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AppleTV + HomePod

July 11th, 2017

Dear Apple,
The HomePod is cool and all, after all the Echo is cool, and I’m sure it would be awesome in the bedroom. But… what I really want is a mashup of the HomePod and another Apple product. The AppleTV.

Rather than have an AppleTV and a HomePod in my living room I’d like to have a soundbar-esque AppleTV that incorporates the HomePod functions.

Thank you,

Big Data and a Brown Paper Bag

June 18th, 2017

So, Amazon bought Whole Foods. I haven’t read much analysis — just seen a lot of jokes about Alexa misunderstanding Jeff Bezos and buying it for him. I think it makes total sense for a couple of reasons and I’ve been intending to write a post one one of those reasons since before Amazon opened the Amazon Go store (yes, I’m slow writing and posting things here…).

The first reason I think Amazon-Whole Foods makes sense is that Whole Foods gives Amazon a perfect platform to take AmazonFresh national. Whole Foods shoppers are exactly the type of people that would use the AmazonFresh service so Amazon gains access to these people. Whole Foods stores and the local contracts allow the currently limited service to to launch the nationwide.

The second thing — the one I have been meaning to write about — is about fundamentally changing the model for supermarkets and how we shop is about the data.

I’ve been talking about this with a colleague at work for a while. The discussion basically comes down to “Supermarkets business model is dead. Because… Data. If they don’t embrace the data then someone else will and they’ll put us out of their misery”.
At issue is the basic supermarket business model, as I understand it. That is getting people into the shop to buy the staples goods they need and selling them overpriced extra goods they don’t need. As far as I can tell this model has not changed since the 50’s. In order to enable this buiness model supermarkets need to be huge and stock everything and use every psychological trick in the book, and invent a few more over the past half century, to get you to put that extraneous stuff into to your cart.

But supermarkets have been sitting on a treasure trove of data, from their loyalty programs, that they are basically ignoring. Millions of people have loyalty cards for their shopping and every time they swipe it the supermarket can link their purchases to a person. Think about how they could use that data. They know what you purchase and how often. They know I buy milk every week, they know the brand. They know I buy cloths detergent every month. Why don’t they take the initiative?

Why don’t I get a message from them every week that my regular purchases are ready for delivery or pickup at my regular store? They could offer me specials that I have purchased in the past or similar offers. They could offer to delivery my regular basket. Would I like to add this weeks super-special-only-for-me to my basket. They could turn week-in, week-out grocery shopping into eCommerce and take advantage of a whole new back of tricks.

By taking the initiative they could streamline their logistics chain and maybe reduce their physical store sizes since they don’t need to keep all that just-in-case stock. Lowering they rent bill needs to more than make up for the losses for those impulse buys. Has someone done this analysis?
This model relies on selling me the things I need with greater convenience. Increasing the margins on those sales and not relying on impulse buys. I think the traditional supermarkets are blinded by their established business plan. They survived the dotcom bubble and the various grocery delivery startups that popped up them and maybe they don’t think the time is up for the current model this round. But I think big data will kill the supermarket (as we know it) and I expect to see Amazon disrupting the supermarket landscape quickly once this deal is closed.

Buy more ammo

May 2nd, 2017

“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, quoted in Neglecting the State Department does real damage, in the April 29th, 2017 edition of The Economist

Chiang Mai, Thailand, March 2017

April 21st, 2017


I took a short trip to Chiang Mai in March with the family. Just a few days. We visited an Elephant sanctuary and a place called the Bua Thong waterfall — for which there is no Wikipedia article a pitty!. The waterfall is also known as “Sticky Waterfall” because the calcium rich waters have created cascading mounds of limestone and there is very little algae on the rocks meaning you can get a very good footing in the limestone and despite the relatively steep incline you can walk up and down the face of the waterfall with ease. It was very fun and refreshing walking around in the cool water in the 40° temperature, lots of green (most of the area was more brown than green this time of year) and lots of butterflies.

The photo above is of the Chedi at Wat Chedi Luang [] —which does have a wikipedia page! The Wat is very beautiful and I was there just in time to catch the wonderful light at sunset. You can see a few more photos in in the photoset on filckr [].

Ha Noi, Sa Pa and Halong Bay, Vietnam, June 2016

March 1st, 2017


As usual it takes me more than half a year to post holiday photos and write a few lines about it. This time it’s June 2016’s holiday to Vietnam []. A packaged tour to Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay.

We flew into Hanoi []. Our first stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum [] followed by a visit to the Presidential Palace Historical Site [] built by the French as the seat for the Governor-General of Indochina and where Ho Chi Minh [] later lived as President, though not in the European style palace rather in a more modest and traditional stilt house.

Later we visited the Temple of Literature []. Dedicated to “Confucius, sages and scholars” and home to the first university in Vietnam, founded in 1076 (take that Oxford and Bologna). The most interesting thing is the Stelae of the Doctors which are 82 large stone statues of Turtles with a large — meter and a half or so? — tablet standing on their backs and inscribed with the names of the graduates and staff of the university.


After the Temple we took a rest and had dinner before boarding an overnight train to Sa Pa. An adventure for my daughters who could not sleep. We left late and arrived in Lào Cai [] before 6AM.


From Lao Cai we took a bus up into the hills to Sa Pa [].

We didn’t do much in Sapa town itself, just eating and sleeping (and a bit of pool time). We spent our two days treking around two local villages – Lao Chải a Black Hmong [] village and Tả Phìn a Red Dao [] (the ‘D’, written as ‘Đ’ in Vietnamese, is pronounced like a ‘Z’). The villages are beautiful, bright green rice paddies in the valleys between mountains but you do spend the whole hike being followed by eager locals hawking things. That gets real old after a few kilometers. I know they are just trying to make a living but if you do buy something from one then you become a target for the rest.

We spent most of a day driving back from Sa Pa to Hanoi and spent the evening in the Lotte Hotel. Shopping, swimming and watching the traffic 30-plus storeys below. The next day we spent the morning driving from Hanoi to the coast to visit Ha Long Bay []. We spent the early afternoon sailing among the limestone karst formations that make up the bay and visited a floating village to get a more up-close view via a traditional row boat trip around some of the islands.


After a night on the boat — another first for the kids, along with the train — we visited Sung Sot cave and Monkey Island beach. And then a long ride back to Hanoi.

The last evening in Hanoi we went to see a traditional water puppet show which was interesting. Very annoying the number of ass holes recording the whole show on their phones or taking photos and forgetting to turn off the damn flash despite being asked in, like, seven languages to no take videos or photos. So unless you are in the front row you get to enjoy the show with 5 or 10 small screens in your view. Ass holes.

The full set of photos is on Filckr: Hanoi [], Sapa [] and Halong Bay [].