Bits and pieces
July 14 , 2005
I haven't been doing a whole lot recently that has inspired me to write an entire article. There have certainly been plenty of things going on in the world that have piqued my interest however. Having left enough time for them to build up a bit, I will now proceed to share with you my views on a broad range of topics and issues. Whether you like it or not. As a function of its breadth, this could be a long article. Also, it may include some expressions that may be PG-13, so just be warned. Finally, for the benefit of those who need structure, I will break it down into subject areas.
Apple - Macintosh-related
On Wednesday, July 13, Apple announced a better third quarter than expected, an event that seems to be occurring with surprising frequency of late. Profits were put at $320 million, with total revenue a staggering $3.52 billion. That's impressive.
Unfortunately, it's also led the larger-headed Mac addicts to make their usual round of unrealistic and completely ridiculous predictions about Apple's future. The most common misconception is that Apple is "nipping at the heals" of Microsoft. Even the rosiest factual reports put Apple's market share at 3-4%, hardly a position from which to do anything that even resembles nipping. I think the more accurate analogy is Apple as the gum on the heal of Microsoft's proverbial Bostonians - sticky enough to be noticed, but not enough that you don't think it'll just come off on the sidewalk as you go on with your day.
The second, and more egregious, misstatement is that now that Apple is doing well and they have a bright future with Intel, they will make monumental gains in this market share. I've seen people tossing around numbers as high as 30%. All this from two successful quarters and the announcement of a hardware switch.
Production doesn't work that way and neither does consumer demand. Sure, things are going well, but this does not mean that market share will increase exponentially, and for a number of reasons. Let's say that Apple doubled its production and that it was rewarded with a doubling of market share to 6-8%. That's a 100% increase in production. Consider this: using the same theory, all other things equal, an increase to 30% market share along the same lines would require about a 900% increase in production. Suddenly doesn't seem so feasible does it?
Perhaps my simple math is just a little too simple. Perhaps not. The underlying idea remains though. Apple has made incredible improvements in the recent past, and the future looks bright. I just wish some of its loudest enthusiast advocates would think before they make ridiculous, far-reaching predictions based on 6 months worth of events. Time has proven that, especially for Apple, nothing is predictable.
A good deal has happened since I wrote my opinions regarding the US Grand Prix fiasco. Unfortunately, none of what has occurred has changed my mind. I still believe that the FIA, and especially FIA President Max Mosely, are too self-interested and erratic to effectively set and enforce the rules for Formula 1.
In what must have been a Kangaroo Court as laughable as the US race itself, the FIA found the seven Michelin teams guilty of two counts of bringing the sport into disrepute. The proceedings had two saving graces however. The first was that they were found not guilty on three other, more serious charges - charges for which they could not possibly have been asked to answer - not reasonably anyway. Second, punishment was delayed until September. This allows the seven teams and, more specifically, Michelin (over whom the FIA has no legal power) time to do something to make the situation right.
With Minardi boss Paul Stoddart hinting at a major boycott of future races if "draconian" measures were taken as a result of the hearing, and Mosely blustering that punishments could be as serious as banishment from the sport for life, this seems to have been a reasonable compromise. The fragile truce could go exactly the opposite way though, if further unreasonable action is taken in September.
Frankly, I hope it does. Having read reports of the rules put forward by Mosely and the FIA for the future of F1 after 2007 (when the current contracts expire), I am not optimistic about a forward-moving F1 Championship series. What I hope to see is a fresh series, with a new governing body, that continues the technological innovation that has been driving the current series. This will hopefully keep things fast-paced and keep the manufacturers involved - beneficial to both sides since many of the experiments in racing eventually make their way to the consumer.
If Mosely wants to take his brass balls and the waste of a team known as Ferrari, who seem interested in nothing more than licking them for him in return for more F1 revenue, and make a slower, less interesting series, then more power to him. I won't watch that crap though.
On September 11, 2001 the world as we know it shattered. Perhaps that is a cliché and over-used statement these days, but it is useful to remember when putting the London attacks of July 7 into perspective. For nearly four years now we, as a Western community, have been piecing together our previous conceptions of a safe and prosperous existence. And at least once a year an event comes around that knocks those fragile repairs back into pieces. London was exactly that.
Every day we see footage of suicide bombs, car bombs, shootings, kidnappings, and a whole slew of other human-inflicted atrocities. And every day we use that footage to desensitize ourselves. The idea that these things happen "over there" is part of the repair mechanism we use to build a feeling of security. A given day in Iraq or Afghanistan (or even both) can result in just as many casualties, and very often more, as we saw in London. Powerful countries like Israel and Russia in the province of Chechnya see a risk of an attack of that size pretty much daily.
However it is not until it happens where it is not "supposed" to, no matter how many warnings have been given that it eventually will, that we allow ourselves to experience emotion. Long sighs and shaking heads become gasps, tears, expressions of anger, and, sometimes, frightened silence.
As with the Madrid bombings, once the current highly visible, frantic investigations and inevitable arrests are done with, we will start to build those shells again. Sure, some terrorists will be off the street - dead or imprisoned. Certainly, your community has made a statement of its resilience and strength. Maybe there are even some new laws of debatable effectiveness in place that weren't before. But the risk is still there. What is more disheartening to me than any terrorist action is how quickly we are willing to let down our collective emotional guard for the security of denial. It is human nature I suppose, and I do not mean to be bitter or cynical, but I would like to see less of it form the average citizen.
Unfeeling, self-interested people
This one gets a little more personal, so you can stop reading if you want.
I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line it became common knowledge that people don't actually have to listen to each other anymore. Someone or something has conditioned too much of our society to think that when you've met that "special someone" it's just supposed to work and that true happiness comes naturally, you shouldn't have to work to make things right.
At the risk of sounding redundant, bull crap.
Even the most genial, well-matched couple is going to have arguments, sometimes many of them. This may indicate that the couple is just going through a rough spot, it may be that one or both of the people thrives on argument or needs a rapid exchange for stimulation, or it just may be the dynamic of that couple. It may also be that the couple is not getting along and should not remain together. All of this I acknowledge and all of it is up to the individual couple to decipher for themselves. Indeed, despite prevailing opinion, no relationship survives and thrives without effort.
My problem arises when one side ceases to even listen to the other. Anyone with any kind of education should understand that there are at least two sides to every argument, so I do not understand why it is acceptable practice to automatically write your view in stone as correct and not allow the other person to even finish speaking before you begin to rebut them.
It reminds me of the shift in our nation's political life as well, and frankly it worries me. We are the country that pushes for others to be open, to be accepting of other countries and their beliefs. But at home we are the country that encourages adversaries to be unmoving, standing by their "values" to the end. We teach our children and students to choose those "values" and then never give an inch. An argument in America has become nothing but a screaming match, no listening, no thought, no skill. After a while one (at least one who considers enlightened thought and a free exchange of ideas to be a good thing) begins to wonder if there isn't a good deal of credence to be granted to some of the criticisms of our society that come out of the developing and less powerful areas of the world.
I have more thoughts on this subject but perhaps this is not the place.