blarg?

Some of you may be wondering why I’ve been grinning like an idiot since noon, so I’ll tell you.

I had an idea today, and it seemed like a decent one so I emailed it to Gabe Newell.

Sir –

My daughter, who is all of two and a half years old, has asked me if I can get her an Aperture Science Turret for Christmas. I told her that Santa wasn’t likely to bring her a turret, but I would see if we could get her a companion cube, and she seems OK with that.

I thought that it would be perfect, though, if there were kids’-sized shirts in the Valve store commemorating Aperture Science’s “Bring Your Daughter To Work” day. There don’t seem to be, though, and I thought I should bring that oversight to your attention.

Thanks for everything,

— Mike Hoye

An hour later I got an email from Arsenio Navarro, in charge of Valve’s merchandising, which read in part:

Hello Mike,

Thank you for your email – and excellent t-shirt idea.
We will correct this oversight and offer a design at the Valve Store. [...]

Cheers,

Arsenio

I haven’t been that giddy about something in my inbox since I got an email from Don Knuth. I’m sure that most of you are aware that Valve Software, and Gabe Newell in particular, are 100% awesome. But for those of you who were not, let me assure you: that is the case.

Classic Toronto Traffic

This is absolutely, 100% typical. The police don’t even bother ticketing them most of the time.

I just deleted my Google+ profile. They asked me why, and I told them:

You’ve successfully deleted Google+ and associated social content

We’re sorry to see you leave! Please help us improve by telling us why you are leaving and what we can do better. This survey is optional but your feedback is much appreciated. Please tell us why you’re leaving:

Here’s what I said:

By disallowing pseudonyms, you’ve effectively cut me off from far too many of my friends. I have the luxury of using my real name for my communications, but that’s exactly what it is: a luxury.

I’m a white, middle class male, with socially-acceptable addictions and middle-of-the-road kinks. I live in a tolerant, cosmopolitan city and I wear collared shirts and khakis. And a few of my friends have none of that.

In some cases, their online identities are, in any respect that matters, their real names; the text on the driver’s license is just a minor formality. In some cases, associating their online identities with their real names would only get them hurt or ostracised. In some cases, admittedly rare ones, associating their online identities with their real names, and hence their real addresses, means that there’s a real possibility that somebody else will figure out who, what or where they are, come to their home and beat them up or kill them.

It’s a slim possibility, sure. But it’s real, and these are my friends; I can’t be a part of a system like Google+ that doesn’t let people manage that risk as they see fit.

Don’t be evil, guys, and don’t pretend it’s OK to impose these conditions on people struggling to manage risks you can barely imagine living with, every single day and night forever. You’re Google, and you’re supposed to be better than that.

A little dramatic? Maybe, maybe. But just staggeringly tone-deaf on Google’s part. It wasn’t long ago that Google did the right thing, and fast, when it came to comparable problems with Buzz. I really don’t understand why they’re digging their heels in with Google+, but I’m perfectly happy not to care, and walking away.

UPDATE: Google employee Bradley Horowitz notes:

MYTH: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one’s entire Google account.

When an account is suspended for violating the Google+ common name standards, access to Gmail or other products that don’t require a Google+ profile are not removed. Please help get the word out: if your Google+ Profile is suspended for not using a common name, you won’t be able to use Google services that require a Google+ Profile, but you’ll still be able to use Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and so on.

According to this page “If your profile is suspended, you will not be able to make full use of Google services that require an active profile such as Google+, Buzz, Reader and Picasa.”

Except every last one of those services, that supposedly “require an active profile” antedate Google+ by years, prima facie evidence that they don’t “require” anything of the sort. As far as I can tell this is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt at covering for an arbitrary, punitive implementation of a misguided policy.

Dear Google: This is really weak, guys. I know you’re better than this.

The reason you never hear about HP in discussions like this is because they bought Palm. Somewhere in some dark corner of their organization they have a patent for “a computer with a touch screen display that fits in your pocket”, and nobody’s going even going to think of picking a fight with somebody who rolls that heavy. HP is the sole owner of the IP equivalent of the hydrogen bomb, basically.

Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola, says:

I would bring up IP as a very important for differentiation (among Android vendors). We have a very large IP portfolio, and I think in the long term, as things settle down, you will see a meaningful difference in positions of many different Android players. Both, in terms of avoidance of royalties, as well as potentially being able to collect royalties. And that will make a big difference to people who have very strong IP positions.

Translated from protection-racket-thug to English, that roughly means “We are no longer able to compete on the merits, or even just ship a phone worth buying, but that doesn’t matter, because we intend to sue other companies in order to make money.” It’s noteworthy that Microsoft is already doing this exact thing to extort handset makers, and Apple is doing this exact thing to prevent Samsung’s phones from appearing on the market at all. But there’s no reason that anyone with an IP portfolio can’t get in on this action.

This isn’t fostering innovation. It’s legalized extortion and everyone with boots on that piece of ground knows it.

@mhoye: Market indicators down on fears market indicators won’t rise… wait um what ca.reuters.com…

These graphics are poached from a friend’s private journal, but I suspect they won’t mind; it’s informative.

@adammcnamara: The stock market: Because you don’t really need your money. google.ca/finance #fack

You know how every single stock portfolio in the universe always has the disclaimer that “historical performance is no guarantee of future earnings”? Yeah, take a look at this. This is the Standard and Poor index over the course of the 80s:

Over the 90s:

And finally, from 2000 to 2010:

One of those things looks very much unlike the others, you’ll notice. In particular, if you started investing in the late nineties or early zeros, you’ve got a decade or more of evidence behind you right now implying that all those people who’ve told you to invest in stocks are thieves and hucksters, and odds are good that you’d have done better putting 90% of your money in a savings account and taking 10% of it to a casino.

From the Globe And Mail, in February:

While youth unemployment in Canada is running at almost 14 per cent, it’s far, far higher in other regions. In the European Union, for example, fresh readings today showed the jobless level among young people at 21 per cent. In South Africa, it’s a stunning 51 per cent. Here’s a telling, and worrying, statistic from Britain: Among fresh college grads, unemployment is 20 per cent.

Periodically I read articles about how young people aren’t “planning for the future”, with all the real-estate-buying, kid-having and so forth that implies, I am enraged by it. I want to show the author these numbers and then smack them across their sanctimonious faces until they stop talking forever. You want people to take the money they don’t make at the job they don’t have, buy bubble-priced real estate, take on a dependent and throw whatever’s left over on what amounts to a craps table? Awesome plan, old person. You get a gold star.

I’ve been able to do these things; I have a house, and a kid, and they’re awesome. But I’ve been incredibly mind-blowingly fortunate to do so, in the same way that previous generations of people, who are now writing these hand-wringing articles, were incredibly fortunate to live through twenty years of relentlessly upward prosperity. I had a computer as a kid, and turned that into a valuable career. I had ample nutrition as a toddler. For all the times I’ve hit my head, I’ve never hit it hard enough that I couldn’t feed myself or understand NTFS, LDAP and shell scripts afterwards. And being lucky isn’t a plan.

And, possibly worse, this is a profound structural and generational problem. My friend David Eaves will talk about this at furious length if you give him the opportunity;

Yes, young people reject the status quo, but it is deeper than that. They eschew the tools that Martin wants them to use – not just party politics but traditional media as well. They reject the whole system. But this isn’t out of juvenile laziness, but for the very opposite reason. In a world filled with choice, one that fragments our attention, they seek to focus their energy where they will be most effective and efficient – at the moment, that frequently means they are uninterested in the slow and byzantine machinations of politics (why engage when every party, even the NDP, are conservative?), the snobbishness of traditional media (when’s the last time a columnist on the Globe actually responded to a reader’s comment on the website?) or a hierarchical and risk-averse public service (held hostage by the country’s auditor general).

… and in a lot of ways I don’t think he goes far enough. It’s not just that young people “reject the whole system” for their complexity, lethargy or conservatism; it’s that there’s a large and growing pile amount of evidence available now that these systems a straight-up sham. Did every TSE-listed company lose 5% of its profits, 5% of its assets or announce a 5% cut in expected growth on Tuesday? Did any TSE-listed company lose 5% of anything except the aggregate price on the sticker? Some did – the people who make the Yellow Pages had a long-overdue bad day, apparently – but how much of that was just panic? Some, most? So maybe, just maybe, this is all just a collective fictions that let rich people get richer and pretend the poor are at fault for their poverty while the dwindling middle class pushes their chips around a roulette table. Is that a naive, oversimplified way to look at things? Maybe. I’ve also got a decade of evidence that when financial shenanigans get complicated then somebody, usually lots of somebodies, are about to get robbed.

And in that environment, the only way to win for sure is to be the house, or not play at all.

Everyday I'm Bustlin'

This came to me the other day when a friend of mine was talking about some acquaintances of theirs who’d driven across Africa, including through the Sudan: some people in some places really, really need a GPS that talks to them like the Fact Sphere from Portal 2.

“The situation you are in is very dangerous. Turn left in 200 meters.”

“Proceed straight for 500 meters. The likelihood of you dying within the next two kilometers is 87.61%. You are about to get me killed. If you proceed along this route, we will both die because of your negligence. The Fact Sphere is not defective. Its facts are wholly accurate, and very interesting.”

“The route you have chosen spans three kilometers of elevation and two war zones. This is a bad plan. You will fail. Violently. Turn right in 100 meters. If you continue on this road at this speed, you will be dead soon.”

“The situation is hopeless. Take the next right turn. You could stand to lose a few pounds.”