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13 December 2012

Texting: Not Just Dangerous When Driving

A recent study conducted by researchers in Seattle by Harborview, which is a part of the University of Washington, found that texting is not only dangerous while driving, but walk walking. While crossing intersections, the study found, pedestrians who were occupied by personal electronics, such as cell phones, were more reckless and slower to cross. People listening to music devices crossed a bit faster, they were also, however, less attentive to their surroundings. Of these tech junkies, co-author, Beth Ebel, said that "people are simply not paying attention.

These are already out-dated. Feel old yet?

 As of 2010, more than 80% of adults alone owned cellphones, and that number has been growing exponentially. A 2011 study found that people who are distracted by listening to music and texting also missed more opportunities to get to the other side. They were also involved in more accidents that resulted in pedestrian vehicle impact. The authors of that paper suggest that, while it would probably be difficult to enforce, legal repercussions  at least in writing, could be put in place to decrease the problem. This could be effective in the same way jaywalking is illegal, but rarely enforced; people still do it, but perhaps a bit less - especially when police are within sight. Multiple studies have shown a surprisingly significant amount of data regarding improved jaywalking behaviour.

Screw it, I'm doing both.

Oh, and then there's this splash of hilarity.

If it is any consolation, drivers are about 40% more likely to pay attention to distracted pedestrians than non-distracted pedestrians. They are, however, according to that same study, also 15 times less likely than pedestrians to pay attention to the ongoings at intersections in general. Interpret that how you may.

Will any such study affect your walking habits  Most people, says Dr. Ebel, will say that they are already more aware of their surroundings and able to handle the distractions better than others - she even says so of herself. Perhaps we can learn, but it might not actually change anything. Mayhap laws could. What say you?

Geese would be exempt.
Her, too.

12 December 2012

Tipping is a City in China (Okay, it's Taiping, and it's in Malaysia)

"Tipping is not a city in China". If you have not seen a container by a cash register or on a bar with that phrase, you are probably at least familiar with the phrase. It is a not-so-subtle way of saying, "Hey, cheapskate, the money goes here".

How about, "Cheers, passive-aggressive cowboy jug!"?

Why do we tip? There are many reasons. We want to reward the person providing a service for a job well-done, especially when it's really, really expensive. After all, when you pay $15 for a cheeseburger and fries, you expect crap service with crap food, unless you leave a five-spot on the table. We tip because the workers are not treated and paid fairly by their employer. Nothing says, "Pay decent wages" like, "I'll do it for you, until you decide to take over, in your own good time". In the U.S., not only do most employers refrain from generosity, taking their employees receiving decent tips as a given supplemental income, we've allowed laws to encourage this behaviour. Employees who are tipped have a separate federal minimum wage. Employers are only obligated to pay them a whopping $2.13 per hour (Seriously, call your representatives). That's TWO dollars and THIRTEEN CENTS. Not all states, however, including Washington's minimum of $9.19, allow for this shite. We tip because we want to reward the worker who goes over and beyond the base duty of their job and really makes us feel special. Okay, that one makes sense, but that's not how it works. The real reason we tip, at least in the States, is because we feel we have to. We don't want to be perceived as asses and we don't want the hair stylist to scalp us, or the waiter to spit in our food the next time they see us. So, why do we tip? Fear and peer pressure.

The first one is guaranteed loogie free!

What do we actually get out of tipping? A 2000 study of  2,547 experiences at 20 restaurants found that there really is a positive correlation, however small, between the amount shelled out in gratuity and the quality of service received. They looked at how pleased consumers were with their service and compared that to the amount of money they tipped. The relationship was so weak in this 16 billion dollar industry in and of itself that it was found to be insignificant. The effectiveness varies between studies, ranging from "insignificant" to "not". How much the quality of the food, not the service, comes into play is hard to say. Another study found that what most affects how much we fork over is primarily how hot or ugly they are, how nice they are, whether or not we've had a craptastic day and, finally, because we don't want to look like an ass - that "How much is Sally tipping?" moment. One study also found that candy is a rather effective bribe.

Worked his ass off. No tip.
Brought wrong order and spilled it on my head. $10!

How do we decide who to tip and when to tip them, anyway? When we sit down to eat, we almost always tip. The same goes for getting a drink at the bar. Baristas are frequently tipped, too. People even tip the person at the register when they pick up carry-out, as long as it's from an otherwise sit-down place to eat. So, when is the last time you left your wallet open for the person handing you your burger and McNuggets, who also took your order, prepared the food, and cleaned up your sloppy mess, all with a smile and about as shit pay as shit pay gets? Probably never.

What of services outside of the food industry? We tip our hairdressers - especially, when the person at the check counter loudly asks, "WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE A TIP?", followed by, "HOW MUCH?". We mentioned that hosts and restaurant cashiers receive gratuity. Yet, the person unloading and bagging all of your giant bags of pet food, groceries, and condoms that you know are just going to expire get a, "Thank you", at best, and more often a, "What's taking you so long?". The same goes for the underpaid Walmart greeters who also gather all the carts that we were too lazy to put away. This gets all the more confusing when travelling to other countries, where the rules of the game may be completely different.

Should we start tipping for every service that we're already paying for, to keep it even across the board? Maybe we should stop tipping altogether. Or maybe, just maybe, we should demand better laws to protect tipped workers being paid less than the rest of us, so we can go back to it being optional, rather than obligatory. Most of these jobs are rough, tiring, and socially, as well as financially, underappreciated. They shouldn't be paid "enough" only from the extra money provided as a tip. If that extra money was actually extra income, these could become more respected positions again. People shouldn't be oxymoroniccally expected to do more than expected to make the minimum. Most people do the job they're expected to do and expect to be paid for getting the job done. We should not be punishing people for doing their job; We should be rewarding them for doing more than they are required to do - for "going above and beyond". There is a big difference.

All images link to where they were found.

07 December 2012

10 Fun (Useful) Android Apps

Looking for some good Android apps? Here's an overview of some handy ones that are often overlooked, due to the focus on apps such as Angry Birds.

First, stop. Stop right here. If you only skim by one of these apps, it should be this one. Tasker is almost certainly the most powerful and potentially most useful app you will ever find.

1.) Tasker

Remember flow charts, with all their "if these, then this", and "if not, then that"? Tasker brings that concept to life - in a fun and exciting way. Want your phone on silent while you're in your office building on Tuesdays and every third Thursday between 3:00 and 4:00 PM, unless it's a text from a family member or your boss? Tasker can do that for you, and so much more. There's even an extension that lets you export, save, share (even, sell, if you'd like) your brilliant concoctions as applications of their own. Fair warning, you can't just look at it and let it take off. You will want to give yourself a good 20 or 30 minutes looking through all the features and playing with it for a bit. There is a small learning curve, but that should be an expected price to pay for near-ultimate power over your device.
Tip: To help you along the way, there are many Tasker communities where you can get step-by-step instructions for a myriad of possibilities and ask questions for help. Here are a few, but you can easily search for more.

Tasker Wiki  |  Tech Spluger  |  Tasker Google Forum

2.) App Backup & Restore  

The title says it all. This guy was especially handy before Google Play started backing your apps up for you and your devices online, free and paid. This application is by no means rendered useless. You can, for example, back up apps that you found at other locations, such as directly from said app's creators. If you have an app that you really, really love now, and have a sneaking suspicion that future updates may not be to your liking, have no fear. Simply backup your current version. Then, if (okay, when), Facebook gets rid of your favourite feature or causes crashes and new lags, you can revert back to the older version and wait it out. You can also save them to your SD card, and do it for the app itself.

3.) GO Launcher EX

For those who are unfamiliar with what a launcher is, simply think of it as your desktop and drawer and how they function. Go Launcher runs smoother, and has more features than any you'll find out-of-the-box. You can double tap on a blank space on your screen and draw a pattern, that you designed, to perform an action, such as opening an app or instantly calling a specific friend. You can create folders on your desktop that hold apps of your choice, and arrange them as you see fit. You can use a variety of animations for scrolling between pages. Like Tasker, you might want to play with it a bit, though the learning curve should be a bit easier. Number one reason for GO Launcher EX, is the smoothness and lack of crashes, largely due to great service from the app team with updates. They stay on top of it for you. Your pre-packaged launcher will probably make you wait 'till you get a new version of Android or a new phone.
Tip: After installing updates for it, hit "home", rather than back, or your phone might not know which launcher you want to use again.

4.) HeyWire                         

HeyWire provides free texting. People can text to you, and when you text them, that's what they get, a text message. Nobody else needs to have this app for it to work for you and your contacts. What's more, they'll provide the number for you for it to work! Just remember to give people your new texting number (Note: It's for texting, not calling). You can also text from their website, Instant Messenger-style. On top of that, you can Tweet and send Facebook messages. Texting works for dozens of countries (More than 45 as of this writing). Now that saves money.
Tip: HeyWire will automatically place a rather annoying signature at the end of your messages, unless you disable it - which is easy to do in the settings. Just delete it. It's worth the extra 10 seconds of your time.

5.) Lookout Security & Antivirus
You've probably been recommended this before, and with good reason. It's often pre-packaged; make sure you take advantage of it. Lookout has been a good staple for a long time. More recent updates have made it all the more a must-have. Obviously, it works as an antivirus, scanning your phone and applications when they are downloaded and installed. It does so much more. Like App Backup & Restore, there is one feature than Google has since solved for you, and better; it backs up your contacts online. You may never take advantage of it, but it doesn't hurt to have an extra back-up. What makes this little app all the more essential is it's ability to find your phone. If your phone is lost, you can log into the website and tell it to make your phone "scream". Your phone will put out a siren that gets louder and louder until you find it, and man can it get loud. You can also use it to track your phone's location from the site. If you activate the feature on your device, it can turn your GPS on and narrow your search all the more. Also using GPS, it can be set to periodically record your location to your private online account, in case your device is off or the battery dies. Did you leave your phone unlocked and think it might be stolen? No problem, you can also remotely lock it and wipe the data you want.

6.) OneBusAway


OneBusAway is not for everybody. Seriously, it's only good for Seattle and Co., including King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Pierce Transit. If you use public transit in this area, this can be one handy-dandy application. Now, many complain that it doesn't show the right times all the time. Well, that's half true. It records the buses, in real time, when they pass stops. The estimate you see is when the bus will arrive, assuming that it continues at the same rate from that stop, which is why the time may change while you're waiting. This is still about as accurate as you can get. If the bus is running late, it tells you how late. If it's running early, it tells you how early. If it was unable to connect for reasons such as weather conditions, it will show you the scheduled time. One thing that sets the app apart is the ability to create favourites buses/routes/stops, view recent stops, and change the labels, for example, "Home to Downtown".

7.) Evernote

Evernote lets you make notes that can be attached to pictures and voice reminders and, if you wish, attach a location to said notes. These can also be accessed online. Evernote is especially cool when used in conjunction with its extension on Chrome. With it, you can save pages and URLS to be viewed later, either from your computer, or your mobile device. You can save the article, or the page itself. Be thankful for this when you're waiting for your doctor and wish you could read all those cool articles you'd been meaning to get around to.


This is another app that really shines with its online counterpart. On your computer, or mobile device, save those videos you want to watch later, or put them in a favourite list to view again and again. Start watching it on your computer, save it, pick right back up where you left off, on the go.
Here's the really cool part: If your computer is also hooked up to your TV, go to, on your computer, open up the YouTube app on your device, and you can use your phone as a remote control! This also works on your computer's monitor, too, though you're probably already sitting at the computer where a remote is unnecessary.

9.) Chrome to Phone

Once again, you need the counterpart extension on your Chrome browser for this.
While, logged into Google on chrome, click the extension's button to send whatever you're viewing directly to your phone. Send an article to immediately start reading it on your device. Perhaps most useful of all, from Google Maps online, send a locations, or even directions, directly to your phone and have it immediately open it up in Maps on your phone, or have it send it as a notifications (just like getting a text message), and click to open it at your leisure. This way, you don't have to open an e-mail or open maps and search again to get to where you're going.

10.) SoundHound


You know when there's a song playing in the grocery store or restaurant that you just can quite place what it is, or you missed a line in the lyrics and it will drive you mad until you get home and look it up? Well, say goodbye to those annoyances with SoundHound. Open it, or use a one-click shortcut or widget to let it listen and give you the answers you're looking for. It will even scroll the lyrics in real-time while you're listening. If you're so inclined, buy the song straight from the app.

05 December 2012

Obama Won Because He Won: The Conservative Conundrum

Photo from
The guy only won because he, well, won. That seems to be the uproar and outrage of much of the conservative media. Sure, you'll hear it stated differently with different implications. That is, nonetheless, what it all boils down to. That's the oddly difficult to articulate sauce at the bottom of the frying pan. They seem confused, and practically offended by, the concept of democracy. What's hard to discern is whether or not they believe, or even realize, what it is that they are saying. Whatever the case, it quickly infected the talking heads on the right, and they are saying it. To what end? What, if anything, is to be gained?

As soon as the first reports were indicating results in Obama's favour, disbelief was afoot. Once the right-wing outlet FOX News made the call, its very own Karl Rove (widely formerly recognized as "The Brain" behind President George W. Bush) questioned what he was being told. "I’d be very cautious about intruding into the process", said a rather apprehensive and agitated Rove. His colleagues, normally on the same page, were aghast. After all, it was all but over. Barack Obama would continue as the 44th President of the United States.

The dust began to settle the right admitted defeat. What next? Now, it was time to explain it. It was time to explain why Obama won, or rather, why he "won". According to Karl Rove, along a laundry list of similar explanations, Obama's victory was primarily made possible by "suppressing the vote". That's a mighty big accusation, to say that the president was somehow involved in stopping people from voting. How does Rove explain that? He says that he suppressed the vote by convincing people to vote for him, rather than the "other guy".

Rove was by no means the only person on that bandwagon of bewilderment. Nearly a month after the election, Tea Party idol, Judson Phillips, has asserted that there is one "final chance to stop Barack Obama" from becoming president, incorrectly citing the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as a method of convincing some states to refuse to meet the quorum of two-thirds.

Conservative comedian and front man, Rush Limbaugh said that Obama wooed the voters with gifts, referring to him as "Santa Claus", saying that United States is "a nation of children". That does not exactly scream "patriotism". Eric Bolling, of The Five, a conservative opinion program, often disguised as news, asserted that "people voted to continue to get free stuff". Bill O'Reilly said that half of us feel "entitled to things". Mitt Romney, the man who lost, stated himself that Obama promised "extraordinary gifts" and worked "very aggressively" to turn people out to vote. Even former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich , an avid Romney supporter, called that statement "nuts". Romney's pick for VP, Paul Ryan, actually blamed it on people turning out to vote in "urban areas". What is odd about Ryan's statement is that it is widely known that population centers almost always tend to lean Democratic. That in mind, whether Ryan was using the word "urban" to describe something geographic, or as demographic dog whistle, one can only speculate.

The list of similar excuses goes on and on. They all boil down to one thing. They all say that the reason Obama won is because he convinced people, however it was, to vote for him, and that they did vote. He won because of democracy; that is what these conservatives are upset about - democracy. Who knows how they plan on using that message to their advantage?