The Day We All Got Punked by Apple

3 02 2011

Apple iProduct lovers across the twitterverse and blogosphere who have been waiting for some news of the release date, or indeed the mere existence of, the mythical, magical iPad 2 had a moment of hyperventilation yesterday afternoon and it had to do with some hearsay at the launch of Apple’s new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. The Daily itself really didn’t strike me as all that big a deal. Oooh, another news agency owned by Rupert Murdoch. Wow. What is that now? 50? I also get the sense that I can find something much more insightful for my money too – it rated for ages 9+. The big deal about it is that it’s exclusively for the iPad (for now) and it adds subscription billing to the app model which other publications will probably pick up on, but really, it wasn’t the biggest technology launch of the day. Yes, there was something else much more interesting to ooh an ahh at. Google debuted its Honeycomb app market for tablet computers running the Android OS. It’s hoping Honeycomb will be as big a hit as its Android app market for smartphones. It’s a bigger, shinier, all around sexier version of an already wildly successful product. It has worlds of potential. It may even turn out to be what the tablet computer market is missing – any real, serious competition for the iPad, but it has one big problem in the short-term. They have yet to announce a release date for Honeycomb and if it happens anywhere close to the release date of the iPad 2, nobody will notice or care for a while. That will have a bearing on Android-powered tablet sales because most techno-geeks – or at least the well-funded ones – are instinctively drawn to the newest thing. Google got a tiny taste of what that kind of overshadowing might be like yesterday. Apparently, somebody who knows somebody who knows how to contact Reuters saw an iPad 2 off on the sidelines at the launch of The Daily… and the net was all over it. Honeycomb what? Isn’t that a cereal?

At first blush, this sounded absolutely excellent. A sneak peek at what I’ve begun calling The Precious snuck into the launch of something far less cool simultaneously proving to the world that the iPad 2 is in fact on the way and getting free press for at least a few days from blogs, twitter, and a news cycle mention from traditional media as well. What a stroke of genius! I twittered news of the sighting just like many others. After a few seconds of thought, though, it didn’t add up. There’s one big flaw in this scenario as far as I see it – one thing that is impossible to ignore. In this age where every cell phone, no matter how cheap and basic, has a camera in it and in a room full of professional journalists no one got a picture of the thing that so many are waiting for. That makes no sense. One of them might have missed it – half a dozen at most – but a whole room full of reporters representing all sorts of media outlets from tech blogs to major news channels and none of them sees what is almost surely going to be one of the next big things on the market and grabs their camera or smartphone quicker than a fat kid grabs a Ring Ding? No way! This article from techcrunch.com (cool site!) has a few other points but it echos my main one as well. I think we got punked. Sorry Reuters, I’ll believe it when I see the pictures.

Apple is still getting some free press and the iPad 2 is still shrouded in mystery. Also yesterday, while Google was showing off its cool, new tablet OS, the post holiday return numbers for the Android-running Samsung Galaxy Tab, an android powered tablet and the iPad’s closest competition, were released and the news isn’t good. According to this article in Beatweek, the return rate for the Galaxy Tab was 13%. Thirteen out of every 100 are returned for a refund. That’s a big deal because not everyone who isn’t completely happy with a device returns it. Sometimes people miss the return deadline, or otherwise end up keeping the thing and waiting until something better comes along to upgrade So there are theoretically more unsatisfied customers out there who just weren’t unsatisfied enough or able to return their Galaxy Tabs. By the way, the return rate on the iPad – 2%. On the bright side for non-iPad tablets, many tech blogs including Techcrunch.com were really impressed with the Honeycomb OS and think it might challenge the iPad (they got to test it for about 20 minutes on a Motorola Xoom). Even with all the improvements to the tablet version of Android, we still have no concrete knowledge of what the iPad 2’s specs are yet, so it really is anyone’s guess. Still, I think that Apple had a bit of fun with all of us and maybe ruffled Google’s feather’s in the process. Well played, Apple, well played.

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A Short Review For a Short Book- Coffee, Tea, or Kool-aid: Which Party Politics Are You Swallowing?

28 11 2010

Since I didn’t totally fail at reviewing I thought I’d write another.
With the growing amount of beverage-based politics out there, Erin McHuge’s book Coffee, Tea, or Kool-Aid: Which Party Politics Are You Swallowing? takes a look at it all with more than a bit of sarcasm tossed in to make it fun. If you’re looking for in-depth, serious, non-partisan analysis of our current political weirdness, this isn’t it. I read the e-book and it was only 68 pages. In-depth analysis of any complex issue takes more than 68 pages. While it does have a lot of factual information in it, there is too much snarky humor in it to call it serious. That type of humor can turn people off, but I like it (Surprise, surprise).

The bigger point that needs to be made is that, though the title is even-handed enough, the book is not without an ideological tilt. The author does take swings at both the Tea Party and the Coffee Party, but her take on the Tea Party is harsher. In my opinion, it would’ve been less obvious if she didn’t refer to tea party supporters as “teabaggers” throughout the book. The way I read it, the tea partiers come off as ultra-reactionary, occasionally short on facts, specifics, etc…, and, whether intentionally or not, providing some sense of legitimacy for every kind of conservative kook who eventually act up and cause problems and bad publicity for the group. The coffee partiers, on the other hand, are painted as well-intentioned, good-natured concerned citizens, but ultimately all of their ideas don’t amount to too much and the group is a bit meek for the full-contact sport that is American politics.

Despite the playful tone of the book, there is a good bit of useful information in it. It also provide a good comparison of the two movements. So, while it might not be for everyone, a liberal with a… refined sense of humor would probably like it for a quick read and a few chuckles. Also, since the holiday season has officially descended upon us, I should point out that the paperback version of this is pretty small. Stocking stuffer size, one could say. So there you go, a little gift idea for a book-loving liberal with an attitude.





My Attempted Book Review – Obama’s Wars

8 10 2010

Before I get into my review, I’m going to warn you that it’s not, strictly speaking, my thing. My cousin reviews books and authors a lot on her blog, but she is pursuing her MFA in creative fiction from Fairfield University and knows the technical components which distinguish a good book from a pile of dung with a dust jacket. Alas, she is not writing this review, I am. I apologize in advance.

The first thing that becomes clear when you start reading Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward’s latest foray inside the Oval Office, is that there was a lot of cooperation from the administration. An exposé this is not. President Obama even sat for an on the record interview with Woodward. Quotes from that interview, which appears to have been conducted at the end of this process, are interspersed throughout the book. This is also not a light read by any stretch of the imagination. It’s packed with facts and figures. At 380 pages (hardcover version) I figured it would take me a day or so to read – it took five and then another day to review it. I liked it, but I like policy stuff. If you’re looking for suspense and fast-paced action, pick up some Tom Clancy. If you’re looking for some insight as to how military actions are decided upon in the Obama White House, this is the book for you.

This book is not going to make you like or hate any of the people in it if you don’t already but it does bring them down from their senior staff pedestals and humanizes them all a bit – some more than others. It also shows some people in a manner they aren’t usually seen. Joe Biden, the goofy, gaffe-prone Vice President comes across as a lot smarter than he’s usually given credit for being. General Petraeus, in addition to being an exemplary military man, is also quite the politician and knows how to get his friends in the Senate to make his case when he can’t. The mistakes made in Vietnam are never far from any of their minds and neither is politics – either the 2008 presidential race or the 2010 mid-terms. It’s omnipresent. The book also casts a harsh light on the situation in Afghanistan – just how bad things were over there, how much of the problem is in Pakistan, and the problems we face with our allies in those two countries. If you take one thing away from Obama’s Wars, it is that essentially “pausing” the conflict in Afghan was a huge mistake that left us in a very bad way.

I liked the book, but I’m a bit of a policy geek – well, I’m actually just a bit of a geek in general. If you to know what went on in the Situation Room that lead to 30,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan, it’s right here. It’s not action-packed, but it is what happened.





Cooking Channel vs. Food Network – Cooking Channel Wins!

7 09 2010

I’m in total foodie mode… and I’m loving it.

I visited a culinary school last week and, as I’m trying to figure out how I can get a hold of tuition money legally, what does my channel surfing lead me to but the Cooking Channel. It’s a younger, more “indie” version of the Food Network and, in my humble opinion, it blows them out of the water. There are more baking shows and more internationally themed shows – there’s even one about Vietnamese food that runs on Sunday mornings. I like Vietnamese food, so that’s a plus for me. They also run old school stuff in the afternoon – Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet There are the usual big names, Mario Batali, Nigella Lawson, and Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) among others – but the best bit, the one that seals the deal for me is that on Saturdays at 10 pm they run the Two Fat Ladies.

I used to watch this with my grandmother, on PBS I think, ages ago. It a blend of comedy and cooking that is really fun to watch. Jennifer Patterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, two plump, British matrons, drive around the English countryside on a motorcycle (one rode in a side car) and cook and laugh – at themselves, and other, and always at vegetarians. The ladies use butter and lard and cream and everything else you shouldn’t eat, their jokes get a little bawdy at times, and either one is liable to break into song or verse at any time. It’s too politically incorrect to have been made here and when it ran on Food Network a while back it was heavily edited. I only saw two episodes on the Cooking Channel, but they seemed to be the full episodes. This makes a big difference with this particular show because, unlike Rachel Ray and other popular TV chefs, these two don’t bombard you with a never-ending stream of dialogue. They talk when they have reason to, so once someone starts clipping away dialogue, it can get pretty sparse. Even if the heavy, very traditional recipes laden with high calorie ingredients sound out-of-place and unsuited for our super high paced lives, the show’s emphasis on local, fresh, natural ingredients will sound very current.

So far, I’m enjoying the Cooking Channel and it’s fresher style and approach to creating an entire lineup dedicated solely to food. It definitely seems geared to a different crowd than Food Network. Maybe its younger people, maybe it’s more of a difference in tastes, but whatever the difference, I’d definitely suggest checking it out.

On a more personal, but still very “foodie” note, I have another large baking project for my family. My uncle’s turning fifty and I’ve been asked to make the cupcakes. I’m throwing in port wine taralli for added deliciousness. A portion of both cupcakes and taralli will be gluten-free. There will be pictures, but I honestly don’t know when they’ll show up. They’ll just surprise you one day.