Archive for February, 2005

i like to think of it as “vintage”

Friday, February 25th, 2005

I have a new toy. Which is 3 years old. (Dude, it’s a mystery of the universe.)

Actually it’s a Treo 90 – one of the last batches of Treos made by Handspring before they were gobbled up by the PalmOne borg. It’s the only thing called a Treo that doesn’t have a phone in it. Basically, it’s a Treo 300 without the phone. Why would I, drooler over all shiny new bits of tech, troll the dingy hallways of eBay for a relic like this? Well, it’s a long, sad story. The short version is this: “Poor me, they never make the thing I want. So I always have to make do with a pale imitation of the gloriously perfect and sure-to-be-coveted-by-everyone-if-only-it-existed vision I carry in my head. Boo hoo.”

The longer version goes something like this. (Fair warning.)

I’ve been feeling disorganized. With a lot of work things happening on a lot of different fronts, a lot of personal schedule things to manage, and multiple venues instead of a single base of operations, there’s just been a creeping sense of out-of-control-ness. So I thought, I need get my system back in order! I have been, in the past, a hyper-vigilant calendar and list keeper. But the many venues and many sets of info have upset the old ways, and I haven’t yet instituted new ones. Pondering what sort of system to put in place, I started cataloging the good and bad of my old systems. I used a Filofax for a long time, and it was great in a lot of ways – no batteries, no crashing, no worries about dropping it. But it was heavy, and it could only be in one place at a time, and there was really no way to back it up, or search it, or get information out of it and into another form. When I had a single base of operations, I kept everything on my PowerBook – iCal is much maligned, but I like it, and at the computer I had a zillion options for creating lists and managing tasks. But these days I need the portability of the Filofax and the backup/search/moving info around capabilities of the computer in one. Something that will let me use the good computer stuff and take it with me, too.

So, duh, PDA. Now, I had actually tried a Palm V a few years ago, and while I loved it’s tiny/shiny quotient, I just didn’t use it because Graffiti is really, excruciatingly, inefficient. So I’d end up writing myself notes – on paper! – of things to enter into the computer and then sync back to the Palm – which was, of course, idiotic. But now they have PDAs with a magical thing called a keyboard! Unfortunately, many of these wondrous creations are Pocket PCs. So no matter how much I think some of the iPaq’s are pretty decent looking, or how nice some of their features might seem, they’re off the list.

And here’s the thing: if you have to have Palm OS, that pretty much means a Treo 600 or 650. Those babies are by far the focus of PalmOne’s business, and lord knows lots of people love them. But I don’t want a giant cell phone! I like my little tiny one. To my mind, it doesn’t buy me anything to converge those devices. There are lots of times when I just want to be able to slip my phone into a tiny handbag and go to dinner – and I don’t need my entire calendar, and address book, and the ability to send emails. At this point, I think both devices lose from this convergence – phones get huge and homely, and PDAs get cramped – have you ever tried typing on a Treo 600? I get about 2 words per minute on its weird pointy keys. What I wanted was a non-phone keyboard-carrying Palm.

And weirdly, there’s only one of those. I really don’t understand this. I mean, they aren’t making Graffiti-based Treos – they learned ages ago that keyboards just work better. But in their whole non-Treo product line, the only built-in keyboard is on the Tungsten C. Okay, fine. The Tungsten C looks pretty nice, and everyone raves about its insanely fast processor and scads of memory.

But it’s $300.

I know. It’s nutty.

Even nuttier, because the feature set is really weird. One of the reasons it’s so expensive is because it has built-in WiFi. I do not understand why people want this, or, really, believe that they do. There really are not, yet, that many places that offer free public WiFi. And non-public WiFi basically means I’m at home, or somewhere else where I can use my actual computer, not the PDA. What would be useful is Bluetooth – so I could, in a pinch, use my cell phone as a modem and check email when I’m someplace where regular internet access isn’t available. And Bluetooth syncing, without annoying cables, would be nice. But does the Tungsten C come with Bluetooth? No. Even weirder, it’s impossible to add it. The Tungsten C runs Palm OS 5, which is incompatible with add-on Bluetooth cards. So they make you pay for the all-but-useless WiFi, and won’t let you have Bluetooth at any price. That’s $300 I won’t be spending. And there’s no indication that PalmOne is even working on a next-generation version of this device, that might offer what I need.

So I look elsewhere. There are discontinued Sonys – but they go for over $500, even though they’re discontinued and not supported! At this point, I’m starting to think I’ll just have to go back to Moleskine notebooks and type everything into the computer.

And then I find it. The Treo 90. It’s small, and nice enough looking. It’s not a phone, and it doesn’t have WiFi. It just does the PDA things I want, and even though they’re discontinued you can still find them on eBay. Heck, there was even one on Amazon, for like $80. I mean, at that price, it’s almost worth just giving it a try. But then comes the kicker – the Treo 90 works with the PalmOne Bluetooth card. The one you can’t use with the Tungsten C. So in fact, this 3 year old orphan gadget is better than anything you can buy now.

So I got to work on eBay.

At first I was a little freaked out – one that I bid $60 for ended up going for $226 (this is how I know that companies are dumb for not building the gadgets I want). But then I found one, and it had a “Buy It Now” link on it, so I grabbed it. I think I freaked out the seller, because the auction had only been up for like 4 hours. But I got it! And then I got to work on a Bluetooth card. Another freaky thing where the first one of those I wanted went for over $100. But then I found one where the guy hadn’t done such a great job of merchandising it, and so people didn’t realize it was new, and I got it.

My total cost? About $140. Less than half the Tungsten C, with features the Tungsten C can’t deliver.

I picked the Treo up from the post office this morning, and have been playing with it all day. The Bluetooth card should come today or tomorrow, and then I’ll be all set, with the closest thing to Just What I Want® that exists today. Am I a little bitter that it took time travel to get it? Kinda. But at least I managed to pull it together. I’m still working on my homebrew high-def TiVo/iPod phone/flying car combo.

Wow. That’s a long, boring post. Oh well, I’m going to put it up anyway, because even if this saga isn’t interesting to you, it certainly has been to me. Still, as a reward to those who made it this far, a little voyeuristic peek into my new kickin’-it-old-school system:

Item 1 on my new To Do List? This.

(Oh, and about the picture above – no, mine didn’t come with “McChord,” and I don’t know what the “Hot Snake” application does, but it sounds fun…)

this should be everywhere

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Try it. It’s genius.

happy birthday, kitty!

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Loki is one year old today. Baby’s all grown up. Sniff. But he’ll always be my little guy…

a little too real

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

Okay, fine, I’ll be the one to say it.

The truth is, the Gates are just… eh.

I’m as surprised as anyone to hear myself saying that. I expected to love them – it’s my kind of thing. And it’s not that I’m not pleased at anything that puts public art out there, and gets people talking about art, and all that.

I’m just saying that, in artistic and aesthetic terms, they didn’t really do that much for me. I don’t hate them; I just don’t really care. Even though there are bits and pieces that I like, fundamentally I wasn’t moved. For one thing, I thought there were kind of, well, too many of them. In many spots they felt like a jumble, and I thought the most effective areas were where they made a clean, graceful line, like where they arc along the hill near Bethesda fountain. The color – and I love orange! – tends to look like it’s just some huge construction project, when you see it from a distance, through the trees, the way you do if you’re looking across the lake. If you just catch a glimpse, it screams “ALERT! New septic system in progress!” a lot more than it whispers of beauty. I also think they’re better when you’re outside them than when you’re walking through them – which isn’t great when they’re, um, covering the paths, and clearly intended to be passed through. When you’re outside them, sometimes you get these pretty vistas like the Bethesda fountain one, but when you walk through them they’re too closely packed to feel like a portal to a view – they just kind of feel like a cage. Which could, I suppose, be an interesting artistic statement, but from what they’ve said about it I don’t think that’s what Christo and Jean Claude had in mind.

Maybe it boils down to this: a nice idea, but not so great when it’s here and you’re in it. I can imagine the sketches seeming beautiful, like the scene in Hero where the assassin and the emperor are fighting in the Forbidden City. But to me, and of course YMMV, they just don’t, at bottom, work – not today, in Central Park, as they are. I can celebrate what they wanted to make, but I don’t think they made it. It’s interesting: we heard a woman saying that she wasn’t really loving them, though they looked lovely from her apartment – on the 37th floor. Now, putting aside the little issue with a piece of ostensibly public art that happens to be best viewed from private, $10 million surroundings, I think maybe that sums it up: unfortunately, the Gates are best seen from a distance, whether that distance is traveled via a long ride in a mahogany-paneled elevator or just in the corridors of one’s mind, in a trip to that place where they exist as a mental possibility instead of in fact.

Which I’m sorry to say means that for me at least, they have to be counted a failure. If I prefer the Gates as they were for the 20-plus years after they were first proposed – in limbo, a beautiful dream – well, something went wrong.

Then again, trying to turn beautiful dreams into realities is a good thing, even if we can’t quite achieve the perfection we reach for. And most people seem to love the Gates. So maybe I need to take a lesson from this, and get moving. After all, W isn’t afraid to impose his dreams on the world – those of us with nobler visions need to have the same will. Fight gall with courage.

Okay, so that’s it then. That’s what I’ll take from the Gates. A call to arms. An orange, billowing, imperfect one, true, but in this world I should be grateful and accept the gifts I’m given. So my apologies to Christo and Jean Claude. Your bravery is better than my paralyzed, passive complaints and fruitless imaginings.

To do: Make world better.

Perfect can be step 2.

plan b

Monday, February 14th, 2005

In case something goes wrong with the meow-meow warp core meow-meow, or Kitty years turn out to operate on a geological timescale or something:

Let’s all support Howard at the DNC.

Contribution amount:

On the downside, I’ve never seen the good doctor wear a big red bow. On the upside, he doesn’t hang out with this crowd.

deliverance at last

Monday, February 14th, 2005

We are saved! She’s coming, she’s coming for all of us…

required reading

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

Hillary and I have had our differences – starting with her (or her staff’s) failure to answer the dorky, impassioned letter I wrote her right after Bill got elected the first time. But lord knows she also gets way too much flack, even when she’s right.

So let’s give it up to the H-dawg for putting it out there way back when: Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Read up. Fortune favors the prepared mind. And we need all the luck we can get.


Monday, February 7th, 2005

Well, at least the Patriots won. Not that I actually care about them as a team; it’s just that I’d rather see Ted Kennedy celebrate than Rick Santorum.

Of course, considering how the Red Sox win was supposed to herald a Kerry victory and didn’t, I should probably interpret this as a sure sign that Bush will get Social Security, the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, and the insidious, evil tort reform, too…


the state of the union is…

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005


It’s not just the bald lies about Social Security. Or the sickening hype about Iraq. Or the evil code words on judgeships – even the allusion to abolishing the filibuster. Basically, I expected that. It’s that he’s so damn sure of his omnipotence that he can say, with a straight face:

“Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims.”

The thought that he’s that cocky is terrifying. Clearly, he believes he’s untouchable. And since he’s in a much better position to know than I am, I can only say: Everyone, for the love of all that is good, pray for the Rapture. Because I’m not sure we can stop him otherwise, and I can’t afford to move to New Zealand.

Jesus, deliver us.