“Market research had shown that Millennials wanted food to deliver an experience, not just energy, and the company was searching for an innovation that their customer base would talk about with friends.”Sarah Yager, “Doritos Locos Tacos,” The Atlantic, July/August 2014
I hope I never have to contend with the full Taco Bell “experience.”
I’m slowly catching up on some photo editing tasks. This one is from last summer in Estonia.
I don’t understand why there is so much controversy about Facebook running social experiments on their users. Stealth A/B testing has long been standard practice for large Web companies. Have people forgotten that Facebook is an inessential and completely voluntary for-profit service?
Also, when did so many people get the impression that Facebook was some kind of privacy-minded, altruistic steward of their data?
The American Guild of Organists had their annual convention in Boston this past week, which opened up some unusual musical (and people-watching) opportunities.
On Monday, we saw James David Christie and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra at Symphony Hall. I didn’t care too much for the modern music on the program, but his performance of Guilmant’s Première Symphonie pour Orgue et Orchestre was incredible. I guess that’s the point of the piece, but the organ really can hold its own against a full orchestra.
On Thursday, we saw Peter Krasinski provide a pipe organ accompaniment to the silent film Old Ironsides (1926) at Old South Church. That, too, was an amazing performance–in surround sound, no less.
And on Saturday, we visited the factory of C.B. Fisk, the legendary organ-builder in Gloucester. I like to tour a good shop, but more than anything I love seeing the sort of specialized tooling that evolves to serve a particular craft. In one facility, Fisk builds enormous examples of top-quality wood cabinetry, casts their own metal for pipe-making, crafts consoles with complex controls and linkages, and sculpts elaborate architectural ornamentation. Visitors could walk through a partially-built organ in their warehouse while it was played. Their namesake founder was a physicist who worked with Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project before taking up this more peaceful vocation.
Last year, the Kennedy Space Center opened their new permanent exhibit featuring the Space Shuttle Atlantis. A colleague and I happened to be in town on business this week, so we made a hasty appearance.1
I had been lucky to see an orbiter in person a couple of times before, including the dummy orbiter (Enterprise) once displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center. None of those opportunities brought me as close as the new KSC exhibit, with its levels of catwalks just barely beyond touching distance.
The most startling thing about seeing an orbiter up close is that you can see how handmade it is. It’s not at all like a modern jetliner, with its polished, painted surfaces, flush rivets, and machined perfection. Its surfaces are rough and its lines are ungainly. It has been discolored, in this case, by the effects of 126 million miles of space travel. With fasteners, stitching, and glue exposed everywhere, you can see how it was assembled. It looks like it could have been built in your backyard. Portions of the fuselage unprotected by tiles are covered with white fabric quilts. There is a fuzzy fabric gasket to seal the open cargo bay doors. You can even see the overspray from when “Atlantis” was painted on the side of the cockpit, as if someone casually did the task with a stencil and a can of Krylon.
It’s still strange to see the Space Shuttle, an icon of scientific progress from my school days, in full retirement. At my last visit to the space center in 2011 (for the penultimate shuttle launch) the program’s end was lingering ominously over the complex–but now it’s here. Most visitors consume the optimistic NASA PR–that is is only the beginning of a new chapter. The truth is a little more harsh. The future is in the hands of private companies, but the romance is gone.
I saw some disturbing headlines in the tech news today:
“Vessyl, a smart cup designed by Yves Behar, is designed to measure and track any drink poured into it in real-time.”
“This Amazing New ‘Smart Cup’ Can Tell What Kind Of Drink Is Inside It”
“Ever wished you could keep track of what you’re consuming without keeping a detailed list? Meet Vessyl, a cup that can calculate detailed information about what you’re drinking.”
Someone please tell me this is just a joke.
I’m tired of hearing about “smart homes.” Technologists presume that the forthcoming wave of gadgets will finally solve all my problems simply by connecting everything. I like networks as much as the next nerd, but let’s be honest for a minute.
The problem with smart home technology as it is envisioned today is that it exists to solve problems that normal people shouldn’t have in the first place. Examples:
- “My house is so damn big that the living room light switch is 1/8 mile away. How can I turn off the lights without standing up and walking?”
- “My home theater has 8 remote controls and a bewildering array of knobs. How do I turn down the volume?”
- “How can I water the plants without going outside?”
- “How can I check my back hallway smoke detector battery from an Internet café in Portugal?”
- “How can I finally use this $500 phone to unlock my door so I don’t have to use a $5 key instead?”
You know what makes a smart home? A modest home with stuff that works for you, and not too much of it.