Thursday, January 31, 2013

You-Have-No-Choice Monopoly

  1. No one is in charge. The airport doesn’t appear to have a CEO, and if it does, you never see her, hear about her or interact with her in any way. When the person at the top doesn’t care, it filters down.
  2. Problems persist because organizations defend their turf instead of embrace the problem. The TSA blames the facilities people, who blame someone else, and around and around. Only when the user’s problem is the driver of behavior (as opposed to maintaining power or the status quo) things change.
  3. The food is aimed squarely at the (disappearing) middle of the market. People who like steamed meat and bags of chips never have a problem finding something to eat at an airport. Apparently, profit-maximizing vendors haven’t realized that we’re all a lot weirder than we used to be.
  4. Like colleges, airports see customers as powerless transients. Hey, you’re going to be gone tomorrow, but they’ll still be here.
  5. By removing slack, airlines create failure. In order to increase profit, airlines work hard to get the maximum number of flights out of each plane, each day. As a result, there are no spares, no downtime and no resilience. By assuming that their customer base prefers to save money, not anxiety, they create an anxiety-filled system.
  6. The TSA is ruled by superstition, not fact. They act without data and put on a quite serious but ultimately useless bit of theater. Ten years later, the theater is now becoming an entrenched status quo, one that gets ever worse.
  7. The ad hoc is forbidden. Imagine an airplane employee bringing in an extension cord and a power strip to deal with the daily occurrence of travelers hunched in the corner around a single outlet. Impossible. There is a bias toward permanent and improved, not quick and effective.
  8. Everyone is treated the same. Effective organizations treat different people differently. While there’s some window dressing at the edges (I’m thinking of slightly faster first class lines and slightly more convenient motorized cars for seniors), in general, airports insist that the one size they’ve chosen to offer fit all.
  9. There are plenty of potential bad surprises, but no good ones. You can have a flight be cancelled, be strip searched or even go to the wrong airport. But all possibility for delight has been removed. It wouldn’t take much to completely transform the experience from a chore to a delight.
  10. They are sterile. Everyone who passes through leaves no trace, every morning starts anew. There are no connections between people, either fellow passengers or the staff. No one says, “welcome back,” and that’s honest, because no one feels particularly welcome.
  11. No one is having any fun. Most people who work at airports have precisely the same demeanor as people who work at a cemetery. The system has become so industrialized that personal expression is apparently forbidden.

Eleven things organizations can learn from airports - Seth Godin

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Duty of Advice

"It's a fascinating field, finance. And citizens need to want to understand it. It's complex? Well, everything is complex. In that respect it's a great time for anthropologists. We desperately need more descriptions of what the hell is going on in all those niches in finance. Anthropologists can do that. I tell my colleagues in academia, if we still can't get heard in this crisis, we never will.

"As outsiders begin to understand better, maybe we'll get better thinking on risk, too. We must come to an acceptance that many things simply cannot be controlled so we shouldn't wish to even try. You can plan for an earthquake. You can plan for a tsunami. And you can plan for a nuclear power plant to have a meltdown. What you cannot plan for, not fundamentally, is for all these three things to happen in one swoop.

"What's more, you cannot have a banking environment that is risk free, gives high returns while being highly transparent. That's logically impossible. If you're transparent in what you're doing then others will see it and get in on the action driving down returns."

Ex-compliance officer: 'I had to tell the trader what to do – I had two minutes' - Guardian Banking Blog

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whale photobomb

Amazon vs. Google

"From a client's perspective, the data that Amazon owns is actually better than what Google has," said Mark Grether, the chief operating officer of Xaxis, an audience buying company that works with major advertisers. "They know what you just bought, and they also know what you are right now trying to buy."

If Google can own the search and the delivery, it will be able to provide the same experience as Amazon, with no inventory - "a higher margin, more efficient model," Chien said."

Analysis: Amazon, Google on collision course in 2013 - Reuters

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Next Big Thing

"Unfortunately, my sister couldn’t name the next Instagram or Snapchat, though she did tell me about an idea that she swore all of her friends would use if one of my “entrepreneur friends” built it: a FaceTime-esque app that’s free.

Apparently, high schoolers love FaceTime (blows my mind) but it’s too expensive to use frequently. Instead of SMS, some of her friends use Kik (or one of the apps in that category) to save money on phone bills, and they desperately want a similar app for FaceTime. Serendipitously, Jenna Wortham made a prediction that’s in line with my sister’s stated need:

…the same impulse that made Chatroulette a viral hit, and something that Apple has tried to capture with FaceTime, Google with its Hangouts, even Color’s ill-fated last and final iteration. It’s enough to make me think that the real real-time social Web is coming, in one form or another.
Though I can’t relate, I know my sister would agree.

My takeaway: I’m getting old."

Tenth Grade Tech Trends -

Friday, January 25, 2013


And I thought my sports footwear fetish was under control.. darn!

Ten Hundred

"It began, as so many wonderful internet things do, with an XKCD cartoon. Titled Up-Goer Five, the schematic explained the internal workings of the only rocket to have transported humans into space, the Saturn V, using only the 1000 most commonly used words in the English language. Rocket is not one of the words, nor thousand. Nor most of the words in this paragraph.

In the last few days, enabled by Theo Sanderson's specially built text editor, several other people have Up-Goer Fived their own area of expertise. Most of them are scientists from esoteric fields, giving us laymen a rare chance to grasp what their life's work is about. Not being able to use jargon makes for some convoluted WTF gibberish sentences, but at other, better times, it creates windows where you can grasp at some previously ungraspable idea."


"So how are we going to grow more food without cutting down more trees? One answer to this problem is looking at how we use the food we grow today. People eat food, but food is also used to make animals and run cars. In fact, animals eat over one-third of the food we grow."

Read in full here.


Up Goer Five

Capella Movie Scores

The video clip above has the following songs:

Rebel Without A Cause Main Title 00:00
God's Lonely Man 02:50
Cool Hand Luke Main Title 04:51
Cinema Paradise 06:57
A Fistful Of Dollars Theme 09:58
Psycho Main Title 11:49
Goldfinger Main Title 13:52
Carlotta's Gallop 16:03
It Might Be You 19:04
The Planet Krypton 24:19
Superman? Theme 25:41
My Bodygaurd 29:36
Pascal's Waltz 32:26
Calling You 33:50
Hand Covers Bruise 38:37
This Is Not America 42:58

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


"Long, empty hallways. My father's reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open.

Since we didn't have cellphones or alarm clocks, the question of how we'd wake up on time in the morning was legitimate. One person suggested announcing "I'm awake" to the room, and then waiting until someone came to fetch you.

How do you explain to someone that she's a YouTube sensation if she's never heard of the Internet?

Those in the know are savvier than you'd expect. Exhibit A: Eric fielded questions like, "When is the next version of Android coming out?"and "Can you help us with e-Settlement so that we can put North Korean apps on Android Market?" Answers: soon, and No, silly North Koreans, you're under international bank sanctions.

They seemed to acknowledge that connectivity is coming, and that they can't hope to keep it out. Indeed, some seemed to understand that it's only with connectivity that their country has a snowball's chance in hell of keeping up with the 21st century. But we'll have to wait and see what direction they choose to take."

It might not get weirder than this - Sophie in North Korea

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Competitive Devaluation

"We all watch with disbelief as China and Japan rattle sabres over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, so like the seemingly minor events that drew Europe's alliance systems into conflict from 1911 onwards.

Both graduated to fighter jets last week: Japan sending in F-15s; China deploying J-10s, and mobilising the East China Sea fleet for live ammo drills.

China's purpose is clear. It is testing the US security umbrella, and Washington's willingness to risk conflict to back Asian allies. There is a minority in Beijing who think America is a busted flush, a mistake made repeatedly by different powers over the last hundred years.

The possibility that the world's three largest economies could come to blows -- as feared by US defense secretary Leon Panetta -- is a sobering thought.

Against this, Japan's economic policy revolution seems tame. Yet forces are being unleashed that could have powerful effects through the world's asset markets and trading system.

Premier Shinzo Abe has vowed an all-out assault on deflation, going for broke on multiple fronts with fiscal, monetary, and exchange stimulus.

Mr Abe has lost patience. This time the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will do what it is told, the first of the big central banks to be stripped of its independence, and probably not the last. As Milton Friedman said -- quoting Clemenceau -- "monetary policy is far too important to be left to central bankers".

The liquidity effects of this by the world's top external creditor could be large enough to leak into everything from New Zealand bonds, Brazilian equities, and Chelsea property, a sort of `carry trade' on steroids.

On the fiscal side, Mr Abe will launch combined national and local stimulus worth 20 trillion yen (£140bn) or 4.4pc of GDP. No matter that the budget deficit is already 10pc of GDP, or that total financing needs are a record 60pc of GDP this year.

The IMF advises Japan not to push its luck, warning that the country has reached the point where even a "relatively small" rise in borrowing costs could set off havoc.
"Europe’s recent experience offers a cautionary tale. Once market confidence is lost, regaining it becomes very difficult," it said.

Japan's great experiment cuts both ways for the rest of us: the reflation blitz helps lift the global economy out of the doldrums: but yen manipulation snatches market share, incites protectionism, and takes us into the brave new world of "actively managed exchange rates", as Sir Mervyn King put it last month."

Revolutionary Japan is suddenly the centre of world affairs - Telegraph

Monday, January 21, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013


“To do justice to this almost seven-hour-long trilogy in only three minutes, we chose to focus on the story of Gotham City – especially since many viewers consider Gotham to be the ‘true’ main character in Nolan’s films. Its fall from glory spawned a man determined to help restore it and, in the end, he does just that, but not without some bumps along the way. If you can call Ra’s and Talia al Ghul, the Scarecrow, the Joker, Two-Face, Bane and Catwoman just ‘bumps.’

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The cat did it

"Police in Japan have recovered a memory card from the collar of a cat found wandering on an island near Tokyo -- the latest bizarre turn in their hunt for a hacker, one who has been taunting them with clues for several months.

In December 2012 the National Police Agency (NPA) -- Japan's central law enforcement body, comparable to the FBI in the United States -- offered a bounty of ¥3m (£21,000) for a hacker who had been sending emails from computers around the country containing bomb threats against schools and kindergartens, including one attended by the grandchildren of Emperor Akihito.

It's the first time that a bounty has been offered for cybercrime in Japan, and it reflects how frustrated the NPA has been in its investigation.

The NPA did arrest four people in 2012 and announce that it had "extracted confessions" from them, reports AFP, but as the messages and emails continued to appear the police were forced into admitting they'd made a rather humiliating mistake.

The memory card found strapped to the collar of the cat is said to contain information about the iesys.exe virus that only its creator would know. Dubbed the "Remote Control Virus" by the Japanese authorities, it's allowed its creator to send out threats from computers located across the country, giving the police no clue as to where their hacker's real location might be."

Japanese hacker continues to taunt police with clue strapped to cat - Wired

The Japanese cat that holds the clues to an internet prankster - Guardian

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Art of the Pickpocket

Gun control

It's almost impossible to get to a gun in Japan, and selling one or owning one is a serious crime. Fire the gun? Possibly life imprisonment. Gun-control laws are taken so seriously that police will pursue a violator all the way to the grave — and maybe beyond.

The rationale for this is simple: "Of course, guns don't kill people; people kill people — guns just make it a lot easier to kill a lot of people. That's why Japan bans them and that's why my job was catching people with guns and putting them in jail. Usually, long before they could ever put their finger on the trigger."

"In Japan, no civilian is allowed to have a gun," Detective X stated simply. "In order to prevent atrocious crimes using firearms, possession of small arms was banned in 1965, with strict penalties for violations of the law. As time has gone on the penalties have increased and every year we try to drive down the number of people owning guns."

Japan does allow the possession of hunting rifles and air guns (for sporting use), but the restrictions and checks are extremely strict.

"You have to bring your rifle in every year for inspection. You have to pass a drug test. You can't have a criminal record. A doctor has to certify you're mentally and physically healthy. You have to actually go to the firing range and show that you can use the weapon. If you have any sort of issue, we're going to take away your firearms," Detective X said.

"Sometimes, police officers even go to the neighborhoods where a gun owner lives and interview neighbors to make sure the owner isn't causing problems or having issues with his spouse," he added.

"You can't easily hold up a convenience store or shoot someone to death if you don't have a gun," Detective X put it in a nutshell. Unlike in the United States, that's Crime Prevention 101 in Japan."

Even gangsters live in fear of Japan's gun laws - Japan Times

"Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal came out in favor of gun control restrictions in a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I spent a career carrying typically either a M16, and later a M4 carbine," he said. "And a M4 carbine fires a .223 caliber round, which is 5.56 millimeters, at about 3,000 feet per second. When it hits a human body, the effects are devastating. It's designed to do that. That's what our soldiers ought to carry."

Said McChrystal, "I personally don't think there's any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America. I believe that we've got to take a serious look -- I understand everybody's desire to have whatever they want -- but we have to protect our children and our police and we have to protect our population. And I think we have to take a very mature look at that."

Stanley McChrystal: Gun Control Requires 'Serious Action' - Huff Post

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Icarus Deception

The Icarus Deception from Squarespace on Vimeo.

"The commonly understood moral of the story of Icarus is to play it safe, to obey authority. Don't fly too close to the sun. In world-renowned marketer Seth Godin's new book, The Icarus Deception, he makes the case for forging your own path, pushing beyond what is expected, and connecting with other humans by making your art–whatever it may be."

Not just art?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Death Defying


"The 911's heater will not work properly below -20deg. So, while driving, I wore ski pants, a Polar anorak, thick mittens, a hat, and hiking boots. And still froze."

Norway’s North Cape in a Classic Porsche 911: A true winter wonderland

What an excellent adventure.


Happy New Year. Back at it after a week or so's break. It could (should) be an interesting one.