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Mobile Technology News, January 10, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • New Year freebies: Pac-Mac, 7 Minute Workout Challenge for iOS
    The Apple Store app, a program for iPhone and iPod touch that keeps users up-to-date on items, orders and sales at retail Apple Stores, is celebrating the new year by offering a fitness app, 7 Minute Workout Challenge, free to users. To get it, one must download and install the free Apple Store app on their mobile device. Apple has also made the classic arcade game Pac-Man its “App of the Week,” making it free for the first time ever.

        



  • Doctor In Ron Johnson's Anti-Obamacare Story Refutes Claim
    WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has long attributed his inspiration for entering Washington politics to a mission of repealing the Affordable Care Act. A common thread in the tea party-backed senator’s calls for repeal is a story involving a reconstructive heart surgery that saved his infant daughter’s life 30 years ago, during the freer health system before Obamacare.

    But the doctor Johnson credits with the lifesaving heart surgery seems to disagree, according to progressive news blog Uppity Wisconsin.

    In numerous speeches and op-eds, Johnson claimed the work of Dr. John Foker would not have been possible under the Affordable Care Act and its stifling regulations. If his family had lacked the freedom to access doctors qualified to reconstruct his daughter’s heart, Johnson argued, his baby wouldn’t have survived.

    In a 2012 interview with CNS News, Johnson said:

    I would not have run for the U.S. Senate had Obamacare not been passed. … Our story has a happy ending because we had that freedom. … That’s what this health care law is all about, it’s an assault on our freedom. It’s going to lower the quality of our care. It’s going to lead to rationing. The types of medical innovation that saved my daughter’s life [and] that saves millions of Americans — I won’t say it’s going to come to a grinding halt, but it’s going to be severely limited.

    According to Uppity, however, Foker is not only “generally supportive” of the Affordable Care Act, but contends that President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law does not go far enough.

    “Unfortunately, it was written by the insurance and drug companies, so not great,” Foker told Uppity via email. “Most of the many flaws of American medical care are still present.”

    Foker argued that Republican lawmakers should relish the ACA’s “private-solution” approach to health care reform as he criticized the GOP for obstructionist political tactics. “They’re never happy,” Foker concluded.

    Contrary to Johnson’s fears, Foker was, and remains, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s medical school — a public institution — and performed the lifesaving surgery on Johnson’s daughter at the government-funded university’s medical center.

    Moreover, the innovative procedure that Johnson credits for saving his daughter’s life was not developed as the “wonderful result” of health law “freedom,” but was first performed in the more socialized health systems of Brazil and France, as pointed out by Think Progress’ Igor Volsky.

    On Monday, Johnson announced a lawsuit seeking to exclude members of Congress and their employees from qualifying for employer-sponsored health insurance, arguing that it is unconstitutional for the Obama administration to force him to decide which staff can keep federal contributions to their plans.

    (h/t Uppity Wisconsin)

  • Dell looks to be heading toward staff layoffs of 20 to 30 pecent
    As PC shipments plummet for the seventh consecutive quarter, it’s said that Dell is having to tighten its belt.
  • Twitter Sees High Engagement in Video Tweets; Offers Real-Time Tips for Brands
    LAS VEGAS — Twitter is focusing on a number of initiatives with marketers to link brands more closely to the real-time opportunities in the daily tweet stream of users, says Melissa Barnes, head of agency and brand advocacy at Twitter in an interview with Beet.TV at the Consumer Electronics Show.

    “The best brands [in real-time] are the ones thinking about it far in advance,” she explains. That’s because brands can connect to offer content during “everyday moments” that exist on Twitter. “We know when people are hungry, when they’re going for a run, when they’re tired,” Barnes says, and brands can aim to deliver content at the right moment.

    Another key opportunity for brands is, not surprisingly, in social TV. Barnes says the social media giant studied the interplay for brands that plan across the year for TV and Twitter integrations, and saw a huge increase for ROI for CPG brands and a huge decrease in cost per acquisition for telco brands.

    In addition, marketers can take advantage of delivering ads in content, such as an instant replay of a live sports event. Twitter has inked deals with more than 30 networks to offer such video content in real-time; brands can tie into that.

    Brands like Volkswagen and Target have been innovative in using Twitter for marketing, she says

    The segment was taped at the Mindshare “Client Huddle” at CES.

    You can find this post on Beet.TV.

  • Report: Pegatron wins contract, will make half of 'iPhone 6' supply
    An unsourced report from a Taiwanese trade paper has reported that electronics manufacturer Pegatron will supply approximately half of the future “iPhone 6” orders from Apple. The company says it is building a new factory to meet future demand, and expects to grow revenues by Tw$68 billion ($2.6 billion US) over the course of 2014. Pegatron already produces iPhones and other items for Apple, and various electronics for other manufacturers.

        



  • What does CES mean to Las Vegas?
    What really happens in Vegas during CES
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    Firms fight back against spies and hackers
  • LeVar Burton Talks 'Star Trek,' Google Glass, and His Reading Rainbow App at CES 2014

    LeVar Burton drops by the Samsung Smart Lounge to tell us about his Reading Rainbow app and how it’s changed childrens’ lives over the past 18 months. In addition, he talks to Andre Meadows and Ethan Newberry about his take on Star Trek Into Darkness, the historic visor and NASA’s recent Mars mission!

    As a CES veteran and pro, Burton has his own opinions when it comes to tracking CES trends. “It seems like every year there are fewer and fewer major technological innovations. It seems like the last couple of years it’s been larger TVs, 3D TVs, nothing really earth shattering. But it’s still a big show.”

    But he loves technology, of course. He’s not just the Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise!

    He’s also taken his famous “Reading Rainbow” show and reinvented it as a tablet experience for kids. It’s been on the market for 18 months already, and it just hit the landmark of 10 million books and videos watched in combination. “We have kids reading about 131,000 books a week and watching about 86,000 a week.” He says, “We have proven that kids will come to the tablet to read, and not just play games.”

    Providing an interactive experience, every book has a voiceover, music and sound effects, similar to the books on the “Reading Rainbow” show.

    In terms of what he most wants to be known for, Burton can point to “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as huge phenomena in entertainment, but he really counts “Reading Rainbow” as his most crucial legacy. “I come from a people for whom reading was at one point in this country illegal.”

    As for the trend of wearable tech, and Google Glass specifically, Burton is still a bit suspicious of how much information those products are getting from us. “We need some time and we need a little bit more education before we become totally comfortable with it.”

    Aside from catching up on those “Star Trek” episodes on Netflix, “Community” fans can catch Burton in an upcoming episode this season!

  • Google Charters Private Ferry Service For Employees In Attempt To Seem Less Out-Of-Touch
    Google’s use of San Francisco public bus stops to shuttle employees to and from its Mountain View campus via private buses has come under fire. We can’t wait to see how people react to their new private ferry service.

    According to KPIX, Google has chartered the Triumphant, a 149-passenger ferry complete with wi-fi, to run two trips each morning and two return trips each evening.

    The move, reportedly operating under a 30-day trial run, comes on the heels of a highly publicized protest against Google’s use of private buses in December. Demonstrators blocked buses and protested against both the company’s unpaid use of San Francisco city bus stops (an issue that has been rectified since the protest) and against the growing separation of wealth in the city, a symptom protesters say is aggravated by tech companies. A union organizer was even planted to act as an arrogant Google employee.

    But if Google was looking to soften its image, it may have jumped from the frying pan into the fire on this one:

    Must feel downright embarrassing to be a self-aware tech worker in San Francisco in 2014. http://t.co/CdnTFjnWh2

    — Sam Stephenson (@sstephenson) January 9, 2014

    Google’s timing is impeccable.

    http://t.co/tk8zq7W3T5

    — William Henderson (@quicklywilliam) January 9, 2014

    Google contracts catamaran ferry for employees http://t.co/Z0Xtk1MfYC (No, this is not a headline from the Onion)

    — Allison Arieff (@aarieff) January 8, 2014

    While the move may be more efficient and bring more money to the city, chartering a private boat will hardly help the company appear to be one of the people.

    In a statement, the company said the move was simply an attempt to get employees to work without troubling the city.

    “We certainly don’t want to cause any inconvenience to SF residents and we’re trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work,” Google told tech blog Re/code.

    Google is reportedly paying the city $50 per docking in what Port of San Francisco Maritime Director Peter Dailey called an “underutilized” port.

    “They’re going to see if this is something their employees want, and if it makes economic and logistical sense,” said Dailey. “Depending on the success of the trial period, we could see other companies following suit.”

    Check out the Triumphant in action below:

  • What Arianna Huffington, Mika Brzezinski And Cindi Leive Learned From A Week Without Technology (VIDEO)
    Last month, Arianna Huffington, Cindi Leive and Mika Brzezinski made a vow to take a break from technology. For the sake of their health (and sanity), the three women ditched digital distractions with a seven-day detox from email and social media.

    In a Morning Joe segment on Thursday, host Mika Brzezinski chatted with Huffington and Leive about the challenges, and rewards, of learning to let go of technology. Huffington explained that the motivation behind the digital detox, and also behind the Third Metric Live conference, was a conversation with Brzezinski about the need for women to help each other create lives of less stress and greater well-being.

    “We started this conversation that was really about, how can we support each other as women to actually create breathing spaces in our lives, to end this addiction, to take care of ourselves at the same time fulfill our obligations?” Huffington said. “That was what really led to the Third Metric.”

    Making it through seven days without technology, Leive says, made her realize that “the world does not crumble around you” when you disconnect from email and take a little time for yourself.

    “If you ask any woman what she wants more of in her life right now, she’s going to say time,” Leive said. “It’s usually just time to herself, not just time to do all those things we do for other people. What we’re cheating ourselves out of is time for ourselves, and that has a huge impact on our health.”

    Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski are taking The Third Metric on a 3-city tour: NY, DC & LA. Tickets are on sale now at thirdmetric.com.

  • Why Machines Alone Cannot Solve the World's Translation Problem
    Sixty years ago this week, scientists at Georgetown and IBM lauded their machine translation “brain,” known as the 701 computer. The “brain” had successfully translated multiple sentences from Russian into English, leading the researchers to confidently claim that translation would be fully handled by machines in “the next few years.”

    Fast forward six decades, and MIT Technology Review makes a remarkably similar proclamation: “To translate one language into another, find the linear transformation that maps one to the other. Simple, say a team of Google engineers.”

    Simple? Not exactly.

    Even in the 1950s, IBM acknowledged that to translate just one segment “necessitates two and a half times as many instructions to the computer as are required to simulate the flight of a guided missile.” It’s also highly doubtful that the scientists at Google see anything “simple” about their new method, which relies on vector space mathematics.

    Granted, there is a beautiful simplicity in statistical machine translation, such as Google Translate. Essentially, the more data you have, the better the probability of a high-quality translation as an end result. But what do you do when you don’t have enough data? Or in the case of Google, what do you do when the data might be out there somewhere, but it isn’t part of the free and public web that you’re designed to mine?

    That’s when you come up with new techniques, just as Google has done. Their new method — one that is meant to complement, but not replace their statistical approach — automatically creates dictionaries and phrase tables without help from humans. The new technique uses data mining in order to compare the structure of one language to another, and then generates phrase tables and dictionaries accordingly. This means that Google won’t have to rely exclusively on documents available in two languages to improve its translation quality. It will have other methods, such as this new one, to add to the mix.

    What does this mean? Even Google isn’t satisfied that statistical machine translation will move things along quickly enough. That method has its limitations, just like all methods do.

    What’s fascinating is that every few months, starry-eyed and often misinformed journalists herald a new era for language translation, announcing a “groundbreaking milestone” related to a technology that has been around for 60 years.

    And their claim is always the same: “The translation problem is solved!”

    Unfortunately, equating such minor machine translation accomplishments with “solving the translation problem” is like assuming that because we’ve walked on the moon that we can all just pack up and move there. We can’t, and we may never be able to. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

    Machine translation, or computer-generated translation as we often call it at Smartling, is a technical marvel. It serves many important purposes, can be used properly in specific, limited cases, and is useful for a variety of tasks that are typically unrelated to the final output on the page. Personally, I’m a believer in making strides toward improving machine translation. For that reason, I profiled the work of Franz Och, the brain behind Google Translate, in Found in Translation.

    However, machine translation is not going to replace professional human translators anytime soon. Here are six reasons why:

    1. It’s Tough to Get Good Translation, Even From Perfectly Bilingual Human Beings.
    One of the reasons that machine translation cannot replace professional human translation is the same reason that plain old bilingual laypeople, for many tasks, cannot replace professional human translation. For most translation jobs, the task of translation requires more than just knowledge of two languages. The idea that you can simply create one-to-one equivalencies across languages is false.Translators are not walking dictionaries. They recreate language. They craft beautiful phrases and sentences to make them have the same impact as the source. Often, they devise brand-new ways of saying things, and to do so, they draw upon a lifetime’s worth of knowledge derived from living in two cultures. Machines cannot exactly do that.

    2. Translation Quality is Highly Subjective.

    Even if machines could approximate human translation quality, it’s unclear which version of human quality they would emulate. Give a text to 100 human translators, and you’ll get 100 different translations. Which one offers the best “quality?” In many ways, this is like asking someone which rendition of a song is best when sung by 100 different singers. Your choice will be subjective in many ways, even if you can argue that one artist hit a flat note while another had perfect pitch. While this diversity of human language expression makes things complicated, it’s also a necessity. Machine translation tools, so far, present far more limited options with their output, which are generally too simplistic for the complex linguistic realities of most translation projects.

    3. There Are Too Many Languages Out There.

    Google Translate today supports 80 languages. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages alive today, of which about 2,000 are considered endangered. If we use a very conservative estimate and say there are only 1,000 languages of significant economic importance in the world today, that still leaves 920 languages yet to be developed. If Google were to add 10 languages per year, it would take 92 years for us to see even a fraction of the world’s human languages addressed through machine translation. Most of us won’t be around by then, meaning that machine translation — even at the poorest levels of quality — will not be a reality for the majority of the world’s languages during our lifetime.

    4. Most Languages Are Not Written.

    The vast majority of the world’s languages are spoken or signed. Online, much of our communication is migrating from text to a combination of text plus audio, and even more importantly, video, which encompasses audio as well and helps us leap past text. This means that written language need not be the barrier it once was for people whose languages lack written forms. It also means that translation has its limits. Spoken language suddenly takes on new importance as the internet travels to places far-flung. Smartphones and tablets with visual, tactile and audio inputs make text less important in our world. This doesn’t mean that text translation won’t be important. It might just mean it will increasingly take place behind the scenes, with audio or video output instead.

    5. Context Ss Key.

    In a language like English, a single word can have hundreds of different meanings, depending on the context (see “Clear Examples of Why Context Matters“). In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary’s lexicographer for the letter “R,” Peter Gilliver, claimed that the verb-form alone of “run” has no less than 645 distinct meanings. Can a machine learn each of these meanings for every word in not just one language, but two? This isn’t an easy question to answer. In fact, the OED explains that even the very nature of what constitutes a word is up for debate:

    “It’s impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it’s so hard to decide what actually counts as a word. Is dog one word, or two (a noun meaning “a kind of animal,” and a verb meaning “to follow persistently”)? If we count it as two, then do we count inflections separately too (e.g. dogs = plural noun, dogs = present tense of the verb). Is dog-tired a word, or just two other words joined together? Is hot dog really two words, since it might also be written as hot-dog or even hotdog?”

    Not only that, but word-for-word translation is impossible, so instead of thinking about words, when humans use context to figure out meaning, we think not just of single words, but how those words interact with the ones around them. Those combinations are constantly changing and multiplying, limited only by human creativity. Machines can hardly keep up.

    6. Language Is Simply Too Important.

    How important are the words your company uses to describe its products or services? They are critical. For many companies — including, perhaps ironically, Google — the voice of the brand all centers around word choice. How human beings make choices about the products they buy and the services they use relates directly to the words that are used to market and sell them. Perhaps when machines are the ones doing the buying, they’ll be less picky about language. For now, humans are still the ones opening their wallets, and humans are a strange bunch, with very real and emotional reactions to language. Our taste or distaste for a particular term often relates to our upbringing, our culture and even our past experiences. Humans cannot accurately predict which words will annoy or confuse even the people we know best. How can we expect a machine to fare any better?

    So, if machine translation can’t fix all our language woes anytime soon, why does the world keep celebrating each and every related milestone as if it were a major achievement? Well, because it really would be nice if cross-language issues could be simplified. In fact, humans would love it if communication matters in general — even monolingual ones — were less complex.

    The bottom line is this: Computers will never fully solve the translation problem, and even to make micro-strides toward that audacious goal, they will need significant help from humans. The question isn’t, “Will we get there?” but rather, “How far will we get, and how fast?” In the meantime, the utopia of computer-generated translation is a dream worth having, albeit a recurring one.

  • SNHU's Online Enrollment Is Soaring, Just Don't Compare It To A For-Profit College
    There’s a good chance you’ve seen commercials advertising Southern New Hampshire University, even if you don’t live anywhere near the state.

    Although the name may sound like a public university, SNHU is a private, non-profit school, and those ads have helped fuel a big online enrollment boost in recent years.

    There are now 32,000 students enrolled online, SNHU’s Vice President of Marketing and Student Recruiting Gregg Mazzola told The Huffington Post, and he expects that number to hit 35,000 this year. If the university hits that target, it would be doubling the 17,000 students Inside Higher Ed reported were enrolled online in October 2012.

    The school’s campus in Manchester, N.H., has 2,912 students enrolled — a small increase from a year ago, but mostly holding steady.

    Mazzola declined to discuss how much SNHU spends on marketing, but he did confirm that the school is running commercials nationwide.

    However, that growth comes with a critical look by outsiders, most recently in a Slate article last week by University of Southern California professor Gabe Kahn. Some alumni are complaining SNHU’s commercials make the school seem like for-profit giants Kaplan, ITT and the University of Phoenix, Slate reported. And like for-profit colleges, the article noted, SNHU spends “millions” employing at least 160 admissions counselors.

    SNHU President Paul LeBlanc took exception to some of the comparisons to for-profit colleges in a blog post:

    Am I being too defensive when writers get our story wrong? My response to today’s Slate article: http://t.co/GPEJlWz10c

    — Paul LeBlanc (@snhuprez) January 3, 2014

    “Comparing anyone to Phoenix is automatically an insult to most (fair or not to Phoenix) and what we actually said is that we borrowed the best of operational practices from the for-profits (customer service, data analytics, a sense of urgency and accountability) while eschewing the practices that cast them in such a poor light,” LeBlanc wrote. “Using actual examples and evidence, I pointed out the differences in our admissions processes, our far better graduation rates, our lower prices, and the ways we address quality in our programs.”

    It’s no wonder SNHU is trying to avoid being seen as a for-profit university.

    For-profit colleges have been the subject of investigations from the U.S. Senate and Government Accountability Office, revealing deceptive and predatory recruitment practices and that students at these schools are twice as likely to struggle to repay their education debt. Following those revelations, enrollment at proprietary schools has dropped, and some for-profit college presidents have attempted to distance themselves from bad actors in the field.

    Indeed, nearly every one of SNHU’s recent ads emphasize that the university is a non-profit school.

    That’s not to say LeBlanc views for-profits as inherently evil. “Undeniably, the for-profits have a lot to teach us about improved service to students,” he told The New York Times in 2011.

    Which helps explain the hodgepodge of a school SNHU has become.

    SNHU had an 84-percent acceptance rate in fall 2011 for undergraduates, more on par with public institutions than private colleges. But like private schools, it dishes out financial aid to 9 out of 10 students on the campus, according to LeBlanc’s post. It’s no doubt that part of the revenue used on financial aid is due to the school’s expanding online education programs that are reminiscent of for-profits.

    Like for-profits, SNHU is heavily reliant on adjunct instructors, according to Slate, though traditional and public schools have increasingly sought more part-time faculty as well. However, SNHU is rated by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the best universities to work for. And LeBlanc wrote in the blog post last week that the school is considering hiring two dozen additional full-time faculty just for the online programs.

    President Barack Obama highlighted the school in August 2013 for SNHU’s competency-based associate degree program, which received approval last March by the U.S. Education Department for federal funding. The program allows students to earn a degree when they show they’ve mastered the course content, rather than based on the number of hours spent in the classroom — theoretically allowing them to graduate sooner for less money.

    “We are, in many ways, creating a new hybrid non-profit,” LeBlanc said in his blog post, “one that melds a lot of the best operational practices of the for-profits with the values and mission of our non-profit status (and don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t a difference). … We are doing our best in our own way. Others will find their path.”

  • PC shipments continue decline, slip 6.9 percent in Q4 2013
    Worldwide shipments of desktops and laptops suffered their seventh consecutive quarter of decline, according to Gartner’s latest research. Apple’s Macintosh bucks the trend.
  • Your Gmail Is About To Get Even Less Private
    If you’re a Gmail user, you probably also have a Google+ account.

    Until now, that likely meant nothing to you. However, with a new Gmail update, random people on Google+ will be able to send emails to your Gmail account without you ever having given them your email address, according to a new post on the Official Gmail Blog.

    These messages from strangers will arrive in your Gmail inbox just like emails, but the stranger won’t know your email address unless you respond. “Your email address isn’t visible to a Google+ connection unless you send that person an email, and likewise, that person’s email address isn’t visible to you unless they send you an email,” Google explains.

    Here’s what an email from a stranger will look like:

    google email

    If you fear new people or believe that you’re important enough that your inbox will get flooded once the new feature arrives, Google is offering an easy way to opt out. You’ll have the option to limit who who can email you through your Google+ profile to “extended circles,” “circles” or “no one”:

    google email

    Don’t worry, though. Google says it will email you with a direct link to that setting once the changes go into effect.

    Sure, strangers may be invading your inbox, but Google’s been selling your email data to advertisers this whole time. It’s up to you to decide which is scarier.

  • 26 Fitness Trackers Ranked From Worst To First
    Fine. You didn’t buy a smartwatch. You were never going to anyway. Meet the fitness tracker: a less expensive, more immediately useful tech product that might actually help get your lazy self in shape. Designed to gamify your daily exercise routines, fitness trackers make people do funny, crazy things, like going to sleep at the same minute every night, or taking the long route to the bathroom, just to get in another 20 steps. But hurry! You’ve got two more weeks until all that New Year’s resolution spirit turns into another pack of peanut M&Ms.
  • Xbox Pizza Hut App Sells Crazy Amount Of Pizza, Shocking No One
    Some stereotypes are rooted in truth. Take for example the fact that gamers just love their pizza.

    Xbox 360 users bought $1 million worth of Pizza Hut pizzas in just the first four months of using the game console’s newish Pizza Hut app, Polygon reported on Thursday.

    “It’s been a source of unbelievable growth for us,” Pizza Hut public relations director Doug Terfehr told Polygon. “Just the explosion of people who wanted to download it, experiment with it, play with it with Kinect.”

    The Xbox 360’s Pizza Hut app launched last year on Xbox Live and lets gamers order pizzas from the console and opt for pick-up or delivery. With apps like this and the proliferation of websites such as Seamless Web or Delivery.com, it’s clear that many people desire as little human interaction as possible when ordering food.

    With the success of the Xbox app, you’d expect Pizza Hut to explore other console options — specifically the latest generation of consoles with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U.

    “Conversations continue to be ongoing with us. Wherever you are, we want to be,” Terfehr told Polygon. “When you talk about a sweet spot for the pizza category, it’s definitely gamers and gaming.”

  • Never Give Up, Never Surrender!
    Galaxy Quest — a wildly popular science-fiction parody made in 1999 spoofing the realm made famous by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek TV series — is considered a cult classic. Many fans pay homage by adorning themselves in space and/or superhero costumes at Comic-Cons throughout the United States and around the world.

    One of my favorite tag lines in the movie is the one nasally and robotically uttered by Mathesar, the outwardly human — but inwardly octopoidal — leader of the Thermians. I can hear him even now: “Never give up, never surrender!” It is a line that has significant meaning to me, a now-retired, 15-year veteran astronaut.

    Why significant? The answer, along with my story, is simple. I applied with NASA to become an astronaut 15 times. That’s right, 15 times. Once per year, for 15 years, I dutifully submitted all of my application information to the governmental monolith I revered, only to be rejected by a few choice words on a small, white, NASA-addressed postcard. Kicked to the curb 14 of those 15 years, I was finally selected in 1998. I felt like the epitome of “never give up, never surrender.”

    It’s time for America to do the same with her space program. It is time for all of us to step up and proclaim that we will “never give up and never surrender” our pre-eminence in space leadership. It is time for us to contact our representatives and voice our opinions that NASA is worth it. Yes, there are naysayers out there; people who believe that NASA is its own intergalactic “collapsing star,” where U.S. tax dollars disappear like rays of light into a black hole’s event horizon, with little to no visible benefits.

    There is nothing further from the truth. When you use your cell phone to tweet about how NASA wastes money, you can do so because of NASA technology. After a natural disaster, while you’re wondering when the government will provide financial assistance as you re-assemble your fence, you are probably using portable power tools, technology developed by NASA in the 1970s, as we conquered the moon. There are many more examples. The Apollo Program alone provided U.S. taxpayers with a return on investment that has been estimated to range from seven to 20 dollars per $1 invested! Is there anyone today that wouldn’t take that share?

    The technological benefits resulting from our investment in NASA and her programs don’t just show up in Walmart, Target and Costco overnight. These things take time — and, as a whole, we Americans are impatient — we want it now! We should follow the sage advice of Yoda and Obi Wan, who were so fond of telling Luke Skywalker, “Patience, my young Jedi.”

    As we watch our leaders in Congress, debating bills that threaten NASA budgets, we too must be patient. But while we watch what is going on within the Beltway, we can pick up our NASA technology-enabled smart phones, laptops and tablets and send them our thoughts (over Al Gore’s internet) regarding America’s Space Program. Tell them, “Never give up, never surrender.”

    I’m not out to save the world. I just want to save NASA… a little bit at a time.

    2014-01-07-cca_self_prtrt_iss015e22563_ppt.jpg

  • Briefly: 'Disappearing' iPad Keyboard, antimicrobial iPhone case
    Moshi announced yesterday its launch of the VersaKeyboard case for iPad Air, featuring an origami-style folding and stand functionality, plus a Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard component to the case can be easily hidden away when not in use, due to its ‘sliding’ keyboard storage feature built into the back of the case. Aimed to provide a versatile keyboard without adding bulk or a need for additional storage, the VersaKeyboard is 0.6-inches thick while being nearly full size–at about eighty percent of the size of a standard keyboard.

        



  • These Cheese Movie Puns From '@Midnight' Are Cheesy In Every Way
    The Comedy Central Twitter-based game show “@Midnight” came back this week, and on Wednesday’s episode, comedians Thomas Lennon, Jenny Slate and Ike Barinholtz offered up some #CheesyMovies in honor of the devastating Velveeta Shortage. Watch as host Chris Hardwick dishes out points based on their cheese movie puns (in every sense of the words).
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