Saturday, October 9, 2021

Standardization - Should it be imposed by government?

In America, our choice of data/power connector has been made for us by the manufacturers of our electronic products.  If one is an Apple customer, one uses the connector on the right.  If on Android, one uses the connector on the left.  Does this make sense?  Shouldn't all products play nice in the sandbox?

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I started off with the Apple vs. Android dispute, as it goes much deeper than one would think.  Most Android products can talk with each other.  My cell phone can be tethered to an Android tablet without problems.  The same can be said about Apple phones and tablets.  But Apple makes sure, at almost every point, that its products do not interface well with the other products' ecosystems.  There is no reason that I can't tether my iPad to a Samsung cell phone via Bluetooth or Wi_Fi connections.  Yet, this is so.

Several weeks ago, one of my friends asked me to figure out a problem.  She had a non-Apple laptop and an Apple phone, and couldn't get tethering to work, so that she could submit her final project.  So I allowed her to tether her laptop to my phone, and she was able to submit the project on time.  This is not a good thing.  Wi-Fil to Wi-Fi connections and Bluetooth to Bluetooth connections are simple.  Yet, Apple makes "security" excuses for why this can't be done.  This is bullshit to the average person.  And it is starting to be so for regulators as well.

Europeans are getting tired of the E-Waste being generated for its electronics.  They would like to have a simple wiring standard that can be used on all common electronic devices, and they want to standardize on USB-C.  Apple is strongly against, this, as this is the first step towards making Apple play nice in the sandbox and acting like all other electronics manufacturers.  Europe wants people to make "Oranges to Oranges" comparisons between products, and not force people to choose between one manufacturer's ecosystem vs. another manufacturer's (or group) ecosystem.

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About 160 years ago, the United States had no standards for simple things such as screw threads.  This caused us a lot of grief when we started mass production of manufactured foods.  We needed to standardize specifications for most of the basic products, such as screw threads.  How thick they had to be, what angle did they wrap around the screw, and how much distance between the threads had to be included in this standard.  Standardizing screws, nuts, bolts, was only one part of the problem.  Even the screw heads had to be standardized.  In America, we have the flat head and Phillips screwdrivers.  But in Canada, they have one more variety - the Richardson head.  (I think this to be a superior design to the Phillips head, but I won't go into it here.)  Standardization has forced American manufacturers to compete on both quality and price, and has allowed us a greater variety of product providers had standardization not been mandated.

Yet, there is value to competing standards - for a while.  Does anyone remember VHS vs. Beta?  Although Sony's product was technically the better product, it failed in the marketplace.  Video Tape Recorder manufacturers standardized on VHS before the product itself (the VCR) became obsolete. Competition doesn't always mean that the best product will survive.  It means that a product at a decent value/price point will survive.  But what happens when the market stabilizes with two standards.  Does this benefit the consumer?

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For me, the jury is out.  I own both Apple and Android products, and prefer my Android products.  Although I use an iPad, it is not my favorite device.  I would prefer to buy a new Samsung tablet if I could get one with connectivity to the 4g/5g cell phone networks.  Yes, there are drawbacks to this approach.  Most manufacturers of Android products do not maintain them for as long as Apple does for its products.  So in a way, it seems like we have a modern day equivalent of a Coke vs Pepsi Taste Challenge. As for me, I'll "Make Mine Moxie!"


Friday, October 8, 2021

Sometimes, a gig will typecast you


Truth Justice and "the American Way."  Sounds great, doesn't it?  Well, the man above was typecast as "Superman" and couldn't get another good role in Hollywood after the show stopped filming.  Why is this a lesson to be remembered?

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Recently, I decided to contact an old friend who I've stayed away from because of his politics.  He was starting to go off the rails when I last was in contact with him, and what he mentioned about his vaccination status implied that he drank some, but not all, of the Kool-Aid that his political tribe is drinking.  

But I digress....

This fellow was the person who inspired me to enroll in my Masters program and get a degree in Education.  The idea was that by getting a foot in the door, I could get a tenured position in some school.  I quickly found out that there were no jobs available for people like me with this certification.  Yet, I found the degree to be the greatest investment in myself that I could have made.  No, it did not do anything to help me find work.  Instead, it helped me find in myself what I could be (or could have been) when properly motivated and mentored.

Although I was able to stay in the computer field for 3 years after getting my degree, my friend has been out of anything related to technology for years.  For him, the past 13 years or so have been a series of substitute teaching gigs broken up by some long term (a little less than a school year) teacher replacement positions. This is not the life I wanted to lead.  But I wonder, could he be overqualified to find work?  And, has he been taking too many short term gigs, instead of finding available work in a New York City public school as a starter position?

My acquaintance has 2 certifications - courses in both of his specialty areas are required for students to graduate with a "Regents Degree".  But this hasn't gotten him the job he wanted.  So I wondered, has he been subbing too long?  So, I started to think about an unrelated field - acting.  His experience reminded me of people who try to break into acting by starting out as extras.  They get an idea of what acting is like by being on a set, putting up with a lot of the headaches of filming a show, and building up a starter set of professional experiences.  Yet, one can only be an extra so many times before people stop taking your desire to be professional actor as a serious desire.  Could this have happened to him?

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Years ago, I decided to stop fighting to stay in the technology fields, as I had too much to catch up on, and I'd be out of the field way too long.  Three years after I left the bank, I gave up on the idea of being a project manager - and this made things easier for me to move forward with my life.  I wonder what would have happened if the man pictured at the top of this entry had made plans, as Lyle Waggoner did, to have a career after acting.  And I wonder what would have happened if my friend has a plan B to be used if teaching didn't work out....



Thursday, October 7, 2021

Just another brick in the wall....


Have you ever had your phone turn into a brick?  I have, and it's not fun.

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I have been looking at new cell phones for a while, and have been dickering about whether I should buy a new one or not.  Well, that decision was made for me at 3:30 this morning.  My phone changed from being something useful to being a brick.

You might be asking, "How did I know that the phone was a brick?"  I wasn't sure at first myself.  When I woke up this morning, I thought it was 3:30 am based on the display of my phone.  When I looked at my watch, it said 6:45.  I thought that the watch was set poorly until I looked at the cable box. Then it dawned on me - the phone got stuck, and my alarms didn't ring.

At this point, I made the decision NOT to go to work and called in sick when I knew I wouldn't be waking up my boss.  And then, I tried to reboot the phone.  No luck.  I now had the first boot screen flashing on the display, with the phone boot up process stuck in an endless loop.  Now it was time to try a factory reset.  I couldn't even do that.  My phone was officially a brick!

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Now that my phone was now a worthless piece of electronic waste, I knew that this was going to be a Mario Mode day.  I would need to present myself as Mario, just in case my legal identity needed to be verified.  And I didn't want any headaches from people serving me today.  So off went the idea of putting on a tunic and leggings, and on went the idea of wearing a long sleeved shirt and trousers. And off I went to Best Buy to see what phones they had in stock.

In chatting with the salesperson at Best Buy, he had a slight preference for Samsung phones over Motorola, noting that he had heard of this type of Bricking Problem before.  Yet, he recognized that the Motorola phones provided excellent value and run close to stock Android.  Given that I wanted as much memory as possible AND wanted a phone I knew would be upgraded to Android 12, I chose the Motorola phone.  If he had more negative things to say about Motorola, I'd have gone with Samsung and dealt with their needless Android skin mods and their dumb Bixby button.

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When I finally got home, I started the process of taking the SIM and Micro SD card out of the old phone and installing them in the new phone.  Although I have a wealth of SIM removal pins, I didn't have one as long as needed to eject the new phone's card tray.  I was very lucky to make sure that I saved all materials for the phone, as I found this pin and used it.  After that, the restoration of apps to the new phone was easy.  Everything had been backed up, and all I had to do was log on to my Google account and start the process of reloading apps from the Google Play store.

As much as I like the new phone, it still seems a little foreign to me.  Until I have a new case that isn't that slippery, I'll have to be very careful when the phone is out of my purse or my pocket.



Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Cruise prices don't always make sense.


Just for fun, I decided to price out a repositioning cruise on NCL to start in a month from the time this entry is made public. Although I have no interest in taking this particular cruise, it illustrates the irrationality of some prices available to the potential cruiser.

You'll note that all prices are for solo cruisers.  I have sailed (or will have sailed) in every category save for the Studio, the Spa, and the Haven.  If pricing for this cruise was completely rational, the Studio cabin wouldn't be priced as high as it is.  From what I can tell, it is a smaller version of an inside cabin with access to a "Studio Only" travel area.  (Singles can mix here.)  So, why is it priced more than the Inside cabin, the Oceanview cabin, and a Balcony cabin.  It costs almost as much as the Club Balcony Suite.  If I were taking this particular cruise, I'd spend the extra $124 and get almost 3 times the room to spread out AND have a balcony of my own.

Once one decides to go above the Club Balcony Suite level, prices start going into the stratosphere.  I can only imagine how much money I'd want in my bank account before I'd even consider a room in the Haven.  (When a suite there has more room than my apartment, the Haven is geared to people who have lots of money to burn.)  I've met people who have cruised in both the Spa and the Haven suites, and they loved them. For me, I'll wait for the excuse to take a very special trip and then drop the coin to make it special for me and a potential partner.

With certain exceptions, you usually get what you pay for.  Sometimes you get more.  And sometimes, you get less.   Before the pandemic struck, I found a Repositioning / Panama Canal cruise that I could have taken for $1000 - 21 days, New York to Seattle. Unfortunately, that cruise had to be cancelled on account of the pandemic. Later in the year, there was a 11 day Hawaii Cruise Tour (effectively 10 days of activities) that I could have taken for half the price the same package sells for today.  This, too, was cancelled because of the pandemic.  An ex girlfriend of many years ago was very sad about this, as she was looking to take this cruise with 3 of her girlfriends.  (I could only imagine what would have happened if we bumped into each other on the cruise.)

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I have been tracking the price of another cruise I've been interested in as it gets closer to sail date.  If I'm right, the price will drop another $50/stateroom class one or two more times before the ship sails.  However, I wouldn't want to risk losing this deal at this point - so I'll be buying my tickets soon....



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I may have found a unicorn.


The above is the itinerary for a cruise out of New York scheduled for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  If I felt comfortable taking this cruise, I'd jump on it.  It is one of two cruises I've found lately that offer an excellent price/value combination - unicorns, as they are known by many.  However, I did not feel comfortable taking this cruise at this time, as several of these ports are on the CDC's list of Covid-19 high risk destinations.

With the exception of the Dominican Republic, almost all the islands are at a level 4 warning.  This means that the CDC is advising people NOT to travel to these places.  Of course, the CDC is reasonably honest here, as they place the USA in a level 4 category.  It is safer to travel to Canada (a level 3 country) than to travel to Puerto Rico.  So does taking this trip make sense?


Although this is the first cruise that I've found that has no single supplement, is it a unicorn? Right now, I'd feel comfortable getting off the ship in only three of the ports as Marian. But I don't think I'd feel safe from Covid-19 until I get my booster shot.  So I don't think this is the best unicorn to chase.



Monday, October 4, 2021



Friend, n: A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection

Levels of friendship:

  1. A friend will help you. 
  2. A good friend will help you move.
  3. A very good friend will help you move and dispose of a body.

Hopefully, none of my readers will have friends at the third level, unless they work in a hospital or mortuary.

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Over the years, I can easily say that I've had a handful of friends in the second category.  And I'm pretty sure that at least one of them might have upgraded themselves to the third category if the need arose. (This potentially gives a whole new meaning to having a "Skeleton in the closet." 😁 )  But as we get older, it gets harder to find a level 1 friend, much less a level 2 friend.  I think this truth is behind the growth of - most of us crave human connections, and we will do almost anything to get them.

Sometimes, people will battle over friendships.  Other times, people collect friendships the way others collect stamps.  I've seen people do unethical things when friendships go sour.  But I won't dwell on that now.  Instead, I'll focus on the power of friendships.

One thing I learned by being widowed, was that the one person I could lean on to cope with a situation was no longer there to help me in my time of need.  Good friendships can end with that same problem. Some people are lucky enough to have more than one good friend to lean on in times like these.  And yet, when I look at MWL, she still is affected by the loss of some of her friends in her age group.  (No, I'm not going into any details about her here.  I'm just making a quick comment on how the loss of friends can affect a person.) 

For many of us, we lean on our friends as much as we lean on our families.  They help us out in times of need.  They listen to us when we need to process our feelings.  And they provide targets for us to show our compassion for others.  In the case of many of us transgender folk, we often bond with other transgender folk, as we are the only people who understand what we are going through.  I consider myself lucky to have been able to keep most of my friendships so far, as well as keeping on good terms with my relatives.  This may have been the biggest miracle of all....

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Need for new word in language



The other day, I was in contact with someone who said that I always seemed to have all the answers.  Yet, due to disputes I've had with people (and others with me), I realize that we need a new word in the English language.,

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Years ago, I used to be a frequent viewer of the "Jerry Springer" show, and others like it.  All of the shows started to seem the same over time. People would get into arguments.  Some people had cause to be upset, and others had cause to be on the defense.  When people were called on to justify their positions, they could not communicate a good reason for their position.  They were giving up the fight, but not ceding the point that the other person had some justification for his/her actions.  Often, it was a woman who said "Whatever!" in a voice indicative of an animal skulking away with its tail between its legs. 

As an adult, I find that so many people are not able to articulate their positions well.  And they tend to get run over by people with better communication skills.  Yet, most people would never use the phrase "whatever" to express the same feeling expressed by Springer show guests.  Do you have any words that would sound respectable in "middle class" speech that express this type of defeat?  Please let me know if you know of any....


Norwegian Fjord Cruise Vacation - 06/28/24 (Zeebrugge, Belgium)

Today is our last stop in mainland Europe, and our last shore excursion.  We have been choosing relatively low energy shore excursions, as n...