03 6 / 2012
The last time marine life was subjected to seas as corrosive as those anticipated by 2100 was in a period geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, fifty-five million years ago.
—The Ocean of Life
18 5 / 2012
Use of Proceeds
17 5 / 2012
The chaplain had gotten Carlos permission to make one last phone call, at 11:00 p.m., to a TV reporter he’d been corresponding with for years, Karen Boudrie. The guards were still away from DeLuna’s cell. Boudrie was in Cincinnati visiting her parents. She was the last person DeLuna called.
The TV journalist had thought about this moment for a long time and expected a confession, especially, she said, after Carlos “chose me to be the last person to talk with.” In the past, he had admitted many other wrongs to her and had only curbed what he said about the killing of Wanda Lopez because of his appeals. Those were now over. “He had nothing to lose at this point,” she told the investigators. There was no reason left why he wouldn’t tell her the truth.
Boudrie wasn’t sure how to start a conversation with a man an hour away from death, to whom she had no relation, and who had chosen her to receive his last call. So, “ever the journalist,” she said with a laugh, she just “gave him the opportunity … to say anything he wanted to say, to get it off his chest.”
“Do you have something you want to confess to me? Do you have something you want to tell me, Carlos?”
“No,” he said quietly. “[T]hey’re putting to death an innocent man.”
For the first time, Boudrie said later, recalling what Carlos said, “it really hit me that maybe they were.”
Boudrie was “devastated.” She hung up the phone and grabbed her mother, “just crying and crying.” She didn’t think it was going to happen so soon and felt guilty that she had never done the investigation she planned. “There’s any number of things I could have done,” she told the investigators, but it “wasn’t until that last phone call that I really, truly believed him.” By then, it was “too late.”
—The Columbia Human Rights Law Reviews’s book on the execution of Carlos DeLuna is meticulous and, in several ways, devastating.
13 5 / 2012
There’s a quality to dusk in California that’s hard to find elsewhere. I’d never really paid much attention to it before I lived here.
The setting of the sun is more complex than you’d expect. The day blooms before it fades.
Because of Rayleigh scattering, colors get warmer. Indigos and purples replace pastel blues of the peak of the afternoon. As the angle of the sun falls, photons take a different path through the air. They bounce and reflect off the mesosphere and the stratosphere, and—playing out out at the speed of light—the Brownian ricochets rub the edges off shadows. It’s not just humans that prefer the blue hour. Small animals, like cats and dogs, are really crepuscular, and find much more to like in twilight than the heat of the day. They awake. With the diminishing light, the air cools and gets denser. Birds and crickets start to chirp—sound now travels further.
For a while, the world is soft, warm, and diffuse.
Dusk has a good sense of pacing, though—stringendo, maybe. After a languid start, the transitions develop momentum. The horizon gets redder, the bands of cloud explore yellows and oranges, a few stars start to appear—actually, they’re everywhere—the sun hovers, timorous on the horizon, the east is now pretty dark, the sun disappears, and it’s the afterglow of another day.
12 5 / 2012
"If its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body, they are ready to make oath upon the Evangelists, at any hour of the day or night, that it is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable globe."
—Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit
"In America I saw the freest and most enlightened men placed in the happiest circumstances that the world affords; it seemed to me as if a cloud habitually hung upon their brow, and I thought them serious and almost sad, even in their pleasures, […] forever brooding over advantages they do not possess."
—Alexis De Tocqueville, Why the Americans are so Restless in the Midst of their Prosperity
"The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world."
—Jimmy Carter, address during the Energy Crisis, 1979
(I don’t particularly believe in constancy as a refutation of the declinism thesis, but the general persistence keeps surprising me.)
30 4 / 2012
So we thought that conventional wisdom was in error, flawed, wrong. We thought that relational databases could be made commercially viable. You could build them and implement them, write the programs so they could deliver. They could support large databases, lots of users, and perform well. And because conventional wisdom was in error, this gave us tremendous advantage: we were the only ones trying to do it.
So we started the company. And the goal of the company was to build and deliver the first commercial relational database. And there were four of us. We invested $2,000 of our own money in Oracle. And there was no outside funding. In fact, in those days, when you would try to get money for a software company, and Silicon Valley and its famous venture capitalists notwithstanding, they wouldn’t even meet with you. They invested in hardware companies. But software at the time was this vague notion. There was nothing tangible; nothing you could touch. And, in fact, they would just leave you waiting in the waiting room for 45 minutes, until you finally got the idea they were not going to see you. And then the receptionist would search your briefcase to make sure you were not stealing copies of Business Week from the coffee table. We were persona non grata in the venture capital community.
—Larry Ellison’s Smithsonian interview.
30 4 / 2012
"So, we were more comprehensive. We weren’t the largest. There was a time that MicroPro with WordStar was bigger. There was a time when Visicorp was bigger. There was a time when Lotus, with the early years of 1-2-3s incredible success, was bigger than we were. But we were always the most technical. Whenever anybody else in the software industry wanted to know where we thought things were going, they’d come and talk to us. Because our vision, we shared; we didn’t view that as some competitive edge. We just wanted to talk about it and get other people to share the same ideas so that they would help make it all come true."
30 4 / 2012
In fact, Ted Nelson gave a speech at one of the West Coast Computer Faires about how we were going to overthrow all the big computer companies, and we really knew that it was “power to the individual”. There was a little bit of a minority feel, that we had to advance this cause. And, eventually everybody would realize that we were right about what was going on with these machines.
DA: Was that shared by the people at Microsoft?
BG: Oh, absolutely. Microsoft at this time, I think our average age was 22 or 23 years old. People enjoyed the programming. Some of the people didn’t ever go off to see customers. They just stayed and did the work. But, it was a very small group. And when I came back from a trip, I’d always talk about what I’d been up to and what we were seeing out there in the marketplace.
—Bill Gates’s Smithsonian interview.
30 4 / 2012
"But the Internet is a medium where anyone with a basic level of technical competence can create content. One of the things that we are going to try to do over the next few years is to try to create more and more tools to make it even easier for people to do that. We think that some day it should be possible for everyone to publish on the Net. As easily as people approach word processing today. And that should be a huge market opportunity for a lot of companies. Everybody has something to say."
30 4 / 2012
"And particularly a lot of interesting things can really happen. Where should we go? There’s a number of efforts to index the entire Internet. And one of the fun things that’s happening is that a number of them are starting to become companies in their own right. This is an index called Yahoo that’s been on the Net for about a year. The guys who started it are Ph.D. students at Stanford. Just a week ago they got a significant amount of venture capital backing. The catalog of resources on the Internet will be supported by advertising in the future."
30 4 / 2012
MA: What we really did was run a number of things in parallel. There’s a couple of different approaches you can take when you start a company. One is to be very conservative and not overextend yourself. Another approach is to undertake a major development effort with a lot of work in engineering up front that’s going to take three, four or five years to get a first product out.
We’re in an environment where heavy investment makes a lot of sense—provided it’s put into the right areas—and we need to have products that will materialize within a year because we think the market will support that. So from the beginning we put as much development as we could onto both the client and server sides. We expanded the development with another team that took those core pieces and started building applications on top of them. We talked about that quite a bit. We basically cranked that out as fast as we could. We cranked out the first clients and servers in the first two months or so. We tried to just blow this out the door. If you took two years to get it out the product would be far more technically advanced. But its more important to get it out there fast so people begin using it and begin to integrate the technology as rapidly as possible. That’s when they begin building on top of it. If it’s out there it just starts to pick up momentum on its own. So that’s the approach that we decided to take.
The other point is that this approach compensates for the fact that we were invested in very heavily. So, by shipping product in December our revenues went from zero to a point where we’re quite happy and pretty much able to fund the bulk of the company’s work and development. Expansion and growth is a lot more comfortable than going out and raising capital.
DKA: Already Mosaic had been picked up by just about everybody. Did you think the same would happen to Netscape? Or were you surprised by how rapidly Netscape grew and was embraced by the community?
MA: I think we were a bit surprised again; we were certainly hoping something like this would happen again. It actually happened much faster than we expected. It really illustrates not only broad interest in the Internet, but also the sheer number of people using it. Its really significant when you look at the numbers. I think we have about six million Navigator users now, and those are the ones on the public network. That’s not counting people behind firewalls who we can’t see. The interesting thing is that those numbers are far in excess of many of the figures you hear in the computer industry. The subscriber rates right now, for example, are approximately that. There are not a lot of software applications able to have that many users, and it just happened so quickly. The downside is that it could vanish overnight. You have to keep up.
30 4 / 2012
"We can’t sleep," said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.
"Can you sleep?" asked the children.
"No," I said.
"You ought to sleep."
"I know. I ought to sleep."
"Can we have some sugarplums?"
"You can’t have any sugarplums," said mamma.
"We just asked you."
There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.
26 4 / 2012
26 4 / 2012
“While Andreessen is very good at making money, then, he’s much less good at creating lasting value for the long-term shareholders of his companies. In his world, buy-and-hold public shareholders are the patsies, the people left holding the bag when the fast money has long since departed. He’s smart; the rest of us are chumps. I guess it makes perfect sense that he’s recruited Larry Summers as a Special Advisor.”