coffee and receipts

Crowdfunding is a lottery

A project can go off the rails and fail even after its funding succeeds for a number of reasons. There can be unforeseen costs, or design problems, or a team member quits or fails to deliver their part of the project. Often, when a project skids to a halt, the final updates are obscured from the public and sent only to backers, which may be part of the reason failures are often not well-publicized. Occasionally, backers who receive them pass them on or post them publicly on forums, which is as good as it gets in terms of letting the outside world know a project did not ultimately pan out.

The ugly afterlife of crowdfunding projects that never ship and never end | Ars Technica

This sums up my views on Kickstarter nicely. I’ve only backed three projects. One failed to be get funded, one involved someone I knew online and trusted, the last one was a fantastic 8-bit Nine Inch Nails album.

None of them were big risks. I spent $40 across both successful projects and would have given $20 to the one that failed.

Overall, my investment of $60 is not outrageous and I knew going into them it was money I could afford to lose. Even if successful, there is no guarantee the thing I’ve helped fund will materialize. There’s no guarantee I will ever see anything for my investment.

And I, as the little fish in the investment pond, have no recourse. If the project’s creator runs out of money, I will not get a refund. I understand that.

Which is why I’m skeptical about crowd-funding much of anything. I’m much happier to buy the thing when it comes out than back its creation.

Better living through technology

As I was returning from my lunch-time walk, I saw a woman walking towards me gesturing strangely at me. I was confused at first as she was far away.

She continued gesturing as she got closer. Still confused, I continued to watch her, and as she drew near, I realized she wasn’t gesturing at me at all.

She was talking to someone on the phone in sign language using video chat.

There it was, the promise of technology, being used to actually make someone’s life better. A deaf person able to hold a conversation over the phone, in her native language.

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Dispatch from the Trenches #13

Ebola Vaccine Would Likely Have Been Found By Now If Not For Budget Cuts: NIH Director

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

Though he cautions this cannot and should not be rushed.

“Sometimes vaccines not only don’t work, they make things worse,” Collins told HuffPost. “Look at the HIV step trial, where that vaccine not only did not protect [against] HIV, it increased susceptibility because it did something to the immune system that made it more vulnerable. That could happen here too.” (The private sector, it should be noted, hasn’t developed an Ebola vaccine for a variety of reasons, primarily financial ones.)

There are limited vaccine human trials underway but it’s going to be a slow process to know whether it works or not.


Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now

What would happen if these lanes were reduced to 10-feet wide, as proposed? Three things. First, cars would drive more cautiously. Second, there would be roughly eight feet available on each side of the street for creating protected cycle lanes, buffered by solid curbs. Third, the presence of these bike lanes would make the sidewalks safer to walk along. All in all, an easy, relatively inexpensive win-win-win that DOT could fund tomorrow.

Fascinating case for decreasing lane width to decrease speeds, integrate bike lanes and save lives because of those buffers to pedestrians and cyclists. In addition to decreased speeds being less deadly.

According to a broad collection of studies, a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 30 m.p.h. at the time of impact is between seven and nine times as likely to be killed as one hit by a car traveling 20 m.p.h. This tremendously sharp upward fatality curve means that, at urban motoring speeds, every single mile per hour counts.


Canned: A WWII-Era Community Cannery Hangs on in Rural Virginia – Modern Farmer

This particular cannery opened in 1942, during the World War II “Victory Garden” push to encourage the American public to become more self-sufficient while so much food was being sent to feed soldiers overseas. By the end of the war, according to a 1977 USDA publication, there were more than 3,800 community canneries in the country.

Soon after the Victory Garden craze ended, however, modern supermarkets, home freezers, changing tastes and other factors began thinning the cannery ranks. In 2012, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent named Donna Meade found that just 14 community canneries remained in the state, when she wrote her master’s thesis on the topic. (The Keezletown Community Cannery claims to be the last in operation founded during World War II; Modern Farmer couldn’t confirm or refute this, and Meade’s research didn’t focus on the history of any of the other canneries that are still in operation).

My wife is an active canner and preserver of food. It’s a neat process and great for when you find yourself with pounds of cranberries or bushels of apples. There is now fruit leather, apple butter, cranberry/chocolate jam and other delicious things in my house because of my wife’s hard work and interest in preserving. We have local orchards where we could go and pick the raspberries and apples so it cost us very little to create these delicious treats we’ll enjoy for months.

We’ve also canned chicken and pork to have on hand. It came in very handy when the government shut down last year (as they’re threatening to do again this year). Which meant I lost my paycheck for a few weeks. We were still able to eat and live pretty well on the food we had saved and squirreled away. Canning is not just for Mormons, survivalists or doomsday preppers. Canning and food preservation can help you get through a lost job or a bad winter storm.

If you’re interested, you should find out if there’s a local cannery in your area, like this one in Northern Virginia. It’s not a hard very hard nor expensive but it does take time and a fair amount of kitchen space.