Teddy Roosevelt on presidential criticism

President Theodore Roosevelt writing in the Kansas City Star in 1918:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

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Our sacred ties

One of the best lines from President Obama’s farewell speech tonight:

America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured. In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity and liberty.

But from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.

And so we have to preserve this truth with jealous anxiety that we should reject the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties that make us one.

And Washington’s original version, with my emphasis added in bold:

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

The new MacBook is my next laptop

The new MacBook has received more than it’s fair share of irrational knocks in the week since it was announced. I could write a whole point/counterpoint post addressing each of the MacBook’s supposed shortcomings, but life is short and haters gonna hate and Apple hardly needs my help moving inventory.

Suffice to say, the new MacBook isn’t for everyone. But I will say this:

Yes, it has a relatively slow Core M processor, worse battery life than the MacBook Air and only a single USB-C port for power, video and I/O. And that doesn’t matter one bit to me.

I’ve been in the market for a new laptop and purposefully held off on buying anything before I saw what Apple had coming down the pike. The 13-inch MacBook Air had been my frontrunner, with the occasional thought given to the 13-inch MacBook Pro — but no more. Let’s focus on the MacBook’s positives:

  • The MacBook is more powerful than the Air in at least one measure: according to their respective tech specs pages, the new MacBook supports an external display resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 (4K) while the MacBook Air only supports 2560 x 1600.
  • The new MacBook weighs almost a full pound less (2.03 lbs vs. 2.96 lbs) than the 13-inch Air, not too mention more than 3.5 pounds less than the Mid-2012 15-inch MacBook Pro I currently tote around for work. Every ounce counts in a messenger bag.
  • The Core M processor and nine hours of battery life is more than enough for my needs. When I do open Photoshop, I can wait a few extra seconds. And the only time I ever need more than one thing plugged into my computer is when I’m sitting at a desk where a dongle isn’t an inconvenience.

Consider this: the MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Air configured with their respective base processors, 8 GB of memory and 512 GB of storage both run $1,599. That’s not cheap in a world of Chromebooks, but it is hardly unreasonable. If it’s not for you, don’t buy one. But I can’t wait to walk out of the Apple store with my shiny sliver of the future. My only choice now is gray, silver or gold.

Grocery store tablets

I spotted this ad in the app for my local grocery store shortly before Christmas. There on the right, between the colossal pie and the terra cotta snowman, shown, I assume, without irony, is the $50 Android tablet no one asked for.  An iPad, these are not.

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Reaction to the Sony Hack Is ‘Beyond the Realm of Stupid’

It has already been widely linked, and I can’t help but point out that Vice put “beyond the realm of stupid” in quote marks while the actual quote in the article is “the realm of beyond stupid,” but this interview with Peter W. Singer is still a great read for its takedown of Sony’s actions:

This same group threatened yesterday 9/11-style incidents at any movie theatre that chose to show the movie. Here, we need to distinguish between threat and capability—the ability to steal gossipy emails from a not-so-great protected computer network is not the same thing as being able to carry out physical, 9/11-style attacks in 18,000 locations simultaneously. I can’t believe I’m saying this. I can’t believe I have to say this.

What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs

From the NY Times profile of Marissa Mayer’s non-turnaround of Yahoo:

Yahoo had a market value of $33 billion at the time, but that figure owed largely to its stake in Alibaba, the Chinese Internet conglomerate. According to Jackson’s valuation, Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba was worth roughly $37 billion. But if you subtracted that position, the entirety of Yahoo’s core business, all its web products and content sites, actually had a market valuation of negative $4 billion.

The article mostly paints a picture of Mayer as inept:

At F.Y.I.s, Mayer liked to tell employees that she believed in taking risks and that she was unafraid to admit failure. This philosophy worked well for web products but not for strategic hires. Despite the board’s urging, Mayer opted against vetting Henrique de Castro. As a result, she was unaware that de Castro had a poor reputation among his colleagues in Google’s advertising business. Many had derisively called him the Most Interesting Man in the World, in reference to the satirically fatuous spokesman for Dos Equis beer. De Castro had a tendency to make grand, awkwardly worded pronouncements. He was the inspiration for the Twitter handle @HdCYouKnowMe, which posted tweets that straddled the line between reality and parody: “To incentivize the sales force, you need to hit them with the carrot” and “Product is like snakes . . . slippery — we need someone with a big hammer.” De Castro’s new Yahoo colleagues got a full dose of his strange locution at the company’s annual sales meeting, in early 2013, when he berated his sales force with a rangy, pedantic speech. (De Castro did not respond to requests for comment.)

De Castro’s plan for growing Yahoo revenues focused on user-generated content, like the videos available on YouTube or Instagram. The only problem was that Yahoo did not have access to enough user-generated content to support this plan. (Its attempt to acquire Daily Motion, a YouTube clone, had fallen apart.) As Yahoo’s ad revenues continued to decline, de Castro began to alienate his staff and fellow executives. After one of his direct reports gave a presentation about Yahoo’s business in front of some 40 senior executives, de Castro humiliated the person, saying: “I think your strategy’s more of a fantasy. You make it up. You just make it up.” More important, advertising revenue declined in every quarter since he was hired. Within a year, Mayer had personally taken control of Yahoo’s ad team. De Castro would leave the company in January 2014. For about 15 months of work, he would be paid $109 million.

But she clearly inherited a company in shambles:

A couple of days into the job, Mayer was having lunch at URL’s when an employee walked up to her and introduced himself as Tony. “I’m a mobile engineer,” Tony said. “I’m on the mobile team.”

Mayer responded to Tony, “Great, how big is our mobile team?” After some back and forth, Tony replied that there were “maybe 60” engineers. Mayer was dumbfounded. Facebook, for instance, had a couple of thousand people working on mobile. When she queried the engineering management department, it responded that Yahoo had roughly 100. “Like an actual hundred,” Mayer responded, “or like 60 rounded up to 100 to make me feel better?” The department responded that it was more like 60.

Fitness trackers

David Pierce reviewing the new Microsoft Band for The Verge:

I don’t even want it to be a smartwatch. Smartwatches and trackers just have fundamentally different, even competing needs. A smartwatch must have a big, useful screen. It must also be fashionable and easy to interact with. I’ll put it on in the morning, matching it my outfit. I’ll take it off at night and when I shower. A tracker, on the other hand, must be invisible. It should just be there, all the time, collecting data without me ever thinking about it. I don’t know how any company will resolve those two things, and it seems to me that the smart bet is making the best of one or the other. Right now the Band straddles the middle, and it doesn’t quite work.

He’s right about smartwatches and fitness trackers being fundamentally different. I think that explains part of my disappointment with Apple Watch: I’m not convinced yet on the value of smartwatches, so I mostly wanted to see a no compromises fitness tracker (however unlikely a fitness-focused device from Apple was).

I’ve resisted buying a fitness tracker for more than a year for the fact that most didn’t seem to do any more than an iPhone app could do.

The Basis was supposed to be the ultimate fitness tracker, but it’s big, ugly and I’ve heard of it dying on multiple people.

The Microsoft Band clearly doesn’t fit that bill, according to The Verge’s review.

The Fitbit Charge HR looks like it checks most of the boxes on my list (long battery life, elevation tracking, heart rate monitoring, wireless syncing) though it seems to still rely on just an accelerometer for sleep tracking, which, I’ve read, isn’t exactly accurate.

Then there’s the Jawbone Up3, announced a few days after the Fitbit Charge, which, while it inexplicably lacks elevation tracking (which I like for hiking in the mountains), “uses bioimpedance sensors that measure heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, galvanic skin response as well as an accelerometer” for sleep tracking. Curiously, the Up3 FAQ originally contained some questions about contactless payment that clearly weren’t ready for primetime and were quickly removed. Is that a sleeper feature that is going to be added with a future firmware update? Either way, this might be the device that finally wins a spot on my wrist.

Neither the Fitbit nor Jawbone has a sale date, but the Jawbone is available for preorder.