19 November 2017

Brandon Sanderson – Firefight

in Bucharest, Romania
Firefight: A Reckoners Novel by Brandon Sanderson

După Uciderea lui Steelheart, Newcago a devenit sub supravegherea Reckonerilor o neașteptată oază de libertate pentru oamenii asupriți de Epici. Însă evenimentul a atras atenția și furia celorlalți Epici, care atacă orașul dornici de răzbunare și de a lua sub control fostul fief al lui Steelheart. Echipa de Reckoneri observă în curând un tipar ciudat în atacurile acestora, care‑i face să bănuiască că în spatele lor se află un actor viclean: Regalia, suzerana actuală a orașului scufundat Babilar, fostul Manhattan. De vreme ce o cunoscuse personal dinainte de a deveni amândoi Epici, Profesorul pregătește o incursiune pe teritoriul ei pentru a‑i desluși, și eventual dejuca, planurile. David îl însoțește, dornic să cunoască o nouă echipă de Reckoneri, dar mai ales impulsionat de zvonurile că Megan s‑ar afla de asemenea în Babilar.

Dacă v‑a plăcut prima parte a trilogiei, ritmul rapid fără prea multe discuții și atmosfera de film cu supereroi, romanul de față deschide în aceeași notă, schimbând însă de la început personajele și decorul. Avem o altă componență a echipei, cu doi membrii din fostul New York, o nouă bază de operațiuni scufundată, noi arme derivate din abilitățile unor Epici răpuși, totul pe fundalul unui oraș acvatic, luminat noaptea de o fosforescență misterioasă și năpădit de plante bizare.

După tiranul absolutist Steelheart, adversarii de acum sunt mai variați și complecși, ridicând noi provocări pentru grupul de oameni. Regalia e în esență o eminență cenușie, ascunsă în bârlogul ei secret, de unde își plănuiește mișcările; din când în când își manifestă proiecția din apele orașului, pentru a tachina echipa de Reckoneri într‑un joc pervers de‑a șoarecele și pisica. Amenințarea mai urgentă este însă Obliteration, un mutant care acumulează energie termică pe care o poate elibera brusc sub forma unei explozii devastatoare, probabil de puterea unei mici bombe nucleare. Cu ceva timp în urmă a ras astfel de pe fața Pământului întregul Houston și pare destul de probabil să pregătească aceeași soartă pentru Babilar. Dar oare de ce ar dori Regalia să‑și distrugă propriul oraș și pe Epicii din el?

Brandon Sanderson – Mitosis

in Bucharest, Romania
Mitosis (Reckoners) by Brandon Sanderson

După bătălia disperată cu Steelheart și înfrângerea acestuia, orașul Newcago a fost eliberat de sub conducerea Epicilor. Echipei victorioase de Reckoneri îi revine sarcina de a reconstrui o oarecare ordine socială și de a organiza apărarea locuitorilor. Inevitabil, vestea despre actul lor fără precedent se răspândește rapid și atrage multă atenție. Pe de o parte, mulți oameni se îndreaptă spre această nouă oază de libertate; pe de alta Epicii sosesc pentru a revendica locul lui Steelheart și a se răzbuna pe Ucigașul acestuia.

The day had finally arrived, a day I’d been awaiting for ten years. A glorious day, a momentous day, a day of import and distinction.

It was time to buy a hot dog.

Someone was in line when we arrived, but I didn’t cut in front of her. She would have let me. I was one of the Reckoners – leaders of the rebellion, defenders of the city of Newcago, slayers of Steelheart himself. But standing in line was part of the experience, and I didn’t want to skip a moment.

După cum remarcam cu ceva vreme în urmă, am avut tendința de a abandona serii de romane după prima carte, și am încercat să rectific asta revenind la trilogia Reckoners a lui Brandon Sanderson, pe care o începusem acum mai bine de doi ani și jumătate. Titlul de față e doar o povestire de legătură înainte de romanul al doilea, și asta se simte destul de mult. Acțiunea și personajele sunt în mare aceleași ca în primul roman, condensate în câteva zeci de pagini: echipa Profesorului se luptă cu un nou Epic sosit în Newcago, căutându‑i slăbiciunea ascunsă și folosind‑o pentru a‑i nega puterile supranaturale. Deși nu e deloc rea, cu același ritm alert, nici nu aduce nimic în plus care nu se regăsește în următorul roman. Ar fi putut fi cu ușurință inclusă acolo ca un capitol suplimentar sau prolog, și publicarea separată mă face să cred că autorul a dorit să stoarcă pur si simplu câțiva bani în plus de la fanii lui loiali.

Nota mea: 3.5

16 November 2017

Fortune: “Trump’s Tax Reform could benefit Apple, other Multinationals”

For FY 2016, Apple booked total pre-tax earnings of $61.4 billion. On its income statement, Apple showed a “provision for taxes” of $15.685 billion. That number is an expense that’s deducted straight from pre-tax income of $61.4 billion to yield net income of $45.7 billion. Hence, its reported “effective tax rate” was 25.6% ($15.685 billion divided by $61.4 billion), well below the official 35%, but on the high side for multinationals, many of which are in the teens.

Apple, however, paid a lower number in cash. Apple’s 10K discloses that “cash paid for income taxes” was $10.444 billion for the year.

Shawn Tully

I’ve found this article shared on Daring Fireball – apparently the irony of using an article praising Trump’s tax reform to support Apple’s official position is lost on Gruber.

For someone with basic knowledge in accounting, even the paragraphs above should raise some alarm flags, as people often confuse accrual-basis and cash-basis accounting. A provision for taxes doesn’t mean that Apple effectively paid said amount of $15.685 billion – in fact the author explains immediately that the effective tax payout was only $10.444 billion, making Apple’s tax rate in FY 2016 a much lower 17%, around half the official 35% in the US. What the author doesn’t explicitly say is that the rest of the provision (a mere $5.241 billion) may in fact never be paid out, especially if Trump’s tax exemptions come into effect. In that case, the provision can be dissolved and Apple gets to keep the cash – and, presumably, book it as income.

14 November 2017

TechCrunch: “Facebook Stories replaces Messenger Day with synced cross-posting”

Facebook is cleaning up the redundancy in its Snapchat Stories clones. Today Facebook is killing off the Messenger Day brand and merging the chat app’s stories feature with Facebook Stories. Now, just called “Stories”, 24-hour ephemeral posts in either Facebook or Messenger will appear in both apps, and viewing will be synced, too, so you won’t see a Story as unviewed in one app if you already watched it in the other.

To be clear, Messenger will still have Stories, they’re just called Stories instead of Day.


However, the cameras in Facebook and Messenger will remain distinct, with Facebook’s focused on augmented reality masks and effects, while Messenger focuses on adding captions and stylized text inviting friends to hang out. But Hayes says now that we’re connecting the two experiences, it makes sense for them to have the same name.

Josh Constine

Good decision! Having separate stories in four different Facebook-owned apps didn’t make any sense to begin with. At least Instagram and WhatsApp, being acquired, have a strong brand of their own, as opposed to Messenger, who was simply spun-off from the mobile Facebook app.

13 November 2017

CNBC Business: “Morgan Stanley predicts space industry will triple in size”

Morgan Stanley estimates the space industry, worth about $350 billion today, will grow into an economy worth more than $1.1 trillion by 2040, a team of analysts wrote in a note Thursday.

Private companies from the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are driving much of the recent innovation in the industry, and Morgan Stanley admits investment opportunities are limited. Look to companies providing and benefiting from internet bandwidth, the firm says, where most of the upcoming value in the space industry will come.

Michael Sheetz

Sounds impressive… until you realize that over the course of 20+ years, this amounts to an annual growth rate of just 5%! That’s lower than the GDP growth of some emerging economies – China may be an extreme example, but it has sustained an average growth rate of about 9.5% over the last 30 years. So if the space industry only grows by 5% per year for the next 20 years, it will not be a particularly worthwhile investment.

09 November 2017

The Guardian: “Trump Twitter account shut down by employee on last day of work”

A Twitter employee deactivated Donald Trump’s personal account on their last day of work, the company said on Thursday, likely meaning the action was deliberate.

The move by the employee – who has not been named – meant that the president’s @realdonaldtrump account was down for 11 minutes.

During the brief period of downtime, shortly before 4pm Pacific time (11pm GMT), anyone going to the @realDonaldTrump Twitter page would see the message “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

Olivia Solon

It was puzzling to read the reactions on Twitter to this temporary deactivation: many were glad, relieved even, that the President of the United States could no longer tweet. To me, this reaction is very immature: account deactivation does not mean that Donald Trump magically goes away; he may still use the official @Potus account, or switch to another social network to express his views, despised by many as they may be. And it definitely doesn't remove him as President, or any harm he may still do from that position of power. It seems to me Americans are experts at ignoring problems in their society, thinking they will simply go away: racism is still present, as is sexism and xenophobia, and Trump exploited this to propel himself to power. People should face reality and tackle these entrenched issues, not celebrate when things they don’t like are hidden from public view.

06 November 2017

Vanity Fair: “This Could Be the End of Facebook”

It’s worth recalling, of course, that it wasn’t the makers of Tylenol who put cyanide in the pills that killed seven innocent people; nevertheless, the company felt a responsibility to come up with a solution to the problem. While Facebook’s engineers may not be posting fake news, the dirt is still on their hands. The damage done to organizations in crises isn’t the crisis itself— it’s how you handle the crisis, Scott Galloway, author of the new book The Four: The Hidden D.N.A. of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, told me this week on the latest episode of the Inside the Hive podcast. There’s only one thing you have to remember: you have to overcorrect. You have to clear every shelf of all Tylenol nationwide. You can’t say this is an isolated incident and it won’t happen again.

Nick Bilton

It may not be the end of Facebook – the company has weathered many crises on its way to the top – but increased government scrutiny, and possibly regulation, is the last thing a rising tech giant wants. I expect Facebook to rapidly adapt to the new environment; but in the long run the resources spent on compliance may reduce its competitiveness, allowing other companies to step up and challenge its dominance in the social media space – as it happened with Microsoft after their antitrust investigation.