It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the middle of July - a pleasant breeze blows and it isn’t sweltering like it was last summer. I’m leaning up against a log on the south side of Queen’s Park and writing this post on my iPad. The Patullo Bridge is closed this weekend for seismic upgrades, so this area of the park is unusually serene - the drone of traffic crossing the bridge into Surrey is delightfully absent.
The groundskeepers tend to ignore this part of the park because it is seldom frequented. It has a slightly unkempt, natural look - unlike the manicured gardens to the North where happy young couples take wedding pictures in the rose garden. I like it.
There’s nothing like sitting quietly in nature. I feel rejuvenated and at peace. Green spaces quench the thirsty soul and wash away the thick stench of the city. I couldn’t imagine how unhappy I’d feel if I lived in the middle of an urban wasteland. A concrete prison with an apartment window looking at a brick wall and a cubicle at work with no windows at all. I guess a lot of people live that way, which explains a lot about all the aggression and stress in this world.
Unlike Google and the other guys, there was no talk of AI or bots at Apple’s software showcase this year. Instead, Apple was true to form, highlighting aspects like “differential privacy” and “continuity” - features that keep you locked into their ecosystem.
Overall, the event was fairly low key with Apple focused on improving and polishing rather than innovating (I think it was the announcement of universal cut and paste that got the biggest round of applause).
Still, I always enjoy sitting down to watch the two-hour infomercial that is the keynote - if only to see what free stuff I’m going to get. Remember when Apple actually charged for software upgrades? It’s way more fun to watch these things after you’ve sold your kidney for Apple hardware. There is no angst at WWDC - only benefits for those who have already paid the Apple tax.
Since the keynote was divided into four software platforms, I’ll do the same and comment on each one individually.
When I sat down to watch this year’s I/O keynote, I couldn’t help but recall last year’s incredible gift to the Google faithful - Google Photos. Free unlimited uploads in their full resolution for pictures under 16MP. It was, and still is, an amazing service. It even uploads Live Photos on my iPhone 6S - something that even iCloud’s photostream doesn’t do.
Perhaps a few years from now, Google will hold our bloated photo libraries hostage in exchange for our souls, but so far this hasn’t happened. And maybe when it does happen, we’ll willingly pay the price. It’s so easy to become addicted to the machine learning that organizes our pictures and creates photo albums for us; machine learning that can identify the content of every photo. How could you not love searching for “hugs” to view all those pictures of your loved ones engaged in a warm embrace?
This year there were no surprise gifts, but Google continued to show off its burgeoning AI prowess. A new messaging app was shown with eerie “smart replies” that allows the AI to answer in your stead.
We’ve never met, but I write to you every day. Writing to you is my job, but still, I do care.
It starts with the small things. Knowing the frustration of ambiguity, I try to choose the perfect words for you. I painstakingly pore over both our company’s Language Guide, as well as the latest Simplified Technical English specification to ensure I am not using any forbidden words. I also try to use terminology consistently, so that I don’t give the same part two different names.
I also never use the word “utilize”. Although, to my abject horror, one instance did slip through when I copied some text from the Sales and Marketing department.
I then craft the perfect sentences - not too long, not too complex, but with delightful variations in syntactic structure so that you don’t get bored. I polish these sentences so that they are as smooth and round as a river stone, and can therefore be reused in multiple contexts.
Tesla’s Model 3 is not only a jaw-droppingly stylish car, it is also a compelling window into a future world where the electric car is king.
It certainly has anyone who is interested in technology and design drooling. Tesla’s electric cars come across as gadgets, complete with over-the-air software upgrades - not boring utilitarian vehicles.
Indeed, the Model 3 truly is a product of the tech industry. It’s also an eccentric genius billionaire’s baby. Which makes Tesla a truly unique company, and the Model 3 an astoundingly fresh entrant in a stale car industry. An industry, by the way, that last saw true innovation over a hundred years ago with the debut of Henry Ford’s Model T.
But is the Model 3 really a vision of the future, or merely a mirage?
There’s a poignant moment in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when the Holy Grail crosses the Great Seal and triggers the collapse of the Temple of the Sun. The earth is torn asunder, and Elsa, a Nazi agent and Austrian archaeologist, loses her life. After Indiana Jones fails to save her, he ends up hanging precariously in the crevice himself.
Indiana’s father catches his hand and tries to pull him to safety. But, with his other hand, Indiana tries to reach the Holy Grail, which rests tantalizingly on a narrow ledge nearby. He can almost reach it; his fingertips brush it. But his father cannot hold on as oily sweat causes their hands to slip.
Indiana’s father (so aptly played by Sean Connery), says, in a soft, gentle voice: “Indiana… Indiana… let it go”.
And he does. As Indiana rides into the sunset and John William’s theme song swells over the closing credits, we knew it really was his last crusade.
But we were wrong.
Kanye West’s new album, The Life of Pablo, is fantastic. At least, that’s what people who’ve signed up for Tidal say. Because Jay Z’s streaming service is the only place you can get it.
Except for, of course, other illicit means. But we’ll get to that later.
So, after the album’s release, Kanye crowed on Twitter that his album will never be available on Apple Music (or on CDs for that matter).
It feels like the West Coast vs East Coast rivalry all over again. We have Apple Music on the West Coast, with Dr. Dre and friends. Then we have Jay Z and crew representing the East Coast.
Or, should I say, the metaphorical East Coast. Because it’s not like Jay Z or Kanye actually live in the godforsaken east. They live in California of course, along with everybody else famous.
But clearly, Kanye does not want to attend any more parties in L.A. So, what gives?
I’m sure you are familiar with the “nature vs nurture” debate. If not, google it - I’ll wait.
Got it? Good. For me, most explanations for human behaviour can be lumped into the “nurture” side - a bias, no doubt, fostered by my time studying anthropology at university.
However, there is something to be said for the “nature” side as well. Evolution bakes instinctual responses into the DNA of all animals, after all. Horses, for example, have an innate fear of snakes, and therefore snake-like objects. Sometimes, a horse will rear when faced with a snake-shaped stick.
It’s January and most people like to write about New Year resolutions, or predictions for the year ahead. But I’m quite tired. And no, I didn’t mean that to sound like a sardonic riff of a Flight of the Conchords song. I just feel like writing something more free flowing and fun that requires less research, intense pondering or tortured introspection.
So, I’m going to compile a breezy list of things I’m looking forward to in 2016. Just off the top of my head. And in no particular order. Yes, the year ahead will bring weddings and babies (not mine, just to be clear), which is all very exciting of course. And I have a new job to sink my teeth into, which is very satisfying. I also want to be… better in 2016, in many ways. But forget about that for now. Let’s talk about music, tech, movies, games, books, and that sort of superficial, but fun, fluffy stuff.
Well, since I have a five-hour layover here in Amsterdam, I may as well rustle together some thoughts on my trip to Norway.
The only reason for my visit was for work, so let me start with my time at Kongsberg Maritime. After an unsuccessful attempt at using DITA at VTech, I was a little skeptical about plunging into structured authoring, although I was willing to learn the tools of course.
But Ragnar, the senior information developer over there, put me through a DITA boot camp where he promised I would eat, sleep, and dream of XML and DITA. And I did. So, did I emerge a DITA disciple, ready to spread the word at home?