August 30, 2011

Michael Vick, On Top Again

From the AP:

"Vick’s six-year, $100 million deal makes him the third-highest-paid player in the NFL, behind only Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning."

Luckiest. Man. Alive.

$100 million over six years, almost $40 million of it guaranteed, at an average $13 million per year for the first three years. Mentioned among the greats. And this is his second time around in the NFL.

The Eagles ought to get damn close to the Lombardi trophy for that kind of money.

Internet "Tele" Vision

Horace Dediu, writing for asymco:

"So as far as having a vision of tele-vision, the answer is not to graft technology onto an archaic value network, but to build a new value network around new technology."

Dediu's insightful explanation of why Internet television solutions have so far failed to gain a foothold in the marketplace. Hulu, Apple TV, Google TV all provide varying degrees of easy access to TV content, yet usage number for these services remain low.

DVR technology remains the exception, wildly succeeding at altering the delivery mechanism. Why? Because the content providers have no control over the use of home recording equipment. They litigated and lost that argument at the dawn of the VCR era, and DVRs are simply digital improvements upon that old, analog technology.

August 28, 2011

∴ Thoughts from the Frontline

I've been in the habit of reading a financial and economic newsletter for over a year. The past few months have brought some of the author's best, most illuminating pieces on the contemporary US economy, as well as his US and European investment outlook. His work is well-researched, well-written and useful to anyone with long-term investment goals.

The newsletter is Thoughts from the Frontline, by John Mauldin. You may sign up for it on the front page (top-right) of his web site and enjoy the weekly read. Included in a subscription is his weekly e-letter, Outside the Box, in which Mauldin exposes his readers to other interesting, knowledgable writers. This past week's e-letter included part one of STRATFOR's brief history of the United States, from an economic perspective. I enjoyed a similar monograph a few weeks before that, covering Brazil.

Mauldin's personal politics are right-of-center, but thankfully his writing is clear of any cheerleading. More than once I've read him come down against current conservative orthodoxy. His bias is for making money for his clients by understanding the ebb and flow of world-wide economies.

The newsletter and e-letter are free, and well worth the read.

August 27, 2011

Full-Power Idiocy From Fox News

, in an editorial for Fox News:

"Do We Really Need a National Weather Service?"

(Via Andy Ihnatko.)

No, that's not a parody from The Onion.

August 24, 2011

Russia Plans $65bn Tunnel to America

Tony Halpin, writing for The Sunday Times:

"Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska.

The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of the ultimate rail trip across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France."

Gas, oil, electricity, fiber optic cables, a rail line, or perhaps a roadway could connect the continents in such a tunnel. Sounds intriguing.

iPhone, iPad Untouched by Mobile Malware Attacks

Rene Ritchie, writing for TiPb:

“Anti-virus maker McAfee has released a report saying that iOS devices, including iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch were pretty much unaffected by the growing mobile malware attacks facing platforms like Google’s Android.”

How about that. Requiring all developers to submit their software to an Apple vetting process means no crapware and no malware. Just happy users.

I’m wondering if Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 (and 8) software submission process will allow them to vault past the Android phones for this very reason. One well-placed trojan will make the “open” Android crowd think twice about whether they really want to repeat the bad old PC virus and worm days.

NYPD Partnership with CIA Blurs Spying Lines

Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo, writing for the AP:

"One of the hallmarks of the intelligence division over the last 10 years is that, not only has it gotten extremely aggressive and sophisticated, but it's operating completely on its own," said Dunn, the civil liberties lawyer. "There are no checks. There is no oversight."

(Via the AP.)

A long, well-researched investigative piece by the AP about domestic intelligence gathering by the NYPD, using race-specific officers, with no oversight. Sounds like a recipe for Congressional inquiry about ten years from now.

August 20, 2011

The Post-PC World

There were plenty of chuckles when Steve Jobs opined on what he called the post-PC world last year. How the landscape has changed since then. Two things worth noting. First, Apple's foray into post-PC devices, the iPad, first created and then dominated the tablet market, so much so that H-P chose, after just two months of lackluster Touchpad sales, to pull the plug and exit the market. They were helped along in that choice by Google's announced decision to buy Motorola's mobile hardware division. Gaining a hardware manufacturing capability puts Google on a somewhat even production footing with Apple. The consumer market has formed around those two players, Apple and Google, both of which will control both the hardware and software of their respective platforms. Microsoft's alliance with Nokia has yet to bear fruit, but today's guess is that Microsoft will prop up what will become an also-ran in the mobile market. RIM, with their Blackberry devices, is all but dead. H-P never stood a chance. Second item, keep an eye on H-P's PC business. If they spin it off, a la IBM's sale of their PC business to Lenovo years ago, it'll be further proof that Jobs was right. H-P is the number one PC vendor by unit sales, but their profits pale in comparison to Apple's. And Apple is making most of those profits on mobile devices. H-P just threw in the towel on mobile devices ... why spend any further effort on PCs?

August 17, 2011

#5byBond: Die Another Day

We’re following along with John Gruber and Dan Benjamin of The Talk Show. This week’s Bond film, Die Another Day, is the twentieth in the long-running franchise. It stars Pierce Brosnan in his final outing as the British secret agent. (Ever notice that the villains always know exactly who he is? Not much of a secret.)

We’ll see John Cleese take over the role of Q following the death of Desmond Llewelyn, while Judi Dench will return as M. This week’s villain is Gustav Graves, played by Toby Stephens. Madonna sings the title theme and makes a brief appearance in the film.

There was a six-year break in the making of Bond films after this one, due to protracted wrangling over the rights. Brosnan, with an eye toward how an aging Roger Moore was received by filmgoers, ultimatley decided to leave the role, paving the way for a re-boot of the Bond story line in the next film.

This is the last run for Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, in fact, it’s the end of the line for that character.

My notes:

  • They’ve boogered-up the gun-barrel sequence with a funky drum track laid over the Bond theme. Not only does it not sound good, it’s just wrong.
  • A surfing Bond and his commando team come ashore in North Korea. Shades of Roger Moor’s endless skiing. That aside, the stuntmen appear to surf through some incredible waves. The scene is largely computer generated, but it looks great.
  • Good opening action sequence. Bond blows up a shipment of conflict diamonds, and manages to kill the rogue Colonel Moon who is trading weapons for them. I dig the sporty hovercraft festooned with machine guns.
  • Michael Madsen is a Felix Leter-type G-man? Awesome!
  • Bond is removed from 00-status by M after being sprung from North Korea. First time that plot device has been used in the Bond movies. But then he wills himself into a heart attack to escape the infirmary? That’s a bit much, even for Bond.
  • Huh, Bond makes contact with the Chinese, and now he’s working for their intelligence agency. Interesting twist.
  • “Raul,” Bond’s contact in Havana, looks a lot like Fidel with a cigar. Is supposed to be Raul Castro?
  • Bond picks up a sweet old ride from his contact, a fifties Ford Fairlane. I’d like to take a ride in a classic like that.
  • Halle Berry, secret agent. Who’s she working for, CIA?
  • Madonna plays a fencing coach, and she performed the opening theme song for this movie. I’ve never been fond of her acting, though. She’s got about two minutes of screen time, tops. Perfect.
  • The fencing match between Bond and Graves is over the top. Just too much of a stretch, like Bond’s mock heart attack. They bounce around an old fencing club, wrecking scenery and drawing blood. Since when is Bond a master swordsman (heh)?
  • Bond is invited to meet with M in an abandoned Tube station. Very Le Carre. Well scripted.
  • Bond meets with Q for a virtual reality training session. He’s apparently back on the job after his meeting with M. (We learn Q is short for Quartermaster, but Q was called “Armourer” in the Fleming novels. Armourer sounds better. Q is just Q, no reason needed.)
  • Bond asks if an old jet pack still works … that jet pack was used by Sean Connery in Thunderball back in 1965. Its use was one of the first super-agent acts by the younger Bond character.
  • Also in Bonds’ hand, Elsa Kleb’s dagger-bearing shoe. He sniffs it and winces. Yummo.
  • Damn, there’s the mini-jet airplane that Roger Moore used in the opening action scene of A View to a Kill, and the fake crocodile sub from Octopussy. Several other props from earlier Bond films are tucked away in Q’s lab.
  • Oh, man, that is a beautiful car: the Aston Martin Vanquish. And Q makes it invisible.
  • A nice twist: Gustav Graves’ assistant, Miranda, is an MI6 agent.
  • The greeter at Graves’ Iceland to-do is Mr. Kidd, reminiscent of Mr. Kidd, the assassin from Diamond are Forever.
  • Halle Berry is back. Still no sign of who she’s working for, but she’s an American.
  • Oh, another great twist. Graves is really a transformed Colonel Moon, from North Korea. We thought he was dead. The Cuban clinic treatment has fully changed his appearance, but left him an insomniac.
  • And Miranda becomes the next Bond Girl.
  • The laser almost cutting Halle Berry into pieces is straight out of Goldfinger. “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
  • Halle Berry works for the NSA. Re-fucking-diculous. Why do writers insist on putting NSA operators into assassin roles? Repeat after me: crypto. NSA is all about cryptology and cryptography. Codes, not killing.
  • Oh, man, another twist. Miranda is a double agent for the North Korean Colonel Moon. That’s a double-twist for Miranda.
  • If the Icarus weapon can lock onto a heat signature to target something, wouldn’t it be blinded by its own beam?
  • The film has been pretty good up to now, but Bond para-surfing out of danger takes it off the rails, as usual. And the CGI nature of his para-surfing is as obvious as actors “driving” a car in front of moving background scenery. It breaks the illusion of the super-agent action sequence.
  • Mr. Diamondface is driving a Jaguar convertible, with a Gatling gun mounted in back. Awesome. I need one for my commute. Where did Mr. Diamonface get a Bond car?! Yeah, this movie’s completely off the rails, headed into a gully. Ah, well. Good while it lasted.
  • Bond infiltrates North Korea after everyone figures out that the Icarus weapon will be used to neutralize Korean DMZ land mines.
  • Halle Berry battles Maranda. It’s a battle of tank top vs. halter top! With swords!
  • How long does the Antonov cargo jet fly as it comes apart? For-freaking-ever.
  • In this film and the last, MI6 HQ is shown to be at Vauxhall Cross, the location of the real British external spy agency. Even that underground Tube station Bond visited carried VC signage.
  • Damn, Moneypenny kisses Bond. How long has this been coming? Since 1963? Oops, it’s just virtual reality.

Brosnan looked a little old in this one, so his sense of timing for exiting the role was true. He’s been an enjoyable Bond over four films, and although the final three were not well-received by critics (and some fans) I found them worth re-watching.

This is the Bond film I least remembered from years past. Everyone remembers the Connery and Moore films, but these last six starring Dalton and Brosnan were made after I had lost interest in Bond. No doubt my ambivalence was due to the poor filmmaking and buffoonish characters in the last four or five of Moor’e Bond films. By the time Die Another  Day was released my response was, “ugh.”

So I was mildly surprised at how long this film went before heading off the rails. It contained three good plot twists and a good bit of hard-bitten Bond characterization by Brosnan. He drove a couple of beautiful cars in the story and met a couple of very pretty women. And the villain, while cartoonish, was believable. All-in-all this was an enjoyable film for a Saturday afternoon.

I was mildly disappointed with how the writers used the otherwise terrific Michael Madsen. Not only did they stupidly insert the National Security Agency into the plot, rather than the more correct-for-the-plot CIA, they made Madsen’s character a blowhard. Too bad.

There were a number of neat throwbacks to Bond films of the past. From the jet pack to Kleb’s shoe to the industrial cutting laser, each was a nod to the franchise that had grown out of Fleming’s books. Fitting that this will be the final installment before the Bond film franchise is re-booted.

CGI effects were a bit over-used throughout the film, especially for the super fast-motion camera dollies. There were a couple of super slow-motion pans, no doubt inspired by the Bullet Time effect from The Matrix, but they didn’t look nearly as smooth as that film’s effect. Bullet Time only works by stitching together images captured by dozens of high-speed cameras, which were obviously lacking in this film.

This film marks the end of the long-running story line of James Bond, at least as far as his film incarnation is concerned. The next two, and the one to be released in 2012, feature not only a new Bond but also a re-imagining of the character. The writing and direction take the spy back to someone more closely resembling Ian Fleming’s hero, while firmly planting him in the modern day.

I was no more interested in seeing Casino Royale when it was released than I had been in seeing Die Another Day, but I had occasion to watch it with a friend while visiting his home. I’ll make no secret of the fact that I was floored by the production and Daniel Craig’s Bond. So get excited, because the next Bond may be the best yet.

Up next, Daniel Craig becomes James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale. It’s number twenty-one for the franchise, number one of the re-booted storyline, and the first for that very good actor. (He’s in theaters now with his Western Space Oddity, Cowboys and Aliens.)

August 15, 2011

Tax Fairness: Little Income, Little to Tax

The Economist:

"But the point that about half of American tax units pay no federal income tax is correct. Why not? Aaron Carroll and Donald Marron point us to a new report by the  Tax Policy Center (a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution), which explains that there are two basic reasons why people don't pay federal income tax: either they're very poor, or they're covered by tax expenditures, mainly the ones that benefit the elderly and children."

A brief, detailed explanation of the fact that less than half of Americans pay federal income tax. The short version: most of them are too poor to require payment. Some few more are freelance workers whose cost of doing business eats up much of their income, and standard tax breaks eliminate taxation on the rest. Give it a read.

New sources of revenue will have to come from somewhere else. Warren Buffett has a good idea of where.

The Perils of Licensing to Your Competitors

Horace Dediu, writing for asymco:

"The lesson (and warning) was that a licensor that is also a licensee makes other licensees uncomfortable. The supplier is also a competitor. This is classic channel conflict and never ends well."

Horace makes the point that despite Google's promise to keep the Android platform "open" after its purchase of Motorola Mobility, that purchase will unsettle other Android licensees. Google will at the same time be their supplier (of Android software) and their competitor (with its own wireless phones and tablets).

The question is whether Google can walk the fine line between owning the software and hardware, giving them an edge over competing Android device manufacturers against Apple, and crowding their licensees out of the Android marketplace. An answer will come if we hear the first company or two exit the Android handset market.

Google to Buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 Billion

Vlad Savov, writing for This Is My Next:

“Google has agreed to purchase Motorola’s recently spun-off Mobility arm for a fee of $12.5 billion. Mobility was the name given to Motorola’s consumer devices unit, which includes the Droid smartphone line and the nascent Xoom tablet range, both of which rely on Google’s Android software for their operating system.”

This is huge news: Google is becoming a mobile device company. Not only will it develop a mobile operating system (Android), they’ll make the phones and tablets to run it. This move creates direct competition for Apple, which has itself shown that by controlling both the hardware design and the software development, a company can fully define the mobile user experience. That was the key to iPhone and iPad’s success.

August 14, 2011

∴ Craft Brewed Beer Returns to Ashburn, Virginia

I was lamenting the long-ago closure of the Old Dominion brew pub in Ashburn, Virginia with my wife last week. This happens at the dawn of each new NFL season as I recall stopping in for a pint and a growler fill the Friday before a game. OD was bought by a Delaware brewer in 2007 and, a year later, the brewpub was closed and brewing operations were consolidated in Dover. I missed having a pint of fresh beer ready for the 1 PM kick-off.

No more. Craft brewed beer has returned to Ashburn.

I saw a tap handle for New River Pale Ale, one of the OD brews, while enjoying dinner out a week ago. I found its new brewer with Google later in the week, Lost Rhino Brewing.

Founded by Favio Garcia and Matthew Hagerman, two ex-OD brewermasters, Lost Rhino bought up the stainless steel tanks and other bits and pieces from OD, and moved them to an office park hidden behind Verizon's business offices, a mile or so away. I stopped by for a visit last Thursday.

What I found was what OD must have looked like at its start. Operations are concentrated around the tanks and kettles; seating, consisting of auctioned booths from the OD brewpub, are scattered about. A single counter hosts the taps and a cash register, while a display case for growlers, t-shirts and paraphernalia sits next to it. I ponied up $5 for a tasting and enjoyed Lost Rhino's first three offerings.

Pacific Pils is a cristal clear, hoppy pilsner with just enough maltiness to round it out. Not what you'd expect of a European pilsner, this pils follows the recent American brewing tradition of laying on the hops. It's a refreshing eye-opener.

New River Pale Ale is an old friend, and the second of the samples I enjoyed. A more complex blend of hops and more malt combine to provide an enjoyable, milder ale. I'd go two pints on this one.

Face Plant IPA is aptly named: the hops will give you a slap in the face. This is a brew for the hops aficionado, not quite as light in body as Pacific PIls, and heavier on hops. Good stuff.

There's a tank of Oktoberfest laying in wait for a mid-September tapping, and plans to make and sell food from the existing space in the next year or so. Longer-term plans include assuming the space next door and opening a full-on brewpub. I can't wait.

My growlers have sat dry for three years, but this weekend I'll dig one out, wash it thoroughly and take it for a fill. Fresh beer has a flavor that can't be matched. I'm so glad it's returned to the area.

August 12, 2011

Berlin Wall Construction Began 50 Years Ago

Chris Rodell, writing for MSNBC:

"Fifty years ago, the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic began to build what it euphemistically called its “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” better known as the Berlin Wall."

Wow. Fifty years ago, tomorrow. And it came down nearly twenty-two years ago. An entire generation has come of age since then, and for them, that era's history is as ancient as World War II is for mine.

Good riddance to it.

Court Tosses Key Parts of Health-Care Reform Bill

"A federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled key parts of the sweeping health care reform bill passed last year to be unconstitutional."

The Atlanta court decision contradicts other jurisdictions, and it sets the stage for a fight with the Obama administration.

I never understood why we didn't solve the coverage problem for the poor and uninsured by expanding Medicare's enrollment eligibility while cracking down hard on Medicare fraud (which is mind-bogglingly immense). That path may yet be in our future.

Next stop for the current reform law, though, is the US Supreme Court. Its decision could make for some interesting election-year fireworks.

Washington Redskins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Jones, writing for The Washington Post:

"The Washington Redskins tonight will kick off the preseason as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7:30 p.m. This Redskins team very much remains a work in progress, and there are plenty of storylines to follow. Here’s a look at five key areas to watch tonight:"

Here are the five.

  • quarterbacks (Grossman will start tonight, but who will start the season opener?)
  • Ryan Kerrigan ('skins first-round pick, moving to linebacker in the 3-4)
  • the offensive line (the 'skins Achilles heel for over a decade)
  • the defensive front (second season of transition to a 3-4 defense, new linemen)
  • the kicking game ('skins have been very uneven here the past couple seasons)

So it's the pre-season. It doesn't matter. But tonight we get two of my fav teams showing off new talent. Worth cracking open a good beer or two.

August 11, 2011

David Cameron, Meet Hu Jintao

James Fallows, writing for The Atlantic:

"Did David Cameron not read a single foreign news story this past year? Did he have no idea what camp he was placing himself in, with his call to block social media as a way of controlling violence?"

The heinous London riots were bad enough. Why do democratic government leaders always seem to make things worse (post-9/11 America, anyone?) by over-reacting with calls to curtail civil liberties?

This was true when he first wrote it. It's still true today.

Hyundai Replaces iPad-Based Owner’s Manual with Paper Version

Adam Rosen, writing for Cult of Mac:

"According to Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor, the 2011 iPad bundle was only intended as a one year promotion and the 2012 Equus will revert to a paper manual. The company’s expectations were apparently met with the single bundling. “We got a lot of mileage out of it” Trainor noted, “people are talking about it.”"

I thought the iPad-based owner's manual was a neat use of technology, and a swanky benefit of buying the very upscale Equus, when the ad hit TV last year. Too bad it was just a temporary promotion.

Maybe the next move in this direction is putting the manual on a larger navigation display.

August 10, 2011

Groupon's North American Merchant Pool DECLINED In Q2

Nicholas Carlson, writing for Silicon Alley Insider:

“Groupon’s “pool” of North American merchants – basically, the merchants it currently has “standard” contracts with – actually declined in the second quarter of this year.”

Maybe merchants are waking up to how poor a deal Groupon represents for most retailers.

Coffee Joulies

Marco Arment:

“I wish Joulies had more of an effect, especially in the common mug-on-a-desk scenario. I was excited for this project since I saw it on Kickstarter, and the creators seem like nice, hopeful guys. I honestly feel bad for them — I really wanted their product to be great, but I can’t recommend it.”

I’ve had my eye on these since they gained Kickstarter funding. They sound interesting, but ultimately they don’t do all that much to prolong coffee temperature.

Terrific, brief write-up of his experiment by Marco, though. He’s the author of Instapaper, which does a much better job at its stated purpose.

August 9, 2011

∴ Spy Museum, Beer, DC

This past weekend we finally visited the International Spy Museum in Washington. Understand that we only live an hour or so from the District, so getting there hasn't been an issue. Long ago, though, we stopped visiting DC and its museums and attractions, for unknown reasons. Maybe we got lazy.

About six years ago, though, a museum opened to capture the clandestine aspect of DC and the three-letter agancies that are headquartered there. And the lines went out the door, down the street and around the block. Locals wouldn't be caught dead in the Potomac valley humidity, waiting to enter a new tourist attraction. And so we waited. And forgot about the place.

My mom came up from North Carolina for a visit this past weekend, and looking about for something to do I decided that this was the time to visit the Spy Museum. So off we went.

Admission is $20 per adult, and tickets may be purchased online and printed at home. For some reason our Epson C88+ printer balked at printing the tickets, so we stopped by our store to knock them out on a new-ish HP laserjet. The tickets are encoded into PDF files, so they should print on anything, from any software that can read them, but in our case they didn't.

The museum is located on two floors of a bulding on F Street, across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art. After entering and verifying your tickets you'll head up to the third floor on an elevator. Though you've ascended two levels to begin, you'll only descend one overt level as you enjoy the displays. The second half of the visit is had on descending ramps displaying the Berlin tunnel, among other things.

The museum covered the art of deception from the courts of English queens to the present day, highlighting the US civil war, the two world wars, the Cold War and modern spies. There were a few gems among the spy cameras, Bond Aston Martin and photographs of retired spies: the original memo from Bill Donovan to president Harry Truman exhorting him to form a civilian spy agency, which was the genesis of the modern CIA, and a detail of the intelligence gathered before the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor which, though ignored by J. Edgar Hoover, might have averted the losses America sustained that day.

There are enough displays of spy gadgets, tradecraft and history to satisfy most museum-goers' appetites, but if you're a fan of espionage novels and non-fiction you might come away wishing for more. They cover the bases, but there's prescious little said of James Jesus Angleton, the legendary paranoiac who led the CIA's counter-espionage division for decades, and only one display details the Cambridge Five, an infamous group of spies lodged deeply within the British government's foreign service during the early Cold War. Those two subjects tower over much of Cold War spy history. To be fair, the curator could have filled a five-story building with espionage details, and they have only the two-plus floors. Just know that if you're an espionage buff, you might already know more than what you'll see at the Spy Museum. Still, it was an enjoyable visit.

It took us about an hour and a half to walk through the displays, but we could probably have taken another half-hour or so if the initial rooms hadn't been crowded with people. Many of the rooms feature interactive displays, which attracted video game-addicted kids like magnets. Our visit was on a Sunday; perhaps a mid-week visit during school season would have yielded fewer kids. I can't imagine schools taking kids here on a field trip.

Then we went looking for lunch.

Capitol City Brewing has a location at the corner of 11th Street NW and H Street NW, just a few blocks from the Spy Museum. You'll find an adequate menu of bar fare, from appetizers to desert, but the featured attraction is their beer. The place is a beer lover's home ground.

On tap are their usual four brews, a pale ale (Pale Rider Ale), an American red ale (Amber Waves), a porter (Prohibition Porter) and a kolsch (Capitol Kolsch). They also pour a small variety of seasonal brews, and last weekend they were the Vienna Lager, their hefeweizen and an imperial stout called Fuel. Two in of our party enjoyed a sampler of five of the beers while I sipped Fuel.

In a nut, the beer has the delicious quality only freshly brewed beer can have. The hops have a snap in their flavor, while the maltiness is lush and appetizing. A beer fan could spend the afternoon quaffing with only a token appetizer along for the ride. The pale ale, a mainstay for any microbrewer, was hoppy yet enjoyable by anyone with a curious palate. The amber ale (really a red ale by another name) tipped the hop scales a little more but also brought along a nicely-rounded maltiness. The Vienna Lager was a good alternative for beer drinkers with less appreciation for hops.

The highlight, though, was Fuel. Delivered in a chalice, this imperial stout was unfiltered and deep in coffee and licorice notes, with plenty of alcohol hidden by intense flavor. Yummo. Had two ... and needed a walk around a museum before driving was a good idea again. If you're a fan of the dark stuff, give this beauty a try. And for a little variation, sip on a sampler of the porter. Also very good.

For a great afternoon in DC, try a visit to the International Spy Museum followed by a visit to Capitol City Brewing. I'll be heading back to Cap City. Soon.

Polygamist Leader Jeffs Goes to the Big House Forever


"A Texas jury decides in less than a half-hour Warren Jeffs should get life in prison after convicting the polygamist leader for assault of young followers he took as "spiritual brides.""

I guess one man's young "sister wives" really are another man's victims of pedophelia, no matter how nicely they're dressed up in religious dogma.

August 8, 2011

Credibility, Chutzpah and Debt

Paul Krugman:

"The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized."

Krugman's analysis of S&P's downgrade of America's debt is brief, yet illuminating.

November 6, 2012. Mark your calendar.

First Dreamliner 787 Delivered to All Nippon Airways

Sean Buckley, writing for Engadget:

"After years of delays, hacker vulnerabilities, and technical hiccups, Boeing is finally reaching the finish line -- the 787 Dreamliner is ready. The first of the firm's fantasy flyers was presented to executives of All Nippon Airways this week, scoring ANA a dreamy new jet that promises to increase fuel efficiency by 20 percent when compared to similarly sized birds."

Recall that years ago, Boeing made its bed with a decision to green-light the 787, while Airbus cast its lot with the much larger, longer-haul capable A380. The first A380 was delivered to the inaugural customer, Singapore Airlines, in October, 2007. Four years ago. Let's hope the Dreamliner is everything Boeing created it to be.

What Happened to Obama’s Passion?

Drew Westen (NYT):

“A final explanation is that he ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.”

Westen’s op-ed is a moderately long, but thoughtful read. President Obama was never going to succeed as a unity candidate, because he represents so many things that extreme conservatives hate: liberalism, intellectualism, race. And as a reformer, the first act needed to be draining the swamp, putting blame where it belonged: the extreme conservative wing of the GOP that had held sway for too long, preventing regulation of financial institutions and their products (mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps), giving away our nation’s wealth (the Bush tax cuts) while committing our armed forces to a war no-one needed fought (Iraq). He failed to make that judgement against them, and thereby allowed them to thrive. And that was before the ill-informed Tea Party lunatics took the Federal debt process hostage.

Westen mentions Obama’s talk of the “arc of history” bending toward justice. It doesn’t bend by quick compromise. It bends through conflict. And the extreme conservatives are better at conflict than today’s White House team.

August 7, 2011

Capitol City Brewing

Washington, DC. Preliminary review: beer hounds, unite. Then go here. The beer is sublime. Report to follow.

August 3, 2011

Apple’s Find My Mac Service Goes Live (for developers)

Mark Gurman, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

"Following Apple flicking the on switch for iCloud’s implementation of Find my iPhone, multiple readers have let us know that Find my Mac is live as well within iCloud. The feature, as we revealed in February, is simply Find my iPhone for the Mac; hence the name Find my Mac. The user can turn the feature on in the iCloud control panel within system preferences and then their Macs will show up on"

Combine Find My Mac with OS X's whole disk ecryption, and if your Mac is ever stolen you can make its hard drive unreadable, remotely. Your personal data is permanently safe.

Gamblers Successfully Play Odds, Beat Lottery


"Massachusetts has restricted ticket purchases for one of its lottery games after the Boston Globe reported that high-stakes gamblers had discovered a way to game the system due to a loophole."

What they did is akin to card counting in a blackjack game. Not a loophole, just observant gamblers exploiting the rules of the game. The state lottery commission created a game that automatically improved the bettor's odds after several weeks of no jackpot wins. Some gamblers bet heavily when the "deck" was stacked in their favor, and cleaned up.

This has been going on since 2005. That game will be retired next year. Until then, stores are restricted from selling more than $5000-worth of game tickets per day.

Rumor: Watch Previously-Purchased Movies on Apple TV

Killian Bell, writing for Cult of Mac:

"Apple is getting set to launch a brand new service that will compliment iCloud called iTunes Replay. The service will allow users to re-download and possibly stream movies they have previously purchased through iTunes, and could go public within the coming weeks."

Sounds like the perfect complement for last week's Apple TV iOS update that allows re-viewing previously purchased TV programming.

Analyst Makes Unfounded, Silly Claim (Surprise)

Ed Sutherland, writing for Cult of Mac:

“Now that Lion on your Mac looks just like iOS on your mobile device, Apple is now considering dropping its desktop and laptop software in favor of a single OS platform based on apps and the cloud. The idea has so many advantages, an OS merger is likely to begin next year.

The iCloud service will be at the core of Apple’s unified theory, allowing users to logon to a device and have their apps and content be tailored to the iPhone, iPad or Mac. Already, an A6 quad-core processor is in testing, the first cpu capable of powering both mobile and desktop machines, according to Jeffries analyst Peter Misek.”

I just don’t see this happening any time soon. Problem: the file system. iOS does a great job of removing the file system from the user’s view. iCloud will let users access their files on Macs, iPads and iPhones without regard to where they reside.

Yet some Mac users need to know where their data is, need to manipulate the file system, and don’t want all the details hidden as they are by iOS. That’s why OS X is still a great tool for them. Eliminating that capability for Mac users is a mistake.

In his last WWDC appearance, Steve Jobs said (at the 2:35PM mark) that Apple has been looking for a way to get rid of the file system for ten years, so it makes sense that an iOS takeover will happen someday. I just don’t believe that day will come next year.

August 1, 2011

Apple TV Adds Support for Cloud-Based Storage of Purchased TV Shows

Gruber is on a roll today here at Bazinga Journal.

John Gruber, writing for Daring Fireball:

" You can buy — not just rent but buy — new episodes directly from your Apple TV, and access and stream any TV show episodes you’ve previously purchased using your iTunes account."

Sounds like the rental-only model Apple instituted alongside their then-new Apple TV 2 device has been deprecated.

Recall that the Apple TV 2, unlike the previous model, has no internal hard drive and therefore no ability to store content. So Apple switched to a rental-only model for TV programs and movies in the iTunes store.

Apparently one of two things has happened: revenues crashed through the floor, or the forthcoming iCloud storage capability was extended to TV programming. I'm guessing it's the latter.

Now, if they'll only extend that to movie purchases ...

AirBnB Responds

Brian Chesky, AirBnB CEO:

“Last month, the home of a San Francisco host named EJ was tragically vandalized by a guest. The damage was so bad that her life was turned upside down. When we learned of this our hearts sank. We felt paralyzed, and over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up. Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post trying to explain the situation, but it didn’t reflect my true feelings. So here we go”

(Via Silicon Alley Insider.)

Short version: they’re implementing a $50,000 guarantee to hosts who rent out their home through AirBnB, and extending that guarrantee, retroactively, to the woman whose apartment was ransacked by her AirBnB guest.

Looks like the AirBnB guys figured out the Tylenol strategy: when you have a PR disaster on your hands, don’t go defensive. Play offense by apologizing first and asking forgiveness second, then make your harmed customers whole. Better late than never.

Still … would you rent your home to a stranger, site unseen, who had contracted for the rental through a web site? We’ve done so (as renters) for a summer vacation lakeside property and been very pleased with the results, but we weren’t the ones taking a big risk.

Facebook Mobile Usage

John Gruber, writing for Daring Fireball:

"Re: today’s aforelinked piece on Gogo inflight Wi-Fi usage, which showed Android being dwarfed by iOS, here are some real-world usage numbers where Android has nearly drawn even with iOS: Facebook mobile usage. One difference between Facebook and Gogo Wi-Fi: Facebook is free."

One thing that the open source user community is known for (many of which members have flocked to the Android platform) is its aversion to paying for software. That their monetary reluctance extends to paying for in-flight WiFi service isn't surprising.

There is a common thread here. Can you name it?

More Airbnb Users Come Forward With Nightmare Experiences

Alyson Shontell, writing for Silicon Alley Insider:

"Last week, we wrote about an Airbnb horror story. A San Francisco woman, EJ, said her home was destroyed and her identity was stolen."

More AirBnB users, having been stung by malicious renters, are now coming out with their stories. AirBnB just finished a funding round; how much more support will they get if more stories like these come to light?

The President Surrenders on Debt Ceiling

Paul Krugman:

“In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question. After all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, gets to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.”

Last night’s announced “deal” to raise the US Treasury’s debt limit is evidence that a small, vocal and ill-informed group of like-minded rabble rousers (literally) can not only take hostage a major American political party, but the executive branch, investment markets and the world’s shared economy, as well. It is not a deal, it (like extending the Bush tax cuts) is a capitulation.

No good will come from electing anyone who ran on the “Tea Party” platform.