"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."
Which means that a much sadder day is coming, sooner than any of us would like. Steve Jobs is the Edison of the modern age. Edison turned electricity into a part of every household, and defined it. Steve turned computing and the Internet into ubiquitous personal accessories, and defined them (within that mode as ubiquitous accessories).
Neither Apple, nor our world, will be the same without him in it.
UPDATE: Steve's best quotes.
A couple of articles lately that really hit home. Brink's "How to mend a broken heart" is simply excellent. Turns out that drug addiction may actually be a byproduct of love's existing circuitry, that a broken heart can medically kill people with something that looks a lot like a heart attack, and that simple pain relievers like Tylenol can help dull the pain of a breakup. Plus, how can you not love "The Museum of Broken Relationships"?
"Olinka and Drazen are artists, and after some time passed [beyond their breakup], they did what artists often do: they put their feelings on display.... Their collection of breakup mementos was accepted into a local art festival. It was a smash hit. Soon they were putting up installations in Berlin, San Francisco, and Istanbul, showing the concept to the world. Everywhere they went, from Bloomington to Belgrade, people packed the halls and delivered their own relics of extinguished love: "The Silver Watch" with the pin pulled out at the moment he first said, "I love you." The wood-handled "Ex Axe" that a woman used to chop her cheating lover's furniture into tiny bits. Trinkets that had meaning to only two souls found resonance with a worldwide audience that seemed to recognize the same heartache all too well."
Another article talked about a more profound kind of heartbreak, and a very different problem of memory. The Washington Post's 2009 piece "Fatal Distraction" is about something that really can happen to any parent, though we really don't like to think about it:
"Two decades ago, [death by hyperthermia] was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child... well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?"
Research suggests a very unsettling answer:
"Diamond is a professor of molecular physiology at the University of South Florida and a consultant to the veterans hospital in Tampa.... [he] is the memory expert with a lousy memory, the one who recently realized, while driving to the mall, that his infant granddaughter was asleep in the back of the car. He remembered only because his wife, sitting beside him, mentioned the baby. He understands what could have happened had he been alone with the child. Almost worse, he understands exactly why.
....Diamond says that in situations involving familiar, routine motor skills, the human animal presses the basal ganglia into service as a sort of auxiliary autopilot.... that's why you'll sometimes find yourself having driven from point A to point B without a clear recollection of the route you took, the turns you made or the scenery you saw.... "The quality of prior parental care seems to be irrelevant," he said. "The important factors that keep showing up involve a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine, [emphasis mine] where the basal ganglia is trying to do what it's supposed to do, and the conscious mind is too weakened to resist. What happens is that the memory circuits in a vulnerable hippocampus literally get overwritten, like with a computer program. Unless the memory circuit is rebooted - such as if the child cries, or, you know, if the wife mentions the child in the back - it can entirely disappear."
With horrifying results, if the forgotten thing is your child's quiet presence in your now-parked car. Often made worse by prosecutors with too little sense, which is the secondary subject of the article.
"There may be no act of human failing that more fundamentally challenges our society's views about crime, punishment, justice and mercy. According to statistics compiled by a national childs' safety advocacy group, in about 40 percent of cases authorities examine the evidence, determine that the child's death was a terrible accident - a mistake of memory that delivers a lifelong sentence of guilt far greater than any a judge or jury could mete out - and file no charges. In the other 60 percent of the cases, parsing essentially identical facts and applying them to essentially identical laws, authorities decide that the negligence was so great and the injury so grievous that it must be called a felony, and it must be aggressively pursued."
There are times when it should be, if there is any suggestion that anything more than mere forgetting is at work, or if it fits a pattern of serious neglect. Otherwise, it just makes a bad situation worse, wasting money to achieve no deterrence. And really, no justice either.
There's a simple technology fix, mind you. Unfortunately, it can't get manufactured, because no manufacturer can afford to be sued if it fails. So babies will die after pulling all of their own hair out, and we can all thank the damn tort lawyers for one more thing.
The other thing that was interesting about this cheap device, developed by some NASA scientists after a local tragedy, was the poor test-marketing results. Seems that very few people thought it could happen to them.
But it could. There are things like broken loves, that you want to forget, but can't. And there are things you must remember - but can't guarantee you will. The universe is an amazing place. Just not always a friendly one.
Absent technology, my recommendation? Make the autopilot work for you instead. Every time you get out of the car, even if your child isn't in it, open the door and physically feel the child's seat. Do it without fail enough times, and it becomes an autopilot sequence of its own, associated with the presence of that booster seat. Once the seat disappears, it will eventually extinguish, though you might feel kind of foolish for a while.
Then again, consider the possible alternative.
It takes a lot of balls to cover Hendrix, but musician Ron Pope said he grew up wanting to play like Jimi. Ron himself acknowledges that no-one can really play like Hendrix, so he had to develop his own style. But as this live cover demonstrates, he can come pretty damn close. He's getting a lot of dislikes on YouTube for something that isn't his fault, so if you feel like raising the level of justice in the world, give him some props.
Here's the original, on Hendrix' "Axis: Bold As Love" album. The triangle actually adds a lot.
Caroline Glick's "Caution: Storm Approaching" looks at the economic convulsions that underpin the Arab world's current political convulsions. Her conclusion is that those convulsions are about the get worse before they get better. It doesn't help that the same hate-spawning, dysfunctional political systems are big contributors to the Arabs' lack of economic progress as well. Nor does it help that key economies around the world cannot pretend away problems forever, but appear to be trying. The reckoning always comes, and the fallout from each side is about to affect the other.
Of course, replacing current governance in Arab/Islamic countries with an even more hate-filled and more dysfunctional system of Islamic theocracy - all that does is double down on human disaster and misery. It remains to be seen which way things tip. Revolution =/= progress; they are linked but ultimately separate variables.
On which topic, Brett Stephens had a useful reminder the other day, about courage...
"The Face of Pakistan's Courage" is about Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Punjab's governor. He's the man who was assassinated for suggesting the repeal of Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws, whose legal and socio-cultural framework effectively sanctions torture and death for non-Muslims on a whim. I wish that was an exaggeration, but the evidence suggests otherwise: Asia Bibi currently sits on death row in Pakistan for nothing more than being a Christian, courtesy of the whim of a spiteful local villager. She isn't the first. She won't be the last.
Shehrbano Taseer is staying in Pakistan, and will continue fighting for her father's vision of the country. As Stephens correctly notes:
"Nearly a decade after 9/11, the West's exhaustion with the war on terror - at least in its more grandly conceived, nation-building and culture-shifting versions - can be traced to episodes like the Taseer killing and the underlying, politically incorrect question they prompt: What is it with these people? It's not an entirely unfair question.... [At the same time, people like Ms. Taseer, and the protesters in Syria] are exercising the virtue of courage as Aristotle would have understood it. And they are a rebuke to cultural pessimists in the West who often feel vindicated by the perfidies of the Muslim world but could stand, on occasion, to be humbled by examples of its courage."
The nature of Islam ensures that we'll be asking "What is it with these people?" for some time. The cultural disconnect is profound, and no, everyone does not want to be like us. Glick's realism - the genuine kind, not the school of foreign policy thought that calls itself realist because we wouldn't notice otherwise - is a necessary component. The very first thing is to look at what we see, and then not lie to ourselves. To date, it seems we've done little except lie to ourselves. That has to end.
While we keep that in mind, we must remember that Shehrbano Taseer is also real. As are the people Michael Totten talks to and writes about, here and elsewhere. There is a human element in all of this, and it's important to see it. That, too, is part of looking at reality and not lying to ourselves. People like Ms. Taseer matter in both a moral and political sense, and are worth our support.
Even if our realism doesn't think they're going to win in the near term, and urges us to prepare accordingly.
If anyone is curious what's going on with that, you can get the whole run-down at Defense Industry Daily - just read "Desert Leopards: Germany Selling Heavy Armor to the Saudis?".
As a bonus, DJ Elliott offers "The Missing Links: A Realistic Appraisal of the Iraqi Military."
The Torah is the Old Testament. The Talmud is a long, multi-volume series of rabbinic commentaries and applications of the Torah, as well as general discussions of philosophy, ethics, etc. Think of it as THE Jewish blog, with lots of manual links and comments spaced over a couple thousand years, plus unnoted commentary and arguments by all who study it. "The Essence of Judaism: On Teaching Judaism to Seventh Graders" is an entertaining explanation of how this process goes. Pirkei Avot (loosely, "The Wisdom of the Fathers") is the most frequently read and translated Talmud volume, since it deals only with general morals, ethics, and philosophy, and spends little to no time on halacha (Jewish law). That reach gives it an arguable place among the Great Books of civilization.
As a surprising demonstration of that reach, it turns out that the Talmud (I strongly suspect it's mostly Pirkei Avot) enjoys near-universal distribution in South Korea, of all places:
"Almost every house in South Korea has a translated Talmud. But unlike Israel, even Korean mothers study it and read from it to their young children. Yes, in a country of almost 49 million people, many of whom believe in Buddhism and Christianity, there are more people who read the Talmud - or at least have a copy of it at home - than in the Jewish state."
Turns out there's a reason for this...
"We were very curious about the Jews' outstanding academic achievements," explains South Korean Ambassador to Israel Young Sam Ma, who was a guest on Channel 1's "Culture Today" show.... We tried to understand the secret of the Jewish people. How do they - more than other nations - manage to reach such impressive achievements?... Jews read the Talmud from an early age, and we believe it helps them develop great abilities. This understanding led us to the conclusion that we should also teach children Talmud.... Young says he himself has been reading the Talmud since a very early age."
Beyondf the "In Search of Excellence" motif, Korea's own Confucian values also find strong echoes in the Talmud and Pirkei Avot - a phenomenon that has been noticed here when Jewish and Asian families have children who date. Promise of academic excellence + cultural affinity + curiosity of a foreign import... well, say no more.
Though I might venture to say a little bit more. "The Essence of Judaism: On Teaching Judaism to Seventh Graders" explains the essence of the part that goes beyond the book:
"In the following week, I begin with the semi-solemn warning that "now we are going to do something really difficult," and I recite the story of the physicist I.L. Rabi, who, when asked to explain his success as a physicist, attributed it to his mother, who each day when Rabi came home from school asked him not what he learned that day, but "did you ask a good question today?" 2 The assignment, then, was to ask three good questions about Judaism but not simple question of fact..."
You can read the Talmud, but without that kind of questioning engagement, it will lose the ingredients that made their way so strongly into Western culture, as they merged with the intrinsic ethics of science to form a larger whole.
Mind you, the Koreans are doing a pretty good job, beyond even the consumer items we've all become so familiar with. Not a lot of people realize this yet, but they're close to doing things in the defense arena that mirror Hyundai's auto success: designing and delivering capable, well thought out, reasonably priced alternatives. I expect we'll be hearing more about this in the years to come, as their land, air, and even naval products start gaining export traction.
Meanwhile, I've been noticing increased Israeli defense cooperation with South Korea for a few years now. Long-range Green Pine radars will become the anchor of South Korea's ballistic missile warning/defense system, they're buying Elbit's Skylark-II UAVs, an Israeli radar looks set to equip their locally-designed fighters and possibly their F-16s, etc. On the flip side, Israel looks set to buy Korea's supersonic T-50 Golden Eagles to replace its Skyhawk trainers, and probably serve a secondary fighters for the IAF.
I never thought there was more to it than mutual need, and a somewhat similar problem set. But, as usual, it seems there's more. And now you know the rrrrest of the story.
"In a September 2007 video, al-Qaeda's third-highest leader, Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, published a strategy, largely based on al-Qaeda errors in Iraq, showing how the West can fight and win its "war of ideas." Why would he do this? That is unclear. Al-Libi may have believed that the United States lags so far behind the global jihadist movement that al-Qaeda has little to fear.6 In any event, his six-part strategy for the West focuses almost exclusively on countering al-Qaeda's narrative:
- Amplify cases of ex-jihadis who have renounced armed action;
- Fabricate stories about jihadi mistakes and exaggerate actual mistakes;
- Prompt Muslim clerics to issue fatwas that incriminate the jihadi movement;
- Support Islamic movements that disavow terrorist violence, particularly those with a democratic approach;
- Aggressively neutralize or discredit the jihadi movement's guiding thinkers; and
- Spin minor disagreements among jihadi leaders into major doctrinal or methodological disputes.
This actually strikes me as a pretty good list. As to why a jihadist cleric would issue this, it seems pretty simple to me. I've seen more than a few "beware of the following dirty tricks from the other side, so you're prepared" pieces among political partisans. Why not among theocrats, for whom religion is politics and vice-versa?
Apparently, the design for the Independent League baseball Amarillo Sox' mascot didn't turn out quite the way they had hoped.
"Is this the way to Amarillo?
Every night I've been hugging my pillow
Dreaming dreams of Amarillo
And sweet Marie who waits for me."
Now we know why. Read the team owner's comment at the end - it gets even better.
Very interesting Daily Mail article about Britain's Electron Model of Many Applications (EMMA) ring accelerator, and its potential in both energy generation and medicine:
"One ton of thorium can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3.5 million tons of coal, and the thorium deposits that have already been identified would meet the entire world's energy needs for at least 10,000 years. Unlike uranium, it's easy and cheap to refine, and it's far less toxic. Happily, it produces energy without producing any carbon dioxide: so an economy that ran on thorium power would have virtually no carbon footprint.
Better still, a thorium reactor would be incapable of having a meltdown, and would generate only 0.6 per cent of the radioactive waste of a conventional nuclear plant. It could even be adapted to 'burn' existing, stockpiled uranium waste in its core, thus enormously reducing its radioactive half-life and toxicity."
The technical catch?
Particle accelerators like the "'non-scaling, fixed-field, alternating-gradient' (NS-FFAG)" EMMA must continue to become better, smaller, and cheaper - because without those accelerators working, a Thorium reactor can't run and starts to cool off.
That's the good news, of course. In a Fukushima style disaster, the reactor just turns off.
It's also the bad news. Improved accelerators that combine small size and reliability are not a trivial technical advance. Until we really try, it will be hard to even know where the alligators are, let alone get it down to an economical level. It's wise to expect some unexpected difficulties along the way, as well as unexpected costs, and not see this as some kind of near-term fix. Or even a certain fix, in any time frame.
The ray of light? A 400 MeV relative called "Pamela" (Particle Accelerator for Medical Applications) promises new possibilities in treating heretofore untreatable cancers, and the demographics of cancer and aging are likely to make Pamela-style accelerators reasonably popular public projects. As long as a steady trickle of good news results, and the setbacks are manageable, a path is laid for continued improvement in the underlying technology.
This is definitely one of those technologies we'd all love to see succeed.
See also the Thorium Energy Amplifier Association's 2010 report, "Toward an Alternative Nuclear Future" [PDF].
Very interesting presentation from South by Southwest (SxSW) 2011. He's pretty candid about the longer-term threats embedded in a data-as-a-platform world, but also very interesting rewarding the opportunities for creating businesses out of data streams. For me, it's been worth multiple playings, even though it's almost an hour (but it works fine as background audio).
Beyond tech, I quite liked his general point about "It wasn't that the future [predicted in the 1960s/70s] wasn't magical, it was just sooner and stranger than we think." The crack about "I flew here on an airplane, courtesy of the Wright Brothers, and customer service, courtesy of Darth Vader" is also a keeper.
But the rest is equally worth your attention. Feel free to discuss among yourselves.
This is just great, and sums up so many things - including, most especially, my gratitude. Plus, I just thought y'all might like to understand the lyrics for once. :-)
As you might expect, there's more to this video than meets the eye. More music, and more of a story...
The folks at Playing for Change.com explain how the tech revolution fueled something entirely new:
"We built a mobile recording studio, equipped with all the same equipment used in the best studios, and traveled to wherever the music took us. As technology changed, our power demands were downsized from golf cart batteries to car batteries, and finally to laptops. Similarly, the quality with which we were able to film and document the project was gradually upgraded from a variety of formats - each the best we could attain at the time - finally to full HD...."
From communities, to the world, in shared music. Not bad. In time, the playlist will be more 2-way. But...
"Over the course of this project, we decided it was not enough for our crew just to record and share this music with the world; we wanted to create a way to give back to the musicians and their communities that had shared so much with us. And so in 2007 we created the Playing for Change Foundation, a separate 501©3 nonprofit corporation.... Now, musicians from all over the world are brought together to perform benefit concerts that build music and art schools in communities that are in need of inspiration and hope."
You could do a hell of a lot worse than that. Real hope usually requires policy changes, and often cultural changes, which is why economic development projects so often go nowhere. There's always a place for art & music in a human life, and I like a project that, pretty much no matter what, always goes somewhere.
Now, if you liked that video, check out the full 24-song YouTube mix. It's a visual album that I promise you will not regret.