TT#184 - More Super Tuesday

I am very tired from work and redoing my office, so this will be more of a time capsule entry than any real analysis. For more analysis watch this weeks ORLYRADIO show # 101.

At the time of this writing:

Republicans: Kasich predictably took Ohio, Trump won Florida, making Rubio quit the race. Trump is also favored in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. If Ted gets any winnings they will be scraps from the billionaire's plate.  This does leave the GOP with the unenviable task of choosing a... how can I put this to where it is the most historically accurate... Fascist Andy Kaufman impression and a dominionist apocalyptic Eddie Munster son of a preacher man who is perfectly fine watching the world burn if it means the world gets to have Jesus back. I weep for the future. Oh... And there is the voice of reason, Kasich, who can't possibly win, because he may actually be sane. 

Democrats: Clinton has had a strong showing and is predicted to take all the states but not all the delegates. The Democrats like to award partials rather than a winner take all approach that the GOP favors. The tally at midnight could be different as it is being called early based on exit polls, but so far, this is pretty decisive for Clinton based on the earned delegates. She has added approximately 150 delegates to her lead on Sanders. Sanders needs California and New York, and needs them big, to compete with the media and majesty of the lady in waiting. Still a chance, but it is growing slimmer by the day.

There were a whole lot of Cruz and Trump signs in my precinct and around the state as I was driving today. This is why I am having a drink and hoping it was all a bad dream.

TT#179 - Election 2016: New Hampshire Primaries

Unlike the nail bitter affair that the 2016 Iowa Caucuses turned out to be, New Hampshire, in the words of a dear friend, "This will not be the clusterf*ck that was witnessed in Iowa. New Hampshire is efficient. New Hampshire is precise. New Hampshire will provide zero confusion at the end of this evening. Elections are a religion here."

As he properly prognosticated, New Hampshire was quick to come to the conclusions that have remained at the time of my writing. Bernie Sanders took the lead by double digit margins over Hillary Clinton becoming the first Jew to ever win a primary. The Jewish part of that is just one of those side factoids that may be interesting in trivial pursuit later. Their numbers are stunning. Sanders with 60.7% and Hillary with 38.2%

On the other side of the aisle, the republican contestants were measured for their worthiness. Donald Trump too the lead with a very surprising John Kasich bringing in the second place position. At the time of this, Trump 34.6%, Kasich 16%, Cruz 11.7% Jeb! 11.3% and Rubio coming in with 10.7%. Yes there are others but they aren't worth the type.

So what does this mean?

(DNC TL:DR is that right now Bernie gets 15 of the 24 total delegates and Hillary gets 9. This makes Bernie the leader in Delegate count at this time.)

(RNC TL:DR 23 delegates up for grabs, Trump wins 11, Kasich 3, Cruz 2, Bush 2, Rubio 2)

I will let this article at the DailyKos explain the mechanics of the Democratic Primary Process, as it's kind of cumbersome and I would not do it any better justice than it is here.

For the Democrats, New Hampshire has 24 DNC delegates. State party has opted for simple, 8-8-8 split between 2 congressional districts and statewide allocation.
At certain percentage levels of primary votes, various thresholds for number of delegates acquired triggers. Thereby it changes the delegate split between the candidates. The table below shows the minimum relative percentages votes required to acquire a delegate out of 8 available.
Delegate allocation is not just simply calculate percentages. The trigger points generated by the formula for fair apportionment means that there is a substantial range of vote share which results in no change in delegate allocation. Any thresholds crossed will result in an even number of delegate advantage, simply because there are even number of delegates available. The difference between delegates awarded to each candidate will be an even number.
Any vote share between 43.8% and 56.3% will result in a 4-4 delegate split. In order to get that two extra delegate advantage by crossing the threshold of support level, the larger vote share needs to be 56.3% or higher for a 5-3 split. Next stage of change in delegates (6-2split) happens at 68.8% share of votes. For the next level up (7-1split) 81.3% of votes are needed. We have to account for each of the congressional districts and statewide share of votes separately. Calculate their delegate allocations independently and then add them up.
Given the current level of polling, we can probably safely say that sanders is unlikely to grab 81.3% share of votes anywhere, District wide or statewide.  So most of the battle will be for crossing those   56.3% (5-3Split) and the 68.8% (6-2split) threshold for Sanders. If Clinton can reduce the sanders vote share to below 56.3% then she still manages a tie on delegates with 4-4 split.
For example, CD1 is a bit more liberal and favorable to Sanders. Sanders is most likely to cross the 56.3% marker and achieve a 5-3 split.  Congressional District 2 is slightly more favorable to Clinton, a bit more republicans (not meant to be a judgement from me). So holding sanders advantage under 56.3% is a possibility for Clinton. CD2 has Nashua and Concord main population centers which are already being visited by Clintons. Most likely also to have Clinton surrogates making heavy effort there just like they did in Polk County in IOWA.  Every extra delegate matters. Where and how you decide to focus your efforts based on the trigger thresholds and a campaigns own internal polling data will be a tactical game. Clinton we seem to assume is better at this (Again, this is not a judgement. No idea why we think so, is it because we think she is a calculating, plotting, planning person?)
So even with a big boost for Sanders in places like Manchester (CD1) the overall outcome, unless there is a last minute massive groundswell that crosses the daunting 68.8% barrier giving 6-2 split, overall delegate numbers will be disappointment to some and a relief to others.
CD1 — 5-3, CD2 4-4 Statewide 5-3
Most results will be within the ranges of 4-4 or 5-3 (Sanders Advantage). There are only a handful of combinations of these in the three delegate allocation elements.
1. CD1 5-3, CD 2 5-3, State 5-3total 15-9 Sanders advantage.
2. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 5-3   total 14-10 Sanders advantage
3. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 13-11 Sanders advantage
4. CD1 4-4, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 12-12 Sanders advantage.
(Preemptive answer to what is likely to be asked: I have not included CD1 5-3, CD2 5-3, Statewide 4-4 split, because if you get enough votes for 5-3 in CD1 and CD2, then you automatically have enough for 5-3 in Statewide.  Also CD2, CD1 numbers switching also results in same scenario as number 2 above)
Goal for Sanders will be to achieve an across the board 5-3 splits in each CD and also statewide. Goal for Clinton will be to drag as many as possible into 4-4 range.
If we spot any Clinton events in CD1, then we can assume that Clinton campaigns own numbers are indicating that CD1 is hovering around the threshold of 56.3% Sanders advantage and Clinton Campaign thinks it can drag that under to make a 4-4 split.
There will not be an all sweeping and grabbing of delegates by Sanders without soundly achieve 68.8% across the board and individually in each CD. That is cross the 68.8% for each congressional district without taking into account what is happening in other district. And even with that kind of revolution it gives 18-6 split. Which is pretty awesome but not death dealing and unlikely. Those thresholds will be crossed in Vermont itself I expect.

Completely clear, right? After a while it gets to be clear. But it is still messy. Not as messy as Iowa, but bad on its own.

the republican process can be found here:

Each state’s delegate allotment is set by national party rules and includes at-large delegates, congressional district delegates, and national party representatives. Apart from the states, the District of Columbia and the five territories are awarded a specified number of at-large delegates. There are three types of delegates: At-Large Delegates (AL), Congressional District Delegates (CD), and Republican National Committee Members.

  • At-Large Delegates (AL) are statewide delegates who are residents of that state and are selected at large. Each state receives 10 AL delegates plus additional AL delegates based on the state’s past Republican electoral successes.
    (10 delegates + bonus)
  •  Congressional District (CD) Delegates must be residents of and selected by the congressional district they represent. Each state gets three CD delegates per district.
    (3 delegates per district)
  • RNC Members are automatically national convention delegates and include the state’s national committeeman, national committeewoman, and state chair.
    (3 delegates)

New Hampshire has 23 delegates, 14 At-Large Delegates, 6 Congressional District Delegates, and 3 Republican National Committee Members.

This was all the data I could find... I know there is more and I will come back and fill it in.

TT#178 - Election 2016: What's a Delegate? What's a Super Delegate?

Today is Groundhog's Day in the United States. This is pretty much completely irrelevant. I do feel bemused that we still wait for seasonal weather predictions from a giant rodent and we have about half the country that doesn't trust science enough to say climate change is a real thing... Or that evolution is a thing too. Anyway, the rat known as Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, and in this universe that means an early spring. And the 12 year old boy in me giggles that this arcane farce is under taken by a bunch of men in top hats from the Groundhog Club at "Gobbler's Knob". Phil is the most famous but there are several other divining rodents, all of whom concurred with the no shadow pronouncement. 

Today is also the day after the first major event in the run to the White House. The Iowa caucuses concluded last night with some interesting results, to say the least. The republicans went with a closed vote process this year and that left Ted Cruz as the winner of the Iowa event.  You can see the results here

The democrats had a much closer race. The difference between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was .2% Yeah, point 2 percent. you can see the results here For all intents and purposes it was a tie. reports are that 6 precincts had to assign their odd number delegate by coin flip, and Hillary Clinton's camp managed to win all 6. Yes, it is quite a streak, but statistics and probability do not make it any better than 50/50 each time. It does, however, highlight the oddities of the Caucus system. I'm pretty sold on not liking it and wanting it to go the way of the dodo. 

Ok, you have come this far, so let's get to the actual subject, the delegate. By the dictionary definition, a delegate is an authorized representative of someone or a group. In electioneering the delegates are sent to their state political convention to cast a vote among other delegates from other areas in the state. It's pretty simple when you realize they are the middle men, the messenger to the central committee of your location's preferences. The number of delegates that are available are based on population. In places like Iowa, there are multiple caucuses where the delegates that were awarded then are narrowed further until at last we know which candidate has been chosen by the state's political power structure.  

To be completely honest, the system is a bit farcical and purposely difficult to understand to game the system to give the party more control over who is nominated and who will win the election. Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan organization, says the delegate system is so complex because after most elections, "the respective national parties go back and look at their rules and their system and try to make adjustments that they believe will give their party an advantage."

So, basically, delegates are a buffer between your choice and the result. It would be classed like so much of our system as a representative democracy. One thing we have going for us is that the delegates are typically bound by law (check your state codes) to vote for the choice that you the voter told them to. But not all delegates are created equal, in the Democratic Party.

What is a Super Delegate? No, not a delegate that was bitten by a radioactive spider... That would be a better story. In this case, the Super Delegates are chosen by the party outside of the way the other delegates are chosen (which is an entire other post...). They are typically old guard power players in the party. Super Delegates may even be former presidents. Okay, big deal right? Well here's the deal, about 20% of the delegates at the convention are Super Delegates, and they are not bound to the same rules as a regular Delegate; they can vote for whomever they please. The Democratic nomination process was altered to include Super Delegates in 1984. That year, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination with strong support from party stalwarts. Some experts say Democratic candidate George McGovern's landslide 1972 loss to Richard Nixon influenced the party's introduction of Super Delegates. "There was a view that the Democratic party had allowed the grass roots to become too empowered and that in too many instances, people whose job it was to get Democrats elected were being shut out of the process," says McGehee.

Republicans do not have Super Delegates.

The Republicans, to settle things the way the party elite would desire is though a brokered convention, which is also available but not favored by the Democratic Party.. Delegates at a convention could have more difficulty in reaching a clear majority of support for any one candidate. A brokering process then takes place, with multiple ballots a possibility. Though a brokered convention has not occurred in either party since 1952 when Adlai Stevenson won the Democratic nomination. 

Clear as mud right? Tune in to the ORLYRADIO podcast to get more analysis and banter on politics and current events. 


TT#177 - Election 2016: What's a Caucus?

What's a Caucus, and why is it happening in Iowa, and why is it a big deal, I thought we were doing the primaries, whatever those are...

Yeah. That's the question of the moment. We are about to determine who the nominations will go to for both the Republican National Convention, RNC, and the Democratic National Convention, DNC. There is a cast of characters on both sides trying to get the approval of their party's constituents, but why the weird name for what is basically a preliminary state election?

First, a little trivia. The election of the president and how that is supposed to happen is not in the Constitution, it was created over time by the political parties. Some states only hold primary elections, some only hold caucuses, and others use a combination of both. These primaries and caucuses are staggered generally between January and June before the general election in November. The primary elections are run by state and local governments, while caucuses are private events that are directly run by the political parties themselves. A state's primary election or caucus is usually an indirect election: instead of voters directly selecting a particular person running for President, they determine how many delegates each party's national convention will receive from their respective state. These delegates then in turn select their party's presidential nominee. Also, just a little note, most election laws do not normally apply to caucuses.
The process is a controversial one. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other small states which traditionally hold their primaries and caucuses first usually have a major impact on the races, while voters in California and other large states which traditionally hold their primaries last in June generally end up having no say because the races are usually over by then. As a result, more states vie for earlier primaries to claim a greater influence in the process.

According to Wikipedia, "A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States, but has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Nepal. As the use of the term has been expanded, the exact definition has come to vary among political cultures."  As with so many things, no one can really agree as to the whens and whys and hows of a ye olde tradition. In this case, Caucas (not a misspelling I assure you) with it's modern usage was seen in the diary of John Adams (the 2nd president of the USA) in February 1763. The way he describes it, it's a select group of power players determining, in a gathering like a cocktail party, who shall be the ones that will be elected, before the general election.

There they drink Phlip I suppose, and there they choose a Moderator, who puts Questions to the Vote regularly, and select Men, Assessors, Collectors, Wardens, Fire Wards, and Representatives are Regularly chosen before they are chosen in the Town...

Further in history in an article in Great Leaders and National Issues in 1896, a popular etymology is posited.

" to the origin of the "caucus." In the early part of the eighteenth century a number of caulkers connected with the shipping business in the North End of Boston held a meeting for consultation. That meeting was the germ of the political caucuses which have formed so prominent a feature of our government ever since its organization."

Okay... So... It basically started as a way to see who would be electable. Alright. That's easy enough to digest.

Now... What's the process we are about to see in the first of the choosings, Iowa?

"...residents of the U.S. state of Iowa meet in precinct caucuses in all of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. There are 99 counties in Iowa, and thus there are 99 conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions."

Here is where it get's weird, unless you are from Iowa and have done this your whole life.

The Iowa Caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states......The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts. .......The caucuses are held every two years but only the presidential years get national attention..... In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers begin the process of writing their parties’ platforms by introducing resolutions.

huh... so the party platform starts to take shape here. I hadn't seen what the party platform was this year, so I see there is method to that process as well, since a candidate may represent a very different outlook than another. Another thing to look at is the results of this process, since it is different for each party.

The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses.
Recent changes to the Republican Party of Iowa's bylaws now make the caucus results binding on Iowa's delegates to the national convention. In June 2015 the party announced that the Straw Poll would no longer take place. This used to be the determining factor for them. Starting in 2016, the caucus site voting that was previously a non-binding poll becomes the binding method of selecting delegates.[5] Acting in accordance with a mandate from the Republican National Committee, the delegates are bound to vote for candidates in proportion to the votes cast for each candidate at the caucus sites.

The process used by the Democrats is more complex than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes. Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a preference group). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are viable.  To be viable, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold, in this case 15%. Once viability is determined, then the delegates have 30 minutes to realign the supporters of the in-viable candidates.
Here is a major distinction: This realignment is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's second candidate of choice can help a candidate.
When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media.

There is more, but it is largely irrelevant. There is no ballot for the Democrats given their unique structure set above but we are down to 4 candidates to choose from, yeah, 4. Debate groupings will choose delegates to county conventions supporting:

Republican Caucusers will be faced with a blank piece of paper as the ballot, and the candidates that voters may vote for in the binding preference poll include:

In the future I will cover what a Delegate and a Super Delegate is. That should be fun!

Topic Tuesday #166 2015/09/22 "Beds"

Topic Tuesday #166 2015/09/22 "Beds"

Beds. Unless you are a wandering nomad that sleeps in odd places like park benches and bed rolls, there’s a really good chance you sleep in a bed. If you are human, then it is also likely you will spend about a third of your life sleeping in a bed. There is also a good chance you will spend even more, shall we say, recreational time in that bed, you know… watching movies or something…  After over a decade of experience in beds and bed activities... I have some advice for you on bed selection for those that may be in the market for something comfortable. This is practical advice, and not meant to be intentionally funny, though many things done in the bed are quite abstractly funny.

Size Matters: When you are little you have a crib, and eventually graduate to a big kid bed and then that twin follows you for a long time. You may be sleeping on a twin for the majority of your life between youth and old age and life circumstances in between. There is nothing wrong with a twin, if you are sleeping solo or with a small coterie of pets. When you are entertaining a guest a larger size becomes far more comfortable. If you are both twigs, then you can stay on the twin, but for average adults, you will want a bigger mattress. Heck if you become an average adult you may want to sleep on a larger bed too, such as a “Full” or a “Double”. If you are tall or like pillows, then there are longer mattresses available in the “XL” and “California” varieties. Once you consider a regular sleeping companion you have to also consider the sleeping accommodations of said companion. The industry suggests Queen and King for bed sharing, though I personally have an opinion on that which I will address shortly.

Costly Decisions: Let’s face it, a bed is an investment. They frames are expensive and often belong to an even more expensive bedroom set. A high quality mattress is several hundred to over a thousand dollars. Given this sunk cost it has an inertia that is difficult to overcome. If you get the wrong bed you are locked into all the accouterments of that size until you sink the cost again on another size category. The accumulation of accessories can be maddening if you are just getting started. At the very least, you will need at least one pillowcase, a fitted sheet and a blanket. Most people will also get a flat sheet and a bed skirt. You may also have a comforter or duvet and enough decorative pillows to populate a Pier One store... You can drop a lot of cash just on these size specific items. And keep in mind that the average bed will be with you for 10 years, by which time, you will want it gone, in a big way. They end up heavier at the end of their life than when you get them; I’ll let you figure out why, but I will say it is disgusting.

Type Of Mattress: There are also a wide array of different types of mattress. There are your basic innerspring bed. There are memory foam, Sleep Number™, adjustable (hospital), water bed, and so many pillow top variants that your head will spin. Then there are the foundations that go along with these. The most common are the box spring and the wooden slat or some combination thereof. I have seen trampoline styles and plain old hard solid bases (which could be good for those that need a firm bed), but those are usually specific to the bed frame. I won’t bother too much with frame types and styles because they are legion.

Take a-ways and life advice: Get a queen. Get a basic mattress from a place like Ikea, something that seems pretty comfy but is not too soft. When you lay on it in the store, check the foundation setup they have arranged and do your best to replicate it. Go for harder if you can and your back will thank you later as the bed is broken in and becomes softer than you expected it to be.
Pillow tops are nice and all but let’s be frank, when you are engaging in activities other than sleep, the mattress and frame are going to take some stress. A pillow top will shift under you some, not like a water bed, but I think you get the point, and if you don’t - go find out.

Why not a king? or a Sleep Number? From a financial consideration, king size lives up to the name and everything costs more. Even the pillows are bigger! Bigger is not necessarily better. A king size mattress will take up about 40 sqft. and a queen will take up 33.3 sqft. In an apartment or older home not designed for enormous bedroom sets, that matters a lot.
Now… those are major concerns, but… here is the hard truth that I have discovered: When you are with a partner for a long time, there will be a natural tendency to drift apart. A king size bed is too big and will make that drifting so casual that you won’t realize it until it may be too late. (Not the bed’s fault, but in a intimate setting distance does nothing to help remind you of any commitments you have made and make it very easy to become roommates. Similar sleep schedules would also be a wise habit.)
With “select a firmness” mattress systems, they are great for your health but when it comes time to have some fun, you have to be careful or you will tumble awkwardly into the less firm side or straddle the weird foam bolster in between the chambers. At least with the fully adjustable hospital style beds, you can make both sides go flat, just mind the gap. Seriously, humans do not need amorous activity to be any more awkward than it already is and I cannot recommend beds that keep partners more apart than is necessary. Having children and pets, I know that I can sleep on about 18 inches of mattress while the other  52 inches is taken up by the toddler who had a bad dream. One caveat, if you want to co-sleep with your new born children, then you will have plenty of room in the king, but you can still get away with the queen, so save the money and buy some diapers.

What do you think about the big old grown up bed?

Topic Tuesday #158 2015/07/29 "Windows 10, Part 1"

Topic Tuesday #158 2015/07/29 "Windows 10, Part 1"

It is the eve of a new dawn, or something poetic and fanciful like that. Really, it is a calendar event for us geeks out there, as Microsoft releases Windows 10 - for free to those with a current genuine copy of Windows 7 and later. 

There will be some changes to what you have come to know about Windows. For one, updates for Pro and Home versions are mandatory. You will be able to postpone the install, to backup and save files etc, but you will have to install eventually. Enterprise customers, well you will have other solutions with your versions, that you have to pay full price for. The upgrades are part of the new Microsoft direction, SaaS (Software as a Service) model. 

Also, the menus should be familiar to both Windows 7 and 8.1 users. Charms are taken away. And the operating system will customize the interface based on certain criteria about the hardware. Like if there is a physical keyboard attached, if there is a touch screen, how large the screen is, and so on. These are the things I know before getting my mitts on the bits. I've been busy.

So, consider this part one. I'll come back with more Windows 10 trivia and guides later, but in the meantime, tell me if you are going to upgrade, and what do you think about SaaS?

Topic Tuesday #157 2015/07/21 "Home Automation - Part 3 - Amazon Echo and Wink"

Topic Tuesday #157 2015/07/21 "Home Automation - Part 3 - Amazon Echo"

My quest for a Star Trek home experience has led me to Amazon has released a fascinating device, the Echo. It is an amazing gadget! It is a black cylinder with two high quality speakers, seven microphones, wireless networking, and a brain in the cloud. You wake the device by calling a keyword. It is defaulted to "Alexa" and thanks to that cleverness and a pleasant feminine voice, it is a she, and she is pretty slick.  

Heavy on facts and the occasional dad joke sense of humor, Alexa doesn't have the personality of Apple's Siri, but it doesn't need to be snarky, I have enough of that within my walls. The microphones are pretty sensitive and can listen for the keyword (which can be changed from Alexa to Amazon - but why do that?!) even over music at high volume, and it is very loud when you want it to be. The Echo, just 'Alexa' from here on, has some other tricks up its sleeve- er.. cylinder...

Back in #148 2015/05/19 "Home Automation - Part 2" I wrongly said that Wink was limited to lighting. I was looking at only one of their products lines, the Wink Link, after getting that deal on their z-wave light bulbs. Now that I have been playing with Alexa, I found out that she can talk to the Wink Hub and also another product I am playing with from Wemo.

Wink is rather well equipped for all manner of devices. and has 1GB of storage and 512MB RAM to be ready for the future.

Wink is rather well equipped for all manner of devices. and has 1GB of storage and 512MB RAM to be ready for the future.

The Wink Hub can communicate with Z-Wave+ (version 4 of the standard) as well as ZigBee protocols, just like the SmartThings Hub. The Wink Hub is also half the price and about 4 times the size of the SmartThings hub. GE, the makers of Wink, are also actively promoting and advancing their product Wink line, with a focus on high end consumers. I am just getting my Wink Hub connected to devices but it promises similar functionality to SmartThings at half the cost with integration to Alexa.

From left to right: The Wink Hub, The SmartThings Hub, Amazon Echo (muted to show the red ring)

From left to right: The Wink Hub, The SmartThings Hub, Amazon Echo (muted to show the red ring)

WeMo Insight Switch + Bunn Coffee Pot = GLORY

WeMo Insight Switch + Bunn Coffee Pot = GLORY

To give you an idea of what the end game is looking like, just imagine Star Trek or Iron Man. This morning I said, "Alexa, turn on the coffee pot." And she did. I had configured the WeMo Insight Switch to be named "Coffee Pot" and after Alexa scanned the network and found the little guy it was able to turn it on or off.

I am not going to lie, I felt like a badass. I was a technomage bending the will of technology to do my bidding by just offering a phrase! Magic. (see Clarke's 3 laws)

Below is a video I found that shows a teardown of the Wink Hub - SO WE DON'T HAVE TO. Crazy informative and in-depth.  Thanks to TheHouseBlog for the research and effort.

Topic Tuesday #153 2015/06/23 "A Climate for Writing"

Topic Tuesday #153 2015/06/23 "A Climate for Writing"

Ladies and Gentlemen of my readership, we have had quite the week since I have conversed with you on topical matters. The news has been rather heavy, week over week and it has taken its eventual toll on me, thus I am unable to fully articulate the gravity of the activity on the world stage. I am not silent on it, as you can tell by my other posts and the continued activities of the ORly Radio Podcast. The news has hurt me and has moved me to alternative action. In as much as we have seen through time - adversity, even if it seems tangential to this writer, fosters creativity. This last week it was not the news of the Charleston murders that hit me the hardest. Though they are certainly shocking and deplorable, I have been desensitized to the bigotry and violence to those of color by those with a far paler character. No, what has moved me to some sort of action and kept me awake is the future.

I would consider myself a rational person and a man of facts and perspective. I have grown to trust the scientists that work in their chosen fields and have come to know many of them. They value the same things I do. Facts and the truths that they describe. The recent news that the figures were wrong and corrected on the so called pause in global warming was a hammer blow. I didn’t expect it to be so, as I had a feeling that this sign of climate change was not up for taking a vacation, but still, I had hoped that nature had a trick or two that would explain it and it would not be a miscalculation. Sadly, the results indicate that we were incorrect with initial findings and that the world may have warmed much more than was anticipated in other models and it was not getting any better.

Credit: NASA.

Credit: NASA.

The data that they used to make these statements came from a big data project, NASA Earth Exchange (NEX). It’s data is available to the public.

“The NASA climate projections provide a detailed view of future temperature and precipitation patterns around the world at a 15.5 mile (25 kilometer) resolution, covering the time period from 1950 to 2100. The 11-terabyte dataset provides daily estimates of maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation over the entire globe.”

I have concerns. I am a future minded person and they are painting a rather hot picture of the future, a future that if I am not a part of, surely my offspring will be. So I have to prepare them for the reality of climate change, rising oceans, hotter summers, colder winters, floods and droughts, and the people that deny it could happen. This is the tall order that keeps me up at night, and I figure if I am going to be kept up, I might as well be creative and productive with it.
This is the inspiration for a story I am going to write. It may be horrible and completely un-entertaining and worthless to some, but I will learn a lot along the way about how to write and communicate a narrative of discovery and adventure - one of surviving a changing world.
National Novel Writing Month is approaching you know.

Time to get to it. Let me know what you think.

Topic Tuesday #148 2015/05/19 "Home Automation - Part 2"

Topic Tuesday #148 2015/05/19 "Home Automation - Part 2"

   Today I was thrust back into home automation with two things.

   The first was a bulb I was testing with SmartThings, the GE Link A19, Soft White (2700K), 60 Watt Equivalent. GE has an automation product line (, similar to SmartThings (but limited to lighting only), which they say is a MUST for the A19. The Link A19 and the entire Philips Hue collection (which I have not delved into, yet), are compatible with the SmartThings system and any controller capable of using ZigBee protocol that we discussed some of in Part 1. .  The A19 does not change colors, but is quite bright and can dim to a very cozy level. At this time, the GE Link A19 will set you back about $15 from either Amazon or Home Depot. They have a long life (22+ years 3 hours a day),  and at 12 watts max, they sip the juice. Even if they weren't capable of being controlled wirelessly, they make a great incandescent and CFL replacement.  And that brings me to the woe of why this bulb got my attention again today.

   There was a power outage and for the second time, the bulb lost connection to the hub and had to be removed and added back to the system. This is only a big deal because SmartThings will not allow you to delete a device if there is an "app" linked to it. I had this bulb programmed to slowly come on at dawn and then to come on at sunset. BTW, having a bright light near you when you are trying to wake up, does help. So that was a bit of a pain, and with the power situation I have here in Florida, brown outs happen quite a lot. I moved it to a UPS next to my bed so I have my alarm, my device chargers, and this on backup so I will never be late waking up (due to minor technical failures).  But this is impractical if I wanted to use it in a location that I can't slap a backup on... Still, it's a great bulb when it works and when it's not smart, it's still pretty good for the price. I will be looking at other bulbs soon. 

   The second thing that snapped me to attention was a tremendous sale on an item that I had my eye on. Amazon was running this beauty at 83% off. Aeon Labs AEDSB09104ZWUS Aeotec Z-Wave Smart Energy Monitor

Aeon Labs Aeotec Smart Energy Monitor

Aeon Labs Aeotec Smart Energy Monitor

"What does that do?" you might ask yourself, and that's a great question. It is an energy flow meter. It has two current transformer clamps the go around the AC mains in the house's breaker panel/load center to detect energy usage for the entire house. You could use the clamps around the hot and neutral power for other heavy equipment if you can separate them, but I will leave that hacking to your imaginations. For my use, it will be installed in the load center for my home, and will monitor and report the power habits of my household. I will be able to chart average usage, and them modify my behavior for greater energy savings. I will also be using it to figure out the exact amounts for when I install my generator transfer switch and can make the best use out of those watts in an emergency. This monitor is easy to install and will not require an electrician. From what I have found, it will operate on battery for about a year, but will provide rapid feedback if plugged into an external source. More on that and more in a later post. 

Topic Tuesday #144 2015/04/21 "Before ReAsonCon 2015"

Topic Tuesday #144 2015/04/21 "Before ReAsonCon 2015"

Friday I am traveling to a conference. There will be hundreds of  driven individuals like myself. Hundreds of men and women to talk to, to share ideas, and cross promote our projects. I have prepared as well as I can, without inducing panic attacks and undue stress. This has been planned for months. I have business cards, car magnets, a pocket recorder for those interviews that are bound to happen, battery packs for my phones and computers, Excedrin, Wi-Fi hotspot, and of course my hotel room. I do not know how I'm going to get a show out this week, and I don't want to miss it.

This conference is veiling my mind thoroughly. I was racking my brain trying to come up with a Topic Tuesday post, and all I could think of was rebranding the Topic Tuesday section of the webpage to better reflect what this blog has become. Perhaps I should just make it "Topic Tuesday". Perhaps I should meld it with "Cowen's Corner" and the headings and meta tagging will serve to keep it separate. Should I do that before the conference Friday?

See? Overwhelming.

BUT! It is good stress. I am forced to refine my efforts and focus on usability, discoverability, and making the overall experience something that visitors want to repeat.

I'm also using my tools in new ways, which makes them show their true strengths and weaknesses.  For Instance, I am currently typing this on a my $80 Winbook tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard shell from , and a Logitech Bluetooth mouse.. It is a full Windows 8.1 computer with a full USB port and it takes the same charger as all my other accessories. This will serve as my data entry device while at the convention. Hopefully it works well. I will have a full Dell laptop just in case, but I will try to work with this little fella.

Thusly, next Tuesday, I will have plenty to say about the experience, and reviews of my kit.

In the mean time, I would like you all to chime in and tell e if you think I should change anything with the website or the show in total.

Have a great week, until next time.

Topic Tuesday #135 2015/02/17 "Home Automation - Part 1"

Topic Tuesday #135 2015/02/17 "Home Automation - Part 1"

This week I decided to use some of my tax return and jump into the mysterious world of home automation. I'm going to be going through all the bits and pieces on here and with reviews in Cowen's Corner. This is just a tease, as I'm still letting the dust settle.

I went with the SmartThings ecosystem.

There were three primary reasons for why this product and not one of the many others.

1) Cost - The SmartThings Hub was among the least expensive for the features offered. It's a pay once solution with no subscription fees.
2) Flexibility - The SmartThings ecosystem works with the major standards of "internet of things" and home automation. Primarily "Z-Wave" is represented along with the "ZigBee" protocol. These standards make up the backbone of the "internet of things" in your connected home. If you have a security system that has wireless sensors on doors and windows, you might already have some of these in your home.
3) Integration with other pioneers on the internet. So far, I would be lost without recipes from IFTTT (IF This Then That) For instance, IFTTT allows me to record when the front door is locked or unlocked to a spreadsheet on my Google Drive. It is location aware based on my phone., so if I leave the area it will lock the door and turn off my phone's WiFi. I've also set times of day for when that door should be locked by default. It makes that happen and sends me an alert and records it on the sheet. With other partners like Life360 (which I just came across) you can really get a handle on how your family can benefit from some automation and the piece of mind of know where anyone is at a given time.

I've just scratched the surface and it will be an adventure - not the cheapest adventure, but well worth exploring.

What would you automate?