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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Fiscal Cliff Talks “Frozen,” Blogger Yawns.

At this point, what I fear most is the two sides agreeing on anything, including the shape of the table.

Take Five, Mr. Brubeck

December 5th, 2012 - 11:20 am

Jazz pianist and pioneer Dave Brubeck is dead at 91. I was lucky enough to see him perform at Stephens College about a quarter century ago. It was an oddly wonderful show, with the The Dave Brubeck Quartet (featuring the amazing Bobby Militello) and the Murray Louis Dance Co, a modern dance group. Each act performed one set individually, and then the third set was both of them performing on stage together. It was a helluva show.

Brubeck’s legacy is assured, but complicated. He did more than any other artist to push the frontiers of jazz. Brubeck even explored the limits of what made jazz listenable. And that’s the rub. Many imitators tried following in his footsteps, but what Brubeck could do, they mostly could not.

If you’ve ever heard some atonal screeching with a time signature the MIT Math Department couldn’t figure out, you’re listening to one of Brubeck’s less-talented disciples. Even greatly-talented artists could fall into the Brubeck Trap. I’m thinking specifically of Occasion, a modern jazz collaboration between Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. There are maybe two tracks on the album which don’t sound like a cat being beaten with a piano by the rhythmically-impared.

Maybe I’m just to ignorant to understand — but I know what I like.

Brubeck’s genius wasn’t just that he pushed jazz in new directions, but that he never lost his sense of playfulness in getting there. That I think is what is missing in his disciples — they take it all too seriously. “Modern jazz is math and math is hard.”

Brubeck made it sound easy, and his joy always shone through.

Here’s an example of just that, with Brubeck and his Trio playing “Sweet Georgia Brown” live in 1955 — as only they could.

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Livin’ Large and on the Dole

December 5th, 2012 - 9:45 am

Sigh:

Two Senate Republicans identified a welfare loophole that allows ‘paid government volunteers’ in AmeriCorps to receive food stamps from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — for which they should not qualify, as a rule — in addition to a stipend from the government.

We live in the Welfare State. Behave accordingly.

The Media War Against the Mobile Web

December 5th, 2012 - 7:13 am

Neither Samsung, nor Amazon, nor Microsoft, nor BlackBerry could pry the iPad from my hands. But somebody finally did — and you won’t believe who it was.

My ancient white plastic MacBook hadn’t moved once from the teleprompter stand since I bought a first-generation iPad, going on three years now. And even though I’ve owned a speedy iPad with Retina Display since those first came out, I broke down a couple weeks ago and bought myself a new laptop. I still love tablets, and still take mine everywhere, but it’s no longer the go-to device when I’m away from my desk.

Feel free to laugh at me, the guy who had sworn off laptops forever. But before you point and laugh, let me explain why.

The web now sucks on tablets. It just sucks. Because a bunch of media and news companies broke it. On purpose.

It’s as if a bunch of high-level IT guys met in a secret bunker a couple years ago, seething at stupid Steve Jobs and stupid Apple and their stupid iPad. Then they hatched an evil plot to ruin tablet browsing. And they’ve pretty much succeeded.

(The bunker part is fictional; the seething at all things Apple is not.)

A few examples.

Near as I can tell, it started with ABC News. Shortly after the original iPad came out, ABC would no longer let you browse their standard website. Now, there’s no good reason for this, because Mobile Safari is a full-fledged browser that can take anything you throw at it (besides Flash of course), on a screen big enough to navigate. Amongst ABC’s cruelties:

• Their mobile site dropped standard web navigation standards in favor of what one critic (me) calls, “A big flaming pile of doo.”

• No copy’n'paste. Now, ABC News might assume that bloggers (me) might want to use their site for, you know, blogging. And yet through some dark sorcery, they removed the ability to copy text from their stories.

• Nonstandard URLs. So, a smart cookie (me) tried a bypass around the no-copy rule: Copy the URL, mail it to myself, then open it up later on my desktop the next time I’m downstairs at work. But the mobile site uses its own URLs, and they don’t display correctly on your desktop browser. And, no, there’s no simple way to edit the mobile URL to get the “real” URL. “You can’t blog there from here,” is the motto of ABC webmasters.

You might think ABC news is a special case, but no. This kind of mistreatment has become common, especially on news sites where I earn my bread and butter. There’s a service called OnSwipe, which anyone can use to turn their perfectly-functional blog into a Frankenstein’s Creature version of ABC News. And that’s when OnSwipe actually works, which it frequently doesn’t. I won’t name names, but smart bloggers who should know better use OnSwipe — if they’re wondering why I quit linking to them.

Then there’s the Curse of the Official App.

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Did Windows Just Collapse?

December 5th, 2012 - 5:23 am

If your smartphone or tablet is a real computer, then Microsoft’s share of computer sales has plummeted from 96% to just 35%. Here’s the chart from Cult of Android.

The problem is with how you define a computer — and I think that comes down to usage.

A ten-inch tablet is probably a perfectly good laptop (or even desktop) replacement for most people. The only things it doesn’t do well is store a metric crapload of files, or rip video. I also find that if I’m writing something longer than 300 words or so, I prefer to use a bluetooth keyboard instead of the screen. But essays, DVD rips, and terabytes of home-ripped DVD aren’t something a whole lot of people do.

A seven-inch tablet is mostly a “media consumption device,” as critics labeled the original 10-inch iPad. Held in portrait, the keys are too close together for touch typing. Held in landscape, and you can’t see enough of the screen. For reading, watching TV, or playing Angry Birds, a Nexus 7 or iPad mini is all you need. It’s still a laptop replacement for a certain market sector, but a smaller one.

And your smartphone? Fuggidaboudit. It’s a phone. It also does some great things (Star Wars Angry Birds comes to mind), but it’s just too small to replace anything. What it does is take a formerly single-purpose device (your phone) and turn it into an electronic Swiss Army knife of fun. I wouldn’t part with iPhone, but it can’t make me part with any other device, either.

That’s where the comparison falls apart. People don’t buy phones to replace their computers, so it’s silly to include them in a chart of computer marketshare. Tablets are a threat, but only a limited one — for the time being, that is.

So, no, Microsoft Windows hasn’t dropped to 35% of computer sales. It is still the king of desktop and laptop computing. But that doesn’t mean MS has nothing to worry about. They’ve failed to gain any penetration into mobile computing. Windows Phone 8 is a solid performer, but Android and iOS have already carved out the top and bottom of the cellular marketplace, leaving Microsoft’s late bloomer nowhere to squeeze in. And Surface… well, it’s headed towards a bargain bin near you.

Assuming there’s a Best Buy near you, which is becoming increasingly less likely.

Microsoft has missed out on the only growth market in computing today. It’s doubtful anything can knock Windows of its desktop/laptop roost in the medium term, but that’s no longer where the big money is.

Over the Cliff and Through the Woods

December 4th, 2012 - 2:28 pm

Trifecta: Let. It. Burn.

Murdoch Conquered by Tablets

December 4th, 2012 - 1:48 pm

The Daily is now The Neverly:

As part of a digital restructuring initiative, the company will cease standalone publication of The Daily iPad app on December 15, 2012, though the brand will live on in other channels. Technology and other assets from The Daily, including some staff, will be folded into The Post.

Mr. Murdoch said: “From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term. Therefore we will take the very best of what we have learned at The Daily and apply it to all our properties.

After a couple iterations, The Daily app stopped sucking quite so much. But the idea of a daily anything on an up-to-the-second device was always foolhardy.

Apple is Doing Just Fine in China, Thank You

December 4th, 2012 - 1:15 pm

I chuckled a bit when I read this piece Instapundit linked to yesterday, about how iPhones “are no longer cool” in China. Here’s the gist:

After a long delay, China finally approved the domestic launch of the iPhone 5. Apple shareholders would expect this to be a major event, but signs are it won’t be.

According to technology research house Gartner, Apple’s share of the mainland Chinese smartphone market slumped to below 7% in the third quarter of this year. That was a big drop, down from 12% in the second quarter.

Pretty ominous stuff, eh? Especially that bit about “a long delay.” Of course, the delay wasn’t Apple’s doing — that was do to apparent foot-dragging by China’s Telecom Regulatory Authority. But what are those “signs” that iPhone 5 won’t do well in China? Here are a few:

China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on Monday ahead of the new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphone’s official launch in the country on December 14, and the carrier said it made as many as 100,000 reservations on the opening day. Rival China Telecom’s (NYSE:CHA) version will also be available on December 14, the same day that the device goes on sale on Apple’s website.

[SNIP]

China is a key market for Apple because of the pace at which it is growing. The country contributed $23.8 billion, or 15 percent, to Apple’s 2012 fiscal year revenue, which was up 78 percent from the previous year.

[SNIP]

Analysts have pegged a partnership with China Mobile as the next provider of large-scale growth in the country for Apple.

Apple was stuck selling last year’s phone for two extra months due to Chinese bureaucrats, and is just now tapping the marketshare owned by China’s largest cellular company.

You’ll pardon me if I don’t find any of that very ominous.

Posted Without Comment

December 4th, 2012 - 7:11 am

A Little Hair of the Dog

December 3rd, 2012 - 3:10 pm
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It’s a very special episode where we encourage you to feel the giving spirit of the holiday season and laugh at Tim Geithner. A lot.

Burn, Baby, Burn

December 3rd, 2012 - 2:04 pm

Here comes the counteroffer:

House Republican leaders have made a counteroffer to President Obama in the fiscal cliff negotiations, proposing to cut $2.2 trillion with a combination of spending cuts, entitlement reforms and $800 billion in new tax revenue.

[SNIP]

“What we are putting forward is a credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House,” Boehner told reporters in a brief appearance at the Capitol. He said he hoped the administration would respond in a timely manner.

That’s not a credible offer.

First, considering the steaming pile Obama had Geithner serve up last week, Boehner’s counter is far too timid. Instead, Boehner should have demanded the budget be balanced immediately, no new taxes, and for Obama to spend three days in the snow, wearing sackcloth and begging forgiveness. That is how you stake out your ground after being slapped in the face.

But it’s also not credible because it just isn’t credible. It doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t do anything but kick the can. Again. Boehner’s counteroffer is little more than a preemptive surrender. Imagine President Bush lining up a couple armored divisions in Kuwait early in 2003, then begging Saddam to please let our troops back on the ships and go back home.

Well, that’s what Boehner has done. He’s told the President he’ll cave on taxes without demanding in return any of the real dirty work on spending. Boehner is worse than useless. Chuck him out, staple the balls back on Eric Cantor’s crotch (you’ll find them in Boehner’s bottom-right desk drawer), then put Cantor up there and see if he can do any better.

Otherwise?

Let. It. Burn.

Forward!

December 3rd, 2012 - 12:46 pm

The latest from Syria doesn’t look good for the Assad thugocracy:

The government has deployed more troops and artillery in the capital (Damascus) to try and stop the rebel advance that now threatens pro-government neighborhoods and downtown (the business district and major government buildings). Meanwhile the government has lost its last base between Aleppo and the Turkish border. Troops continue to retreat from all borders, making it easier for the rebels to bring in weapons and other supplies (especially medical, and food for civilians and fighters.)

That is, at least, an “end of the beginning” situation. Things could turn much worse, very quickly, for Assad if the rebels encroach on the leadership’s own homes. And then we’ll find out what little Morsi will pick up the pieces.

Cut Now, Tax Later (If Ever)

December 3rd, 2012 - 11:18 am

While I’m sure it’s somehow racist to compare President Obama to a suicide bomber, that’s just what Mark Thiessen did this morning:

Congressional Republicans need to buck up — Obama and the Democrats are overplaying their hand…

Even if Democrats succeed in blaming Republicans, going off the cliff is the political equivalent of a suicide-bombing for President Obama: To damage the GOP, he has to blow himself up in the process. Going over the cliff would likely cause a new recession, which would be a disaster for Obama — killing his chances of accomplishing anything of significance for the remainder of his presidency. As Keith Hennessey, former director of the National Economic Council for President George W. Bush, points out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, a recession would limit Obama’s policy options and “irreparably damage his second term.”

If Obama considers the self-destruction of his presidency “winning,” he’s the Charlie Sheen of American politics.

Sheen? Now there’s a low blow.

Anyhoo, you can’t negotiate with hostage-takers, which is closer to the truth than “suicide bomber.” So the GOP needs to take a walk. Go on recess. Spend a little time with their families.

And show the world that Democrats need to spend like Charlie needs strippers & blow.

Let. It. Burn.

December 3rd, 2012 - 10:48 am

Lindsey Graham: “I think we’re going over the cliff.”

Best thing for us, really. I spent Sunday watching Tim Geithner hit every single talking heads show he could, and there was not one serious proposal, or even talk of a proposal, for tackling our spending problem.

The only way to make it stop is to hit the debt ceiling, good and hard. And soon.

The United States of Palestine?

December 2nd, 2012 - 10:05 am

“Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a bifurcated and impoverished terror state hellbent on destroying its neighbor?”

“A bifurcated and impoverished terror state hellbent on destroying its neighbor, if you can keep it.”

Nothing Like a Little Immolation in the Morning

December 1st, 2012 - 10:48 am

Trifecta: What’s a nice planet like ours doing in a dangerous neighborhood like this?

Steyn’s View of the Near Future

December 1st, 2012 - 8:25 am

This sounds almost right:

As America hangs by its fingernails, wiggling its toesies over the vertiginous plummet to oblivion, what can save her now? An Even More Super Committee? A bipartisan agreement in which Republicans agree to cave, and Democrats agree not to laugh at them too much?

More likely is a bipartisan agreement in which Republicans agree to cave, and Democrats agree to call them evil and selfish and vile and old and white and racist and hateful and mean and stuff, for giving the Democrats everything they wanted instead of everything the Democrats wanted plus another trillion here and a trillion there.

The Week in Blogs

December 1st, 2012 - 5:01 am
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