Archive for July, 2012

WoD – Apple vs. Samsung: He Said/She Said, high tech style

I just saw this nice summary image of Samsung’s line of recent cellphones on TechCrunch.  The ones before the introduction of the iPhone are on the left, then ones after the iPhone’s launch are on the right.  

I know this is just a WoD and not a tech-focused blog about all the intricacies of IP, innovation, and new technology, so I’ll leave the geek-speak aside.  I’ll just summarize the big brouhaha between Apple and Samsung (and Android/Google) by saying it this way:  yes, Samsung most definitely copied Apple’s novel cellphone ideas and likely infringed its IP.  But the courts probably won’t be able to rule in Apple’s favor on much if any of its claims.  We’ll see.  But I doubt Apple will be able to make it all stick, in the end.  

Personally I think that’s too bad because the iPhone was completely revolutionary and novel in so many ways, and that Apple should be able to get some protection from the clear copying being done across the tech. sector these past few years.  Look at that image above again.  A picture is worth a 1000 words.

 

Tuesday:

FANTAZYOR (fanTAHzeeyohr)

A dreamer; someone who builds castles in the air

Steve Jobs — a true fantazyor

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WoD – Science Fiction

What is the difference between science and science fiction

 

Increasingly, it seems to me the answer is…  Time.

 

Tuesday:

TOG FAR TOG (TOHG fahr TOHG)

Day by day

We hope his health returns, but for now all we can do is take it tog far tog.

WoD – On Busyness…

This is a fantastically written article on what I’ll call busy-ness, (as a bit of a continuation on our recent theme.)  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/
 
Perhaps in my own small way I, too, am a kid standing outside the classroom window making faces.  The irony of it is, most of you will be too busy to stop and read the article.  That’s WoD worthy, right there.  But then there is the brilliant Richard Scarry reference in it, too…

The ‘Busy’ Trap

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.  

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.  

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time? Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.  

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.  

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.  

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.  

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.  

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd.  Life is too short to be busy.

Sunday:
LAMDEN (LAMMdehn)
Scholar, erudite person, learned man
Whoever Tim Kreider is, he is a lamden to me now…

WoD – The Higgs boson

Spoiler Alert:  this one is kind of science-y.  Ok very science-y.  So if that’s not your bag, feel free to move along to the punch line.  (Or the Yiddish part.)

So, did anyone hear the news about the Higgs boson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson) today?  Yea, for particle physicists!  (Yes, that’s tinged with a bit of sarcasm.)  

Ok in truth, I didn’t even know it was a thing until today.  But now I do.  See here:  http://thenextweb.com/shareables/2012/07/04/so-what-is-the-higgs-boson-and-why-is-it-important-anyway/  Actually you can just watch the pretty neat video embedded in the article, which is also here: http://vimeo.com/41038445.  Warning, it is 7 minutes.  But it is an enlightening, eye-opening 7 minutes, for sure.  

There are many amazing things to probably think about in all this.  Life, the Universe, and Everything, (as Douglas Adams of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” fame wrote about.)

However, here’s the thing.  

After reading all this and watching the amazing mind-bending video, I am more convinced than ever that we are going to cause some sort of cataclysmic disaster to our world via the Hadron Collider, or some related scientific endeavor.  Some stupid or arrogant or amoral or unknowing scientist (because let’s face it – we have tons of these, in reality) will perform some poorly thought-through and not-well-supervised experiment that collides a proton with an anti-proton (I know I know, this isn’t a real thing.  I’m just sayin’), which will create a rip in the time space continuum and our whole world will implode.  And all human progress and the amazing civilization we have built will be wiped out in a nanoblip.  

Because let’s face it – our world will not live forever.  So the Woody Allen-like question then becomes, what brings about its end?  Natural decline as the energy in the earth’s core slowly fades over the next 4.5 billion years, or will it be due to some other, non-natural reason?  I’m betting on the latter.  And in particular, our own curiously destructive hand.  We humans are both that amazingly brilliant and that classically stupid at times, yes…

Thursday:

BEHEYME (nehHAYmeh)

Idiot, fool

We humans are oxymorons.  We can be both super smart and beheymes, all at the same time. 

WoD – Ideas (in the shower)

The other morning, I had some good, deep thinking on the state of digital media, while I was near-comatose in the shower.  In fact, I get a lot of ideas in the shower, or sometimes while I am shaving right afterwards.  When my brain is literally not fully awake.  Yet somehow, this is when new ideas bubble up and take root in my semi-conscious state.  (Usually these thoughts are quickly and unfortunately drowned out by the incessant, rhythmic, repeated beat of one, all-encompassing thought:  “coffee…  must have coffee…”  repeat.) 

But here’s the thing.  I am not the only one who has this happen or who has said this.  Not nearly.  In fact, I bet darned-near all of you out there have this happen on occasion.  

So my thought today is not about any one new idea or gadget; rather, why the heck do so many of us seem to get good ideas while in the shower!?  Why there?  Why then?  

Well, it’s probably due to what you’d intuit: we are in a relaxed, uncluttered state of mind, not overrun with more conscious decisions and burdens (yet).  In short, an unencumbered mind.  Here are two very nice explanations on this… human condition.  (The first one even comes complete with an “idea” for an aquapad, in order to best capture and write down these water-logged ideas.)

http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2011/why-you-get-ideas-in-the-shower/

http://lucyinnovation.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/why-we-have-our-best-ideas-in-the-shower/

I didn’t think this WoD would be a bit of a continuation from yesterday’s on the perhaps-deleterious effect of too much work, in too interruptive a fashion, too long in the day.  But after reading these blog explanations, it is.  So people — stop the emails, push your chair back, stretch your arms, go for a walk, and… go take a shower? 

Tuesday:

KOCKEPUTZI (kochehPOOTsee)

A bunch of things thrown together

I guess you could call the WoD a big kockeputzi.  (Eh, I’ve been called worse…)  

WoD – Email and our After Hours

While pretty obvious and something we all intuitively know, I thought I’d share this Techcrunch article anyway (http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/02/80-of-americans-work-after-hours-equaling-an-extra-day-of-work-per-week/), as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how bad it all has gotten…

80% Of Americans Work “After Hours,” Equaling An Extra Day Of Work Per Week 

Have you ever read news that sort of makes you want to cry? I have to warn you, that’s what this new study from enterprise mobility company Good Technology might inspire. The company polled 1,000 U.S. workers to get a better understanding of their mobile work habits. The results are not surprising: the line between work and free time has become so blurred it’s practically non-existent.

80% of people continue working after leaving the office (a figure which actually sounds low, if you ask me). Half of them do so because they feel they have “no choice.” Connectedness means customers demand fast replies. There’s no off switch. Half of respondents check their email in bed, starting at around 7:09 AM. 68% check email before 8 AM. And you wonder why people hate email so much? God forbid we get a cup of coffee in us before dealing with the latest work emergency.

The average amount of “extra work” occurring outside normal working hours is seven extra hours per week – nearly another full day, says Good. That’s nearly 30 hours per month or 365 extra hours per year. THANKS INTERNET.

Good also found email was seeping into other parts of our daily lives, too. 57% checked email on family outings. 38% at the dinner table. 69% can’t go to sleep without checking email. 40% do so after 10 PM. A quarter of respondents said overtime caused occasional disagreements with their partner. Worse, over half said it did not– apparently, work outside of work is so par for the course, we don’t even care anymore. That’s truly frightening.

It’s amazing that no one has seen this level of uber-connectivity as an opportunity to blow up email and start over. For example, why is a “vacation message” the only system we have to support auto-responses for those moments where we need to be offline? By its name alone, the current system tells us that the only way we’re allowed to ignore email is when we are “officially” on vacation. Meanwhile, our societal conventions tell us that ignoring a question is the height of rudeness. At the very least, we need to respond with an “I’m looking into it.”

Why can’t email in a team environment smartly route inquires based on who’s clocked in as “on duty?” Why can’t email support a status message field the way IM does? Why isn’t there a button you can click to respond to simple yes/no queries to head off the inevitable (and bothersome follow-ups)? At the very least, if you could send a “maybe” the sender would at least know the email had been read. Why can’t email systems alert senders when you’re behind in your reading, aka “this inbox is overloaded, your email may not be read immediately?”

These ideas are off the top of my head – if someone actually began working on a such a system, the possibilities for radical improvements are un-ending.

Sad, sad, sad.

Monday:

AROYSGEVORFN (ahROYSgehvohrfehn)

Thrown out, wasted

“Eat all that food on your plate.  Otherwise it’s all going to be aroysgevorfn!  There’s people starving in Africa…” my grandmother used to always tell me.



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