Friday Four

Friday, March 14, 2014

1. It's nice to have Internet again. The repairman showed up early -- offered earlier, but the kids were napping -- and fixed the problem in no time. Were Charter's voicemail system half as good, I wouldn't have had to call nearly ten times before the automated notification that there was a major outage "in your area" stopped.

Charter surveys its customers about its human representatives and its repair personnel (who were uniformly friendly and professional), but its metrics will never say, "Your voicemail system is horrendous and might be costing you customers." Charter should find out who did the voicemail for USAA and CVS and hire (one of) them pronto. Oh, and find a better way to tell customers about major outages.

Of course, had I remembered the odd wiring necessitated by an old house with an odd layout, it might have occurred to me that a bad splitter was the problem some time before the repairman started working. Maybe I would have been less easily mollified by the automatic announcements...

2. With the cable repairs over early, I had time to take my kids to the park. It was just a hair cooler than I would have liked, but otherwise gorgeous. Pumpkin shouted, "I see other kids!" as the park came into view from the stroller. It is amusing what we ended up doing after the swings. There's a big, multilevel slide there, with several stairways and landings. Pumpkin declared that, "This is our home", and then proceeded to direct me in her make-believe game of "sick baby". Lots of linen-changing, cleaning, and clothes changes were involved. Pumpkin would occasionally "go to the basement" (i.e., climb to the ground and back) for new linens. I had to tell her that since she was just pretending to carry sheets, it was okay to use the hand rail.

It being close to five, people started filtering away, but before I thought of that, I briefly wondered whether all my daughter's talk of vomiting babies had made people think I'd dragged two sick kids to the park.

3. A scientist has invented a fifty-cent microscope made mostly out of paper:

Because of the unique optical physics of a spherical lens held close to the eye, samples can be magnified up to 2,000 times. (To the right are two disease-causing microbes, Giardia lamblia and Leishmania donovani, photographed through a Foldscope.)

The Foldscope can be customized for the detection of specific organisms by adding various combinations of colored LED lights powered by a watch battery, sample stains and fluorescent filters. It can also be configured to project images on the wall of a dark room.
That's right. This thing isn't just a toy.

4. The "uncanny valley" rears its vaguely disconcerting head again, this time in the realm of text-to-voice conversion:
Years ago I found a trick to help over come this. it turns out that while we are pretty picky about pronunciation from people who speak our language natively we can be very forgiving of those who don't. This is also true for people speaking [E]nglish with a strong non-US accent. Anyone who works regularly with people from other countries will recognize this right away. Your brain goes into a sort of fuzzy recognition mode searching for meaning rather than critiquing flaws.
The author takes advantage of this fact by selecting foreign accents on text-to-voice programs that allow it to take the edge off listening to them.

-- CAV

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