news and views from michael rollins in tokyo

Category: General (page 1 of 7)



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On Steve’s Passing

I find myself feeling unexpectedly shocked and saddened this morning by the news of Steve Jobs’ passing. I don’t know if it’s the (perhaps misplaced) underdog quality I associate with him, his role as one of this generation’s most successful visionaries, or simply his very key role in in changing so dramatically for the better my relationship with technology.

As I write this I’m surrounded by the output, the fruition, the product of a creative vision that puts people and user experience ahead of technology. Multiple manifestations of the idea that simple elegance is more important than endless bulleted lists of features, or functionality for its own sake. Technology and products that just work, are a pleasure to use, and are beautiful to behold. I can think of no one else in recent memory who has had, and continues to exert, such influence on my day-to-day life.

I use an iMac all day at work, pick up my iPhone countless times daily, take my iPad practically everywhere I go and sync and share data across all of them effortlessly. I rarely have to tinker, tweak, fiddle with or configure anything. I worked for a decade as a system engineer and am well-versed in the arts of tinkering and configuration. These days I have no interest in doing either, and (in large part) thanks to Steve, I don’t have to.

Steve Jobs and Apple introduced us to the idea that powerful technology doesn’t have to be complicated, or rife with idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies which just have to be tolerated. The idea that, for the things you do all most of the time with your phone or PC, if you need a manual to know how to use it, well, it’s too complicated. Microsoft has never understood this, and the various UNIXs out there don’t care to. Without the vision and efforts of Steve and the others at Apple we’d all still be  spending a lot more time rebooting, ranting, fumbling and flailing. I’m reminded daily of how glad I am for now doing so little.

I didn’t know Steve, never met him, and–sadly–I never will. But I nonetheless feel close to him, and an odd kind of indebtedness for the ways in which he’s made my life that much easier, more interesting, and more fun.

Rest well, Steve. And thank you.

Some Things We Need Words For

As a foreigner living in Japan you have access to not one but TWO richly descriptive languages. Nonetheless, there are some things we experience on a daily basis for which no word exists in either. I’ve identified some of them here. Candidates welcome!
  1. The disappointment you feel when finding that the dish you ordered after seeing it on the menu it is nothing like the photo, or when peeling open a half-empty conbini sandwich.
  2. Walking while staring into a cell phone, PSP or DS.
  3. Any slow-walking group of three or more people who block the sidewalk by walking abreast and chatting.
  4. Pretending you’re asleep to avoid having to give up your seat.
  5. The conversational format whereby both parties forego their own native language and stubbornly speak in the native language of the other.
  6. Trying to look cool when flipping open your clamshell cell phone.
  7. The variant of “Japanese” whereby foreigners end fully-formed, complete English sentences with words like でしょう? or ね.

Psst. If you LOVE TV…

Some companies–Apple, for example–excel at marketing, while others kind of suck. Yahoo! falls squarely into the latter group. Take this massive ad I found gracing their login screen today.

First, last time I checked, hipster-types likes these folks don’t self-identify as TV lovers. In fact, they’re more likely to insist they don’t own a TV at all. And then there’s the copy: “If you love TV, then you’re gonna love us.” This is the kind of prose that you’d expect to emerge from the Marketing class at your local community college.

And again, what kind of person says they “love TV”? That’s like saying you love the idea of plopping down on a couch and staring at a glowing box to the attentive exclusion of whatever might be happening around you. People like shows and name them. People like characters or actors or keeping up with current events or learning how to cook. The only people who love “TV” are those who might spell it with six letters.

And why is her finger on the power button?

Why Time and Newsweek Will Never Be The Economist

Good article summarizing why The Economist is the best of the English-language news weeklies. I’ve been a subscriber for a couple of years now and know of no other “newspaper” (as they refer to themselves) that offers the same breadth and depth of bias-free, well-researched and beautifully articulated reporting. Very few ads, and virtually nothing related to fashion, pop stars or gadgets. It’s simply the best out there.

Private Content Going Offline / コンテンツの非公開について

I’ve moved all of the “private” and family content offline for general privacy-protection reasons and to keep the amount of Google-stored non-public content to a minimum. I also plan to start using the blog for more work-related writing and things, and so it makes sense to go ahead and hide the assorted off-color and family stuff.

Consequently, family and friends that are interested in reading the personal stuff will need to login in order to see any of this content. Please use the Register link at the bottom of the right navigation menu to create an account, or I can create one for you here if you prefer.


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