Worth noting…

The whole world is going nuts about the Fire, which looks like it will be a huge success, and rightly so.  But notice the two things they had to do to make it happen:

1) Massively undercut the iPad on price.

2) Adopt an Apple-style infrastructure with its own media store and app store and fork the base OS away from Android.

Google did neither of these things themselves, though they certainly had the money to do the first (and probably to buy into the second).  But Amazon comes to the table with a compelling value proposition for “this is why you need a tablet” and a price point that will let people think “maybe I do…”

New day, new gadget

The Amazon Kindle Fire is even cheaper than we’d expected; $199 is the price point and it’s a damned attractive one, given what you get: 7-inch color display. An innovative browser that actually relies on cloud computing for, you know, computing and not just storage.  Access to the Amazon infrastructure and the only store for apps, books and media that rivals Apple’s own.  Weight under a pound and dimensions that would make it slip into the inside pocket of my peacoat without a fight.

The downside of bringing it in at two bills, though: 8 GB of memory with no expansion.  No camera or microphone. No unlimited 3G – no 3G, period, actually, let alone GPS.  This is, in fact, the very thing the iPad is oftimes accused of being: a device for pure consumption.  But to add video playback from Amazon Prime (and presumably music) on top of the world’s biggest bookstore may well make the Fire the gold standard of easy consumption.  Especially with Amazon leveraging their cloud infrastructure to handle computation and storage alike.

Won’t know for sure until I get a hand on it – which is the common problem with new gadgetry these days – but at first glance, you have to think they’re going to sell a million of these things.  I’m definitely more interested in this than any Android tablet so far – this looks like a dream of a travel device, map and 3G notwithstanding, and at only $199 it’s going to shift what’s an acceptable price point for an Android tablet.  Hell, any tablet.

Your move, Cupertino.

the social network

Facebook is doing it again.  It seems that they’re on a constant spiral in which your life becomes ever less private.  And they’re intent on becoming the manager of your identity – the news that Spotify will exclusively use Facebook ID for login in future is enough for me to be done with Spotify, which strikes me as incredibly overrated in what limited use I’ve made of it.

I think the whole point of social networking is getting missed.  It’s not about putting your identity out there for everyone, it’s not about having one universal login for everything – it’s about being able to keep contact with people you want to stay in touch with.  And I’m sure that Facebook is a wonderful solution for the kind of people who still use AOL to get to their Hotmail account in 2011, but if you’re not my mother, there’s a better way.  Right now, for me, it’s Twitter, to the exclusion of almost everything else.  Pseudomymous, simple, straightforward, and at its base level usable through SMS – never mind apps or websites, if you have a Nokia 1112 you can handle Twitter.

Ultimately, for as much as the techno-hip and the haters bash Apple, they’re the only company still trading in the notion of cash on the fuckin’ barrelhead.  Want email and calendaring and online storage?  Pay for MobileMe, and there it is.  No ads, no data mining, just the stuff you want.  Want music?  Buy a song on the iTunes Music Store – boom, 256kbps AAC, no DRM, plays on anything that handles MP4, it’s yours, no monthly subscription, no ads.  I’m willing to pay to be the customer and not the product.

Because what, ultimately, is social networking for?  I’m not interested in games, I’m not interested in meeting people, I’m too old to make use of a lot of the functions – I just want something that gives me a dashboard view and occasional pings about people in whom I’m interested.  I want to be able to see my old co-workers flip out when the Redskins shit the bed (AGAIN) against Dallas.  I want to know when high school friends will be in town.  I want to rave out and have people yell back at me when Vanderbilt goes big.

Ultimately, I’m willing to spread it around.  Pictures on Flickr and MobileMe (and presumably iCloud).  Short messaging on Twitter, longer stuff here, and maybe something in between on Tumblr. RSS feeds under one Google identity and email under another with the Google+ there (for now).  Personal mail still coming through another server not connected to any of those.  It’s not tough to set things up and be able to just work through your iPad, or iPhone, or laptop – and if you have enough intelligence to use a computer in the first place, it’s just as easy not to rely on Facebook Connect as your one login.

I am who I am.  I don’t need Facebook to co-sign it.

Another round of thoughts

11″ MacBook Air vs iPad.  Given that a 2GB-RAM/64GB-HD 11″ MBA is $950 and, say, a 32GB iPad with AT&T 3G is $730, I think there’s a bit of an edge to the iPad – and not just for cost.  The 3G iPad means you can use GPS and Find My iPad (which has proven its merits already).  It’s half the weight, it’s easier to pull out of the bag and use, and I think in the grand scheme of things the difference in RAM and storage is made up by the difference in OS requirements.  Now that Prompt and Spaces will let me mess around with ARD-type functionality, all that’s really missing is ESPN3.  I could always pull on the work laptop and Chrome Canary for that.

Most of all, even with Lion, the iPad’s instant-on is faster, and the rated battery life is double.  Yup, 5 hours wireless web on an 11″ MBA and 10 hours wireless web on an iPad.

So I guess that’s it.  Unless something seriously changes, my target is a personal tablet and a work MacBook Air, supplemented by a Bluetooth keyboard and the home desktop and made better with iCloud for sync.

Mission – for now – accomplished.

Last word on Saturday’s game

(cross-posted from comments at Anchor of Gold)

“From Nashville With Love”

a DUET in TWO HALVES, with MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT by the Pride of the Southland Ole Miss Marching Band, available here:

(Slow somber march; music swells)


O I wish we didn’t have to play at Vandy

Black and gold is hard like candy

Rebel yell!

Tripped and fell!

Run like Hell

From the Dores!

We thought Houston Nutt would put our team in action

Vandy put us all in traction

Out of luck!

How we suck!

What the F!@%?

Lost again!





(Tempo picks up with cheerful tuba oom-pah)


Our defense is stout and our offense is tricksy

Plus we’re not still playing “Dixie”

Threw it soft!

Lots of loft!

Picked it off!

Went for six!





(Exeunt, pursuing a bear and a Mon Calamari)

All right. Back to 0-0. Gamecocks on Saturday.

Whuckometer pegged

So CBS Sunday Morning ran a blowjob of an interview with Mitch Daniels, the former Bush-era OMB director-turned-governor of Indiana, who famously flaked on running for President in 2012.  And predictably, he goes on and on about how much the federal government needs to balance its budget and how tough choices need to be made.

Now, I could point at the explosion of debt from the Bush tax cuts – as laid out by the OMB under Mitch Daniels – and post the graphic about those cuts account for almost all of the budget imbalance not related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Or I could point out that Indiana receives more federal benefits than it pays in federal taxes.  But the only thing that needs to be said is that if Mitch Daniels is so concerned, he had a choice.  He could have run for President, and he chose not to.

There’s no reason to heed the opinions of a bitch-ass.

Wayfarer 901/58

They were on sale at the Vanderbilt Bookstore – hell, it seemed like you could buy one of anything at the Vanderbilt bookstore – and I didn’t think twice about throwing a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers on the pile of stuff I was buying on my Commodore Card.  After all, they were the platonic ideal of sunglasses.  Roy Orbison, the Blues Brothers, Don Henley’ chorus on “The Boys of Summer”, every movie in the 1980s – why wouldn’t you?

The error came when I left them strapped under the sunshade in my car at City Stages one year.  Needless to say, the kind of heat that builds up in a parked car in Birmingham is enough to soften any old plastic, and the earpieces were always too wide after that.  I did get some rubber separator rings put over the hinges that helped matters somewhat.

And then, after sitting on my sunglasses five years ago, I bought another pair, this time the New Wayfarers in tortoise with brown polarized lenses, and hung onto them ever since (save for the two-month interregnum when they got lost in my sister-in-law’s purse).  They’re a little scratched (might be able to buff it out, I don’t know) and a little warped, but still serviceable as daily wear.

So now, with my work bonus, I finally invested in the 52mm New Wayfarer in classic black, with the classic gray-green crystal polarized lenses.  They are simple, they are elegant, and they are absolutely timeless.  And I intend on getting many more years out of them, because my Wayfarers resist loss and damage better than any other shades I ever owned.

flashback, part 38 of n

My first instinct, unsurprisingly, was to be pissed off at the end-users.

That should have been a sign that the Internet had become the default means of getting news at work.  As word came in that an airliner had hit the World Trade Center, the phones to the help desk were jammed with people demanding to know why they couldn’t load CNN, or the webpage for the Post or the New York Times.  At one point, I actually said something about “only our users are stupid enough to believe they’re the first person to say ‘I know, I can find out about this on a website!'”

For my own part, the first thought was the B-29 collision with the Empire State Building in the 1940s, after which fixed-wing aircraft were barred from flying over Manhattan (save for the vehicles of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, another nugget picked up from junior-high comic book readings).  Another collision, fifty-plus years later – how do you get that far off track?  Hell of a coincidence…then, the plane hit the other tower, live on TV.

Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, and the third time, enemy action. Hat tip, Ian Fleming.

At that point, we knew some seriously bad shit was going down.  The towers hadn’t even fallen when they closed work for the day.  My boss went around the loop making sure everybody who needed a ride was accounted for, and about that time was when we started hearing about the Pentagon, and rumors of a car bomb near the State Department.  And since my work partner’s girlfriend worked in Foggy Bottom, our little gang of four immediately set off, on foot, to see what was happening.

I had an Ericsson LX280 phone at the time, which was significant because it was a TDMA-era WAP-capable phone.  I didn’t have two-way text messaging – almost nobody did, unless you had a rare GSM phone – but I was able to get to my email when nobody could make a phone call, and I was able to push out a couple of quick emails to the effect of “we’re OK.”  Once we had my partner’s girlfriend collected, the five of us bought burgers and fries and sat out in the grass, waiting for more work of what was happening, before finally retreating to the boss’s apartment.

From there, we flipped between channels trying to get any sense of what was happening.  Planes all grounded, obviously.  News from Afghanistan that there were rocket attacks in Kabul, possibly the Northern Alliance taking revenge for the death of its leader.  At one point, we walked down to the Mall to see what was happening and to shoot some video, and I remember pointing at the camera with my tumbler of whiskey and warning our future offspring that “it’s not cool to walk around with a glass of booze in public at 2 in the afternoon.  These are special circumstances.”

And at the end of the day, a one-stop ride under the river to Rosslyn, where I could walk the rest of the way home.  And the news in email that we had two people on the plane that hit the Pentagon.  And the sick realization that things were going to be different.

And then the next morning.  Up and off to work, same as ever, only this time there were Humvees and National Guard on every corner in the city.  And I felt the oddest compulsion that I should have brought them donuts, or something.  And into the office, to help my boss unlock the voicemail and access the desktops of the two deceased so their next of kin could get at the information.  And making ourselves available to help one of our favorite users, who had just found herself in charge of the travel office with her boss’s sudden death.

And when we walked out at 6 PM, my boss turned to me, and we shook hands, and said “Good day’s work.”

We were there the next day too, and the day after that.  I stood outside in the drizzle, in my all-black and my duster, and stared at the flat-panels on the sides of the building showing Fox News’s broadcast of the memorial service at National Cathedral.  My wardrobe being what it was, I had black to spare.

Eventually, the Humvees disappeared from the street corners and the combat air patrol subsided.  And still we walked around on a knife-edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  When the anthrax showed up, we couldn’t really say we were surprised – and one friend almost got evicted as his rent check sat in the shuttered Brentwood post office.

But I don’t remember panic.  Except for those first fleeting moments when we thought our buddy’s girlfriend might be in danger, I don’t think anyone ever actually panicked.  For the most part, those first weeks were mostly tied up with deep breaths and “keep calm and carry on,” even if we’d never heard of that poster.  I distinctly remember, around Thanksgiving, seeing a commercial for the USPS playing off the old “neither snow, nor rain” with the addition of “nor a nation challenged” and wrapping up “…from the completion of their appointed rounds.”  And then, all by itself on screen, the addition: “Ever.”

And for a moment there, the postal service went from government bureaucracy to Stupendous American Badass with just one little word.  And that was really what I was feeling, and I think most of our gang as well – yeah, it happened, and it’s a show, but we – ain’t – going – nowhere. DC was home.  Buy the ticket, take the ride.

December is when I started to get a little pissed off, too…

…here, too, I want to acknowledge my friends…[i]t’s nothing against anyone else or the rest of the world, but all the patriotic posing and whatnot back in Alabama grated a little.  Yes, I know that everyone’s vulnerable and the danger is everywhere, but this is DC.  It’s our backyard that the plane crashed in, our co-workers on board.  It’s us who took antibiotics against possible anthrax infection and us whose mail was held up for days and us who saluted armed National Guardsmen in jeeps on every street corner for days.  And we’ve only got the command and control nerve center for the whole thing.  DC’s got more skin in this fight than anyone but New York, and it grates a LOT that the rest of the world seems to have forgotten we’ve got any at all.  Of the DC 7, we all came here for love or adventure or personal improvement or something, but it sure wasn’t to be here for this.  So a big shout out for us…

That was from my blog in 2001.  Very little has changed.  Every single TV channel in the country has to have their retrospective. The local NBC affiliate is, of course, having their own September 11 weep-o-rama with coverage from both New York and…Shanksville, PA.  Meanwhile, people in flyover states are howling at the “Ground Zero Mosque” (or, more likely, “Mosk”) which was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero.  To this day, one of the things that brings on the purple spots in front of my eyes and makes the steeltoe bootlaces tighten all by themselves is hearing some loudmouth from somewhere else telling us how we should feel about the fact that we were attacked – within my own city limits, literally.  I know how to feel, fuckface, I was there.  My cousin, who evacuated from Katrina with his fiancee’s wedding dress tied up in a Hefty bag, knows full well what I’m talking about.

Because that’s what it’s become.  “9/11” is America’s patriotic mascot, its ritual obeisance to its military and its first responders, but most of all, it’s the evergreen excuse behind which a certain sector of our population – and its amen corner in the mass media – breathes over and over again, “Live in fear.” Fear of the sucker punch, fear of the unknown, fear of the different, fear that something, somewhere, might change.

They can say what they damn well please, but I was there. And I can tell you with my hand on the Bible if you like, and you can put it on our tombstones – we feared no evil.


It just occurred to me…

…that I’ve been blogging at this address and under this name and URL for five years this month.  That’s longer than any other blog solution I’ve continuously used – whether it was LJ, or Blogger, or Blosxom or Vox or even the plain text updated every couple-three weeks back before I realized I was blogging.

It’s a good thing.  Not everything goes up here, obviously, but it’s handy to be able to trace what I was thinking when.  Match it against the contents of the iTunes playlists and fragmentary postings elsewhere and I can usually piece together what I was thinking in a useful fashion.

I’ve also been thinking about other things.  Anyone who reads this and knows me will instantly recognize me, and I’ve probably been sloppy enough that someone who really made an effort could piece it together.  I’ve also tried to carve out a little more separation in some areas of my life so that the most active part of my online existence these days doesn’t point right back here.  But I’m also sitting on a useful URL that would make a great blogging home, except that it would also be pretty transparently me – and I’m not one of these Millenials who believes that any attention is good and it’s OK to post my party pix in a Tinkerbell costume where work can see it.

I don’t want to do this for a living – I’m not sure I could do this for a living – but the notion of being sat with my feet up in a cozy little hole-in-the-wall, typing out my thoughts while the fog swirls outside?  Very enticing, whether in San Francisco or London or Edinburgh or some windswept pub out on the moors.  I think I’m in one of those phases where my life is much more about settings and characters and less about the plot.  Now all Our Hero needs is his peacoat, his Wayfarers, a new pair of Palladiums and an 11″ MacBook Air to take on the road…and two tickets to somewhere else.

flashback, part 37 of n

It looked like it had all come together.

September, 1993. Beginning of senior year.  A schedule that was pretty much a milk run – with all of my general-ed requirements and major credits filled, I could load up on things like tennis and Intro to Computer Science, along with that Shakespeare course I’d always wanted to take.  A month working for the Dean’s office resulted in my becoming the teaching assistant for PSCI 101, so I was getting some CV-building credit.  A sudden flakeout by someone I didn’t know resulted in my being offered the post of sports editor of the campus newspaper.  And I was on the verge of finally getting shut of the girl who’d done so much to ruin the first three years – and better yet, replacing her with a bright and witty six-foot blond, just like I’d always wanted.

And that’s not even counting the external factors, like Clinton in the White House or Alabama defending a national championship or me riding a new Saturn SC2.  The music from those days is mixed – U2 meets The Music Man meets the best of Bananarama (!) – but almost without fail, it’s bright and upbeat and says “you know what, hang the last three years, it’s going to work out this time!” And for a couple of months, it actually did.

That was before I realized just what “schizoid” really meant.  Like, serious DSM-IV schizophrenia.  At least, that’s the only explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with.  And one of the great regrets of my life was not having my fairy godsister to tap me on the shoulder and say “you can’t save her, but you can still save yourself.”

I guess the critical accomplishment of the last five years was learning to be my own fairy godsister. =)