All posts by K3

I am a mechanical and structural engineer by training. My interests are anime, manga, consumer electronics, cooking and gardening.

My Thoughts on “The Last Jedi”

I’m very worried about writing this post because so many people are angry at “The Last Jedi” and angry at anybody who criticizes “The Last Jedi”.  Hopefully I’m just relaying my thoughts to the few people who follow my Twitter and therefore I won’t receive any destructive comments.

Anyhow, here it goes. There were moments in “The Last Jedi” that I absolutely loved only to see the possibilities presented in those moments thrown away by the end of the movie. Just to get it out of the way, I loved the parts of the movie that did not include the space battles and the casino. I thought the casino was a great concept that should have been a separate side movie like “Rogue One”.

Here’s what I love:

  1. Cranky Luke training Rey while hearing the story of what happened with Kylo Ren.
  2. Rey and Kylo Ren secretly building a relationship through force chatting.
  3. Rey exploring both the dark and light side of herself with Luke as her guide and mentor.
  4. Rey and Kylo Ren coming together to take down Snoke and then Kylo suggesting that he and Rey team up to destroy the First Order and the Resistance.
  5. Finn and Rose finding out that arms dealers were supplying both the First Order and the Resistance for profit. (Just that understanding, but it didn’t need a 30 minute casino detour to get there.)

I wanted more of all of this. These parts of the story showed the possibility for a wonderful episode 8 leading into an episode 9 that wouldn’t have been about the First Order versus the Resistance, but instead a story that could have gotten to the root of why there’s a galactic war in the first place and an explanation for the demise of both the Jedi and the Sith.

Now to outline my hopes being crushed. When Kylo and Rey finally get together, I thought the story was going to go sword and sheathe when Kylo suggested, after doing glorious battle together, that they team up and destroy the past. Rey should have gone with Ben (since he would have dropped that Sith BS) to rein in Kylo’s power and shape his ambitions, and Finn should have come along to support Rey and temper her expectations for Kylo. (King, Queen, and the Queen’s Knight — I love that shit!) I was in love with the idea of throwing away the First Order and the Resistance, especially after Finn and Rose found out arms dealers were supplying both sides. I thought at that moment in the Red Room, episode 9 would be about the force-pair taking down the true evil behind the perpetual galactic war. This would have led to the real reason for the demise of the Jedi and Sith — technology. The Jedi and Sith were yen and yang (peace makers and enforcers) to keep order in the galaxy until some folks decided to pit them against each other and against non-force users for profit. Technology, which leveled the field for non-force users, arose to replace the force users as the galactic power and peace broker. The bones were there for that story and it would have tied in the prequels while leaving plenty of room for stories before episode 1 and after episode 9. But all of that was thrown away. That is why I have no interest in episode 9. I don’t know what Kylo Ren and Rey’s motivations are now. No one answered the call of the Resistance, so now what? The First Order won. Game over.

Ultimately, this leaves me on the side of the people who want this movie removed from canon. Yes, the good parts were good, but as a complete movie, it killed Star Wars. There’s no where left to go and nothing that happens before episode 8 matters, because it was all thrown away in episode 8.

Random Rambling about the Recent Past

It’s be a long time since I’ve blogged on this site, but I think maybe I should do it more often as a way to vent my frustrations and talk in long form about things that interest me. So let’s get started.

The US Presidential Race — I am having a hard time accepting the 2016 US Presidential race as reality. Hilary Clinton shouldn’t be running because of that leaky server of hers and Donald Trump is only running for President because he craves attention. Meanwhile bug-eyed Republicans are scared of their own shadows and reflections in mirrors as they realize they’re the party of evil. I keep waiting for someone to call a news conference to announce “Just kidding! Here are your real candidates!” But that’s not happening. I can’t help but think that the terrorists won.

El Nino — I’m worried that anti-science people will use the incorrect weather prediction for Southern California as ammunition to undermine climate science. I’m really upset at the scientists who should know better than to make reckless predictions. I’m even more upset at the clueless news outlets who took that reckless prediction and amplified it. Better to stick with the fact of El Nino as an equatorial ocean water warming phenomenon and that the various ocean temperature oscillations and their interactions with each other and the atmosphere are under investigation and not well understood yet. I don’t think it was made clear that El Nino forecasts are long-term and based on 50/50 chance of wetter or dryer each month, that the ocean water temperature visuals were relative to average and not absolute, and that the El Nino oscillation has a secondary influence on the US and a primary influence on the equatorial region. I’m waiting for the multiple finger-pointing “How they got El Nino so Wrong” news stories. Of course the news won’t examine their own role in the hype. Just like in 1997-8, the news was bungled resulting in unmet expectations, and people started taking El Nino lightly. I wonder if people will be so ready to prepare the next time the news cries “El Nino”.

VR— It feels like 3-D all over again, again. Yes, current VR is better than past incarnations, but it’s still a gimmick that I’m not interested in yet. This is mostly because my eyesight is unequal in both eyes, so when I’m forced to view a perspective, I get headaches and disoriented very easily. Reality is a multi-sensory experience, so without the other senses, the experience will be incomplete and ultimately something that people can’t endure for extended time periods. I think as an aspiration, VR is wonderful and I applaud those people who will be early adopters. But for me, I’m gonna bank more on augmented reality for now and jump into VR after it’s truly immersive — as in you plug it into your brain somehow.  I have a feeling that will happen long after I’m dead.  I do look forward to the multiple gimmicks that will come out of VR like 360 videos and theme park applications. VR will end up like 3-D is now — in movie theaters, theme park, and arcades (or whatever they are called now.)

That’s all for now!

The Pursuit of Money is Ruining the Pursuit of Money

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here. I’ve been immersing myself deeply in shoujo and josei manga (Japanese comics for young and older women), so I haven’t been taking time to maintain this blog. Outside of that, there hasn’t been much for me to ramble on about. Maybe you’ve noticed like I have that not much has changed in the past 5 years. Just in my own life I’ve noticed my husband and I are driving the same cars and don’t feel the need to get new ones, we are still driving our entertainment off the same two laptops, I’m still using an iPad 2, and both of our “newer” laptops are equivalent to the Blackbirds we had 5-years ago.  I feel this enormous sense of stagnancy, and quite frankly most everything bores the hell out of me. Okay, okay, there are three things that excite me: Manga, 3-D printing, and drones — specifically the prospect of food delivery using drones (I want the taco-copter yesterday).

It would be too easy to blame the economy and the government gridlock for this stagnation. The economy is a symptom of stagnancy rather than a cause from my point of view. Companies and very rich people are sitting on huge piles of cash rather than using that money to create things and employ people.  Money is power, yet as long as companies and rich people sit on that money, it’s reduced to worthless paper, and thus diminished in power. Somewhere along the line monied people have forgotten about this and instead believe hoarding cash has some kind of meaning. We are seeing the value of money challenged by the Bitcoin “Revolt” (and yes, this is a revolutionary movement, because let’s face it, paper is just as worthless as bits), the rise of bartering, and the Maker movement. People simply have no money to trade, so some of us have gone back to actually trading useful stuff; you know that thing called “doing BUSINESS”. Anyhow… keep sitting on that paper, companies and rich people. The world will move on with or without your money. The question is do you want use your power to shape the future or are you playing “he who has the most paper when they die wins”?  Nobody cares about that beyond where your money, and hence your power, goes after you die.  So you may as well spend it all now and make the world in your model.  This thought brings me great sadness because so many idiots have lots of money.

I think it’s safe to say the stock markets are no longer engines of innovation. People put money in the stock market for short term gain and not because they believe in the long term vision of a company. Company chase the stock price quarter to quarter and concentrate on the paper rather than on the products that they sale. Hence the endless pursuit as cutting back to profit, a line of thinking that makes absolutely no sense. In this paradigm, R&D is another expense to minimize rather than the engine of growth. Instead strategies like currency exchange become the engines of growth to get more currency — worthless paper chasing after worthless paper. Meanwhile companies find themselves 3 to 5 years later with no new products in the pipeline, a bunch of worthless MBA spouting nonsense about hockey-sticks, and no actual engineers to design new products because they were all laid off in the relentless pursuit of the bottom line.  Raise your hand if this describes the current state of your workplace? Is your company going broke? Is your company’s stock price in the toilet? When will CEOs realize this is not “business”. The company’s stock is not the company’s product and the stock market brokers and analysts are not your customers.  Seriously, what does it matter whether Wall Street likes your latest product? They aren’t the ones buying your product. Your CUSTOMERS are the ones buying your product. Ignore the whims of the stock market and get back to selling actual stuff and services to paying customers.  When business is doing well, meaning your company is selling lots of stuff and services for a profit, stock market adulation will come.  I imagine as long as executives and boards are paid with stock and when they bonuses are dependent on hitting stock market targets, their focus will be on the stock market rather than on products and the customer.  And because these folks make money whether the company is doing well or not, executives could care less. They’ll move on to the next company to drain on the way to the bottom, without it being acknowledged that these executives may actually be a very poor manager.  It’s a vicious cycle. I wonder when a group of execs will get together and decide that this compensation scheme is doing to great harm to society on the whole and change compensation to focus on customer satisfaction and true market growth — as in actual paying customers — and not the stock “market”?

Another harmful consequence of chasing the bottom line is severe risk aversion. Executives don’t want to try something new and revolutionary because they fear if it’s not a hit, they’ll be clobbered by the stock market. I wish I could say it had nothing to do with getting executive bonuses, but it is human nature to put oneself before all others and everything.  This seems silly considering how much money big companies are sitting on. I suppose not every company is like this. To Microsoft’s credit, they tried with The Surface and they are trying with the XBox One, but they totally misread the market and are getting clobbered by customers. Honestly that sounds like a bunch of their tech leadership is completely out of touch of with everyday people, and  is usually a problem caused by lack of diversity, siloed organizations, and corporate inbreeding (driven by ranking). But I digress… Anyhow… I look around and ask myself, with the exception of Google, why don’t I see a 3-D printer from major tech giants who have giant printing divisions (Uh HP, cough, cough, Canon, ahem….cough, cough…the remnants of Kodak… hack… ugh… Whoo! I don’t know what frog got caught in my throat). Of course, it’ll be over once Amazon builds an army of 3-D printers and delivery drones that let people get whatever they want overnight… >_>…. Sigh… Bezos wasn’t kidding about that alarm clock. Wake the hell up and quit chasing the iPad. The iPad is a commodity. Quit piling on that.  Instead, why don’t you rehire the Engineers you laid off, pay them fairly, and let them loose on creating new markets. And, no creating new markets is not what an MBA does.  Masters of Business Administration are Administrators. They administrate.

Ugh… okay, enough rambling for now and back to enjoy my manga.

Thoughts about the iPhone 4S

I’m a little embarrassed to say, but I fell for the iPhone 5 hype and was eagerly anticipating “Apple Day”.  Yep, I was one of the people who was part of the flood of people to Cnet’s live coverage of the Apple announcement.  About 45 minutes into the coverage is when I realized that there was not going to be an iPhone 5.  I couldn’t help but laugh at how foolish we had all been for falling for the rumors and crap coming from manufacturers in China.  I can’t say I was disappointed in the iPhone 4S itself.  It’s better than my current iPhone 3, though, I was hoping for a bigger screen and a sleeker design than the very square iPhone 4.  Consequently, in December when I’m eligible for an update, I will upgrade to the 4S.  Still I wonder when the mythical iPhone 5 will come out and whether I’m gonna have buyer’s remorse if it comes out in 2012.

So Much to Blog About…

It’s been so long since I blogged outside of manga and anime that I feel a little overwhelmed by all the potential stuff that is going on that I could ramble on about.  I feel like the world is changing at an accelerated pace.  Also too much has happened in the past few weeks.  Here’s a list of stuff that’s clogging my brain:

  • Tokyo Pop bankruptcy — what series are going to be left hanging and do I have any time to finish up the translation of some of the series myself?  I probably don’t since I want to leave bandwidth for any new series from Bisco Hatori or Akane Ogura.
  • What’s the heck is Akadot doing?  — They are taking a great risk in changing what they sale.  I can no longer visit their website without being greatly offended.  But, I guess in the end, porn sells.  So I guess, more power to them, but they’ve lost me as a customer and an advocate. Additionally, they just found out that they can’t sell porn though the Kindle, which their parent company admits is an important source of revenue.  Oops…
  • The Epsilon Break-in — Now I can’t trust any e-mail I get from any company. :/
  • Osama Bin Laden is dead — nuff said.  I’m not worried about retaliation like other people.  I’m just relieved more than anything.
  • Royal Wedding Curiosity — I saw the pertinent clips
  • My iPad 2 –Flip Board has changed my life.  I take my iPad 2 to bed with me.  It’s my second husband.
  • Ad supported websites are a lie.  You can’t make much money from Google ads because less than .001% of visits result in the visitor clicking an ad link.  It would be far better for me to sell advertising space myself.

Honestly, I think a lot of my blogging has become Tweets on Twitter.  On Twitter I can write a few quick thoughts and let them float through the ether.  It’s more efficient than “rambling”.  The immediacy of Twitter is nice and I get more community feedback from Twitter than I do from this blog now that I’m on the outside world.

Thoughts on Borders Books Troubles

Borders Books is in bankruptcy and I’ve seen all kinds of blame going around.  I was most irritated by people who blamed customers for Borders demise.  That’s like saying the customer doesn’t know what they want and that we as customers should be joyful for whatever Borders brings to our lives.

I haven’t been to a Borders in months.  The last time I went, they were having a tent sale to get rid of awful books and the random non-book crap they sell.  Before that visit, I noticed that my Borders was selling fewer and fewer books in favor of the random non-book crap.  Most of this non-book crap is the random crazy-cat-lady crap you’d find at a Hallmark store.  If I can’t find any books I want to read at Borders, what am I supposed to do?  The obvious means available to me is an online book seller like Amazon.  Case-closed:  Amazon wins and Borders loses and has to at some point unload all that random non-book crap at pennies on the dollar.

I read a lot of manga and lately I’ve heard a lot of manga publishers and their related sympathizers complain that with Borders closing they will have fewer places to sell books.

Shelf space is limited and expensive and how are smaller titles to get attention when a bookstore has to stock all 50+ volumes of a wildly popular series like “Naruto”?  And then on top of that, they complain that have to put series on hiatus and forgo renewing licenses because customers aren’t buying the books from neither the physical bookstores or online bookstores.  It seems to me that something is fundamentally broken.  Here are some things that come to mind:

1. How many of us have room for 50 volumes of any series before we even talk about reading multiple series?

2. How many of us have $500 plus tax to spend on 50 volumes of any series.  Now ask yourself how many 12-year-olds have this kind of money?

The way manga is sold makes absolutely no sense and trying to sell manga like normal books is ridiculous.  I say to all the manga publishers out there, know your customers and take a commonsense approach to the space issue.  If there are more than 5 volumes, put it online, sell kids access they can buy for cash at a brick-and-mortar store, and charge a price that is commensurate with the age of your target audience (10 to 25-cents per chapter will do nicely).  Relying on a bookstore to push paper when shelf space is rare, manga is prolific and fractured, and the customers are used to reading stuff on the Internet is a losing proposition.  The Borders bankruptcy has nothing to do with manga publishers woes.  The manga publishers have yet to address their customers unmet needs and don’t seem to realize that it’s not the customers’ job to address the unmet needs of the publishers.

Back to Borders…What can Borders do to save itself.  Well…the obvious thing they can do is actually sell books.  In the end, though, I truly think there isn’t much Borders can do.  They can sell books online, but they need something to differentiate themselves from and improve upon the experiences Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer.  They could get smaller and more community connected.  I like small spaces with books, magazines, pastries, and hot drinks.  I also like places where there are knowledgeable sales people who like and know about the books they sell.  There’s nothing better than to go into a bookstore and ask what’s popular with 5-year-olds and have somebody help me chose the perfect present for my niece or my friends’ children.  Maybe they could position themselves as a “for profit library”.  People need help doing research and finding that special book for their special need.

I wish Borders all the luck in the world and I will return to my local Borders Bookstore once they stock actual books again.

In Response to R&D Productivity Metrics

It’s been 2-years since I thought about and responded to the question posed in this blog entry about R&D productivity metrics. The fundamental problem I had with the metrics is that they measured research and development productivity in terms of money in a forward looking manner.  I still maintain this is an easy way for decision makers to fool themselves into making silly decisions and leads to all sorts of  trouble when these prognostications get folded into the financial outlook a company feeds to Wall Street.

But what if we look at R&D in a way that’s more predictable for the nature of R&D, then maybe we can get a more straight forward answer about what R&D to invest in. I think research and development that has the potential to lead to more R&D and more products is the best kind of R&D.  In a way it’s an indirect way to look at money. Put another way, it would be better to do R&D that will lead to more R&D and that can be leveraged into a greater number of products than doing R&D that dead ends when the effort is completed.

Let’s go back for a little bit to think about why a company or a person might do research and development.

1.  A problem needs solving to enable a product

2.  A company wants to enter an existing market

3.  A company wants to create a new market

Problem solving on the fly is basically incidental R&D — a problem comes up, the problem gets solved and life goes on.

The next two reasons for doing R&D require some forethought.  Entering an existing market is difficult because in order to be successful you have to offer a product that is better than the existing products and you have to be able to see into the future to predict whether this market has life left in it.  For instance, I pity the companies that invested heavily in variable printing only to see things get suddenly flipped over by the Internet, e-readers, electronic displays, and the Sustainability Movement.  As for creating a new market, that’s even trickier.  In that case it’s R&D by dumb luck or your company employs some visionaries who can create a vision of the future that appeals to customers.  Dumb luck and visionaries who actually predict correctly are hard to come by.  I think, though, the thing that binds these two reason to do R&D is the need for excellent vintage charts.  And I don’t mean vintage charts with products that have more features as time go by.  What I mean are vintage charts that take technology development and connect them with the trajectory of the markets they are entering.  This of course means linking it to future customer needs and not necessarily some made up vision of the market in terms of dollars.  A good example of some good products that probably came from a good vintage charting are Apple’s iPod to iPod Touch to iPhone and Magic Mouse and eventually to iPad.  These all took the idea of “touch” and expanded it into a technology development that built upon itself to create a string of products with excellent sales.

In thinking about vintage charting, you have start with a vision of the ultimate product or products and then move backward to unlock what technology developments have to happen.  In that process, you can move forward and to the sides to see product adjacencies.  I think if you happen upon a base technology development effort that spawns a grand tree of potential products and other R&D efforts, then you’ve got yourself something to pursue.  Your initial R&D effort will be rewarded with a future filled with products and growth.

I think, though, such activities should be done with scientists, engineers, and marketing.  Too often vintage charts are left only to marketing or engineering managers alone in cones of isolation.  You need the scientists and engineers to isolate the fundamental technology development components and you need the marketing folks to provide insight about customers.  Most importantly, though, an organization needs to have people who can look at matters across engineering and marketing and also have a compelling vision of the future.  And no, I don’t mean a vision of 10% growth year over year until we’re huge.  That’s not a vision of the future.  Those are goals for Wall Street and such goals can only be met by money and financial math manipulation.  What I mean is a technology and product vision and perhaps a 20 – 40-year outlook on society (For example, in 20-years we will create a mechanical suit that will result in a super soldier, or in 10 years all forms of entertainment will be on-demand).  This is difficult in times when companies choose put themselves at the mercy of Wall Street.  However, at some point if a company truly wants to be successful, then they have to concentrate on making something real rather than running a scam to create money from nothing.  Also, in the end, strong sales and excitement about new products always pleases Wall Street…So…well…’nuff said, right? Now get out there and invent!