polemicist: a writer who argues in opposition to others  

A BLOG about science, technology, consumerism, philosophy, higher education, media and other bothersome stuff that makes up modern life...

20070730.0940 Corporate Landmarks

 The first "amusement park" in American history was Coney Island.  This means that a really choice piece of beach-front property in New York, within a 40 minute train-ride from Manhattan is being used by the public.  In a corporate-dominated society this isn't something that will last.  The future of Coney Island is in question.

I had the occasion to go there last weekend.  The Cyclone is safe from developers, because it is a historical landmark.  Just about everything else is up for grabs.  The original plan included condos.  The story being told now is that public outcry nixxed those condos.  I predict that demolition will take place, and nothing will be built afterwards.  The land will be left to rot on purpose.  It will be left in a useless state just long enough for people to be sold on the idea that the condos will make things better.  Then the original plan will go ahead again - only with even less emphasis on the public face of it.

The story that I linked to above has the author saying "good riddance" to the surrounding neighborhoods & businesses.  I can't disagree more.  Coney Island is supposed to reek of hucksterism and side-show freaks.  As a historical landmark, it preserves the actual history of carnivals - the seedy flash and grab smiling clown reaching for your wallet is an intrinsic part of it.  Coney Island isn't Disney.  Nor should it be.  Nathan's hot dogs aren't health food either, nor is anything else that you can eat or drink there.

There is a certain nostalgic appeal to having ski-ball lanes right next to the Japanese-only edition of Dance-Dance-Revolution-Extreme.  I wouldn't give it up for the world.  This is why I went & took about 500 pictures.  I want to remember it the way it was - since it will be replaced with what would at best be a simulation.


20070724.1608 The Stuff Of Nightmares

I really don't mean to be trite, but I can't help it.  All I can think of is the scene early in Starship Troopers where a veteran says to the recruits "Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today."  It's a great advancement and it's dealing with a horrible tragedy, but it's also life imitating art.


20070723.1427 How stupid do you have to be?

 "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky animals and you know it." - Agent K, Men in Black

First people waited on line for days to buy a product with no stock shortages.  Now they're apparently willing to pay $5 to walk into a Store and look at products, or maybe even buy them.  Is that $5 applied to your purchase?  Is it just for the priviledge of being allowed into the store?  Is it a membership fee or do I have to pay every time I come back.  What if I have to keep coming back because your 'genius' never gets it right?  Do I get my $5 back?  Is this even legal?  It's obviously STUPID.  If you want to see an iPhone - why not go to an AT&T store?  That's where I bought mine.

I wonder if it's about letting the "right kind of people" into the Apple Store, or it's about a quick buck.  If I were to submit to a transponder being implanted into my arm as identification - would they let me back in for free?  It would prove that I was extra-extra-stupid.

I actually look forward to an age where people have implants like this.  I will never have one, but I'll wear devices that will steal your identity when I shake your hand.  Since it's not a simple thing to replace or modify once it's inside of you - you might end up with a new one every year.  Now instead of once piece of rice in your arm - you'll get a new one every year.

Wise up!  ID cards are better.  You can throw them away or leave them places like a safe when you want to.  You can't be tracked without wishing to be.  You can report it lost or stolen & get a new one.  You can upgrade to the most secure technology every day if you really had to.  Do you really want a bank job if someone with a machete and a hankering to get into the vault is waiting in the parking lot to collect your arm?


20070719.1209 I got mine, you get yours?

So I took the plunge on Monday and bought an iPhone.  Three days and two flights later I'm still finding excuses to turn the thing on every couple of minutes.  What can I say?  It's awesome.  It's the first device to implement Multi-Touch and frankly that's the Killer App on it.  For looking at pictures & web browsing it's the best device out there.  

Note I said "Device" , not network.  As every Razr owner discovered, having a decent device is only 1/2 of the equation.  The EDGE network is pretty slow.  iPhone users are the new wave of netStumbling WiFi leeches.  The YouTube feature for example is almost useless without a WiFi connection.  I watched a few episodes of AskANinja while waiting for a plane.  I can imagine few other times when I'd have that kind of patience. 

But when you're on a WiFi network, it's awesome.  In particular I really like the multi-tasking.  Web pages and videos keep loading in the background even when you 'sleep' the unit.  This is really convenient.  So is the auto-cutover with the phone when you're doing something else.

But like everyone else, I have my own list of pet peeves that I'd like to see addressed in an update.  They go a little something like this:

  • I had to upgrade iTunes and my OS just to activate the phone
  • Since AT&T does a credit check before they let you set up an account they require your Social Security number.  The monthly price you pay for service depends on what kind of credit risk they think you are.  If you have to pre-pay then there are a different set of rates.  Since you can't know this until you try to activate the iPhone, you can't then go back & return it if you don't like the plans.  Well you could, but...
  • 10% restocking fee for returns that are in opened boxes
  • As for functionality - it took a little getting used to the word-based correction.  It's similar to the Newton in how annoying the suggestions can be if you use jargon, proper names, or texting abbreviations especially.  It takes some adjusting to.
  • There is no cut & paste that I can find.  I really want to be wrong about this.  It's unbelievable that it's not there.
  • Widescreen mode is not supported by all applications.
  • I've crashed Safari many times now. is a guaranteed crash, which really puts a cramp on AIM usage at this point.  There really should be an app on there.  That the SMS tool looks a lot like iChat makes it smell like AT&T didn't want IM on the unit since they can bonk you for up to US$0.15/message.  Since it's a closed platform - no one would be able to add it either.
  • eMail doesn't auto-refresh nor notify you when you get mail.
  • Syncing with iPhoto & Contacts seems to be one-way.  I can bring down data from the iPhone, but I'm having a lot of trouble pushing it up there.  This one is most likely my problem - but it's certainly not obvious & there's not a lot in the way of preferences in iTunes.
  • You can't make podcasts with it.  What's up with that?
  • Lastly I'll note that I can't post to this BLOG from it, because Google Page Creator doesn't support Safari.

20070713.1342 Mouthing Off

Not that I have such wonderful things to say... and not that it's all that important...  But I don't only complain into this vaccuum.  I do it all the time.  I've been told that my primary form of communication is The Rant.

Here are a few examples of me handing out corrections & derision this week (scroll down to see my comments):

Nothing offends my delicate sensibilities like cluelessness.  I am myself often clueless and I hate it - so I do whatever I can to fix that.  I invite criticism for that very reason.  Hence, I offer it rather often as well.

20070710.1637 Rumors About the Future

Closed platform it may be, but the word is that  Apple has plans for the iPhone that will keep it from stagnating once you get bored of the paltry apps that they give you in the 1.0 release.  The rumor includes Flash but not Java.  That does imply though that you could back-end a web-application with Java & deliver the content with Flash and/or ColdFusion if you wanted to.  It's still going to suck eggs if you have a slow internet connection though.  That's where having those apps loaded locally really kicks in - in "Airplane Mode" when you don't have connectivity...  You mean I have to buy a newspaper if I want to play Sudoku on that long flight!?

20070709.1628 Access Granted

It has been revealed that Java can run on iPhoneApple doesn't want you to know this of course - they don't want you messing around with the device nor it's software at all.  Even the battery is soldered into the socket to keep you from replacing it with a better/cheaper/new one. 

The Steve had some disparaging comments lately about Java.  I can't say I'm shocked - Java was never a priority for Apple & I've personally had problems trying to run the UML tools in MyEclipse for over 2 years now because of an AWT-Swing-OS/X related bug that Apple didn't want to address(Notice how it's marked FIXED - but still doesn't work...)

I'm just wondering how long it will take for people to figure out how to load your own software on iPhone and how long it will take for Apple to break that ability. 

I also wonder how much this closed platform has to do with not wanting to support 3rd party software and any compatibility issues they cause and how much it has to do with wanting to rent applications to people on a subscription basis

20070709.0816 Can't Touch This

In continuance of my previous rants about Multi-Touch, I want to point out a recent patent application from Apple that would seem to extend Multi-Touch functionality to the mouse.  In my own circles at least, the last mouse they put out wasn't received very well - so anything new is a good move on their part, IMHO. 

20070706.1720 My Hero

Jon Johansen has done it again.  The iPhone is hacked!  AT&T is no longer a functional requirement.  Though Apple might not agree with that - since they signed contracts with AT&T.  Now had they allowed you to lease the thing - they might be able to say something to you.  But since you're actually buying the hardware - who's to legally say what you can & can't do with something you own?


20070706.1627 Weren't the Commies the Bad Guys?

Clearly there's a disconnect in the logic by which we as a nation deal with China.  On the one hand you have had 7 years of right-wingers pointing fingers at everyone & calling them 'liberal' like it's a swear-word.  And on the other you have the Communists- the Chinese government - whom those same right-wingers fall all over themselves do business with.  (I'm confused - isn't Communism considered "leftist"?)

Aside from the fact that the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq wasn't funded by American dollars buying war-bonds but is instead taken out as debt to China, we also have an annual trade deficit larger than the budgets of most governments.  

But why not make it even larger by having all of your products manufactured in China?  WallMart has famously coerced their suppliers into lowering prices by off-shoring their production.  It's just good business right?  Except that this isn't "fair-trade".  When Home Depot comes to your town & drives out all of the mom & pop hardware stores - where are you going to buy those metric fittings for your imported European toilet?  That's not considered fair because the big store drives out the small stores with ridiculous buying power but fail to cater to their niche markets.  You have lost the ability to choose.

Well what if you had $80 Billion worth of buying power?  Who could compete with you then?  That is the face of the Peoples-Republic-of-China, Inc..

And so we send out all of our nifty new gadgetry to China to be built cheaply.  Does anyone stop & wonder why it's so cheap?  The lack of realistic regulations on things like pollution, labor wages, and no respect whatsoever for Copyright laws might figure in there.  (When minimum wage tops out at $75/month - don't expect me to take their laws seriously.)

The knock-off iPhones were out months before iPhone was released.   What are the odds that they come from the same industrial park that Apple's products get built in?

How much longer are we going to export out Intellectual Property to "developing" countries until we realize that we ourselves aren't "developing" anything but a massive national debt the likes of which we've never seen before, while foreign designers get to cherry-pick our best ideas? 

By doing some quick math - I see that my personal share of that debt is about $30k - which is amazing since I remember when the debt was going to be a thing of the past.  That was what?  ONE administration ago.  Where the hell did all that money go?

20070702.1200 MicroManaged by Morons

I have found that in the New World Order scientists consistently take the back seat in the decision making process to those with political agendas.  In recent news for example, a technology decision is being driven by the White House.  The basic idea boils down to standardizing on a completely proprietary platform that has the worst proven track record for security, which only seems like a good idea because the Air Force says so.

I seem to remember something about an entire programming language being invented so that military systems wouldn't be dependent upon proprietary systems ever again...  and here we are.

In the Age of Outsourcing, the tactic seems to be to constantly ask "why not let corporations do the job of the government?"

Well I can answer that question simply, factually, & unemotionally.  The underlying mission of Government is to Serve the Public Good.  The underlying mission of corporations is to generate shareholder profit.  Both entities are legally charged with these responsibilities.  If a CEO were to be philanthropic with the corporate funds, they're legally in the wrong.  In the same way when a public official uses the offices of government to generate profit - they are equally in the wrong.

Public Corporations do not serve the general public - they only serve the shareholders.  Until stock is issued to every citizen in a village, town, city, county/parish/province, or other municipality then it is inappropriate to rely on a single corporation for any public service. 

Utilities are just as bad - by relying on one without any competition - we allow things to happen like energy companies not reinvesting their profits into developing adequate infrastructure.  Where's the Grid?  If a million people went out tomorrow & put up windmills & solar cells there's no way to get all that power distributed properly.


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