Thou Shall Not Kill

I remember when I was a lot younger and I was a good Catholic child and I was learning about war and I asked my mom this simple question : “If it’s a mortal sin to kill a person, how is it that soldiers can kill people?”. I don’t remember the answer she gave me but I remember it not being too satisfying. It was then that I learned that in the adult world, nothing is logical.

So, what is the answer to that question? To be honest, I still don’t know. It’s even more of an interesting question in today’s world where we have so many more people killing in the name of God alone.

But lets stick to America for now, shall we? The majority of our fighting forces are made up of kids from the Bible Belt, where we all know that 100% of them are serious Christians. Also, whenever I see any real footage of people in the field, they are always praying or saying ‘God bless you all!’, etc. So lets just stipulate that the majority of those fighting are religious. How do they resolve the fact that they are directly breaking the sixth (or fifth depending on which religious sect you follow) commandment?

I’m not the biggest fan of organized religion but I would argue that the world would be a much better place if we tried not to kill each other all the time. What gives here?

My new car stereo

The title of this post is misleading. I don’t have a new car stereo but every time I use the one I have, I think about how awesome it could be if just a few changes were made. And I know how to get exactly what I want (since no car stereo maker seems to ever think of user interface.. this goes back about 30 years now).

But first lets talk about my current unit. About 2 years ago I bought a Kenwood DNX6140 from Crutchfield (highly recommended company). I wanted a unit that had GPS where I could also plug in my iPod (attention thieves, I keep a 80GB iPod in my glovebox with low bitrate copies of most of my music library). This unit fit the bill and seemed pretty awesome. So far, it’s met my needs and that’s about it. Where does it fail? Let me count the ways..

But the 2 key failure points are the GPS and the iPod integration. The GPS (by Garmin) is a piece of crap. It gets me where I’m going pretty accurately, but the map graphics are very weak and it has no traffic updates, etc. Of course I’m spoiled by the awesome, super awesome Navigation app by Google that I have in my phone combined with the awesome lookup functionality of points of interest. The iPod integration works, but the interface is just poor. For example, say I want to hear me some Tupac. I have to go to a menu that lists by Artist and then scroll down through all 500+ artists until I find Tupac. I can’t search for it at all. I have to scroll and that takes forever. Same for songs and albums, etc. Just poor.

So what’s the solution? I’ve written and ranted in the past about making stereo head units that could use any mapping/gps software but now we’ve got a better solution available and this is totally marketable (who will be the first to do it? probably some garage startup) : Android!

Someone needs to build a car stereo that is built around an Android OS tablet. How awesome would that be? Imagine having it connected all the time to your wireless carrier, streaming tunes from Pandora (or maybe your own music collection), with the awesome Google Navigation and the ability to add apps as well. How cool would that be? The only thing we would need is an interface/connection to your car power and speakers and an amplifier and presto : awesome car stereo! Configurable and open and awesome!

Who wants to build this for me as a prototype? I will pay for it and then we can start a company!

Rules For Being Human

Saw this on reddit the other day. I especially like #4 and #7. (Edit : Found the original version. It’s by a Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott.

RULES FOR BEING HUMAN

  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period this time around.
  2. You Will Learn Lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called Life. Each day in this school, you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lesson or think them irrelevant and stupid.
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”
  4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
  6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again, look better than “here.”
  7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. Your answer lies inside you. The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.
  10. You will forget all this.

My new Phone

Well. For those of you who follow my life with a fine tooth comb, you’ll know that in December I bought the new Nexus S to replace my broken down Droid. I really loved the phone a lot. The battery life was great, pure android 2.3 was spectacular, and the speed of the phone was really nice. But the phone was essentially unusable due to it’s inability to find a signal anywhere. Either it was the phones radio or T-Mobile, but I couldn’t use the internets and I couldn’t make a call in my home. It was horrible.

So I decided to bite the bullet and buy something else. After a lot of research (and after convincing myself that waiting for the next best thing was pointless), I decided on the HTC Thunderbolt (which is on Verizon). First off, moving to Verizon was a definite requirement. I love their service in Philadelphia and since that’s where I am 99% of the time, there was no other choice. And from what I heard 4G LTE was the real deal (not some marketing hype).

I didn’t move to this phone quickly. There was a lot of fear going in. The biggest fear I had was moving to a phone that had a skin on it (in this case HTC Sense). I really loved the pure android experience on my Droid and on the Nexus S. As a techie, I really don’t like things added on to my UI just to make it pretty. I prefer the more utilitarian approach : get the job done efficiently. Plus I was really afraid all the gizmos running would kill my battery life. Then I heard that there is a lot of bloatware on the phone put there by Verizon that you can’t remove. That again really made me scared since the only way to remove the battery and memory hogging crap would be to root the phone (something I never want to do since I prefer to remain ‘stock’ as much as possible).

Well, here’s the deal. I bought the phone and fully charged it and after 4 hours it was flat out dead. The battery life was insanely poor. This I had also heard but I wanted to see for myself. My thought was that I could charge it at home and then charge it at work and be fine, but wow. I could almost see the battery life indicator moving downwards.. This was a bad sign!

Before I go on, a little note : What the fuck Verizon!?! How can you sell a phone that out of the box doesn’t work? What is wrong with the technology sector today that a company actually sells a premium product that doesn’t work? I have to say I really am upset that Verizon is marketing this phone as it is.

So I had two options at this point : 1) return the phone and then search for something else (don’t say “get an iPhone!” Don’t even get me started on that shit) or 2) take matters into my own hands and ‘root’ the phone.

Reluctantly I chose option 2. I found a really nice walkthrough and I got to work. Sadly, rooting completely resets your phone so the 2 days of getting the phone the way I liked it was going to go to waste, but I just had to bite the bullet (lots of bullet biting today!).

I have to say that rooting was kind of painless. It took me about an hour and the phone was exactly the same with one difference : I could do what I wanted to it! First up was removing the bloatware (you don’t actually remove it but move it out of the system into some other location so if you need to get an update from Verizon you can move it all back). Removing all this crap (and there was a lot) felt awesome. Next up was adding a program called JuiceDefender that actually turns off the data connection when I have the phone in standby. It also opens it up on occasion for my apps to connect and it’s fully configurable. Lastly I had considered removing HTC sense but I figured I’d give it a try first since that was going to be complicated.

The result? Well, the battery life was not only manageable, but pretty awesome. The only downside was that when I popped the phone on I had to wait a sec for the data connection to come back. This is an ok tradeoff for me and the only downside of the phone right now. HTC Sense I have to say is pretty amazing. The keyboard is 100 times better than had expected and the UI is more usable than stock android. I turned off some of the flash like their friend feed and the stocks app, but overall I am really really impressed with the usability of the phone directly attributed to Sense.

Overall I have to say this. 4G LTE is amazing. It’s as fast as WIFI. The phone itself? Well, this phone is pretty damn awesome. The screen, HTC Sense, the speed, I’m happy! But if you are going to use it stock, good luck. Verizon has screwed you there.

 

Just another religion post

This American Life” has been really kicking out the quality lately. Two weeks ago in episode 430 they talked about the insane, draconian drug court of Amanda Williams down in Georgia. A story that you really need to hear. This weeks episode has a story by David Ellis Dickerson about how grew up christian and wanted to become a pastor but as he studied he realized how much contradiction and nonsense there was in the Bible and the overall Christian Dogma.

But Dickerson’s story resonated with me. You should listen to it yourself if you have any negative thoughts (as I do) about organized religion. The most interesting thought I got out of it was this : People who are in religious communities, especially really conservative, serious ones have something that we non-religious people dont. They have a very tight community with each other. They have love for each other, they have caring for each other, they support each other, and they all have the general peacefulness of a shared belief. I am jealous of that to no end.

The rest of us, while obviously too smart to fall for the insanity of virgin births and jesus myths, are missing out on something more important than anything else in life : community. We don’t trust anyone, we are generally pessimistic about the world and our future, we are kind of unhappy across the board.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I do know that we all.. all of us humans, need to realize that all of us are inherently the same. That we all want the same things, that we all are dumb and smart at the same time, that we all are in this together. We need to remember that always.