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The Inspector iPhone 6S Kiryat Ono, Israel Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

The Inspector
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The Inspector iPhone 6S Kiryat Ono, Israel Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

•••

About

Briefs

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman

♦♦♦

Entertainingly caustic albeit a tad ad nauseumly, Neil Postman’s famous book regales us with at least one important historical fact and one historical idea.

The fact: that before showbusiness, Americans were by far the world’s most literate, informed, engaged population, whereas today it must be said have a reputation abroad for ignorance.

The idea: that even while powerful technologies are mindless and agnostic, each nonetheless has its own nature that pushes society in particular directions. Postman argues mostly convincingly that print is healthy for society, television not.

Just like the self-help gurus pointing out that it’s better to totally goof off than do busywork because at least leisure doesn’t feel like work and thereby misguide the mind, so Postman prefers straight-up entertainment shows like Hart to Hart to those that pretend to inform like 60 Minutes.

Now, the book was written in 1985 and is about TV; the big question is what Postman would have thought of the Web and social media. He does write that the potential influence of computers is overrated, which reminds us that nobody’s infallible (which does undermine the book’s credibility, so kudos on the publishers of later editions in not cutting out these throwaway few words).

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Jonathan Haidt is wise enough to note that it is mainly America, not necessary the rest of the world, that has gone particularly mental the past decade. Haidt blames social media. But the word “marriage” does not occur even once in the article, despite the decade having seen same-sex marriage transformed from oxymoronic absurdity to self-evident cudgel. If a human institution so deep — deeper than the nationstate, than monotheism, even than history itself — can be so decidedly upended, then what chance has anything else of standing, the collective subconscious must wonder.

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Marc Andreessen has just tweetstormed a section of an Ayn Rand lecture on the contrast between the tribes of Apollo 11 and of Woodstock. Whilst I commend his pro-Deplorables stand, I do feel that as one of the fathers of the age he could be utilizing his mystique to do more, starting perhaps with banging heads in San Francisco. During a recent podcast interview with I forget whom, he dismissed laughingly the prospect of running for office; perhaps he should reconsider. Also, just for some rounding, he might want to read Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, surely an Apollonian who yearns for the Dionysian.

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

I’ve been hoping to read a headline like this: “Ministers urge Boris Johnson to rethink net zero plans as cost of living crisis bites” in The Telegraph.

It’s great to be pushing towards renewable energy sources, not because of the climatist calumny but because of the wonderful fact that renewable energy will eventually become a lot cheaper than fossil fuels ever were. As J. Storrs Hall writes in the his transformative Where is My Flying Car, “Counting watts is a better way to measure a people’s standard of living than counting dollars.”

I do understand that sometimes a fire must be lit underneath our collective feet to get things moving, in this case the tarring and feathering of fossil fuels (an unfortunate phrase to be sure). Without this cultural move little might have happened in renewal energy innovation due to the massive interests of energy incumbents.

Meanwhile national leadership’s responsibility is to get this balance right. Deliberately fostering energy poverty is folly, not to mention sadistic — and has real deleterious geopolitical consequences. Nothing is free, especially that seemingly cost-free thing we increasingly swim in, ie, bullshit, rife with opportunity costs. As pleased as people are to wave utopian ideals and do our little bit, we prefer the political party that enables us to heat our homes.

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

The Man with the Golden Gun

Ian Fleming

♦♦♦

Surely I’ve read The Man with the Golden Gun before, given that this mangy old paperback has been on my bookshelves since 2006? Perhaps, but I remember nothing.

Some scenes that seem somewhat vivid for now:

  • The middle: James Bond meets kind-hearted Tiffy, the manageress of a Jamaican cathouse, before finding Scaramanga, who promptly does something totally awful
  • The end: As Scaramanga’s temporary assistant, James Bond machinates and maneuvers around the underfunded hotel that the assassin is building
  • The beginning: M ruminates over his decision to send Bond after Scaramanga

Right now the best part seems to me M’s internal monologue after a brainwashed James Bond, back in London after imprisonment in Russia, fails to assassinate him at his desk (a glass screen plummeting down from the ceiling to block the poison Bond has fired, foreshadowing the spirit of gadgetry to come in the movies).

In wake of this domestic excitement, as M calls it, he decides to send Bond after Scaramanga, who has killed some British agents, figuring the Double-O will either succeed in killing the fellow and thereby redeem himself, or conveniently die trying.

Chief of Staff Bill Tanner thinks this cold-hearted, as Scaramanga is so dangerous. M takes a solitary lunch at his club Blades, troubled presumably over both the event and his subsequent decision, but we are only privy to his thoughts once on the ride back to the office, when he reassures himself that his decision really was wise — indeed he almost can’t believe that his instant instinctual choice stands up so well to scrutiny. This is our glimpse at leadership. The rest of the novel — and the entire series — is our exploration of manliness.

In the movie we lose this brief inner turmoil from M, but we gain a more impressive (though not sufficiently so) Scaramanga in Christopher Lee, who is as suave as Fleming’s assassin is lunky; and we get fabulous Thailand instead of, yet again, Fleming’s Jamaica. To make a long story very short, we’re rather missing Nick Nack.

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

At Starter Story, Ed Baldoni, founder of Concrete Countertop Solutions, tells the story of how his business has reached $1.1m in monthly revenue.

I was a developer/ home builder for over 40 years. As a builder, I was always looking to stay ahead of the curve and offer new ideas to my clients … Our Z Counterform System for countertops and Z Poolform System for concrete pool coping are the go-to solutions for cast-in-place concrete forms. With a small but dedicated team, we grew this business from an idea to over $12M in revenue in 10 years.

Exciting story, exciting product.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

The proper dosage of hierarchy is just barely enough to vitalize a very large collective.

Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Via Hacker News, “The Eleven Laws of Showrunning” by Javier Grillo-Marxuach is so beautifully written and serves as a primer for management of anything

As special and wonderful as creativity and process may be, they are assets that can be channeled, managed, made to work on call, and sent to bed at a decent hour.

Since I’m currently watching Disney Gallery / Star Wars: The Mandalorian, showrunners Jon Favreau and David Filoni appear to exemplify the virtues.

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The Guardian posts an excerpt from Gillian Tett’s Anthro-Vision. Regarding working from home, a senior trader at JP Morgan observed:

The really big problem was incidental information exchange. “The bit that’s very hard to replicate is the information you didn’t know you needed,” observed Charles Bristow, a senior trader at JP Morgan. “[It’s] where you hear some noise from a desk a corridor away, or you hear a word that triggers a thought. If you’re working from home, you don’t know that you need that information.” Working from home also made it hard to teach younger bankers how to think and behave; physical experiences were crucial for conveying the habits of finance or being an apprentice.

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Via Hacker News, and in the grand spirit of Charlie Munger’s edict to “Invert, always invert,” this is Julio Merino on “Always be Quitting”.

So what does it mean to always be quitting? It means “making yourself replaceable”; “deprecating yourself”; “automating yourself out of your job” … The key lies in NOT being indispensable … Paradoxically, by being disposable, you free yourself. You make it easier for yourself to grow into a higher-level role and you make it easier for yourself to change the projects you work on.

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Top 20 racing cheats by Preston Lerner at Hagerty, a reminder that rules are made to be… stretched.

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Cal Newport takes on GTD in the run-up to his new book against email as the world’s abysmal task management system.

The piece does start like a Tad Friend-esque hatchet job on Merlin Mann but that’s just a way to appeal to your squalid New Yorker reader.

Friday, December 11th, 2020

I’ve been surprised and disappointed by just how many people are hesitant to take up the COVID-19 vaccines now coming online. In this concerned Nautilus article “How to Build Trust in Covid-19 Vaccines”, the authors take on the issue with sober good sense, eg:

Mandatory vaccination policies should be avoided because they could backfire. More acceptable would be tying vaccination status to travel or access to public places.

Sunday, November 15th, 2020

“How to Get Your First Customers So Your Company Doesn’t Die” by Matt Munson, a startup founder coach and investor. Some nice nuggets here, such as hiring salespeople in pairs so that you can compare them and be sure any issues are with individuals rather than the system.

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

♦♦♦♦

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work may be a business book but, like Peter Drucker’s best, I found it profound. We can forget that business itself is profound, the intended happy medium of most modern collective endeavor. For authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of the Basecamp organizational management software-as-a-service, business is the expression of philosophy. They counsel practicing it humanely, moderately and deliberately.

They establish authority with a first shock, an obvious idea you’ve almost certainly not thought of yourself: that a company should be considered a product, its employees the users. In fact this is a framing analogy for the entire book; like Nietzsche’s preface to Beyond Good and Evil positing that we suppose Truth be a woman, it throws wide open our thinking on our subject.

Another shock: they advise eschewing goals: “You don’t need something fake to do something real.” How shatteringly refreshing is that! Especially since my previous book was John Doerr’s Measure What Matters, which is all about goals. I had been excited for the Doerr book, but couldn’t finish it due to the sterile-speak of the case studies, which — unwarrantedly perhaps — undercut my faith in the concept. In contrast, Fried and DHH have the clear bracing style of successful coding entrepreneurs. This helps overcome the natural worry that going goal-less means a descent into hedonic anarchy, instead what they seek is appropriateness and authenticity. That said, I wonder whether this is the idea they’re most likely to step back from in future.

A third novelty seems downright crazy: they advocate not selling licenses by the seat, but by the organization. “It doesn’t matter if you have 5 employees, 50, 500, or 5,000 — it’s still just $99/month total. You can’t pay us more than that.” They leave this money on the table as part of deliberately designing the culture of their company (see the first idea); they don’t want to be dependent on a few large customers, nor create an internal cultural schism between serving small business and enterprise.

Similarly, they decided to stop accepting checks for payment just because it was a hassle, which did lose them some customers. This however is a less controversial notion, akin to Apple removing older technologies from new products despite their still being in widespread use and absorbing the hue and cry.

The authors also believe that the American-inspired work ethic of long hours is counterproductive and inhumane. Having worked at an Israeli software services giant I’m in agreement here too; at Amdocs if you went home after a mere 9 hours in the office you were perceived to be not pulling your weight (and, in my case, eventually laid off). And when I was temporarily attached to teams for international business trips, it seemed that all the team leaders were either divorced or in the process of becoming so.

Some of the authors’ values only apply to their particular industry. They make a claim for good enough rather than perfectionism — this is fine when your product is web-based software where one can churn out a fix at little cost, but not for many other high-value products such as cars.

In my small own small way I already practice much of what the authors preach. My only qualm is that while I love their philosophy, I’ve never much liked Basecamp itself.

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth

John Doerr

♦♦

I stopped reading John Doerr’s Measure What Matters some halfway through because I couldn’t take any more of the stilted archaic business-speak in the case studies. And because the ideas presented — barring the occasional mild insight — seemed too obvious.

The two insights of value to me: that sub-goals, what Doerr terms the Key Objectives (I think — I still have to keep referring back — nope, it’s Key Results), should be an artful balance between quality and quantity. And that despite the importance of results tying in to objectives and thereby be set top-down, some lassitude should be allowed for results to be set bottom-up.

The book could have benefited from having its ideas framed in terms of the Tao, since everything here is in complementary pairs — even the duality of overarching goal and its constellation of objectives. Instead we have an acronym OKR that still didn’t help me remember the two simple constituent terms.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Amalgamated from a dialog in the comments at a Marginal Revolution post “How to Live in a World Gone Mad?”:

The mob is saying silence is violence. Funnily enough, the mob also says speech is violence. They also say violence is not violence.

Fun, fun, fun!

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The comfort of having an organization is largely illusory; it still comes down to one programmer in the end.

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

The eleven days in question are 12th–23rd March. Eleven days in which the [UK] government decided to give up with contact tracing and do, well, nothing. Mass gatherings were still allowed (because “science”). Concerts and racing and Champions’ League football. Pubs. Public transport. Everything. The over-70s, it must be conceded, were advised to avoid cruises.

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Venkatesh Rao’s Into the Yakverse is just too disgustingly awesomely good. Think the tone of David Goldman’s visits to Cardinal Richelieu, along with the cynical wit of top Armando Iannucci satire, and the light momentum of an Eliyahu Goldratt business novel.

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader

Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell

♦♦♦

Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).

It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.

One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter Drucker

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Quite the overview: “The Real Class War” by Julius Krein, editor of American Affairs.

The real class war is between the 0.1 percent and (at most) the 10 percent—or, more precisely, between elites primarily dependent on capital gains and those primarily dependent on profes sional labor.

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Starting from WeWork, Matt Stoller coins “counterfeit capitalism” as the Amazon model: “take inputs, combine them into products worth less than their cost, and plug up the deficit through the capital markets in hopes of acquiring market power later or of just self-dealing so the losses are placed onto someone else.” It is, he argues, terrible for society as a whole.

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

Venkatesh is a treasure, what with his “Jonathan Livingstone Corporation” on solving not for money but aliveness.

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Friday, August 24th, 2018

“Modelling Process Intensive Scenarios for the Smart City” [PDF]. In this paper by professors at the computer science department at the University of Camerino in Italy, the authors discuss BPMN (and bpFM, which I’d never heard of before) in the context of municipal services, specifically bike-sharing.

Another perspective on bike-sharing, this time re usability, by mobile-first thought leader Luke Wroblewski.

“Service Design 101”, a primer by the Nielsen Norman Group.

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

From 2014: The Economist introduces us to Sebastian de Grazia’s 1962 Of Time, Work and Leisure. Increasingly, leisure is not for the rich but for the poor.

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products

Leander Kahney

♦♦♦♦

In what seems a common pattern, Jony Ive started early, eschewing the liberal education of say Oxbridge, instead selecting the most renowned college in the field in which he was already winning prizes: industrial design. And this great achiever of our times grew up under the happy and mighty influence of his father, an educator who rose to prominence due to character and a drive to bring design literacy to British education.

The bulk of this book about Ive constitutes one of the stronger, more detailed histories we have of Apple itself, told mainly from the perspective of the IDg, the internal design group he leads. We learn for instance that in order to meet Steve Jobs’ deadline for creating the iMac — the first product upon Jobs’ return and which revived the company — they needed to streamline the product process by making the files of the design software interoperable with those of the manufacturing software.

Someone says Ive is even less replaceable at Apple than Jobs. This isn’t quite fair because Jobs worked to make himself replaceable. Let’s hope Ive does as well.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Inside Apple

Adam Lashinsky

♦♦♦

Engagingly written albeit disappointingly somewhat thin, the useful angle here is how Apple differs from conventional wisdom.

Secrecy, even internally, is paramount; it helps alleviate internal politics and keep people focused. There is little internal promotion, taking seriously the Peter Principle. Unlike the rest of Silicon Valley, perks are minimal; working at Apple is the perk.

A product of its time (2012) and of the author’s lack of access, the book is marred at the end by pessimistic obsession with Apple’s viability post-Jobs, but is nonetheless ultimately worth reading because it does convey an impression of what Apple is like.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

When Google analysed their hiring, they were surprised to find that “among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.” Instead, “The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills.” One smart commenter points out that since everyone will have the STEM skills anyway, these other things are the only differentiators.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Value-Driven Business Process Management

Peter Franz & Mathias Kirchmer

♦♦♦

Enlarging on their idea that 80–85% of process improvements come from just 15–20% of processes, the authors argue that organizations must institutionalize BPM like other now-standard departments such as accounting and human resources.

They explain the mission of such a department (effective organization-wide process improvement), the goals (to determine which processes to focus on and which techniques to use for each) and the method (a series of rubrics for evaluating).

Important though the book clearly is in the field, for me it was a slog; the prose is not crisp and the examples seem vapid — though it’s likely that for a reader more versed in the practice they would come more alive. The book does get more quotable and unabashedly enthusiastic towards the end.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Real-Life BPMN: With introductions to CMMN and DMN

Jakob Freund, Bernd Rücker

♦♦♦♦

With their years of experience as business process management consultants—and now vendors—the authors choose “real-life” as their approach, explicating their own methodology for delivering BPM projects. This book serves as invaluable guidance for newer practitioners.

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Trump: The Art of the Deal

Donald Trump with Tony Schwartz

♦♦♦

This chatty, self-serving, very likeable book is arguably necessary reading today, now that the man has climbed to the pinnacle of life.

In buying the Commodore Hotel in midtown Manhattan, his first major success, he had to juggle getting the money from the bankers and permission from the city (though the book’s account glosses over the help he received from his father calling in favors). Each step forward with one party in the deal encouraged progress with another party. This iteration seems to me a fundamental part of the art of the deal: aiming higher than seems reasonable, bringing multiple parties to something they would never have come to otherwise, then inching forward by presenting progress with one party to another party to create confidence, iterating until everyone is aboard.

A must-read coda to the book is the July 2016 New Yorker article with the equally-billed ghostwriter Tony Schwartz wherein Schwartz expresses huge concern about the man he knows well.

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Words of wisdom from Jacques Mattheij: How to Improve a Legacy Codebase (for the computer geeks only).

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Anti-fragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

♦♦♦♦♦

I’ve been listening to the Commentary Magazine podcast lately, enjoying John Podhoretz’s knowledgeable and intelligent monologues, even if regularly exasperated by their ideological blinkers. This week their discussion reeked of black swan events but they fumbled around for the logic that applies. It was obvious that none of the three speakers had read any Nassim Nicholas Taleb, otherwise they would have had the framework and could have moved on. That made them seem ignorant. Which makes you realize these books are seminal. Yes there are irritations, but perhaps these will fade from a more distant perspective. There are echoes here of the iconoclastic spirit of Nietzsche — can there be higher praise?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.

Daniel Kahneman

Monday, April 11th, 2016

There’s nothing worse than organized disorder.

Irit Levy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

The Practice of Management

Peter F. Drucker

♦♦♦♦

Talk about a dent in the universe! This classy Cold War tome cuts it open to demand space for a new thing: management. The universe complied.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

According to Michael Schrage in “Whether You’re Qualified Depends on How You’re Quantified”, being a paid-up participant in the Quantified Self movement will soon be a requirement for getting a decent job. “Best-in-class performers are relentlessly dedicated to measurable self-improvement,” he writes. “Consequently, they relentlessly self-quantify.”

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

“On the Festival of Freedom, we are taking an important step toward energy independence,” the Prime Minister’s Office announced, as Israel’s Mediterranean natural gas fields turn online (FT registration required).

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

index topics management management

Arab Insanity Eroding

What shame, to have tainted with one’s own madness such benevolent bodies as civil aviation, non-combatant status in war — even United Nations human rights bodies.

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

Even if a web site appears differently at different screen sizes, it should still feel like itself. On a larger canvas more expression abounds; distill this into the smaller screen and get more personality; do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?

At Modi’in Mall

There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Restoration and Return

There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

The American model appeared to demonstrate that capitalism plus democracyled to mass prosperity and deep social stability.
-Walter Russell Mead

ASK

Sunday, September 25th, 2022

If “the Jews” ran America, immigration would not have been restricted and Israel would likely not exist.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant (p. 251)

Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Kudos to the Biden Administration: Musk’s Starlink is legally permitted by the US Government to supply internet to Iranians.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

A good ol’ rant by everyone against Microsoft in this Hacker News thread, this time about Teams. When o when will this monstrosity of a corporation die already. “Developer-friendly”; may the GitHub guys get what they deserve for selling out to the Borg.

Israel’s patience and humility is rewarded first by Trump and now by Truss: the UK may follow the US in relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv the seafront metropolis to Jerusalem the capital.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

Very ambitious people probably need colleagues more than anyone else, because they’re so starved for them in everyday life.

Paul Graham, What I’ve Learned from Users

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

So ifixit are really excited by the repairability of the new iPhone 14, the internals of which have been totally redesigned. This was barely mentioned at the launch, and interestingly did not carry over to the 14 Pros.

Friday, September 16th, 2022

At Nat Con 3, Peter Thiel argues in a speech entitled “The Tech Curse” that while the Democrats have nothing to offer but the California model of gutting the middle classes except state employees, the Republicans nonetheless need something more than simply a negation of it.

One heuristic he offers in order to measure societal success in contrast to California is cheap real estate, but offers no path to get there.

My monomaniacal suggestion: flying cars/eVTOLs, which increase the human daily commute distance from about 50 to 250 miles, multiplying our practicable habitable area by likely an order of magnitude. As well as other unforeseeable boons, surely this would radically lower the cost of homes.

But it requires government support. “If the U.S. doesn’t take a leadership role, either someone else will do it or it won’t get done at all,” said Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-California), co-chair of the Congressional AAM Caucus, along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-California), at Honeywell’s Air Mobility Summit. “We are really at an inflection point in the industry. It’s such a critical time for Congress to get involved.”

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

In Mosaic, Philologos discusses the Biblical use of “and”. The crux of the matter is this:

One reason that the prefixed vav is so ubiquitous in the Bible is that, as everyone familiar with biblical Hebrew knows, it can have a second function that is not a conjunction’s. This is the marking of tense—or more precisely, the reversing of tense, since it is a peculiarity of biblical Hebrew that a prefixed vav, when attached to a verb, can change its tense from past or perfect to future or imperfect, and vice versa.

And:

Biblical Hebrew has no punctuation (the cantillations it is chanted to in the synagogue are a later development) and is a language poor in conjunctions. Although it has its own ways of expressing logical and temporal relationships between parts of sentences, something that is largely done in English by means of commas and periods, dependent clauses, and conjunctions like “when,” “while,” “as,” “though,” “despite,” and so forth, biblical Hebrew rarely puts together sentences by such means. It prefers coordinate clauses joined by a vav—or, in more technical language, paratactic rather than hypotactic constructions in which the vav can do the work of various English conjunctions and mean other things beside “and.”

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

The Mufti, Qadaffi, King Hussein — I’m vastly enjoying season 2 of the Israeli TV documentary series Enemies (streaming requires an Israeli IP). One thing I can’t help but notice is the impressive living rooms in which the interviewees — mostly military intelligence vets — sit. None of them are in apartments, all have leafy window views, there’s a lot of wood, and most of them aren’t furnished like typical Israeli dwellings. I guess these aren’t military men, they’re men and women of the world.

I can’t tell if I enjoy Israeli docs because they’re so good, or merely because I’m the target audience. If it’s the former, and I think it is, they really should be selling them subtitled to wider audiences, say to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

It’s great, this pounding away at Israeli history, each episode a different prism.

Monday, September 5th, 2022

The reward is that if you give, even at the times when you think you have very little, you’ll teach your brain that there is more than enough.

Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman

♦♦♦

Entertainingly caustic albeit a tad ad nauseumly, Neil Postman’s famous book regales us with at least one important historical fact and one historical idea.

The fact: that before showbusiness, Americans were by far the world’s most literate, informed, engaged population, whereas today it must be said have a reputation abroad for ignorance.

The idea: that even while powerful technologies are mindless and agnostic, each nonetheless has its own nature that pushes society in particular directions. Postman argues mostly convincingly that print is healthy for society, television not.

Just like the self-help gurus pointing out that it’s better to totally goof off than do busywork because at least leisure doesn’t feel like work and thereby misguide the mind, so Postman prefers straight-up entertainment shows like Hart to Hart to those that pretend to inform like 60 Minutes.

Now, the book was written in 1985 and is about TV; the big question is what Postman would have thought of the Web and social media. He does write that the potential influence of computers is overrated, which reminds us that nobody’s infallible (which does undermine the book’s credibility, so kudos on the publishers of later editions in not cutting out these throwaway few words).

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

For those not yet cognizant of the fact that eVTOLs are coming soon and coming fast, Jeff Scallop writes up the rationale at “Still No Flying Cars? eVTOLs Might be the Answer” in Market for Ideas.

The main attractiveness of eVTOLs is their ability to reduce transit times in metropolitan areas, especially those routes subject to heavy traffic jams. Given current battery autonomy, ideal distances for eVTOLs range from 15 to 150 miles.

eVTOLs also offer many advantages when compared to helicopters, such as a lower cost per seat per mile (currently at $3.00, which is comparable to ride-hailing apps even). They also have much lower noise levels, allowing them to fly at lower altitudes and significantly reducing the necessary infrastructure costs (vertiports vs helipads), which could help boost adoption.

Saturday, August 27th, 2022

Friday, August 26th, 2022

Great interview at Berkeley with alum and local Oakland boy Craig Federighi [Dec 2019].

Friday, August 12th, 2022

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

I agree with the sentiment in this Haaretz op-ed piece “It’s Time for Israeli Media to Start Calling Gaza Victims by Their Names”, an issue I blogged about during a previous Gaza altercation back in 2014 and haven’t changed my mind. What regular folks here in Israel care about are the disruptions caused due to incoming rocket fire — and that’s totally legit. But for the record the media should be noting whom Israel kills in order to ameliorate the aggression — especially when they are non-combatants. Perhaps one argument against doing so is that we must rely for the facts on the Palestinians themselves, for whom facts seem to be malleable instruments. If credibility is truly Israel’s issue, then we should enlist the aid of credible third-parties organizations for corroboration.

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Yippee, Conrad Black is back, juicy and crunchy as ever. From “The Triumph of Davos Man”:

Our [hard Left] enemies leapt from the jaws of bitter and total defeat, hijacked the careening gadfly of esoteric conservationism, and transformed it surreptitiously into a well-camouflaged battering ram that has inflicted immense costs and opprobrium on the corporate world and great sadness and inconvenience on the laboring proletariat on whose behalf the Marxist Left has supposedly been crusading these past 150 years.

The second most important country in the Western Alliance is almost detached from it, all by the apparently innocuous and meliorist actions of Germany’s peppiest environmentalists.

Conrad Black, Triumph of Davos Man

News I can use: to be published in the academic journal Experimental Gerontology, “Frequent sauna bathing offsets the increased risk of death due to low socioeconomic status” — a prospective cohort study of middle-aged and older men.

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

At last, a British publication (The New Statesman, with muchos kudos for the great rebranding) addresses the bonkers British practice of placing washing machines in kitchens and consequently lacking space for dishwashers (or vice versa, the causality is mysterious):

Non-Brits find having a washing machine in the kitchen hilarious (as well as unhygienic, which it is). But the idea of bringing smelly socks near food preparation surfaces apparently pales in comparison to the shady plastic tub in the sink, its fleet of mugs bobbing in the oily foam.

The article even addresses that other bugbear: “UK residents commonly have separate hot and cold taps, whereas single mixer taps have long been the norm in Europe.”

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

Britons should be honored by this Palestinian diatribe against them.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

Telegraphy made relevance irrelevant.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

The act of thinking … is as disconcerting and boring on television as it is on a Las Vegas stage.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Ventriloquism, dancing and mime do not play well on radio, just as sustained, complex talk does not play well on television.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Monday, August 1st, 2022

At Leeham News, Bjorn Fehrm critiques the efficacy of the Lilium eVTOL. His chief criticism:

The Lilium project is in its seventh year, yet it has not transitioned from hover to forward flight during this period. The widely proclaimed transition in early June was a main wing transition, not a transition for the vehicle (canard + main wing). Such a transition is yet to be made.

The fact that a VTOL developer makes such noise about a transition from hover to forward flight of a part of the vehicle tells you a lot. Other VTOL OEMs transition to forward flight within months of the first hover flight. Why is it such an issue for Lilium?

The use of jets voids Lilium of help from a rotor wash to attach the flow around wings and movables. The integration of jet thrust and movable also voids Lilium of a fast movable control surface to counter the pitch disturbances that are part of a transition. The canard design augments the pitch control problem by forcing a nose-heavy design.

Saturday, July 30th, 2022

Nice on Nietzsche. And nice that reviewer John Gray mentions La Gaya Scienza as one of his best books. Time for a reread.

Managing Editor of eVTOL News Dan Gettinger rounds up recent developments by eVTOL leader Archer, Beta, Eve, Joby, Lilium, Volocopter and Wisk.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Really good interview with Seth Godin who had dropped off my radar because his posts felt too brief and too pat unto banality. I love his back-of-the-bottle trick for public speaking. Plus he closes with Eli Goldratt!

As soon as you make the decision not to work at Goldman Sachs everything you’re doing should be because you are trying to enable your mission, not because you are trying to make a living.

Seth Godin, “Seth Godin Hates Being Organized” by Superorganizers

Volkswagen has announced an eVTOL, reports Germany’s IT Times.

Brave of Tablet to publish this inflammatory Hunter Biden laptop story by Lee Smith:

There is so much data on Hunter Biden’s laptop that it’s hard to keep straight the sequence of images and information that have come from it since the New York Post started sourcing stories to the personal computer in October 2020. The most recent release includes 80,000 images that a Switzerland-based cyber expert recovered from deleted iPad and iPhone accounts backed up on the laptop.

There are more pictures, texts, and emails about the younger Biden’s business deals, drug use, sex life, and family relations. Hunter referred to his stepmother, first lady Jill Biden, as a “vindictive moron.” There’s a contact nicknamed “Pedo Peter,” which appears to refer to his father: Joe Biden often used the alias “Peter Henderson,” the name of a character in a Tom Clancy novel, when he traveled.

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

On Israeli Policy Pod, Ehud Yaari for the (more or less) hour. When asked who is the greatest of the many great men he met, he is unequivocal: Sadat.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

The virtues involved in being a good driver —the mix of independence and cooperation, knowledge and responsibility — really are virtues well suited to citizenship in a sprawling and diverse republic.

Ross Douthat, “What Driving Means for America” by Ross Douthat in The New York Times

Tuesday, July 19th, 2022

Haaretz travel writer Moshe Gilad writes of hiking Israel’s abandoned Jerusalem line and how it could be put to use but is being stymied by Israel Railways — a reminder of the typical national dysfunction.

Sunday, July 17th, 2022

Israel views Iran’s new suicide UAVs as a top-level, strategic threat, argues the JISS thinktank:

UAVs are precision weapons, hence it is not enough to kill some of them or even many of them: The operational requirement is to kill them all – in the language of missile defense, to achieve a zero or near zero leakage rate. Defending against swarms of UAVs arriving simultaneously from every direction at treetop levels is a formidable challenge to any air defense system, a challenge that may well require the development and fielding of new technologies and operational doctrines.

Saturday, July 16th, 2022

At the Washington Institute, they note that popularity among Arab populations for the Abraham Accords remains low and that — surprisingly — it’s highest among… Palestinians!

Friday, July 15th, 2022

The maker of Linen, a service to make Slack conversations accessible, talks about how this time he went about starting a startup properly and got income within a month. Impressive.

The Spectator’s best London rooftop bars.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022

Paula Wright has done us a service if we are willing to listen with her piece “We Need To Talk About Karen” on the danger of giving women a pass on malignant behavior. She uses some nice literary references as well, such as Les Miserables and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (though of course the feminist-inclined might point out that these are works penned by men).

It’s all fine and dandy lionising supposedly benign female traits, like “empathy” and “equality” but the evidence is right before our eyes that the female of the species can be just as deadly as the male, if by sleight of hand and not yet recorded in official statistics.

Why is this relevant?

As more women enter politics and managerial positions; as workplace policies become shaped by the invisible hand of female strategies of competition, whilst at the same time we remain both ignorant and in denial about them – this is why we must talk about Karen.

Saturday, July 9th, 2022

Walther Russell Mead illustrates his Jacksonian stream of American foreign policy thinking by showing how much affinity it has with Israel. I think for the most part WRM partakes of it himself.

As I learned from an emigre last night in at a meetup in London, Belarusians have taken to Telegram for news for anonymity.

Friday, July 8th, 2022

Melanie Philips soberly points out the parallels between Britain’s Johnson, America’s Trump, and Israel’s Netanyahu:

Despite the singular characteristics of this British implosion, there are striking similarities between Johnson and two other extraordinary world leaders—Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and America’s former president, Donald Trump. All three were brought to power by voters repudiating the defeatist and self-destructive story being told about their nation by a progressive elite that had lost touch with reality.

In these different contexts, Johnson, Netanyahu and Trump were all seen to deliver what the public had so desperately sought but been denied for so long. All three, however, are flawed characters.

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

“Punch a TERF, smash the Zionists!” Fathom magazine, the journal of BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center, begins a series investigating the ramifications of the post-modern sociological revolution, ie, wokeness.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

experiments in refactored perception

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  • ε/δ Thinking

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  • September 2022 Blog Update

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