Automated store spiraling

As an introvert, I was initially quite pleased with the concept of an automated store (both as a customer and as a potential investor). The idea of purchasing products in-person, or selling products, without human interaction sounded like a delightful prospect.

Unfortunately, experiencing this type of store first-hand as a customer over the last four years has been disappointing.

With no need for customer interaction, employee focus is ordering supplies, stocking shelves, cleaning the environment, maintaining/monitoring technology and customer surveillance. Regarding the store I frequent, this list of tasks does not appear to be achievable.

I am baffled. The shelves of this store remain bare on a consistent basis. It is now a running joke with friends as to how long the same solitary package of pickles will remain (as of the writing of this article, it is two months). On the rare occasion (approximately every three months) that products exist in the store, the touchscreen available to purchase the items rarely works.

My first thought is that the store is a front for criminal activity. I can think of no other rational explanation. No one in their right mind would burn through rent money for retail space and not invest effort in the business. 

Maybe the empty store is run by a maniac who regards all of humanity with such disdain that the goal is to impose a minor daily irritant of no products upon the masses. Slowly chipping away at the well-being of all potential customers.

I guess the owner could be lazy, but that seems unlikely. Why go through all the paperwork and fees to start a business if the goal is to do nothing?

We have so many ups and downs during our short existence on this planet; it could very well be that the person running this location is going through a rough patch. I hope this is not the case.

In all fairness, this bare-shelf issue is probably my own fault. I am terrible at reading signage. I am sure I have just misinterpreted what this retail space is all about. Since I see refrigerated shelves containing one item, coffee machines that spit out anything but coffee, freezers and a broken touchscreen, I assume they exist to provide me with food. When, in reality, this retail space is a portal into another dimension.

Home security: turning homeowners into morons

Schnikes. If one more person complains to me about the legal activity they have picked up and reviewed on their home security systems, I am going to scream. I have learned one very important thing from the many useless conversations I have participated in regarding the analysis of conversations unknowingly recorded from passersby: home security systems are turning homeowners into morons. Gossiping morons.

Home security systems are designed to record activities to be used as evidence should something nefarious take place. Any legal activity recorded is to be ignored and destroyed. Unfortunately what I am witnessing is far from that with homeowners. People are complaining to me (and sharing with me) the private information they recorded when people were on or near their property, private information that is not illegal. I only make the situation worse by pointing out that what people say to others or to themselves is none of their business if it is legal. If they are not responsible enough and respectful enough of others to abide by this rule then they are not mature enough to handle potentially sensitive data.

I am sure home security systems do a great deal of good. Unfortunately I am confident they are also doing a great deal of bad to communities.

Mouse Magnificent

The computer mouse experience need not be cold and uncomfortable. Dive into the soft billowy bin of computer mouse wrist pillows and stay for a bit. You will be glad you did:)

Lotto Losers

As a computer programmer, I have zero patience when it comes to poor web site/web application customer service. If you build it (and have methods for users to contact you on a web site) then you had better support it.  Anything less is lazy.

I recently visited a state lottery web site. I could tell from the information on the public side of the web site that they allowed the purchasing of lottery tickets to local users (within the state).  However, I could not tell if they allowed the purchasing of lottery tickets by a local user (within the state) as a gift to another local user (within the state).  I proceeded to go through the tedious process of setting up a login account in the hopes of finding out the answer to my question. What I learned is this:

  1. The site asked for unnecessary personal information on set up of the online account.
  2. The site did not allow purchasing lottery tickets as gifts (why isn’t this made clear outside of actually setting up an account and going half way through the purchasing cycle?)
  3. After I realized the site did not offer the option I wanted, I wandered around the site for 20 minutes trying to find an option to delete my account since I realized by this point that I have no use for it. I found no option to delete or deactivate the account. So I then contacted their customer service using the contact us email on the site and requested the account be deactivated or deleted. Two weeks later I still have not heard from anyone regarding this request.
  4. I just sent another request again asking that the account be deactivated or deleted.
  5. If the staff is unable to handle incoming electronic requests, then this needs to be stated on the web site and all electronic means of communication need to be removed from this web site.

Pathetic.

Microsoft Office 365 profile photos in the workplace: welcome to creepy factor 4,000.

Office 365 is a delightfully useful bundle of tools. If you are familiar with it then you are also familiar with one seriously disturbing feature of Office 365. The profile photo. When a user uploads a profile photo to his or her profile, this image shows up in all kinds of places including at the top of ANY email the person sends to other employees.

For some reason I have found this feature to be extremely distracting and disturbing. The issue surfaces when I receive an email from an employee I do not know. Regardless of the content of the email (positive, negative or neutral content), if it is from someone I am not familiar with, and I see their face staring back at me, I instantly have a negative perception of the sender. I think they are either conceited (when they are posing for the photo) or unprofessional (when they are using a fictitious character or famous person for their photo).

I am surprised such a simple feature of showing a face on an email has generated such a harsh reaction from me. Here are a few possible theories as to why this feature bothers me:

  • It could have something to do with how I categorize email in my brain. Email is a colorless, ageless and gender-less platform of communication. I like it that way, it forces more of a focus on a task and eliminates the unnecessary weirdness I get from some people when I have to see them in person (elevator eyes, comments regarding my appearance, yada yada yada).
  • I am very familiar with how I am treated in public online platforms (like when playing Chess) once users discover I am female so I avoid revealing such information. I have become accustomed to concealing my identity via online communication for so long that I now see any attempt to knowingly reveal such information as a terrible decision that will cause problems.
  • Maybe I am just freaked out by a stranger staring at me via the weird little circular photo as I try to read the email. You know, like how that cute little guard dog was trying to do his job at the children’s museum but was freaked by all the teddy bears staring at him: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/14154738/ns/world_news-weird_news/t/elvis-teddy-bear-leaves-building-hard-way/#.Xi8FNWhKhaQ.

We humans are so weird, I cannot imagine what aliens from other galaxies must think of us.

Buses, trams, trains and subways – not what they seem

I have always enjoyed the luxury of private transportation.  Tooling around in my own car has satisfied many moments of wanderlust.

I never invested much thought into public transportation. It was always a nice thought in the back of my mind. I thought of public transportation as my safety net should I ever become incapable of operating my own vehicle due to financial or physical circumstance.

As my travel experience expanded into regions (like New York City and Amsterdam) where public transportation was required for my day-to-day exploration, I realized very quickly that public transportation is not designed for patrons with physical limitations.

When people push for public transportation a benefit often listed is the convenience and freedom it offers to those physically unable to get to destinations on their own. Unfortunately, with what I have witnessed in New York City and Amsterdam, this benefit is unfounded (by my standards anyway).

The public transportation I participated in in New York City and Amsterdam were very well run processes. I used a combination of buses, trains, trams and subways. Not only were these vessels immaculate but they were easy to identify from the street, the destinations were easy to understand and each trip was reasonably priced.

My first impression while participating in this transportation was that of efficiency and money well spent. Unfortunately after a few minutes of observing others, I realized that public transportation is is no way designed for members of the public with physical limitations. What I witnessed was something built ONLY for humans who never require assistance at any time for any reason. Time and again I witnessed:

  • elderly people stumble into seats as the public transportation jerked into action without warning
  • young people not feeling well that had to stand due to lack of available seating
  • people of all ages with crutches or a cast on an arm trying to frantically reach a seat or poll to hold onto before the tram lurched forward
  • turnstiles to access transportation platforms were narrow
  • bus and tram stops at street level were often in horrifying and narrow areas where one misstep would land an unfortunate soul in the path of speeding cars or dare-devil cyclists
  • thinly veiled impatience on the face and demeanor of every participant with fully-functional bodies
  • horrified mothers gasp as doors tried to close on strollers while irritated observers grab the stroller and assist getting it into the train
  • seats too close together for easy maneuvering of wheelchairs, luggage, strollers, people of different heights and widths
  • hoards of lunatics rushing onto and off of the public transportation
  • seats designated for the visually impaired remained empty, a clear indication to me that this group found attempts far to horrifying to ever attempt again

If I had my way I would change the priorities of public transportation in the minds of participants and designers. I would like to see the top priority go to those who truly need public transportation due to physical limitations so they may get from point A to point B safely.  Unfortunately this change in priority would require the majority of the population to step back, take a deep breath and exercise compassion and patience.  I am not sure our planet is ready for something like this yet so in the meantime I will try my best to keep compassion and patience at the top of my own list.  I know one day I will need it from others;)

Full Body Vibration (FBV) or Whole Body Vibration (WBV) Platforms for stiff/sore muscles

I love gadgets.  When I saw a video of a Full Body Vibration (FBV) / Whole Body Vibration (WBV) Platform I immediately wanted to know how this gadget helped users with muscle soreness.  I could not locate any scientific studies regarding muscle fatigue relief and FBV/WBV.  However, I did surprisingly find several studies that hinted at other potential benefits to using such a device (i.e. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170315143836.htm).

I recently purchased an FBV to try it out for my post-workout and post-stretching muscle pain and stiffness.  The way the device was described it made me think it could partially mimic the vibrations of a therapeutic soak in a hot tub.

I purchased this device on eBay for a very reasonable price: 30″ Full Body Fitness 3D Vibration Plate Platform Exercise Machine w/ Straps by Murtisol.

From the research I did on these devices, I think users are supposed to actually workout on them instead of just stand on them. I am not working out on this device. I do my normal workout each day and then I stand in a relaxed position on the device for 10 minutes on this setting: manual, speed 3. I am very pleased with the results so far. I have only been using the platform for about a month but I have noticed a significant decrease in leg soreness and stiffness (most notably first thing in the morning). I will continue to use this device each day after my workout and stretch as a massage tool.

If you decide to purchase the exact model I mention above, note the following:

  • it is surprisingly quiet
  • it is heavy, getting the package into the house may be challenging for some (it has wheels and a handle for tipping and wheeling it around for ideal placement once the device is unpacked)
  • it takes up space (it is 30 inches long) so do not think it is something you can pack away easily – you will want it out and accessible every day
  • I have been using this particular brand for about a month so I cannot say at this time how well this device functions long-term but so far it is working as expected
  • this particular model simultaneously rocks in different directions so be aware of this in case you have balance issues
  • consult your physician first before using this device if you have pre-existing conditions
  • this device has an added benefit of making you sound like Darth Vader if you chat on the phone with friends while standing on it

Handling video surveillance data (while NOT being a complete whacka-doodie)

Video surveillance in and around homes and businesses, whether we like it or not, is the norm now.  True IT professionals are trained in handling all kinds of data and the handling of the data involves very specific rules focusing on integrity, confidentiality, local and federal laws and respect for others.

If you are considering the installation of video surveillance in or around your home or business, know that you will now be the keeper of potentially sensitive data.  If you do not make a conscious effort to treat the data with care, then expect to lose the trust and respect of anyone coming in contact with you or the surveillance equipment.

Keep the following in mind when reviewing the data from surveillance equipment you have installed:

  • Where is the data stored? If it is stored in a free “cloud” then consider the data NOT private and some or all the data at some point may be viewed and/or sold to third parties without your knowledge.
  • How is the data protected? If you “log in” to something to view the data then take extra care in forming complex passwords that change frequently.
  • Avoid sharing the data with anyone unless activity captured is illegal activity (if it is illegal, share the data with law enforcement).
  • Avoid commenting on activity captured.
  • Delete stored data on a regular basis, I recommend deleting data once every 4 months.  This gives a wide enough range should law enforcement ask for assistance from the community in any investigations involving areas near the surveillance equipment.
  • If you capture something memorable (and legal) that you would like to share with the public, feel free to share it however you like after first getting the permission from all humans present in the data captured.

Over the weekend I listened to a homeowner mock a person delivering a package to his front porch.  The homeowner played the recorded surveillance footage of the mundane event for everyone at the dinner table and ridiculed the delivery person for several things (none of which were illegal).  I could not help but wonder the horrid things they would say about myself if I were to ever visit his home.  The homeowner initially had installed the equipment for home security, but the setup has now morphed into disrespecting members of his community in public forums.  This event was a reminder to me that our society is flooded with fun gadgets but the security and ethics training necessary to properly handle the data being captured is absent.

Tech message of DOOM

Most devices and apps are built with good intentions, I think this because I am a computer programmer with a more often than not sunny disposition. I am also a realist. I have been around long enough to know what it means to not know your neighbors.

I have a tech message of doom for the world today: it is fun to bury ourselves in technology. Tech is a lovely escape from accountability, confrontation and reality – it also does amazing things for efficiency, heath, transport – the list goes on and on. However, hiding behind technology will only make us rock stars of our own empty electronic world and nothing more. Human interaction can be complex and often times dangerous but until we invest in the lives of others then all tomorrows are a blue screen of death – tomorrows that no one person can save us from, we all need to do our part for this world.

Invest in the world if you can, you will be glad you did – our world needs you:)

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