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Saturday, January 30, 2010

iPad iScmad

Apple launched the iPad with much hoopla. They were so eager to get to the market, they skipped over the question of whether they own the rights to the iPad name. They don't. I thought I could make hay off of the domain-- I can't: a bank owns it.
I do love the concept of the iPad: $499+ price tag. It has the streamlined sexy cool of the iPod and iPhone. I have seen lots of tablet PCs over the years. They were all wanting, so the market was ready for a new gadget. Many things suck about the iPad: one app at a time. What? Since 1988, I've been able to run more than one app. WTF? Even the new Palm has that capacity-- so iPod newer bigger brother should have been able to pull this off. What this will do is raise awareness of the tablet concept in the PC world. Between Windows 7, the iPod pinch-pull fascination and trending towards laptops, the iPad could have propelled us squarely in the tablet direction and opened the floodgates for Apple revenues. Instead, I think Apple will repeat the path of being a trailblazer followed by more successful innovators (eg. Mac vs. Windows).
The iPad is bigger iPod/iPhone. It's definitely not a better version of either, missing the portability of both and the functionality of the latter. I like that my laptop closes to becomes its own last line of defense. I like that my hands are resting atop the key pad while the screen square of facing me. The hinge on my laptop is keeping those two in a handy relationship. Sure you can play a game on the iPad, but the Wii, PS3 and 360 all do it better.
All of these are good reasons i Pass on the iPad. That said: make me into a believer. Give me a free iPad to review. If you make me love the iPad I will let my love be known to the world.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is Conan pulling the New Coke trick?

Back in the 1980s, Coca-Cola came out with "New Coke"-- it tasted like Pepsi. I remember scouring the town for the last few bottles of real Coke. There was a civil war over which was better: new Coke vs. old Coke. Under much hoopla and pressure, Coca-Cola put New Coke on ice (so to speak) and Coke Classic came out in its place. The mega-corporation caved to the will of the people. More than that: the public fell for stunt.
Fast forward to 2010. Conan O'Brien isn't everyone's cup of coffee. Johnny Carson was so hokey, his show was fun. Jay Leno was an update. Conan O'Brien ported over some of his audience and likely alienated some of the "Great Karnak" crowd.
The rumblings came about a month or two ago: Conan sucks, let's boot him. Conan sucks, bump his time slot. Conan sucks, he's going to Fox (presumably because all their shows suck). Everyone is asking about the fate of Conan. They're demonizing NBC and Jay Leno.
Last week, amid rumors that Conan was out "this" week, I watched the Friday night show-- after all, at the end of last week, you'd have the end of that week, right? Last night, I watched another new Tonight Show still with Conan O'Brien.
Last year, there was lots of sadness as Chek 6 went off the air-- wait. What? Riiight. They hatched this scheme to get the employees to buy the station, but they did it too late to make it work with CRTC. Their last day came. They replaced their programming with a lot of self-congratulatory footage. The next day: they were still on the air. The end came and went and they stayed on the air.
Is Conan pulling the "New Coke Stunt"? After all of this interest, and people watching with the car-wreck mindset, will NBC cave to the will of the people? Will Leno sign off and go into the sunset, making way for another five hours of Law & Order every week? Will a more popular Conan O'Brien emerge? Will we forget and, in July, faintly remember that there was a big uproar over the New Tonight Show.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti: 200 years of toil and pillaging

As our attention turns to Haiti with it's 100,000 - 500,000 dead, dying and injured, it's important to remember that Haiti has been the whipping boy of the Western world for some time. I have to think that Europeans have to shell to make up for some very tangible guilt we should be experiencing.

Haiti is the poorest economy in the Americas. Its GDP is $790 USD per capita is; or $2 per person per day. In its history, Haiti has seen 32 coups. Political chaos is a constant.

On more than one occasion US, French, German and British forces claimed large sums of money from the National Bank of Haiti. In 1915, Woodrow Wilson, sent in the marines to ensure that German and French forces wouldn't threaten nearby Panama Canal. The election in the Senate was overseen by US Marines, armed with fixed bayonets. Then the U.S. forced a treaty on Haiti's leader, Dartiguenave that would establish American control of customs houses. This allowed them to load up good and float them away.

In the last decade, the taps of aid money have gone on and off like so much bad Haitian plumbing. Following the disputed election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2000, European nations suspended government-to-government assistance. Haiti received no help from the World Bank nor the Inter-American Development Bank for years, prior. The US Congress banned any US assistance from being channeled through the Haitian government, choking off avenues for Haitian corruption as well as Haitian development.
Haitians continued to be practice democracy in front a US gun. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was effectively kidnapped in 2004. Supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party and Aristide, as well as some foreign supporters, denounced the rebellion as a foreign controlled coup d'etat orchestrated by Canada, France and the United States.
Prior to his capture, Aristide demanded that France pay Haiti over $21 billion back, the adjusted amount that Haiti was forced to pay Paris after winning its freedom from France as the hemisphere's first independent black nation 200 years ago. Had his gambit to wrestle money from France succeeded, he would have had momentum to get back the money stolen by Germany, Britain and the US. Imagine a Haiti flush with $100+ billion. Before that could play out, Aristide was whisked away. He is now in exile in South Africa.

What do political strife, European raiding and earthquakes have in common? They are completely connected.

In the early 1900s, Haiti was an easy target-- they lost money that could have gone into their infrastructure and built generations of stability. Poor people don't have time to get engaged in democratic government when they don't know how they'll get food, clothing and shelter.

It was easy for Papa Doc Duvalier and his son, to rule a closed kingdom rife with corruption as his forces kept the populace in terror. In the 1970s, the US tried establish assembly plants for US manufacturers but that didn't build lasting success. In the mid-1980s, during the August days of the Cold War, the US continued military and economic aid to the Duvalier regime. Aristide rose to power after the ouster of Baby Doc Duvalier and a constitution was drafted in 1987. A coup d'etat sent Aristide into his first exile in 1991. Therein, Haiti fell into three years of chaos. In 1994, Haitian General Raoul C├ędras asked former US President Jimmy Carter to intercede to avoid another US military invasion of Haiti.
A transfer of power was successfully negotiated the departure of Haiti's military leaders and the peaceful entry of US forces under Operation Uphold Democracy, paving the way for the restoration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president.

Haiti has been on shaky ground since long before the quake of Jan. 12th. The political chaos is a breeding ground for corruption, stalled projects and poverty. The lack of capital has robbed Haiti of its basics-- from building codes to good utilities, well trained healthcare professional and first responders. A lot more buildings should have withstood this shaking.
After the quakes, the death toll will climb. There's the Golden Hour-- seriously injured people who do not get to aid die. After that comes the emergency excavation with construction equipment re-tasked to lift walls off of survivors. A shambles economy means few big projects and very few bull dozers ready to presh into service. All of those moaning people trapped in the rubble will start to fall silent tonight. By Friday, only a lucky few will still be holding on as miraculous anecdotes.
What follows after that is more futile and sad to witness: Haiti's infrastructure leaves a lot of people without running water. Last Monday, 30% of Port au Prince's people didn't have access to clean drinking water. Last Monday, 29% of the urban citizens had access to sanitation. Today, those odds will be much worse. People will be scavenging for water; when they can't find clean water, they'll take what they can find. If an earthquake hit a North American home, the residents could poke open tins and live off of cold corn for the days while the disaster effects subsided. Haitans living on $2/day don't have a cupboard, let alone a full cupboard. Sickly, cold survivors will be starving.
Disease resurgence will be the final insult. Approximately 120,000 of the 9.8 million citizens are HIV positive. With hundreds of thousands of people bloodied and injured, and medical precautions in short supply, there will be lots of opportunities for new transmission. Money won't come fast enough to rebuild the flattened neighbourhoods. Come spring, stagnant water will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and pathogens. Malaria and a host of other diseases will debilitate the survivors.

What can we do?
First: send aid. Inform others that they need to help and help now. There are suggestions that we should allow an influx of immigrants from Haiti into the US and Canada. That would take people out of harms way.
Second: settle up. Guilt the countries who pulled big dollar bank robberies. In Haiti's history, several countries have trucked off gold and goods. Guilt those countries into returning the cash. The cost in lives will never be settled up, but at least we can give them back their cash. Give them the cash they need to transform Haiti.

Monday, January 11, 2010

8:15AM : Newsflash : Disaster @ Point Ellice Bridge

Disaster struck the Bay Street bridge this morning. Last night, a worker on the Point Ellice Bridge ruptured a Terasen gas line. Vehicle traffic was blocked off from the area. Details at present are sketchy, but this morning as an unnamed government worker was biking to work while enjoying his morning smoke. The source of ignition touched off the gas leak and tragedy ensued. Emergency teams are still on the scene at this hour.

Last night, a gas leak led to the closure of the Point Ellice (Bay Street) Bridge and it was not expected to open until close to noon today. In addition to the closure to vehicle traffic, marine traffic heading into and out of the Upper Harbour and air traffic in the area is affected. Bicycle traffic, pedestrians and vagrants making use of the paths near the bridge were not redirected.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Pink Industrial Complex

I am really tired of the stupid Facebook meme posting your bra color on your status. First off, most men cannot post in support. Second, women who have have double mastectomies cannot post either. Sorry, ladies, you've lost your breasts and your capacity to participate because you no longer wear a bra. Third, the goal of the "Think PinkTM" is not to cure breast cancer-- there is no cure. This isn't like smallpox where you can contain the virus and put the djinn in the bottle. Every woman may eventually have their body turn on them and give them a breast tumor. What we can hope for is to get mortality from cancer and metastasis down to almost 0%. You get cancer and you'll survive-- maybe even with both breasts unblemished. That's the deal with cancer, pneumonia, broken bones, heart disease and most illnesses: immunity will be hard to impossible. A solid treatment is possible with enough research and better prevention. In 100 years, women will still hear that they have cancer. Maybe in 20 years, they'll never hear that it's terminal.

Because the PinkTM industrial-complex is looking for a Cure, people are supporting a goal that cannot be attained. The Run for the CureTM can go on for 100 years and still never reach its goal. I wish I had thought of a campaign: "Make Mike 20 yrs. old!" You can keep the research going forever, you can give me the health of a 20 yr. old or give me 60 years of coming health; but you'll never make me 20 years old, so the fund raising can go on and on.

A couple alternatives posts have emerged and I like them both:

URGENT! FACEBOOK VIRUS ALERT. An email recently went out to women asking them to post the color of their bra. THIS IS A VIRUS. To fix it, you must remove your bra, then go to Settings>Enable Webcam>Record Movie. Please repost to your status.

Breastfeeding reduces your chances of getting breast cancer, and the longer you nurse, the lower your risk. It also helps your daughter reduce HER chances of getting breast cancer. So post this instead of the color of your bra today.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Obvious

I have a friend who tries to be authoritative. He's also a little dim-- the worst kind of dim: the type he doesn't know he's a little dim. How does he exert his intellect? He tells you do the only thing possible; or he tells to do what you're already doing:
I get up from the table. He says, "Get up."
I'm about to reach for my coffee. He says, "That's your coffee."
I driving down the road. He says, "Drive the van."

There are two things going on. First, it seems like this guy is stuck with someone who doesn't know when to stand up or breath; he's a lifesaver. Second, he's speaking with authority so whatever he says, no matter how obvious or pointless, it seems necessary.

I have Obvious People in several parts of my life. I'm happy that I'm able to keep them all so busy tripping over the Obvious.

[Extra capitalization and punctuation gaffes were implanted so that the Obvious People could exercise their "BLOODY OBVIOUS" muscles.]

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