Friday, November 16, 2018

Little Dog, Big Presence

Drafting this blog post with handwriting recognition software. 
Years ago, I was at a car dealership in Santa Cruz. The U-shaped waiting room was too tiny for the half a dozen of us to ignore each other, especilly the older lady with a chuahah which quickly became the center of conversation for all of us. The cuteness of her dog was a natural draw for people; doubly so for little kids due to its smallness.

The lady said that little kids could sometimes be a bit too rough with her dog and quickly overwhelm it. But, she pointed out that she came up with an ideal solution. She taught the dog to growl on the command “ferocious” and then she demonstrated.

"Excuse me, is your dog friendly? Can I pet him?" she said kids would ask her.


"Be careful, he is ferocious," she’d respond. As she told us this story, the dog showed his teeth and let out a growl fiercer than his size. We all roared with laughter. She then said, "Growl," a couple more times, and each time, the dog let out a highly convincing growl. Impressive and effective. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

iPhone XS Waterproofing

I forgot I placed my iPhone XS on the hot tub cover.
When I flipped the lid closed, into the hot tub my phone went.
The new iPhone XS is suppose to be waterproof; or at least water-resistant for up to 30 minutes when submerged in two meters of water. I have always been very careful with my iPhone. After more than a decade of iPhones, I've never dropped one in water or cracked a screen, etc. 

Last night, I decided to use my iPhone while soaking in the hot tub. I've only done this a couple times since getting the iPhone XS, last month. (I don't even have a case for it.) And, wouldn't you know it, I dropped it into the hot tub for about 30 seconds (That's how long it took me to find it.) I pulled it out of the water and, lo and behold, it hasn't skipped a beat. It's working perfectly.

I would have never brought it into the hot tub, had it not been water resistant, but, now it's nice to know that it works as advertised.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Leadership Delegation


Delegation is an important leadership action. However, it’s critical to fully understand what can and can’t be delegated. In order for a leader’s subordinates to be fully empowered, the leader must delegate their authority. This is the reason a military policeman, with a low rank of private, can detain, ticket, and even arrest a colonel on a military base. Specifically, the commanding general of the base has delegated their authority to the military police.


However — and this is crucial to understanding leadership theory — a leader can never delegate responsibility. If a leader could delegate responsibility then no leader would  be held accountable. If this wasn’t the case, and responsibility could be delegated, then if a leader ever found themselves in a pickle they could simply claim they had delegated responsibility to their subordinate.

Failed leaders who don't understand this are easy to spot since they are quick to blame and frequently throw their direct reports under the bus, which creates zero loyalty. It doesn’t maintain a responsibility to the long term.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Vote!

I rarely publish anything partisan since most people have already made up their mind– and this piece is no exception. It will take a huge paradigm shift for someone to change a political point of view or affiliation.

But, now is your time to make a difference and put your political thoughts, ideas, and beliefs into action by voting. My goal isn’t to tell you what to think, especially not via a one-sided, emotional story that's out of context; rather, my point is to encourage you how to think using logic and reason for a deeper understanding of the issues. There are a times when we simply want to be told what to think, instead of figuring it out, ourselves – this is not one of those times.

The more citizens who vote, the more representative our federal presidential constitutional republic will be.


Protesting Without Action is Complaining

Most all political talk from private citizens (social media, beer and bar philosophizing, etc) ranges from useless noise to parroting others' views without critical thought and deep understanding. Protest without identifiable, effective action is simply complaining. Sure, sometimes the sheer volume of the protest, in itself, is enough to effect change, but that’s rare --- especially when protesters' views are diametrically opposed those of their government. Protesting didn’t work effectively during the Vietnam War, the rise of fascism during WW II, Tiananmen Square, etc. It's great that we have the right to air our grievances but it's terrible how much work it takes to be effective in the face of government power. Giving blood for a failed cause isn't effective.

Politics, without objective truth, is partisanship and, frequently, chauvinism in its extreme forms. I can usually justify a position on either side of a political hot button issue simply by flipping the timeframe from short-term to long-term, or vice versa; what seems like a good idea, today, might be bad decision, tomorrow. As a random example, it’s very easy to oppose most any ballot initiatives involving construction/infrastructure development with a blanket claim “the biggest beneficiary of this initiative is the general contractor since they’ll be paid to do this work.”

While the Constitution may be nearly ideal, our government is made of imperfect people and politicians who decided that slavery was good business, women shouldn’t vote, Japanese-American citizens needed to be interned during WW II, etc. We make mistakes.


Democrats vs. Republicans

Democrats and Republicans both try to create a fair government, but they go about it from different angles.

By de facto definition, Democrats tend to be left-leaning liberals who believe there are inherent inequalities in society which need to be evened out. For example, simply because a person grew up in a broken home doesn’t mean they shouldn't be given the opportunity to reach their full potential if given a little boost (i.e. grant, scholarship, etc). This left-leaning philosophy does not fully describe my political leanings in all cases.

By de facto definition, Republicans tend to be right-leaning conservatives who feel that all inequalities in society can’t be evened out, believing that societal hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable. For example, some citizens will continue to make very poor decisions (declare bankruptcy, drive drunk, etc) and they shouldn’t be allowed to game the system and receive free handouts at tax payers' expense. This right-leaning philosophy does not fully describe my political leanings in all cases.

What we really want are humble leaders with a human side, not heroic leaders who we expect to be perfectly infallible. Leaders who thoughtfully look at the issues and make decisions based on a responsibility for the long term while focusing on the present.

California Pacific Airlines: Dead on Arrival


How brutal is this? After more than nine years, California Pacific Airlines "crashes" trying to get off the ground on its first day of operations. (Ok, it didn't really crash, but one of their planes did have an accident, days earlier.)

I thought I would be part of history when I booked my ticket for California Pacific Airlines's first flight, on their first day of operations, last Thursday, at Carlsbad's Palomar Airport. (This airport has a special place in my heart since it's where I learned to fly.) I had to be in San Jose by 2:30 PM, Thursday afternoon, for my speaking engagement. I booked CPA's 7 AM flight, wondering what I'd do with the extra few hours before my talk.

As I bellied up to the counter to check in, before 6 AM on Thursday, I was immediately told by one of the three ticket agents/flight attendants that my flight was cancelled due to a mechanical problem. (I now wonder if it was related to their previous week's plane accident.) Then they told me they'd be happy to book me on the evening flight about 12 hours later. I told them that wouldn't work since I was returning that evening, also with CPA. 

I spoke to the agents both at ticketing and on their reservations phone line, all of whom were very pleasant, but they simply offered a refund. Mechanical problems, like this one, have happened to me, in the past, when United Airlines used to fly out of Carlsbad. When it did happen, United booked all of the passengers on new flights and provided car service to San Diego Airport, downtown. No such luck with CPA. They could have offered this, especially since it was their first day of operations. They also could have offered vouchers, ticket endorsements to fly on another airline, etc.

To put a finer point on the matter, I am writing this, a week after the cancelled flight, with no sign of the refund processing on my credit card (this was supposed to be handled Thursday morning). Perhaps soon? I also sent a direct, yet professional and respectful e-mail to CPA customer service which has gone unacknowledged. 


CPA Leadership MIA

One thing that struck me as odd was how quiet the Carlsbad airport terminal was, when I arrived. (CPA is the only scheduled airline flying out Carlsbad.) I wondered, on the drive to the airport, if CPA would have any banners, balloons, bagels, or coffee to celebrate their first day of operations. Instead, the pleasant CPA line employees were offered as cannon fodder for disgruntled passengers. Where was CPA's senior management or the board of directors to celebrate such a historic day? Where was Paul Hook, Mickey Bowman, Ted Valles, John Barkley, etc? Not a single executive was visible to apologize for failing to get off the ground on their first day. (The Union Tribune also noted the lack of fanfare for their first flight.)


Holding the Bag

So, where did that leave me? It left me with a 1,000 mile round trip drive, through LA rush hour traffic, to get to Silicon Valley. I've driven cross country about half a dozen times --- sometimes alone when I was in the Marines --- but this was the first time I spent 16 hours, driving 1,000 miles in a day. A new record for me.

By the time I returned home, it had been a 22 hour day, for me. This is the lesson I teach to others, about Apple:
Best possible customer experience.
What more can a company do to make the experience better for their customers (especially due to a company's shortcomings)?

If only CPA put as much care into their customers as I did with mine, requiring me to spend an unplanned 16 hours driving so I wouldn't cancel my commitment.

You cannot build a reputation on what you're going to do. Nine years in the making and CPA's customers were left worse off than if they never tried to get off the ground on that first day. At least that's exactly what my experience was and I think we can see the writing on the wall. I fully expect CPA to be tripping over themselves to make things better for their customers.

Monday, October 22, 2018

HTML Injection for the Better Good?

This is surprising and it doesn't make me feel good.


HTML Injection in the bottom right.
This morning I received an e-mail from my ISP (Cox) stating that I'm getting close to my 1 TB monthly bandwidth limit. This is the first time I've received any type of warning from Cox. I clicked the link in the e-mail which gave me daily and monthly bandwidth usage stats for the previous two months. Everything quickly seemed to make sense. This month, I ran several upgrades for my laptop and iPhone plus I began storing my 100,000+ photos and videos in iCloud, so the extra bandwidth usage all seemed correct.

But then Cox went one step further.


HTML injections by Cox into a random website I was viewing.

Later in the day, as I was surfing the Web, I was surprised to see an HTML injection ("Cox Browser Alert") into an online article I was reading on a non-SSL/TLS news website. Again, Cox was reminding me that I was approaching my bandwidth limit. While this is clever, HTML injections feel a bit like a personal violation.

Unorthodox

Having an ISP inject HTML into a webpage is analogous to the USPS opening a third party envelope that's addressed to me and placing a note, inside the envelope, that I have some business to conduct with the USPS (i.e. a registered letter to pick up, an unpaid USPS bill, etc). It's great that they went above and beyond to let me know. But, it's also a scary reminder that man-in-the-middle attacks... or at least interference... is very simple for ISPs to do; and this is much worse than when they highjack a 404 page.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Apple Logo History: Why a Bite? 

During my Apple talk about what makes Apple different in terms of design and marketing, I'm frequently asked why there's a bite in the Apple logo. Now, I incorporate the following answer into my talk.


Bible?

It's been said that the bite in the Apple logo comes from the Bible story of Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, Eve took a bite out of an apple and gained additional knowledge. Therefore, if you bought an Apple computer, you too could have additional knowledge. It's a colorful tale, but it's not true.


Apple II?

It's also been said that the Apple logo has a bite out of it since the first Apple II had an Apple logo with a lower case "a" slightly overlapping the logo, taking a bite out of it. This seems like a more practical story, but it's also not true.


The Real Reason

The real reason that the Apple logo has a bite out of is because the original graphic designer, Rob Janoff, needed to show scale. Without the bite, people could mistaken it for a cherry or tomato. Since no one would take a bite out of either of those two, it wouldn't be confused with any other type of fruit.

After Janoff came up with the Apple logo, it was immediately noticed that the bite was also a play on words with "byte" which reinforced its memorability. 


Are Logos Important?

While I don't attribute a business's success to its logo, it's always better to have a simple, memorable logo. And, even though what a logo looks like isn't critical, how a logo is used for branding and marketing-communications is of paramount importance. Today, at Apple, you'd never see what we saw with the Apple II; today we'd never see the Apple logo next to the word "Apple" because that's redundant (Apple = Apple Apple).


Why a Multi Colored Apple Logo?

The reason there are six different colors in the Apple logo is because, in 1977, when the first three modern personal computers were introduced, only the Apple II had a color display. The TRS-80 Model I had gray/white characters on a black screen and the Commodore PET has the traditional phosphorescent green characters, like an oscilloscope, on a black screen.


Out with "i" – in with 

We will probably see the Apple logo appearing in more product names since Apple can't trademark the letter "i." Apple TV is now branded as TV and iBooks was rebranded, this past June, as Books. This will avoid the branding confusion we saw with the iHome product line. The iHome was one for the first combination iPod docking speakers and alarm clock, all in one. Many consumers mistook the iHome for an Apple made product, especially since it was sold in Apple retail stores. Preventing brand dilution is key. 


PS: On macOS, you can generate the "" character simply by pressing option-shift-K at the same time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Rule of Law: Punish Everyone?

Judge Judy, chatting with my mother in Little Italy, NYC,
epitomizes the rule of law – with a big dose of common sense.
The rule of law states that every person (or legal entity) is subject to the law. But that doesn't mean every person must be punished for every crime.

Thanks to the Constitution and jurisprudence, a punishment can be reduced or suspended. We've frequently been the recipient of this benefit when pulled over for speeding and let off with a warning. This doesn't violate the rule of law since the warning is a form of punishment.

But, what about the case where most people aren't warned, sentenced, cited, arrested, or punished? Does it violate the rule of law when a police office sets up a speed trap and ignores all the drivers who are going over the speed limit by only a few miles per hour? The short answer is no, because even though these drivers aren't punished, they are still subject to the law. So, while they aren't punished, they could be. Rule of law is upheld.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fear, Free Press, and the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 
– First Amendment to the United States Constitution 

Foreword

We're at the point where entertainment has become more real than reality and we now suffer from information obesity
Exercise: Fill in the blank:
"Houston, we__________ a problem."


Summary

TV news should make us better informed citizens; instead, it's making us unnecessarily more anxious. Here's why that is, and my personal solution for that problem.

Freedom of the Press

Why is a free press so important? Like the rest of the Constitution, its primary purpose is to give rights to individual citizens while limiting the power of the federal government. Freedom of the press is a key part of this right to prevent the government from interfering with the distribution of information and opinions.

Nowadays, it seems that the news has moved away from distributing information and, instead, it is predominantly supplying opinions disguised as news. Rather than telling citizens the facts, the media (especially TV news) seems to be telling people what to think, instead of how to think, which has the effect of dumbing us down.

The news media does this because we, as citizens, get lazy. Simply put, we now view TV news more as a form of entertainment than as a source of unbiased information. Journalists have, effectively, become agents of the news rather than reporters of it. Many so-called news reports on TV have been poisoned with opinions skewed to their audience's beliefs. This is clearly seen on both the left and right, liberal and conservative, Democratic and Republican slants on news articles causing more and more division among the population. Rather than a single pluralistic America, it's clear that there are commercial and political advantages to the businesses and organizations who participate in increasing this polarization. Their gains are our losses. While it might be easy to point a finger at one side, the reaction of the other side seems to do very little for d├ętenteRather than trying to empathetically understand another's view point, we, all to frequently, shoot back with reasons they're wrong. This causes the other party to become defensive and dig their heals in. Many times, the reality of both sides --- why both sides think their opinion is the right one --- has a lot to do with their time horizon; short-term thinking vs. long-term thinking. But that's only one small point of a bigger problem. 


No Longer Informing Citizens

As Americans, we've become over-entertained with news resulting in us not becoming informed citizens.

Here's a test for anyone, from a casual news citizen to a TV "news junkie" (typically, news junkies are people who seem well-informed, usually due to a fear of missing out):

1. What information do you miss out on by getting your news from reading (articles online, in a newspaper, or magazine) instead of watching TV? (In other words, reading the news typically deliveries the news with more logic and less emotion compared to watching it, regardless if it's CNN or FoxNews.)

2. Even more importantly, how well-informed are we when we pick up a voting ballot for the first time? 

For me, the answer to #2 is that I feel very uninformed. I have no idea who most of my local, state, and federal politicians are when their names appear on my ballot. I'm hard pressed to name more than a few members of my city council or county supervisors except for when I have direct contact with them. We know very little about our local politics for many reasons, such as it's boring or there's less advertising revenue from local news compared to national or international sensational stories; frequently, the latter have virtually no impact on us. 

The rescue of the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave in Thailand grabbed national attention. But why should I, as an American, living in San Diego, be more affected by a story in Thailand while ignoring the plight of the others in my own city? The answer to this question is important. In this article, NPR boiled the answer down to one word: Drama. 

Drama is more entertaining than simple, important facts.

Reducing TV News Anxiety

How do we reduce the unnecessary anxiety we get from TV news? In order to do that, we have to consume less of it --- much less of it --- while focusing on more impactful news in our lives, which is the less entertaining local news. 

The first step I took, many years ago, was to simply not subscribe to any TV services (I only have an Internet cable subscription). This Vox video explains how TV news sucks us in especially during terrorist attacks or mass shootings. We get spun up, full of emotions and fear, which typically causes us to think irrationally. Everyone, from the NRA to the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.) wants to reduce school mass shootings. While this is of paramount importance, we seem to overlook any significant effort to reduce the number of child deaths, each day, due to car accidents which far exceeds the number of mass shooting child deaths. Child car deaths only seems to come to a mind when we, as a parent, become concerned about our teenage kid and their fresh, new driver license.

Since I don't have live TV news, I simply read my news online. Lately, I've started to watch short clips on the Apple TV Twitter app (which behaves significantly different than Twitter on the web or the Twitter mobile app). However, I've noticed that even these short video news clips on Twitter raise my level of anxiety without providing any actionable news; and these clips certainly don't make it easier for me to pick candidates on my voting ballot. 

Simply ask yourself why you're watching so much news? Are the key politicians that you constantly see in the national news helping to change your opinion; or is that news simply reaffirming your past voting decision which is something that you can't go back and undo?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Simplicity

Apple's Human Interface Guidelines simplify the Aqua UI.

You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.
de Saint-Exupery


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. But simplicity is like time. We understand it at a high level, but defining it isn't easy.

The challenge is that simplicity lies on the other side of complexity. Without embracing complexity, the simplicity you produce will be oversimplified; in other words, ineffective. But complexity doesn't have to produce complicated solutions when properly analyzed and presented. We see this all the time in computer applications since software development is about managing complexity.

To achieve simplicity, one needs high performance building blocks that are reliable, predictable, and repeatable. Atoms are a perfect example. But, our lives aren't that simple. In our lives, simplicity means minimizing the introduction of variables, especially random ones. That may sound boring, but when we're bored, it's not complexity we seek, rather, it's randomness.


The Simple Life

Generally speaking, simpler lives are healthier than complex ones (just ask Elon Musk). So, what does it take to live a simple life?

Simplicity is about living life with more enjoyment and less pain.
To be happy by making every day go as smoothly as possible.
We want to enjoy and consume life instead of working and transforming it.