Wednesday, May 21, 2008

harvest ho!

Harvest season for winter wheat should already be underway in Texas. (Winter wheat is planted in late summer or early autumn, grows green like the grass it is, then goes dormant through the winter, reviving and producing tiny flowers in the spring, followed by seed which first swells then dries hard.)

Harvesters will, in recent weeks, have been assembling and preparing equipment and crews, firming up agreements with farmers and attempting to fill any large gaps in their schedules.

They'll be moving north with the tide of ripening wheat, clipping seed heads from stalks and threshing them in a single operation, in field after field, working first for one farmer, then another, then another, each one generally located further north than the last.

On highways you'll frequently see their large combine harvesters go by on trailers, with their headers (the wide cross-piece that mounts on the front of the machine) either nestled in the backs of the trucks they'll use to haul the grain to shipping/storage facilities (elevators) or towed separately.

It happens every year, beginning about this time, a great parade, hundreds of miles wide, passing from south to north over a period of two or three months and lasting about two weeks as it passes by any point along the way. With it comes the smell and fine airborne grit of pulverized wheat stalks, the sound of engines, and a general bustle, partly owing to the harvest activity itself and partly to the temporarily swollen populations of otherwise sedate rural communities.

Rain, particularly a storm which brings several days of drizzle over a large area, can slow harvest activity to a halt, both because the combines easily bog down in wet fields and because the grain must be dry (around 14% moisture content) when it goes into storage. Rain means downtime, which some may use to make a quick run to a home hundreds of miles away, while others will stay close, to be ready for a break in the weather. Rain means new faces in what few bars there are and a subdued party atmosphere, kept in check partly by the knowledge that crew bosses have little patience for hangover-induced imprecision in handling harvest equipment, which can cause extra time in a field, cleaning up bits that were missed on the first pass or unnecessary downtime to clear a header of dirt scooped from a terrace, or worse.

Sometimes particular fields won't have dried out sufficiently by the time the harvesters have moved on, and farmers who own their own combines may end up spending another couple of weeks cutting these.

Occasionally a field never does dry out, and the crop sprouts on the stalk, or rots before it can be harvested. Savvy farmers replant such fields to something other than wheat.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Shut up, Fool!"

Not bad, but Mr. T said it best.

RIAA in The Briar Patch

While imagining itself in the role of Br'er Fox, in a just world the RIAA would more properly be compared with Br'er Rabbit; every time it strkes out, it would become more deeply embroiled in counterlitigation. Every weapon it used would come back broken.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

convergence, interoperability, and a door to the future

As a buzz-word, "convergence" referred to the coming together of the Internet, electronic media, and telephony. Except for the fact that both both wired and wireless, non-IP telephone networks remain healthy and show no sign of succumbing to obsolescence soon, that process is now well along, by virtue of the appearance of devices that incorporate functionality from all three realms.

While Apple has become a heavy-hitter in the convergence game, they're really more about interoperability, first and foremost among their own products. This is why you'll see one of the most reliable Apple-centric rumor websites suggesting that release of the next Mac OS X update is being coordinated with v2.0 of the iPhone software.

Actually, this might be the case even without interoperability issues, since the iPhone operating system shares a great deal of code with Mac OS X, and changes to one frequently imply changes to the other, to keep them as unified as is practical. The need for interoperability, with each playing a role in functionality which spans devices, for instance synchronized calendars and contact lists, just makes such coordination that much more inevitable.

In a sense, the discipline required to pull this off is something of a bottleneck, because everything related Apple does must be drawn through it, but that bottleneck is also a door leading to a future in which all of our gadgets (or at least all of them bearing Apple's logo) really do work together, seamlessly if not effortlessly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

hunch: still more brewing in Appleland

If you've been paying any attention to display technology, you'll have heard of OLED displays. It's the technology most likely to replace LCDs in common use, and large OLED displays are already beginning to arrive on the market.

Now, if you search the front page of Apple's online store, you'll find that their Cinema Displays have gone missing. You can still find refurbished Cinema Displays on the Refurbished Mac page, linked under Special Deals (left column, near bottom of page), but new ones are nowhere to be seen.

Connect the dots...

Update: Hmmm, maybe I'm hoping for too much too soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

something BIG brewing in Appleland

G2 iPhones, almost certainly with 3G connectivity, perhaps this week, OS X iPhone 2.0 and the SDK (both currently in beta), rumors of another portable device at WWDC, rumors of a major makeover for .Mac, rumors of a new gaming initiative.

Any one of these by itself would be interesting, but there's more than an outside chance that we'll see ALL of them within the next month by the end of June.

Steve Jobs' keynote at this year's WWDC should be one not to miss!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

suing stockholders for suing the company

Has it occurred to anyone that, in some cases, suits brought against companies and their executives might do more damage to the companies (and therefore to stockholders) than did the decisions which are the basis of the suits. That being the case, could stockholders sue each other for bringing suit.