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Archive for July, 2010

One More Irrelevant Article to the Twitter Canon

July 31, 2010 2 comments

It feels like early 2009 all over again. The New York Times is pushing an article about an author’s discovery of Twitter and the gems of realization that followed therefrom. You can read it here. It spends a bunch of time discussing how people are now becoming performers as they package their lives up for Twitter, and so forth.

Fair point.

But the article fails, miserably so, at distilling the other side of the “packaged stream of thoughts” coin. What about the psychology of the *follower*? I’m on Twitter, primarily, because it has become the default way to overhear the smartest people in my industry. Its like being at a tech conference without the terrible food and the panelist bloviation. In fact, Twitter has now replaced Google Reader as the quickest way to get to news and information of value. The fact that I also use it to rant about the Seinfeldian absurdities of life is quite secondary.

Or maybe I should shut up and expect no more or less from The Times, which after all is not out to cater to just the XKCD audience. Either ways, let me know on Twitter. I’m @saumil.

Categories: life

The Bridge: The Life And Rise Of Barack Obama (Quick Book Review)

July 22, 2010 1 comment

In spite of multiple policy disappointments, I remain a big fan of Barack Obama. Combine that with a propensity to make impulse purchases courtesy of Amazon Prime, and this 572 page biography of Obama landed with a rather intimidating thud on my desk a few weeks ago. The book is written by David Remnick, the editor of hoity-toity mag The New Yorker.

The book is compelling for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason to pick it up is that its not a singularly focused bio of Barack. It actually interleaves Barack’s rocket rise in the American body politic against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the narrative of race in this country. It paints a rich picture of African-American autobiographical styles, for example (when discussing Dreams From My Father) that you’d normally not come across unless you were widely read in African American studies.

Coming back to the purely biographical aspects of the book, Remnick is horribly well sourced and researched on his primary subject. The book is richly detailed and textured, beginning all the way back from Barack’s ancestral home of Kogelo, Kenya and culminating with his inauguration in January 2009. Remnick has interviewed key characters like Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, high school friends, colleagues from The Illinois State Senate, etc. in significant detail and is able to present a relatively complete picture of 44.

The book also shines in outlining Obama’s key temperamental qualities and how he came to acquire them. In a world that generally celebrates leaders and alpha dogs who scream like a banshee (Jamie Dimon, Ari Gold), it is simply wonderful to see Obama in action in a variety of circumstances large and small. It should give young aspiring leaders hope and pause before they flout The Asshole Rule.

The book is definitely VERY light on issues of the 2008 race so if you’re looking for a blow-by-blow on the campaign, the book will be a waste of your time. In fact, the book actually covers the 2008 campaign exclusively through the lens of race – a jarring shift as you’re reading but a worthwhile one for the narrative in the end.

All in all, a wonderful read for anyone that considers themselves a student of leadership and American history.

Categories: life

Only in Silicon Valley: Neighborhood Toughs Who Debate

Scene: I’m stuck on El Camino Real at the stop light on Stanford Avenue, right next to that Starbucks. I pull up right next to this Piece Of Shit bright orange Eclipse. A moment later, a gorgeous, jet-black Audi R8 pulls up right behind the Eclipse.

I always love to see guys in piddly wannabe sports cars like The Eclipse get p0wned. I pray for a badass machine like the R8 to pull up alongside, simply daring The Eclipse to a Fast And Furious kind of race. So in anticipation of The Eclipse Boys eating crow, I roll down the window and peer slyly into the car, past the eye-gougeworthy orange color.

A couple of young neighborhood “toughs” blaring indistinguishable hip hop. What a surprise. Windows rolled down…this ought to be good.

But instead of focusing on their rearview mirror with a clear visual of the Audi, they’re trying to read a damn bumper sticker…on the minivan in front. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

And then all of a sudden, one of them goes, “You Can Bomb The World Into Pieces…But You Can’t Bomb The World Into Peace”. And the other one pipes up, instantly, “Actually I’d argue against that…if there’s no one left to bomb, wouldn’t we have peace after all?!”

Struck by the profundity of the argument, and disgusted at the quality of Palo Alto’s teenage thugs, I roll up my windows and wait. I miss rough-and-tumble Kansas City sometimes.

Categories: life Tags: ,

Cutting The Cord: On Life Without Cable TeeVee

July 10, 2010 1 comment

Like most of you, I’ve had a longstanding hatred of Comcast’s TV services. You want me to pay WHAT for this piece of junk Fisher Price DVR?! Loving your Apple products and hating Comcast’s stultifying services are 2 sides of the same coin.

So when I moved recently, I decided to cut the cord and not get TV at all. Here’s how I’m doing it, in bullet point format:

  • I bought a 300 dollar HTPC (home theater PC) from Acer. Its just a Windows 7 box in a compact form factor and comes with a wireless keyboard/mouse.
  • The HTPC has an HDMI out which goes directly into my LCD. I also connected it via Ethernet to my router.
  • I got the baseline Netflix subscription
  • I’m going to get Hulu Plus
  • I downloaded and installed Boxee for Windows.

And here’s the end result of all of this, also in lazy bullet point format:

  • Windows 7 stinks to the high heavens. Unlike Macs, things don’t work seamlessly.
  • Not having sports is pretty challenging.
  • Hulu Plus and Netflix together can get the job done for TV shows and movies.
  • Boxee isn’t as great as its made out to be. I was impressed, no doubt, but there’s definitely more heat than light here.
  • All in all, cutting the cord is a bitch and I don’t feel like the sharpest tool in the shed for having gone down this path.

Thus far, though, its worth it to not get price-gouged by Comcast. Let’s see how long I can hold out!

Categories: life