Tom and Jerry

I was having lunch with my mother yesterday, and to avoid the silence, she decided to turn on the TV. I was surprised a little because she stopped at Cartoon Network: and at that moment they were showing episodes from Tom & Jerry. She mentioned she liked the cartoon a lot, and even remembered a few episodes. I guess it’s natural to hear people saying they like Tom & Jerry. I like them too: they show such funny moments and have outstanding sound effects. Never mind all this, I could finally detect a thing that is bugging me about this cartoon.

The episode that was running was about a baby elephant that falls out of a train and ends up in Tom’s house. The elephant drinks all of Tom’s milk, and Tom suspects Jerry of drinking it, and the chasing starts. A little after that, Jerry finds out about the elephant and befriends it. He decides to paint the elephant in order to look like a maximized version of himself. The result is that Tom is thorn apart with dealing with both Jerries, and resorts to using a gun. Eventually the mother of the elephant shows up, and Jerry paints her to look like a mouse as well. Tom is terrified, and is shown to break neighborhood fences while running away from the ‘mice’.

The episode was really fun. The situations and sound effects  were great as always, but this very episode demonstrated what I really disliked about the cartoon: Tom almost always ends up being outsmarten.

Some episodes start showing Tom threatening Jerry, or just slightly humiliating him, but that’s only from the start: after that Jerry always pulls worse pranks on Tom. Other episodes start by showing Tom resting on his cat bed, doing nothing: then Jerry shows up and ruins all the harmony and makes Tom chase him. It’s really fun to watch all the face expressions and hyperbolized feelings, but I’m a bit let down because of the usual absence of justice (at least Tom’s justice.)

When I was younger and really eager to watch it, I still was a bit disappointed that Tom almost never ‘wins’, because I liked him better. However, I said to myself “Naah, the producers must have had some reasons to make Tom the usual loser.” A bigger number of the kids I knew liked Jerry better, and back then I started to consider Jerry as a representation of youthfulness and playfulness, and that he usually “won” because the jolly and the free-spirited characters are preferred by the kids.

Now back to the episode with the baby elephant. Why does Tom get his ass kicked by Jerry and the intruder? I can understand that the two might have and advantage over Tom, but at least in the end, I think, Tom should have been victorious. From what I understand from this episode, somebody may enter your house, leave everything in chaos, have fun on your expenses, and then make you the bad guy, just because you wanted to restore the peace that has been ruptured (oh!, and get kicked of your own home in the end.)

So generally this cartoon teaches me that it’s okay to be playful and have fun pulling pranks on others… and expect to get away with it.

Some of my classmates would say “Oh my God, why are so irritated by something so minor? Those are just children, and they don’t care about it. They just have some quality time watching the show.”

As I stated above, I like the show very much: I, kind of, grew up with it in a way or another, but the fact that it irritated me in some little way means that I care. I don’t, in any way, want to say that children should be all serious and not have fun. I merely guess that the exhibited excessive free-mindedness could instill some selfish feelings, for example that pulling pranks on your friends is justified as long as you have fun, no matter if your friend is not having such a nice time.

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Dogs & Cows

In this post I try to explain in what I believe (religion) and why.

I’ll get it straight – I think believing in any kind of religion is nonsensical. I don’t want to persuade anyone that I’m right, but however, I don’t wish to be persuaded in believing in something that makes no sense to me. Neither I, nor some religious person has proof of who is right. Everyone chooses his belief according to what makes sense to him most, or in some cases what is most comfortable. So why should people be taught in the ways of a religion? Isn’t it better to instill moral and virtue in a person without making him believe in an idea that is not necessarily truth?

If I’m a conscious and considered person, and wish to do no harm to others, will I still go to hell if I do not believe in the notion of an almighty puppeteer? From what I know about Christianity, it is about being good to others and having a pure heart. I believe I come close to that model. Of course, I have done mistakes towards some people, and I have felt hatred for others, but in general I believe I’m a good person. I do not believe in God, but I’m not the best person to illustrate the following example, so I’ll consider a hypothetical atheist: the main difference between an atheist and a believer is that if the atheist makes a mistake, he’ll acknowledge that he’s responsible for it and try to correct it, while I think a believer is going to be sorry for his weakness and pray to God to give him strength to correct his mistake or overcome his obstacle. However, I’m talking about people who are conscious of their belief and have a reason, no matter adequate or not, to believe in something. Also the example may vary according to people, as character is separate from religious affiliation.

A disadvantage of religion is also the notion of heaven and hell. People may believe in something because it’s more pleasant and more comfortable. Heaven and hell, I think, are the best examples of stimulation through reward and punishment, respectively. A person may believe because he could like the idea of eternal divine leisure, are may be scared of the boiling ponds of melted rock, where his soul will burn for all eternity. So a person may not find a lot of sense in religion, but he may want something to happen (or not to happen) to him, so the real driving force is the notion of the two places, and not being good and honest.

I do not believe that God can help me, or anybody else, with anything. If something bad is about to happen to you, like get killed or get a limb severed, there won’t be any non-physical notion of an old man who is going to prevent this from happening – either you have to manage your way out on your own, or suffer the consequences. When I was little, I used to think that no matter what adversity I might face, there was going to be some kind of shield that is going to protect me, because I’m a good person. When I hear some stories on the news about how a group of children got killed, or how a suicide bomber annihilated innocent people, or even think of the people that live in conditions where they die of starvation on a regular basis. Not the magic shield I hoped for.

Another of my beliefs: I am really put off when I hear the question “Why, in your opinion, are we sent on Earth? I think each and every one of us is entrusted by God with something he has to fulfill during his lifetime. We are all here for a reason.” I have a response in the form of another question: Why are all the animals and living things sent on Earth? What is the greater purpose of their existence? Like say, the cow. We use it for milk, and after that we slaughter it, in order to eat it. Is that the greater purpose of being a cow? Well what if we, humans, were in the position of the cow but we still had our intelligence. Would we be satisfied with the fact that we are being devoured by some other specie, just because that’s the purpose of our existence?

I do not think there is any reason for us being here. I believe that our existence is just a random occurrence in a planet with living conditions. If God has created us, why do we see evidence of the existence of the modern man just a few thousand years back in history? Why didn’t God “invented” us with the advent of the universe? He could have simply used his unlimited set of unimaginable powers, to protect us from the unbearable heat.

Mt. Present

Two days ago, while browsing my ‘Most Recent’ on Facebook, I say a post containing a link to a lecture in a website called Techonomy. I liked the lecture a lot, because the host, Bill Gates, was discussing ways in which our global economy could improve from its current state. He was also giving examples of interesting readings he could recall at the moment, and I saw he is committed to the global welfare.

I decided to check all the lectures, and I stumbled upon one, called “Reinventing Intelligence”. The host, David Christian, discussed why we, humans, are the prevailing specie on Earth. He went through some ideas, such as the use of tools and the existence of common language, and showed that these ideas are rather incorrect, for other species like primates and crows have their similar ways. At last he stated his, which is collective learning. According to him, we were able to become dominant, because we are able to share and record other individuals’ experience.

The idea makes sense to me, and I hope the proofs he gave are genuine. The truth is I was really happy after the lecture finished, for I had an idea prior to watching the video. I didn’t relate it to human prevalence over other animals, but rather why we are ‘smarter’ than the people of ancient times.

The whole thing originates from a math class while I was in ninth grade. We were just writing down the Pythagorean Theorem and other his discoveries. Our teacher put a lot of emphasis on how crucial his findings are, and how many other important discoveries he had made. After the class was over, I was talking with a friend, and he said: “Well, I’m smarter than Pythagoras, because I know rules and formulas that were discovered after his death.” At that moment I didn’t respond, but I had the feeling that something doesn’t fit. Whenever I have nothing to do, I am thinking on matters more profound than my everyday concerns, and that week I was thinking a lot about my friend’s statement.

What I did, is compare the ways they had gain the knowledge in math, and that’s when the whole picture changed. Pythagoras, to have findings named after him, must have discovered them. He must have put a lot of work and brainpower in order to structure his work. On the other hand, my friend didn’t think of such things – he simply was told of their existence (as is every student in high school). The difference between them is in the amount of work each one of them did: Pythagoras put a lot of effort to actively discover something he wasn’t aware of, while my friend found out about those discoveries by sitting and being told by a teacher about some mathematician’s idea. If this friend of mine hadn’t seen it somewhere, he wouldn’t have bore any idea about its existence.

Pythagoras had been smarter, an awful lot smarter, than this friend of mine, my math teacher, I, and almost any other person. He just happened to be so smart in an age, with not as much developments as there are today. Today’s software and hardware makes a great deal of the process of calculating automatic, so Pythagoras wouldn’t have bothered to do the tedious work if he lived today and could collect information from other sources. My friend is not as intelligent as Pythagoras, but is able to use the technologies of the present day to obtain the information needed. Pythagoras couldn’t. I will try to illustrate the difference between him and my friend.

There are two humans: one is Pythagoras, and the other is Nicolas. Pythagoras is physically stronger than Nicolas. There are two heavy stones, each weighting 250 kilograms, and each tied around the ankle of the two humans. There are two mountains: one is Pythagoras’ mountain, called “Past”, and the other is Nicolas’, called “Present”. They are given a task: “Climb your mountain! The one who manages to climb his mountain first, will be declared stronger.” It is reasonable that Pythagoras wins, right? Well, the strength of the humans isn’t the only factor that varies: the mountains also differ. “Past” is a simple, rocky mountain, while “Present” is a mountain with technology like elevators, that could facilitate Nicolas’ climbing. Now guess who is going to win. Although Pythagoras is stronger, the stone’s weight will eventually enervate his body, while the mechanical strength of an elevator, on which Nicolas depends, will not change over time, meaning he will have climbed the mountain first. So Nicolas is stronger?

The association is simple: Pythagoras is Pythagoras, Nicolas is my friend, “Past” is the time Pythagoras lived, “Present” is the time my friend lives (with all advances and discoveries projected as elevators), and strength represents intelligence. You can see in the example that Pythagoras is stronger, but loses to Nicolas, because of the advantages of “Present”. It is not Nicolas who is stronger – it is Pythagoras who is screwed up to have to climb “Past”.

So the conclusion is simple: Pythagoras is smarter than my friend. However, I draw another conclusion: less smart or not, a person today is able to use the discoveries made by others, just as efficiently as the ones who discovered them. When a person is shown how to do something, he will eventually do it right. It is because of the work of people like Pythagoras that we have collectively learnt formulas and methods, which we otherwise wouldn’t be able to think of ourselves. That is the reason I think the idea behind collective learning is truthful.

I Love Brands?

Today I’d like to talk about brands. What I want to share is some things concerning my liking for certain brands. As I think of it now, it could be pretty strange. Is a brand something supposed to be liked or disliked? – I think everything in this world can receive some form of love/hate, so yes, it is. The strange aspect of my liking is, perhaps, the reason I like or hate a brand.

In my previous post I tried to outline my understanding of the relationship customer-company. There I explained how I think companies look on users. Now I’ll try to do the opposite, but I’ll only share how I look on a brand (the face of the company), for I have no idea if other people might think like me.

I’ve formulated a thought the day before I started writing this post: looks like companies are my equivalent of football teams. I don’t watch football and am not a fan of any club. While I was in kinder garden, kids once asked me which club (Levski and CSKA) I like better, and I didn’t know how to decide, and I said CSKA, because I thought of them as ‘the good guys’. Even today I prefer CSKA, but my reason, as you can see, is totally inadequate. And there are a lot of people like me that are fans of a football team, but can’t explain why. However, I know people who quite keen on football and have a favorite team for serious reasons. If I associate my eagerness of brands as other people’s eagerness in football, I think I am a serious fan of one brand, and moderately keen on several others.

Now comes the question “Why I am even keen on such thing as a brand?” Well, I’m not sure if even I can explain it. Maybe I start to consider some brand as a person with whom I interact, and thus, I judge the brand as I would probably judge a person. So the brand must have some traits that don’t irritate me. The brand definitely should treat the customers well, and by ‘well’ I mean not try to extract too much money without reason, and if it does, at least not try to deny it. The brand could have something in their products that stands out, something that shows that some thought has gone into creating them. Other than those two criteria, my other reasons for liking may vary for some brand.

My favorite brand is Google, and other that I like are Zappos, Skype, HTC, Alcatel, Puma, and for a little time now – Microsoft.

I like Google for its unique nature. When I first started to search information for it, I was pretty surprised to find out that it was founded early as of 1998 (that’s the year I started attending school); such a young company, and yet such a serious player. I like their products quite a lot: Search, Maps, Translate, Reader, Wave, Gmail, etc. Their products are so good, because an idea as simple as searching for a picture or writing an e-mail or searching for directions is made so easy and pleasant. For instance, Google Translate can give you an idea what is written in Chinese website, not as accurate as you may wish, but still you may be able to get the idea. And don’t even let me start talking about the Maps application. There are Satellite photos, viewer photos, 3D view, street view, labels showing every street and landmark, an option that tells you the shortest distance between two points and gives you the directions needed to reach either. It could be said that I started admiring Google because of the Maps. Again the idea is as simple as that – a map, but boy, what a map! However, there is one more product that makes me like them so much – Android.

Android is and Operating System for hand-held devices, created by a startup company (Android, Inc.) that later has been acquired by Google. Android is installed on devices developed by companies that participate in a business alliance called The Open Handset Alliance (OHA). Companies like Motorola, HTC, LG, Samsung, Dell, etc, that manufacture mobile devices, put Android on some of their devices. I have seen the enormous growth Android had in the last two years, and I only hope it continues. People are not obliged to choose whether they should write software for other operating systems, such as Symbian, Windows Mobile, Linux, and others that I’m not familiar with, which varied among cell phone manufacturers; they can simply create one for Android, knowing that it will be available too much broader public, since all major players in the industry use it, except for Nokia and, of course, Apple.

Now I’d like to share views on a little bit older fish. I started liking Microsoft more, perhaps because I started liking Apple less. In my previous posts on Apple, I have expressed my feeling about them and their actions, so I won’t do it in this one, too. It’s just that I don’t seem to hear complaints towards Microsoft similar to those towards Apple. I also used to dislike Microsoft, Windows in particular, because it is inferior to OS X when it comes to eye candy. This may be true, but sooner or later, all visual effects start to get less important to the user. I don’t give a damn if Windows looks like crap, but by the way, it doesn’t.

OS X is advertised as the most advanced OS on the market, but can someone explain to me what it has that surpasses Windows? They are generally the same thing. If I shut the visual effects of OS X, what am I going to be left with – I guess, an operating system that does operation as good as Windows.

I don’t know if OS X is better in openness and freedom than Windows, but I can’t say I feel restricted in any single way using Windows (XP), and from what I hear about Apple managing the availability of some apps in the AppStore, some doubts pop up in my head. However, everything is just a blind guess, for now.

I also started to like Microsoft a bit more, when I recently understood that Bill Gates gives away large amounts of money for charity through his own Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Only recently I kindled my interest in Microsoft. I used to dislike them, because of the fuzz, that they have stolen original ideas from Apple. In addition, every now and then my father used to tell me how Microsoft stole ideas from Apple and used them in their products. After that there was some movie called “Pirates of silicon valley”, which I don’t remember very well, but remember that it was about the start of both Apple and Microsoft. Gradually, I started to build some resentment against Microsoft: the guys have stolen something that doesn’t belong to them, and benefited from it more than the original creators did. As I think about it now, I don’t have a single argument against the doings of Microsoft. I don’t know what they have done or stolen from Apple. My disliking is based only on mere chatter! I think of starting gathering information about the history between both companies, to take a side and to have decent arguments in order to substantiate my opinion.

Those are my most vivid examples of reasons why I may and may not like a certain brand. All the other examples I have listed above are brands that either I feel have more ethical approach toward users, and sometimes in addition to this, really good products

Companies Love You

This article is about my view on ethical relations between consumers and companies. I do not intend to say that companies do either right or wrong, but outline my generalized view on the matter.

I think most people perceive a company as an institution, like, a judicial court, a hospital, a police department, etc. I make these associations, because all these institutions are mechanism for solving problems of society or individuals. A judicial court is supposed to settle an argument between two sides, where one may have harmed the other. A hospital is the place where people seek help when injured, ill or in state causing them pain, either physical or mental. A police department is supposed to watch over the peace and order, and protect (groups of) citizens from being overpowered by other (groups of) citizens. All these institutions serve as tools for protecting the rights and welfare of people, with no intention for financial incentives.

I believe that most people think of companies as such institutions that help people. The help is in the form of a product. A shoe company helps us by providing us with shoes (newsflash), which prevent our feet from getting dirty or injured or from whatever harmful thing may be on the ground. However, this shoe company doesn’t offer their product only with regard for people’s comfort and safety: they expect a reward in the form of money in exchange for the pair of shoes. There is nothing wrong in the get-and-give relation: everyone’s labor is translated in the language of money, and besides the materials, people are also to be paid for their physical and mental work. It starts being wrong if the shoe company wishes to sell their products for prices, inadequate in relation to the amount of labor needed to produce them. If the whole process of manufacturing a pair of shoes costs, say, fifty dollars, and the company puts on a price of three hundred dollars, it is pretty wrong.(I’m talking about an imaginary shoe company, so the numbers I assign are only for the purpose of giving an example, and nothing more.) It is ethically wrong, because the company may use people’s desire to obtain the product as a way of earning more money. I wouldn’t feel good if I have bought a pair of shoes for three hundred dollars, and understand that they cost less than fifty dollar with the production expenses (The case is that I like the shoes and I don’t have a cheaper alternative, so I’m at the mercy of the price tag. I have the freedom of buying cheaper ones that are not as attractive, but the satisfaction of wearing them could be lesser than wearing the expensive ones, even if knowing that they are expensive for no meaningful reason. This is, of course, speaking of high prices that are bearable, and not of such as a thousand dollars and higher) I wouldn’t associate this company with some positive feeling, but with the negative feeling that it’s being run by people who want a lot of money.

I think that, in the general case, companies prime stimulus is money, and after that, maybe, costumer satisfaction. Costumers, on the other hand, want to pay the lowest price possible for a product. To be more precise, the situation is of two sides fighting each other, rather than one trying to help the other. I believe that to some extend this is embedded in people’s life philosophy: everybody wants to earn more money for less work, and pay less money for a product or service. However, human nature is not enough of a justification for swindling people. What is worse, some companies even try to persuade their clients’ that customer satisfaction is of greatest importance to them, and money come second to the joy of a content customer, and some other statement telling of the small concern for money. Are these statements something to believe in? Is it normal for people who don’t know us to want us to be happy even if they sacrifice a portion of their payment? I think the answer is straight as an arrow, but I’ll let you decide on your own. In the end, not only companies want to earn more money on the back of their customers, but they also want to persuade them that they have only the best intentions. How can a person not get irritated?

I bear in mind a real-world example, and that is Apple (again).Apple is an innovative company releasing cutting-edge technology. They manufacture computers, laptops, music players and their famous iPhones. They write their own software as well and have their own OS. Their clear design is renown among every technology-enthusiast. I respect Apple for their indispensable products that literally change the world. The iPhone has turned upside down the cell phone industry, and all major companies follow its main guidelines such as a touch screen display and a store for thousands of applications. But enough praise. There is a thing I don’t like about them, and that is the inconsistency in what they do and what they claim to do. Apple claims they wish “make everyone happy”. That’s rather interesting, regarding the absence of the option to choose your carrier (in the US), the fact that cross-platform applications are denied, and the possibility an app you have to be deleted automatically when you connect the device with your computer, because it may no longer be approved by the regulation of their AppStore. People decide to jailbreak their iPhones in order to do what they want on it. It this something a happy user would do? I don’t dislike them because of their policy: they have the right to manage their company in whatever way they wish as long as they don’t affect anybody else. What really bugs me is their desire to look good and innocent, when apparently that is no the case. I would like to note that I don’t have any experience with Apple or with their products. My opinion is obtained mainly from reading news about the company, their market strategies, their press conferences, and also from reading opinions of other bloggers, who have had experience.

These are the reasons I don’t think that there are companies that want their clients to be happy more than they want their clients’ money. That’s why I don’t like commercials that try to tell me that “we have put our heart in this product, so that you could be happy using it”. Companies want money, and I get that and don’t have a problem with it. I only hate the way they picture themselves as friendly and caring.

Knock

I can’t say that today (24.08.2010) was a special day: I woke up around 7 am, studied for the Sat and had something to eat…’pretty interesting’. In the afternoon I went with my mother at a bank nearby (Fibank) to register a debit card with which later I am going to pay for my exams. After we had finished in the bank, we headed for home, but she decided to go to Kaufland, so I got home by myself, and turned the speakers up, so I could enjoyed my favorite band. After a few minutes I heard the doorbell ringing and checked who it was. Oh sweet surprise! – Jehovah’s witnesses. They were an old man and an old woman, trying to spread the words of God: I guessed they’d be indulging in some activity of the sort, because when unfamiliar people knock on our door, is either to show us the way through the teaching of Christianity, or to ask us, from the bottom of their hearts, to support a cause by donating money. It was a good thing that at least these weren’t assaulting at all – the woman just informed me that there is going to be a type of gathering, were we would try to reach for God, so God could reach for us, too. The aspect of our conversation, which seemed to be interesting for me, was that I could evade the invitations and suggestions by simply making myself look like there is a chance for me to visit this gathering. In some post later on I will discuss my view on religion and the ideas for some higher power and human souls, but I guess I could simplify things a bit: I don’t believe in religion, don’t find any answers in it, don’t find any consolation: I think I’m an atheist. So there are these people, trying to advocate an idea which couldn’t be less interesting to me as it is at this very moment. However, I did not shut the door when I heard the word ‘Christ’, nor did I try to make them feel bad for ringing our doorbell. Instead, I listened to every last word they wished to share with me, and after that they gave me a leaflet that explained the nature and benefits of the gathering. I simply responded, that I’m not too sure, but I’ll definitely consider the proposition, and after that I bade them goodbye. I can be honest here – I didn’t have even the slightest intention of trying to consider their offer. For reasons that I’m about to explain later on, I don’t believe in Christianity and in the ideas it promotes. Then why I wasted my time listening to something I find no meaning in? Well, I simply guessed that the difference behind our religious affiliations (or whatever my affiliation is), is not a reason, adequate enough, for me to reproach them. I looked at them and, religious or not, I’m no more human then they are: we both breathe, eat, drink, have dreams and sometimes suffer. They have simply found meaning in religion, and I have found it in another place. I thought that listening to what they have to say would be much easier than fretting about the little difference in our beliefs. Everything ended within a minute, and I was as calm and relaxed as before they appeared. I’m not sure if I would have been if I bothered to get irritated at them for taking my ‘precious’ time.

A guess

“How does this work?”

I think people really want to know how everything works and have as many abilities as possible. I think it is so because they want to know how to use and manipulate things in their favor. When people are ignorant of something, they are not aware of the proper way to use it, thus making them inferior. The more knowledge they have, the bigger the chance for then not to be inferior. I think people want to be superior to others, in order to benefit the most from a situation. The most beneficial people will have better chance in gaining either more knowledge or other abilities which will make them even more superior. Superiority equals power. People having more power, have greater chance in achieving their goals. I think achieving a certain goal, no matter what, is a source of happiness. That is all. People want to know and be capable in order to have a better chance to be happy.

This statement, I guess, has some flaws.

1st. From the start, people usually don’t care a lot how things* work (or care just for those which they find interesting) but are rather eager to achieve something. For example, a boy decides he wants to be the best virtuoso guitarist in the world. Okay. But with more that six and half billion people on Earth, there will be quite a few people sharing this very goal. In this case, only one can be called “the best”. With discovering that there will be hurdles on the way, the boy will come to understand that he has to have knowledge and abilities that others don’t (in other words – be superior), which may be achieved by gaining more knowledge and abilities. If this is truly his dream, he will try to get superior. If it is just a momentary whim, he will let it go after a little time.

2nd.It’s not necessary to be the best in order to achieve a goal. That I consider as true. A person’s goal may be something like, say, acceptance in a college. In this case, even if he is not the very best, he will still have a chance in achieving his goal. However, in this case, he can never know how good the other applicants are. He could think he is guaranteed to be accepted, and after that find that he was overlooked, for others were better than him. In such situation a person can never know, so the safest path to be taken is self-improvement.

3rd. Some goals do not require a level of superiority. If my goal is to visit South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, or any other country, I would simply have to raise enough money for my expenses. So the only thing needed is patience on my way of gaining happiness. I suppose the following example also applies: I’m overweight and want to lose weight and keep a fit body. If that’s the case, I would simply have to have patience and perseverance until that goal is achieved. I recognize these examples as exceptions from the idea I had formulated above, but also I think I recognize the reason for being exceptions. In the last two cases, the person striving for his goal doesn’t have anyone to compete with. He doesn’t have to be superior to others, but rather only meet the demands of the goal. Nobody will benefit from him attaining his goal, but also nobody will suffer. It’s only up to the person that holds dear the goal to achieve it.

I have formed this understanding one time after we were given back our results from a test in physics. I was disappointed, not because my mark was low, but rather because there were a few people with higher ones. So I asked myself “Does the mark really matter. Yes, I will feel better if I’ve gotten a 6 (an A), but does it really matter that I’ve got lower score after I have the same level of proficiency.” But later I came to think, that this is only for me to know, and someone (like an admission officer or another person that is supposed to assess me) that doesn’t know me and doesn’t have any other criteria to assess me, will take only my marks into account. I’m not really keen on physics, but if the case is the same with a subject that I’m really interested in, I may be overlooked and miss an opportunity that’s important for me. And if that happens I won’t achieve my goal, which means I won’t be very happy. And I quite a lot wish to be happy.

The subject may be a straight-forward, but that was the first time I had given a thought why some people try harder than others; because of the difference in the magnitude of their goals.

Thoughts on Apple

I’d like to reflect upon the last two weeks media buzz around the iPhone4 reception problem. I’ve heard some jokes and seen quite a lot of funny pictures concerning the antenna problem, but… is it really genuine problem or are we just happy to see how one of the big one fails, even not considering the magnitude of the failure. Also I have a number of thoughts on Apple in general terms.
In the end of June Apple released their “latest and greatest” product, namely, iPhone4. I am not the biggest fan of Apple and think I prefer Android phones, but I’ve got to admit that the new iPhone is pretty hot. The features are almost like from a Sci-Fi movie for the near future that I’ve watched five years ago, but I don’t have to tell anybody about that =). However, the problem with the antenna emerged shortly after the release, and a lot of websites published the news. On the following day Youtube also had footage of the problem, and on the next day, pictures about how Apple “suck” and other jokes addressing the issue.
Three weeks after the outburst of ridicule, I watched Apple’s presentation concerning the problem and giving their opinion on it. The main idea was that “Smartphones aren’t perfect” and a lot of emphasize was put on the statement “We (Apple) aren’t perfect”. The presentation gave some figures and numbers, and it turned out that quite a smaller number of people reported being unhappy with the phone, than one might think. Despite the information, I really did not like the tone of Steve Jobs, because every time he had a chance he tried to stress how they’re not perfect. At a certain point he made me feel like he was begging the users to understand him and his company, when it’s not that big of a deal, or at least that’s what I think.
It would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t even a little happy with the fact that “the giant” could also make a mistake. I had one more argument about Apple’s phone if it happened to discuss it with a passionate Apple fan. After that, however, I considered a defense against this, at first thought strong argument, and it went like this: “With all the features, possibilities and nice looks that the iPhone provides, do I even have to be worried about calling?” And I didn’t have a comeback, because everything else works fine, and not only works, but is superior to the other phones for now. So is the issue big? I think not. We can just move our fingers one centimeter away. It’s true that there are people who really use the phone feature a lot and the multitude of apps is not the most important think, but then again, why bother buy an iPhone just for the phone? ( My presumption is based on the idea that if a person needs a phone mainly to manage his calls, he/she wouldn’t hurry to buy one which fortes are entertainment and web experience. It looks more and more that the “phone” begins to be just one, in the plethora of many features in modern cell phones, and the iPhone is not an exception. )
Personally, I think the case with a big number of the people is like it is with me: they are just happy to see that even the strongest can fail. And that’s pretty much it. The iPhone4 sells at such a rate, that one can’t say that there is something wrong with it unless following the news. And those who mock Apple will still buy the device, because it’s an outstanding product with a problem, which one may hardly care about.
Nevertheless, I don’t think people are completely on the wrong. I myself was a fan of Apple until 2008, but after that some cogs in my head turned and I gradually started to dislike them. This was due to the fact that at every conference that was held by them, half of the information was the kind of “Isn’t it beautiful?” , that is to say, praising themselves excessively. It’s true that they produce eye-candy products and also pretty innovative ones, but isn’t the mouth of the user where the praise is expected to come from?
The main reason I started disliking Apple is not only the fact that they (at least I think they do) consider their company’s products superior to others, companies like Google, HTC, RIM, Palm, etc. The fact that they want to control every aspect of the user’s experience and not giving the freedom of choice to users is the thing that makes me dislike them. When presenting the new iPhone, Steve Jobs tried to make it very clear that Apple is nothing of the sort. Again he presented tons of statistics and figures, addressing the open nature of the company, and their cordial feeling towards users. I must say that the figures were pretty convincing, but still I find things missing in the whole picture.
Firstly, the explanation Steve Jobs gave for the absence of Adobe Flash. He spoke of Flash as an unstable technology, and also pointed to the fact that new web-standards like HTML5 try to make the use of plug-ins like Flash unnecessary. It was pointed out how many video sharing websites have support of protocols for video without the need of Flash. And finally came the moment that strengthened my belief that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Steve Jobs spoke of Flash games, and admitted that there is no technology that substitutes Adobe’s product, but said that there is no reason that people would want to play flash games, assuming that they have the outstanding AppStore. Here’s what I don’t like about the explanation: it’s true that Flash may crash occasionally and also that new web standards emerge, but what about websites build entirely with Flash, like those of talented digital artists, are even for regular websites with Flash-based menus? I personally like visiting such visually creative sites and admire their creators for having the creativity, but with the lack Flash support goes my contemplating on other people’s genius. As for the Flash-based games, it’s true that some may not be comfortable to play on the iPhone, but it’s the choice that matters. If they are so bad, people simply won’t play them. But I really don’t like this statement, from Steve Jobs’ letter addressing Flash: “Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.” When I was listening to Steve Jobs, I couldn’t but interpret his words in one sentence: “We know that we can’t provide this, but the things we’ve done so far are enough to keep you happy and your mouth shut.”
Secondly, I’m interested in the statement of openness and the support of HTML5, CSS and Javascript. All open standards. All only for the web. In “Thoughts on Flash”, Steve Jobs says that Apple not only supports open standards, but also develops, one such being WebKit, which is used in the browsers of major companies like Google (used in the Android browser), Nokia, Palm, etc. I’m not familiar with WebKit so I won’t make blind suggestions. After a while I asked myself “Why does he boast that his company provides open standard web experience?” Name a modern major browser that doesn’t support CSS, Javascript and at least HTML 4.01. Android provides the same web experience, but they don’t restrict the user. Other finger pointed at Flash was its proprietary nature. As far as I’m concerned, people who do not develop content don’t need to buy Adobe Flash in order to view content on the Flash player.
Please don’t get me wrong; Apple is an excellent company offering some of the most innovative pieces of technology, but having taken steps that are clearly not in biggest interest of the consumer, and most of all, trying to prove that their gratest wish is for everyone to be happy, when it isn’t, irritates me.

Anything but ordinary

Today I finished reading “Anything but ordinary”, a book by German authors of management literature Anja Foerster and Peter Kreuz. I had seen a presentation on the internet by the same two people and there was a link to the book I’m writing about, and luckily, my English teacher gave it to me. To be honest, I did not like the book that much. However, there where a few good ideas that appealed to me, and I think could be applicable not only in the field of management.
The authors are supporters of the idea that in order to be successful, you have to be innovative and venture in fields that others haven’t, or apply unorthodox methods in managing your business, in order your company/business/etc to be running efficiently. (…how original)
I liked the topic about market research. Basically, the idea revolves around the notion that you can’t simply ask what the people want from your product, because they simply can’t know what potential value could be hidden behind it. You have to experiment and present ideas, more or less extravagant and outside the box, and expect that at the beginning, they most probably would not be accepted well, but with the course of time, the benefits, if any, will become obvious. A pretty convincing example given in the book was this short sentence:

“Do you think that the client has asked Steve Jobs to create the iPod?” (Translation might vary from the original, for the book I was given is written in Bulgarian)

Another idea I liked was that in order to get successful, you have to offer the customer a pleasant experience; you have to invoke emotions in him/her. By making that person happy, you would almost automatically be sure that he/she would be willing to use your services once more. He/she would be waiting for an opportunity to enjoy the same experience again. An example in the book described a customer’s feelings about going to Starbucks; how the interior makes him feel relaxed, kind of like at home, the politeness of the neat staff that takes his order, the convenience of placing an order online, and definitely not in the last place, the pleasure of having some first class coffee. I have never visited a Starbucks store, but I have two memories in support of the idea for pleasant experience. I remember being eager of going to the super-market called “Metro” – in that time (1999) it was the biggest store I have ever visited, and there were so many products I didn’t have the chance of seeing often in the small town were I live. Just the mere mentioning of potential going to “Metro” made me excited. However, there has been one event that made me even more exhilarated, and that “event” was going to McDonald’s. For a seven-year-old child, going to a place that is visually appealing, being served extremely tasty food, and in addition to the food receiving a pretty toy, all wrapped in the colorful box with a handle representing the company’s logo, were “events” more than capable of bringing me happiness.
Other than the ideas mentioned above, to me the book did not seem to be anything special, or “…but ordinary”.

1984/Sanity Is Not Statistical

The setting takes place in the fictional state of Oceania in the year 1984. All countries have ceased to exist and are parts of the three super-states: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania’s territory consists of North and South America, the southern part of Africa, Australia and the British isles. Eurasia’s territory consists in Russia and Europe (of course except the UK), and Eastasia controls the territories of the non-Russian part of Asia, including Japan islands. Northern Africa and Antarctica are disputed regions.
In all three super-states the prevailing political philosophies are totalitarian, respectively “Ingsoc”(English Socialism), “Neo-Bolshevism” and “Obliteration of the Self”, and are very much alike. We are mainly presented with the structure of Ingsoc – it consists of inner party and outer party and the leader is called Big Brother. Both the inner and the outer party represent fifteen per cent of Oceania’s population, and the other eighty-five per cent are people called “proles”. The governing of the state is carried out by the four ministries: the Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Love, and the Ministry of Peace. Contrary to its name, every ministry deals with a different kind of affairs. This is to say that the Ministry of Truth deals with falsification, Ministry of Plenty – with shortages of supplies, Ministry of Love – with preventing people from having feelings for each other, and the Ministry of Peace, more or less surprisingly, deals with war.
The official language is English, but all documents and official paperwork are written in “Newspeak”. Newspeak is a language that derives from today’s English (which in the book is referred to as “Oldspeak”) and consists of stunningly less words. For example, lets take the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’. In Newspeak, if there is a word that describes something, the completely opposite word should be formed from that particular word with a prefix, in this case the prefix being ‘un’, and we get the word ‘ungood’. The situation is similar with the adjectives, were just the suffix ‘-wise’ is added, so we don’t have the word ‘well’, we have ‘goodwise’. Also a distinctive feature of Newspeak is that it is the only language that annually shortens its vocabulary. Words like freedom, liberty, science, etc. do not exist anymore. The main objective of the shortening of the language is to eliminate every chance of dangerous ideas and thoughts out of those the party needs. After a few generations, it is considered, the people will have forgotten about the ideas of freedom, equality, own opinion and free speech and thought.
The whole society is placed under surveillance, and everything someone says or does is being observed through devices called “telescreens”(the telescreen can not only detect what a person is doing, but also can be used for broadcasting important messages.) The surveillance continues constantly and the telescreens cannot be shut down, but only the sound can be lowered.
The main protagonist is Winston Smith, a member of the outer party of Oceania working in the Record Department of the Ministry of Truth. He is conscious of the misdeeds of the party and the falsification executed and starts to write a diary where he shares his daily experience. He has gotten the diary from a shop in a quarter where proles live and afterwards he goes back to buy some useless objects which, for him, carry information about the real past, not the forged one. Later he falls in love with another member of the outer party, Julia, who works in the Fiction Department. After having seen each other for several months, their relationship is revealed and both are taken to the Ministry of Love were they are tortured in order to confess their crimes against the state and the party, either real or made up. We are presented only with what Winston has experienced there, revealing the goals of the party and the perception it has for reality. After some time Winston is brainwashed to believe in the methods of the party, but still hates Big Brother. In the end Winston is set free, knowing that in the not-so-distant future they will arrest him again. After hearing the news of the “glorious victory” of the Oceanic army, he is arrested because the goal has been achieved – he finally loves BB.
The book left really nice impressions in me about its unique and defended ideas about organizing such a society. I mainly liked the idea for the new language and its purpose – to restrict people from thinking and wanting something that is not in favor of the state. I like it as a nicely formulated idea with real possible results, not in the way that I think it should be practiced in reality.
After all, there is something that I didn’t like. In the part where it is described that the three super-states have no interest in conquering each others territory, because members of the outer party and the proles will definitely see that they have been lied to, and would cause the whole political ideology to fall. Also it is said that science wasn’t further developed because it would cause people to think, and therefore have personal thoughts out of the party’s interest, which would be undesirable. So, in my opinion, there could be established a society in some of the disputed areas, which cherishes the ideas of freedom and improvement, and wages war with some of the super-states in order to really conquer it. Thus the technological advantage would be on the side of this hypothetical society and the totalitarians systems may be overthrown.
However, there is a thing I couldn’t understand. Why the people from the Ministry of Love put so much effort in persuading the “criminals” that the party is in the right, before having them executed? If they are caught and the information needed is extracted from them, why are they persuaded that the party is right, when they simply can be killed, without anyone noticing?