Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Bits and Pieces - 13 Nov 2013

My children roll their eyes when they see I put up my weekly post. Yes, they are all links that I found interesting during the week. I either want to comment on the article or I don't want to lose the link. So I share.
This one is a bit long, so here's a short list of contents:
Rumble about health care
We left AT&T for T-Mobile. See our savings.
Other potential cost cuts
Fourier transforms
Liz Taylor (and more)
What makes men happy
I left Mac and I'm back to the PC
More on DNA testing
Entertainment! Doctor Who, Thor and World of Warcraft

Three twenty year old programmers built a health care web site in three days. It probably doesn't do everything that people need for the actual Affordable Care Act web site, but neither does the official one yet.
The Affordable Health Care Act is complicated law so it's not surprising that the official web site is difficult. This is the time of year at my (Fortune 500) company when we all have to sign up for health care. My old plan is no longer supported by the company and costs have gone up significantly. Everyone is seeing something similar, I think. This was the reason behind Obamacare, after all: provide health care for everyone at a reasonable cost.
Sadly, quite a few of us will see costs go up for this, but it will work itself out over the next few years. (Just don't get too sick in the meantime!)
Nicaragua has nationalized health care that works well for them, but maybe they aren't as picky as we are. These folks love being retired in Nicaragua. Perhaps I should add that little Central American company back to my list of possibilities. Of course, phone service might be an issue for me in Central America. It's a bit of an issue for me here, but we're working on it.
We finally dumped AT&T when our contract with them ended. Given an option I won't go back to a phone contract again. We switched to the base plan for T-mobile. There were a few hiccups but we'll line them out. Also, I'll get my company discount as soon as I finish the paperwork, which will save us fifteen percent. Darling got a new phone last week to go with the new plan. She's struggling to learn all the cool stuff it does. Yup, she went Android. How much did we save - let's talk numbers. We were paying almost $150/month for both lines with AT&T. With the new plan (admittedly less data, but we don't need it) we pay a bit less than $90/month. With the 15% discount it will be less than that. So we saved over $60/month by switching. The call clarity is just as good. I notice that when we are home our cell phones use the Wi-Fi to make calls. That's cool.
Now we can cancel our VOIP land line, can't we? That's a little more monthly savings.
This guy switches between iOS (iPhone 5) and Android (Nexus 5). It's worth a read if you're thinking of doing the same, and I am. After all, once I get back into development I'll be working on both platforms again.
The Playstation 4 is coming soon and ars Technica has a pre-release version. I won't be upgrading. First of all, I'm content with my PS3 and I have quite a few games for it. Secondly, used games for the PS3 will just get less expensive. Thirdly, we're all about cutting costs. Everyone is, aren't they?
We're still thinking of dumping cable TV, now that our contract is up. We're pondering the move. One of the articles I'll study harder is this one on TiVo. I don't know about everyone else, but we're finding less shows on cable that interest us, and I'm willing to let them go. We have Netflix, so we can view most of the older shows we like to watch.  So maybe an antenna, TiVo, Netflix and my Apple TV and we're good. That should reduce our monthly costs by a bit.
We probably won't save enough to buy this little yacht, though. I have to admit I really like this Italian mini-yacht. I think I'll put it on my Amazon wish list when they finally announce a price and availability. If I get one, maybe I can sail to Nicaragua.
My Organic Chemistry teacher at CMU was brilliant and the best thinker I'd ever met. In one class he discussed "activation energy" for chemical reactions and Professor Howell pointed out that if we could find a catalyst to lower the activation energy of electrolysis, hydrogen could become a viable fuel source. I never forgot that lecture. Now Toyota has a new hydrogen car. Perhaps we're going in the right direction now?
I both love and hate math. I loved learning about Fourier transforms and Laplace transforms. I never really got the hang of them (thus my hate relationship with math). Fourier transforms are the basis for much of the data compression techniques in programming. Ever wonder how the Shazam™ app manages to capture a clip of a song and match it? (Well, I have). Fourier transforms! In the clip they even draw Homer Simpson with a Fourier transform algorithm.
Forbes has an article that shows the whitest jobs in America. Almost 97% of veterinarians are white. I don't know what any of it means, but I didn't want to lose the link.
There was also an article showing the analysis of how young American adults are more likely to be poor. I blinked at that one. I was poor when I was young too, so I'm not sure what point is. It takes a while to save money, and even longer if you keep buying new things on credit.
The Onion stopped its print version is Chicago. Fortunately this bizarre magazine will continue on the internet.
Audrey Hepburn in color
Colorizing old photos is its own artwork now. Some of the pictures shows are iconic. Liz Taylor is stunning in the colorized 1956 photo. The Hindenburg disaster (1937) shows the cruel flames illuminating the running people in the foreground. Oh, the humanity! 
Want to know what makes men happy? (You thought I was going to say Liz Taylor, didn't you?) This 75 year study by Harvard gives some clues. One of the bits that made my eyes cross was that conservative men shut down their sex lives around age 68 and liberal men had healthy sex lives into their 80s. Yeah, now you want to know more, don't you? And all you conservative guys are now re-thinking your allegiances…
PC Magazine has a list of the top 10 interactive games for people who love stories. I probably won't buy any of them, but they are fun to look at.

I've migrated from the Mac world back to the PC world with my MSI GE70 i765M287 Notebook, a gaming portable. I'm still working at cleaning up all the start files, and I didn't realize the sheer number of start files that Windows 7 needs to operate. Of immense help to me is a site that is dedicated to identifying what's needed, and what isn't. I'm doing my research, studying the automatically running programs and closing the ones that can be done manually instead. Some appeared to be viruses; a bit more research showed they aren't. It takes some time, but when I'm done my new laptop will run cleanly.

Most Futurists are pretty sane about the future of government, but tend to be pessimistic. In fact, to some the current political and social climate in the USA indicates the end of the rapidly increasing lifestyle of our citizens will soon come to an end. You'll need to be a WFS member to read the entire article.
My buddy Verne Wheelwright is one of the finest Futurists out there.  He mentions that he just sent his DNA to be tested by 23andMe. Now I have to wait for his post about the results! This article is visible to everyone, since it's Verne's blog at WFS.
I got the results of my Ancestry DNA testing and I mentioned it a few weeks ago.  Since that post, Ancestry refined the results. Now it shows: Great Britain-80%, Europe West-8%, Europe East-5%, Ireland-2%, Iberian Peninsula-2%, Scandinavia-2% and Italy/Greece <1%.  On a genealogy forum I belong to, the genealogists told me this type of testing only does the Male or Female line, depending on your sex. So this is just me - my dad - his dad - his dad's dad , etc.
In order to get results from my Mom's line I'd need to get my Aunt to do a test, and that still wouldn't get her Dad, the Cherokee. I really wanted to confirm the Chippewa on my mother's, mother's, father's side of the family that legend says we have in our lineage... I don't know how DNA can help me there.
One benefit is that a third cousin contacted me based on these results. She suggested I use the services at but their site is so overwhelmed it won't be back up until January. It will probably crash again then, because I am certainly not the only one waiting in line with my raw data file.
Yeah, I'll update that when I get it.

Saturday, 23 November is the date the Doctor returns in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. We'll see the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant, my second favorite) and Eleventh Doctor together. I'm hoping Rose Tyler returns, and am certainly looking forward to Clara Oswald. Will Amy Pond show up with Rory? I hope so. I want it all! I'm not sure what time the show will be available here in Houston, though.
Who was my favorite Doctor? Why, the Fourth Doctor (1974-1981), Tom Baker, of course.
As an aside, the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston was amazing as the Dark Lord Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. Sadly, I read that some of the best bits were left on the cutting room floor. They used the minutes for Loki's parts. I think Loki is my favorite character now.
Review of Thor: The Dark World. Let's face it, this is a classic Marvel superhero movie. Good guy vs bad guy. Bad guy wins. Good guy hurt. Bad guy almost succeeds in his ultimate plot for evil. Good guy wins. There are not one, but TWO ending sequences. One comes right before the credits. I waited for that one and it was good and I left the theater quite content. I found out there was a second one after the credits! Grrr.
Worth seeing at the movies? Yes, if you're a Marvel fan. You could wait for the DVD. So it only gets a 6/10 from me. There were some twists that might push it up a bit, but they were predictable.
Not only was the Ninth Doctor in the movie, so was Chuck! In the first movie, actor Josh Dallas (Charming in Once Upon a Time) played Fandral. In this one we see Zachary Levi step into the role of Fandral. I barely noticed the discrepancy; they each did so well with the part. Apparently the producers wanted Zachary Levi in the first film but he was busy filming Chuck. In Thor: The Dark World, Josh Dallas was busy in Once Upon a Time. They are almost the same age, and Levi is a few inches taller at 6'3".
There's a new WoW expansion coming in 2014. As a form of atonement (or overkill, I'm not sure) Blizzard will gives us an entire compound with followers instead of simply a house. Oh. Boy. I might even renew my subscription (which is their plan, of course), but they'll have to change the cost a bit.
I was able to participate in a WoW Former Player Study conducted by Blizzard. That lasted two weeks and the discussions were good. I'm quite happy with how inquisitive they were. Yeah, it was totally our idea for the houses…
We can't see ourselves in the dark. We think we can.
A study finds that a decline in brain function as you age is genetic. Darling won't have a problem; her mother was sharp as a tack up until she died. So was my Dad, for that matter.
The Kepler telescope indicates that about one in five stars like our own in the galaxy have Earth-sized planets. That doesn't mean they are habitable, but it sure gives us a large group of planets to look at. That would make the closest one only twelve light-years away.
Everyone knows that Tennyson wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade. Apparently some British soldiers survived that charge, retiring to England destitute. Kipling wrote a poem about them called The Last of the Light Brigade. Thank you, all you veterans, for your service to us, your fellow countrymen. You gave us our freedom.

Thanks for reading.

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