I’m still here

It has been a long time since I’ve posted. It isn’t like I’ve forgotten my blog, I’ve just been really busy for a long time now.

I have several different ongoing projects:

  • Learning to Snowboard (which has been taking up weekend time)
  • Figuring out my awesome new camera (Nikon D600)
  • Recording a cover of “I Will Survive” (and teaching myself a lot about audio recording in the process)
  • Building the new version of Pictomaphone (which has been going slowly, but will be awesome, I promise)
All of that is in addition to the crazy amount of “work work” that I’ve had, which has been cool, but a little tiring and time consuming.
That is all.

When Same-Sex Marriage was a Christian Rite

This article has just blown my mind…

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.



Obama and Same-Sex Marriage

All I can say is, about time he finally revealed how he feels. No matter what the motivation was…

Ok, that’s not all I can say.

The political issue of whether or not same-sex marriage should be allowed has been raging in the country for quite some time. Current polls seem to put the country at about a 50/50 split, in favor vs against – with the in favors normally coming out slightly ahead.

Personally, I think that all States should recognize same-sex marriage. And I do think it is up to the States and not the Federal Government. Without passing a Constitutional Amendment, marriage is the domain of the State. Let’s be honest here, passing an amendment to guarantee same-sex marriage as a right would be very difficult right now.

But, I think we will get there. The logic in favor of same-sex marriage is so easy for me, I think it is inevitable that every State will eventually recognize it. With people like Obama coming out in support, it becomes only a matter of time. The fight isn’t over yet, and we need to keep pushing, but we can get there.

Anyway, I said the logic for me is easy. Here is that logic…

In order to figure out if same-sex marriage is valid – we need to look at the purpose of marriage. Not the long historical purpose of a man purchasing a wife to bear him children – but, the modern purpose.

There are those that argue that the true purpose of marriage is to create and raise children. Well, let’s test that with a simple thought experiment. If that is the only purpose, then why don’t we pass laws banning the infertile from marrying? I mean, if you can’t have kids – what’s the point? Also, why not pass laws banning single-parenting. Force people who have children to get or stay married? And while we are at it, we should pass a law requiring married couples to have children within a certain time – or their marriage is canceled. If that is truly the purpose of marriage, wouldn’t this be the direction we should be going?

But, it isn’t. I don’t know of any hardened same-sex marriage opposers who would seriously consider banning the infertile from opposite-sex marriage. Obviously, we have a sense that marriage is more than just making kids. Would you even want to marry someone who thought that your only purpose was to produce babies for them?

No, we tend to think of marriage as a joining of two people in love. A partnership of mutual caring and respect that affirms a couple’s resolve to stick by one another and share in life’s experience.

The purpose of marriage is to celebrate this union of two people coming together as one. I tend to get annoyed when people try to use the slippery-slope argument that same-sex marriage will lead to things like human-animal marriage or polygamist marriage. You can’t have a union of two people if one of them isn’t a person. Having more than two people becomes problematic as well, but for other reasons.

So, same-sex couples meet the requirement of two people in love. There is no requirement for the natural ability to produce children. And if same-sex couples want children, they can use the same avenues that the infertile do. That system is already in place.

What about the argument that same-sex marriage degrades the institution of opposite-sex marriage? I don’t see how it can. Two people joining their lives together is the purpose. Not a man and a women. Did allowing opposite-race marriages do anything to same-race marriages? There was a time when people made the same arguments against interracial couples that they make now against same-sex. I don’t recall there being a huge problem with people’s marriages when those laws were struck from the books.

So, why all the uproar? Maybe some people are just afraid that they’ll be left because their spouse really wanted a same-sex partner the whole time. And if that’s the case, wasn’t your marriage a shame from the beginning?

2 Weeks of Pictomaphone Sales

On March 10th, Pictomaphone hit the Windows Marketplace as a paid app ($1.99 USD). Since the marketplace data runs a week or so behind, it wasn’t until today that I could see the results of the first 2 weeks of sales.

Total Non-Paid Downloads (free and trial) were: 5,078.

Total Paid Downloads were: 172.

That gives Pictomaphone a purchase rate of about 1 in 30. Not horrible, but I’d rather it were around 1 in 10.

The top countries that purchased the app were:

  1. United States – 103
  2. Germany- 23
  3. Italy – 15
  4. United Kingdom – 13
  5. Spain – 6

Guess what languages I’m going to translate it into first? If you guessed German, Italian and Spanish – then you got the hang of how I’m doing this. I’m still not sure when I will do the translations, probably after the next release. Effects before words.

I’m wondering now if more people would have purchased it for a dollar. I’m going to see if there is an uptick in sales in the 3rd week – after most users would have seen their first nag screen. I may end up lower the price with the next release, mainly because I’ve already made back what it cost me to publish the app (although I haven’t seen that money yet).

So far, I think the experiment of offering a fully-functional trial is going well. 1 in 30 isn’t bad when you consider there really isn’t an incentive to purchase – other than to be nice.

Dear Diamond Parking Services

A few days ago, I received at letter from Diamond Parking Services, LLC, stating that I was late on a parking fine they charged me. Trouble is, I was out of state when the ticket was issued, so could not have been the one who parked poorly. In the letter, they stated that if I felt there had been an error, that I had to submit an appeal, in writing, within 30 days – or they would assume the debt was valid.

While I normally prefer to handle such matters in person, I do sometimes miss the good old days of writing letters. So, I decided to oblige them with a written notice of my claim to the invalidity of their fine.

If you are unaware of how they work – their business model is to monitor parking lots and issue their own, private, parking tickets when someone hasn’t placed their car correctly. They claim this authority comes from signs they have randomly placed in the lot as notice… I find that a bit questionable, as far as business models go. And the ticket for parking outside the lines is apparently $43. I find that a bit unreasonable too.

But, if they are going to waste my time writing them letters about fines for infractions I didn’t commit – I may as well make it enjoyable for myself. So, without further ado, here is my letter to them:

Dear Diamond Parking Services LLC – Collection Department,

This letter is in regards to a recent letter from you in regards to a Parking Penalty Fee – reference number 1000496002 – recently issued to a vehicle registered in my name. Per your letter, this Parking Penalty Fee was issued for failure to comply with all agreed and posted terms, conditions and requirements for parking.

I regret to inform you that there has been a grave error concerning my account. While I do own the car in question – a 2001 Hyundai Tiburon, License Plate 193YHO-WA – it is not a car that I actually drive. I have a really awesome Subaru WRX that I bought back in September and haven’t put key to ignition in the Tiburon since then. If you’ve ever driven a WRX, you will understand. But, this letter isn’t to inform you about the awesomeness of my car purchase (although, I kind of wish it was).

I guess I should try to explain by what circumstances my car ended up in a parking lot that you monitor. I, being of a friendly and helpful disposition, have made use of my old car as a loaner to friends whom either don’t have a vehicle or don’t have one suitable for the errand they need to run. Have you ever tried bringing a flat-pack Ikea bookcase home on the back of a moped? It really is a dangerous undertaking!

Unfortunately, in times like this, it becomes apparent why rental companies charge so much. Be that as it may, I was not driving the car or a passenger it in when the ticket was issued. Furthermore, I do not believe I have ever been to “Location A140.” Had I been, I can assure you that the car would have at least been properly parked. I’ve never understood how people can be so bad at something they have to do every time they drive. It makes you wonder how these same people manage to stay within the lanes and posted speed limit, too. But, we are talking about one of my friends, so I guess I should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the poor parking performance wasn’t intentional.

I know you are probably reading this and thinking, “the old, ‘my friend borrowed the car’ routine. How original…” So, to put your mind at ease, I must also inform you that I wasn’t even in the great state of Washington on the date in question, January 30, 2012. In fact, just the day before I grabbed a flight to San Jose, California for a 4-day business trip. I can provide records of this trip upon request. Since I was away and mostly unreachable, I can’t say that I know who borrowed the car or that I expressedly gave them permission on that occasion – other than the implicit invitation to use my car freely, since they had keys to it.

One more time, for good measure – I hereby whole-heartedly dispute the validity of this debt – every portion of it. I will not be held liable for notices that I did not, and could not have read. I was not in the car, or even the State when the ticket was issued. You will not be getting the $43 fine from me, or the $30 late fee. I’m granting you permission, one time, to contact me for evidence that I was out of the State at the time.

Any further attempts to contact me (other than for records of my travels) or collect this debt are prohibited. By reading this form you hereby agree, on behalf of Diamond Parking Services LLC, that each of these further attempts will be subject to a $100 Harassment Penalty Fee payable to myself.

If it works on signs in parking lots…

I’ll try to keep you posted on any interesting developments.

TED Talk: The 8 Billion Dollar iPad

This is an amusing TED Talk about the numbers the Movie and Music industries throw around to show how bad piracy is. The speaker is Rob Reid, founder of Rhapsody – who seems to know what he is talking about. I was surprised at how funny he is!

Comic author Rob Reid unveils Copyright Math (TM), a remarkable new field of study based on actual numbers from entertainment industry lawyers and lobbyists.

Rob Reid is a humor author and the founder of the company that created the music subscription service Rhapsody.


Pictomaphone is #1

The update to version 1.4 of Pictomaphone went out Friday and I presume most users have updated by now. For this version, I switched from a completely free app – to a paid one with an unlimited free trial mode.

It hit the list of paid photo apps yesterday and landed at the TOP! Wow. It is also 7th in the list of all paid apps on the phone. Everything above it is games (Angry Birds is at the top of the overall list).

All I can say is, I’m amazed. I know it is a good app, but to sit at the top… I’m almost speechless, but I’m not celebrating yet. Who knows how long it will stay there.

Which is way, I’m thinking hard about what to do with the app next. I have a list in mind of things I need to do, but what else is there?

Things I need to get done:

1) Figure out the fastest / best looking blur possible. A true Gaussian blur is too slow and a box blur is too ugly. I put in a compromise in 1.3 that looks alright, but is still too slow (30 seconds to apply sometimes). Way too slow. Blur is important for effects that I want to add (and have been asked for), like Tilt Shift and Simulated Depth of Field.

2) Red Eye Reduction. I’ve played around with this before, but while my algorithm fixed red eyes beautifully, it also caught a lot of unintended parts of the photo. Now the question is, can I write a fast enough face detection algorithm to handle eye detection automatically, or do I need to have the user select where the eyes are.

At this point, I should point out that both of these could be done fast and simply in a Pixel Shader… but Microsoft won’t let us write custom shaders for the phone. I hope they change this in Windows 8 Metro apps and later in Windows Phone 8.

3) I also need to write my own photo browser control. The built in Photo Chooser task is alright, but it doesn’t give back the file names – or where the picture was opened from. Also, it is locked to the one layout and I, for one, would like a list view with file names, dates and sorting. A side-effect of writing my own photo browser is it opens up the possibility of letting users browse photos online.

4) Sharing. I wish there was a way to tie into the phone’s sharing mechanism, but I haven’t found one. I don’t like the fact that people have to save the photo to the phone, then exit the app and go to the built in app to share. Time to figure out which platforms to support – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and whatever else kids are using these days.

5) I also want to add some automatic modes to the adjustments. I’m still not sure how to go about this in a way that will perform well, but I want items like Levels and Color Balance to be able to figure out a best guess at the best looking settings. It’ll give users a good place to start from. Whatever I do, it needs to allow the user to adjust the results – so it really is just a starting place.

So, that’s quite a bit of work I’ve got planned. Hopefully it is enough to keep users happy. There is always the feedback forum too, which I keep an eye on. I want to get, at the least, one of the top requested features into each release.

Once again, thank you everyone for downloading my app! You keep enjoying it and I’ll keep adding features :)