The Drink of Thieves
Come hither: I’ve elected to start a site called The Drink of Thieves.
The news is still swirling with the death of Steve Jobs and what that means for Apple’s vision and direction in the coming years.
More details have emerged about the internal university at Apple, created by the dean of the Yale school of business over the last several years. The belief is that a program describing the Apple University (akin to the HP Way, which inspired Jobs) as as a framework for thinking and decisions making. It’s an interesting concept that he would have already been experienced with since Pixar had a similar program earlier.
But what keeps popping up in my mind is Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” books. In it, a psychohistorian named Hari Seldon sets the path and tasks to reduce the dark ages after the collapse of the galactic empire from many thousands of years to a single one.
In it, the book charts how his plan unfolds flawlessly after his death because it deals with large numbers of people. But a mutant individual with unpredictable skills has an impact on the universe (to make a dent, if you will), which the theory could never predict. So the calculations are thrown off a little.
People talk about a 2, 3, 5-year blueprint that they expect Steve to have left behind. But technology moves fast and new things disrupt. His blueprint — if there is one — would get more erratic and too dogmatic as time passes.
But hopefully the Apple Way is smart enough to stretch out the quality of executives by training how to think and act as opposed to what to think and do. I still believe it’ll erode toward mediocrity over years — unless some other mutant comes along and pushes everything ahead.
I’d like to think the used Apple II my dad bought me was a turning point in my life, but it wasn’t as much of an impact as my first Mac. But when I stop and think, I wouldn’t have bought the Mac without that first computer with the two floppy drives that whirred and clicked.
It wasn’t a logical progression, though, that led me from the one machine to the other.
A friend of mine introduced me to Ultima II on the Apple II. I fell in love with the simple graphics and I still believe that not seeing things in great detail means your mind fills in the gaps with a greater resolution ever possible. Ultima II stimulated my mind into the (faux) medieval world.
I really didn’t have a decent computer after that Apple II died. But I did have that lingering interest in medieval and fantasy worlds because of it.
When it came time for college, I foundered and eventually settled toward Psychology as a major. But that taste of joy playing Ultima on my Apple had shifted me into becoming a reader years earlier. I found that I loved Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer in college. I was ready for them, and so I switched to an English degree with a focus on British medieval lit.
Outside of academia and maybe a bookstore job, I really couldn’t picture myself doing much with my degree; an oval peg in a world of square and circle holes. But another thing happened before I left college: I saw that we received a student discount on Apple’s products. I was enamored with the power and crisp black and white monitor of the Mac SE/30.
It still cost me $2,400 of real 1989 money. I saved up all spring and summer to get this machine, convincing myself I needed it to write papers. This was well before the Internet gained hold in the real world, but I knew I also saw the fantasy escape into other medieval and fantastical worlds in that 9-inch screen.
And so I learned the Mac after a long pause in computer skills. My exit from college happened in December of 1992, just in the middle of the George HW Bush recession. Academia didn’t seem realistic to me and a college job fair ended with an offer to work in a B. Dalton Bookstore at a local mall. That sounded like hell, even to my relatively unfocussed ass.
But I had that Mac in my bedroom. And I had played with Aldus Pagemaker a bit. So I found myself applying to a Kinko’s with a meticulously crafted resume on that light grey-flecked paper we thought was so classical at the time.
They rolled the die and I became a desktop publisher on one of their afternoon shifts. After 6 months there, my life simply cascaded from one area to the next, following the line of technology set forth by others so much smarter and innovative than myself.
The desktop publishing job led to an electronic publishing gig at night, where I learned to finally use Quark XPress, Illustrator, and Photoshop while running film negatives through noxious chemicals. That night job led to another day job doing more desktop publishing at Ameritech, one of the Baby Bells that has since been reanimated into AT&T.
It was there that I learned about the World Wide Web, getting a copy of Adobe Pagemill to write the code. It didn’t do such a great job, thank god. That forced me to get books and learn to code HTM by handL. Up and up the chain went. I became a webmaster at a time when everyone who did a site said they held that title.
Then I became a designer of websites, almost always working for large corporations whose design guidelines meant I didn’t have to be too creative. But then I found there was creativity in making things easier, so I continued to climb up the ladder through IA and UX, taking joy in removing the sharp edges from screens and guiding users along.
Today I find myself in my early 40s and leading a team of designers and UX professionals at one of the largest companies in the world. That sounds impressive but the job is not so magnanimous as that. I have no doubt that I’ve rolled uphill at least as much as willfully thought about my career.
But it has been a steady rise from that one Mac SE/30.
Ironically, I received my new 15” Macbook Pro just today. It’s a beautiful piece of art in itself and the first of many more machines to come with an SSD drive inside.
I find myself with an iPhone 4 in my right front pocket. A 27” iMac at home as my main computer. There’s a beat up white Macbook that I put a Stormtrooper helmut stencil on — because I never had the guts to deface an Apple product before. I look over and see an Apple TV 2, taking up as much space as a stack of black drink coasters. There are iPods of all shapes and size around the house and in my gym bag. An original iPad sits in my bedroom, looking exactly like the window outside a jet — it lets me look almost anywhere in the world.
My life is surrounded by Apple products. My life has been shaped by Apple products. Not fundamentally, but by fundamental pushes at certain times.
I wouldn’t be where I stand right now in life if it hadn’t been for these machines and a whole host of other technologies that sprang up because people saw past the does and jumped to the could. I am forever being pushed along at my own leisure and curiosity by the visionaries of my time.
These things that I’ve bought, borrowed, and stolen over the years are tools. Just tools. What I and others do with these tools may be impressive and impactful in some way or another. But in my mind, it is the toolmakers who are the most clever and brilliant of all. To make something that makes something — to be the talent behind the talent. That is amazing.
Thank you, Steve. I never met you and there was no reason too. Your vision shaped the world we inhabit, and in turn it let my peers shape the world further. Thank you for the tools.
A little piece of history at Frog Design - San Francisco
The best way I can describe Flare is that it has the ability to turn throwaway photos into keepers through the use of Presets and editing. And it’s got a beautiful Mac interface to boot.
Here are 4 free presets to add to your collection:
A Grainy B&W World
The Gods in Stained Glass
An Old Shoebox of Memories
A More Vibrant World
Vol. 1 is a great movie.
Vol. 2 is a great film.
We all experience the Coriolis effect, whether watching water swirl counter-clockwise down a drain in the Northern or clockwise in the Southern Hemispheres. Big ass navy ships have to take the effect into account when they lob things the size of VW Beetles at unfortunate spots miles away.
Take into consideration the size of the earth — 24,901.55 miles (or 40,075.16 kilometers) at the equator — and you end up with a pretty big place. But you already knew that there was plenty of room to move about.
I bring this up because I was recently in Ecuador and the tour had us stopping at the outdoor equator museum. “Oh joy,” I thought. “How exciting can a You Are Here sign be?”
Turns out the equator is without a doubt the strangest damn place.
The actual line is a little anticlimactic, as shown in the picture. It’s just a four-inch red stripe. Yay! I have one foot in the North, the other in the South, and Big Jim & the Twins are hanging down on the line.
But then it got weird.
The first proof was a learning station that proved that the red line was not a mere guess but the actual equatorial line: a portable, water-filled basin straddled the line with the plugged sink hole directly in the center.
“What,” asked the guide, “do you think will happen when the plug is pulled.”
“It’ll go straight down,” I said. And so it did. Hand clap to me for remembering 6th grade science.
He then picked up the basin and moved it five feet to the North.
“Now what will happen?”
25,000 miles in circumference, I thought. That’s pretty elfin’ big. “It’ll ever so slightly circle counter-clockwise when you pull the plug.” He smiled as I smugly fell right into the trap.
He reached down and pulled the plug. Almost immediately, a full-on counter-clockwise vortex formed, as strong as any bathtub I’ve seen thousands of miles away to the North.
WTF? I thought. The Earth is freaking huge and he simply moved it five feet!
And just to seal the deal, he moved the basin five feet to the South of the painted red line and another full vortex of water was sucked down spinning the other direction.
“All right,” I thought, “the red line is the real deal.”
The next station was a stone pillar erected directly on the line. A flat area on the East and West sides had a nail each driven into a base of wood, so the head was perfectly flat over the red line.
Because there is no Coriolis effect on this spot, its pretty much the only time you can ever balance an egg standing up on the head of a nail. And with a practiced hand, the guide balanced the egg in a few seconds flat.
OK, I get that. Difficult to still do, but doable.
The next station was a physical test that anyone can do. He had me standing directly on the line with one foot in front of the other along the equatorial line.
Both arms were outstretched with thumbs pointing up. Its like being Buddy Jesus, as shown by the guy in the photo.
At that moment, the body is in equilibrium: the core is on the line while the two outstretched halves are equally in the North and South.
The task? Shut your eyes and walk the line.
I did so and lifted one foot, throwing my shoulders a little to the South. The Coriolis effect immediately tugged me off the line and I went tripping off into the Southern Hemisphere. All right, I still get that, though the effect seemed a lot stronger than I would have guessed. Still, my mind can handle that.
But it was the last test that fucked me up.
I still don’t get it. You can explain it to me in gentle words, but it’ll still be one of those great mysteries, like how a chunk of iron can float in the form of a supertanker.
This is what happened.
Both the guide and I stood about five feet to the South of the line. Standing perpendicular to the line, he had me pinch my thumb and forefinger as tight as I could. He then used both of his hands to try and pry them apart, which he almost did but couldn’t.
Then he had me clench both of my hands together and raise them above shoulder height in front of me. He then used both of his arms to try and lower them, which again he almost did but couldn’t — not without hanging from them. I was hell bent on not letting them drop.
Finally, he positioned me to stand directly on the red line, facing South. I repeated the two tasks while he stood three feet into the southern hemisphere. Sproing! My fingers came apart, and he used one arm and pulled down both of mine like he just put a coin into an old style slot machine.
I don’t get what the hell happened. I mean, seriously, why was he able to dominate my strength just mere feet away from the actual center of the Earth?!
He said something about me having no Coriolis effect and gravity being a slight bit less where I stood, so I had less leverage. Whatever it was, it didn’t make sense to my logical brain. It still doesn’t make sense.
I walked into the equator museum thinking, “Oh great, the equator” but I walked away, clapping my hands and thinking, “Mother fucking equator!”
Mix one part flight departing Orlando + one part Apollo filter in Instagram.