Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Mad Science: The "What Gives?" Edition

You’ve probably seen this by now, but I gotta say that I was astonished when I read that the US economy actually contracted a little in the 4th Quarter last year, and when I read that, I felt sure that equity markets around the world were about to take a massive dump.  But then the markets surprised me by closing near even for the next few days, and was left wondering what the Hell was going on.  After all, this was supposedly the economy’s worst performance since 2009, and it came as a surprise--and the surprise was a nasty one considering that the 4th Quarter is supposed to show all the profits from the Christmas season.
So what gives?

“[W]hen you peer into the internals, the situation looks surprisingly benign. For example, ‘real disposable personal income increased 6.8 percent,’ which is really solid. Consequently, both personal consumption and personal savings went up. Nonresidential fixed investment went up 8.4 percent. Residential investment went up 15.3 percent. So people are consuming more and saving more and businesses are investing more and we're adding to the housing stock...
“[W]hat really slammed the economy was that national defense expenditures fell 22.2 percent. That's a lot!”
They go on to talk about how the change in military spending is really an artifact of the way that the annual budgets line up--or rather don’t--with the specific timing of this report, so that really, even Defense spending didn’t go down by all that much.  But the timing showed a giant change from the previous quarter.  I don’t know if I believe that, but maybe I just want to believe that we’re finally tackling the size of our military budget?  Plus, the War in Afghanistan is winding down, and there are presumably some cost savings there...
Anyway, at this point, I’m sort of expecting a massive move upward when these numbers get revised.  Beyond that, I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.
I think it’s interesting that Microsoft is now pushing its new Office 360 suite, which is essentially Microsoft Office built on the Google Drive model.  Bottom line, all of its phones, laptops, tablets, etc., are looking to run some version of Office, and as with Drive, when you use it, you’ll be able to access all of you files remotely via the Cloud.  
I don’t know that I’d call that revolutionary thinking or anything, but it probably does enhance Microsoft’s selling points, especially if you also have some installed files for offline operations as well.  The bigger change, though, is Microsoft’s pricepoint--$99 per year for a subscription versus $250 or whatever it was to buy the software to run the old verion outright.  That’s still probably a tough sell when compared to $50 per year for Google’s professional-grade Drive platform, but although I use Office at work, I’ve never used either company’s high-end Cloud suite, so I can’t exactly say which one is better.
With that said, I will say that I’ve found Google Drive’s free productivity suite to be more than enough for my personal computing needs.  It’s nowhere near as plush as Word, but I actually like the word processor more because it’s stripped down.  And while I’ll freely admit that Excel can do a lot more than either Google’s spreadsheet program or the OpenOffice spreadsheet program, the fact is that I only really do Pivot Tables and/or heavy-duty engineering calc’s at work.  And the office is still running Office.  At home, the most I do with a spreadsheet is to track my ongoing D&D campaign and/or manage my Triathlon Club’s workout program, and both of those things greatly enhanced by being freely shareable via Cloud computing.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I think Microsoft is probably a “Sell”.  A strong “Sell”.  If company is going to survive in anything like its current form, it needs for Office 360 to be a killer app, and it needs the new XBox 720 to rule the hardcore gaming market like Zeus on Mount Olympus.
While we’re talking about gaming systems, I was annoyed to see that Nintendo’s new Wii U is underperforming.  You may recall that we bought a Wii U at Christmas time this year, and for what it’s worth, my kids love it.  
That said, I was scared at the time that we were basically buying the Edsel of video game systems, and while I don’t really care which system is ultimately more popular, I don’t want the thing to fail on such an epic level that developers don’t bother trying to make new games for the thing.  That would suck.
To be fair, we only have two games for our Wii U, Nintendoland and Just Dance 4, and so far, that’s proven to be more than enough.  I mean, I wouldn’t say that we’re any kind of hardcore gamers.  Personally, my idea of a video game is a text-based Play-by-Post Dungeons and Dragons game that literally takes a week or more just to fight through a single battle, and even my kids only really want to stand up there and shake it to Rick Astley.  Rick Astley!
Anyway, I’ve got to get Emma a new game for her birthday next month, and I’m leaning toward the up-armored version of Batman, but I haven’t played it or anything, so any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Kerri Russell is now a
Russian spy.
I really want to see the new Keri Russell thing, The Americans.  Man, she is hot.
I love my wife and all, but I’m just sayin’...  Keri Russell.  Wow.
Finally, Slate wants straight men to come out... as straight.  Apparently, someone has finally noticed that being a straight white guy isn’t what it used to be, and studies show that such guys are now more depressed than comparable gay men.  Because when you’re gay, and you come out, and people accept you, there’s something there.  Some ultimate validation.  But when you’re a regular white dude, people are always looking at you like you’ve already made it just because of who you are, like you’re somehow ready to oppress the masses because of it.  The world was made for you, you have everything going for you, and so when you fuck up, it can only be because, well, you’re a total fuck-up.
Honestly, I don’t know what these people are looking for.  Practically the whole world nowadays is basically geared towards giving everyone but regular white dudes a break, but we still have to get jobs, support families, and basically do all the things that we ever did, only now we do it in a world that hates and fears us.  We’re practically the X-Men, and people are even now standing around wondering why all of a sudden comic book movies and TV shows are taking off like crazy.  It’s because if you see a regular white dude on TV, he’s invariably portrayed as an utter dufus because portraying him any other way might somehow marginalize the rest of the cast!  It’s just safer to pretend that all the white dudes are complete idiots.

This is what you think of us, and still you wonder why we're
geeking out.  Truth is, you've beaten us into submission.
Congratulations on that.  
Look, I’m not looking for a break here.  I’m not looking for protected status.  Truth is, I don’t need it.  Most of the time, I can spot you ten points and still win.  That’s the truth.  What I don’t like, however, is being a guy, doing all the things that a guy is supposed to do--you know, productive things like providing for my family and coaching the local Tri Club as a volunteer--and still at the end of the day, nobody can even acknowledge that any of that shit was important.  Because we’re too busy empowering everybody else that the folks who’ve always been working are beside the point.
I too can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.  Most of the time, I do the dishes too.  But in addition to that, I now have to take crap just for being a guy.
That’s what sucks.
And that’s all I’ve got this week.  Please send your hate mail to
Thank you.

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