Tag Archives: steve jobs

The Morning Grumpy – 6/8/12

8 Jun

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Hey, what’s up, lame pun raccoon? Got a good one for us?

1. This Saturday, June 9th, come to Riverside to participate in the 3rd Annual Ride Along the Waterfront at Black Rock Canal Park.  This year’s event includes the popular 3 mile kayak/canoe paddle, 14 mile non-competitive bike ride, and a wellness fair.  New this year, Petworks will be on hand with their agility dogs and Buster Bison will be in appearance to entertain the kids.

Ride Along the Waterfront begins at 9:00am with the kayak/canoe paddle from the boat launch at Black Rock Canal Park to the foot of Sheridan Drive and back along the curve of the Niagara River.  The bike ride begins at 11:00am and will include a “poker run” and the best hands will win prizes.  The bike ride follows the Riverwalk from Black Rock Canal Park to Lasalle Park and back.  The wellness fair will take place from 9:00 – 1:00, so stop by at any time before, during, or after any of the events.

Those interested in participating can do so for both events, an individual event, or can just stop by and check out the wellness fair.  Ride Along the Waterfront is a free event, open to all.  Participants can register day of the event.

Ride Along the Waterfront is a yearly event based out of Black Rock Canal Park.  It exists to encourage Buffalonians to get out and experience all that our waterfront has to offer and to bring awareness to Black Rock Canal Park and the improvements to the park that will begin later this summer.

2. Dan Rather reports on a new book that claims we no longer operate in a functional democracy.

Today, they say, instead of a Congress created by the people, for the people, we now have a GOP that is so adversarial that there is no room for compromise. This inability to negotiate makes it virtually impossible for new policies and laws to be created, which in turn frustrates many Americans, who ideologically fall in between the two political extremes. In the end, they say, it creates an anti-politician sentiment of “throw the bums out” and provides a toehold for non-politicians to be elected, who then become even more ineffective and obstructive than their predecessors.

The book also points the finger at the press. They say, in order to appear objective and balanced, and to please the corporate bosses and sponsors, news operations are engulfed in attempting to appear unbiased. It’s become a televised see-saw of sorts. One side pitted against the other, going up and down or back and forth, but not really telling the audience what’s actually going on.

When government in our republic morphs from one of ongoing legislative compromise to Democrats negotiating with ideological terrorists, progress comes to a halt.  Historic use of the filibuster, daily threats of filibuster, refusal of the minority to allow cloture votes in the Senate, and levels of legislative obstructionism not seen since the Civil War have led us to the point where gridlock just cannot be overcome and brinksmanship is now valued over governance. GOP 2012!

3. Yesterday, Buffalo Rising posted an article from a guy who is looking to “crowdsource” ideas for a better Buffalo using a Google document.

Quite often we read blog posts and their associated comment sections about how Buffalo could be a better place if (insert logical to fantastical remark). There are so many ideas out there, but the common problem I see is that there isn’t a place to truly share it with the community.
 
With this in mind, a question arose. Why not ask people for all of their ideas, and categorize them?
 
The question asked is simply, “How can Buffalo be a more livable city for its residents, workers, and visitors?”
 
Actually, the question is, “who is this guy and what credibility does he have?” I’m sure the author is well-intentioned, earnest, and just trying out a concept. But, to me, this kind of effort is a major problem with Buffalo.
 
We have hundreds of (mostly non-profit) organizations in the city working to “make Buffalo a better place”. They also compete with each other for attention and funding. We even have dozens of organizations working on answering this guy’s very specific question of how to make Buffalo a more livable place.
 
We also have thousands of people who are independently trying to solve problems by creating “”one-stop shop” websites, forums, and networks for these various organizations to collaborate. The weird “we’ve got to get everyone to collaborate” sub-genre of community activism is particularly tiresome to me.  Why? Because I’m usually asked to participate in those efforts due to my history of working with lots of different groups on community projects.
 
A better idea would be for this guy to approach one of the already established organizations in town, join, and work with them on their projects. Once ingratiated into the group, he can propose the organization work on his idea. The best kind of leaders know how to follow. Buffalo is filled with people who are dissatisfied with the pace of progress and want to start their own thing. Don’t. Unless you have some revolutionary concept (doubtful), join something and make it better.

4. Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons had another of their long-form email conversations and posted the product to Grantland. In it, there was one nugget of commentary that really stuck out, the absurdity of sports coverage in America.

Do we really need 25 people crammed in baseball locker rooms fighting for the same mundane quotes? What’s our game plan for the fact that — thanks to the Internet and 24-hour sports stations — a city like Boston suddenly has four times as many sports media members as it once had? Why are we covering teams the same way we covered them in 1981, just with more people and better equipment? If I could watch any Celtics game and press conference from my house (already possible), and there was a handpicked pool of reporters (maybe three per game, with the people changing every game) responsible for pooling pregame/postgame quotes and mailing them out immediately, could I write the same story (or pretty close)? If we reduced the locker room clutter, would players relax a little more? Would their quotes improve? Would they trust the media more? Why haven’t we experimented at all? Any “improvements” in our access have been forgettable. Seriously, what pearls of wisdom are we expecting from NBA coaches during those ridiculous in-game interviews, or from athletes sitting on a podium with dozens of media members firing monotone questions at them? It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of forgettable quotes, like the $7.99 prime rib extravaganzas at a Vegas casino or something. There’s Russell Westbrook at the podium for $7.99! Feast away! We laugh every time Gregg Popovich curmudgeonly swats Craig Sager away with four-word answers, but really, he’s performing a public service. He’s one of the few people in sports who has the balls to say, “This couldn’t be a dumber relationship right now.”

Bringing this down to a local level, there are dozens of bloggers writing about their immediate reactions to sporting events, providing mildly informed game analysis, and covering the Sabres and Bills with a breathless anticipation unseen since PANDAWATCH.

Certainly, there are fan blogs where people post their thoughts to generate discussion with like-minded friends, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m referring to amateur sports blogs that feature regular content, publishing schedules, and dedicated features about our local teams. I’m not sure what they’re all trying to accomplish. Is there some kind of coverage these people aren’t getting from established beat reporters and experienced analysts? What am I learning from Die By The Blade, BuffaloWins, or Two In The Box that I’m not already getting from seasoned professionals with access like Paul Hamilton and Mike Harrington? What fresh opinions am I not getting from the likes of Jeremy White, Mike Schopp or Chris Parker that would force me to look elsewhere? When do we reach a saturation point with “sports takes”?

As I get older, I find our obsession with sports to be a harmful distraction from the serious issues in our lives, especially when people take it so fucking seriously. This 24/7 sports coverage from establishment outlets, blogs, gossip sites, Twitter, and Facebook has created a local and national media crucible in which we ask our athletes to operate. They handle it poorly (because they’re usually meatheads) and we slam them for it. I just don’t get it.

Proceed with your allegations of hypocritical irony as I’m a news blogger. However, I think there’s nuance here and we can hash it out in the comments if you so desire.

5. Speaking of Gladwell, he claimed in a recent interview that in fifty years, the world will have forgotten Steve Jobs, but will honor the legacy of his contemporary, Bill Gates.

Still, Gladwell is fascinated that today we seem to revere certain corporate figures. He describes them as “our new prophets.” Yet, for him, these great business people are, in essence slightly inhuman. They shutter any humanity they might have in favor of the pursuit of profit.

Something, though, happened to Gates. “(He) is the most ruthless capitalist, and then he wakes up one morning and he says, ‘enough.’ And he steps down, he takes his money, he takes it off the table,” said Gladwell.

“There’s a reasonable shot that, because of his money, we will cure malaria,” he added.

He contrasted this with his now well-known view of Steve Jobs as a tinkerer, rather than a great creator. “Every idea he had came from somebody else — and, by the way, he would be the first to say this,” he said. (The second, surely.) “He was quite happy ripping people off,” is Gladwell’s view.

He went on to call Jobs “shameless” and “a self-promoter on a level that we have rarely seen.”

This reminded me of something Anil Dash once wrote about how Bill Gates performed the greatest tech hack ever.

Bill Gates has pulled off one of the greatest hacks in technology and business history, by turning Microsoft’s success into a force for social responsibility. Imagine imposing a tax on every corporation in the developed world, collecting $100 per white-collar worker per year, and then directing one third of the proceeds to curing AIDS and malaria. That, effectively, is what Bill Gates has done.

For more information about the incredible impact Bill Gates is having on our world, click here for an awesome infographic.

Fact Of The Day: On June 9th, 1978, After 148 years, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints finally allowed black men to become priests.

Quote Of The Day: “We are not a household. We are an economy. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.” – Paul Krugman

Video Of The Day: “Garden Of Your Mind” – Mister Rogers remixed by Symphony of Science

Song Of The Day: “Old Habits Die Hard” – Mick Jagger

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

Postmodern Politics

23 Apr

It’s likely to snow today, so I expect most local news to center around this fact. It’ll be all anyone talks about, and by this afternoon you’ll be sick of it and the accumulation is likely to be less and less destructive than you’re fearing this morning.

So, no news. Not even Wal*Mart bribing Mexican “authorities”.

I spent much of the weekend finishing the Steve Jobs biography. He was equal parts visionary leader and horrible person, and he was a master at combining great technology with better design. Much of the book discusses Jobs’ “reality distortion field” and his binary way of looking at things – everything was either brilliant or crap. He seldom settled for mediocre (MobileMe and the ROKR being notable exceptions).

But near his death, he dabbled in politics and advised President Obama on business matters and education. He had great ideas for expanding school hours, and dumping existing curricula for something more up-to-date, dynamic, and personally tailored for each individual learner. But one thing stuck out politically.

Jobs was critical of President Obama and friendly with Rupert Murdoch. He was critical of Obama’s inability to get things accomplished with the Republicans in Congress, and thought that we were rapidly falling behind other countries for no reason. Jobs explained to Obama that when Apple manufactures in China, he can easily retain 30,000 engineers to help run the factories. Not brilliant engineers with incredible vision, but just regularly trained engineers – guys who can run plants and can easily be trained in vocational programs and community colleges.

Likewise, Jobs went out of his way to criticize Murdoch’s Fox News Channel as being uniquely destructive in our society. Jobs said our political system had stopped being about liberal vs. conservative; instead, it was about constructive vs. destructive politics. And in a way, I think he was right. We’re at a point where liberals lurch rightwards in order to try to please conservatives, often to no avail. Thanks to the Senate filibuster – the use of which has become routine (it never used to be so) – governments must govern by supermajority. That is an unconstitutional result from a constitutional rule. 

But on that point of constructive vs. destructive, the Democrats have become the party that tries to develop solutions to deep socioeconomic problems. The Republicans, on the other hand, have become the party that wants to undo the last 100 years’ worth of societal solutions to socioeconomic problems – basic things like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. 

We should have long ago expanded Medicare to the entire population. The Ryan budget would turn America’s most popular single-payer government medical insurance plan (VA is another) into a semi-private, underfunded voucher program. 

Now I have to consider how that destructive vs. constructive quip applies to Buffalo’s multigenerational political and economic malaise. 

On Steve Jobs’ Passing

6 Oct

When I was first introduced to computing in 4th or 5th grade, it was to type on a large, beige device with no screen, it was just attached to a printer. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what that thing did, or was for. In 6th grade, we got Commodore computers that loaded programs via cassette tape.  Sometime in 7th grade, however, my school got a bunch of Apple ][ pluses. These things were a quantum leap forward. Programs loaded and saved much faster on 5 1/4″ floppies than on cassette. I was fascinated, and took the time to learn AppleSoft to the point that I was enjoying spending hours experimenting and writing programs.

These programs didn’t do much, and I wasn’t all that good at it, but it was an introduction to a whole new world.

Much as people insist that Android phones are better than iOS devices, back then the real hardcore computer geeks much preferred the lonely TRS-80 that was inexplicably kept in a hallway outside a teacher’s office. I didn’t like that machine – it may have been more powerful and professional, but it wasn’t user-friendly. It wasn’t the machine that caught my attention and interest.

We eventually bought an Apple ][e, which was quite expensive and didn’t really do much. We didn’t spring for a printer, and modems weren’t in a lot of homes in the early 80s. By 1984, the first Macs appeared and completely changed how we looked at computers. When I was in college, many of my peers had these compact little machines.  We’d use them for drawing, for games, and for writing papers. They were also expensive, but so revolutionary.

But I didn’t get one. I didn’t get another computer until I got a PC for law school in the early 90s. It had an 80MB hard drive and 1MB of RAM. It couldn’t run Windows 2.0, and at that time it was Bill Gates who was the computing world’s wunderkind. Apple wasn’t doing well at all.

I owned another string of mediocre PCs until 2003 when the Apple store opened in the Walden Galleria. It’s like a magnet, that store, and I often went in there to admire the computers and the revolutionary iPod. We got an iMac G4 and it was revelatory after years of crappy PCs. It had wifi before we had a wireless router. The store threw in extra RAM to make the sale. We soon got an iPod. Then an iBook. Then a MacBook. Then another. Some Nanos. A Shuffle. Then, the iPhone – we’ve owned every generation, and it’s an incredible device. I can’t imagine going back to a flip phone. The iPad may seem redundant or silly, but I love it, and use it daily for everything from web surfing, to blogging, to reading the paper and my magazine subscriptions.  After returning to Apple, he began making devices that were as beautiful as they were excellent.

Steve Jobs helped ensure that the US was at the technological forefront. He was a visionary, a pitchman, a designer, and an innovator.  He was one of the best and most successful businessmen in American history, and he created not just products, but entire market sectors.  He changed our lives. He changed the world.

I don’t know really why his passing bums me out so much, but it did. He was too young, and we’ll never know what else he could have come up with over the next 20-some years of his average life expectancy. I’m not sure there’s anyone left out there right now who’s quite like him, or if there ever will be again.

And this post was made on a Mac.