The real reason Americans don't have passports

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The real reason Americans don't have passports

Less than half of Americans have passports compared to around 75% in the UK. Brits often use this statistic to mock Americans for being uncurious provincial stay-at-homes.

I've always felt this was unfair though. As an American you might have visited all 50 states, all of the National Parks and maybe thrown in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico without having ever bothered with a fully fledged passport.

A Brit on the other hand might have spent a few days eating fish and chips at a British pub in Benidorm and is suddenly a sophisticated world traveler. I don't think so. There is simply more to see and experience in the US without needing to cross a border.

After I moved to America I realized that maybe there was another reason. Americans for some reason don't bother taking vacations. You get massively less vacation time over here and even then a huge number of people don't even manage to take off their paltry few days. There is no effective way to have a holiday overseas if you never take a holiday.

Now I realize that neither of these factors is as important as the United States Postal Service if you have a kid.

In the UK to get a passport you mail in an application and get back a passport. It's pretty easy. Even for children.

In the US you need to go to a Passport Acceptance Facility and that probably means a post office. There is a handy website that lists the 10 closest facilities together with their phone numbers so you can call to make an appointment. These phone numbers are not answered. It's less like a basic government service and more like trying to bag a ticket to Glastonbury.

I gave up and delegated to Fancy Hands (a personal assistant service). They have spent two days on the phone trying and failing to get an appointment.

I was going to do my best to vote my principles this year but at this point any presidential candidate who would force USPS to put in a web scheduling system might just get my vote.

Updated 2016-04-18 23:23:

After I posted this a friend pointed me at the United States Digital Service (via this Ted Video) and basically said why bitch and moan when you could help fix it. Which I don't have a great answer to. Except this.

Google Cloud Vision Sightings

Google Cloud Vision Sightings

I've been feeding webcam images into the Google Cloud Vision API for a few weeks now so I thought I'd take a look at what it thinks it can see. The image above shows every label returned from the API with my confidence going from the bottom to the top and Google's confidence going from left to right (so the top right hand corner contains labels that we both agree on).

Google is super-confident that it has seen a location. Can't really argue with it there.

It's more confident that it has seen an ice hotel than a sunrise (and it has seen a lot of sunrises at this point). Maybe I need to explore the Outer Sunset more.

Google is 60.96% confident that it has seen a ballistic missile submarine. I suppose that's plausible, I do have an ocean view but it's rather far away and unless there was an emergency blow that didn't make the news I'm going to have to call bullshit on that one. It's 72.66% confident that an Aston Martin DB9 went past which is pretty specific. Possibly a helicopter slung delivery?

Maybe I'm sending basically the same image in too many times and the poor system is going quietly mad and throwing out increasingly desperate guesses. Probably I've just learned that I should use 80%+ as my confidence threshold before triggering an email...

(Previously)

News: California may end tyrannical daylight savings

California may end tyrannical daylight savings

Yes, I'd vote for this. Please do it.

Mandelbrot Spin Zoom

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mandelbrot Spin Zoom

Zooming into the Mandelbrot Set is always fun but I feel it's often a bit static and would be enlivened by a good spin so you can corkscrew your way down. Enjoy:

This was cloud rendered over two weeks using a Google Compute Engine high CPU instance (on a free trial, thanks Google).

I used the coordinates from a video posted by metafis on YouTube and a palette approach posted by Alex Russell on Stack Overflow.

The music is Flaming Memories generated by JukeDeck.

News: Wisdom teeth removal is rarely necessary

Wisdom teeth removal is rarely necessary

Glad to hear it because my dentist is always wanting to rip out my wisdom teeth and I've always refused...

News: Case made for 'ninth planet'

Case made for 'ninth planet'

Can we call it Pluto?

OAuth

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We'd probably be living in a post-scarcity Star Trek / Culture style universe happily working on self-actualization if we didn't have to spend so much time fucking around with OAuth.

(Previously)

Google Inbox Account Switching

Google Inbox Account Switching

Google is generally pretty good about managing multiple accounts but sometimes you get completely stuck. One example is Google Inbox where your primary account is Google Apps for Work without Inbox enabled. You just get a screen saying that Inbox needs to be activated and no option to switch to another account.

There is a fix, and this sometimes works for other products as well. In the URL (https://inbox.google.com/u/0/) there is a user number. Change the 0 to 1 (or maybe 2, 3, etc depending on the number of accounts) and you can get Inbox up and running again.

One case I haven't found a clean workaround for is importing a segment or custom report in Google Analytics. You just get the default profile and if it's not what you're after then there is no way to switch. What does work here is launching an incognito window, signing in to the relevant account and then using the import link. A bit painful but gets the job done.

Correlation is not causation but...

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Correlation is not causation but...

25th Centuary

Updated on Sunday, December 2, 2018