We’re so full of white there are no jobs

So Apple rounded out the big tech companies last week with a report that basically says all our stereotypes are true: white dudes run the show and Asians are really good at math.

Remember, stereotypes don’t just appear out of nowhere, they are, technically, derived from observed conventions.

This is a complicated problem. For penis-toting white people you’re born, you go to school, get a computer for Christmas, and totally geek out and get a job later on doing geeky things.

For penis-toting black people, you go to school, maybe you sit at a computer a little bit, you probably can’t afford a computer or a very good one, or Internet access, so you go do something else.

For women it’s a whole host of different issues. We know the arguments there, and frankly, I just don’t have enough information to speak about them. I’m inclined to believe that maybe women just aren’t, in mass, as interested in technology. Women also aren’t that interested in hunting, fishing, race car driving, farting, and whittling canoes from dead trees, but no one’s stopping them from doing those things. Men generally don’t like massages, perfume, or anal sex, but no one’s stopping them or trying to push them into that, either. Insert your own gay joke here. Then call yourself a bigot.

But back to the black and white dudes with computers. The difference in these two upbringings is that one kid almost certainly went to a school with things like air conditioners and computers. I kid you not, there are schools within Indianapolis that do not have air conditioning. Computers are also not high on that list. I do not know where the seemingly endless stream of grant dollars for these things are going, but they’re not getting to the kids.

So in 20 years time you do not get to scratch your head in bewilderment why there are no black people in big tech companies.

Our national response to this is to pressure these companies to find black people and hire them. Ditto for women and anyone to “dillute” that pack of white sausages.

I’m all for the diversity of things. You get better products and it’s obvious we have been since women have taken a more active roll in the workplace. We’ve all seen how much better Sterling Cooper is with Peggy. It’s good for everyone. Just as it is for getting different opinions and thoughts from different backgrounds.

Years ago when I was working for the State there was this push for digitizing court forms. Great idea, “Except it won’t work,” I said. “Too many people out in the rest of Indiana do not have access to good enough Internet for this. They don’t have computers or the ability to get to one. There are all of 6 public computers in all of Washington County. Three of them are for Workforce Development only.” You can’t just “eliminate the paper” because until a couple more generations die off and we push for broadband everywhere, we will have this problem. I was the only one to fight this battle because I was the only person who had spent more than 6 minutes outside of Indianapolis.

But we can’t get mad at Apple for this, or Google or Facebook or any other company. It’s not their fault the pool of people to hire from is lousy with white dudes. They didn’t create that world — society did. Or, more aptly, the government. And now the government and society want them to fix it.

Does anyone believe for a second that Apple, with more money than God, would hire for a position and say, “Well, that woman is really awesome, but let’s go with the guy.” I don’t believe that. I don’t believe anyone at any of the big tech companies hire based on anything but what you’ve done and what you can do.

Turns out, though, if you can’t do much, or don’t do much, you don’t get the job. This isn’t a country club where there’s some sign out front saying “No black people” or “No girls allowed”.

But like my last post, this comes down to personal responsibility. You can, in big cities, get on a bus and go to the library and take a book about HTML out and read it. It’ll cost you $1.75. I’ll even give you the money for it if you want. That’s how most everyone working in tech today got started — no degree required.

But we do have a societal responsibility to take in kids, help younger generations learn ever more complicated code and languages and techniques, and to ensure schools get real money to spend on real equipment. We have a responsbility to treat people with respect and dignity, to understand hardship, and to punish people for their racism and bias. Even in 2014 we need laws to protect people in clearly segregated places, but I don’t think Facebook is the bad guy (at least this time, anyway). We do not have a responsibility to hire to fill some peer-pressured feel-good numbers quotient.


A moving story about Guardian Relocation and Atlas VanLines

In early December 2012 I started packing up my belongings at my house in Indianapolis, Indiana. I neatly tucked glassware and dishes into boxes lined with packing paper. I placed valuable and sentimental items inside bubble wrap, and stuffed things with newspaper where possible. I lovingly labeled boxes “This side up!” and double-taped boxes to ensure their safety and comfort for their journey to New Haven, Connecticut.

Then Atlas VanLines showed up.

In Indianapolis I had 42 boxes worth of stuff, 3 garbage bags filled with clothes, and a few “loose” items like a TV stand, bookshelves, a sofa bed, etc. The movers I hired were under the name “Guardian Relocation” for at least as long as they were in Indianapolis. The two guys that showed up were pretty nice and courteous, even going so far as bringing in scrap pieces of cardboard to tape down to my floors so they wouldn’t trample in water from the rain coming down outside. My agent, Chris, even stopped by a few days prior with some extra boxes that came in handy. Those guys, they were alright. I like those guys.

Guardian tucked away my stuff on a truck on the morning of December 20, 2012. It was a Thursday, and they showed up half an hour into their 2-hour window. They were done and loaded up in about 2 hours. I flew out of Indianapolis the next day on Friday, December 21, 2012 to New Haven. Upon landing, I bought an air mattress and had just a scant few things I managed to pack into a car I brought over the weekend prior.

Guardian, for all their good work, told me my stuff would arrive “in 2 to 14 days”. I was told this by Chris, my agent, and by the movers on moving day. The movers, for their part, thought it might go pretty quick as drivers might want to cash in on more lucrative holiday pay. This did not happen.

After a week I was frazzled, but not angry. After two weeks I was getting miffed. After we started approaching the three week mark I was pissed.

From what I can gather, once Guardian left my house in Indianapolis the truck went about 7 miles down Washington Street, parked, and sat there until December 31, 2012 — 10 days after leaving my house (I’m being generous by not counting loading day as a “day”). It sat through a blizzard of epic proportions and in sub-zero wind chills.

From there, Guardian turned things over to their interstate-transport parent, Atlas VanLines on the 31st. Atlas took my stuff and placed them on another truck for the haul across the eastern third of the country.

After a few more days, I started calling Lynn from Atlas’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Lynn was sympathetic and did her part in checking on my stuff between her multiple stretches of vacation days, but wasn’t finding it easy to pinpoint even in what state my stuff was in. My entire world of cups, plates, flatware, knives, furniture, books, entertainment, computer equipment (save my laptop and iPad, which I had with me), lamps, bicycles, clothes, canned goods, and more were all on that truck. At one point when asked how I was doing, I said, “Well Lynn, you can live this little dream by taking your entire desk and throwing it out the nearest window, then try to do some actual work.”

In the year of our Lord, 2013, Atlas VanLines has not discovered a way to track their trucks, locate their equipment, or contact their drivers. If only there were some sort of radio technology, or perhaps a network of towers spanning the country that could connect a woman in Columbus, Ohio to a guy in a truck in, let’s assume Idaho. Because at this point I sorta think the truck drove in reverse, backwards across the country for a while.

The truck, of course, did not drive backwards across the country. I later learned the truck was actually being pulled by two guys on horseback Oregon Trail-style. They would have to stop and shoot buffalo for meals and bury some of their party along the way. Which makes sense, because from when they left to when they arrived the movers were an entirely different group of people.

Two days before my stuff would arrive I got a call from the driver who explained he was in Baltimore, Maryland, and would be driving past me in Connecticut to deliver items on two smaller jobs “That would take 15 minutes each”, in and around Boston. One questions why someone would pay movers to do what would take 15 minutes.

Atlas moved my stuff from the second truck to the third truck in Baltimore. Upon hearing my concern they may not be able to find adequate parking near my building in New Haven (despite my efforts to get a delivery estimate so I could contact the local parking authority to block off meters just for them in advance), they moved my stuff from this third truck to a smaller fourth truck.

In this process practically every box was turned upside down, sideways, shaken, stirred, or in the case of at least three boxes dropped or smashed by heavier items. Some things, like my toaster, actually arrived with fingerprints on the side that aren’t even mine. Which leads me to believe based off that and the fact the boxes were in such bad shape that the movers had manhandled my entire world of possessions to the point that some of the boxes collapsed or fell apart, spilling their contents onto the floor, and required some amount of re-packaging. Mind you, the two boxes that were most noticeably damaged were U-Haul moving boxes, which aren’t exactly flimsy.

In addition to the unloving treatment of my possessions, the amount of time things sat in a very cold truck further weakened items, one of which was very personal to me. One of the few remaining memories I have with my mom was going to the River Falls Mall in Clarksville, Indiana with my grandmother. At a small booth in the center of the mall was an artistic sand making booth, where you could pour various colors of sand into small jars and make neat little designs. Mom and I made one together, and my grandma made one, too. My grandma’s is sitting on a shelf in her living room. The one mom and I made has sat on one of my shelves for at least 13 or 14 years now. Having sat in the cold for so long, it weakened the glue that seals the top of the jar and caused it to fall out, spilling about 20% of its contents. I’ve never been so disgusted with a group of people in my life until that point.

For their part, they recommend taking some things some other way, particularly in cold or hot weather months. Which sorta defeats the entire point of moving because if I had to move all the things they rattled off that get upset by extreme temperatures, like TVs or any electronics, glassware, etc., why would I hire movers? At that point I’d just be moving all my stuff myself. Plus, that would narrow the appropriate time to move across the country to about one weekend in March.

Upon arriving in front of my building, 90 minutes later than expected and promised, and after 19 days, which is 5 days longer than I was told, the movers showed up. It turns out, “2 to 14 days” doesn’t mean weekends, or holidays. Because, you know, Sunday isn’t really a day, because Jesus. They probably don’t even count Canadian holidays, like Boxing Day.

The drivers started unloading things and in the back of this smaller truck I could see my two $1,500 bikes sitting on top of piles of stuff, laid over, chain-side-down, which true to form, means my chains and gears were about to fall off. I even included these items on the “High Value Items” form so they could be given “special care and attention”, which judging by the comments of one of the movers, they “hadn’t really noticed those items.”

Upon unloading items into my building, they looked to me to provide them with screwdrivers and hardware to reassemble things like my sofa bed, or the small stand the TV screws into. This meant I had to rummage through boxes finding these items, and after half a god damned month I mostly forgot where things were.

At one point, the driver unloading items from the truck complained about the building’s small elevator, as if I have any control over that. “Hmm, I dunno honey, maybe we should look somewhere else, this place is in a great location, has a fair price, and is in a good school district, but it has a small service elevator and it might make the movers sad.” – Said no one ever.

If that weren’t enough, the driver made the remark, “No offense, but you’re kinda costing me money today.” This came up when I asked if that was a smaller truck they had loaded my things onto so they could navigate town easier, which evidently means they had to rent a smaller truck. I mean, who would expect a moving company to have access to varying sizes of trucks? What is this, Communist China? I wanted to reply, “Well, sorry, but you’ve kinda cost me 19 days of my life and a shit ton of my money, too.” But I didn’t, because I was afraid they’d go smash something else.

So naturally, they went and smashed something else. They brought up my TV stand, sat it down, and said, “I dunno what happened, it was just like that.” It was sitting in three distinct pieces, having splintered as though many many pounds of weight had been placed on it. Really? “It was just like that?” AS IF IT WAS LIKE THAT IN INDIANAPOLIS? Of course they know what happened to it, they weren’t careful, they threw it around, and it broke. Of course, that item isn’t covered under their insurance policy because it doesn’t cover “some wood products”, of which this is. Because, you know, movers are really only there to help you move pillows, towels, toilet paper and your dreams. One mover asked, “So what do you want us to do?” regarding the stand, as if I somehow still would want a pile of splinters, I said, “You can take it.” To which this warranted a comment about how this would cost them money. As if I just woke up one morning and magically shat a TV stand onto my living room floor for absolutely nothing and could do so again without incurring any cost myself.

After complaining about everything from the elevator to the weather to the fact they were spending money on a smaller truck and that they didn’t even bring their own tools, they finally left.

I lost my TV stand, my toaster was manhandled like a gun control bill on the floor of the House of Representatives, I had two broken plates, every box labeled “This side up” was upside down, — and I do mean every box, my bikes weren’t considered with any special care, and my aforementioned souvenir from my childhood, which I packed in bubble wrap, was in a box so heavily jostled in became unwrapped and fell apart.

At no point since has Guardian or Atlas VanLines called to ask me how my move went or how they could improve their experience (like, I dunno, giving a more accurate indication that by “day” they mean “a Plutonian day”, or that they could come by to get all these damn boxes they brought me to begin with). Lynn, the rep in Columbus, Ohio, called me while the movers were actually unloading my stuff to genuinely ask if the truck had arrived, because again, in 2013 it’s not like we have satellites orbiting the earth in outer fucking space that could remotely tell someone in Ohio where their employees are in, say, Connecticut, two states over in what they must assume is the American equivalent of Siberia.

Guardian was okay. Atlas VanLines sucks harder than Bill Clinton’s intern. Their service is bad, and they should feel bad.

My review of Ting cell service and using an iPod Touch as a phone (or ditching any phone)

A few weeks ago I heard an ad for Ting.com on the 5by5.tv network. Ting’s parent company is Tucows, the same company behind the nice hover.com domain registration service. That alone led me to check it out.

Ting is a cell network service that promises to be an “honest” provider by charging you just for what you use. You go to Ting.com, setup an account, select a device, and then choose plans for your minutes, texts, and data (in megabytes), and it charges you accordingly based on your actual usage. The plan-picking stage is really more of a guide to help you estimate your bill. So if you select a 200 MB data plan, but only use 100 MB, they credit you back the difference. Or, if you select 100 MB and use 199 MB, they let you go ahead and use an extra 99 MB without penalties or fees, it’s just the same rate you were already paying.

It’s still a small service, with only about 10-20 thousand users, but they’re already profitable, which makes me feel secure in using them. The cellular service is run through Sprint, which had a surprising amount of service to me. More on that later.

First, to give you as much information as possible, I have to explain to you what I’m trying to do and how I use my iPhone 4s because obviously your mileage will vary.

I switched from Verizon to AT&T back when the original iPhone came out and I’ve used AT&T since then. I’ve been mostly satisfied with the service, except when visiting family in my hometown of Salem, where AT&T coverage is spotty, and slow at best. But I live in Indianapolis, just a few minutes outside of Downtown, and I’ve been satisfied. However, it is pricey. I have a Verizon LTE iPad and I’m satisfied with it, too.

An iPhone costs, over the life of a contract around $650. That price is subsidized by the carriers, but you end up paying for it and more over the long run because once you start upgrading at odd times like I did, the water gets muddy. I’ve got a year of my contract left on AT&T at the time of this writing, and the cost to cancel my contract (so AT&T can recover the costs of the phone) is only about $100. Which means the $72 a month I pay eventually just turns into me just giving AT&T money just because they assume I’m too stupid to figure that out.

At $72 a month (which includes taxes and fees), I’m paying $864 a year for cell service and an iPhone. Except, I hate the phone. I don’t like talking to people over the phone because I think it’s a waste of time and ties me to doing just one piddly thing at a time. Calls are just people’s way of saying, “I don’t care about what you’re doing right now, stop and do this now.” As a result of my hatred for the phone, I only spend about an hour a month actively talking.

Since the advent of iMessage, I use, on average, about 50 text messages a month. Those are almost entirely comprised of spam and delivery notifications for my PeaPod.com grocery deliveries. Almost all my friends use iMessage, as do most of my clients, because they’re all good people with good taste.

As for data, I use about 60 MB a month. I work from home, or spend time in places that have WiFi, like Starbucks. My data usage could be lower if I took the time to actually switch WiFi on in places. I usually don’t bother messing with it just to check my email, so it bumps my usage up a bit.

I have a 250 MB per month data allotment, 450 minutes with rollovers, and 1000 text messages (I was grandfathered in on that part). I use hardly any of that. It’s a lot of money to spend on something I don’t use too heavily. Except, I feel like I use my phone a whole lot. And it turns out I do, but mostly for apps and taking photos.

I also commute entirely by bike everywhere I go. So I don’t spend time in a car futzing with my phone like most people do, but shouldn’t. It’s also against the law in Indiana now, anyway. My phone goes in my backpack or bike bag and there it stays until I get to my destination. (I use a dedicated iPod Nano with the clip as my music device on the bike since it’s easy to mess with while pedaling and stays secure.)

So you can see why Ting interests me from a savings standpoint and based on my usage. With Apple’s pending release of new iPod Touches, I wanted to see if I could use an iPod Touch as my only iOS device in conjunction with Ting.

To do that, I purchased a Huawei Express Mobile Hotspot from Ting, which is actually just a Sprint Mobile Hotspot. That would become my connection to the cell network when I needed it. To get voice, I purchased a Skype number and installed the Skype app, and Messages would still allow me to use iMessage. That means voice, data, and text are all squared away. Skype costs me $3 a month, Ting costs me $12 a month ($6 for the device per month, $3 for data at 100 MB (estimated), and I’m estimating high on fees). That’s a savings of $60 a month, or $720 a year. Would you like $720 a year? That’s about the cost of a mortgage payment.

A new iPod Touch goes for $299, and the hotspot device was $110. Both will pay for themselves after a few months given what I was paying. Ting doesn’t support the iPhone currently, only Android devices and some older flip phones, and all at full retail price. But that’s okay, because long-term it makes better financial sense. Someday they hope to offer the iPhone natively. In theory, there’s no reason why it couldn’t work considering it’s Sprint-capable.

I got my hotspot device 5 days after ordering. It came branded as a Sprint device (because it is), and turning it on brought up its activation process. A short while later it downloaded a firmware update. It quickly started to emit a WiFi signal that my iPhone and iPad both hooked into easily once I supplied the password it generated. The password doesn’t seem to change, if at all, once it’s activated, so just turning the device off and on again makes my devices hook back into it when no other WiFi networks are in range.

From what I had read, I was expecting no signal, data transfers at the speed of molasses and a generally horrible experience with Sprint. I was pleasantly surprised.

Sprint does not have 4G service in Indianapolis yet, but it’s slated to start literally any day now (the hotspot is 4G ready). So it’s confined to 3G, but it’s every bit as fast as my AT&T service on my iPhone 4S. Pages loaded, emails sent, everything seemed to work just as I had hoped it would.

As a bonus, it supports up to five devices at once, so next time I can avoid paying more for this Verizon iPad and just get a WiFi only model. (I briefly thought of using the iPad as my hotspot device, but decided I didn’t want to always carry my much pricier iPad with me all over the place.

To test this further, I turned off my cell radio in my iPhone and set it to work only on WiFi (or, in this case, the hotspot’s WiFi). I biked around town testing for connection issues and data speeds and even hopped on a few busses just to go around and test Skype VoIP call quality and data transfers.

Sprint never gave me more than 3 bars (out of 5) at any spot I tried, and it only has 1 bar in my house, but I can’t tell if Sprint’s just good enough to give you data transfers so long as it has a connection of any strength, or if the device is just bad at gauging its reception. It functioned the same whether it had 1 bar or 3. The hotspot did, while Downtown at Ohio and Pennsylvania, switch to 4G, but with no bars. After a few seconds it quickly changed to 3G with 2 bars. I hope to see that 4G more often over the next 4-6 months as they rollout here in Indy.

Voice quality over Skype was every bit as good as AT&T’s, even with the obligatory few moments where it distorted just ever so slightly. I never experienced a drop, or any time where the connection was so bad I couldn’t still understand what the other party was saying. Data transfers never seemed to hang. And this was all the while having the hotspot in my bike bag in buildings, on a bus, or on my bike. If you purchased a Ting plan with voice for an actual phone, it roams for free onto Verizon, so voice would almost always be secure for you. I’m being bleeding edge here trying to go data only, though, which doesn’t roam.

I’ve been using it all weekend and haven’t turned on the cell radio once. I’ve used Maps, Safari, iMessage, Mail, Yelp, Reeder, Facebook, Twitter, sent photos, downloaded PDFs and with no noticeable problems.

On the first day I tried it, I had a friend attempt to connect to it, but it wasn’t working for either of us. That, it seems, was because it hadn’t done a firmware update yet. Once that was complete, it went along fine.

After all weekend using iOS as heavily as I reasonably could I used just 15 MB. Many times I used the cell network when I could have used WiFi, like at Starbucks or even sitting near other places with open WiFi. Downtown it was hard to walk around and not find a public WiFi network. I was purposely loading large images and PDFs just to try and break it. The only issue I found was streaming some YouTube videos, and I’ve read streaming music from iTunes or Rdio is a little sluggish, but I rarely use those things on-the-go anyway. Heck, I rarely use those things on my phone period.

The hotspot device is about as big as a deck of cards, and the weight is comparable to half the cards in the deck. So if you don’t ever carry a messenger bag/purse/briefcase or some other way to carry it outside of a pocket, it’s probably too much of a hassle. I wouldn’t want to carry it and a wallet and phone at once. But I always have my backpack or bike bag with me wherever I go, so it fits my lifestyle. The device has a flimsy plastic back cover that sorta slides on, so I wouldn’t call this rugged.

I did notice that the hotspot does get alarmingly warm after a while, but once I took it out of the tight pouch I had it in, it cooled down and was fine. I chalk that up to my having given it no room to breathe in my bag.

Battery life is rated at 4-5 hours of continuous use, and I take that to mean continuous data transfer use. It powers down after idle activity to save battery life. I charged it Friday morning and used it through Sunday evening and it still had over 50% charge.

Why Ting over AT&T or Verizon? Because AT&T and Verizon both have data-only hotspot devices, but they both charge ridiculous prices. AT&T offers a few weekly plans with about 100mb of data, or you can $50 per month, which is about as much as my current bill. Verizon was no different. The savings just weren’t enough to bother. What’s really irritating is that you realize just how much cheaper they charge tablet devices, iPad or not, compared to their hotspots. It’s like they’re aware someone might figure out ways to ditch their high-priced business model of trading dollars for minutes.

I investigated what it would cost to cut my AT&T service off right now, and it’d be $110, which would pay for itself in about 1.5 months of service with Ting. Add a couple months if you want to count the cost of the Ting hotspot.

I’m continuing to test the service and to see how long I can go without needing the cell radio. I suspect next month once the new iPod Touches are available I’ll switch to that, cancel my AT&T service, and enjoy the savings.

Ting’s service through their mobile hotspot would also be pretty good for people who wanted a backup data device on the cheap for their laptop or tablet. I used it with my MacBook Air briefly and felt it was pretty good. I’d be afraid I’d eat through a lot of data really fast on it, though.

My recommendation? Buy it if you don’t mind toting another small device with you. Avoid it if you don’t have the space to easily carry it or live in a rural area without Sprint coverage.

You can use this link for $25 off your choice of device there, and I’ll get a $25 credit, too.

UPDATE, 12/6: I’m still happily using Ting, and have written about my experience using the iPhone on Ting at my company blog.

Car Storage

A story in today’s Indianapolis Business Journal indicated that the city of Indianapolis is considering building 3 parking garages to accommodate 16,500 more cars near Downtown. This does not include the proposed parking garage being planned for the Broad Ripple area.

Currently, Indianapolis has about 70,000 spaces around downtown, including spaces built to accommodate the oft-stressed IUPUI area, which has 16,781 spaces between lots and garages. All of IUPUI’s spaces are publicly-owned and constructed at a cost to Indiana taxpayers. 8,337 of those spaces are designed just for students, meaning faculty and staff take up almost half of the available spaces at IUPUI. There are over 30,000 students enrolled at IUPUI.

Figures based on the average cost of constructing a new parking garage indicate that in 2008, U.S. garages cost about $15,000 per space, or $44 per square foot. That’s a lot of money just to hold a car. Parking lots cost anywhere from $250 to $500 per space, depending on their location.

All that car storage takes up a lot of valuable real estate, too, causing city centers to be consumed by largely useless, ugly, concrete walls so people can walk a few short feet to their destination.

Considering the cost to the public to build large roads, parking garages either entirely publicly funded or abated with public tax grants, parking fees people pay, meter attendants, and other public infrastructure for car storage like signage and meter maintenance (now partially covered by a private operator in Indianapolis), that’s a huge sum of money. Even one garage that, on average, costs millions to build, is somehow seen as “okay”, despite it costing the average US city just under $6 million to do so.

The average student at IUPUI pays over $250 an academic year to park on campus, or about $25 a month. Similar rates apply to people who work downtown and have to pay their own parking costs. Dennison Parking operates a facility that charges $40 a month for non-guaranteed daily parking at their facility on South Meridian Street.

The entire IndyConnect plan would cost a person earning $50,000 just $10 a month to build and maintain a system. The average household in Marion and Hamilton County would pay about $120 a year for a system that would allow us to stop building ugly blocks for car storage, and instead allow people to get to the business of actually getting around town quickly and efficiently. The cost of three parking garages would roughly cover the cost of operating IndyConnect for one year.

Which means that the amount of money that Indianapolis is going to spend, without much of a peep from the public, is enough to operate an entire transit system that would catapult Indianapolis into the echelon of “cities with great mass transit” for a year. That’s just in public money that the city somehow “doesn’t have”. Outside of the public coffers, the plan would have to be funded largely by tax dollars on a recurring basis in a way that garages presumably don’t (beyond maintenance).

So, for the average schmuck who’s married with a kid or two, where both parents work, they’re willing to spend, on average a third of their income each year based on US Transportation Bureau statistics on cars and “car stuff”, like maintenance, gas, insurance, and parking fees. Or, $25,000 a year for an income of $75,000. As opposed to spending $120 a year in taxes, plus bus/train fees of $60 a month for a total of $1,560 a year (for two people).

Tens of thousands of people willingly pay $25,000 a year when they could just pay $1,560. Talk about an economic opportunity. Wouldn’t you like a third of your income back?

Most people in Indianapolis are one person in a car going to work, then going home. If you’re married, even losing one car to allow mom the use of the transit system while Dad takes the car to run a bunch of errands and then pick up and drop off the kids somewhere would still be a savings of $12,500 a year. If you’re a single parent with a kid or two, you can still enjoy the savings by using the car less in instances where the kids take the bus to school and you take the bus or train to work. Imagine saving just half the money you spend now per year on gas and oil changes. That would also extend the life of your car, or allow you to purchase and maintain a cheaper used car that you use less. For virtually everyone except elderly old quadriplegics in Indianapolis, everyone stands to save thousands of dollars a year.

For all those students going to IUPUI who spend untold amounts of car expense, they could instead invest that money in their education. Even not paying for a parking permit could cover the cost of several textbooks (or one big one if you’re in med school).

Cars are, for most people, a drain. They are not an asset, as an asset should retain or grow in value. They’re generally used for only transporting one person around, they pollute, they’re expensive, very few people like their car or their commute, and they’re an antiquated way of thinking about transit that we’re seemingly stuck with because of years of city building and construction that centered around the highway and the suburbs.

The City of Indianapolis is about to construct big boxes useful for nothing else but cars, while everyone sits around and wonders where all the money went, why they’re out of money themselves, and why they have to sit on the highway for so long every morning and night just to get to work. And not one public figure has drawn the connection that maybe it’s time we start diverting the money we do have to smarter ways of getting around. A reduction in waistlines, pollution, ugly and expensive lots and garages, and the convenience of knowing that even if you kept your car and one morning it doesn’t start, you still have a clean, safe, secure way of getting to work is not a bad thing.

The Apple TV

Everyone and their brother is talking about Apple’s proposed “Apple TV”, in a true TV-set fashion. I was in the kitchen the other day and as I was chopping an onion, it occurred to me what they could do to make a really great TV. I often think about technology whilst chopping onions.

First, Siri on an Apple TV is possible, maybe likely, but it’s not going to be the only interface. It can’t be. As Neven Mrgan pointed out, how would you flip to a new channel if Siri goes down? What about gaming? You can’t game with your voice — “QUICK! RUN AWAY, ME!”

So here’s what I imagine:

  • It’ll be pricey, as with any Apple device, but it’ll be competitive on the high-end. Probably about $1,499 if I had to make my guess.
  • It’ll use the traditional Apple Remote. I think they, and everyone else, really likes that. It may get modified or become smarter to do things like increasing the volume, but;
  • The real remote comes on your iPhone or iPad. You can use it without, sure, but the magic happens on those devices. Now many have pointed out that you can’t easily control one screen by looking at another. Hand someone an iPad and the first thing they do is look at the iPad screen and not the TV. The current Apple Remote App is fine, but it requires a sort of disjointed brain behavior that’s hard to wrap your mind around. BUT, Apple doesn’t have to do that anymore. They introduced iPad mirroring, didn’t they? You just display whatever’s on the TV on to your iPad. When you’re done, you just put the iPad down and enjoy your show.
  • I don’t think Apple’s TV will play nice with the cable providers. It’ll use the Internet-only, which is terrifying, since that’s still the cable company (if that’s not a monopoly, it’s about to be…I bet Apple can and will fight tooth and nail on that front if it comes to pass that Comcast starts throttling data or selectively blocking channels.).
  • Since it’ll be Internet-only, I imagine a device that lets me pick shows completely on-demand, a la carte. Want Mad Men? That’ll be 99 cents for an episode or you can buy a season-pass for $9.99. In addition, Apple will no doubt become a subscription handler, allowing you to pay $19.99 a month or about $240 a year on an “all you can watch” model, like Netflix, so you can get TV and some movies. Movies not part of the subscription plan can still be rented for $1.99 or .99 cents. They may well do away with the TV episode subscriptions all together in favor of this.
  • I have to assume the folks at Apple see Netflix floundering wildly. I have to suspect Eddie Cue wants to eat them for breakfast, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they terminate their Netflix deals and go straight into their own business of selling those monthly subscriptions for access. Or, more likely, a yearly subscription so you can pay it once and forget it. Seems less like “a bill” when you do that. They’ve done that with MobileMe and now iTunes Match, so that would be consistent.
  • Sports packages have to get thrown in if Apple can pull it off, otherwise it’s not useful for a lot of people.
  • I bet HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. can’t wait. This fits with the model they’ve been touting for years.

Apple’s devices are all about content, so there’s no reason why we have to keep falling all over ourselves trying to figure out what amazing new input method they’re going to think up. I bet it’s mostly remote control, with a little voice-control if you want to use it, just like your iPhone.

It’ll be a really pretty device, maybe with a few neat things like built-in WiFi and Bluetooth (for iPhone controllers for games?) and iCloud access. But the really good parts come from easy software and access to all the best content.