Hear Ye! Since 1998.
Jan 19

Hear Ye! is 21

Ok, so I obviously did no posting last year, and I failed in my attempt to fit in a redesign of this site. Life had other plans. Maybe this year?

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Jan 19

Cities over the last 365 days (2018)

Here’s the annual list. At at mere ~37k air miles traveled, it’s my least amount of travel in a decade (due to one very good reason!). 2019 is looking better, with 38k miles already booked in Q1.

Sydney, Australia
London, UK †
Oxford, UK
Chicago, IL
Vancouver, Canada
Shanghai, China
Charleston, SC †
Kiawah Island, SC

All places had overnight visits, unless marked with †.

* Multiple entries, non-consecutive days.
† Daytrip only.
‡ New country or territory.

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Sep 18

What it’s like to run a High-Roller Suite in Vegas 

A Bloomberg article, Secrets of Las Vegas’s Exclusive High-Roller Cosmopolitan Suite, shares some interesting stories about high-roller suites and the guests that use them. Nothing terribly surprising, but still a fun read.

Among high-rollers, superstitions can quickly escalate from the demanding to the absurd. Some millionaires will sleep on the couch because they believe a bed with a headboard will beckon bad fortune. Others crowd themselves with citrus—often with holes poked to “unleash the luck”—scattering pierced oranges and lemons around the suite, letting them rot during longer stays. Also lucky for clients from the Far East: filling water basins to the brim. That’s how one high-roller flooded his bathtub … and the suite underneath.

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How the Court Got So Supreme

An interesting article about the institution at the top of the judicial branch of government, the SCOTUS:

Neil Gorsuch moved into Scalia’s chambers, though those who knew him said if Kennedy were to step down, Gorsuch would prefer his former boss’s more commodious chambers; Gorsuch had clerked for Kennedy. (In a gesture to Scalia’s family and as a totem of his philosophical allegiance with Scalia, Gorsuch allowed Leroy, the mounted head of the 900-pound elk Scalia had shot, to remain. Scalia’s widow didn’t want it. Nor did his children. Gorsuch did insist on moving Leroy out of his personal office; now he stares down at the clerks in their work space.)

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Aug 18

Million dollar artworks, sold in $20 lots

Masterworks is a like investing in a fine art work fund, but for individual artworks. I can see the appeal to some. From CNN:

Masterworks is one of a handful of new investment platforms hoping to widen access to the elite world of art collecting. The firm will purchase paintings at auction before transferring ownership to shareholders. It then takes a management fee — covering costs like storage, transportation and insurance — as well as a percentage of any profit made when the artworks are sold.

Fees are a roughly flat 10% management fee for the first 5 years, plus 20% carry. So basically a 2 and 20 model.

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Jan 18

Hear Ye! 20th Anniversary

Twenty years!

Coming soon: A 20th Anniversary redesign of this site, and most frequent posting (I promise).

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Jan 18

Cities over the last 365 days (2017)

Here’s the annual list – pretty spotty during the middle of the year, but a solid Q3 picked up the slack:

Sydney, Australia*
Dallas, TX*
Reykjavik, Iceland‡
London, UK*
Abu Dhabi, UAE†
Dubai, UAE
Oxford, UK
Abingdon, UK
San Diego, CA†
Salt Lake City, UT†
Nashville, TN
Hopkinsville, KY†
Birmingham, AL†
New Orleans, LA
Montgomery, AL†
Savannah, GA
Charleston, SC
Charlotte, NC†
New York, NY†
Delhi, India†
Thimphu, Bhutan*‡
Gangtey, Bhutan
Punakha, Bhutan
Paro, Bhutan
Auckland, NZ†
Tahiti, French Polynesia‡
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Honolulu, HI
Boston, MA
Palm Springs, CA
Copenhagen, Denmark

All places had overnight visits, unless marked with †.

* Multiple entries, non-consecutive days.
† Daytrip only.
‡ New country or territory.

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Oct 17

Star Trek: Discovery

It’s been over a decade since Star Trek: Enterprise, the last series of the Trek franchise, has graced our television screens. I grew up in the 1990s, which was the heyday for Trek. The 90s had 3 series running almost concurrently (TNG, DS9 & Voyager) and featured 4 films (Star Treks VI to IX). Back then, I binged watched seasons with a friend during sleepovers. (Binge watching then meant going to Blockbuster and renting a stack of VHS tapes.) I spent countless hours with high school friends discussing all the ideas, themes, and concepts that Trek introduced us to – astronomy, astrophysics and other sciences, “what if” questions about the universe, ethical issues, so so on. The sorts of stuff that most teenagers pseudo-philosophically discuss, but through a geek’s sci-fi lens. I also used to attend Trek conventions and had a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of Trek trivia (like, memorizing Starfleet ship registration numbers). At the turn of the century, the output of the Star Trek universe slowed down, and that obscure knowledge started to mothball in the recesses of my brain.

When news broke of Star Trek Discovery, I was excited that my sci-fi franchise of choice was going to be back on the small screen with new content.

Television has evolved a lot since the 90s. We’re in the so-called Golden Age of television, and the episodic nature of TNG has long since been replaced by grand story arcs, sophisticated treatment of themes, and great acting. I wanted to see what Trek might look like given the advances in television story telling over the last half of my life.

After watching the first two episodes of Discovery, I am disappointed. Like Enterprise, Discovery is a prequel, and the problem with prequels is that they are constricted by events that have already happened in the future, so to speak. The new Star Trek movies try to avoid that by splitting the timeline and creating an offshoot universe. But Star Trek is about the future, and I do miss forging even further ahead in the future and exploring more uncharted territory.

With Discovery, what we get instead is an opening few episodes where we are introduced to the start of hostilities between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Perhaps the writers will eventually make this a compelling story-line, but it’s not one that they have managed to grab my interest with. In the future Trek story-line, there is peace between the two civilizations, and how that came to be was an interesting concept.

It also doesn’t help that all the episodes so far are lacking in personality. The characters and acting feel wooden. I just don’t care about any of them, and none of them stand out.

The focal character is, for the first time, not the captain of a starship or space station, but it remains to be seen if something interesting comes from this shift in perspective. Michael Burnham’s initial personal theme of an internal conflict between emotion versus logic, child versus parent, has been done before: Spock, Data, 7. Simply reversing the dynamic by thrusting a human child into having a Vulcan upbringing feels like a gimmick.

The Klingons are also somewhat boring. Their dialogue is slow and stilted, and even the font selection for the subtitles (ALL CAPS, SERIF, BIG) felt like a crutch to supplement the acting.

Even the theme song played during the opening credits is bland and meek. The only memorable part of it is when its closing bars throw back to the original Alexander Courage theme.

The story itself feels jumpy and contrived, unfolding unnaturally as you try to make sense of where it’s trying to go. A Klingon from nowhere shows up, recruits another houseless Klingon to be a “torchbearer” because he can hold his hand in fire for a while, and suddenly they reunite the Klingon empire. They blow up a bunch of Federation ships and then warp out of there. What?

As critical as I’ve been so far, it’s Star Trek, so I’m going to keep watching. But I do hope it starts to kick into gear.

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Sep 17
Jul 17
Apr 17
Jan 17

Hear Ye! turns 19

Yes, but not much has been going on here lately…

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Jan 17

Cities over the last 365 days (2016)

Here’s the annual list – pretty sparse last year:

Maui, HI
Sydney, Australia*
Bangkok, Thailand†
Tokyo, Japan†
San Francisco, CA*
Dublin, Ireland
New York, NY†
London, UK†
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Dubai, UAE
Yulara, NT, Australia
Los Angeles, CA†
Hong Kong, China*
Minneapolis, MN†
Bayfield, WI

All places had overnight visits, unless marked with ††.

* Multiple entries, non-consecutive days.
†† Daytrip only.

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Dec 16


This movie review is a guest post by Andrew Lau

Arrival is executed in the style that fools most film critics into thinking there’s a lot more going on than there really is.

That understated style where the camera lingers a lot longer than it should on everything. Where dolly moves and zooms are slow and seemingly deliberate to imply depth and meaning.

Where the camera is placed wide and never cuts into the emotion. Where people talk at one end of the room but are photographed (with an extra long lens) from the other side in silhouette. Yes, that style.

Amy Adams, translator extraordinaire, is called by the military to communicate with aliens upon their arrival on Earth. She meets with the over-sized squids and tries to decipher their language of circular, squiggly, inky lines.

Meanwhile, there’s a little confusion about what the inky lines mean. Suspicious and jittery, the Chinese decide the aliens have come to blow our planet away. They gather their military forces to blow the aliens away first… but Amy works it all out before the shit hits the fan.

Not giving anything away here. All this is in the trailer.

The film has a fabulous aesthetic — the spaceships and aliens are unlike anything we’ve seen before. The music is GREAT and the tone is consistently mournful keeping within the theme of loss.

Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” is effectively used, anchoring the emotions of our heroine, allowing the audience into her state of mind.

But if you watch the film carefully, you’ll see the film is mostly style. There’s little tangible substance. There’s so little story content in this film it could, and should have been a 45 minute short.

The film lacks in conflict and drama between the cardboard-thin characters. What you see in the trailers isn’t the tip of the iceberg. It’s what you get. Cut and dried. That’s it.

Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) directed this and makes these choices deliberately. He’s just being himself. I’ve decided he’s more a minimal stylist than story-teller.

After the initial awe and excitement of the alien landing and first-contact, whether or not you enjoy this film will depend on your taste. Whether or not you are bored, will depend on if you’re just happy to go along with style.

If you’re into films where people gaze into the distance mournfully or stare at computer screens with deep bewilderment for long periods, this is the movie for you. If you’re a film-maker or film-geek who gets excited by long-lens silhouette shots, this is the movie for you.

If you want a concrete story with in-depth characters and tension, this is NOT the movie for you.

Arrival is about the importance of communicating. Communicating with honesty, integrity and transparency. It takes time to understand what doesn’t make sense and points of view that are opposite or different to our own.

Arrival was released days before Donald Trump was elected into office, making these ideas all the more poignant for these politically divisive times.

I can say I love what the film’s story is about, but not how the film goes about telling its story.

Arrival gets 7 out of 10, for style.

* * *

Stu’s note: Based on a Ted Chiang short story, the concept for this movie was instantly interesting to me. However, it’s a slow-paced film with many contemplative shots that linger too long. As Andrew mentions, the style of this movie makes you think there’s more to the story than there really is. After the movie, I felt like there was something deeper that I was missing, but additional probing with friends failed to turn up much. Many science fiction movies of this type provide a fertile seed for “what if” conversations about free will, predestination, and soothsaying, but Arrival didn’t feel like a typical sci-fi movie in that respect. Instead, it focused on exploring the idea of communication – both intra- and interspecies – while doing so in an innocuous manner that didn’t provoke the “what if” kind of curiosity that I love about sci-fi.

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Nov 16

  stuloh I can hardly believe it but he's won

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  stuloh WTF America

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  stuloh It's looking good so far...

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Sep 16

Upgrading the iPhone

Now that iPhone carrier subsidies have ended at all the major carriers, most people are going to be paying full freight for a new phone. For a 256GB iPhone 7, that’s $849 (or closer to $925 after you include California state sales tax). Apple also allows people to pay this amount off in monthly $35.37 installments over 24 months, without any interest charges. However, if you want to sell your phone within those 2 years, I haven’t looked into how the installment plan affects that.

Other options include going on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, or a carrier upgrade plan like AT&T Next.

iPhone’s Upgrade program is a 24 month contract which generally allows you to upgrade to a new unlocked iPhone every 12 months, and comes with AppleCare+ over the same period. AppleCare+ covers two incidents of accidental damage, subject to payment of a $29 service fee for screen damage and $99 for any other type of damage, plus tax. For the 256GB iPhone 7, the upgrade plan is $40.75/month.

After you’ve made 12 payments on the plan, you can trade in your iPhone with Apple for a new one, and the 24 month clock starts all over again. If you complete 24 months of payments, the phone is yours to keep.

Rumor has it that the next version of the iPhone is going to be a significant upgrade (I’m guessing it won’t be the iPhone 7S, and it might not even be called the iPhone 8). So, might it be worth going on the upgrade program to take advantage of this?

The easy way to look at it is that if you upgrade after a year, you’ve essentially leased the phone for 12 months for $489 (or slightly less if you remove the AppleCare component, which is baked in at essentially the $129 retail price).

Because the phones are now sold out-of-contract and unlocked, you could instead simply buy a phone outright and then next year attempt to sell it on eBay or similar. As long as the phone hasn’t depreciated more than $489 (or $414 if you factor in sales tax), you’ll be ahead. In other words, the target sales price is $435.

I’m thinking that as long as you keep your phone in good condition, you’ll be able to sell it for more than $435 in a year’s time. An eBay search shows used 128GB iPhone 6S models regularly selling for $500 and up.

You can think of the difference in your actual resale price and $435 as the fee Apple is charging you to buy the iPhone from you instead of you having to go out and sell it yourself.

It’s interesting to note that Apple also offers a trade-in program, which currently values an unlocked 128GB iPhone 6 in good condition at $225, so you can see where the margin lies there.

In summary, now that carriers aren’t subsidizing new phones, locking them, or locking customers into 24-month contracts, you can essentially run your own upgrade program if you’re comfortable with selling your phone at the end of the year if you want to upgrade. You could do this before, but now that we don’t have the option of buying a subsidized plan (which essentially gave a very substantial discount for getting locked-in), this approach becomes a lot more attractive.

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