For want of a third party

Yesterday saw one of the most contentious elections that I’ve ever witnessed, when both of the leading candidates were rather despicable human beings. The problem was that this time there was a legitimate third-party alternative with whom I didn’t disagree too much. That being said, voting for that person would have helped my least favorite candidate more than it would have hurt the second-worst.

I wish I could have an election where I could vote for a third party candidate that had a legitimate chance of winning, rather than taking a vote from lesser of the two horrible alternatives. I wish that fear of the worst didn’t force us to vote for the lesser of two evils, less the worst’s base propel said figure into power.

What’s Wrong With Mr. Franzen?

Franzen, in need of Midol

The Franzen OpEd in this weekend’s Guardian, so humbly titled “What’s Wrong With the Modern World” is a glorious example of the difference between a novelist and a journalist. While Franzen might be rightly lauded for his creative writing, his attempts at editorial continue to display a lack of skill required for even collegiate-level journalism.

His latest editorial, the title of which lacks a question mark, thus letting the reader know that Mr. Franzen will be lecturing instead of asking a question, is replete with logical fallacies, overly verbose prose that tends to towards the purple, and an emphasis on nostalgia that could only be called selective at best.

Though this is not the first, this is certainly the worst editorial in Mr. Franzen’s slide towards being a cranky old man. His cherry-picked Kraus quote, which Franzen praises as deliberately hard, stands as case and point as to what’s wrong with Franzen. No, Franzen is not deliberately hard, at least not in his journalism. He is meandering. Franzen drifts from point to point in a manner best described as egotistical beyond care. No, Franzen is not deliberately hard, he is the lazy mixture of snobbishness and a myopic sense of history – a combination the author frequently turns towards ideas and concepts that upset the narrative he’s carefully constructed for his own life.

Whatever the case with Franzen, that he continues to publish such naive articles speaks only to the climate of fear that change still strikes in certain areas. That he is allowed to make such sophomoric pleas on a semi-regular basis can really only mean a few things – that people believe his pleas will make a difference, that people do not believe so, but are willing to let Franzen seem the coward, or that Franzen is merely doing his duty to play as the ship goes down. Whichever may be the case, it’s hard to find the dignity in a 6,500 word slippery slope.

False Positive


It was announced today that James Cameron is making not one, not two, but three sequels to the 2009 blockbuster Avatar. While the movie grossing an obscene amount of money suggests that a sequel was a no-brainer, the focus on building up the mythos seems like a false positive inferred from the data.

Call it a hunch, but given how much the plot was lambasted for being completely derivative seems to suggest people saw the film as a spectacle rather than an epic. It was something to watch rather than a journey to take the audience on.

That and it abused the audience with Papyrus font and named the MacGuffin “Unobtainium.”

I dunno, Mr. Cameron. It seems like instead of spending a billion dollars making 3 spectacles, we could use that money to make to make 500 interesting films.

After posting this, a screed and link to a Labyrinth fan theory, I had a notion. Fan theories and conspiracy theories really aren’t that different. They both

  • assign incredible power to someone who probably doesn’t have it
  • suggest a greater plan at work
  • involve careful restructuring of narrative to meet a predetermined need
  • ignore things that contradict the reconstructed narrative or meta-narrative

I guess the big differences is that fans don’t get angry at the government for not meeting theories. That and fan theories tend to be a whole lot more coherent and fun to read.

See also – Fan Theories subreddit

“Could Not Replicate”

Yesterday I had the rare fortune (misfortune) of being on the otherside of a “Could Not Replicate” situation.

Last week, the shower from our master bathroom started streaming water down through the recessed lights in our kitchen. After a series of frantic phone calls, the general contractor came out, couldn’t spot the leak’s source, but could see the water stains on the lights.

We all agreed, there was definitely a problem.

Subcontractor came out. Couldn’t spot the issue, needed to cut into the ceiling, arranged to come back this week.

Yesterday, we cut open the ceiling in the kitchen where there u-bend from the shower and the water lines were. It was dry as a bone up there, which was expected. And there was no obvious signs of water damage save for a small stain. The sub ran the shower for a solid 10 minutes. Not a drop of water came down.

My shower leak earned the dreaded “Could not replicate.” This is the worst feeling when doing QA on anything. If an error can be replicated, you can test the solution. If you can’t, QA comes down to hopes and hunches.

Hopes and hunches is how my shower was fixed. A few potential leak vectors were sealed and the ceiling hole was left open to allow us to spot leaks. I freaking hate “Could Not Replicate” situations.

But at least the shower seems to work now.

Attended RVA Startup Weekend this past weekend. I basically paid $75 to work my ass off for 2.5 days. Met some awesome people. Put in something like 35 hours of work, but with the help of four others, we built an awesome prototype that looks like it could be a damn useful business.

Oh, and we won 2nd Place.


Thoughts on the Chromecast

Bona fides first

Over the past 9 years I have connected the following devices to my television in order to make the most out of my rather large media collection

  • PC – Windows Media Center 2004
  • PC – Windows Media Center 2005
  • PC – Windows Vista
  • PC – Windows 7
  • PC – XMBC
  • PC – Boxee
  • Boxee Box
  • Logitech Revue with Google TV
  • XBox 360
  • Boxee TV

I don’t think my feature set is outrageous.

I want access to my local content in a visually friendly and intelligent manner
I have a collection of digitized media (both music and video) that ranges somewhere in the hundreds of gigabytes and much of which is not wholly accessible via streaming solutions. I want a system that can scan, index, and associate artwork with that content.

I want to be able to stream from all (or most) of my media solutions
I have paying subscriptions to a wide array of popular media solutions: Amazon Prime, Google Play Music All Access, Hulu, Netflix, and Pandora. I want to access these items in a manner which has the least amount of branding and a similar UI. I don’t want Netflix and Hulu to feel different just because someone different is getting my $7~$8 a month.

I want something that tackles what Fanhattan has labeled the Friday Night Problem
It’s 2013, my tech needs to do something more than merely index, sort, and search my content. It needs to understand my consumption habits and recommend new content in a personalized manner.

Today, Google introduced Chromecast, which I suspect is the H2G2-42 product that’s still half secret at the FCC (Will know for sure on July 31 when the rest of the FCC documents go public). It’s a superminimalist streaming solution – next-to-no native GUI, requires a device as a remote, and has a stupid low price point. In a lot of ways, this feels like the Nexus Q, but minus the highend hardware in favor of staying out of sight.


Here’s the thing – I don’t mind seeing hardware, especially if it’s visually appealing. And by visually appealing I mean black and cold looking, like the hifi equivalent of the Monolith from 2001. What I do care about is having access to all of my stuff, be it local or online. I want to blur those lines so that when I’m watching ripped DVDs of a series, I can then switch to the streaming version. I don’t mind hooking up cable to get access to live tv (but I’d prefer the device to go over the top and around a cable provider. I’m willing to pay for that privilege just to avoid Comcast’s notoriously bad GUI).

The Boxee Box was a fantastic device and, aside from a dedicated media center PC, has come the closest to making all of this stupid simple. But the tech underpinnings were ripped out, leaving the device neutered. And Boxee turned their backs on their users (sorry guys, but you did that three times – app, Box, TV).

The Google TV did it’s best to integrate behind a unified UI, but that died when you jumped into an app. Having to jump into multiple apps is still a shit solution that’s been foisted on users due to the pissing match moneywar between Content Owners and Content Providers.

The Chromecast is probably worth the $35, but I really want something higher-end with Chromecast built in. Something that can run XMBC or Plex. Something that can read my NAS and assemble an index, assign metadata, download art, etc.

Right now, I’m looking at the XBox One or the Fanhattan Fan TV as my goto solutions. If neither of those really works out, I’m probably going to have to go back to building my own jank.


©2015 Bradley Robb Some Right Reserved