Sep 25, 2012

Apple's new topographic maps defy criticism

 The press gets a huge collective "FAIL" in my opinion for neglecting to cover one of the most, if not "the most" important features ever released on the iPhone!  A feature which, incidentally, is embedded in Apple's new and much complained-about topographic maps system. The feature? How about the fact that Apple's new voice guided topographic maps system will doubtlessly save lives!

Depth perception and voice nav!

Anyone who's "chased the blue dot" while driving and using Google maps to guide them on the iPhone (don't give me that look, you know you've done it!) knows that using Google maps for guidance while driving is DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS!

I live in Austin, Texas and have used the new Apple topographic maps a number of times.  In each instance it worked not only flawlessly, but in a way that didn't require me to look down at it (except for the occasional glance to marvel at how accurately its 3-D positional guidance feature was working) unlike when using Google maps.

Clearly there are some areas affected by insufficient or erroneous Apple maps data coverage on iPhone's new topographic maps.  That sucks, I feel for those folks, and suggest they go back to using Google maps for now.  But let's remember that they're in the minority and it's Apple we're talking about here. Yeah, they get plenty wrong, but they tend to correct quickly and not make similar mistakes again.

I think those Google maps users who haven't used the new Apple topographic maps system on the iPhone are going to be very pleasantly surprised.  I also think, far more importantly, by using them they'll be safer.


Christian Hunter
Austin, TX

Sep 12, 2012

iPhone 5 Release Video

Here you'll find a leaked video describing the key features of the iPhone 5:

Some of the researched improvements to the iPhone 5 not featured in this video are its exact screen dimensions.  Here below are the exact measurements of the iPhone 5 screen:

iPhone 5 dimensions:

3.567 inches length
2.058 inches width

iPhone 4S dimensions:
3.023 inches length
2.044 inches width

iPhone 5 screen thickness:
.091mm screen thickness

iPhone 4S screen thickness:
1.01mm screen thickness

The iPhone 5 screen is also remarkably scratch proof!  In a side-by-side scratch test using a key the iPhone 4 showed considerable scratching whereby the iPhone 5 showed none!

A full detail of all the changes made to the iPhone 5 should be made today at 1pm Pacific Standard Time.

Scratchproof iPhone 5 Screen

iPhone 5 and 4S side-by-side comparison of dimensions

Sep 4, 2012

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke drops cognitive deuce on Colbert Report

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke demonstrated heart-stopping ignorance this evening during her Colbert Report interview.  To paraphrase the most outrageous parts of the interview: when asked by Colbert essentially what the 11th District Congresswoman from New York would say if she could be transported via time machine back to Brooklyn in the year 1898, she said that she'd proclaim to her captors "let me go!".

Somewhat confused by what the Congresswoman was referring to, Ms. Clarke made sure Colbert knew she'd demand the state of slavery that existed in 1898 come to an immediate end...35 years after we fought the whole Civil War thing that ended it!

Somewhat shocked (as all but Colbert's most profoundly idiotic viewers were) Colbert asked who exactly (as a black woman) she would demand to win her hypothetical freedom from...and this is where it got far weirder: the Congresswoman replied "the Dutch" [insert gasps, and various iterations of "holy shit" made audible by those my home anyway].

Here's a link to the full video of Yvette Clarke on the Colbert Report

Almost as though on Repo Games, Colbert served up numerous "are you suuuure..." type looks and pauses in an effort to free Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (pun intended) from the heart-stoppingly ignorant display she was putting on (or at least keep her congressional seat from being repo'd).  But no, the Congresswoman would have nothing of it.  Instead she denied Colbert every opportunity afforded her to escape the interview without looking as shit-brainingly idiotic as possible, insisting that in 1898 it was about time those sneaky Dutch and their slaveholding ways came to an end!

If Colbert really wanted to decimate her he'd ask when the Dutch no longer held political control over New York and it became a state, you know, the one she represents in Congress!?  We have at least one member of the House who, among other things, doesn't know that the United States has been around a bit longer than 114 years!

The Congresswoman is proud of her interview
Even after the interview, just two short hours ago, on Congresswoman Yvette Clarke's Twitter account, she was advertising the interview as though proud of it!?

Can someone tell me how this woman was elected?

If not, at least offer me some hope that this will end her career as a member of our Congress?

Sep 3, 2012

Is the United States now owned by China?

Public concern with China's increasing political and economic might, coupled with our inability to get comfortable with the federal budget deficit (no matter its percent of GDP) are teaming up nicely to amplify anti-Chinese sentiment.

Few look favorably on China's role in our economy; this despite the inarguably positive impact it's had in lowered our cost of living (keeping domestic inflation in check, and in turn lowering our cost to borrow for everything from cars to homes).

I disagree.  In fact, I believe we have China just where we've been moving (both politically and commercially) to put them for decades.  Going back to Nixon, it was clear then that the Chinese were a very different brand of communist than their comrades to the north (for which they too held a distrust that rivaled our own...and still do to this day).  Nixon understood the Chinese had been capitalists for thousands of years, and at the core of their Marxist push was a steely-cold and calculating plan; one that recognized no iteration of Jeffersonian democracy could leapfrog the better part of a billion people over the craggy and risk-ridden transition from agrarian to industrialized with nary a scratch.  Anyone who's had the chance to take a gander at the awesome (and democratically-impossible scope of the) Three Gorge Dam (and the near 1.5 million people it displaced) can sympathize with the fact that sometimes tough and wildly unpopular decisions paved the way to more than one democracy (or republic as the case may be).

Yet fears of Chinese hegemony is increasingly influencing public opinion, in a mood that harkens back to the 1980's when, prompted by the fear-mongering media, many Americans believed Japan would surely overtake the US economically.  Japanese xenophobia climaxed with the purchase of the Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall in New York...what was next, The White House!?

Not many years would pass until, much like the Japanese economy, the very same company that triumphantly plunked down $900 million to own Rockefeller Center would walk away, selling their ownership for what they paid out of concern that it was a "losing investment" (its value today is in the many billions).

Fast forward to present day and, much like the Japanese love for American real-estate, the Chinese can't seem to get enough of our national debt. Or so the media would have us believe.

As a consequence, a significant percent of America's public today believe we have a dangerous reliance on China, oft citing Chinese and, to a lesser extent Japanese, purchases of America's nearly $16 trillion in our national debt as their chief concern.

The only problem with those headlines is the fact that they're just not true. While yes, the Chinese, Japanese and plenty of other foreigners do own meaningful percentages of US national debt, it's actually Americans themselves who buying up most of our treasuries.

Below is a fascinating breakdown of who actually "owns America" (in terms of how much US national debt is owned by foreigners) as of 2007 and, well, it sure isn't the Chinese:

Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9%)
Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1%)
Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1%)
Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5%)
Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6%)
Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2%)
Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1%)
State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2%)
Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4%)
United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4%)
Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5%)
State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5%)
Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4%)
U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6%)
China: $1.16 trillion (8%)
The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3%)
Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19%)

So out of the $15+ trillion in national debt (which is a fraction of America's net worth), America owes foreigners only about $5 trillion of it…the other $10+ trillion is owned by us. For good or ill.

Sep 2, 2012

The Great Pen Meltdown at Kickstarter

Like thousands of others, a little over a year ago I placed an order from what may have been the cutest and sweetest couple to ever start a Chinese pen manufacturing company together.

Of course it was a lot more than that, yet as the weeks and months went by with no product, I let myself become momentarily irritated at you guys over the seemingly incessant delays to your Pen Type-A; that is until I began to read some of the other posts and realize just how vitriolic and frenzied an assault that adorable couple at CW&T (Che-Wei and his girlfriend Taylor) at Kickstarter had become.

So this note is from one soon to be owner of your Pen Type-A); and my best effort to empathize with your nightmareish situation, and register my own brief apology:

Seeing the kind of challenges you had endured  really gave me pause, and after giving it some thought, I realized that my own frustration was super-amateur, instinctual, and something I felt bad karmically about. So I wanted to share some of my thoughts, at least as partial penance (pun intended).

Of course it's pretty easy to be frustrated with the way things have turned out thus far with the pen, but if one were to pause as I did and allow themselves just a minute or two to imagine what they would do if put in your shoes (and I mean from the very start to present-day), it becomes awfully difficult to stay mad.

Just walking through this whole ordeal chronologically: you guys had a great idea to develop this very interesting pen; you were obviously very passionate about it, and it seemed a simple enough project to execute against (this is probably a good place to remind ourselves that this admittedly new product run called for only 40 or so orders for the new pen, not over 4,000!). So based on what you believed your subscription would be (which you "hoped" would reach $2,500, not nearly $300,000 for *'s sake!), as well as your rightful confidence in the basic resources and staff you had to fulfill what you expected would be a small beta-order, you very reasonably opted to test demand on (a then still-novel) Kickstarter platform.

I was around for your launch; I ordered and then marveled at how quickly interest in the Pen Type-A seemed to pile-on! The time-lapse between putting your toes in the proverbial water and finding yourselves pulled under, buried by a torrent of unrelenting demand wasn't a gradual one, it happened practically overnight!

There was absolutely massive (and I believe unprecedented at the time) oversubscription to your offering. Now I'm not sure if you could have put on the breaks from a technical standpoint (using the Kickstarter system to shut-down or even reverse demand?), but even if you could, how many of us would ourselves slam those money doors shut? I wouldn't.

So you rolled up your sleeves and went all-out to build an excellent pen, and quickly satisfy that enormous demand. Unfortunately you ran head-on almost immediately with your first of many setbacks with Chinese manufacturers – who themselves may speak broken-english but are often quite fluent in the language of over-promising.

From there, in my view, you've done a heroic job of keeping thousands of us updated on Kickstarter (27 times in 12 months), and in not letting however many nervous breakdowns you guys may have had affect your progress. All the while you've managed to admirably continue to chip away at the problem and delivery more and more of the Pen Type-A product (to seemingly delighted customers!).

So, if assigning blame is what drove a customer to this page on Kickstarter, then I suppose they'll be happy to learn you've swallowed your collective pride, held your noses, have taken full and unconditional responsibility for ALL the problems that have haunted your beleaguered pen project (despite the fact that your production problems could have been anticipated by a very select few experts out there with many years of experience in the world of Chinese manufacturing).

However, I bring blame up for another reason; I think all of us participants should bear in mind that Kickstarter is about helping fund "startup projects" from a unique vector and unique stage of gestatory development. As I see it, dollars from Kickstarter are basically pre-seed and pre-angel funding! As such, expectations for a "smooth anything" are themselves errors in participant thinking...ergo, a customer participant blaming only you guys would be a failure on their behalf to take their own share of the blame in recognizing (before ordering) that their very small investment at a typically wildly risky stage of a new operation might not go flawlessly for them.

Alright, enough of all that. Keep at it you guys, you're almost there. I hope next time you won't let fear of unknown variables preclude you from displaying the same volume of courage, or slow that all important early inertia that earned you such incredible early success with the Pen Type-A. As an quasi-investor/customer of yours that'd be my only concern for you. Remember:

Skepticism, good.

Cynicism, bad.

You'll be through this soon enough, and I for one hope for an opportunity to participate in your next project.


Christian Hunter

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