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Book reviews for January 2014

Why Does E=mc²? (And Why Should We Care?) by Brian Cox

Why Does E=mc²? (And Why Should We Care?) by Brian Cox

4/5

Has some new (to me) angles to help you try and understand relativity and quantum mechanics so I enjoyed it. I can feel that clarity starting to slip away again two days later though...

 

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Sean Covey

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Sean Covey

3/5

Not as religious as your typical business self help book, still wildly repetitive though. Important goal -> focus on leading rather than lagging metrics -> simple scoreboard -> peer accountability on a weekly basis -> win. It's pretty much scrum for the non-development crowd (assuming that having a captive customer can be counted as a leading metric which I think it does).

 

A Good and Useful Hurt by Aric Davis

A Good and Useful Hurt by Aric Davis

4/5

Well paced and strange book about catching a serial killer via unexpectedly powerful tattoos.

 

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga

3/5

It's like an episode of the A Team with two important differences - the book is set in India and the A Team don't show up. This means that it doesn't end well.

 

Lottocracy vs Legislative Service

Corrupt Legislation

Alexander Guerrero in aeon:

"There are hard questions about how exactly to structure a political system with lottery-selection at its heart. Here’s one approach, which I am in the process of developing, that I call lottocracy. The basic components are straightforward. First, rather than having a single, generalist legislature such as the United States Congress, the legislative function would be fulfilled by many different single-issue legislatures (each one focusing on, for example, just agriculture or health care)."

It's the same concept as legislative service except randomly selected people serve a single issue for three years rather than just voting on a single bill. I think the advantage is clearly that you get to build up a greater depth of knowledge if you're spending three years learning about health care. The disadvantage is that the number of people willing to give three years of their life is going to be much lower than just asking for the few weeks or months that legislative service would require.

(previously, previously)

Fitbit on a bike

Fitbit on a bike

My company bought everyone a Fitbit for Christmas and now we're in a Battle Royale to get the most steps. I'm at a disadvantage as I often cycle to work and Fitbit does not track this accurately.

A couple of people suggested that clipping the Fitbit to your shoe would help. So over the last week I conducted an experiment. My ride from home to the office is 6.5 miles. With the Fitbit clipped into my hip pocket it registers 2,362 steps. Perched precariously on my shoe I get 2,389 steps. You can't cheat Fitbit this way.

How far off is 2,300 steps? If I was walking the same distance I'd get 13,000 steps. But I  wouldn't be coasting down any hills so that isn't right either.

For my weight relaxed walking should be around 155 calories a mile, cycling at around 10 miles per hour is 78 calories a mile. This is about a 2:1 exchange rate so those 2,300 steps should be 4,600 or so.

Fitbit does have some options to manually add activities that it doesn't register correctly. This sounds too much like hard work though, it's difficult enough to remember not to put the poor device in the washing machine. I'm also 234,037 steps behind the current leader for January so I'd need to cycle home for lunch as well to stand any chance of catching up...

Don't show this to me again

Don't show this to me again

HTC deserves to go bust for greying out the option to not use their sharing tool.

Tree

Tree

Watercress Line

How does Hulu manage to suck so badly and the missing app for cord cutting

How does Hulu manage to suck so badly and the missing app for cord cutting

Hulu Plus has turned out to be a bit of a disaster.

The app (I use it on a TiVo) is ugly and clumsy. I checked last night and it took 15 clicks to watch the next episode of a series I'd watched the previous night. You'd think this would be about the most basic use case and it's something that everyone else gets right.

And then it plays a couple of ads flawlessly before complaining that there is a problem with the connection. You're then bombed out to the menu and sit through the pre-roll ads again before the show starts.

I'm not stoked about being forced to watch ads on a paid service at all. If you believe the CPM estimates on Quora Hulu could charge me another $6 per month for an ad-free service that doesn't suck. Hulu ads are particularly awful because they're not embedded in the stream. This means when it's ad time everything grinds to a halt while the app switches from program mode to ad mode and then back again. You could make a cup of tea in the time it takes Hulu to figure this out. Adding insult to injury only three companies appear to have bought ads so you're stuck watching the same ones repeatedly.

All this is if the program you added to your queue still exists. Different shows seem to have different windows of availability so when you sit down to watch something you've been saving up you might find that half the episodes have been yanked away.

There is an opportunity here for a brave entrepreneur (or at least one operating somewhere with no extradition treaty with the US). What we need is an app (or service) that is the TiVo equivalent for the brave streaming cord-cutting future. You feed in the credentials for all the services you subscribe to and the programs you want to watch. The app records everything and spits out video files you can watch (and fast forward through) at your leisure.

CI Dream

CI Dream

I have an old Ambient Orb hooked up to our build server at work. It glows green when everything is working and red when a build fails. It's nice but not visible enough. My dream is to fit every developer box with a second generation blink (small USB LED indicator) or two so if things go pear shaped the whole office lights up red.

Winter Solstice 2013

Winter Solstice 2013

It's the start of Winter in the northern hemisphere, Summer south of the equator. Rendered in Catfood Earth.

Catfood Software downloads are now on I Thought He Came With You

Catfood Software downloads are now on I Thought He Came With You

Catfood Software products are now available from the I Thought He Came With you downloads page.

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