Thinking back, my Mom and Dad were fairly early adopters of computing, which certainly helped spark my interest in technology. We had the Sears Tele-Games version of the Atari 2600.  I remember my Dad bringing home a Compaq Portable from the office a few times. Our first true personal computer was the Tandy 1000, sold by Radio Shack. The Tandy 1000 was a IBM PC compatible computer than ran on a special version of MS-DOS. I don’t remember exactly which model, but I’m pretty sure it had the Intel 8088 processor. I remember ours having two 5 1/4 inch disk drives, which made it easy to load DOS and then a program. My favorite game was King’s Quest, a graphical adventure game by Sierra. And of course we had a dot matrix printer for printing school papers.

I posted my first article on this blog 15 years ago today. Some other things that happened on the internet in 2003:

  • Android was founded
  • iTunes store opened for business
  • LinkedIn launched
  • CAN-SPAM became law
  • Safari browser was released
  • Valve introduced Steam
  • WordPress was released

The blog was originally on my old CriterionWebs.com domain, which I started in 1998. In 2004 I registered DeToffol.com. In 2005 I converted to using Moveable Type, a self-hosted blogging software package. I upgraded to WordPress in 2007 and haven’t looked back.

 

SpaceX just announced that the first private citizen to fly to the moon will be Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur. Yusaku has bought all the seats on the flight, choosing to invite 6-8 artists to join him. He has named his project dearMoon. The artists will be commissioned to produce works inspired by the trip, with an exhibit planned to share with the world. This is one of the best ideas of the century. Hopefully the project lives up to idea.

https://dearmoon.earth/

A short, touching documentary of the last day that Linotype machines were used to print the New York Times, July 1, 1978. These highly skilled craftsman were well aware that their trade was no longer needed. This is a visceral illustration of the amazing rate of change, productivity and displacement that computers have created across industries, including publishing, in just 40 years.

/ February 6, 2018 / Comments Off on Falcon Heavy and Starman

Falcon Heavy and Starman

When I first heard that Elon Musk was sending his personal Tesla Roadster to Mars, I looked on TheOnion.com for the story. He wasn't kidding.

SpaceX's test launch and flight of the world's biggest rocket was spectacular, including the mind boggling synchronous return of the twin rocket boosters.

Neil Young released 54 years of recordings this week on a new website: Neil Young Archives. The site contains almost everything Neil has ever recorded or filmed, available for high-quality streaming over the internet. The site and all the content are currently free, but will eventually require a subscription.

Obviously Neil is a musical icon and a personal favorite. His library will stand the test of time. Making it available in this format, along with deep documentation, is a true treasure that will surely be emulated by other artists.


Randall Munroe, the author of the fantastic XKCD web comic, created this graphic charting Earth’s average temperature from 20,000 BCE. This visual representation is very helpful in putting our planet’s relative temperature fluctuations in the context of time, planetary events and human expansion. It is not a coincidence that the startling change in the last few hundred years comes directly after the industrial revolution and the human population boom, when carbon dioxide emissions took off.

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I wrote an email to my congressional representative, Erik Paulsen, asking him to not support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I think congress should make improvements — and should have been doing so for years — instead of wasting time on repealing it. Below is the email I received in response (which I assume is a form letter).

Dear Scott:

Thank you for letting me know of your support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Like you, I believe that health care reform is necessary to lower costs for families, small businesses, and individuals. However, the ACA takes the wrong approach and is hurting more people than it’s helping.

100,000 Minnesotans lost their current health insurance plans as a result of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota’s decision to stop selling the majority of its plans on the state’s health insurance exchange, which was created under the ACA. The instability in the marketplace is causing premiums in the individual market to increase by an average of 50-67 percent next year, and four-out-of-five insurance companies offering plans in the exchange will cap their enrollment.

In fact, individuals, families, and small businesses are continuing to see their health insurance premiums dramatically increase rather than decrease. Americans are losing the insurance coverage they had and liked, they are seeing their full-time jobs become part-time jobs, and they now have fewer choices of doctors and plans.

Many Minnesotans are hurting under the law, such as Pam, who saw her premium increase 61%, and who is expecting to pay at least $2,000 per month in 2017 for a high deductible plan. She and her husband, a small business owner, don’t qualify for a subsidy and are no longer able to afford their insurance. Then there’s Theresa, who has a history of cancer and needs reliable medical care. Her premium increased so much that she had to switch to a restricted plan. Her new plan forced her to change all of her doctors, incur $5,000 in out-of-network costs, and limit her physician visits.

These are just some examples of the harmful impact this law is having. I believe people need more choices and more control over their health care, not more mandates from Washington bureaucrats under a one-size-fits-all approach. By working together, we can fix the current situation, increase competition, and make commonsense reforms that reduce costs, improve quality, protect the doctor-patient relationship, and ensure access and choice for individuals, employees, and families.

Thanks again for sharing your views, as I appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me whenever I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Erik Paulsen
Member of Congress

Here is my response, posted publicly:

Representative Paulsen,

Thank you for your response.

You make a number of claims without citing sources. For example, you start out with an unsubstantiated claim that “the ACA… is hurting more people than it’s helping.” I’m not sure how you define hurt vs. help. Twenty-three million people have insurance under ACA that did not have insurance before ACA. http://www.vox.com/cards/obamacare/who-gets-health-insurance-through-obamacare.

Surely getting insurance coverage is helpful not hurtful. Your anecdotes of higher cost can be held against babys with cancer not needing to worry about losing health care; and a former republican campaign staffer being saved by ACA.

The ACA is not perfect and it needs to be improved, not repealed. Repealing without immediately replacing it will cause harm to people and to the economy. Republicans have been too fixated on repealing, with more than 50 votes trying to remove some or all of the plan, rather than making sensible changes to improve it.

“In 2015, the Congressional Budget Office … said that the number of additional Americans who would lose coverage or be unable to get it for the first time would start at 19 million in the first year and increase incrementally before leveling off to 24 million within a couple of years.” http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/jan/05/what-would-be-impact-if-affordable-care-act-repeal/

Some of those people will get hurt at work, or get influenza, or get cancer. Some of those people will not go to the doctor or get prescriptions because they won’t be covered. Some of those people will die because the ACA was repealed. This country CAN AFFORD to continue to provide health insurance until congress finds ways to improve ACA.

Repealing would be a costly mistake to our economy.

“While it acknowledged some uncertainty, the CBO estimated that over a 10-year period, repealing the law would increase federal budget deficits by $353 billion.” http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/jan/05/what-would-be-impact-if-affordable-care-act-repeal/

Additionally, jobs are at stake.

“A collection of reports released in recent weeks indicates that repealing those pieces of the ACA, which contribute massively to state and local economies, would remove millions of jobs and contract economic activity across states.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/obamacare-economic-effects-repeal/512618/

The ACA provides protection for people with pre-existing conditions. I am a cancer survivor. Without this protection, I would not be able to get insurance if I left my job and tried to coverage on the open market.

There are many other benefits of the ACA, including coverage for young adults under their parent’s plan, and closing the donut hole in Medicare prescription coverage.

The American Medical Association has urged Congress not to remove coverage for people. http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/312576-doctors-group-warns-against-loss-of-coverage-from-obamacare-repeal

The American Hospital Association warned that repeal without replacement would be a mistake and would cause harm to people http://blog.aha.org/post/170106-hospitals-must-respond-as-congress-begins-repealing-parts-of-the-aca

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget warned that, “According to our latest estimates, repealing the ACA in its entirety would cost roughly $350 billion through 2027 under conventional scoring and $150 billion using dynamic scoring.” They also estimated that, “Repealing ACA would increase the number of uninsured people by 23 million.” http://crfb.org/papers/cost-full-repeal-affordable-care-act

Please reconsider your stance and look at the whole picture. You and the republicans have presented no viable replacement plans. If I am mistaken, please let me know the specifics.

Until then, help to improve the Affordable Care Act. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Scott DeToffol

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone. As Jobs predicted the iPhone changed the world. Before the iPhone, only the technologically adept were interested in carrying around a pocket computer. Now, most American adults (64% and growing) have a broadband internet enabled multi-touch computer on their person at all times. The ways this is altering our culture, politics and the economy is just starting to be realized.

I blogged shortly after the announcement that “the best feature of Apple’s forthcoming iPhone is the multi-touch display.” In a matter a year or two, all personal computing devices adopted the slab-of-glass multi-touch display. The touch paradigm made computing accessible to the masses.

The touch interface made it accessible, but the real power comes from everyone having a truly personal and powerful internet connected computer. The iPhone led the way and we are never going back.