Monday, February 19, 2018

HomePod Shortcoming

The HomePod fits very nicely into my lifestyle. It certainly sounds great for its size and it fills up a room with music you can feel – something we lost when we started using tiny earbuds. Unfortunately, the biggest shortcoming of HomePod isn't its sound or Siri (Siri on HomePod is so much better than on the iPhone.) The HomePod's biggest shortcoming is Apple Music. Apple Music doesn't measure up when playing tunes of a specific genre or artist. Instead, I use Pandora to play music on my HomePod via Airplay.

I've been a subscriber of Pandora for years, specifically due to Apple Music's limitations and it's served me well. Since the beginning of Apple Music's streaming service, it's had a problem playing relevant tracks. Very frequently, Apple Music will start off playing relevant music and then, perhaps ten songs later, it gets off track. My most recent experience is when I asked HomePod to play music by Cole Porter from Apple Music. About 30 minutes later, Apple Music started playing Country Music covers of Cole Porter songs which is an entirely different genre. I've experienced the same thing with Apple Music songs from Philip Glass and Billy Joel. If I ask Apple Music to play songs by Billy Joel, it should not play classical music from his most recent album. That's not what anyone means when they ask to hear Billy Joel.

That got me wondering about the difference between how Apple Music and Pandora choose tunes. Perhaps I'll do a little digging.

Friday, February 16, 2018

LimeBike Dockless Bike Sharing in San Diego

LimeBikes ready to roll
Yesterday, launched their new dockless bike sharing program in San Diego. Today, I took it for a spin. I couldn't resist when I saw the bikes spread throughout my neighborhood.

My first ride was free. I haven't yet taken a second ride, but it seems that the bike rentals are $1 for 30 minutes for a regular bike and, for electric-assist bikes, it's $1 for 10 minutes plus a $1 unlock fee. This is much better than the local competitor DecoBike, which requires docking and cost $5 for 30 minutes.

Docked-up DecoBike
To get rolling, I downloaded the LimeBike app (available for iOS and Android), opened it, and simply pointed my phone's camera at the QR code on the back fender of the bicycle. Within a few seconds, the bike played a tone as it unlocked the rear wheel and I was ready to go. Like a DecoBike, the bike has multiple speeds, a headlight, and basket.

When I was done, the rear wheel locked and I was prompted to enter my credit card info for future rides. The app gave me an option to save a map of the route that I rode, along with time, distance, calories burned, and grams of carbon emissions I saved. I will definitely be using LimeBike, again.

Conveniently located nearby
Trip report

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dealing With Terrorism and Mass Shooting News

Many of us continually watch terrible news like incidents of terrorist attacks or mass shootings. What we really should do, instead, is stop watching cable TV news and, perhaps, watch This is Your Brain on Terrorism.

On the surface, watching cable TV news (left or right) makes sense because we want to be informed and safe. But, this type of news ends up having the opposite effect, especially if we're not involved in the incident. We know that TV news is important, but we forget that, by definition, news is something that almost never happens. Because shocking news brings an audience, it ends up being broadcast nonstop which tricks us into thinking that it's a common problem.

Just to be clear, no one wants mass shootings – even the NRA doesn't want mass shootings. But, the reaction of people who immerse themselves in this news, and feel helpless at the senseless violence, end up doing nothing effective to make things better. Their typical reaction is anger, talk, and posts to social media where they express their fury without doing anything to fix the problem or its side-effects that spread the fear.

My point of this post is to show you that continually watching cable TV news coverage does very little to help the situation and actually causes more unnecessary anxiety.

If you're scared and you continue to watch scary news then your fear will increase. Ask yourself what would happen if you didn't watch cable TV news. Instead of watching, read a couple news articles, ideally from different sources, and then go about your day while being thankful for how fortunate you are.

Do Something

Feeling helpless? Then find a cause where you can make a difference. Want to right a wrong in the world? Do a YouTube search for "puppy torture" or "puppy abuse," etc., and then foster a pet or do volunteer work. Want to join a big team to right the wrongs on a global scale? Then run for office, enlist in the military or join an NGO. Make the world a better place. At what point does emotional protesting become useless complaining? It seems that the people who complain the most tend to do the least. Stop complaining and start doing. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

HomePod after 96 Hours

After using HomePod for four days, I'm still happy.

I was considering ending my Pandora subscription until I realized that streaming music from Pandora, on my iPhone, to HomePod, via AirPlay, works perfectly. (AirPlay, which uses WiFi, has a much better range than Bluetooth.)

This morning, I played music on my Mac, with iTunes, while streaming it to my HomePod. This added an unexpectedly intense depth to my experience as the music was in perfect sync from both sources. It's a cheap version of surround sound.

I've been considering the thought that went into what HomePod currently does. I know there are more features to come, but the current level of integration with iCloud, iTunes, etc is impressive. For example, when playing music on my Mac while streaming it to HomePod, if I ask HomePod to stop playing the music, it also stops playing on my Mac, which is exactly what I expected. If I ask HomePod a question, the music continues playing on my Mac while the music on HomePod fades out as Siri answers my question and then resumes playing. 

Plus, I like that I can use HomePod to control other apps (see video). Very nice.

Friday, February 9, 2018

New HomePod at Home [u]

My new HomePod arrived today. The sound is great, especially the bass.

zOMG! My HomePod Arrived!

I was at a meeting, about half an hour away from home, when I received the shipment delivery notification. Apparently, I was so excited my HomePod arrived that, for the first time, my Apple Watch's "Elevated Heart Rate Notification" went off.

HomePod Setup

The box contained one item, HomePod with a permanently attached power cord plus a little paperwork and, of course, an Apple sticker.

Setup was as simple as holding my iPhone within 2" of HomePod while it took a minute or two minute to transfer my configuration data and link it to my iTunes account.

First Song

Picking the first song to play on my HomePod was no simple task, commensurate with picking a first dance song at a wedding. I chose "Fix Bayonets" which is a bugle call (similar to "Charge") to command troops to unsheathe their bayonets and attach them to their rifles in preparation for close combat.


HomePod is an Apple product, and Apple invented AirPlay for audio and video transfer, so, it's very convenient to use iTunes on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad to control the HomePod.

High Note

I do like that I can use HomePod to text people, "Hey Siri, text my Mother. Did you book your flight to come to San Diego?" Plus, it will notify me of an incoming text message. (Update: It appears that HomePod will not notify users of incoming text messages alerts – it can only read a text message, if you ask Siri.)

Siri on HomePod sounds more elegant and seems to be much better at understanding my commands compared to Siri on iPhone, but it's only been two hours.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Communicating with ATC without Talking

The most direct way for a pilot to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) is by speaking to them over the radio. Sometimes, though, it's hard to get a word in, "edgewise," when ATC is busy speaking to many different aircraft in rapid succession. This can be an issue when a pilot is trying to establish initial contact.

It's not uncommon, under busy circumstances, to hear ATC tell a pilot, who is trying to establish initial contact, to call back later, perhaps in two or ten minutes. That's happened to me, a couple times, as I orbited the Del Mar Racetrack waiting for permission to enter the busy "bravo" airspace surrounding Miramar Airport and San Diego's Lindbergh Field.

Occasionally, there are times when I've established communications with ATC, but, due to their workload, I'm not receiving timely updates. The delays aren't a safety issue, but I often wonder if the controller has overlooked me or if I'm simply a lower priority.

The corporate pilot for QUALCOMM gave me a simple trick for getting the controller's attention. She told me to simply "ident" which causes my plane to flash on the controller's radar screen. Ident is short for "squawk identification." It's a signal sent from a plane's transponder to help a controller identify an aircraft's secondary radar (transponder) return. By asking a pilot to "squawk ident," the controller can ensure that the aircraft they're talking to matches the radar target they're looking at.

Airplane transponders send out codes that the pilot sets. The transponder code 1200 is the most common code when a pilot is flying VFR. If a pilot is flying under an instrument flight rules plan (IFR) then the controller will assign a specific code to an aircraft to track the callsign and aircraft type. 

ATC has established specific codes for special situations:
7500 Hijack
7600 Communications failure
7700 Emergency
7777 Military intercept

Simply hitting the ident button is a helpful way to get ATC's attention. I like simple tricks like this because they're effective yet not as brittle as an unbaked computer hack.

Monday, February 5, 2018

My Laws of Stock Market Drops [u]

When a Friday is an exceptionally bad day, Monday typically isn't a good day either.
--- Moreno's First Law of Empirical Market Observation

After a Friday/Monday rout of the markets, Tuesday will be up, substantially; but not enough to cover the previous two days’ loses.
--- Moreno's Second Law of Empirical Market Observations

If Moreno's First and Second Laws of Empirical Market Observations are observed, then six to eight months later we will know if the meltdown was merely a correction or a fundamental problem with the economy.
--- Moreno's Third Law of Empirical Market Observations

My uncle is in his late 70s – he's had a very successfully career on Wall Street since the 1960s. (He’s retired, but still closely follows the markets.)

In October, when I was in NY/NJ, I had dinner with him and he said there's probably another 1,000 or 2,000 point upside in the Dow. He called it a “melt-up,” meaning that there was still a lot of money sitting on the sidelines that wanted to get into the stock market. But, he warned, the rise since November 2016 was so quick that it would have to meltdown (correct), very soon. Clearly, that's what we've been seeing in the last two trading sessions on Wall Street.

Today, he was telling me that he was picking his buy-list of stocks to purchase, tomorrow, with a caveat that we will get some kind of rally off this dip but it will not hold (it won't erase the loses of the last two days). Those who did not sell will step in. When the second round of fear comes in (meaning tomorrow), it is a tradeable rally. He ended with, “first trade fails” – so don't trade at the open. 

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.
--- Yogi Berra

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Apple's Q1 Earnings Results

1 Infinite Loop: The Mothership
Apple's upcoming Q1 earnings results, ending December 2017, have my attention. There is no shortage of pessimistic speculation that the iPhone X is selling worse than expected. That has driven down the stock price from its all time high of $180/share to the mid-$160s. That represents about a $75B reduction in Apple's market cap.

Some of the headlines sound alarming mentioning that Apple is cutting iPhone X production. Regardless of how well the iPhone X sold over the Holidays, Apple would still cut production for this quarter since it's not Christmas. But, at this point, that's speculative rationalization on my part. 

I read this article comparing one naysayer's prediction to previous articles forecasting doom and gloom.

Today, I saw a series of tweets from Ryan Jones who seemed to put iPhone X estimates in perspective (prefaced with my own notes).

Dec 2017 EPS Avg:3.78 High:3.88 Low:3.68

Currently, the Street is expecting Apple to sell 61 million iPhones in the second quarter, but Piecyk believes it will be closer to be 53 million.

I miss talking about iPhone units sales. :) It used to be my jam.
My Q1 2018 guess is 83M units (up 7%) at $825 ASP (up 19%).
= Total $68.5 BIIIILLION. Just from iPhone. Previous record $54.5B.
🔥 Up 26% on the biggest product ever. Oh and it's 10 years old. 🔥

Weak iPhone X demand:
WSJ says iPhone X Q2 cut was from 40M planned to 20M.
History: Q2 sales for the last two years were 51.1M and 50.8M. So 40M seems idiotic for just iPhone X.
80% of sales (40M) for the most expensive iPhone? No way.
40% of sales (20M)? Sounds bout right.

Let's just us our brains...iPhone X is probably 33-50% of all iPhone sales.
Recent Q2 sales were 61M, 51M, 50M.
If Apple forecasted 40M iPhone X, that would be 65-80% of sales to the highest end model. In Q2
20M would be 33-40% iPhone X.

Yep. Sounds bout right.

Personally, I think the new UI, with no home button, is great. I found it simple to get used to and I love having a screen that's bigger than the iPhone 7+/8+, in the same form factor as the iPhone 7/8. Face ID works much better than I expected, too. There's no doubt that Apple will incorporate these two key features into all iPhones if the component costs are reasonable.

Here's Wall Street's earning forecast:

Gravity & Time

When we study how the universe behaves, we observe four forces (interactions): electromagnetic force, gravity, strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force.

Strong & Weak Nuclear Forces

The strong and weak nuclear forces are not directly observable by us since they operate on the atomic and sub-atomic scale, respectively.

The strong nuclear force is the strongest of the four forces and it's the force that holds matter together. It is approximately 137 times stronger than electromagnetism, a million times stronger than the weak nuclear force, and 1,038 times stronger than gravitation.

The weak nuclear force takes place over a distance of less than the diameter of a proton. It is the mechanism of interaction between sub-atomic particles.


Electromagnetism is a universal force we interact with and manipulate. This force travels as wave-particles (photons) and it includes light, heat, microwaves, x-rays, radio waves, etc. Since one of its properties is that it travels as waves, we can constructively and destructively interfere with it. Magnetism, which is part of this force, provides a great example of how this force works when playing with magnets. A north pole and south pole are attracted to each other, while like poles repel each other.

Being able to attract and repel electromagnetism, along with the ability to block it, is a key principle of this force. We pull down a window shade to block out light; we look into a mirror and it reflects (repels) light back at us.

Gravity & Time

Gravity is simply a force that brings all matter together. What prevents the entire universe from lumping together into one big ball of matter is gravity's interaction with the other forces. When climbing a tree and sitting on a limb, I can fell gravity pulling me down while the other forces overcome gravity's pull and keep me (and the tree limb) from falling to the ground.

Time, on the other hand, isn't an actual force. Rather, it's a dimension which can be measured, along with the three spatial dimensions (length, width, and height). Specifically, time is measured by the passage of events. But, on an absolute scale, time can vary which is clearly observed when traveling at speeds close to the speed of light. When a person travels at close to the speed of light, their immediate perception of events seems normal, but their surroundings will be sped up, like watching a time lapse movie. This isn't an illusion. The twin paradox is a thought-experment that illustrates the differences in the passage of time. If one identical twin travels on a rocket at close to the speed of light, they will return to find that their twin, who remained on Earth, has aged more. This phenomenon has been verified by flying a highly accurate atomic clock on an airplane and noticing the time difference when it has returned.

While time slows down as matter approaches the speed of light, there's an asymptote where matter can never reach the speed of light without requiring an infinite amount of energy. Light, on the other hand, is massless and it always travels at the speed of light which, in theory, means time has stopped for a photon of light.

What's interesting about gravity, as well at time, is it only acts in one direction or dimension. There seems to be no anti-gravity at any level. This makes it hard to measure since it can't directly react or be absorbed with a measurement device like, say, a light meter that measures brightness. While we can measure the passage of time, we can't measure its force, especially because that depends of its frame of reference. 

In other words, there's no way to block gravity or travel through time. Perhaps neither one truly exists as a fundamental quality, but rather as a consequence?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sodomy, the UCMJ, and Jury Nullification

Summary: My experience with the crime of sodomy in the military and jury nullification.

There are a lot of similarities between civilian courts and arbitration in the U.S. compared to the U.S. military courts system.

Civilian vs. Military Courts (roughly speaking)

  • Criminal trial = Military court-martial
  • Jury = Members (of the court-martial)
  • Jury foreperson = President (of the court-martial)
  • Grand jury (Preliminary hearing) = Article 32 hearing
  • "Judge Judy" =  Non-judicial punishment, Article 15 
  • Misdemeanor = Summary court-martial
  • State court = Special court-martial
  • Federal court = General court-martial
  • Civilian court (suing) = No military equivalent

There isn't a perfect equivalent between civilian and military courts. The determination regarding which court-martial level is appropriate is made by the convening authority who factors in what level of punishment is appropriate. A key point is that the military courts-martial system does not handle civilian cases (only criminal). Military members can pursue civil cases in civil court.

Jury Nullification and Sodomy 

Jury nullification is a concept where members of a trial jury can vote a defendant not guilty if they do not support a government's law, do not believe it is constitutional or humane, or do not support a possible punishment for breaking a government's law.

In 1996, I was the president of a special court-martial where a married Marine sergeant in my battalion was charged with adultery and a lesser specification of sodomy (specifically, oral sex). Adultery and oral sex were both criminal military offenses under the UCMJ, even if the latter was performed between a married, heterosexual, couple.

As we, the members of the court-martial (jury), deliberated, we effectively ignored the sodomy charge since it was consensual. At the time, I had no idea we had implicitly invoked jury nullification. Looking back, I'm sure we all would have felt a bit hypocritical had we found the sergeant guilty of the crime of consensual oral sex, even though his lover (a married civilian woman), has testified against him through her confession.

We found the sergeant guilty of adultery. We thought we'd be dismissed at that point, but then the judge ordered us to return the next day so we, the members, could determine the punishment and pass the sentence. I don't recall the specifics of the sentencing other than we were given a list of appropriate punishments and we voted on them, from the least to the most severe, until enough of us agreed. The beauty of the courts and Constitution is that their objective is to favor the defendant as much as possible.

Consensual Sodomy Today

"Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) was the official military policy from 1994 – 2011 whereby closeted gay military members were allowed to serve in the Armed Forces. The irony, before and after DADT, is that consensual sodomy, even between married, heterosexual, couples, was illegal.

Fortunately, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 decriminalized consensual oral sex and sodomy.