Useful Identification Programs


Thursday, May 7, 2020

The month of May sure is moving along faster than expected. March was when all the shutdown and closing of schools and restaurants happened and so a month, almost two is on its way out the door and society still isn’t quite back to normal. There’s been a record of about 33.3 million unemployed in the U.S. per BBC news and just last week was about 20 million.

Many schools will not reopen for the remainder of the year and they’re thinking of ways to at least get the students back in the classroom for a shortened amount of times during the week. Many businesses are getting leeway to consider opening and there is some unrest by people wanting to open their shops like restaurants, barbershops, and other places of business but we’re doing it in a rushed fashion as some people are starting to panic even if they don’t admit to it. I think people are okay with not working for a month or having some “bail out money” but it’s not helping many others that aren’t as lucky as the money is soon gone and people still have to pay rent and afford other bills and will have collectors at the door.

We’ve been lucky though. For many people they have had to still go to work and have to worry about their health. Some people have had to be on public transit or deal with face to face customers on a daily basis and many people deemed essential who didn’t really sign up to be “heroes” are still taking on the world as life continues and the others sit back in relative safety. We all probably want some semblance of normalcy again.

The thing for me is just being able to attend some of the great Meetup groups and dance and theater and art clubs again. For others its sports events. Some people want to be able to go to the gym again and see friends again and use their great fitness and aerobics equipemnt. And I also would love to get together with friends and just have a nice sit down meal whether it be pizza or pasta or Indian cuisine or whatever and just hang out with folks. But right now even opening up is a task and has to be planned out. PPE has to be rationed and discussed, ground markers and tables have to be set. People have to remember that we can’t be elitist or feel entitled to just go in like we used to because every one loses. People are fighting and hurting others over simple disagreements and it’s just to try to maintain order. Without order society breaks down.

In the meantime to resume some semblance of order I’ve tried to take some pride in some house keeping that I’ve had to do. A few of my friends had their life put on hold with school interruptions or house buying closures temporarily halted. Luckily I had able to complete most of my house moving before the beginning of March mostly but I’ll wait on some in home entertainment purchases for later.

The last few months have really given me an opportunity to try to focus my life and spend time on what I wanted to do, but without some of the normal services that I might normally do. It’s not a vacation per se. But I’ve been able to work on business activities. I’ve wished I planned for some extra people to help out before the world events struck.

I’ve taken pride in house cleaning, gardening, yardwork, pulling and yanking weeds, getting to know my neighborhood a bit better, painting, stump removal, trying to overseed and grow grass and learning how to use garage tools better as well as some house spring cleaning. It has been good because of my neck issues I realized that without some movement and semblance of a schedule I would resort to too much sleeping, texting and internet surfing or simply checking my phone. It’s not good to be on the phone so much because it makes a person crane one’s neck too much.

The biggest things I’ve learned is that society is still open. I’m still able to get an affordable vacuum cleaner and find that using it even in an relatively new empty house still picks up a lot of dust and it’s good to do tasks gradually often so it doesn’t turn into a big project.

I’ve learned that painting a deck is relatively easy and you can get thinners that are only take about 2 minutes to peel the latex that’s in many paints and scrape it off with some steel wool but it’s not fool proof. And it’s easier to repaint a deck if there’s a paint mismatch. This leads to the topic for today…

Technology has gotten really good to help us in our daily tasks. We all know about walking mowers for instance but some of us have driving mowers and it really simplifies tasks and makes the time to do the task cut in half at the expense you don’t get as much exercise. I do enjoy a bit of exercise on a good day so I try to do as much manually that I can and then use the rest with the help of technology. For instance, you can also spread grass seeds by hand or with a hand spreader or broadcast spreader and each has advantages.

Tech has gotten so good that it can also help us in searches and augment our knowledge faster than it used to take by looking it up through several thousand pictures. For example if you watch anime type programs you may have heard of Pokemon and an electronic device called a Pokedex. This device is something that you point at an animal and it scans the animal and identifies it. At least that’s the way it works in the cartoon.

Reality has gotten closer to things like this. Let me show you a few examples.

The other day I was trying to work on painting a deck and tried to have the deck painted a certain way but the colors turned out wrong. So the first time I had simply taken a picture and eyeballed it in the store and told the customer service rep I needed help. We got the paint in a quart size for about $20 rather than the bigger more expensive gallon size that would have cost nearly twice as much. When I got home and painted it was a slightly reddish pink color and not quite as brown as I wanted. I was disappointed but luckily before I had left the store that day I realized I could take my sample back as I heard a lady say they needed their sample tinted a bit more of a certain color and also saw a sign saying that if a paint color wasn’t quite right I could just bring it back. I knew they had blended the paint real good also. The store puts the can in something that looks like a metal metallic container and then puts it in a shaker or centrifuge type machine that spins things at a high rate. I had never bought special paint before, but this gives you an idea.

So the next morning I headed in to the store again. But before I did I had taken my old paint brush and stirring stick and also I had grabbed a few wood splinters that were easily loosened and not too noticeable if removed. And I also found a small piece of the paint near the stair of the deck that was starting to peel off the was the old correct color and put this in a clear protective covering and loosely taped it and took my old can of paint. I explained everything and they took the small paint sample that was only about a quarter of inch of a rectangle and put it against the lens of a machine that matches color samples. The gentleman spent about 2 minutes and came back with a real good match. I wasn’t quite sure so he opened it up and dabbed it on the stirring stick and let me compare to the strip and as it started to dry I could see that it was a really great match that was probably as close as you could get it.

Obviously the older deck was not quite as shiny and dusty and so when I took it out of the store (simply swap in the old paint for new!) and went back and tried it out, I brushed it back and forth and worked it into the wood and it just started to fade back in and blend and was literally unnoticeable other than it was a just a slight bit glossy smooth after the paint coat. I was impressed and did the rest of the places I had missed and you hardly noticed there was anything wrong. I went back and touched up places that wood had become exposed to protect the deck. It didn’t take too long and everything looked brand new. The store had also left a sticker with a slight color sample on the top so if I ever needed to get the same color I could now do it easily. Problem solved!

Do note that there are now even apps that do color matching within hardware apps and similar to help you plan, visualize and choose colors that you want to select.

Here’s another example of technology used to solve problems. If you’ve ever been in your yard or walking somewhere and found a flower or bug or animal and you weren’t sure what it is, you probably could take a picture and refer to a nature expert or botanist etc. But now you can use free open software. There’s a program called PlantNet that lets you identify species of plants and flowers from around the world and share and record observations and lets people comment in the community as to what they think your plant is. The program lets you either submit photos and could it with geographical location data to help pinpoint the type of plant and I’m sure the more people use this program the more accurate it gets.

I tried it out with two flowers I genuinely wanted to know that were growing in my back yard since moving to the new place and within a few seconds I got a couple results back. You have to give permissions to your photos and file storage but I was pleased that it did a really good job at identifying my plants. Later on in the day someon made a comment about the nice flower in the yard and even their compliment had agreed with the program that I did indeed have that kind of flower.

Keep in mind that these were pretty big plants and flowers with pretty particular colors and shapes and so it might vary in terms of how good your results are depending on how good your pictures are that you provide.

I also downloaded a second program called iNaturalist which may have another version as I tried getting this on a phone and then a tablet but the latter didn’t seem to have the same program available on the tablet. I also found this one to allow more observations as if you were a scientist and this program also let you identify other things besides plants such as insects and animals like birds and frogs etc. I found that it seemed to still work to allow you to take a picture and save it to your phone and later upload a photo if you didn’t have immediate access to an internet connection. Both programs allowed you to upload it later it seem.

Lastly there was a program called BirdNet that’s specifically for bird calls. Have you ever wondered about what was chirping outside your house and wanted to identify what species? Well you can get this program which is free and it lets you record an audio sample with spectograph and then it uploads it to a database to determine if it matches and gives you back its results. I was able to find some of the birds in my area and even was able to identify the sound one of the local owls makes.

The great thing about these programs are they are all free and able to be downloaded and help you answer questions you might have about the world. The plant and animal programs may also allow you to do a search for species and other research. They worked relatively quickly and also the ones I downloaded have no ads. You can set the specific device permissions you want to allow.

We all have tools that are provided. You want to use the best tool for the job for the most efficiency, although sometimes I do use a walking mower if I just want to get a little exercise even though I could use a tractor mower. Everything serves a purpose. Just as you would choose a painter roller to cover a larger area rather than using a small brush you would want to make sure your tool does what you want and gets you where you need to go.

The future will have self driving cars and such that need to identify obstacles in the roads and have specialized AI systems. Just as Tesla and Google now are exploring this type of technology or Ford with their self parking cars, in the future we have prototype and sci-fi TV programs like Knight Rider and their fast-powerful, sleek intelligent cars that KITT had to be on the hit TV show. And the Cyber Truck is a nice concept and has some indestructibility but we have still a long way to an emotive, empathetic self-driving, driver-protecting car.

Use all the tools you have at your disposal: phones, cars, your mind… and use it the best way you can. This is a skill called – technological leverage.

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Author: workingstiff

I'm just your average working employee working 8 to 5 making my daily wages. I commute to work, I run the rat race and I live for my days for my next pay check. I have goals. I have dreams. And I have things I wanna do. And sometimes just can't seem to get ahead no matter how many hours I work. Sometimes I just keep my head low and do what the boss says and other times I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Comments always welcome.

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