How Smart are Smartwatches?


Photo by Luekk who has no idea I am using it and therefore cannot be said to endorse my blog post.

Pebble and Apple are coming out with new smartwatches in March and April of 2015 respectively.  I’m not rushing out to buy one.  The Pebble will run you about $200 U.S. and the Apple around $350.  Being more expensive is part of the Apple business model.  The idea is to trick people into thinking the shiny new gadget is of the highest quality.  But what’s up with a smartwatch anyway, and who needs one? I probably would need one if I were 20, just like I needed the swatchwatch when I was 21 or so back in the summer of 1984.  I bought one in Switzerland, of all places, a plastic Suisse Swatch, back before they were a big deal in the States.  Mine was black if I recall and I paid around $26 bucks for it (I think) which would have been something in the order of 65 Swiss Francs in 1984.  The thing didn’t last long.  It took a beating and did not keep ticking.

Today, I don’t really need a smartwatch, I already have one – it’s called a Timex and for $29.99 U.S., it keeps pretty accurate time and has a battery life of about 2 years as opposed to the Pebble Smartwatch with a battery life of about 7 hours.  How smart is that?  The thing can’t even tell time for half a day.  Now my Timex doesn’t have very many apps, but it does have a second hand and gives me the date too.  Impressive, I know.  And it’s reasonably stylish. What more can you ask of a watch?

Apparently, though, some are not satisfied with an ordinary wrist watch, and instead want to wear a mini smartphone or tablet.  But for what?  You’d have to squint to watch a video and you’d need a magnifying glass to play Candy Crush.  I guess you could get the thing to read you your news feed and announce what notifications have come through.  If these smartwatches have GPS, I suppose you would have to drive with one hand on the wheel and your opposite wrist in front of you to see where you’re going.  You could have it talk to you, but with such a tiny speaker, as it surely must have, you’d have to put your wrist up to your ear.  The Pebble alternative to the Apple might have the voice of the Trivago guy giving you directions.  Talk about a distraction.  If the things have cameras, you’d look like you were trying to defend yourself from a punch to the face or shield your eyes from solar glare when taking a picture.

I really don’t know what all the functionalities are or will be on these so called smartwatches, but I would imagine they’d also double as USB drives;  flashwatches, so to speak. Sure don’t want to plug it into one of the computers at work or school or wherever you might be and absentmindedly walk away.  Later you’d be like, “crap I left my watch in the computer…I have everything on it…” That wouldn’t be very smart.  You’d be better off with a Timex.  Your welcome.

Why Boston should not host the Summer Olympics


Dear Reader,

Boston was selected to compete to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which I think is a really horrible idea for the following 5 reasons:

  1. Friendliness. Not that Boston couldn’t be a good host city.  It could and most likely would be, if people were on their best behavior.  However, Bostonians are not generally known for their friendliness, but neither are they, or I should say, we, as I live here, neither are we hostile.  At best we are indifferent to tourists, and sometimes, maybe quite frequently, mildly annoyed at them but otherwise reasonably tolerant.  International tourists will not find the sort of southern hospitality they might have encountered elsewhere, say in Atlanta during the 96 Olympics – you know, “how ya’ll doin?”, ya’ll doin aight?”, nor will you find the curiosity factor, “where ya’ll from?”. To Bostonians, unless you live in the neighborhood where you were born, you are an outsider and will be given the cold treatment, which is a survival mechanism, so don’t take offense. The best you can hope for is to get honked at to get the hell out of the way, or to receive a “you all set?” from your waiter.
  2. Food.  Boston has some good food, but does not compare to other major cities in the U.S. like NYC or Chicago and doesn’t really have a very attractive local culinary staple, unless you count Clam Chowder, and in my book soup doesn’t count.  And lobster, well, that’s Maine’s claim, not Boston’s.  Try finding a good barbecue, a brisket, a cheesesteak, or even a decent pizza – and sandwiches in the city, forget about it.  Make your own.
  3. Parking.  There is none. Period. And traffic is bad enough as it is, the Big Dig notwithstanding. Bostonians are notoriously bad and rude drivers and the roads here are little more than cow paths.  There’s no grid pattern for navigation purposes which renders even GPS useless.
  4. Accommodations.  I think most tourists would have to stay outside of Boston – way outside, like Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut because there just aren’t enough beds.
  5. Venues.  They’d have to be built, because there’s not much here besides the Reggie Lewis Track Center at Roxbury Community College, the basketball gym at the Garden, the Football stadium in Foxboro, out in the sticks – over an hour from Boston and the soccer field at Pagil Playground. Boston would have to build something like 4 stadiums costing upwards of a billion dollars, not to mention the added expense of all the security needed. Ultimately this will mean higher taxes for Bostonians. Look, Boston is so congested with buildings and narrow alleys that they’d have to tear old stuff down to build the new.  If Boston were selected, they should just build out on the Boston Harbor Islands,which, by the way, has good views of the shipping lanes, Logan Airport and the occasional whale.

I’d just be happy to host another World Series and leave the Summer Olympics to the Romans.



Boston, MA

Obama to Putin: CUBA Libre


Here’s the thing.  Castro was a thug, just like any dictator, only he wasn’t OUR dictator.  We never liked his revolutionary spirit and feared it might spread.  Nor did we much like its alliance with the Soviets – what an embarrassment to the States and to the Kennedys and in our backyard.  Gone were the glamorous Havana nights of gambling at the Casino and the sunrises and massages on the beach with a Cuba Libre in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other. As the cold war intensified it nearly all ended very badly in mutually assured nuclear destruction.  Oh, the U.S. did try to force reform by ousting and by some accounts even “offing” Castro but he never surrendered or lost grip on power and seemed to even gain strength as the U.S. led embargo deepened the suffering of the Cuban people.  The embargo only seemed to make Cuban mechanics all the more creative and the people ever more resourceful without the modern conveniences of life in the 20th and 21st centuries.  The cold war produced no substantial reforms and led to the brave escape of a few, the defection of a handful of baseball players and the exodus of over 100,000 people granted permission to leave Cuba for the U.S. on the Mariel Boatlift which included thousands of criminals, mental patients and others deemed “undesirables” by Castro to give the Cuban exiles a bad name.


But I’m glad Obama chose to diplomatically pursue the normalization of relations with Cuba thanks to Pope Francis and the Canadians behind the scenes. Obama can now embrace the Cubans as friends not foes and thumb his nose at Putin who took Crimea by force and pushed on to Ukraine at great cost.  Let’s face it though – the embargo was a failure and should have ended long ago, which might have had the effect of ending the Castro stronghold on power.  And while the embargo can’t be lifted by executive action, it does appear that the U.S. will allow folks to import a limited number of Cuban cigars.  Congress would have to end the embargo but won’t likely do so now that the Republicans have control of both the Senate and the House. But I like the fact that Americans can now travel to Cuba even though such travel is restricted to certain humanitarian categories.  No tourists yet.  That’ll have to wait until a friendly dictator comes to power and allows U.S. developers to turn Havana into a Little Las Vegas.  It won’t be long.  Soon Havana will be a trendy honeymoon destination once again.

Ribbie on Evolution, Student Loan Debt, Women in Politics and Other Issues


Ribbie recently appeared on the Joel Hibernia show, a fictional radio broadcast featuring obscure bloggers.

JH: What do you think about income inequality?

Rib: I’m not a fan.  The government should increase the tax rates on the wealthiest, close corporate loopholes, raise the minimum wage, allow the IRS to do the filer’s taxes for free if the filer so pleases and allow people to pay higher taxes if they wish.  Last, I would cut military spending significantly even beyond the scheduled sequester cuts.

JH: Students are drowning in student loan debt.

Rib: This is true. Some of those loans should be forgiven if a student enters the field of public service upon graduation. This would include teachers, social workers, government workers, counselors, librarians, musicologists, ethnographers, anthropologists, bloggers, writers, birders, wine critics, environmentalists and all English majors.

JH: English majors?

Rib: Sure.  They should be drowning in literature, not debt.

JH: Is climate change a hoax?

Rib: Only to those who don’t believe in science. I happen to believe in science.

JH: What are your thoughts on the polar vortex?

Rib: I like it actually.  I have a coat made out of polar vortex and I tell you it’s much warmer than goose down or thinsulate.

JH: On the issue of science and religion, should creationism be taught alongside evolution?

Rib: Creationism is a religious question, so I would say that only evolution should be taught in science class.  I think creationism should be discussed in Sunday school or in an elective course on creation myths.  In high school, I would recommend that the play, “Inherit the Wind” be taught in English class and the questions of religion and science be critically discussed and debated.

JH: Is America ready for a woman to be president?

Rib: Well, we should be.  And I don’t know why it has taken so long.  As we speak, 19 women are presidents or prime ministers of countries, countries such as Germany, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Korea, Norway, Jamaica, Malawi, Denmark and Thailand.  And many more countries in the past have elected or appointed women as heads of state like Panama, England, Iceland, Ireland, Nicaragua, Switzerland, India, Indonesia, and Liberia, to name a few.

JH: What would you do about Vladimir Putin?

Rib: I would broker a deal so that Russia would withdraw from Ukraine in exchange for its pledge not to join NATO.  And Putin would be invited to be a guest host of Saturday Night Live with special musical guests, the band, Pussy Riot.

JH:  That would be a riot.

Rib: And that was a joke.

JH:  Putin doesn’t like jokes.

Rib: True, in his way of thinking, jokes are a sign of weakness and designed to disarm, something he is not likely to do anytime soon.

JH:  What do you think about the world cup?

Rib:  Not much.  A sport in which hands are not permitted strikes me as odd.

JH:  Well, it is called football.

Rib: It is true to its name, except that you can also use your head.

JH: Good point.

Boring Winter Olympics Needs Some Tweaks

I’m tiring a bit of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.  It’s partly that the events are a little dated and redundant.  It’s partly because Bob Costas is missing  – he really is the best in the business in my opinion. By the way, what exactly happened to Bob’s eyes?  It all seems so suspicious, but I don’t want to start any rumors.  Other than Bob’s eye infections, Shuan White’s failing to podium, the embarrassing interview of Bodi Miller and Lindsey Jacobelis’ unfortunate repeat fall, the games have been mostly drama free, probably much to Putin’s relief.  My tiring of the games is also partly do to the fact that I have no sense of what is live, taped, or whether an event happened today or yesterday or tomorrow.  What is the time difference anyway?  Russia has what, 9 time zones?  It’s today here and tomorrow there or something weird like that.  Also, the excitement of a single broadcast is gone because you can get Olympic news coverage anywhere anytime – a tweet here, a video there, headlines all over the Internet and spoiler alerts on all the TV news broadcasts. NBC has been covering the Sochi Games nonstop on MSNBC, CNBC, NBC and the USA Network, where you can catch niche sports like team curling and snowboard cross. 

So I won’t just whine about everything, I do have four solutions to offer to keep the Olympic Games relevant for years to come. 

First, the International Olympic Committee should do away with ski jumping on two hills.  Why do they have both a long and normal hill.  I say the skiers should just go down one hill, the hill.  Same deal with the short and long skating programs.  

Second, one of everything.  The bobsled is too complicated.  It should be just 1 man or woman, not 1, 2 and 4.  I mean we might as well have coed mixes or a medley of nations – a bobsled team made up of 4 randomly selected athletes from different countries. They’d have to argue over whose boblsed to drive and who the driver would be.  But it would promote peace on earth.  And no qualifying events either.  Just one race, run or game for everything.  And 1 athlete from each country for everything except hockey and curling.  No pairs skating, no snow relays, or whatever it is they do in cross-country.  Team ski-jumping, come on – boring.  Team ice-dancing?    

Third, Tweaks.  I probably said this 2 years ago, but I think those skiers with the guns are a little spooky.  I know it’s tradition, but if the gun thing must continue, why not have them carry shotguns and instead of hitting those easy carnival type targets, have them hit clay pidgins or skeets with shotguns.  And curling, how many rounds do they go before a winner is declared.  It’s about 5 rounds too many.  And curling, really, it’s not a sport, or it’s as much a sport as say ice-fishing.   

Skeleton.  Why not have these sliders go down head first on their backs.  I imagine it has been done before on Jack Ass or some show like it.  But these athletes could pull it off in style. They would probably need to wear protective thermal thinsulate armor, though.  Maybe Pierre Cardin could design some tricked out suit of sliding armor for the American sliders.  I’m also thinking of an event where the ski jumpers go down backwards and then rotate in midair for the landing – maybe even do another trick or two like the free stylers. It can’t be that hard to do.    

And finally, all the events should be held outdoors, all of them. 

R’s Interview with Big Brother

Big Bro:  On Facebook, you posted a note entitled 17 Books in 17 Minutes.  I find it curious that you only managed to list 6 American titles.

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Twain
  2. Kim – Kipling
  3. Heart of Darkness – Conrad
  4. Bird of Life, Bird of Death: A Political Ornithology of Guatemala – Maslow
  5. The Magic Mountain – Mann
  6. Native Son – Wright
  7. Pather Panchali – Bandopadhyay
  8. Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Freire
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Garcia Marquez
  10. The House of the Spirits – Allende
  11. Hopscotch – Cortazar
  12. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter – Vargas Llosa
  13. To Kill a Mockingbird – Lee
  14. A Confederacy of Dunces – Kennedy Toole
  15. Germinal – Zola
  16. An American Tragedy – Dreiser
  17. Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky

R:  Well, I was an English major.

Big Bro: How is that relevant?  There are no Englishmen on the list.

R:  English majors don’t just read books by the English…but you are wrong: Kipling was an Englishman and Conrad, a British citizen.

Big Bro:  Your choice of books makes me question your loyalty to this country?

R:  Can’t I have a world view?

Big Bro:  (Pause)….I’ll have to check the regulations, but your books are radical.

R:  I don’t know about radical, but they are books of substance to be sure and touch on topics of universal interest – the death penalty, civil rights, capitalism, racism, workers rights, class struggle, imperialism, political repression, magical realism and the like.

Big Bro:  You posted this on your twitter account : 8 Feb “reports of a flying garbage barrel had commuters terrified this morning in Boston.”
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Privacy – What Privacy?

I’m not much of a libertarian really, or librarian for that matter.  I believe in freedom though – the freedom to assemble (although I don’t like crowds), to read what I want, speak my mind, blog, twitter, facebook, instagram and all that.  And with freedom, comes responsibility – some people forget about that part and make mistakes, which are sometimes costly.   And though our freedoms are many, we are a nation of laws and as much as I believe that some laws are stupid and even bad in some cases, I still follow them, and always have, for the most part.  You could say that I am a law abiding citizen, although I confess to speeding on occasion which is actually quite hard to do in my Honda Fit Sport equipped with paddle shifters that don’t boost performance.  I wear my seat belt and order my passengers to buckle up, not because of the law, but that it is the sensible thing to do in a small car that is no match for all the aggressive, gas guzzling SUV’s out there.

And you know something, I don’t mind if the government monitors our activity, and in fact I would hope continue to – it’s in our best interests.  Cops watch for reckless drivers who are a public menace on the roads, the IRS looks for tax cheats, the TSA screens for dangerous items at airports, Air Traffic Controllers have passenger jets on the radar and flight attendants watch over us; the wait staff keep an eye on customers, as do bouncers at clubs and bars.  Security guards keep a constant.  Once thing is sure, we live in a country with very little privacy.  The government knows everything about us.  Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Social Security, Tax Filings, Driver’s License, Plate Numbers, Visas, Passports, Transcripts.  And not just the government, but corporate America too.  How many times have you given out your social security number, address, zip code, account number or cell phone number to someone you don’t know?  And how many times have you failed to set up a password on your computer or phone because you can’t be bothered – or halfheartedly set one that a 1st grader could guess.  And it’s not just written information – cameras are everywhere.  You can’t go out in public without being videotaped by some security camera.  There are a lot of big brothers out there.

Look, I like my “privacy” as much as the next person, but I don’t mind being searched at the airport, or going through a “meddle” detector.  I have nothing to hide.  If someone at the NSA were to eavesdrop on my phone conversations, I think they’d be so bored that they might quit their job.  Probably the most interesting phone call I’ve made recently was to my car dealer asking why an 18 minute software upgrade to address a safety recall would take half a day to complete.  I suspect the word dealer in this blog post will get me on some sort of MUST READ list.  To be safe, we have to give up a little freedom.  The Patriot Act that I am not too wild about was adopted by Congress after 9/11 and it gave the government broad powers to wire tap and collect data that was supposed to be used to thwart terrorist plots or other criminal activity.  If data is being collected and monitored for any other reason, that would be a serious violation and I would have a problem with that.  I have no problem with big brother keeping us safe.  And so what if the FBI knows I like M*A*S*H or if the NSA knows that one of the books I am reading now is The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration?  What value to anyone would my tweet be that read:  “Chained-CPI sounds like an alternative rock band.”

For all of the folks yelling about privacy and the slippery slope, I have some suggestions for you:  just stay at home under the bed or move to Montana and live off the grid.  For those who demand complete privacy, who hate the government, are outraged to have to pay taxes and want nothing to do with society, folks who are self-absorbed and detest the idea of a social contract should do this:  FORM A NEW COUNTRY and call it Frackland or something.  Frackland would have a constitution with just one amendment (the second) and a set a principles based on one word:  NO – no government, no taxes, no regulations, no insurance of any kind (because that smacks of socialism), no immigrants, no non-christians, no liberals, no reproductive rights, no gays, no unions (because that smacks of Marxism), no organic farming, no clean energy or fuel efficient cars, no yoga, no reading (except the bible), no hippies (because they’re all “commies”), no diplomacy, and no services – unless you pay a fee.

Gallup Poll and the famous Mr. Ed

The Gallup poll is the one that’s been around a long time dating back to the days of horses and bayonets.  It’s a bit of a maverick poll that seems to be out of synch with other polls on most days.  It is one along with the Rasmussen poll (that I refer to as the Rapscallion poll) that folks who live in the conservative bubble point to to prove Romney still has momentum.  I’ve heard from not so reliable sources, but from sources nonetheless, that Gallup still conducts its polling on horseback, in the parking lots of suburban malls asking “who you voting for?”  They sometimes interrupt large crowds with megaphones asking questions like “are we on the right track?” eliciting responses of “yes” and “no” and the occasional wise crack like, “no you are on the wrong track – the cow path is that way”, and “go eat some oats”.  One group chanted, “Mr. Ed, Mr. Ed, Mr. Ed.”

Gallup has had some problems using horses.  Some rapscallions in large crowds have resorted to feeding the equine messengers dollops of peanut butter which produce a reaction that make them look to be talking very much as Mr. Ed appeared to be talking, prompting young children to ask their soccer moms, “can horses speak, like Horton from Horton Hears a Who?” Some of the brighter kids ask if Horton is a republican and ask where the donkeys are.  My sources, who wish to remain anonymous, tell me  that Gallup used to use donkeys but they kept heading straight for trash barrels and would throw temper tantrums braying and kicking up a storm, being real asses when they couldn’t get their way.

Disclaimer:  none of what you’ve just read is true.  I made it up.  And sometimes it feels like pollsters just make stuff up too, but I have no proof so I’ll stick to comedy.

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Life Under President Mitt Romney

This is a first in a series of contemplations of life under a Romney Presidency.  I may or may not believe this and feel that I am entitled to change my positions, flip flop and pivot at will for any reason, and anything I say shall be void where prohibited except in New Jersey.

Regulations stripped.  Now oil and gas (AKA Big Oil) companies can mine, blast, drill and frack to their hearts’ delight, and with government subsidies to bolster profits.  And if the air is a little dirtier, wear a mask.  If your tap water shoots flames, just let it run for 47 minutes before drinking – perfectly harmless.  And look on the bright side, you’ll never have to buy matches again.

No NPR for your morning drive.  No Sesame Street for the youngsters.  No Zoom.  No Electric Company eee.   No Magic School Bus and Nova because that’s science and SCIENCE bad!

New Supreme Court Justices (emphasis on the plural) appointed by President W. Natt Rimney will overturn Roe v. Wade,  put prayer back in school, require creationism to replace evolution, would uphold all voter suppression laws so that the next time you vote, you will have to provide DNA samples, a birth certificate, a photo album documenting your life, copy of your lease or home mortgage loan papers, at least one gun permit (or flash your concealed weapon) 5 affidavits to prove you are who you say you are – and of course this only applies to persons of color, the elderly, the poor, students, anyone with facial hair, people with suspicious sounding names and all Democrats.

And I’m just getting started.  Stay tuned for more of Life under Mitt.

Mitt High On Supplemental Oxygen

Mitt had a strong but dishonest performance.  He was high – not on sugar, coffee, 5 hour energy, or recreational drugs.  No, Mitt was high on supplemental oxygen.  I think he inhaled an entire canister before he went on.  And I did predict in a blog post several days before the debate that the winner would be the fittest, the one who had acclimated best to the high altitude.  Romney was positively euphoric for most of the debate, so much so that he just made stuff up, left stuff out and did darn well what he pleased…and he got away with it.

Here’s a sampling of some of Romney’s snide statements with my replies in italics.

“But our training programs right now, we’ve got 47 of them, housed in the federal government, reporting to eight different agencies.”

I find it hard to believe that Romney and not the President brought up the number 47.

“If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the — the oil from offshore and Alaska.”

Mitt left out domestic fracking and Iran.

“My — my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.”

This is voodoo math.  What he means by tax cut for the mittle class is putting a cap on home mortgage and charitable deductions such that the middle class wind up paying more even with a lowered rate. And how will he pay for these cuts? Cut is the key word.  He’ll cut every social program you can imagine and anything do to with the arts.  To him, it’s just a business enterprise.  But he won’t touch the military and won’t get away with voucherizing medicare and raising the retirement age to 99 and in the end, just like Bush and Reagan before him, the deficit will balloon.

“”I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.”

Right.  Come on Mitt, Americans aren’t as dumb as you think…most of us anyway. Haven’t you been campaigning for the last 18 months on the idea of reducing taxes across the board by 20%?  You have.  In the words of the heckling Congressman Joe Wilson, “YOU LIE”.

“…my plan covers preexisting conditions…”

There you go again Mitt.  He didn’t mean that literally. What he meant is that the way he covers preexisting conditions is not to cover new ones.  

“Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS.”

Well, that’ll take a bite out of the deficit.  At 444 million, that’s a drop in the bucket.  This was an ideological attack, not an economic one.  Were it up to Mitt, he’d have one News outlet – Fox, which is not news, but bad entertainment. And how rude to insult the moderator’s place of employment like that.  Mitt  repeatedly disrespected Jim Lehrer and essentially promised to fire him, something Mitt enjoys doing – that and writing off half the country, even as he says he’s for the middle class.  

Just a couple other random thoughts:  Mitt’s highly oxygenated glare reminded me of the Iron Giant, which by the way is a terrific movie.  And finally, if I had to put a soundtrack to the debate, this would be the title song – The Birds Don’t Fly This High, which by the way is a terrific song, but slightly twisted.