Friday, July 31, 2009

Back from the grave

Chrysler announced today that the PT Cruiser has gotten a reprieve and will no longer be discontinued after this model year.

Dumb move, though I understand why they made it. There's nothing else in the Chrysler or Fiat lineup that can realistically replace it this late in the game. But the car itself is a big bucket of meh that hasn't aged well, hasn't gotten any significant updates in years to keep up with the Joneses, and is the prime example of the "retro" style that was all the rage in the beginning of the decade but nowadays only can been seen at rental companies.

I drove one a few months back when my Honda was in the shop - the best thing I could say about it was that it ran. Ergonomics were horrible, the shifter was cutesy in a goofy-assed way, and the visibility was poor, particularly in the back where the oh-so-cute hatch is. The one redeeming quality to me was good headroom (I have the torso of a 6' 6" man - unfortunately for my ability to find clothes that fit I'm only 6' 3").

Please bring or release a better car for 2011. I don't want to see Chrysler fail again. At least GM is starting to make cars that people want.

And that concludes my most prolific blogging month of the year. Yow!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I don't care if Big Papi used roids

I don't care if A-Rod did them, or Barry Bonds, or anyone else, for that matter. A lot of folks were on the juice during the era from the early '90s until about 2003, when MLB finally got serious about testing. Some were on them briefly, some were long-time users, but damn near all of the players used at one point or another. We all knew it, too.

Here's the thing: I don't really care about then. I care about now. Since 2006 there's been a comprehensive testing program with punishment. That's what I care about. Positive tests before 2006? Whatever. Since 2006? Throw the book at 'em. Beforehand the loophole existed - PEDs were not always explicitly banned and so players got them every way they could.

So I don't care if Papi did steroids in 2003. So long as he doesn't use them nowadays, he's cool by me. Even A-Rod - I don't hate him because he did steroids. I hate him because he's a douche.

Hall of Fame? Different story. That's a numbers-driven business and the steroid users have better numbers. I think this is one of the key reasons Jim Rice finally got in this year - he was pretty much the last of the feared pre-steroid sluggers. I think the voters should be mentally adjusting lifetime stats for steroid use and then voting based on that adjustment. Roger Clemens? Probably still in. Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa? Borderline. Palmiero? No way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cup silly season begins...

Domino #1 - Talented underachiever Martin Truex Jr. gets out of the moldering corpse of DEI (Earnhardt-Ganassi) and goes to take over the NAPA rida at Waltrip.

Domino #2 - DeWalt drops #17 sponsorship - a surprise after 10 years. Former series champ and current Daytona champ Matt Kenseth loses his sponsrship.

Domino #3 - Crown Royal moves from the #26 car to the #17, leaves Jamie McMurray out of a ride. Since Roush Fenway has to get down to 4 cars next season (they have 5 now - the #6, #16, #17, #26, and #99) and have the other 4 sponsored, that means the #26 is toast unless they can get a sponsor and move them to Yates Racing (a captive affiliate like Stewart-Haas is to Hendrick).

Domino #4 - Hot rumor as of today is that Reed Sorenson will be pulled from the #43 at Petty and AJ Allmendinger will be moved in. Then the $44 (which was only partially sponsored) will be shut down, leaving RPM with the #9, the #19, and the iconic #43. Good move - Sorenson is a respectable driver but vanilla, and Allmendinger is a real talent (Red Bull would have a race win for Vickers by now if they'd kept AJ in the #82 instead of the useless tool that Scott Speed is). Kasey Kahne brings his cougar fans anywhere he might go, and Elliot Sadler isn't much of a driver but he's a good presence for the sponsors. Kind of like a younger, slightly more talented Mikey Waltrip.

All the rest of the season's drama will be resolved pretty much by the time the Chase kicks off in Loudon a month and a half from now. Will Stewart-Haas get a third car? Will Danica come to NASCAR? Where does Brad Kesolowski go? Has Shrub lost his mojo? Who's going to drive the #1 car now, and is the Bass Pro Shops sponsorship worth driving for the mess that is EGR?

These and other questions answered (eventually) on "As the Sprint Cup Turns (left)..."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If she does run in 2012

All the other candidates will have to do to reduce Sarah Palin to an afterthought is play her farewell address. On TV. Unedited.

Wow, what a profoundly inarticulate moran.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Apple keeps teasing me

I want iPhone 3.1 software to ship now! They've held off on the traditional .01 release this time in the hopes of more functionality, but I really want the battery life improvements and new BT stack that's in the betas. I could get them through the dev program but I really don't want to...

This week's tone: Optimistic. Lots of pretty good stuff happening at the office.

David finished 1st grade today (his school has an alternative school year). Good report card. I played hooky this afternoon to join in the group celebration at the park with all his friends and their families. Which was nice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

After the fact

The weekend away was a lot of fun, though hot & sweaty. I got to schlep air conditioners around for my folks, but in the process got to install 2 bonus units. So we got to sleep well. But from the time I got home from work (in a high-speed run from Cambridge on Friday afternoon) to the time we finally arrived home late Sunday it was non-stop action - even if the action consisted of all recreation punctuated with driving.

The purpose of this trip brings me to one of my occasional personal essays (well, I'm not going to say anything that's not already public record to virtually anyone who knows me in the slightest, but it still feels personal):

I had a follow-up thought on my reunion post from the 15th now that it's actually happened. Kind of an anticlimax as it turned out. For me, once I got there I really felt like I had no reason to be there anymore. A few of my old friends were there - it was really nice to chat with a couple of them (Sue, if you're reading this, sincere congrats on what you've accomplished) but kind of superfluous. If I was on Facebook like half the universe (including my wife) I could have been in contact with the ones that were worth it.

What really struck me was that after the initial surprise that I was recognized by folks (let's just say that besides the LASIK there's a few differences between me then and me now - short grey hair and about 90 extra pounds among them) I really didn't have much desire to engage with them. I'm not a big reminiscer when it comes to talking (I don't mind doing it in writing because it's easier), and outside of a couple of high school pranks I played with help that I believe the Statute of Limitations has long since rendered safe there's not much from high school I really love talking about.

For me, high school was mainly notable as the thing I did to get to college and the place where I started to learn how to socialize with my actual peers (as opposed to just the folks I thought were peers but weren't). I did my 3 years, got out, and haven't looked back too much. Over the last 25 years it turns out there's only a handful of them I actively think about and care about. Even the core of friends I saw at my 10-year reunion have moved on for the most part.

25 years ago I was a tall, skinny, socially maladjusted geek wannabe with an budding interest in electronics, an obsessive interest in the tech aspects of sports (I loved cycling because I could fix my bike myself), and a knack for theater. 15 years ago I was beginning a career in tech management, three years into a marriage and the new owner of a house. Today I'm a real adult, with a child and a business, and I really don't know the other two people in this paragraph that well anymore.

So it wasn't a huge surprise to me that when dinner was served I just grabbed a table that nobody else was at, sat down with my wife, ate, and soon after took off for the evening. No Sherwood Diner in the wee hours for me this time around. I think we stayed about 2 hours total.

What I realized right around dinner (when I stopped chatting with folks and shut down my personality for the evening) was this: Of all the people at the reunion, the one I most wanted to socialize with and spend my time hanging out with was the one I brought with me. So I did! Thus endeth my nostalgia kick - probably for the remainder of my life. And there's the closure I spoke of on the 15th.

I'll talk about more interesting stuff next time out. If you glazed over the last few paragraphs, here's the bullet points as a summary:

• The reunion was a letdown.
• Because I've changed more than I thought I had.
• I'd rather spend time with my current friends and my family.
• Particularly my wife.
• Living in the moment beats living in the past.
• A few of my classmates have put together cool lives, though.

And with this post completed I'm now one away from tying my monthly high for this year. Not impressive. I'm really using Twitter a lot more lately.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dwindling numbers

I have my 25th high school reunion this weekend - I do recall a much larger turnout for the 10th, but this one will be more interesting to me, though many of the people I liked (or at least respected) aren't on the list. Enough are to make it worthy.

At the 10th reunion, many of us were still the people we were at 18. At 43, we're all truly grown up now. Pretty much all of us who will have children have done so by now, we've all moved into our final careers (not employers, careers), and where we live now is probably pretty much where we're going to stay right up until dirtnap time.

The 25th is kind of closure, you know?

The Playmate System of measuring age

I suspect that most males born before the late 1970s (who would remember when magazines were popular and when Playboy was a significant print icon) either use or would understand this measurement system. Mind you, I haven't read a print copy in years (literally - I think the last time I bought one was in the early '90s) so I don't have that much actual biographical info to go by other than what's on Wikipedia but I have a way of measuring my relative age by the average age of Playboy Playmates (according to Google this is about 21-22):

You're a kid when: Playmates are old enough to be your babysitter.

You're a young adult when: Playmates are old enough to be in school with you.

You've peaked when: Playmates are your age.

You're getting older when: Playmates are the age of your kid sister (assuming you have one).

You're middle aged when: Playmates were born around the year you met your spouse (That's where I am right now)

You're old when: Playmates are the age to be your kid's babysitter.

It's all over when: Playmates are younger than your kid.

I think this could be developed further, but I really don't have a browser suitable for doing the research...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Kindle - why I still don't want one

First of all - I absolutely love the Amazon Kindle. I've held them and read on them, and I think the current generation is a terrific device. Battery life is outstanding, the screen is a marvel, and the form factor is lightweight and easy to work with. Now that they cut the price, it's even better.

But I won't buy one. Still. And the reason is simple. The feature set of the larger model (the DX) has a real PDF tool (so I can sync up books and materials I already own), can auto-rotate the screen, and is just big enough for me to read as well as a book. But the price is just way too high (almost $500) and the keyboard isn't as good as the one on the smaller Kindle. So that's blocking me.

The other problem is the way Amazon implemented their book DRM. I want to know I can either back up the contents and restore them using my computer or automatically re-download them on a replacement Kindle at any point. Amazon has download limits that vary by the title. I'm not 100% certain enough about the fate of my e-books to completely buy in.

The last major issue is the screen. It's beautiful, but 16 levels of gray isn't quite enough for me (give me 32 and I'll be happy), plus I want low-level backlighting that will let me read in darkened places. I'm happy to turn it off to save battery life most of the time.

But mainly it's just still too pricey. When the DX is selling for $200 (and the smaller model is $100) then I may think about it. But given the price of content I can't justify it.

The only compelling, overpriced technology I still want anyways is a Segway. Amazing I've been able to hold out all these years.

Monday, July 06, 2009

iPhone Reloaded (reloaded)

So I haven't blogged in almost a month, since WWDC while I was on vacation, in fact. I mainly have been using Twitter since then, and I think the main reason is that Twitter is pretty much frictionless - while blogging requires actual thought and planning. Is microblogging the future? I dunno, but it is what I've been doing lately and there may be a reason. We're also about to finally put the long-awaited tech blog on my office website, and use that to post useful articles for clients and prospects. We've got a redesign coming shortly as well.

In the meantime, the iPhone 3.0 (iPhone 3GS) was released, and of course UPS brought me one on the first morning. I upgraded my phone right away (made easier because I'd already installed the 3.0 software on my older 3G on Wednesday). All has been well, with a few notes I'll give you bullet points of below:

• The 3GS is noticeably faster than the 3G in all areas of operation. The extra processing power and RAM make a big impact.

• Battery life is about the same - data-intensive operation in 3G mode still sucks down power pretty fast. I keep a charged Mophie JuicePack Air in my bag in case I'll be away from a charger all day. It hasn't run dry, but it goes down fast enough to notice. Rumor has it the next software update (3.1) will help power management somewhat, and that wouldn't surprise me.

• Bluetooth is basically a little screwy. Major upgrades seem to bring this out. In particular, I am having some trouble with my trusty Jawbone (now the Prime). It disconnects at bad times, and the LED disable function no longer works. I had similar issues when the 3G (and the 2.0 OS) shipped - I expect 3.1 to help a lot and it's due shortly. This is a trend. I've been working out lately with walks so I have a Motorola S9 Bluetooth stereo headset on the way. I'll report on that later but it seems to be the best option right now for stereo.

• Some have commented on wifi issues - I'm not really having any. I messed up my home DHCP server so I was having some other issues but all seems OK.

• Call quality is notably better, and places that were dead zones on the 3G are now OK. Amazingly. AT&T is still cruddy, but the 3GS is a good enough phone to compensate!

• I tested tethering using a hacked carrier file before I got the 3G. Results should be about the same as with the 3GS because the network hasn't been provisioned to the higher speeds that the 3GS supports. That said, the second AT&T makes tethering support official, I'm all over it and will happily ditch my Verizon EVDO card. Oh yeah. I'm expecting it to cost another $15, which will be par for smartphone tethering but a major cut from the $60 I pay Verizon right now.

• The new "oleophobic" screen? Maybe, but I put a protector on it about 5 minutes after I took it out of the box. So no feedback there.

• People are complaining about heat issues, too. I don't doubt them but I am having no such problems. And mine is white, too.

• The camera is better, and I like the new focus and metering functions. It'd be nice if a hardware button triggered the shutter, but I'm OK with it as-is. I haven't really played with video too much yet because we do most of our video on an HD camcorder.

So in a nutshell, this phone is swank. Plus I got to give my wife a 3G in the deal! That's a no-lose proposition.