A funny thing happened on the way to the office…

Starting on July 13, 2015 I will serve as a magistrate judge in the St. Joseph Circuit Court in South Bend. Because of my new duties, I will need to very carefully figure out what the limits are for members of the judiciary who want to blog.

This is an exciting opportunity for me, and I hope to be able to keep this blog up in one form or another to occasionally (okay, okay, infrequently) comment on things that pique my interest.

Stay tuned!

Review: Tile—a tool for finding lost stuff

Like most homes, our house has a back door. The back door has a deadbolt lock that is keyed separately from our other doors. We use this door several times a day to let our two golden retrievers outside.

For convenience, we used to keep the key to the back door on the countertop next to it. Sometimes that key would end up on the kitchen table near the back door if we had to clean off muddy paws or something like that. Having the key on the table would create a minor delay while one or both dogs were anxiously awaiting the chance to go outside. On some occasions, however, the key would end up somewhere else entirely. In another room. Across the kitchen. In a drawer. Oddly enough, this began happening right around the time that our child was tall enough to reach things on the counter. He denied all liability, however, so I have to assume this was merely a case of correlation rather than cause-and-effect.

Last year, my wife decided to pledge to a Kickstarter project called Tile. This project developed a small square tile with an RFID chip inside that could be detected by an app running on a smart phone. If you attach the Tile to an object, you can find that object using your phone. After the Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded, we received our Tiles. My wife immediately put the key to our back door on a key ring with a Tile. She also noted that our Apple TV remote often disappears (it’s small enough to slip between cushions on a couch), so she affixed a Tile to that as well.

Several months later, I am prepared to say that Tile works perfectly. Neither the key to the back door nor the Apple TV remote have gone missing since being Tiled. This may not have been what the folks at Tile had in mind, but it is certainly working well regardless.

In all seriousness, we have tested the devices and iPhone app, and Tile works very well. It’s impressive that the app lets you home in on the RFID signal with accuracy.

At $20 per Tile, it is money well spent keeping track of those things in your home that seem to wander off.

To my friends at the ACLU, stay out of Hollywood

The Internet is awash in repeated (and retweeted) reports that the ACLU wants an inquiry into gender discrimination in Hollywood. Some readers know I was active in the Indiana affiliate of the ACLU (even served a couple of years as its president). I often support much of what the ACLU works on, but on this instance I have to part ways with them.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of evidence of gender discrimination in Hollywood. And something ought to be done about it. But this is not an issue the ACLU should be pushing.

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded with a core purpose of protecting civil liberties—the rights found in the Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution. The ACLU’s purpose is to keep government from overstepping its bounds—even when that overstepping is wildly popular.

Hollywood, for all of its power, is not a governmental actor. It cannot infringe on First Amendment or even Equal Protection rights. Only a government can do that. Like it or not, there’s not a single thing in the Constitution that requires private industry to treat women fairly.

Again, I’m not saying Hollywood should be able to discriminate. I’m only saying that this issue is not something within the ACLU’s purpose. There are plenty of things the government is up to (NSA spying, police abuses, etc.) that needs the ACLU’s limited resources. Spending its time and money on something that involves private industry engaging in bad behavior is unwise.

NFL publishes price list for cheating

In a little-noticed move yesterday, the NFL published what can only be described as a price list for teams that want to get the rules waived during a game. All the team needs to do is inform the officials of the intended infraction and pay the designated amount (I’m guessing payments will be electronic?). The refs get payment confirmation and no flag will be thrown.

Word of this price list circulated quickly through the dark side of the Internet as players and teams fought to keep it secret. Of course, once something hits the Internet, it doesn’t remain secret for long.

Despite my efforts, I haven’t been able to get ahold of the actual price list, but based on the comments I’ve seen I can piece together some of its parts. Some were willing to chat with me online and share their thoughts. Out of respect, I won’t identify people making comments.

“This is great!” said one player. “If we need to interfere with a receiver, all we have to do is signal that the team will pay the $10,000. That’s a small price to pay for preventing your opponent from taking the lead in the fourth quarter.”

One coach noted that his club—one of the wealthiest—will have a distinct advantage. “We’ve had strong teams in recent years but just haven’t been able to get past the last hurdle. We’ve got plenty of cash, and I suspect we will use it to level the playing field against certain teams.”

I asked this coach if the NFL should just shred the rule book all together. “No,” he said. “Certain rules have to be there for safety reasons. That’s why grabbing a guy’s face mask will still get you a yardage penalty. But the rules designed to ensure fair competition, well, it’ll be nice to get them waived when needed.” When pressed to identify when a waiver might be needed, the coach said, “Say your offense has momentum. The last thing your guys need is some dunderhead getting himself declared an ineligible receiver and cutting the momentum off. For a lousy thousand bucks, we can ensure that a dumb mistake won’t kill us.”

With all of this coming on the heels of “Deflate-gate,” I had to ask the obvious question: does this price list include using under-inflated balls? One player would only say, “What do you think?” I asked what the named cost was, but he demurred. “It’s not a million bucks, I’ll say that.” He wouldn’t reveal anything more, which leads one to wonder: are there increased prices for playoff games, championship games, and even the Super Bowl? After asking the coach this question repeatedly, he simply signed off the chat.

What is wrong with @MacSparky????

David Sparks, aka MacSparky, has really done it this time. I don’t know whether I want to cheer or yell at him. I met David briefly a few years ago at Techshow. He’s as nice in person as he is in his podcast, Mac Power Users, or on his blog. But today he has my dander up.

David prepared a very nice, thorough review of the new MacBook. He discusses its pros and cons, and explains how it fits into his workflows. But then he included this little tidbit:

Since getting the new MacBook, I’ve found that I can work just about anywhere and I like that. Earlier this week I had lunch with my wife at Disneyland and then spent several hours doing legal work on the laptop while watching the Mark Twain steamship paddle down the Rivers of America. How many people can have that view from their office?

A photo of his laptop with the Mark Twain in the background accompanied that portion of the review. I don’t know Disneyland as well as I know the Walt Disney World theme parks, but I know right where that picture was taken.

Dagnabitall anyway!!!!

At first I thought, “David, what the hell are you doing taking work to Disneyland? That’s blasphemy! Are you nuts? I won’t even attend MILOFest because I’m not spending my time at a Disney resort in a conference, doing work, or anything else like that.” Disney locations are sacred to me. I was so irritated with David I was almost speechless.

Then it hit me: David can do work at Disneyland. Holy freaking cow. I am soooo jealous. On rare occasion, I can duck out of the office with a file and my MacBook Pro and do some work while enjoying a nice iced tea or other soft drink at some restaurant. But I don’t have a view that’s anywhere near what David had.

I suspect that David has a number of places in Disneyland where he enjoys just sitting and watching the park do its thing. I can think of a few places at WDW where I enjoy sitting and just absorbing the experience of being there. If I was located close enough to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, I can imagine that I might use a couple of those spots as a remote office. Being 2084 miles away from Disneyland and 1,106 miles from Disney World makes it pretty much impossible, I’m sad to say.

Anyway, David, good on ya for having a great (really, a great!) place to do some work. I will remain envious, but you’ve got my support. Just do me a favor and post more pictures from your remote office. :-)