It’s hard to artic­u­late how I feel about this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. So much of it has already been said. Part of me is still unable to com­pre­hend how this out­come is even pos­si­ble. I’m forced to real­ize that Amer­i­ca is not the place that I was brought up to believe it was: a land of oppor­tu­ni­ty and idealism–a place where any­one can make it. A new cul­ture has tak­en hold, decades in the mak­ing, and it’s repul­sive. And togeth­er “we” have ele­vat­ed a vain, ill-tem­pered, igno­rant, racist, sex­ist, xeno­phobe with no pro­fes­sion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions to the most impor­tant office in the land–the so-called leader of the free world.

I am grate­ful in this moment for the com­pa­ny of my daugh­ter, who is cheer­ful­ly unaware of cur­rent events. I don’t look for­ward to the day I have to explain to her how fem­i­nism died in 2016. I hope I nev­er have to tell her how democracy’s promise of free­dom and peace died too.

November 9, 2016 November 9, 2016 politics by Scott No Comments

I thought I’d write a polit­i­cal post that’s not about Trump. You’re wel­come.

I saw on the Interblogs this morn­ing that Giphy raised anoth­er $72 mil­lion in fund­ing at a val­u­a­tion of $600 mil­lion. Yes, that’s right, anoth­er $72 mil­lion… for a search engine… of ani­mat­ed GIFs.

The arti­cle goes on about the busi­ness: blah blah mon­e­ti­za­tion blah blah. But it makes no effort to address the point that invest­ing in the com­pa­ny is obvi­ous­ly a short-term bet, moti­vat­ed by some low but appar­ent­ly nonze­ro prob­a­bil­i­ty that peo­ple of the future will com­mu­ni­cate only through two-sec­ond reac­tion shots of tele­vi­sion char­ac­ters.

The mes­sage this invest­ment sends is eth­i­cal­ly ques­tion­able. I don’t have a prob­lem with entre­pre­neur­ship. I’m a start­up guy. My liveli­hood depends to some extent on ven­ture cap­i­tal and [hope­ful­ly] occa­sion­al suc­cess. But my lit­mus test for any busi­ness mod­el is sim­ple: does it strive to cre­ate val­ue as well as wealth? It’s a test that Giphy fails mis­er­ably (to say noth­ing about many arms of the finan­cial indus­try that sup­ports it).

So what. But I couldn’t help think­ing about the guy who writes the $72 mil­lion check and address­es it to a repos­i­to­ry of GIFs. What does that feel like? I won­der if he or she has read Pres­i­dent Eisenhower’s famous “Chance for Peace” speech. Eisen­how­er was talk­ing about the per­ils of Cold War defense spend­ing, but it’s not a com­plete­ly sil­ly par­al­lel to ven­ture cap­i­tal in 2016. He wrote, in 1953:

Every gun that is made, every war­ship launched, every rock­et fired sig­ni­fies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spend­ing mon­ey alone.

It is spend­ing the sweat of its labor­ers, the genius of its sci­en­tists, the hopes of its chil­dren.

The speech (which you should read in its entire­ty), famous­ly goes on to list a num­ber of incred­i­ble, world-chang­ing things one could buy for the price of a new bomber, fight­er jet, or destroy­er: schools, pow­er plants, hos­pi­tals, food, and homes.

How far we have come in 63 years. Eisen­how­er was furi­ous about ratch­et­ing up the machines of war just a few years after World War II scarred the world. Today our coun­try has enjoyed the longest peri­od of rel­a­tive peace and pros­per­i­ty in its his­to­ry, and ven­ture cap­i­tal is pump­ing out bil­lions of dol­lars. But rather than invest in our future as a soci­ety, they have decid­ed to dou­ble down on GIFs.

October 31, 2016 October 31, 2016 politics by Scott No Comments

I just saw a Boston Globe arti­cle in which cycling advo­ca­cy groups are demand­ing that 18-wheel trucks be banned from the city after yet anoth­er cyclist fatal­i­ty caused by a turn­ing truck.

I think this is a great idea, but cycling safe­ty shouldn’t be the only moti­va­tion. I have always been annoyed at how waste­ful and ridicu­lous it is to have enor­mous diesel semis roar­ing through com­pact city streets to cov­er rel­a­tive­ly short dis­tances with small amounts of car­go. Star­bucks uses 53′ trail­ers to deliv­er cof­fee and cups to their stores, for exam­ple. Real­ly, you couldn’t do that with a light­weight van?

I’m sure that with all the con­struc­tion in town, an absolute ban is not fea­si­ble, but there’s no rea­son we couldn’t head the direc­tion of more pro­gres­sive cities like Oslo and Paris by requir­ing that deliv­ery vehi­cles get small­er, lighter, and more elec­tric.

October 17, 2016 October 17, 2016 cycling by Scott 2 Comments

This arti­cle about fit­ness in Cairo amused me. When I vis­it­ed Egypt pre-rev­o­lu­tion in 2008, I man­aged some runs along the Nile, which seemed like a per­fect­ly obvi­ous thing to do. I run every­where I trav­el. But it’s true that every­one I passed stared at me as if per­haps I had just shoplift­ed.

There are oth­er major cities where out­door fit­ness pur­suits still seem rel­a­tive­ly uncom­mon, like Paris. But the scene there is chang­ing too. I’m just sur­prised it has tak­en this long.

August 24, 2016 August 24, 2016 travel by Scott No Comments

Why are all stereo com­po­nents from every brand just over 17 inch­es wide? As the new own­er of a 16.75 inch wide cab­i­net, that is a frus­trat­ing dis­cov­ery. If you’ve ever tak­en apart a mod­ern piece of stereo equip­ment, you’ll find it is most­ly air. I’ve nev­er seen a piece of sol­id-state Hi-Fi gear that comes any­where close to using the full vol­ume of its enclo­sure.

Did I men­tion that I want some­thing sim­ple for stereo speak­ers and a turntable. No 7-source HDMI switch­ing with on-screen dis­plays. No 40-chan­nel sur­round sound. No “con­cert hall” echo effects. No 100-but­ton remote con­trol. FM radio would be nice.

I could just use anoth­er Sonos zone, but I real­ly want some­thing with a phys­i­cal user inter­face. I know, I know: why do I hold on to such bygone con­cepts as vol­ume knobs? And pow­er switch­es?

I know vol­ume knobs are obso­lete. It’s obvi­ous­ly much more con­ve­nient to take a smart­phone out of your pock­et, unlock it with your pass­code, nav­i­gate to the home screen, open an app, wait a few sec­onds while it con­nects, page to the vol­ume screen, and adjust the sound from there.

July 31, 2016 July 31, 2016 design by Scott 1 Comment

The AP’s Eric Lev­en­son writes about Trump: “…New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can offi­cials have strug­gled to embrace him as he con­tin­ues to make eye­brow-rais­ing com­ments about minori­ties and women.”

I would be curi­ous to hear the AP explain how they draw the line between “eye­brow-rais­ing com­ments about minori­ties and women” and “racist and sex­ist com­ments.”

June 13, 2016 June 13, 2016 politics by Scott No Comments

Com­pass Bicy­cles: Why not “Made in U.S.A.?”

This arti­cle is a real­ly thought­ful answer to a com­mon ques­tion. It’s an inter­est­ing predica­ment for those (like me) who think we should build more things in Amer­i­ca. And it offers fur­ther proof that the anti-glob­al­iza­tion, anti-trade poli­cies cham­pi­oned by many can­di­dates in this year’s election–guilty par­ties include Trump, Cruz, and yes, Sanders–are a com­plete­ly wrong and dis­as­trous solu­tion to the prob­lem of declin­ing indus­tri­al out­put.

April 19, 2016 April 19, 2016 engineering by Scott No Comments

I just spent a few days at the Embed­ded Lin­ux Con­fer­ence. I get that it’s prob­a­bly one of the largest com­mu­ni­ties of desk­top Lin­ux users assem­bled any­where, but I am sur­prised to see that Microsoft-bash­ing is still a thing.

The fact is–and I don’t know how they’re doing it–Microsoft is fir­ing on all cylin­ders these days. Win­dows 10 is actu­al­ly real­ly nice, to the point where it feels like a sub­tly col­or­ful, human-cen­tric breath of fresh air next to Mac OS X. They are increas­ing­ly embrac­ing open stan­dards, inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, and open source in sur­pris­ing ways, while Apple and Google move the oth­er direc­tion.

Mean­while, Lin­ux as a desk­top is still pret­ty ter­ri­ble in 2016 for all but con­sole-dri­ven pro­gram­mers. (I say this as a seri­ous user of the Lin­ux com­mand line.)

April 6, 2016 April 6, 2016 computers by Scott No Comments