Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Nomadism and Thin Clients

Chris Brogan recently posted that we should all be prepared for digital nomadism - i.e. working from anywhere, anytime (although having watched my wife make this transition, I can say with some authority that "anytime" is really "all the time"). I don't disagree that we all need to prepare for the long trek from coffee shop to hotdesk to lunch meeting to bus stop, but I was surprised by the first section after the intro, entitled "Get a Smartphone." His first sentence, "Your regular cellphone won't cut it," strikes me as a bit dire.

It could be that I'm in the dark ages, or else overly concerned about the portability and pocket-friendliness of your average smart phone. It could be that I've had two phones that were irresistibly attracted to water (washing machine, lake, whatever), and don't really want to face the prospect of throwing $500 down the drain on one of my absent-minded moments. Perhaps it's like first class - once you've been there you can never go back. I would like to posit, however, that one can be perfectly nomadic without one. Before iPhone, when all of a sudden our phone really could do everything (bless you iPhone), there was not a single smart phone that held any allure for me whatsoever. It comes down to how I use the phone. I am always able to download a Gmail app for whatever phone I have. Similarly, most phones are able to sync with my computer to share calendar data and contacts. And they have all had longer battery life than the behemoths.

Really, what else do I need? When will the day come that I can't get to a terminal of some type to drop my crucial edits into crucial document X? And how much pleasure will I get out of trying to do that on a smart phone because I can? The point of all this modularity/portability/mobile access is to be able to utilize what amounts to a thin client to retrieve and manipulate centrally stored data. Yes, a smart phone can do! It! All!, but I'll go out on a limb and suggest that a phone is a phone (unless it's an iPhone). My wife checks her email (just like me) but if it's a detailed issue, she closes the email program and calls the person (just like me). Sure, she's become adept at buttonmashing quick replies out to people if needed (just like me), but on the whole the phone is a data device as needed and first and foremost a means of communicating via voce. Just like mine.

Just sayin', nomads travel light and make do with what they have. If you've got the killer tool, by all means. But I'll continue the voyage with an endless succession of little toy phones that end up, mysteriously, in the dishwasher.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Yay for continued Heroes! Maybe!

Nikki Finke reports that the two sides of the writer's strike have crossed a milestone and have the bones of a deal in place. She's quick to point out that nothing is confirmed.

As a writer who enjoys being paid, I'm happy to hear that the strike (and the blogging about the strike) has had an impact. As a consumer of Heroes, I say get back to your typewriters! Half a season of Heroes is about as bad as socks for Christmas.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bee blight

The Willamette Week has a review about a certain movie that mentioned that we are in the middle of a massive bee apocalypse. The movie is unsurprisingly disappointing (it is not the first time that Dreamworks has brought in top talent only to squander it), but I found the bee die-off to be rather stunning. Consider:

What's causing the carnage, however, is a total mystery; all that scientists have come up with so far is a new name for the phenomenon - Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - and a list of symptoms.

In hives hit by CCD, adult workers simply fly away and disappear, leaving a small cluster of workers and the hive's young to fend for themselves. Adding to the mystery, nearby predators, such as the wax moth, are refraining from moving in to pilfer honey and other hive contents from the abandoned hives; in CCD-affected hives the honey remains untouched.

Emphasis mine. Now, far be it from me to be hysterical, but what is wrong with the honey? (By the way, if you want hysterics, I'd recommend reading the comments after the article - awesome.) If the pathogen is food-borne, how do the other insects know? Or is it more like when your dog growls at a stranger for no apparent reason and later you read that the same man mugged a grandmother and kicked a kitten - just some kind of bad bee mojo emanating from the vacant hive?

The CCD Working Group reported four months later that the culprit was likely viral. Just last month, Nature aired "The Silence of the Bees" (nice), an excerpt of which can be seen as a PBS podcast.

As a huge fan of honey and, of course, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I found this all extremely interesting. Then again, it is the weekend and I'm undercaffeinated. Your results may vary. Just...maybe buy local honey, yeah? Good for the allergies, anyway.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two Tugs

Claire's third tooth in the lower row of incisors came out today, but not without help. There was already a tooth growing behind it, so its time had come, but it was clinging to life with the same ferocity that allowed it to survive an incident when she was three. This was when I was in law school, and I got a call (I think in class - can't actually remember now) from the Moss St. Center that Claire had fallen and smashed her face into the slide. I was prepared, I remember, for some blood, what I wasn't prepared for was the angle at which all of her lower teeth were sitting. Her lower jaw had slammed up and over her upper teeth, jamming all of her teeth forward and (we are now learning) breaking them off at the roots. The dentist sorta snicked them back into place as well as he could and then said "odds are they'll turn black and die, then you can come back and we'll pull them." Turns out they're feisty little chompers and have stayed around, crunching carrots, for all these years.

Now that the big teeth are coming up these scrappy bits of calcium have been jumping ship with abandon - and you can see the shears across the roots from the slide incident. (For the sake of brevity I'm skipping over the story from her Montessori school, six months later, when she got a clean bill of tooth health from the dentist on Tuesday and then smashed the same teeth in during a game of chase at recess. Oy.) And now we're to the third, the one that already has a big kid tooth behind it. It was disinclined to acquiesce to Claire's persistent wiggling, but this morning she crossed a threshold - it was pretty much just hanging out of her mouth.

So as you might suspect, tug one was me yanking a tooth out of someone's head for the first time. I can report that my daughter is crazy and that I have no tolerance for inflicting pain. She says it only hurt a little right at the end, but still. And the third tooth goes in the purple pouch, awaiting its dollar in change. Inflation, right? Poor kid can't even buy gum with less.

The second tug was the one that caught me by surprise. It was the cavalier way in which she marched into class upon arriving at school. This is a new school for her, a new experience of first grade and actual work and relating with older kids, peers, teachers, all that. It is a big kid school, requiring big kid teeth, and skin, and guts, and heart. It's been hard. But there she was, ready to launch, one tooth short but with all the confidence of someone who knows, somehow, its absence will not slow her down. Now nothing will slow her down. And there I am, standing at this other, bigger threshold, with one hand gripping a tiny, courageous tooth and one hand stretching out to this tiny, courageous girl, my role diminished, my new role unknown.

Two tugs. And all before coffee.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Social Networks - actually transformative?

There's no shortage of discussions about the value of social networks in contemporary society, ranging from "there is none" to "there's a lot." How's that for a summary? I tend to lean toward the "there is none" side, somewhere between "there's a middling amount" and "there's a teeny bit." But a Talk of the Town article in The New Yorker this week made me rethink. Particularly, this quote:

Hungry Upper East Siders were hovering over the table by the time Cohen returned to his themes of Middle Eastern youth: “You meet these young kids and you party with them, and they know the world has misperceptions of what they’re like. Every single young person is reachable. Ask them what dating is like in their country, ask them if they have a girlfriend, ask them what their type is. There’s nobody who’s too conservative to talk about that.”

The article is talking about Jared Cohen, a member of Condi Rice's Policy Planning Staff, who has had a lot of success with the new détente of going to raves with Iranians. Whether or not this is brilliant diplomacy, his comment raises interesting issues surrounding how Facebook, myspace, and the like could actually be positioned as tools for peace. For the first time, I looked at the growing universality of English as a common language as something other than a scourge - what if the younger generations could connect and create meaning within channels that their elders could never hope to understand?

People more connected than me will probably immediately say, "but it's happening! Look at blankthingie.com!" and bless them for knowing this, and having spent more time with the ramifications. There's more to say, clearly, and I'll try to say it as we move forward.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Do we need a Creative Commons Salon in Portland?

Creative Commons, as you probably already know, is an organization dedicated to digital rights management, the dismantling of data fiefdoms, and generally being awesome. (This last bit is not a stated goal of the organization, I don't think, but pretty much sums up my opinion of them.)

They have salons, a word which here means "opportunities for smart people to hang out and discuss cool stuff." Currently there's no salon in Portland. What do people think about having one? Comment here (ha! assumes there's anyone reading) or shoot me an email...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Making Game Design Pay

Emanuele Feronato has an interesting experiment running, where the goal is to make a bit of money on flash game design. The game page hosts Google Adwords and mochiAds in-game. The post has an interesting breakdown of effort vs. payoff, and the consensus from the comments appears to be that committing a week of time to make a polished, engaging game would probably yield the best results.

It's a useful experiment and y'all should stay tuned for the next two experiments.

PS - the game's pretty fun as well :)