I’ve neglected my blog for far too long. I have never been a prolific writer here. I spend most of my time writing working on The Novel. When I’m not doing that I probably spend too much time on Twitter. Then when you add in all the everyday things that get in the way it is not that surprising that the blog is way down on my list of priorities. That, however is going to change. I have just finished the first draft of The Novel. It needs to age before I begin slicing and dicing. While it is locked away in the cellar I plan to start publishing here on a at least a semi-regular basis. I will need to do some behind the scenes work first. You know, knock down the cobwebs, do some dusting, get rid of the bodies under the floorboards, that kind of thing. I may need to find a new host to serve it as well. So let’s plan for a start for a re-launch so to speak around the end of September. I hope to see you then.
You read it right? Ok, here we go.
After the review he wonders “in 30 years from now will our kids look back and read iPad and iPhone reviews with the same sense of antiquity and novelty that I felt as I read Fallow’s piece?”
My guess, for my kids, who are older than Shawn’s by a few years, is no. My boys use our iPad and iPhones on a daily basis and they absolutely love them. I think it is more likely that they will look back on iPad and iPhone reviews 30 years from now with a fond sense of nostalgia, much as I look back at the original Nintendo, Game Boy, or Super Mario Brothers.
Let me tell you a story. When I was a boy, probably 6 to 8 years old, one of the big three TV stations was promoting a contest during Saturday morning cartoons. I think they had paired up with a cereal company and you had to buy the cereal to enter the contest, but it’s not really relevant. The prize for this contest is what I want to talk about. I wanted to win it so bad that it hurt. It’s one of the first electronic devices that I can remember really wanting, you know the kind of wanting that comes from deep, down inside and won’t be ignored until that craving is filled. So what was this marvelous, amazing device that had me in the throes of technolust?
A hand-held, portable TV. It was a Sony with a telescoping antenna and a 2” by 2” color screen. At that point in my life, that portable TV was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Even now, I can remember the excitement I felt at the prospect of winning it, which was the only way I would ever have gotten one, since it was far too expensive to buy. Just think I could watch TV anywhere; in the car, in my bed under the covers late at night when I was supposed to be asleep, on camping trips, I could even sneak it into school and through its magic be the coolest of the cool kids. I thought that portable TV was awesome, and continued to do so for several more years.
Of course, now, looking back on that TV, it doesn’t seem that amazing. Especially, when compared to the magical iPads and iPhones of today, but it gets me thinking. I wonder what device my boys are going to lust after. What is going to get them excited about the mere prospect of owning it? It’s not the iPad and iPhone, as amazing as those are for most of us, they are normal for my boys and probably your kids too. What’s going to amaze and capture the attention of our kids? What’s going to be the coolest of the cool? Whatever it is, it is going to be awesome, and I can’t wait to find out.
Mat Honan has an interesting and sometimes insightful article up at Gizmodo, The Case Against Google, in which he details Google’s shift from search into something else. Honan believes as many still do that search was Google’s primary product. If you start with this belief it makes Google’s current fumbles with search and paid advertisments over real content, and artificially raising the importance of Google Places, and Google+ over Yelp!, and Twitter to be collosal errors that are out of sync with the company’s DNA and past history. This is the case that Honan presents.
Google is a fundamentally different company than it has been in the past.
I don’t think this is true at all. Google has changed in various ways as a company since its birth and early growth, but I cannot agree that it is fundamentally a different company. Honan believes it is, because he believes that Google has switched their product from search to Google, by which he means everything Google does: Gmail, Maps, Google+, Google Places, and so on.
One Googler authorized to speak for the company on background (meaning I could use the information he gave me, but not directly quote or attribute it) told me something that I found shocking. Google isn’t primarily about search anymore. Sure, search is still a core product, but it’s no longer the core product. The core product, he said, is simply Google.
Search has never been Google’s product though, just as the people who use Google to search the internet have never been Google’s customers. Google’s customers have been and still are the advertisers who buy the ads, and the product is the same as it ever was; you are the product. Nothing has changed here, other than Google now wants even more of your personal information to sell to their real customers.
Picture this scenario. You are about to leave San Francisco to drive to Lake Tahoe for a weekend of skiing, so you fire up your Android handset and ask it “what’s the best restaurant between here and Lake Tahoe? It’s an incredibly complex and subjective query. But Google wants to be able to answer it anyway. (This was an actual example given to me by Google.) To provide one, it needs to know things about you. A lot of things. A staggering number of things. To start with, it needs to know where you are. Then there is the question of your route—are you taking 80 up to the north side of the lake, or will you take 50 and the southern route? It needs to know what you like. So it will look to the restaurants you’ve frequented in the past and what you’ve thought of them. It may want to know who is in the car with you—your vegan roommates?—and see their dining and review history as well. It would be helpful to see what kind of restaurants you’ve sought out before. It may look at your Web browsing habits to see what kind of sites you frequent. It wants to know which places your wider circle of friends have recommended. But of course, similar tastes may not mean similar budgets, so it could need to take a look at your spending history. It may look to the types of instructional cooking videos you’ve viewed or the recipes found in your browsing history.
Google of course wants to provide you with these services, of course it wants to answer subjective questions, because in doing so it will gain an even more detailed picture of you which improves its real product. Honan finishes his article with the conclusion that Google’s dominance is inevitable.
The question is not if Google will be able to do this. Of course it will. It doesn’t have to build better products, it just has to force enough people into them. It will leverage everything it has—and it already is—to squeeze more information from us.
Sure there will be those who still believe Google’s “Don’t be Evil” schtick, just as there will be those who don’t care about the invasive breach of their privacy, but I believe that many are openeing their eyes to Google’s prying. I think more and more people are seeking alternative companies and services that respect their privacy and place limits on the collection of private, personal information.
For those of you looking for alternatives, here are a few that I have found to be promising.
While checking out Twitter today I discovered that today is World Poetry Day, and I saw that @PenguinUKBooks is retweeting tweets mentioning people’s favorite poems, so of course I started thinking of mine, of which there are many. It seemed a shame to limit it to a single poem in a world filled with wonderful poetry so here, where I am not constrained by a mere 140 characters, I present a list of my favorite poems.
Some of my favorite poems, but not all
- The Tyger -William Blake
- Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey -William Wordworth
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and
- Kubla Khan -Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- The Lady of Shalott and
- The Charge of the Light Brigade -Alfred, Lord Tennyson
- The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám -Edward Fitzgerald
- Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came -Robert Browning (I was introduced to this marvelous poem by a favorite author, Stephen King)
- Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse and
- The Scholar Gypsy -Matthew Arnold
- Jabberwocky -Lewis Carroll
- The Walk -Thomas Hardy
- Apologia Pro Pemate Meo and
- Dulce Et Decorum Est -Wilfred Owen
- If -Rudyard Kipling
- The Waste Land -TS Eliot
- Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself -Walt Whitman
- The Red Wheelbarrow, and
- This is Just to Say, and
- A sort of a Song -William Carlos Willaims
- In a Station of the Metro -Ezra Pound
- anyone lived in a pretty how town and
- in Just -EE Cummings
- Persimmons -Li-Young Lee
- Instructions -Neil Gaiman
Two of my favorite haiku, which are without titles
In this hush profound,
Into the very rocks it seeps–
The cicada sound.
Leaves of words:
a still mountain.
Several weeks ago I heard about Tonx, a small coffee-subscription company. For $38 a month you get a 12 ounce bag of fresh, hand-roasted beans sourced from some of the world’s best coffee co-ops twice a month. I heard about them, and maybe you did too, because they were running a special promotion: if you subscribed they would send you a half-sized bag of beans for free with no obligation to continue the subscription. I thought I’d just get some free coffee out of the deal, but I was mistaken.
I made a fresh cup right after it arrived and there is no other way to describe it than heavenly. I knew immediately after drinking that first cup that I couldn’t go back to the cheap–well, not so cheap really–stale coffee that my wife and I have been drinking for the past couple of years. The only problem would be convincing my wife that $38 a month for coffee that tastes this good would be a steal in a half. You see, my wife is in no way a coffee snob, in fact, she readily admits that she would be happy with freeze-dried instant coffee. For her, the caffeine is the important thing, the coffee is just the delivery system, and if she had an alternative method of getting her fix that was easier than making a fresh pot o’joe when she is groggy and bleary eyed first thing in the morning I am sure she would take it.
I realized I would need a well calculated and implemented plan to sway her to my way of thinking. While she doesn’t mind bad coffee as long as it’s not decaf, she does have tastebuds, so I decided that the best way to turn her to my side was by making her The Best Damn Cup of Coffee™. Surely then she would agree to the need for this wondrous coffee from Tonx. Accordingly I planned to make a nice, fresh pot of coffee on Saturday morning before she woke up so there’d be a steaming, hot cup ready for her when she first came downstairs.
I got up far too early Saturday morning as our two boys turned the downstairs into their private war zone. I pulled on a sweater and stumbled into the bathroom and then downstairs. The boys immediately told me they were hungry and started ordering breakfasts of varying degrees of difficulty. I grunted a response and stumbled into the kitchen to start making their breakfast, but not before taking some cold medicine, for I seemed to have caught a cold from boy number one, and I could hardly breathe. By the time I finished making breakfast for the boys I didn’t even feel like taking the time to grind the beans and make The Best Damn Cup of Coffee™. So I grabbed the bag of the el-cheapo coffee, measured out four and a half tablespoons, put it in the coffee maker, filled it with two cups of filtered water, and hit the brew button. I know, I know, but really, I felt like hell and just needed that caffeine. Shortly after it finished brewing I had a cup and then went upstairs to grab my phone. When I came back downstairs my wife was sitting at the dining table with a fresh, steaming, hot cup of coffee and her iPad. She turned to me smiling, holding up the cup and said,”Is this that coffee you got? It is really, really good!” I sank into my chair in defeat, took a long drink of the el-cheapo coffee, and reluctantly admitted that it was just our regular stuff. “Oh” she said and then went back to checking her email. I drank another long slug of coffee and reflected that sometimes, it turns out, the caffeine is enough.
Luckily, a few days later I did manage to make a pot of the good stuff for her. I don’t think she really found it as amazing as I did, but being a good wife she agreed to continuing the subscription, on one condition, that I get up every morning and make the coffee before she leaves for work. I’d say that’s a fair trade.
The Japan Times has consolidated all of the #311memory hash tags on Twitter. Get a unique perspective on the tragic event, and then leave your own #311memory on Twitter.
The one year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake is approaching and I’ve been attempting to gather my thoughts enough to write something about it. I’ve read many great pieces from the media, and from individuals personally affected, but it wasn’t until I looked at the photographs at The Big Picture that I knew what I wanted to say about this tragic event.
Looking at the photographs that show the devastation caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami last year and the same scenes now I am struck most, not by the cleanup and recovery, remarkable though it is, but by the empty spaces.
Having lived and worked in Japan for a number of years, both in the city and in the countryside I know that most of Japan is unbelievably congested with buildings and everything else packed in tight just like the commuters on the infamous Tokyo trains. So to see these empty spaces and know that they were once shops, offices, clinics, schools and homes. To know that these empty spaces were just a year ago filled with people, with life it is heart wrenching to look at them now. In fact I feel it speaks far more of the incredible injury Japan has suffered to see these empty spaces than it does to look at the immediate after math of the tsunami’s destruction as horrific as it was.
Of course, with time those spaces will be filled. There will be new buildings, new shops, offices, clinics, schools and homes that will take the place of those lost. Perhaps it’s fitting then, that those spaces are still empty still reminding us of what was lost that day and the terrible days following which can never be replaced.