Surprises Revealed

Cross posted to withoutletters.com 

A little while back I alluded to a "Surprise to Come".  Well the time has come my friends. 

I'll be moving my digital house to a new spot with a new address.  I purchased two new URLs www.withoutletters.com and www.nathanbaron.com, both of which will take you to my new home.

For those of you that are subscribed to the RSS feed, you will need to change it to the new one.  http://withoutletters.com/feed/  Sorry, I could figure out a way to post to both simultaneously.

If you make the crossing, you'll see that there is still work to be done, and I hope to get some more graphics set up and sort out some things in my side bar.  I have been able to import all of my past posts but unfortunately I wasn't able to bring comments across to the new blog.  I will keep this space open  for as long as WordPress.com will let me, so if you are in dire need of view past comments you can check back here.

This also seems like a good time to thank all of you.  I've really enjoyed watching the traffic go up and hearing feedback from people.  I must admit that I would probobly keep doing this even if no one decided to read, but I am so happy that people find what I have to say interesting enough to keep coming back.

So thank you my friends.  I hope you will keep on reading the thoughts of this man without letters.

Published in: on June 21, 2006 at 7:42 am  Comments (1)  

Apple is not so Different anymore

I’ve been a big fan of the mac for a few years now.  I’ve never been an Apple fanboy, and I am the first to admit that I have my fair share of problems with my macs over the years.  But recently Apple have begun to grate my ethical nerves for a couple of reasons.

Blogging and Social Media

Apple have been developing applications that allow people to blog and podcast with their mac right out of the box.  (Granted the apps aren’t all that great, but whatever.)  Apple customers, and this is a great big generalization here, have been at the forefront of social media.  It’s easier to do audio and video work on a mac, and corporate culture of “Think Different” lends its self to these digital hippies that are creating content for free. 

However, Apple have not adopted these technologies into their own corporate culture which makes a lot of people think that Apple are being very hypocritical.  Bloggers have been bashing Apple’s PR practices for months now and there has been no response at all.  Command and control messaging that has been used by companies to build their brand is no longer effective.  Consumers are skeptical when they hear the lattest tagline, and it is getting harder and harder to buy into corporate messages.  Social media advocates will tell you that the only way to get out of this type of messaging is to engage with your customers.  Listen to them, talk to them. 

Apple was perfectly positioned to do that.  Mac fans are just that: fanatics.  There would be so much good feed back coming from their customers.  But sadly Apple have decided to close the door and continue to bombard us with lifestyle ads.

One last rant on the Apple’s relationship with its customers.  As I mentioned earlier, mac people are fanatics and are constantly waiting for the next product release.  There are several websites that write about rumoured products and services that will be appearing from Apple in the near future. A little while ago, Apple tried to force one of these sites to reveal the source of a leak that revealed a new product.  Apple argued that the blogger is not a journalist and thus was not covered by the first amendment.  Apple recently lost the case, thus granting bloggers the same rights as journalists.  (At least in California anyway.) 

There is a huge irony in the fact that Apple was the company to get everyone all excited about creating new media, these same bloggers are somehow less credible than other journalists, and finally reinforced blogger’s rights by losing a court battle.  Damn, there’s some weird Karma going on there.

Production Practices:

The other thing that bugs me about Apple is that they have positioned themselves to be the ethical company that enables people to change the world.  (Search google video> “Apple ads” to see what I mean.)  They invoke Ghandi and other labour leaders to make their point in their advertising.  How dare they?

Wired ran an article yesterday on how Apple products are manufactured in China.  Apple assembles all of their products in China and their labour practices, although not terrible, have been called into question.  As the article points out, politically propressive Apple should be way above the minimun labour standards.  This is yet another missed opportunity by the Apple PR department.

Another thing about the Apple’s production that bothers me is the quality.  Just a few years ago the aluminum powerbook was a the epitome of production quality.  Recently bloggers and websites have been reporting more and more defects and shody quality standards on their flagship products.  Several class-action suits have been launched against the company and again their has been no public response from the company.

Conclusions:

Will I stop buy macs?  We’ll see.  Although i like to be an ethical consumer, almost every hi-tech product in NA has passed through an asian factory with relatively low paid workers.  As for the PR gaffs and non-communicative nature of the company, we can only hope that Apple will eventually drink the kool-aid and start talking to it’s customers.  We’ll see what happens when people start to get really pissed off.  They are already making comparisons to the “old” evil-empire Mirosoft.

I’ll leave you with some questions:  How important are these things to you?  Is the contradictory corporate culture a deterent to you as a consumer?  Do you care if your products are produced in sweat shops by a company that markets to the politically progessive?

Published in: on June 14, 2006 at 11:06 am  Comments (3)  

CC Chapman on Second Life

I just got through listening to CC Chapman's latest installment of Managing the Gray, where CC gives a great primer on SL.  It's a fantastic summary of what SL is and isn't.

If you've heard the buzz about SL but still don't have any idea what it's all about, check out this podcast.   When people ask me about SL, I'm sending them a link to this podcast.

Also, if you're into social media check out the rest of his podcasts, he's a succesful guy who has a lot to say. 

I'm listening and learning.

Published in: on June 12, 2006 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Traffic Surfing

I love getting around town.  Kingston is not a big place and you wouldn’t think of it as a traffic-ridden place, but at the right time of day, it gets pretty busy.  It sounds wierd, but I love my modes of transport.  Bike, walk, bus, to a ride with a friend.  I have started to make a sport out of how fast I can get from one place to another, without using cars.

Earlier this year I got my old bike fixed up and read up on riding in the city.  There are a tonne of great resources around for the urban cyclist.  (Pedestrians should also read some of these resources; I really hate watching people manoeuvre traffic in such an unskilled way.)

Yesterday I was on foot.  After dropping by home to feed, water and air out the beasts, I ran out the door to grab a bus on Princess Street.  Kingston is so bad for crappy light timing.  You get a good ten seconds of walk light, then five of flashing yellow, then the vehicles start flying and you’d better be out of the way.  Kingston is also bad for crappy, clueless drivers who are making a right turn at a light while your are in the cross walk and almost always curse you because they actually have to slow down during their turn.

Anyway, I’m moving fast trying to get to the bus stop which I know I am currently about a minute-thirty seconds late for.  (I have this fairly well timed from the house.)  I can see the bus coming down the hill.  Dodge right to avoid an inconsiderate “right turner” and break out into a full run. 

When I’m 20 feet from the stop, I hear a honk through my headphones, and with a quick glance right I see my friend Rob in the middle lane holding up traffic trying to get my attention.  Cool, wait for a hole, and make the dash.  (I spot a cop two cars back from Rob tapping the wheel impatiently.)  A nice lady slows down in the inside lane, and I make the dash.  I opened the door as Rob hit the gas, and all of a sudden I’m sitting in the leather interior, nicely air-conditioned space of his Accord.

 Who would want to own a car when you can surf traffic?

Published in: on June 7, 2006 at 12:21 pm  Comments (6)  

I Love My Life:-)

i’m sitting in my backyard after work and Kelly is rolling around in the shade, Rudy is hunting butterflys on the porch, and Jorge is basquing in the sun. I am sitting reading a wired and having a quiet moment before heading off to go sailing. wow. that’s good livin.

Nathan Baron,
Blogging from the Treo

Published in: on June 6, 2006 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Home Grown

The terrorism arrests this past weekend and the anxiety coming out of the Muslim community have got me thinking about immigration, belonging in community, and just what it means to be a Canadian living in ethnically diverse regions in Canada.

 

I was not at all surprised to hear the media report that the Muslim communities were worried about backlash.  I read local politicians saying things like “we have never had a problem with them”.  Them.

 

In Canada we live among an amazingly diverse ethnic population.  Often we see these communities living together in small areas.  The idea of ethnic enclaves makes some people uncomfortable.  It feels like self-imposed segregation.  It seems wrong, in a multicultural community like Canada that we need to create China Towns, Little Italy’s, or the Portuguese neighbourhoods. 

 

This idea of ethnic enclaves is not contrary to our ideal of multiculturalism.  I like to think of this as a way of people staying connected to their roots, while still participating in a larger urban environment.  Neighbourhoods that are ethnically concentrated are a way to be alike and different at the same time.

 

When we have a small sub-group of an ethnic group act on radical fundamentalist views, we often see the leaders of the ethnic group responding.  (I would want to do something too if I had the windows bashed in on my place of worship.)  This is where our beautiful multicultural society breaks.  Muslim groups feel they have to respond because a sub-group has gone and done something that reflects badly on them as a community and they fear the response of other communities.  This pro-active self-defence moves the emphasis off the events and focuses them on the reaction of the communities. 

 

In the US they have taken to heart the “us and them” attitude.   Bush decided to polarize people instead of letting people look at issues from their unique perspective.  I like to think that Canadians can avoid “us and them” thinking by shifting the focus off ethnicity and moving it to the issues at hand, namely murder and destruction.

 

In Canada we have a unique opportunity to move the emphasis away from ethnic politics, and focus on preventing harm to our citizens.  We cannot change the minds of the people that want to hurt us, (they have there own ideals for what is a perfect world) but we can come together to condemn violence and to say that we will not tolerate it.  This can be done in mosques, in Parliament, in cafés and blogs. 

 

I’m nervous that after our first brush with serious terrorist threat that we will take that US approach to dealing with terrorism.   We can respond differently.  We can look at the mechanics of things instead of the ideological root causes.  Getting into this intellectual debate takes the focus off real problem.

 

The media love to report on the inner workings of terrorist cells, and the methods, ideologies and plots.  This makes for interesting news.  People want to see Tom Clancy novels played out in their own neighbourhoods.  We are starved for the juicy detail of what the suicide bomber’s last meal was, or what he said to his family before leaving to become a martyr.   But this creates the romantic view that an ideology is being played out.  It conjures up images of soldiers going off to war to protect what they believe in.  This leads us down the intellectual path that asks us to evaluate the beliefs of others, not their methods.

 

Terrorism is not a holy war.  It is not glorious and it is not glamorous.  It destabilizes communities that have worked so hard to create healthy environments to raise their families, make a living, and live with people in harmony.  Terrorism is cold-blooded murder that moves us further away from these community ideals.  We need to deal with terrorism with the same attitude and motivations that we use when we are combating gang violence or domestic abuse.

 I hope that Canadians will be responsible enough to call a spade a spade and avoid the temptation to get into ideological arguments over who’s view of the world is right.  We have live together for well over a hundred years, focused on making things better.  That seems like a really great place to start.

Published in: on June 5, 2006 at 1:51 pm  Comments (2)  

The Second Life Economy

There has been some interesting discussion lately about the economy in Second Life.  For those of you who haven’t visited SL, Linden Labs has it’s own currency called Linden dollars, and each resident gets a stipend every week.  (Free accounts get $L50 and paid accounts get $L500.)  You can buy currency in world, or you can earn it by generating traffic to a site, selling goods that you’ve made, or by providing services. 

 

As cool as it is that LL has developed an economy out nothing, some problems are starting to appear.  Inflation is rampant in SL, as the LL are creating currency as people sign up as well as making payments for generating traffic.  As in the real word, creating money out of nothing leads to devaluation.  if you flood a market with currency and don't take any out of circulation, it is inevitable that inflation will be a problem.

 

There are quite a few people who are operating businesses in SL and the problem is that it is hard to cash out and make any money.  People are also experiencing raised rates and prices because of the devaluation of currency.

 

I simply don’t have the time to hangout in SL very much, but I am intrigued by the metaverse as it is developing here.  LL are dealing with social, economic and technological issues as the world grows and develops.

 I’m still waiting for a SL application for Palm OS so I can go in world over lunch.  I suspect it is a few years out though.

Published in: on June 1, 2006 at 11:23 am  Comments (1)  

Keitai Culture

I've decided to embrace Keitai culture and do more blogging from my phone.

I still find it totally amazing that I can so easily update my blog from anywhere. I will definetly have to look into a global spell check for the palm though, as my spelling sucks.

I'll try to set up a signature for my palm entries so you'll know when I'm posting from parts unkown.
Nathan Baron,
Blogging from the Treo

Published in: on May 31, 2006 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

R.C.Y.C. Trillium Regatta

Well things have been super busy and once again, blogging is the first thing to be pushed aside.

This past weekend I was in Toronto sailing the Trillium Regatta with Paul Davis and Hal Ebert aboard Shagreen (Peter Van Rossem's most excellect shark).  This was the first time that Paul and I had sailed with Hal, and I think it went pretty well.

The trip down was uneventful and we managed to get registered and have a few beers, before getting a 9:30 launch back to the main land.  I really love hanging out at RCYC.  The facilities are amazing and the sense of history around the place is so strong.

On Saturday we got in three races in very light and variable breeze.  As you would expect the three of us were working out the kinks in our boat handling, but the talk on board was really good.  Paul and Hal are both great big picture thinkers and we had solid strategy.  We were finding that boat speed was a bit of a problem in places, but it wasn't that big a deal.

Unfortuneatly, we had a couple of very unlucky shifts or wind appearing and disappearing at just the wrong times.  In the last leg of the last race we worked our way into a great position on the left side of the course which gave us a commanding position on the rest of the fleet.  But we ran out of breeze and when we tack for the finish line, we found we were headed and almost mid-fleet.  Whatever, you win some and you lose some. After the first day we were sitting 6th in the fleet of 35 boats, with a 6, 8, 15.

On Sunday we were greeted with thick, thick fog that prevented the race committee from sending us out.  We sat around on the veranda and chatted.  It was nice to hang out and talk with people.  I got a chance to meet Martha Henderson, former ISAF president Paul Henderson's daughter, who is in the middle of an olympic campaign and is working with Paul.  Really nice women, really keen and into her program.  Also got hang out with a few of the Defiant crew (Farr 40 that won the Canada's cup), which is always educational. 

As the mist burned off, the wind completely died.  The Race Committee finally called it a day around 1230.  We packed up the boat and won the most important race of the day:  the crane race.  We yanked the boat, took down the rig and hit the road around 1400 and had another uneventful trip.

Sailing with Paul and Hal this summer is going to be a really great learning experience.  Paul's experience with boat to boat tactics, and Hal's insane knowlege of weather systems and strategic talents, are certain to rub off a little.  I feel a bit under qualified to be sailing with these two, but I suppose I have my talents too.

I also wanted to give a shout out to Andrew Morgan and Daina Vagners who not only hosted a great regatta, but also provided a really comfortable bed over the weekend. 

Another big thanks go to Peter Van Rossem for so selflessly lending us his boat and getting everything ready to go.

Published in: on May 30, 2006 at 9:12 am  Comments (1)  

Shrub the Coward

Well it is finally happening.  Canadians get to see what a Conservative government is really like.

This week Stephen Harper made a statement that his government would pick and choose which reporters questions they will respond to.  Harper went on to say that some reporters/ news outlets had a “vendetta” against his government.

How the story has changed.  From the beginning of the federal election campaign, Harper has talked about accountability.  He has beaten the message to death; government must be accountable to the people.  But when it comes time to be accountable in the media, Harper and Co. are singing a totally different tune. 

Mainstream media has a political slant.  This is axiomatic truth.  Every government that comes to power must deal with both sides of the media.  If the government is given the choice of which media outlets they are going to answer, they are effectively removing the press as a safe guard.  They are taking away the presses right and obligation to ask the hard questions and put the leaders on the hot seat. 

What makes a good politician?  A good politician can take questions from both sides, using friends to reinforce messages and using foes to discredit alternate theories and/or courses of action. Funny that Mr. Harper is so uncomfortable answering questions, as he touts his fine debating and speaking skills. 

I am incensed that our government would choose to avoid the hard questions.  Politicians deal with media.  This is how they communicate with citizens and the world.  If journalists cannot ask challenging questions, then we have just lost a key component of our democracy.

The Conservative party are like the school yard bully:  they are all tough when they are beating up on the kindergarten kid, but start crying as soon as they are called into the principals office. 

 Cowards.

Published in: on May 26, 2006 at 9:07 am  Comments (1)  
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