September 25, 2012
I’m reluctant to write about this flaming topic so let me just get the tired bit out of the way first: iOS 6 Maps could be better, they will get better, blah blah blah.
I have opinions regarding the new maps in iOS 6 but given that very few people care about my opinion on the matter (rightly so), I’m going to share an idea instead. Granted, about as many people care about my ideas as do my opinions; but ideas are aimed at solving a problem while opinions are at best aimed at starting a discussion and at worst an argument.
Enough of the argument, here’s an idea!
When I saw that Apple was building it’s own mapping technology and no longer basing the maps in iOS off of Google Maps, my first thought was: I’ll be really disappointed if Mountain Lion doesn’t include a mapping SDK. Well shit, I’m disappointed Mountain Lion is indeed missing maps. You may be saying to yourself, who cares about maps in Mac OS X!
Personally, I’m desperately craving a native mapping application for the Mac. For being a web app Google Maps is quite amazing, but it’s also quite lacking as it doesn’t integrate into any other aspect of the operating system. Imagine if the only maps on your phone were found in a browser? That would seriously suck! And that’s exactly what we have in OS X and it indeed does suck. But beyond how awesome this would be to have in OS X, it truly could have helped the new version of Maps in iOS 6. Here’s what I’m thinking.
One of the central difficulties with building a mapping solution is data. Google has a ton of data backing their maps, data that we have all given them over years of heavy usage. Apple does not have this historical data yet, but they could have started collecting it earlier. By releasing an OS X Maps app before the release of iOS 6 they could have vetted their maps a bit with end user usage, praise and complaints.
About 7 months before iOS 6 was released, Apple started using their maps in the iPhoto for iOS app. So it really was no secret that Apple was cooking up an in house mapping solution. What if they had released an OS X map app around the same time? Because there is no existing app in OS X users would not be up in arms over the quality of the maps in that environment. It’s the replacement of the maps in iOS 6 that has some users worried. This is one of the only areas where OS X doesn’t have the pain of legacy so it would have made a wonderful vehicle to help build and vet issues with their maps.
Alas this is not what Apple chose to do. Perhaps they didn’t think of it… doubtful. Perhaps they didn’t have time… maybe, but this is clearly very important to them so I think they would have found the time. Perhaps they wanted to keep things under wraps a bit longer… seemingly not unlike Apple to do so, but if that truly were the case they probably wouldn’t have included them in iPhoto. Perhaps these things are far more complicated than any outsider can accurately speculate over… almost definitely. But just maybe they too were a bit reluctant… I hope not.
September 17, 2011
Almost 142 years ago to the day John Muir completed the first documented ascent of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne. Writing about this experience Muir stated:
This I may say is the first time I have been at church in California, led here at last, every door graciously opened… the sweetest church music I ever enjoyed.
I can’t say that my experience ascending Cathedral Peak for the second time was on par with Muir’s first. For starters I didn’t do it in cowboy boots. But I can say that I’ve never been to an actual church in California. I can also say that years of fortunate experiences have allowed me to enjoy being on top of such spectacular summits. However, it’s the music and the company that made this trip especially enjoyable.
The day after Ben and I linked up Royal Arches and North Dome we wanted to repay Linda, Marzena and Jill for graciously picking us up at the end of that adventure. Marzena and Jill had never been up Cathedral Peak so the prospect of sharing such a special climb with them was highly appealing. However, we awoke to a rather cloudy morning and this made for a pretty lazy start to the day so it’s not surprising that we found ourselves at the trailhead organizing gear and getting ready to hike to the base around noon.
By this point the clouds had started to break and the sky was mostly blue during the approach. I think everyone (except for Marzena) was feeling a bit tired so it was roughly 2 when we reached the leftmost route up the face. Just as we started to flake the ropes a brief period of rain struck. It only lasted for a few moments and by the time we got our rain gear on it had past. But the event was enough to make us consider if it was wise to start the route. A bit of deliberation later Linda decided that since she’d been on the route before the prospect of doing it again and potentially getting rained on wasn’t too appealing.
Feeling (perhaps foolishly hoping) that the weather would hold and seeing the desire that Marzena and Jill had to do the climb I decided that I was game to lead the first pitch. We were initially going to ascend with me leading and Jill seconding on my rope while Ben would lead on doubles for Linda and Marzena to follow. But now that we were a party of 4, we decided that just having one leader would be the easiest way to go.
Racked up with a set of nuts, a single set of cams from #0.5 to #2 and 4 tri-cams I picked a line for the first pitch and ran up it until I was out of rope. Ben followed trailing the two doubles for Marzena and Jill. Ben lead the next pitch and aside from managing three ropes at the belay the climb was going well, especially because the rain hadn’t returned.
For the start of the third pitch we were just below the chimney section. This is typically where the many routes up the face meet and get funneled into a single stream of climbers. So I wasn’t surprised to see at least one party waiting to get through the section. However, Cathedral Peak is very featured and we’d read of variations to the left and right of the chimney that can be used to alleviate the congestion. No better time than now to try them.
Here’s the variation that we took. On the very lefthand side of the ledge below the chimney pitch (typically the ledge that people belay from for the chimney pitch), go straight up for around 15-20 feet of very easy climbing. You’ll find yourself in a bit of a small corner with a fantastic hole in the granite that can be girth hitched. Up and left of the girth hitch there is a finger sized crack that leads out to an arête on the left. Keep your hands in this crack and move out to the very well featured and protectable arête. It isn’t obvious that there is anything out to the left to climb, but trust me, there is and the mysterious feeling adds to the adventure. From here you can continue straight up towards the summit, bypassing all the groaning and struggling parties in the chimney. At a rating of 5.7 and featuring some fantastic exposure, I can’t recommend it enough.
After that section the rest of our route was pretty typical climbing for an afternoon on Cathedral. I got to the summit blocks and waited for some traffic to clear before making the final push to the top. As I waited, two free soloists came marching up the rock, one carrying a banjo and the other a guitar. Immediately I began to smile, hoping that we’d get to hang out as a group on the top and enjoy a world class view with some accompanying music.
After a short wait I brought Ben up to the party and he gave Marzena and Jill a belay while I shot some video of the music scene. Once we were all on top I couldn’t help but feel extremely fortunate. Not only did the rain stay away, it was sunny and beautiful. The climbing ended up being more enjoyable than I had even remembered. Plus I got to share a summit that is always incredible with three people that I am fortunate to have in my life. Add into that the mood that the music set and it’s a day that can’t be repeated.
We ended up sitting on the summit for almost an hour, soaking up the sights and enjoying the music. I can’t thank everyone enough for making that one of the more memorable and enjoyable hours that I’ve had. The only bummer of the day was that Linda didn’t get to experience it with us. However, I did manage to get a couple videos where the wind didn’t totally destroy the audio. I’ve posted them below along with a couple other photos from the day.
August 21, 2011
Two adults, two boys, one bathroom and no shower. I suppose in this century many would call us tough, or nuts, or… dirty for living in such inhospitable conditions for nearly two decades (yes, there’s some sarcasm in there). Whatever you want to call it, I played in the dirt and took baths for my entire pre-adult life.
In fact, a shower was such a rare thing that I actually have a memory of visiting a relatives house and using their shower. Given the fact that I can’t remember who the relative was, only the experience of cleaning myself while standing, should be a good indicator of how ingrained bath time was for me.
Sure, I had to take showers after P.E. class in junior high but that was different. At the time those were events where you were forced to get naked in front of all your same gender peers, go into a big room with water coming out from everywhere and find the delicate balance between getting clean and getting out. That’s not a shower, it’s forced awkwardness made worse by the one kid who either didn’t feel awkward at all or was completely overwhelmed and reacted by goofing off and occasionally touching other kids. Perhaps this was the driving force behind being a fast runner… getting to the locker room first so I could be in and out in relative solitude.
So yea, showers were rare and generally not enjoyed. Thankfully this changed when I left home. In college the showers were private and outside of the occasional incident when someone would jokingly empty a trash can into your stall, they provided me an atmosphere to focus on the intended task.
I don’t remember how, but at some point in my freshman year I discovered something interesting about my washing ritual; I washed my hair after washing my body. In a bathtub it’s logical to wash your hair second, or at least it’s logical to me. But in the shower, applying a top down approach is naturally the right way to go.
Being someone that appreciates and strives for logical approaches (even when it’s a bad idea) I changed and have been washing my hair first for almost 14 years now. Up until last week.
Last week I ran out of liquid soap and turned to a bar of soap that I’ve had around. It’s typical for me to be thinking about some problem while in the shower and therefore my mind is pretty distracted. So when I almost got out of the shower without washing my hair I laughed at my focus induced forgetfulness. The next day the same thing happened and I started to get a little worried about myself. Day after that, remembered to wash my hair but once again it came second to my body. Same for the fourth day.
Now to make things a bit more interesting, for the last three days I’m back with liquid soap and washing my hair first has come back naturally as well. Okay, perhaps some won’t find this very interesting, but to me it’s fascinating. I’ve got 14 years of a daily pattern: washing hair first and body second using liquid soap. Growing up we mostly had bar soap so for those 18 years the pattern was: washing body first and hair second using bar soap. So on the surface, it appears that my mind made some strange connection that tells me to instinctively wash my body first when using bar soap, no matter where I’m washing myself.
Of course this could all be coincidental, but I don’t feel like it is. I find it to be a really fun example of how pliable our minds can be while at the same time be disappointingly literal. It’s as though I hadn’t changed my behavior, I just learned a new behavior for a new set of paramaters. If this is in fact what’s happened, it’s both a useful and a disturbing detail of our minds. On the useful side, it means that we can subvert a behavior with a new one by just changing some of the paramaters in our environment. But what’s disturbing is that the old behavior seems to linger and will show itself when the old conditions are present once again.
Makes me wonder how much we really change as people. With enough duplication of my childhood environment, would I go back to behaving the same way I did when I was a child? One comforting aspect is that while maybe we don’t have as much control over our behavior as we perceive, perhaps that’s offset by our ability to influence our environment.
Of course I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. I’m just a guy who has part of his mind stuck in a bathtub.
October 22, 2009
I was going to throw some thoughts up on Twitter about the “Internet Freedom Act of 2009″ that John McCain has introduced but my thoughts were too plentiful for 140 characters. Upon reading this article on Mashable about the bill, my first reaction was hardly a reaction at all. It doesn’t surprise me to see the telecommunication industry is still trying to battle against net neutrality. What started to bother me was the fact that John McCain introduced this bill and gave it such an inaccurate name.
So why does it bother me that John McCain introduced this bill? Simple, he knows next to nothing about the subject. In an interview last year he stated:
I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.
I applaud him for learning and making progress, but if you’re going to propose a bill that changes a core principal of how something functions don’t you think you should have a bit more experience with the subject at hand? This isn’t a Holiday Inn Express commercial, you can’t jump into the scene and be an expert.
Another thing that bothers me is one of the reasons McCain states for introducing the bill. He fears that forcing the telecommunications industry to treat all information (requests) online equally will “stifle innovation”. This just flat out doesn’t make any sense to me. Can anyone honestly believe that the online industry is having problems innovating? Look at how much has changed in the last 20 years in regard to information dissemination. Somehow we’ve managed to fundamentally change communications across the globe while having net neutrality in place and McCain fears that the innovation will stop if net neutrality continues?
Another thing that bothers me is the use of “Freedom” in the title of the bill. I’m a believer that the title of something should be somewhat indicative of its contents. Handcuffs aren’t called “freedom cuffs” because they are the antithesis of freedom and for all of the companies and individuals that operate on the internet this bill would be the equivalent of handcuffs (in that your movement is hindered).
I suspect that bills today are given titles that busy people have a hard time going against when making a knee jerk decision. “Internet Freedom Act”, “Patriot Act”, “Marriage Protection Act”, they all conjure up emotions while masking their true intentions. So if someone hasn’t read the details of a bill, the hope is that they will just vote based off of the name.
Being someone who is working on an internet based startup, it brings me great comfort that (for the time) I won’t have to pay the telecommunications industry to prioritize my traffic. What enters your mind when you think of an organization saying, “if you don’t pay us more money we’re going to make it hard for your business to operate”? I don’t know about you but I get this image of the mob or a gang demanding “protection” money. And to think, senator McCain would like to make it legal for the telecommunications industry to do just that.
Anyway, enough ranting, I’ve got innovating to do.
Update: According to this Reuters article, John McCain is the largest recipient of campaign contributions made by the telecommunications and ISP industries over the last two years. Coming in with a total of $894,379, he has been given more than twice the amount of money than any other legislator. Please excuse me, I just puked on my desk.
August 9, 2009
In a population that has an endless thirst for safety mechanisms and cleansers, does the phrase “healthy risk” turn into an oxymoron? I’m pretty comfortable with taking risks (some aren’t even healthy) and even I don’t consciously decide to take too many healthy ones. We all unconsciously take them just like we all unconsciously eat healthy food on occasion. But few of us consciously have a lifestyle of taking healthy risks just like few of us consciously have a lifestyle of eating healthy.
When I started thinking about writing this post I decided to do a quick search and see what others out there had to say about taking healthy risks. So I started out with a simple Google search of “healthy risks” and laughed at the irony when it asked if I meant “health risks”. For me, a healthy risk has nothing to do directly with putting my health at risk. In fact, I can’t think of a single healthy risk that didn’t improve my health, even the risks that didn’t pan out. Perhaps I’ve been lucky or maybe the things that I’ve done aren’t that risky or perhaps I’ve just been good at mitigating that risk, I’m honestly not sure and that uncertainty makes me question what the definition of a healthy risk is.
It’s kind of a hard thing to define, even the internet doesn’t seem to provide a quick definition. I can think of tons of examples of things that I consider healthy risks, but what I find risky might be mundane to someone else, so examples really don’t provide much of a definition either. So after a bit of thinking here’s what I’ve come up with: A healthy risk is doing something outside your comfort zone where the positive outcome is something that you desire and the negative outcome can eventually be recovered from. A part of me wants to also add that a risk could be healthy if the negative outcome is unlikely, but would that still make it a risk?
Now that I’ve got a definition, I can actually start to seek out healthy risks to take instead of stumbling across them. The only question left in my mind is, how many should I take? Like everything else that we consume, there has to be an upper bound where above that a good thing turns bad. Perhaps the need to step outside of what’s comfortable helps to make it a self regulating system, I’m not sure. But I think to start with I’m just going to jump at the ones that present themselves to me and see where it takes me. Maybe I’ll come to find out that I already had the appropriate amount in my diet.
What I do know is that I absolutely love the feeling of taking these kinds of risks and I’m going to chase that feeling a bit more. If you’d like to chase it along with me, I’m thinking that Twitter is a good vehicle for sharing the healthy risks that we take and getting ideas for new ones to try out (use the hashtag #HealthyRisk).
April 12, 2009
So in typical Ryan fashion I filed my taxes yesterday. Some people may call this type of behavior procrastination but I prefer to think of it as lazy evaluation. I am pretty proud of myself because this year I managed to get them filed a whole three days earlier than I did last year. At this pace, by the time I’m 60 maybe I’ll have them taken care of in January.
I filed them online and in the process of filling out their forms they asked if I had a spouse. While it’s always fun to play pretend, I don’t think the IRS enjoys the game so I fessed up and admitted I didn’t have one. After I was all finished they showed me a summary of my information which is where I saw the image to the right. When I first saw this I thought they had a sense of humor and had put in a sad face because I didn’t have a spouse. This of course made me smile and for a moment I was amazed that a tax website could have a sense of humor. But then I realized that they were trying to output and underline a social security number that wasn’t present and all I was seeing was the dashes that usually follow the third and fifth digit.
So I guess this isn’t a sign of humor at all but more of an oversight. Either way, it made my taxes a little more entertaining and I’m only paying in $38 so I’m not complaining one bit.
September 6, 2008
Thankfully it grows back. That’s what I keep telling myself during and after a bad haircut. But as my hair gets a little thinner, that statement gets a little less comforting all the time. So I’m thinking it might be time to start taking a more active and less passive approach when it comes to deciding who cuts my hair.
The catalyst for this thought is the fact that I recently moved. While parts of moving can suck (boxes, utilities, general disruption, etc), the absolute worst part is finding all the people that you infrequently visit. People like a new doctor, barber and taxidermist. Being a healthy guy without pets, naturally the need to find a new barber was encountered first.
The need for a haircut tends to sneak up on me. One day it’s not on my mind, the next day it’s screaming at me to do something about. This was the case I found myself in one day last week. So I figured I’d get some work done in the morning and then head out in the afternoon and find a place to get the job done.
One thing led to another and the next thing I knew it was 7pm and not only had I skipped lunch, my hair was still too long as well. Damn. So I knew that the haircut would probably have to wait but I decided to walk downtown and grab some food. I managed to find a mexican place that was so good that it took my mind off of my shaggy head. But then on the walk home I actually found a barber that was open! Unbelievable.
Sadly it was Great Clips. Even sadder is that I went in. Perhaps my judgment was clouded by the food that I just ate or the feeling that I wouldn’t have to sleep with this mess on my head another night. I’m not sure, but I should know better than to make the mistake of asking, “do you have enough time for another haircut?”.
That question should never be asked. If it’s close enough to closing time where you have to ask if there is time for a 15 minute haircut, walk away and come back the next day. Why? For the same reason you don’t want to order fast food right before they close, these people are anxious to get the hell out of there. And when someone has fairly sharp instruments that close to my head I’d like them to be thinking about the tasks at hand, not the tasks at home.
This wasn’t the only sign that I should have continued on my way. After the woman responded with a confidence inspiring “sure”, she asked me for my phone number. Not because she was attracted to me but because she wanted to enter it into the computer. After telling it to her three times and her still not getting it right I decided that it was best left incorrect. None of this really bothers me, in fact I’d prefer if they didn’t have my real phone number.
The reality of what I got myself into slammed home when she also couldn’t understand the fairly simply description of how I wanted my hair cut. “Tapered up the sides and an inch or so left on the top”, I have a hard time thinking of a simpler haircut that one would actually pay for. After repeating myself she responded by saying, “I love your accent, are you from England?”. You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m from Iowa and the only accent I can even impersonate is a northern one don’t ya know.
What could I do at this point? I’ve got that neck based apron on so it’s hard to just run away. Calling the woman an idiot or actually saying anything that was in my head at the moment isn’t going to help one bit. So I bit my tongue, closed my eyes and told myself “it grows back”.
But if you say that to yourself for too long you’re liable to just blurt it out at some point. So instead of dealing with that awkwardness I decided to think of all the other signs that you’re in for a bad haircut. I remembered this one time I got my haircut in college (also at a Great Clips, what’s wrong with me) by this guy that had the ugliest hair I’ve ever seen in my life, it made mullets jealous. It literally looked like he sculpted his hair into a bird and no, this wasn’t in the 80′s. If someone thinks that style is good enough for themselves, who knows what you’ll walk away looking like.
After remembering that story I couldn’t help but wonder about Great Clips itself. I’m always suspect of any company who’s name implies quality. It just feels a little arrogant and insulting to me, especially because there isn’t much that’s great about them.
Thankfully when I opened my eyes at the end of my haircut the result wasn’t as bad as I expected. She didn’t do a great job, but nobody has laughed at me so by some measure it’s a success. But I’m going to find myself in this exact same position in a few weeks and I clearly need all the help I can get. So if anyone has ideas for other things to watch out for, I’d love to hear them.
July 26, 2008
Like a lot of people, sometimes my mind tends to make problems harder than they really are. I think we do this for problems that we’re somewhat afraid to tackle. Telling ourselves that they are really hard gives us an excuse for not solving them. Excuses are just like junk food, they make you feel better for a short while, you know you shouldn’t have them in your life and they end up hurting you over the long haul.
Lately I’ve been pretty good at keeping the junk food out of my diet but honestly I’ve allowed my brain to consume a bit too much of it. Feeding your head all those excuses only fills it with fatty thoughts which makes it harder and harder to truly solve the original problem. I was feeling kind of bummed about this situation I’ve put myself into earlier tonight, combine that with a head full of excuses and you’ve got a situation that should be avoided.
Over the years, I’ve found that distraction can be key in these situations. I distract myself long enough to stop feeling bummed, then I can work on clearing out the excuses effectively. So tonight I decided to catch up on some reading, Wired Science Blog to be exact.
I was reading through yesterdays stories when I got to this one about Randy Pausch. The blog pointed to a lecture that he gave about accomplishing your childhood dreams which seemed so wonderfully inspiring that I felt the need to watch it. The video was 85 minutes long and right from the start I knew it would be an enjoyable 85 minutes.
Randy talked about the dreams that he had as a child and then explained how he managed to accomplish them. In the course of this, I discovered that he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and that he’d spent a large portion of his career working in virtual reality. Being someone that worked in the virtual reality lab at Iowa State University for two years, my interest was growing.
In high school I was fortunate enough to visit the Iowa State campus and tour their virtual reality lab. The work they were doing was so spectacular that I couldn’t get my mind off of it. When it came time to decide what college to go to, my parents and I visited ISU and I made sure to stop by the virtual reality lab and see if I could talk to someone there. One of the students was kind enough to not blow me off and actually described a bit of the technology they were using. I made sure to stash this info safely in my head.
My choice to attend Iowa State was strongly motivated by my dream to work in this lab. One of the required skills was being familiar with SGI computers and during the summer of my freshman year I managed to purchase one for $225. This computer was a wonderful SGI Indigo with a R3000 CPU at 33MHz. It was the first computer that I’d ever purchased and honestly I knew nothing about how to use it. But damn, I was motivated to figure it out. By the end of my sophomore year I had become quite proficient with this machine and decided that I’d walk down to the VR lab and see if I could start to volunteer my time.
I talked to a professor there named Judy Vance and as it turns out, she had money to actually pay me for my time. I can only remember one other time in my life when I’ve felt as excited as I did at that moment, my dream had been realized.
I loved the work that they had me doing and I learned such a wide variety of skills. Then Judy asked if I could help out the Society of Women Engineers on a project. They were working with Carnegie Mellon University to setup these very inexpensive VR systems with the goal of getting kids involved in programming. My job was to help them with some hardware interfaces, something that I’d worked on for a previous project. The only difference was that this time it needed to be interfaced to this virtual reality software called Alice.
This project was kind of exciting for me, it isn’t often that geeks get to literally work with a room full of women and have some loose ties to CMU. However, to be honest, at this point my attention was shifting away from virtual reality and over to search engines and I couldn’t get myself dedicated to the project.
Now here’s the amazing part. Alice was developed at CMU… by Randy Pausch! The man that I’ve been watching give this fantastic lecture is the same guy that we were working with to setup this virtual reality program for kids and I didn’t even know it. In all likelihood, my boss Judy Vance knew Randy Pausch. I continued watching the lecture with more enthusiasm now than ever.
Overall Randy shared some truly fantastic advice. Advice like, “when there’s an elephant in the room, introduce him”, “when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore that means they gave up”, “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”, “get a feedback loop and listen to it”, etc. It’s well worth the time to watch and it’s exactly what I needed to really motivate me to ditch the excuses that I’ve been struggling with for a while now.
Not only was it inspiring because Randy Pausch is a smart guy with good advice, it’s also inspiring because he gave this lecture after finding out that he had 4-6 months left to live due to pancreatic cancer. To see someone in this situation with such a good sense of humor (complete with quasi Jim Carry facial expressions) is a very awesome thing. I’d think that it would be so easy to fill those last 6 months with excuses but instead he did what he needed to do.
Randy Pausch died yesterday, July 25th 2008, at the age of 47.
July 21, 2008
For the longest time I’ve been meaning to start my own blog. My motivations for wanting to start have varied but the clincher was simply an increasing desire to share. Those that know me personally have probably realized by now that sharing is pretty ingrained in my DNA. Whether it’s a thought, a feeling, a story or a hand, if I can share it I probably will, sometimes to the point of annoyance.
Being an astronomy fan, I kind of see this as my own personal Big Bang. An event that spews stuff out into the universe. Some people might find that stuff interesting, others might find it confusing and even more are bound to interpret things incorrectly. While I like to think that I’m an interesting person, comparing my murmurings to the Big Bang is ridiculous, so I’ll remain humble and call this my little puff.
I tend to find almost everything interesting so it’s hard to tell exactly what topics will dominate this blog. But it’s probably a safe bet that I’ll talk a bit about geek stuff, cycling, hiking, skiing, photography, music and the endless stream of stories that dating and relationships provide.
So welcome to my little puff, I hope I can supply you with ample amounts of the basic elements needed to start some conversations.