Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why 24 hour news channels are destroying journalism

Let me start off with a clip from Rachel Maddow. And before you watch, I would like to state that I have not once seen an entire episode of her show because she seems as bad as any news personality on FOX News. This was brought to my attention by a friend, and it highlights what is the biggest flaw in the 24 hour news channel system:



FOX News gave some of the facts, but not all of them. And only providing some of the facts, particularly the facts that are chosen specifically to support a certain point of view, is perhaps the worst thing a news organization can ever do. It allows people to reference real events but with a skewed mind; it makes people believe they know the facts when in reality they don't.

It's the equivalent of telling someone about Newton's Laws of Motion, F = M*A, and then saying, "So obviously you can go faster than light, you just need the right amount of force to keep the acceleration going" -- using that information it seems completely obvious that you can do that. You can't. The information you were given is correct, but you weren't given all of the information and therefore the conclusion, "can go faster than light", seems correct. This is what 24 news media shows and "commentators" do. FOX News personalities like Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly, and MSNBC's Maddow, Olbermann, and Matthews do it the most.

MSNBC has a strong liberal bias and is known to do the same thing as FOX (though on the other end of the scale). I don't support watching MSNBC anymore than FOX. CNN shows a liberal bias though it's not nearly as extreme as FOX's conservative one; if you watch CNN, take it with a grain of salt. (Although if you're watching Anderson Cooper or Fareed Zakaria, they both do a good job of avoiding bias.) NPR and PBS both do good jobs of keeping the news fairly unbiased because both are publicly supported and thus don't have a parent company to provide profits and advertising revenue for.

Please, everyone, check your sources and then check their sources before believing what you see and hear and read.

And never trust a political commentator. Finds the facts and make up your own mind.

Friday, July 16, 2010

While looking for a profile pic

As any logical person does when they're up later than they should be, I decided to redo my blog a bit. I brought back the Twitter feed on the right and updated the "about me" section. One of these days I'll get around to redoing the whole thing. Maybe even posting regular updates.

Hey, a guy can dream.

Anyways, I came across this picture while looking for a profile pic and thought I'd share it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What, if anything, is Big Bird?

A scientific analysis of Big Bird and an attempt to determine exactly what species of bird he is.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Picture fail

I just noticed that the picture on the last post failed to load properly. I can only imagine this has been there for awhile.

I have to admit, I'm rather sad no one mentioned it. It basically means no one noticed, which in turn probably means no one really reads this. Oh well.

I wonder if the new Futurama season is any good.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dear TechCrunch,

You can't review phones worth crap.

From you're review:
And the battery life isn’t just bad, it’s 90′s laptop bad. You need to be near a power source at all times.

The battery life is abysmal – MobileCrunch calls it a “dealbreaker” and I agree. Yes you can do a few things to get a little extra time out of it, but this device routinely runs out of power while sitting on standby overnight next to my bed. You aren’t just charging this once a day. Or twice a day. You need to be thinking about your next power fix just about any time you are using it. I keep chargers at home, in my office, in my car, and an extra one to suck power from my laptop. That keeps it going, but it isn’t fun.
That is an exact screenshot off my Evo. Notice the awake time since last charged? 38 hours.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Next in the series

Kitten on a Tortoise:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Caring for Your Introvert

I cannot express how much I love this article entitled "Caring for Your Introvert". It might be one of the best things ever written about social interaction (particularly with me).

I thought had posted this awhile ago, but a quick search (new widget on the right side) showed nothing.

It's worth reading. At least, I'd appreciate it if you did. (Chances are good that other people you know would like it, too.)

Perhaps my favorite line from this article:
Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts.
Because it's true.

[There's a follow-up to the post with an interview here, and a nice blog from Psychology Today regarding introversion as well, The Introverts Corner.]

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Perspective of Time



Link to video (larger size)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Moving from the HTC Touch Pro to the Evo 4G

Five days ago I read up on the Evo. I read as many reviews by tech blogs (Engadget, Gizmodo, Wired et al) as I could. They mentioned a lot of things, like the screen size, the speed, the Android OS, camera, and all the fancy stuff. One other thing they always mentioned is the battery, particularly how bad it is. Many blogs reported as low as 8 hours of battery life; sometimes as low as 6 hours. (The linked article, from Fortune at CNNMoney.com, reports 4 hours; I have no idea what he's doing to the poor phone to kill it that quickly.)

Those reviews made me seriously reconsider purchasing an Evo.

I got over it. I took a risk. On Friday, I bought an Evo. I've played with it a lot the last four days.

Here's my thoughts.

I'd go into detail about the camera, the screen, and any number of other features, but they've been reviewed ad nauseam by every other tech blog. (If you want to read very good reviews about them, check CNET, Engadget, Wired, and Gizmodo.)

I'll cut to the major thing I wondered about: the battery. When I first bought my HTC Touch Pro a year and a half ago, the battery only lasted about 8 hours, just like the reviewers of the HTC Evo reported. However, what I found was that in order to get a full charge out of the battery, you need to run it down completely, turn off the phone, do a hard reset, and then charge it--still powered off--for at least 8 hours. From then on, the battery on my HTC Touch Pro lasted 36-48 hours on standard use.

I figured the Evo would have the same issue. I also guessed this was the cause of the poor reviews. So when I got my Evo, I played with it till the battery died--it lasted about 4 hours--and then powered it off and let it charge overnight. The first day I had it after the full, overnight charge, I customized the screen, downloaded at least 20 apps, configured all websites/bookmarks, and sent over 100 texts across 18 hours before the phone finally said "15% battery life remaining, please charge battery".

The second day, without all the configuration taking up battery life, I got 36 hours out of the battery before charging, and even then, it wasn't even to 20% yet.

Whoever reviewed this phone and said it gets "about 8 hours of battery life on standard use" clearly did not know how to utilize the battery life. The main trick to getting good battery life is to use WiFi whenever possible over 3G, only enable GPS when you're actively using it, and adjust the screen to the minimal necessary brightness.

So, the battery on the HTC Evo 4G, if you know what you're doing, will last for about 36 hours. More if you actually run it down all the way. Less if you use all the features gratuitously and unnecessarily, but that's true for anything. You won't get 12 hours of movie watching off of it, but if you're in a situation where you need several hours of entertainment and are not within any possible outlets for charging, might I recommend an alternative form?

Be smart about the battery and it'll last.

If you're interested in an Evo, or thinking about getting one, I highly recommend it. To date I have not found a thing on the phone I don't love.

A few recommended apps if you do pick one up:
  1. Brightness Setting: an app that lets you adjust the screen size easily when set as a widget; fantastic for managing the battery life.
  2. ChompSMS: great SMS messaging program, gives nice speech bubble format.
  3. doubleTwist: syncs your iTunes playlists to Android, which is crucial if you're used to using an ipod. It's slow--it takes over 24 hours for mine to be ready to sync due to the volume of music on my system--but it works, and that's well worth waiting.
  4. LED Desire: turns the LED "flash" from the camera into a usable LED flashlight. Also can be used in conjunction with other apps--very useful when lighting is bad and you want to use the barcode scanner.
  5. ColorNote: colored post-it and checklists. Just handy.
  6. gWakeUp: so far the best app for alarm clocks I've found. I wanted to find something equivalent to gAlarm for WinMo, and this does a decent job.
I hope this has been helpful and informative. If you have questions, just ask in the comments and I'll respond as best I can.

EDIT: Now that I have all of my apps configured, on my current battery charge--which was charged from the provided USB cable that I connected to my PC while syncing music yesterday--it's lasted for 28 hours and is at 40-50%.

EDIT 2: Another thing I thought of; if you do purchase one, don't pay the $30 for the "screen protector" Sprint sells. It's rather pathetic. Buy one of the $10 ones from Skinomi or ZAGG InvisibleShield. Much more effective.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What makes a person racist?

This was brought to my attention today. It's a report of a law student's e-mail that says some things some people find racist and it's apparently hurting this person's career, perhaps permanently.

From reading that article (and not seeing the actual e-mail or knowing the conversation that took place leading up to this particular statement), I don't see what's wrong with it.

She didn't actually say anything. It depends on what data she was looking at and using. There's a book called The Bell Curve that incited death threats against the authors because it used scientific methods and psychological theories and came to the conclusion (with data; how conclusive or well done is up for debate, as all science is) that different races are generally predisposed to certain levels of intelligence. It stated a lot of inflammatory things that pissed off a lot of people. Were the authors of the book/studies racist? I don't think so; they were scientists who were studying intelligence, saw a correlation and reported it.

It's akin to killing Galileo for proving that the Earth isn't the center of the universe; it's not his fault, it wasn't done with malice, it's just what the data shows.

I don't think this law student said anything that should destroy her career and I frankly don't think she did anything careless. Everyone in their lives has done or said something that could be damaging to them; the only issue here is that she's someone who seems to have a very powerful future and someone else wants to stop that. This is law school politics; no different from senators screaming at one another for cheating on their wives while they themselves are buying prostitutes. It's pointing out another's faults because it's on record while hoping no one has any of yours documented.

Is it a LITTLE BIT racist? Perhaps. But everyone is. If a crocodile attacks you, our minds learn to avoid anything that looks like a crocodile. If a dog bites you when you're 3, it's likely you'll develop an aversion to dogs throughout your life. If you don't live in a predominantly black neighborhood and have a bad experience with a black person (violent or otherwise threatening, either first hand or hearing stories) it's just biology and psychology that we'll associate black people with such actions. The same has been true throughout history for various races from Irish to Asian to Middle Eastern.

Does that make it correct? Of course not. One dog biting you doesn't mean all dogs will--the vast majority just want to lick your face and cuddle with you. Hearing stories of black/Irish/Asian/Middle Eastern people causing problems doesn't mean all black/Irish/Asian/Middle Eastern people will--again, the vast majority I've ever met are fantastic human beings.

People categorize things in their minds from an early age by what makes sense to us. Survival is largely based on learning to avoid dangers; people who look different are easier to categorize, and thus a bad experience with a member of that group can cause us to categorize the entire group poorly.

Don't get me wrong, I am not justifying racist actions. I'm saying that what many people claim as racist isn't intentional and many people today try to do whatever they can to get past it. But it's not easy. I'm sure in my life I've done some things that people might consider racist, be it maybe walking on the other side of the street to avoid the congregation of Mexicans by the apartment complex from my childhood or by being friends with people who are mostly white. (In my defense, growing up in the Northern Midwest doesn't provide for much racially diverse friendships.)

What am I getting at with all of this? What this girl said was not damning. It was not bigotry. It was not racism. There does exist data that justifies what she says--the LA school districts have struggled with it in the past. (In the 90's there were studies done on test scores and found that white/Asian students scored on average much higher than Latino/black students; in that case, if I recall correctly, Asians scored highest, then whites, blacks, and Latinos at the bottom. Incidentally, the issues this raised and the riots that were in the school systems are what some of the songs from Rage Against the Machine's 'Battle for Los Angeles' album are about.) I do think cultural and environmental factors are the strongest play in all of this, but does it mean that there aren't some genetic factors? It would be scientifically irresponsible to dismiss the possibility.

All this girl, Grace, did was state that there is a possibility that genetics play a role, and that if given the same environmental and cultural variables the test scores/intelligences could show the same outcomes. I don't see how this is inflammatory save for people taking it out of context.

Science isn't always fair and pretty and nice. If the next 100 years of research in studying psychology, biology, neurology, genetics, environmental and cultural factors, it is found that certain races have different average intelligence levels, would you call science racist?

I'm not saying that will happen; right now it looks like it probably won't, but it would be scientifically irresponsible to say that it can't.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hamster Olympics

Enjoy.