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    • The Attack In Ottawa will be used to justify losing more rights
      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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Can I just say one thing?: Podcasts

This is a new series about things that are immensely irritating for no good reason.  

I am a podcast fan.  Mostly, I like podcasts on history, language, history of science and cultural trendiology stuff.  When I got my first iPhone, I was ecstatic because I could download podcasts through iTunes and every time I synched my phone, the podcast would magically refresh and I would get a brand new set of stuff to listen to.  

Then, someone at apple had the bright idea to disconnect podcasts from iTunes.  Why this decision was made is beyond me.  Usually, I’m pretty tolerant of interface and design changes.  Sure, many people bitch about how things used to be better and make themselves a pain in the ass but most users adapt within a few days to a week.  That’s how it should be.  We need to be able to adapt.  

So, I didn’t particularly like the new setup where the podcasts were separate but I was determined to adapt.  Give it a couple of weeks and I would never know the difference.

But along with separating the podcasts from iTunes, apple forced users to download a new podcast app.  It was a baaaaad app, oh best beloveds.  It really was.  Steve Jobs is going to haunt that developer for eternity.  For one thing, it didn’t sync well with the podcast downloads.  I had to go back into iTunes on multiple occasions to try to troubleshoot why a particular podcast didn’t download to the iPhone.  And then there was the weird skipping bug.  Right in the middle of the podcasts, the feed would start to skip every 10 words or so.  It was maddening.  So, I looked for a different podcast app and found one but it came with a whole new set of problems, specifically, it downloaded every episode and was difficult to maintain.  

Then the podcast app/iTunes interface was “improved!”.  Over several upgrades, it has gotten marginally better but it has never gotten back to the state of utility that it had when it was fully integrated in iTunes.  In fact, it’s weird that on the laptop, podcasts are still integrated into iTunes but on the iPhone they’re not.  They still don’t sync flawlessly like they did before and I frequently have to go into the app or iTunes and tweak the settings.  Sometimes, I will get three episodes to load, listen to them and then find that neither the app or iTunes will update the subscription any further.  I have to do manual refresh.  This happens a lot. And for some subscriptions, Fresh Air, for example, the podcast episodes never delete themselves as they’re supposed to, requiring me to manually delete many of the same podcasts over and over again.

The latest “feature” is that the podcasts update themselves on iTunes but not on the iPhone.  There’s no option to refresh the podcast on the iPhone so I have to manually delete the podcast and resubscribe to get the newest episode.  

Was this necessary?  Whose bright idea was this?  Could someone fix this please?  

Next week: Siri needs an attitude adjustment.

Add your more notable non-improvement upgrade story below.

Convergence: Negative Capability

How can a poor consumptive Romantic change the world?

What do John Keats, Roberto Unger, Steve Jobs, JRR Tolkien and Occupy Wall Street have in common?  Heck if I know but I’m going to guess it is something close to a concept that Keats came up with called “negative capability”.  Here is how he describes the concept with respect to the works of Shakespeare:

‘The concept of Negative Capability is the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems.’
[...]
‘At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously- I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

I don’t think he meant to throw away reason because that would make the world incomprehensible.  We have too many instances of the religious right in this country dispensing with any kind of rational thought to the point where they believe anything they’re told.

What I think Keats meant is that negative capability exists beyond the structures and institutions we live in.  Maybe Robert Kennedy had a good sense of it when he said:

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Negative capability is linked to creativity.  It is an openness to experience without conventional limitations.  It has also been linked to conflict because it relies on uncertainty.  I wouldn’t call it conflict so much as a high energy state.  When we are confined by rules, convention, expectations, we are in a low energy state.  Our world is constructed for us and we merely live in it.  Don’t push the envelope, don’t rock the boat.

Roberto Unger made a glancing reference to negative capability in that short video I posted yesterday.  His idea is that by defeating Obama, we push ourselves into a high energy state and force ourselves into uncertainty where we must confront conflict and resolve it by looking for opportunities that exist beyond our current framework.  I think this is very exciting as well as scary as all hell.  It’s a bit like doing a hard reset on your computer when it goes all wonky on you.  You’re pretty sure it will work after it comes up again but you don’t know how much stuff will be erased in the meantime.

The others that I mentioned also show the power of negative capability.  Steve Jobs had a couple of outstanding quotes that demonstrate this:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” and “People who are serious about software should make their own hardware.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Of course, Steve was all about execution as well.  Make sure the insides are as beautiful as the outsides.

I think JRR Tolkien was onto negative capability as well.  He gives his characters goals but he also gives them advice about being open to the people you might meet along the way and to not to allow others to shape your future but to be receptive to opportunities.  He invented the concept called the “eucatastrophe”.  That is the idea that germs of something good can be found in what initially looks like a fiasco.  Openness and receptivity are essential for making your way out of a catastrophe.

And then there is Occupy Wall Street which has a freer form.  It is coming into existence without much of a framework.  And while it is going to hit a lot more bumps in the road, it has already made a significant impact on our national dialogue by being able to shift, change, evolve and take advantage of opportunities.  A year ago, we didn’t even know what the 99% were and now we are one.

Anyway, I just thought I’d leave you all with that at the beginning of the week.  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  The world isn’t going to end no matter how bad things get.

And it is OK to not go along with the program in 2012.

*************************

Some scenes from the 2009 movie Bright Star about John Keats’ short life and relationship with Fanny Brawne. Highly recommended.

Tuesday Turn Around

The Black Bloc contingent of the Occupy Chicago Seniors?

There may be a teensy bit of progress on the job front.  We are sloooooowly moving away from a state of complete inertia there.  No income yet but progress.  This is good.

In the meantime, seniors in Chicago are getting arrested at an Occupation type event.  Whoo-hoo!  Let’s give it up for the septugenarians!:

More than 1,000 senior citizens and their supporters marched from Chicago’s Federal Plaza to the intersection of Jackson and Clark Street Monday morning to protest proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). At the intersection, more than 40 protesters, 15 of them seniors affiliated with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, stood or sat in the street, arms linked, blocking traffic.

Amid chants demanding that the cuts be forestalled — with suggestions for alternatives, including tax hikes — 43 demonstrators were escorted from the intersection (see video, above) by police and issued citations for pedestrian failure to “exercise due care,” or for blocking traffic. Those cited included four protesters using assisted mobility devices and at least one centenarian.

Judy Moses said she was glad to receive the citation–her second in her quest to maintain funding for programs that benefit seniors, following an arrest for blocking traffic in December at a similar protest.

“When I was younger, I never did protests,” she said. “I was a silent majority. Now, I’m ready to make noise.”

Yes, but can we get them to wear bell bottoms, love beads and flowers in their hair?  It’s never too late, you know.

***********************

On the Supercommittee front, there is a proposal to raise taxes.  Yay!, you say, finally the rich are going to have to cough it up.  Au contraire.  It will be US, ie the middle class who will have to cough it up:

Super Committee Republicans are floating a trial balloon that would produce new tax revenue, in apparent contravention of Grover Norquist’s taxpayer protection pledge, according to Wall Street Journal editorialist Stephen Moore.

But as Moore explains that the offer has a catch:

“One positive development on taxes taking shape is a deal that could include limiting tax deductions, perhaps by capping write-offs on charities, state and local taxes, and mortgage interest payments as a percentage of each tax filer’s gross income. That idea was introduced on these pages by Harvard economist Martin Feldstein.In exchange, Democrats would agree to make the Bush income-tax cuts permanent. This would mean preventing top rates from going to 42% from 35% today, and keeping the capital gains and dividend tax rate at 15%, as opposed to plans to raise them to 23.8% or higher after 2013.”

Let that sink in for a sec.  Uh-huh, apparently, the committee members have never heard of Turbo-Tax and the internet, or they think that the great unwashed masses haven’t.  Nowadays, we download all of our forms, let the laptop do the number crunching and e-file half an hour later.  We take every deduction.  No short forms for us when it’s this easy to get every penny back.  This proposal is just another way to stick it to taxpayers in high cost of living states like New Jersey where housing is expensive and local property taxes are ridiculous.  Pass this proposal and watch our housing market drop through the floor.  While people making $250,000 in this state are doing pretty well, anyone making about $100,000 around here is barely middle class.  No, seriously, it only LOOKS like a big number until you try to buy a house in the burbs.  What you want and what you can afford are two different animals.  Think condos and townhouses, condos and townhouses we will never be able to unload if this proposal passes.

What morons would vote for this “compromise”??  Oh, yeah- Democrats.

{{rolling eyes}}

**********************

I’m with Ta-Nehesi Coates on this one, the attack on Elizabeth Warren for actually working for her wealth makes no sense to me.  What is Politico trying to say here?  That it is natural for rich people to act like sociopaths, sit on the money of the people who work for them and watch them suffer when the 99% can’t meet basic needs like housing, nutrition and healthcare?  Is that how rich mamas raise their children these days?  These people need to be taught some manners.  As for Elizabeth Warren making money, she does it the old fashioned way, she earns it.  We like that about her.  It has honor and dignity and signifies a good work ethic that has been justifiably rewarded.  Her personal history demonstrates that it has not been an easy ride for her.  She wasn’t born with a silver foot in her mouth.  That seems to have given her a certain empathy for the pool of people from whence she came.  (I’ve been waiting all year to use the word ‘whence’)  Franklin D. Roosevelt came from money but he developed compassion as well.  Was he a one off?  Mentally ill?  Or just a hypocrit?  Beats me but working people who lived through the Great Depression loved him.  Go figure.

So, what’s wrong with the people who read Politico?  Are they all a bunch of Ebeneezer Scrooges?  Are their Grinchy hearts so small that they can’t remember the last time they thought stealing from working people was wrong?

*******************

Speaking of FDR, Ezra Klein wrote an article in WaPo titled Why Obama is no FDR that suggests why Obama was such a disastrous pick in 2008:

The left and the right don’t agree on much these days, but they do agree on this: Barack Obama is no FDR.

For liberals, this is a disappointment. They had hoped for, as Time magazine put it after Obama’s victory, “a new new deal.” Instead, they find themselves mounting an unexpected rear-guard defense of Medicare and Keynesian economics.

For conservatives, it’s a relief. Two short years ago, they feared an FDR-like realignment. Today, they thrill to the idea of undoing much of the original New Deal, or at least the Great Society.

2008 was the break the movement conservatives had been waiting for since FDR died almost 70 years ago.  And Democrats handed them this break on a silver platter when they nominated the candidate who was *least* likely to know how to control an economic crisis without a bunch of slick economic advisors.  If you hire him for four more years, you will get four more years of the same poor negotiation skills, amateurishly developed policy and indifference to the suffering of the middle class.  I’m betting that it won’t be long before the party starts to realize that the middle class isn’t going to go along with it for another four years.

Then Klein twists his defense of Obama into a knot by putting some of the blame on Congress.  This Congress is not like the one that FDR was blessed with, he argues.  THAT Congress thought that FDR hadn’t gone far enough.  He ends with:

This is not a defense of Obama [yes it is but it's caused by a failure to imaginate any better Democrat for some bizarre reason that only Klein can explain], nor an attack on FDR. It is simply the reality of the American presidency. Congress can write legislation and pass it over the president’s veto. The president cannot write legislation nor pass it without congressional assent. The president comes after the Congress in the Constitution and is indisputably less powerful. Yet we understand American politics primarily through the office of the president and attribute, say, things that happened between 1933 and 1945 to FDR, or from 1981 to 1988 to Ronald Reagan. But Congress is always there, and so is the economic context that’s driving the agenda. We’d do well to pay more attention to both.

Sure.  Let’s just forget that in 2008, Obama had enough money and played enough hardball politics with state campaigns for legislature and other offices that he was able to buy all of the superdelegates he needed, whip all of the elected delegates he needed and buy off all of the RBC committee members he needed to get the nomination.  It is hard to believe that a man so unscrupulous and ruthless would have so much trouble getting Congress to pass the legislation he wanted especially when money is no object.  So, we have to assume that money *is* no object and that it is being used to get the legislation that somebody wants or that Obama really is that bad as a president.  Or, maybe he had a conscienceless campaign staff in 2008 who did what it needed to do and once he was in office and had to switch from campaigning to policy, his liabilities, that were conveeeeeniently glossed over by Klein types in 2008, became glaringly obvious.  Whatever the case may be, he is in office at a time in our country’s history when the effects of a weak president will have profound effects on the middle class for generations to come.  I wonder if Klein and his friends considered that possibility in 2008.  Probably not.

**********************

Malcolm Gladwell has an article in the New Yorker about the Genius of Steve Jobs.  But I’m not sure that Gladwell gets it:

In 1779, Samuel Crompton, a retiring genius from Lancashire, invented the spinning mule, which made possible the mechanization of cotton manufacture. Yet England’s real advantage was that it had Henry Stones, of Horwich, who added metal rollers to the mule; and James Hargreaves, of Tottington, who figured out how to smooth the acceleration and deceleration of the spinning wheel; and William Kelly, of Glasgow, who worked out how to add water power to the draw stroke; and John Kennedy, of Manchester, who adapted the wheel to turn out fine counts; and, finally, Richard Roberts, also of Manchester, a master of precision machine tooling—and the tweaker’s tweaker. He created the “automatic” spinning mule: an exacting, high-speed, reliable rethinking of Crompton’s original creation. Such men, the economists argue, provided the “micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative.”

Was Steve Jobs a Samuel Crompton or was he a Richard Roberts? In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh—the mouse and the icons on the screen—from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979. The first portable digital music players came out in 1996. Apple introduced the iPod, in 2001, because Jobs looked at the existing music players on the market and concluded that they “truly sucked.” Smart phones started coming out in the nineteen-nineties. Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, more than a decade later, because, Isaacson writes, “he had noticed something odd about the cell phones on the market: They all stank, just like portable music players used to.”

I just finished the biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  Jobs was a pain in the ass perfectionist tyrant of a boss but he also could make the mental leaps that many other people couldn’t.  Isaacson’s comparison of Sony, Microsoft and Apple demonstrates what made Jobs so important.  Both Sony and Microsoft had the components to make the kind of products that Apple made famous.  But those two companies took a very conventional approaches to product innovation and integration and these approaches were themselves products of the way their companies were constructed.  They saw new technology and tried to work it into their current product lines.  Jobs saw new technology and applied it to our lives in new and different ways.  You could almost see the thought bubbles above Gates’ and Jobs’ heads when presented with something new.  Gates is making mental calculations of how to use the thing to improve the stuff he already had, how to make money, FTEs, manufacturing, while Jobs is having a mental orgasm, his mind racing in forty different directions at once, thinking of the people he could bounce his ideas against to see if any of them stuck, doing mental paper folding and turning the suckers around in his head.  Imagine giving two people a brick at the dawn of time and asking them to come up with ways to use it.  Gates might have made a whole bunch of them in different colors and sizes to be used to smash things.  Every few years, he would release a new, not quite ready for primetime version of brick that would require a new industry of people to service and repair them.  Jobs would have built a house.  Both would have been extremely successful, especially if the smashers were used to bust heads of the people who had things you want.  But the advantages of having a house are obvious once you build one and live in it.  After the house, you tend to not look at bricks in the same way again.

The cranky among us can’t figure out why Jobs is deified.  I guess you would have to work in a dysfunctional corporate research setting for a few years to really understand why Jobs means so much to some of us.  The atmosphere he created at Apple and Pixar is the way we want to work so that we too can produce wonderful magical things that the world can use and appreciate, even if it is hard and initially seems impossible.  But we are living in a world where the business guys just want to sell smashers and are busily getting highly compensated jobs for their friends to sell smashers and corner the smasher market for themselves and please the shareholders of the smasher industry.  Those of us who just want to create good products are SOL.

Sunday Morning Stuff

spooky October snow

Hi guys, I found a lot of stuff in the spam filter this morning and have released them.  I have no idea why your messages are getting sent there.  There’s no obvious trigger words or filtered IDs.  It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  I’ll have to be more diligent about fishing them out.

************************************************

It snowed here yesterday, quite a bit for October, actually.  My cable internet connection and ATT signal were fubared for part of the day yesterday. We didn’t get the high winds of the Nor’easter here in NJ but I hear that Manhattan was windy and snowy.  The occupiers in Zuccotti Park have a list of requests, if you are so inclined to help them weather the weather.  They would really appreciate socks and other cold weather gear.  If you have some stuff to spare, check out their donations page here.  The fire department confiscated their gas powered generators on Friday.  Yeah, that will make them leave.  Not.  I don’t think Bloomberg gets it yet.  Taking stuff away and making people uncomfortable only makes them want to stay just to get in your face.  Given that they’re not going to go away, preventing them from getting hypothermia might be the humane thing to do, not that I actually expect that billionaire mayors will do the humane thing.

**************************************************************

bemused_leftist says that some Tom.Brune from Newsday dude is asking Clintonistas to justify their support of Hillary and explain what we think she would have done differently.  I can’t find Brune’s request by bemused_leftist (can you provide the link?  If it gets spammed, just email me)  says it goes something like this:

“I’m picking up reports and suggestions here and there that many Clinton supporters have a nostalgia for the Clinton presidency that never was. And I have thought about that and wondered: What would or could she have done that Obama didn’t do, and what did Obama do that she wouldn’t or couldn’t do.
Have any thoughts on that?”

At first, I thought I would reply to this request by listing some of the things I thought she might have done differently.  Then I realized that that’s not really what Brune wants.  What Brune wants is to continue to frame Hillary Clinton as an undesirable candidate for reasons that are known only to Brune and people like him.  And my response is that it does not matter if Brune and his droogs think that Bill Clinton wasn’t the Greatest Liberal Hope of the 20th Century.  It also doesn’t matter what we think she might have done differently.

What matters is that 18,000,000 people voted for her.  I spoke to many of them by phone when I was campaigning for her in NJ and PA.  And ALL of the ones I spoke to  said they had nothing against Obama.  They just didn’t think he was ready, but judging by her performances in the debates, they thought Hillary was.

That’s it, Mr. Brune.  That’s all you need to know.  18,000,000 of us thought Obama wasn’t ready and Hillary was.  We don’t have to justify anything else.

However, YOU and the rest of the Obama contingent and the DNC *do* have to justify why you think it was acceptable to take those 18,000,000 votes and dispose of them at the convention.  YOU have to justify why it was OK to deny Hillary Clinton’s delegates a legitimate roll call vote during the convention.  YOU need to tell us why there wasn’t a debate on who would get the nomination because the delegate count between the two of them was slimmer than a gnat hair.

Come, come, Mr. Brune, let’s not have any hypotheticals and revisionist history.  We know what went on during the Clinton administration because unlike some Obama supporters, we were old enough to vote.  Just because you didn’t like her, and found him to be a flawed human being, doesn’t mean you have the right to tell us what we should be thinking.  You and your clueless cohort continue to dismiss our opinions and ask us to come up with reasons that you can shoot down.  And you shoot them down because you haven’t come to terms with why you rejected the best candidate you had in 2008.  I think we both know why you deep sixxed her.  We’ve seen enough so we know what lurks at the bottom of what might be called your souls.  There’s no reason for us to continue to play this game with you.

Here’s the bottom line, Mr. Brune.  There are still voters out there who prefer Hillary Clinton.  There are some former Obama voters who have snapped out of it and have had a change of heart.  There are some Republicans who are alarmed enough about economic conditions and have been impressed by her performance on a world stage.  And in the latest polls she is leading by wide margins against any Republican challenger the right wants to throw at her.  She beats them more soundly than Obama ever will.

You can’t change that.  It must be frustrating for you that we just don’t get it.  We just will not accept that getting what we actually want and voted for is not going to happen.  All of the “serious people” have decided that, in advance, and consider us silly women and crazy, delusional nutcases.  The trouble is our numbers are not going down.  We stubbornly resist the “serious peoples'” attempts to reason with us, which for some peculiar reason come off sounding like mocking condescension.

If it feels like the former Clintonistas and new converts are determined to drive the country off a cliff next year if they don’t get with the program and vote for Obama, then good!  Now you know what it feels like to be ignored and lead involuntarily into a period of economic instability by a president who is tragically unprepared to deal with it.

There’s your answer, Mr. Brune.  No, no, don’t thank me.

***********************************************

For those of you still wondering why the big deal over Steve Jobs, here’s another piece of the puzzle.  Back in February, Silicon Valley doges got together to host a dinner for Obama.  He was no doubt trying to get his donors all lined up in advance.  Steve Jobs wanted to plan the menu and thought that the chocolate cream pie the White House had ordered, along with the shrimp, cod and lentil soup was “too fancy”*.  Mark Zuckerberg was annoyed with John Chambers of Cisco who wanted Obama to get legislation passed that would allow him to not pay taxes on overseas profits.  Obama seemed annoyed too.  But Jobs wasn’t too pleased with Obama either:

Jobs, who had a coveted seat next to Obama, told the president about a growing need for engineers and pitched a popular idea in Silicon Valley: Grant any foreign student who earns an engineering degree in the United States a visa to stay upon graduation. Obama, though, said such a provision could only be included in the Dream Act, which would let illegal immigrants who arrive in the United States as minors and complete high school to become citizens — an idea opposed by congressional Republicans.

Jobs, who never had to worry about dealing with a loyal opposition at Apple, was not happy, saying later to Isaacson: “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.”

Nonetheless, Jobs was willing to create an iCampaign for Obama’s re-election after the president followed up on another idea the Apple co-founder offered up: launch a national initiative to provide basic engineering courses at community colleges or tech and trade schools, whose graduates could supervise manufacturing plants in the United States. The lack of such workers, Jobs said, was a key reason Apple doesn’t set up assembly lines in America.

In the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs, much is made of his “Reality Distortion Field”, Jobs irresistable charisma and belief that the impossible was attainable by sheer force of will of the people working on his projects.  This is probably a necessary trait for a president to have to some degree or another or he (or she) can’t lead.  And Obama, um, doesn’t.  Tom Brune might want to think about that because clearly, Hillary Clinton voters who watched her triumphing over the odds and the media during the primaries of 2008 detected the scent of a Reality Distortion Field.  It was strong enough that the Democratic party had to kill it.  But whatever.  Anyway, Jobs doesn’t have a very high opinion of Obama.  Jobs was a complex man and a bastard in many ways.  But one thing you can’t fault him for is his ability to size up people.  He had a knack for that and Jobs found Obama lacking.

By the way, has Obama ever followed up on Jobs request that community colleges and tech schools train new assembly line engineers? Anybody?  Tom?

*Interesting perspective on Jobs: He was a bit of an ascetic.  He had a weird aversion to a normal diet.  Jobs definitely ate to live and not the other way around.  He also thought buying 60,000 sq ft houses was an ostentatious and tasteless show of wealth.  He and his family owned several properties but he wasn’t into living in many of them.  His family home is nice but not plush or gargantuan by any stretch of the imagination.  His family didn’t have a live in staff of servants or a security detail.  For a billionaire, he lead a pretty modest life.  He was ambitious and driven but not by money or material things.  They did hang out with people who were into money.  Larry Ellison, who used to own one of the largest yachts in the world, the Rising Sun, invited Jobs and his family for excursions.  This prompted one of his kids to ask if they were going to take a ride with one of Jobs’ rich friends.  Too funny.

Arrogance, Insanity and Sociopaths

Back to the basement for more disinfecting, etc.  In the meantime, I’ve been checking out videos of Varna award winners.  The International Ballet Competition at Varna, Bulgaria every year attracts the best and brightest in the ballet world.  These young dancers go on to professional careers as principal dancers in companies all over the world.  And some of them still look like they’re having fun years later.  Here’s Michele Wiles, former Varna winner and principal dancer at ABT, checking out a slow motion camera:

I love to see people doing what they love with intensity and passion.  When they have obvious gifts, it’s hard not to be fascinated with them.  People who have a vision, perserverence and a fanatical devotion to perfection are charismatic and it’s easier to tolerate their faults.

Take Steve Jobs, for example.  The CEO of Apple recently stepped down presumably because his health was getting in the way of his work.  That must be maddeningly frustrating for a guy at the top of his field at a very creative period of his life.  Joe Nocera has a column in the NYTimes that describes Jobs’ working style and his less than diplomatic management style:

 The businessman I met 25 years ago violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their “bozo ideas.”

The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and “insanely” (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic.

The Steve Jobs the rest of the world has gotten to know in the nearly 15 years since he returned to Apple is no different. He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work. Just a few months ago, Fortune published an article about life inside Apple; it opened with an anecdote in which Jobs cut his staff to ribbons for putting out a product that failed to meet his standards. But his instincts have been so unerringly good — and his charisma so powerful — that Apple employees were willing to follow him wherever he led. Apple will miss those instincts.

The guy never mellowed.

Atrios wrote today about sociopaths, the politicians whose goal seems to just get elected and don’t really care about stuff.  It’s hard to know whether he’s referring to the current Republican slate or Obama himself.  I’m not sure these people are sociopaths.  That would require a charm offensive of some sort and from where I sit, none of the people running for president so far have an excess of sociopathic charm.  The Obama contingent of 2008 were clearly mesmerized by something else because, trust me, guys, he wasn’t at all charismatic in 2008.  Obama’s success derived from a slick marketing campaign with a clever aspirational appeal and not from any intrinsic strengths or gifts on the part of the candidate.

We could take a lesson from Jobs.  Charisma comes not from some syrupy appeal to bipartisanship or the reflected light of the thousands of upturned faces of Christian fanatics.  It comes from the drive to produce something new and different, something that no one has ever seen before, something that will hit the reset switch of what is expected.  People like Jobs don’t like compromise, especially when that compromise interferes with the idea in their heads.  That is what makes a leader.  A leader can afford to be a little arrogant and demanding.  Leaders are out in front.  They shift to a higher energy level and expect us to keep up with them.

What we’ve got here in the presidential candidates of 2012 is not so much a collection of sociopaths but a bunch of uninspiring radical conformists.  They aspire to nothing, they pander to all.  They are no leaders.  The sociopaths are the ones standing behind them.  There’s not much we can do about the Republican slate of candidates.  The whole party is speaking a different language and lives in a parallel universe.  The Democrats are a whole other story.  It’s still possible to take this campaign season up to a new energy level.

Think Different.

Tuesday: Keeping it Real …. or something.

I don’t know where this last week went …. have you seen it any where? There’s a reward waiting for anyone who can get it back to me.


And the YouTube clause makes it all OK? I don’t think so. But it will make it easier for us to post videos from Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live.

Comcast-NBC joint venture approval expected Tuesday

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski threw his support behind the deal in late December with a number of conditions. Among them, senior FCC staff said the joint venture would have to commit to assurances that it wouldn’t stifle competition in the fast-evolving online video market.

To that end, sources said the company may also be required to share NBC content with Internet companies, such as YouTube and Roku, if other networks, such as CBS and Walt Disney, are doing so.

Justice is expected to impose conditions that prohibit “anti-retaliatory” moves by the joint venture against competitors and partners. As Justice did in the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the new company couldn’t retaliate against any venue owner that chooses to use another company’s ticketing services or promotional services.


First of all — 35-40 kids taking Advanced Placement macroeconomics …. in high school? What’s that about? And then they make the kids GO to the school to work at a computer lab? Are pajamas allowed in the dress code? Because otherwise it just doesn’t seem fair.

Florida Has Classes Without Teachers

These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002. The amendment limits the number of students allowed in classrooms, but not in virtual labs.

Under the state’s class-reduction amendment, high school classrooms cannot surpass a 25-student limit in core subjects, like English or math. Fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms can have no more than 22 students, and prekindergarten through third grade can have no more than 18.

Alix Braun, 15, a sophomore at Miami Beach High, takes Advanced Placement macroeconomics in an e-learning lab with 35 to 40 other students. There are 445 students enrolled in the online courses at her school, and while Alix chose to be placed in the lab, she said most of her lab mates did not.

“None of them want to be there,” Alix said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.”


Knowing full well the Republicans have no real intention of changing anything, I can’t wait to see how people feel about this bill if the subsidies are stripped from it. Can you imagine that mandate without any subsidies? How can they guarantee all that sweet, sweet cash to the insurance companies without subsidies? I have to laugh at the thought that they’re seriously planning to cut funding:

Repeal vote just the first step for Republicans on health care

The real work begins immediately afterward, with Republicans using every legislative and political tool at their disposal to wage a two-year campaign against the overhaul. And there won’t be anything subtle about this slow-drip strategy as Republicans aim to erode public confidence in the law and, they hope, make it so politically unpalatable that even some Democrats turn against it.

And it seems that we’ll be substituting “passion” for “overheated” in the future. Don’t forget:

House Set to Launch Health Law Challenge

Both sides, though, may try a little harder to keep the debate from becoming overheated. President Obama and Republicans alike reject claims that political rhetoric contributed to the shooting last Saturday in Arizona. But the president urged Congress to keep the discourse “worthy” of the victims. And in the days following, House Speaker John Boehner has noticeably avoided describing the bill as the “job-killing” health care law.

Instead, Boehner substituted the term “job-destroying” during Republicans’ retreat in Baltimore over the weekend. And in a post on his official House speaker blog Monday, his office referred to the policy as the “job-crushing” heath care law, which contained “job-destroying” taxes and requirements.

That doesn’t mean the name of the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” will change. Sources say it will not. It doesn’t mean either side will do away with the dire warnings about what’s at stake. But it suggests lawmakers may show a tad more restraint in setting the terms of a debate which is unavoidably passionate.


It looks like Steve Jobs medical fight continues. It’s really bad news, but at least he should be able to pay his bills:
Apple’s Steve Jobs takes medical leave

For the second time in two years, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking leave of absence from the company because of a medical condition, according to a letter Jobs sent to Apple employees.

“At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company,” Jobs says in the letter.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, will take control of the company in Jobs’ absence.


I don’t think this is going to be a surprise to anyone who’s lost a lot of weight all at once. I thought it was from the diet changes but, it doesn’t surprise me that fat cells hide pollutants in addition to fat. They’re already storing fat so we know they have no loyalty to us at all.

Weight loss may send pollutants into bloodstream

Body fat stores certain pollutants, including such pesticides as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). If a person loses weight and significant amounts of body fat are broken down, these chemical compounds, known as persistent organic pollutants, are released and can lead to disease, said researchers from Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea.

“The strong dogma on weight change is that weight loss is always good while weight gain is always bad,” but that may not always hold up, said study researcher Dr. Duk-Hee Lee, a professor at the university.

Hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis have been linked to persistent organic pollutants, Lee said.


While some people were shocked I thought Ricky Gervais was the best thing about the Golden Globe ceremony the other night:

Globes host Ricky Gervais explains ceremony absence

In the latter part of the show, having been off stage for a lengthy period of time, a more subdued Gervais appeared, prompting speculation he had been told to tone down his act.

But Gervais insisted: “I was allowed to choose who I would introduce in advance. I obviously chose presenters who I had the best jokes for, and who I knew had a good sense of humour.

“Everyone took it well and the atmosphere backstage and at the after show was great.”

US critics appeared divided, with The Los Angeles Times saying his jokes set “a corrosive tone” for the night.

Jon Stewart ‘Offended’ by Rickey Gervais’s Golden Globes Comedy

On the other hand:

Last night, Jon Stewart weighed in on the debate over whether or not Ricky Gervais blew it at the Golden Globes, admitting that he was “offended that a comedian could be that funny at an awards show.”

So, I think we’ve settled THAT.


That’s the news here in Kansas … what’s going on in your Internet?

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