Friday, October 26, 2012

Thoughts thunk on the way to thinking other thoughts.

Last week I started a little "stream of consciousness" writing while at the ice arena with Gabe and Brenden. I recently popped it back up on the MacBook screen, corrected some spelling, added a couple of thoughts about a friend in the hospital, and will now publish it to the cruel, cruel world. Don't take anything I say seriously. These are just random firings of neurons and have no significance in the greater world. Yet, like a train wreck, some will stop and stare.

It all started with a line I read in a history book: "All of us know that what we want to do and what we do is always the subject of an interaction between our will and the world around us.”

Ahem … (just clearing my throat … and thinking …)

One hopes that, with age, will come some wisdom. The school of hard knocks is a good teacher, but often the tuition is quite high. This political season is the first that I’ve experienced with so much free time on my hands to consider and study. Usually I was engrossed in the activities of earning a living. Getting along, day-to-day, can be very absorbing for anyone, but I worked in the business of thought and ideas. I often did more work in my head after work than I ever worked during work. I was a problem solver, and that took more of my time — and my family’s time — than I was ever willing to admit. The great loss since retirement has been that interaction with thinking people as we worked our hardest to solve seemingly unsolvable problems. Frankly, I really miss that. Oh, I’ve got plenty of problems to solve in this time after retirement, but it doesn’t seem the same at all. For one thing, all the time pressure seems to be gone. There are no longer any deadlines to deal with, (at least not too many deadlines), and I have the luxury of time on my hands.

I’ve taken advantage of that time and this marvelous human creation called the internet to get back to school … a place always on my mind. I’ve accomplished my childhood dream of enrolling in Stanford University … something prevented in the past by lack of good grades, lack of money, and just plain lack of will power. But now I’m there … virtually. I’m sitting in the back of the classroom learning more math and physics and even history. Guess which topic is the hardest for me? Guess which one is taking the most study time? Guess which one I carry a text book wherever I go? I’m sitting in the stands at the ice arena freezing my nether end off as I watch my grandkids skate and I contemplate the twentieth century. The twenty-first will have to wait.

I’ve responded to some of these new challenges of retirement through writing and other creative outlets. That has been a great joy to me. I now have time to pursue these personal interests. To some extent, this little theme is a result of that spare time … that and battery powered laptops that can go anywhere … even to the ice arena.

Linda and I have also taken advantage of our physical and fiscal health to travel extensively, and we have more fun journeys in the works, as soon as the snow clears, we’ll be back out on the highway. Maybe this winter should be spent on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Now that’s a solution in search of a problem.

But this new found time to relax and think has been struck head-on by the current election cycle and political season. I’ve had to think hard about politics and candidates, as well as evaluate the posting of friends and friends of friends expressing their frustration with those damn democrats and those rascal republicans. (Note I didn’t even capitalize the party names. Not in the mood. Sorry.)

I’m a frequent poster on Facebook, and read all that others post. I’m out on the web, and keep my nose in the news. Not to mention the fact my phone rings day and night and my mail box is stuffed full of people telling me what to think. All those conflicting voices. Facts to check, and claims to verify. Bias to consider and point-of-view to contemplate. Where will I find all the time. Important decisions … certainly. As one comedian said, “Half the people in the US don’t read the newspaper and half don’t vote. Let’s just hope it is the same half.” (Insert audience laugh here … whistling is also recommended when walking past a graveyard.)

Meanwhile I’ve dealt with the frailty of age, sickness, doctors, hospitals, … It hasn’t been me, although I am high maintenance and keep on first name basis with my doctors, but it has been loved ones and friends. The frailty of life, and the cost of living … and medicine … are on my mind daily. We have a dear friend in the hospital as I write these lines. So this has led me to even grander thought excursions as I contemplate human suffering and the cosmos in the same thoughts.

Consider this quotations from the British political scientist Martin White which seems to me is something everybody who has a life will immediately recognize, “All of us know that what we want to do and what we do is always the subject of an interaction between our will and the world around us.” We continually live our lives with what the great military strategist Clausewitz called “friction;” that is the resistance of the world to our effort to master and act within it. Experience tells us this conflict between freedom and necessity, between will and circumstance, it is the nature of life.

As an engineer and a physicists, I know that friction produces heat. Does the heat produce light? Or does it just produce smoke? That is the question.

As we live our lives, we wish for a better outcome, from ourselves, our family, our country, our politics, our military, our friends, our religion — all the institutions upon which we base our thoughts and philosophies. I wonder, and I study to answer, but I still can’t really say if things are better now or worse now. Is the trajectory an increasing graph or a declining graph. A simple matter to determine with calculus in the unthinking realm of equations and numbers. But in “real life,” who can say? New life is born, old lives end. The world goes round.

My conclusion: I’ll be glad when this political season ends, so we can get on with acting so assured about out beliefs and so certain about the falsehood of others. it'll be great to say, "I told you so" or "If only." If we’re so damn smart, then why ain’t we rich?

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Medium

I think most, if not all artists search for their medium, their style, their place. Studying the work of Clyfford Still, it was apparent that he searched for a unique style that would be his own. He vigorously protected his work as he sought to please one person, the artist within. "I never wanted color to be color. I never wanted texture to be texture, or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse together into a living spirit."

I’m not comparing myself to Still or to any established artist. No one will build a museum or a concert hall for my work. I won’t sell a lot of albums or tracks on iTunes. You won’t see my movies on TV or in the theaters. Like Still, I work to please myself. Yet what artist would not appreciate recognition and praise … it’s a natural need in most humans.

I think I have found my medium. It took a lot of years and a lot of experiments and trial and error … mostly error. The journey began in the home of Mrs. Pennock, my mother’s piano teacher, and now mine. I was ten or twelve. I don’t recall if it was my idea or my mom’s, most likely my mom’s. Anyway, Mrs. Pennock often commented to my parents on what a waste of their money the whole thing was. I refused to practice. I would rather be outside playing rather than inside playing. Besides, the songs I was taught didn’t interest me.

My mother was a very accomplished keyboardist. She played piano beautifully. We had a Steinway concert grand. A magnificent instrument, although I didn’t realize it at the time. It came with a house my grandparents bought, and we got it. But what my mom really wanted was an organ, a Hammond organ. She had played on pipe organs as a child, and really preferred the organ to the piano. But Hammonds cost more than a new car back in the fifties. We were “comfortable” economically, but not rich … not by a long shot.

Finally, by hook and crook, and selling the Steinway, my dad bought my mom a small Hammond M-101. Not a B-3 or C model by any means. It was called a spinet organ, and didn’t have as many keys as its bigger brothers and sisters and only one octave of foot pedals, but it was a Hammond, harmonic draw-bars and all.

Still I didn’t get it as I played “Little Brown Jug” or Bach’s simple pieces when I actually did practice. Then, one day, I discovered the organ could play “ROCK.” There was a forgettable instrumental song on the radio called “Road Runner.” It was a simple I – IV – V blues progression and it was so clear what the notes were on the lead organ in that forgotten band that I was able to duplicate it. Booker T established the organ as a rock instrument, and the only thing holding me back (besides lack of talent) was the fact my mom wouldn’t let me take the organ out of our house.

I’ve never had much of an ear, playing more with my brain. Unfortunately, my brain wasn’t trained due to lack of practice. So I still hadn’t discovered my medium. Somewhere in my junior year of high school, I bought a Sears Silvertone electric guitar (actually made by Harmony ... an adequate beginners instrument). Now this was real rock legend material, although I was more of a folkie … not in inclination, but in talent. The slower paced folk music matched my skill set better. I improved in college, through practice … who’d a thunk it? I became a competent “rhythm” guitarist and, as far as that goes, a rhythm keyboardist. I purchased first a Magnavox spinet organ and finally a VOX Jaguar. Now we’re cooking.

I couldn’t do the fast arpeggios and most melody lines escaped me unless I practiced them judiciously. I played keyboards mostly because everyone else played guitar. Bass guitar might have been a success, but I didn’t try that until I was sixty years old. Now I play a little bass, along with a little guitar and a little keyboards. I’m a “little talent” musician. If I was only lousy on the drums, I could become a one-man-lousy-band.

One talented co-player of mine, Roy Parker, owner of a fine Hammond B-3, once told me he had never seen a player do chords with the left and right hands in the manner I used. I explained to him that I was a “rhythm organist,” the equivalent of a rhythm guitar player. I was not a “lead” player. My favorite songs were the ones with big chords … four finger and even five finger chords … like “Spooky” by the Clasics IV. You know, the minor sevenths, major sevenths, diminished and augmented. Songs like “Spooky” or “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” were a perfect match for my style of one chord per measure … both hands … lots of fingers.

Rather quickly I learned my musical skills were not behind a keyboard or guitar, but behind the mixing board in a studio, even if I had to build my own recording system. My little Sony TC-200, later augmented by a Yamaha mixer and a few microphones from Radio Shack were my entrance into studio engineering.

I also designed and built amplifiers and modified a few systems for friends. I repaired Fender amps, fixed broken microphone and guitar cables, and was a general tech roadie type. I could convert Hammond organs, removing the original equipment amplifiers and substituting other options. That made the organ smaller and lighter while making it louder … a characteristic much appreciated by rock musicians. I modified Leslie Speakers, and I knew how to design crossovers to send the sound to the appropriate speaker based on frequency. Roy built a dual Leslie with a large cabinet on the base and the top was the cut-off top half of a small Leslie. That was set up with a three way crossover. I have never seen anything like that since.

When I got out of the Navy, it was my plan to go to work for a large music store in Spokane, Washington as their in-house organ technician. I told people I was going to be an “organ repairman.” That brought a few laughs from the double entendre. Alas, that plan fell through, and I ended up in Colorado where I had a small home business fixing amplifiers, microphones, and even repairing guitars (the electronics, not the Luthier parts.)

All this time I expanded my fleet of reel-to-reel tape decks adding a two-track and a four-track Teac, adding mixers and microphones, and producing cassette tapes of local musical acts. I was associated with a semi-famous musician, Casey Anderson. (Look him up on Wiki.) At one point we rented space and built a temporary studio where we produced the album “Josh White, Lovingly Remembered,” a tribute to another Colorado musician friend. Josh is a little more famous than Casey, and I never recorded Josh, but I did record members of his band. All this was a effort of love, not my day job.

In parallel with this was my photography. It started with a camera my parents bought me while I was in elementary school and. later, my dad gave me his old 35mm camera while I was in high school. I became a serious photographer, recording everything from drag races in Lewistown to ports of call in the Atlantic while I was in the Navy. Over the years I bought and sold cameras and equipment and played the happy dad recording his family’s growth and recreation. Sometime around 1998 I got my first video camera and added more family scenes to the collection … this time with sound.

The digital revolution changed both my hobbies. I started to build a digital recording studio about the same time I got my first digital camera, a Sony. As new and more powerful equipment came to market, I was usually first in line to purchase and add to my slowly growing studio. I bought professional video equipment on the used market and started videotaping various events from concerts to weddings to stage shows. In my audio studio I recorded local bands, often traveling to the venues with my 16-track hard disk recorder and other portable … although just barely portable … equipment. I added lights and other accessories to my video studio collection and purchased high end DSLR cameras.

Today I own several hard shell cases full of Shure and other name brand microphones and even a Neumann.

But I still hadn’t found my muse, my medium. Then I started putting all these separate focus areas into a single medium. It started with the annual graduation celebration at our church. The individual who used to produce the “slideshow” of the kids … using a VCR and VHS tape, “retired.” I got the job. I created my first slideshow using iMovie on my iMac. iLoved it. I’ve now been doing the annual twelve-minute slideshow video for over ten years. I love to hear the audience enjoy the happy presentation, but who couldn’t please an audience with pictures of their own kids. I always concluded those slideshows with my borrowed trade mark: "A Miracle Production! … If it’s a good production, then it’s A Miracle!" That always gets a laugh too. Just last week a did a wedding anniversary slideshow / video and the client specifically ask for the closing titles to include my little joke.

I improved my skills and added new bells and fancy whistles. I added the Adobe Creative Suite to my software mix and built a studio with dedicated equipment for sound and for video, as well as a print design and direct disk label printing. Now I’ve found it fun to go back into my library of still pictures and video, combine it with music … some of which I’ve produced, but mostly music from other sources … and produced “SlideShows.”

This is my medium: a combination of still pictures … but in motion … with accompanying music to tell a story with a beginning and an end. It is a rewarding medium, and through the digital tools of Facebook and YouTube, I’ve been able to share my work. I also produce DVDs complete with cover artwork. I’ve done memorials for funerals, weddings, anniversary slideshows, and travelogues. I’ve presented them live at senior events and nursing homes.

One aspect of the art is graphics for the DVD or CD itself. I’ve used everything from canned disk label graphics to labels made up of screen grabs from the video to some rather good graphics I’ve developed in Photoshop and Illustrator. I am a master with computer tools like Premiere Pro and Photoshop, a serious student of, and I could teach these topics myself … something I’ve considered. The graphic with this blog is a CD cover I created using Photoshop and Illustrator with a leaf I spent weeks collecting to get just the long skinny leaf I envisioned. It is a fun combination of art and science and software techniques. I’ve actually done half a dozen sample CD covers for my granddaughter's songs. (Did I mention that she is a talented singer and song writer ... winner of the 2012 "Frederick Idol" competition … I guess the music talent skipped right from my mother to her.)

Let’s take inventory. I love to travel. I love music. I love to take photographs. I shoot video. I try to do graphic arts and label designs … still a lot of work needed to improve that final skill set, but I’ve learned to practice. Finally, I love to tell stories. Some of that is here in my blog as stream of consciousness writing my life for all to see, but I also love the stories made up of a combination of my pictures and video with music and nice digital effects … thank you Ken Burns. (I’ve had many people comment how they enjoy my slideshows precisely because of the motion … they’re not just static pictures flashed on the screen, they have movement. Yea, that’s right, motion pictures.)

So there you have it. I’ve found my medium. It is not canvas and brush. It is not oils and pastels. It’s not music performance. It isn’t even pure photography. It is that mode of expression that adds movement and sound to still photos. I think Still would be proud of me. He was his own man. I’m trying to become my own.

If you would like to see/hear/experience some of my slide shows, they are on YouTube. Here is my most recent work:

Pinky and the Floyd at the Bozeman Public Library 

Or go to my YouTube page and check out some other slide shows, interviews, and misl. "art."

My music productions, including a few that I actually perform in are stored away on the web here: 

Monday, October 8, 2012

How Many Mobile Devices will you carry?

In the future, how many mobile or portable devices will you carry with you?

I contend the answer is simple:  Two, one in your pocket and one in your bag.  There will continue to be a natural convergence to these two formats.  Each new device that comes out will migrate to one or the other of these basic devices. The smaller format (think smart phone) will literally fit in your shirt pocket.  The larger format will be the size of a book, roughly 8.5 inches by 11 inches.  I call that basic device the laptop although it may be a tablet or some hybrid between the two.  All new portable devices that appear will eventually converge to one or both of these formats.

Go back a few years.  Many of us were carrying a cell phone, a Personal Digital Assistant or PDA (I had a series of Palm Pilot devices) and a laptop.  Then I converged the PDA with the phone, purchasing a Palm Treo.  At that time I also had an iPod.  Although the Palm Treo could play music, it wasn’t as good as the iPod (and did not support iTunes).  Now I’ve replaced the Treo with an iPhone.  Guess what?  Don’t need the iPod any more.  (See later discussion on why I recently bought a new iPod.) 

I did a lot of internet surfing with the Treo, but I stuck mostly to special sites designed for mobile phone use.  For most internet access, I used the laptop.  With the iPhone it can still be tough to use some web sites (like Wikipedia — I know, there’s an app for that), but, in general, I can browse most sites adequately with my iPhone.

Then along came the eReaders.  I never bought one of those.  I found the iPhone with an eReader app (Kindle or B&N) works fine for me for ultra portability. For those that want a bigger screen, then obviously the laptop or tablet computer is a better choice as both an eReader and everything else.  Currently the dedicated eReaders have some advantages of size and portability over laptops, but that advantage is disappearing fast with the advent of tablet computers.

So what about the laptop?  Well, it is still my primary computing device.  At work I plug my laptop (a high end IBM ThinkPad) into a docking station and connect with my display, keyboard and mouse.  When I’m off to a meeting or taking a trip, I unplug the laptop, and I’m off.  The recently popular netbooks are really not a lot more than just a cheap laptop.  They don’t have any better internet access, although some can be bundled with a phone plan to give cell phone internet access, in reality, you can do that with any laptop.  So not only is the laptop the second portable device, it can even replace the fixed device call “the PC.”

So what I see happening is each new device or function that comes along eventually melds with either a phone or a laptop (or both).  Now Apple comes out with the iPad.  Which is it, a phone or a laptop?  It does have the operating system from the iPhone and the cell phone connection, but it won’t fit in your pocket, and — at least now — you can’t make a phone call.  Based on its size, it must be the device for the bag.  Clearly the iPad (or other tablet computers) will go the direction of the laptop.  I don’t see them as two different devices, but just a personal choice.  Some will choose the tablet format and the iPad, while others will desire the physical keyboard and go with the laptop.

(An interesting variation is the new laptop from “One Laptop per Child.”  It folds open like a laptop, but it has two screens, one for viewing and the other as a virtual keyboard.  Or you can open it up like a magazine and read both sides.  Also, the screens are protected when the device is closed.  So, is it a laptop or a tablet?)

As I mentioned earlier, this analysis is not complete.  Why would I buy a new iPod, if my iPhone can handle music just as well?  The answer is battery life.  I can certainly listen to music all day on my iPhone, but I prefer to preserve the battery power for phone and internet use, so I have a dedicated iPod.  Same logic for the DVD and other portable media players.  I can play DVDs on my laptop, but I prefer to preserve my laptop battery life for doing Office and Internet. 

So the final convergence will really depend on battery life.  Given 20 hour battery life of an iPhone, and I would never buy an iPod again.  Similarly, if my laptop gave 20 hours of life on one charge, I would use it for media player, eBook reader, and all other uses where the larger screen is an advantage.

The future as I predict it is we will converge on two information appliances.  One will fit in our pocket and the other will be roughly the size of a book.  Both will have a complete set of applications, cell phone connectivity, lots of storage, and very long battery life.  The final choice will be like “paper” or “plastic.”  No, make that “paper” and “plastic” and all function will converge onto these two devices.

Since this convergence will be complete, the laptop (or tablet) of the future will be cell phone connected and just as useful for making phone calls as the smaller device.  And the only limit on the smaller device will be the small screen.  So, in the future, we will all carry two devices.  A super portable device in our pocket that looks a lot like today’s cell phone, and a larger device in a bag that looks a lot like today’s laptop or tablet computer.


A little different analysis regarding cameras because good cameras require good lenses and good lenses are large.  But even that is converging as we witness the latest DSLR cameras can also do video camera duties.  So I predict the serious photographers of the world will continue to carry a third device called a “camera,” even though cameras are already converged with both the big and small portable devices.

Another device I left out of the previous analysis and predictions is the GPS navigation tool.  Truthfully, I use GPS based navigation almost exclusively for driving, so I prefer the dedicated GPS built into my car.  Lacking a built in GPS in my car, I would purchase a TomTom or Gavin.  Since my iPhone gives me GPS for walking around and locating objects, I have no need for a vocal driving instructions GPS in my pocket.  I don’t think the GPS navigation system will converge with either of the other two devices, but remain separate.  Call these the “exceptions that makes the rule.”

Originally written Feb. 22, 2010. I think I published this before, maybe on Facebook, because I recall Jacob Lincoln commented on it.

Update: I have retired from IBM since writing this. Although I still have the IBM Thinkpad, I've migrated to a MacBook Air. It is just slightly smaller and a lot lighter, but still fits the classical "laptop" description. I also got an iPad, and liked it so well that I recently bought a new, third generation iPad to get the faster processor, more memory, and higher res screen. The iPad is now my favorite eReader.

Last Christmas I bought two of the Amazon eReaders — a B&W Kindle and a color Fire. I later gave the Fire to my granddaughter but still have the Kindle in case I want to read a book on the sunny beach. The Kindle hardware has crazy battery life, you hardly ever charge it at all, and it is more large pocket book size rather than 8.5" x 11". I really just bought these because I could ... they are only one or two hundred dollars and are doing well in the market due to this low price. I just like trying out these gadgets. :-)

New dedicated eReaders are being released all the time, but they are following the prediction in this article as they add web access, email, and all the other functions common in laptops and tablets. Tablets tend to have more function still including cameras and even new phone capabilities such as Skype or Facetime, but those things will be added to the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other "dedicated" eReaders too, I'm sure. I still think we'll all end up carrying two mobile devices ... one small like an iPhone and one larger, like a laptop or tablet ... about the size of a book.

Trees Don’t Grow to the Sky

There is a saying repeated among the investment crowd, “Trees don’t grow to the sky.” It is a warning that stock prices for a given company don’t continue to increase forever. Eventually they will fall. Or, the saying you may be more familiar with, “What goes up, must come down.” There have been big winners in the stock market in the past. Companies that had stock prices soar, only to see them reach a peak and then decline … seriously decline.

The success of Apple, both in the marketplace and on wall street is well known. It now has the highest market capitalization of all companies, beating even the constant performing oil giants. The price of Apple stock continues to climb as it is recognized as the bell weather company and leading innovator of the technology era.

So the question is, “Will Apple’s tree grow to the sky?” or has Apple peaked? Is this the beginning of the decline like so many other leading companies that have reached the top and then descended from that peak. Will Apple repeat the history of Microsoft, which had its own stock peak in 1999, and has been in continual wane ever since?

One glaring issue: the loss of Steve Jobs. Perhaps never before in history has a CEO been so indispensable and such a direct force in the success of his (or her) company. As Apple’s leader, Steve was a perfectionist. He had no tolerance for mediocre products and drove his team to near perfection. Recall when Apple produced the substandard MobleMe in 2008, Jobs raked the development team over the coals, insulting them and their work, dismissing the team leader, and generally punishing them for embarrassing Apple. I wonder how Steve would handle the iPhone 5 maps fiasco.

It is by Steve’s leadership that the iPod, iPhone, and iPad became great innovations and successes that have forced every other technology company to play catch-up. The question is whether Apple has any more ground breaking products up its sleeve, or is it now to be a battle in the courtrooms over patents and copied technology.

Part of the reason is obvious: Jobs isn't there anymore. It is rare that a company is so completely an extension of one man's persona as Apple was an extension of Jobs. Apple's current executive team is no doubt trying to maintain the same demanding, innovative culture, but it's just not the same without the man himself looking over everybody's shoulder. If the map glitch tells us anything, it is that.

I think Steve built a wildly innovative company, but without him at the lead, holding off the “suits” as he sought perfection and his vision of art and design, Apple will sink to another company run by committee. Another Microsoft. Another IBM. Another HP (dreadful thought … I expect HP to be bought out by Lenovo). All very profitable companies, but no longer the leaders they once were. Their trees grew and grew, but then they declined. These are the lessons of history. (There are worse fates. Remember Compaq? Remember DEC? Remember Atari? Remember RCA? Remember Zenith? The forest is littered with dead trees too.)

But there is also a less obvious — yet possibly more important — reason that Apple's best days may soon be behind it. When Jobs returned to the company in 1997, after twelve years in exile, Apple was in deep trouble. It could afford to take big risks and, indeed, to search for a new business model, because it had nothing to lose.

It happens in every industry, but it is especially easy to see in technology because things move so quickly. It was less than 15 years ago that Microsoft appeared to be invincible. But once its Windows operating system and Office applications became giant moneymakers, Microsoft's entire strategy became geared toward protecting its two cash cows. When Microsoft designers brought forward a proposal for a tablet computer in 2000, it was vetoed by the head of the Windows division for fear it would cannibalize Windows sales.

Although Microsoft still makes billions, its new products are mainly "me-too" versions of innovations made by other companies. MS is currently struggling to match the iPhone and iPad after failing so completely to match the iPod with their “Zune.” (Of course, I consider MS currently led by a fool. The “Bizarro Steve.” Gates had vision, Balmer has none. But I digress.)

Now it is Apple's turn to be king of the hill — and, not surprisingly, it has begun to behave in a very similar fashion. You can see it in the patent litigation against Samsung, a costly and counterproductive exercise that has nothing to do with innovation and everything to do with protecting its turf. That is Steve’s legacy too. He was adamant in his disdain of the Android phones being copycats of the iPhone. Under his leadership, Apple became one of the most proprietary computer companies in the world, even denying Adobe's Flash system access to the iOS ecosystem with a justification of security, or battery drain, or HTML5, or whatever excuse was current.

You can see it in the decision to replace Google's map application. Once an ally, Google is now a rival, and the thought of allowing Google to promote its maps on Apple's platform had become intolerable. More to the point, Apple wants to force its customers to use its own products, even when they are not as good as those from rivals. Once companies start acting that way, they become vulnerable to newer, nimbler competitors that are trying to create something new, instead of milking the old. Just ask BlackBerry, which once reigned supreme in the smartphone market but it is now roadkill for Apple and Samsung.

Even before Jobs died, Apple was becoming a company whose main goal was to defend its business model. Yes, he would never have allowed his company to ship such an embarrassing application as Apple Maps, but — despite his genius — it is unlikely he could have kept Apple from eventually lapsing into the ordinary. It is the nature of capitalism that big companies become defensive, while newer rivals emerge with better, smarter ideas.

Look, I don’t like to give stock tips. It is very hard to make predictions, especially about the future. However, the crystal ball is pretty clear on this one. Apple stock may continue to grow for some time … primarily on momentum, but I suspect it has hit the peak. It is time for me to cash in my chips. Apple continues to be a top company, and I am not going to stop buying their excellent products. I have, however, sold my Apple stock. I think it is time to look for someone else to lead the market. So what companies do I expect to take the lead. I continue to hold stock in Amazon and Google, although Amazon’s P/E is crazy. It is really more a recognition that, year after year, Amazon’s profits hold at a steady rate. Sometimes peaks are something to avoid.

The next big leader of the technology surge? That I’m not sure. Lenovo is an interesting company, especially given its Chinese roots. Facebook is big, but it is having problems matching its internet success on wall street. No, I suspect the next big company is so small now that we don’t even know its name. Will it be the cloud, or solar energy, or a car company, or something we aren’t even thinking about now. Fifteen years from now I’ll be asking “Has unknown-company reached its peak?”

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Today is Sunday, October 7, 2012. It was two years ago tomorrow that I had surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland. Life changing events like that force one to contemplate life and death and family and many other attributes of living.

One year ago I wrote a ... what to call it? ... article, paper, theme, thesis, rant ... hard to find just the right word ... “musing” may best capture the thoughts. This year I don’t really have anything new to say. I’ve enjoyed two years now of cancer free life, at least the best doctors and tests have not found a re-occurrence of the disease. These things have often been on my mind and included in my writing. I’ve written about statistics and odds and friends and experiments ... plus adventures in math and science and the arts along with reminiscences.

These last two years have been wonderful. I’ve enjoyed the retired life, traveling up and down and east and west in this beautiful country we live in. I’ve revisited places of great beauty such as Alaska, Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, Mesa Verde, and Yellowstone Park, and I’ve visited for the first time other great places of beauty such as Crater Lake, Oregon. I’ve been to more concerts than in any given two year period traveling to Oregon and Montana to attend as well as our own precious Red Rocks Amphitheater and the closer to home Boulder Theater. I’ve enjoyed the music with family and friends and have more plans for a concert this month.

Along with me on all of these journeys has been my constant traveling companion and love of my life: my wife Linda. We so enjoy the beautiful scenery as we pass through state after state. The mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, deserts, canyons, and all of God’s creatures we’ve seen along the road. This has been a continual joy for us.

Now my wife is struggling with her eye sight. Nothing could be closer to my experiences these last two years than vision. To imagine a life without sight seems truly like a fate worse than death. She had a macula tear in her left eye which was repaired surgically, but complications may be coming from that. She continues to struggle with her vision and we’ve had two visits to the emergency room for issue of pain or sudden changes in vision. We have several appointments in the last few weeks and are scheduled for this week to have an MRI and a neurological exam.

We hope and pray the problems are not serious or permanent, and are just related to the difficulties of a type one diabetic and healing. Her interocular pressure or IOP is high and being treated, but the doctors don’t know what is causing that. So, it is on this anniversary of my cancer surgery and hopeful cure, when thoughts of the love of life and the love of my life are reflected and digested in meditative thoughts and hopes that I pen (or type) this missive.

The theme of all these writings are science and technology and art. The ear is a welcome vehicle to enjoy these wonders of modern science and artistic expression, but it is the eye that is the primary pathway for our esthetic enjoyment. Our vision is key to our current life style and enjoyment.

No matter what happens, Linda and I will be together to lift each other up, assist each other, touch each other, and care for each other. So, on this anniversary of my count-down (or up) of life, I’m thinking more about my beloved Linda. There are no words to express how much I care for that lovely lady. We approach 36 years of marriage together this December, and I hope for 36 more as we enjoy the beauty that the Lord has created for us. So pray for Linda that the tests find no permanent damage or injury and that we can continue our journey through life and around this great and beautiful country. Pray that we can continue to enjoy the view.

Of course, I have to appreciate that view through the lens of a scientist. So I offer this article for you to increase the understanding the the beauty brought to us by light ... the science and explanation of light (and color).

A Treatise on Light (and Color)