Trifle & Jest

Phraseries c/o Walter Stevenson

Science Non-fiction


There were a handful of incredible scientific breakthroughs in the past few years and I’m betting you missed one of them.

Yes, long-distance teleportation is possible. At least for quantum states of entangled particles, it is. Since sub-atomic states can be encoded to represent information, well, it’s easy enough to imagine how this technology might evolve in the years to come.
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DNA Data Storage
Scientists encoded an entire textbook’s worth of data onto individual DNA molecules. Using this scale, an adult human thumb could conceivably store the entire internet.
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Life Without Breath
Oxygenated microparticles can sustain animal life for about twenty minutes, without the need for a single breath. Remember that movie “The Abyss”? Substitute the amniotic fluid for a simple injection.
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The God Particle
We finally know how atoms come to have mass. The latter is embued by passing through a field created by the recently discovered Higg’s Boson.
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Melody & Memory

When I was growing up in the 1980s, advertisements seemed to be chock full of aural goodness. To this day I occasionally find myself whistling one of these memorable melodies from My Buddy, to Diet Coke, to the U.S. Army, and even to theme songs like The Great American Hero. Consumers had a kind of sonic connection with brands of all flavors. A connection deliberately and carefully cultivated by marketing minds behind the brands. The fad seemed to die down in the 90s, as advertising took itself a little more seriously and marketers decided that media deserved a slightly more serious approach, and relegating jingles back to the realm of gimmicry.

As a Nationwide Insurance commercial came on the other day, I found myself singing along before the end bit had even kicked in. Upon reflection, it occurred to me that, like many of the other trends that have been reborn since that radical, rubix-cubical decade, commercial advertisements too have shown a throw back to the lightheartedness, the self-awareness, and the ever-effectiveness of the common jingle. Priceline and State Farm rely heavily on a clever sound byte, whereas others use other musical mechanisms to differentiate themselves and create memorability, like the Indie choruses of Subway and Old Navy. Then there are ads like JCPenney that are just so painful on the ears, you remember them because you dread hearing them.

The lesson for brand architects is timeless. Developing an effective and memorable advertisement is, in the words of the Tranformers, more than meets the eye.

An Apple a Day


Like many people (and by people, I mean Apple fanatics), I have just about completely built out my Apple product portfolio. I’ve got the iPhone, the iPad, the Macbook, the Apple TV, the Airport, and so on. I even have a small graveyard of Apple products that I purchased on an impulse and have just stopped being useful in my daily grind. In the closet rests the Nano, the Mac mini, the Magic Trackpad, and others.

It seems like about twice a year, Apple announces an upgrade to one or two of their products, that forces me to consider whether it’s time for the latest and greatest. I’d say I take the bait maybe 25% of the time. So when I do the math, I’m probably buying a new product once every year. It didn’t used to be this way. I vividly remember the excitement of the iPhone and iPad and the rush to arm them with all of the coolest accessories. I seem to recall running to the Apple Retail Store every few weeks to get my paws on the next much-anticipated whiz-bangery.

The point is: Apple’s leaving money on the table. There are enthusiasts across the world who wouldn’t think twice about purchasing another substantial Apple product… whatever it is. iTV? Great! iCar? Awesome! iWife? I can only imagine the possibilities. But it wouldn’t need to be much, even smaller, complimentary devices like a Apple-branded stylus, or some kind of intelligent film for iPaper would sell out, despite whatever kind of constraints it would hit the market with.

Now I’m sure the ingenious Steve Jobs had some kind of rationale about where to draw the line with product development, and I’ve always admired the company’s uncompromising focus on the imperatives that drive it’s long term strategy, but c’mon… can’t a guy dream a little?

R.I.P. Open Standards

Has XHTML 1.0 “strict” been stricken from the history books yet, or does anyone out there besides me remember a time when the open, standardized hypertext markup syntax was all the rage? Here’s blast from the not-so-distance past: With the proliferation of mobile Apple products and apps, as well as the new kid in town HTML5, the concept of standardization and openness is now basically back out the window. Apps require all sorts of proprietary components & must be launched through the app store. Coding is done (with all due respect) by super-dorks who understand C. The barrier to entry for mobile app development is simply higher than most can reach. I’m a case in point–whereas I can build and launch a functional web page in minutes, there is no way I could launch a small, completely homegrown app in nearly the same amount of time. Nor is there much crossover in the skills required. In just the past couple years, we enthusiastically forfeited almost all of the open-ness and standardization it took the greater portion of the decade prior to get web browsers to adopt (kudos Firefox) and are now back to big, bulky proprietary environments and syntax-apethic document types. Time and time again I find myself talking to colleagues & clients saying things like “Yeah, we build in HTML5, but using XHTML 1.0 syntax.” There comes a point where I’m forced to wonder “what’s the point of proper syntax anymore?”

Who will be the next Jeffrey Zeldman? Where is the rallying call to mobile app and mobile web developers across the industry to push for standardization and open source? I guess it’s here.

Lo! The time is nigh for open source iOS apps or a shift away from apps to mobile web! Behold developers… a vision for HTML5.1 that standardizes use of syntax! Create noise! Make demands! Reshape our shared destiny!

The New World

Set sail from the bar of Saltes at 8 o’clock, and proceeded with a strong breeze till sunset, sixty miles or fifteen leagues south, afterwards southwest and south by west…