Thursday, July 26, 2007

iPhone keyboard and laziness

Spell-checkers have given all of us a crutch when it comes to writing; we let them fill the gaps in our lacking spelling capabilities.

We've stopped memorizing the phone numbers of friends and family and have given that responsibility over to the contact lists in our cell phones.

I've found myself using yet a new crutch, the iPhone typing auto-complete/correct functionality. In order to compensate for users hitting the wrong keys on the tactile-less soft-keyboard on the iPhone, Apple dropped in some software that determines what I intended to type, even when I screw up a few letters. For example "lrtters" automatically gets converted to "letters" so I don't have to a) either type more slowly to get it right the first time, or b) have to go back and correct the mistake myself.

I can type very fast on the iPhone thanks to this auto-complete/correct feature. I've gotten intentionally lazy at hitting the correct keys because the iPhone is surprisingly good at figuring out what I intended to type anyway. Why should I bother trying to hit the right keys!?

Next step will be building in some contextual and grammatical nuances to the system can auto-correct even the most horribly butchered words.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

American cafes, service, and tipping

I don't understand why cafes, by-and-large, in the U.S. skip one of the most important parts of the experience; servers!

Cafes in Europe and Asia have folks dedicated to the cafe tables, whether indoor or out, who take your order, and bus tables. However we don't have this in the U.S. I find it a strange anomaly that we seem to have left it out of our culture.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Google doing Evil in North Carolina

I love the "do no Evil" mission statement that Google uses. It's one of those statements that's obviously too good to be true, particularly for a publicly traded company, yet they maintain it; bold.

Business Week has a great story on the process that Lenoir, N.C. and Google went through in order for Google to select Lenoir as the site for one of their $600m data centers.

Corporate Welfare (as it's often called) is one of the greatest detriments to our societal well-being in my opinion. It is basically described as a public municipality providing tax incentives (as well as others) to a private firm in order to lure that private firm to the locality, in hopes that doing so brings in revenue and jobs. As an aside, Wal-Mart is one of the worlds greatest recipients of Corporate Welfare.

Google's top-tier negotiators landed over $200m in tax breaks and other incentives from the repressed locality of Lenoir. The general issue with Corporate Welfare is the imbalance between the bottomless budgeted private firm's legal team, and an insufficiently equipped local city council. Making matters worse is that there are many municipalities that are so desperate for revenue, they'll do anything to lure firms to their region.

I'm grateful for living in Boulder, CO where Corporate Welfare has been kept to a minimum (though we're starting to show signs of weakness), but most of the U.S. isn't so lucky.

The counter argument to Corporate Welfare being a negative is that it is ultimately up to us, as citizens, to define how these deals (or lack thereof for that matter) get hashed out, however, sadly, as is often the case, the public often doesn't pay attention at the right level to counter the activity.

Google manipulated the desperation of a down-and-out community to their, significant, financial advantage. That's great news for Google and its shareholders (of which I am one via various mutual funds), but sad news for a community suffering from an already eroded tax base.

Google likely did not break any laws, but there's a line between "legal" and "right" that they crossed IMO. For all of the incentives they garnered, they skirted any commitment to guaranteeing any actual jobs for any period of time. Put another way, they can leave Lenoir in a few years, and move onto the next community that ponies up the right incentives, leaving Lenoir at the alter.

I constantly struggle with social responsibility vis a vis the capital machine that drives the planet. It's always a tough balance, but tax avoidance, just because one can, is generally shameful.

Free market economics... yea, yea, I get it (and support it). I like to have more of a conscience though.

I'll plug a consistently successful (~10% a year and never less) investment to make a point that money can be made within the confines of social responsibility; Pax World Funds.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"Making a tape"

I'm "making a tape." Well, not really, rather I'm building a playlist in iTunes, but it feels like I'm making a tape; something I used to do when I was a kid. The thing to do was build a compilation of music you liked for a certain person, or occasion, and record each song from one tape to another.

It used to take time and patience and skill as you had to sync the start/stop points on two different analog "tapes" for music recording.

I find it a deeply emotional process. Today's version of it is comprised of dragging/dropping songs I like into a playlist, which doesn't carry the same weight as investing the time in fast-forward/rewind/record to locate the right song to record to the destination tape, but it's still a heavy process.

Each song is a piece of me. Pulling a piece of myself from one place and dropping it in another has always been therapeutic.