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PotD 25 September 2016



I do not understand why I can’t watch regular Netflix when overseas. I am still a US citizen, paying with a US account. It’s not as though I am going to go to a German sports bar and show episodes of Archer (“So you’re saying Germany is the Alabama of Europe?”) on all the screens for money. There is no such thing as a German sports bar, for one thing.

And it’s not as though I magically begin speaking German when I’m in Germany, so why are you showing me all the German titled shows? I can do a bit of French and Spanish, but German is just hopeless.

Then when I come back, Netflix still tends to want to show me German-ish shows. I still don’t speak German…

Show me the damn shows I want to watch. Dammit. I’m jet-lagged and I need distraction.

Autobahn redux

Once again, the drive back from Utah provokes thoughts about driving and human behavior.

In Utah, with the closest thing to a German autobahn no-speed-limit experience that you’re likely to get in the US (80 mph limits, meaning 90 mph traffic), people are polite, move over, and largely don’t park in the left hand lane. Notable differences – semis still feel the need to pull out and block the fast lane to pass another semi going 2 mph slower than them; autos don’t know how to not be a blocking dick [1]; highway patrol will give you a ticket.

However, the same traffic, crossing the border into AZ, then NV, then CA, suddenly becomes the fast-lane-hogging, road-blocking, road-rage filled humanity that I’m used to from LA freeways.

When you ask yourself, why do the autobahnen work so well, and why are driver so shitty in the US, a lot of it seems to come down to the speed limits. When the limit is either not there, or close enough to the reality that people are going to drive anyway, then drivers become polite and friendly. When the limits are 20 mph below what a straight-to-the-horizon six-lane freeway [2] will bear, then the very same people become assholes.

[1] I don’t have a pithy name for this – it’s watching traffic flow so that you don’t get trapped behind a semi and either have to slam on the brakes, or pull out in front of a Merc SLC going 200 kph in order not to slam on your brakes. Conversely, it’s the fellow in the Merc SLC going 200 kph flashing his headlights to let you know it’s ok to pull out in front of him to get around the truck, because when you are driving 120 mph, you pay attention to traffic around you, and there’s no need to be an asshole.

[2] Every autobahn I’ve been on in Germany is a two-lane road, four-lane highway, with narrow shoulders, and an exit for [P]eeing every 5 km, lest you think that the Germans have no speed limits because they have US-like superhighways. One of the few things I love about Germany is the autobahn and a rest stop every few miles. Driving back the 700 miles from Utah, there were perhaps 4 legal single-purpose rest stops, and 2 of them were closed for repair.

Peak story – or peak podcast?

I can’t decide if we’ve either reached peak story, or peak podcast, when I hear the same guy telling the same story that I already heard on TAL, Snap Judgement, the Moth, TED, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

Are we really out of new stories to tell, and new people to tell them?

Yes, I just spend 10 hours driving. I can’t decide whether it’s a good thing that I can now just turn on the local NPR app and get the live feed for the whole way. No more searching through the airwaves to find something to listen to. It’s good in that it lessens my exposure to right-wing talk radio; it’s bad in that it lessens my occasional exposure to right-wing talk radio*.

* and I am no fan of NPR. It’s just usually better than the alternative, and Pacifica is just too full of BS woo.

Apple iTunes album rating fail

Apple implemented a new feature which derives an “album rating” from the ratings that you give individual songs. However, they did this in the most brain dead way possible – if you rate any song with any stars, the whole album gets that rating. Then any playlist based on ratings will have the whole album on it. Because no one in the history of recorded music has ever liked just one song on an album. And one-hit wonders are such not a thing that there’s not even a name for them like “one-hit wonder.”

It really goes south when you do something like download the completely free and legal torrent of collections of demo songs from bands playing at SXSW. Which are released every year. It’s a good way to find new music. I have literally gigabytes of music from the SXSW torrents. However, now, if I like even one of those songs, all the songs from that year, all 1300 hundred of them, now show up in the Rated playlist, because Apple’s stupid Album Rating algorithm treats a stupidly derived automatic rating the same as a rating that you actually gave to the song because you liked it enough to click on it.

Just try to fix it, also. Can’t be done. If you try to erase the Album Rating, or change it to “none”, the algorithm immediately changes it right back, with lots of spinning beach ball of death, because it’s trying to do it on 1300 songs at once.

Fucking idiots. Thanks for fucking up my carefully curated playlists. It’s like no one at Apple has ever used a playlist based on ratings. Oh wait, I’m pretty sure they invented them. Maybe they’re all using Zunes.

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More bad IT policies from the place where I work

Once again, changing passwords frequently is a bad idea.

Another lousy IT policy enshrined in policy. They might tell you that we do science, but there’s just as much belief in magic spirits there as anywhere else.

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