, even with everything put away, I have several empty shelves available. Again: sweet.

As for the location, it's heaven here, as I knew it would be. I'm literally living inside the novel Xmas Carol. My house is part of the very horse farm that inspired me to write my lovely little horror novel. It's a tremendous place, 300 acres. I can easily go on a six-mile walk without encountering a single human being. To me, that is the very nature of heaven. And all along the way I encounter beautiful horses. They're such nice creatures, calm, friendly and curious.

As for the wildlife, I'm currently in the process of making friends with a huge murder of crows. I adore crows. They're not 100% on board with the idea that I'm their new pal, but due to the magic of peanuts, I'm making headway each day.

And did I mention that I found my book of character names? I am set. Hopefully, now that things have settled down you'll see a few more blog posts around here. I plan to get back to work on the new book by next week, and I also hope to keep the blog going with fresh posts. This is a new beginning. I love that.

So I hear summer happened while I was packing. I totally missed it. Tell me, how did you fare? We're experiencing another heatwave right now in upstate New York. Tch. Not good for walking. C'mon, spit it out: how has your summer been?

August 18, 2015

The pope's upcoming anti-gay US tour

As I've said all along, although there is a new pope, the Vatican has not altered its hateful attitude toward gay people. The Roman Catholic church's pogrom against gay, bi and transgender people will continue unabated. It's what this church does; the hate will never end. On JoeMyGod's new blog, I came across this headline:

Catholic church reneges on hosting LGBT groups during World Meeting of Families

From the article: (bolding is mine)
Equally Blessed [a Catholic group that pushes for GLBT inclusion in the church] had secured the use of St. John the Evangelist Church’s parish center at 12th and Ludlow Streets [in Philadelphia, where the pope is soon to visit] this spring, said Francis DeBernardo, head of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, one of the groups in the coalition. The apparent ejection from St. John’s is the latest evidence of the divide between church leaders and LGBT Catholic groups as the meeting and the visit by Pope Francis draw near. Organizers of the alternative events planned for St. John’s were told last week by its pastor that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia disapproved of their gender identity program and they would no longer be allowed to use space at St. John’s for any events that week, DeBernardo said.
So that's that. Nothing has changed. The Roman Catholic church is evil and it intends to remain evil, despite societal pressure. On this topic, the new pope is just like the former pope.

August 17, 2015

Whistled Turkish

Time to break my blogging log-jam. I'm ba-ack! And I moved. Hooray! More about that later. For now, let us marvel at the existence of whistled Turkish. There actually is such a thing.
Generally speaking, language processing is a job for the brain's left hemisphere. That's true whether that language is spoken, written, or signed. But researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on August 17 have discovered an exception to this rule in a most remarkable form: whistled Turkish.
It seems like such a strange concept. I mean, what would whistled English sound like? I speak English yet I have no clue what this would mean.
Whistled Turkish is exactly what it sounds like: Turkish that has been adapted into a series of whistles. This method of communicating was popular in the old days, before the advent of telephones, in small villages in Turkey as a means for long-distance communication. In comparison to spoken Turkish, whistled Turkish carries much farther. While whistled-Turkish speakers use "normal" Turkish at close range, they switch to the whistled form when at a distance of, say, 50 to 90 meters away.
I love this but I wish I really understood what it's like. I assume you'd have to understand Turkish to grok it, but even Turkish speakers have problems understanding it if they haven't grown up hearing it.
"As a native Turkish-speaking person, I was struck that I did not understand a single word when these guys started whistling," he says. "Not one word! After about a week, I started recognizing a few words, but only if I knew the context."
The article goes on to recount how the existence of this language strand allowed them to test something, once and for all: whether language is primarily a left-brained or right-brained activity. Spoiler: we have a winner -- the left side won, which affirmed its long-supposed dominance of language.

Still, whistled Turkish. How cool is that?
Generally speaking, language processing is a job for the brain's left hemisphere. That's true whether that language is spoken, written, or signed. But researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on August 17 have discovered an exception to this rule in a most remarkable form: whistled Turkish.

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