Archive for the 'Random Thoughts' Category

Inbox Bankruptcy

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

For the first time in as long as I can remember, my email inbox is finally empty. It’s nice, but frankly it’s also a little uncomfortable. It’s going to take some getting used to, as strange as that sounds.

This morning I had over 18,000 unread messages in my inbox, some dating back to 2006. After doing some basic math, I determined that it would be nearly impossible to catch up at this point, and it’s pointless to respond to emails that are years old anyway.

So, today I caught up to the beginning of the year… Jan 1, 2013. I created a new tag, “pre-2013″. I highlighted everything in my inbox, tagged it, and archived it.

Now, for nearly the first time ever, my inbox count is meaningful (3 messages since I starting composing this blog post).

I would highly recommend this approach to anyone who is hopelessly behind on their email. Take the plunge. It’s worth it.

Bobsled: It Could Have Been Awesome

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I’ve been a happy customer of T-Mobile for over a dozen years now, well before they were called T-Mobile. I’m writing this blog post because what I want to point out is a little too long for a tweet, and because I’m dying to hear from the ‘powers that be’ at Bobsled regarding their design decisions. I’m a huge fan of T-Mobile, and I want to see them succeed.

When I logged in to check on my usage today, I saw a reference to a service called Bobsled by T-Mobile. It seems to be divided into two separate pieces: “Calling” and “Messaging”. The voice stuff didn’t interest me, as I’m already a very happy user of Google Voice, but the Messaging product claims to synchronize SMS conversations across devices. That sounded really, really awesome. I usually carry two phones when I travel, and I travel quite often. It also claims to offer a Group SMS feature that really works — that is, any participant can ‘Reply to All’ and everyone else will successfully receive the responses.

So, I downloaded the Bobsled Messaging app, and patiently let it do its syncing thing. I then logged into their Bobsled web interface, and all of my SMS conversations showed up. So far so good. I sent a test SMS message from the web interface to a friend of mine, and he got it. Great.

Finally, I turned my phone off, sent a test SMS message to myself using Google Voice, and waited for it to show up on the Bobsled web interface. No bueno. It never arrived. As it turns out, your cell phone has to be turned on and have cell signal in order for Bobsled to function and be aware of new text messages. This seems really odd, given that T-Mobile is my carrier, and Bobsled is a service created and operated by T-Mobile.

In order words, this is how Bobsled works:
1) An SMS is sent to my cell phone number
2) T-Mobile receives the SMS on my behalf, since they are my carrier, and routes the SMS to my cell phone, wherever it is on the network.
3) If my cell phone is turned on and has service, the Bobsled app on my phone then forwards the SMS *back to T-Mobile* to be included in their Bobsled platform.

WTF?

This is how Bobsled could and should work:
1) An SMS is sent to my cell phone number
2) T-Mobile receives the SMS, copies it to their Bobsled platform, and routes a copy to my cell phone.

In the latter scenario, my cell phone would not have to be turned on in order for Bobsled to work properly. So, when I’m out of the country, I’d still be able to send and respond to SMS messages sent to my primary phone. That would be INCREDIBLY AWESOME.

But, alas, that’s not how the Bobsled system was designed and built. Instead, T-Mobile must first tell my cell phone about text messages and wait for my cell phone to tell T-Mobile what they should already know. It’s inefficient and silly, but it also prevents functionality that would be a true game changer in the mobile communications industry.

So, my question for T-Mobile is “Why?”

T-Mobile, as a carrier, is in a unique position to offer this kind of functionality, unlike Google. If T-Mobile were so inclined, they could easily create a Google Voice Killer. Think about it. Today, Google Voice can receive SMS message regardless of whether your phone is on, off, in, or out of service. That’s great, but it’s annoying not being able to use your primary number, and its frustrating trying to get other people to text you on the right number at the right times. (ie, When I’m stateside, call me at this number but text me at this number. When I’m out of the country, call me here and text me here.) With Bobsled, I can use my primary T-Mobile number for all my texting — even online — but my cell phone must always be turned on, have signal, and contain my T-Mobile SIM.

If T-Mobile would just copy my inbound SMS messages to their Bobsled platform, without relaying them through my phone, it would be over for Google Voice, at least for myself and hundreds of thousands of other people. I’m not saying that everyone would immediately switch, but I’m confident that this functionality would eventually cause hundreds of thousands of people to switch to T-Mobile from other carriers. I know I’m not the only one who travels, and I know I’m not the only one who avoids using Google Voice for SMS because of the confusion that two phone numbers causes.

I’m tweeting a link to this post to several Bobsled staffers. I would be thrilled to hear their thoughts.

The Case Against Adolescence

Friday, June 17th, 2011

It’s a shame that I never blog anymore, now that I have things to say. I feel like I’ve grown more in the last three years than any other period in my life.

My cousin Aaron and I have recently started exchanging some unfettered thoughts, which I’ve very much enjoyed. I’m thrilled that I lucked out with regard to the family I have, both immediate and extended. Without them, I would have had no chance… no values, no foundation, nobody to look up to, etc… My parents and grandparents set one hell of an example, and I pity most of my generation for not having been so lucky.

Anyway, something Aaron said in his last message prompted me to do a little searching, and I rediscovered two great links on Mises’s website. One of the two links is Doug French’s review of the book, The Case Against Adolescence, which I’ve blatantly lifted below:

In his book, Democracy: The God that Failed, Hans Hoppe argues that democracy and government have made people less farsighted and not as concerned with providing for ever-more-distant goals. Thus, society is tending toward decivilization. As Hoppe describes, adults are being turned into children. Children have very high time preferences, living “day to day and from one immediate gratification to the next,” Hoppe explains. American society has essentially lengthened childhood by creating adolescence.

In a very provocative new book, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen, psychologist Robert Epstein contends that when mammals reach puberty, they function as adults — except in America that is. Starting a hundred years ago, Americans gradually increased the age of adulthood to what many Americans now believe to be 26. You’ve heard, “30 is the new 20,” and “50 is the new 30.” Soon we will all be kids again.

Epstein argues effectively that American culture collaborates in artificially extending childhood through public schooling and labor laws. In most of human history, young people worked side by side with adults from their early teens with young women becoming wives and mothers. Early on, he fingers the labor unions as the culprits behind child labor laws. In 1881, the forerunner to the AFL-CIO made child labor a high priority: “We are in favor of the passage of laws in the several states forbidding the employment of children under fourteen in any capacity, under penalty of fine and imprisonment.”

Of course, unions didn’t want the competition from young workers who are likely smarter and more productive than older workers. Work by David Wechsler and J.C. Raven indicates that our highest mental age is in our midteens. According to Raven, “Apparently by the age of fourteen, a child’s trainability has reached its maximum, while after the age of thirty, a person’s ability to understand a new method of thinking, adopt new methods of working, and even to adapt a new environment, steadily decreases.”

Of course today’s teens don’t act like they have the most brainpower in society. How could they? They are isolated in government schools away from adults and given no responsibilities — they are infantilized. Infantilized by the many laws restricting young people: curfew laws, tougher driving laws, teen-wage laws, laws curtailing sexual activities, free-speech restrictions at school, censorship of educational activities, dress codes, smoking and drinking laws, ad infinitum.

But government and unions are not the only teen enemies. The author makes the case (sometimes effectively, sometimes not) that everyone works against teens being adults. The media portray teens as self-absorbed; business makes big bucks promoting teen culture; and even parents underestimate their teens’ abilities.

Epstein’s book is chock-full of examples of young people in history who have made tremendous contributions. Louis Braille, if he were a blind kid today, would be cooped up in special-needs classes. Fortunately, he lived in the early 1800s and had perfected the Braille system by the time he was 15 years old. Samuel Colt invented the multiround, revolving-head pistol when he was 16. Edgar Allen Poe had his first book published at 18, including poems he had written at age 12 and 13.

The fact is, creativity is at its peak in early childhood and the teen years. But as we enter adulthood, we learn to conform, which takes a toll on creativity. Public schooling was created to mold young people into compliant citizens, sapping their creativity. Teen ingenuity remains high, but given the need to rebel, lack of adult companionship, and laws prohibiting the signing of contracts, their creativity is rarely channeled into positive pursuits.

In a test for “adultness” cocreated by the author, the difference between how adults and how teens scored was statistically insignificant: “Age is simply not a reliable measure of adultness,” Epstein writes, “at least not once people are past puberty.”

So what should we do about all of this? Obviously abolishing the myriad of laws restricting teens would be a good first start. But, unfortunately, Epstein believes young (and old) people should be given rights only if they can pass competency tests. And one gets the feeling that government would be doing the administering of these tests — as if government bureaucrats should be trusted with the job.

As well done and interesting as Epstein’s book is, he doesn’t go far enough. As Murray Rothbard wrote in The Ethics of Liberty, a child has rights “when he leaves or ‘runs away’ from home.” Forget the tests; just set kids free.

See also: Education: Free and Compulsory, by Murray Rothbard

My Last Will and Testament

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I’ve had a hell of a life — better than I ever could have imagined or wished for — and, I plan to keep living it. However, it did occur to me recently that it would be preferable for my survivors to know my wishes in the event that it ends sooner than I expect it to. I don’t think anything I would want would surprise anyone, so I figured I’d just blog it. I’m not sure that this will be legally binding, but I feel confident that at least some of my business partners would attempt to honor it, even if they weren’t obligated to by law.

So, here it goes: :)

—–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
Hash: SHA1

* I, Christopher Lee Brunner, a resident of Birmingham, Alabama,
being of sound and disposing mind and memory and over the age of
eighteen (18) years, and not being actuated by any duress, menace,
fraud, mistake, or undue influence, do make, publish, and declare this
to be my last Will, hereby expressly revoking all Wills and Codicils
previously made by me.
* I appoint Saba Dovlatabadi as Executor of this my Last Will and
Testament and provide if this Executor is unable or unwilling to serve
then I appoint Frederick Lee Brunner as alternate Executor. If this
Executor is unable or unwilling to serve then I appoint Marjorie Hoffman
Brunner. If this Executor is unable or unwilling to serve then I appoint
Shannon Nicole Brunner. My Executor shall be authorized to carry out all
provisions of this Will and pay my just debts, obligations and funeral
expenses.
* Except where overridden by properly executed partnership and
operating agreements, I hereby bequeath all dividends, profit
distributions, and any other compensation resulting from the ownership
interest of any legal entity during the period of eighteen (18) months
after my death to my immediate family and charitable organization in the
following proportions: Ninety (90) percent of said monies shall be
distributed to Frederick Lee Brunner and Marjorie Hoffman Brunner, or
Shannon Nicole Brunner if Shannon Nicole Brunner survives both Frederick
Lee Brunner and Marjorie Hoffman Brunner. The remaining ten (10) percent
of said monies shall be distributed to the Ludwig von Mises Institute in
Auburn, Alabama.
* Once a period of eighteen (18) months has elapsed after my death,
all ownership interest shall be either liquidated or gifted to the
affected business partners in proportion to vested ownership of the each
affected business, at the discretion of the affected business partners.
Should the affected business partners elect to liquidate said ownership
interest, the resulting monies shall be bequeathed to my immediate
family and charitable organization in the same manner as outlined in the
prior clause.
* Ownership and resulting benefits of all promissory notes for which
the aggregate outstanding balance, per debtor, is greater than or equal
to ten thousand (10,000) dollars at the time of my death shall be
assigned to Saba Dovlatabadi for collection under the condition that
seventy-five (75) percent of the resulting monies are distributed to my
immediate family and charitable organization in the same manner that is
outlined above. The interest of said promissory notes may be waived at
the sole discretion of Saba Dovlatabadi, if Saba Dovlatabadi is willing
to meet this condition. If Saba Dovlatabadi is unable or unwilling to
collect the benefits owed to me or the trust established by this Will,
then one hundred percent of the ownership and resulting benefits shall
be assigned to Frederick Lee Brunner and Marjorie Hoffman Brunner, or
Shannon Nicole Brunner if Shannon Nicole Brunner survives both Frederick
Lee Brunner and Marjorie Hoffman Brunner.
* If a named beneficiary to this Will predeceases me, the bequest to
such person shall lapse, and the property shall pass under the other
provisions of this Will.
* If I do not possess or own any property listed above on the date
of my death, the bequest of that property shall lapse.
* I give, devise, and bequeath ninety (90) percent of the rest,
residue, and remainder of my estate, of whatever kind and character, and
wherever located, to Frederick Lee Brunner and Marjorie Hoffman Brunner,
or Shannon Nicole Brunner if Shannon Nicole Brunner survives both
Frederick Lee Brunner and Marjorie Hoffman Brunner. I request that the
remaining ten (10) percent of the rest, residue, and remainder of my
estate, of whatever kind and character, and wherever located, be
liquidated and given to, devised, and bequeathed to the Ludwig von Mises
Institute in Auburn, Alabama.
* If none of my named beneficiaries survives me, then the rest and
residue of my estate shall pass according to the order of intestate
succession in the State of Alabama.
* My Executor and alternate Executor shall serve without any bond,
and I hereby waive the necessity of preparing or filing any inventory,
accounting, appraisal, reporting, approvals or final appraisement of my
estate. I direct that no expert appraisal be made of my estate unless
required by law.
* The term ?testator? as used in this Will is deemed to include me
as Testator or Testatrix. The pronouns used in this Will shall include,
where appropriate, either gender or both, singular and plural.
* If any part of this Will is declared invalid, illegal, or
inoperative for any reason, it is my intent that the remaining parts
shall be effective and fully operative, and that any Court so
interpreting this Will and any provision in it construe in favor of
survival.
* I, Christopher Lee Brunner, hereby set my hand to this last Will,
on this 17th day of June, 2011 at 2222 2nd Avenue North, Suite 305,
Birmingham, State of Alabama.
* My secure cryptographic signature, which follows, shall serve as
undeniable, mathematical proof that I am the author of the foregoing
instrument, and that this instrument could not have been altered
retroactively.
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Why I Might Donate to Obama

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Many consumers aren’t really privy to what goes on behind the scenes when people use credit cards.

Well, let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Virtually any time you use your card — regardless of whether it’s a credit card or a debit card that you’re using like a credit card — the merchant gets hit with a substantial fee. There is usually a fee made up of a flat, per transaction fee on the order of $.25 to $35, plus a portion of the transaction, which can be as high as 7% in some cases. (Usually it’s closer to one or two percent, however.)

It’s extremely unlikely that Obama’s campaign is not subject to these fees. So, if someone were to, for example, visit Obama’s donation page, and make a “donation” of one cent, it would actually cost the Obama campaign something like twenty-five cents.

According to their website, each individual is allowed to donate a total of $5,000 per election cycle. (That’s $2,500 for the primary, and $2,500 for the general election.) So, for example, if one were to write a script that “donates” $5,000, one cent at a time, it would result in a net loss of $125,000 for the Obama campaign.

I haven’t done it… I’m just sayin’…

Livestation: For people who want real news

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

First of all, I’d like to note that all news sources, including these, are biased to some degree.

With that said, it’s often nice to get views of what’s going on in the world that aren’t directly influenced by the US government.

For that, there is Livestation.

It free, and it’s cross-platform. So, it works just fine on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Livestation carries the following channels (among others), each which offer a new take on world events:

  • Al Jazeera English
  • RT
  • Press TV
  • BBC World Service
  • France 24
  • CNN International

It’s worth checking out. You should go download it.

Ubuntu Linux External Display Issues on the ThinkPad T410s

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I had a hell of a time finding a solution to this, so I figured I’d post the solution I found here for anyone else who happens to want to run Ubuntu on a ThinkPad T410s with an external display.

Symptoms:
– If you manage to get your external display working at all, it matches your laptop’s internal display resolution

Solution:
1. Upgrade your BIOS
2. In your new BIOS settings, change it to always use Discrete Graphics
3. Boot back into Ubuntu
4. Run nvidia-xconfig (assuming you’ve already installed the proprietary drivers)
5. Reboot

That’s it. Should work fine now.

As simple as it sounds, that took almost all day to figure out. Good luck.

After you do this, you may discover that your external display goes blank when you shut your laptop lid. The solution can be found in this thread on the Ubuntu forums.

Gmail Compose Bookmarklet

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

If you use Gmail for everything, as I do, you probably wish you had a way to create a “Compose” button that saves you from having to go to Gmail in a new browser tab, and let it load, before you compose a new message.

There is an easy way to do this.

Simply drag this link into your bookmark toolbar:
Gmail Compose

Credit goes to hackaddict.net.

Differentiating Debits and Credits

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

To anyone reading this, sorry — something I just post things that are nothing more than notes to myself.

And, I happen to be teaching myself how to keep books right now.

This is a table of how credits and debits impact your accounts…

TYPE DEBIT CREDIT
Asset +
Liability +
Income +
Expense +
Equity +

Schedule Email to be Sent Later with Gmail

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Ever wanted to schedule an email to be sent at a later time or date?

Gmail doesn’t support this natively, but a Firefox addon called Boomerang adds the functionality.

UPDATE: I’m not sure how long this will last, but here’s a direct download link so that you don’t have to wait for an invite code. Click here for Firefox and here for Chrome.