WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Political debate has been twisted by deceptive naming for years now. Recently, this has been most visible in the continuing discussion about renewal of the Patriot Act. The problem is that the Patriot Act has nothing to do with patriotism. Its name is a made-up acronym, an attempt to pair a positive image in people's minds with a deeply flawed piece of overreach that came out of the same era that led to us to take away a distant country's weapons of mass destruction through invasion until, as it quickly became obvious, never existed in the first place.

"Patriot Act" is an acronym. The Patriot Act should be, at the least, properly capitalized: it's the USA PATRIOT Act
because it's an acronym. More completely, its full name is Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. Which makes it clear what a tortured construction this name is.

We're seeing it again. The Freedom Act is coming around, but again, that's the USA FREEDOM Act, or more completely
Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act. That's a name that doesn't describe what it does, but when even its opponents are tricked into calling it that, they're changing the subject, in effect, and sound like they don't believe in freedom. See how this works?

It works the other way too, when you let the other guy name the debate. Remember the PPACA? It's also sometimes known as ACA, but was quickly ridiculed and colloquially renamed by its opponents. Its real name is just the
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but most people know it as Obamacare. Obama, by the way, is a guy who's black, so attaching his name to anything gives the racists among us something to hate as mindlessly as attaching "Patriot" gives the unthinking something to love.

My recommendation? There are several things that can be done.
> Reference all bills by their bill numbers (PPACA was HR3590)
> Rationalize bill titles while going through Congress
> Call them by their whole names (yes, all of PATRIOT's ten words)
> Regularly make fun of their whole names
> And if nothing else, spell them with the proper capitalization.

The last one is easy. I see that even Nancy Pelosi's website titles her statement of opposition "Pelosi Statement on Extension of USA Patriot Act." If even its opponents fall for this trick, how do we expect to strike a fair balance?








HCRC FAQ

HCRC
THE HIP CHICKEN REPLACEMENT CLINIC


FAQ

Note: The local paper was good enough to let us re-use an interview they did with Dr. Jeremy Finch, one of our founders here at HCRC


What does the HCRC do?
We use advanced therapies and technologies to aid our clients who are experiencing issues with one or both hip joints.

How does the process work?
It's pretty simple, really. We open up the patient's hip, bust out the old joint, and stuff in a chicken.

Do you also use standard prostheses?
No, we stopped that. The construction methods and materials of standard prostheses are still undergoing change and experimentation, meaning that what a patient has installed today might be completely different next year. A chicken, on the other hand, doesn't change much. A chicken's a chicken, you know.

How does the cost compare with traditional methods?
You can look it up on Yahoo, but a commercial hip joint, well, a new one anyway, will cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $110,000. Chicken, on the other hand, usually goes for about three, maybe four bucks a pound. So you could do both hips here for what you'd pay for just one hip across the street - heck, you could re-hip your whole graduating class from the next reunion and still be saving money.

Does your technique work as well as a mechanical hip?
Oh sure, a chicken works pretty good. Of course, that's as long as the patient follows the prescribed recovery regimen.

Recovery regimen? What is that?
Oh, no jumping around for a month or two, you know, gotta keep the stress off the chicken while everything's still healing up down in there. And regular checkups are important too, just so something doesn't go too far wrong before we catch it.

How long does an HCRC hip last, compared to a mechanical hip?
You know, a lot of people want to know that. The answer's pretty complicated though, a lot of science and things, you got wear and loosening too, just like with anything else, feathers, the level of physical activity which is especially important for kids who won't stay still, things like that. And feathers, but I said that I think.

But on average?
Well, a lot of it depends on the chicken. We've noticed that they don't hold up as well as we hoped when we first opened the clinic, so they tend to start going out sooner than we expected.

And again, how long is that, on average?
Oh OK, on average, I guess you get maybe four, five days off a chicken. I mean, sometimes you get lucky and manage six, but sometimes we’ll try something new and - well, for a few days we were trying out these Sicilian Buttercups and that did not go well, two days tops. Sure, they look fine strutting around on a perch, but that’s all false advertising, you put them into hip service and they…it’s not good, not good at all. But four or five days usually, yeah.

Doesn’t that mean repeating the surgery every few days?
No, I wouldn’t call it “repeating,” it’s more like a tune-up, kind of optimizing it. You don’t think anything of replacing the oil filter on your car, and it’s just like that except it’s a chicken.

At the least, that must get very expensive

Oh, it's not as bad as all that. I mean, we do have a subscription plan, which we recommend very strongly these days. And we're raising our own chickens now. You know how these things are, every little bit helps.

Thank you for talking with us today, Dr. Finch.
Glad to do it, so many people misunderstand what we do here. I hope this helps them see our work in the right way. Say - it looks like you've got a bit of a limp there. Why don't you hop up here and I'll take a quick look?

A SMARTPHONE BIKINI

This is the tale of an amazingly effective, slender, nearly invisible and inexpensive smartphone case. By posting this I'm making the idea open source, so hi. Dig it, improve it, sell a better version - if you do, I'll probably buy it.

SPOILER: The solution lies, not in padding, but in increasing the finger-traction of a phone where we grip it, the edges.

EXPOSITION: I'm still on iPhone 5 now. I got by pretty well with my iPhone4, only dropped it twice over three years and except for killing its WiFi, it was OK with no cracked screen. After the second drop (slow learner) I got a case for it. There are a lot of cases out there.

I use a belt-mounted "holster" for the phone, and when I stepped to the iPhone 5 I had to find a new holster. And then, after a couple of near-slips, I went looking for a phone case. Unfortunately, there wasn't much available that would fit into the nice snapless (magnets) leather holster I had by then. Which is when I started thinking.

There are actually two principal reasons that we get cases for our smartphones: to protect them from damage when they're dropped, and to keep from dropping them. Right? But this raises the question: if we can keep from dropping the thing in the first place, why worry about protection from a drop?

In other words, the priorities are reversed. The first goal is not to protect the phone, it's to find a way to keep it from being dropped. If we achieve that, we can abandon all the stuffing, padding, covers and shields that try to protect it from damage once it's plummeted to the floor and bounced from our sword and knife collection into the food processor.

I'll save you from the long journey of discovery. There is a nice, tractiony, finger-friendly material made by 3M that is intended for footsteps, walking paths and such. It's peel-off adhesive on one side, comes in spools from 3M but is often sold by the foot in hardware stores. I cut one foot of this inch-wide stuff off a reel, and bought it, ten cellphones' worth, for a buck.

With a ruler and X-Acto (TM, I guess), I cut a ribbon the length of the iPhone's perimeter and half it's width (NOTE: that is its not it's, but I throw that error in as a gift for the pedant within all of us), and then carefully cut that narrow ribbon into shorter lengths to dodge the volume buttons, connector, speakers, etc. Then I stuck them on. The phone still fit easily into the holster because its width was barely affected - indeed, the phone was even easier to put in and out because the new traction helped the grip but didn't stick to the case.

P4084265

Darn, that worked great! So great that I cut an additional couple of 1cm-wide lengths to stretch down the the backside, which now kept it from slipping off my leg when I set it there.

More details follow, but that's the gist of it.

Here are a few additional actions and observations:

> The straight ribbon segments, with the original 3M adhesive, are still in place and secure after 9 months.

> The 3M stuff is "3M Consumer Safety-Walk Medium Duty Resilient Tread", part number is 7734, UPC 51131-59509. It comes in grey and black and various widths.

> After a few weeks, while the staight sections were still fine, the segments that rounded the corners of the phone started to peel up.

> To re-attach, I kept the original ribbons, removed the original adhesive with "Glu-Gone," and applied a light film of two-part epoxy in its place. Those have remained secure and in place. Note that Glu-Gone was not fully effective, some stickiness remained, but I guess it removed enough of the adhesive, if not all.

> A bit later, another corner piece started to peel and I reattached that using epoxy experimenting by doing this without the Glu-Gone pre-treatment. This did not set well, and peeled off quickly.

HOWEVER: The the failed reattachment left a residual epoxy edging that remained where the now peeled strip had been. And better, after a couple of days, this hardened completely, and has become a very effective traction surface that is both invisible and grabbable. Hey, that's another path to explore!

MORE PIXELS AGAIN!

Is 8,294,400 Pixels 4 Times Better Than HD?

Radio’s a little box that you buy on the installment plan and before you tune it they tell you there’s a new model out.
-- Melvyn Douglas to Greta Garbo, “Ninotchka” 1939


Las Vegas CES2014 interleaved all its city-consuming racecar and rubber-iPhone-case awesomeness with the usual loud and colorful aviary of video screens. This year's struggle for supremacy in the perennial mating dance between display and distributor passed over the quickly-dying 3D fad and was waged through loud, squawking proclamation of the superiority of "4k" or "UHD" over the now-common "HD" resolution. Nobody can really blame display vendors for trying to accelerate a replacement cycle (e-waste, pooh, but new revenues, yay!), but it is fair to look at the real and claimed justifications. And to take a stab at guessing where things may actually settle out.

SPOILER: JR thinks that 4k will win.

There are always other features that want to conflate themselves with a high-profile runner. At CES, screens were curving into 4k, flexing into 4k, back and front projecting into 4k, ultra-green-coloring into 4k, three-D-ing into 4k, and supersizing into 4k. But for the nonce, we will peel off those extra blandishments and just look at the 4k vs. HD issues.

Usefulness
What do you need it for? For most content, it's unlikely you'll notice the difference without training and conscious effort. The effect is a lot more subtle than SD to HD, and UHD doesn't change the screen shape to cue you in as HD's widescreen did. If you're watching normal programming from a normal viewing distance while munching normal takeout, most of UHD's benefit will come via the placebo effect. It might be a good idea to thumbtack a brochure to the wall by that screen, actually, to help remember why you bought the thing.

Data bandwidth
It takes data to feed those pixels. A 4k x 2k UHD screen has four times the pixels of a 2k x 1k HD screen (put your hands down, we all know it’s 3840 x 2160 and 1920 x 1080), so ultimately, it has to scrounge up four times the data to light them up. Bandwidth at the network doesn't actually quadruple because compression algorithms are smart enough to take advantage of qualities like spatial and temporal redundancy (a blue sky in 4k doesn't carry much more information than the same sky in HD, for example), but you can count on a good solid doubling of data load.

What? Good question, let me repeat it for those who didn't hear:
"Yabbut hey Rodman how 'bout H.265 instead of H.264 and VP9 instead of VP8 ha ha?" The newer generation of video compression algorithms (coder-decoders, or codecs), and I'll include H.264 High Profile in this set as a sort of H.264-and-a-half, take advantage of the decreasing cost of high complexity (meaning that codecs can do lots more computation now) to deliver about twice the coding efficiency: they just need half the network bandwidth of the H264/VP8 generation of codecs to produce the same quality image for the same resolution. But HD images benefit from this incremental improvement as well as UHD, so apples being apples, a UHD video coded with one of these newer codecs will still suck the data pipe about twice as hard as an HD video if it’s using the same newer codec.

Screen manufacturability and cost
Nah, I'm just messing with ya. You and me, we don't care about display manufacturability and cost. Maybe the display industry is biting their fingernails about these things, but that's not our problem. We need to think about UHD vs. HD assuming that these display formats are both available, and that they're cost competitive. If their cost is not competitive, the question answers itself through simple market dynamics. If the cost is competitive...well, market dynamics apply here too, and depend on what that weaselword "competitive" means.

4k, same cost? Go for it.

4k, incremental cost increase? Weigh the other tradeoffs in this list.

4k, major cost increase? These users will have a compelling application (medical, industrial, education, etc.) that has a quantitative justification, but the unshaven fan with the beer hat and 49'ers T-shirt is no longer the target audience. Which is a shame because I love those guys, they're my peeps.

UHD specsheet has bigger numbers I got nothing here. Those numbers are sure bigger. Look how big they are. Big, big, big, oh my. So yes, UHD has a definite specsmanship advantage. If you really want big numbers, though, you might want to hold off and see how soon the 8k x 4k proofs-of-concept we saw at CES enter the mainstream.

UHD has a growing momentum I think that's the dominant reality here. What we saw at CES was a broad adoption of 4k displays despite, at the moment, minimal technical or market justification. But assuming their price comes into line with reasonable speed, it won't be hard to convince the display-buying public that an incremental cost bite is well worth not getting stuck with a nearly obsolete 1948 Philco TV set (or its modern descendant, the HD display).

Victory in the UHD vs. HD battle is not just a matter of which wins, but when. UHD vs. HD is one of those places where the right player will win, but maybe at the wrong time: that is, 4k will win, but just about now and not in another few years. It's not a badly misplaced victory, but in my view of a perfect world (insert reader's snark here), 4k would go mainstream in 2017-2018, not 2014-2015.

In summary: in the imperfect world we're all sharing today, 4k is irrevocably among us, and is rapidly moving to become the dominant display format.

A SLIPPERY USER EXPERIENCE

Inept UI (User Interfaces) surround us. We only have to step out anywhere and inhale deeply, and their heady fragrances pervade our consciousness.

In today’s example, I was speaking at a conference in Brussels last week and encountered this bathroom faucet configuration in the hotel room. See anything odd?
Brussels faucets


Take a closer look:
Brussels Handle

That's it. There's no handle, only a gentle, graduated knurling around the side which you can see here if you look closely, focus, and be the faucet. The faucet is stiff to begin with, so with wet or soapy hands (and remember, it’s a bathroom faucet, right?), the knob is unturnable.

Good user interfaces combine ease of use with pleasing visual, tactile and aural designs. Bad ones sacrifice function to appearance. This one is bad.