Friday Four

Friday, July 01, 2016

1. Wrongly thinking that heading home would allow me to outrun a severe thunderstorm, I left McDonald's and almost immediately learned that I was driving straight into it, instead. With only a short way to go, and no easy way to turn around, I continued through rain and hail so thick I had to stop several times. Three detours around fallen branches and what seemed an eternity later, I approached our driveway only to stop as I watched a huge branch fall onto my parking spot. The branch could have easily wrecked the car or killed me. And this came after I thought, "I could get killed in this mess," more than once on the way.

I was doubly fortunate, first for wanting to get out of the house, and second for returning as late as I did.

In light of this, I easily recognized the following as a "first world problem": Home Depot had installed the chain backwards on the saw I rented to clear the debris.

2. Confronted with a dying laptop while waiting on car repairs, I decided to try getting Emacs to run on my smart phone. Waiting a couple of months to try this made things easier since the maintainer for one of the prerequisite apps made changes in the meantime that rendered some fiddling unnecessary. That said, it was useless until I learned how to get it to access files from other apps.

With just a software keyboard, it is a little clumsy to use, and some of my customizations don't work, but it actually came in handy a day or so ago when I needed to search a text document. For kicks, I am writing a draft of this post with it while at an "express" facility to change my driver's license to Maryland -- and now it's my turn... So I can say I've written a third of a blog post using Emacs on a smart phone.

But my best use for Emacs on my phone, as it is now, is to access my various to-do lists in Org Mode, which this does infinitely better than the Org Mode app.

3. Via Snedcat comes news of an interesting application of GPS to simplify mail delivery in Mongolia, which remains largely nomadic:

The company is called What3Words and they've developed an app that records GPS coordinates to nine-square-meter plots and simplifies them into a three-word combinations to mark a specific location a map. The Mongol Post, the country's national mail service, announced in May that it would be switching to the system, which is set to come into effect on August 1. The change is viewed as an efficient and cost-effective way to improve Mongolia's postal problems in rural areas and in the capital Ulaanbaatar, where many streets don't have names and many residents live in makeshift housing without a designated address.
Developing nations have also used the technique for urban package delivery, epidemic tracking, and delivery of anti-malarial drugs.

4. The phrase of the day is "zombie statistic," which Word Spy defines as:
A false or misleading statistic that keeps getting repeated no matter how often it has been refuted.
Their example/citation follows:
A statistic commonly used when referring to the [Canadian] brain drain is that 350,000 Canadians live in Silicon Valley. However, Dan Munro, a principal research associate in public policy at the Conference Board of Canada, recently researched the number and found through U.S. community surveys and the census that there are no more than 25,000 Canadians living there.

Mr. Munro called the 350,000 figure a "zombie statistic... It just won't die," he said.
Might a close cousin be the "zombie guideline," like the eight glasses of water a day we keep being told, wrongly, to drink?

-- CAV


John Shepard said...

Close call, Gus. I'm so glad that you're okay, and that you got home safely, even as you parked, during the thunderstorm.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks: And it was close.

I'll be much more attentive to storm warnings in the future, too. You don't need to hear anything about a tornado watch to run into trouble.

Short storm, too. Maybe half an hour long.


jacobeking said...

Comrade, do you have something negative to say about your recent trip to our glorious Motor Vehicle Administration?

Seriously though, having lived in several states, including the People's Republic of California, my home state of MD has the worst vehicle laws and nothing makes me feel more like I'm in Communist Russia than a visit to the MVA.

Gus Van Horn said...

I was a bit surprised after basically no wait in either of Massachusetts or Missouri. I dared think long waits were a thing of the past. They aren't, here at least.