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And I still don’t like Zoos

Monday, May 19th, 2008

As my parents could attest I never was much of one for zoos as a child. I had set one of my 101 goals to go shooting at the zoo to see if this was still true, and it is. Out of an overly-hot afternoon at the zoo my favorite shot was one that clearly didn’t need a trip to the zoo to take (assuming I could find Bamboo anywhere else in Seattle):

Bamboo green

I guess not everyone has to be into zoos. Personally I don’t much find animals interesting. Sure I love Skype and having him around is a blast, but I enjoy his companionship rather than a fascination with his non-humanness. From a photographic perspective zoos don’t really do it for me because of the cages and glass – I far prefer getting up close and personal with my subjects, really interacting with them to get the perfect shot.

Oh well, I had fun, learned something about myself as an adult, and avoided heatstroke for another day. All in all a positive way to spend a Saturday afternoon even if I won’t repeat the experience.

The legalization of marijuana – a stillborn movement?

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

I just got back wet and depressed from the preamble to the Medical Marijuana March in Seattle. I really believe in the mission to legalize medical marijuana (and legalize marijuana in general), but unfortunately neither case is likely to happen any time soon thanks to the general strategy and constituency of the legalization movement.

Admittedly due to the rain the parades attendance was down from what the organizers would have hoped for, but worse was the cross section of society that showed up. A good half of the attendees had the stereotypical stoner look – not what you want showing up on the evening news though. When people see the B roll footage that is likely to make the media what will they see? Certainly not sickly looking patients desperately needing marijuana to survive. Certainly not professional and trustworthy looking people – just stoners through and through. It presents the public with a rough image composed of stoned hippies drenched in patchouli eating chips rather than doctors and businessmen giving credibility and weight in the public eye.

What the marijuana legalization campaign really needs is a true spokesperson. Someone professional and educated with a sharp tongue and an even sharper suit. A spokesperson to show up on TV and talk to the American public – not show up at a hemp rally and talk to stoners. The kind of people who attend rallies marches, and events are already swayed – the movement needs to broaden its focus and broaden it’s message to the other 99% of the public.

As Abraham Lincoln once said “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.” To enact the same kind of broad social change that Lincoln once did the movement needs to sway public sentiment, not stoner sentiment.

Update: My friend Shae just pointed me at this article. It would seem Rick Steves has stepped up to the plate to hopefully be just the spokesperson I’m looking for here. Go Rick!

High entropy living

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

The last two weeks have been interesting and full of change. First off today is my last day working for MSCOM. I’m leaving after two years with the team as a Project Manager to go join the business organization which owns the Volume Licensing Service Center to pursue a career in Product Management. Moving from the implementation to the requirements side of the house is a good move for me and really has me excited about the opportunity to effect change and really challenge the space I’m in to continue to innovate.

Next off I met David, one of the sweetest men on the planet. I’ve spent practically the entire last week and a half with him and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s one of those intense whirlwind relationships that seems to go at a million miles an hour – fun stuff while it lasts and heres hoping that it will last a very long time!

Finally Skype got to meet David’s roommates 12 week old pit bull puppy Porter. The two of them have been beating up on each other every other day or so and having a blast at it. David is a really active guy and thanks to his influence Skype’s activity level has roughly doubled. He seems happier for it and I hope to keep him active like this as long as he can keep up.

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.

Adult lighting project – 99% complete

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Track lighting 1Track lighting 2
Track lighting 4Track lighting 3

I’m a week late with the post, but better late than never. My adult lighting project has finally made a major splash on my living room. The new track lighting offers beautiful even lighting for the seating area without casting reflections on the TV screen thus bringing my home theater one step further to completion (thanks Brien!).

Sadly it’s still not 100% complete – I’m still waiting on Seattle Lighting to deliver on the Lutron Maestro programmable dimmer switch that I ordered. Without the dimmer switch the lighting is somewhat unusable as the full on setting is almost blindingly bright. Once the dimmer switch arrives I can hook it in to the rest of my home theater automation and allow the lights in the house to dim when I go into movie mode with my Logitech Harmony programmable remote.

While on the topic I have a mixed review of Seattle lighting – they have an amazing selection and access to some equipment nobody else in Seattle can get, but on the flip side they have horrible customer service. I placed my order in late December and was told that my whole order would take 2 weeks (3 tops) to arrive. Nearly 3 months late the bulk had arrived, and now over three months later the last dimmer switch is still pending. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but they did a terrible job of managing my expectations – constantly telling me it would be ‘just a few more days’ every time I called in for status updates.

Oh yeah – and the transformer they sold me was bad. Good for them that they replaced it quickly, and not really their fault; but with bad taste in my mouth from the weeks of getting jerked around by their customer service it was really the arsenic and ass icing on the cake.

The winds of change

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The last 7 days certainly have been packed with activity. Last week we had some production fire drills at work which resulted in a lot of hard work, 20 hour days, and general chaos-induced stress. To top it all off the end of the week also brought news that funding for my project has changed and come April my position is being eliminated.

This somewhat bittersweet news. Obviously being laid off is never a great thing, but in this case it may actually end up being the a good thing for me long term. Of late I’ve been rather frustrated with the speed and direction of my group so I guess this is the kick in the ass I needed to do something about it and find a position where I can exercise my passion for technology in a more direct fashion, and perhaps have a more direct impact on bringing about the coming technological singularity.

That being said – if you, my reader need a technologically passionate problem solver let me know!

Glad to be back

Friday, January 11th, 2008

CES was an exhausting blast of a time, but I sure am glad to be home. I got home last night a little after 9 and hung out with Scott for a bit prior to passing out in my own bed. Skype was glad so see me last night, but I could tell he was a bit angry with me for leaving. By this morning that all seems to have melted away into his normal cuddly self.

I’m off through Monday which is nice – having 3 days to relax after CES is key to not collapsing into a sick little mess. I’m mildly terrified of the email nightmare I’ll be walking into when I get to work on Monday, but that’s the price I pay for taking a week off.

Tase me bro!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

When going to CES one expects a rough week involving countless interviews, hour after hour of writing, and defending oneself from PR reps from round the world. One thing you don’t expect is to get the living daylights shocked out of you. First and foremost watch the video below for a chance to see me get tasered. After all, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to see some poor sot get tasered – particularly when they signed them self up for it (full waiver and everything).

Yes I’m OK. Yes I was a little numb for a while. And surprisingly I’m actually more pro-Taser than I was before this whole thing started. It’s effective at dropping you for sure, but really doesn’t leave lasting harm, and assuming you don’t have any weird medical problems it’s surprisingly safe from what I’ve read.

Oh yeah – and you can get the file here if you really want it. A longer version with far more details including what lead up to this will be posted to Gear Live in the next couple of days.

Update: The Gear Live video (which is over 7 minutes long and has a lot more lead up, comedy, and wonderfulness) has gone live. check it out, or better yet give it a digg.

2008 CES: I’m here!

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

I’m also exhausted – I could barely sleep last night with the excitement and ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep. That coupled with both of our flights getting delayed to get here has left me simply exhausted.

Had a great dinner with Chris from Bloghaus and partied a bit with some of the Monster Cable guys – but now the time to sleep has come. I’ll post more of my adventures shortly in the hear future – I promise! If you simply can’t wait you can always check out my Twitter feed for the minute by minute, blow by blow of my CES experience.

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