Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon Kindle Fire -- Why I Want One

We're now about 4 hours away from 10 AM EDT announcement of SOMETHING from Amazon.  That something is rumored to be the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire, an Android based tablet rumored to be coming in at $250 and to include a year subscription to the Amazon Prime service, that allows all sorts of perks, including free shipping.

While Amazon has been tight lipped, what has leaked out as either rumor or fact, is that the tablet will be 7 inches, be similar in design to the RIM Playbook, and that publishers are lined up to produce content for it.

So why am I excited about what some might call an underpowered iPad?

Because all of the rumors of a Kindle Fire indicate it is everything I'd like to see in a tablet.   My wife has an iPad, and while I think it is a well designed and enjoyable product, I find it rather limiting for day to day use.  It's too heavy to read on it comfortably, especially lying down.  It's too large to easily carry from place to place easily, especially without a lot of protection, given its price.   And speaking of price, it's simply too damned expensive for what you get.  $500 will get you a nicely equipped laptop that you can write, surf the net, and do a ton of things that an iPad simply can't do.  

If Amazon can get this puppy out for $250.00 and create a great e-reader that can play Angry Birds, surf the web, stream tunes, and check your e-mail, plus add in a rumored attempt at a book subscription service, I think this thing will fly off the e-shelves.  

I own the second generation Kindle, and love it, but I've found myself reading Kindle books more and more on my phone because its a single device that can do so much more than my Kindle.  Having a cheap tablet that does the basics well seems like a no brainer.   If all of the rumors prove true, the Amazon Kindle Fire will be on my Christmas list.   (Or my Halloween list.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing on the brain

I was reading a story about Joan Didion in the book I'm reading, The Courage To Write.   It relates that in social situations she's not much of a presence. "I can't even finish sentences when I'm talking.  In the middle, I guess I decide it's not a very good sentence and I just stop."

This hit a nerve subconsciously.   I've noticed that in my personal life, people seem to talk over me, as though they're always sensing a cue that I haven't intentionally given that my thought is over and it's okay for them to speak.   As a consequence, I find myself and my thoughts trampled over and criticized before they're even fully formed.  The reality is that my brain is simply going through three or four things to say and trying to pick the best one.    It's my hope not to spew verbal diarrhea, and instead I become audibly constipated.    

And that's why I prefer writing.   I can get my thoughts on a page, cross them out, retype them, rearrange them, and probably still stay unclear, if even a little less so.   

I noticed when I was at a trade show the other day how little our society seems to treasure communicators among our thinkers.  There were people presenting what appeared to be brilliant ideas, but they were stuck at booths that told me nothing about what they were trying to do.  And when they spoke, they simply layered their presentation with enough baffling bullshit that your average attendee probably walked away thinking it was brilliant, but couldn't tell you a damned thing about what was actually being presented.   I'm not sure that it was necessarily the fault of some of these presenters, but as the same book, The Courage To Write, points out, people from academic worlds tend not to speak or write clearly because when they do (assuming they can), their points tend to be discounted.  

We live in a world with so much information, and most of it bad.   The reality is that most of us crave simplicity.  And the person who can present complex information in simple and understandable terms should be praised and valued.    

So if you hear me talking and you sense I'm done, or perhaps wish I was done, give me a few more seconds to make sure.   I'm probably just writing in my head, and your ears are my paper where I'm going to scratch some stuff out and rewrite what I'm trying to say.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gifted Child in an Adult World

I was a gifted child.  There, I said it.   I heard it early and often.  "You are gifted!" I'd hear teachers say, and I really didn't know what it meant.  I was hoping it meant that I had some gifts coming my way.  All I knew was that I loved to learn things, I seemed a bit sharper than everyone else and grasped information faster.  

I was lucky enough to have a school system that supported advanced children and was moved into advanced reading groups a grade level above and put into a program called "SPREE -- Special Programs and Resources for Expanded Education" in which I got to do reports, work puzzles, and hang with other bright kids. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Late Bloomer

I turned 40 this year.  I'm almost 20 years out of college, where ideally every kid figures out what the hell he wanted to be when he grew up and then takes that degree (at least that was the theory in 1993) and makes his fortune.

I got a film degree.   You do the math.

So now I'm over a decade and a half into my "real" job.   It pays the bills, and has provided me with information, knowledge and life experience, as well as a beautiful wife and child.    But is my current career what I wanted to be when I grew up?  

Nope.  I don't think so.

The problem these days is that everyone from TV programmers to advertisers to businesses consider us washed up by 30.   After three decades of brainiac twentysomethings making a fortune in the tech field and elsewhere, society seems to feel that if your not already ascending your peak by 25, you might as well go home.

To be honest, I felt like a loser.   I was going to be a journalist, film director, veternarian or astronaut, depending on what year you caught me.   But my high school paper wouldn't take me, my student films sucked (here's a taste), I was afraid of dogs, and there wasn't enough rocket fuel to get my fat ass into space.  

But something changed here in the past few months.  I realized that what I really wanted to do was write.   I've been writing most of my life.  From silly plays with stuffed animals to the occasional article for Associated Content, I've enjoyed it all.   I found Twitter, a place where you can get instant gratification from writing something witty and having people respond.    I started writing blog entries, journal entries, and reading about how to become a better writer. Celebrities actually commented on things I wrote.    I met people (or whatever you consider corresponding with people on Twitter to be) who told me they liked what I wrote, encouraged me, and provided wisdom of their own.  

Today I listened to one of my new twitter buddies (I call her buddy, I'm sure she'd call me stalker), Kelly Carlin on her podcast, Waking From the American Dream.  Kelly was talking to Paul Myers, a writer and musician, about being a "late bloomer" and just starting to figure out your life in your forties.    Listening to her talk about spending life as a seeker struck a chord with me.   I've spent my entire life to get to this point, and who the hell am I to say that the time spent to get here was a waste?   I've found out so much about me and had experiences I may never have had if I'd have gone down a different path.   More importantly, who am I to say that I can't make something of my writing at the age of 40?  

The truth is that I'm just now learning to be comfortable with me and give a little bit less of a flying fig about what others think (except for my Twitter followers, of course).   Maybe it'll take me another 40 years to be a well known author. Or perhaps a standup comedian.  Or whatever.  

As the cliche says, it's not the destination, it's the journey.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Amazon Customer Service Chat, unedited.

This is the chat that occurred after I bought a Kindle book that was listed for $1.99 that magically went up to $5.59 after I purchased it.  The reps claimed I was seeing the "African" price and was charged the higher USA price.  They couldn't explain how I managed to buy one book only available in the USA and then immediately turn around and see the African price on another book.   Here's my chat: 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9/11 Thouthgs

Rather than retype them here, I've shared my notes on that day under this article:  My Memories of 9/11.  What were your thoughts from that day?  Please share in the comments.

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Put My Patience to the Test

I was in line at Chick Fil A the other day to get a tasty artery killing fried chicken sandwich when one of their  freshly scrubbed teenage counter help said, "may I help the next guest please?"   

Guest?  Was I ordering up a chicken sandwich and then getting a room to sleep it off?   Would Chick Fil A pull out their sofa bed so I could watch the game later in my underwear?

Target calls me a guest too.  If that's the case, I wish they could explain to me why they got so pissed off when I dragged one of their futons over to electronics with some Cheetos and a bottle of Dr. Pepper that they didn't even have the decency to chill. 

Of course, maybe those kids in the red polo shirts were just upset because they're tired of being called team members.   You're not an employee anymore, you're a "team member" or worse, "associate".  We're all just one big happy family in this together.  Just don't take a look at the boss's paycheck, don't talk back, and don't show any hesitation when he asks you to clean up the vomit in kids toys or you'll find out really quick that you're Bob Uecker and the boss is Michael Jordan.  (I know I'm mixing sports here.  Shut up.)    

What makes these phrases so maddening though is that they're unnatural.  At no time in the history of Target has any customer ever said, "wow, they love me here.   I'm a wanted guest in their home."   We're all simply there because there's 70% less male ass cleavage, elbow piercings, and eyelid tattoos than Walmart.     And no employee anywhere has ever said "wow, my CEO referred to me as an associate, perhaps I can meet up with him later and share my ideas on how he could improve the company over a beer."   As they said in Office Space, that employee is there to do just enough to not get fired.    

And don't get me started on scripts.   If you have someone answer the phone with anything other than "Thank you for calling Acme Corporation (you can change this to another company if you like), how may I help you?"  then they will hate you and take it out on the customer... er guest.   

So don't make them say "It's a wonderful day here at Uvula Industries, how may I provide you with service excellence today?" or "Oils R Us!  How may I best lubricate your happiness machinery today?"  Why?  Because after the fifth time of saying it, the amusement that they've been forced to spew that crap will wear off.  Then you'll be left with an employ... team member who knows she can't choke the boss for stripping her of her own ability to form coherent and pleasant interaction with a customer, so she'll take it out on that "guest" on the other end.   

So do me a favor, companies.   Go back to calling me a customer.  If you and your people think our relationship is special, show me by hiring EMPLOYEES that give a damn and pay them a fair wage for their abilities.   Simply defining our relationship with words isn't going to change any given situation any more than me calling that burger on my plate a "steakburger" is going to change the fact that I'm still eating ground up cow scraps.  

Great, now Steak and Shake's going to think I'm a bad guest.