Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 20, 2014

Are U.S. Soldiers Dying From Survivable Wounds?

The voice from the telescreen was still pouring forth its tale of prisoners and booty and slaughter, but the shouting outside had died down a little. The waiters were turning back to their work. One of them approached with the gin bottle. Winston, sitting in a blissful dream, paid no attention as his glass was filled up. He was not running or cheering any longer. He was back in the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain.

In an unassuming building in suburban Washington, a team of military medical specialists spent six months poring over autopsies of 4,016 men and women who had died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

They read reports from the morgue at Dover Air Force Base, where bodies arrived in flag-draped coffins. They examined toxicology reports. They winced at gruesome photos of bullet wounds and shredded limbs. In each case, the doctors pieced together the evidence to determine the exact cause of death.


I've debated putting something of myself in here (maybe I have with typos or additions or omissions), but since I've no paragraphs left in 1984 to type, I thought I'd should end it with something a little different.

I would have added the Appendix (The Principles of Newspeak), but I believe that everyone should *still* read this book and if you'd like to know that last little bit, go pick yourself a copy and see why. The illustrations were discontinued at some point in the first year because I started scribing Ulysses and other projects left me little time to add an illustration. Plus I'm not getting paid to do this: my project, my construct. I'd also have pauses in dates for the same reasons. When this occurred and life got too busy, I'd continue when I did have time.

Writing this book out along with paragraphs from the headline story of The Wall Street Journal was exciting at the beginning. The stories would get boring sometimes, but George Orwell keeps making sense. As I went through paragraphs, the news stories would either eerily synchronize with the book or they'd be complete opposites. Sometimes the stories would gel in odd ways that they highlighted each other in interesting ways. When I was still illustrating it there would be times the book would correlate with the picture as well.

I can't say that I'm surprised by the relevance of Orwell's 1984 right now. Its germaneness is partly why I started this project. It was also a provocation because I try not to pay attention to the news. Since the Gulf War broke out when I was a teenager, I was struck by how much the media does and doesn't tell us. It started with a new war breaking out in a time I thought war would never happen again. However, as I got older and could look back at history with the eyes of an adult, I realized that war never stops, empires continue, repressive states still flourish, and governments continue to do things behind a wall of glorious spectacle and dark fear.

The Wall Street Journal focuses its journalism with the news' effect on the financial markets. Money makes the world go round or stop and take different directions. Leaders might make speeches about peace or a call to arms, but it's really the effect of their actions on those that keep them in power that is of great importance. The stock market quotes beside each corporate mention are not by chance, they're necessary for the reader of this journal. To some of us they might just be numbers and percentage points, but subliminally we're exposed to a powerful language we know very little about. Power, fame, and control are very much a part of the chaotic flow of human nature and it's interesting to observe it by writing it out.

Scribing it electronically I'd detach most of the time and not realize what I was writing. It's like when you're reading a page in a book and after realizing that you were just automatically reading words, you weren't actually digesting the words. So you go back to read the paragraphs again. That's kind of what scribing this project was like. I'd zone out, save, and forget about it. There was a bit of meditation in it, but not very much. I'd like to say I was changed by it, but I wasn't. The best part was re-reading 1984. George Orwell was a great storyteller, not heady with the words, but rather, heady with the story. I love that. Franz Kafka is like that as well.

This Is Room 101 was featured in The State:

Some time in the near future, I will like to publish this project as a book. Not sure yet how to go about it.

One secondary project came out of This Is Room 101. It was my chapbook Wall Street, which you can find here:

I'm still hand scribing Joyce's Ulysses over at

- Jacqueline Valencia

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 19, 2014.

Once Again, Oracle Must Reinvent Itself

A shrill trumpet call had pierced the air. It was the bulletin! Victory! It always meant victory when a trumpet call preceded the news. A sort of electric drill ran through the cafe. Even the waiters had started and pricked up their ears.

Through 37 years, Oracle Corp. ORCL -4.21%  Chief Executive Larry Ellison was a master of corporate reinvention as his company navigated constant technological change. But today the global database powerhouse he built faces challenges as severe as any in its history, and Mr. Ellison's departure as CEO only intensifies the central issue surrounding the company's future: Can Oracle endure recent tectonic shifts that are reshaping its market?

The trumpet-call had let loose an enormous volume of noise. Already an excited voice was gabbling from the telescreen, but even as it started it was almost drowned by a roar of cheering from outside. The news had run round the streets like magic. He could hear just enough of what was issuing from the telescreen to realize that it had all happened, as he had foreseen; a vast seaborne armada had secretly assembled a sudden blow in the enemy’s rear, the white arrow tearing across the tail of the black. Fragments of triumphant phrases pushed themselves through the din: "Vast strategic manoeuvre----perfect co-ordination----utter rout----half a million prisoners----complete demoralization----control of the whole of Africa----bring the war within measurable distance of its end----victory----greatest victory in human history----victory, victory, victory!"

In dividing the chief's executive's role between lieutenants Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, Mr. Ellison is handing his new co-CEOs a $185 billion software empire that is under assault from technology and market forces that Mr. Ellison couldn't have anticipated when he founded the company in the 1970s.

Under the table Winston’s feet made convulsive movements. He had not stirred from his seat, but in his mind he was running, swiftly running, he was with the crowds outside, cheering himself deaf. He looked up again at the portrait of Big Brother. The colossus that bestrode the world! The rock against which the hordes of Asia dashed themselves in vain! He thought how ten minutes ago — yes, only ten minutes — there had still been equivocation in his heart as he wondered whether the news from the front would be of victory or defeat. Ah, it was more than a Eurasian army that had perished! Much had changed in him since that first day in the Ministry of Love, but the final, indispensable, healing change had never happened, until this moment.

Oracle can no longer count on its near-monopoly in database systems, as the emerging technologies of big data and cloud computing----often available in open source versions that cost far less to use----along with a customer base eager for alternatives, fragment the market. At the same time, younger competitors such as Inc. CRM +1.01%  and Workday Inc. WDAY +3.56%  are picking off Oracle customers by offering specialized software applications sold by subscription rather than in a large lump sum plus a service contract.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16, 2014

iPhone 6 Review: Apple's Cure for Android Envy

Uncalled, a memory floated into his mind. He saw a candle-lit room with a vast white-counterpaned bed, and himself, a boy of nine or ten, sitting on the floor, shaking a dice-box, and laughing excitedly. His mother was sitting opposite him and also laughing.

There's a nagging feeling that afflicts many iPhone owners: a fear of missing out.

It must have been about a month before she disappeared. It was a moment of reconciliation, when the nagging hunger in his belly was forgotten and his earlier affection for her had temporarily revived. He remembered the day well, a pelting, drenching day when the water streamed down the window pane and the light indoors was too dull to read by. The boredom of the two children in the dark, cramped bedroom became unbearable. Winston whined and grizzled, made futile demands for food, fretted about the room pulling everything out of place and kicking the wainscoting until the neighbours banged on the wall, while the younger child wailed intermittently. In the end his mother said, ‘Now be good, and I’ll buy you a toy. A lovely toy----you’ll love it’; and then she had gone out in the rain, to a little general shop which was still sporadically open nearby, and came back with a cardboard box containing an outfit of Snakes and Ladders. He could still remember the smell of the damp cardboard. It was a miserable outfit. The board was cracked and the tiny wooden dice were so ill-cut that they would hardly lie on their sides. Winston looked at the thing sulkily and without interest. But then his mother lit a piece of candle and they sat down on the floor to play. Soon he was wildly excited and shouting with laughter as the tiddly-winks climbed hopefully up the ladders and then came slithering down the snakes again, almost to the starting point. They played eight games, winning four each. His tiny sister, too young to understand what the game was about, had sat propped up against a bolster, laughing because the others were laughing. For a whole afternoon they had all been happy together, as in his earlier childhood.

It hits me riding the train. Mixed among the iPhone herd are Android owners happily reading a novel or burning through work on screens upward of 6 inches. I only see five emails on my four-inch iPhone screen. Those guys get eight.

He pushed the picture out of his mind. It was a false memory. He was troubled by false memories occasionally. They did not matter so long as one knew them for what they were. Some things had happened, others had not happened. He turned back to the chessboard and picked up the white knight again. Almost in the same instant it dropped on to the board with a clatter. He had started as though a pin had run into him.

I used to laugh it off----who wants to hold a gangly phablet up to their ear? Gradually, though, many of us began using our phones more for apps than calls. Samsung anticipated these habits and made large Android phones that were better companions for always-connected people. The iPhone felt stuck in a bygone era called 2012.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 2014

Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress

He took up his glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful he drank. But it had become the element he swam in. It was his life, his death, and his resurrection. It was gin that sank him into stupor every night, and gin that revived him every morning. When he woke, seldom before eleven hundred, with gummed-up eyelids and fiery mouth and a back that seemed to be broken, it would have been impossible even to rise from the horizontal if it had not been for the bottle and teacup placed beside the bed overnight. Through the midday hours he sat with glazed face, the bottle handy, listening to the telescreen. From fifteen to closing-time he was a fixture in the Chestnut Tree. No one cared what he did any longer, no whistle woke him, no telescreen admonished him. Occasionally, perhaps twice a week, he went to a dusty, forgotten-looking office in the Ministry of Truth and did a little work, or what was called work. He had been appointed to a sub-committee of a sub-committee which had sprouted from one of the innumerable committees dealing with minor difficulties that arose in the compilation of the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. They were engaged in producing something called an Interim Report, but what it was that they were reporting on he had never definitely found out. It was something to do with the question of whether commas should be placed inside brackets, or outside. There were four others on the committee, all of them persons similar to himself. There were days when they assembled and then promptly dispersed again, frankly admitting to one another that there was not really anything to be done. But there were other days when they settled down to their work almost eagerly, making a tremendous show of entering up their minutes and drafting long memoranda which were never finished----when the argument as to what they were supposedly arguing about grew extraordinarily involved and abstruse, with subtle haggling over definitions, enormous digressions, quarrels----threats, even, to appeal to higher authority. And then suddenly the life would go out of them and they would sit round the table looking at one another with extinct eyes, like ghosts fading at cock-crow.

Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The telescreen was silent for a moment. Winston raised his head again. The bulletin! But no, they were merely changing the music. He had the map of Africa behind his eyelids. The movement of the armies was a diagram: a black arrow tearing vertically southward, and a white arrow horizontally eastward, across the tail of the first. As though for reassurance he looked up at the imperturbable face in the portrait. Was it conceivable that the second arrow did not even exist?

The point of the club isn't to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

His interest flagged again. He drank another mouthful of gin, picked up the white knight and made a tentative move. Check. But it was evidently not the right move, because---- ----

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014.

Alex Salmond Asks Scotland to Grasp 'Once in a Lifetime' Opportunity

"At the time when it happens," she had said, "you do mean it." He had meant it. He had not merely said it, he had wished it. He had wished that she and not he should be delivered over to the---- ----

The two sides in Scotland's referendum on independence appealed for support Sunday as polls showed the outcome of a ballot on whether to sever Scotland's 300-year-old union with the rest of the U.K. remains too close to call as campaigning enters its final days.

Something changed in the music that trickled from the telescreen. A cracked and jeering note, a yellow note, came into it. And then----perhaps it was not happening, perhaps it was only a memory taking on the semblance of sound----a voice was singing:

"Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me---- ----"

Alex Salmond, leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, and Alistair Darling, head of the pro-U.K. Better Together campaign, made back-to-back television appearances to make their case to voters ahead of the referendum Thursday.

The tears welled up in his eyes. A passing waiter noticed that his glass was empty and came back with the gin bottle.

Nationalists need a simple majority to win but Mr. Salmond told the British Broadcasting Corp. he is aiming for a decisive victory.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September 13, 2014.

The Secrets of Berkshire's Success: An Interview with Charlie Munger

"We must meet again," he said.

Why did nearly 250 investors converge on Los Angeles this past week to listen to a 90-year-old man address the annual meeting of a tiny legal-publishing and software company? To hear Charles T. Munger----Warren Buffett's right-hand man----expound on one of his least-known holdings and just about everything else.

"Yes," she said, "we must meet again."

Since 1977, Mr. Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, BRKA -0.59%  has also been the chairman of a little-known firm called Daily Journal. DJCO -1.40%  His public appearances are so rare and his remarks so entertaining and illuminating that investors came from as far away as Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Ontario to hear him speak.

He followed irresolutely for a little distance, half a pace behind her. They did not speak again. She did not actually try to shake him off, but walked at just such a speed as to prevent his keeping abreast of her. He had made up his mind that he would accompany her as far as the Tube station, but suddenly this process of trailing along in the cold seemed pointless and unbearable. He was overwhelmed by a desire not so much to get away from Julia as to get back to the Chestnut Tree Cafe, which had never seemed so attractive as at this moment. He had a nostalgic vision of his corner table, with the newspaper and the chessboard and the ever-flowing gin. Above all, it would be warm in there. The next moment, not altogether by accident, he allowed himself to become separated from her by a small knot of people. He made a half-hearted attempt to catch up, then slowed down, turned, and made off in the opposite direction. When he had gone fifty metres he looked back. The street was not crowded, but already he could not distinguish her. Any one of a dozen hurrying figures might have been hers. Perhaps her thickened, stiffened body was no longer recognizable from behind.

They weren't disappointed. Mr. Munger talked almost nonstop for two hours, lambasting the financial industry, hailing the economic potential of China and, above all, dispensing common-sense advice that anyone can benefit from. His central message: Investors can reach their fullest potential only by thinking for themselves. "If you stay rational yourself," he told the crowd, "the stupidity of the world helps you."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2014.

For UPS, E-Commerce Brings Big Business and Big Problems

"And after that, you don’t feel the same towards the other person any longer."

When United Parcel Service Inc. UPS +0.33%  Chief Executive David Abney bought his first book from Inc. AMZN -0.24%  about 15 years ago, e-commerce seemed no more complicated than ordering from a catalog. "Pretty basic," he says.

"No," he said, "you don’t feel the same."

Online sales have mushroomed since then into a huge business for the package-delivery company----and a big problem.

There did not seem to be anything more to say. The wind plastered their thin overalls against their bodies. Almost at once it became embarrassing to sit there in silence: besides, it was too cold to keep still. She said something about catching her Tube and stood up to go.

Because of the ubiquity of free shipping, fierce competition from other delivery services and Amazon's power to drive down shipping costs as it gets even more enormous, UPS's average revenue on each Internet-related package it handles is dropping.