1,000,000 pounds moved

I promised I’d hold off on a bunch of boring exercise posts, but every now and then there may be a milestone I’ll want to record. Back in Dec2015 I made my first post on my new exercise kick, strength training, where I was actually surprised how a relatively short workout would lead to such a number.

Now I can report that I’ve moved 1,000,000 lbs. That I’ve accomplished in 44 strength workout sessions (137th elapsed days since starting gym) and as of today I have 45 sessions for a total of 1,038,760 lbs (at least recorded, I have some additional I didn’t note in my log). Sounds like a lot but the real strength kings might do that in a week, but, OTOH, I figure it’s not bad for a nearly 70YO guy who’s never done this before.

My first session that I recorded (and posted) had a total of 14,000lbs and today I did 31,650 lbs, which is a bit under my record of 37,395. I have a somewhat different routine now than when I started so the comparison number (to first recorded session) is 27450 or 96% higher (almost double).  That’s not too bad for 3 months and 45 sessions or a session growth rate of 1.5% per session. But I’m clearly hitting my limit and it’s doubtful I’ll get much more gain. In fact it doesn’t look quite so good over the longest timeframe:


What the graph shows is that I was pretty dedicated in the beginning, steadily working up to higher levels. But then I began to get gaps (various events in my life that made gym more optional) and then, more of recent, I’ve been all over the place, doing a record high and record low workouts. Simply put, it’s hard to main the discipline on this.

Strength training is no more boring than the other things I do. And I can feel, in my body, some results. But it just doesn’t work as well for me, hard to translate reps on a machine into some kind of goal or sense of progress. Looking at my weakest exercise here’s my progress translated into average weight per rep for each session:


Once again my results have been a bit erratic of late, but really, from the somewhat unrealistic initial low (I was taking it easy) I’ve just barely managed a doubling (on a routine basis), or as the regression line indicates about a 0.4lb/rep gain over time. Not exactly setting the world afire.

And my strongest and biggest gain is about 2lbs/rep, but given that’s on a much higher base it works out the same. So more and more charts tell about the same story, about a doubling (almost any metric) in 3+ months but little more gain of recent.

And it’s that steady-state, just maintaining, that is even hard to handle/

Now I won’t go into other stats in detail, but the aerobic (or calorie) burn part of workouts have dropped significantly since I was doing them at home, when I still lived in house with exercise equipment in basement. I’ve dropped from somewhere around average of 600-700 calories (averaged over every day of the week) to just less than 300 (despite more intense workouts at the gym). I can feel that two ways, about 10lbs weight increase (just not burning enough calories) and much less endurance walking (forget about a long walk when I’ve gone from around 14 miles upper limit (needed about 20) back down to probably 8 miles (although winter cut that some anyway).

So the short answer is the results are mixed: 1) I definitely have improved my upper body strength, 2) I’ve lost some endurance, and, 3) it’s much harder to keep this up.

So I don’t know about you, everyone is different, but I think the best results are, if you can, get your own equipment and do your training at home, even if some days you only do a little (zero at gym when I don’t feel like driving there is a lot worse than when I only had energy/motivation for short workout in the basement). Gyms are fine and offer a more diversified program than you can do at home, but if you’re like me you’ll probably get better results at home.

Now it will be interesting to see if I do a post about moving 2,000,000 lbs which given the growth rate I have seen should be less than two months away. The idea of doing 10,000,000lbs is so remote I won’t even think about it.

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Where I’ve been

You might have noticed I haven’t done any posts for a while. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up and will soon return. Instead I’ve just been obsessed with solving a bunch of totally useless but interesting math/programming problems over at Project Euler. Some of these go smoothly for me and a few are maddeningly frustrating as either wrong assumptions or stupid programming bugs get me the big red X when I enter my enter instead of the much friendlier green check mark.

But I’ve about reached my limit. It staggers me that a few people have done all these problems, some of them are insanely hard (at least for me). I’ve learned (mostly relearned) a couple of things:

  1. go to sleep, banging your head trying to find that last bug at 3:30AM is terrible. Sleep on it and the answer might be immediately obvious the next morning.
  2. move on when you’re boxed in a corner, it will be easier to get out when you come back later
  3. think about the solution as much as you can before jumping in and trying to solve it
  4. and lots of little math details I’d forgotten and some programming tricks I’ve never used before.

So if you like hard-to-solve puzzles, head on over and try a few.

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Evolutionary disadvantage of pessimism – 3

I’m surprised that my original post on this thread is my third most read post and also surprised that I wrote a followup and here I’m doing it again. So somehow I seem to drift back to this idea about every two years (first post was 2012, second was 2014, now 2016 – hum, could it be the effect of election years?). Anyway I have (slightly) new circumstances in my life that trigger me to reconsider this. There is a situation who two mature people take a wildly different view, one optimistic and one pessimistic (guess which one I am). And now I’m thinking that the optimistic view persists, despite all evidence to the contrary, simply because “giving up” is just too sad or depressing. Interestingly this is right, the pessimistic view results in a gloomy outcome as well. Both ways of viewing a situation in the world lead to bad outcomes, but, of course, the optimistic one can always cruise on auto-pilot that refusing to accept the inevitable keeps hope alive.

Not long ago, again borrowing from Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, as I did in my first post I attempted to create a simulation model to determine, in the game theory type approach he describes, whether there is an advantage to one view or the other. My results were inconclusive which simply means my model is both too simplistic and too speculative (any good model has to be based on some sort of past measurement and I have no data).

I have a choice right now. I can adopt the optimistic view (which at least has hope on its side even though it’s a highly unlikely outcome) or the pessimistic view (which then has a certain gloomy outcome). By nature (or nurture) I tend toward the pessimistic view, but knowing this every now and then I think I should overcome my natural inclination and perhaps switch to the other side. Looking back at history, frankly, my “optimistic” decisions are, at best, no better (and I believe realistically are worse) than my “pessimistic” decisions (some of which turned out pretty bad too). So weighing the evidence I do have I can’t decide if one POV has an advantage over the other. But I’m drawn back to the idea that most life forms, esp. those with thinking and learning and memory, are inherently optimistic as a consequence of natural selection; IOW, the “optimistic” POV has kept our species alive but mostly in misery. Life (and evolution) is its own justification – life is pointless in some cosmic sense. We humans overrate how relevant we are when in fact we live in a vast universe on a tiny speck of rock and the universe doesn’t give a damn whether we live or die (in fact, it often tries hard to kill us, but not with intent, just the way things are) but life always finds a way to perpetuate itself. That’s certainly a lesson we’ve learned even if it is just a paraphrase from the movie Jurassic Park.

So I imagine a small group of proto-humans living on the savannah a million years or so ago. They’re living near a small pond which is rapidly drying up in the dry season. Since they have big enough brains, plus some “science” (observation of nature) to guide them they can compute, most likely, their water supply will dry up before the rains come and they’re all going to die of thirst. So they gather the group and debate (with grunts and sign language) what to do. The optimists, of course, suggest they should climb out of their valley and try the valley miles away (which, of course, they don’t even know if it exists or not). The pessimists argue for staying put because if they carefully ration the water and maybe the rains will come early this season they can survive, or at least most of them can.

What happens?

Again I think a good model would show something straightforward (but I haven’t been able to build such a model). If the pessimists prevail most likely the tribe will die and thus the pessimism “gene” (yes, I know, there is no such thing, but it is also clear there is some predilection toward optimism or pessimism, so it’s just a complex gene network, mostly regulatory genes, that builds brains capable of either optimism or pessimism, so we can still call that a “gene”, just as Dawkins did). The optimists, OTOH, if their view carries the day lead their band out of the valley to either die, never find water, get killed by the tribe that controls the water, or luck out and find a bigger pond with no rivals. The point is most of the optimists die too, BUT, some of them survive, because rather than giving up at least they tried. So most of the optimist genes are wiped out but some survive and show up in future generations. Giving up, like suicide, is self-defeating and has to be eliminated by natural selection.

I actually have a personal experience that popped up in my memory while thinking about this. Once in late summer while backpacking in Desolation Wilderness and camping on the shores of Lake Aloha we were faced with the very problem I used in my hypothetical, water. Yes, there was water right in the lake but it’s also a high probability that water was contaminated and at that time our only means of purification was boiling and we were short of fuel. So it became a choice of water vs food.

BUT, easily visible on the other side of the lake were cascades of nice fresh highly aerated and recent snowmelt which (at least without the free of today’s wilderness crowd that no ground water is ever safe) would suffice. Now from the survey of the area we could see with our eyes (pre-GPS, pre-Google Earth, so no high-tech info available) it looked like a fairly easy hike to the good water. Now if we’d been a bit wiser outdoorsmen we would have realized Lake Aloha is man-made and therefore would have a primitive dam, which in fact it did, as we learned. And crossing the dam was hazardous. Dams are usually built across drainage ravines, so in fact, it was also fairly difficult, not to mention out of the way to where we’re heading, to descend and then finally climb the hill on the other side. Much to our disappointment what we found was another valley and then another hill between us and our destination. But having already spent over an hour going this far (with no packs or food, just all our water bottles) do we push on (seemingly just a short distance) or turn back? The optimistic view prevailed.

Long story short, as the hours wore on, we began to laugh at our situation and make the joke, “beyond the next hill lies another hill”, as our exploration was presenting more and more data to us. But the fresh water seemed tantalizingly close so we pressed on. At the top of one hill (where we saw still more valleys and hills ahead of us) we also saw what looked to be an easier route back to our campsite, loop all the way around the lake rather than return by the route we’d already covered. So this became the new rationalization to press on – not only would we get the water we were seeking but an easier way back.

Since I’m here to tell this tale, well we got to the water and it was cold and fresh and wonderful. We drank our fill, resting for the hike back, and filled all the bottles we were carrying (of course, now heavier and more awkward to handle than when they were empty). So after the rest and as much water as we could drink we headed back.

Now there is a reason there are no trails on that side (I believe west, IIRC) of the lake. While from a distance it looks like easy hiking, in fact, the lake is in a glacial bowl with the high side where we’re now headed and if we’d known more about geology we would have realized what looked smooth hiking was across miles of talus piles, arduous and dangerous.

So again, long story short(er), since I’m here we made it, having spent the entire day getting our water, which, btw, we mostly drank on the difficult hike back to camp. So the net result of this foolish adventure was slightly more water than we’d had when we left, sore feet, quite a bit of high altitude sunburn (since the packs with the sunblock were back at the campsite since we thought our trek would only take an hour or so), but, the good news was it was actually somewhat fun and we saw parts of the area that otherwise we would have never seen.

And, of course, the irony was, right around 3/4rds of the way around the lake, we found a trail that led to a nice fresh stream – had we gone that direction (instead lured by the water we could see) we actually could have found good water in a hour or so.

So unlike my hypothetical tribe we did take the optimistic view and did survive but some side lessons are interesting to consider as well. It’s not necessarily a binary choice between optimism and pessimism; with a little more creativity we could have found alternatives to the false dichotomy. One, in our circumstances, if we’d been very clever and used a little engineering knowledge (or maybe had time to be scientists and discover this principle) we could have jury-rigged a solar evaporator, like those people stranded at sea have in their lifeboats, thus eliminating the need for fuel and also having a nice “green” solution. Two, we could have been really pessimistic and concluded there was no way we could get water, so ration what we had and give up on the backpacking trip and head back to the car (all downhill, so could make it in a day). Now, a third option, not for us, but my hypothetical tribe, and given it is an election year and I’m seeing again all the cynical crap politicians do, we should encourage the tribe toward the optimistic view (let’s make XXX great again) and get all the fools to head to the next valley and then we sneak back and now have what little water there was in the known pond all to ourselves.

Now none of this palaver leads to any conclusions, esp. for me, but at least it’s a way to spend some time thinking about something else, so I’d guess you’d have to say this post itself represents the optimistic choice.


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No more boring exercise stats – 2

I promised in my last post under this title I’d cut back on my exercise statistics, but I have to keep them somewhere, so I guess another post after 2.5 months isn’t too much. But first a little clickbait to point out what I’ve mostly been doing, which you can read about at my exciting blog about my adventures in graphics.



Now onto the boring exercise stuff. As I mentioned I’m doing three types of workout to replace what I used to be doing at home, but I’m finding it difficult to keep up. At my previous home just heading to the basement any time of day made it easy to rack up miles on either bike or treadmill, but now I have to get ready and drive to the gym, change clothes, workout (mostly without pauses) and drive home and cleanup. So I do much more strenuous workouts there, but the total (daily) calorie burn is much less and my frequency (days/week) is much less. It’s much easier to skip but I’m trying.

So here’s probably the “bottom line” on my gym activity:


I subjectively rate the difficulty of my gym sessions (I am keeping detailed records but haven’t figured out a single metric to derive from the details) so this graph shows my cumulative score versus calendar days. You can see a few of the gaps (and subsequent drop in slope of the regression line) plus the the visibly more sparse data points later in the graph. The net result is 0.63 “points”/elapsed day where 1.5 score is a full day’s workout. I am deliberately taking it easy (if not skipping altogether) the day after a full workout because I decided to believe some anecdotal analysis that muscles, after hard strength workout, should be given a day to recover and actually build up more and strong fibers – we’ll see if that works.

The following graph just shows the raw count of gym sessions without the weighting for intensity of workouts:


This is even a bit more discouraging as it shows I’m just barely able to average doing a gym session once every three days where, before at home, I was managing almost five days per week. So it’s just tough to get the quantity of workouts.

Of the myriad of graphs I have for tracking my strength training I’ll just bore you with one:


This is my total iron moved per workout just with upper body workout machines. My iron moved totals are much higher as I’ve kept my legs strong via other exercise over past five years and for most people your legs are stronger so my average is only about 45% of my total (of my full, not truncated, routines) is upper. You can see both the gaps and, worse, the actual decline. My early enthusiasm led to the steep growth, starting around 7,000 lbs to nearly 15,000 in about a month, but after my long pause I have yet to even achieve those numbers. My individual sets (no, won’t do another graph) is now about back enough to where I was before but the total sets (esp. including the maximum weight, but few reps sets) is way down. It’s just tough to do this, esp. as: a) my rate of growth has definitely slowed down (out of shape easily cured, gain in strength – not so easy), and, b) it really is boring and hard to focus. Plus I really don’t know what my goal should be and so it’s hard to get the same sense of progress, as with treadmill, where I both had a goal (long walk, with long daily distance) and both a sense of progress and how much more I had to gain. Just as a number, my average rep is about 55lbs, with my weakest averaging a bit over 30lbs and my strongest averaging a bit over 70lbs (at least I’m not too embarrassed when I lower the weight setting from the previous user).

But I suppose the big news is, given my first post on gym was claiming the big deal of having done 14,000 lbs in a workout that now my average is up to nearly 25,000 (just of the “full” routines) and my total has now passed the half million mark, 549,480 total recorded pounds of iron moved or about 274 tons (which means I’m now past what those very large mining machines can move in their single load). Now given I’ve done zero (deliberate) weight moving since crew days in college I suppose I can claim some sort of success.

The more disappointing part of using gym is the relatively low amount of calorie burn I’m getting (and it shows, a bit, on the scales). I was averaging about 700 calories/day (day meaning all days, not just workout days) and now I’m much lower. I’m doing treadmill (hard) and both types of bikes (hard), but it’s still just not enough time (or miles, even lower than the calorie burn drop):


I only count calorie burn based on the readout of the aerobic machines (which, I believe, read lower at the gym than my machines at previous home, but still…) so the slope, 224.78 or the slightly different “average”, 232.64 cals/elapsed day is at least down to just 1/3rd of what I was doing before. Putting that in different terms that’s about 35,000 calories less burned or about 10 pounds of fat, which, not coincidentally, is about my weight gain (albeit over about 150 days) since ending my regular aerobic calorie burns at home. In fact, I’m a little surprised my weight has increased more but I might be near my “set point” (as many dietitians claim exists) and so it hasn’t been worse. My previous low weight was probably a bit “unnatural” for me and thus hard to sustain, so I guess I can, at least, be pleased I haven’t gone up even more (about 17lbs, from best to worst, or about 10lbs from relatively “steady” values). But I can still feel a bit more blubber around my middle than I’d like so I just have to not let this slide. So I hope I can at least stay stabilized where I am and maybe even flatter myself I’ve had some increase in muscle mass which weighs more than fat.

But without a doubt my walking has suffered. Instead of peak daily rates of 12 miles/day (still short of what I’d need to do for a long walk) I’m down to more like 5 miles/day and I suspect I’d be very tired if I attempted 12 miles, which in about another month may become possible again as spring is coming and I can get back on the trail.


As far as my other two, at home, activities, those have slacked off hugely. The first thing I did moving in here was write a “nag” program (just went off with its nag) to at least get me doing some exercise while sitting long hours in front of computer. I was averaging over a 1000 reps/day (in eight different exercises) and I’m lucky if I’m now maintaining 100:


While this was my only upper body exercise before and I have done over 55,000 reps (half without any weights) but total iron moved is only about 138,000 pounds, or about six full upper body workout days at the gym (which totals 277,200 pounds). So I’m not too upset about decreasing this number which was probably a modest help, although at least something if I hadn’t also joined the gym.

Likewise I’ve dropped a lot on my one exercise device here at home, the stretchy springs thing, but I’ve actually slightly increased my maximum reps (in a single set) over time but even that’s almost leveling out. But, nonetheless doing 8169 total reps on that device (when I started I could not even do one!) is something.

So I’m finding strength workouts both much harder to do (as regularly or intensely as I should) and also difficult to measure with all these graphs I need for self-motivation to set and achieve goals. I was never very good at this, but strength can be regained at any age and it’s probably more important to be doing this at my current age (and beyond). I do have the feeling, certainly of a bit more muscle mass (or at least harder muscles), but more importantly a bit more agility, which is really important. While walking late at night I recently slipped on some nearly invisible black ice and I think I would have fallen (rather than caught myself) if I hadn’t been doing this exercise, insufficient thought it may be. Falls are the real devil to older people and fitness is the best remedy so I can, subjectively believe all this has done some good, just not enough.

So there’s my story, my update for about last three months, so I won’t need to bore you with any more, but I do expect to stick with this enough to hit 1,000,000 pounds of iron moved and that’s too much of a milestone to overlook, so there’s bound to be a -3 version of this post, but so long for now.


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Some exercise stats

I promised I’d refrain from posts of my boring exercise statistics but, naturally, I can’t resist. As my regular readers know I’m no longer living at my house and so can’t just go down in the basement, for many hours per day, to workout. Instead now I drive, sometimes, to a gym. I don’t mind working out at the gym,; in fact, I’m doing more intense but much shorter workouts. So how does this look in comparison. Well here’s my 2015 “home” data for biking:


That is my cumulative miles of stationary biking vs elapsed day, between 2Jan2015 and 12Sep2015, my last basement biking at “home”. You can see from the sheer density of marker points my biking was common, but the key point is the slope, 16.25miles per elapsed day, which counts any of my gaps (like vacations and such). My actual biking per day I bike is an average of 32.2 miles.

OTOH my gym bike alternates between treadmill days and biking days but that’s about the same as I was doing at home. But I now have enough data for a comparison:


First you can see all the gaps (even despite being a shorter timespan) so I just don’t do it as often. This graph covers 8Dec2015-3Feb2016. So there is a gap of about two months where I did no biking of any kind, but furthermore once I started again at the gym my rate, 3.97 miles per elapsed day is about 24.4% of what I was achieving at home, with the easy accessibility to my exercise bike. Wow, that means I’m now doing in a month about what I was doing in a week before! Big drop!

But how about walking. For a while, as the weather was good I sorta kept up walking outside before joining gym, but here again we can see a big contrast.


This covers 1Jan2015-11Sep2015 (my last day at “home”). The total miles, of course, reflects nearly five years of data but I’m only looking at the most recent year. I did treadmill a bit less frequently than biking but still it’s fairly steady data at 1.4miles per elapsed (calendar) day. Let’s compare to gym results:


Again there are a lot more gaps in the data, just fewer days (per week or month) at the gym than when I was at home. However, the number isn’t quite as bad as biking, 0.66 miles per  elapsed day at gym vs 1.41 per elapsed day at home, or 46.8%.

Now to put these in perspective, had I continued at home I’d have (based on 2105 trendline) about, about 140 days since I left home, 2275 more miles on bike (vs 257 at gym, so I’ve only done about 11% of the miles I might have done) and 160 miles of walking (vs 45 at gym, so I’ve only done about 18% of the miles I might have done).

So, IOW, both the gap between home and starting gym and the lower numbers I achieve at gym (which is mostly just due to having a single couple hour visit to gym per day vs many, and shorter session, at home) I’ve only managed to keep up my exercise somewhere in the 15% or so, of what I was doing regularly at home.

What does this mean to you, Dear Reader? If you want more exercise (and calorie burn where I know I’m also around 20% of what I was doing at home) spend your money on exercise equipment, at home, and use it a lot if you want to get maximum conditioning (sheer number of miles) and also calorie burn.

Fortunately, partly due to less eating (bachelor style) my weight has mostly gone nowhere, only a small drift upward. If I have several days of “indulging” (eating like I used to and like to) I spike up a few pounds, but then a few days of semi-abstinence and I’m back down, so the much reduced calorie burn from much more limited exercise hasn’t really affect my weight. And my upper body workouts, which were nothing at home, have vastly improved.

So while I’ve lost thousands of miles of biking and hundreds of miles of walking (and I can feel that, no way I could do as long trail walks as I was doing 5 months ago) I’ve balanced that with a bit more reduced eating and a huge (only relatively) increase in upper body fitness.

There is a claim, by some walkers, that preparing for a long distance walk doesn’t need to emphasize distance (in training) but instead “core” strength (a real catchall and mostly meaningless term). So I guess I can say I’ve done that – somewhat great “core” (and especially upper body strength), but less endurance. So could I really still do a long walk?


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Great new “app” idea

I should be heading to the gym instead of writing this post but I just finished a questionnaire from the gym and casually suggested they should provide an app for records, but instantly I thought of something far better. Of course I’m a records freak (as are a lot of people, all those people wasting money, as I did, on personal fitness monitors which don’t work very well and aren’t very useful).

So, just with phone and the app, use the NFC for something more useful than paying (easy enough already, don’t need a phone to do it). When using a machine at the gym just do the NFC bump and the machine would send its id, which then triggers app to bring up your data, maximums, last few workouts, averages, goals, whatever. Then bump again to “start” your workout and bump again to end, recording the data, also instantly telling you how this major exercise session compares, to average, maximums, and goals, plus records all the data.

Now of course the machines themselves would have to have all this NFC protocol but they already have microprocessors (to control the machine, at least aerobics machines, no strength machines I’ve ever seen) and could add the NFC as well as some fairly simple software. So that’s chicken-and-egg problem, if the machines don’t do it, then the app won’t work, and without the app (and customer demand) the machines won’t add this.

But, there are other exercises that aren’t machines anyway (the various freeweights and special benches). So, fine, instead of a selfie stick or head mounted camera or Google glass, just have a little stand to put your phone in so it can watch you with its camera. A single 2D barcode sticker would be sufficient to identify the machine or apparatus, cheap to add to existing machines. Then let the app analyze the video streaming through the camera to make a guess at your workout (certainly could probably count reps, although getting resistance level might be interesting trick)

Anyway, for a data junkie like me, who’d almost rather analyze data than do the workout to generate the data, this would be great. And for me, and I believe others, a good motivator!

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Google vs Apple

I haven’t done any “rant” posts for a while (or really any posts since I’m so busy at my other blog) but this one I can’t resist. And it’s not really a rant anyway.

These two articles caught my attention: first, in the real way the winners and losers are measured this article shows how Google is getting strong and Apple weaker, i.e. how much they’re worth (I won’t violate copyright and post their graph here, but take a quick look at the linke), but second, in this article I think it shows why Google is winning. Google is all over the map trying all sorts of wild and crazy things. Apple, is coming up with a new color for a recycled iPhone. And that’s it, one is doing tech, the other is doing fashion.

When I lived in the Bay Area, like most technies, I was intimately involved in the ups-and-downs of the local tech sector (sorry, folks, Silicon Valley is still the Rome of tech, it may exist elsewhere but the Bay Area is still the center of the universe). I go back far enough to remember Apple getting started (and scoffing at them as a nobody, esp. when I lost a recruiting battle to them). Apple was just across 280 from my HP facility (they, like HP itself, were well out of the garage before they crossed my radar) but it was the silly upstart. Over the years I became an Apple groupie (after the Mac II, I saw the original Mac the day before it was announced (by one of their developers who had a prototype and spilled the beans) and wasn’t impressed). When the evil empire of Microsoft (of course, not in our center of the world, but in SiliValley wannabe, Seattle) began it’s claim it was all-out religious war, for me, the good guys and the bad guys, and of course Apple lost.

Google was just getting its legs when I left techRome, but I’d been involved, with my startups, with various players in the search biz (Inktomi was a lot more impressive, and I’d been trying to do a deal with the original AltaVista (when they were in downtown Palo Alto with a server farm that was huge by that time’s standards and nothing today)). So Google didn’t impress me and their “attitude” was offputting (a little too noble, as history has shown it was hypocritical and a lot too full of themselves (after all their original search idea came from a paper out of IBM that we all read)). But it was Google Earth (not Google, a startup they bought, but helped flourish) and then especially those StreetView cars and all the image processing that won me over. Plus, still a bit indifferent, I slightly prefer iOS to Android (still a fragmented mess vs the iron hand of Jobs controlling every aspect of iPhones, and thus also stifling innovation) over Android, but I do like that Google is making Android cheaply available to everyone, not just the exploitative fashion-conscious and closed iOS, that really only serves Apple’s bottomline.

But since leaving (it seems forever and it has been a while) and now I read about Silicon Valley (rather than absorbing it every day) just like everyone else, Apple is now the villain (especially as I warmed up to Microsoft in my last job, now beaten down more than they should be) and Google is the hero (for me, at least). Apple has become totally derivative, sitting on their past glories, just cranking out slight variations of their past hits (pretty much like the tail fin craziness of the auto industry in the late 1950s, no good real ideas, so change the styling). Plus I still have a bit of contact with insider politics and much of Apple is still the same dysfunctional mess it always (Google, is crazy, by design, and Alphabet is a good idea, Bill Hewlett (who I really did know) would have approved as he saw HP getting too bureaucratic and hindering innovation, so fought constantly against corporate control over divisions, just as Alphabet is doing; sure search pays the bills, but don’t let their political players stomp on the new good ideas, the paralysis Microsoft went through).

Now both companies have old business cash cows paying the bills (ads for Google search; iPhones (gotta have the latest one) and really iTunes (pure money machine). These are old businesses. But where does the huge pile of cash from these businesses (that will inevitably stagnate and die) get spent? Google is trying all sorts of things, some incremental stuff, some trendy stuff, so challenge rivals (Android vs Apple, Amazon) to prevent them from killing you (go play in their backyard since they’re playing in yours), but then some wild, pie-in-the-sky stuff. Hands down, Google is spending its cash treasure on cools stuff, most of which probably will fail, but at least they’re not afraid to try. Apple, well, let’s tweak iTunes to exploit more revenue from it, let’s even lock the gates and build the walls higher with more closed approach (won’t even follow standards for headphones they they can force me to buy Beats, come on, Apple, I’m not your slave), and tweak fashion a bit (blowing tons of money on PR and image and promotion, instead of R&D). Of course they’re still the darling of Wall Street (not so much lately as now they can’t keep hitting it out of the park, further each time, with entirely derivative “new” products, plus where is any new blockbuster, the watch, ha!) Soon they’ll be buying up unicorn (and failing) startups, probably even the latest game company. They’re all about trendiness, not risk-taking in innovation (people keep thinking they’ll have a new spectacular hit, but it’s been years since any of those).

With R&D spending dropping (largely due to anti-science attitude of the Repugs killing government funding, which after all DID create the Internet and the microprocessor and even much of software innovation) it’s up to the rich companies to keep it going. The U.S. vitally needs its tech sector, even if most of the jobs are in China. You stop innovating and you die. The biotech and nanotech sectors, yep, interesting, but they just don’t have the punch of digital technology. Robots, despite being feared, AI, despite being feared, these are the future and Google is at the forefront of them all, if not doing it, then hanging around to make startup founders rich when they acquire you. Facebook, come on, months of debate about new like emoticons, hardly going to change the world, but will undoubtedly make them far richer. Amazon, sure, lots of crazy stuff Bezos does, but he has his investors constantly harassing him for higher margins and less spending on wild-and-crazy stuff. Microsoft, well they’ve got their hands-full just staying relevant, plus they do stupid acquisitions like Nokia (but they’ve got great ground game, don’t count them out, esp. as tablets lose their undeserved luster). Chinese companies doing real spending, come on, Ponzi schemes still work too well in their libertarian unregulated stock markets, to cause capital to flow to innovation. EU, yep, doing great on green energy, but all those bonds and debts are bogging them down, plus when was the last time an EU company changed the world.

So I have to cheer Google on. They’re the primary player (and I don’t count Tesla, who I think is more scam than real innovative, despite their fancy rockets) and so they have to keep the ball rolling. Good for you Google. Now that I’ve endorsed you can I be a telecommuting intern (you don’t even have to pay) me with the maps crowd?

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