Saturday, June 30, 2007

Got Along Without Me...

Apparently my decision not to buy an iPhone on day one didn't send sales into a tailspin; there were lines pretty much everywhere the phone was sold yesterday, and the press coverage makes it clear that the initial response is overwhelmingly positive. Maybe I just had overly high expectations... but I prefer to think of it as knowing just what Apple could have delivered versus what they gave us.  Many of the features are cutting edge,but the absence of mp3-assigned ringtones, voice dialing, or bluetooth stereo headset capability is surprisingly 20th century...

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

Thursday, we got a steady rainfall that brought 1.2" of rain over a six hour period. Friday... well, Friday we got a monsoon that delivered 2" of rain in 30 minutes, followed by another inch of rain in a second hour-long storm later that same evening. The good news is that we got 4.2" of rain in two days. The bad news is that we got so much of it in a torrent, which means that a significant amount just ran off. Even so, it's going to be of some benefit... and it reduces our deficit to a mere 10" for the year.

If you look at the bigger picture, though, it's very different: for the past five years, we're still 33" above normal for rainfall here. If only the Southeast had put more resources into water management and long-term reservoir retention, we'd have no problem at all...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Putting iPhone on Hold

I'm the biggest Apple wonk in the world; I generally buy every product they offer almost as soon as it's released, 'cuz I think they're the best at what they do.

But I'm not even remotely planning to buy an iPhone right away. And here are five reasons why:

(1) Too many missing features. No MP3 ringtones, which is absurd for an MP3 player of this sort; no video, only still picture recording; no Flash functionality; no-write limitations for various files like Word... It's as if Apple has intentionally crippled this unit out of the gate.

(2) Too little space. The 8gb model,which sells for $600, will have slightly less than 7gb of actual storage space after you sub out the space used for formatting and for the operating system. If you plan to save space for photos, etc., that leaves you with precious little real music space.

(3) The plans are too expensive... and it's ridiculous to charge extra for text messaging in addition to the unlimited data cost. I'm getting almost twice as many minutes, shared over two phones, with unlimited nights and weekends after 6pm and streaming video, from Sprint. (Yeah, I think that Sprint has become a horribly consumer-unfriendly company, but that's a different issue...)

(4) A glass front. I don't care how strong they say it is, when you say "glass" I say "breakable."

(5) A horrible distribution system. I would rather engage in amateur dentistry than spend an hour in the wretched ATT Mobile  company stores around here, like the execrable Barrett Parkway store; the more convenient neighborhood locations aren't allowed to offer the phone.

Is that a bad thing? I don't know... but bear in mind that I was one of the folks who was gung ho about this phone when it was first announced, but Apple and ATT have managed to negate its appeal, for me at least. Of course, I don't think that either company will be too worried about my lack of support for this venture... but if my reaction is more common than I suspect it will be, then they could have some problems to overcome.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Critter Du Jour

Today's back deck critter is our friendly back yard raccoon. He lives in the wetlands forest behind our house and comes up from time to time to forage seeds and check things out. This may be the firs ttime we've ever seen him up on the deck in mid afternoon, though; either this Fruit 'n' Nut Seed blend is particularly appealing, or he's having trouble finding enough to feed on in the wetlands.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Thanks to the nifty pedometer that Jared gave me (which, unlike the one I got a year or two ago, actually seems to function), I can say with certainty that the above number is exactly how many steps I took today. I decided to measure a typical Tuesday because that's the day that I spend a lot of time on my feet; we process our comics shipment that day, so there's a lot of loading, unloading, sorting, counting, processing, and preparing to be done. Add to that my usual daily morning and afternoon walks and you get the magic number of 26,347.

(To be fair, my last pedometer did work just fine until it hit 999,999; then, instead of rolling over to zero, it just quit working. I guess it had counted as many steps as it cared to count...)

How Hot Was It?...

I knew it seemed pretty hot this weekend, with plenty of sunshine pushing Saturday and Sunday highs above the 90 degree mark here at the house for the first time this year. So just how hot was it? Well, here's one of our deck squirrels making it clear that he thought it was just too darn hot...

And just so you don't think that I just draped a dead squirrel over the railing, I tapped on the glass to get the little guy's attention a few seconds later. He doesn't look all that excited, even though I'm only a few feet away--I think it was just too hot to care, even if you're a squirrel.

(We have no idea what happened to his tail, by the way. We don't give our squirrels poodle cuts as a general policy, but this one seems to have gone for that look nevertheless. None of the other squirrels have this distinctive tail plumage; every other squirrel has a full, bushy tail like... well, like a squirrel's tail! Whatever's going on here, it seems to be relatively permanent; we first noticed this little guy in late winter, and his tail looked the same back then. It hasn't grown out a bit in the ensuing months, which leads me to assume this is either his standard look or he's making some sort of squirrel lifestyle statement.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hot Off the Presses

The Rome News Tribune, the newspaper for which Dad worked, moved from its Tribune Street location to its Glenn Milner Boulevard site back in the late 1960s... but that 19th century Tribune Street building will always define a newspaper as far as I'm concerned.
Dad frequently took me to the Rome News when he had to work late--and as a sports editor, he had to work late a lot. The paper had a strong local sports focus, and Dad's "territory" extended beyond Rome and Floyd County; he was expected to cover Cedartown and Calhoun and Rockmart as well, and that added up to more than two dozen schools. Friday and Saturday nights were always late nights for everyone in sports... and there weren't that many people, so Dad spent a lot of time writing and talking on the phone, getting reports from stringers and pulling it all together. I remember seeing Dad sitting at his cluttered desk in the middle of the newsroom (there were no separate offices--everyone worked in one large room, with an occasional copse of file cabinets offering a bit of a barrier between one cluster of desks and another), a heavy black phone tucked between ear and shoulder as he typed away on one of those massive black Royal gothic-meets-deco typewriters.

Dad gave me a lot of freedom to wander the newspaper, so long as I didn't get in anyone's way. I spent some time watching the guys in typesetting, marvelling at their ability to work with lead type to produce the rows after rows of copy that filled the paper. (I marvelled even more at their ability to read that type backwards and in mirror image, looking for errors.) I would hide away in the newspaper morgue, reading through files of papers that dated back to the early 1900s, amazed at the ads and the prices and the photos of places that had changed so much over six decades. I would gaze longingly at the original comic strip art on the walls of the front offices, gifts from various syndicates to the papers that carried their strips; there were Peanuts strips and Dick Tracy strips, and Snuffy Smith and Li'l Abner and Pogo and best of all, a Flash Gordon strip that I could scrutinize for hours.

The press room--a hot, cramped, deafeningly loud place filled with motion and heavy with the smell of oil-based inks--was off limits... well, the floor of the press room was off limits, anyway. The room itself was set in a pit a floor below the newsroom, and once you passed through the doorway from the newsroom to the press room, you were standing on an elevated walkway that went around the perimeter of the press room. I was given access to the walkway, so long as I never descended the stairs to the press room itself--too much equipment, too many places for a boy to do the wrong thing and injure himself, foul up the presses, or both. I never violated that rule, because the presses were intimidating; paper sped by continually, it seemed, and the machines did their jobs oblivious to my presence... and I knew that if I ever got caught up in them, I'd be dragged through and turned into a part of tomorrow's newspaper just like something out of a Warner Bros. cartoon.

I also loved to watch the wire service machines, scanning the news as it came in. This was instant news; I was seeing it as soon as it moved across the wires, hours before anyone would see it. Even better, I was witnessing news that that wouldn't see, since there was always so much more coming in on the wire than the paper could possibly hold. And I was in the place where people decided what news made it into the paper and what news was forever lost in the wastebins adjacent to the AP and UPI machines; even then, I knew that there was power in that.

I always enjoyed watching Dad work, though; he seemed so confident, so certain in his actions, so masterful int he way he worked with his staff, so "at home" in this world. When he thought i was getting bored, he'd give me stacks of newsprint and heavy black copy pencils to draw with; from time to time, I'd amuse myself with them, but for the most part, I just enjoyed being there, watching news being created.

And my Dad was one of the men who made that happen.

And I knew, then, that I wanted someday to be one of the men who made that happen, too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos Misses the Note

More Sopranos final episode talk: read at your own risk.

A couple of people (probably the same people who see faces in the moon's surface and animals in cloud formations) have opined that David Chase was attempting to tell us that Tony Soprano bought it in the season finale--more specifically, that he was killed by the man who went into the bathroom, or by the two black men who entered the restaurant. The sudden cut to black, they say, was to show that Tony "didn't see it coming," as one character said in reference to a hit.

I wholeheartedly reject that explanation.

The scene was not set up as a POV shot. It was a third person POV shot, showing Tony's face along with the face of his family and the scenes from the inside of the restaurant.

No, what we have here is an episode so wretched that fans are trying to create another explanation. No hit... but one big foul.

Worst. Ending. Ever

Just watched the final episode of The Sopranos.

It's very rare that a creator can deliver a final episode so unsatisfying, so abominably wretched that it makes me wish I could have back all the time I've put into watching six seasons that preceded this episode... but David Chase did just that.

I can't possibly conceive of any series ending that could be any worse than this. If you don't want it ruined, then go somewhere else...

I'm only waiting another second or two...

...It didn't end. It just stopped. Right in the middle of a scene. So abruptly did it end that I, and probably millions of others, thought that their HBO feed had failed.

There was no finale, just a creative "screw you" to the audience.

I may very well drop HBO at this point, just to express my displeasure. (And it's not like they've got anything else on the schedule worth watching; every other new series they have is execrable.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Read Glister, Or Be Sorry You Missed Her!

Advance notice: while this book won't be out for almost two more months, it should be considered a must-read for anyone who enjoys well-crafted all-ages fiction. Andi Watson's Glister is the story of a young girl who is a sort of magnet for weirdness; in her first book-length tale, she plays host (and secretary, of sorts) to a long-dead author who'd like to dictate his unpublished masterpiece to someone... and little Glister is the transcriptionist of choice.

Watson is a remarkable storyteller whose simple, fluid artwork has always appealed to me. And it appears that Glister is the sort of inspired storytelling that may help to put him on the map as far as the mass market is concerned; I can see these charming tales achieving wide mass market success.

If you'd enjoy a bit of Little Lulu blended with a dash of Wednesday Addams, then Glister is a book you'll want. Look for it in early August.

(I had a chance to exchange e-mails with Watson about this book for a piece I'm doing for Comic Shop News #1044, and I have to say that I'm more enthused than ever about this series. Every creator seems to have his "signature piece" that defines his career, and I think that Glister could very well be just that as far as Watson is concerned.)