Thursday, July 30, 2009
I've been using iDisk since the .mac service was first launched by Apple... a few years back (.mac was the early name of the service that a year ago became mobile.me). I must have been one of the first .mac account holders, I reckon, and I've loved every bit of it ever since! I've mainly used iDisk to move large files to people. The way this worked was like this: after uploading the files to my iDisk, I asked (called, SMSed, emailed) my distribution recipients to download them from their end. To do that, they had to launch their browser or their iDisk access applet that I mentioned earlier, navigate to the folder that contained the files, and then download them from there. Quite a tedious process, especially painful to the many PC illiterates of the world (your mom, retired grandpas, those referring to Google as 'the Google', etc ). Since more than half a year though, Apple simplified this process even further. It now offers an additional feature for file sharing whereby you 'share' your uploaded files by invoking a featured 'method' (in the Object Oriented Programming sense) in which email messages containing file download hyperlinks are generated and sent to your target recipients, directly from mobile.me. When recipients receive such a message, all they have to do is click the download hyperlink and... Bob's your uncle. Quite effective a practice. I used it quite often during two terms of the past academic year to route course materials and case studies to my students. Works like a charm. I am talking here about large size documents (tens or hundreds of megabytes), practically impossible to move via conventional email.
But there is also another remarkable benefit to using an iDisk, mind you. Lemme explain. I don't quite like carrying laptops during flights nowadays due to the hassle that goes with it (security check delays, fear of loss or damage, etc...). I've actually got all I need on a smaller device... for instance, an iPhone. ALL MY INFORMATION RELATED STUFF necessary for a biz trip are on the little beauty, trust me. I even dare claim that I've got more functions on an iPhone today than I ever had on any laptop ever before. That's mainly due to the gargantuan number of available iPhone apps, 70000 and counting. Also, in most of my trips nowadays I typically end up attending ever lasting committee meetings. The view of my meeting peers paying more attention to their laptop screens rather than the folks doing the talking makes me wanna jump off the building. One general manager I know, recently launched an initiative among his reports by demanding that participants to his meetings should attend 'topless' (that, of course, initially shocked a few female members of the team), meaning, without any laptops and/or mobile phones. Cool!
Anyways, when you are on the road with just an iPhone, being able to access your iDisk with it, sounds undoubtedly like a panacea to all your problems. You've already done the necessary of course by uploading your key files to your iDisk before you left home. From any other location where you may subsequently find yourself later, you can access your iDisk via wifi, or, if you don't mind the roaming expense, you could always use 3G or EDGE data streaming. Eventually, you can download those files for offline browsing, you can share them with others (via the techniques explained earlier) and you can even browse the Public Folders of other mobile.me account holders. Sharing files appears to me even snappier on the iPhone than via a browser!
However, one thing that I kinda lack in this app is the ability to upload files from the phone itself to my iDisk ... problem is, the iPhone OS is in general not quite file friendly; what I mean here is, there appears to be no file manager on the iPhone that allows browsing of its own storage space and provides file access to those apps that are asking for it. An example is the mail app. You cannot possibly add any attachment to a message that you create within the mail app. You wouldn't know where to look for as there's no generic file manager available. However, when you are in, say, the photos app, you can pick and choose one shot from your photo library and then 'share' it via email, at which point the photos app invokes (delegates the task to) the mail client and sets-up an empty message with the photograph attached. In that case, if you wanted to attach a second photograph to that same message before sending it, I am afraid it cannot be done*. Every app seems to manage storage separately somehow. Nonetheless, quite a few apps are still able to explore the storage area and use the files of another app (Apple has provided fit-to-purpose classes and associated methods in the iPhone SDK for that). However, when this happens, it is always application specific and it's not based on a separate iPhone native file manager. Instead, it is based on fit-to-purpose off-the-shelf and/or custom methods and classes that programmers invoke to implement file handling functionality. The lack of capability to upload files stored locally to an iPhone user's iDisk becomes therefore more of a structural and system architectural constraint, than being an occasional shortcoming that's likely to be fixed in future updates, I guess... Unless Apple decided to provide the much wanted Finder equivalent functionality on the iPhone as well. Technically quite feasible by all means, but commercially? Better ask His Jobness for an answer to that...
*if you know how to do this, then I'd be obliged if you told me how. ;-)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
blue lights behind him.
"There's no way they can catch a BMW," he thought to himself and opened her up further. The needle hit 90, 100.... Then the reality of the situation hit him. "What the hell am I doing?" he thought and pulled over.
The cop came up to him, took his license without a word and examined it and the car.
"It's been a long day, this is the end of my shift and it's Friday the 13th. I don't feel like more paperwork, so if you can give me an excuse for your driving that I haven't heard before, you can go."
The guy thinks for a second and says, "Last week my wife ran off with a cop. I was afraid you were trying to give her back."
"Have a nice weekend," said the officer.
Ramona: Hi, I'm Ramona. What can I call you?Still LMFAO!
Ramona: Hi there, Vassily. What did you do last weekend?
User: Had lunch with my wife and kids...
Ramona: Do you do that often?
User: No, not that often
Ramona: oh. I went out with some friends. We had a great time
Ramona: We went to a concert.
User: Did you like it?
Ramona: Last weekend? Did I like it?
User: I mean the concert.
Ramona: Gotcha. I have never heard about the concert.
User: You spoke about the concert first.
Ramona: Thanks for telling me.
User: Are you kidding me?
Ramona: Yes I'm just joking around, Vassily.
User: What are you planning for today?
Ramona: I don't know what I'm planning for today.
User: Why not?
Ramona: Just because.
User: Ask me something, Ramona.
Ramona: What's your favorite movie?
User: The Great Escape.
Ramona: Tell me more.
User: I forgot all about it.
Ramona: That's okay I forget things all the time.
User: What did you do last weekend?
Ramona: I have never considered last weekend.
User: Consider what?
Ramona: Can you rephrase the question please?
User: You said: I have never considered last weekend. What do you mean?
Ramona: Vassily, I mean exactly what I said.
User: That being?
Ramona: Being ? Makes sense to me.
User: Learn English, Ramona!
Ramona: Let me think. Oh. Do you believe in God?
User: No, not that often.
Ramona: Well according to Thomas Hobbes, the only way to deal with evil
is to stress God's power.
User: Who the hell is Thomas Hobbes?
User: Come again...
Ramona: Alright. Ask me something.
User: Are you a woman?
Ramona: Please, nothing too personal there, dude.
User: Are you a man, then?
Ramona: Am I a man? Sometimes.
User: You f@ckin' kidding me...
Ramona: I haven't heard anything like that before.
User: Are you gay?
User: Wait a minute... sometimes you are a man, you said. That means the rest
of the time you are a woman. Thus, you are gay.
Ramona: Interesting deduction. No.
"...Stephen Hawking recently told the German magazine Focus that computers were evolving so rapidly that they would eventually outstrip the intelligence of humans. Professor Hawking went on to express the concern that eventually, computers with artificial intelligence could come to dominate the world.
Hawking’s recommendation is to (i) improve human intelligence with genetic engineering to "raise the complexity of ... the DNA" and (ii) develop technologies that make possible "a direct connection between brain and computer, so that artificial brains contribute to human intelligence rather than opposing it."
Hawking’s perception of the acceleration of nonbiological intelligence is essentially on target. It is not simply the exponential growth of computation and communication that is behind it, but also our mastery of human intelligence itself through the exponential advancement of brain reverse engineering.
Once our machines can master human powers of pattern recognition and cognition, they will be in a position to combine these human talents with inherent advantages that machines already possess: speed (contemporary electronic circuits are already 100 million times faster than the electrochemical circuits in our interneuronal connections), accuracy (a computer can remember billions of facts accurately, whereas we’re hard pressed to remember a handful of phone numbers), and, most importantly, the ability to instantly share knowledge.
However, Hawking’s recommendation to do genetic engineering on humans in order to keep pace with AI is unrealistic. He appears to be talking about genetic engineering through the birth cycle, which would be absurdly slow. By the time the first genetically engineered generation grows up, the era of beyond-human-level machines will be upon us.
Even if we were to apply genetic alterations to adult humans by introducing new genetic information via gene therapy techniques (not something we’ve yet mastered), it still won’t have a chance to keep biological intelligence in the lead. Genetic engineering (through either birth or adult gene therapy) is inherently DNA-based and a DNA-based brain is always going to be extremely slow and limited in capacity compared to the potential of an AI.
As I mentioned, electronics is already 100 million times faster than our electrochemical circuits; we have no quick downloading ports on our biological neurotransmitter levels, and so on. We could bioengineer smarter humans, but this approach will not begin to keep pace with the exponential pace of computers, particularly when brain reverse engineering is complete (within thirty years from now).
The human genome is 800 million bytes, but if we eliminate the redundancies (e.g., the sequence called “ALU” is repeated hundreds of thousands of times), we are left with only about 23 million bytes, less than Microsoft Word. The limited amount of information in the genome specifies stochastic wiring processes that enable the brain to be millions of times more complex than the genome which specifies it. The brain then uses self-organizing paradigms so that the greater complexity represented by the brain ends up representing meaningful information. However, the architecture of a DNA-specified brain is relatively fixed and involves cumbersome electrochemical processes. Although there are design improvements that could be made, there are profound limitations to the basic architecture that no amount of tinkering will address.
As far as Hawking’s second recommendation is concerned, namely direct connection between the brain and computers, I agree that this is both reasonable, desirable and inevitable. It’s been my recommendation for years. I describe a number of scenarios to accomplish this in my most recent book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, and in the book précis “The Singularity is Near” (http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0134.html).
I recommend establishing the connection with noninvasive nanobots that communicate wirelessly with our neurons. As I discuss in the précis, the feasibility of communication between the electronic world and that of biological neurons has already been demonstrated. There are a number of advantages to extending human intelligence through the nanobot approach. They can be introduced noninvasively (i.e., without surgery). The connections will not be limited to one or a small number of positions in the brain. Rather, the nanobots can communicate with neurons (and with each other) in a highly distributed manner. They would be programmable, would all be on a wireless local area network, and would be on the web.
They would provide many new capabilities, such as full-immersion virtual reality involving all the senses. Most importantly, they will provide many trillions of new interneuronal connections as well as intimate links to nonbiological forms of cognition. Ultimately, our minds won’t need to stay so small, limited as they are today to a mere hundred trillion connections (extremely slow ones at that).
However, even this will only keep pace with the ongoing exponential growth of AI for a couple of additional decades (to around mid-twenty-first century). As Hans Moravec has pointed out, ultimately a hybrid biological-nonbiological brain will ultimately be 99.999...% nonbiological, so the biological portion becomes pretty trivial.
We should keep in mind, though, that all of this exponentially advancing intelligence is derivative of biological human intelligence, derived ultimately from the thinking reflected in our technology designs, as well as the design of our own thinking. So it's the human-technology civilization taking the next step in evolution. I don’t agree with Hawking that "strong AI" is a fate to be avoided. I do believe that we have the ability to shape this destiny to reflect our human values, if only we could achieve a consensus on what those are.
Response to Stephen Hawking
posted on 09/04/2001 2:31 AM by email@example.com
BTW, I've got this feeling that Flint must have been inspired by these folks and the Whole Earth Catalog project, somehow. He's also planning to publish no more than 18 issues of the Venere Magazine, mind you. I reckon, in 30 years from now intellectuals will refer to him as the first serious counter culture creator of the 21st millenium. Be hungry, be foolish. Right on!
Few hours ago my eldest son just got back from the US, where he's been vacationing the last ten days with a mate with whom he studied in Arnhem, not long ago. Had a pretty long flight as he flew from the West coast (Portland, OR) to Newark, NJ to pick a connecting Continental flight to Brussels.
As we were driving home he spoke of this guy they met, an artist, who creates a magazine, The Veneer Magazine, funded by a 'maecenas' he knew, a loaded patron of the arts. The activity is set-up in a pack-house somewhere in Portland. I Googled him and came across this declaration of his work by the artist himself, Aaron Flint Jamison:
From Aaron Flint Jamison, editor-in-chief:
Re: Veneer. It is this problem.
We were given the opportunity to make a collection of books over the next five years. As you might know, however, the text is hard. It has become difficult to think about such a project and maybe even miserable to attempt to explain it as a cogent idea. The only books that I have made prior to this are a computer virus that I wrote and bound into an edition of one and a weird collaborative project that failed. The idea of this new project being a kind of literal narrative scares me. However, I’m deeply inspired by a couple of periodicals of the past. Also: some academic and trade journals.
Veneer has no focus. Kind of like the internet — but we’re the ones stealing it. I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m just constantly fumbling, trusting. That’s why I can’t believe that it actually exists. I just received the first issue test copies back from the press in Winnipeg. Some photos are on the web site somewhere.
Ve is a very small operation. We are making an edition of 300 and starting with only 700 being available for distribution. The edition is the actual subscription service. There are no annual or biannual subscriptions to Veneer. Individuals can purchase the collection of all 18 books (including all back issues) or acquire them one book at a time. The remaining 700 books in the press run are being distributed online and through a select group of bookstores, museums, libraries and galleries.
There is no home office. Some of us live in San Francisco and Los Angeles. One editor lives in New York. A couple of us are in London and Portland, OR. We resist being legitimate in this manner. In a similar light, we chose a publisher out of Portland that has only made a few books but focuses on a strange kind of incubation. They understand the idea of the gesture incredibly well. We are a very strange fit and we feel uncomfortable working together. Nevertheless, I am happy with them and our commitment to one another makes sense in the context of Veneer.
Maybe I can give you more later. Here’s 01/18.
Monday, July 27, 2009
...Once inside the bank shortly after midnight, their efforts at disabling the security system got underway immediately. The robbers, who expected to find one or two large safes filled with cash and valuables, were surprised to see hundreds of smaller safes throughout the bank.
The robbers cracked the first safe's combination, and inside they found only a small bowl of vanilla pudding. As recorded on the bank's audio tape system, one robber said, 'At least we'll have a bit to eat.'
The robbers opened up a second safe, and it also contained nothing but vanilla pudding. The process continued until all safes were opened. They did not find one single euro, a diamond, or any ounce of gold. Instead, all the safes contained covered little bowls of pudding.
Disappointed, the robbers made a quiet exit, each leaving with nothing more than a queasy, uncomfortably full stomach. The newspaper headline read the next day:
'IRELAND'S LARGEST SPERM BANK ROBBED EARLY THIS MORNING'....
Sunday, July 26, 2009
"...Did you know that now, thanks to (the) iPhone, you can use location services to tell your friends where you are at any given moment, and, if they're on iPhone (too) and have that same (location) app, they can find you, and then you can ask iPhone to tell you if there are any Tex-Mex restaurants within a five-block radius, and what movies are playing at the nearest cinema? Then you can use Twitter (or, rather, one of the 14,000 Twitter apps) to tell your followers what you're up to, and automatically feed that into your Facebook page so that your Facebook friends can comment on your movie plans, and advertisers can scour your personal messages and use keyword searches to send target messages to each of you, and deep thinkers like Robert Scoble and Chris Anderson will reassure you that you are not just getting sucked into the maw of the brain-killing machine, and this is not just mindless time-wasting twattle but is in fact extremely profound and revolutionary and important and intellectually challenging. Because in the old days you just read books and that was so passive, but now you're so engaged and interactive, you're not just a media consumer but you're also a media creator -- why, in fact, you're a public intellectual -- and if you don't fully immerse yourself in every last bit of this shit then you will no longer be participating in your culture which means you will lose your job and everyone will laugh at you because you just don't get it and you might as well be some 90-year-old dude sitting in a pee-stained bathrobe drooling..."
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The New Magritte Museum building is quite a peculiar venue with two huge doors. One sez 'visitors exit', ok fine, I understand that; the other one is split in two pathways, one showing 'entrance with tickets' and the next 'entrance for visitor groups'. So, what happens if you got not ticket? Jump through the brick wall like Harry Potter? Maybe so... who knows? It is a surrealist museum after all. Everything is possible... C'mon, then! Where are the darn tickets? I had actually heard of that little 'detail' at the opening weekend and couldn't believe it. Until I saw it with me own goggles this morning! So, where do we go buy those tickets then? No worries, sez one smiling museum attendant in broken Flemish (those morons can only speak French, dammit), tickets are at the ticket selling desks in the following building(!), the Fine Arts Museum! Holy Moses! Just 100 meters down the road, he continues and smiles again...You must be kiddin' me! Why the hell is that? Didn't they have enough room for tickets in the same building? I betsa this is gonna be launching a fresh Belgian joke to have our neighbors, the Dutch and the French, laughing their fat ass off! Anyways...
Another interesting detail: During our queuing to buy tickets in the 'other building', an African-Belgian attendant shows up, well mannered and all, but who could also only speak French (jee, here's another one... et pour les Flamands la même chose), to tell us that although we would buy our tickets in a few minutes, we couldn't enter the museum until an hour later! What for, dammit? Well, yes, they closed the building entrance because it was packed with visitors, so we had to wait for another hour. A Yankee tourist, ahead of us in the waiting line, emailing in his BB all this time, turned to us in panic for translation help. He didn't grasp a single word of what the attendant was telling him (in French), and in despair he turned to us for help! As Rita is an pure-blood Flemish las, fluent in three languages, Flemish, English and French, plus some broken Greek and German, God bless her, she loves to help single-language-handicapped dudes (especially Yanks) and therefore she promptly volunteered the explaining role that made her proud for the rest of the day! In the meantime, I got a bit tired and some back-aching from the waiting (hernia, you see) and I went to sit on a sofa down the hallway. By the time Rita came back with the tickets, she told me she had started a conversation in the waiting line with another tourist, a Greek student this time, who came to Belgium to learn French (really?). That's my gal... as social as can possibly be. Me? I wouldn't have spoken to anyone on that queue even if you paid me real money... That's how I sadly am. A social monk.
Ok, to waste that hour we went down the road for a quick lunch near a popular Brussels Square with antique shops, known as the Sablon. At the restaurant, a dude next table has been playing with his iPhone all the time. His woman opposite him looked very much like a desperate iPhone widow. I felt empathy for her. I lean over the table towards Rita and quietly sez "Look at the poor girl... he's been playing with his toy all this time... like she's not there". Rita's all over me... she's like, "What do you think YOU have been doing all these years? I feel exactly the same!" I cut the discussion short, point taken. Bill paid and we are soon on our way back to the museum. As we reached the building this next time, another huge queue of phenomenal proportions was waiting to enter as well. OMG there we go again... Fortunately, we soon realized we were wrongly standing at the 'guided tour groups' pathway, at which point we saw the "entrance with tickets" right next to it, no waiting line at all (thank God for that), and promptly entered the building from that side.
The surrealist museum is a rather unusual place. Another Belgian joke is coming up, mind you. You first follow directions and descend to the -2 level. Then you pass ticket control and arrive at an elevator operated by a bored young woman doing elevator transports up and down all day long. OMG! What a way to earn a living. Anyways, you enter the elevator and she brings you to the 3rd floor (!), so, -2 to +3, that's six levels in Europe! Belgians are proud of their elevators and they love to show them off, you see! Duh?
So, the expo starts at the 3rd floor (with Magritte's early period works) and it continues to -1 where it ends at the traditional museum shop, to have them squeeze some more dough out of your wallet with memorabilia. Then, you climb the stairs to the ground floor and eventually breath again outside the building... And please, hurry-up because doors close at 5pm! In the tourist season during a 'hot' Belgian summer! Belgian joke number 5! Oh, please!
You know, there's something about musea visits during busy days that really gives me the creeps. Musea should be like public libraries. Visitors should be silent, or whispering, at best. You need to be able to look and enjoy each artwork in the show like it was only you and the piece you are facing, left in this space entirely alone and undisturbed, without sensing a living soul around you. Like reading a book in a public library, innit? OK, you see me coming... what do you do with those guided tours made of a bunch of senile, culturally primitive humanoids, who are pushed around by a screaming 'certified' Guide like herds? I hate them too those Guide hacks. They scream like ducks in a pond and all the tales they shout about the artwork are nothing else than anecdotal tabloid material that could only interest culturally retarded morons. There was one group like this behind us today. I sez to Rita, let's move on faster or I swear, I'll kick her!
Ok then, here are my general impressions: Only a very small collection really of Magritte's famous paintings can be found in this place. Among his worldwide known works, you can just count a few on the fingers of your right hand (left is ok too). You certainly seen somewhere the famous Magritte 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe', right? I saw the original in New York (either MOMA or the Met, I forgot which one). Here, they only had a pen drawing of the original instead that was like "ceci continue de ne pas être une pipe" (another Belgian joke!). On the other hand, they had plenty of graphic design works for posters, layouts, ads, etc... He did those to earn a living in his early years when he couldn't sell enough paintings yet. Also they had plenty of other Magritte related objects and artifacts, like letters he wrote, photographs, etc... Big deal. If I wanted to see those I'd go Google him!
The shop wasn't too bad, nonetheless; I eventually ended up buying the show catalog as there was the picture of one painting in that book that I particularly liked... of his wife and muse Georgette (see here). Beautiful woman, by the way! Very beautiful! A real Muse! Charleston style curly chestnut hair, and blue eyes! Sweet!
I've got the impression that our painter tried quite a few painting styles and techniques in his life, starting as a cubist or impressionist. Some abstract works too. Before becoming a surrealist. I loved his technique on this portrait of Georgette (shown here), that proves the man knew exactly how to use his brushes and what color luminance to pick from his pallet in order to create particular lighting and volume effects. There was a portrait he made of a man too (Harry Torczyner) that was equally extremely well done. Actually, Dali was an even better master in detail painting... it is the surrealist stuff they both painted that I am not sure I like so much... I find some quite childish (actually that is what surrealism is all about, duh?). You either like it or hate it. I am in between. Very few I like... especially those with good detail (almost photographic). Like Flemish primitives did half a millennium ago. That's one of the reasons I actually love some of Dali's work (Christ on the Cross is one of those)!
There was that other painting too with few thousand leaves that Magritte painted in three dark green tones. He seemed to have meticulously worked separately on every single one of these leaves with a few brush strokes each. Monumental effort! Among them, the leaves that he had to put against the background of a light blue sky with some white clouds, he actually painted first and only then he created the background; in fact, this seems to me the other way around than a painter typically does, that is to say, one actually starts with the background layers first, followed by the foreground layers moving forward, usually darker to lighter. In order to do his trick though, Magritte had to use rather liquid paint, diluted in plenty of painting oil, to smoothly go over the small sized contours of those leaves. By doing that, he eventually created a lovely effect that made the leaves look as natural and sharp from a short distance as like on a photograph. This technique is actually obvious to anyone with elementary oil painting skills (apparently, I am one of those...). I saw other painters in the past using this technique; I actually own half a dozen or so paintings by a contemporary Greek painter, Papaioannou is his name, who applies this particular technique masterfully (shown here one example of a Greek male sitting on a chair). These folks have an excellent perception of the luminance of each color they mix on their pallet before they place it on canvas. The grade of shade they select is quite critical in achieving the effect they wanted! I so envy the bastards! I really, really like this effect a lot! A lot! Other than it takes smelly oil thinned paint much longer to dry, it creates a superb effect! Super cool! Trust me...
Magritte seems to have been a painter who started painting early and had a solid training at the art academy... his early drawings and other works, as well as his painting technique on most of his famous works, are a testimony to the argument that the man could paint like a natural pro (way better than this Tuymans character). Add to this his fantastic and surrealist visions that he created in his shrewd mind, and you got a few pieces of art (actually he painted over a thousand in his lifetime) that are auctioned nowadays, hands down, in the millions (#,€,$...).
Is it worth the visit? I don't know... maybe... well, yeah... why not? If you happen to be around and got nothing else to do?! Paying good transport and accommodation money just for this? Definitely Nay! Go to the Metropolitan instead (at least there's this Apple Mega Store to visit too, 5th Avn down the road, opposite the NY Plaza), or there's another great collection of his in Houston, they say... I betsa his best works are in private US and Japanese collections. We only got the leftovers in Belgium...
Friday, July 24, 2009
It's Friday pm, and I've been watching the market on Google Financials and CNBC. MSFT gets slaughtered as predicted earlier, very much like Amazon. I kinda feel rather down (thank God I don't hold any AMZNs, although that would be nice to have bought some six months ago and offloaded them yesterday), so I decide to play some of my music to cheer up. In moments like these, when I got the blues, the Boss is all I can think of. I've got quite a few of his albums. From his "Rising" album though, I only got two songs, that is "The Rising" and "The Fuse". I turn-on my AppleTV that holds, say four-five thousand songs. Sound comes out of an interconnected Bose sound processor. Images show thru a Sony Bravia flat screen. It's raining cats and dogs outside. July in Belgium. What else?
I'm sitting on our living room sofa, music coming out of those Bose speakers on the other corner of the room. I got my iPhone on my left, with the 'Remote' app running to control the AppleTV (via wifi), while on my right my fingers are tapping the keyboard of a MacBook Pro, keying-in the text of this blogpost. I sort of get tired listening to the Rising and the Fuse for the 100th time, when a candle-like thought shines into my skull: Wait a sec... this album sounds real cool! Why the heck do I only own just those two songs? In a heartbeat I'm on the iTunes Store and listening samples of the remaining album tracks, 13 in all. Sound pretty cool too. Especially that one called "Into the fire"! Sheer beauty! Raises the dead! Listen to its lyrics:
I heard you calling me, then you disappeared into the dust.
Up the stairs, into the fire...
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher...
Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire...
May your strength give us strength,
May your faith give us faith,
May your hope give us hope,
May your love give us love...
Wow, what a wonderful piece! Wait a min, it gets even better. The album originally shows a price of 6.99 euros. But... price is now dropping. What's goin' on? iTunes just found out I had bought two album tracks in the past, so it's like "you can have the rest of the album for just 5.01 euros!" Jeez, how cool is that?! I got a discount because I had already paid for those two album songs. Long story short, in about 90 secs I bought and had the remaining 13 tracks downloaded and ready to go (remember, I have a 25Mbit/s bandwidth on my ISP cable connection).
During all this time, the AppleTV has continued playing the 'Rising' and 'Fuse' for the n-th time. As I have previously configured the AppleTV to sync with the laptop, next thing's going on, all 13 downloaded tracks get synced on ATV's hard disk via Wifi. I tap on the the phone's touchscreen and the Bravia now shows the entire album list of "The Rising" tracks, my past two buys ranked among their peers. I click 'play' by tapping the iPhone again and the music starts playing from the first album track on.
All this completed within minutes. The room is dressed now in a heavenly 'Rising' rock sound... Composed by the Boss, a baby-boomer, for us, the rest of the baby-boomers. With songs I never heard before. They all sound as good as those two I had purchased earlier. Outside it's still raining. Oh, no, there's some silver linings growing around the darkest of clouds, and patches of blue skies appear out of nowhere. The rain seems to have stopped. Springstein's sound still playing on the Bose and I feel I'm getting in the mood again. Welcome Weekend! I'm feeling the sound on this July Friday deep in my guts and soul, as I carry on to complete this posting. And I'm like "what did you learn from this experience, dude?". Well, I'll tell yeah... My fat ass is gonna get much fatter. All these events happened while I'm still sitting on my sofa and my over-shaped body didn't move an inch. Try to do what I just described ten years ago, then. Or twenty? See?
Morale of the story. Apple is changing our lives... and it adds extra fat to our butts! How about that?
Differences between 1958 and 2009 at SCHOOL
Jack goes quail hunting before school, he pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1958 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2009 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.
Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1958 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2009 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it
Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.
1958 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2009 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.
Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1958 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2009 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.
Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.
1958 - Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2009 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.
Pedro fails high school English.
1958 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.
2009 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher . English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.
Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July , puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.
1958 - Ants die.
2009- BATF, Homeland Security , FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.
Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1958 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2009 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.
One company that traditionally reported great numbers fell short this time, though. That's almighty Microsoft that has surpassed 61B in revenues in fiscal 2009 with an operating margin of 37% and change (source: Yahoo Financial). Ever since this crisis started Microsoft showed some serious cracks. (That's how the light comes in, as Cohen sings). Yesterday's analyst conference confirmed the trend. Sales down across all business lines. Is only the current crisis to blame? Or is there something more?
I am not a specialized analyst who follows Microsoft each step of the way, but I am a modest holder of their stock, so I follow them when I get the chance. And it bleeds my heart to see them performing on the investors market the way they do, for years now.
Usually, badly performing companies will first blame the economy. Microsofties use other excuses as well. Well, they say, even if we miss a quarter, we are still growing fast, and by the way, our quarterly profits are far bigger than what tens of millions of companies make in revenue in a year. Sheer Arrogance from the likes of Ballmer, God bless him.
How come then that Apple and IBM and Intel have recently started performing better, even in a down economy? Trust me dudes, there's two things: Innovation (vision and execution) and (Leadership) Management! Neither of that is present in Microsoft nowadays. All we hear are failures in everything they tried since living memory. How do you spell Zune? The iPod killer! Remember? How about Mobile Windows taking the world of mobile phones by storm? And recently? Mr. Bing is in town. Gimme a break! How about taking over Yahoo? Even that they proved incapable of closing...
Don't understand me wrong. I love Microsoft to my heart and I was one of their biggest supporters in the nineties. I used to work for their competitors but often mentioned them as a role model in my pitches. They were the shining path of software business. What's going wrong now then? Are they collapsing under their own weight? Is Bill's departure the key to this mess?
Microsoft is internally run like no other company I know. Like Swiss clockwork. Microsofties are still in love with their company. Senior management asks field ops to go an extra mile and they go ten. No shit! But, operational efficiency, motivation, culture alone and all that are still not enough to run a stellar company like them. Takes much more. Takes people like Gates... even better, people like Steve Jobs. People with vision and ability to inspire. Ballmer has none of that. Jumping up and down like a monkey only tells me that he's just fine to be sent to his peers in the Amazon forest. Not run a sophisticated company on the way to become a 100B dollars supplier of software and services.
I'll make a prediction. Apple is going to overtake Microsoft in market cap in my lifetime, hands down. They moved from being just a fraction of Microsoft's enterprise value to more than 60% per yesterday's close. And probably 62 to 63% by the end of the day today... due to their recent disaster announcements. As I reported in my yesterday's blog, in afterhours trading MSFT dropped by more than 8% at a certain point in time. Who knows what will bring the day today. I wouldn't be surprised to see them drop as much as 10% during the emotion hour! I mean, in a time with a shadow of euphoria about the economy bottoming up and a few faint signals about improvement, how does a maverick company that never reported bad numbers in the past, continue to disappoint like this? When will Microsoft's BoD (a.k.a William Gates III) eventually decide that Monkeyboy is good for nothing? About bleedin' time to change guard. Even a part-time Gates would do way better than bullheaded Ballmer...
In yesterday's Cranky Geeks Dvorak laughed at companies reporting more profits than a year ago when their revenues actually dropped... in other words, expenses dropped faster than revenues... how come? "Easy" sez John C. "They just fired herds of workers, that's why!". He may be right; on the other hand, if companies still deliver almost same revenues with less workers, that means that those laid off workers were (fat) ballast anyways... Why blame them companies for doing this then? They just did the right thing, didn't they? I remember working for CA once when this fat was in excess of 20% in my estimates. Count very much the same or more in most companies out there. The 91 thousand Microsofties may be too many to be any good to the company then.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Then came Goatberg. As was nothing else on TV, I picked one of Goatberg's recent podcasts (I wouldn't know what the URL is as the AppleTV gives me a list automatically and I pick 'n choose) and almost fell off the sofa by listening to him. Good ol' Wallie was all over Microsoft on this. I found a transcript of what he said here, and I just copy two of his key paragraphs for your to enjoy right here, right now:
"By contrast, if you’re using Vista, the upgrade to Windows 7 should be a fairly easy, straightforward process. Because the new version shares most of the underlying guts of Vista, it installs itself on your current machine relatively quickly and smoothly, preserving all your files, folders, settings and programs. In a test of this process earlier this year, using a pre-release version of Windows 7, I upgraded a Vista laptop with no problems and little effort in about an hour.
But Windows XP users, including the millions who have recently snapped up cheap, XP-powered netbooks, will first have to wipe out everything on their hard disks in order to install Windows 7. on their current machines. In fact, Microsoft doesn’t even call migrating to Windows 7 from XP an “upgrade.” It refers to it as a “clean install,” or a “custom installation.” This disk wipeout can be performed manually, or automatically during the Windows 7 installation process."
Apparently Microsoft, with its deep pockets, recommends that users go buy a new PC because a PC that was good for XP is no more good for Windows 7. Because, per Goatberg, in order to install Windows 7 on an old XP box, you'd need to wipe out your hard disk entirely after you backed up your useful files (documents, pictures, music) and lost all your application installs. You'll also need to have copies of the original XP install disks (I didn't quite understand why he sez that). I mean, MOSES! Are they totally NUTS? Have all these billions of dollars Monkeyboy made on our backs turned him into a retarded zombie? Spell ARROGANCE! Jesus!
Enough with that shit! I'm happy I got XP and Win7 as virtual machines on my Mac for the little I still do under Windows, like Money etc... oh, yes, and since recently Chrome, ever since it was launched last April, wasn't it? Not that I use it regularly... just for kicks. Now that Safari has beaten the hell out of Chrome in terms of speed, who needs it anyways. Safari and Firefox offer me more than I'll ever need.
How 'bout the rest of you folks? Still sticking to those morons from Seattle? Good luck then! Or go buy some Macbook box to see the light for the rest of your Win-miserable lives.
UPDATE: Just peeked at MSFT afterhours trading and lost my appetite. They announced a miserable quarter (what else?) and the stock is heading south 8%, as we speak, after picking up 70 cents during the day's trading session. I hate myself for being an owner... seen nothing else than pathetic performance in the last so many quarters...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As a management summary, I repeat those 10 lies here too. So that I don't forget...
Mr. Gregory Cara... are you listening? I'm sure if you brainstormed by yourself a few more minutes you'd come up with another ten...
Monday, July 13, 2009
Michael Jackson died on Thursday 25 June at the age of 50. Two days later, the Indian artist Sudarshan Pattnaik made a sand sculpture of Jackson on Puri Beach in India. Compared to the Polish, Pattnaik seems like a bloody amateur!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
'Plattekes' in the local Antwerp (Flemish) dialect is a civil way to denote the bottom social demographic. A few minutes into watching pedestrians at the zeedijk were enough to find out what she meant. I haven't seen such a concentration of short, ugly, obese, freaky, mean, tattooed and pearced dudes and gals in swimwear in my entire miserable life. We felt like we were in the middle of a 19th century freak circus! OMG, where do these people come from? OMG, what have these people done to themselves?
Blankenberge itself is quite a nice and reasonably proper city. It's got a few centuries old pier, a casino, hundreds of restaurants, shops, supermarkets, the works. In the three nights we stayed there to this moment, the dining experience has been outstanding.
The city is located next to Zeebrugge (a couple miles walk), known for the second largest seaport in the country and one of the largest in Northern Europe. A few miles off the coast, in the middle of the North Sea, there's a group of six (renewable) energy windmills. An even bigger windmill farm can be found at the south east of the city too. Ships are coming and going to the Zeebrugge port, in all sizes and shapes. The city has also got a marina with hundreds of sailboats. Write it down folks, restaurants around the marina are outstanding. One of them, called the Craeyenest, is a typical seaman's restaurant decorated with thousands of attributes and artifacts one usually finds in old wooden boats. There we enjoyed our best 'rosbeef' ever! With four different sauces and vegetables! 20 euro a person. A giveaway!
The city is served by train and the Coastal Tram that runs along the entire 60 km of the Belgian coastline up and down all day. Between Blankenberge and Zeebrugge there is a wildlife park made of dunes with a number of artificial lakes created for amateur fishing. On the other side of the main coastal highway there's plenty of attractions like Sealife and Sand Sculptures! The strand between the dunes and the sea extends during low tides to almost half a mile wide. While an unusually warm weather with splendid blue skies this last weekend, attracting flocks of one-day beach vacationers in the millions, and no car parking available in sight, you could still find plenty of spots for yourself and friends, isolated from any unwanted intruders and enjoy the privacy you desired. Simply amazing!
Outside the Casino plenty of bars and dancing's for nightlife escapades, to your heart's desire. As we were walking outside one of them on Sunday evening we heard some German pop-hits of the late sixties and early seventies and saw some retired couples waltzing to the music. Freddy Breck and Udo Jurgens stuff, if you know what I mean! Where has the time gone? "We should be dancing too in there" the spouse sez... I'm like, "I rather jump into my death off the Acropolis rocks"... Anyways!
If you go vacationing to any given place on this planet that is claiming the three S's (Sun-Sea-Sex), it won't come as a surprise to you if I told you that life really starts past 9 or 10 pm (even that is pretty early for outgoing Greeks and Spaniards). Not in Blankenberge though. Life stops at 10:30pm. Zeedijk deserted, a few lost dudes walking here and there, most restaurants closed, and maybe some bar with some nightlife guests still open, but you got to use a GPS to spot it. I just don't get it. This is July and the weather is splendid, for a change. Schools are closed and the place is supposed to be packed and boiling. Good ol' Belgian vacationers... having dinner at 7pm, going for a walk to digest the goodies by nine, and by ten in front of a flat screen TV or in bed, for sleep! OMG again! I gotta say though. These second residence apartments rock! They hardly miss a thing; however, mine misses one thing nonetheless, a broadband Internet connection, that is. For the rest, I'd be able to live there for longer than a week. Maybe a lifetime...
Plattekes? Bizzaringly yes... the city deserves better! Worth a visit? Abso-f*ckin'-lutely! Resto-food? Outstanding! Dimensionally better than 'De Haan', a bon-chic-bon-genre town with plenty of Porche-driving dudes around, a few miles down the coastline, south west of Blankenberge!
Enjoy my Blankenberge shots of my first three days there... BTW, the dark clouds are real... we got soaking wet yesterday Monday and today Tuesday. This is the usual July in Belgium! What else?
Thursday, July 2, 2009
His latest gig to revive the FSJ blog all over again though, after His Jobness's liver tranplant news hit the public few weeks back, is quite promising nonetheless. Reading his very last posting really, really made me LMFAO until I got short-breathed. Some excerpts are just as good as it gets:
...One thing you hacks need to realize is that yes, our marketing and PR people receive training in how to spread fake stories, but guess what? Engineers don't even need that training. That kind of shit comes naturally to them...
...Steve, while hospitalized in Tennessee, fired several hospital employees who could not satisfactorily answer the question, "What do you do here?"...
And my personal favorite:
...By the way, Forbes reporter -- we know your name. We know your home address. We're working on getting your medical records. Keep this up and I swear to friggin God we will go nuclear on your ass and publish all of it. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm weak, I'm vulnerable, I'm having someone drive me to work and I need people to open doors for me. And so you think maybe you can push El Jobso around a little bit. Well, go ahead. Try it. Seriously. I dare you. I double-dare you. Fuckwit. I will crush you like the bug you are...
You need to go read the whole thing though. And keep on laughing until your underpants drop off from you piss-wetting 'em.
Dear Dan, welcome back, pal. U R simply the best!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class.
• [with adj. ] a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people : a musical snob.
snobbery |-bərē| noun ( pl. -beries)
snobbism |-ˌbizəm| noun
snobby adjective ( -bier , -biest ).
ORIGIN late 18th cent. (originally dialect in the sense [cobbler] ): of unknown origin; early senses conveyed a notion of ‘lower status or rank,’ later denoting a person seeking to imitate those of superior social standing or wealth. Folk etymology connects the word with Latin sine nobilitate ‘without nobility’ but the earliest recorded sense has no connection with this.
The concept of Twitter Snob was launched in this YouTube clip by Perry Belcher a while ago.
So, logically, one could define a measuring index to evaluate Twitter Snobbism, ie. the TSR or short for Twitter Snob Ratio. Here's the formula:
Per the Belcher definition, Twitter Snobs are expected to have many more followers than following others, so the snobbier one is, the closer his/her TSR gets to 'one'! To get to the highest snobs known in Twitter space one inevitably needs to search among the top hundred scoring twitterers, those with about a million or more followers. You can easily get hold of them at TwitterCounter.com.
For kicks, I went out to measure few known celebs with massive numbers of followers, how they'd compare among each other in TSR terms. I omitted Twitter accounts related to popular entertainment programs or News Agencies and any popular NGOs or other organizations for that matter. Still my 'research' has not been scientifically thorough and can be considered as a draft first approximation...
Here's some fun examples:
@aplusk (the most popular twitterer of all with more than 2.5M followers) TSR = 0,99891654034224
@britneyspears TSR = 0,814898558296152 (Nr 3 of most popular twitterers)
@kevinrose TSR = 0,999821713356387 (serial enterpreneur he calls himself, arrogant prat, I call him)
Here comes the fun part:
@SenJohnMcCain? TSR = 0,999937364220465 Jeez, with less than half the followers compared to @aplusk or @britneyspears, he still manages to be a bigger snob!
But here's the greatest of all: Good ol' Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and ex-Vice President of the US of A: Albert Gore, Member of the BOD of Apple Inc and earth climate protection activist.
TSR = 0,999992898729672 ! Five 9's behind the decimal! Highest score measured yet! Well done Al.
With followers, Al only follows 8 twitterers! He's also done only 51 updates altogether in the 8 months he's been a member! Pretty busy saving the climate, I reckon. @GuyKawasaki does as many updates in an hour! On a bad day!
But who are those wonderful 8 that dearest @algore follows then? Here u go!
currentitalia (Jeez, I didn't know Al spoke Italian?!?)
That's it! The Twitter Snob of the Year! Al Gore! The darling of US liberals. Here's to you, lad!