Conversations with a 15-year-old, Draft and a new computer

Conversations with a 15-year-old

While watching a coffee commercial with Penelope Cruz:

Me: “Hey, it’s my girlfriend Penelope Cruz.”
Megan: “You sure do think you have a lot of girlfriends.”
Me: “Well, Penelope Cruz is one of my few top girlfriends.”
Megan: “Few top girlfriends? Whatever, dad. Her eyes are weird; it’s like she’s looking at two different things at the same time.”
Me: “She’s just bedazzled by my cuteness and doesn’t know where to focus.”
Megan: “Right. She can’t even see you.”
Me: “But she knows.”

NSA wiretaps

The Guardian broke a story last night about the National Security Agency’s program to mine information on millions of phone calls on Verizon’s cellular network; essentially, the government is farming information on phone calls made for every person in the country.

There was an interview with Glen Greenwald, who wrote the Guardian story, on MPR today over lunch; the interviewer asked him if he was worried whether the NSA’s phone-tapping program would be able to play a role in identifying the source who leaked him the information; he simply responded “I don’t want to talk about that,” and the interview ended.

And now it’s out that the NSA also are similarly mining Internet data; no surprise there. Story on CNN.

This is what happens when you allow the government to expand its powers because “I have nothing to hide.” Because eventually you can’t possibly have anything to hide. “Privacy” doesn’t mean protecting secrets that you don’t want anyone to find out; privacy means you have a right to lead a life that is none of the government’s business. It’s hard to imagine “we have the right to secretly collect information on every single one of your communications and store that information indefinitely for whatever reason we see fit” should be legal.

New computer update

Last week, I upgraded my laptop at work; I traded up from a 2009 MacBook Pro to a screaming fast new Retina-display MacBook Pro with 16 gigs of RAM and a 500-gig SSD. Seriously. Screaming fast.

For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I have a machine that performs near the speed that I think. I haven’t had to wait on anything; I want to do something, the computer responds. There’s no hesitation. I don’t wait for anything to load. I just decide I want to do something, ask the computer to complete a task and it’s done.

Honestly, I’m probably overestimating just how fast this new machine given what I have traded up from. My 2009 model was being overworked to the point that I was estimating spending somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-45 minutes every day waiting on spinning beach balls. In the few days I’ve had this new computer, I haven’t even seen a beach ball — let alone wait for a task to complete to necessitate having to watch one for a countable segment of time. Because that was starting to drive me absolutely insane.

New tool: Draft

The Internet is awesome, and there are always fun new toys to discover. Today’s fun new toy is Draft. Draft is a Markdown-enabled web-based writing platform; it also has added a media player with some very clever keyboard shortcuts for navigating playback for helping with transcriptions.

I used Draft for the first time this afternoon to transcribe audio from an interview I did this morning. It worked like a dream. The controls for controlling the audio were incredibly intuitive and easy to use, and it made for probably the smoothest transcription I’ve ever done.

Draft is like a lot of web services in that it has a fully functional free account, with some added features that require a subscription. I am already using two Markdown environments — Day One and iA Writer — and I’m not sure how Draft would replace either of them so I doubt I’d be in the market for the paid version. But I’ll dive right for it when

The only hiccup I encountered when using Draft was that it didn’t natively play the .WAV audio files that are generated by Evernote’s audio-recording function. I had to export the audio from Evernote, convert it to an m4a in QuickTime so I could put it into Draft.

LEGO Shellraiser

I picked up a LEGO Shellraiser on eBay for Helen; it was a no-minifigs auction that didn’t include the turtles or Dogpound’s van, so it was pretty cheap.

We finally got it built this morning, and it’s a pretty disappointing model. Visually it looks very cool, but functionally it’s quite poorly designed. The mechanism that is supposed to allow the wheels to raise for sewer mode or whatever mostly just collapses under the weight of the vehicle, and it creates a serious structural problem with the windows; the support beams for the wheels don’t allow enough space to build adequate support for the windows, which are attached only by a 2×1 brick. So the slightest pressure will collapse them. The frame for the roof also isn’t sturdy, so pushing the wheels up to use the whee-raising mechanism as intended usually just shoots the entire support pillar through the top of the model. It’s a cool-looking vehicle, but it’s screaming for a redesign.

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