Thursday, May 31, 2007

I was intrigued when it was first released that Microsoft was about to unveil a ‘top secret’ product. I have to say though, it was a bit of a let down (as these revealings often are) when the Microsoft Surface was unveiled. First there is the problem with the orientation. Perhaps I am a bit biased due to suffering from whiplash this year, but there is a reason why computer monitors, television sets, chalkboards, mirrors and other objects you need stare at are parallel with your eyes. Who in their right mind would want to awkwardly bend over a table for an extended period of time. In what has become a very rare occurrence lately Tom Cruise had the right idea:

I mean, I know standing up is a passing fad these days, but is it really worth this hunching over?

In one of the main promo photos, they even have one of the models kneeling on the floor to avoid the hunched-over look:

But perhaps most importantly of all, what is the point? Since when did sorting through photos with a mouse (or alt-tab or arrow keys) become so cumbersome that I need to buy what surely must be a table costing thousands of dollars? Sure the technology looked pretty, but at the end of the day, all it seemed like was using your fingers as a cursor to select different windows and expand or reduce them and the part where you place something on the table and it connects is not much of an upgrade from current Bluetooth (or other) wireless technology.

It’s possible that maybe I’m looking at this too much from a home consumer perspective rather than a business perspective, but until I see some concrete actual examples of why this would at all practical, I’ll stick with my now horribly outdated flat-screen high-contrast high-resolution monitor, thanks.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Continuing on from my previous post of packing and moving is a resource I should really come back to in a couple of months at wikiHow: How to clean an apartment before moving out. I’ve definitely had some very interesting experiences in that awful situation that is retrieving your damage deposit. My first experience with this was with 4 college football-playing roommates who, in an alcohol-infused haze, decided to commemorate their victory over a division rival by writing the score on the wall in permanent marker and then signing their names underneath. Unfortunately for me, in another alcohol-infused haze they also got themselves kicked out of the dorm, leaving me to do all of the cleaning at the end of the year, including painting over their chef d’oeuvre.

My next house had a pretty hilarious situation where my roommate's fiancée, who had lived there rent-free for the past few months, put herself in charge of divvying up the cleaning responsibilities. Her solution? One person clean one bathroom, one person clean the other bathroom, one person vacuum the stairs, one person clean the living room and one person clean the kitchen. Anyone who thinks that sounds like a fair distribution clearly has never done the latter before leaving an apartment (think fridge, stovetop, oven, cupboards that had hardly been cleaned in 2 years, all with everyone's stuff still in them).

After that delightful situation was a summer apartment where I somehow managed to forget to clean the oven (though I thoroughly cleaned everything else). My landlord’s response? She kept the entire damage deposit, claiming she had to pay over $150 for someone (read: her friend) to clean the oven and the rest of the deposit she kept in order to replace the garbage disposal that I had requested over a month ago for her to repair! It was at that point that I decided to really do some digging into how Tenant Law worked and found, to my pleasant surprise, that at least in Seattle, they are written rather largely in favor of Tenants. So, with the law on my side, I waited 14 days for the legally-mandated itemized checklist from her, received nothing and wrote a letter informing her of this requirement she had not met. In less than a week I received 90% of my damage deposit back in a mailed check with no note attached.

My last painful clean-up job was with roommates who were an unfortunate combination of lazy, dirty and conniving (they were in charge of divvying the remaining deposit money and I still suspect they received a larger deposit back than they claimed before giving me my 'share').

Thankfully, now I live with my lovely wife and the only damage deposit I foresee myself losing will be due to a pair of mischievous cats who insist on breaking every blind they can get their paws onto!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Well, while I am still carefully considering which direction to take my career, whether that be business school or whatever else, my wife has decided to attend law school in Washington D.C. starting this August. This is great step for her, but the first step, moving cross-country, will be quite a difficult one. Our first reaction was to look into the classic U-haul approach. However, once we started to add up the costs of such a rental considering the enormous mileage we would need to pay for as well as the trailer we would need to tow our car with (my wife doesn’t drive unfortunately), we started to really contemplate just how much of what we have is actually worth. This of course doesn’t even cover some of the horror stories I’ve heard from sources regarding the reliability of these moving trucks and the nightmare that would be breaking down on a 100+ degree day in the middle of Kansas.

In retrospect, it was a very good idea from a financial standpoint for us to buy most all of our furniture used from Craigslist since now we don’t even need to consider the enormous cost of moving furniture across country. Now however, we have a very finite limit of what we can take (what we can fit into the car without putting too much of a load on the poor vehicle) and it is always amazing to see how many possessions one accumulates in such a relatively short time. Furniture is not the only item we will need to sell or give away through Craigslist. There are paint supplies, kitchen appliances, weight sets, camping equipment and host of other items that start to really add up. We would consider sending some possessions through slow shipping media mail or freight shipping if we had an address to send it to.

Another possibility to consider are these containers like Pods and Upack, but for now we’re just going to focus on achieving a Zen-like detachment from our possessions and toss them into the vortex that is

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An old adage is that the best way to effect change is with your wallet. It's nice to see consumers of XM satellite radio following this often unheeded advice.

Last week, radio shock jocks Opie & Anthony were 'suspended' for 30 days (and according to some rumors, possibly even fired) after a guest on their show made what XM deemed 'inappropriate' comments on the satellite radio channel that has until now prided itself on its lack of censorship. While it is possible that this was just a reaction to the recent uproar and eventual firing of Don Imus due to inappropriate over-the-air radio comments, speculation is abound that it was in fact due to the possible impending merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius which would need approval from government regulators who might not take kindly to the obscene comments made that detailed fantasies of sexual violence towards government officials.

While recently sponsors withdrew following the comments of a shock jock (Imus), in an ironic twist now sponsors and consumers alike are withdrawing following a parent company’s disciplinary response to a shock jock's comments. It is impossible to be completely sure of what caused this situation to be reacted to in a completely opposite manner than the Imus situation. Perhaps it was Imus' declining popularity, a different attitude of his audience, or even the specific subject of his comments (does our society have a higher tolerance for misogyny and violence than racism?). However the consensus seems to be that Sirius and XM's appeal has not just been its lack of commercial breaks or original programming that it also has proudly advertised, but perhaps most of all, its role of serving as a safe haven from the ever-reaching arm of censors.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

According to recent data, sales of the Hummer H2 fell 27% last year which was preceded by a 22% drop the previous year. Is this it? Are consumers finally turning green? After its original monstrosity, Hummer came out with a reduced-sized model, AKA the H2. That still wasn’t enough and more recently there has even been the yet smaller H3. Is the impending discontinuation of these models a sign that consumers are beginning to be environmentally conscious? Honestly, I extremely doubt it. Just like recent radio actions, the only motivation that consistently moves people is money. I complain about $50 fillups at the pump, but that’s is a bargain compared to what these guys are paying each week.

So why am I so skeptical about people’s motivation? For the same reason Fox News is so popular or why some watch the Daily Show every night but no other news program or paper, or why the people in my office who watched An Inconvenient Truth in the break room during the lunch hour were people who already whole-heartedly accepted the theory of Climate Change while one of my co-workers, who was immediately disdainful of the movie because of it being with that “Gore” guy and believed Climate Change was really ‘more of a religious question’ sat at her desk.

My point is, people in this day and age only expose themselves to a specific segment of media with a truncated range of ideas. As such, only in extreme cases do people have a large shift in their beliefs and priorities. The people buying hybrids are coming from Civics, not Hummers. The people coming from Hummers are probably limiting themselves to bastions of efficiency like the Navigator or Explorer. Environmentalism (with the exception of protectionism) only really began in the last 30-40 years. Its going to take much longer than that before a real paradigm shift occurs.