Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ruminations on one day with a Kindle

They say don't judge a book by its cover. Nor should I probably judge a new tech toy after one day. But, when your one day includes time at home and 8 hours of plane rides, you could argue you've done all the needed testing on a portable device of any type.

So... new Kindle verdict: OUT-FLIPPING-STANDING.

Firstly, can I get every electronic device I have to hold a charge like this? Probably not, bc unlike every other device I have, the Kindle isn't backlit. It uses "electronic paper," which (thank you Wikipedia:
"Unlike a conventional flat panel display, which uses a backlight to illuminate its pixels, electronic paper reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity, while allowing the image to be changed later."

This basically means it really reads like a book. As in it gets dark and you need to shine a light on it. But the non-glare screen makes that a non-issue.

The interface is very intuitive. You barely have to think about it it makes so much sense. And, what's more, someone put some good thought into this... it actually handles like a book. I realized on the plane, I was holding it pretty much like a folded-over paperback (without ripping the spine apart) and, even cooler, when I needed to have my hands free for a moment, I could set it down and keep reading. No pages to hold open.

The first book I downloaded was Stirg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Amazon claims the download takes 60 seconds. Mine took about 7. And I had no idea so many "popular classics" that had entered the public domain were now available as Kindle books for free. That will make bridging my two-books-per-month self-imposed budget easy (look, imagine if you just bought every book at will... how much would that run you?).

I was sitting across the aisle from a guy who had the big-screen Kindle DX and, honestly, unless you need ultra-large text capability, I see no true advantages (though I haven't played on one).

And, now, to step on my soapbox... I have no idea how anyone could prefer an iPad to this for the sake of reading. For instance, it bugs me when the the screen on my little Blackberry gets smudged. Imagine reading a book on a screen you also type on. The Kindle has no issue there. And I highly doubt I could've managed reading for 4-5 hours on planes today if I was dealing with backlit LCD screens. My optometrist would be happy about it, but maybe not me. Oh and the Kindle price tag is pretty fantastic.

Anyhow, I was trying to find a gripe about the Kindle all day. And by gripe, I mean something that was a disadvantage over a real paper book. For instance, lack of full Internet access is not a flaw... I have a laptop, kids. With a wifi card.

So far? Nothing comes to mind, short of I'm going to be upset if I drop it.

If you're on the fence on a Kindle, I say jump. If you're sold on the iPad, I say give the Kindle a fair shot. And if you think you can never use an eReader... well, talk to my wife. That's what she said a few months back...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Urbanized

When I lived in NYC, I did plenty of drinking, eating and the like and never gained a pound. I has no gym membership.

I did have the City's 13,000 miles of sidewalks at my disposal, however. Getting to work involves a 10-minute walk to the subway and five after getting off. The same after work. I would take the train to Herald Square and walk to SoHo.

Then I moved to Charlotte and bought a car.

I had a good life in Charlotte. I also had a gym membership and heaven help me if I hadn't. Short of walking the dog through the neighborhood, something that sounded good, but rarely really happened, most transportation was via the car.

Now, here I am, back in an urban metropolis. My commute now? A 10-minute walk that starts by climbing a big hill. This morning, I needed to go to the hardware store. four blocks later, there I was. We needed to go to Trader Joe's. Bus ride, then 12 blocks. Hell last week, we walked most of the way to the store. And the dog? No choice but to walk her. I cannot just open the door and let her run. Good lord a TRAIN runs down my street, to say nothing of cars.

Point is, I'm back to walking. A lot. For every day things and often many times a day. For kicks, I weighed myself in my Portland hotel the other evening... sure enough. A few pounds lighter.

We still use the gym regularly in our new home, but we're conscious of the fact that we're more active simply by virtue of living where we do. There are already other benefits of the urban setting that seem to have potential.

For instance, we're somewhat limited at the grocery store to what we can carry. It's then up to us to not go to the store every day to pick up something else up.

And really, apartment living is probably better now than it was 30 years ago, chock full of modern amenities... but city life is what's happening outside. And it doesn't have to cost an arm an a leg. There are kayaks to rent on the lake eight blocks away. There are parks to explore and neighborhoods to peruse.

It's nice to be back to urban life, but I'm determined to make the most of all it can do to my benefit.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Settling in...

I am officially a Washington resident (more on that in a moment). The past several days involved setting up the apartment, which has been no small task. We’ve had to get creative with storage solutions, look at some items and determine if we really need them and make countless trips to both our in-building storage unit and the trash area.

And the result it… we’ve got a pretty fantastic place. Pictures will come soon enough, but, really? The place is fantastic. It’s the kind of urban living I was always somewhat envious of back in my New York days. And, truth be told, I lived well there. But this is something else both from an aesthetic standpoint and a practical one.

Part of the practicality is access to Seattle’s amenities. Not only can I walk to work, but I can easily walk downtown. Or to the Queen Anne neighborhood. Major bus lines stop on both our cross streets. The streetcar stops in front of the place. And my walk to the light rail to get to the airport is 10-15 mins at the most.

I hear you already… “have fun walking in all the rain!”

I’m not trying to dress this up, but the rain in Seattle is… I dunno… just different. For instance, it has rained about half the time I’ve been here, but I have yet to use an umbrella. But to call it a mist isn’t totally right either… I have yet to see rain that obscures the skyline at all. And there’s only been one day I haven’t seen the sun. I took the dog out in the rain last night and I barely got wet. The rain is almost an accessory most days… it’s something to carry with you and is, usually (at least so far), no more of a burden than that.

And when it’s not raining… my lord, I don’t think I’ve ever lived someplace so gorgeous. I’m getting used to turning a corner and having my breath taken away by a sight of mountains, or some body of water, or clouds pushing past a high ridgeline…

As mentioned, I now call the Evergreen State home officially. This involved the trip to the DMV, or in this case the WA Dept. of Licensing. You know how this is going to go…

I did what I thought was all the necessary research. I knew I needed to bring my NC license, another form of personal ID and “proof or residency.” On Sunday, Sarah signed our lease, the forms of which are a legally-binding contract between Sarah & me and our building. It’s notarized. I am in a significant amount of trouble if I do not live up to my end of the lease.

Point being the lease pretty clearly establishes, if you ask me, that I live in Seattle.

So we take our numbers and sit at the DOL. I always feel like that scene in Beetlejuice… I want to shout out “Hey! There goes Elvis! Yo! King!” and steal the number of the person sitting next to me who is about to get called up.

By the time I do get my turn, I walk up and the woman asks me for my proof of residency. I show my lease.

“We don’t accept lease agreements as proof of residency. You could’ve gone to Office Max and printed up a lease agreement and filled it out.”

Yes. Exactly. I am handing you my passport and surrendering my only other existing form of photo ID (my NC driver license) because I am trying to scam the state of Washington.

She began to get lippy with me and I was in no mood to escalate the situation. Instead, I found my self hustling back home to find what few utility and insurance bills I have that are set up to my new address. And then back to the DOL. To take another number. This time, however, it came through no problem.

I’ve already contacted the DOL to find out the specifics of registering my car, which promises to be a fun Saturday adventure.

In the meantime, I am bound for Phoenix. Part of settling in means getting back down to work. This means Phoenix until Friday night, then to Portland Thurs-Fri next week. Then, look out world… after a trip to Miami the week after, both Sarah and I are off to Paris and Warsaw (where I have a business meeting).