Trust Steve

Ok, so when I first heard Steve say that the best way to interact with a hand held device was to use your thumbs I did scoff a little. Now I have to admit that he was indeed right. I had been scribbling with the pen on the Pocket PC for years and thought that it was the best way to go. The drawback with the pen though, was that it was working against a soft plastic screen and there was always the fear in the back if my mind that one day I would drag some grit across that screen and leave an ugly scratch. That has not an issue with the iPhone. If I had to some up one feature that makes this the revolution that it is, I would point to the glass screen. I can now hammer away on the virtual keys with my soft thumbs way faster than before. Indoors or out without a second thought.

The Fabergé egg of the masses


Nothing in automotive engineering was ever ”made good”. It has to be right from the start, before it even goes together. There is more of human endeavour in one helical gearwheel from the Honda’s transmission than there is in the whole garage it lives in. But then, if only one Honda CB250 had been made, it would have cost millions and millions of pounds.

Honda CB250: the Fabergé egg of the masses – Telegraph.

Deadwood Mall

There’s a local shopping mall that I frequent, not because I particularly like the place. It just happens to be convenient. A few months ago there was a minor fire there. Nothing to see really; just some smoke damage around some air conditioning vents.

Shortly after the fire some banners appeared that said they were taking the opportunity to revamp the place, even though it was only about ten years old. I expected it to be spruced up but instead they managed to spruce it down. The decor was bright white clinical. Now it can best be described as retro 70’s brown wallpaper dingy lighting nightmare.

People hate it. There have been letters to the editor about it. It’s not a public building; the patrons have no real say about how it should look, but it’s so bad that it seems almost criminal. At the same time as the revamp, shops that had been there for years were closing down one after the other. It turns out that there are new absent overseas owners who are pushing up the rents and pushing the existing tenants out.

There could be a screenplay in all of this. Well, not really, but it is uncanny how much the scenario reminded me of a season of Deadwood. Shitty but strangely comfortable camp is turned upside down when unscrupulous new baron-type arrives on the scene. Tensions rise as rag-tag locals unite to assert their claim. I watch with interest…

Studio 60…

Years ago there was a tv show from Britain called Shelley. It was about a lay-about character called, simply, Shelley. Why DO they do that. Why are there so many shows where the main character has no first name. Are there really people like that in real life? Why write yourself into a corner like that?

Anyway, this is not about that. This is about how Shelley was a droll and witty scoundrel who was well educated but chose to live on the benefit. He was amusing in and of himself. The problem was that there were several other regular characters, and many others who just turned up once. All of these other characters turned out to be just as droll and witty as Shelley.

Every one.

This was more like science fiction than a situation comedy. Where was the range? They were all Shelley. The writer couldn’t help infusing everyone with the same outlook.

Now, fast forward to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. First: The name sucks. Second: It’s another Shelley, and on several levels. First, EVERYONE is clever, and witty, and fast talking and successful. Second, I find myself always thinking, “Where have I heard this before?” And the answer is: In every other Aaron Sorkin production.

If he were writing a show about a pet shop, the owner of the shop would be brilliant, scathing, addicted to something, and capable from time to time of showing achingly sweet compassion. His sidekick would love him like a brother; he would shield him from idiots and finish his sentences. Their arguments would be along the lines of:

“How many snakes did you order?”
“How many snakes did I order?”
“Yes, How many snakes did you order?”
“By snakes you mean…”
“I mean, snakes. How many did you order?”
“How many did you want?”
“Five. I wanted five snakes.”
“That’s how many I ordered.”
“You haven’t ordered any, have you?”
“Not yet.”
“Order the snakes.”
“We have too many snakes now.”
“How many snakes do we have.”
“Good. I didn’t want the damned snakes anyway.”

This inane boiler plate would have been lifted from Studio 60 but he would have needed to paste snakes over dancing girls; before that — in West Wing — the dancing girls were cruise missiles.

Oh, and this dialog would have been delivered rapid fire while they were both walking twice around the fish tanks, through the chokers and leads, around the cat cages…

You get the idea.

Walt Mossberg: A Classy Guy

I once worked along-side an older gentleman; in his sixties; grey hair; grizzled, who we’ll call Roger. He was an electrical engineer who was quite highly regarded in his field — in his day. But that day was long passed.

In Roger’s world a switch had been thrown at some point, and after that moment everything was: “This new stuff,” that he had no time for. Working practices, entertainment, politics, technology… At some point he had taken a snapshot of his views on all these subjects and held onto it from that point on.

A ridiculous example was the time he went home one lunchtime to press the record button on his VCR. When I asked him why he didn’t simply program the timer, he said, “Haven’t got time for all that digital nonsense.”

There and then I came up with a theory that Roger, and others that I’ve known, reach a stage in their lives where they say: “Enough! This is my world view from now on — leave me alone.” I promised myself that I’d keep a look out for signs of throwing my own switch, and avoid it at all costs.

Fast forward to now and I’m decades away from Roger’s age but I’ve already popped a circuit breaker. You see, I just can’t abide marketing-speak. Talk that talk and you may as well be poking sticks in my eyes; no, it’s more like you’re sticking a finger down my throat.

You know the kind of thing: A plumber becomes a total plumbing solution, a stupid thing becomes a lifestyle thing. Instead of one thing relating to another, it speaks to it, we don’t learn — we upskill…

Now to Walt Mossberg. For a long time I liked him without knowing any of the back-story; I just happened to stumble upon his work on the web and stayed to read more. Like David Pogue, he has that gift of being a pundit who writes in an exquisitely easy, yet informative style. He answers all the questions that a shopper might ask, without crossing over into the arcane.

After reading the linked article I find I admire him even more because even though he’s from the same generation as Roger, but there’s no sign of him throwing Roger’s switch; he hasn’t even popped my circuit breaker. Look how ably he handles the marketing-speak below:

“How much memory for music?” Mossberg asked.

Titus said, “It will come with a sixty-four-megabyte card.”

“That’s trivially small.”

“It is,” Titus said, adding, “And it’s consistent with our larger up-sell opportunities”—that is, opportunities to buy related products and accessories…

“And how about for playing music?” Mossberg asked.

“About seven hours,” Titus said.

“That’s low,” Mossberg said. (The iPod Nano gets up to twenty-four hours.)

“There’s some other out-of-the-box advantages,” she continued, and pulled out a pack to expand battery life—a seventy-dollar value. But Mossberg was skeptical…

He held up the Samsung and said, “I’m treating this as a real music player, so I have to compare it to an iPod.” Then he added that the phone seemed to be “a crippled music player.”

“This is a phone first, with a dynamic music capacity,” Mermelstein said…

My hat’s off to him. I would have been knocking over furniture to get out of there by now. I really should loosen up.

Critical Mass:
Everyone listens to Walter Mossberg.