Saturday, February 28, 2009

Totally Star Trek

Have you ever heard of a Kindle? I hadn't until about a week ago. My brother was telling me about it, and how it was being touted in the newspaper world as its possible savior. He said he was getting one for his wifey for her birthday. The very next day, I was asked about going in on one for Günter for his birthday, since he'd been drooling over it for months. Okay, sounds cool, count me in.

That was before I found out that they cost $359!! Anyhoo, Gary did indeed get one for Charlotte for her birthday— only to find out that it's affiliated with Sprint. Well, guess what? Sprint isn't available in Great Falls, MT. I looked on Amazon's site, and had a REALLY hard time finding out about that. I think that's terribly sneaky and totally sucks, and they're going to have to send it back. There's also something kind of creepy about Sprint knowing what a person is reading at any given time — I think you're connected the whole time the device is turned on. I wonder how that works on airplanes, which would be one of the most common uses for the device?

Then, last Monday, the head of Amazon was on the Daily Show talking about it. He didn't mention the Sprint deal either. Jon Stewart seemed rather unconvinced, too ( although he was alarmingly excited about the fact that you can hold it in one hand). The thing is, I think a lot of people (like Tom) are very tactile about reading books, and also rather technophobic and probably wouldn't be very excited about this device. Others (like me, for instance) love gadgets, do most of their reading in bed at night, and always lose their place by falling asleep in the middle of a paragraph. Not to mention the awkwardness of trying to hold a big ol' hard cover book while keeping your arms under the covers. So this dohickey might be just up my alley. They're just way too expensive!

Actually, I think the thing would be fabulous for newspapers and periodicals. We haven't had any magazine subscriptions for years (since the kids used to sell them for school fundraisers) — largely because they pile up and up and up and up . . . There is nothing to be done with a year's worth of Time magazine, and I shudder to think about all the trees that gave up their lives for those short-lived entertainments. I enjoy magazines, though, and would totally subscribe if I had one of these gadgets. I wouldn't spend the $359 for the gadget, though.

Bottom line — these things are really cool, and I want one. I also want everybody to have one. This is the coolest "green" technology I've seen in a really long time, but until that price comes down, I don't see it happening. I also think the semi-secret deal they have with Sprint is a crock.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

God Bless Bill Maher

We just watched Religulous. Oh my, it was wonderful. He articulated so exactly how I feel about organized religion (scared).

The trouble is, as is true of so many documentaries, the people who really need to see it never will -- preaching to the choir, so to speak. I was sort of disappointed in the people he chose to interview, too -- nut jobs all. I'm guessing that people higher up the hierarchical ladder refused to speak to him. Oh well, I liked it so much that I watched it twice.

We also watched Burn After Reading this weekend. That one was sort of disappointing. Next up on our Netflix queue is W and An Inconvenient Truth. I love Netflix -- this is the third year in a row that my brother has given us a gift subscription for Christmas. I recently finished watching all five seasons of Babylon 5, and am pleased to report that it held up well.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Economic Good News

This may be sort of rambling, because I'm putting together my thoughts as I go.

I've heard a few stories on NPR recently that I regard as good news:

  • One is that auto repair places are experiencing a boom, largely because many people are being willing to drop a couple thousand dollars to keep their older cars running rather than buying new cars. Apparently, they're deciding that it's better to not be saddled with car payments, comprehensive insurance coverage, higher licensing fees, and sales tax. Well, duh!

  • Another is the popularity of cooking shows (and I'm a big fan of Top Chef and Kitchen Nightmares). People are finally figuring out that they can eat better and cheaper at home than at restaurants. I'm noticing that grocery stores are selling a much bigger variety of "gourmet" foods, which must be a result of that phenomenon. I'm even seeing it in my kids -- both of them are evolving into much better (and more imaginative) cooks than I ever was. We very rarely ate out while they were growing up. It's funny, because when they first moved out on their own, they ate at restaurants ALL the time. I'm really hoping that this signals the return of "dinner parties," which are my favorite sorts of gatherings. There's something about eating together that unites even very different sorts of people.

  • The third trend I heard about is the resurgence of "crafts" (are you listening, Shannon?). People are choosing to give homemade presents, rather than store-bought. Now, this could be dangerous -- I mean, how many dried flower wreaths does a person really need? It's a difficult thing to distinguish between "art" and "craft." "Art," to me, is something that gives me pleasure to look at -- forever. "Craft," on the other hand, is something that has a function, and can be beautiful, too. It's a difficult distinction, but the picture below illustrates my idea. The shelves that Tom built are, by my definition, "craft." The painting below them, by our friend George Couts, is "art."

I hope this makes sense. Anyway, these trends are probably not good news for car dealers/manufacturers, restaurants, or Hallmark stores; but I think they're a good thing. People are re-evaluating what is important, and everything is becoming less "disposable."

So, hey, Happy Valentine's Day! Drive your old car to a grocery store and a craft store, cook up a terrific meal, and make a homemade card!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Global Warming

It's hard to believe that it's February! In Nebraska! It was 63 degrees yesterday, and I actually opened a couple of windows.

It was so nice last night, with an almost-full moon, that we engaged in one of our favorite activities -- a backyard campfire. We're not sure it's entirely legal, but it sure is pleasant. There's something about that pleasantness, though, that always keeps us up way too late.

One of the things we did while enjoying the warmth was call our friend Herb at the Little Farm (in NW Missouri). As luck would have it, pal Chaz was there visiting, so we got to chat with him, too.

One of my fondest desires is to have an outdoor kitchen, and a few friends who know what they're doing (like Herb and Chaz) might be able to make that a reality. The centerpiece will, of course, be a brick oven. What I'm wanting is a bona fide wood cookstove outdoors, but it has to be made of something that can withstand the weather. You can see in the kitty video here that we actually have a wood cookstove, but it can't be hooked up here; and it's cast iron, so it won't work outdoors either. I'm going to do some looking on the Web today and see if I can find plans for such a thing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ah Choo!

I have a cold, which totally sucks. I haven't had one for a really long time, so I guess I can't complain too much. It has a lot to do, I think, with the fact that almost everyone at work has or has recently had one. We have a new "open office" arrangement there, which means everybody is exposed to everything. Fortunately, though, I have a job that lends itself to working at home and a boss who lets me. So, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow.

Here's a consumer shout-out: Emergen-C. It's a powdered stuff that is packed with vitamins C and B (so it also gives a little energy boost). I drink one every day (or most days -- sometimes I forget), and haven't had a cold for about 2 years. It comes in yummy flavors -- my most recent favorite is black cherry.

My other favorite cold cure is to take a really hot bath -- as hot and as long as you can stand, and then wrap up in a whole lot of blankets and sweat. Basically, anything that will make you sweat without exertion. Do that for as long as you can stand it, and you'll feel a lot better. A sauna would probably be ideal, but I don't have one of those.