Are heart rate monitors on elipticals supposed to work?

Sure they are, and the people selling them ought to know why they should be fixed if they're going to push them effectively. Here's the long of it:

Ellipticals are a fabulously deceptive form of exercise: yes, you feel like you're working very hard–and you may well be working very hard–but the problem is that you are not replicating any sort of real life activity very well, and as a result some of the difficulty is related not to the intensity of the exercise so much as the difficulty in performing the exercise.

Think of it this way:
You have to move 200 pounds 50 feet. You are going what might be viewed as a defined amount of work to do this. That work quantity can be viewed as 10000 lb-feet. Which of these is harder:
A. Moving a perfectly round sphere of 200 pounds across a low-pile rug that is perfectly flat
or
B. Moving a refrigerator of 200 pounds with no wheels across that same floor

If those two activities were represented on the console of an elliptical machine, you would clearly see that both measured some defined number calories per hour for example, defined to be equivalent. Which is clearly preposterous because doing A is much easier than doing B for a human.

This is why as an exercise professional, I view ellipticals as a mixed bag: they wave a carrot in front of people that tells them they've burned 1000 calories in a specified period of time and they go about their day happy to consume 800 of those calories more than they do on days they don't exercise thinking they're going to lose weight–when the reality of it is that the readouts are NOT accurate. Sure, there are some people that love their elliptical workouts, but they're just damn well inaccurate. If they get people moving, great, and yeah, they do that. But the misinformation about them utterly sucks.

And so in answer to your question, yes, they really are supposed to work. If they worked it would be easier to market them because an accurate reading showing 150 bpm at a readout showing 1000 calories per hour would preferentially encourage people to jump on that comparatively easy exercise versus cranking 160 bpm to get 850 calories per hour out of a rower–which is much harder and in many ways more real-world applicable in terms of muscular development. People who don't particularly like to exercise tend to prefer the most visually efficient method of getting it done; they have no way of knowing that the information they're being given isn't right because there's very little in terms of a frame of reference.

Should Apple switch away from the 30-pin Dock Connector in next generation iOS devices?

Give me a moment to get my Picard Face out of the way.

Okay, there we go.

Apple is a hardware manufacturing concern that makes billions upon billions of dollars from fat margins in their consumer-facing products. License fees from the Made for iPod/iPhone program are a rounding error in the face of their real business. So while it's true they're printing money, the dock connector has little to do with that.

License fees are there partly to keep bozos out of an ecosystem Apple has worked hard to keep tidy. The rest is about principle. Apple made their platform and charges nominal rents to anyone who wants to make some cash from it.

This is also a company that routinely kills technologies and products that don't serve their long-term interests. So if Apple wanted to end the dock connector, they would.

So now that we've dealt with those assumptions – should Apple ditch the dock connector?

Only with a very good reason. The dock connector allows countless accessories – including several made by Apple itself – to interface with iOS devices. Breaking compatibility with that many devices would be painful for users, painful for third party accessory partners, and painful for Apple.

The question assumes that the connector format itself is somehow bottlenecking for speed or ability. It's worth pointing out that the dock connector has been flexible enough to carry both USB2 and Firewire, multiple amperages of power for iPhones and iPads and several flavors of AV I/O including HDMI, VGA, S-Video and audio line-out.

So while it's true this isn't a high-bandwidth connection on the order of, say, DisplayPort, it's been plenty flexible so far. If Apple wants the iPad to be able to function as a secondary display, that would be a great reason to replace or supplement the dock connector.

We'll see Apple replace the dock connector when it can no longer serve them for a use case they feel is very broad, compelling and very much long-term. Until then, they've got a good thing going on.

Is misophonia (a condition where certain sounds provoke unusually intense emotional reactions from people) a "real" illness or is this a mental or personality disorder?

Here is the problem with "misophonia" being real or not. 

There is a wikipedia article with references, except none of these references from what I can tell are from scientific journals. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mis…

Google search of misophonia yielded 54,700 results, including mostly popular press, like the New York Times article.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/0…

There is a chapter written in a book by Moller TEXTBOOK OF TINNITUS
2011, Part 1, 25-27 called "Misophonia, phonophobia and the "Exploding Head Syndrome."

A search of PubMed yielded 6 results
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubm…

A search of "misophony" yielded one article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubm…

A search of the Nature.com website that includes all of Nature journals on misophonia or misophony yielded zero results.
http://www.nature.com/search/exe…

A search either term of the journal Neuroscience yielded zero results
http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find…
Zero items on the search of Society of Neuroscience website
http://www.sfn.org/home.aspx

Although neuroscientists can probably provide a better answer, I have a feeling this is one of those disorders that exists, but hard to pin down, in terms of approach – neurology, psychiatry or something else.  Sort of like the chronic fatigue syndrome at least to me.

Do alternate history arguments (what-ifs) assume that the future is predetermined?

It's a confusion.

Timeline 1: What Actually Happened
I didn't board the plane … the plane crashed.

Timeline 2: What I imagine.
I did board plane … the plane crashed.

This does seem to assume that the plane crashing is fated. But a true determinist would assume that the past causes the future. So me bording the plane would be a change in the past, which would cause a different future. This means that all bets are off. The plane then MIGHT crash, but it might not. It crashed in timeline 1, but in that timeline I didn't board the plane. Who knows what it will do in a timeline where I did board it?

If you run a computer program over and over, it will always have the same output, since computer are deterministic machines. But that assumes that each subsequent run has the same input (the same starting positions). Me-getting-on-the-plane is a DIFFERENT input. So I shouldn't expect the output to be the same.

Also, if you're a Determinist, timeline 2 is impossible. If I didn't board the plane (and then it crashed), I was FATED to not board the plane. It doesn't make sense to posit a past in which I did, because the forces that led me to NOT board the plane were set in motion all the way back in the beginning of time, at the Big Bang.

Positing a past in which I boarded the plane is like positing a type of water that's not wet. If it's not wet, it's not water. To a determinist, the fact that I didn't board the plane in an INTRINSIC part of the past.

Of course, if you give up determinism, than you CAN posit that a different past in which I boarded the plane. But if you give up determinism, then you also have to give up the inevitability of the crash.

How could you get an organization to "dissolve" once the problem they were designed to solve is solved?

You need a governance team which evaluates projects & programs on a yearly basis. Each project should be required to present the business case for the continued funding for the project/program.

If the same business case continues to pop up (illustrating the same problem year after year) then you have one of two situations:

  1. They didn't fix the problem during the past year which implicates them for being ineffective.
  2. They are meeting the definition you've posed above – the problem is being preserved.

In the end, your governance structure which is evaluating the funding for the projects/programs should be scrutinize the organizations & their projects with extreme thoroughness. If a project doesn't present a strong enough business case, then its funding should be dwindled down and eventually dissolved.

Also, you need to ensure that you preserve institutional memory so that projects & programs don't get the one-over on new members of the governance team.

What are some good African American books?

I still enjoy many of the classics and re-read them. So you should definitely check out James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, if you haven't already.  Also must reads are Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Paule Marshall — for the women's movement writers. There are so many others! So let me just say that     If you want to look at contemporary fiction, start by consulting Mosaicbooks. It's a magazine and website which reviews contemporary literature. It also has a presence on Facebook.