Category Archives: Commentary

Dec. 18, 2011 Blumbers

Tis The Season Later And Later

It is a week before Christmas in California and I have just turned on the furnace for the first time. Last year it was turned on at Thanksgiving and before that it was Halloween. Either my place is really well insulated or the weather is getting warmer. Oh well, guess I’ll hit the pool.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 4, 2011 Blumbers

Cloud Picture

When I started this latest incarnation of Blumbers six years ago,  people asked me why I chose a picture of clouds. I said at the time that most computing would be in the cloud. That day has arrived. It is time to contemplate a new picture.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Nov. 27, 2011 Blumbers

Bigger Picture

There is  an old saying that you should never own something you can’t carry. If it is three o’clock in the morning and you are carrying a big screen television in a dark parking lot, maybe you are watching way too much television.

Of course that old saying doesn’t explain the people out there waiting for new cell phones. There is always the question of whether you own something or it owns you.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Nov. 21, 2011 Tom Brokaw Commonwealth

On Monday, November 21, 2011 at the Santa Clara Convention Center Theatre, Tom Brokaw of NBC talked with Dan Ashley of ABC KGO talked about his new book “The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation about America.” Brokaw talked about the challenges facing Americans and thinks we have to face reality and make decisions quickly, before they are made for us.

The problems cannot be solved with the current political gridlock. The Right has a single goal of not paying taxes. The Left is trying to solve problems faced by everyone else, like food, jobs, education, and housing.

Of course, with the Right ending the American middle class, living in a McMansion with a three car garage and hoarding the world’s resources will end as well. It is quite likely the next generation will have a lower standard of living and probably rent rather than buy smaller homes.

According to the US Census Bureau, nearly half of all Americans and  a quarter of all children live in poverty. Poor, hungry children will not go to college. They may never graduate from high school. If we cannot prepare our children for a better future, we need to at least prepare them for a worse one.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Nov. 6, 2011 Blumbers

Bank Transfer Day

Several years ago I was an officer at a non-profit and our treasurer suggested we move our funds from a big bank to a federally insured credit union. She said it would help the local economy while getting a higher rate of return.  We followed her advice and were happy with the results.

Even if the banks are too big to fail, it does not mean the rest of us are too small to win. If you have any money, move it closer. Vote with your feet.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 30, 2011 Blumbers

Text Next To Be Exed?

With the introduction of Siri on Apple’s new iPhone, I wonder of we are seeing the death of text. The move that started with using a mouse instead of a keyboard has moved to touch screens and now voice commands.

For a long time technical communication was dedicated to observing a procedure and converting it to text because pictures were hard to reproduce. The user read the text and had to visualize the process. Desktop publishing made it easier to include pictures and now the web makes it easier to use video. I was at an IEEE event in Stanford and they said that soon 75 percent of web content would be video. If you want to explain something you will just post a video and show someone how to do it.

One hurdle will be building simultaneous voice translation apps. We are getting closer to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide and Babelfish every day.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 23, 2011 Blumbers

Shadow Keeper ™

There is a sad part to what I do. When someone famous dies, I know somebody will call and ask if I have any pictures. Considering the sheer number of pictures I take, the odds are that I do.

My response depends on who it is. A news organization has to play by the usual rules, but for family members I try to find as many images of that person as I can and just send it to them. I know their pain. When I cover an event, I now try to take pictures of couples and family. I am happy to use their own cameras to get their picture taken together. I know that someday they will want these shadows that are all that is left of someone they loved.

I was at a college and saw a picture of a graduating class from a hundred years ago. Everyone in that picture was dead. All that was left of them was their picture, a shadow on the wall.

Some people say I take a lot of pictures. They don’t understand that I am trying to capture shadows before we become shadows as well.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 16, 2011 Blumbers

Follow The Leader

There has been a lot of talk about how Apple will continue without Steve Jobs. As John Gruber has said, Apple was his greatest invention. I think the organization he built will be fine. Good leaders attract followers. Great leaders attract more leaders. Succession is the mark of success.

If you are a leader having trouble finding someone to fill your shoes, there is something seriously wrong and I don’t think it is the shoes. (Enjoy the rain.)

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 9, 2011 Blumbers

This is a work of fiction in honor of Steve Jobs.

Boss In Trunk

By DJ Cline

My boss was in the trunk and I was running out of time.

It was not what you think. Somebody asked how I got my first Mac. It’s complicated but I think you’ll understand once you’ve heard the whole story.

The first summer out of high school the family taking care of me lost their farm. Not much future in farming. The old man had a heart attack and died and the old lady followed soon after. I was on my own and knew it.

I planned to work my way through college, looking for any job to pay the bills. The 1980s were not happy times in the Rust Belt. Factories were closing and lots of people were out of work. I managed to get a summer job at the Woodland Factory in a small midwestern city.

They made machine parts, bearings, lathes that sort of thing. It was a huge plant, with a couple of dirty old brick buildings with grimy windows filtering sunlight. I swept floors and made myself useful. They had a print shop run by nice old guy, Arthur Magnus. I learned how to build and run their four-color press. I even learned how to use their composing computer, a big Linotype.

That computer was in the back of the Admin building. Built in 1939, the structure was a yellow brick Art Deco building with lots of glass brick and curved walls. The lobby ceiling was a mural in the Social Realist style depicting big burly workers welding and grinding industrial equipment. Most of the secretaries had green metal desks in an open space, but the managers had big offices with wooden paneling.

I’d come in at night to use the computer, backing up projects on tape and running the job overnight. I’d see the managers in their offices arguing or sweating over something and knew that business wasn’t good. I wasn’t surprised that they laid-off a bunch of people that winter.

The next summer I got another job there, but it wasn’t a happy experience. The factory was closing and they were selling off the equipment a bit at a time. I was hired to take some of the equipment apart and put it in crates to be shipped somewhere. That winter the factory closed.

Hard to believe, but I worked there again the next summer. The company that bought the property wanted to develop the land the factory was on. Unfortunately the buildings had asbestos in them and it had to be removed. They contracted out to another company and they hired me to help because I knew my way around. They gave me a big ring of keys for every building in the complex as we got to work. It was hot and dirty work, sweating in those suits and wearing a mask, but it paid the bills.

That proved to be a bad summer for everybody. The company that tried to develop the property couldn’t pay for all the clean up and went out of business. My last paycheck bounced. That winter the apartment building I was living in was condemned and I couldn’t find another place. I was packing up my gear and then found that big ring of keys I’d forgot to turn back in at the end of the summer. Frankly, there was no one to turn the keys over to.

I should say that I travel light. Most of my life I’d traveled from home to home with most of my possessions in one suitcase. I try to make do with what I can find. The most expensive thing I owned at that time was my car. It was a used 1970 Ford Pinto hatchback.

Go ahead and laugh, but it was paid for, about $150. It started in the coldest weather and used very little gas. You lifted up the hood and saw a sewing machine-sized engine and not much else. It was so simple you could fix it with used parts. The reason I got it so cheap was that it had been hit in the rear and Pintos were known for exploding when hit that way.

I figured the odds were good that it wouldn’t be hit twice and spent my money on extravagant things like tuition and peanut butter.

So I packed up my gear and drove my car through the abandoned factory gates on a cold December day. I parked in the president’s old space, grabbed my gear and sleeping bag and walked in the front door.

All the furniture was still there, like they were expecting to come back. Filing cabinets, photocopiers, and cafeteria, everything in place. Even the power was still on, though I don’t know who paid the bills. When a whole society and way of life collapses, little details like checking the meter get lost.

I moved into the president’s office because it had a small bedroom with a full bathroom. Lord knows why he needed that. I guess upper management work some long hours. Of course there are some things about management I prefer not to know.

For me this was living pretty high on the hog. Not many college students had unlimited access to electric typewriters and copying machines. My term papers were printed out in the president’s heavy bond paper, giving them weight and an air of respect.

I knew my situation, like all situations, was temporary. I had finished my shower one morning and was toweling myself off when Arthur Magnus walked into the bedroom. Art was the guy who taught me how to use the composing computer. I thought he had been let go along with everybody else.

“What are you doing here?”Art asked. He seemed mildly amused, not angry.

“I live here.”I said toweling my head. ”How about you?”

“I cut a deal with the city. I’m leasing this building to start my own media company.” He said, bragging like any small businessman.

“Great! Need help?‚” I asked as I put on my clothes.

“I can’t afford help yet.”

“You can if they can live here.” I suggested.

And that was the way it started. Art let me keep the president’s office while he moved operations into the vice president’s office closer to the front door. I went to school in the morning and then came to work in the afternoon. I learned a lot about the design part of advertising and media. I learned how to make slides for business presentations. How to lay down soundtracks for commercials. How to edit videotape. I learned how to estimate jobs and deal with clients. I learned how to keep a budget and make a profit.

One day he handed me a video tape.

“Watch this and it will change your life.”

It was a commercial but like a science fiction movie. Some woman swinging a hammer was running down the hall being chased by guards. She ran into a room with a bunch of people staring slack-jawed at a screen of some big guy rambling about something. The woman let the hammer loose and it smashed the screen. It was Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial. I turned to him and said, “Cool.”

“Cool indeed. We are going to get one.”

I went to school the next day. I told my friend Sam about it. He was majoring in computers.

“Yeah I saw it at the Superbowl party last year. The one you didn’t go to. It’s not a computer you want on your resume.”

“It’s an Apple, we use them in the computer lab.”

“Yeah but if you want a business computer you want an IBM PC. Nobody will hire you if you use one of these. It’s kind of fruity.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, look at the logo. It’s a fruit with a rainbow in it. Don’t you get it?”

”No Sam, I don’t and I don’t think I want to.”

“Well you go back to that old fart you work for and I’ll go work for DEC or NCR. They’ll be around twenty years from now.”

I didn’t see Sam much after that. I spent more time at work, taking over more of the sales and production. Art was calling in sick more and more often. He kept going to funerals for his friends. I thought they were old, but a couple of them were not much older than me.

One day the Macintosh and laser printer arrived. I took them out of the box and set it up. Within the hour, I was printing my first layout in PageMaker. I called Art at home and asked if he was coming in to see it.

He sounded very tired. ‚ ¨I don’t think so. I’m not feeling that well. As a matter of act, can you bring it over and show me?”

I went over to his apartment and was shocked. It had been a month and he looked thin and was covered with dark blue splotches.

“Is anybody looking after you?” I asked.

He leaned unsteadily against the kitchen counter. ”No. Most of my friends are dead or too sick themselves. Others are too afraid.”

That was the sad truth about that period. Everything was falling apart. Farms were failing. Factories were closing. I had heard that in hard times people in the community would move in together and share expense or take care of each other. This epidemic was too big. I wasn’t afraid. Hell, I grew up surrounded by agricultural pesticides and worked with asbestos, I wasn’t going to let this scare me.

So I took care of Art as part of my job. He continued to give me advice on running the business as he faded. I’d like to say the business was doing well, but it was Art’s relationships with clients that worked. It was as if Art was more important than the work he created for them. I was just his assistant. They wanted Art.

By the spring of my senior year in college, Art was so sick he had to go into the hospital. They treated him like he was radioactive material. The hospital staff wanted to know my relationship with him. They asked with a slight sneer. I said I was his nephew. After all, no one would do this for his boss. Hard times made most people see bosses as the bad guys. Maybe some were, but Art gave me the freedom to learn things they never taught in school. I can’t remember a single line of bull from my business classes, but I remember everything he taught me.

I got a letter from the city saying that the lease on the Admin building would not be renewed. They were going to ’implode’the buildings, which meant they were going to blow them up in a controlled manner in about two weeks. I had the letter on my desk when the hospital called and told me Art was dead. They wanted to know if I wanted to pick up the body.

I had given this some thought and done some checking. He was a decorated war veteran but the people at a local military cemetery freaked at having someone with this disease buried there. I checked with various private cemeteries and funeral homes and got the same panic response. Gee, he’s dead, people. He’s not going to date anybody. Shame on them. Then it occurred to me. I knew of a place that wasn’t Potters Field.

So I went to the loading dock of General Hospital and there he was, in a black body bag with red-orange biohazard tags and stickers on it. I went inside and confirmed it was okay to take it. No one would help me move it. I opened the hatch of the Pinto, folded the back seat forward, Moved the bag to edge of the loading dock, got down put the bag over one shoulder and eased it into the car. This is how I wound up with my boss in the trunk.

So technically my boss wasn’t in the trunk since my car didn’t have one. Part of him was in the backseat. I drove carefully out of the city, hoping I wouldn’t be pulled over and have to explain. I saw a Volvo station wagon with a little yellow sign that said “Baby On Board” and thought I should have one that said ”Boss In Trunk.”

I drove out to a small town near my old farm. They had a Quaker cemetery that would bury anybody. Funny how folks without weapons aren’t afraid of anything. So that is where Art is buried, decorated war veteran surrounded by conscientious objectors, abolitionists and peace activists. Their wars were over. Mine had just begun.

I went back to the Admin building and figured out what to do next. I wrapped up the rest of the outstanding projects and delivered them to the clients. I finished my final exams and picked up my diploma, not waiting for the graduation ceremony.

The company hired to implode the buildings hired me to show them around the buildings while they set the explosives.

On the day of the implosion, I packed up the Mac and the printer Art had left to me. I figured I could use them as a foundation for a new business. They barely fit into my car. I took my old sledgehammer from the asbestos removal days and swung it through the glass brick window of the Admin building just for Art’s sake.

As I drove out of town, I heard the muffled explosions as one building after another collapsed behind me. My future was in front of me.

In 2004 I was at one of those twentieth anniversary events for the Mac in Silicon Valley. I had set up my original Mac and printer for display. My old college friend Sam walked up.

“Still have that Mac?” He laughed.

“Not only that. It still works. Do you?” I smirked.

”I’m at HP at the moment. DEC was bought by Compaq which was bought by HP. Nothing is permanent these days.”

“It never was.”I agreed.

“You ever get a full time job?” He half-mocked me.

“ No. I’d rather work for a living.” I full-mocked back.

When the event was over, my assistant packed up the boxes and loaded them in the trunk of my Mercedes. The license plate said BOS N TRNK.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 2, 2011 Blumbers

Changing Strategies Not Goals

In all the technological chaos, it is hard for large companies to change strategies and tactics and keep an eye on their goals.

Amazon started selling printed books (content). To sell the books they mailed them. To keep track of everything, they built their own cloud network. Now they sell digital books over their cloud network on their own Kindle devices. This is an excellent example of how a large company can survive by changing the way they do things but not their goal, to sell content.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 25, 2011 Blumbers

HP Way Out

HP has a great tradition and good people. They support a number of projects in communities around the world. I have used all sorts of their products for years. Lately HP leadership has made some decisions that has a lot of people worried. This week Meg Whitman was named CEO of HP. I do not know if this will stabilize the situation.

To avoid these messy transitions, somebody proposed that HP choose CEOs randomly from among its many happy customers. Every time it needs a new CEO, the board could select a random serial number from one of its laptops, tablets or inkjet printers and announce it on the home page of their website. I don’t know if it would be better, but it couldn’t be any worse.

All of this makes me wonder if financier Carl Icahn will show up. Like Martin Blank in the film Grosse Point Blank, if he shows up at your company there’s a reason. If your company has failed to address the needs of customers, investors, employees, or even former employees, Mr. Icahn is the one to call.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 18, 2011 Blumbers

Chip Fans

Intel had a big event in San Francisco last week. They demonstrated tablets to compete with the Apple iPad.  Because the Intel chips run fast, they create heat, which apparently require a small fan on the tablet to cool things off. The chips and fans use a lot of power, which means shorter battery life.

It occurred to me that some smart marketer would turn this negative into a positive. I expect to see tablets with beefed up fans to be used as hair dryers or leaf blowers.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 6, 2011 Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz

On September 6, 2011 Yahoo let go CEO Carol Bartz over a phone call. My first thought? Yahoo is still in business? I thought they had returned to their original business model of selling chocolate milk in a bottle.

Seriously, whatever trouble Yahoo was in, Carol Bartz couldn’t fix it. More chaos in Silicon Valley, and opportunity for someone else.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 4, 2011 Blumbers

Blood Money

I’m not laboring this Labor Day, which I think is the point.

Unfortunately there are millions of people out of work. This current economic collapse is not their fault. This collapse started years ago. Now Warren Buffett and other more responsible wealthy people are finally talking about paying their taxes. They figured out that money is like blood, it works best when it circulates.

In theory, companies exist to solve problems and make money, but they cannot seem to figure out that creating a society with fewer employees means fewer customers. This is creating more problems than it can solve without our help.

If you can’t work, you can vote. Do your research, get active, volunteer.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Aug. 21, 2011 Blumbers

Promises Kept

As I left the Susan Lucas Conwell farewell event in Los Altos, I knew that it was a closing chapter. I had kept my word to the dead.

I promised Jay D. Pinson that I would work with the SVEC to get as many scholarships as possible to the next generation of engineers. I promised Barb Cass that I would help transform SDForum into SVForum. I promised Viki Maki that I would rebuild the STC Silicon Valley chapter website. They are all gone now but I honored their last requests. For years I had worked quietly behind the scenes but at some point you get noticed. The grand poobah stuff of becoming a director, president or fellow was just an inevitable side effect of getting the job done.

Things in Silicon Valley were as chaotic as usual. Fifteen years ago, Apple was near bankruptcy and now it was the most valuable company on the planet. Google bought Motorola to get into making hardware while HP was trying to get out. Facebook was five years old and like any child seemed to have trouble deciding what it wanted to be when it grew up. Oracle’s Larry Ellison had made fun of the cloud and now was preparing to make money with it. Nokia, Microsoft and Intel were struggling to remain relevant in the new mobile world. It was a very uncertain time.

Things were about to get even crazier. That night there was an overflow venture capital pitching event up in Palo Alto. Somebody there would have the next idea that would turn everything else upside down. I got in my car. There would be more chaos up north.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

May 10, 2011 WCA Mobile App Development

On May 10, 2011 in San Jose  at Rhomobile, the WCA Mobile SIG presented “Whither Mobile App Development?” Sarah Allen of Blazing Cloud moderated panelists Adam Blum of Rhomobile, Andre Charland of Nitobi, Jeff Haynie of Appcelerator and Isaac Mosquera of AppMakr. They discussed developing apps for more than one mobile platform using tools like Rhodes, Titanium, PhoneGap, and other web-based cross-platform development frameworks. This write-once strategy makes sense if you remember the dominant mobile platforms five years ago were Palm, Microsoft and Symbian compared to Android and Apple today.

Also on attending were Roberto Araujo of LMGPR, WiFi expert Avril Salter, STC Silicon Valley Media Advisor David Strom and Gabriele Gresta of BrainSpark.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.


Mar. 27, 2011 Paul Baran

March 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, Paul Baran died from lung cancer at the age of 84. He was a member of the SVEC Hall of Fame, winner of the Marconi Prize and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Born in Grodno, Poland, Baran graduated from Drexel Institute of Technology in 1949 and later his master’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA.

Baran worked for the Rand Corporation in the 1950s developing a command-and-control network that would survive a nuclear attack. He came up with a decentralized system would be held together by scores of small computers. Messages would be broken in small packets and would still get through switching from one surviving node to the next until it was reassembled at the destination. This packet switching was used by the Arpanet and eventually the Internet. The idea of an artificial intelligence network that could withstand anything lives on.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Honoring Viki

I wanted to thank everyone for their response about Viki Maki. Many wanted to know how to honor her. We are working on that. For me personally, that means staying involved with STC.

I had gotten whatever I needed from STC a long time ago. Any recognition I received as a grand poobah was a side effect of helping people find work. Whatever individual achievement we do, the organization must survive to help others.

I remember when STC was near collapse and there were some people who thought it should disappear. They said silly things like it should not exist, that it should be replaced with a Facebook page. They said it in all capital letters. In an ironic twist, they promptly sought leadership positions in an organization they professed not to think was “relevant.” They are wrong. About a lot of things. All the time.

For all the advantages of social networking, nothing beats meeting and working with people in person. The Internet is merely another layer in technical communication not the replacement for all other social interaction. An organization that wants to help people must use all channels. I suppose STC could be run as a social network out of a server in Washington DC, but I think it works better at the local level in the kind of communities that Viki Maki built.

From my viewpoint over the past fifty years, technical communication has gone from a single profession to a set of job skills for essential for any professional. The times change and STC has to change with it. Being the president of a chapter today does not compare with being the president of a chapter even three years ago. The near collapse changed all that. What did not change was the need for people to meet and work together. We must make sure that the organization is there for people to do just that.

In whatever form, I will still support STC. I do it in the memory of people like Viki who wanted to build something that survives them. It is like seeing a friend through an illness or even death. You don’t abandon a friend in need and you certainly don’t make things worse. You work to make things better in spite of the bad news. In this case, the sacrifices of our generation made it possible for a new generation to step forward.

During the collapse, Viki said it was possible that I would be the last president of the Silicon Valley chapter unless we did something to save it and the larger organization. We did it. It was up to us.

Now it’s up to you.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 20, 2010 The New Yorker

On Dec. 20, 2010 The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki wrote “Groupon Clipping” about Internet companies trying remain relevant or part of the next big thing like Google trying to buy Groupon.

Michael Specter wrote “The Doomsday Strain” about scientist Nathan Wolfe’s searching the world for new diseases and cures.

David Owen wrote “The Efficiency Dilemma” about US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and the idea that increasing energy efficiency might mean we just use more energy.

Pankaj Mishra wrote “Staying Power” about Mao Zedong’s rise in China.

Caleb Crain wrote “Tea And Antipathy” about the real Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

June 27, 2010 Blumbers

When a friend is ill or dying, I think it important to stick with them, to the end and beyond. If they have a last request I try to carry it out. It’s one of those agreements that make up the backbone of civilization.

Two years ago my friend Barb died from cancer. She wanted more articles and pictures in the SDForum News. She said that our success would attract other people to cover these events. That is happening. I have kept my word.

In the meantime I have written more articles and taken more photographs than anyone in SDForum history. It is a record of sorts, an achievement that will never be duplicated (in the print version at least).

Sometimes people wonder why I take so many pictures of people. I wish I had taken more pictures of Barb.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Apr. 29, 2010 WCA LBS

On Thursday April 29, 2010 in Santa Clara at Silicon Valley Bank, the Wireless Communications Alliance (WCA) presented “How Does Mobile Device Selection Influence LBS — Business Models, Roadmaps for Development, and End User Choice?” Hugh Fletcher of Verizon Wireless moderated panelists Scott Hotes of WaveMarket, Marc Kleinmaier of Nokia, Patrick Mork of GetJar and Ashu Pande of SiRF Technology.

Early Global Positioning Services (GPS) made it possible for companies like Garmin, Magellan or TomTom to sell standalone Personal Navigation Devices (PND). Today’s advanced GPS integrated into smart phones makes Location Based Services (LBS) applications possible. Now it is spreading from the smart phone market to low-end phones and even non-phone wireless devices like the Apple iPad.

How do you make money with LBS when most of the world uses pre-paid phones? You place ads in the application. Any retailer will pay good money to have their ads in your app if it results in LBS sales.

Any device that knows where you are all the time raises privacy concerns. There is a business opportunity for people who want to opt out of such a system. The principle is similar to Caller ID and Caller ID block. Technology creates a problem and then sells you a solution.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 27, 2009 Blumbers


The good news is that this horrible decade is almost over. Considering all that has happened over the past ten years I can safely say I’m ten years older than I ever thought I’d ever be. With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck I’ll be here ten years from now. Text from

This year I continued to expand my reach and range. I continue to support the Future Salon, Long Now Foundation, SDForum, Society for Technical Communication, and the Silicon Valley Engineering Council. I have also expanded coverage to organizations like AmBar, ASAP, Astia, CICC, CIDM, CITRIS, CSPA, NASSCOM, San Jose BioCenter, SME, SVCWireless, VSVN and others. There is always something going on somewhere so don’t be surprised if I show up out of the blue to cover it. Text from

In many ways this was the year of the Grand Poobah, where I was recognized for my work with honors like Media Fellow, Associate Fellow, Board Director, etc. With the fancy titles comes the responsibility of encouraging and recognizing the work of others building these communities. Text from

No matter what happens, the future isn’t going away. I aim to be part of it. I hope you will be too.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 4, 2009 Blumbers

djcblumbersshadowofflagslogo2 copy

One More Soldier

By DJ Cline

September 11, 2026 3:30 AM

High on a ridge between Pakistan and Afghanistan was one more soldier in one more war. Text from

Captain Don Jin of the Chinese Army was assigned to find and kill the latest villain named Jaca. Many men had been sent to kill him and all had failed. Don’s commanders briefed him in Kabul and gave him a rough direction on where Jaca was last seen. They would keep sending soldiers until Jaca was dead. Text from DJCline.

Don’s approach was very low budget and off the radar. After picking up his regular field gear, he poked around town until he found someone who had the kind of rifle he wanted, sneaked into their compound and stole it. He found a truck, stole it and drove it as far as he could into the mountains. When he ran out of road, he started walking and then climbing. When he arrived at the last known location for Jaca, he started tracking him like an animal. Three weeks later he located what he thought was Jaca’s entourage in a remote village. It was not that difficult. In a poor country, the trash of rich people stands out on a trail. Text from DJCline.

He lay flat on his stomach just below the top of the ridge looking through his rifle’s night scope. In the valley below he saw half a dozen mud brick buildings built by local tribesmen. He looked at the largest building glowing from a fire inside. Don had been waiting for Jaca to step outside and use the latrine for a week. It never happened. Instead women would carry slop buckets out every morning. Don was patient. Jaca would make a mistake. Text from DJCline.

He kind of wished Jaca still smoked. Smokers inevitably stepped outside. He had gotten several targets this way. Don looked around the ridge he was standing on and found dozens of cigarette butts from Americans, Russians, British and possibly Turkish soldiers. They had all been here before him. Since arriving he also found batteries, buttons, wrappers, brass casings and even a bronze arrowhead. He wondered if the whole mountain was simply a pile of trash leftover from earlier battles. People had been fighting here for a very long time. With tensions between China and India so high he wondered if the next soldier on this ridge would have a laser pistol or a bow and arrow. Text from DJCline.

There was movement at the bottom of the valley. A woman carrying a baby was walking up the trail. A guard woke up and stopped her. She held her baby close as it started to cry. Don turned on the rifle microphone and tried to hear the conversation. As near as he could understand it, the woman said she was carrying a son Jaca did not know about. The woman begged to see Jaca. The guard alerted another guard who escorted her to the large building. Text from DJCline.

Listening through the microphone Don heard the consternation of Jaca’s voice at being woken up in the middle of the night. It sounded like the baby was given to Jaca to hold. The woman excused herself to use the latrine. She walked quickly to the latrine and then ran past it and up the hill toward Don. Through the microphone he thought he heard someone shout, “It’s not a baby!” Text from DJCline.

Suddenly the large building exploded, temporarily overwhelming the night scope and hitting the overload cutoff on the microphone. Guards ran out of the other buildings shouting and began shooting in the air. By now the woman was halfway up the hill and had taken off her clothes, wig and makeup. The woman was in fact a very thin man wearing a black commando outfit. As he approached Don the man held up his hands and said, “I am Tapas Kalki of the Indian Intelligence Service. Captain Jin, we need to leave this area immediately.”Text from DJCline.

The guards were beginning to fan out into the flame lit darkness. Both of them were now going to have to outrun some very angry men. How did that this guy already know his name? Te

Next? Pluribus 1

Text from DJCline.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

July 17, 2009 Future Salon Brain Plasticity

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On July 17, 2009 at the SAP campus in Palo Alto, The Future Salon hosted Professor Michael M. Merzenich, Ph.D. co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science. He presented “Why Humans May Be Too Neurologically Limited To Successfully Rule The World”.

To paraphrase from the film “The Graduate”, the future is one word “plasticity”. Merzenich went through the whole development of the brain from birth to old age. He thinks it is important to stay connected to other people and interact with the natural world because that is how we evolved. The brain is incredibly flexible thing that must be used or it will atrophy.

Brain plasticity means you can teach a puppy or old dog new tricks. Actually most of the research was done on rats. Merzenich showed how older drivers could regain their peripheral vision using training software. It makes them more independent and productive.

He also talked about how to make people less productive. Did you know that most of the communication a child gets in a poor family is negative or corrective and in a wealthy family it is positive or supportive? This has enormous impact on whether a child winds up in prison. Detaching and trying to isolate people at risk eventually puts everyone at risk.

Some things are hardwired and difficult to override. He spoke of Sweden’s literacy program where they discovered that dyslexia persisted despite their best efforts in about five percent of the population. They had to make allowances for this disability in their schools. In another example, people with PTSD vividly relive their trauma. Neurologically, it never dissipates. Restitution and treatment for survivors works best, but it is still a major injury that never goes away.

Ultimately, the more positive neural stimulation you get, the more complex tasks you can learn. Get out of your routine. Keep moving. Don’t stay at a job for ten years, it’ll rot your brain.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

June 25, 2009 SDF Visonary Awards 2

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On June 25, 2009, Heidi Roizen hosted the SDForum’s Visonary Awards, given to pioneers leading the way in high technology. Executive Director Susan Lucas-Conwell welcomed San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed who praised this year’s guests and awardees. Forest Baskett of NEA introduced Jim Clark of Silicon Graphics and Netscape. Yogen Dalal of Mayfield Fund introduced Judy Estrin of JLabs. KR Sridhar of Bloom Energy introduced Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems. Tom Wertheimer introduced Kay Klopovitz of USA Network. Here are more pictures of the event.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.