“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.”

July 22, 2014 July 22, 2014 food by Scott No Comments

Tallinn street scene

I’m slowly catch­ing up on some photo edit­ing tasks. This one is from last sum­mer in Estonia.

July 20, 2014 July 20, 2014 photos by Scott 1 Comment


My nephew gets a bath.

July 19, 2014 July 19, 2014 family by Scott 1 Comment

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?

July 2, 2014 July 2, 2014 in-the-news by Scott No Comments

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.

Playing the organ

Part of the organ

Freddie looks in the organ

Welding shop

June 29, 2014 June 29, 2014 activities by Scott 2 Comments

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

Space Shuttle Atlantis

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.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

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.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

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.

  1. Actu­ally, we were hop­ing to catch a SpaceX Fal­con 9 launch, which was sched­uled per­ilously close to the time of my depart­ing flight. Despite the mirac­u­lous clear­ing of the weather, the launch was scrubbed at the last minute due to a tech­ni­cal issue. 

June 22, 2014 June 22, 2014 observations by Scott No Comments

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.

June 13, 2014 June 13, 2014 rants by Scott No Comments

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.

June 8, 2014 June 8, 2014 rants by Scott No Comments