Archive for March, 2008

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Approaching the first bridge

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Wired just wrote up a great profile on my favorite futurist Ray Kurzweil. It’s an interesting read – particularly if you follow his work or have read any of his books. While some of his longevity techniques might be a bit off the deep end (hello 210 vitamins) he’s right on the money as far as I’m concerned when it comes to bridging human biology with technology.

Experimenting with aggregation

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

In an effort to bring together the wonderful wide world of Sparky* I’m experimenting with Tumblr as an aggregation service. The hopes of my experimentation is to create a single point of contact for all my personal web content. Currently to get every last drop of Sparky goodness (and who doesn’t want that) visits to my blog, Flickr stream, Facebook profile, and Twitter are necessary. By providing this aggregate source of Sparky – henceforth referred to as Meta-Sparky – a single website can be visited to consume Sparky, Sparky, Sparky, and more Sparky.

Without further ado:

Update: Tumblr ended up being close to what I want, but not quite it. Tumblr will only allow short form content and won’t import long format blog posts. I also noticed it copies Flickr photos locally and re-compresses them which adds a slight color cast and loses the tack-sharpness that so much effort goes into on the front end.

Anyone know of a better aggregation service with similar features that I could check out? Leave a note in the comments with a link to it. If I don’t find anything readymade I guess I’ll have to roll up my sleeves and make something.

*wonder, wonderment, and wonderfulness not guaranteed. All Sparky all the time has been known to cause health complications in certain situations. If you experience a Sparky lasting more than 4 hours consult with a physician immediately.

Red point

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Red point

A sunset inspired photo from my downtown jury duty adventures last week. This is from a giant wall of red glass downtown. I’m also a fan of this photo of a very different part of the same building but red point is my favorite of the two.

For the record

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

I love my iPhone. I know it seems like such a trivial thing, but of all the gadgets in my life it has the biggest positive impact. Music, SMS, email, voice, or the full blown web – it’s all there in a pocketable little aluminum package. Having the world at your fingertips changes a lot about the way you live your life – keeping up with friends on the go or killing time in jury duty the iPhone scores a win.

That is all.

A jury of my peers my ass

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

In the spirit of civic duty I’ve spent the last two days serving for the King County jurors pool. So far I’ve been a potential juror on two separate trials but have been excused from both. Once both of those trials are over I’ll write up more of my experiences in the jury selection process, but until that point it would be against the law for me to post details. For now my reading public will have to be satisfied with these thoughts from my days in the Halls of Ultimate Justice:

Overall I’m coming away from the experience disenchanted. I love the concept of trial by jury and think that in a perfect world it’s the most ideal way to try people – until of course artificial intelligence becomes advanced enough to be able to lend its services as a truly impartial and objective judge. However in the real world the United States implementation is more than slightly flawed.

The key problem comes from the legal promise of “a jury of peers”. Back when the United States was founded this was possible to provide given that society in general in the colonies was more or less equal. Unfortunately in the intervening centuries our society has been ripped asunder with the creation of four classes: lower, middle, upper, and the ultra-rich ‘ruling class’. As much as some would like to deny that this would effect the judicial system it does – the ultra-rich almost never go to trial thanks to the fleet of lawyers they employ, and the other three classes are unlikely to get a true jury of their peers.

As the social divide increases the concept of a jury of peers becomes more and more diluted. For instance if I was ever erroneously accused of a crime and sent to trial my experiences here have taught me that I would likely not get a true jury of my peers for the trial. I would be far more likely to get a jury of people either too disenchanted to want to serve their civic duty yet unable to get out of it, or too listless and unmotivated to have a good case for undue hardship to get out of the jury pool. Most of the people I see getting selected for juries are unemployed, retired, or from jobs where they are one of many people on a constantly changing team of replaceable people.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for civic duty and want to fully support the legal system, but my experiences here have shown me that change is needed to make for a system that is fair for all that end up trudging through it – guilty or innocent, rich or poor alike.

As far as I can see there are two potential fixes to this flawed implementation of the trial by jury system:

  1. Change the term “a jury of your peers” to “a jury of citizens”. To do this properly the rules for jury selection would have to change significantly. Currently a computer selects potential jurors who are then vetted by the judge and lawyers which by definition results in a slanted jury. To fix this the computer should instead pick 12 random people who would be required to serve on the jury – no exceptions, no exclusions. This would result in a reasonable cross section of society with (in a purely theoretical statistical sense) no bias
  2. Actually implement “a jury of peers” for the accused. To do this a computer could still be involved in the selection process, but it could by definition not be random. To truly select a group of someones peers their profession, neighborhood, intelligence, financial information race, and general social position. Again once suitable jurors are selected the lawyers likely should not be allowed to reject potential jurors except in extreme cases when a juror could be proven to be overly-biased. Unfortunately this second approach would likely increase bias in the jury panel to acquit or find a verdict of not guilty, but at least that verdict would truly come from a selection of the accused peers.

In either of these cases one key element must also be changed: the compensation. Currently jury duty in Washington State pays a $10 per day stipend. This is unfortunately a valid reason for people to resent their civic duty – anyone making from minimum wage all the way up to the ultra rich has a reason to be insulted by this token gesture.

A more fair approach would be to either pay a percentage of the jurors normal salary (100% is not necessary, but perhaps 50% or 70% would be a fair approach), or require employers to pay for jury duty at a normal rate while removing the state compensation entirely. Both of these would cause financial burden (either to the state, or to employers) but would significantly reduce the bias introduced to juries by financial hardship.

Confirmed: iPhones are fun

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

GigaOm points us to new data from M:Metrics confirming that iPhone users are more likely to browse the web, watch videos, and in general get the most our of their digital life while on the go courtesy of the iPhone’s cutting edge features. From a personal perspective I know I use my iPhone a lot more than other phones due to the well implemented features, and desktop-like browsing experience.

iPhone metrics

The article also points out that the iPhone is far from dominant with only 2.2% of the total US cellphone market, although if you ask me that’s a pretty impressive feat having not been on the market a full year and costing $500. I find it interesting that the iPhone beats out all Windows Mobile phones (none of which even show up in the top 25), and is rapidly gaining on RIM’s Blackberry devices.

A shiny new PS3

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

In the wake of the crushing demise of the HD-DVD format I’ve been ‘forced’ to get myself a Blu-ray player to keep myself comfortably on the cutting edge of media technologies. I decided to opt for a PS3 as it’s the only upgradeable Blu-ray player so far, and plays games to boot.

My first impressions are mostly positive. The PS3 obviously has a bit more horsepower under the hood than the Xbox 360 and sports a cleaner and more modern UI to boot. Unfortunately Sony seems to have made a few odd user experience choices, but overall I’m highly impressed. I have yet to toy with the PSP Remote Play functionality but I plan to dive deep into that in the coming weeks to see just what my new toy is capable of.

As far as games go I’ll likely still do the majority of my gaming on the Xbox 360 platform, but the Sony Store has a few interesting downloadable games – most notably is PixelJunk Monsters. Monsters is based on Element Tower Defense (which I’ve been addicted to before) but sports high def graphics, open gameplay levels, and even more addictive-like-crack gameplay. I lost a good 3 hours to it this afternoon and will likely spend much of the next few weeks trying to master each of its 20 levels – not too shabby for an under $10 purchase (console not included obviously).

The electronic yodeling pickle

Friday, March 14th, 2008

electronic yodeling pickle

My life is now complete: I have an electronic yodeling pickle on it’s way to my home as I type this. Thanks Shiny Shiny!

You know it’s Monday when…

Monday, March 10th, 2008

I wake up at 6:30, shower, shave and get out the door to get to work by 7:30 – only to discover that I left my laptop at home on the couch. Thanks to the later time (and so many time-confused bozos that can’t handle DST) my round trip battle-royal commute back home to get it took well over an hour.

It’s Monday morning at 9am, I’ve already spent over 2 hours in my car, and I’m right off pissed off at the way my week is starting off. Hopefully the rest of the week will improve upon my currently dismal mood.

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