The Independent Variable - Matt Haugland

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Smoking Law

Today I watched President Obama sign a law giving the FDA new authority in regulating cigarettes. As much as I generally dislike increasing regulations, I think this is a step in the right direction. However, I think there is a much better solution that would do a lot more with fewer new regulations: ban cigarettes completely.

I believe a complete ban on smoking would reduce poverty, increase productivity, improve public health, reduce health care costs, and reduce litter. I think it will happen some day. A Zogby poll found that 45% of Americans would support making cigarettes illegal in 5-10 years, including 57% of 18-29 year olds.

But it won't happen any time soon. For now, I can just hope more places will follow the lead of Calabasas, CA in banning smoking in ALL public places, indoors and out. Unfortunately, I live in one of the only places where that can't happen -- Oklahoma is the ONLY state that prohibits local governments from regulating smoking more strictly than the state. And there's not much at the state level. While in most states smoking is already banned in restaurants, Oklahoma will allow it until at least 2013.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

iPhone 3G S Review

I've been a long-time user and lover of the original iPhone. But there's always been one thing that bugged me about it: it's slow. All of the applications take at least a couple seconds to load. Some take more like 5 or 10 and/or are slow enough that I avoided using them. Maybe I'm impatient, or just spoiled by my Core i7 computer with SSD. I'm used to everything loading instantly and being blazing fast, so it really bugs me to have to wait 4 seconds for a simple app to load.

The iPhone 3G never interested me. While the internet connection was faster, it didn't address the main issue: the CPU. It doesn't matter how fast the internet connection is if it takes forever to render web pages. I did want the GPS, but it wasn't worth having to pay $15/month more for 3G internet that the phone couldn't take much advantage of anyway. When I heard the new iPhone 3G S (S stands for "speed") would have a faster CPU, I couldn't resist getting it the day it was released.

Compared to the original iPhone, it is MUCH faster. Applications, even the slower ones, load almost instantly. Finally the browser can take advantage of faster (3G) internet connections and thus is a lot more usable/useful. The annoyingly slow apps are now very fast. I find myself using some of them a lot more now that they're not so slow. And now I can finally use the Google Earth app, which used to be so slow that it was useless. [by the way, I'm referring to the WiFi speed, not talking about 3G vs. EDGE]

Though most people probably don't care much about the built-in compass, I loved the idea for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem all that accurate and I can usually guess the direction a little better than it can. If I'm far away from any kind of interference, it does a lot better but still isn't always consistent. Maybe there's a trick to it that I haven't yet figured out?

I was a little disappointed by the accuracy of the GPS, but very impressed by the speed. I'm used to my old Garmin that is more accurate but takes a while to get a lock. Still, the accuracy is good enough that I won't have to carry around my Garmin to get the lat/lon when I deploy my sensors. I also found a free app that can instantly bookmark the lat/lons, so I no longer have to write them down! VERY handy, and will save me a LOT of time!

Overall, I am very happy with the 3G S so far.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tornado hits Summit Lakes!

Last night, a tornado hit the Summit Lakes neighborhood. A house was severely damaged a few hundred feet from my lot, and a lot of fences and trees were down, but otherwise there was not much damage.

Earlier in the day, I set up 7 temperature sensors around Summit Lakes to study the microclimates of my new neighborhood. One of my sensors was in the direct path of the tornado! The timing was amazing, because I wasn't even expecting severe weather there that night, and the last time I set up these sensors was when I was in Puerto Rico.

Here is a picture of the tornado as seen from the National Weather Center, courtesy of Derek Stratman. I saw the same thing but it was almost on top of me and I didn't get a picture.

Here is a map of my sensors, the storm motion, and the location of the worst damage:

(by the way, Site #3 is in the back yard of my new lot)

And here is a picture of the worst damage:

Thankfully, my Site #1 was still there when I collected it today. There was tree damage all around it, so it might've taken a direct hit! I've just started looking at the data and it is pretty interesting! Unfortunately, I was only measuring temperature.