What I learned the week of July 15, 2019

Elon Musk is coming up with more wearable technologies to make us look like geriatric nerds from outer space.


As if it didn’t already sound like the name of a 70s TV drama, The Squad could have easily been called The White Shadow.


The Donald had eyebrows on fleek all the way back in 1992.


Nobody knows how to throw an anniversary like New York.


James Bond fans will believe everything except that 007 can be a black woman.

Quake

Up until yesterday, I have experienced only 2 earthquakes in my life. Both were in Illinois, and I have lived in California over 12 years.

The first quake was in 1987. Technically, I didn’t feel it. I was in my grandma’s front yard talking to a friend. When I came inside she asked, “what in the hell was I doing out there?” Because the house had shook a little. I joked, it was probably an earthquake. Sure enough on the news that night we had maybe a 2.0 or something.

The second was in the early 2000s. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the chain on a table lamp jiggling. Again, another minor quake.

Yesterday, I was in a meeting and felt two quick bounces. I thought maybe someone had dropped a really large box in the room above us. Then we all agreed, it was definitely a quake. It lasted maybe 1 second and was over. There wasn’t any time to get under a desk let alone get scared. We all had a good laugh and consulted our phones.

Within minutes it was reported. We had a 4.3 earthquake and we were about 10 miles from the epicenter.

There’s a pretty active fault line near the area we were at. Last year there were about 200-300 quakes in that region. When you go to the USGS website, you’ll see earthquakes are happening all the time. Good or bad, I’m not sure. I’m glad to have the first Cali Quake out of the way.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

We have 4 Cooper’s hawks that were born in our neighborhood some time ago. They’re adolescent birds now, so they’re spending a lot of time hunting and squawking at each other.

Typically, only 1 or or 2 make it to this age from what I’ve heard from our tree guy. So to have four is a big deal.

Last night I came home and 3 of them were in the same tree when the fourth arrived with something in his talon. The others figured it must be dinner time and rushed over. They all picked at it until finally the one dropped it. Turned out to be a pine cone. Wah wah.

I did a little research on these birds and they are one of the most common type of hawk. They’re a medium sized bird and mostly hunt other, smaller birds and critters. We have a ton of hummingbirds around us too, and surprisingly, they make a a lot of noise too.

Another thing I learned about these hawks. They evidently shit white paint, all over my car.

These hawks remind me of a funny-ish story from about 10 years ago. It was in our old neighborhood in Chicago.

I was out walking my dog and noticed my neighbor Margaret looking at something. It was a small hawk on the ground. It was about the age of the ones around me now. It was old enough to be out on it’s own, but not full-sized and it was being stalked by a cat. Margaret was worried for both animals and said she thought the hawk might have an injured wing and wanted to help it out.

So I went back to my house and grabbed our dog’s metal crate. I came back with the crate and a pair of yard gloves. The hawk hopped around Margaret’s yard a little bit, but wasn’t hard to catch. I gently wrapped both hands around it like I was Jim Fowler taking it to the “Tonight Show.”

I held the surprisingly subdued raptor and admired its sharp talons as inserted it into the dog crate. That was all it took to bring the bird back to life. It went berserk and flapped it’s wings and shrieked. Worried it might hurt itself more in the cage, I yanked it out and let it go and it flew up onto another neighbor’s roof. Apparently the wings were working.

I took the crate home, and grabbed the dog to finish the walk we had started earlier. When I came back around the block, the hawk was back on the ground hopping around again. So I took the dog home, got the yard gloves and brought the hawk to our backyard where I thought it would be safer.

The poor bastard I should have left well enough alone.

Then I started Googling trying to figure out who to call to come get the bird, and possibly hand me some kind of honorific for being such a great steward of wildlife. Instead, I learned that I had broken several laws and could be sentenced to 2 years in prison and subject to a minimum of $10,000 in fines for violating the migratory bird act.

I eventually got a hold of someone at a bird sanctuary about 2 hours from Chicago. I lied and told him the bird just happened to be in the backyard and appeared injured. He told me I could bring it out to them and they could nurse it back to health. Since it was just a Cooper’s hawk, and not rare at all, they probably wouldn’t bother.

It was a little bit of a downer to find out I wasn’t saving an endangered species. At least I could get on with my day of not doing anything useful for the environment.

I went to check on the hawk, and he had keeled over and died. I felt terrible, and yes, I probably accelerated his inevitable death by a day or two.

So I put the gloves back on, and wrapped my hands around his rigid body. Figuring such a majestic bird deserved something better than a garbage can funeral, I tossed him in the creek behind our house for the closest thing to a burial at sea.

So, if those 4 hawks in my neighborhood are reading this, just know that if something happens to you here, you’re on your own.

Dog Gone

I received a set of these six balls as a gift for my dog from my son. They have teeth painted on them and they squeak. My dog has gone bat shit crazy over them, and not in a good way. She whines when she’s around them and even more when she’s not.

She’s never acted like this with any toys I’ve bought before. She’s had plenty of stuff that squeaks, so it’s got to be the teeth.

I think it’s some kind of maternal instinct kicking in, because she could have easily destroyed all of them in minutes after I released them into the yard. Instead she tries to get a couple in her mouth at one time, and bats them around with her feet.

It was kind of cute in the beginning. But after two days of nonstop whining I had to throw them in a bag and hide the bag. I’ll save them for when my son is home and is trying to get some sleep.

The gift

When we first moved to the California, we didn’t know a lot of people. My wife met a woman at her job named Reneé. She too had recently moved from the midwest. So, we started hanging out with her and her husband Mike since they didn’t know a lot of people either.

We didn’t have a lot in common with them, but they were really nice, and we enjoyed their company. Coincidentally, my birthday fell within the short time frame we knew them. Mike found out, and surprised me with a gift and dropped it by the house.

When I got home, I opened it. It was a copy of “Cigar Aficionado” magazine. He got a me an annual subscription. “Shit,” I said. My wife asked what’s wrong. I replied, “Mike thinks I’m an asshole.”

So long iTunes

Last week Apple announced at WWDC that iTunes is going away. Supposedly, it’s core functionality of playing music won’t go away, but the standalone app will no longer exist. Hopefully Apple doesn’t make everyone’s music library obsolete, or a mess like iTunes Match.

I’m bummed to see it go because I was there at the earliest stages of the app’s life.

Back in late 1998, early 1999 I was the technology manager for the desktop line at Apple in developer relations. It was an awesome job because I got to work with some brilliant developers and play with the latest and greatest stuff. I was working on the first generation G4 Mac and in charge of loaning out pre-release machines (aka seed units).

Whenever we released new hardware, developers wanted to get their hands on these seed units as soon as possible. They wanted to test their apps and make sure it didn’t break on the new machines. Managing the seed units was fun. You got to make a developers happy, which isn’t very easy.

The G4 was different than previous hardware. The supply was extremely limited and because Steve Jobs was obsessed with secrecy, he didn’t want to seed developers at all. But, Steve wanted something shiny and new to show off the G4 at launch, so we had to make sure a few cutting edge developers got units.

As the gatekeeper of G4 units, I had to decide who would and wouldn’t get one for testing. It sucked because a lot of people’s livelihoods could be upset with broken software. And yet, there was political pressure to give ones to all the big companies – Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia – or they’d threaten to drop Mac support. This left about 10 units left for hundreds of developers. I had to prioritize developers who could show more than just faster versions of their latest app.

There were these two guys, Jeff Robbins and Bill Kincaid and they had one app that wasn’t even released. Bill used to work at NeXt, so I think he used some of his own connections to reach me (coincidentally, we were neighbors and didn’t know it).

They created an app called SoundJam. It was an MP3 player that also ripped CDs. This wasn’t new, there were already apps like WinAmp on Windows, but it was the only option for Macs at the time.

Bill wanted a seed unit because he thought it would significantly speed up ripping. The G4 processor had a built-in DSP which could give a 10-20x performance boosts for a limited number of functions.

I couldn’t loan him a unit because they weren’t even the kind of developer we supported when we had enough, but I didn’t want to be a dick. So I told him I’d try it on my personal seed unit. Sure enough, it was a lot faster. Bill kept me fed with updates to SoundJam and I got hooked. I started ripping my personal CD collection and made a jukebox out of a spare all-in-one G3 (aka “the Tooth”). Bill gave me copies to share with colleagues and soon we were all hooked.

The G3 Tooth. When Steve was evaluating the product line, he saw this one and said, “Looks like I missed one.”

Eventually, I snuck Bill a seed unit, because he had a feature he wanted to add to show off the G4’s processing power. It was a cool realtime visualizer that responded to the music you were playing. This became the thing that got Steve’s attention. When we launched the G4, SoundJam was one of the apps they demonstrated in the keynote.

I left Apple to go work for a startup called eMusic because I believed digital, downloadable music was the future. I was right, but I bet on the wrong horse. Apple would buy SoundJam a month or two after I left and rename it iTunes. And the rest, as you know is history.

iTunes is one of my all-time favorite pieces of software. Not only because I love music, but because it was unlike any other program Apple owned at the time. It didn’t atrophy or languish at some dot release for years. It was always evolving and changing, mostly for the better. In the end, maybe it is time for it to go away.

Concert file: Jason Isbell and Father John Misty at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA

Last Saturday we took our daughter to see one of hers, and our, favorite acts – Father John Misty at the Greek. This was the second time all three of us saw him there, and the third time my wife and I saw him. The first was in LA at the Wiltern on tour for “Honey Bear, I Love You.”

Of the three times we’ve seen him, this last concert was more subdued and shorter. He had some fun new twists on his older songs. For example there was a guitar solo instead of horns in “Chateau Lobby #4”, and an explosive surprise in the middle of “Holy Shit.”

Missing was the great light show, and time for more of his songs. I still think he put on a great show, but this wasn’t just his tour. He’s out on the road with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit alternating between headlining and opening. Both acts split their time evenly, so it’s neither is really an opening act.

I’ve been wanting to see Jason Isbell for a while. He comes through here at least once a year, and with other interesting acts. Last year, he opened for Aimee Mann at the Greek. In some ways he’s more of an anomaly than Father John Misty. He looks and sounds like he should be doing straight-to-Ford-F-150 commercial country. Instead his stuff is more about American shittiness than exceptionalism. He’s definitely a woke white king, which must be hard in the circles he travels in outside of Berkeley.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was Blake Shelton from where I was sitting.

Not only is he a pretty deep and thoughtful songwriter, he plays a pretty mean. He took the lead on many of his songs including a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell Me All the Things You Do.”

The only minor disappointment of the evening was neither played my favorite songs. Every time the guitar tech got out his Les Paul, I thought, finally he’s going to play “Super 8” but nope. Father John didn’t play “Idea Husband” either, which I was expecting in his encore.

As much as I think it’s cool these two artists seem to be touring as buds, I’d rather go to two separate concerts and hear more of each artist’s deeper catalog.

UNTUCKit Undone

I was shirt shopping the other day at J. Crew and couldn’t believe my eyes. Someone had finally cracked the code on what has to be the biggest innovation in men’s apparel since the cargo short. They now sell shirts that are several millimeters shorter and can be worn untucked and yet, be socially acceptable.

For years, I have been seeing ads on social media for UNTUCKit shirts. I could never put my finger on what made these shirts so different? But someone did and that someone managed to raise $30M in venture capital.

J. Crew isn’t the only other company doing this. Now pretty much everyone from Kohl’s to Nordstrom is selling their own version of these shirts. This must be devastating to the investors and inventors of UNTUCKit because they just started opening all their own retail stores – a bold move in a climate where retail stores seem to be closing at a record pace.

I’ve done a little research and it turns out the UNTUCKit guys may very well have been accessory in their own undoing. If you go to their website, and scroll down. You will see someone has literally published their trade secret right there on the website for the whole world to see. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but this looks like it could be an inside job, perpetrated by some disgruntled employee.

There it is! Out there in broad daylight. No wonder everyone else was able to come out with their own versions so quickly!

I don’t know if UNTUCKit will make it, let alone deserve to survive. They have been milking this one trick pony while other breakthroughs like no pockets or reversible cuffs come from other guys. I think their founder may be asleep at the switch, too busy wine tasting in TriBeCa.

Juice Cleanse

My wife and I have been married a long time, so we thought now is as good a time as any to stress test our marriage. So we tried a juice cleanse this week. At the same time we are experiencing an extreme heat wave (105 degrees) and our old house doesn’t have air conditioning. We rarely need any, but when you do, oh boy.

I never thought something that’s supposed to feel so healthy could feel both bad and good on so many levels. First of all, I feel like I’m logger deforesting old growth forest for sport. A whole bag of kale produces a teaspoon of juice, and it takes 2 bags of carrots to get even a half cup. Each juice I make generates about a pound and a half of vegetable detritus. The good news, our town has a decent composting program and all the waste won’t, go to waste.

After trying to subsist on juice for a day and a half, I feel physically terrific. I haven’t really lost any discernible weight, but I feel lighter. Meantime, mentally, I’m an insufferable grouch.

At this point, I think I’m going to have to make a major life decision. Do I go on the rest of my life fat and happy, or healthy and hangry.