What do you think of this?

RPOP-2016-06-0598

I’ve always been curious about the two holes on ungrounded NEMA 1-15 plugs (Type A). There they were, one hole on each blade — what were they for?

When I had to make an electrical connection inside a junction box a few days ago, to power up a little adapter for a network camera, I thought: why not get some stubby hard drive screws (short machine screws used to afix HDs to drive bays), crimp a couple of ring terminals onto the hot and neutral wires and see if I could screw the terminals onto the adapter blades  with the hard drive screws? There are no screw threads inside the blade holes, but if you turn the screws a little harder, they’re just the right width that they’ll make their own way through and the whole thing will be quite snug.

Of course, the job isn’t complete without isolating both connections separately with electrical tape, or even better, with heat-shrink sleeves, but that’s easily enough done. The last step involves placing the whole thing inside an IP 56 junction box, for extra safety.

I think it’s a fun and novel way to get power to these little adapters. What do you think?

Let the punishment fit the crime

Our penal system is ailing and I’d like to propose a fix. I think a lot of the time, we’re punishing people for the wrong crimes and we’re filling up our prisons with people who’d be better off serving our communities rather than sitting around at taxpayers’ expense all day long.

For starters, I’d legalize all drugs and put safeties in place to control how they’re made and sold. After all, a drug is a drug. It’s no coincidence that the drugs you get at the pharmacy and in the hospital, and the drugs you can get from your “friendly neighborhood dealers” are all called drugs. That’s because they’re all supposed to be made in labs and they act on the human body according to specific pathways. If we legalized them (and the legalization of cannabis is a good model to follow), that’d get rid of a whole bunch of inmates from the prisons and would ensure that certain things happen before and after a person begins to use the more dangerous ones. I may post more on this topic in the future if you’re interested.

Next, I think we should go through the books and clean up all the laws, particularly old ones that no longer apply. I’m sure that in every country, the penal code could do with a bit of housekeeping.

I would then re-classify crimes according to the punishment they’ll receive: prison terms or community service. And I would also introduce laws that would mandate community service that cannot be appealed in court for things such as:

  • Urinating on walls
  • Spitting on people, particularly on policemen
  • Harassing women on the street, for example whistling after them or making lewd comments
  • Exhibiting poor personal hygiene in public
  • Insulting people on the internet
  • Blocking the road with your car, motorbike or bicycle
  • Vandalism (even minor scratching) of someone’s property
  • Cursing in public or insulting other people

These are just a few example. I believe strongly that imposing penalties for these sorts of things (even though they may seem like petty actions to some) has a big ripple effect down the line and can reduce the number of bigger crimes, because it will cause people to have more respect for one another and for each others’ properties.

When the punishment is community service, those who get it must wear special community service attire with their crimes listed on it. At night, they wouldn’t return to their homes and would instead return to special community service facilities (similar to army barracks, with bunks set up in common rooms) and sleep there. While there, they’d have to prepare their own meals, wash their own clothes and clean up their rooms. Truant officers would monitor their activities and people on the street could text or call a number listed on their special attire to report them if they aren’t doing their service.

Where fines are involved, their amounts shouldn’t be fixed but should instead be set at a percentage of the offender’s income, say 10% of their monthly income for a certain offense, with the percentage set higher or lower for various offenses. And just to make sure no one gets out of paying the fine, a minimum threshold amount should be set that everyone must pay, even if it’s higher than the percentage set for a particular offense.

Let me give you more specific examples to drive the point home:

  • Let’s say a man is caught harassing women on the street. I would mandate the completion of a 2-day basic course in manners for him, with a test that he must pass at the end. He would then have to pay a fine and apologize in person to the women he offended, and complete a 14-day community service period and perform duties such as sweeping the streets, picking up litter, opening doors for women and other such activities. I believe such a punishment would better fit his crime and would in the end be more likely to achieve its goal of correcting the man’s behavior.
  • In the case of acts of vandalism, those people would pay a fine and be mandatorily assigned to work crews in the local community would be supervised by city personnel in the restoration of public buildings and public housing. Depending on the severity of the vandalism, they would get 2-weeks or 4-weeks or more of mandated community service. Their work performance would be graded and if they didn’t do a good enough job, their sentence would get extended.
  • In the case of those insulting people on the internet, I think the current model gives every Tom, Dick and Harry too free a hand in venting on anyone they choose and this is completely wrong. I think we should have better checks in place so that the identity of commenters could be easily traced and these people be held responsible for their actions. I believe they would also benefit from the completion of a 2-day basic course in manners, plus the payment of a fine.

In the case of crimes requiring prison sentences, again the punishment should be tailored to fit the crime. For example:

  • A convicted rapist whose guilt is proven would be physically castrated. I’m not talking about chemical castration. I’m talking about that man losing his testicles forever, so that he can no longer hurt someone else like that. He would also serve a lengthy prison sentence and go through counseling. When it is deemed possible by the psychologist or psychiatrist in charge, that man would have to apologize (either in person or on video or in writing, depending on the preference of the victim) to the victim and/or to the victim’s family.
  • Those who did serious financial crimes would in addition to their prison sentence also be mandated to suggest fixes for the loopholes or faulty laws that allowed them to exploit the system in such a way. They would also be required to assist the government in their ongoing financial investigations. In other words, if a lot of footwork and manpower is required for certain investigations, they’d be required to go through the physical or digital paperwork and assist the government as needed. After their sentence is complete, they would be required to complete years of community service where they would offer free financial counseling 2-3 times a week to college students and young couples, to help them understand how finances work and what they need to do in order to manage their money correctly. The counseling would be done by the book and would be monitored by truant officers.

These are just a couple of examples. I’m sure you can think of more if you’re thinking along the same lines as me.

Introducing “The Elegant Gentleman”

I’d like to present a new project of mine, something that I’ve been thinking about and planning for a while. It’s called “The Elegant Gentleman”, and it’s going to be a journey on which I’ll hope you’ll join me, where we will explore clothes, manners and the finer things in life, in the search for a noble, enlightened existence as gentle-men, in this modern world of ours where stress and busy-ness seem to dominate the lives of those around us.

Raoul

Naturally, we won’t have an enlightened existence without the inner search for higher ideals. A preoccupation with “the finer things” alone will leave you empty in the end. But the practice and appreciation of character traits that ennoble us, and the search for meaning and happiness in the world around us, will make us enlightened. And I’ll tell you a little secret: when the search begins within and reaches outside, those “finer things” will begin to have a meaning that enriches our lives and helps us stay on a higher plane of living.

This all sounds somewhat esoteric, and on some level, it is. That’s why there are so few true gentlemen in the world. So won’t you join me as we seek membership in this exclusive club? The journey will be the initiation ceremony. The dues will be the experiences we will each have. And the reward will be a life better lived, a life worth living, a life full of wonderful memories for us and for those around us.

I’ll be creating and posting videos to my YouTube channel. Here’s the first one of the series:

And I’ll be posting frequently on my Facebook Page, and writing articles here on my site, where I’ve added a new category, called… you guessed it, “The Elegant Gentleman“. There’s even a website by the same name.

See you soon! Cheers!

A way to make Shuffle better in iTunes and on iPhones and iPods

iTunes

I don’t know about you but I’ve listened to all of the songs in my iTunes library. Repeatedly. Over and over and over. I keep buying new ones but inevitably, the play counts add up. And the ones I didn’t want to listen to, I skipped over. Repeatedly. Over and over and over. And therein lies the answer to making Shuffle better, both in iTunes and on our iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Apple, please tweak the Shuffle algorithm so that if a song is skipped over more than once, it won’t play it during Shuffle mode at all, at least not for a while. The auto-skip period can be tweaked in the settings (in iTunes and on our portable devices). And we should also be able to decide whether we want these songs to sync to our devices at all, sort of like putting them in hibernation. Maybe even create a special section in the Library where a smart list will display these pariah songs when needed.

Some of the songs I bought have started to annoy me so much that I deleted them altogether. I suppose you can’t help that with music. You like it, then you don’t. You need a break from it. But when your iPod or iPhone keeps shoving it in your face, particularly when you’re driving and you don’t want to be bothered with skipping over songs, then that song begins to annoy you enough so that you get home and delete it from your iTunes library, just so you won’t hear it again.

And Apple, please don’t do this only in iTunes. Make sure you do it for iPhones and iPods as well, and for the older models, too. I still have a 1st gen iPod Touch that I use from time to time, and its software hasn’t been updated in years. It’d be nice to get some extra life out of it once the new Shuffle is brought out.

Thanks in advance!

A couple of suggestions for Waze

Waze

I’ve been using Waze for over a month and I love it. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. It’s surprisingly accurate, even in a country where you wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of users, like Romania.

The traffic updates can get a little overwhelming in large urban areas like Bucharest and sometimes it doesn’t find an address I need, but overall, it’s a wonderful app and the idea of a user-driven (and updated) map is awesome. Live traffic alerts and automatic calculation of the best route based on current traffic conditions are awesome options (these used to cost a pretty penny with GPS devices and weren’t very good nor up-to-date).

Here’s a way to make Waze better: use the accelerometer in our iPhones to automatically determine if the road is unsafe, based on braking, swerving, stopping and yes, even driving (or falling) through potholes. I love being able to report a road incident but when I’m swerving through potholes and recently dug up roads (like the one between Medias and Sighisoara), I don’t have the time nor the multitasking brain cycles to tap on my phone and report a hole in the road. So doing this automatically and reporting it to the users would be a wonderful new addition to Waze. I’d love to get an alert on my phone as I’m driving through fog or rain, when the visibility isn’t great, telling me there’s a pothole ahead. And by the way, Waze, have you thought about hooking up weather info to the traffic reports?

One thing that always annoyed me with GPS devices is the constant repetition of stuff like “take the 2nd exit” or “turn left”. The new version of Waze seems to be doing the same thing. I’d love an option in the settings where I could specify that I’d like to be reminded about such things a maximum of two times (not 3 or 4 times…)

A big thanks to the Waze team for the awesome work!

What can you do with corners?

Say you’re stuck inside but you’d love to use your camera and take some creative photos. What can you do? How about a play on lines and colors? You can use your very own walls and corners, and then you can manipulate the photos in editing to make them even more interesting. It’s a wonderful exercise in creativity. Here are some photos I took at home one evening, where I did this very thing.

A new faucet design

I had an idea recently about a new faucet design. (If you’ve been reading my website for some time, then you may remember I post my ideas here — when I remember to write them down and don’t forget them.)

When you look at a shower, right after it’s been used, you’ll see the splash line is somewhere at chest or shoulder level. Very little water goes above that line, unless you’ve been monkeying around in there.

If you’ve also seen the pipes being put in for a shower, and the faucets also being put in, you’ll know that first the pipes have to be laid in the wall, then the tiles placed over them, making sure to leave two holes with the appropriate hot and cold water connections for the faucets. And these holes happen to be right at waist level, where it’s easy for most people to reach the faucets — and where most water also happens to splash.

What you’re essentially doing is piercing the water barrier (the tile or marble wall) with two big holes right where you throw the most water. If you’re concerned about water seepage into your wall, or if your walls already have water issues, then this isn’t the smartest thing to do. Plus, there’s a lot of mildew that accumulates around those two holes, and no matter how much silicone you put there, you still get mildew and overtime, you still have water seepage into the wall.

Behold my new faucet design, which does away with this problem. I scribbled it down on a piece of paper when I got the idea.

The point here is that the two faucet holes are brought up above head level, above even the shower head, where water is seldom splashed, if ever. The faucet design consists of its two attachment points at the pipes, with hot and cold water lines coming down, exposed, to waist level, where the faucets are located, then continuing upward to the spigot, where they unite (or they could unite down, in-between the faucets, then come up to the shower head as one pipe). The shower head can be included as part of the package, or you can attach your own shower head to the faucet assembly.

So, there are three points of attachment for this faucet assembly to the wall. Two at the faucet lines and one at the shower head. There are no screws that connect the faucets to the wall at waist level. There the faucet assembly has two contact points with the wall, dressed in rubber, which can be left as is or secured to the wall with a bit of silicone.

What are the implications of this design? Well, it will clearly be bigger than normal faucet designs. It’s also not going to be for everyone. It’s going to be for those discerning consumers who want to reduce the seepage of water between their shower cabinets and the wall, who want to protect the beauty of their shower walls, and who are interested in a new design.

It also means that the builders will have to be clearly instructed where to place the new faucet holes. This faucet will need to purchased ahead of time and its exact location determined before the bathroom walls are laid with tile or marble or precious stones. It also means existing bathrooms cannot be fitted with this new faucet unless significant modifications are undertaken to the shower cabinet.

Like I said, this new design isn’t for everyone. It’s for certain discerning consumers.

Where’s the Netflix Shelf?

The more movies and shows Ligia and I watch on Netflix, the more convinced we become that Netflix lacks a vital feature. We call it the Shelf. Where is it?

The Netflix Shelf would hold titles we’ve seen and loved. It would contain two collections: a smart collection, which would automatically bring together the titles we’ve rated 4 stars or higher), but more importantly a manual collection, where we could add titles we’d like to watch again in the feature — movies and shows we really love, perennial favorites if you will.

Within the Shelf, we could sort titles by genre, keywords, actor or director (using the metadata added by Netflix staff or metadata we could add ourselves).

There were so many occasions we saw a movie, loved it, wanted to store it somewhere so we could see it again in the future, but didn’t want to leave it in the queue, cluttering up the list of titles we still haven’t seen. There was and is no place for them yet, and that’s regrettable, because it’s a lost opportunity for Netflix to create customer goodwill at a time when they need it.

A short iMovie wishlist

I do love the way iMovie keeps getting better and better, but I have a few wishes I’d love to see as features:

  1. The ability to truly archive a project and all its files. I know that I can drag and drop a project onto an external hard drive through iMovie, and I’ll get the choice of moving the project, or the project and all its files, and that’s really nice, but sometimes, it doesn’t really move all the files, and let’s face it, I’m still left with separate folders on that external hard drive for the events and the projects. I’d like to truly archive a project and all its files, to a single, standalone archive file (maybe a DMG), where everything I used in the project, including photos, sounds, or loops from the iLife library, is included, so that I can open that project archive years down the road and still be able to access everything I used for that project, and not have to worry about losing files or folders.
  2. Proper watermarks for projects. I shouldn’t have to hack a watermark by employing a PIP effect, which requires more processing power during edits and more processing time during exports. Watermarks should be applied during the export process, after iMovie lets me configure them, Lightroom-style, through a menu that lets me pick the transparent PNG I want to use, and adjust its size, location and opacity.
  3. The ability to merge projects. I’d like to be able to drag and drop a project onto another project, and be given the choice of merging the two projects, or copying the content from one to the other and keeping them as two separate projects. This would allow me, for example, to work on a common intro that I use for a particular show, save it to a project, then drag and drop that intro into projects I use for new episodes. (I already know about duplicating projects, but this has other uses, and it’s also a cleaner way of doing it.) Or even better, I’d love to be able to…
  4. Create my own video loops and store them in the loop library, under a certain category. This would once again help with common project elements, stuff that gets re-used now and again. But when I’d bring these loops into my current projects, it would bring them in with all their component elements intact, allowing me to make changes to them just as if I were working within the original project where I made them. This would allow me to tweak the way these common elements show up in different projects, ensuring they’re never boring.

The real role of education

As debates about the direction of educational systems take place in the US and other countries, it’s worthwhile to take into consideration the possibility that we’re teaching the children too much theory and too many arcane concepts rather than practical things which will prepare them for real life.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing physics or calculus or biology, but if you have a child, wouldn’t you rather they leave compulsory education knowing the following practical things?

  • How to speak and write properly
  • How to balance a checkbook
  • How to budget their money
  • How not to fall prey to scams or predatory financial practices
  • How to maintain proper bodily hygiene
  • How to protect themselves from STDs and how to respect each other’s bodies
  • How to respect others and their beliefs
  • How not to fall prey to peer pressure
  • The importance of individuality and of having a backbone
  • How to put fashion second and budgets first
  • How to keep their homes clean and organized
  • How to avoid a consumerist mindset
  • How to respect the environment
  • How to recycle
  • How to purchase sustainable, highly recyclable, durable products
  • How to cook and wash dishes
  • How to garden
  • How to build things
  • How to paint
  • How to fix things
  • How to change a flat tire
  • How cars work
  • How to buy quality furniture
  • How to eat healthy
  • How to stay in shape
  • How to have fun without a TV or a movie
  • How to play sports
  • How to camp
  • How to explore the wilderness
  • How computers work and how to service basic hardware like memory, cards or hard drives
  • How to avoid viruses, spyware and other crap you find online
  • How to find true love and how to keep that love
  • How to take care of babies
  • How to find a job and how to do a good job
  • The importance of honesty and being forthright
  • How to accept responsibility
  • How to finish something they’ve started
  • How to investigate politicians and vote according to sound moral and ethical principles
  • How to drink responsibly
  • How to take care of pets
  • How to travel light
  • How to respect other cultures
  • How to draw
  • Basic art history
  • Basic anatomy and first aid
  • Basic preventive health

I believe this list of practical things is much more worthwhile for a child to know when he or she leaves school than other, more esoteric things, like what books a 19th century writer published, or the strength of the magnetic field generated by some electric motor. They’ll be much better equipped for life this way. Let’s leave the more advanced, the more scientific topics for those children who are interested in them, and for optional education, like college and graduate programs.

When a child finishes high school, they ought to know how to live as an adult, and that means knowing how to face the real world. I’m afraid we’re not equipping them to do that. That’s why we have so many people who fall prey to predatory scams, or who don’t know how to organize their homes, or who end up in abusive relationships or abuse others, because they don’t know better.

Four wishes for Lightroom

It’s 2011, a new year, and it’s likely that Adobe will put out a new version of Lightroom this year. With that in mind, it would be wonderful if the Lightroom team could implement the following features in the next minor or major version of LR:

  • Find and Replace within metadata (details here)
  • Faster navigation and rendering when working with large catalogs (details here)
  • Filter catalog for metadata conflicts (details here)
  • More accurate time of capture for movie files captured with an iPhone 4 or a Nokia N95, or other video camera that doesn’t supply sidecar THM files (detailed explanation here and bug report here)

Thanks!

My wishlist for Flickr

I joined Flickr in December 2004, and stuck with it since then because I like it. In spite of the various censorship issues that have plagued it over time, it’s still one of the best (if not the best) places to share photos. (Videos are another matter…)

Here’s a short list of what could make it even better:

  • Ability to view ALL of the photos that my contacts have uploaded. This is already available in the Flickr app for iPod touch and iPhone, but it still hasn’t been implemented on the Flickr website. It should be a simple option that would allow me to choose between seeing All or Five or One new photo(s) from my contacts. If I choose All, then when I go to my Contacts page, I see everything they’ve uploaded. It would be really useful.
  • Ability to set a licensing price for our photos. Flickr should get a bit of that money, and since they’re in with Getty these days, I suppose Getty ought to get something too, but certainly not what they’re getting now with the “Request to License” option, which is obscene when you consider they’re doing no work whatsoever on behalf of the user to market those photos.
  • Ability to set a custom domain to our Flickr photostreams, if we so choose. WordPress and Blogger already let people do this, so it’s clearly something that’s feasible to do for millions of users — the path has already been paved.
  • Smart sets, that update automatically based on criteria we set. This would eliminate the need to use third-party tools and websites, which are nice, but let’s face it, things would be even nicer if we could do it directly on Flickr.
  • Grey and black backgrounds for our photostreams, in addition to the standard white color.

You can find me here on Flickr.