Google Maps traffic… it needs work.

I always wondered how Google Maps knew traffic conditions. Today, there’s a blog post where they explain it a bit better.

That ain't on an iPhone...
That ain't on an iPhone...

Basically, they simply have all the phones running Google Maps with GPS send back data as to a) where they are and b) how fast they’re moving. Both of which GPS gives you more or less by default.

It’s a clever idea, and I like it, but it fails in a couple of major ways, IMO.

Firstly, when I use Google Maps on my phone, I tend to not leave it open. Google Maps is fine, but it’s not a very good navigation system. It’s just a map. A real navigation app is worlds better. I recently got Navigon Mobile Navigator on the new iPhone, and it’s pretty slick. Thinking about a dashboard mount for it now, actually.

Secondly, this system relies on a lot of people having Google Maps open and running and sending back data. If nobody with Google Maps running has been on your street recently, you get no information.

What Google really needs to do is to open it up as an API. Let other navigation system manufacturers both send and receive traffic data from the Google Maps system. It doesn’t have to be complex.

Any good navigation app knows your location and speed, so a simple way to send that info could be made easily enough. The problem, of course, is allowing third parties to use the data.

Google Maps works in layers of images, which is one of its major shortcomings, IMO. The street views are images. The terrain are images. Just big sets of tiles that get displayed next to each other. And I’m almost certain that this traffic thing is just another set of images they’re generating or updating. For navigation providers that use 3d views and such, they don’t need that stuff in the form of images, they need it in the form of data. What streets are busy? How can that information be used to improve the navigation? Etc.

Google is generally pretty good at opening up their APIs to third parties. However, they’re generally not good at providing data in different forms. Most of their APIs are “this is what we use, if you need something else we don’t have it” sort of thing. Hopefully, the Google Maps team will see the light here and realize that to get good data, you have to give good data, and start pushing in that direction. Because open traffic data would be pretty cool for everybody.

Fashion gone berserk

Okay, this is just ludicrous.

Too lazy to paint a house yourself?
Too lazy to paint a house yourself?

That’s right kiddies, JCrew sells pre-paint stained jeans. For those people too lazy to paint a house, now you can look like you’ve actually been working too, but without all that pain in the ass “labor”.

I understood the patched jeans fad. The scuffed torn thing, I got. The wrong size thing was weird to me, and god help me I even understand stone-washed. But this is simply too far out there for me. Not because of the look, although they look terrible, but because of the price.

Those jeans cost $285.

That’s right. Take one $60-$80 pair of jeans, add $1 worth of white paint, and charge $285 for it.

Note the salesmanship tactics they use in the description. Emphasis is mine:

A hand-crafted collector’s item in authentic selvedge cotton denim from one of Japan’s oldest and most renowned mills. We spend hours on each pair to create a unique jean for the most discerning denim connoisseur, so we have only a handful available—and no two are quite alike. Each one is made with denim woven on the original 100-year-old narrow looms. Each pair is stonewashed, hand-distressed, hand-splattered with paint and hand-finished, giving it the kind of character only individual attention can impart. Button fly. Traditional five-pocket styling, with reinforced back pockets. Import. Machine wash. Catalog/jcrew.com only.

My questions about this copy are two-fold:

  1. Who the hell considers themselves to be a “discerning denim connoisseur”?
  2. I wonder if this sort of sales pitch really obscures the fact that you’re paying damn near $300 for a pair of pre-ruined jeans?

Beer festivals are a wonderful invention…

How can you go wrong with a beer festival?

I mean, it’s truly a brilliant idea to start with. You take about 5000-7000 people, pack them into a park area roughly the size of a city block, then give them unlimited free beer for a few hours. Taster glasses, of course, because we’re not here to get drunk but to try new and different brews.

So I went to the Raleigh Beer festival this weekend, and tried, oh, about 70-ish of the beers that were available. Lots of local brews, which I was happy with. I did not know North Carolina had so many microbreweries, but there were freakin’ dozens of them represented there.

The entire crew at the Raleigh Beer Festival

Met some new people, had dozens of people compliment me on my choice of t-shirt (good choice dad!), and had a lot of quality brews.

Notably good was the beer from Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, NC. Their Blueberry Wheat was excellent, and I quite liked the Old Well White too. The Leaderboard Lager was quite good as well, albeit a very plain and simple beer. Something you could drink a lot of, a quality lager. I sampled most of their beers, and those really stood out to me.

The Foothills brewery from Winston-Salem was excellent as well. I worked my way through their entire lineup that was there, and it was very good all around. The Pilot Mountain Pale Ale was extremely good for a simple brew, and their IPAs were awesome as well. The Hoppyum was quite hoppy in particular, but the double IPA that they had was extreme in this respect. I like IPA’s, but after a few of them I feel like I’ve been chewing on grass for a while, so I appreciated their Pale Ale a bit more. Also, I’d been to the Dogfish Head booth a number of times already, and their 90 minute IPA had already done a number on me there.

Mimosas The next day we got mimosas.

The girls (and Rob) got theirs with pomegranate juice. I needed my OJ fix a bit too much for that sort of thing.

Also, note to self, cherries have hard pits in them that are not tasty to crunch.

Anyway, good time all around. Would have been perfect if Northwest had not screwed me over on the flight home to the tune of 3.5 hours worth of delay, but still I had a good time. Rob and Mandy’s place is awesome, and I hope to go back sometime soon. If only to visit Top of the Hill and try all the rest of the excellent beers that I missed out on this trip. Plus, gotta try that pool out. :)

Going to miss the zombies!

Dang! Now I find out that I’m gonna miss the zombies too!

Few posts back I relayed that I was going to a beer festival weekend after next weekend. Today, Paul posted more information about the big zombie attack … and it’s scheduled for that Friday.

I saw the zombies last year when they did it. They come down Beale Street, and then make a left onto Main and come down to right around where I live. It was a lot of fun to watch last year, but a bit chilly out and so there was not a lot of people out on the streets. Since they do it during the South Main Art Trolley Tour, and it’s probably going to be nice and warm out, then this seems like it will be a good one. You know, lots of carnage, riots, random destruction… followed by an afterparty.

I’d even be interested in getting all zombied up myself if I was going to be here. Maybe I could be zombie bum.

Oh well, I hope Paul gets a lot of good pictures.

Bacon cups

You know, I’ve always liked salads, but thought they were too healthy for my lifestyle. How can I make a salad unhealthy for me?

The usual answer, of course, is the taco salad. It’s a salad in a big flour-based bowl, but topped with the contents of about 6 tacos worth of meat and cheese and such. But is that really enough? Is that really unhealthy enough for my inactive lifestyle?

Of course not. Enter: Bacon Cups.

Bacon cups

Yes, a cup made of bacon. What better thing could you possibly make edible utensils out of than bacon?

The site called “not martha” gives details on exactly how to do this. The scheme is simple and straightforward, and I imagine that if you wanted to scale this up to a taco salad sized bowl, then it would be quite possible.

On the other hand, I’m considering this sized container as a possible holder for cheese dip, for that ultimate party snack food. Although I am somewhat concerned about leak-through. You’d have to use quite a lot of bacon to be sure that it was sealed enough to hold thick liquids like dip.. Or ranch.

If you do scale it up to taco salad, then don’t forget the bacon salt.

What I got for Xmas

I think every blogger should have to have a post where they detail what they got and gave for Xmas. It seems natural. I mean, you’re going to post pictures, family you saw, etc, but the real fun is when you go home and get to play with your new toys.

My parents gave me some really neat brass candle holders, a little sushi plate kit (along with a bottle of sake), a rather interesting cooler, and towels for my bathroom.

I gave the parents a pod-type coffee maker with some coffee pods (since their old coffee maker sucks), and a couple bottles of liquor. Also got my nephew a train set, and sent some coasters to a friend of mine. Some other less interesting stuff was sent to various places too.

So what did you get for Xmas? What did you give for Xmas? Post it on your own blog, or just put what you got in the comments here. :)

New iPods today

Gizmodo is running a live blog of the new Apple iPod announcements today. Interesting reading. Quick rundown:

  • New iPod Shuffle – price lowered to $79 for 1GB
  • New iPod Nano – thinner, slightly wider. $149 and $199 for 4GB and 8GB
  • New iPod Classic – basically the same as existing iPods, but thinner and cheaper. $299 and $349 for 80GB and 160GB!
  • New iPod Touch – essentially, its an iPhone without the phone part. It has Wi-fi web surfing and iPod capabilities and the same interface as the iPhone. Also can buy songs directly from the iTunes music store. Downside: 8GB and 16GB for $299 and $399. I can’t see paying that much more and giving up all that space just for that somewhat annoying interface.
  • iPhone gets ringtones – They’re adding the ability to turn your purchased songs into ringtones… for 99 cents per song. This really sucks, basically you buy the song for 99 cents and then pay an extra 99 cents to turn any 30 second section of it into a ringtone. And it only works with songs you buy from iTunes and even then only 500k of their catalog can do it, not just any song. Really lame and one more reason not to get an iPhone, IMO.
  • iPhone also gets ability to buy direct from iTunes music store.
  • Starbucks integration – When you get the new iPod Touch or iPhone near a Starbucks, it’ll have a special menu to let you see the last 10 songs played there, and allow you to purchase them from iTunes.
  • iPhone price drop – The 4GB version is now gone, the 8GB version drops 200 bucks to $399. The price drop was required, IMO, but anybody who bought early kinda got screwed. Especially if they got the 4GB model, not only are they out $100 extra, but also out 4GB. Bummer for you suckers!

Seems to me that the price drops across the board make sense. Most excellent news, IMO, is the reasonably priced 160GB iPod classic. I really want one of those. The iPhone price drop is likely to try to stave off competition from the upcoming Google Phone. The iPod touch just seems somewhat worthless to me, but then I dislike the iPhone interface concept to begin with. Touchscreens are not my favorite things.

Still, neat stuff. Take a look at the many pictures Gizmodo posted on the live blog, some of them are quite cool.

Edit: Apple now has info about the new iPod’s up on their site: http://www.apple.com/