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Archive for July, 2013

It’s rush hour in New York City. You arrive on the subway platform and a train is there waiting for you. Score! But then just like that the doors close in your face. The conductor gives you a look as if to say “sorry pal”. But secretly what he’s really saying is “haha, sucka!”. You wait for what feels like an eternity and eventually another train arrives. Sadly, the cars are jam packed and you can’t get on. You would wait it out but you have to be at work on time for an important meeting so you say fuck it and force your way on brandishing your man purse as a weapon. Much to your chagrin you find yourself squished in the corner next to an elderly Chinese woman, a guy who thinks he’s 2 Chainz, and a heavy set man in a jogging suit who you are pretty sure works for the mob as a hit man despite the fact that he looks like Kevin from The Office.

After taking about thirty seconds to get acclimated to your surroundings you take out your iPad to read the latest issue of Wired magazine. You make it about five pages in before you have to put it away when sweat from the heavy set man’s brow kept dripping onto it. Disgusted you are determined to risk life and limb to switch cars at the next stop. Unfortunately, this is an express train and that next stop isn’t for five minutes. Meanwhile, a few feet away a punk teenager is playing a video game on his phone with the volume set to max blare with no regard for anyone else’s feelings. You want to kill him but think better of it.

Just when you think that things can’t get any worse the train crawls to a stop and an announcement comes over the loud speaker that you can barely make out over the yapping of two yentas complaining about their husbands. You’re pretty sure that it said something about being delayed because of train traffic ahead but you’re not certain. You ask the person next to you and they say that they think it said something about someone being dead. Rumors start to fly. People begin to get stir crazy. Feeling left out of all the action a homeless person decides to enter the car and starts talking about the Anti-Christ while asking for money. All this and you still have three minutes to go before the next stop.

At this point you have nothing better to do than to stare at the douchebag next to you and think of as many reasons as you can why you hate that person. Sure he might be a great guy. You may even have a few things in common with him. But for purposes of this exercise he’s an asshole who doesn’t like pets. After just thirty seconds you’ve amassed an impressive list. From the knot on his tie to the fact that one shoe is shinier than the other you have successfully identified seventeen reasons why you hate this total stranger. A new record! But don’t get carried away. You still have to do it all over again in eight hours.

If that commute that I just outlined sounds like fun to you then you’ll get a real kick out of this: doing it during a heat wave when everyone is even more pissed off than usual!!! Or better yet doing it during a heat wave after standing on a sweltering hot subway platform in stifling heat for five minutes while waiting for your train to arrive. Even the most patient of us lose our minds at times like these. Welcome ladies and gentlemen to your daily Bikram Yoga class with your special guest instructor Mayor Bloomberg!

Of course there is an obvious solution: air condition the platforms!!!! Considering the cost of living in New York City and the rents that most people pay to live in apartments the size of a walk in closet you would think that having an air conditioned subway platform would be a perk that we would be entitled to. But no, here’s a better idea: let’s make a single mother carry a stroller up a flight of stairs by herself in 100 degree heat. Or better yet let’s make an important businessman on his way to a big meeting, let’s make sure he’s good and covered in sweat before he arrives at his destination. Hello people this isn’t ABC’s Wipeout! The objective isn’t to get the person wet!!!

What bothers me the most about all this is the MTA’s position. Instead of being sympathetic they cite the fact that it’s only a temporary inconvenience that isn’t worth addressing. What?!?!?! A temporary inconvenience!! I’ll show you a temporary inconvenience all over your face!!!!

Look, New Yorkers are an irritable lot by nature. Glance at one of us the wrong way and it’s on like Donkey Kong. “Accidentally” bump into one of us and you might as well enter the witness relocation program. It doesn’t take much to piss us off and once that happens you don’t want to stick around to find out what’s going to happen next. So, MTA I’ll make this real simple for you. Start installing some air conditioners in those f’ing subway stations before I have to go over there and derail all your hopes and dreams!!!!

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Install air conditioners on subway platforms or feel my wrath!!!!

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From Facebook rolling out graph search to Instagram enabling embedded videos there was a lot happening this week.  Here’s a look at a few of the things that caught my eye:

1.  Moon National Park – Usually I lament the fact that the government isn’t forward thinking enough.  That it only acts when real world events dictate that it must and not a moment sooner.  That the only time that it acts preemptively is when it allows them to take aggressive military action and never when it means saving the lives of their own citizens.  But this time I have to give credit where credit is due because there is a proposal on the table to put a National Park on the Moon.  Never mind the fact that the Moon isn’t property of the United States it’s still an idea that has some merit.

As Mashable stated, “Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) proposed creating the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historic Park to safeguard the artifacts left behind from NASA’s Apollo missions 11 through 17.  “The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act will ensure that the scientific data and cultural significance of the Apollo artifacts remains unharmed by future lunar landings,” Rep. Edwards said in her introduction of the bill. “This Act will endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts.”‘

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2.  Groopic – Next up we have Groopic which tackles a problem near and dear to all of our hearts: how to include the lonely cameraman aka your dad in all those group shoots on your next family vacation.

As TechCrunch laments, “Over the July 4th weekend at the beach, a gaggle of teenagers near me were snapping iPhone photos of each other standing in front of the waves. I overheard one lament, “I thought you wanted to take a photo with me!” I do, the other had replied, explaining that she also wanted a picture of the others together. The group then rearranged themselves into various configurations over and over so everyone got to be in a picture next to their friends.  Groopic could have solved their problem of wanting a group photo — well, so could have handing their phone over to one of the many beachgoers packed onto the crowded sand, I suppose. But maybe the teens didn’t want to bother anyone, or risk some stranger dropping their phone in the surf.  So instead, they just missed out on a real group photo.”

Groopic would solve that problem but how does it work?  According to TechCrunch, “In three steps, users take two photos with their iPhone, then mark the photographers in each one. Groopic then does its magic to automatically combine these incomplete pictures into one.”

Problem solved.

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3.  Squito – Occasionally, a new invention comes along that stands out for its awesomeness.  Squito is one such invention.  While I’m not sure that I’ll ever have a use for such an item I want one anyway.

According to petapixel, “The idea is simple. You throw the ball and the orientation sensors capture and process images of Squito’s flight trajectory. The patent outlines that the unit’s orientation sensors snap photos and then re-orient them so as to create a normal images — panoramic images, in fact. These multiple images can be stabilized to allow the camera to capture frames in sequence. What you get, basically, is a pano-video (totally just made that up, but it works) of the ball’s flight. If that’s not cool, we don’t know what is.”

Agreed.

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4.  High Tech Diapers – Last but not least we have a new disposable diaper to tell you about.  Yes, believe it or not a dirty diaper is a newsworthy item.  No, it’s not because a housewife from Idaho claims to have seen an image of Jesus in a pee stain.  It’s because moms everywhere could soon be able to diagnose their child’s health by using their phones to scan these new high tech diapers that come embedded with QR codes.  According to BitRebels it’s incredibly easy to use as, “You just scan the wet QR code with your smartphone once a day. Once your scan is analyzed, you will be alerted if there are any signs of a urinary tract infection, dehydration, kidney problems or Type 1 Diabetes.”

Despite the coolness factor involved here I still have no desire to get anywhere near a dirty diaper.  Sorry, ladies.

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When I set out a few weeks to start updating prior ideas I expected to touch upon ideas from six months ago give or take.  I never expected that I’d need to update a post two days later.  And yet that’s exactly what I’ll be doing today since Hash Mash, my idea to combine content from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram via hash tag themed channels, has since been usurped by my discovery of Sulia, the hottest social network you’ve never heard of according to Mashable

According to their article, “Sulia, evolved from Twitter list firm TLists, (and) offers a subject-based social service that lets you follow topics you are passionate about, from your local football team to television shows to topical political issues.  Ten million unique users have signed up in less than a year, and several big-name investors have contributed some pretty hefty funding. It seems Sulia’s mix of crowdsourcing, machine learning and human supervision is making its 1,000+ channels of content a success.”

An article on Pandodaily offers further insight, “Where Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr all work well to serve our daily content needs, they deliver content in a noisy, unintelligible mishmash.  The idea that we want serious news mixed with a daily dose of cute animal pics is the entire premise of Buzzfeed, by the way.  It is not the premise of Sulia.  On social networks, “You get feeds that cover 500 different subjects,” (Jonathan) Glick says.  “It’s awesome, but it also makes it difficult to dive into any one subject.”

Sulia hopes to change all that by making it easy to follow those topics that you care the most about from political uprisings to reality television.  To find out how it stacks up against the competition I decided to take the site for a test drive.  My first search query was “baseball”.  Upon receiving the search results I was immediately prompted to sign up for an email newsletter that promised to send me a daily update featuring commentary from top baseball “experts” like Buster Olney, Jayson Stark and Ken Rosenthal.  Seems promising I thought to myself and decided to take the plunge.  (I really hope that my inbox doesn’t get spammed now with a bunch of advertisements for penis enlargement pills). 

I then proceeded to dig into the content where I was immediately blown away by a picture of a Korean gymnast throwing out the first pitch before a Giants game.  Hideo Nomo’s windup has got nothing on this girl. 

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As I continued to scroll I discovered interesting commentary from a variety of sources that discussed everything from team analysis at the major league level to injury updates at the minor league level.  There was undoubtedly a lot of coverage regarding Yasiel Puig’s recent handling of the media but there was also a lot of insightful coverage regarding other more obscure topics like top selling player jerseys.  It was truly everything that a devoted baseball fan would want.  Probably even more than they would want to be honest. 

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I wasn’t all that crazy about this service.  For a social media site it’s light on the social aspect as I didn’t see a way to directly engage my friends or find new ones who shared similar interests.  You also can’t share posts via email or view comments made by other people.  What you can do is “trust” a source which means that you want to receive updates from them.  It’s the Sulia version of following and it’s lame if you ask me.  

To be fair Sulia is still in its infancy and all of this could change over time.  I’m sure that as the site grows in popularity and as more people contribute to it the kinks will work themselves out.  But for now the service is just a collection of my Chrome bookmarks brought to life in one easy to access place.  Useful and cool but not necessarily a game changer.  In other words it’s no Hash Mash.

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The first interest based social network is a cool concept but it has a long way to go before it can be compare to the likes of Twitter.

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The July 2013 issue of Popular Science was dedicated to the Future of Flight.  One of the articles in that issue talked about planes powered by perpetual flight that wouldn’t need to land.  According to the article they, “could become observation platforms, used to record weather or wildlife data. They could also serve as communication relays, carrying television or cellphone signals…”

As cool as that is that’s not the reason why I’m writing this post.  Rather the thing that stood out to me in that article was the following passage:

“In 1883, Nobel laureate John Strutt, a physicist and the third Baron Rayleigh, put forward a radical idea. He had been studying the mechanics of pelican flight and proposed that the birds drew energy from differentials in wind speed, allowing them to remain aloft without beating a wing. By taking advantage of this technique (since named dynamic soaring), a craft could, in theory, fly with little or no fuel for weeks, months, or even years.

For decades, work on dynamic soaring progressed slowly. Radio-control glider operators took advantage of the technique to extend their flights, but scientists didn’t know if they could apply it to larger craft. Then in 2006, a team from the U.S. Air Force and NASA flew a modified L-23 Blanik sailplane over Edwards Air Force Base, proving that a large craft is capable of dynamic soaring maneuvers.

Now a team at Lehigh University, led by engineering professor Joachim Grenestedt, is refining the concept.”

In other words we’re just now technologically advanced enough to tackle an idea first dreamed up over one hundred and thirty years ago.  This got me thinking.  What would have happened if this idea hadn’t been remembered?  If it had been lost to history?  Would someone else have come along and reinvented the wheel so to speak?  Or would we have missed out on a potentially useful invention?  And more importantly how many other ideas from the 1800’s that were ahead of their time are lying around in a dingy basement or attic waiting to be reapplied with modern techniques and technologies?

To answer those questions I’d like to propose the creation of an ideas database that would chronicle every patent, hypothesis, crazy theory, and crackpot scheme known to man.  It would then cross reference all of that information with Google, Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and various other internet sources to determine whether or not these ideas were ever successfully utilized and implemented.  If they weren’t a sophisticated computer algorithm will take a stab at trying to apply them to current problems.  In essence, what we’d be creating, aside from a Google wet dream, is a massive directory housing the World’s most useful ideas, concepts, and thoughts.  An encyclopedia with a mind of its own.  A Memory Alpha for planet Earth.

Aside from just making sure that we haven’t missed out on anything this database would also make sure that we aren’t letting anything new fall through the cracks.  Case in point: OmniGuide.  According to an article in the latest issue of Fast Company this entity once made a new kind of optical fiber that they couldn’t find a market for.  Undeterred they pivoted towards medicine: “Surgeons had developed the CO2 laser scalpel, which uses light from CO2 molecules to cut without damaging nearby tissue.  But it lacked a flexible medium; standard optical fiber absorbs CO2 laser light.  The OmniGuide fiber transmits the light exactly where the surgeon wants it.”

Just like that one floundering company with a fledgling product was able to reinvent itself and solve a problem in an area outside of their target market.  Which begs the question: how many other people are facing problems that struggling companies in other industries could solve?  I’m willing to bet that the number is vast.  Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing just how vast.  With Memory Alpha though we would and we would actually be able to do something about it.  Hopefully, in the near future we can ensure that what happened with Strutt and OmniGuide doesn’t happen again.  Because as we all know those that don’t study their history are doomed to repeat it.  

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It’s taken over one hundred year but we may finally be on the verge of perpetual flight.

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Scandal is all around us and Kerry Washington is nowhere to be found.  From PRISM to major league baseball’s Biogenesis witch hunt there is no shortage of people making headlines for the wrong reasons.  Even disgraced politician Elliot Spitzer has recently resurfaced to run for office again.  As all of this drama unfolds I find myself wondering what it would be like to be in their shoes.  If I was a baseball player like Ryan Braun who is facing either a 50 or 100 game suspension how would I feel?  What would I do?  Would I admit that I used steroids like Andy Pettitte or deny, deny, deny like Lance Armstrong?  If I admit it I’m screwed.  I’d miss parts of two seasons and with my reputation tarnished I’d have no chance of making the Hall of Fame.  If I deny it I hold out hope, albeit a small sliver of hope, that I get exonerated (again) and get to keep playing unencumbered by anything other than my own guilt. 

The latter approach is probably the way to go but, as I can personally attest to having grown up with a Jewish mother, you can never discount the incredible power of guilt.  What happens if Braun decides that he wants to come clean but that he doesn’t want to do so until after his playing career is over?  Steroid tainted sluggers aside what happens if you are a professional athlete currently living in the shadows who wants to come out of the closet but who fears the scrutiny that might come along with that?  What recourse do athletes and other people living with secrets have other than to bite their tongues, live in silence, and hope to skate through life unnoticed? 

I think that a solution to this problem is out there and it’s called Abracadabra because just like a magician it empowers the user to make information appear out of thin air at a moment of their choosing.  Essentially this new service will act like a reverse Snapchat.  Instead of images that disappear into the night we’ll have words that reappear to shed some light.  It’ll be like a digital will that we share with loved ones after our lives have ended but instead of discussing our possessions we’ll be discussing our thoughts.

You could tell off all of your arch rival nemeses or profess your love for your buddy’s wife.  Anything is fair game even taboo topics.  You won’t have to hold back your feelings any longer.  You’ll finally have a forum to tell everyone how you really feel.  And here’s the best part: you control the message.  You get to set the time that you want the message to surface whether it’s a year from now, ten years from now, fifty years from now, or even after death.  You also get to set whether or not the message will be available to the public or if it’ll just get sent to a specific person or group of people.  And if you change your mind several years from now and no longer want the message to go out you’ll be able to recall it.  It’s the digital equivalent of digging up a time capsule before someone else stumbles upon it. 

Now you might be thinking to yourself that this is a horrible idea.  That the whole appeal of something like Snapchat is that people don’t want to leave digital breadcrumbs behind; that they’re trying to distance themselves from that embarrassing photo they posted to Facebook when they were in college; that the mere thought of having something you said several years ago when you were an entirely different person resurface is horrifying.  And you might be right.  But now think about all of the good that could come from this.

Imagine how this service could be used to give grieving people closure.  How it could be used by whistle blowers to reveal the truth without fear of retribution during their lifetimes.  How it could be used to reconnect with a former crush that you were once too scared to approach.  It’ll be like a digital message in a bottle washing up on shore after being lost at sea bringing people together who otherwise would have lived their lives full of regret.

It can do all that and more if we just let it. The truth is out there and so is a better future.  We just have to be willing to wait for it.

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Is a reverse Snapchat the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#259 – Hash Mash

Twitter started it all but now Facebook and Instagram have followed in their footsteps rolling out widespread integration of the hash tag to make it easier for users to find and follow topics that interest them. (#whattookthemsolong). Some people have speculated that this strategic move on the part of Facebook could signal trouble for Twitter especially since Twitter’s video app, Vine, has been overshadowed by Instagram’s new video capabilities.

To ensure it’s survival Twitter has been hard at work trying to reinvent itself on the fly. In fact, published reports have indicated that one of the things that they’re working on is a way to replay live events. As an article on Gigaom says, “The social network that’s now used by about one in five Americans is at its best during a live news event. There’s no substitute for watching Twitter during a dramatic event like the Boston Marathon bombings, or following along for the commentary and Oreo jokes during something like the Super Bowl. But, as we wrote in February, once you miss it, good luck replaying Twitter the next day. So Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said the company is testing out different ways to help you filter the best moments from live events, to highlight the best content on the platform, or to help you replay certain moments.”

It’s a noble effort but what if it’s all for naught? What if Twitter is doomed anyway regardless of what it does? That could very well be the case but it won’t be because of anything that Facebook does. It’ll be because of my latest brain child: Hash Mash. This new service will aim to cut out the middle man of social media combining tweets, status updates, pictures and more from a variety of sites combining them under one roof where they will be unified by their hash tag.

Watching the Oscars and want to see behind the scene photos while reading witty commentary and talking to your friends? You won’t need to have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram open at the same time. You’d just have to search #Oscars on Hash Mash. The same holds true for breaking news stories, sporting events, and anything else that tickles your fancy. Why be left in the dark on a topic that interests you when you can have everything at your finger tips under one roof?

Everyone loves a good mash up. Whether it’s Giant Robots vs. Giant Aliens in Pacific Rim, Jay Z and Linkin Park collaborating on a re-mix, or a proposed UFC super fight between Anderson Silva and Jon Jones we all lose our collective minds whenever worlds collide on a grand scale. Thanks to Hash Mash we’re about to lose them a whole lot more.

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Hash Mash would combine updates across all social media sites that use hash tags.

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I don’t get it.

Every day at noon Coffee Meets Bagel leverages my social network through Facebook and sends me a “bagel” aka a potential date.  My bagel will never be someone that I’m directly friends with but rather someone that is friends with a friend of mine.  Some days I’m not attracted to this person so I will pass.  Other days I am so I click like.  In a little over a month I’ve connected with seven people who have expressed mutual interest in me. 

In theory, once this connection has been made we should be off to the races.  This is after all a person that finds me attractive enough to have hit like in the first place.  And unlike other dating sites Coffee Meets Bagel comes with a built in safety net, the mutual friend who can vouch for me and ease any concerns about meeting up.  And yet as of now I’ve been able to turn those seven connections into exactly zero dates.  Zero!!! 

Now I could understand if I didn’t get seven second dates.  But to not even get first dates doesn’t make any sense.  Unless people are just using the service as a glorified version of Hot or Not, clicking like just for the hell of it with no real interest in actually meeting up, there has to be a reason for my inability to land actual dates.  The knee jerk reaction is to assume that I must be doing something wrong.  That perhaps I’m saying weird things or that I’m simply not being funny and/or charming enough.  But as you know from reading this blog that can’t possibly be true.  So what else could it be?  Did they get scared away by a Google search?  Have seven of my friends simultaneously thrown me under the bus when asked about me?  Possibly but unlikely especially since I know of one friend who did put in a good word for me.  So what is it then?  In a word: flakiness. 

Young, single working professionals are flakey by nature.  We’re unsure of what we want in life so we just go through the motions, half-assing a bunch of different things instead of focusing on any one thing.  We see our married friends struggling in their relationships, constantly uttering the phrase, “don’t have kids”, and yet we still desire serious relationships of our own because society tell us that is the way it should be.  And so we set out to try our hand at online dating but make the mistake of joining Match.com, How About We, Plenty of Fish, and Coffee Meets Bagel all at the same time never denoting enough attention to any one service.  Constantly distracted by other interests we respond sporadically, when it’s convenient for us, and not a moment sooner.  Over time our commitment to the cause wavers, held back by that one bad date three years ago that soured us on the whole experience.  We still put our best foot forward but it’s a mirage.  We lie and say that we’re looking for long term relationships when all we really want to do is just hook up because we think that’s what the other person wants to hear.  We’re all a bunch of cheaters even if we would never be unfaithful to our partner because we’re all constantly cheating ourselves out of the experience that we should be having.  Unwilling to take a leap of faith we instead take one step back for every two steps forward.  We are brave and fearless when leading our everyday lives, changing career paths on a whim, yet we freeze up when it really counts paralyzed by a fear of rejection.  We are either unable or unwilling to make up our minds.  We are our own worst enemy.  We are Generation Flakey. 

This is why I’d like to create a dating site that embraces this fact of life.  Called FlakeyMcFlakester.com this site would make it impossible for people to flake out on one another.  It does that by embracing the simple behavioral economics at the heart of GymPact.  Flake out on someone that you’ve made a connection with and pay the price.  Make good on all of your connections and receive a monetary award.  Set the terms that you’re comfortable with and then start putting your money where your mouth is.

In doing so you’d be throwing caution to the wind sure.  But you’d also become more accountable for your actions.  Presumably you’d become pickier too only hitting like when you are actually really into someone and not just testing to see if they will like you back.  And best of all you’d be one step closer to actually finding someone to spend the rest of your life with.  Imagine that?  An online dating site that actually works. 

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With FlakeyMcFlakester.com the answer to this question will become apparent.

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