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  1. Start your title with a number.
  2. Include random grandiloquent synonym for “great”.
  3. Attach irrelevant but eye-catching stock photo loosely-credited picture nicked from Google Image.
  4. Throw a dice, pick a list item and single it out in your title, to fool people into thinking the list was put together by someone who gave a fuck.
  5. Include a few useless factoids and thoroughly obvious common-sense observations as filler.
  6. Sunny weather often follows bouts of rain. Except when it doesn’t.
  7. The Jews control the media and are conspiring with the reptilian political elites to enslave the human race.
  8. Include at least one moronic / blatantly false / controversial item, to goad naive people into engaging your list on social media, thus giving it more exposure.
  9. Stop and contemplate the vacuousness of your existence.
  10. Come to the frightening realisation that you are an insignificant leech on the backside of Humanity, whose contribution to the Joy, Happiness or Anything Good to the world is a net negative.
  11. Jump off a bridge.

Airlines tend to be like banks: name any one of them in large-enough company and there is bound to be at least a few people with personal horror stories and imprecations never to use their service. Hard to tell apart the inevitable statistical occurence from true patterns of bad customer service.

Last week, however, I finally understood why all my US friends heaped so much scorn on United Airlines. And why I’ll be joining in on the chorus of “never again”, next time their name comes up in discussions:

Ukip in Britain, Front National in France, and a similar array of smiling europhobic racists and neo-fascists in Denmark, Austria and Hungary

In most cases (except perhaps the UK, who really just doesn’t get that whole EU thing): because people just can’t be arsed enough to cast a serious vote, or cast a vote at all, at EU elections, and would rather “send a message” to their respective local governments by voting for the looniest candidate with a populist slant they like. Even if that means fucking up one of the only political entity that can truly make a positive mark on their lives in the coming decades.

Way to go, people.

Around age 6, I made my first steps with a computer: drawing houses in MacPaint and typing elaborately formatted 30-line novellas in MacWrite. A couple years later, building my first programs using HyperCard (at the time I thought of it as “playing some sort of virtual lego game” rather than “writing object-oriented programs”).

Although I long ago decided that I did not want to make a career out of merely writing computer code, the skills I seamlessly acquired back then have since opened countless doors and helped me etch a living at times where options were scarce.

I would have most likely picked these skills anyway, had my dad not brought back a brand new Mac 512k to his practice, one day in 1986… But learning them the way I did unquestionably shaped my entire vision of the modern world: it taught me that technology does not have to look complicated to do complex things, that building things can be exciting and fun…

Apple Inc. is just a company, staffed with many great people at the moment, but still just a company: with no personality or sense of human emotions.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, like him or not, shaped the world we live in. His ambition, his drive and the people he chose to carry his vision out, will keep resonating in the technologies your life is built around, for many more decades to come.

RIP.

Music legend, proto-rapper1 and black poet Gil Scott-Heron has passed yesterday at the age of 62.

His slam on 70s society was so powerful as to give us one of today’s most ubiquitous journalistic clichés. He was a sharp political analyst, tireless militant for civil rights and the inspiration to a surprisingly wide spectrum of artists.

I was rarely so disappointed as when I read of his arrest in 2001 and ensuing decade of drug problems. Having sung for most of his career about the ravage of widespread drug-abuse in inner-city communities, seeing him eventually fall into the ugly trap of crack-cocaine felt like a personal betrayal.

Despite (or perhaps because of) all that, his last album, released only a couple months ago, was one of his most powerful. It will probably be one of the best album released in 2011 by any artist, dead or alive.

RIP Gil Scott-Heron

  1. Even though he wasn’t crazy about the title. []

Dear local Kyoto-fu LDP candidate for the upcoming upper-house election:

True: I cannot cast a vote in this election and sway your chances either direction.

But let me assure you that, if you keep insisting on circling my block multiple times, every morning between 8 and 8:30, inane election slogans blaring from your van’s speakers at top volume, I will be more than happy to contribute to your historical legacy by setting post at the closest grassy knoll with whatever long-range weapon I can get my hands on.

Thanks.

Facebook had three things going for it, a couple years back, around the time I finally caved in and signed up:

1) A fairly decent interface. A newsfeed that was actually designed to intelligently filter stuff of interest to you while hiding the the rest automagically (instead of requiring you to constantly click through endless moronic application notifications, courtesy of your bored-friends-at-work).

2) Everybody was/is on Facebook. Even those kids you used to share your milk with, back in first grade… Facebook is the ultimate “where are they now” tool… If somebody born within your lifetime is not on Facebook, chances are they are either dead or building pipe bombs in a secluded cabin somewhere deep into the woods. All you need is a full name and/or school attendance year.

3) Advanced privacy features meant that people used their real names (a necessity to make point #2 worth anything), while allegedly keeping private stuff away from your boss/exes/crazy Google stalkers etc.

Here we are now, a couple years later and point #1 has died a long and painful death at the hands of a dozen asinine “interface redesigns” plagiarising any other Web 2.0 service with an ounce of popularity, all the while bringing server cost down (yes: turned out, all those great intelligent filtering tools were so intelligent they did not scale at all… oops).

Point #2 is more valid than ever: it is only a matter of time before even dead people have their Facebook page (never mind: they already do). But let’s be honest: once you’ve looked up all your friends from kindergarten and realised you did not share much beside reminisced fondness for crayon drawing and shared hatred of afternoon nap time, once you’ve made sure the asshole bully from Junior High is now assistant manager at Taco Bell and once you’ve found out that secret High School crush Susie now has three kids, two dogs and a suburban house, and is (according to her status) feeling bloated after that huge KFC meal they just all had at the mall… Once you have satisfied that bit of morbid curiosity about every single living soul you have ever interacted with during your life… You just want to go back to hanging out with people you actually chose to be friends with, preferably at an age where your common interests involved more than making watercolour handprints and trying not to pee your pants in public.

a.k.a. “We really have no idea how we still are in business, but it shouldn’t last much longer…”

When it comes to services and subscriptions (cellphone, ISP, banks, heroin dealer…), I am a company’s wet dream customer: one that never leaves for a competitor. Not that I develop any particularly fuzzy feeling for whatever nameless corporation happened to have a branch on the right street-corner on the right day, but when it comes to going through endless paperwork again, moving my account data, updating everything: I just. can’t. be. arsed.

Which is why I have been a faithful customer of AU for over 5 years: not because they are great (Docomo is cheaper, Softbank has better phones…) but because I will always endure a sizable share of customer abuse and groundless fees, rather than having to track all my friends and acquaintances to send them my new contact info (and when you think of it: these things have a price too, so I am not doing it all out of pure apathy).

Why won’t I be a customer of theirs for another 5 years, then? Well, read on and learn how a company loses a customer without even noticing it.