1 Man, 100,000 toothpicks & 35 years

Passionate about toothpicks:

I have used dif­fer­ent brands of tooth­picks depend­ing on what I am build­ing. I also have many friends and fam­ily mem­bers that col­lect tooth­picks in their trav­els for me. For exam­ple, some of the trees in Golden Gate Park are made from tooth­picks from Kenya, Morocco, Spain, West Ger­many and Italy. The heart inside the Palace of Fine Arts is made out of tooth­picks peo­ple threw at our wedding.


The Appler TV

Everyone’s got an idea on whether Apple will make a TV or not. John Gruber says no, Marco Arment says no, Chris Dixon says yes, Neven Mrgan says maybe.

If you think everything is converging, Apple’s Cinema Display line is approaching and exceeding small television sets. So I can see how Apple might have the factories available to manufacture a true Apple TV.

Most pundits look at whether or not Apple thinks there’s a market or a some other economic reason for building a product. I don’t think that’s true. If Apple cared about the market, Safari would be going toe-to-toe with Chrome on features and functionality. If Apple cared about the market, they’d be much more aggressive trying to get Macs on everyone’s desks instead of PCs. If Apple cared about the market, they would have set a much higher goal for the iPhone than just 1%.

I’m sure whether a market exists or not factors into their decisions on products, sure, but they don’t start there and build a product. They start by identifying what sucks and then identifying the market potential.

Apple thought IBM computers sucked, so they built the Mac. Apple thought Internet Explorer sucked, so they built Safari. Apple thought notebooks sucked so they built the iBook. Apple thought keyboard and mouses sucked, so they made their own (hold your “the mouse still sucked” jokes for later). Apple thought routers sucked so they built Airport. This can go on and on with iPods, software like iMovie and iPhoto and more.

There’s one product that I think Apple will base their approach on: The Apple Hi-Fi. Remember that thing? Apple thought stereos sucked so they built one to use an iPod instead of a radio, CD or cassette. There were plenty of third-party stereos with iPod docks on the market, but Apple evidently thought they sucked. I can imagine Steve Jobs wanted to listen to his music in a room and he probably cringed at having to stick his beautifully crafted iPod into an alarm clock/AM, FM radio/CD player/white noise machine/flashlight thing.

I think the TV is the same. Apple’s curated this wonderful content into iTunes and they wanted a beautiful way of sharing it with a person’s living room TV and rather than build their own glass box, they went with the comparatively ugly TV screens that abound and made what is now the Apple TV. They learned their lesson from the Apple Hi-Fi and I don’t see them making the same mistake over again with TVs. People sometimes have more than one stereo in the house and they don’t upgrade it every year. The same goes for TVs.

Steve Jobs has said the Mac is the center of your media universe. That’s not likely to change despite most people claiming the TV is the center of their media universe. Apple’s where they want to be: your Mac is the center of the universe and you control everything in iTunes from there. Apple TV, iPads, iPods and iPhones are arms of that. They just happen to be able to access the same content.

While I don’t doubt that Steve probably cringes every time people fire up iTunes in their Apple TV on their boxy Sony Trinitron, Apple’s created the ecosystem they’ve said they wanted. I suspect they’ll stay there and focus their attention someplace else. Personally, I hope to see them put some pressure on cable companies by getting everyone to think differently about the content they watch and purchase.

If Schools Were Supermarkets

This is an interesting perspective:

Suppose that we were supplied with groceries in same way that we are supplied with K-12 education.

Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties.  A huge chunk of these tax receipts would then be spent by government officials on building and operating supermarkets.  County residents, depending upon their specific residential addresses, would be assigned to a particular supermarket.  Each family could then get its weekly allotment of groceries for “free.”  (Department of Supermarket officials would no doubt be charged with the responsibility for determining the amounts and kinds of groceries that families of different types and sizes are entitled to receive.)

Except in rare circumstances, no family would be allowed to patronize a “public” supermarket outside of its district.

Residents of wealthier counties – such as Fairfax County, VA and Somerset County, NJ – would obviously have better-stocked and more attractive supermarkets than would residents of poorer counties.  Indeed, the quality of public supermarkets would play a major role in determining people’s choices of neighborhoods in which to live.

The whole piece is worth a read. One could easily argue here, however, that people get pigeon-holed into crappy grocery stores all the time because market forces don’t justify having a bunch of expensive food in the ghetto. There’s a big difference between buying leeks and educating kids, though.

Unicorns and Racists

Scott Adams has an interesting piece up titled “Unicorns and Stuff“, where he says in part:

I think there was a time in our history when intelligent people could be racist because the anecdotal evidence was ambiguous. Today, I’m almost positive that no one watches Oprah, eats a potato chip, and thinks, “I wonder if African-Americans can succeed?”

I wonder what kind of boss hires a less qualified white candidate over a more qualified black candidate and thinks that his decision will work out well for him. I make fun of management intelligence for a living, and even I haven’t seen that behavior. I’ve never even heard of it from someone else who witnessed it. I certainly understand if you’ve witnessed it, or suffered from it. I’m just saying I haven’t seen it where I live. Clearly that sort of activity is distributed unevenly around the country.

He goes on to say that he doesn’t doubt people experience or see racism (or your unacceptable behavior of choice), just that he’s never seen it.

I can recall many racist stories growing up in Salem. My grandfather always claimed “you could smell” a black person. Other family members have said we should lock our doors because “a big black man might just come in.” Some of the older members of my family have referred to people on TV, usually the local news or something, as “that black weatherman” or “that black reporter”. In those instances I never got the impression they were saying that to be insensitive, it was just a way of describing that one person out of the five or six white people. It’d be like looking at a crowd of people and telling your friend to take a look at someone’s sign or funny shirt or neat shoes. They might ask, “Which one?” and you reply, “The fat one.” It’s rude, yes, but in private, people do it all the time because it’s sometimes the easiest way of picking people out.

I remember hearing from older people when a group of Klan members hung a black man off the South Main Street bridge in Salem as recently as the 60’s. I can recall, in my lifetime, seeing a sign propped up along Highway 60 southeast of Salem that was spray painted to read, “Black people go away.”

I can remember the one black kid who came to my high school. His Dad just got a job in town, doing what I have no clue, but they moved up from Louisville. The kid was there for about 3 days before they packed up and left town. The kid left after a group of younger students hung a noose on his locker. There was no proof who did it, but everyone knew who it was. I assume his parents didn’t get the impression they were welcome, either.

The kids that hung the noose were the same group of kids that were dumb, racist, homophobic, misogynistic and they knew it and they didn’t care. Their parents were no doubt the same way and for them and a lot of people I’ve met, it was a point of family pride. These are the kind of people that hang the Confederate flag on the back of their truck and it’s as a call-to-arms. I can kinda get why a person in the deep south might hang the Confederate flag, as a way of remembering their great, great, great grandfather or something, but when people in Salem do it, they mean to say, “This is a white, Christian, country town and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

I’ve met people that even if they had to work with or spend a considerable amount of time with a black person, they’d still never change their mind. People’s minds seldom change about anything, especially these deeply-held beliefs. They come from their parents, usually, and they stay that way.

This is, in my estimation, the biggest disadvantage of our representative democracy: people come out of those kinds of people and get to run an office. That’s dangerous.

My own dad is a quasi-birther, I think. I’ve heard him remark that he’s probably not supposed to be President and he no doubt picked that up from somewhere because he’s completely insular. He doesn’t watch the news of any kind or get online. He gets the local newspaper and skims the headlines. To my knowledge, that story hasn’t made it into the paper. The birther movement happens when you get a group of people together that distrust black people. That all black people are dangerous and therefore, Obama is dangerous, thus we must remove him.

And don’t pretend I’m painting everyone in Salem or Southern Indiana as a racist because I don’t mean to, they’re plenty of wonderful people there. But whenever I hear people claim that racists or misogynists or homophobes or whoever don’t really exist anymore, I have a very hard time agreeing.