30 October 2012

Gubs for the day

Elizabeth Dias has a Time article about gubs and the election:
Louisiana, one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation, may make its gun rights even stronger on 6 November. The state legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment that any law restricting the right to keep and bear arms would be “subject to strict scrutiny”, meaning any attempt to restrict gun laws would become more difficult, and that it could be nearly impossible to prohibit concealed carry. Governor Bobby Jindal pegged his support of the proposed amendment to Hurricane Katrina in an op-ed for the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. “Folks were in their homes with no electricity, no power, no 911 service, and reports of looters going door to door,” he stated. “Instead of protecting freedom, government officials went door to door, confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens. We just can’t let that happen again.” The Constitution’s Second Amendment rights “hang in the balance,” he said.
New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro thinks the amendment goes too far: “This amendment will place in extreme constitutional jeopardy our present law that requires gun owners to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon,” he explained at a news conference last week. The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) sides with Cannizzaro, despite its support of gun rights, because schools would be at a particular risk. “It’s that if this amendment passes, one could foresee a situation where a student or someone else charged with carrying a firearm on a college campus could challenge the constitutionality of the gun-free campus restriction, thus leaving it to the courts to decide under a new and much higher standard of scrutiny if our current law is too restrictive,” the CABL argued in a statement. “Opening the possibility that that might occur is not a risk we wish to take.”
Rico says they may not wish to take the risk, but Rico would... (And gub-free-campuses are fine up through high school, but why colleges?)

What a difference a year makes

Harry McCracken has a Time article about Apple without Jobs:
This is, as you may have figured out by now, an article about how Apple has fared in the year since Steve Jobs passed away. I suspect that it’ll be one of scads of such stories to be published today, the first anniversary of his death. Some are already out there.
But would it be too confusing if I questioned the whole concept of judging the post-Jobs Apple after only a year?
This may be a minority opinion. There’s certainly plenty of evidence that Apple is doing just fine. Its stock is up 75% since Jobs’ death. It’s sprinted past ExxonMobil to become the world’s largest company based on market capitalization. The iPad still dominates the tablet market. The iPhone 5 is the fastest-selling iPhone ever.
None of which has prevented pundits from declaring ( repeatedly!) that Apple has already lost its way. (Actually, people were saying that even before Jobs left us.) It’s not just the iOS 6 Maps meltdown, the company’s biggest post-Jobs misstep to date. Even television commercials are read like tea leaves.
This hair-trigger tendency to see everything as a sign that the post-Jobs Apple is doomed, doomed, doomed gives lots of potentially reasonable Apple criticism an absurdist quality. I mean, anybody who contends that Tim Cook is doing a catastrophically crummy job as Apple CEO— so bad that he should be fired or even has Jobs riled up in heaven— really ought to name at least one person who’d be better suited to the gig. Nobody ever does.
Objectively, the top-level assessment of Apple’s current state seems pretty straightforward to me:
Overall, it’s doing phenomenally well.
It isn’t perfect.
For any action it takes, we can never know for sure whether things would have been different if Steve Jobs were still with us. But we do know that he had his own lapses in judgment, failures, and flip-flops. So the fact that Apple is making mistakes isn’t a sign that it’s falling apart without its co-founder.
All of this isn’t just straightforward; it was utterly predictable.
Jobs left behind a deeply competent team: Cook, design god Jonathan Ive, marketing honcho Phil Schiller, software kingpin Scott Forstall, manufacturing expert Bob Mansfield and others. They understand how to make great products, and they’re still working on ideas that originated in the Jobs era.
Even if these guys were going to muck up Apple  it would take several years and multiple generations of products to do it. For now, they’re making increasingly refined versions of what were already the most polished gadgets in the business.
Jobs, of course, wasn’t just the tech business’s grand master of getting nitpicky little details right. He also excelled at big-picture stuff: from the Mac to the iPod to iTunes to the iPhone to the iPad, he spearheaded far more industry-shifting new products than anyone else in the business. And that’s the biggest question mark about Apple s future: can Tim Cook, who doesn’t claim to be a product visionary, preserve Apple s remarkable track record of coming up with the next big thing? We don’t know yet, and we don’t know when we will know. We don’t even know for sure whether Apple s working on anything that might qualify— like, oh, say, a television.
It’s worth considering the impact that the death of Walt Disney— the closest thing corporate America had to a Steve Jobs–like figure before Jobs came along— had on his namesake company, which had been the most innovative outfit in entertainment for decades.
Disney died on 15 December 1966. The studio continued releasing movies very much like the ones it had been making in the years preceding his passing, including cartoons created by the Nine Old Men, the animators who had worked with Walt since the 1930s. The idea for Walt Disney World originated in the 1950s, but the park didn’t open until 1971; when it did, it was a tremendous success. It took years for it to become clear to everyone involved that the company was faltering. And when it did, it wasn’t because it forgot how to create entertainment of the sort it had already been producing. It was because its understanding of Walt’s genius was backward-looking.
Apple isn’t going to repeat that mistake. In fact, when Jobs handed the company over to Cook, the two discussed the Disney company as a case study in what not to do. But a willingness to change will get Apple only so far.
Sooner or later, some tech company is going to introduce something that shakes up everything in the way that so many of Apple s creations have done in the past. Until we know whether that company is Apple once again, we can’t truly measure the lasting impact of Jobs’ absence from the company he co-invented and kept on reinventing.
For now, to riff on what an anonymous wise person once said, it’s better to stay silent on Apple s fate and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.
Rico says he'll speak up; they've counted Apple as dead more than once, and were wrong...

Apple for the day, again

Peter Svensson has an Associated Press article in Time about the shakeup at Apple:
Apple Inc. shook up its executive ranks, saying the head of its store operations is leaving after just six months on the job and the long-serving head of its iPhone software development operations is exiting next year.
Apple didn’t say why retail senior vice president John Browett and iOS software senior vice president Scott Forstall were leaving, but both have presided over missteps this year.
Browett cut staffing hours at Apple’s retail stores, a move the company reversed and acknowledged as a mistake. Forstall’s division launched a software update in September that replaced Google Maps with Apple’s first mapping application. It quickly drew unfavorable comparisons to the software it was replacing, and Apple apologized.
Browett’s departure is immediate, and the company is looking for a replacement. Forstall will act as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook until he leaves, Apple said. His responsibilities will be divided among other Apple veterans.
Forstall joined Apple in 1997 with the company’s purchase of Steve JobsNeXT startup. Apple credits him as one of the original architects of Mac OS X.
Craig Federighi, who is now in charge of the Mac OS, will add iOS development to his responsibilities, Apple said, but Jony Ive, the chief designer behind the distinctive look of Apple hardware, will take responsibility for the look and feel of Apple’s software.
Eddy Cue, head of Apple’s online services and iTunes, will assume responsibility for Maps and Siri, the “virtual assistant” application on the iPhone and iPad.
Browett took over the store operations after Ron Johnson, who helped create the Apple stores, left to become CEO at J.C. Penney Co. in November.
Apple has more than 360 stores, and they’re unique in several ways. They sell more per square foot than any other chain in the US, yet they account for just twelve percent of Apple’s overall sales. They’re ambassadors of Apple’s brand, and provide customers with an easy way to access in-person technical support.
At the time Browett was appointed, commentators wondered what an executive from a traditional retail operation would bring to Apple. Browett’s move to cut staffing appeared to be motivated by a desire to improve profits, but Apple divisions don’t have their own profit-and-loss accounts; they’re supposed to support the company as a whole.
Rico says these guys (with the exception of Tim Cook) all started after Rico left Apple in 1996, so he doesn't know any of them...

Paintball? What the hell, it's only the fate of the planet...

Matt Peckham has a Time article about future uses for paintball expertise:
You’re suited up, mask in place, gas-powered marker loaded, primed for action. You maneuver the barrel of your weapon, lining up its reticle with your target, getting ready, taking aim…
Hey wait, isn’t that a planet-killing asteroid in your sights?
It could well be, if MIT student Sung Wook Paek’s idea sees the light of day: spraying such an asteroid with a giant cloud of paint to knock it from its life-threatening course.
Say we detect a killer asteroid, something on a trajectory to collide with Earth and big enough to trigger an extinction event. We could try blasting it apart, but that risks creating collision fragments. We could try pulling it off course using a gravitational tractor, but that could take years and require ion thrusters. We could attach a rocket to the asteroid and try to push it off course, but the amount of force necessary to move an extremely large object could be prohibitive.
Enter Paek, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who proposes that we deflect such an asteroid with a simple paintball cloud, using the force of the ejected paint itself to initially nudge the asteroid, then counting on the paint’s solar reflectivity— all those bouncing photons— to gradually do the rest.
How? By sending up what amounts to a rocket-propelled paintball gun, the paint pellets crafted in space to avoid rupturing due to the force of takeoff. The spacecraft carrying this paint payload would approach the asteroid, then release volleys of pellets full of white paint powder (thus the paintball analogy), one round for the front side of the object, a second for the back.
According to MIT News:
In his proposal, Paek used the asteroid Apophis as a theoretical test case. According to astronomical observations, this 27-gigaton rock may come close to Earth in 2029, and then again in 2036. Paek determined that five tons of paint would be required to cover the massive asteroid, which has a diameter of 1,480 feet. He used the asteroid’s period of rotation to determine the timing of pellets, launching a first round to cover the front of the asteroid, and firing a second round once the asteroid’s backside is exposed. As the pellets hit the asteroid’s surface, they would burst apart, splattering the space rock with a fine, five-micrometer-layer of paint.
Why are we talking about Paek’s solution? Because it’s relatively unorthodox, of course, but also because his paper detailing the novel-sounding proposition recently won the United Nations-sponsored Move An Asteroid 2012 Competition.
The downside: like a gravitational tractor, the process could take years to complete— Paek estimates up to twenty years in his paper. The upside: Paek’s pellets could hold more than just paint, say you want to fire something else at the asteroid, or, according to Paek, “you could just paint the asteroid so you can track it more easily with telescopes on Earth.”
Rico says what the hell, nobody's had a better idea...

Yet more Apple for the day

Harry McCracken has a Time article about changes at Apple:
First a disclaimer: I’m no expert on corporate intrigue at Apple  I know that the company announced changes that involve the exits of Scott Forstall and John Browett— the guys in charge of iOS and the Apple Stores, respectively— and greater responsibility for key executives Eddy Cue, Craig Federighi, Jonathan Ive, and Bob Mansfield. But I don’t have any insider scuttlebutt. I do, however, know huge news when I see it. And I did, in Apple's press release on the changes:
Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company, in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple s products for more than a decade.
For all of Ive’s incalculable impact on Apple s products since the late 1990s, he’s been a hardware person; other people have run the software for Macs, iPhones, iPads, and other devices. Generally speaking, the arrangement seems to have worked well— certainly, Apple has had the smoothest integration of hardware and software of any company in its field.
Now Ive will call the shots for the whole Apple interface experience. To my knowledge, the only other Apple employee who exercised that responsibility in the past was Steve Jobs. (Sure, the buck stops at Tim Cook for everything, but I’m assuming that he doesn’t fuss over dinky little design details. At least I hope he doesn’t…)
If you wanted to charge one person with making sure that Apple s devices were as pleasing as possible, Ive is the obvious first choice, and I’m not positive whether anyone qualifies as a strong runner-up. At some point, it should become obvious if his expanded role is taking Apple software in a new direction; the logical guess, given his interest in streamlined, relentlessly consistent design, is that skeuomorphism— the kind-of-campy mimicking of real-world details like plush leather and shiny wood surfaces— may become a thing of the past.
The bottom line: Ive has always been one of the most important people at Apple, but, with this reshuffling, he gets the opportunity to become the most important person at Apple  That makes this the most important thing that’s happened at the company in the post-Jobs era.
Rico says there's another post elsewhere about skeuomorphism  but he hopes Ive has better things to do than kill it (like getting someone to build an Apple-labeled laser printer/copier/scanner/fax)...

Politics for the day

Rico says his proto-fascist friend Dave sends this:

29 October 2012

SOF on Obama

Rico says that Soldier of Fortune has never disguised its loathing for the President, and this article is no exception:
After more than a month of bogus stories from Obama and his liberal allies, adevastating new report from sources on the ground has confirmed what wesuspected all along: Obama's administration not only knew what was going on, but they explicitly told security forces at the CIA compound and other military support to stand down when Ambassador Stevens' team asked for backup.
This damning new evidence is the final piece of the puzzle, and now thatwe have a clear view of what happened to our ambassador and our troops, it is a truly disturbing picture. The supposedly "spontaneous" attack, which left our embassy aflame from rocket and mortar blows, lasted well beyond the time needed for air support and additional security forces to mitigate the damage. Yet, for some reason, President Obama's higher-ups told them to stand down; not once, not twice, but three times.
An AC-130U gunship, a weapon more than powerful enough to avert the damage, was practically on-scene and could have halted the destruction, but the Obama Administration refused to let it fire. They could have stopped the mortar attacks. But at least three times they chose to betray the safety of our people on the ground. And, according to some sources, they even had live feed of exactly what was happening to those risking their lives to protect the embassy.
At this point, there is no question that the President's team utterly failedin their duty. There is also no question that the President's team knew precisely the type of attack they were facing, and directly chose to lie to the American people.
Now that their farce about some "video-inspired protest" is clearly exposed,one would think that the Commander-in-Chief would accept responsibility forwhat happened. Or perhaps at least admit that they failed, and commit tochanging their MO to prevent another similar situation. And one would hopethey could give proper respect to the two ex-Navy SEALS who chose to putthemselves in the line of fire, and make the ultimate sacrifice, to rectify Obama's mistakes.
But that's just not what the Obama Administration does. As far as they'reconcerned, they don't make mistakes, and their narrative doesn't need tochange.
This new information shows us exactly how Barack Obama and his cronies view our heroes abroad and our families at home. They will disregard great sacrifice, like the selfless deaths of former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods and his teammate. to preserve their political agenda, offering the most tepid non-acknowledgement of Woods' heroic efforts.
They will stand in front of the American people and lie to us like we'refools for weeks, expecting us to buy their crock story about "video protests"while they sit on live footage showing a far different picture. And, as damning information comes out, they point fingers at the truth-seekers, calling our efforts to find out how our people really died from their mistaken "Monday morning quarterbacking."
Our presence abroad, our livelihood at home, and the foundation of the freeworld itself can't survive with the utter failure of leadership that is theObama Administration. It's time to put the last four years in the wastebasketof history, and we're going to hold the front lines to make sure thathappens.
Unfortunately, much of the main-stream media is still backing Obama despite his colossal ineptitude. We need your help to cut through their distraction techniques and show Americans across our nation what kind of "leadership" Barack Obama and his cronies are giving us.
Rico says he may not agree with them, but he respects their right to question...



Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

Willard and disaster

Matthew Yglesias has a Slate article entitled Romney Wants To Cut FEMA:
Whenever there's a major natural disaster, the Federal government steps in to help. But that wouldn't necessarily be the case if Mitt Romney got his way. During a 2011 GOP primary debate, he said it was "immoral" for the federal government to be spending money on disaster relief when it should be focused on deficit reduction:

Romney says: 
"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?"
"Including disaster relief, though?" debate moderator John King asked Romney.
Romney's response: 
We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all. 
More prosaically, though the Romney campaign was understandably circumspect over the weekend about his spending plans the fact is that his overall budget requires sharp cuts in everything. The central issue is that Romney wants to cap government spending at twenty percent of GDP while boosting military spending to four percent of GDP and leaving Social Security harmless. That means a 34 percent across-the-board cut in other programs according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Unless, that is, Medicare is also exempted from the cuts, in which case you'd need a 53 percent cut.
Disaster relief, I would argue, is a great federal program precisely because of the debt issue. If a storm damages basic physical infrastructure (power lines, bridges) and imperils human life, it would be the height of penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking to suppose that the afflicted area should wait months or years to repair the damage. Ultimately, anyplace is going to go back to robust wealth creation faster if basic stuff gets fixed up faster. But that requires financing by an entity capable of rapidly financing expensive projects—i.e., the federal government. Left to its own devices, a storm-ravaged Delaware or Louisiana is going to be squeezed between balanced budget rules and falling sales tax receipts and be forced into an increasing state of dilapidation. 
Rico says it's voting for Willard that makes no sense, but people will anyway...

Sandy moves northward

Josh Voorhees has a Slate article with a NASA video of Hurricane Sandy:
Rico says that the worst of it didn't come through Philly, fortunately...

Hollywood for the day

Michael Cieply has an article in The New York Times about the future of the movies:

On 24 February, Hollywood will turn out for the Oscars. But it’s starting to feel as if it might be The Last Picture Show.
Next year’s Academy Awards ceremony— the 85th since 1929— will be landing in a pool of angst about movies and what appears to be their fraying connection to the pop culture.
After the shock of last year’s decline in domestic movie ticket sales, to $1.28 billion, the lowest since 1995 (and attendance is only a little better this year) film business insiders have been quietly scrambling to fix what few will publicly acknowledge to be broken.
That is, Hollywood’s grip on the popular imagination, particularly when it comes to the more sophisticated films around which the awards season turns.
Several industry groups, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, and the nonprofit American Film Institute, which supports cinema, are privately brainstorming about starting public campaigns to convince people that movies still matter.
That seemed self-evident only a few years ago. But the mood has turned wistful as people in the industry watch the momentum shift toward television. Even the movies’ biggest night will feed that trend: the Academy has lined up Seth MacFarlane, a powerful television writer-producer, as the host of the Oscars.
Shakespeare wrote his sonnets long after the sonnet form fell out of fashion,” James Schamus, a screenwriter and producer who is also the chief executive of Focus Features, noted in an email last week.
George Stevens Jr., the founder of the American Film Institute, said he would not descend, “like Cassandra”, with a lecture for members of the movie Academy, when he accepts his honorary Oscar at their Governors Awards banquet on 1 December. “I think they will find their way, but it’s a time of enormous change,” Stevens said. He spoke by telephone last week of his concern that a steady push toward viewing on phones and tablets is shrinking the spirit of films. In the past, he said, citing A Man for All Seasons, 8 ½, and The Searchers,  there was a grandeur to films that delivered long-form storytelling on very large screens. But the prospect that a film will embed itself into the cultural and historical consciousness of the American public in the way of Gone With the Wind or the Godfather series seems greatly diminished in an era when content is consumed in thinner slices, and the films that play broadly often lack depth.
As the awards season unfolds, the movies are still getting smaller. After six weeks in theaters, The Master, a 70-millimeter character study much praised by critics, has been seen by about 1.9 million viewers. That is significantly smaller than the audience for a single hit episode of a cable show like Mad Men or The Walking Dead.
Argo, another Oscar contender, had about 7.6 million viewers through the weekend. If interest holds up, it may eventually match the one-night audience for an episode of Glee.
The weakness in movies has multiple roots. Films, while in theaters, live behind a pay wall; television is free, once the monthly subscription is paid. And, at least since The Sopranos, sophisticated television series have learned to hook viewers on long-term character development; movies do that mostly in fantasy franchises like the Twilight series.
And a collapse in home video revenue, caused partly by piracy, drove film salaries down. Television, meanwhile, raised its pay, and attracted movie stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Laura Linney, Claire Danes, and Sigourney Weaver.
Ticket sales for genre films like “Taken 2” or Mr. MacFarlane’s broad comedy, “Ted,” remain strong. And a growing international audience, particularly in China, has brightened the outlook for action-hero blockbusters like Marvel’s “Avengers” or “Dark Knight Rises.”
But the number of films released by specialty divisions of the major studios, which have backed Oscar winners like “Slumdog Millionaire,” from Fox Searchlight, fell to just 37 pictures last year, down 55 percent from 82 in 2002, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
The drop-off leaves many viewers feeling pained.
“They feel puzzled,” said the critic David Denby. “They’re a little baffled.” He was referring to those who have applauded his argument — made both in a New Republic essay “Has Hollywood Murdered the Movies?” and in a new book, “Do the Movies Have a Future?” — that the enduring strength of film will depend on whether studios return to modestly budgeted but culturally powerful movies.
“If they don’t build their own future, they’re digging their own graves,” Mr. Denby said.
Mr. MacFarlane; the Oscar producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron; and the president of the Academy, Hawk Koch, declined through an Academy spokeswoman to discuss the challenges of celebrating film.
Privately some Academy members have said they were jolted by the choice of Mr. MacFarlane as host, in what appears to be a bid for viewers who have flocked to his television hits, notably “The Family Guy.”
But Henry Schafer, an executive vice-president at the Q Scores Company, which measures the statistical appeal of celebrities, said that “if the idea is to attract the younger audience, I think they got the right choice.”
Still, Daniel Tosh, who hosts “Tosh. O,” a hit Comedy Central series that highlights silly Web videos and skewers their participants, has given the doubters a voice. After playing a clip of two Russian men dropping a live grenade over the side of their boat and blowing it up, Mr. Tosh deadpanned: “It’s still a better idea than having Seth MacFarlane host the Oscars.”
The turn toward Mr. MacFarlane, who directed and voiced a foul-mouthed Teddy bear in “Ted,” his main contribution to feature film, has left the Academy scratching for ways to get the public reinvested in the sort of pictures it typically honors. Its staff, for instance, has been looking at the possibility of getting filmmakers who have made Best Picture winners to join a promotional campaign in theaters. In Los Angeles the Academy is also building a movie museum, meant to showcase the medium.
Separately the National Association of Theater Owners recently asked public relations and advertising consultants to submit proposals for a similar push.
Board members of the Film Institute also have been looking ways to strike a new interest in feature film, said Bob Gazzale, its president. Mr. Gazzale said it was too early to discuss details, but another person briefed on the initiative said the group had considered things as far afield as reaching out to prominent politicians — say, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton — as supervisors of film awards programs. The goal would be to re-establish a connection with viewers who were turning elsewhere for cultural direction.
In a discussion at Colorado State University this month, Allison Sylte, a student journalist, suggested that the Academy helped break the connection between her generation and high-end movies in 2011 when it chose as Best Picture “The King’s Speech,” which looked backward, rather than “The Social Network,” which pushed ahead.
“So, what does that mean for us as a culture?” Ms. Sylte asked of a vacuum that might occur if the better films went away.
The hole, Mr. Gazzale said, to whom the question was relayed, would be a large one.
“Movies remind us of our common heartbeat,” he said.

Rico says that, if you're willing to wait, you can see them all on Netflix...

Save it or die

The New York Times has an editorial about the planet:

The Southern Ocean circles Antarctica and remains one of the most pristine and ecologically rich oceans on earth. Its richness has attracted a growing number of industrial fishing fleets, which are harvesting toothfish and krill, the tiny shrimplike creatures that are the foundation of the Antarctic’s marine life. Add to that a growing interest in the mineral resources of the Southern Ocean and you have the same kind of commercial pressure that is threatening the ecological balance of nearly every ocean on the planet.
There is still time to reverse course. For the past week, in Hobart, Tasmania, members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources have been considering several proposals to create marine protected areas extending from the Antarctic continent well out to sea. Australia, France, and the European Union have proposed setting aside some 733,000 square miles off East Antarctica. The United States and New Zealand have separately proposed a protected area in the Ross Sea, and Britain wants to protect any area where an ice shelf has collapsed. A coalition of some thirty environmental organizations supports expanding the protected area to create a ring of protected areas around the continent.
What makes these negotiations difficult is the tension between conservation and extraction. The international agreement signed by member states of the Antarctic marine life commission is devoted to conservation, but its definition of conservation includes “rational use” of the Southern Ocean’s biological resources. We have nothing against “rational use,”, but we know all too well how easily such a loophole could be abused. Again and again, we have watched fishing nations fish their way into a dead end where the only recourse is to stop fishing entirely for a number of years.
At a minimum, the areas proposed in the Ross Sea and around East Antarctica should be protected; better still if the larger areas recommended by conservationists are included. Beyond that, it is critically important to make sure that “rational use” does not undermine the protection of these sensitive marine ecosystems.

Rico says that mankind has always had a problem deferring gain today for gain tomorrow, but we better figure this one out... (And 'rational use' implies that the users are rational, which humans rarely are.)

Dodged the bullet, it seems

Rico says the storm track seems to have come ashore farther south, and be running almost straight East to West, so Philadelphia may have been spared the worst of it... (No problem for Rico; until they get a few leak points fixed around here, less rain is fine.)

Apple for the day

Nick Bilton has an article in The New York Times about the latest lust object:
Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s vice president for marketing, strode across the stage of the California Theater in San Jose last week, trumpeting the virtues of new Apple products. As he caressed the side of the latest iMac personal computer, he noted how thin it was: five millimeters, eighty percent thinner than the last one. Then he said, with an air of surprise, as if he’d just thought of it: “Isn’t it amazing how something new makes the previous thing instantly look old?”
Umm, yes, Mr. Schiller, you design your products that way. It’s part of a strategy that Apple has perfected. How else can the company persuade people to replace their perfectly fine iPhone, iPad, iMac, and iEverything else year after year?
In the past, electronics makers could convince consumers that the design was different, because it actually was. The first iMac, for example, was a blue bubble. Then it looked like a desk lamp, and now it’s a rectangular sheet of glass with the electronics hidden behind it. The iPod designs changed, too, over time, before they became progressively smaller sheets of glass.
Certainly makers add features, like better cameras, or tweak the software— Siri and Passbook on the iPhone are examples of that for Apple  to persuade people to upgrade. But in the last few years, consumer electronics have started to share one characteristic, no matter who makes them: they’re all rectangles. Now, companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google need to persuade consumers to buy new rectangles once a year.
“This phenomenon happened to the television manufacturers a few years ago. They all started to look the same: flat panels on a wall,” said Donald A. Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things. The consequences for manufacturers were disastrous. “Customers no longer had to buy the higher-end Sony model; instead, they could get the cheaper, Chinese one,” Norman said. “This is what today’s companies are scared of. Turn off the screen on a smartphone or tablet and they look identical. They’re just rectangles.”
Each year, Apple and other companies seem to put those rectangles in a vise, flatten them slightly, alter the exterior dimensions, and showcase them as the next big, or little, thing. (Apple did not comment on its design strategy.)
This wasn’t always the case. As a child I remember exploring my father’s Minolta film camera from the mid-1950s that was given to him by his father. Although film cameras are now for the most part obsolete, you can bet that camera can still take 36 pictures without a hitch.
Yet can you imagine, ten years from now, someone handing a child an iPad Mini, the latest Apple gadget? They would scoff, just as people do today when they see an older (meaning two or three years old) version of the iPhone.
There is a term for all of this: planned obsolescence, which was popularized in the 1950s by Brooks Stevens, an industrial designer who specialized in making new cars. Briskly adopted by postwar consumer goods industries, the strategy coaxed Americans to sell their 1955 Cadillacs for the 1956 Cadillacs with their pronounced tail fins, and then the 1957s with even more exaggerated fins, and then ’58s, ’59s, and so on.
Stevens’ term was often misinterpreted as meaning things were designed to fall apart on a regular schedule. But he believed that true upgrades and design changes would make people want to buy the latest thing. That still holds true in this era, when consumers are supposedly wary of the hucksterism of manufacturers. If you don’t upgrade to the latest iPhone or iPad, you fear you may look dated and clueless, even though the rational part of your brain says, “This is a perfectly fine, useful device.”
Consumer electronics companies, Norman noted, have adopted the same marketing techniques the automobile industry perfected decades ago. Introduce fancy upgrades to the top and then, each year, push them down to lower-tiered products. This way, customers on every level feel the need to buy a newer version. “This is an old-time trick; they’re not inventing anything new,” he said. “Yet it’s to the detriment of the consumer and the environment, but perhaps to the betterment of the stockholder.” He added: “For Apple  you forgot the other trick: change the plugs!” While the rest of the electronics industry has adopted micro-USB ports, Apple just changed the proprietary ports and plugs on all of its latest devices— laptops, iPads, and iPhones included.
The documentary, The Light Bulb Conspiracy, showcased how past industries have gone to great efforts to reduce the life span of products— often products that couldn’t be designed to look different. Light bulbs were made to burn out sooner, and stockings snag by early afternoon.
Even so, my first iPod still plays music. My laptop from four years ago can still browse the Web. And my first e-readers can still display books.
It seems some consumers are starting to feel upgrade fatigue. There is no lift in PC sales, and people are owning them longer. A report by Recon Analytics, a market research firm, found that people around the globe were waiting longer to buy new mobile phones. In 2007, Americans upgraded their phones every 18.7 months on average; three years later, that number had stretched to 21.1 months. In Finland, people now wait 74.5 months to upgrade, compared with 41.8 months in 2007.
Maybe Schiller’s comment about the iMac isn’t how consumers see it anymore. Instead, people are starting to realize that these upgraded products are simply flatter rectangles that don’t really offer much more than the last model. Just like the tail fins on the ’56 Cadillac.
Rico says he wants an iEverything. (But, yes, he's upgrading his iPhone to the 5, and joke 'em if they can't take a fuck...)

History for the day

On 29 October 1929, stock prices collapsed on the New York Stock Exchange amid panic selling. Thousands of investors were wiped out.

Rico says that, as usual, his memory was wrong; apparently it was a black Monday in 1987, and a Tuesday in 1929, but the NYSE is still closed today because of the hurricane...

Not quite the deluge

Rico says the worst of Sandy, the 'Storm of the Century', seems to have passed south of Philadelphia, thus sparing us the ugly rain- and wind-storm we were promised. Not that Rico is complaining, mind you; while the preparations were tiresome, the reality is just fine, thus far...

28 October 2012

Mustang Sally

There isn't woman in the country named Sally, but Rico couldn't resist the punEdward Wong has an article in The New York Times about the real place:
Centuries ago, a demon destroyed the foundations of a Buddhist monastery under construction in central Tibet. Then Guru Rinpoche, who had brought Buddhism to the kingdom, pursued the demon west, deep into Mustang. The two fought among Mustang’s snow peaks, desert canyons and grasslands. Guru Rinpoche prevailed, and he scattered the demon’s body parts across Mustang: its blood formed towering red cliffs, and its intestines tumbled to the wind-scoured earth east of the cliffs. Later, people would build a wall of prayer stones, the longest in Nepal, atop the intestines.
On the fifth day of our trek, we stood above the demon’s heart. Here, on a hillside, the people of Mustang had built the monastery of Lo Gekar, one of the oldest in the Tibetan world. A lama showed us around. I found no remnants of a demonic heart, but the walls in a dark room at the rear were covered with paintings of fearsome creatures with fangs and blue skin. Tibetans called them protector deities. Our guide, Karma, pulled me over into the shadows and pointed to another wall. I squinted, and saw a statue of Buddha that had been carved from the rock. Or so I thought.
“They say the statue is natural and was discovered this way,” Karma said. “People in Mustang have many stories. They believe everything. There are spirits everywhere you look.”
Mustang was a caldron of myth, as I discovered on a sixteen-day trek through the Himalayan region of Nepal in September. Modernity was creeping in to the area, but the stories that people told had evolved little over centuries. As I walked through the valleys and white-walled villages, I heard tales that brought alive the harsh land, a place of deep ravines and stinging wind and ancient cave homes. It had been this way before the kingdom was united under Ame Pal in the fourteenth century, and the narratives seem as alive today as ever.
I had longed to visit Mustang ever since I got a glimpse of it while trekking the nearby Annapurna Circuit twelve years ago. On the northern arc of the circuit was the village of Kagbeni, with its red-walled monastery. To the north was an expansive gorge carved by the Kali Gandaki River. Beyond lay Upper Mustang, or the Kingdom of Lo, forbidden to those who did not have a permit from the Nepalese government.
This fall seemed like the right time for me to go. As a boy, I had seen my mother embrace certain Buddhist beliefs, and later I began walking paths in the Himalayas in search of something transcendent in the landscape and the abiding expressions of faith. I would soon turn forty, and my first child was on the way. It was time to make a Himalayan pilgrimage at the close of a chapter of my life and the beginning of another.
There was another reason to visit now. Last year, as a wave of self-immolations swept across the Tibetan plateau, China restricted access to the region, which had already been limited since 2008. For tourists, Mustang is a good alternative. It provides a taste of authentic Tibetan culture, and, like much of Tibet, it lies in the Trans-Himalaya, a vast high-altitude desert to the north of the main Himalayan range, which blocks most of the monsoon clouds that dump rain on India and Southeast Asia in the summer.
Last year, nearly three thousand tourists entered Upper Mustang, according to statistics in a government office in Kagbeni, an increase of more than 25 percent from about three years earlier. But the permit fee— $500 for ten days, and $10 for each additional day— still deters many travelers. The low numbers, though, are welcomed by those trekkers looking to avoid the busy Annapurna and Everest trails, as well as by some Mustangis, even ones who say the government needs to give Mustang a greater portion of permit revenue.
“Our land is in one of the most beautiful corners of the world,” said Jigme Singi Palbar Bista, 55, the ceremonial prince of Mustang. “But, if a lot of tourists come, we wouldn’t be able to support them all.”
After a week in the Katmandu Valley with my wife, Tini, I met up with my friend Gilles and flew north, between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs. Many trekkers rush from Kagbeni to Lo Manthang, the walled capital of Mustang, and back in ten days. We decided to go more slowly and explore some of the hidden corners along the way. Summertime in Nepal is when some of its last remaining nomads set up camp in the high grasslands west of Lo Manthang. In that area, too, are peaks of more than twenty thousand feet beckoning to be explored. A sixteen-day permit would also allow us time to travel up the valleys running north of Lo Manthang, toward Tibet, and then return to Kagbeni along the canyons east of the Kali Gandaki. The eastern half of Mustang was more remote, and it had some of the best-preserved Tibetan Buddhist cave art in the world.
Each day of the trek, I marveled at how the landscape of Mustang was unlike anything I had seen in the Himalayas. It was a place of canyon vistas revolving around the enormous valley of the Kali Gandaki. The trekking routes on both sides of the river ran up and down side valleys. The rivers were low most of the year, but some summer monsoon rains meant we had to ford rivers a half-dozen times.
Much of Upper Mustang is a desolate place, inhabited by about just over five thousand people and once crossed only by Tibetan pilgrims and yak caravans. We entered the area on the second day of the trek. There, at a wide stretch of the Kali Gandaki, the waters were flowing high and fast. All our gear was lashed to three horses. Besides Karma, our team consisted of Gombo, a horseman from Lo Manthang, and Fhinju, an ethnic Sherpa cook.
After the trail crossed the Kali Gandaki, it climbed steeply up to the village of Samar, considered the wettest and greenest place in Mustang. Right before dusk, we crossed a pass draped with Tibetan prayer flags and walked down to a lodge. Karma came from Samar, and his brother, the village head, owned the lodge. The main villages in Mustang all had at least one home where trekkers could stay. The rooms had simple beds or a bench with a thick Tibetan wool rug. Exhausted from a long day of trekking, Gilles and I sat down in the warm kitchen for dinner, next to French travelers. For dessert, the brother’s wife prepared apple pie with custard.
From next door came the sound of a pounding drum. “Traveling lamas,” Karma said.
Over the next days, we settled into our trekking routine: get up at 6 or 7, eat breakfast, walk for six to eight hours, reach a village before nightfall. The countryside became more barren the farther north we went, as we approached Lo Manthang. The hues of the mountains— shades of red and brown and ocher— changed each day, and varied with the movement of the sun.
All across the rugged land, people had built Buddhist chortens, or small stupas, atop hills, on pathways leading into villages and even inside caves, in part to ward off spirits that would do them harm. Tibetan Buddhism and the myths were intertwined threads that were in turn woven into the landscape.
With the tail end of the monsoon came the harvest. Villagers were out in the fields cutting down golden stalks of barley. But the harvest also brought out more stories of curses, bad spirits, and misfortunes that could befall people. Karma said the high passes that linked Mustang with the arid land of Dolpo to the west could not be crossed until after the harvest, legend had it, lest the harvest end in disaster. The same held for climbing the unnamed peaks that rose to over twenty thousand feet west of Lo Manthang. One day, tempting fate, I walked up one. When I reached the snowline, above nineteen thousand feet, it began hailing. Dark clouds loomed. I went down.
We reached Lo Manthang after that climb and a couple of nights camping near nomad families. We had sat in their black yak-wool tents and sipped cups of buttermilk tea. In Lo Manthang, I spoke to the prince of Mustang (his father, the eighty-year-old king, had been ill for weeks) and visited the three red-walled monasteries at the heart of the town. We met a team of dozens of locals being led by an Italian, Luigi Fieni, who was repainting Buddhist artwork in the gargantuan Thubchen Monastery. Its towering roof was held up by a forest of wood pillars and its enormous gilded statues inspired awe.
After two days, we left, following Karma to a place just as singular but hidden by the land. From the village of Yara, we approached a cave east of the Kali Gandaki gorge that was reachable only by a vertical climb. We took off our packs and scrambled up using our hands. One slip and we would have plummeted hundreds of feet to the valley floor.
This was Tashi Kabum, a cave temple that local villagers had opened to the public only a few years ago. Inside was a large white chorten, and painted on the cave walls and roof were some of the best preserved ancient Buddhist art I had ever seen. I could make out lotus petals on the roof. On one wall was a portrait of a lama in red robes. More enigmatic was a painting of a smiling, ivory-skinned man in a seated position. His face was illuminated by sunlight streaming through an opening in the cliffside. Fhinju, our Sherpa companion, brushed his fingers over the painting. “Chenrezig,” he said, and bowed his head in prayer.
For Tibetan Buddhists, Chenrezig was a bodhisattva embodying compassion. Tibetans believe the Dalai Lama was a reincarnation of him. He was a central figure in Buddhist pantheons across Asia. Growing up in an American suburb, I had watched my mother pray nightly in our living room to a statue of the Chinese incarnation, Guanyin.
Here, as far from my childhood home as it was possible to be, he gazed out at me again. Faith in him had crossed borders and transcended time. The tale took on a different meaning with each person. I stared into his eyes and saw his story unfolding in days to come.
Most trekkers enter Upper Mustang at the village of Kagbeni. The nearest airport is at Jomsom, a three-hour walk away. Flights to Jomsom from the resort town of Pokhara cost less than a hundred dollars each way. The airlines and frequency vary with the season, and there are often cancellations due to bad weather. But the view from the plane, which passes between some of the world’s highest mountains, is jaw-dropping. One alternative is to take a fourteen-hour bus ride to Jomsom along a route that has frequent landslides.
Foreigners must arrange their Mustang permits through an individual guide or trekking agency. I recommend hiring a native Mustangi as a guide, though they are hard to find. I used Karma Samdup, at karmakurt@hotmail.com, who comes from the village of Samar in Mustang.
If you want to go with a Western-led travel agency, Project Himalaya, at project-himalaya.com, and Kamzang, at kamzang.com, run treks in Mustang.
Every major village on the trekking trails in Mustang has a guesthouse or home where trekkers can stay. An experienced guide knows them all.
Rico says he'd love to visit such a remote place, but he'd settle for Nepal and the Gurkhas...

No eyes, no warning

John Cushman has an article in The New York Times about space:
The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement, lack of financing, and delays in launching replacements, according to several recent official reviews.
The looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts view as almost certain within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the East Coast early next week.
The endangered satellites fly pole-to-pole orbits and cross the Equator in the afternoon, scanning the entire planet one strip at a time. Along with orbiters on other timetables, they are among the most effective tools used to pin down the paths of major storms about five days ahead.
All this week, forecasters have been relying on such satellites for almost all the data needed to narrow down what were at first widely divergent computer models of what Hurricane Sandy would do next: hit the coast, or veer away into the open ocean?
Right on schedule, the five-day models began to agree on the likeliest answer. By Friday afternoon, the storm’s center was predicted to approach Delaware on Monday and Tuesday, with powerful winds, torrential rains and dangerous tides ranging over hundreds of miles.
New York and other states declared emergencies; the Navy ordered ships to sea to avoid damage. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City warned that no matter where or when the storm landed, the city would not escape its effects. And from the Carolinas to New England, public safety officials were urgently advising tens of millions of residents to prepare for the worst, including the possibility of historic flooding, power failures and snow.
Experiments show that without this kind of satellite data, forecasters would have underestimated by half the huge blizzard that hit Washington in 2010. “We cannot afford to lose any enhancement that allows us to accurately forecast any weather event coming our way,” said Craig J. Craft, commissioner of emergency management for Nassau County on Long Island, where the great hurricane of 1938 killed hundreds. Craft was seeking more precise forecasts for Sandy, and gearing up for possible evacuations of hospitals and nursing homes, as were ordered before Tropical Storm Irene last year. “Without accurate forecasts it is hard to know when to pull that trigger,” he said.
Experts have grown increasingly alarmed in the past two years because the existing polar satellites are nearing or beyond their life expectancies, and the launch of the next replacement, known as J.P.S.S.-1, has slipped to 2017, probably too late to avoid a coverage gap of at least a year.
Prodded by lawmakers and auditors, the satellite program’s managers are just beginning to think through alternatives when the gap occurs, but these are unlikely to avoid it. This summer, three independent reviews of the $13 billion program— by the Commerce Department’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office, and a team of outside experts— each questioned the cost estimates for the program, criticized managers for not pinning down the designs and called for urgent remedies. The project is run by the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), and NASA.
The outside review team, led by A. Thomas Young, an aerospace industry leader, called the management of the program “dysfunctional”.
In response, top Commerce and NOAA officials on 18 September ordered what they called an urgent restructuring— just the latest overhaul of the troubled program. They streamlined the management, said they would fill major vacancies quickly and demanded immediate reports on how the agency planned to cope with the gap. They have moved quickly to nail down the specific designs of the J.P.S.S.-1’s components, many of them already partly built. And they promised to quickly complete a new independent cost estimate to verify the program’s budget.
Ciaran Clayton, NOAA’s communications director, said in a statement that the agency’s top priority was to provide timely, accurate forecasts to protect the public, and that it would continue to develop and update plans to cover any potential gap.
The under secretary of commerce responsible for NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, issued the memorandum ordering the changes. In it, she wrote that the administration had been trying all along to fix “this dysfunctional program that had become a national embarrassment due to chronic management problems”.
“It is a long, sad history,” said Dennis Hartmann, the chairman of a broad review of earth-observing satellite programs released in May by the National Research Council. The report projected a dismal decline in what has been a crown jewel of modern earth and atmospheric science.
The Joint Polar Satellite System also includes important sensors for studying the global climate, and these too are at risk. But its main satellites are most notable because they put instruments to sense atmospheric moisture, temperature and the like into what is known as the “polar p.m.” orbit, a passage from lower altitude that provides sharp and frequent images of global weather patterns. (Other satellites stare continuously at one part of the globe from farther off, for short-term forecasting.)
Polar satellites provide 84 percent of the data used in the main American computer model tracking Hurricane Sandy. For years, as the accuracy of this kind of forecasting has steadily improved, NOAA’s p.m. polar satellites have been a crucial factor, like the center on a basketball team.
But all the while, despite many warnings, the coverage gap has grown ever more likely.
The department told Congress this summer that it could not come up with any way to launch J.P.S.S.-1 any sooner. Kathryn D. Sullivan, assistant secretary of commerce, said it would “endeavor to maintain the launch date as much as practicable”.
The Government Accountability Office, which views a gap as “almost certain,” has been urging NOAA to come up with alternatives, like leaning on other commercial, military, or government satellites for helpful data. But it said it would take a long time and more money to get any such jury-rigged system running.
For now, the agency is running on a stopgap bill that allows it to redirect money from other projects to the polar satellites. In approving it, Congress demanded a plan by next week showing how NOAA intended to stay on schedule and within a strict limit— about $900 million a year.
NOAA does not have a policy to effect consistent and reliable cost estimates,” the Commerce inspector general said. The outside review team said it could not tell “if the current $12.9 billion is high, low, or exactly correct.”
The program’s problems began a decade ago with an effort to merge military and civilian weather satellites into a single project. After its cost doubled and its schedule slipped five years, that project was sundered by the Obama administration.
As its existing satellites aged and the delays mounted, NOAA finally put a new model named Suomi into orbit a year ago, that now helps bridge the gap until the next launchings, in 2017 and in 2022— two and four years late, respectively.
But there are lingering concerns that technical glitches have shortened Suomi’s useful lifetime, perhaps to just three years. Predicting a satellite’s lifetime is like trying to guess when a light bulb will go out. The most likely timing of a gap in coverage is between 2016 and 2018, according to the best official estimates. That would “threaten life and property,” the independent review team warned.

Rico says it's typical Washington hurry-up-and-wait planning...


27 October 2012

History for the day

On 27 October 1904, the first rapid transit subway, the IRT, opened in New York City.

Zone of Fire promo

Rico says he's off to Wild West City, in the wilds of North-central New Jersey, to reshoot the promo for Zone of Fire with friends. Reportage on the day:

Rico screwed up somehow, and didn't hook up with the guy who was going to portray Texas Jack Vermillion. (Apologies, probably unappreciated, have been tendered.) This will require some clever editing later, to put a different cowboy in the video...

Other than that, everyone arrived on time, Mary Benson, of Wild West City, having opened the gates for us, and we set up reasonably quickly.
Rico's stepson Scott, along with his lovely wife Leslie and Rico's step-grandsons Brandon (now 24) and Zachary (now 19), came to help, and got put to work shooting video and dragging the camera cart up and down the main street. (Photos to come.)
The video seemed to go well, and Gus reports it looks good, though Rico has yet to see it. If the sound recording (monitored by Zachary) worked, it's time to edit the thing...

26 October 2012

Scam for the day

Rico says they're at it again:
From: BANK OF ENGLAND <directorfrancisjohnson@gmail.com>
Date: October 26, 2012, 9:21:39 EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
                                             GLOBAL BANK OF AFRICA
                                              ATTN: BENEFICIARY,                          
                            PAYMENT NOTIFICATION OF YOUR FUNDS.

Definitely, I know that this letter will be a surprising one to you. Firstly, I will like to introduce myself formally as Dr. Suleiman Bello, the chairman Global Bank of Africa. You are been officially contacted by me today because your Inheritance Funds were Re-deposited into the "Federal Suspense Account" of (GBA) last month,  because you did not Claim your funds as the rightful beneficiary in our corresponding bank.
Well known to all, The Global Bank of Africa is the mother Bank of all commercial Banks here in Africa. This morning at about 9:00am Standard Pacific Time, I was alerted by my Secretary that Three men and a Lady were at my Office reception waiting to see me and so I told my Secretary to let them in. To my surprise they were two Canadians and one Nigerian Attorney, and they introduced themselves as Mr. Tim Parker, Mr. Roland Gulf, both from Canada, and accompanied with them was a Nigerian Attorney with the name Barrister Lambert Ezeka and Miss Helen Rose.
Really these men were unexpected by me because their visit was imprompt. I had to ask them why they came to see me in person, and they said that they were here to Collect the Inheritance Bill Sum which rightfully belongs to you, on your behalf. These foreigners actually claimed this beyond reasonable doubts. At this development I asked them who authorized them to come down to Nigeria for the Collection of this Payment and they told me that you asked them to come and collect this funds on your Behalf. Infect this was the biggest shock that this Bank have ever received so far because your Inheritance funds is still in the "Federal Suspense Account" of GBA, yet you sent these men to come and collect this Funds on your behalf without notifying us.
We  do not understand why you sent these men to come and Collect your Funds on your behalf. If actually you want them to help you Collect your Inheritance Bill Sum, at least you should have informed me as the Chairman of this Bank. They actually tendered some Vital documents which Proved that you actually sent them for the collection of this Funds. Honestly, it really baffles me that you took such decision without my consent.
Here are the document which they tendered to this Bank today:


Actually, these documents which they tendered to this Noble Bank is a clear Proof that you sent them to Collect this Funds for you. Finally, I told them to come back by Monday morning and they promised to come back. As the Chairman of this Noble Bank, I was supposed to Release this Funds to them but I refused to do so because I wanted to hear from you first. Due to the Nature of my job, I will not want to make any mistake in releasing this funds to anyone except you whom is the recognized bonifide beneficiary to this Funds.
Kindly clarify us on this issue before we make this Payment to these foreigners whom came on your behalf.In receipt of this confidential Letter, you are required to call this Bank immediately you receive this confidential Letter. Call Me 234-1-9560732. Respond to my private email: directorseanhagan87@gmail.com

Officially Signed.
Dr. Suleiman  Bello
Executive Chairman
Global Bank Of Africa

Apple for the day

Sam Gustin has a Time article about Apple:

Tech titan Apple reported a 24% increase in quarterly profits, but that figure failed to meet the sky-high expectations of Wall Street analysts. Sales of the company’s iPad tablet device fell short of analyst forecasts, as many consumers held off buying in anticipation of the new iPad Mini, which was released earlier But now that the product has arrived to the market, along with the iPhone 5, which was introduced on 21 September, the holiday quarter is shaping up to be a monster for Apple.
Apple said it expects to generate revenue of more than fifty billion dollars over the holidays, a staggering figure that would set a record for the largest quarterly sales haul ever by a tech company, according to CNNMoney. Still, on an earnings-per-share basis, Apple s forecast came in below analyst expectations. Investors were largely unfazed by the profit miss, however, and Apple’s shares only dipped about one percent in after-hours trading.
Apple’s profit for the last quarter was $8.2 billion, a 24% increase over the same period last year, when the company reported net income of $6.6 billion. Overall revenue increased 27% from last year to $36 billion, slightly topping analyst expectations of $35.8 billion. For the entire fiscal year, Apple said revenue was $156.5 billion, an immense figure that is greater than Google, Microsoft, and Facebook sales combined.
“We’re very proud to end a fantastic fiscal year with record September quarter results,” said Tim Cook (photo), Apple s CEO. “We’re entering this holiday season with the best iPhone, iPad, Mac, and iPod products ever, and we remain very confident in our new product pipeline.” Setting aside Wall Street expectations, it’s clear that consumers’ love affair with Apple products has not diminished. The company sold 26.9 million iPhones and 14 million iPads.
As usual, Apple suffers from a unique problem: its products are so popular that the company cannot produce enough of them to satisfy consumer demand. “We’re in a significant state of backlog right now,” Cook said of the iPhone, adding that he can’t project “whether supply and demand will balance in the current quarter”. Needless to say, this is not the worst problem for a company to have, but it is a perennial issue for Apple  in part because of Cook’s very tight supply chain and inventory management philosophy.
As expected, the rise of Asia’s middle class is translating into explosive growth for Apple in that region. The company’s Chinese sales now account for fifteen percent of Apple s overall revenue. For the entire fiscal year, revenue from China was $23.8 billion, an increase of $10 billion, or 78%, over the previous year. In Japan, Apple s sales were up a whopping 113% from the previous year. Cook said that he expects the iPhone 5 to become available in China in December, which will further boost the company’s holiday quarter. It’s no wonder Cook called China “an extremely exciting market for us”.
Cook had some choice words for Microsoft and its Surface tablet, which the Redmond, Washington-tech giant hopes will compete with the iPad. Although Cook said he hadn’t yet “played” with the device, it’s clear he’s not a fan. He called the Surface a “confused, compromised product” and compared it to a car that drives, flies, and floats, but does none of these things very well.
This is a classic Apple talking point (and it came on the same day Microsoft launched its highly anticipated new operating system, Windows 8). In its design philosophy, Apple emphasizes building products that can do a few things very, very well, as opposed to other companies products, which are often designed to do too many things at once. In the past, Apple has referred to this as the “fridge-toaster” dynamic, in which companies try to cram multiple, divergent features into a device, detracting from its elegance and utility. In Apple’s world, a phone is a phone, a tablet is a tablet, and a desktop PC is a desktop PC.
Like every major tech company, Apple must contend with the global macroeconomic slowdown, particularly in Europe, but also in North America. In recent weeks, the US dollar has strengthened, putting further pressure on big companies like Apple, Google, Intel, and IBM, which do about half of their business overseas. When the dollar appreciates, it makes US exports more expensive overseas, causing a local price differential that can cost these companies hundreds of millions of dollars in sales in a given quarter.
Bottom line: Apple’s fundamentals look very good. This company has the best products in several categories, from the iPhone to the iPad to the iMac. It is delivering double-digit earnings growth at scale, with a huge holiday quarter expected. Apple is also sitting on over $120 billion in cash, some of which will be returned to shareholders though a dividend later this fall. It’s not surprising that Tim Cook, an operational wizard, has maneuvered Apple into a strong position ahead of the holiday shopping season, with $52 billion in sales expected. This is going to be the largest quarter in Apple history.
Rico says this is, as he recalls, the 'fruit company' that was supposed to be bankrupt by now...


The History Channel has a squib about Pablo Picasso:

Pablo Picasso (photo) is considered to be among the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Born on 25 October in 1881, Picasso was noted for his fame, fortune, and love life, but, perhaps most importantly, he is known as a cofounder of the abstract style known as Cubism. He is also renowned for his distinctive "periods".
In Cubist works, subjects are disassembled and reconstructed abstractly, often from different viewpoints. Indeed it can be summed up in one of his most notable quotes: "Art is the lie that enables us to see the truth."
Though he lived most of his adult life in France, Picasso was born in Spain as Pablo Ruis y Picasso. It is said that, by thirteen, Picasso's skills as a painter were such that his own father, himself a painter and professor of art, vowed to give up painting because his son had already surpassed him.

Wozniak weighs in

Bloomberg News has an article about Steve Wozniak's thoughts on phone cameras:

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (photo) said he hopes the new iPhone 5 will take better photos than the ones he captures with his Samsung Galaxy S III. “I am always excited about every iPhone product, because there are always good advances,” Wozniak said in an interview in Shanghai today. “A better quality on the pictures will mean a lot, because when I show people pictures on my iPhone 4 and my Galaxy S III, they always say the Galaxy S III, or even the Motorola Razr, pictures look better.”
Apple, the world’s most-valuable company, yesterday unveiled a new iPhone that runs on faster wireless networks, boasts a bigger screen, and has a chip that handles tasks more quickly than past versions. It is the company’s first iPhone introduction since the October death of Steve Jobs, who co-founded the company with Wozniak in 1976 in a California garage.
The Cupertino, California-based company unveiled a taller, lighter and speedier iPhone that’s poised to become the fastest selling technology gadget in history, even as competition accelerates in the $219.1 billion smartphone market. Nokia Oyj, Google’s Motorola Mobility unit and Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics, all introduced new models this month.
Apple may sell as many as 58 million units of the iPhone 5 by the end of the year, according the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That could generate as much as $36.2 billion in sales for Apple, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“I think they took some very important steps,” Wozniak, 62, said. “I’d like to get a product, use it myself before I judge it and compare to others. I’d like to have it myself and tell what’s good and bad about it.”
Apple yesterday also announced it was upgrading the software that runs on the iPhone to include new mapping and turn-by-turn navigation features, as well as tools that make it easier to share photos and other content with Facebook, the largest social-networking service. The company also demonstrated a new feature for taking panoramic photos.
Since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, competition for Apple has increased.
Samsung, which uses Google’s Android mobile operating system and offers several different models, has emerged as Apple’s biggest competitor in smartphones. Samsung, also one of Apple’s biggest suppliers of components, accounted for just over nineteen percent of global smartphone shipments last year, compared with Apple’s just less than nineteen percent, according to Bloomberg data.
Samsung said this month it has sold twenty million Galaxy S IIIs.
The two companies also are battling in court, with Apple being awarded more than a billion dollars last month by a California jury that said Samsung copied the iPhone’s design. Samsung said it will appeal.
“I hate it,” Wozniak said when asked about the patent fights between Apple and Samsung. “I don’t think the decision of California will hold. And I don’t agree with it; very small things I don’t really call that innovative. I wish everybody would just agree to exchange all the patents and everybody can build the best forms they want to use everybody’s technologies.”

Rico says it's Rodney King's old line: "Can we all get along?" (No, we can't.) Rico's already ordered his iPhone 5, so we know where he stands... (And 'weighs in' was a snide reference to a larger Woz.)

The little tablets

Rico says there's no comparison in his book, but Jared Newman has one in Time:
With the iPad Mini, Apple has decided to enter the cheap tablet fray, sort of.
Apple’s smaller and lighter iPad costs $329 and up, quite a bit more than Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD, all of which start at $200. Still, it’s clearly aimed at sapping some customers from the realm of inexpensive tablets, so a comparison is in order.
Here’s a look at what each budget tablet has to offer compared to the rest:
Apple’s iPad Mini
Pros: A 7.9-inch display doesn’t sound like much over other 7-inch tablets, but because the iPad Mini’s aspect ratio is 4:3, compared to 16:9 or 16:10 on other tablets, it’s a lot wider in portrait mode and taller in landscape. Yet it’s also thinner and lighter than the other tablets available, and it has both front- and rear-facing cameras. The main advantage, though, is in the software. No other app store comes close to Apple’s selection of 275,000 tablet-optimized apps, and Apple’s iOS operating system is as smooth and stable as it gets.
Cons: The price could be a dealbreaker, especially if you want more than 16 GB of storage. Apple charges $429 for a 32 GB iPad Mini, and $529 for a 64 GB one. And 4G LTE models are available, but they’re also pricey, adding $130 to the total cost. 
Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD
Pros: Out of all the $200 tablets, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD has the largest selection of movies, shows, music, and books, and if you have an Amazon Prime subscription ($79 per year), you get a selection of streaming videos and e-book rentals at at no extra charge. Amazon is further ahead than its competitors on support for connected television devices, so you can start watching a video on the tablet and resume it on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Roku, and lots of other set-top boxes. It also includes a useful children’s mode called FreeTime, which lets parents set up time limits and a separate menu of apps and content.
Cons: The app selection is small compared to the iPad Mini and Nexus 7, and the software isn’t as smooth. The hardware is heavier than all other tablets on this list, and wider than the iPad Mini despite a smaller screen. There are also a couple hidden costs: $15 to remove advertisements from the lock screen and $10 for a charger. 
Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD
Pros: The Nook HD gives you the most hardware for the money. Its seven-inch display is sharper than all other tablets on this list, with a resolution of 1440-by-900. It’s lighter than the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, and just a little heavier than the iPad Mini. And although the $200 model includes a measly 8GB of storage, a 16GB model only costs $30 more and both have a microSD card slot for up to 32GB of additional storage. That makes it ideal for loading your own movies or music. Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble also has a user account feature, so parents can set up special profiles for their children.
Cons: The Nook HD’s app selection is the weakest of the bunch, and there are very few free apps available. (If you want Angry Birds, for instance, you’ll have to pay $3 on the Nook HD, while ad-supported free versions are available on all other platforms.) Although a video service is coming, the main focus of this tablet is reading books, magazines and newspapers. 
Google’s Nexus 7
Pros: The Google Play Store rivals Apple’s App Store in quantity, even though many Android apps aren’t optimized for tablets. Users of Android phones can re-download all their apps on a Nexus 7 without re-purchasing them. The interface is smooth– though not quite iPad-smooth– and Google’s built-in Chrome browser is the best you’ll find on any tablet. If you want lots of apps and a fluid interface for the lowest price, the Nexus 7 is the best option.
Cons: The Nexus 7′s selection of movies and music is lacking compared to the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD. The storage situation is also worse than the competition, with just 8GB on the $200 model and 16GB on the $250 model, but this seems likely to change next week, as a 32GB Nexus 7 is rumored. 
Ultimately, the iPad Mini has the most to offer if you’re willing to pay a premium. Among the cheaper alternatives, it’s a choice between the most media content (Kindle Fire HD), the best specs (Nook HD) or the smoothest software and largest app catalog (Nexus 7).
Rico says it's nice that Jared agrees with him, but it's Apple all the way... (And Rico still thinks of the Nexus 6 from Blade Runner...)

25 October 2012

Movie review for the day (DYS)

Rico says that some movies are worth watching more than once, and Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite) is one. Starring the ever-handsome (and Rico's long-time friend Tex Tyner look-alike) James Coburn (as an Irishman fleeing their Revolution) and Rod Steiger (as a Mexican bandit in the midst of their Revolution), it's a combination buddy-movie, war movie, and historical education (who, besides Rico, even remembers either revolution?).
There are, of course, a few glitches; the WW2 German MG-42 machine gun was pretty obvious, but most of it is well done. And where else are you going to see a Bakunin book used as a plot device?

Brilliance for the day

Law enforcement for the day

Joseph A. Gambardello, James Osborne, and Darran Simon have an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about a local tragedy:
Four days before Autumn Pasquale disappeared, one of the teenage brothers charged with killing her invited the twelve-year-old girl to his house to look at a bicycle. In a Facebook exchange on 16 October, Autumn, a BMX enthusiast, expressed interest in a photo of the bicycle Justin Robinson, fifteen, had posted on his Facebook page two months earlier.
"Thts sexy!" Autumn wrote.
According to a screen grab of the exchange, Justin wrote: "yess cme 2 my house." He also claimed to have a receipt for the bike from an area store.
Four days later, Autumn set off on her bike from her house in Clayton, New Jersey, never to be seen alive again.
As the chilling social-media exchange emerged, a spokesman for Autumn's family blasted Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton's office, accusing it of being inept in organizing the search for the girl after she was reported missing. "Right now there are so many things we think may have been wrong and done wrong that we would like to have the state attorney general come in and investigate," said Paul Spadafora, Autumn's great-uncle. "They botched the search," he added. "These are the professionals we trust and pay." His criticism extended to some fliers, saying they lacked a description of the girl.
Late Wednesday, the Attorney General's Office said in a statement that it was seeking to get "full details from Dalton regarding the law enforcement response to this tragedy."
Dalton responded to the family's criticisms in a statement:
"From the time Autumn Pasquale was reported missing by her family at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, the law enforcement response was continuous. ...The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office's investigative units poured their hearts and souls into this investigation and worked around the clock to find Autumn. I am proud of what they did under such difficult circumstances. This is a time to start the healing process and let the justice system move forward with this case."
He also said later his department would provide state authorities with "all the information regarding the responsible role law enforcement played in this investigation."
Officials said Autumn was lured to Justin's house on the 300 block of East Clayton Avenue with the prospect of getting parts for her bike. She was strangled under circumstances officials haven't spelled out.
Justin, a Clayton High School student, and his seventeen-year-old brother, Dante, a special-education student at the Bankbridge school in Sewell, were arrested and charged with her murder hours after Autumn's body was found in a recycling container on the Robinsons' street Monday night. Police found her bike in their house.
They were supposed to appear in juvenile court for a detention hearing Wednesday, but their lawyers waived the proceeding to Friday. The prosecutor has said a decision on whether to seek to try the two youths as adults would be made in two weeks.
In a death notice, her family said: "Autumn was a tomboy, definitely not a girlie-girl. Autumn liked to draw and was a fan of the Phillies. She had many, many friends and was known for wearing mismatched socks and loved the color blue," the family remembered.
The Facebook exchange and others like it, since blocked, emerged Wednesday in a case in which investigators and residents scoured social media for clues to Autumn's whereabouts even as they searched for her through the streets and woods.
The Inquirer obtained the postings from screen grabs made by users of the social-media site in Clayton. A spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office declined to comment on the posts, but said investigators were checking computer files related to the case.
Whether the 16 October exchange or some other discussion prompted Autumn to go to Justin's house is not clear, but it appears that, while they were not friends, they shared an interest in BMX bikes.
But Justin's interest extended beyond riding. Both Justin and Dante were well-known to their neighbors on Clayton Avenue and, according to some residents, had a reputation for running a bike chop shop out of their house. "Those kids were not well off; they did not have money," said Lisa Whartenby, who lives nearby. "I'd see Justin all the time. He went to all the football games. He was at the homecoming game Saturday." Another older brother is a member of the Clayton High School football team.
"He was a troublemaker," Raquel Ververde, fifteen, said of Justin, a fellow sophomore at Clayton High. But, she added, he also was polite. "He was a nice guy. I would never expect him to do something like that," said Ververde.
While the search for Autumn intensified on Sunday, Justin had a Facebook exchange with Autumn's brother, A.J. In a message to A.J. from Justin, only one word, autumn, appeared. "What bout her," A.J. asks. Someone else then interjects: "why post her name then nothing else?" "Right," A.J. adds. Justin's response was enigmatic: "it was an accident the cop waz here & my brother did it," he wrote, according to a screen grab of the exchange.
Authorities have said they zeroed in on the Robinson boys after their mother alerted them to a Facebook posting by one of her sons. Officials have not disclosed the wording of that post.
Speaking out for the first time, Autumn's mother, Jennifer Cornwell, told the Associated Press that her daughter's killers "treated her like trash." She said her daughter "was a tough girl, a tough cookie," and did not deserve the way she was treated in death.
Anthony Pasquale, Autumn's father, who has served as a postal worker in the town of eight thousand, said he knew the suspects' family. "Everybody knows everybody, whether they're friends or acquaintances," he told the AP. Both said they had been overwhelmed by the show of support from the community and beyond. But, in an interview with CBS-3, Anthony Pasquale faulted the search as being tardy. "I felt like we were interviewed left and right, instead of looking for my daughter. I just want a faster response," he told the station.
Spadafora questioned why an Amber Alert was never issued and accused police of shoddy investigative work in not focusing their search more on Clayton.
The search for Autumn began Saturday night, after her family reported that she had not returned home nine hours after leaving home on her bike. For two days, local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, along with hundreds of volunteers, searched South Jersey for signs of the Clayton Middle School student.
At a news conference Tuesday, Dalton said an Amber Alert was not issued because the report did not meet criteria, including evidence or a witness account of an abduction.
Against this backdrop of recrimination, Autumn was remembered Wednesday as the girl on the BMX bike. She was a regular at the local bike and skate park and when not there could be spotted riding around town or jumping off ramps in a friend's driveway. "She was all about her bike," said Michelle Doughty, the mother of one of Autumn's friends. "They were always going to the park. If they wanted to ride, I would drive behind them in my car."
In small-town Clayton, children walking or riding bikes around town unaccompanied are a familiar sight. Heidi Keeny, the 31-year-old mother of one of Autumn's friends, said most residents know each other, instilling a sense of safety in parents they might not find in other towns. "When I drive with my daughter, she can name every person we pass," she said. "I think people will be more cautious now. I know there's more things I'll talk to my daughter about."
Funeral services for Autumn were set for Saturday, two days short of what would have been her thirteenth birthday.
A memorial fund has been set up in Autumn's name. Contributions can be made to the Autumn Pasquale Memorial Fund, c/o Fulton Bank, 35 North Delsea Drive, Clayton, New Jersey 08312.
Rico says he wonders about people who want to do away with the death penalty... (But the Robinson boys deserve it.)

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