This post is not about the amusing/appalling mayor of Toronto, I swear; but for reasons you'll understand shortly, I have to open with a quote from a story about him in this week's Newsweek: The defense proffered by Toronto mayor Rob Ford, caught in a ...
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"They rode on." - 5 new articles

  1. Intentional anonymity, or Un?
  2. The Intouchables
  3. Deja Carbonated Vu
  4. An Apple a Day
  5. RIM: on the rim?
  6. More Recent Articles

Intentional anonymity, or Un?

This post is not about the amusing/appalling mayor of Toronto, I swear; but for reasons you'll understand shortly, I have to open with a quote from a story about him in this week's Newsweek:
The defense proffered by Toronto mayor Rob Ford, caught in a video smoking crack, is astoundingly, bracingly forthright: "Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.... Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago." Let the smoke settle on that one: He's seeking absolution for drug use by claiming annihilation by alcohol. The ancient Greeks might have called that hubris. I call it genius. 
I think the Toronto mayor - about whose politics I know almost nothing, other than that they manage to combine stupidity and dishonesty in ever-more original arrangements - has chosen the shrewdest defense available to him, calculating that his white constituents' fascination with crack cocaine makes him seem more like a cultural adventurer than a desperate fiend.
The icky conclusion I've come to is that Ford chose the perfect drug to abuse. 
Now, here is the most interesting question inspired by the quote above: exactly whose opinion is this, really? I don't mean, "Who are the people who share the author's view?" What I mean, simply, is "Who the hell is the author?"  Period.  Again, not, "Who does he or she think he or she is to hold or voice this opinion?" No. I mean, "What is his or her NAME?"  In the first three paragraphs, the author is right there with us no fewer than four times: "I call it . . . I think . . . I know . . . I've come to . . . ."  WHO ARE YOU?

I'm all about using the first-person in formal writing.  I've never taught my students to avoid it.  But it should be intentional.  It should serve a purpose.  That purpose is defeated if the author is anonymous, unless the purpose is merely to set an in-your-face tone.  If that's the purpose here, then, "Mission Accomplished!"  Coward.  Really.  If you're going to make a point of putting your face nose-to-nose with mine while you voice your opinion, then come out from under your burka, Bob, or Betty, or whoever you are.

Interestingly, I can ask this same question about any of the articles in this week's Newsweek (maybe all of them since January; heck, I haven't really been paying attention that closely).  It doesn't come out in print any more, just in case you missed that.  Since last January, it's digital only.  That trend (or the threat thereof) was actually one of the principle reasons I chose to ask for an iPad for Christmas last year rather than a new piece of skydiving gear.  And don't misunderstand my issue here--I like the digital version.  I like the bright images and the ability to link to video or audio or right on out of the magazine entirely.  But I digress.  My point is, when did this anonymity become a feature of a major news magazine?  Or am I wrong to still think of Newsweek in that way?  Is it now a rag?  Has its cachet plummeted so precipitously that the writers no longer care to be credited for their work?  Fascinating.

Just in case, if there's a way to see the byline on these articles, and I'm just so much of a Luddite that I'm missing it, feel free to clue me in, by all means. And, of course, I know (or hope) that the author isn't really a coward.  I know that someone way above him or her in the corporate food chain decided this was a good idea.  And I'm thankful to my own cousin, Barry, for trying to warn me years ago where we were headed.

Oh wait!  I think they just answered my question. Here is the first sentence from the lead story in this issue; thus, the first sentence in the issue:  "No one could ever accuse Newsweek of undcovering [sic] the Kennedy administration."  Unless they're attempting to coin a new word (move over Shakespeare), I think they meant undercovering. Carmax has better proofreaders.

Rag. Definitely. Digital rag. 


The Intouchables

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a short note on Facebook about just how bad Prometheus was.  To wit:
Movie review: Prometheus sucks!!!!!!!! (The details are in the exclamation points.)
In short, when it was over, I really just wanted that two hours of my life back.

Tonight, we saw The Intouchables.  It was like getting the two hours back with interest.  Could be the best movie I've seen since Reign Over Me in 2007.  That's saying something.

Deja Carbonated Vu

Back in 1977, one fine Friday night before a SAMI (Saturday Morning Inspection), having finished polishing the floor, making the quarter-bouncing beds that we dared not sleep in, but rather on, hiding the dirty laundry beneath a cardboard cutout wrapped in the army-green laundry bag and placed perfectly level and square like a false bottom in the hamper, polishing the sink, rolling all the socks so that they smiled cheerfully, and perfectly spacing each hanger in the closet like so many mutually repellent ions in some state of equidistant neutrality . . . after all that, I departed the room I shared with two other freshmen and marched, squaring my corners as I went, down to the squadron ready room and treated myself to can of soda.  Coke I expect; this being before the days of Diet Everything, and my 18-year-old metabolism having no use for Tab.  Precious beverage in hand, swinging at my side as I marched back to the room, held upright by a thumb and three fingers extended down the side of the can, the top resting near my palm, I rotated it as I walked so that as I made that final right-angle turn into the room, my index finger was already positioned at the tab, ready to pop it and release that audible sigh of refreshment well-earned.

And pop the tab I did, just barely, before the whole can slipped from my fingertips, still upright, and accelerated steadily toward the floor, still upright, landing with a solid thud, still upright, and resting there for a second, just long enough for me to marvel at my good fortune that it had landed so, still upright, seal barely cracked . . . motionless . . . for just a second . . . while the vibrations and shock from that solid landing, that sudden stop, completed the transfer of energy, potential while the can was in my hand, kinetic during the trip to floor, and now, explosive as all that carbon dioxide, formerly in solution, under pressure, and held so by the walls of the can as vessel, became gaseous and made its way in a rude press of molecule upon molecule that would anticipate the crush of holiday shoppers through Walmart's doors in Black Friday openings years into the future.

It would be at least two more years before I would understand the conspiracy of Bernoulli and Venturi (even now, I can't swear to the exact laws in play) in that tiny crack at the top of that soda can.  As that one blissful and deceiving second came to an end, so did all the meticulous preparation that had gone into making our room a shining example of spotless perfection.  Soda shot straight up to the ceiling in a razor-fine line emanating from that seal the cracking of which had been the last act of my last finger to leave the can.  Well not straight up exactly.  It was off center enough to turn the can from an upright fountain to a spinning grenade of sugary brown disaster.  Not a wall, not a bed, not a mirror, not a closet, not a desk, not a roommate, not a far corner of that room beneath or above any bed, desk, or bookshelf escaped that spinning arc of The Real Thing before it ceased its whirring and lay only gently rocking a last second or two in a bubbling puddle at the center of the room.

All things considered, it's a wonder I survived that night and the ire of my roommates.

Which brings us to the present.

I was putting away the Jameson in the liquor cabinet in the study tonight, and I bumped a can of Coke Zero from the top of the stack.  The distance it fell to the floor wasn't even as far as that can traveled 35 years ago.

And yet, the rest, as they say, was history . . . repeating itself.

An Apple a Day

It's only appropriate that the last post I made here worried that RIM was on the rim.  This post--and probably quite a few to follow--will be singing the praises of my new iPhone 4s.

"An Apple a Day" is really a title that looks to the future.  A more apt title for this post might be "Never Say 'Never.'"  I did.  Say "never" that is.  When Apple did their deal with the devil (AT&T) when the iPhone first came out, I swore I would never own one.  It might be the coolest phone on the face of the earth, but my disdain for AT&T was so great that I couldn't conceive ever really minding cutting off my nose to spite my face on that one.  I wasn't about to switch from Verizon. (Say what you will, they've been good to me over the years.  If that ever changes, so will my cell carrier.  Just ask RIM.  I'm all about loyalty, but loyalty is a two-way street.  Go to sleep at the wheel, start moving backwards, cease to innovate, and you're no longer deserving of loyalty; rather, you're just hoping that your consumer base will confuse that laudable quality with mere inertia.  Dream on.  Take a lesson from Palm.  Heck, it's too late for that.  Take a lesson from yourself.)

All of which is to say: I made the switch last week, and in the time since, buyer's remorse hasn't even been in my vocabulary.

Any of you longtime Apple devotees out there should just stop reading now, unless your smug-low-level light is on, in which case, what follows should extinguish it for good.

Often I've asked friends who gave up their PC for a Mac long ago what it is that they like most about Apple products, and frequently the answer has come back as, "It just works."  At which point, I would always think, well so does my PC, my Blackberry, etc.  Duh.  Only in the last few days have I come to understand what that phrase has meant.  My Blackberry for instance, would usually do what I asked of it, s  l  o  w  l  y, and often only after I had submitted my request in triplicate, for a second time, or third, earlier efforts having been returned stamped "Disapproved! Resubmit in 30 days."

The iPhone, on the other hand, well, it just works.  Freakin' instantly.  And I don't even have to learn how to hold my mouth right when I press the "buttons."  Sure, there are some things I can't do on the iPhone that I could on the Blackberry.  I'm going to miss those things.  But I'm not going to miss those things enough to miss the platform they came with.  Categories for my tasks, notes, and contacts.  I'll miss that.  I'll get over it.  I'll fill that ten seconds of longing by accomplishing five tasks in the time it used to take to do one.  And I'll do all five at the same time, switching seamlessly between them, and never see a message that says my application memory is low and don't I want to remove something?

I don't mean to become Apple's greatest fan, but I do mean, if I can find the time, to post now and then about some of the cooler apps I've found.  I'm not much about games.  I'm about getting things done and getting them done faster and with less frustration.  In that respect, the iPhone 4s is making more strides than any gadget I've ever owned.

Yeah, I know.  You told me so.

RIM: on the rim?

Hmmm.  As I sit in the Richmond airport at 8:00 a.m., kicking myself, the veteran standby-flight traveler, for not knowing better than to show up for the comfortable 7:00 a.m. flight when the first flight of the day left just before 6:00 a.m.--with seats empty that should have been occupied by some of those ticketed passengers who filled the seat I'm not in on the 7:00 a.m. flight either, I find I'm having the same kind of luck with getting any work done on the Blackberry.  Apparently, the RIM network I'm not connected to at the moment is as full to overflowing as was that aircraft I'm not on.  After two and a half years now on a Crackberry, this is only the second time I can remember when this has happened with a duration long enough to be noticeable to me.  The disconcerting part is that those two times have happened within the last two weeks.  In the lingo of an old aircrew evaluator, that makes this a trend.  And that is cause for concern.

I switched to Blackberry from Palm because Palm went to sleep at the wheel.  Having made their fortunes, they let service slide, software "upgrades" moved backwards, coming with fewer features and more glitches than each previous version.  So, I did what any committed capitalist does: I voted with my feet and my $, and took my business elsewhere.

I'm not all that fond of change, really.  I love adventure, and when forced to it, I can embrace the new cheese with Sniff and Scurry all day, but I'm also a great believer in the value of loyalty.  The thing is, loyalty has to be a two-way street, especially in business.  Companies that stay in business a long time have one of two things going for them: either they have no viable competition doing a better job, or they give consistently excellent and reliable service.  Only the fickle go looking elsewhere without good reason.  That's what it means to be fickle.

I'm not fickle, but nothing I'm reading about RIM, its latest outage and its management principles is giving me a good feeling about what I should expect of Blackberry in the days to come.  Most of what I'm finding online suggests that people aren't really happy working for RIM these days.  Big companies are like the human body, the health of the whole is a reflection of an infinite number of smaller parts.  The bottom line is just a face.  Managers forget that too often.  Some never learn it.

Get it right RIM.  Quickly.  It may be too late already.  The bronze head may have already spoken.  Time is.  Time was.  Time is passed.

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