Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Apple Way

I woke up to my alarm at 1:15 AM, yesterday morning, and I was on the road, from San Diego to San Jose, about an hour later. There's something very relaxing about driving through Los Angeles at 4 AM, without any traffic. The sunrise's subtle changes in lighting, in California's San Joaquin Central Valley, is unseen, yet clearly noticed.

Lately, I've been flying myself from San Diego to San Jose which takes about three hours compared to the typical one hour commercial flight. But, I had a late night event on Monday evening so I figured that driving was the safer option. The private terminal at San Jose Airport (FBO) has a quiet room and shower in the pilot's lounge, so I was able to sleep a bit and then get cleaned up before speaking at 1:30 PM. (Is that confusing because I drove, but used a pilot's lounge? Well, I used my pilot knowledge and skills to pilot my car there.)

Three years ago, my buddy Kedar introduced me to his MBA classmate, Minnie, who’s originally from China. Minnie lives in NYC and she organizes tours where business delegations come over from China to tour Silicon Valley. These business people want to understand what makes Silicon Valley, Silicon Vally. They do this through presentations given to them by companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, IBM, Stanford, etc., etc. Of course, they want to learn about Apple, but Apple’s a very secretive company and they don’t offer business tours and presentations to the public.

Cupertino is the only place Apple sells apparel. 
That’s where I come in. Since I used to work for Apple, I give the business delegations a presentation about what makes Apple different, when it comes to design and marketing. Plus, I can do something Apple employees can’t do, which is speculate about future Apple products. After my presentation, we take a trip to the Apple Visitor Center and get a tour from an Apple employee. 

1 Infinite Loop: Steve Jobs' office is still in this building.
Sometimes, we'll also visit the Infinite Loop campus (both campuses are about two miles apart). The nice thing about visiting the Infinite Loop Apple Store is that it's in the same building where Steve Jobs' office is, left untouched since the day he died with his name still on the door. Plus, the group gets to say they visited the “Mothership.” 

Voila!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Fun

Yesterday, I had a little fun at the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon with this video trick I saw a few years ago. This technique simply required someone to follow me as I walked backward while others walked and ran by me. A quick import into iMovie on my desktop, followed by choosing the rewind effect, produced the following video.



Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Daily Duty, Part II

In April, I wrote about a cheeky new art installation in my bathroom. Here's Part II, where it gets personal.



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Siri Loves the Sopranos

When I was watching “The Sopranos,” S1 E9, “Boca,” beginning around 34:21, the dialogue trigged “Hey Siri” on my HomePod. It’s the scene where Artie tells Tony to lay off the soccer coach, and they tell Artie the soccer coach’s dirty secret. It happens every time.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Advice to USNA Class of 2018: Be Decisive

Today's USNA '18 Graduation: Those covers (hats) fly high.

Advice to USNA Class of 2015
Advice to USNA Class of 2016
Advice to USNA Class of 2017

The Basic School (TBS), in Quantico, VA, is where second lieutenant Marines are trained to be "Officers of Marines." The key principles I was taught there were leadership and decisiveness. Leadership in the military is, in many ways, similar to leadership in the corporate world in that your authority comes from your job position. Obviously, rank, in the military, also reinforces a person's standing.

Decisiveness is the ability to make timely choices and take action. The challenge with decisiveness, especially in the military, is learning how to make decisions with incomplete information. At TBS, we were taught that a good decision, made now, is better than waiting for ideal information, that may never come, in order to make a perfect decision, later. This tenet taught me how to prioritize tasks by repeatedly focusing on my choices before and after, it until it became second nature.


When to make a decision?

I believe it's important to make a decision as late as you can, if the delay has no penalties. It's OK to decide not to make a choice, now, if a decision isn't necessary. Sometimes, I would explicitly state why I was putting off a decision. As an oversimplified example, "Tonight, I don't need to decide what I'm going to have for lunch, tomorrow, because we won't order lunch for another 15 hours."

But, in the military... especially in combat... we were taught to make the best possible decision, right now. All too frequently, when we were faced with an important tactical decision, our senior officers (captains), who were training us, would yell at the leader, who was taking too long, "Make a decision, lieutenant. Right now. Make a decision."

When I was the lieutenant in charge and I heard this, it put a tremendous amount of pressure one me as I was forced to make an immediate decision in front of those I was leading. My solution to avoid this in the future was by staying one step ahead of the situationat hand. (An important skill that was reinforced when I was training to become a pilot.) More and more training that's as realistic as possible (rehearsals) helps, tremendously. But that's not always possible. My backup was to instantly recognize what choice I could make, now, that would further our mission while maintaining a responsibility to the long term.

A colonel once told me he kept his decision skills sharp by always planning for many possible scenarios. For example, he said that, when he's driving, he always made sure he had a way out. Specifically, the colonel told me that would not pull up too close to the car in front of him, at a traffic light. If the car in front of him stalled at the traffic light, he still had enough room to turn out of his lane while continuing to move forward. (Why retreat when that's not the direction you want to go?)

Getting into a good habit is called self-discipline. Discipline is to the Marines what innovation is to Apple, except, in the Marines, discipline will literally save your life, both in combat and training.

When to change a decision, without being indecisive?

Indecisiveness is a pet peeve of mine. Indecisiveness is changing one's mind when no new information has presented itself.

Simple decisions can be made and reversed if there's no cost or penalty, "I know that I wanted to have a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, earlier, but I've decided to place my order for the chicken club." There's nothing wrong with that since I hadn't yet placed my order. But, I wouldn't call back, after ordering my lunch, to change my decision once I've finalized it. That would be indecisive. I would rather live with my decision to eat something I didn't fully enjoy rather than flip-flop. That's how I live with my decisions.

Putting off a decision, as long as possible, keeps your options open. But, in a life and death situation, that delay to consider your options might only be seconds.


Decision-Making Principles

My key principals in figuring out when to change a decision are:

1. Has new information come to light that wasn't available, before; and, if I don't change my decision, will my mission fail or will my earlier decision violate a key principle, policy, or law?
To maintain integrity, I take this one step further. New information doesn't mean information that was available six months ago, but I was too lazy to research; new information means there's no way I could have/should have known about it before making my decision. A person's judgement is only as good as the information it's based on.

2. Will changing my decision significantly simplify the task at hand, while still accomplishing my mission; and can the change be promulgated to all parties in a very timely manner?

Good decisions, based on principles, make for strong leaders.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Apple Talk Mystery Photo [u]

Here's a minor mystery that has me stumped.

The group selfie photo I snapped.
Last week, I gave my Apple Talk in the Bay Area to a business delegation from China. I began the talk with a group selfie. As I snapped a few pictures, the group got up from their seats and huddled in the center of the room so they would be in my photo.

The group selfie photo that an audience member posted.
A little after midnight, a woman who attended my talk posted some photos from my presentation (she's in the front row, next to my left ear). At first, I didn't think anything of it when I saw she posted one of my selfie pics. Then, when I looked closer, I noticed that the selfie pic she posted wasn't one of mine. After comparing all of my group selfie pics to her photo, I noticed that it was from a slightly different vantage point. This had me (and still has me) puzzled. When I snapped my photo, I was standing in front of the room, up against the whiteboard, and there was a desk between me and the audience. In other words, no one was in front of me or near me.

So, how or where did she get a similar group selfie photo? 
After looking closely at her photo, I noticed a black line, in the upper left of her photo, which I've concluded is the edge of my phone. It seems that the picture she posted was a photo taken of my phone's screen as I positioned my phone and preparing to take the group selfie. Clever.

This theory of mine seems to make sense, except I can't figure out where the camera was located in the audience (lots of audience members snapped photos throughout my presentation). If you take a selfie photo of someone when they're taking a photo of your phone's screen then you'd expect to see them in the selfie picture.

My best guess, without claiming any "my phone was hacked" conspiracy theories is that the camera, which took the photo of my phone's screen, was out of frame or blocked from view by another person, despite the fact that her photo looks to have been taken head-on. And that theory seems to make sense because the same woman, later at Apple Park, showed me some photos she took of my presentation and she made the point that her phone's camera software (not an iPhone) had the ability to remove the keystone effect when a photo is not taken perpendicular to the subject. Basically, her phone's software has the ability to remove distortion from photos taken at sharp angles.

I still want to know where the camera was located in the audience that snapped the photo of my phone screen. Hmm.

Update 24 May 2018: Hear ye, hear ye. It took a couple weeks, but the mystery has been solved. It turns out that the inexplicable selfie photo was taken by my translator. She was standing next to me, in the front of the room, as we began and she took a selfie at the same moment I did, except she was out-of-frame in her photo. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Truffle

Yesterday, I went to a truffle party. In my mind, a truffle is a type of chocolate. I knew that this event would have meat, and not chocolate, but in my mind, a truffle is chocolate.




Black Truffle
Today, I learned that a truffle is actually the fruiting body of a fungus that grows underground. Lovely sounding, eh? Chocolate truffles were named because of their resemblance to the subterranean fungus.

#LST: Learning Simple Things

Friday, May 11, 2018

Foreigners

Last night, I was at a party in Mission Hills that was 90% French. I could count on one hand how many people didn't speak French. Lucky for me, everyone spoke English.

One thing that stood out was that the younger people where discussing their strategies for staying in America. Some were software engineers, EE, interior designers, Realtors, etc, as they compared notes for visas, timeframes, and costs for lawyers and applications fees. I take it for granted that, as an American, I can live here and do nothing. Even the people from the South of France were loving Southern California. I have a feeling that I'll be seeing these people around in the foreseeable future. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Apple's Language Holy War

In the late 1990s, we used to joke about language holy wars at Apple. Apple had purchased NeXT, in December 1996, for WebObjects and the NeXTSTEP operating system (which became Mac OS X and was recently rebranded as macOS). Since NeXTSTEP's release, in the late 1980s, the OS was built on Objective-C (a superset of ANSI C that was object oriented [OO]). In the mid-1990s, Java came along, from Sun Microsystem, and it quickly became the first, mainstream, OO language leading to a holy war between Objective–C and Java.

WebObjects was originally written in Objective-C, but, by WebObjects version 3.5, in 1997, it was fully bridged with Java using the cheekily named JOBS (Java to Objective-C Bridging Specification). A WebObjects developer could write code in Java and most every Java object had a corresponding Objective-C object wrapped and running in the background.


Java vs. Objective-C

Around WWDC 2000 or 2001, Apple settled the holy war by stating that Objective-C would be used on the client (Cocoa desktop development) and Java would be used on the server (WebObjects server development). But we'd still argue about the pros and cons of the two languages.

The strength of Java was that it was a strongly typed language. The strength of Objective-C was that it was a weakly typed language. So, the pros and cons were subjective. It really depended on your needs. Objective-C would let a developer "touch the metal" meaning a developer could write code to interact with a computer's low level memory. This is very powerful, but it requires a lot of responsibility on the software developer's part since they'd have to manually manage their program's memory usage by using pointer arithmetic. Pointer arithmetic allows a developer to directly touch values in the memory of a computer. If the developer makes a miscalculation, such as terminating a string incorrectly, it could cause the program to crash.

The selling point of Java, which was very similar to Objective-C, is that it didn't use memory pointers. Instead, Java code ran inside a virtual machine that acted like a sandbox between the executable code and the operating system. Since Java couldn't directly touch computer memory, it used references instead of pointers. The big joke in Java was, if you tried to call a method on an instance variable that was null, you'd throw a NullPointerException, which was a poor choice for an exception class name since Java didn't have pointers. That message class should have been NullReferenceException. An excellent solution for avoiding these bugs, called optionals (option types), has been implemented in Apple's Swift programming language, three years ago. But I digress.

Since Java ran inside a virtual machine, it was a little more complicated to talk directly to the OS. For example, if you needed to access the computer's file system then you probably shouldn't hard code something like "c:/ProgramFiles/tmp" since that wouldn't work if your Java code ran on a Mac (c:/ is the path to the main hard drive on a Windows computer, whereas macOS doesn't care about the physically drive, but, rather, the medium being accessed with a path like "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/jmoreno/tmp."

Since the path to a file or folder (directory) on each OS was different, it required the software developer to use global variables that the Java virtual machine populated when it started up (on Windows, it's "c:/" and on macOS it's "/Volumes/Macintosh HD."

Not hard coding OS paths requires a bit of discipline, but it keeps the software developer honest and prepared if their code needs to run on a different OS than was originally intended. This type of discipline was key, in 2005, when Apple switched the Macintosh CPU from IBM's PowerPC chip to Intel's CPU. Without the public realizing it, Steve Jobs announced that Apple had been secretly developing Mac OS X for both CPUs and the time had come for Apple to switch to the same CPU that Windows ran on. This had the side effect of allowing Windows to run natively on a Mac using Apple's Boot Camp utility software.


Code Reviews

I have written a lot of sloppy code, in my time, and I discovered that group code reviews, weekly or biweekly, were a great help. This was the place where we could show off our code to the rest of our team; and the rest of the team could question anyone on the code they wrote. Most teams usually don't go out of their way to review someone else's code if it works as expected. Typically, it's not until a particular software developer has left a team when someone else has to read and review the departed team member's code. This can raise a lot of questions as to what the original purpose of the code was.

Good coding practices and discipline will pay dividends years down the road, so take the time to do it right. If not now, then when?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reverse Planning

Reverse planning, also known as backward planning, is a simple concept that took me a long time to learn.

I was raised in a very "casual" family where 90 minutes late, to family gatherings, was considered on time. Sometimes, we'd arrive at Mass after the Gospel (very late into the liturgy). The Marine Corps was less tolerant of tardiness; 15 minutes early was considered on time. In the military, being late is referred to as UA/AWOL – a punishable offense.

I had two key experiences in the Marines that got me focused on time management. Reverse planning is a cinch once you learn it since it requires minimal attention. Simply start with a place you need to be, by a certain time, and work backward.

12:30 PM: Airline flight departs.
12:00 PM: Airplane begins boarding (unless it's Alaska Airlines, they begin boarding 45 mins early).
11:30 AM: Allow 30 minutes to get through security.
11:15 AM: Allow 15 minutes to get your boarding pass and check-in your baggage.
10:55 AM: Give yourself 20 minutes to park and walk into the terminal.
09:10 AM: Drive to the airport. Give yourself an extra 50% for traveling. So, if it typically take 30 minutes to drive to the airport, then give yourself 45 minutes.
09:00 AM: Allow ten minutes to gather your stuff and load it into the car.
8:00 AM: Reveille, reveille! Wake up at 8 AM if it typically takes you 45 – 60 minutes to shower and get dressed. Add an hour or so if you need to pack.

There's nothing difficult about reverse planning other than having the discipline to do it and being honest on your time allowances. I frequently do it, even for trivial events, to keep my skills sharp.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

New Art Installation: 'The Daily Duty'

I have pictures of people pooping in my potty.


The Daily Duty art collection installation in my bathroom

Ok, I know that sounds weird, but it's true. I got the idea from Buona Forchetta, which has the most authentic Italian wood oven pizza in San Diego. Buona Forchetta (good fork) has large pictures of celebrities and heads of state on the throne in their public restrooms. You can't not notice it (apologizes to my English teachers). The first time I walked into the restaurant's bathroom, I immediately asked myself if this was tasteless. But, the artwork is so well done --- with fine creative taste --- that it inspires as it pushes the boundaries of art. Even my mother got a big kick out of artwork. After all, "art is what you can get away with."


Cristina Guggeri, AKA Krydy, Born In 1973


The Artist and Her Art

Cristina Guggeri, AKA Kyrdy, is the Sardinian-born artist who's created hundreds of photo-realistic pictures of celebrities on the throne. The collection, The Daily Duty, includes pictures ranging from the Pope to the Queen and Albert Einstein to Freddie Mercury. Rather than purchasing the prints, which you can do, she encourages fans to purchase the digital images to be printed, locally; and that's exactly what I did. The JPEGs each cost €22 – €27 (about $30) which I had printed on poster board. I installed this art collection in my bathroom with simple binder clips, thread, and thumbtacks. The poster board might warp a little from the humidity. If it does, then I'll velcro the bottom, which has worked very well for me in the past.




Cheeky or Tasteless?

Even though my socially conservative mother enjoyed this art collection, I still questioned its tastefulness. Would I want someone to display photo-realistic pictures of me, or my mother, on the toilet? The short answer is, "It depends." Like all art, its value is based on the artist who created it. While I wouldn't want random photos sold of my mother or me on the throne, I wouldn't mind at all if Guggeri created it.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Kitchen Upgrade

I heard someone complaining about their real estate estimates after a $25,000 kitchen upgrade. It seems the homeowner didn't understand pricing.

Let's say that, today, a home is worth exactly $500,000. After tearing out the old kitchen and installing the new one worth $25,000, the home's value does not increase by $25,000. Hence, the home may end up selling for only $515,000, after the upgrade. The reason for this discrepancy is "overlooked" math. After tearing out the old kitchen, the value of the home may have dropped from $500,000 to, say, $490,000. So, in fact, the $25,000 upgrade was added to a $490,000 home since the previous kitchen, that was demolished, still had a value of $10,000. That's how real values are calculated.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My Oldest Friend

Wynne Matheson Trenholme
13 August 1914 – 15 March 2018
A lifelong friend of mine and second father, Wynne Trenholme, passed away this morning at 103 years old.
What a run!

Although it had been several years since I last saw him, we still spoke, from time to time, especially since he turned 100.

He was still sharp as a tack. One of his oldest memories was sitting atop of his father's shoulders while watching a WW I parade.


Stories

I first met Wynne when I was five years old. As a kid, and throughout high school, Wynne taught me about electronics, ham radio, the steam cycle on ships, and firearm & motorcycle safety, to name a few things. He always had great stories from the South Pacific during his time in the Merchant Marines in WW II. 


Apollo LEM

Wynne's career highlight, while employed by Grumman, was the work he did on the Apollo Lunar Module program. (The Lunar Module is the spacecraft that landed on the moon, best know for becoming a life raft for the Apollo 13 crew.) 

Wynne gave me several astronaut training manuals which I still have. Here's one that I scanned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing: https://goo.gl/9v8VNo

Wynne Matheson Trenholme
13 August 1914 - 15 March 2018
An amazing man who lead a very long and full life.
He was my oldest friend. 

Carpe Diem. 


Wynne Trenholme from Joe Moreno on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Augmented Reality in the Bedroom


I need new end tables, next to my bed. The space is small and I don't mind having something cheap. The challenge was getting end tables that were as big as possible, yet still fit in the limited space.


While shopping with the Amazon app, I found some simple end tables. But, would they fit and how would they look? I've used augmented reality apps, over the past ten years, but this was the first time I used it for such a practical purpose.


I almost overlooked the augmented reality feature in the Amazon app since it was benign text, "See how this product fits in your room." But, as soon as I saw that, I knew how it would work. It turns out it worked much better than I expected. Instead of a gimmicky hack, I could move and rotate the end table, in real-time, via my iPhone's camera and the Amazon app to see how it would look and fit next to my bed. It was intuitively obvious and simple. 




Update: Here's the actual end table which fits exactly as expected.




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Entrepreneur's Challenge

What makes an entrepreneur different than an hourly or salary employee is their willingness to face challenges.

It is extremely difficult for a single person to create and grow a company since they need to oversee every aspect of their business's operations. Nearly all entrepreneurs have an Achilles' heel. If the entrepreneur comes from a maker background (meaning they are career individual contributors like engineers, writers, designers, etc.) then they may have challenges dealing with people such as employees, customers, investors, etc. On the other hand, if they're a "people person" with a background in management, then technical decisions might be their weak point.

The good entrepreneurs are the ones who recognize their shortcomings and work to improve themselves. But, regardless of an entrepreneur's background, it seems that marketing is always a challenge when venturing into new areas. No matter how good the idea, if you can't market it, it probably won't be successful. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

HomePod Shortcoming

The HomePod fits very nicely into my lifestyle. It certainly sounds great for its size and it fills up a room with music you can feel – something we lost when we started using tiny earbuds. Unfortunately, the biggest shortcoming of HomePod isn't its sound or Siri (Siri on HomePod is so much better than on the iPhone.) The HomePod's biggest shortcoming is Apple Music. Apple Music doesn't measure up when playing tunes of a specific genre or artist. Instead, I use Pandora to play music on my HomePod via Airplay.

I've been a subscriber of Pandora for years, specifically due to Apple Music's limitations and it's served me well. Since the beginning of Apple Music's streaming service, it's had a problem playing relevant tracks. Very frequently, Apple Music will start off playing relevant music and then, perhaps ten songs later, it gets off track. My most recent experience is when I asked HomePod to play music by Cole Porter from Apple Music. About 30 minutes later, Apple Music started playing Country Music covers of Cole Porter songs which is an entirely different genre. I've experienced the same thing with Apple Music songs from Philip Glass and Billy Joel. If I ask Apple Music to play songs by Billy Joel, it should not play classical music from his most recent album. That's not what anyone means when they ask to hear Billy Joel.

That got me wondering about the difference between how Apple Music and Pandora choose tunes. Perhaps I'll do a little digging.

Friday, February 16, 2018

LimeBike Dockless Bike Sharing in San Diego

LimeBikes ready to roll
Yesterday, LimeBike.com launched their new dockless bike sharing program in San Diego. Today, I took it for a spin. I couldn't resist when I saw the bikes spread throughout my neighborhood.


My first ride was free. I haven't yet taken a second ride, but it seems that the bike rentals are $1 for 30 minutes for a regular bike and, for electric-assist bikes, it's $1 for 10 minutes plus a $1 unlock fee. This is much better than the local competitor DecoBike, which requires docking and cost $5 for 30 minutes.


Docked-up DecoBike
To get rolling, I downloaded the LimeBike app (available for iOS and Android), opened it, and simply pointed my phone's camera at the QR code on the back fender of the bicycle. Within a few seconds, the bike played a tone as it unlocked the rear wheel and I was ready to go. Like a DecoBike, the bike has multiple speeds, a headlight, and basket.

When I was done, the rear wheel locked and I was prompted to enter my credit card info for future rides. The app gave me an option to save a map of the route that I rode, along with time, distance, calories burned, and grams of carbon emissions I saved. I will definitely be using LimeBike, again.


Conveniently located nearby
Trip report


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dealing With Terrorism and Mass Shooting News

Many of us continually watch terrible news like incidents of terrorist attacks or mass shootings. What we really should do, instead, is stop watching cable TV news and, perhaps, watch This is Your Brain on Terrorism.

On the surface, watching cable TV news (left or right) makes sense because we want to be informed and safe. But, this type of news ends up having the opposite effect, especially if we're not involved in the incident. We know that TV news is important, but we forget that, by definition, news is something that almost never happens. Because shocking news brings an audience, it ends up being broadcast nonstop which tricks us into thinking that it's a common problem.

Just to be clear, no one wants mass shootings – even the NRA doesn't want mass shootings. But, the reaction of people who immerse themselves in this news, and feel helpless at the senseless violence, end up doing nothing effective to make things better. Their typical reaction is anger, talk, and posts to social media where they express their fury without doing anything to fix the problem or its side-effects that spread the fear.

My point of this post is to show you that continually watching cable TV news coverage does very little to help the situation and actually causes more unnecessary anxiety.

If you're scared and you continue to watch scary news then your fear will increase. Ask yourself what would happen if you didn't watch cable TV news. Instead of watching, read a couple news articles, ideally from different sources, and then go about your day while being thankful for how fortunate you are.


Do Something

Feeling helpless? Then find a cause where you can make a difference. Want to right a wrong in the world? Do a YouTube search for "puppy torture" or "puppy abuse," etc., and then foster a pet or do volunteer work. Want to join a big team to right the wrongs on a global scale? Then run for office, enlist in the military or join an NGO. Make the world a better place. At what point does emotional protesting become useless complaining? It seems that the people who complain the most tend to do the least. Stop complaining and start doing. 



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

HomePod after 96 Hours

After using HomePod for four days, I'm still happy.

I was considering ending my Pandora subscription until I realized that streaming music from Pandora, on my iPhone, to HomePod, via AirPlay, works perfectly. (AirPlay, which uses WiFi, has a much better range than Bluetooth.)

This morning, I played music on my Mac, with iTunes, while streaming it to my HomePod. This added an unexpectedly intense depth to my experience as the music was in perfect sync from both sources. It's a cheap version of surround sound.

I've been considering the thought that went into what HomePod currently does. I know there are more features to come, but the current level of integration with iCloud, iTunes, etc is impressive. For example, when playing music on my Mac while streaming it to HomePod, if I ask HomePod to stop playing the music, it also stops playing on my Mac, which is exactly what I expected. If I ask HomePod a question, the music continues playing on my Mac while the music on HomePod fades out as Siri answers my question and then resumes playing. 

Plus, I like that I can use HomePod to control other apps (see video). Very nice.


Friday, February 9, 2018

New HomePod at Home [u]

My new HomePod arrived today. The sound is great, especially the bass.


zOMG! My HomePod Arrived!



I was at a meeting, about half an hour away from home, when I received the shipment delivery notification. Apparently, I was so excited my HomePod arrived that, for the first time, my Apple Watch's "Elevated Heart Rate Notification" went off.


HomePod Setup



The box contained one item, HomePod with a permanently attached power cord plus a little paperwork and, of course, an Apple sticker.

Setup was as simple as holding my iPhone within 2" of HomePod while it took a minute or two minute to transfer my configuration data and link it to my iTunes account.


First Song



Picking the first song to play on my HomePod was no simple task, commensurate with picking a first dance song at a wedding. I chose "Fix Bayonets" which is a bugle call (similar to "Charge") to command troops to unsheathe their bayonets and attach them to their rifles in preparation for close combat.


AirPlay

HomePod is an Apple product, and Apple invented AirPlay for audio and video transfer, so, it's very convenient to use iTunes on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad to control the HomePod.


High Note

I do like that I can use HomePod to text people, "Hey Siri, text my Mother. Did you book your flight to come to San Diego?" Plus, it will notify me of an incoming text message. (Update: It appears that HomePod will not notify users of incoming text messages alerts – it can only read a text message, if you ask Siri.)

Siri on HomePod sounds more elegant and seems to be much better at understanding my commands compared to Siri on iPhone, but it's only been two hours.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Communicating with ATC without Talking

The most direct way for a pilot to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) is by speaking to them over the radio. Sometimes, though, it's hard to get a word in, "edgewise," when ATC is busy speaking to many different aircraft in rapid succession. This can be an issue when a pilot is trying to establish initial contact.

It's not uncommon, under busy circumstances, to hear ATC tell a pilot, who is trying to establish initial contact, to call back later, perhaps in two or ten minutes. That's happened to me, a couple times, as I orbited the Del Mar Racetrack waiting for permission to enter the busy "bravo" airspace surrounding Miramar Airport and San Diego's Lindbergh Field.

Occasionally, there are times when I've established communications with ATC, but, due to their workload, I'm not receiving timely updates. The delays aren't a safety issue, but I often wonder if the controller has overlooked me or if I'm simply a lower priority.

The corporate pilot for QUALCOMM gave me a simple trick for getting the controller's attention. She told me to simply "ident" which causes my plane to flash on the controller's radar screen. Ident is short for "squawk identification." It's a signal sent from a plane's transponder to help a controller identify an aircraft's secondary radar (transponder) return. By asking a pilot to "squawk ident," the controller can ensure that the aircraft they're talking to matches the radar target they're looking at.

Airplane transponders send out codes that the pilot sets. The transponder code 1200 is the most common code when a pilot is flying VFR. If a pilot is flying under an instrument flight rules plan (IFR) then the controller will assign a specific code to an aircraft to track the callsign and aircraft type. 

ATC has established specific codes for special situations:
7500 Hijack
7600 Communications failure
7700 Emergency
7777 Military intercept

Simply hitting the ident button is a helpful way to get ATC's attention. I like simple tricks like this because they're effective yet not as brittle as an unbaked computer hack.

Monday, February 5, 2018

My Laws of Stock Market Drops [u]

When a Friday is an exceptionally bad day, Monday typically isn't a good day either.
--- Moreno's First Law of Empirical Market Observation

After a Friday/Monday rout of the markets, Tuesday will be up, substantially; but not enough to cover the previous two days’ loses.
--- Moreno's Second Law of Empirical Market Observations

Update:
If Moreno's First and Second Laws of Empirical Market Observations are observed, then six to eight months later we will know if the meltdown was merely a correction or a fundamental problem with the economy.
--- Moreno's Third Law of Empirical Market Observations


My uncle is in his late 70s – he's had a very successfully career on Wall Street since the 1960s. (He’s retired, but still closely follows the markets.)

In October, when I was in NY/NJ, I had dinner with him and he said there's probably another 1,000 or 2,000 point upside in the Dow. He called it a “melt-up,” meaning that there was still a lot of money sitting on the sidelines that wanted to get into the stock market. But, he warned, the rise since November 2016 was so quick that it would have to meltdown (correct), very soon. Clearly, that's what we've been seeing in the last two trading sessions on Wall Street.

Today, he was telling me that he was picking his buy-list of stocks to purchase, tomorrow, with a caveat that we will get some kind of rally off this dip but it will not hold (it won't erase the loses of the last two days). Those who did not sell will step in. When the second round of fear comes in (meaning tomorrow), it is a tradeable rally. He ended with, “first trade fails” – so don't trade at the open. 

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.
--- Yogi Berra

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Apple's Q1 Earnings Results

1 Infinite Loop: The Mothership
Apple's upcoming Q1 earnings results, ending December 2017, have my attention. There is no shortage of pessimistic speculation that the iPhone X is selling worse than expected. That has driven down the stock price from its all time high of $180/share to the mid-$160s. That represents about a $75B reduction in Apple's market cap.

Some of the headlines sound alarming mentioning that Apple is cutting iPhone X production. Regardless of how well the iPhone X sold over the Holidays, Apple would still cut production for this quarter since it's not Christmas. But, at this point, that's speculative rationalization on my part. 

I read this article comparing one naysayer's prediction to previous articles forecasting doom and gloom.

Today, I saw a series of tweets from Ryan Jones who seemed to put iPhone X estimates in perspective (prefaced with my own notes).


Dec 2017 EPS Avg:3.78 High:3.88 Low:3.68

Currently, the Street is expecting Apple to sell 61 million iPhones in the second quarter, but Piecyk believes it will be closer to be 53 million.

I miss talking about iPhone units sales. :) It used to be my jam.
My Q1 2018 guess is 83M units (up 7%) at $825 ASP (up 19%).
= Total $68.5 BIIIILLION. Just from iPhone. Previous record $54.5B.
🔥 Up 26% on the biggest product ever. Oh and it's 10 years old. 🔥


Weak iPhone X demand:
WSJ says iPhone X Q2 cut was from 40M planned to 20M.
History: Q2 sales for the last two years were 51.1M and 50.8M. So 40M seems idiotic for just iPhone X.
80% of sales (40M) for the most expensive iPhone? No way.
40% of sales (20M)? Sounds bout right.


Let's just us our brains...iPhone X is probably 33-50% of all iPhone sales.
Recent Q2 sales were 61M, 51M, 50M.
If Apple forecasted 40M iPhone X, that would be 65-80% of sales to the highest end model. In Q2
Nope.
20M would be 33-40% iPhone X.

Yep. Sounds bout right.

Personally, I think the new UI, with no home button, is great. I found it simple to get used to and I love having a screen that's bigger than the iPhone 7+/8+, in the same form factor as the iPhone 7/8. Face ID works much better than I expected, too. There's no doubt that Apple will incorporate these two key features into all iPhones if the component costs are reasonable.

Here's Wall Street's earning forecast:




Gravity & Time

When we study how the universe behaves, we observe four forces (interactions): electromagnetic force, gravity, strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force.

Strong & Weak Nuclear Forces

The strong and weak nuclear forces are not directly observable by us since they operate on the atomic and sub-atomic scale, respectively.

The strong nuclear force is the strongest of the four forces and it's the force that holds matter together. It is approximately 137 times stronger than electromagnetism, a million times stronger than the weak nuclear force, and 1,038 times stronger than gravitation.

The weak nuclear force takes place over a distance of less than the diameter of a proton. It is the mechanism of interaction between sub-atomic particles.

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetism is a universal force we interact with and manipulate. This force travels as wave-particles (photons) and it includes light, heat, microwaves, x-rays, radio waves, etc. Since one of its properties is that it travels as waves, we can constructively and destructively interfere with it. Magnetism, which is part of this force, provides a great example of how this force works when playing with magnets. A north pole and south pole are attracted to each other, while like poles repel each other.

Being able to attract and repel electromagnetism, along with the ability to block it, is a key principle of this force. We pull down a window shade to block out light; we look into a mirror and it reflects (repels) light back at us.


Gravity & Time

Gravity is simply a force that brings all matter together. What prevents the entire universe from lumping together into one big ball of matter is gravity's interaction with the other forces. When climbing a tree and sitting on a limb, I can fell gravity pulling me down while the other forces overcome gravity's pull and keep me (and the tree limb) from falling to the ground.

Time, on the other hand, isn't an actual force. Rather, it's a dimension which can be measured, along with the three spatial dimensions (length, width, and height). Specifically, time is measured by the passage of events. But, on an absolute scale, time can vary which is clearly observed when traveling at speeds close to the speed of light. When a person travels at close to the speed of light, their immediate perception of events seems normal, but their surroundings will be sped up, like watching a time lapse movie. This isn't an illusion. The twin paradox is a thought-experment that illustrates the differences in the passage of time. If one identical twin travels on a rocket at close to the speed of light, they will return to find that their twin, who remained on Earth, has aged more. This phenomenon has been verified by flying a highly accurate atomic clock on an airplane and noticing the time difference when it has returned.

While time slows down as matter approaches the speed of light, there's an asymptote where matter can never reach the speed of light without requiring an infinite amount of energy. Light, on the other hand, is massless and it always travels at the speed of light which, in theory, means time has stopped for a photon of light.

What's interesting about gravity, as well at time, is it only acts in one direction or dimension. There seems to be no anti-gravity at any level. This makes it hard to measure since it can't directly react or be absorbed with a measurement device like, say, a light meter that measures brightness. While we can measure the passage of time, we can't measure its force, especially because that depends of its frame of reference. 

In other words, there's no way to block gravity or travel through time. Perhaps neither one truly exists as a fundamental quality, but rather as a consequence?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sodomy, the UCMJ, and Jury Nullification

Summary: My experience with the crime of sodomy in the military and jury nullification.

There are a lot of similarities between civilian courts and arbitration in the U.S. compared to the U.S. military courts system.


Civilian vs. Military Courts (roughly speaking)


  • Criminal trial = Military court-martial
  • Jury = Members (of the court-martial)
  • Jury foreperson = President (of the court-martial)
  • Grand jury (Preliminary hearing) = Article 32 hearing
  • "Judge Judy" =  Non-judicial punishment, Article 15 
  • Misdemeanor = Summary court-martial
  • State court = Special court-martial
  • Federal court = General court-martial
  • Civilian court (suing) = No military equivalent

There isn't a perfect equivalent between civilian and military courts. The determination regarding which court-martial level is appropriate is made by the convening authority who factors in what level of punishment is appropriate. A key point is that the military courts-martial system does not handle civilian cases (only criminal). Military members can pursue civil cases in civil court.


Jury Nullification and Sodomy 

Jury nullification is a concept where members of a trial jury can vote a defendant not guilty if they do not support a government's law, do not believe it is constitutional or humane, or do not support a possible punishment for breaking a government's law.

In 1996, I was the president of a special court-martial where a married Marine sergeant in my battalion was charged with adultery and a lesser specification of sodomy (specifically, oral sex). Adultery and oral sex were both criminal military offenses under the UCMJ, even if the latter was performed between a married, heterosexual, couple.

As we, the members of the court-martial (jury), deliberated, we effectively ignored the sodomy charge since it was consensual. At the time, I had no idea we had implicitly invoked jury nullification. Looking back, I'm sure we all would have felt a bit hypocritical had we found the sergeant guilty of the crime of consensual oral sex, even though his lover (a married civilian woman), has testified against him through her confession.

We found the sergeant guilty of adultery. We thought we'd be dismissed at that point, but then the judge ordered us to return the next day so we, the members, could determine the punishment and pass the sentence. I don't recall the specifics of the sentencing other than we were given a list of appropriate punishments and we voted on them, from the least to the most severe, until enough of us agreed. The beauty of the courts and Constitution is that their objective is to favor the defendant as much as possible.

Consensual Sodomy Today

"Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) was the official military policy from 1994 – 2011 whereby closeted gay military members were allowed to serve in the Armed Forces. The irony, before and after DADT, is that consensual sodomy, even between married, heterosexual, couples, was illegal.

Fortunately, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 decriminalized consensual oral sex and sodomy.