August 24th, 2010

just found the netflix app for the ipad

Will I ever get anything done again? Probably not.

But then again, does it even matter? Today's activities included: taking 2 boxes and a bag of kitchen stuff to HGRM, and finding out from them that yes, they will take small appliances like a waffle iron and a rice cooker; taking a laserdisc player (complete with remote control and microphone) and a VCR to Best Buy to e-cycle them; buying a Blu-Ray player from the same Best Buy.

The two electronic items and most -- but not all -- of the kitchen stuff caught up with me a few weeks ago when Gentle Giant delivered the contents of my Seattle condo to me. I have been sorting through stuff left by me, stuff left by my sister, and stuff left by the renters ever since. It's been a good experience: the mudcloth curtains are up in the master bedroom, so you can take a real nap in there even when it is sunny outside; there are a lot of pictures up on the walls that I love, but hadn't seen in a few years; I have my old dining table back and we have more than enough chairs. But I also sort of feel like I'm living through an episode of Clean House. You know, one of the ones where they take a tour of the basement and hear the story about how somebody died and all their crap came to this house and has been sitting there ever since. That feeling is what has been keeping me moving through my own stuff.

I'm also starting to eye some of the kid stuff, and thinking I should make an appointment at the consignment store in West Acton to find out if they want any of it. There's a kiddie corral in particular that we will never use again.

For that matter, I need to bag up all the size 2 clothes and move the size 3 clothes from A.'s backup dresser to her main dresser. She's definitely outgrowing the size 2 stuff.

I should also get the Blu-Ray player out of the van. I hate to be the shop-and-drop person.

ETA: Oh, and if you are looking to e-cycle a cell phone, I have now discovered two options. In addition to Staples taking them, Best Buy has a bin by the entry in at least some of their stores where you can just drop it through a little slot. The other choices include rechargeable batteries, and a third that I've completely forgotten already.

Always Avoid the Word Literacy

What is it with this blog? I periodically wind up over at it because I'm tracking down some incredibly noxious, unsupported -- and unsupportable -- assertion and I want to make sure I completely understand it in case it got misrepresented by the people who were repeating it.

I was over at Digital Reader, and ran across this and honestly, I'm a little stunned.

The definition of the word "literacy"/"literate" has a long and sordid history. Currently, IIRC, it's something along the lines of has-sat-through-8-years-of-education, at least when it's not can-read-and-fill-out-a-government-form-in-our-language (at least when it comes to collecting international statistics), neither of which bears any relationship to what Adin invents and none of which capture my sense of "literacy", for that matter, which is largely irrelevant to anyone but me.

"Rather it is a statement that graphic novels can form a foundation from which literacy can grow if — and that is a big if — the graphic novel reader moves from graphic novels to more traditional textbooks in their educational process."

I've read a lot of traditional textbooks: old, new, from lots of publishers, on a wide range of topics. If there is anything that can be said about textbooks, it is that they absolutely suck. Even so amazing and sturdy an accomplishment as, say, Aho, Sethi and Ullman's Dragon Book, _absolutely sucks_. I spent weeks trying to figure out Chaitin's register allocation algorithm so I could implement it for my job at the time. I think those pages in the Dragon Book warped from my tears of pain, rage and frustration. I'm not exaggerating. This is not metaphorical. And that's an amazingly wonderful achievement as a textbook. The bad ones make you cry and you _can't_ learn anything from them because they're just wrong from start to finish.

Textbooks are such useless and disposable books that even Friends of the Libraries organizations will typically refuse to take them if they are more than a few years old. They get donated to charities that send them by the container load to Africa. And the aid organizations who receive them complain about them. If textbooks have anything to do with a measurement of literacy, then literacy is not worth achieving.

That's actually not what _really_ bothered me about what Adin had to say, however. Here's the truly offensive bit:

"Would you want your doctor to prescribe a surgical procedure for you based on a synopsis of your ailment found in a comic book or would you want your doctor to be able to read and understand the medical literature before making a recommendation?"

Here's a concrete, specific, real world example. End of life planning is arguably the most important medical decision making any of us will ever be involved in, whether it is for ourselves, a family member or close friend, or, goddess help us all, a child. It is difficult. And there's been some research on how to discuss and communicate the issues and decisions involved effectively. It turns out that graphics make a huge difference, regardless of the level of literacy of the participants.

So, you know? I would just as soon that anyone making important decisions have access to the Very Best and Most Appropriate Tools that Can Be Devised.

I have no idea what that means for literacy. But it certainly was a crappy example to rally in a questionable cause.

remember webvan? HomeGrocer?

Once Upon a Time, in the Land of the Perpetual Overcast Without Actual Rain, in the Time of Giddy Excitement Regarding All Things Online, there were people who thought it would be just grand if everything could be delivered to your door. For cheap. HomeGrocer was funded in part by, the Little Bookstore That Could. It was bought by WebVan. Webvan was founded by the guy who started the Borders chain. You know, the bookstores. Webvan had some crazy ideas even by dotcom standards: lobsters within 30 minutes. Robot warehouses to the tune of a billion dollars. Just nutty. Webvan was bought by Amazon and appears to be part of the "Amazon family", but is conspicuously _not_ Amazon Fresh, which looks (and judging by remarks from my friend K. in Seattle) seems to work more or less the way HomeGrocer used to. With a whole lot less excitement and no high profile plans for rapid deployment in major cities across the US.

There have been grocery delivery business for longer than there have been supermarkets. A few months ago, during my railroad obsession, I stumbled across some amazingly bitter commentary by grocers and dry goods retailers, complaining about railroad express companies cherry picking all their high profit items, making it difficult to stay in business when the customers only came in to buy the stuff with margins too tight to tempt the express companies. It sounded Awful Familiar.

In any event, Roche Bros. and Albertsons and a host of other chains big and small will happily take your order (over the phone, through a website, probably via fax for all I know) and pick it from their shelves or wherever, and either deliver it to you or have it available for pickup at a set time. My brother-in-law loves one in New Jersey, and he seemed to think it was getting as much business through the we-shop as the you-shop side of the operation.

I think there's a parallel here, with ebooks. I don't think the parallel is pure. But I do think that a whole lot of people are going to keep reading paper books for five years, ten years -- for the rest of my life and the lives of a lot of other people. And a lot of people are going to be ordering their groceries, instead of picking them off the shelves themselves. The whole thing will be disruptive, and expensive, and investors big and small are going to get cleaned out, at least some of them, while other people do really, really well.

The thing to watch out for, as near as I can tell, is the old guy with a lot of money. Last time, it was Louis Borders. This time, I'm thinking it might be the Riggios. They might or might not disrupt the development of the new business, but there might be a whole lot of donated produce, er, product when they finally wind it down in BK.

ipad review

When I went into Best Buy today, after e-cycling a couple things, I asked the helpful greeter person what the coolest gadget was. He pointed me at the iPad, which I already owned. Second choice was a 3D TV, which it turned out they had no functioning glasses for, so just a blurry TV. *shrug* I had not realized Best Buy bought Magnolia and turned it into a mini in store thing; that was weird. I felt like, once again, my home town was stalking me. It's not enough, apparently, that there are Starbucks everywhere.

In any event, I bought a Blu-Ray player and HDMI cable, and went home, where I sensibly left the box for my husband to deal with. It required a substantial firmware upgrade, probably to deal with potential encryption changes or something like that. Whatever, it wasn't my headache.

In the meantime, I decided to attempt to get some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse local to the iPad for my son to perseverate on while we are out of town. There's always YouTube for the theme song and the hot dog song, but I was worried that I'd chomp through a lot of bits on the 3G if the hotel's wireless didn't actually work out for us. Netflix, unfortunately, did not have Clubhouse episodes for streaming (which would not necessarily solve my problem anyway, altho it would give T. something to watch other than the theme song over and over and over again); iTunes did, however, have them for download. (Hunh. Does Amazon? Can I watch those on the iPad? Hmmm....) So I bought some Jack's Big Music Show, some Micky Mouse Clubhouse and one Blue's Clues episode. Which are taking for freaking ever to download, but I don't really care. Attempts to answer the question, can I play these on my MacBook, however, are murky. They are available over there for download, but it says if I download them on the MacBook, I can't download them elsewhere, but I can sync them. I don't really want them on the MacBook, so I'm not messing with it. The model for multiple devices is really different from Netflix and Amazon -- more of a hub and spoke, than a we know you paid for it so connect from anywhere and we'll play it for you model. I have to say, I really prefer the connect-from-anywhere model.

While I was waiting for the download, however, I decided to check out the maps software on the iPad. Wow. That is freakishly beautiful. It took me a minute to find the written directions, and along the way I stumbled across the compass feature. The gosh-wow factor on this device is intense. I commented that I'll never buy another navigator again. R. said, well, phone based stuff isn't great at knowing where you are, which puzzled me, because I was pretty sure this thing had a GPS in it. Which it does, since I have the 3G version.

I don't know what anyone else is using this expensive gadget for, but as a travel toy/tool, it is looking really bright, shiny and happy-making.