Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Voting No on Maryland Gambling Expansion & Question 7


I have several reasons why I'll be voting no on question 7.  (Do you favor the expansion of commercial gambling?) 
  1. Out of the 32 countries I've been to a handful of them have had gambling.  The areas that have gambling get this depressed vibe that's similar to what I've felt in communist countries.  Call me weird but that's just what I feel. 
  2. Specifically, I've been to Las Vegas about 30+ times for work events.   I don't want my home state to have the feel that Las Vegas has.   It brings the horrors of gambling addiction into an erie mix of casino profit excess.  It's fun to visit one or twice but don't bring it to my home.  
  3. I like the way Warren Buffet explains the economic impact of gambling in this 2010 interview. 

  4. The second half of This American Life(transcript, Audio) episode has an interesting segment on gambling addiction.  They cover brain scans of pathological gamblers and predatory practices of casino owners.
  5. Have you ever seen a poor couple at a lotto card ATM machine on a gambling bender? It's unbelievably sad.  It's even sadder when their ATM card doesn't work for refills.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Inspiration vs. perspiration. Sprint vs. Marathon


Edison said “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” The problem is most of our social and psychological rewards are wrapped around inspiration. We've turned into a society of slactivists. What tools or systems give the same social and psychological rewards that happen in the inspiration phase happen in the perspiration phase? 

TED, Ignite, Foocamp, Barcamp, openIDEO, - What's the next level? Hackathons and makeathons are really just sprints. They're helpful and rewarding but real change takes months or years of dedication by many. 

Are there any good books on this topic? I  feel a startup idea brewing.  Hit the jump or go here for a facebook discussion.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Intoxication & Awareness of your filter bubble.



Here is an interesting TED talk forward to me by my friend Sean Clark.    I'll admit it.  I get stuck in my filter bubble at times.  It's fun. It's safe. It's easy.    But if your'e stuck in a filter bubble, don't blame the tech industry.  Be aware there are potential filter bubbles all around us and they only are going to get more severe as the advertising and publishing industry tailors their strategies to be customized to the individual.  

Turn off your filters to show you all the data.  Go out of your way to find new information sources.   Try a different search engine or change your settings.  If you really care about people dying in Africa you are the one that needs to shut off Facebook and read something meaningful. This is not a technical problem, it is a cultural problem.

It is your job to control your time.  Enjoy the intoxication of your bubble, but be aware when your'e in it.






Sunday, January 15, 2012

International shopping: Are you giving money to the 1%? Be smart & keep 2.6%


Image via Images_of_Money on Flicr
I was buying some parts for the office today from Italy in Euros.  Paypal's default option is to take the money from your paypal balance and charge you their default commission rate of 0.768327 euros per dollar.  The Wall Street Journal's Rate today is .7888 or 2.6% more favorable for me.   Who gets this 2.6% juice?  Paypal.

My business visa  charges a 3% currency conversion fee and they couldn't tell me what the exchange rates are based off of so this wasn't a good option.

My Personal Amex charges a 1% currency conversion fee and I get 1% cash back making that fee a wash.  My personal Amex's exchange rate is based on the numbers published in the Wall Street Journal.  I'm sure there are also cards out there that have 0% international currency conversion fees.

By using the right mix of financial tools I was able to save 2.6% on my international buying.   Ultimately the merchants who take credit cards get screwed with all this stuff, but until something changes and we have some disruptive technology from startups like dwolla.com, hold on to your wallet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why I'm voting for Otis

I'm probably a little late to the party with this endorsement, but I thought I'd throw it out there.  

In the long run we need to move our city to a fairer election system.  For one opinion on how to do this, read an op-ed by my friend Tracy Gosson and her republican friend Richard J. Cross.

Until that happens, I decided to vote for Otis this week for a few reasons:

  1. Otis' property tax reduction plan is workable.  Solving the size of our tax base is a critical step in the success of our city.  This can be funded a number of ways.  City government is still staffed for a population that was 30,000 greater a decade ago. 
  2. Stephanie Rawlings Blake has blocked the release of police and budget data for 15 days prior to the election.  There was an 80% increase in police overtime last year and nobody at her office over the last 10 days will answer a Baltimore Sun reporter's questions.  "Police overtime data stats I've obtained from source show 80 percent increase from FY 2010 to FY 2011."  http://twitter.com/#!/justin_fenton The press has decreasing power as the media industry changes.  It is critical that our elected representatives are responsive to citizen and media requests for systems we fund.  How is withholding this information for about 15 days prior to an election less destructive to our society than perjury?
  3. The incumbent owes too many favors into the world of big developers.  Lots of shady contributions have occured.  See this Baltimore Brew article and Baltileaks crowd sourced data document on her funding. It's too bad the Baltimore Sun can't fund investigative reporting like this. 
  4. I have a few friends that support and have spent a lot of time with Otis. They have no vested interest in Otis being elected other than improving the value of the city and their homes. 
  5. Just out of curiosity, I examined one of the names on Baltileaks' crowd sourced funding document.   It just so happens that the one person I looked at, Jennifer McComas, owner of Ryleigh's Oyster Bar, donated $1,000 to the incumbent's campaign 1 month prior to her bar's liquor license termination hearing.  Coincidence?  I think not. I'm not sure what impact the mayor has over these hearings, but this certainly doesn't look good considering Jennifer lives in the county and has no obvious vested interested in the city other than her expiring liquor license. 
It's time for a change. Otis for Mayor!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My iPhone Apps List

Some friends of mine just bought iPhones and they wanted to know what apps to get.  Other than the built in apps, below are the apps I use on my phone.   For a list of hacked apps, see my pervious post.  

Apps I'm currently using: 
  • Facebook - Free.
  • Google Voice – Free. Ring multiple phones, find me features, txting on your desktop, Call Screening, voicemail to email, voicemail transcription
  • Navigon $60.  I happen to use this for navigation, but any nav app will do
  • Drop box – Free App.  Click the link to get a free account first. Great for file syncing. 
  • Chipoltle – Free.  I mainly have this because they just built a location below my office but their iphone app rocks.  It's great being able to jump the line with a prepaid to-go order.   
  • Google Search App - Free.
  • Flashlight - $1. You can probably hunt for an ad supported free one.
  • Epicurious Free. iphone/ipad for cooking recipes
  • Twitter –Free
  • Mint.com Free. For personal finance tracking.
  • Airfoil speakers Free with purchase of desktop/laptop software.  (Turns my iphone into an airfoil /Airplay location) 
  • NY Times – 20 articles a month are free.
  • Instapper – $5.  Great way to store articles to read stuff later
  • Dragon Dictation – Free.  Your voice to Text for SMS or e-mail. 
  • Pandora - Free.
  • Go DC Metro- Free.  Great map with metro times for Washington, DC
  • Google's Latitude Free. If you want to share your location or find where your friends are, consider this tool.
  • Paypal – Free.  I don't use this very often but it is nice to have.
  • Zillow – Free. Look up how much surrounding houses around my current position are selling for. 
  • Foursquare - Free.  This is a huge waste of time but I still use it. 
  • Itap Remote control - $ If I need to remotely control a computer, these suite of apps are nice to have. 
Must have apps when traveling
Kindle Free. I used it for e-travel books and this allowed me to carry only one device.
zGPS - Free. Only for hacked iphones allows you to cache gooogle maps when traveling. 
City maps to go Paid. Gives you cached maps when international roaming is expensive or not available.

Apps I'm trying that I like so far
Cardmunch.  Free. Scan and OCR your cards with a photo.  Just got bought by LinkedIn.
Day one– $2 - A daily journal tool.

Apps I used in the past. 
Slacker – I switched to pandora.  I like Pandora's randomized music selection better but really miss slacker's caching feature.
Worldcard – If all goes well with cardmunch I'm switching to that app. Card munch is free and uses real humans for the OCR.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence or Addicted? Thoughts for Independence day.

Did you see Exxon spilled 40,000 gallons of oil at Yellowstone today? Do you think Americans have independence?  Maybe so, but certainly not from oil and that is killing our economy and our environment.  Out of all the oil produced in the world, US cars burn 1 out of 9 barrels. Americans are pushing $1billion a day of wealth out of the country on oil imports.  This is exacerbated by US inflation and the declining value of the dollar. If you want to read more about the dizzying array of factors that impact oil prices check out this article from the Washington Post, The unpredictable forces behind oil prices. The Economist also wrote a relevant piece on our crippled transportation infrastructure  http://econ.st/lmaS6R

Just for kicks let's try swapping the Mayo Clinic's drug addiction symptoms list with oil.

Drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include:
  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug even though you can't afford it
  • Doing things to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn't do, such as stealing
  • Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you're under the influence of the drug
  • Focusing more and more time and energy on getting and using the drug

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jim Gilliam - The Internet is My Religion

An interesting story told by Jim Gilliam, a cancer survivor and his journey from extreme christianity to believing in the connected power of humanity.   A few quotes I found worthwhile. 

"God is just what happens when humanity is connected.  Humanity connected is god. Each one of us is a creator but, together, we are THE creator.”

"...Then one day my dad brought home this funny looking phone and plugged it into his computer It made this sound  bizarre screeching noise like it was trying to mate with a rhinoceros.  Instead it attracted me.    That's when I found out computers could talk to each other…(I would go online and meet people all over the world) .I was judged by my brain not discounted by my age. "  

Thanks to What Weekly for sharing in this week's news letter.  



Saturday, May 14, 2011

Don't be like American Express

The wrong way to spend millions of ad dollars:  Are you familiar with Firesheep and Facebook security threats when browsing facebook without security?  If not, read about it in the international news magazine of your choice.   After firesheep hit the press shortly after the October 2010 release, Facebook quickly allowed users to switch browsing to the more secure https in Late January 2011.


Fast forward to 10 months later.  American Express is doing an international marketing push to get small businesses to do online advertising through their new ad platform branded American Express Open.  I've been tracking them since I saw their booth in January at CES, Las Vegas.  One of their ads on Facebook was targeted at small business owners.  The ad probably hit me due to the my Facebook showing "Owner at Mp3car.com" or some other keyword I have in my profile.    Amex is spending tens if not hundreds of millions on digitally marketing AMEX Open to small businesses.  Where do they drive their traffic?  To this page:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Turn your TV into art with Flickr

I was tired of semi-bare walls in my apartment and a blank TV that I rarely watch.  Currently I'm too cheap to buy art for a place I might not live in for a long time.  What's the solution?  Let's get the best of Flickr's photos streamed to my TV using my mac mini and the internet connection.  RSS will do this for you in low quality.  Use the directions below to go high def.  To get started you''ll need a TV, internet and a mac mini.  There are ways to do this with a PC, but this blog post focuses on macs.
  • Use Photocastr to make a photocast for iphoto
  • Click the link created in the step above opening the photocast in iphoto.
  • In System preferences, Desktop & Screen Saver, select the photo-cast as a screen saver on your mac
  • There are several screen saver methods.  I prefer the mosaic.  
Here are the results:

Other thoughts:
  • Consider using your new photocast to also change the imagery for your desktop background. 
  • Save power and have your computer and TV wake up only when you are home. 
  • Eventually it would be cool to hook this up with a motion sensor so the art only "turns on" when I'm in the room, further saving power.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why I hack my ipad/iphone

  1. Never plug into your computer again.  Use Wi-fi sync to connect/sync with itunes.
  2. Download cached maps and a free navigation tool called Xgps.  This is great for travel.(july 2011 update) 
  3. Mywi - Turns my phone & ipad into wifi hotspots when I need them
  4. Trick your apps into thinking you are on a high speed connection for better media quality using my3g.
  5. No roaming during international travel (Buy a local sim card when you get there)
  6. Full Force - Makes the small iphone apps go full screen on the ipad with no resolution loss.
  7. SBSettings - A quick popup for controlling apps that are running and basic functions like wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, screen brightness, quick reboot, ect.  Some plugins here.
  8. Longitude - Auto updates my GPS position for Google's latitude service
  9. Using VOIP (Voice over Internet) I sold my house from Russia.  The call quality was actually better than using land line phones.  siphon was the app I used.
  10. I spilled milk in my home button.  Now i can swipe my finger from right to left at the top of the screen to activate the home button.  I'm trying to hold out for a replacement phone until the iphone 5 update comes at the end of the summer. (july 2011 update) 
Other things you can do, that I don't with a hacked iphone/ipad:
  1. Use a bluetooth keyboard / mouse using btstack
  2. Do face time video conferencing over 3g using my3g
  3. The Cydia store was the only place to get a Google voice iphone app.  Apple has now allowed google to post their app.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Switching twitter names @robertdwray -> @wraydo

Why?

  1. I wanted something shorter for the RTs.  Character counts are precious.  @robertdwray vs wraydo  You can throw 2-3 words in there. 
  2. Wraydo - Radio?  I am tech geek. 
  3. Wraydo - I would like to think I am a doer
  4. My last name is Wray.  My middle initial is D for Douglas.  O is for out of the box thinking.
All you squatters out there with unused twitter names... you should be ashamed.   You know who you are. Shame on twitter for not having an auto prune policy. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The iPad's role in your car?

(originally written for and posted at mp3car.com)

 At first glance, the idea of having a 7.5" x 9.5" iPad in or around my dash doesn't sound realistic or desirable at all.   The New York Times liked the concept.  Navigadget hates it.  I hated it, but the more I think about it the more I like it.   About a year ago we did a video of how the iphone was the death of the PND and the concept here is similar.  The iPad's size and a few other details aren't perfect but many people will find a way to mount these in their car.  Why?  Love it?  Hate it?  Let's get the debate rolling on the mp3Car forums.  Some key pieces of technology and features contained in the iPad are leapfrogging features currently available in the car:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bmorefiber

I have been spending a good bit of time on this project.  We have gotten great press coverage, support from the city and city data.    Read more at www.bmorefiber.com

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Grant clarifications

UPDATE 3-7-10 - I made a website called wwww.quickexplore.org specifically for my bike project. You can track that project in detail there.

  • The map tracking and elevation information will be overlaid in a corner of the screen with the trail video filling up approximately 66% of the screen. 
  • The videos will be available to anyone who wants to use them at no cost.  There is almost no trail documentation so I imagine these movies will be posted at all relevant websites.  I will use social media, and e-mail communications to make relevant organizations aware of the existence of the videos.  



Sunday, February 7, 2010

Baltimore Ignition Grant Planning

UPDATE 3-7-10 - I made a website called wwww.quickexplore.org specifically for my bike project. You can track that project in detail there.

What: Ignite Baltimore is offering a $1,500 grant to start a new idea.  If approved, this grant will utilize about $390 of funds from the 1st ignition grant.


Goal:  Increase usage, knowledge and appreciation of parks & trails in the Baltimore area.

Background:  Our city has invested millions on parks, but they continue to be underutilized.  Health care costs and obesity are ballooning out of control.   Our parks are a great free way to stay fit and enjoy the outdoors!


Method: 5 minute video clips of Baltimore trails
  • Accelerated video of entire trail  (example below)
  • Pauses to show highlights from the trail
  • Map overlay to help viewer understand geography (example below)
  • Help viewers understand trail difficulty through Elevation overlay




Monday, January 25, 2010

Stop playing facebook games. Learn how to help #haiti with no cash in 10 minutes.


This Saturday I went down to check out the Crisis Commons.  The event was a mind blowing collaboration of over 1,000 technical volunteers on three continents.   Crowd-sourced community-generated maps have become the official on the ground map resource in Haiti.  In this video, Fortiusone's CTO Andrew Turner explains how you can start helping Haiti in 10 minutes with no cash, just some of your time. Links talked about in the video are ushahidi - Haiti SMS disaster relief collaboration, Crisis Commons ,and ImapHaiti.

How you get started in less than 10 minutes: http://imaphaiti.com The event was also covered by internal media organizations such as CNNBBCWashington PostLA Times,  Wired and O'Reilly Media.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday PM Haiti Updates


I just posted this on my friend's Haiti Blog.  I thought I would post this here as well.

Carol and Tom tried to send me several pictures today.  The mobile network has been terrible.  I have gotten no updates.  Hopefully we will have some text and pictures tomorrow.

I had a 15 minute phone call with Tom tonight.  He has been made the "chief of staff" at the hospital.   There are a lot of amazing efforts happening here in Baltimore to raise money.   Tom hopes to get a chief of technology at the hospital tomorrow to handle communications issues.

A lot of you have been asking what to do.  The answer is send money to professional disaster relieve organization.  Just flying to Haiti and saying I am here to help is not a good idea.

UPS has also shut down all shipments in and out of Haiti until further notice, so 'care packages' are not an option.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friends in Haiti

Two great friends are on their way to Haiti to help.  Check out their blog to see what things look like on the ground and how you can help. http://www.carolandtominhaiti.com/

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One week later, meter now worse off by 2 hours and 1 minute


The office of Jim Kraft (Baltimore city councilman, District 1) called the parking authority, who in turn called me.  They both insisted the problem would be fixed ASAP.  The problem is now worse.  As of December 12, 2009 2 dollars buys you negative 1 minute of parking in front of Whole Foods. The meter shows 4:42 and my phone shows 6:43.  If you bought a 2 hour pass it would expire 1 minute ago.  How much did the city spend on these meters?  A writer at the examiner also agreed with me this is ridiculous.

I sent a letter to Jim Kraft's office again.  I am not upset about this one meter, I am upset with the  disfunction of our system.

If we are trying to encourage folks to move to the city and increase the tax payer base, little things like this are terribly corrosive to that effort.

I am sure the city paid a fortune for these meters.   Can't someone enforce the warranty on these meter system purchases?  Being a computer guy, I can promise this is a very basic fix in the meter software.
The clocks should be automatically updated daily when the credit card transactions are processed.