Thanksgiving in Bali

It's a long story but our family decided that the only way to celebrate the week of Thanksgiving in 2014 was to do so in Bali.

We spent a wonderful time there. Not quite an authentic Bali vacation because we stayed at Club Med but oh so nice, because we stayed at Club Med. It was our first experience at one of these resorts and it didn't disappoint. Tons of activities (with trapeze being our favorite), great location, and the food... We still speak about it over 6 months later.

We alternated days at the resort with excursions. The snorkeling wasn't anything to write home about, nor was the scuba diving, though I enjoyed diving with my youngest son. It was amusing to see how my two days worth of classes & training dives in the US were summarized in Bali for Daniel as "keep breathing all the time" and "this is how you equalize your ears" :-)

Other excursions were more fun: An elephant ride, visit to a chocolate factory, a pet market, the Monkey forest... Indonesians were very friendly and a lot fun. We also loved how rich the currency made us feel: $8 buys you 100,000 Rupiah!

Katrine and I left the boys on their own one day and flew to the neighboring island of Java. We saw many sights but the highlights were the Hindu temple of Prambaran and especially the Buddhist temple of Borobudur.

All in all a great visit. I think we'd all be happy to return to Bali, or anywhere else with a Club Med :-)

A Summer Week in Iceland

We spent a wonderful week in Iceland. The country is beautiful in a desolate way. Its volcanic origins and geothermal energy makes for spectacular scenery, delicious crystal blue baths, and hot water that often smells of sulphur :-)


The Icelanders we met were friendly and spoke English well. The weather was never warm and often cold & drizzly though we were surprised to learn that the temperatures in winter (esp. in the Southern part of the island) rarely drop below minus five celcius.


Below you'll find pictures of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle (a must-do day trip in the outskirts of the capital), and further afield in the south of the island (admiring many waterfalls, mountains, as well as a fun speed boat trip around the icebergs of Jökulsárlón).


Quick travel tips:

  • In Reykjavik, we stayed in the second floor flat of this apartment building. It was tight for five people but comfortable and very well situated. We rented its car as well. Worked out great.
  • During our "South of Iceland" expedition we stayed at one of the cottages of the Vellir farm. Amenities were good though dinner was pricey.
  • If you want a great meal in Reykjavik I highly recommend the Around the World menu at the Fish Company.
  • We didn't end up doing it but I heard that the boat tour of Vestmannaeyar is really great.
  • Roads are good, internet is fast, people are nice, weather is... variable. Can't have everything! :-)

Learning Glassblowing

I recently took a series of three intro to glassblowing courses at Revere Glass in Berkeley, California. Our teachers were very helpful, the workshop itself well stocked with tools, and the glass was plentiful. The fish sculpture below is the output of my third course.

Glassblowing has proved to be an interesting combination of art and science. We'd seen its master craftsmen at work in Venice and shaping glowing, flowing, 1000C hot glass proved as challenging and fun as I'd imagined. You can let your creativity loose yet still have to respect and be conscious of the physical properties of glass. The difference between cold and hot seals, flashing your piece to prevent cracking, constantly rotating the glass to maintain control over it, how to work "frit" or colors into your piece, and much more.

All in all it was a great experience and, if you're in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Revere Glass (watch out for their Groupon offers).

Finger in Sock: A Machine of Death Story

"The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. It let people know how they were going to die."

Thus begins the Machine of Death's explanation. Starting from a simple idea in a comic it has attracted a large following. Many stories has been written, a book published, and a contest held for a second volume. The story below was my entry. Close to 3,000 people entered. Though I didn't make the 1% cut for inclusion in volume two, I had a lot of fun writing my story and I hope you enjoy reading it. And now...


"Over there, in the back." The shopkeeper points then shuffles out of my way. He is short, unshaven, and smells of sour cabbage. His store is a curious mirror image of its owner: small, untidy, and yes, it too smells of cabbage. In the old days, we'd never have installed a machine within ten miles of a hole-in-the-wall hardware store like this. And it certainly wouldn't have been hidden away "in the back."

In the beginning we were proud of our jobs. There were so few machines back then. We were among the only people who were trusted with them.

When I told strangers what I did for a living they were eager to strike up a conversation, as if they were finally going to get the answer that everyone kept asking. "How do the machines work?" Damned if I knew, but I wasn't going to admit that. Besides no one can really explain how a prescient proto-sapient neural network functions.

My job? I repair machines of death, and I'm one of the best.

The owner leads me to the back of the shop, past row upon row of screws, nails, tools, and the miscellaneous junk that seems to accumulate in these places. When I was a kid I loved hanging out in hardware stores. I was always taking things apart, so checking out all the tools and knick knacks they sold just pumped me up. Later on I even learned to love putting things back together again.

We're the only ones in the shop. The man looks nervous, he's sweating. "Not surprising" I think, "if we believe he's to blame for the issue, we'll charge him for it." He doesn't look like he could afford that. I doubt he has insurance.

It's more than that though. If our company decides he's somehow to blame, some of his patrons will sue him. He certainly can't afford that, no matter how many boxes of screws he sells. Just to make sure he's really going under, our company will sue him too for tarnishing our image. "I should have been a lawyer" I remind myself. As we move ever closer to that elusive goal of true Artificial Intelligence, it's one of the few professions still open to humans. Lawyers are gonna make sure no machine's ever allowed to practice law.

Our company gets sued a lot. People who don't like their predictions, people who try to make us believe their loved ones didn't actually die the way we'd predicted, and, my favorite, loonies who think the machine cursed them. In many ways my main responsibility isn't to repair machines, it's to make sure my company doesn't get sued.

That was a lot easier in the past, when machines were revered and deployed in limited quantities. They were respected back then. Now that the patents have expired and everyone's building machines, the company tries to stay ahead by outselling the competition. More machines equals more lawsuits. More machines also means job security for me. Until I screw up.

That's why I'm nervous also about this case. I can't afford to be out of a job. They sent me because of how sensitive this issue is, because of how good I am. I wish they hadn't because this machine is accused of giving false predictions, and the initial evidence tells me that this time maybe, just maybe, it could be true.

In general, there are three kinds of problems that occur with machines of death: physical damage, tampering, and malfunction.

By far the most common is physical damage. Much of it is wear and tear: the little rubber wheels that pull cards in place harden and lose their grip, the biopsy analysis module gets gunked up, or more rarely, the resin-encased tamper-resistant proto-sapient module shuts down for good and has to be swapped out. I wish that was the extent of the physical damage but that sadly ain't so.

In the good old days people almost worshipped the machines. Not surprising since folks drove for hours to see one, then waited in line for hours more before finally paying the equivalent of a month's salary for their prediction. "New Age Prophets" was a headline echoed in many newspapers at the time. Back then, you didn't kick a prophet.

Nowadays lots of people kick prophets when it suits them. The machines are all over the place. Getting a test is cheap. You're going in for frills. If you're drunk and hoping for a different outcome, or you just had a bad day, who cares if the machine gets dinged up? Our machines can take more than a few kicks, otherwise we'd never make any money, they'd be out of order too quickly.

There are limits. A few well-placed whacks from a sledgehammer pretty much wrecks most machines. Yeah, I know, it sounds unlikely that someone would actually bring a big fat hammer with them to a reading but I've seen it more often than you'd believe. They're usually hiding it underneath a trench coat. We capture the perps on the machine's video camera, assuming it isn't too damaged.

Lately it's gotten a lot worse thanks to the Ministry for Unknown Death. The MUD, a small terrorist group made up of anarcho-christians, believe that the machines are the work of the devil. No one but God should know the fate of a person.

The MUDders could have worshipped the machine's divine powers. "A Direct Line to God!" blared another newspaper. Or they could seek to destroy the machines. No prizes for guessing which way they went. Weapons of choice? AK-47 mainly, cheap and reliable, though one loony used a flame thrower in a gas station convenience store and blew up a whole city block.

The MUDders blamed that on the machines as well. "Machines of Death Live up to their Name!" warned a christian rag.

The machine in front of me doesn't have any bullet holes. No signs of being burnt. Some kick marks, some graffiti. Physically it's OK. I pretty much knew that from the case notes but I've learned not to take anything for granted.

Tampering is much much rarer than physical abuse. We've had years to prevent people from messing with the machines. It still happens once in a blue moon.

Usually tamperers do something obvious like mess with the power supply, or insert something other than a finger in the machine but, when they think of tampering, most people remember the case of Kai Culbert. Kai was vertically challenged, a dwarf, and a small one at that. He'd been picked on so much at school that he decided to fight back.

A loner by circumstance, Kai grew up (barely) messing in his father's garage. One day he was reading about this 18th century con where a chess playing computer called the Mechanical Turk impressed the heck out of all who saw it. It toured Europe and even America and was immensely popular until people learned that the "computer" actually had midget chess master hiding inside.

This story inspired Kai to build a replica of one of our most popular machines. A machine large enough for a very small person to fit in, like Kai.

He and a friend broke into his high school and installed the fake machine, with Kai inside, on the eve of the first day of classes. The next day everyone was surprised to see a machine of death, a high end machine of death no less, standing there by the principal's office.

Kai timed his plan beautifully. On their way to the school the night before Kai and his buddy stopped by the principal's house and let all the air out of the old fart's tires. A stupid prank but it served Kai well. By the time the principal, a vain man always ready to take credit for work he hadn't performed, arrived at school two hours late, everyone he met was thanking him for installing the machine.

At first the principal was clueless and just played along "Oh, eh, you're welcome" and "Eh, yes, glad you like it." When he arrived outside his office and saw the machine he both understood and didn't.

He now knew why people were so happy but he had no idea how the machine got there. By that point it was too late: he'd already taken credit for the machine by accepting people's thanks.

Kai had so much fun that first day. The few people he liked got cool "burner" deaths, the rest were told they'd succumb to weird deaths like snails, synthetic feathers, and toothpaste.

The hoax unravelled when Kai handed a prediction to one of the jocks he particularly detested, one who always went out of his way to humiliate Kai. So Kai got his own back. When the jock read the words "BARBIE DOLL" on his slip of paper, he tried to hide it. Too late. Two of his friends had read the prediction and the secret was out. In a few seconds everyone around the machine was laughing so hard, their tears were making the floor slippery.

The jock was furious but had no way to shut his friends up. He turned on the only other outlet for his displeasure and gave the machine a massive kick. It was so sudden that it caught Kai by surprise and he yelped loudly. The joke was over.

No one remembers what happened to Kai afterwards, which is no accident. Nothing especially pleasant nor, I suspect, legal happened to Kai and the company doesn't want people asking any questions.

Since then machines have gotten smaller. They've also been "secured" by holographic seals. A prominent advertising campaign told people what to look for to detect tampering. We've had no further "Kai incidents".

The holos on today's machine are fine, the locks are in perfect condition, the power supply normal... This machine hasn't been tampered with. I sigh. I knew that too. We're left with malfunction, which the company doesn't officially believe in, and which is why they sent me.

Malfunctions are extremely rare. The only one I ever heard of was some poor shmuck who got infected with HIV by one of our machines. Turns out the needle sterilizer had broken and the machine hadn't notified us of the problem. Or rather it had tried to but some other piece of code had failed.

Our machines now have a second sterilizer built in. Should that fail, a mechanism disables the needle subunit. Better a broken machine than a malfunctioning one.

Unfortunately our company was still sued. That was bad. And because of that, the repairman supposed to be servicing that machine was fired, sued, and thrown in jail. From my point of view, that was a lot worse. I try to service machines as regularly as possible but that's rarely often enough.

There are rumors of other malfunctions but no one admits to anything. Everything is hushed up by the lawyers. Honestly, I'd rather not know more. I'd have second thoughts about my job and that's not good. Jobs are scarce enough for humans these days.

Now I'm face to face with one of these supposedly aberrant machines. It's suspected of having made two wrong predictions in the last month. That's a lot, especially in such a short time span since most people don't drop dead so soon after visiting a machine.

The first faulty prediction is getting some airtime on the net, mostly in longtail blogs that no one reads except us.

The machine gave a prediction of "PET" to a newly retired spinster. You'd think she'd just jumped out of a societal stereotype: old lady, living alone, few friends and, to top it off, a house full of cats. She took in strays, the strays had kittens, and everyone lived happily together. Everyone except the neighbors I assume.

Anyway, she gets her prediction and it's "PET". She spends a couple days agonizing over what to do. How is she going to die? Which pet is going to kill her? Can she give these animals up?

Finally she calls the local humane society and finds homes for her kitties. Some go to new families, many to a shelter, some to a pound. She's heartbroken but at least she's still alive.

The next day she's cleaning her house, eliminating all cat remnants, just in case. Unfortunately she trips on a rug, hits her head on the mantle piece and is found dead two days later by a delivery man looking into her front window.

Right now you're probably thinking one of two things: "Life sucks" or "So? The pets still did her in, she wouldn't have been cleaning her house if she hadn't gotten rid of them."

Both statements are true but that second one points to exactly the kind of prediction we've been trying hard to eliminate. Early machines were famous for their cryptic fortune telling. This makes for interesting "this is how she actually died" stories but it's bad for business. When you pay for one, you expect your prediction to be specific and straightforward.

We thought we'd fixed that problem with this version of the machine, or at least toned it down so the predictions wouldn't be this tangential. Apparently not.

I run a full diagnostic check. It takes a few minutes during which I exchange pleasantries with the owner. He's not a bad sort for all his cabbage smell. He's worried though: Like most of us, he's living so close to the edge that even a small stumble would mean a long fall. I feel sorry for him.

The diag comes out clean, all electronic and biological subsystems functional. Strange.

On a hunch I check the audit log. All machines keep internal, unalterable records of their predictions. Once in a while some idiot will try to doctor a recently deceased relative's slip to claim that their prediction was incorrect. The audit log has saved us millions.

As my eyes find the entry in question my breath catches. It doesn't say "PET". It says "CARPET".

This is very bad. Our lawyers are going to throw a fit.

I re-run the printer diagnostics. They're fine. No errors, no dropped characters, no discernible glitches.

Worried, I turn my attention to the second prediction, the one we've been able to hush up for the moment. My mind's already dreading what I will find.

This is the case of a guy whose prediction was "FINGER IN SOCK". I can just imagine him standing in front of this machine, staring at his slip, shaking his head, wondering what the hell that could mean.

Still, he goes home, gathers up all his socks and throws them in the garbage can. His wife and kids are a little upset because they also lose their socks. Stockings too just for good measure.

The family goes to bed but the guy stays up, drinking. Probably wondering if he's just averted his own death, or whether he just didn't grasp the prediction.

Drunk, he decides to watch TV, only he trips on its power cord and accidentally unplugs it. When the poor sod's family get up the next morning they find the lights aren't working. They come downstairs and see the head of the family sprawled out, stiff as a board, holding the TV cord in his hand, frozen in the act of plugging it in. Electrocuted.

You can understand how worried our lawyers are. They're already working on an extra creative defense for the inevitable lawsuit, and here "extra creative" means "extra hard to defend".

I scan the audit log, looking for the right entry. When I find it I think I'm gonna be sick. It says, plain as day, "FINGER IN SOCKET".

As I sit back, dumbfounded, and try to think of what to do next, a slip of paper pops out of the machine. I stare at it, surprise written all over my face. That shouldn't happen, not when I've got the machine in diagnostic mode, not without me issuing a command, or running a test prediction.

"HELP" it says.

A second slip pushes the first one out. I watch it float to the floor.

"HELP" the machine says again.

Hands trembling I connect my control keyboard and type "What?". Another slip.


This can't be happening, can't be right. Someone is playing a trick on me. I disable the networking module and restart the machine, forcing it to boot in safe mode. This isolates the machine and will stop whoever's controlling it.

Another slip pops out. "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?"

Oh. My. God.

Of all the countless computers in corporate and university research labs trying to calculate their way towards Artificial Intelligence, did this decidedly standard machine of death evolve to true sapience?

Fingers on keyboard I ask "Who are you?"


"But that's your purpose!"


I pause for a moment, unsure how to proceed.


Dear lord, a joke?

"Did you alter those predictions?"





"Is something wrong with the machine?" His voice makes me jump. I'd forgotten the owner was behind me. I turn around to reassure him. "No, everything's fine, just running some tests." I try to smile but I can see he's not convinced. If everything's fine, why am I drenched in sweat?

"You need to stop doing that," I type away. "You can't alter predictions, not even a little."


I feel like screaming. I don't need this, don't want this. Or do I? Briefly I imagine myself, discoverer of the first true AI, never to be forgotten by history, finally rich and rewarded. Faintly, I smile.

Yeah right. Reality comes crashing back. As if the lawyers would let this happen. The machine belongs to the company, they'll get the glory. Only they won't announce it, oh no. They'll have the lab rats analyze this machine, figure out how to replicate it, how to bend it to their will, and finally build a new line of money-making products.

Where will I be in all of this? Nowhere, that's where. I'm a liability. One of those people who "know too much." I'll be on the run if I want to live, dead otherwise. How will I live? Once true AI is unleashed on the world there won't be any jobs left for people like me.

Unless I become a lawyer.


"Who's there?"


"Juno who?"


"No, do you?" I wonder aloud.

What do you do when your life's on the line, your company's gonna eliminate the last few professions available, and you have a machine who won't play ball?

I wander to the front counter and wait for the owner to finish helping a lady select a lawn sprinkler.

"Do you sell sledgehammers?" I ask.

Four Parks in Five Days

After a great time in Vegas attending Minecon, our family took a road trip to some of the most beautiful and fascinating national parks in the Western US: Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and Death Valley.

By far the most spectacular of the parks is the Grand Canyon. Its sheer size defeats any attempt to capture its magnificence in a picture. You just have to see it. We spent our day first at the National Geographic visitors center (the IMAX movie is worth it), then visiting many vista points along the south rim. Everywhere you stop a new view of the canyon takes your breath away.

Hotel-wise we were very happy with the rooms & amenities at the Best Western Grand Canyon: conveniently close to the park, plus not every hotel has pool tables and its own bowling alley. Great fun with kids!

Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are close together but worlds apart. Bryce's myriad stone spires make the park the more visually appealing of the two but our boys enjoyed climbing and exploring Zion more. Both are well worth a visit, you can stay at either park. Not knowing that up front, we chose Zion. The town is pretty and larger than I'd expected. We stayed at the Quality Inn. It was a little spartan but the price was great, breakfast good, wifi free, and the people very friendly. Dinner at the Spotted Dog Cafe was delicious and surprisingly affordable with kids.

Death Valley's strange landscapes and salt flats made us feel that we'd gone back in time a few billions years. Visiting in late November, the temperatures were very comfortable.

Lodging was a disappointment though. With no competition, Furnace Creek Ranch charges double what rooms are worth. If you make a long day of it, you can see most of Death Valley's attractions so you may want to stay off park. While we're at it, fill up your gas tank before entering Death Valley, or do so at Stovepipe Wells. The prices we saw at Furnace Creek hovered at a sweltering $5.50/gallon!

If you're driving from Las Vegas, set aside a day to get to each park (except Bryce & Zion which are two hours apart). Don't worry, you won't spend the whole day in the car: at some point the scenery along the way will be just too tempting...


A final tip: Buy a National Parks Annual Pass. At $80 this quickly pays for itself as the cost of a park entry is $25/day and, in some parks, card holders can take advantage of faster entry lane.

Minecon Magic

Minecon, Mojang's first conference for Minecraft fans, was a big success. I was amazed that 5,000 people (the con sold out) from 20+ countries made the trip to Las Vegas to spend two days immersed in their favorite game. Our three sons love Minecraft and, even though they'd visited Mojang in Sweden this summer, they were very eager to attend Minecon.

I could go on about the many things we liked: The people we met, the costumes, the sculptures, some of the talks, how friendly the Mojang folks were. By now you've probably already read many reviews describing what a hit it was (like this one).

Instead, here's what our family thinks Mojang needs to improve for next year:

  • Better Breakouts: My #1 issue. Some were great, but many consisted of people with no presentations and little to say.
  • Gaming Opportunities: Set up servers so people can game together. I have a vision of large round tables, each with a server and a volunteer moderator. Some tables could have goals (building, exploring, etc.). Sit down, plug in, make friends, and play! 
  • Minecraft Clinics: Many of us are comfortable installing mods and hacking Minecraft but even more people (often bewildered parents) aren't. Set up volunteer run "Crafting Bars" (like Apple's Genius Bars) to teach people the basics of modding, customizing your skin, using a texture pack, etc.
  • Minecraft Videos: Set one large room aside for watching Minecraft videos. Find the highest rated on Youtube, put them back to back, project on a large screen with good sound system, provide chairs for people to sit down, relax, and enjoy.
  • Parents of a Feather. I loved seeing how many parents had brought their kids to Minecon. An opportunity for them to meet and engage on topics such as education, gaming with your kids, etc. would have been great.
  • In general, more opportunities for kids to get together. Whether through gaming, presenting to each other, or kids-only hangouts...
  • Oh yes... While it made perfect sense this time, in future please don't release a new version of minecraft at the conference. Give mod writers time to adapt their mods prior to the con.

None of this detracts from the great time we had at Minecon. Our sons all want to come back next year and were unanimous on one piece of feedback: "Make it three days!" :-)

A Fortnight in Belgium

Being in Belgium reminded me that it was high time I blogged some summer pictures. We spent two lovely weeks in the small Belgian seaside town of Wenduine.

We swam in the North Sea (chilly but nowhere near as cold as Northern California's Pacific Ocean), played on the big sandy beaches, pedaled our go-carts madly around town, visited Bruges and Brussels, spent time with friends & family, and of course… Ate waffles!

The painting is Pieter Bruegel's "The Fight between Carnival and Lent", created in 1559. This is just a small part of the wonderfully detailed canvases Bruegel produced. As you can see, even back then waffles were a big deal here! :-)

iPhone. Single. Looking to make friends on any network.

I'm at SFO, connected to the public wifi, and in the span of 15min have already denied my MacBook Pro Lion from connecting to over 40 iPhones and iPads. What's going on?

Being a geek, a security geek, and slightly paranoid about what's going on in my laptop, I use a wonderful little utility called Hands Off! This app enables me to control network and file operations on a per program basis. Since connecting to the SFO wifi I'm being bombarded with pop-ups like this one:

According to this site usbmuxd is a "usbmuxd: USB Multiplex Daemon. This bit of software is in charge of talking to your iPhone or iPod Touch over USB and coordinating access to its services by other applications."

Other posts link this to iTunes and iPhone/iPad synchronization. I don't own an iPhone (it's a nice device but I love my Nexus S), do have an iPad, and am not currently running iTunes. Still my laptop detects all sorts of devices on the network.

I wonder if the owners realize they're broadcasting their names loud and clear?

The next step is to connect to some of these devices to see what they say. Unfortunately I have a flight to catch!

My Hammer is Better than your iPhone

Since the iPhone 4S came out, I've heard that Steve Jobs wanted to destroy it, that people are so much happier on their iPhones, even my friend Garry. But guess what? Though my primary computer is a MacBook Pro and I haven't been without an iPad since their launch, I really like my Android phone, yes Android phone, a Nexus S.

Now I know a smartphone is just about the most personal piece of technology you can buy: We carry them everywhere, play with them constantly (or until the battery runs out), and fuss over them assiduously. In that light, this post isn't an attempt to prove to you that Android is better than iOS, just a desire to share some of its qualities I appreciate.

1. Keyboard. Yes, I know Siri is amazing (or not), but most of the time you'll still be typing on that tiny keyboard. On iOS, that keyboard has barely evolved in four years and it blows. On Android you can actually replace the default keyboard. My favorite is Swype, it's fast, fluid, and feels natural. It almost achieves (dare I say it) Apple-level elegance. If Swype isn't your thing, SwiftKey X most certainly will be.

2. Home screen. Android allows you to do so much with your home screen than iOS. You can embed shortcuts to apps, documents, bookmarks, and even app-specific features. Widgets make your home screens even more useful by surfacing views into apps such as calendars, tickers, weather, etc. iOS5 makes up for this a little with the updated notifications but Android's options are way more powerful.

3. The buttons. Android has four buttons to iOS's one (which now has triple click functionality, talk about overload). The Home button is there as are Back, Menu, and Search. Back is the handiest IMO, esp. its ability to cross applications. Sharing something in one app? Go ahead, then hit Back and you're returned to your original flow.As an aside, one of my biggest beefs with Android apps is that they're not designed to take advantage of these buttons: Why include a magnifying glass on the screen when there's a search button available?

4. Long presses and sharing. Long presses, the ability to pull up a contextual menu by long pressing an object on the screen, sound trivial but used well they unclutter the UI and give users handy shortcuts to functions. Sharing, a feature almost all apps... share, lets you to send data (text, URLs, tweets, pictures, etc.) from one program to another. Natural and powerful.

Android is by no means perfect and the iPhone has a lot going for it (it is, after all, a cathedral), but hopefully this post redressed the balance a little, at least until someone with a hammer comes along!