Best Trump-speech-related tweet 01.08.19

From Stuart Stevens:

"There are numerous examples of presidential addresses made to calm a frightened public. This will be the first to frighten a calm public."

Of course, many have pointed out that they were not at all calm before the speech. And this probably isn't the first time time that a U.S. leader has tried to whip up a little fear — consider James K. Polk, Teddy Roosevelt, and G.W. Bush, to name just a few.

Random facts. 01.05.19

Some factoids from Buzzfeed (#14 is an eye-brow raiser) and the NY Times (#17 and #44 are interesting observations, and I want to learn how to do #30.) I'm not sure — some of these seem like they might be "Trump facts".

A setback for the garbage collector. 01.05.19

Bummer. It looks like the beta test for the giant fun-noodle plastic garbage collector has failed. It's not containing trash like the inventor had hoped. And a section of it broke off. Fortunately, the designer is young and has lots of time for more failed iterations. Eventually, he will get it right. Clearing the ocean of all that crap is huge job and the sooner that that there are working solutions, the better. Of course, even more important is to stop putting plastic waste into the ocean. And a big part of that is to stop using so much plastic in the first place. (One of my goals for the year.)

Ermergerd! Apple is doomed! 01.04.19

Apple didn't sell quite as many iPhones as they had forecast, and Wall Street melts down. Armageddon is imminent. Is it really that bad? Of course not. But the event finally makes clear to everyone what has been evident for a while — the smartphone market is saturated and the days of ridiculously fast growth are gone. Some claim that the smartphone is the most successful product of all time — I wouldn't dipute that — and Apple rode that horse like a champ. But all rides come to an end, and this marks an important inflection point in the tech biz and leads to the question: What comes next? It will be interesting times for EEs and CprEs and the companies that employ them.

Here is some good punditry on the event from Jason Snell (one of the smartest commentators covering Apple) and Kara Swisher (one of the smartest commentators on tech, in general.)

Is Apple doomed? Probably not. It's not like they will never sell another phone — they will continue to crank out a couple hundred million phones every year and make huge piles of money for the foreseeable future. Investors may view them less favorably going ahead, and they may never again be the most valuable on Wall Street. But the whole Wall Street valuation thing is a pretty poor indicator of the health of a company. A company's stock price is a reflection of investors' efforts to predict the future — processes that involve voodoo and black magic and are fraught with herd mentality. Revenues and profits are probably better indicators, but even those do not necessarily give a complete picture of how a company is doing — or will do the in the future.

I found this list of the 2000 largest public companies from Forbe's. It's fun to play with the list to see how different companies stack up in comparison, and the results can be surprising. I don't understand initial ranking, and, of course, the Market Value is now out of date after the recent stock plunge (It looks like the data was collected in mid-2018), but the companies can be ranked by total sales and by profits. For example, ranking by total sales, Wal-Mart is far and away the biggest. Five of the top ten are oil companies, two are car companies, and one is Warren Buffett. Apple comes in at number 8. For comparison: Samsung is 11, Amazon is 16, Alphabet (Google) is 44, Microsoft is 55, and Facebook is not in the top 100. If profit is used for the ranking, then Apple is first, followed by a tobacco company (!!), with four banks, three tech companies (Samsung, Verizon, and AT&T), and Warren Buffett rounding out the top ten. Facebook is 18, Alphabet is 20, Microsoft is 21, and Amazon is nowhere to be seen. (Amazon famously plows all it's revenue back into the company and rarely shows a profit.) So which tech company is biggest? It depends on what you consider to be important. These are all gigantic companies, run by smart people (Well, maybe not Facebook.), and that will compete aggressively to suck money out of our pockets one way or another. They will all be around for a long time.

Chessboxing – WTF? 01.04.19

Is this an Onion article?

Keep laughing. 01.04.19

Timothy Egan is right on. I remember telling some students in Nov 2016 that the best thing that will come of the new presidency is a continuing source of over-the-top dark comedy. That's been true. (Just ask Colbert. He has used savage political humor to become the top-rated late night comedy show. His show was languishing before the election.) That's not to say that is all one big joke. There is real damage being done — to the environment, to young people, to people who have less money, to people with illnesses, to minorities, to immigrants, and to our good standing in the world. But for now, there is not much that we, as average citizens, can do. We have to bide our time until the next election to see who has the last laugh. (That eminent comedian Robert Mueller may pop up with a few jokes before then, but we can't count on that.) Until then, humor is the best weapon — keep on laughing.

2018 photos. 01.03.19

I enjoy looking at compilations of good pictures. The end of the year always brings out "Best of..." photography lists from many sources. Jason Kottke has kindly linked to a number of these, so that I don't have to. This is a good way to kill a couple of hours.

Half the world is empty. 01.02.19

This is also an old story that I saw a couple of years ago, and I just stumbled across it again. It gives a very interesting observation about how unequally human population is distributed around the earth. If you choose the right point on the earth (roughly somewhere in the south of France from the looks of the map) as a "pole", the hemisphere surrounding it contains 93% of all humans. The other 7% are floating around on the other side of the earth. Maybe someday I'll have to move to the "empty" half, just to get away from all the annoying people filling up this half.

Also, check out the little population growth video attached at the end of the article. (Turn down the volume to avoid the ominous "heartbeat" sound effect.) There's no new information here — we've known all this for a long time — but it is still interesting to see the growth presented in map form.

The PCB is a component itself. 01.02.19

This is an older story from EDN, but EE 333 students might like it. Even professional engineers sometimes don't know why their circuits work. And seemingly innocuous changes can cause previously working systems to fail.