Monday, August 21, 2017

Yom Kippur: Colonoscopy Reprieve

Several loyal readers and others have submitted a most intriguing question: If you have a colonoscopy procedure requiring a 36-hour-fast in preparation, do you also need to fast for Yom Kippur in the same calendar year? The question was submitted to our esteemed on-staff rabbinical counsel who debated the issue for days, after which they delivered their unequivocal answer: No! They stressed that the reprieve applied with special force if one would be on beach vacation when Yom Kippur fell because fasting during that period would be seen as unduly harsh. And while not posed as part of the original question, the counsel further explained that, because a colonoscopy prep entailed 36 hours of fasting and a Yom Kippur fast was just 24 hours, the "extra" 12 hours could be held over and applied in the next calendar year. Mazel tov! 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds (2017) by Greg Milner

As astounding as computers are, GPS (which today is the acronym of Global Positioning System, but already, with the Mars voyages is becoming the Galactic Positioning System) is the most amazing and far-reaching technology of all. Unlike computers which you don't have to be a rocket scientist to have some sense how they do what they do albeit with startling rapidity that itself is mind-boggling, how GPS can "know" where millions of cars and people and boats and airplanes are at every moment, and steer them to where they want to go, isn't just mind-boggling, it's beyond comprehension. As it turns out, while GPS is what enables all that to happen, it's not what GPS "is" (and I mean "is" in its ordinary meaning and not dependent on any other meaning of what the definition of "is"is).

Pinpoint is rich in the history of how GPS began with the Kon-Tiki voyage, and paints an elaborate montage of how GPS is infused in every aspect of civilian and military life--from the growing of beets to landing the Voyager on Mars to positioning 5 bombs to land within a meter of each other (including 2 bombs landing in the same hole) to enable weather forecasting based on water vapor content. Indeed, as it turns out, virtually everything now done that involves motion of any kind is GPS dependent.

There is only one small problem with the book: Unless you're much smarter than our reviewer, it doesn't tell you in simple enough terms what GPS is or how it works, or how it knows whether or not a street is a one-way street or whether a person is on the first floor or the second floor of a building. Once gets the sense that GPS is just a very very very accurate clock system that sends out continuous signals from multiple senders, but not how the receiver knows or is able to do what it does.

That one short-coming of the book aside, you do not need to be brilliant or even smart or even of normal intelligence to understand that, with our growing dependence on GPS, all the systems that rely on GPS (from maps to the power grid to the agricultural systems) are vulnerable to "hacking"--not hacking as in breaking into computers, but hacking in terms of signal interference or tricking so that the receivers (be they people, or helicopters, or bombers, or smart bombs, or electric grids) "think" they are in one place at a particular time when, in reality, they are somewhere else at a different time. In fine, the book is a "nice" reminder of the immutable law that, however brilliant our scientists and engineers, humans are incapable of designing anything that do not sow the seeds of our own destruction.  

Link to Pinpoint on Amazon

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Season 1 Ozark vs. Season 1 Breaking Bad

They are both excellent! They are similar in some ways (continually getting into situations that one cannot see the way out of) but different in others (the way out of such situations is quite different--Ozark is far more verbal than Breaking Bad which is actional). If you like one, you'll like the other. If you don't like one, you won't like the other, and then, you need to come to terms with the sad conclusion that you have a problem and should seek immediate counseling. I'm just sorry the second season of Ozark isn't out yet and that there are only four seasons of Breaking Bad to go. #Sad.  

Currency Exchange Rate App

XE Currency is an app available for both iOS and Windows devices, which provides reliable foreign exchange tools and services. With this app installed, you can check out and monitor conversions of more than 180 world currencies conveniently especially when you are travelling.
The figures shown in this app are based on mid-market rates, live and updated every minute, useful for comparing with the bid and ask rates offers by banks and money changers. The app shows the base currency on the top of the screen together with a handy calculator. Enter the number of units in your base currency and you will get the units automatically converted in other currencies. It is quick and handy and you don't have to look for another calculator.
It is easy to edit the list of currencies to monitor -- tap one of them to become a base currency, add more currencies to the list for conversions, or remove any of them by dragging it to the top of the screen.
XE monitors your rate. You can get notified if your rate hits a target after you have created a rate alert. It also allows you to review past exchange rates of currencies with charts showing price fluctuations in various time intervals. If you need more, market analysis, rate advisor, currency profile and money transfer services are accessible via the app’s menu.
It’s certainly a handy app that is free to keep on your mobile when you are travelling or dealing with multiple currencies.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Your Residential ISP's Dirty Little Secret

[Prefatory Note: What follows here pertains to Cox for certain. We cannot swear to it, but we would bet big that it applies to all other major ISPs]

Cox has two major divisions: Residential and Business. Both offer internet, television, and phone service. Putting aside loyalty discounts that might make Residential less expensive, they are price competitive. Enough for the similarities. Everything on the Business side is better! The Business side's technology is better (static instead of dynamic addresses; guaranteed connection speed no matter how many people are on the system; more phone features; and on and on) and it's services are more robust (much higher internet speeds if you want them; 500 long distance minutes for no extra charge). But best of all, the support on the Business side is WAY better. Beside your internet portal that allows you do anything, and a general support team, you have a rep with a direct telephone line and email address whom you can call or email for any issue, and he or she will take charge to have it resolved.

One note: If you get TV from the business side, while the STB is the same, On-Demand and the ability to stream to little devices is not available. If those services matter to you, you have the option to do telephone and internet from the Business side and TV from the Residential side. 

You don't have to have a business to sign up on the Business side. Just call Cox Business Sales at 1-866-456-9944, or you're welcome to call the rep I dealt with (Bryan Viol) whose direct number is: 623-500-3322 (I don't get any kick-back).