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Joseph Cappellino
Software Developer and F/OSS Enthusiast
Software Developer and F/OSS Enthusiast
Joseph's posts

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Go watch this... now!

We need to get the science back in the political arena to help our civilization grow instead of being stifled.
We offer this 4min video on “Science in America”, containing what may be the most important words Neil deGrasse Tyson has ever spoken.

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+Nokia Stepping It Up

I applaud Nokia for attempting this, but they have to actually come through with it. +Moto tried in the beginning, but +Lenovo dropped the ball. I will give them props if they can actually do it.

PS - The likelihood of Nokia gaining my business over a Pixel is pretty low, but it would put them in the running.
Yes! Yes! Yes!

“Vendors are adding a skin on top of the OS. Consumers have the right to have the latest version of the OS, and we will be pushing the latest version and the patches as soon as it is available from Google.”

“We and Google will jointly enhance the Nokia brand to put the right kind of inputs into the 

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+YouTube TV

I have been using it since day 1.

Below are my gripes:

* 15 second jump forward. It really needs to be 30 seconds forward, at least, to get past the commercials. This is especially important when I'm use to no commercials via +Hulu.
* No native Android TV app. While Google Cast works, I would much rather have an app (inb4, I know it's coming, I just want it now [Varuka Salt]).
* DVR records ALL instances of a show, not just new episodes. For example, The Simpsons are in syndication, so I've got about 4 recorded shows, yet only one new one has aired. The same with The Big Bang Theory.
* There is no way to determine what you have watched, let alone delete a watched episode. This will be problematic going forward when my library gets big.
* Lack of AMC
* Lack of MTV [1]

It's not all bad:

* Family Shared Plan: I'm splitting the cost, so now it's $17.50/month.
* I can watch almost any episode from a show's current season. Some even farther back.
* The UI/UX is awesome!
* I can haz sportsball included?! Not that I watch a lot of sports, but this seems to be one of the better offerings in this space.
* AMC on the horizon.

Overall, the service is great. But, with the geographic limitations and standard commercials, +Hulu Ad Free might win out. But, I've got 30 days to test it out.

[1] - MTV is for my wife! ;-)

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Let's do this together. Give $1 and I will match it for 'Give a little. Change a life.'

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Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood Concert

Is anyone interested in going to see Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 25th at 7pm?

If so, I've got two tickets up on StubHub that you may want to get. We can't go, so you can get them at a slightly discounted rate.

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During our first pilot test in 2013, launching dozens of balloons from New Zealand to see if they’d circumnavigate the globe, we knew we had a lot to learn about how to use algorithms to move our balloons up and down and guide their paths through the sky. We thought we’d need a continuous stream of balloons around the world such that, as one balloon drifted away, another would be ready to take its place. We figured our main task would be to manage the balloons’ paths during their round the world journeys just enough to get them to drift over our Internet test locations in roughly equal intervals — so as one balloon moved out of range, another would move into place.

However, the more we flew, the more we realized that our algorithms were able to help the balloons do more than simply fly past our test sites on the ground. Our altitude control system was gradually getting better, so we were able to choose from a greater variety of winds and move ourselves north, south, east, or west. We wondered, what if instead of circling the world, we could ride these winds in small enough loops to cluster balloons over a single area? Forget a ring around the world - just hang out!

In mid 2016, we started sending balloons from our launch site in Puerto Rico to hang out in Peruvian airspace — and they did, some for as long as three months. We kept repeating the experiments and saw the same results: rather than send streams of balloons around the world, we had figured out how to cluster balloons in teams over a particular region.

Now that we can send small teams of balloons directly to areas that need connectivity, and get those balloons to spend more of their time in those areas, we believe we're years closer to our goal of bringing Internet connectivity to unserved areas.

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This are amazing insights into the current state of the US political landscape. Especially from a non-US citizen.
Cautious / Curious

For a variety of reasons, I've been recently looking at US politics much more than I had had in the past.

So far, US politics hadn't made much sense to me. While I understand the mechanics, I had been struggling to understand people's motivations to vote for one side or the other, as those didn't seem to make sense. The confusion went as far as my own position, where I didn't actually understand why I would tend to align with one specific side (disclaimer: I can't vote in the US, I'm not a US citizen).

After reading a lot on the subject, and after simplifying the matter down to a level where I could grasp it, I've reached a tiny bit of clarity. The underlying observation is that people fall into two main categories, which I call the cautious and the curious.

On the cautious side, people focus primarily on the potential risks that come with any situation, which is a form of pessimism.

On the curious side however, people focus on the potential benefits that come with any situation, which is a form of optimism.

I'm going to assume that many of my followers here are interested in technology, so I'm going to use an XKCD example: ("Tech Support Cheat Sheet"). This XKCD flowchart shows the way of thinking in the curious side of the world, especially the part that amounts to "Pick a menu item or button at random, click it. Repeat until you've tried them all." The cautious side of the world, by contrast, is afraid of breaking things, and has a much harder time trying new things.

I can think of my own family here. I can look at my mother and her siblings, where my mother is curious, while the other siblings are on the cautious side, especially the older sister. I can think of my paternal grandmother, who has a computer but is very much afraid of breaking it. I can think of my later maternal grandmother, who wouldn't let us connect a computer to her TV for fear of damaging it.

On the cautious side, it is natural to try to do things they way they've always been done, since doing things differently introduces potential risks. On the curious side, it is natural to try new things, since that introduces potential benefits. Inherently, cautious people are conservative, and curious people are progressive.

From there, we can make a number of guesses. As an example, when faced with an unexplained situation, the curious are more likely to explore, to look for an explanation, to understand what gains can be achieved and whether those gains are repeatable. In a similar situation, the cautious are likely to retreat, in order to avoid triggering any bad results, and to find an explanation that doesn't require to interact with the situation. In other words, in order to fit the unexplained into their world view, the cautious are more likely to resort to religion, whereas the curious are more likely to resort to science.

On the cautious side, which prefers to do things they way they've always been done, there's a natural inclination to respect the authority of leaders. That includes respecting parents and older family members: after all, the simple fact that they're still alive shows that they've been able to avoid risks. In general, the role of leaders is to protect people from risk, including by preventing behaviors that leaders believe might be risky.

Also on the cautious side, there's a logical trust that binds small groups together, which creates strong loyalty within those groups: under the instinct that interactions with strangers might carry risks, people bind in groups within which the interactions have proven not to trigger risks. Once a group is established, it creates a notion of insiders and outsiders, where the outsiders are assumed to be sources of risks.

Still on the cautious side, respect and loyalty somewhat combine and evolve into a notion of sanctity: sanctity is a line that defines some common traits and common symbols that represent or symbolize the authority and the group. The fear of risks prevents from exploring the other side of that line, which is then assumed to be a slippery slope of risks, and the line itself must be protected in order to keep risks away.

On the curious side, the natural inclination is to explore, to research new things, to improve lives, to look for new possibilities. Inherently, the process of trying new thing is a solitary endeavor, an individual process, since that process can't directly rely on accumulated experience. In order for a curious person to be able to drive their individual progress, they need a fair society around them that will support their explorations. That notion of universal fairness is far broader than the one that naturally emerges within loyalty groups on the cautious side.

Finally, on the curious side, while the instinct goes toward trying new things, there's also an understanding that there are inherent risks in such endeavors, and as a result there's an imperative to always consider the possibility of harm to others any time something new is attempted, since society obviously can't accept reckless behaviors. Society can only accept new behaviors is those new behaviors are built within a framework of care and avoidance of harm to others. That notion of universal care and avoidance of harm is far broader than the one that naturally emerges within loyalty groups on the cautious side.

Those traits, taken together, paint a deeper picture. The cautious side, which is the conservative side as we've discussed earlier, expects authority, loyalty, and sanctity, as means to stay away from risks. The curious side, on the other hand, relies instinctively on fairness and care in order to facilitate new things. Those values that are important to the curious side are the inherent values of liberals, and at that level of abstraction the other side is authoritarian.

In my mind, that's the basic foundation of US politics, which crosses a progression of pairs of contrasting concepts: cautious - curious, optimistic - pessimistic, conservative - progressive, liberal - authoritarian. It certainly helps me frame my own vision of US politics, since in my mind the words "conservative" and "liberal" themselves aren't inherently antonyms, and we've just established that they're different levels of social and political abstraction. In a context of trying to find a balance, maybe a middle ground, it's probably worth it to frame the discussions as conservative / progressive or as liberal / authoritarian.

From here, we can look at a number of dimensions that arise in politics and other domains under the lens of the curious - cautious divide and the various related aspects discussed above.

On the curious side, because of both the natural inclination toward science and the need to consider humankind a collection of individuals, it's fairly natural to rely on statistics to guide decisions. On the cautious side, the focus on negative outcomes and the higher trust placed in a small group means that it's more intuitive to focus on anecdotes. We saw that divide a few decades ago when seat belts appeared in cars: statistically, seat belts save lives, whereas anecdotally, there are some cases where seat belts cause injuries. We see that even more when looking at people's behaviors toward flying: optimists point out that, statistically, flying is far safer than driving, but pessimists' minds can't detach from the massive but rare news reports of catastrophic airplane crashes; cautious people's inclination toward respect within the group doesn't help here, since elders remember a time when airplane crashes were more frequent; on top of that, the more rare airplane crashes become, the more prominently they get covered in the news. Vaccines is another similar domain: statistically, they're far better than the alternative, but there's a non-zero risk of adverse reactions; we've stopped vaccinating people against smallpox, since the statistical risk of not vaccinating has fallen to zero, whereas the risk of a vaccine is never quite strictly zero. One last similar domain is health care: proponents of recent health care reforms point out that the number of insured people has increased, while adversaries single out that some people have seen their premiums increase.

Feminism can be looked at under the lens of that divide. The cautious side looks under a perspective of hierarchical authority, where increasing women's role threatens the established hierarchies. The curious side tries to increase fairness between men and women. The cautious side fears the risks that women could be exposed to as they leave the group. The curious side worries about the harm that women can suffer if they can't speak for themselves. The cautious side sees women's role in having children as sacred. It's no wonder that it's a contentious subject in politics.

Attitudes toward guns fit within some of those patterns. Risk-averse cautious people see guns as an effective method of protection, which can be entrusted to authority figures who will protect both the group and its sacred values, and which are only intended to be used against outsiders, whereas the other side gets fixated on the harm that guns can cause, as a statistically significant cause of preventable deaths in the country.

The Black Lives Matter movement is also interesting to look at. The liberal side sees clear issues of fairness and care. The authoritarian side sees an attack on the respect that is owed to law enforcement agencies, which compounds in white conservative circles with a lack of loyalty toward blacks and with a treatment of whiteness as sanctity.

It's interesting to look at the way people's political views change with age: over time, more and more of people's curiosity ends up with no tangible benefits, while more and more unsuspected risks end up causing harm, such that the sense of caution grows and people's political views tend to shift toward the conservative side. That's why younger voters and consistently more progressive.

Since I work in the domain of computer technology, it's interesting to think of my own industry along those dimensions. Computing is very much on the curious side of the divide, where survival requires to constantly do new things. In fact, the primary source of initial funding is called venture capital for a reason, as a warning to risk-averse investors that hey should stay far far away. As such, it's no surprise that technology companies tend to lean toward the liberal side. The industry is filled with the moribund shells of companies that didn't see progress as a key to survival. IBM said there was only a worldwide market for 5 computers, and DEC happened. DEC couldn't imagine the notion of a home computer, and ultimately Microsoft happened. Microsoft claimed that Apple was dead, and the iPhone happened. I won't be surprised if Apple's ultimately failed assumption ends up being that smartphones are a luxury. Within the tech world, the bias toward curiosity is harmful, since the industry keeps underestimating the difficulties that some users will have to adapt to any change.

Fragments of sentences that are said by conservatives and in turn trigger sharp reactions in liberals, such as "I'm not racist, I have black friends" or "As a father, as a husband," take a new meaning with the dimensions we've established above. One side puts a high value on fairness, and gets offended at the notion that the care for a vulnerable population gets trivialized as an anecdotal relationship. The other side puts a high value on group loyalty and therefore cares much more for people within the group, and gets offended at the notion that outsiders need to be treated with the same consideration as insiders.

Finally, there's a grab bag of notions that the right advances and that the left rejects, such as the homosexual agenda, the coastal elites, or other similar theories. The difference in opinion about those comes from the different perspectives around groups and hierarchies. The cautious side grows notions of belonging to groups and of conflicts between groups that the naturally individualist views of the curious side don't take into account. At the same time, the cautious side is accustomed to a hierarchical notion of authority, where the most likely relationship between two people or groups has one dominating the other; in that perspective, it's easy to picture oneself as the dominated side when you're clearly not the dominant side, even if the intended nature of the relationship is simply coexistence.

Personally, framing the partisan gap in US politics as an issue of curious vs cautious helped me. It also shows me that the path to repair the cracks in our society will require that everyone think about authority, fairness, loyalty, care and sanctity, even though only a few of those are dominant for most people.

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This is just amazing.

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Send a letter to your Representative to ensure this bill does not pass! 
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