Loose Lips

…and I’m not talking about the Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan or the cast of Jersey / Geordie Shores, either. I’m talking about “leakers” — those Snowden types who are entrusted with confidential information, but can’t resist telling other people about it.

I’m going to make a clear distinction between leakers of State secrets — who deserve imprisonment regardless of their motivations, and whom we can discuss some other time — and commercial leakers, such as those addressed in a (leaked!) memo from Apple. I think the Apple folks are precisely correct:

Apple explains that leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model, give rival companies more time to build a competing product and hurt sales of a new product when it hits the shelves.

I am unmoved by the apologists who point out that in Apple’s case:

Consumers continue to be in a frenzy each time a new Apple product is rumored, while the tech giant’s stock price has catapulted higher in the past year.

That’s not the point. The point is that when you work for a company, you are privy to information which, as the word “privy” specifically denotes, is privileged information. When you abuse that privilege, the company has “cause” to terminate the leaker (which is spelled out in just about every employment contract, and is implicit in all employment hiring). In extreme cases, as Apple adds in the memo, revealing confidential information can be and has been further grounds for arrest and indictment — which is precisely as it should be. Passing information directly on to a competitor is definitely criminal, and for leaking to the Press, a “scourging” rider should be attached to the criminal penalties.

At best, leaking confidential information is indiscretion; at worst it’s actual espionage. And leaking information just so you can feel important should translate to that feeling of importance as Jamal’s favorite plaything in Cell Block D — and Apple has given its assurance to its employees just how far they will go to making the latter part come true if employees are caught and identified.

I’m no great fan of Apple, but in this case: good for them.

Let us all be perfectly clear about this. We are talking here about ethics — when you are asked on your word of honor to keep a secret, whether on paper or by handshake, you keep your fucking mouth shut.

Lawyers have “client confidentiality” tattooed on their foreheads (metaphorically speaking), and quite frankly, I see no difference between those ethics or any other agreement concerning keeping your mouth shut.

And I don’t care if indiscretion doesn’t lead to any actual harm — e.g. lives being lost as a consequence — because breaching trust of any kind is just plain wrong, regardless of the penalties thereof.

Is that too high a standard? It better not be.

They nailed it perfectly in a bygone era:

…and Apple has simply extended the concept:


I am fully aware of the irony involved in discussing a topic which has arisen from a breach of confidentiality — i.e. a leaked memo from Apple in this particular case — but I could have written this post without any prompting at all. The leaked memo simply provided the spark which resulted in the above. Had I been CEO Tim Cook, I would have posted the memo on the front page of Apple’s website, to inform not only Apple employees but the whole world of its contents. It’s long overdue.

No Thank You

There seems to be a consensus that if driverless cars are ever to become universal, then the controlling system will have to be one single one — you can’t have competing, perhaps even incompatible systems fighting over the traffic. In other words, we’d need something like Europe’s Eurocontrol:

Eurocontrol’s Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System compares demand for flights in a particular area with the available capacity.
The system pulls together data such as flight plans, taxiing time, and flight position from numerous sources in multiple countries and collates them.
It can then track planes in real time to manage the number of planes in the air to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded.
Precise monitoring prevents the carefully balanced system from being thrown out by planes with delayed departures or arrivals.
Planes can then be herded into departure and landing slots at airports to keep the thousands of flights in Europe flowing smoothly.
ETFMS also helps plan flight schedules up to a week in advance to help airlines and air traffic controllers plan each day down to the minute.

Uh huh. Then something like this happens:

Up to half of all flights in Europe face delays today after a Europe-wide air traffic control system failed.
Eurocontrol, which runs the system, said that a technical problem means that as many as half a million passengers could be affected, disrupting travellers who went away for the Easter weekend.
‘Today 29,500 flights were expected in the European network. Approximately half of those could have some delay as a result of the system outage,’ Eurocontrol said. The agency said the system would be back up and running tomorrow.

The cause had been identified, it said, without saying what it was. The agency said ‘contingency procedures’ were in place to stop the system becoming overloaded but that these would be lifted later this evening.
Eurocontrol added that flight plans from before 11.26am BST were ‘lost’ and asked airlines to refile them.
The agency said it was a ‘technical fault’ and that the system had not been hacked, saying they were now ‘in recovery mode’.

“Lost”, huh? That’s comforting.

Here’s my takeaway. I am never going to submit myself to a driverless car. And I am certainly never going to board a pilot-less aircraft (which, incredibly, has been suggested by various airlines and aircraft manufacturers).

Systems fail occasionally — all systems fail eventually — and I’m not going to be a prisoner of this kind of happenstance, ever, if I can possibly avoid it.

Weekend News Roundup

…wherein I comment on various snippets of what passes for “news” these days, and which happened to catch my eye en passant:

1.) Ireland threatens to poach U.S. business from the U.K., post-Brexit.
— It’s called the “free market”, and nobody should care about this other than the ignorant. Remember that you’ll be negotiating with the United States and against Great Britain, boyos. Good luck with that. And just hope that your masters in Brussels don’t punish you for straying outside the fold.

2.) Women achieve orgasm more often when having sex with other women than they do with men.
— Don’t care. Next:

3.) Prince Harry won’t sign pre-nuptial contract with divorced Hollywood starlet.
— Yeah, this is going to end well, considering there’s about $40 million involved. Dreamy royal ingenue vs. Hollywood lawyers… nope, not gonna take that bet. And the pussification of Harry continues apace…

4.) Saintly charity Oxfam involved with sex orgies and sexual harassment in Haiti.
— Considering that Haiti is one of the pox capitals of Shitholia, could this be conclusive proof of liberal idiocy, or is it just the Darwinian process? I report, you decide.

5.) Disloyal and dishonest asshole fired from the FBI before he can retire with multimillion-dollar pension.
— My only question: what took them so long? Should have been done over a year ago.

6.) Has-been CalGov Arnold Schwarzenwhatsit said some stupid shit in Austin, TX.
— Dude should have stuck to bonking hideous Hispanic housemaids. Of course, in Moscow-On-Colorado he’s going to get serious cheers for saying that “oil companies are killing people by abetting the burning of fossil fuels, and that all products using fossil fuels should be marked as associated with hazards like tobacco.” Yet another has-been liberal Republican who needs to just STFU.

And finally:

7.) SecState Tillerson was on the toilet when told he was fired.
— And we needed to know this… why? Somewhere out there, someone’s former journalism professor is reaching for the razor blades. (Not that this would be a Bad Thing, mind you.)

No Thanks

I recently received a notice from Uber informing me that a great opportunity to make lots of money will be available tomorrow — St. Patrick’s Day.

Ain’t gonna happen.

In the first place, I try not to work on weekend nights because there’s not much call for Uber other than ferrying drunken people home after an evening’s drinking. Forgive me for being fastidious, but washing puke out of my car in the middle of the night doesn’t appeal to me. Also, drunk people make me irritable and that affects my driving.

Secondly, I have an ironclad rule when it comes to those days where the streets and roads are full of amateur drunks (e.g. New Year’s Eve and the aforementioned “Irish” holiday): I stay at home and off the roads because amateur drunks. The chances of getting involved in a collision with a drunk driver rise exponentially, and I understand the laws of probability too well. Also see my first reason, because if there’s a good chance that people are gonna puke late on a normal weekend night, it’s almost a dead cert on St. Paddy’s Day.

Nope; on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day you’ll find me cleaning guns, reading, watching a movie on Netflix or relaxing in Doc Russia’s new hot tub with a teenage hooker some kind of cold beverage — alcoholic or non-, as the mood takes me.

Let other Uber drivers have the business, and good luck to ’em.

And for you folks who are venturing out tomorrow night: be careful out there. It’s not just drunks who are out and about; it’s a great opportunity for goblins to inflict a little involuntary property redistribution on inebriated people. You have been warned.

Seriously Bad News

I heard this news with the greatest shock imaginable:

Gibson guitar company, which has been a staple brand among various musical instruments since 1902, is facing bankruptcy.
According to the Nashville Post, Gibson’s chief financial officer, Bill Lawrence, left after six months on the job and just as $375 million in senior secured notes mature and another $145 million in bank loans become due if they aren’t refinanced by July. The departure of Lawrence was seen as a bad sign for a company trying to re-organize.
The company, which generates $1 billion a year in revenues, recently moved out of its Nashville warehouse, where it had operated since the mid 1980s. 

To call Gibson guitars a “staple” in music would be guilty of the world’s great understatements. The only equivalent I can think of would be “Mercedes Benz, which has been a staple brand among various automobiles since 1899, is facing bankruptcy.”

I have to say upfront that I’ve never owned a Gibson guitar myself — I was a bass guitarist and the Gibson basses never did it for me as much as my beloved Rickenbacker 4001S — but good grief, some of the greatest rock music ever performed was done on a Gibson. If I were to show pictures of famous rock guitarists playing their Gibsons, we’d need extra storage space for this website on the server. Let just one sample thereof suffice:

And the EDS 1275 isn’t even my favorite-sounding lead guitar, either: that honor belongs to the SG Deluxe.

I know, that’s not a Deluxe (it doesn’t have the three humbucker pickups, as below):

And I’m going to hear it from all the Les Paul fanbois now, but as a rock musician — and lest we forget, the Les Paul was originally designed as a jazz guitar by (duh) Les Paul — nothing beats the clarity and crunching sound of the SG at full throttle. (AC/DC’s Angus Young seemed to like it, and even though I hate the band’s music, Young’s guitar sound was beyond-words incredible.)

That said, I also loved the Les Paul when our guitarist Kevin played his (even though I preferred the sound of his Fender Stratocaster). This isn’t Kevin:

By the way: a guitar’s sound is such a personal thing; please don’t get offended if you prefer the Flying V.

…and don’t even get me started on the smooth, mellow sound of the venerable Gibson 335:

And even though I’m a totally crap guitarist (of the 6-string genre), I’ve always wanted to own a Gibson Montana Rose:

Yes, it has a voluptuous shape akin to Nigella Lawson. Go ahead and laugh at my oh-so transparent lusts…

Perhaps only now can you imagine the despair I feel at the terrible news above. I know, I know; the company may fall over, but the guitars will live on, somewhere, somehow. Still…

And never let us forget that Barack Bastard Obama spitefully (and illegally) unleashed his goon squad on Gibson for using “endangered” woods in their fretboards (they weren’t), simply because Gibson’s boss was a Republican donor. Just to make up for that piece of political thuggery, Gibson Guitars ought to live forever.


Dramatis personae:
On the SG: Nancy Wilson of Heart
On the Les Paul: Gretchen Menn of Zepparella
On the Flying V: Grace Potter
On the 335: Miki Berenyi of Lush
Not on the Montana Rose: Nigella Lawson

 

Back To Work

So I started driving for Uber about ten days ago, and I have to say that while it’s occasionally frustrating — e.g. dropping off a passenger at DFW Airport and finding out that there are 205 other Uber drivers ahead of you for your next fare — I find the thing rewarding, and not just for the money.

Of course, I don’t work that hard; I get up at about 4.30am so as to take advantage of the benighted business travelers who have to catch early-morning flights, then drive until about 11am, whereupon I come home for lunch (sometimes “dead-heading” all the way across town, no big deal). Then, if I feel like earning more, or I’m not too tired, I head out again and take fares until rush hour starts.

I prefer to pick up fares in and around Plano, because there are lots of them (especially around Headquarters Drive — Toyota, Frito-Lay, Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney, McAfee, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Ericsson all have large offices there) and because they tend to be executive types.

I prefer to ferry middle-aged people around because I can chat to them companionably and it relieves the tedium of driving on DFW’s crappy highway system. Young people (i.e. yoofs) are generally silent passengers, and spend all their time playing games / watching movies on their phones. However, two fares were eye-openers.

Case #1:  Some Black dude with an impenetrable Ebonics accent (“Little Elm” came out “Li-Ell”). Plus, he had serious body odor. However, it was one of the best drives I’ve had so far. He was on his way to Fort Worth to be with his mother — his brother had just been killed in a car accident — so after offering condolences, I started to chat with him about our families. What a revelation. This guy was a retired professional soccer player who’d played for West Ham FC in London. Even more astonishing, his kids were also headed for the same profession: the oldest (18) is already playing for FC Schalke in the German Bundesliga, his middle son (15) is in Crystal Palace’s youth team in London, and his youngest (13) is in Team USA’s development squad, and has a chance of playing for the US in the next Under-17 internationals. And lest you think this was all bullshit, it wasn’t. I know a great deal about European- and British football, and this guy was the real deal. We even talked about their business manager and agent, whom I’d heard of, and discussed how Spanish “fooball” today isn’t played according to the Spanish style, but in the Dutch manner, thanks to the influence of the late Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers ever and Barcelona’s manager in the early 1990s. When my passenger got out of the car at his mother’s place, he said, “Who’d a thought I’d get to talk football with an Uber driver from Souf Effrica?” (At least, I think that’s what he said; I’ve had easier conversations with ESL students.) Incidentally, he was using Uber — and getting me a $50 fare — because his BMW was broken “again!” and he warned me against ever buying the 440i. So much for that stereotype.

Case #2:  I picked up a kid named “Jesus” (guess the ethnicity) outside a gas station in Dallas. He was a little agitated when he got in the car, and was worried about being late for his “appointment”. Anyway, I reassured him — it wasn’t a long trip — and so I asked him how his day had been. “Pretty good” was his non-committal reply. He was your typical Hispanic adolescent, a little sullen-looking and taciturn, but reasonably well-dressed and had a short haircut. Still, there was something a little “off” — he looked nervous, jumpy even. I figured him as a potential problem, so I watched him carefully all the way. Then we arrived at his destination: a U.S. Army recruiting office. “You joining up?” “Yes, sir. Signing the papers right now.”

You may consider me suitably chastened.

More memorable tales as they occur.