news report: 93% of those horrified by Facebook data leak(s) will still leave Amazon Echo plugged in

amazon-echo

It’s perfectly normal to have a live listening device inside the privacy of your home, say trendy tech savvy people.

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oh, no, it’s happening again :(

Why do we do this other stuff?  Why not.  If nothing else, football gives us a chance to relax from the deeper issues we post here at TAP.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to a third blog to post (one way or the other) about my opinions on the latest FBI firing.

Either that, or jump over to our sister site.  Bask in the high quality website design.  Pay no attention whatsoever to the actual written content.  Either way.

J.E.T.S.

enforcing the customs of a land not your own

Learning how other people live is one of the great joys of travel.  It enriches your life and generally makes you understand humanity and appreciate home more.  But it can also get weird, the kind of experience that makes you think deeply.  Or write about it on a garbage blog penned by a closet lunatic.

In America when you get fruits or vegetables at the grocery, the checkout cashier is the one who enters the appropriate code, weighs / counts the produce, and determines the price you pay.  Where I currently live, there is a separate and distinct produce counter that performs this function.

I learned this the hard way when I first showed up at the till and they got mad at me.  I actually kind of like this process a lot better.  Though America will never change to it because we prefer the brute force method.

In America, depending on what caliber of cashier you get, you can spend a long time just sitting there while they confusingly look up the appropriate four digit produce code.  I buy a heroic amount of fruits and vegetables so this is a big deal for me.  When you have a tailored produce cashier, it’s all they do, and so they fly.  They know the codes cold, and it’s nice and quick.

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Anyways, yesterday I get in line at the produce checkout.  I’ve got fifteen or so items.  I’m behind a middle-aged housewife who has more than me.  The checkout lady is doing her thing.  I lay out my items behind the housewife and wait my turn.  Then a guy steps up next to me and puts his one bag on the counter in front of mine.

So essentially this guy has cut in line without saying a word to me.  A foreigner like me, he looks like a bald Jeremy Corbyn (which probably explains his behavior).  Without saying a word, I give this guy the death eyes.  This causes him to mumble something and pick up his bag.  Then a series of thoughts occurred in my simpleton brain in quick succession:

– Why are you making an issue of this?  It really doesn’t matter.  We humans are all just shadows and dust.  Your bleached skeleton status awaits.

– Is there some local custom where since I have like fifteen things, and he has just one, that he can cut in line and it’s just cool, he doesn’t have to say anything?

– Or, even if he’s just a jerk, who cares?  Be the better man.

So after I got two of my produce scanned, I stopped the checkout lady, and motioned to Jeremy to get his one item scanned.  He nodded thank you and moved on.  And I’m left to ponder my thoughts about culture and morality and whatever.

BUT, then I turn around and see there are six people in line behind me.  Some of them have only one or two items too.  And, some of them are elderly.  So it’s not culture, it’s just this guy was a jerk.  He was just probably a guy who takes candy from street urchins on the 1835 Paris streets.

Dude should have gotten in line like everyone else.

That’s it! My Guests and I shall summon our good old friend Enforcement Drone Version 2.09 (ED209) as our assistant in resolving this matter.  We’ll enforce the customs of this foreign land on our own!

1) Guilt

Jeremy wrongly cuts in produce checkout line.  ED209 saunters up and wryly comments to the individual in his stale robot voice.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THERE IS A LINE.  CAN YOU NOT SEE THE ELDERLY INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PATIENTLY WAITING WHILE YOU ARE NOT?  WHY DO YOU HATE THE ELDERLY?  HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

2) Shame

ED209 walks up, observes Jeremy has cut in line.  ED209 then activates his video streaming device.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THIS INCIDENT HAS BEEN RECORDED ON VIDEO, WITH SPECIAL ATTENTION PAID TO THE FACES OF THE ELDERLY THAT YOU CUT AHEAD OF.  COPIES OF THIS INCIDENT WILL BE PROVIDED TO ALL RELEVANT MEMBERS OF YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY.  REPEAT COPIES WILL BE MAILED TO THEM ON ALL YOUR FUTURE BIRTHDAYS.

3) Fear

ED209 walks up and shoots the individual in the kneecap.

ED209: YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF OUR ESTABLISHMENT’S PRODUCE SANITARY STANDARDS.  WE WILL INSIST YOU PAY FULL PRICE FOR YOUR BLOOD SPATTERED FRUIT.  WE WILL DENY ENTRY TO YOUR PERSON IN THE FUTURE TO AVOID FURTHER COMPLICATIONS.

4) Punishment

Jeremy cuts in line.  When he gets back to his car he finds ED209 has combusted it in an orgy of fire and flames.

ED209: YOU WILL NOW BE ASSESSED THE VARIOUS FEES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FORTHCOMING FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE, THE SCRAP STEEL REMOVAL FEES, AND VARIOUS GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL FINES.

5) Morality

ED209 forces him to sit down for a five hour chat on the various moral considerations involved with cutting in line, making a clear case for the values of a balanced ethical society.

6) Apathy

ED209 observes Jeremy, offers no comment or correction, hoping over time the individual in question establishes some type of internal corrective action guided by conscience.

Which ones of these will work? I’ll let you decide.

ed209

“Great work at the produce checkout today.  Fist bump, my brother!”  [ED209 shatters every bone in my hand; my screams are heard in the grocery parking lot]

Geoffrey’s bound for the woodshed

Does anybody remember Geoffrey the Giraffe?  To be honest, until this morning I’d completely forgotten he existed.  Even reading the articles about how Toys R Us is finished didn’t prompt me to remember.  Only when I started to write this post did I recall.

Here’s the backstory.  In 1948 following service in The War, Charles P. Lazarus descended into the African jungle in search of nothing but the highest quality products he could sell to the people, namely bicycles.  He employed the finest in German explorers (unemployed since May 1945), coolies, and technology.  After getting lost in the bush, soon only Lazarus remained alive.  Soon to expire, he awoke from his pre-death slumber held in the firm embrace of one Geoffrey the Giraffe.

As he was slowly nursed back to health over many months, Geoffrey explained to Lazarus that the real money was in selling toys and baby products to the Boomer generation.  Lazarus agreed to implement Geoffrey’s plan, but only on the condition that Geoffrey ended his self-imposed three-thousand year isolation and rejoin the known world.  And so for near seven decades Toys R Us existed and Geoffrey delighted millions with his special powers.

Well, that was fun, but now the ride is over.  Geoffrey is said to have tried to make a break for it.  He’d procured tickets on a tramp steamer bound from Brooklyn to Kinshasa.  But assassins in the pay of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Bain Capital (who own Toys R Us) got him on the quay at 3am as he was trying to sneak up the mooring line.  Rather than rejoin the jungle to wait for three-thousand years again, Geoffrey’s getting taken to the woodshed.  At KKR Bain’s exclusive Adirondack retreat.  But KKR Bain’s Masters are merciful, the deed will be done quickly.

It’ll be hard for future generations to understand just how central Toys R Us once was to the American experience.  Now, gone.  Any coincidence that it’s end came as a result of a private equity firm mismanaging it and filling it up with endless debt?  I think not.  I’m sure KKR made billions in profit off Toys R Us’ demise.  But it still doesn’t change the long term dive in retail.

Six months ago after a personal experience with bad stores, I predicted the doom of retail.  I thought this would take decades.  But perhaps the rout has already begun.

Maybe in less than a decade there will only be the following physical stores left:

– Ultra Cheap Retail (Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, etc)

– Cheap Retail (Walmart, Target, etc)

– Niche Rich (Starbucks, Small Bookstore, Craft (of any variety), etc)

– Groceries

– Restaurants

– Pharmacies

– Home Improvement

And in the end, maybe it won’t be that bad after all.  I took a look at the top 50 retailers in America.  Of all those 50, here are the ones that don’t fit into my list:

Best Buy

Macy’s

TJX

Sears

Kohl’s

Nordstrom

Ross

JC Penny

Gap

L Brands

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Toys R Us was #62.  So that’s roughly 15-20% of all stores are doomed.  That’s a lot, but it’s not like it’s 50%.  So I guess the rout / realignment has already started.

Toys-R-Us-Memorial-Day-Parade-

Poor Geoffrey, RIP.

oh, no, it’s happening again :(

Why do we do this other stuff?  Why not.  If nothing else, football gives us a chance to relax from the deeper issues we post here at TAP.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to a third blog to post (one way or the other) about my opinions on NFL players kneeling or standing during the national anthem.

Either that, or jump over to our sister site.  Bask in the high quality website design.  Pay no attention whatsoever to the actual written content.  Either way.

Giant Octopi, The Little Guy, and the curse of the Trump lens

I would gather that if I walked up to ten people on America’s streets and asked them what Qualcomm is, nine of them would provide one of these answers:

1) the quality control program my stupid boss(es) make me use

2) an internet or phone company

3) a robot assassin bent on revenge for the untimely murder of his girl

4) a blank stare indicating the person’s desire not to talk to idiots like me

Only one in ten would know they’re carrying Qualcomm in their pockets.  If the brave new modern world is one where your smartphone is more important than having two functioning hands, then Qualcomm is more important to your life than your ability to digest food.

Qualcomm chips and semiconductor technology run in almost every new thing of the internet age.  They have a monopoly on the business that would make even the most jaded of 19th Century railroad tycoons sweat with envy.

For years Qualcomm has been investigated, fined, sued, yelled at by its customers, rivals, and competitors as one of the very worst of the Giant Octopi.  Qualcomm’s two biggest current problems are a massive lawsuit from Apple (which I find delicious given Apple’s known desire to cheat its own customers) and a $1.2B fine from the EU’s competition watchdogs.  Over the last decade Qualcomm has likely kept food on the table for at least 13,487 lawyers, judges, court clerks, court security guards, and court security doggies.

Nobody knows about these things or cares.  To them, their Apple or Samsung smartphone is Apple or Samsung.  They don’t know or care that the chip that makes it all possible is from Qualcomm.

(As a brief aside, you need to admire the gall, guile, and skill of Intel’s marketing goons that got them front and center in the psyche of every computer user on the planet.  In the 1990’s anybody who knew anything about a computer knew about Intel chips.  You bought computers based on what Intel processor it had, and barely cared whether Dell or Compaq made the overall machine.)

So for those who don’t know what Qualcomm is, or are too busy wondering who Jennifer Aniston’s ninth husband will be, Qualcomm has been under a hostile takeover bid by Broadcom.  Broadcom is another chipmaker based in Singapore.  The purchase price offered was $117B.  Yes, $117B.  Or enough money to manufacture ten large aircraft carriers with swanky Slavic tracksuit racing stripes included.

This deal was always controversial because it would have further increased a trend in American business lately: CONSOLIDATION.  There are only four major American airlines left.  There are three major American cellular providers.  Americans pay four or five times more for cable internet compared to other Western nations, and get slower speeds for the privilege.

So it was always a concern that Qualcomm and Broadcom could become one company, when Qualcomm is already essentially a Monopoly Man of the Giant Octopi.  The question was if the Trump administration would allow the deal to proceed, or block it on anti-trust grounds?

Well, all of that’s changed yesterday.  What’s happened instead is Trump has disallowed the deal on national security grounds.  Essentially, USA is not going to allow THE American internet chipmaker to be owned by foreigners.  Trump signed an order as such.

The Washington Post, as the newspaper of the capital, thus covers this story.

Because this is politics, and it’s DC, the article must of course focus upon Trump.  According to the Post, Trump has signed this order because of his “protectionist instincts”.  They even got some guy (everybody loves the anonymous quote now) to state that Trump wants the lesson “don’t screw with the government” and that the order is “brutal”.  Again, “It smacks of anger on the part of the government to me. This feels a little more personal to me.”  How dramatic.  I’m seething with excitement at the rage drama associated with this esoteric technology topic.

So what we have here is a situation where one of the worst Monopoly Man companies on the planet wants to merge with another member of the Giant Octopi and then make the situation for the consumer even worse with a super-super Giant Octopi company.  The US government stops this effort, for any reason at all, and the answer of the capital’s newspaper is it’s about Trump?  Really?

You know, I’ve avoided saying this for a long time, because to me there’s almost no point addressing Trump.  It is what it is.  People think what they’ll think.  Many people seem to have a visceral emotional reaction to Trump (one way or the other) that I just can’t understand.  But essentially it’s this: Trump will be gone someday (likely in three years).  Trump is who he is, for all the awfulness that he is.  But one day he’ll be gone.  But the Washington Post will still be here.

If I was a member of The Washington Post, I think I’d make it a point to understand that.  Because essentially what has happened is The Washington Post, The New York Times, and most other major news organizations have mortgaged what little benign credibility they had left, in order to get at one singular man.  I get it, I hate Trump too, but that credibility is never going to return.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve, and certainly wasn’t before Trump came onto the scene, but it’s gone over the edge.

Hey remember when it was generally considered suspicious when a newspaper article quoted anonymous sources?  Now it seems every news article is based on anonymous sources.  Now I guess we just have to take it on faith that they didn’t get the quote from some guy down by the Sizzler.  But seeing as how we can’t trust them [get Trump at any price] why would I believe anything an anonymous source says?

I’m never going to look at The Washington Post the same way again.  It will always be an organization whose handlers sold their souls and journalistic integrity to get at one guy.  To the point that they can’t even write an article about one of the most consequential technology topics of this year, without making it all about Trump.

Normally this wouldn’t be a massive problem.  You’d be like, whatever, go read another newspaper each day.  True.  Except that every, single, person, in DC who makes decisions (Democrat or Republican) reads the Post every day.  As in, the people who run government, and make decisions that impact people’s lives every day, are fed information by a publication that essentially has no credibility.  That’s not a good place for any democracy to be in.

If the Post was a responsible newspaper, or at least understood their place in society, they would cover the Broadcom / Qualcomm deal through the lens of the status of monopolies, how the deal impacts American consumers (who pay more each day for their stuff because Qualcomm is corrupt), and also address the completely valid national security implications of handing Qualcomm to a foreign buyer.  But instead, it’s about Trump and Trump and Trump, and the Trump lens.  For everything.

That doesn’t help the Little Guy, it doesn’t help America, and that’s a sad, sad thing.

Qualcomm-Logo.jpg

That this deal is dead, for any reason at all, is a good thing.

we analyze history to determine Xi’s future

Great news, everybody!  As if the planet didn’t have enough problems, the most powerful man on the planet today just became a dictator.  Now, lots of folks will claim that the title of most powerful should be Trump?

Nope.  First off, Trump is too insane to be powerful, and in any case the power of any American President is severely constrained by the balance between branches of government.

In terms of raw power, the ability of one man to say a word and things immediately happen, it’s Xi.  Here’s Xi applauding his own genius today after the rubber stamp goon squad parliament approved his ‘president for life’ title with a 99% vote.

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Where will China be or go under one man rule with absolute total power?  Hmm, well, let’s take a look at history to see how dictators actually perform by the track record:

sad hitler

failed artist

stalin

body count higher than Hitler’s

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greatest serial killer in human history

Roger_Goodell_(cropped).jpg

hated by more Americans than Trump

George_Clooney-4_The_Men_Who_Stare_at_Goats_TIFF09_(cropped)

presided over a Hollywood that molested it’s own women, did nothing about it, but oh man, he’s, he’s just so good looking

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defenestration extraordinaire

The genius of America’s Founding Fathers was their understanding that no human being is capable of effectively and morally exercising unconstrained power.  Trump is the reason America’s government is slow, ineffective, and dirty.  They wrote the Constitution with the understanding that one day a Trump might be president.

America has had terrible, terrible presidents before too.  I’m looking at you James Buchanan.  But the country in general can move on.  In three years when Trump is gone (unless the Democrats do something unserious, like nominate Oprah) the country will move on mostly the same.

To put it bluntly, humans suck.  We’re a total mess.  No one person is good enough or smart enough or talented enough to rule without checks on their person.  Even Lincoln, who is in the running for greatest human who ever lived, made mistakes and it was fortunate that he had other people (like an aggressive Congress) to challenge him.  It made him better.

Xi seems like a smart guy, but apparently doesn’t understand history.  He thinks China needs one man rule to deal with it’s challenges.  But history is merciless.  And it shows us that dictators fail.  China has many problems that require strong balanced leadership.  But as of today, China’s biggest problem is Xi.