Thursday, December 14, 2017

Posting this while I can



Well, we just lost the Net Neutrality laws. 

Watching the FCC debates and votes were so difficult.  It's so obvious the corruption that has taken place there.  It's sad.

Don't think it will affect you?

Do you like Netflix?  What if your provided added a surcharge to your already complicated bill for bandwidth to their site?

How about Youtube?  Pandora?  Amazon Prime video? Hulu?  Slingbox?  DirectTV?

That's just to start. 

How about making any web site that wants to be seen pay a premium to your service provider.

The corrupt FCC chairman compared it to Twitter or Facebook allowing paid advertisers to get better placement. 

Except it's NOT the same.  I don't have to use Twitter or Facebook.  I can choose something else.  I DON'T have a choice of my internet provider.  No one else is available where I am.

Even for the lucky few that have something of a choice, you maybe have two possibilities.

The FCC said it doesn't need to regulate the internet providers because they are not like a utility, that the "data lines are nothing like a pipe." 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Did you ask ANY technical professionals?  That's exactly what we call it!

They said it won"break the internet."  Of course it won't.  But it will make it more expensive for you and me. 

Isn't that enough?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Would you believe ALL of our modern computing devices owe their basic architecture to a 19th-century weaving machine?



Standing in the basement of an old college building, looking at a collection of 19th-century weaving machinery, and in one moment the entire history of computing, even to this day in 2017 came to me.

It was 1990 and I was attending the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University).  As a favor to a professor, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I picked up a donated weaving machine and we delivered it to the basement of one of the main buildings, Hayward Hall. 

Surrounding us was an amazing collection of old fabric making equipment dating back to the 19th century.  I noticed a Jacquard weaving machine with some yellowing old punch-cards halfway fed through a mechanical reader.  In an amazing bit of mechanical engineering, this machine could mechanically, interpret the “on” and “off” instructions on a punch card to consistently reproduce a woven pattern on fabric.  

I remembered from a history of computing lessons that IBM adapted the use of punch cards sometime in the 1950s.  I even got some brief exposure to them myself in the 1970s, as some legacy equipment had yet to be replaced.  

What amazed me here, in examining the cards that the loom used, was that the cards hadn’t really been changed much for when they were adapted for computers.    They still had the same rows of eight dots (eventually there would be more than 8), punched or not punched.  These were a physical representation of 8 bits to one byte.  



This constant is the same today, in every computing device from supercomputers to iPhones.  Even though our chips got expanded to 16, 32, 64 and 128 bits, etc. All of these are still multiples of the original eight.

This was still not the moment of revelation.  It was when I saw the manual device that the operators used to punch the cards that gave me the biggest surprise.  The operator of the manual punch machine would sit on a simple metal stool, and feed the cards through the punching mechanism. The operator would grip two metal handles in front of them, that were shaped like small motorcycle handlebars.  The operator's fingers would rest on the eight buttons above the handle with the thumbs below.  The operator would press the appropriate buttons for the “ons” and “offs” for the pattern, then a foot pedal provided the actual punch of the holes.

This simple 19th-century punching machine has provided us with the basic architecture of our modern computing age.  All because of the shape of our hands fitting into a machine to punch cards for a fabric weaver.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Total Perspective Vortex, from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Anyone who has stared up at the night sky on a clear night and tried to wrap their mind around the size of our planet, the Sun, the solar system, our galaxy, and then the hundreds of billions of galaxies beyond that may have felt like their mind might explode (or despair at the sheer insignificance of their life choices).

According to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Total Perspective Vortex was designed to condense all the knowledge of the universe into a single moment, wherein a person would finally understand their place in the vast cosmos. Remember, that the universe is so mind-numbingly huge that anything imaginable can happen.

Instead of being enlightened by this moment of clarity, understanding the sheer magnitude of the universe and insignificance of one's perspective compared to all of that completely annihilates one's brain. An invisible dot on an invisible dot living in a tiny fraction of an eyeblink of the universe. 

"You can kill a man, destroy his body, break his spirit, but only the Total Perspective Vortex can annihilate a man's soul."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How Blind?

When The United States of America defeated the Nazis and liberated the death camps, we proudly tore down the Nazi flag and raised the American flag!


When the towers fell on 9/11.  We took it back and raised the American flag again!
Would we allow someone to publicly salute the flag of Al Quaeda?
Then WHY??  Someone tell me WHY do we allow THIS flag to be raised here?  And our president to say "On BOTH SIDES??"

What if Bush had said "ON BOTH SIDES" after 9/11??



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Y2K




Okay, this has to be said.  Y2k was a non-event.  Not because it wasn't a real threat, but

BECAUSE WE FIXED IT!!!

I worked at two different companies on this problem.  I was there for testing where we took devices like credit card readers, ATMs and even elevators advanced their dates.

You know what happened?

THEY STOPPED WORKING!!

So, to all of the people who think Y2k was some big hoax because nothing happened, you need to thank the teams that worked round the clock for years to make sure nothing happened.

Sorry, just had to speak my peace on this one.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

" I don't really find it exactly cheerful to be living in the middle of a totally, like, exhausted decade where there's nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to."- Pump Up the Volume

The quote I'm using for the title was from a 1990s movie.  

Have things gotten any better?

As a child growing up in the 1970s, we could find heroes in fiction and reality.  Television's characters were mostly either over the top evil or over the top good.  The good characters may not have been realistic, but you could try to be as good as, Captain Kirk, Laura Ingles or Mike Brady.



They may have been unrealistically good, but shouldn't we strive for that?

Look at the remakes and reboots for some of TV's characters:

The new Star Trek's Captain Kirk is essentially OK, but kind of an @sshole.  Same with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica.  Replaced are the squeaky clean Lorne Green and Richard Hatch with characters you really don't want to emulate.

“'Oh, realism! Oh, here, oh, now, oh hell!'”- Ray Bradbury 

Ray Bradbury predicted this would happen decades ago in the Martian Chronicles.  

I haven't even started on reality TV.  There are NO people in there you would want to be like.  Across the board, reality television features people we either hate, despise or pity.  Otherwise they are not deemed "entertaining."  .


Even many of our childhood heroes get smudged, buy attention seeking people looking to smear someone's reputation and history for the sake of "entertainment."

I used to look up to people like John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.  Look what has happened to them in recent years with scandals and rumors of scandal.

Can you honestly think of a hero you have in recent decades?  Someone who stood out and wasn't smeared by someone somewhere.

I used to have Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.  After Armstrong's death (and some before) news came out about his divorce and what a bad husband he was.  Really?  I didn't need to hear that!  

John Glenn has held up.  So far the only other decent figure I could find was Mr. Rogers.  So far no one has been able to smear him.

Consider someone like Lance Armstrong.  I know I'm going to get beat up here, but hear me out.
Now, he has a reputation for not being a nice guy.  He's probably not a nice guy but, in beating cancer, starting the Livestrong Foundation and Charity he inspired people to survive and probably saved thousands of lives just by being an inspiration.  Nothing else.



I realize the search for truth is a squeaky clean attribute, but was it REALLY necessary to go back and smear what looked like a modern day "Superman." (Don't get me started to what they did to Superman).  Wasn't the inspiration he created and the lives he saved and the hearts he touched worth more than the outcomes of races run over a decade ago.

REALLY think about it.  What have we lost versus what have we gained??

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hath No Fury Wins Second Place in Literary Agency Contest

Urban Literary Agency just announced their winners from their 2015 contest.

My book, Hath No Fury,  got second place!

Here's the specs from the judge:

Author Name: Hal Rappaport
Title: Hath No Fury
Genre: Romance / Paranormal


How is the author’s writing?                                        

Poor
Okay
Good
Great

Is there violence?
No violence
Some violence
Graphic violence

Is there sexual content?
No sexual content
Some sexual content
Explicit sexual content

How is the story narrated?
First person
Second person
Third Person

Alternating persons

Wine and Pretzels

I am alone in my hotel room, on a business trip, staying at a Holiday Inn in Houston. 
I am eating pretzels left over from the bag I brought on my flight.  They were a snack I bought for the four hour flight from NJ to Houston. Airlines no longer serve meals on domestic flights. 
I am washing them down with the cheapest merlot money can buy.  It’s out of a juice box and poured into a plastic cup.  I suppose it would be worse if I were drinking it directly from the cardboard carton, but I figure that’s just a matter of degrees.
Is this a new low?
I’m not sure.
The wine was $3.99, and the pretzels cost almost the same.  Airports can charge pretty much anything these days.  We buy it because we are forced to be there.
It’s the middle of January and the thermostat in this room reads 77.  The environmental controls for this room either seem to want it to be freezing or uncomfortably warm.  I keep switching it back and forth because it won’t stay at any one temperature.  I figure if I switch it back and forth enough times it will rain in the middle of the room.

I’m not 100% sure why I am writing this stream of consciousness.  It’s not my usual style and pretty meaningless.  I think I just liked the title, “Wine and Pretzels.”  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why There is a Second Ammendment

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Few people actually show the text.  When England's government became oppressive and unfair to the colonies, it was necessary to raise an army of Militia soldiers to defend and fight for freedom.  The authors of our Constitution knew, first hand what it was like to stand up to a bad government that was in power.  In their wisdom, they kept this check in the foundation of the new government they were forming.  This amendment was meant to keep a balance between the population and any government (like England) that could become corrupted.

Consider for a moment, Nazi Germany. Their government was a democracy similar to England. Of the 12,000,000 exterminated, if only 1% of them had firearms, there would be an armed force of 120,000. Think about what a difference it might have made.



It wasn't until after the war that Nokmim (Hebrewהנוקמים‎), also referred to as The Avengers or the Jewish Avengers, a Jewish partisan militia was formed.  Forming a "militia."  Sound familiar?  Pity it was AFTER the war.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Are we in a Decline of our Civilization?


In the 1970s we had landed on the moon and space seemed to be our Oyster.  There was no reason to doubt that we would have lunar colonies by the end of the 20th century.  The Space Shuttle, although only an orbiter, seemed like the first step in building true re-usable spacecraft.  The planets like Mars and Venus seemed to be so close we could touch them next.

Even though we were in the middle of the cold war and competition with the Soviet Union was tense this (along with the release of Star Wars in 1977) actually fueled much of the advancement.  In a race that began with Sputnik in the 1950s, each side was trying to "conquer space" first.
 

In 1989 the wall in Berlin fell and with it came the fall of the Soviet Union and the Cold War.  With this epic event, which is regarded as one of the greatest moves toward peace on the planet, came the decline of our drive to push further into space.

I realize I am basing the entire civilization's ascension or decline on this one metric of space travel, but there are several points to this that I think make it a good indicator.
  • The Space Race itself was the catalyst for developing a lot of the technologies we use today.
  • It was one of the few items in our history as a species, that united us.
  • Space technology may become necessary one day as an escape for the human race
  • Space technology may become necessary one day to deflect a NEO (Near Earth Object) or Asteroid
  • When you stop looking up and exploring, you drive inward.
  • NASA provides the most compelling evidence in the arguments for climate change
This decade marks the retirement of our aging Shuttle fleet.  While NASA insists that they are moving forward with their new non-reusable rockets, it's clear that this really feels like a step backwards.  Where once, we looked to the Soviet Union with suspicion (and some admiration) we now see their once bold Orbiter fleet now sits and rots.
As some in power ignore the clear evidence of climate change, we may find ourselves rushing headlong into a world like the one predicted in interstellar.  Please take a look at the clip below.  If you haven't seen the movie, please watch this whole thing through, especially the part after 1:55.


While one might look up at the International Space Station and say that we ARE in space, consider the scale.  If we used the scale of a regular classroom globe the ISS would reside at a point about 3/4 of and inch (1.5 cm) from the surface.  Using the same scale the moon would be 14 feet away.  By those terms, humans haven't left the planet in over 40 years.