September 30, 2011

Comments Closed - Pending a WP Move

By Armed Liberal at 20:36
We're (far too slowly) moving the site and comments to a new instance of WP so it'll be stable and available. That work will be happening over the next week or so, and to that end, I'm closing comments so that we don't lose any in the move... Ping Joe or myself if you have questions or want to post something.
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August 25, 2011


By Joe Katzman at 03:50

Letter to Apple:

"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.

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  • TM Lutas: Jobs' formula was simple enough. Passionately care about your users, read more
  • Glen Wishard: Jobs was on the losing end of competition many times, read more

August 4, 2011

Memory & Forgetting, Children & Love

By Joe Katzman at 04:19

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:

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July 19, 2011

Ron Pope Plays Hendrix' "Little Wing"

By Joe Katzman at 18:23

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.

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July 18, 2011

After the Arab Spring Comes the Storm?

By Joe Katzman at 00:33

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...

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  • Chris M: Thanks for the great post, Joe ... linked it on read more

July 13, 2011

Saudis Buying German Tanks?

By Joe Katzman at 07:37

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."

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  • Joe Katzman: Collect them all! Though the French would be upset about read more
  • Glen Wishard: Now all the Saudis need is a division's worth of read more
  • mark buehner: Its one thing to accept the Iranians as an ally read more

July 6, 2011

The Bulgogi Talmud: a Bestseller in... Korea?!?

By Joe Katzman at 00:19

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...

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July 1, 2011

Ending al-Qaeda: The Psyop Approach

By Joe Katzman at 07:29

Interesting bit in The American Interest:

"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:

  1. Amplify cases of ex-jihadis who have renounced armed action;
  2. Fabricate stories about jihadi mistakes and exaggerate actual mistakes;
  3. Prompt Muslim clerics to issue fatwas that incriminate the jihadi movement;
  4. Support Islamic movements that disavow terrorist violence, particularly those with a democratic approach;
  5. Aggressively neutralize or discredit the jihadi movement's guiding thinkers; and
  6. 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?

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  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: I agree with JK that this list wasn't exactly put read more

Is This the Way to Amarillo's... Mascot?

By Joe Katzman at 06:21

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.

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June 23, 2011

EMMA: After Uranium Fission Comes... Thorium?

By Joe Katzman at 04:25

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?

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  • Marcus Vitruvius: Mark: Yeah, on that we definitely agree-- environmental energy is read more
  • mark buehner: I agree with everything you said Marcus, we're on the read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: MB #17: Yes, I agree. I phrased it carefully because read more

June 17, 2011

LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman on Data, the Panopticon & Web 3.0

By Joe Katzman at 07:18

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.

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  • Beard: Been away a long time, and things are getting a read more

June 14, 2011

A Thanks to Winds Readers: Playing for Change

By Joe Katzman at 20:45

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...

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  • annienomad: Incredible performances. Wonderful project:) The Tide - Protest/Solidarity Song "" read more
  • annienomad: Incredible performers. Wonderful project:) The Tide - Protest/Solidarity Song "The read more
  • PD Shaw: Sweet!!! read more