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November 30, 2012

The Christmas Tree Lighting

DHS Christmas Tree Lighting (1385)

DHS Christmas Tree Lighting (1382)

DHS Christmas Tree Lighting (1394)

Santa's Sleigh (1404)
Santa's sleigh

DHS Christmas Tree Lighting (1400)

More photos here.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Photography | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

Surprising Voting Pattern In The Recent Election

An analysis of election results by Cato Institute fellow Walter Olson was published in the Washington Post today. He studied the votes in Maryland, Maine and Minnesota where there were favorable outcomes in votes on equal marriage rights. It turns out that suburban Republicans supported equal marriage rights even more strongly than they supported Romney. For example, in one precinct in Hunt Valley, Maryland, Romney got 63% of the vote and Question 6 (to legalize gay marriage) got 65%.

suburban Republican
What a suburban Republican might look like.

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

Let's add Microsoft Surface to that chart

I am so sorry. It was my completely unintentional oversight that I did not include Windows Surface in my earlier post today about the new Kindle Fire HD. In my quest to get the details to update the chart with the Windows Surface I immediately ran into the choice between Surface running Windows RT and Surface running Windows 8 Pro, which means I had to go find out what Windows RT was. Upon learning that it was a special version of Windows 8 designed to run on mobile devices using ARM architecture I then had to go find out what ARM architecture is. I learned it's computer processors designed in accordance with RISC which, you will recall, was what Apple's PowerPC chip was. The "A" stands for "Advanced" as "Advanced RISC Machine." The Windows RT Surface is available now, starting at $500. The Windows 8 Pro Surface won't be available until next year and it will start at $900, which will be more than the most expensive iPad (64 GB plus cellular iPad is $829), but you get a keyboard with that Windows Surface. So we really only need to look at the Surface running Windows RT for now, cutting my workload in half. Windows RT will NOT run your old Windows apps, while Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro should be able to run them.

Nexus 10iPad 4Kindle Fire HD 8.9"Nook HD+ (9")Windows RT Surface
$400 16 GB$500$314*$269nope
$500 32 GB$600$384*$299$500
nope$700 64 GBuh-uhnyet$700? $600?*
2560 x 16002048 x 15361920 x 12001920 x 12801366 x 768***
10.055 inch diag.9.78.9910.6
300 ppi264254256something less
5 MP rear camera5 MP rearNo rear cameraNo rear camera720p** rear
1.9 MP front camera1.2 MP1.3 MPNone, gasp!720p**
1080p video display1080p1080p1080p***
603 grams603567515680.4
263.9 x 177.6 mm241.2 x 185.7 mm240 x 164 mm240.3 x 162.8 mm274.6 x 172 mm
8.9 mm thick9.4 mm8.8 mm11.4 mm9.3 mm
No CellularCellular $130 extraCellular $200 extraNo CellularNo Cellular

* a problem with determining the price is that none of the buttons, including the "Buy Now" button, on the Windows RT Surface home page works in any of my four browsers. If Microsoft intends to restrict their market to people with IE, they might as well give up now. Over in the Microsoft Store they are a little friendlier. The bare naked 32 GB Surface is $500, a cover for it is $100!. Additional digging tells me that Microsoft does not make it very clear that what they call a "cover" is a keypad. Okay, so $100 is justifiable for keypad. I bet they will sell better if they call them "keypads" and not "covers." Going up to the 64 GB model, they list it only with a cover at $700. I don't know if you can buy it without a cover, but if you could it should be $600. The reason there is no 16 GB model is because the operating system itself consumes about 16 GB. All of the other tablets (Nexus, iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook HD+) use some of their storage space for the operating system, but it's a fairly small amount, 3 or 4 GB, usually.

You can buy Windows RT Surface tablets at Amazon, but the prices are all over the place (32 GB ranging from $600 to $750), making me feel like there are some ripoffs there.

They have a magenta cover for the Surface for $120, but it's out of stock.

I will whine that the specs for the Surface are given solely in non-metric units. This is the first I've seen this for a tech product. I am thankful that Google makes it easy to convert.

** Microsoft specifies the cameras as "720p" without stating megapixels, as all others do, making it impossible to compare.

The Surface has a microSDXC card slot, which is very good. It comes with a limited version of Microsoft Office (there's that 16 GB!) and a fully functional version will update automatically when they have it ready.

The Surface claims 8 hours battery life.

*** "1366 x 768" is not a typo. If you want the 1920 x 1080 display you'll have to wait for the Windows 8 Pro version of Surface, which will also be thicker and heavier than the Windows RT version.

There is Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft does not make (or plan to make, it seems) a tablet with plain Windows 8. But other people are doing it: Dell $1,200 for 128 GB model; Acer $800 for 64 GB model; Samsung $1,100 for 64 GB model.

In the Windows RT Surface we are looking at a device that is bigger, heavier and more expensive than any of the other devices with a far inferior display and a much smaller app store. The only justification for buying it that I can see would be if you really need it to integrate with other Microsoft products you've already got.

Filed under Technology | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 05:40 PM | Comments (1)

Burning Man Announces The Theme For 2013

Burning Man theme for 2013
Cargo Cult is the theme for 2013
. To explain this they summarize the story of the effect of American GIs coming to isolated islands in the South Pacific in WWII.

To put this in a modern context, what if your electricity went dead and stayed that way -- would you know how to make the current flow again? Can you fix your car if it breaks down, or build yourself a new one? Like the islanders, most of us are many steps removed from the Cargo that entirely shapes our lives. We don't know how it's made, where it's made, or how it works; all we can do is look beyond the sky and pray for magic that will keep consumption flowing.

This might be a theme I can actually do something with. Maybe tin can telephones made with Spam cans.

Burning Man design for 2013
The design for the Man in 2013 by Lewis Zaumeyer.

Burning Man 2013 will court the return of our benevolent Visitors from Elsewhere by constructing an enormous replica of their sky-craft, hewn from the primitive materials of our backwater planet. Burning Man will stand atop this streamlined structure, majestically revolving like an interstellar beacon. Within this three-decked vessel participants will encounter the Temple of the Navigator, a shrine that features six hand-operated zoetropes that will function as prayer wheels. These will rehearse what little we know, or believe we know, of John Frum's story. A sweeping observation ring surrounding this central chamber will afford panoramic views of both the playa and our city.

Yes, they said revolving! Back when I was a virgin Burner the Man just stood still until you burned him down.

And, NO, there is no word yet on what they're going to do about tickets in 2013.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

King Eddy Saloon To Close

Dive Bar (0077A)
King Eddy Saloon

King Eddy Saloon, which purports to be the last skid row bar in Los Angeles, will close after December 16. There will be a final blowout tomorrow, December 1. King Eddy Saloon has been open at 131 East 5th Street since 1933.

Filed under Food and Drink | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Community Bicycle Promotion In Kansas City

RevolveKC accepts donated used bikes, fixing and re-selling the better ones to help subsidize their various Earn-A-Bike programs. All anyone has to do to receive a decent bike from them is to pay $10 and pass their bike safety skills class, which includes both written and riding parts. When an adult with kids earns a bike, then all the kids in that family get bikes too. They have programs with different focuses but my favorite is "Gears 4 Queers" which sounds like it has exactly the same requirements as their other programs (passing the tests), but the first 40 people who identify themselves as L, G, B or T will also get a helmet, headlight, taillight and lock! The first person to complain about how any of those extras look will find himself volunteering for their new Design Team.

Filed under Cycling,Gay Issues | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

Christmas Tree Lighitng Tonight!

6 PM at Palm & Pierson with all the usual extras. Be there!

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

Bigger tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

I just totally missed the stories that this was out. The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire starting at $299. I grabbed the table comparing the newest iPad with the Nexus 10 from my earlier post and added the info for the Kindle Fire 8.9" and then decided that to be fair I should also include the 9-inch Barnes & Noble Nook HD+:

Nexus 10iPad 4Kindle Fire HD 8.9"Nook HD+ (9")
$400 16 GB$500$314*$269
$500 32 GB$600$384*$299
nope$700 64 GBuh-uhnyet
2560 x 16002048 x 15361920 x 12001920 x 1280
10.055 inch diag.9.78.99
300 ppi264254256
5 MP rear camera5 MP rear cameraNo rear cameraNo rear camera
1.9 MP front camera1.2 MP1.3 MPNone, gasp!
1080p video display1080p1080p1080p
603 grams603567515
263.9 x 177.6 mm241.2 x 185.7 mm240 x 164 mm240.3 x 162.8 mm
8.9 mm thick9.4 mm8.8 mm11.4 mm
No CellularCellular $130 extraCellular $200 extraNo Cellular

* the price of the Kindle is lowered by $15 if you accept advertisements which Amazon calls "Special Offers."

Kindle Fire 8.9"

In addition to the numbers above, Amazon makes some claims that are less measurable, but may be perceived by the customer who holds the device in hand - maybe. The Kindle has two Wi-Fi antennas which they say means faster downloads. Amazon says the "Google tablet" (I think they mean Nexus) downloads at 20 MBPS, the iPad 3 (why they are comparing to the iPad 3 is beyond me) maxes out at 22 MBPS, while the Kindle goes all the way up to 31 MBPS (if your provider is willing to feed it to you that fast - and if you are regularly getting speeds like that you must live in Kansas City, Kansas, and you've already signed up for Google fiber and you got your free Nexus 7, so a new Kindle Fire is just gravy for you). If simply increasing the number of antennas increases download speed, I expect other tablet manufacturers to begin to follow suit. Eventually the interior of a tablet may look like the urban rooftops of the 1950s-1970s, thick with numerous antennae. Actually, they say one antenna is for 2.4 GHz and the other for 5 GHz, and the software can switch back and forth between them for maximum speed.

The model with 4G connectivity ($200 extra) allows you to sign up with AT&T for a data plan that gives you 250 MB/month for only $50/year for the first year. You can pay more for higher limits. The $50 deal with AT&T does not give you access to non-free AT&T Wi-fi. A 3GB/month plan costs $30/month with $10 more for each additional gigabyte.

Amazon claims the Kindle has reduced glare by eliminating an air gap between the LCD and the touch sensor "by laminating the touch sensor and the LCD together into a single layer of glass." Barnes & Noble makes a similar claim for their Nook HD+.

The display uses in-phase switching which can appear washed out at angles, but Amazon says they've improved that "by applying an advanced polarizing filter directly to the LCD panel."

Now here comes the snake oil: "Booming sound without distortion." "Exclusive, custom Dolby audio, dual stereo speakers, and auto-optimization software for clear, crisp, balanced audio."

We put stereo speakers on both sides of the display for a wide stereo sound-field similar to that of a home stereo, then tuned them to better reproduce low notes. The result - deeper bass in your music, loud, rumbling movie soundtracks, and room-filling stereo sound without distortion, even at higher volumes.

I've known that the future would bring us tiny speakers that could move air as well as the big speakers that we know and love, but I didn't expect that breakthrough technology to appear so soon and on a $300 tablet from Amazon. IOW, I am highly dubious. If they can really fill rooms with loud, rumbling soundtracks, then they should be marketing this as an audio breakthrough device with an LCD touchscreen thrown in.

Kindle offers a new thing they call "FreeTime" which is for kids and can be used to limit both the content and the amount of time the little darlings can use the device. They talk about how rugged the device is, but they don't say anything about its water resistance, if any.

The Kindle Fire uses an updated version of Amazon's Silk browser, which has its fans and detractors. PCMag measures Silk as significantly slower than unspecified browsers on the Nexus 10 or iPad 4 (probably Chrome and Safari, respectively).

They claim more than 10 hours of battery life. Charges in less than 5 hours. The Nook HD+ makes a similar claim.

There are 396 reviews for this product. In the most negative reviews some warn that you can't depend solely on cellular connectivity. Wi-fi is required for some functions, including movie and magazines. Text-to-speech will not work on newspapers or blogs, even though older Kindles will do that.

One negative review suggests you have much less flexibility with PDFs on the Kindle compared to iPad or the Nexus.

You can buy a pink cover for the Kindle for only $55! Lesser colors are available at the same price.

Nook HD+

There are only 76 user reviews of the Nook HD+ as I write. The 8 worst reviews include three from people who don't even have a Nook HD+, leaving only five with no particular pattern. One person thought the Nook HD+ should be equal to an iPad, but hundreds of dollars cheaper.

The Nook HD+ has a microSD slot, which is good, but the "30 Pin Port for charging and connecting to a computer (HDMI Compatible)" is proprietary. It's one thing when a market dominator like Apple wants to annoy us with yet another proprietary connector, but it's entirely different when the market laggard tries to do it.

NOOK HD+'s special audio technology lets you enjoy your favorite movies and TV shows in high-quality surround sound. The bass & clarity are unsurpassed – even in noisy environments.

Barnes & Noble offers no more description of the audio than that. Sounds similar to Amazon's unbelievable claim. Reviewers say the device has only one speaker, but as long as you're selling snake oil you might as well claim surround sound from a single speaker.

You can buy a pink cover for your Nook HD+ for $30, and in the process of searching for that I learned that B&N's website does not work nearly as well as Amazon's. B&N seems to be the Sears of bookstores. The ultimate goal of actually selling something to the customer seems to get lost along the way.

Filed under Books,Technology | permalink | November 30, 2012 at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2012

Beautiful Photos

Filoboletus Manipularis
"Filoboletus Manipularis is a fungus which naturally produces a faint eerie glow in the night by a natural process known as bioluminescence, shown in this 3-minute long exposure of these elusive little mushrooms."
Photo by Zong Ye Quek.

Everybody seems to be linking to these 50 very impressive photos that have been selected from the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012 today. The deadline to enter the contest is tomorrow, November 30.

Here are 50 more photos in the same contest that were published in September.

Here are the winners from 2011.

Filed under Photography | permalink | November 29, 2012 at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

Romney Tattoo Man Disillusioned

Eric Hartsburg, that guy who accepted $5,000 to put a Romney-Ryan tattoo on his face is going to have it removed. He says Romney is a sore loser.

He's pretty shameful as far as I'm concerned, man. There's no dignity in blaming somebody else for buying votes and paying off people. I can't get behind that or stay behind that.

Dr. TATTOFF (with convenient locations in Montclair, Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, and Encino) will remove the tattoo at no charge to the cash-hungry man.

I want to point out to Mr. Hartsburg that the Encino location for Dr. TATTOFF is only a tenth of a mile away from The Strain Collective in case he needs some specialized medicine that deals with both pain and disillusionment.

Filed under Politics | permalink | November 29, 2012 at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

San Francisco

Another real San Francisco
Outer Sunset District of San Francisco
by Michael Rymer.

Filed under Cities/Urbanism,Photography | permalink | November 29, 2012 at 06:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2012

A New Use For A GoPro Hero3

Getting and decorating a Christmas tree, all documented with a GoPro Hero3

Filed under Photography | permalink | November 28, 2012 at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

San Francisco Asks For Early Warning So It Can Gird Its Loins

Early warning of the Ninth Circuit's mandate that will come if the Supreme Court denies certiorari in the Prop 8 case. If the Supreme Court, on Friday this week, decides not to hear the Prop 8 appeal, then the 9th Circuit Appeals decision is upheld, Prop 8 is unconstitutional, and equal marriage rights will be restored in California. But that requires a little bit of paperwork, which includes the 9th Circuit issuing a mandate. San Francisco has asked the 9th Circuit for advance warning of that so they can both bring in extra riot police and start decorating City Hall with rainbow banners.

Filed under California,Gay Issues | permalink | November 28, 2012 at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

Deep Creek Hike

This past Saturday I visited Deep Creek Hot Springs and videoed some of the trail between Bowen Ranch and the springs, going in both directions. Then I edited it to quadruple the speed. So, if you've never been and want to see the trail conditions (any views of the springs themselves are fleeting and at a great distance), here it is in fifteen and a half minutes:

Filed under California,Photography | permalink | November 28, 2012 at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)

November 27, 2012

Other Photos From L.A.

Metropolitan Water District (07-49-38)
Metropolitan Water District

L.A. City Hall (08-48-58)
Los Angeles City Hall

Shoes in a window display in Santa Monica

Solar Array at LADWP (08-37-16)
LADWP has solar panels over their parking lot

Union Station (07-54-24)
Union Station

Filed under Architecture,Photography | permalink | November 27, 2012 at 07:57 PM | Comments (0)

Totally Harmless Prank

Improv Everywhere sets up a fake waiting line of shoppers for a 99¢ store on Black Friday.

| permalink | November 27, 2012 at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)

You Kids Got It Easy Today

At Aldama Elementary the playground is completely paved so children are not permitted to run! WTF?! The playground at the grade school I attended from kindergarten through 5th grade was completely paved - when it wasn't covered by six feet of snow or hadn't been ripped away by giant twisters. We could run everywhere all the time. And you know what happened? A few kids fell down and broke bones. Some of them grew up into weird, twisted people, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Let 'em run and scrape giant sheets of skin from their legs. What's it gonna hurt?

Filed under Health | permalink | November 27, 2012 at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

Victoria's Secret Meets Followers Of Baby Jesus

Mayhem erupts!

This is the same mall where that disastrous flash mob happened two years ago. And, it's the same mall (maybe not the only one) that attempts to prohibit strangers from striking up a conversation at the mall.

Here's the mall's website in case you need more info so you can add it to your Do-Not-Shop list. It looks like the sort of place where Rev Billy could do some good, but I'm afraid people could really get hurt. Maybe they could start by singing at a safe distance, like over at the Sears Auto Center. Not much of a chance of being crushed in a maddened crowd there.

Filed under Shopping | permalink | November 27, 2012 at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)


Here's the Desert Sun article about ecoATM which has set up a device in the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert. Here's the company website. Here's their privacy policy. I do not usually read privacy policies, but people will be providing this firm with their name, drivers license information, facial portrait, fingerprint, and whatever data can be extracted from their old phone. They say their servers are all located in the United States - that may be a plus or minus to you, depending on what you've been up to.

Information Residing on Recycled Phones
The cellular phones that are recycled may include personally identifiable information. ecoATM offers several options for customers to remove personally identifiable information from the cellular phones, but ecoATM makes no guarantees regarding third party’s access and use of such personally identifiable information and strongly encourages you to delete all personally identifiable information on each phone prior to recycling.

If you take your old cellphone to a hazardous waste collection site, somebody could still access your old data that you left on it, but they won't get all that other data from you, and you won't get any money from them. So the question is, how much is that risk worth to you?

Filed under Technology | permalink | November 27, 2012 at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

Disney Hall

Naturally, right before the start of the Great L.A. Walk I took some photos around Walt Disney Concert Hall and discovered a pathway open to the public that wraps around the front of the building one or two stories up.

Disney Hall (08-43-18)

Disney Hall (08-43-56)

Disney Hall (08-44-50)

Disney Hall (08-39-50)

Disney Hall (08-50-10)

Disney Hall (08-48-00)

Disney Hall (08-52-04)

Disney Hall (08-52-58)

The complete set of photos of Disney Hall from that morning is here.

Filed under Architecture,Photography | permalink | November 27, 2012 at 06:22 AM | Comments (0)