31 August 2013

Rico was misinformed...

Rico says that there apparently will not be a huge earthquake that will demolish the islands and send a towering tsunami that will wipe out the East Coast...

The songs in Rico's head

Today it's Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles:

Rico says he doesn't know why; must be feeling lonely for some reason...

One less SEPTA stupidity

As a SEPTA rider (and holder of some now-valid tickets), Rico says he's amazed they got it, but Paul Nussbaum has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about a reluctant awakening:
Giving Regional Rail passengers a last-minute reprieve, SEPTA officials on Friday reversed plans to invalidate rail tickets that were issued before the 1 July fare increase. SEPTA had angered riders by posting signs at ticket offices announcing that, effective Sunday, the old tickets would not be accepted for travel, even though tickets had been printed with a statement that they were valid for 180 days. "Conductors will be instructed to accept the tickets," SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said Friday, after inquiries from The Inquirer and the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers prompted the change. "The signs are coming down," she said. Tickets purchased before 1 July will now be accepted through the end of 2013, she said. Riders like Ted Rickles, fifty, of Cheltenham, complained that the original move was a "legal and ethical" problem for SEPTA. Rickles said he had purchased thirteen tickets on 26 June for $5.50 each and now faced paying $8.50 each for replacement tickets. "Three dollars per ticket is a big difference," he said. Bob Clearfield, vice president of DVARP, called SEPTA's original plan "unfriendly and short-sighted", and said: "If they printed a ticket that said it's valid for 180 days, in my opinion, that's a contract." He noted that SEPTA made no effort to prevent subway and bus riders from using tokens purchased before the 1 July fare increase. Williams said SEPTA had received about twenty complaints from rail riders and said that "after 1 September, we would have gotten more."

History for the day

On 31 August 1997, Britain's Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris at 36.

Rico says that that was a useless waste...

30 August 2013

Not real, alas

Scott Harrison has an article in The Los Angeles Times about a (sort of) UFO:
Rumors of a flying saucer landing spurred importer Robert Balzer and actress Gloria Swanson– a UFO believer– to investigate.
Los Angeles Times writer Cecilia Rasmussen reported in a 17 December 2000, story LA ‘Battle’ Launched a Golden Age of UFOs:
In January of 1957, actress Gloria Swanson and a group of friends heard that a spaceship had landed in the Hollywood Hills. So, off they trekked through mud and dark of night to an area off Lakeridge Road. (History does not record what they had been consuming before they set out.) In a shallow hole at the end of their hike, they found a twelve-foot-diameter disk, which purportedly had knocked down a lamppost upon landing. The cockpit seats were upholstered in coral leatherette, and two electrical cords dangled to the wooden flooring. Amazed by their find, they called The Times.
After a careful inspection, Times aviation writer Dewey Linze (photo, above) not only found that the “spacecraft” was lacking an engine and controls, but— after interviewing neighbors— learned that it was a prop that had been discarded after a documentary was filmed on the site.
This photo, by former staff photographer Gordon Wallace, was originally published in the 25 January 1957 issue of The Los Angeles Times, accompanying an article on the movie prop saucer. Wallace’s photo also was published with Rasmussen’s story in the 17 December 2000 issue of The Los Angeles Times.
Rico says won't we all be surprised when one of these turns out to be real? (Though why any civilization advanced enough to do interstellar travel would want to visit us is beyond Rico's comprehension...)

Microsoft for the day

The Los Angeles Times has an article by Salvador Rodriguez about the latest crow-eating from Microsoft:
Microsoft is still struggling to sell its Surface Pro tablet, as the company has announced it will make permanent the price cuts that were set to expire this week.
Earlier this month, the tech giant slashed the price of its Surface Pro model by $100 down to $799 as part of a back-to-school special that would end on 29 August 2013, but the company said that is now the regular price. Microsoft said it will also extend that price to other markets where the tablet is sold.
“People who buy Surface love Surface, and we’re eager for more people to get their hands on this incredible device," Microsoft told AllThingsD.
The price cut is a sign that Microsoft continues to face poor demand for its tablet, which was supposed to be an iPad killer, or at least an iPad competitor.
The Surface Pro is the size of a tablet, but can run a full version of Windows 8 and was aimed at power users looking for a portable device like the iPad. But a number of weakness have hurt the Surface Pro since it launched in February of 2013. Most notably, the Surface Pro has weak battery life and its previous starting price of $899 was only about thirty dollars less than the most expensive iPad.
This is also the second time Microsoft makes a notable price cut to one of its Surface models. In July of 2013, Microsoft was also forced to cut the price of the Surface RT, a light version of the tablet, by $150.
Just a few days after that price cut, the company announced it had lost nearly a billion dollars on unsold Surface devices.
Rico says no, they want anyone to get their hands on their stupid tablet... (And the only thing it killed was Microsoft's stock price.)


Slate has a video about Greenland:
Rico says the world is full of surprises...

The songs in Rico's head

Sometimes even Rico has no idea why it plays, but it does:

Protuberances and declivities

Rico says his arch-perv friend Dave sometimes outdoes himself, and this is definitely one such:

Gubs for the day

AllVoices has an article about the latest anti-gub moves by the Obama administration:
After the Sandy Hook slaughter of elementary school children last year, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, proposed sweeping restrictions on assault weapons that included requirements for background checks, but it was soundly defeated by Republicans in Congress.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, President Barack Obama said he would make changes in gun laws, but it became clear he would have to do it by executive order without the approval of Congress. Recently, President Obama took two more steps toward that commitment.
According to The Associated Press, “the new policy will end a government practice that lets military weapons, sold or donated by the US to allies, be reimported into the US by private entities, where some may end up on the streets. The White House said the US has approved 250,000 of those guns to be reimported since 2005; under the new policy, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms.”
In addition, the administration wants to stop the ability of individuals to get around criminal background checks by registering their gun purchase to a “corporation or trust".
Vice President Joe Biden announced the executive actions when he swore in Todd Jones as the new head of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Biden said they were common-sense measures that don’t require congressional approval.
After the Newtown tragedy, Obama appointed Biden to form a committee to represent all parties, including special interest groups, and to report back to the White House with suggestions on how to reform the current gun laws.
So far, nothing has satisfied Congress, gun manufacturers, or the National Rifle Association. They wasted no time in framing gun reform as attempts to strip people of their Second Amendment rights, although the Feinstein bill exempted almost two hundred weapons and grandfathered in current ownership, with more accent on gun safety to prevent slaughter of innocents than on controlling gun ownership.
Former Representative Gabby Giffords (photo above, left, with the President), who was nearly killed in Arizona on 8 January 2011, in an attack by a deranged gunman, joined the effort to reform gun safety. Along with her astronaut husband Mark Kelly, they formed their own foundation called Americans for Responsible Solutions to educate the public and call for common sense reforms.
Vice President Biden joined the President in vowing to implement gun restrictions on their own by executive decree if Congress won’t take action.
Rico says there are no good solutions, by fiat or otherwise, to this problem...

Movie review for the day

With Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara in it, how bad could Spencer's Mountain be? Well, it wasn't the finest work by either of them...
Clay Spencer (played by Henry Fonda, photo above) is a hard-working man who loves his wife and large family. Respected by his neighbors, he is always ready to give them a helping hand. Although not a churchgoer, he even helps a newly-arrived local minister (played by Wally Cox) regain his flock after he and Clay get into a bit of trouble. If he has one dream in life, it's to build his wife a beautiful house on a piece of land he inherited on Spencer's Mountain.
Clay, his wife Olivia, and their nine children are the third and fourth generations of Spencers who've lived on Spencer's Mountain in the Snake River Valley, nestled within the Grand Tetons (photo) of Wyoming. Like generations before them, they are uneducated and poor but hard working. Despite abhorring religion, Clay has allowed his wife (played by Maureen O'Hara) to raise the children as Christians. Clay has long promised Livie a large dream house on the mountain to replace their small house, where they live with Clay's parents. He hopes to build it with the help of his many brothers, for who he has done many favors over the years. Their dreams take a change of focus when their oldest, Clay Jr. (whom everyone calls Clayboy) is the first Spencer to ever graduate from high school, not only with honors, but at the top of his class, and has the opportunity to go to college. Clayboy wants to continue his education, which he hopes will lead his siblings into a better life than having to work in the quarry like their father. Money becomes the issue. Not only Clay and Olivia, but Clayboy's teacher Miss Parker and the newly-arrived Preacher Goodman  do whatever they can to help Clayboy achieve this goal. Clayboy's own resolve in this matter is tested by the progressive minded Claris Coleman, who wants to be Mrs. Clay Spencer Jr. sooner than later.
 Rico says it's a feel-good movie, selected by the ladyfriend, but (even given Rico's 'abhorrance of religion') tolerable, given the stars. (Though James MacArthur as Clayboy went on to bigger, if no better acted, things later, in Hawaii Five-O.)

Politics for the day

Rico says that, when the politicians are (endlessly) discussing the proper response to the recent dastardly chemical attacks in Syria, the only thing he hears in his head is Peter O'Toole from Lawrence of Arabia, crying Damascus!

History for the day

On 30 August 1963, the hot-line communications link between Washington and Moscow went into operation.

Military for the day

Rico says you gotta love the Navy:

29 August 2013

Last train to Clarksville

Josh Voorhees has a Slate article about an idiot legislator (sorry, that's all-too-often redundant):
Jeremy Hutchinson, a Republican state senator from Arkansas, is one voice in an NRA-led chorus of those who want to see armed teachers in his state's classrooms. Only days after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Hutchinson proposed deputizing teachers who wanted to carry guns at work. Just yesterday, he continued to advocate for an Arkansas school district to be allowed to move forward with a plan to arm about twenty teachers, administrators, and other staff this fall. Apparently, nothing will change his mind, as this embarrassing, are-you-sure-there-isn't-a-lesson-in-there anecdote uncovered by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette suggests (emphasis mine):
Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, a Republican from Benton, is interested in exploring whether state law allows school districts to make decisions on school safety. If a legal avenue does not exist, he hopes the legislature will change the law.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Hutchinson became interested in arming school personnel, he said. He was invited to attend an "active shooter" training and— using a rubber bullet-loaded pistol— he mistakenly shot a teacher who was confronting a "bad guy".
The experience gave Hutchinson some pause, but he still supports giving schools the authority to decide how best to secure their campuses. "The ideal would be to have a trained resource officer in every school," Hutchinson said. "The state and school districts can’t afford that."
It's unclear from the article what prompted Hutchinson to share the story of the training session gone wrong, although it was noticeably absent from a press release sent out earlier this year by one of his fellow Republican colleagues who had attended the same event. "It was intense, enlightening, and, when we weren’t being shot, it was fun," Hutchinson was quoted as saying in that release. "I learned how little I knew about school safety."
Late last month, Arkansas' Clarksville School District announced plans to use something of a legal loophole to begin training and arming school staff by classifying them as private security guards. That plan, however, ran into trouble early this month when the state attorney general said that the law they were using to do that didn't apply to school districts, leaving it uncertain whether armed teachers will be in Clarksville classrooms this fall. A state board is set to decide the matter next month.
While Clarksville is using the guard classification to work around state law, several other states have passed legislation clearing the way for teachers and staff to arm themselves. Those efforts, as The New York Times explained last month, have run into a major hurdle in the form of insurance companies.
Rico says ah, it's always the insurance... (But for those of a certain age, like Rico, that song will always echo, unfortunately, in our memories.)

A different idiot for the day

Slate has a video about Pat Robertson:
Rico says it amazes him that someone hasn't taken a shot at this guy yet...

Idiot (again) for the day

Josh Voorhees has a Slate article about Kim Jong-Un:
Let's begin with a disclaimer right up front: like any story coming out of North Korea, we're about to be dealing with unconfirmed reports and unnamed sources. Ultimately, few people know exactly what happens within the borders of the Hermit Kingdom, which I suppose is why we call it that. So while the latest rumors coming out of Asia are impossible to resist, let us proceed with caution. (With that in mind notice how many times everyone has to drop an "allegedly", "reportedly", or "apparently", etc. to advance the story.)
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo grabbed the Internet's attention this morning with a loosely-sourced report that a female pop star long rumored to be the former lover of Kim Jong-un (photo, at right) was among a dozen political dissidents who were executed by a firing squad last week. Their crime: allegedly filming and distributing pornographic videos of themselves.
The paper, citing unnamed sources in China, reports that singer Hyon Song-wol and eleven other entertainers were arrested on 17 August 2013 for violating North Korea's laws against pornography, and were executed in public three days later. The report also adds that the families of the executed were forced to watch, and "appear to have been sent to prison camps under North Korea's barbaric principle of guilt by association".
According to long-swirling rumors, Hyon and Kim became romantically involved about a decade ago, but Kim was forced to end things by his father, the late Kim Jong-il. Hyon, however, continued on in her high-profile position as a singer in the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, eventually becoming something of a minor Internet sensation after a video for the pro-worker anthem Excellent Horse-Like Lady turned up online. Her band, according to the  Telegraph, was also responsible for such classics as: Footsteps of Soldiers, I Love Pyongyang, She is a Discharged Soldier, and We are Troops of the Party.
In case this story wasn't sensational enough for you, the Telegraph speculates that Kim's current wife, who was also a popular singer prior to marrying him, may have "objected to the continuing high profile of her husband's former girlfriend", and pushed for the execution.
Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that an unbelievable story out of North Korea proves to be just that. So given everything we don't know, let's end with the one thing we do: here is Hyon Song-wol performing Excellent Horse-Like Lady:

Rico says that She is a Discharged Soldier is undoubtedly a toe-tapper...

You might not die in a simulated war...

...but the real one won't be so bloodless, as Michael Peck explains in his Slate column about a 'sim' war in Syria:
Burning American armored vehicles, shattered by volleys of anti-tank missiles, are strewn across the Syrian landscape. US infantry fights house-to-house in Syrian villages, in a fight to the death against die-hard fighters.
This is neither fantasy nor nightmare, but a simulation, a computer game that asks the question: what would happen should the US and NATO ever invade Syria to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? Would it be a Desert Storm blitz, where high-tech US forces slice through demoralized Syrian government forces? Or another Iraq, where an endless insurgency leaves American troops fighting off endless sniper attacks and IED explosions?
Such a scenario may not be likely, but it isn’t far-fetched. The United States is poised to strike Syria in response to the Assad government's alleged use of chemical weapons. For now, it appears that any strike would probably rely on cruise missiles launched from ships (photo) and submarines in the Mediterranean. But wars are easier begun than finished. Perhaps Syria, or their Iranian and Hezbollah allies, retaliates with terrorist attacks. Perhaps Assad is not deterred from further use of chemical weapons, and then the United States and its allies decide they must either remove the Syrian government or lose all credibility. Cruise missiles do not topple regimes. It is boots on the ground and fingers on the trigger that must do that job.
Combat Mission Shock Force, from publisher Battlefront.com, is a video game that examines how a U.S.-led invasion of Syria might be fought. (A free demo is available here.) Designed in 2007, the premise is that Syrian state-sponsored terrorism has prompted a US and NATO-led invasion, with the goal of ousting Assad. While Syria is not in the middle of a civil war in the game, it still proves how life imitates art. When CMSF was published, many gamers— including me— snorted at the idea that the United States would ever attack Syria.
CMSF is a highly complex and detailed war game, the kind that appeal to war-game enthusiasts who thrive on testing their wits in an elaborate simulation. It is a tactical simulation where troops are represented by individual vehicles and infantry squads. It is what the US military would call a "constructive simulation", one that focuses on teaching strategy and tactics more than perfecting marksmanship as one might do in a first-person-shooter. The graphics are 3-D, like a first-person-shooter game such as Call of Duty, but the gameplay is more chess-like, with the Coalition and Syrian players (two humans, or human vs. computer) issuing commands, such as Move, Fire, Hunt, and Pop Smoke, to their units in turns that represent one minute of real time.
The game is not really a simulation of a NATO-Syria war, but rather a model of modern tactical combat, with Syria as a backdrop. Thus the emphasis is on proper tactics: using armor to blast a path for the infantry, while the infantry protect the tanks from anti-tank weapons; taking advantage of terrain and cover; and especially coming up with the right plan at the outset of the battle, because the game features command and control delays that result in precious minutes being lost as units take time to respond to new orders. Including various expansions to the game, there are dozens of scenarios involving US Army, Marine Corps, British, Canadian, German, and Dutch troops battling Syrian forces for a variety of missions, such as seizing key towns, bridges, and government facilities as they fight their way toward Damascus.
Remarkably, the game captures many aspects of what US troops would likely face in Syria today. For example, playing as NATO, I discovered that Syrian forces come in several flavors, from elite Republican Guard and commando units with the latest Russian anti-tank missiles, to regular troops and lots of militia that are poor in weapons and training but make useful speed bumps. This parallels the current Syrian military, much of which has defected or disintegrated, leaving a hard core of elite units backed by vicious shabiha paramilitary gangs. In the game and likely in real life, NATO troops will discover that where one battle is a cakewalk against local thugs and war criminals, the next fight will be a slugfest against well-armed Assad loyalists who know that a rebel firing squad or a judge in the Hague await them if their side loses.
Playing the simulation is also to discover that Syria is one big arms depot where Russian anti-tank weapons are as common as a can of beans, including advanced Kornet tank-killer missiles. The game assumes that a Western invasion would consist of heavy mechanized units, which is probably a good idea because the lightly armored Humvees that patrolled Iraq would not last long in RPG-land, let alone Kornet-hell. Yet the Western player will find that his forces, especially the manpower-poor NATO armies like the Dutch, have plenty of vehicles but not a lot of infantry. While the steppes and deserts of Syria are more armor-friendly than Vietnamese jungle and Afghan mountains, there are still plenty of cities, villages, orchards, and hills to require the grunts to dismount from their Bradley and Warrior armored troop carriers, though there never seem to be enough boots to cover the ground.
If this was World War Two and an enemy-occupied village barred a road, US troops would simply remove the obstacle with high explosives. But to reflect the age of YouTube and Human Rights Watch, the game appropriately penalizes NATO by costing them— but not the Syrian government— victory points for causing collateral damage. Thus NATO's immense firepower must be used cautiously. The Syrian government also gets extra victory points for destroying NATO vehicles and troops. It may not be able to defeat Western troops on the battlefield, but they can win the game just by inflicting sufficient casualties on a coalition whose publics are not likely to be enthused about invading yet another Middle Eastern country.
Nonetheless, Western troops have tremendous advantages. They have better equipment, air support, and superior command and control. A Marine Corps rifle company or a German Leopard tank platoon are simply going to accomplish more in a given increment of time than their Syrian counterparts. While it gives them a vital tactical edge, it doesn't guarantee victory.
Playing the game reminded me less of the Iraq War, which was a counterinsurgency war of IEDs and raids against militants hiding among the civilian population, and more like the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict, where Israeli armor was savaged by a Hezbollah force using guerrilla warfare tactics and advanced Russian anti-tank weapons in an essentially conventional war. The Syrians are outgunned, but they are numerous, entrenched, and they only need a few lucky shots, a few destroyed American tanks, to win a propaganda victory.
Is this how a real US invasion of Syria would turn out? Possibly, and perhaps it wouldn't hurt President Obama to spend a few hours playing Combat Mission Shock Force. On the other hand, this computer simulation is designed for gamers, not policy-makers (though it's probably no less valid than the computer simulations the Pentagon uses). There are numerous factors the game leaves out, such as drones, which would be integral to any American ground force. IEDs are featured in the game, but nowhere as many as the Syrians would likely use. There are no chemical weapons, though a desperate regime might use them, and there aren’t well-trained Hezbollah troops aiding Assad. Most glaring is the lack of Syria’s present-day chaos— no combat between the government and rebels, no Western troops battling al-Qaeda jihadis who would as happily shoot an American soldier as Assad's troops. The combat is bloody, but not half as confusing as the current Syrian conflict.
The most valuable insight to be gleaned from Combat Mission Shock Force is what might go wrong if the West decides to oust Assad the hard way. If regime change goes the way Washington hoped Iraq would go in 2003, no problem. But if Assad's troops stand and fight, they will lose— but they will still inflict casualties on America and its allies. Whether that prospect would be sufficient to deter a cautious Obama administration and a war-weary American public remains to be seen. But it should be remembered.
Rico says there is no 'easy way' (other than Rico's constant suggestion of a Tomahawk-in-Assad's-bedroom-window) to oust Assad...

International scam for the day



-----Original Message-----
From: "yang" <tiffany01@fuse.net>
Sent: Thursday, 29 August, 2013 11:21
Subject: please can you act as next of kin to my client late Gen. Aadel Akgaal

Yosemite National Park burning

Slate has a video of the Yosemite fire:

Rico says he can only concur with a commenter on the video:
Good to see the 110-year-old NFS policy of putting out wildfires has been catastrophic to the health of forests in the West. Instead of small wildfires that burn out small amounts of undergrowth and deadwood, leaving the trees, every twenty years or so, thanks to that policy it now has huge wildfires feeding off a hundred years worth of undergrowth and deadwood, which destroys everything and sterilizes the soil.

Apple for the day


Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

International scam for the day

LFrom: yang <tiffany01@fuse.net>
Date: August 29, 2013, 11:21:34 EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: please can you act as next of kin to my client late Gen. Aadel Akgaal

(Black) history for the day

Lewis Black remembers the March on Washington:
Lewis Black’s comedy can be pretty shouty. Okay, the man is famous for shouting. But at the core of his rants is something more than his annoyance; in addition to making us laugh, his tirades challenge those in power and often point out the absurdities of prejudice. At a recent Guernica staff meeting we watched one of his Daily Show segments, this one culminating in a montage of New Yorkers offering expletives to Governor Rick Perry in a multitude of languages (a response to Perry’s ad campaign disparaging New York City). We’re not sure how it’s possible, but the piece manages to be vulgar and angry and… weirdly uplifting. Like so much of Black’s comedy, it's rage is spiked with empathy.
This week we’ve been remembering the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a landmark moment in the Civil Rights Movement that brought together Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Mahalia Jackson, and a host of other speakers and performers. When we learned that a fourteen-year-old Lewis Black was in the crowd gathered on the Washington Mall that day, we wanted to know more about how that historical moment affected him and his work. He told us about it, via email, in between his tour dates in the South.
Rachel Riederer for Guernica

Guernica: How did you come to be at the March on Washington as a young teenager? Were there lots of other young people there?
Lewis Black: My parents were very socially aware and made sure that my brother and I paid attention to what was happening in our country and world. I grew up in Maryland just outside DC, but have no idea how I ended up on the Mall that day. I probably went with friends, as my mother and father don’t remember going. There was quite a number of young people down there. It was a rainbow of ages all gathered together.
Guernica: What do you remember most about the people in the crowd?
Lewis Black: That they were peaceful and, I think, overwhelmed by the size and enormity of the moment. I was, too. It’s always nice to know you are not alone on a massive scale.
Guernica: Did you have a sense while listening to the I Have A Dream speech that what you were hearing would become so iconic?
Lewis Black: No, I hadn’t a clue. I was fourteen and didn’t even know what “iconic” meant at that point. I knew something huge was happening and that somehow I was a teeny tiny part of it.
Guernica: Dr. King’s speech has come to be synonymous with the March on Washington, but many other people spoke that day too. Were you particularly struck by any of the other speakers?
Lewis Black: Nope, not that I remember. He was the draw for me. I was struck most by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Their music was important to me.
Guernica: Your own work in theater and comedy is often so political— do you think your involvement in the civil rights movement influenced your interest in using entertainment to help bring about social change?
Lewis Black: Not at all, as I have never thought of my entertainment as being able to bring about social change. I am seriously always looking for the laugh. What it did make me conscious of was having empathy for those without any power in this country. That has always stuck with me.
Guernica: Today we experience these kinds of political actions with almost immediate feedback from insta-news coverage and social media— do you think these forms are helpful for protest movements? (This is another way of asking: “What’s it like to go to a march and not tweet about it the whole time? Should we try it?”)
Lewis Black: There’s no reason to tweet when you are in the midst of a great moment; they are few and far between. So pay attention to it, as you probably won’t see it again. You can always tweet later, if you’re lucky enough to be part of history and you think a hundred and forty characters can do credit to someone like Martin Luther King or to the speech he made that day.
Lewis Black is a stand-up comic, actor, and author. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is the author of Me of Little Faith, Nothing’s Sacred, and most recently, I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas.
Rico says is it any wonder that Rico loves this guy?

28 August 2013

The fiftieth anniversary

Josh Voorhees has MLK's speech on the anniversary:

Rico says it's still among the most inspiring...

Is your police chief "uncomfortable"...

...of course he is, but Robert W. Hunnicutt  has an article in Shotgun News about advances in concealed carry:
Illinois gun owners scored a big victory when shall-issue concealed carry was passed this summer. But if you think Chicago-area politicians are just folding their tents on the issue, you greatly underestimate their ingenuity.
Pols in Vernon Hills, a village northwest of Chicago, held up a special-use permit for a Dave & Buster’s restaurant until the chain agreed to ban concealed carry in a new location.
Dave & Buster’s, whose Marietta, Georgia location is a favored watering hole for staffers of our sister publication Game & Fish, combines pub food with a game arcade for harmless, noisy fun, Every  one I have ever visited was well fitted-out with shooting games, and the chain’s policy is to follow state law in respect to concealed carry.
A company representative noted that there had been no problems with concealed carriers in its Texas locations, and added: “We generally find that people who go through the process of getting a concealed carry permit and follow the law are compliant.”
Well, you might have thought that a company could set its own policies, but this is Illinois, where a lot of busy local beavers are sinking their teeth into a carefully crafted state law. As The Chicago Tribune reported:
“Village officials required the restaurant apply for a special permit for its proposed two hundred arcade game machines— something not required by the state or county— and are making that license contingent on various factors. Village officials recently added one more item to the list: anyone with a concealed carry weapon should not be allowed in.”
So, to recap, a village government is using a previously unknown regulatory power to force an out-of-state company to forbid concealed carry, which the state legislature just authorized. And why? Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said he did not “feel comfortable” with concealed carry in the restaurant, even if allowed by state law.
Well, does that mean a village can outlaw gay marriage if the police chief is uncomfortable with it? Or maybe insist on segregated proms if the Sheriff is against race-mixin’? Of course not. But, for some reason, our rights, even when a state legislature upholds them, are less right than others.
Dave & Buster’s agreed to adhere to village regulations, and no one can blame them for that. They are in the business of selling hamburgers and collecting quarters in video games, not promoting armed self-defense. But there will be those who choose to visit one in another town to avoid subsidizing a village government that only obeys the state laws it likes.
Rico says they could've relocated outside the fucking village, but that would've been a different permit nightmare...

Movie review for the day

Rico says he'd heard about this movie, and knew what it was about, so he was amused when he and the ladyfriend sat down to watch it:
Hysteria, the truth of how Mortimer Granville devised the invention of the first vibrator in the name of medical science.
It stars Hugh Dancy (photo, right) as Mortimer GranvilleRupert Everett as his benefactor, dabbler in things electrical, and co-inventor of the 'Portable Electric Massager'Edmund St. John*-Smythe, Jonathan Pryce (photo, center) as Dr. Robert Dalrymple, Granville's teacher in the art of relieving 'women's problems', Felicity Jones (photo, left) as Dr. Dalrymple's 'acceptable' daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal (at left in the poster at top) as Dr. Dalrymple's 'difficult' daughter, and a bunch of other typically eccentric English actors as staff, patients, and court officers.
Rico says he found it interesting and amusing, though it did not lead, alas, to a local trial of Granville's invention...
(*Rico learned, many years back, from a rotund Palo Altan of that name who was Rico's landlord at the time, that it's pronounced Sin-Jin, as it is in the movie...)

Siri for the day

Doug Aamoth has a Time video about pissing off a poor computerized woman:
Rico says you fuck with Siri, you pay the price...

27 August 2013

Yet more Apple for the day

Mike Elgan has an article at CultOfMac.com about the Apple that ate Cupertino:
Apple is still moving forward to build its five-billion-dollar, 176-acre “spaceship” headquarters, expected to open in three years.
Critics have been attacking it since Steve Jobs first proposed it to the Cupertino City Council. And since that poignant moment, which was Jobs’ last public appearance, the campus project has evolved and changed and, as I write this, the old H-P buildings on the property are being demolished.
Here’s what we know about the spaceship campus so far, and also what the critics have been saying:
The property will be capable of holding 14,200 employees. Some twelve thousand of those will be in the circular mothership building, and the rest in six hundred thousand square feet of office, research and development buildings along one of the adjacent streets. Due to ballooning costs, the extraneous buildings have been delayed for phase two of the project, to come later. So the initial project will include only the giant bagel and supporting infrastructure, at a cost currently estimated at five billion dollars.
The spaceship building will be four stories high, but continue underground. The radius of the underground portion will be much wider than the visible above-ground part. In fact, so much of the campus, parking, underground tunnels, and facilities will be underground that trucks will be removing soil 24/7 for six months in order to make space for these structures.
The main building will be a marvel of innovation in heat and energy. The roof will hold seven hundred thousand square feet of roof-mounted solar panels. That energy source, plus a natural gas facility, will provide most of the campus’s electricity. Combined with solar and wind contracts, the building will achieve a net zero-energy state, meaning that it will consume the same amount that it produces.
Because the building’s exterior walls will be all glass, a crazy computerized temperature control system will open and close giant shutters and windows. Solatubes will pipe sunlight throughout the structure to reduce the need for electric lights.
The campus will have a four-story garage that’s massively larger than the largest parking structure in the city of San Francisco, the one at Moscone Center, where Apple will stop holding announcements in favor of an underground thousand-seat amphitheater at the new campus. The total campus will support eleven thousand parking spaces.
The giant spaceship building was originally white. It has since been upgraded to black (no “gold” or “champagne” option has yet been proposed).
As Jobs emphasized at his City Council product announcement, the building will feature a historically unprecedented use of glass. The building will have nearly four miles of curved glass, manufactured and bent in Germany, then shipped to California in forty-foot by twenty-six-foot sheets. These panes are being manufactured with a very sophisticated process that cold-bends them and laminates them to prevent clouding.
In the City Council rollout, Jobs said: “It’s a circle, and so it’s curved all the way around. As you know if you build things, this is not the cheapest way to build something. There’s not a straight piece of glass on this building, it’s all curved. And we’ve used our experience in making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use.”
The New Yorker suggested Apple’s plans are a sign of “imperial hubris”, a “twenty-first-century version of the Pentagon.”
Gizmodo said it will be “ridiculously lavish.”
And one Apple investor publicly said: “It would take some convincing for me to understand why five billion dollars is the right number for a project like this.”
These neatly summarize the criticism. Basically, what they’re saying is that it’s too awesome, too far-reaching, too ambitious and too expensive. It would be better to build another set of cookie-cutter boring buildings that blight the Silicon Valley landscape.
To these critics I say: you’re idiots, and you need to STFU.
The critics on this project are dead wrong, and for four reasons.
1. Utopia fuels genius. By creating a breathtaking architectural wonder, Apple will inspire its employees. You know, the people who are the sole source of everything that Apple imagines and builds. One good example of this phenomenon is Google, which smartly creates corporate campuses that are equal parts playground, Disneyland, and City of Tomorrow.
2. Utopia builds the brand. Apple is an aspirational brand. Apple’s amazing spaceship HQ will become part of the iconic nature of the Apple brand, driving sales just by its very existence. When Apple announces new products, the invited press will gape at the wonder of it all, and this will ignite their worshipful gushing over whatever Apple announces. And good press is good business.
3. The new campus honors Steve Jobs. The spaceship campus was Jobs’ last vision for the company, one meant to last. While his direction and input into the iPad will quickly fade away, to be replaced by democratic decision-making and possibly a slouch toward mediocrity, the campus will serve as a reminder of the uncompromising visionary who made Apple what it is today. Who would deny this to Jobs, really, especially investors, whose wallets are burdened by the man’s vision. Besides, if you don’t want to be involved in a visionary company, sell your Apple stock and buy Exxon Mobile.
4. A visionary campus attracts top talent. It’s really hard to recruit and retain top engineering and design talent in Silicon Valley. Apple’s HQ will provide one additional incentive for the best people to stay with Apple.
Apple’s Campus 2 budget has ballooned from three billion to five billion and, guess what, it will probably grow to as high as ten billion dollars.
So what? This is a company with $150 billion in cash, all of it generated by the executives and employees, many of whom will work at this campus. The new campus is good for Apple’s business, good for the environment, and good for Silicon Valley.
It’s time for the critics of Apple’s spaceship Campus 2 to STFU and marvel at Steve Jobs’ last breathtaking visionary gift.
Rico says that, for the acronym-impaired, STFU means "shut the fuck up", and they should...

More Apple for the day

Leander Kahney has the transcript at CultOfMac.com of the John Sculley interview about Steve Jobs:
Here’s a full transcript of the interview with John Sculley on the subject of Steve Jobs.
It’s long, but worth reading because there are some awesome insights into how Jobs did things. It’s also one of the frankest CEO interviews you’ll ever read. Sculley talks openly about Jobs and Apple, admits it was a mistake to hire him to run the company, and that he knows little about computers. It’s rare for anyone, never mind a big-time CEO, to make such frank assessment of their career in public.
Q: You talk about the “Steve Jobs methodology.” What is Steve’s methodology?
Sculley: Let me give you a framework. The time that I first met Jobs, which was over 25 years ago, he was putting together the same first principles that I call the Steve Jobs methodology of how to build great products. Steve, from the moment I met him, always loved beautiful products, especially hardware. He came to my house and he was fascinated because I had special hinges and locks designed for doors. I had studied as an industrial designer and the thing that connected Steve and me was industrial design. It wasn’t computing.
I didn’t know really anything about computers nor did any other people in the world at that time. This was at the beginning of the personal computer revolution, but we both believed in beautiful design and Steve in particular felt that you had to begin design from the vantage point of the experience of the user.
He always looked at things from the perspective of what was the user’s experience going to be? But unlike a lot of people in product marketing in those days, who would go out and do consumer testing, asking people, “What did they want?” Steve didn’t believe in that. He said, “How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is? No one has ever seen one before.” He believed that showing someone a calculator, for example, would not give them any indication as to where the computer was going to go because it was just too big a leap.
Steve had this perspective that always started with the user’s experience; and that industrial design was an incredibly important part of that user impression. And he recruited me to Apple because he believed that the computer was eventually going to become a consumer product. That was an outrageous idea back in the early 1980s because people thought that personal computers were just smaller versions of bigger computers. That’s how IBM looked at it.
Some of them thought it was more like a game machine, because there were early game machines, which were very simple and played on televisions. But Steve was thinking about something entirely different. He felt that the computer was going to change the world and it it was going to become what he called “the bicycle for the mind”. It would enable individuals to have this incredible capability that they never dreamed of before. It was not about game machines. It was not about big computers getting smaller…
He was a person of huge vision. But he was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step. He was methodical and careful about everything— a perfectionist to the end.
If you go back to the Apple II, Steve was the first one to put a computer into a plastic case, which was called ABS plastic in those days, and actually put the keyboard into the computer. It seems like a pretty simple idea today, looking back at it, but even at the time when he created the first Apple II, in 1977— that was the beginning of the Jobs methodology. And it showed up in the Macintosh and showed up with his NeXT computer. And it showed up with the future Macs, the iMacs, the iPods, and the iPhones.
What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do, but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist.
I remember going into Steve’s house and he had almost no furniture in it. He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn’t believe in having lots of things around but he was incredibly careful in what he selected. The same thing was true with Apple. Here’s someone who starts with the user experience, who believes that industrial design shouldn’t be compared to what other people were doing with technology products, but it should be compared to people were doing with jewelry… Go back to my lock example, and hinges and a door with beautiful brass, finely machined, mechanical devices. And I think that reflects everything that I have ever seen that Steve has touched.
When I first saw the Macintosh— it was in the process of being created— it was basically just a series of components over what is called a bread board. It wasn’t anything, but Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. He was extremely charismatic and extremely compelling in getting people to join up with him and he got people to believe in his visions even before the products existed. When I met the Mac team, which eventually got to a hundred people but, the time I met him, it was much smaller, the average age was 22.
These were people who had clearly never built a commercial product before, but they believed in Steve and they believed in his vision. He was able to work in multiple levels in parallel. On one level he is working at the “change the world”, the big concept. At the other level he is working down at the details of what it takes to actually build a product and design the software, the hardware, the systems design and eventually the applications, the peripheral products that connect to it.
In each case, he always reached out for the very best people he could find in the field. And he personally did all the recruiting for his team. He never delegated that to anybody else.
The other thing about Steve was, he did not respect large organizations. He felt that they were bureaucratic and ineffective. He would basically call them “bozos”. That was his term for organizations that he didn’t respect.
The Mac team were all in one building and they eventually got to one hundred people. Steve had a rule that there could never be more than one hundred people on the Mac team. So if you wanted to add someone you had to take someone out. And the thinking was a typical Steve Jobs observation: “I can’t remember more than a hundred first names so I only want to be around people that I know personally. So if it gets bigger than a hundred people, it will force us to go to a different organization structure where I can’t work that way. The way I like to work is where I touch everything.” Through the whole time I knew him at Apple that’s exactly how he ran his division.
Q: So how did he cope when Apple became bigger? I mean, Apple has tens of thousands of people now.
Sculley: Steve would say: “The organization can become bigger, but not the Mac team." The Macintosh was set up as a product development division— and so Apple had a central sales organization, a central back office for all the administration, legal. It had a centralized manufacturing of that sort, but the actual team that was building the product, and this is true for high tech products, it doesn’t take a lot of people to build a great product. Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn’t. It’s really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist. It’s like an artist’s workshop, and Steve is the master craftsman who walks around and looks at the work and makes judgments on it and in many cases his judgments were to reject something.
I can remember lots of evenings we would be there until 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning because the engineers usually don’t show up until lunchtime and they work well into the night. And an engineer would bring Steve in and show him the latest software code that he’s written. Steve would look at it and throw it back at him and say: “It’s just not good enough.” And he was constantly forcing people to raise their expectations of what they could do. So people were producing work that they never thought they were capable of. Largely because Steve would shift between being highly charismatic and motivating and getting them excited to feel like they are part of something insanely great. And on the other hand he would be almost merciless in terms of rejecting their work until he felt it had reached the level of perfection that was good enough to go into, in this case, the Macintosh.
Q: He was quite conscious about that, right? This was very well thought out, not just crazy capriciousness?
Sculley: No, Steve was incredibly methodical. He always had a white board in his office. He did not draw himself. He didn’t have particular drawing ability himself, yet he had an incredible taste. The thing that separated Steve Jobs from other people like Bill GatesBill was brilliant too, but Bill was never interested in great taste. He was always interested in being able to dominate a market. He would put out whatever he had to put out there to own that space. Steve would never do that. Steve believed in perfection. Steve was willing to take extraordinary chances in trying new product areas, but it was always from the vantage point of being a designer. So when I think about different kinds of CEOs— CEOs who are great leaders, CEOs who are great turnaround artists, great deal negotiators, great people motivators— but the great skill that Steve has is he’s a great designer. Everything at Apple can be best understood through the lens of designing.
Whether it’s designing the look and feel of the user experience, or the industrial design, or the system design and even things like how the boards were laid out. The boards had to be beautiful in Steve’s eyes when you looked at them, even though when he created the Macintosh he made it impossible for a consumer to get in the box because he didn’t want people tampering with anything.
In his level of perfection, everything had to be beautifully designed even if it wasn’t going to be seen by most people. That went all the way through to the systems when he built the Macintosh factory. It was supposed to be the first automated factory, but what it really was a final assembly and test factory with a pick-to-pack robotic automation. It is not as novel today as it was 25 years ago, but I can remember when the CEO of General Motors, along with Ross Perot, came out just to look at the Macintosh factory. All we were doing was final assembly and test, but it was done so beautifully. It was as well thought through in design as a factory, a lights out factory requiring many people as the products were.
Now if you leap forward and look at the products that Steve builds today, today the technology is far more capable of doing things, it can be miniaturized, it is commoditized, it is inexpensive. And Apple no longer builds any products. When I was there, people used to call Apple “a vertically-integrated advertising agency”, which was not a compliment.
Actually today, that’s what everybody is. That’s what HP is; that’s what Apple is; and that’s what most companies are because they outsource to EMS— electronics manufacturing services.
Q: Isn’t Nike a good analogy?
Sculley: Yeah, probably, Nike is closer, I think that is true. I think if you look at the Japanese consumer electronics in that era they were all analog companies.
The one that Steve admired was Sony. We used to go visit Akio Morita and he had really the same kind of high-end standards that Steve did, and respect for beautiful products. I remember Akio Morita gave Steve and I each one of the first Sony Walkmans. None of us had ever seen anything like that before because there had never been a product like that. This is 25 years ago, and Steve was fascinated by it. The first thing he did with his was take it apart and he looked at every single part. How the fit and finish was done, how it was built. He was fascinated by the Sony factories. We went through them. They would have different people in different colored uniforms. Some would have red uniforms, some green, some blue, depending on what their functions were. It was all carefully thought out and the factories were spotless. Those things made a huge impression on him.
The Mac factory was exactly like that. They didn’t have colored uniforms, but it was every bit as elegant as the early Sony factories that we saw. Steve’s point of reference was Sony at the time. He really wanted to be Sony. He didn’t want to be IBM. He didn’t want to be Microsoft. He wanted to be Sony.
The challenge was in that era you couldn’t build digital products like Sony. Everything was analog and the Japanese companies approached things and you can read Prahalad’s book, from the University of Michigan, he studied it. (Sculley is referring to C.K. Prahalad’s Competing for the Future, published in 1994.)
The Japanese always started with the market share of components first. So one would dominate, let’s say, sensors and someone else would dominate memory, and someone else hard drive and things of that sort. They would then build up their market strengths with components, and then they would work towards the final product. That was fine with analog electronics where you are trying to focus on cost reduction— and whoever controlled the key component costs was at an advantage. It didn’t work at all for digital electronics, because with digital electronics you’re starting at the wrong end of the value chain. You are not starting with the components. You are starting with the user experience.
And you can see today the tremendous problem Sony has had for at least the last fifteen years as the digital consumer electronics industry has emerged. They have been totally stove-piped in their organization. The software people don’t talk to the hardware people, who don’t talk to the component people, who don’t talk to the design people. They argue between their organizations and they are big and bureaucratic.
Sony should have had the iPod but they didn’t— it was Apple. The iPod is a perfect example of Steve’s methodology of starting with the user and looking at the entire end-to-end system. It was always an end-to-end system with Steve. He was not a designer but a great systems thinker. That is something you don’t see with other companies. They tend to focus on their piece and outsource everything else. If you look at the state of the iPod, the supply chain going all the way over to iPod City in China– it is as sophisticated as the design of the product itself. The same standards of perfection are just as challenging for the supply chain as they are for the user design. It is an entirely different way of looking at things.
Q: Where did he get the idea for controlling the whole widget? The idea to be in charge of everything, the whole system?
Sculley: Steve believed that, if you opened the system up people would start to make little changes, and those changes would be compromises in the experience, and he would not be able to deliver the kind of experience that he wanted.
Q: But this control extends to every aspect of the product– even to opening the box. The experience of opening the box is designed by Steve Jobs.
Sculley: The original Mac really had no operating system. People keep saying: “Well, why didn’t we license the operating system?” The simple answer is that there wasn’t one. It was all done with lots of tricks with hardware and software. Microprocessors in those days were so weak compared to what we had today. In order to do graphics on a screen you had to consume all of the power of the processor. Then you had to glue chips all around it to enable you to offload other functions. Then you had to put what are called “calls to ROM”. There were four hundred calls to ROM, which were all the little subroutines that had to be offloaded into the ROM because there was no way you could run these in real time. All these things were neatly held together. It was totally remarkable that you could deliver a machine when you think the first processor on the Mac was less than three MIPs (Million Instructions Per Second), which today would be— I can’t think of any device which has three MIPS, or equivalent. Even your digital watch is at least two hundred or three hundred times more powerful than the first Macintosh. (For comparison, today’s entry-level iMac uses an Intel Core i3 chip, rated at over 40,000 MIPS)
It’s hard to conceive how he was able to accomplish so much with so little in those days. So for someone to build consumer products in the 1980s beyond what we did with the first Mac was literally impossible. In the 1990s, with Moore’s Law and other things, the homogenization of technology, it became possible to begin to see what consumer products would look like, but you couldn’t really build them. It really hasn’t been until the turn of the century that you sort of got the crossover between the cost of components, the commoditization and the miniaturization that you need for consumer products. The performance suddenly reached the point where you could actually build things that we can call digital consumer products. Because Steve’s design methodology was so correct even 25 years ago he was able to make a design methodology— his first principles— of user experience, focus on just a few things, look at the system, never compromise, compare yourself not to other electronic products but compare yourself to the finest pieces of jewelry— all those criteria— no one else was thinking about that. Everyone else was just going through an evolution of cheap products that are getting more powerful and cheaper to build. Like the MP3 player. Remember when he came in with the iPod, there were thousands of MP3 players out there. Can anyone else remember any of the others?
His tradeoff was he believed that he had to control the entire system. He made every decision. The boxes were locked.
Q: But the motivation for this is the user experience?
Sculley: Absolutely. The user experience has to go through the whole end-to-end system, whether it’s desktop publishing or iTunes. It is all part of the end-to-end system. It is also the manufacturing. The supply chain. The marketing. The stores. I remember I was brought in because I had a design background, and because I was a marketer. I had product marketing experience. Not because I knew anything about computers.
Q: I find that pretty fascinating. You say in your book that first and foremost you wanted to make Apple a “product marketing company.”
Sculley: Right. Steve and I spent months getting to know each other before I joined Apple. He had no exposure to marketing other than what he picked up on his own. This is sort of typical of Steve. When he knows something is going to be important he tries to absorb as much as he possibly can.
One of the things that fascinated him was that I described to him that there’s not much difference between a Pepsi and a Coke, but we were outsold nine to one. Our job was to convince people that Pepsi was a big enough decision that they ought to pay attention to it, and eventually switch. We decided that we had to treat Pepsi like a necktie. In that era people cared what necktie they wore. The necktie said: “Here’s how I want you to see me.” So we have to make Pepsi like a nice necktie. When you are holding a Pepsi in your hand, it says: “Here’s how I want you to see me.”
We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.
If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that. We talked a lot about how perception leads reality and how, if you are going to create a reality, you have to be able to create the perception. We did it with something called the Pepsi generation.
I had learned through a lecture that Dr. Margaret Mead had given, an anthropologist in the 60s, that the most important fact for marketers was going to be the emergence of an affluent middle class— what we call the Baby Boomers, who are now turning sixty. They were the first people to have discretionary income. They could go out and spend money for things other than what they had to have. When we created the Pepsi Generation it was created with them in mind. It was always focusing on the user of the drink, never the drink.
Coke always focused on the drink. We focused on the person using it. We showed people riding dirt bikes, waterskiing, or kite flying, hang gliding— doing different things. And at the end of it there would always be a Pepsi as a reward. This all happened when color television was first coming in. We were the first company to do lifestyle marketing. The first and the longest-running lifestyle campaign was— and still is— Pepsi.
We did it was just as color television was coming in and when large-screen televisions were coming in, like nineteen-inch screens. We didn’t go to people who made television commercials because they were making commercials for little tiny black-and-white screens. We went out to Hollywood and got the best movie directors, and said we want you to make sixty-second movies for us. They were lifestyle movies. The whole thing was to create the perception that Pepsi was number one because you couldn’t be number one unless you thought like number one. You had to appear like number one.
Steve loved those ideas. A lot of the stuff we were doing and our marketing was focused on when we bring the Mac to market. It has to be done at such a high level of perception of expectation that he will sort of tease people to want to find out what the product is capable of. The product couldn’t do very much in the beginning. Almost all of the technology was used for the user experience. In fact we did get a backlash where people said it’s a toy. It doesn’t do anything. But eventually it did, as the technology got more powerful.
Q: Of course, Apple is famous for the same kind of lifestyle advertising now. It shows people living an enviable lifestyle, courtesy of Apple’s products. Hip young people grooving to iPods
Sculley: I don’t take any credit for it. What Steve’s brilliance is, is his ability to see something and then understand it and then figure out how to put into the context of his design methodology— everything is design.
An anecdotal story, a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple, as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.
Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Microsoft hires some of the smartest people in the world. They are known for their incredibly challenging test they put people through to get hired. It’s not an issue of people being smart and talented. It’s that design at Apple is at the highest level of the organization, led by Steve personally. Design at other companies is not there. It is buried down in the bureaucracy somewhere… In bureaucracies many people have the authority to say no, not the authority to say yes. So you end up with products with compromises. This goes back to Steve’s philosophy that the most important decisions are the things you decide not to do, not what you decide to do. It’s the minimalist thinking again.
Having been around in the early days, I don’t see any change in Steve’s first principles— except he’s gotten better and better at it.
Another example, which has been brilliant, is what he did with the retail stores. He brought one of the top retailers in the world on his board to learn about retail (Mickey Drexler from The Gap, who advised Jobs to build a prototype store before launch). Not only did he learn about retail, I’ve never been in a better store than an Apple store. It has the highest revenue per square foot of any store in the world, but it’s not just the revenue, it’s the experience.
Apple stores are packed. You can go to the Sony center— go in the San Francisco center at the Moscone. There’s nobody there. You can go into the Nokia store, they have one in New York City on 57th Street. There’s nobody there.
But other people have the stores. They have the products to look at. You can touch and feel them but you walk into an Apple store and it’s just like an amazing experience. It is as much the people who are there shopping alongside you.
Again, it is like necktie products. It’s like being in an Apple store says: “here’s how I want you to see me. I’m here. I’m at the genius bar. I’m trying out the products. Look at me: I’m like the other people in the store.”
The user experience is taken all the way from the experience of using the product, to the advertising of how it is presented, to the design of the product. Steve is legendary for his fit and finish requirements on a product. Looking at the radius and parting lines and bezels and all these little details that designers pay attention to. He will reject something which no one will see as a problem. But, because his standards are so high, people sit there and say, “How does Apple do it? How does apple have such incredible products?”
I remember one of the things we talked about, Steve used to ask me: “How did Pepsi get such great advertising?” He asked if it was the agencies that you picked? And I said what it really is. First of all, you have to have an exciting product, and you have to be able to present it as an opportunity to do bold advertising. But great advertising comes from great clients. The best creative people want to work for the best clients. If you are a client who doesn’t appreciate great work, or a client who won’t take risks and try new stuff, or a client who can’t get excited about the creative, then you’re the wrong kind of client.
Most big companies delegate it way down in the organization. The CEO rarely knows anything about the advertising except when it’s presented, when it’s all done. That’s not how we did it at Pepsi, not how we did it at Apple, and I’m sure it’s not how Steve does it now. He always adamantly involved in the advertising, the design, and everything.
Q: Right. I hear Lee Clow flies up to Apple every week to meet with Jobs.
Sculley: Once you realize that Apple leads through design, than you can start to see, that’s what makes it different. Look at the stores, at the stairs in the stores. They are made of some special glass that had to be fabricated. And that’s so typical of the way he thinks. Everyone around him knows he beats to a different drummer. He sets standards that are entirely different than any other CEO would set.
He’s a minimalist and constantly reducing things to their simplest level. It’s not simplistic. It’s simplified. Steve is a systems designer. He simplifies complexity. If you are someone who doesn’t care about it, you end up with simplistic results. It’s amazing to me how many companies make that mistake. Take the Microsoft Zune. I remember going to CES when Microsoft launched Zune and it was literally so boring that people didn‘t even go over to look at it… The Zunes were just dead. It was like someone had just put aging vegetables into a supermarket. Nobody wanted to go near it. I’m sure they were very bright people but it’s just built from a different philosophy. The legendary statement about Microsoft, which is mostly true, is that they get it right the third time. Microsoft’s philosophy is to get it out there and fix it later. Steve would never do that. He doesn’t get anything out there until it is perfected.
Q: Let’s talk about advertising, which is so important to Apple. In your book you talk about ‘strategic advertising’: advertising as strategy. That’s a very interesting idea…
Sculley: At the time I came to Silicon Valley there was no advertising… The only one who was really interested in doing advertising was Apple. H-P didn’t advertise in those days. No one advertised in those days on a big brand basis. One of the things that I was recruited to Apple to help do was to bring big brand advertising to Apple.
The Apple logo was multicolor because the Apple II was the first color computer. No one else could do color, so that’s why they put the color blocks into the logo. If you wanted to print the logo in a magazine ad or on a package you could print it with four colors, but Steve, being Steve, insisted on six colors. So whenever the Apple logo was printed, it was always printed in six colors. It added another thirty to forty percent to the cost of everything, but that’s what Steve wanted. That’s what we always did. He was a perfectionist even from the early days.
Q: That drives some people a little bit crazy. Did it drive you crazy?
Sculley: It’s okay to be driven a little crazy by someone who is so consistently right. What I’ve learned in high tech is that there’s a very, very thin line between success and failure. It’s an industry where you are constantly taking risks, particularly if you’re a company like Apple, which is constantly living out on the edge.
Your chance of being on one side of that line or the other side of the line is about equal. Sometimes he was wrong tactically on a number of things. He wouldn’t put a hard drive in the Macintosh. When someone asked him about communications, he just threw a little disk across the room and said: “That’s all we’ll ever need.” On the other hand, Steve led the development of what was called AppleTalk and AppleLink. AppleTalk was the communications that enabled the Macintosh to communicate to the laser printer that enabled desktop publishing.
AppleTalk was brilliant in its day. It was as brilliant as the Macintosh. It was another example of using a minimalist approach and solving a problem that no one else thought was a problem that needed to be solved. Steve was solving problems back in the 80s that turned out fifteen or twenty years later to be exactly the right problems to be working on. The challenge was we were decades away from when the technology would be homogenized enough and powerful enough to be able to make all those things mass market. He was just, in many cases, he was way ahead of his time.
Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice, but the board wasn’t prepared to make him CEO when he was 25, 26 years old.
They exhausted all of the obvious high-tech candidates to be CEO… Ultimately, David Rockefeller, who was a shareholder in Apple, said let’s try a different industry and let’s go to the top head hunter in the United States who isn’t in high tech: Gerry Roche.
They went and recruited me. I came in not knowing anything about computers. The idea was that Steve and I were going to work as partners. He would be the technical person and I would be the marketing person.
The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said: “Let’s figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings.”
Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder, and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me. It was a little bit of a fa├žade, and my guess is that we never would have had the breakup if the board had done a better job of thinking through, not just how do we get a CEO to come and join the company that Steve will approve of, but how do we make sure that we create a situation where this thing is going to be successful over time?
My sense is that when Steve left (in 1986, after the board rejected his bid to replace Sculley as CEO) I still didn’t know very much about computers. My decision was first to fix the company, but I didn’t know how to fix companies and to get it back to be successful again. All the stuff we did then were all his ideas. I understood his methodology. We never changed it. So we didn’t license the products. We focused on industrial design. We actually built up our own in-house design organization, which they have to this day. We developed the PowerBook… We developed QuickTime. All these things were built around Steve’s philosophy… It was all about sales and marketing and the evolution of the products.
All the design ideas were clearly Steve’s. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve. I made two really dumb mistakes that I really regret because I think they would have made a difference to Apple. One was when we are at the end of the life of the Motorola processor, we took two of our best technologists and put them on a team to go look and recommend what we ought to do.
They came back and they said it doesn’t make any difference which RISC architecture you pick, just pick the one that you think you can get the best business deal with. But don’t use CISC. CISC is complex instructions set. RISC is reduced instruction set.
So Intel lobbied heavily to get us to stay with them, but we went with IBM and Motorola with the PowerPC. And that was a terrible decision in hindsight. If we could have worked with Intel, we would have gotten onto a more commoditized component platform for Apple, which would have made a huge difference for Apple during the 1990s. In the 1990s, the processors were getting powerful enough that you could run all of your technology and software, and that’s when Microsoft took off with their Windows 3.1.
Prior to that, you had to do it in software and hardware, the way Apple did. When the processors became powerful enough, it just became a commodity and the software can handle all those subroutines we had to do in hardware.
So we totally missed the boat. Intel would spend eleven billion dollars and evolve the Intel processor to do graphics, and it was a terrible technical decision. I wasn’t technically qualified, unfortunately, so I went along with the recommendation.
The other even bigger failure on my part was if I had thought about it better I should have gone back to Steve. I wanted to leave Apple. At the end of ten years, I didn’t want to stay any longer. I wanted to go back to the East Coast. I told the board I wanted to leave, and IBM was trying to recruit me at the time. They asked me to stay. I stayed and then they later fired me. I really didn’t want to be there any longer.
The board decided that we ought to sell Apple. So I was given the assignment to go off and try to sell Apple in 1993. So I went off and tried to sell it to AT&T, to IBM, and other people. We couldn’t get anyone who wanted to buy it. They thought it was just too high risk because Microsoft and Intel were doing well then. But if I had any sense, I would have said: “Why don’t we go back to the guy who created the whole thing and understands it. Why don’t we go back and hire Steve to come back and run the company?”
It’s so obvious looking back now that that would have been the right thing to do. We didn’t do it, so I blame myself for that one. It would have saved Apple this near-death experience they had.
One of the issues that got me fired was that there was a split inside the company as to what the company ought to do. There was one contingent that wanted Apple to be more of a business computer company. They wanted to open up the architecture and license it. There was another contingent, which I was a part of, that wanted to take the Apple methodology— the user experience and stuff like that— and move into the next generation of products, like the Newton.
But the Newton failed. It was a new direction. It was so fundamentally different. The result was I got fired and they had two more CEOs who both licensed the technology, but they shut down the industrial design. They turned out computers that looked like everybody else’s computers, and they no longer cared about advertising, public relations. They just obliterated everything. We’re just going to become an engineering type company and they almost drove the company into bankruptcy during that.
I’m actually convinced that if Steve hadn’t come back when he did— if they had waited another six months— Apple would have been history. It would have been gone, absolutely gone.
What did he do? He turned it right back to where it was— as though he never left. He went all the way back.
So, during my era, really everything we did was following his philosophy— his design methodology. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as good at it as he was. Timing in life is everything. It just wasn’t a time when you could build consumer products and he wasn’t having any more luck at NeXT than we were having at Apple— and he was better at it than we were. The one thing he did do better: he built the better next-generation operating system, which eventually was merged into Apple’s operating system.
Q: People say he killed the Newton– your pet project– out of revenge. Do you think he did it for revenge?
Sculley: Probably. He won’t talk to me, so I don’t know. The Newton was a terrific idea, but it was too far ahead of its time. The Newton actually saved Apple from going bankrupt. Most people don’t realize, in order to build Newton, we had to build a new generation microprocessor. We joined together with Olivetti and a man named Herman Hauser, who had started Acorn computer over in the UK out of Cambridge University. And Herman designed the ARM processor, and Apple and Olivetti funded it. Apple and Olivetti owned 47 percent of the company, and Herman owned the rest. It was designed around Newton, around a world where small miniaturized devices with lots of graphics, intensive subroutines and all of that sort of stuff… when Apple got into desperate financial situation, it sold its interest in ARM for $800 million. If it had kept it, the company went on to become an $8 or $10 billion company. It’s worth a lot more today. That’s what gave Apple the cash to stay alive.
So, while Newton failed as a product, and probably burnt through a hundred million dollars, it more than made it up with the ARM processor… It’s in all the products today, including Apple’s products like the iPod and iPhone. It’s the Intel of its day.
Apple is not really a technology company. Apple is really a design company. If you look at the iPod, you will see that many of the technologies that are in the iPod are ones that Apple bought from other people and put together. Even when Apple created Macintosh, all the ideas came out of Xerox, and Apple recruited some of the key people out of Xerox.
Everything Apple does fails the first time because it is out on the bleeding edge. Lisa failed before the Mac. The Macintosh laptop failed before the PowerBook. It was not unusual for products to fail. The mistake we made with the Newton was we over-hyped the advertising. We hyped the expectation of what the product could actually, so it became a celebrated failure.
Q: I want to ask about Jobs’ heroes. You say Edwin Land was one of his heroes?
Sculley: Yeah, I remember when Steve and I went to meet Dr. Land. He had been kicked out of Polaroid. He had his own lab on the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a fascinating afternoon because we were sitting in this big conference room with an empty table. Dr. Land and Steve were both looking at the center of the table the whole time they were talking. Dr. Land was saying: “I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me before I had ever built one.”
And Steve said: “Yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.” He said if I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like, they couldn’t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it, so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say: now what do you think?
Both of them had this ability to not invent products, but discover products. Both of them said these products have always existed– it’s just that no one has ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them. The Polaroid camera always existed and the Macintosh always existed— it’s a matter of discovery. Steve had huge admiration for Dr. Land. He was fascinated by that trip.
Q: What other heroes did he talk about?
Sculley: He became very close with Ross Perot; he came and visited Apple several times and visited the Macintosh factory. Ross was a systems thinker. He created EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and was an entrepreneur. He believed in big ideas; change the world ideas. He was another one.
Akio Morita was clearly one of his great heroes. He was an entrepreneur who built Sony and did it with great products. Steve is a products person.
Q: How about Hewlett-Packard? Jobs has said in the early days that H-P was a big influence when he worked there briefly with Woz.
Sculley: H-P was not a model for Apple. I’ve never heard that. H-P had the “H-P way”, where Bill Hewitt and David Packard would wander around, people would leave their work out on their desk at night, and they’d wonder around and look at it. So it was very open and it was an engineers company. Apple is a designers company, not an engineers company. H-P was never in those days known for great design. It was known for great engineering, not great design. No, I don’t remember H-P being a model for Apple at all.
Q: Didn’t Jobs also manage by walking around?
Sculley: He did that. Everyone did that in Silicon Valley. That was what H-P contributed to the way Silicon Valley does business. There are certain characteristics that all Silicon Valley startups have and that’s one of them. That clearly came from H-PH-P was the father of the walking-around style of management. And H-P was the father of the engineer being at the top of the hierarchy in companies.
Engineers are far more important than managers at Apple— and designers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even when you look at software, the best designers like Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Capps, were called software designers, not software engineers, because they were designing in software. It wasn’t just that their code worked. It had to be beautiful code. People would go in and admire it. It’s like a writer. People would look at someone’s style. They would look at their code writing style and they were considered just beautiful geniuses at the way they wrote code or the way they designed hardware.
Q: Steve Jobs is famous for being a student of design. He’d run around looking intently at all the Mercedes in the Apple car park.
Sculley: Steve was a fanatic on looking at how things were printed: the fonts, the colors, the layouts. I remember once after Steve had left, one of our tasks was to go and build the business in Japan. Apple had four million dollars of turnover, and we were being sued by the Japanese FTC and people saying we ought to close the office down— it’s losing money. I remember going over and, to make a long story short, four years later we were a two billion dollar business and the number two company in Japan selling computers.
A big part of it was that we had to learn to make products the way the Japanese wanted products. We were assembling products in Singapore and sending them to Japan. And the first thing the customer saw when they opened the box was the manual, but the manual was turned the wrong way around, and the whole batch was rejected. In the United States, we’d never experienced anything like that. If you put the manual in this way or that way— what difference did it make?
Well, it made a huge difference in Japan. Their standards are just different than ours. If you look at Apple and the attention to detail. The “open me first”, the way the box is designed, the fold lines, the quality of paper, the printing— Apple just goes to extraordinary lengths. It looks like you are buying something from Bulgari or one of the highest in jewelry firms. At the time, it was the Japanese.
We used to study Italian designers when we were looking for selecting a design company before we selected Hartmut Esslinger from Frog to do what was called the Snow White design. We were looking at Italian car designers. We really did study the designs of cars that they had done and looking at the fit and finish and the materials and the colors and all of that. At that time, nobody was doing this in Silicon Valley. It was the furthest thing on the planet from Silicon Valley back in the 80s. Again, this is not my idea. I could relate to it because of my interest and background in design, but it was totally driven by Steve.
At the time when Steve was gone and I took over, I was highly criticized. They said: “How could they put a guy who knows nothing about computers in charge of a computer company?” What a lot of people didn’t realize was that Apple wasn’t just about computers. It was about designing products and designing marketing, and it was about positioning.
People used to call us a “vertically-integrated advertising agency” and that was a huge cheap shot. Engineers couldn’t think of anything worse to say about a company than to say it was a “vertically-integrated advertising agency.” Well, guess what? They all are today. That’s the model. The supply chain is managed somewhere else.
Rico says that he knew Sculley was the wrong man for the job back in the Nineties, when we both worked for Apple. Walking from one building to another on the campus, en route to the weekly Publications staff meeting, Rico chanced to fall in with Sculley, also headed for Mariani. Asked about the large folder of papers Rico was carrying, Sculley leafed through them. They were, as only the perverse minds of the Pubs folks could create, an ever-increasingly-hysterical series of fake memos on ridiculous matters, which would, during the meeting, reduce a roomful of geeks to tears. Sculley finished reading them, closed the folder, and handed it back to Rico without even cracking a smile. Doomed, Rico thought, and he was right... (But the Xerox reference was correct; Rico knew an engineer, from high school to Carnegie-Mellon, who ended up working for a time at Xerox PARC, and Rico got to see all the cool stuff developed there, from graphics to the mouse, that ended up in the Macintosh.)

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