Tuesday, March 30, 2010

first impressions of the nexus one.

First of all, I'm still currently on contract with AT&T as I try to procure a free T-Mobile SIM Card, so, even though I bought the unlocked version (or rather, precisely because I did so), I'm operating this N1 on the AT&T network, even though it's the T-Mobile build. What this means is that I'm running off AT&T's Edge network, instead of TM's 3G. I was running my first gen iPhone on AT&T's Edge anyway, so it's not like a step back for me, but that's definitely something that I assume will change when I put in for a T-Mobile account. (And yes, I've heard that T-Mobile's 3G service isn't the best, but it's got to be better than in and out Edge where I'd frequently miss calls and text messages, right?)

So, with that out of the way, let's talk about an insane way to spend a lot of money: I bought a Nexus One. To be honest, the first couple days that I had it, I was almost sure that I'd be returning it within my 14 day window. I'm still well within that window, and it's still a possibility, but the longer it's been around, the happier I've been with it. For example, while I was disappointed that it didn't come with a native note-taking application, that gave me the perfect opportunity to try out Evernote, which virtually everyone recommended. It's great so far.

The phone itself is as fast as billed, with smooth scrolls from page to page and pretty seamless application-integration. I'm sad that ESPN doesn't have a ScoreCenter app yet, but I'm sure they will. I'm bummed that Twitterrific isn't there, but I've been playing with Twidroid. The native adoption of Google Calendars is a wonderful thing, but my old argument still holds up against these fools. The ability to truly customize, while billed, just isn't really there: I'd love to be able to set any MP3 that I'd like as the notification for a variety of things (such as differentiating between email and text messages) but so far haven't found a way to do it. The ability to semi-customize seems like it's there, but on the one notification that I've attempted to create through Ringdroid it produced a garbled sound that appeared to speed up the WAV (was this the mistake?) to approximately 1/4 of a second, with all text condensed. It sounded unpleasant. The soft-touch buttons are, in fact, sometimes troublesome, as has been widely reported.

However, my biggest complaint about the phone is something that I wanted even more of from my iPhone: when I would get a text on the iPhone, it would show me who it's from and, almost always the whole message. My complaint was that I wanted to see my emails as well. This is helpful in saving battery life as well as maintaining productivity, because it allows me to just glance quickly at the phone, as opposed to clicking in for every little thing. With the N1, I have no choice but to click in whenever I hear that generic sound because, unless I hit the power button (the only one to bring up the unlock screen, which is nice, but totally an irritation that it's on the other side as the iPhone - my muscle memory is all screwed up!) ridiculously fast, I don't see any kind of indication who the message is from, what it's about, etc. The beloved notification window (shutter?) displays only minuscule lines of text and they're gone before I can see anything. Then, there are only icons up there, indicating to me that I've received a text, an email, or that something's going on in the calendar. (Of course, there are others, but these are the most frequent.) I valued that I could touch the iPhone, glance down and see what had happened without having to go into all of it: missed calls, text messages were right there front and center, with names attached! All I get here and tiny icons with no indication if they're tweets (totally ignorable in all circumstances) or a text message from someone with an update that I'd crave. This is troubling to me.

I'm minimally disappointed in the dock and its refusal to use the external speakers to play music. (Not everyone has a Bluetooth stereo set-up.) I'm (obviously) disappointed in the music player, even given this supposed integration which migrated exactly none of my playlists, even though that's what it's supposed to do.

Overall, I'm much happier as time goes on. I hope to get some time spent on forums asking these questions seeing if there are easy answers that I haven't stumbled upon yet, or if I should start to think about rooting this phone the same way I jailbroke my iPhone.

Here's to a fruitful week and a half more playing with this beast.

Edited to Add: I forgot to add two more points. Firstly, I appreciate the fact that the native calendar app shows me what's coming up next on my schedule. This is super helpful when I'm looking at my phone last thing at night and I have a meeting in the morning. Great. Secondly, on the negative side, the battery has been discussed a bit elsewhere, but it's definitely an issue. If 3G is going to take more battery juice that Edge is currently using, I'm going to have trouble getting through less than a day's worth of moderate usage. I know they sell extra batteries and it's a plus that I can switch the batteries myself, but that shouldn't be necessary - do a better job.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

comics for the week of 3-24-10.

I only picked up three comics this week, either because I'm dropping out of comics slowly but surely or because there wasn't much good this week.

Captain America 604 - I've actually wanted to drop this book since issue 600 came out. It's not bad, Brubaker's still writing it and I still think he's doing a good job with Bucky, but I find I'm just not interested in the story anymore. But apparently I am, because I still bought it today. I'm hoping that 605 will be the conclusion of this storyline and that I can get out from there. As for the story itself, it was good. I just don't care about any of it.

Green Lantern 52 - Easily the best of the group. I don't honestly even know where to start. Sinestro as the White Lantern from Blackest Night 7 was unexpected and his story continues here and will proceed on to Blackest Night 8, but I hope to God that it doesn't finish there. There's a lot of potential here. The storyline with John and the assembled Corps was the weak link in this book, but it was necessary to bring them back together for the (soon-to-be) epic finish we're in for next week. The tracing of life, the origin of the avatars, the looks at them as they currently are? Incredible! Geoff Johns is a genius and this book is in great hands. Obviously, though, the best part was the shot of the white entity on the last page. This is going to be a monster finish.

New Avengers 63 - Continues to impress me even after I thought that I would definitely drop the book. Bendis is still more than capable of writing a basic tale that fits in the cracks of Siege, and it's clear that his love affair for both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage isn't going anywhere. Oddly enough, it felt like Clint and Bobbi got the short end of the stick in this issue, while Bendis has been clamoring about them the most recently. This is a classic personality issue, where it shows the people behind the masks, and the feelings behind the battles. It was a good one.

That's it for the week. I'll try to make this a recurring theme on here, either on Thursdays or Fridays. What good books did I miss this week?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

lost - the best show on tv.


I mean, the title of this post is certainly no joke, maybe not even a controversy at this point. The Wire isn't on TV anymore (and I didn't even watch it while it was). I've heard that BSG went out with a whimper, not a bang (and I'm only now catching up on that, too). Cheers? The Cosby Show? The Sporanos? Seinfield was hilarious, but are we seriously continuing this discussion?

LOST is unlike anything else before, even those that it owes an obvious debt to. Yeah, The Prisoner set out to tell a story, and yes, it did so, but not on this scope. Not with this many influences, not with as ambitious an aim. Doctor Who gets a lot of love as a sci-fi/fantasy show and Buffy is worshiped by the geeks, but neither of those work on this level - the ultimate conflict.

In its final season, LOST is continually picking up steam (minus the sub-par "Recon" last week) every single episode. Last night's "Ab Aeterno" was no exception. The focus was on Richard, the badassest of all the Others, mainly because (according to last night's show) he might have been the first. He was definitely special a long time before anyone else, even though there had clearly been others around before him.

A couple things stood out in the episode, which satisfied overall, but was still less than I wanted. (Not that this is a bad thing. This is the right way to treat a customer. You should never give them everything they want. Right?) First of all, Jacob was clearly a lot more raw than we've ever seen him. The immediate reaction there is that he must be younger. But he can't be, right? I mean, the Man in Black says that he's been there much longer and the statue certainly seems to imply so. Also, Jacob told Richard that there'd been other people on the island before he brought Richard. However, based on his actions and his tone, I've got to think that Richard is the first one he's brought in a long time. (All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again?) Maybe Richard is the start of Jacob's fascination with numbers. Maybe he's number 108. Maybe 108 is supposed to look like JOB, as in; The Book Of. Or the trial of. Maybe. But one way or another, Jacob was not nearly as well-put-together as we've always seen him.

Secondly, the Man in Black is disarmingly honest. As he should be. He's got a lot of good points on his side. More on this is but a moment. (But seriously, how good was it to see Titus Welliver playing him again? He's awesome!)

Thirdly, I can't believe that I'm hearing people complaining about Richard switching sides, or having his loyalty tested or what not. He's put up with a remarkable amount of a tremendous amount of time, and he's been the good soldier. Also, I'm 100% positive that even if he'd meant his request to Jacob about living forever literally (which he didn't!) he would have asked for some other stuff first! Which he did. Jacob is an incredibly tasking master. And it's hard to play for someone who will never give you a straight answer and refuses to answer some questions while taking others at literal face-value. Richard's had a hard road.

Last, the best things about LOST: if Jacob is the stand-in for God (and I'm honestly not sure what else you could call him - you could make it sound less impressive, sure, but you'd just be playing semantics; he's obviously the quote positive-force-in-control. That's a heavy load in and of itself) he's going to have a lot of trouble at the end of this show. And he should. It's always harder to be on the side of right. The Man in Black gets to promise all kinds of ludicrous things, which he may or may not be able to deliver on. (My money's on yes, to be honest. But it would always be twisted in some way that was unforeseen, like the oldest story known to man.) But Jacob God? He has to offer the right thing to do merely as the right thing to do. There is no point to influencing people to do things...that can't be beneficence! And, he's working from beyond the grave at this point.

It's big ideas like these that make LOST an ambitious work and a human work. I'm absolutely positive that we won't have the answers to all of the questions at the end. But...there's nothing inherently wrong with that. The fact is, the show set out to tell a story. At this point, it's incredibly close to telling not only an engaging story, not only a story that's ambitious in scope, not only a variation on one of the oldest and most popular themes, but doing all of the above in a unique, engaging way, in a format that's rarely, if ever, been used to the same aim.

Here's to a strong close.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

educational revolutions!

I'm reading this article in the teaching magazine that is, for some reason, sent to me. It's a fascinating read and really helps me to try to put things in context as the vast anger that I feel for the semi-governmental, semi-aristocratic business that I work for tries to get us inspired to test kids boils over. (Geez, did that sentence make sense?) What I mean to say is: it's testing time again! This year I've decided to make a conscious effort not to make any of the self-deprecating teacher-jokes that I felt myself slipping into last year. (Sample: "I know this is your favorite time of the year!" with a heavy emphasis on the sarcastic tone.) I guess I just figured, why fake-joke with them when I have a relationship that is authentic enough that I feel I can be honest? So I sat down with my students today and told them that yes, testing was coming up. Yes, it's boring. Yes, it can be a drag. But, especially now that this test is linked with Driver's Licenses in our state (a fantastic ruling, if you care for the two cents), they have to take the test, they want to do well on the test, so they might as well try their hardest. I don't know (and won't for a long time, maybe ever) if my words this year made a better difference than they have in the past, but I felt more authentic saying them, and I felt that I could live with myself a little bit easier.

Regardless, back to the article. The main things that I'm impressed by in this piece is the idea that this has all happened before. It's an idea that, certainly, I hear echoed by some of the older teachers in the school often enough, but it's reassuring to see that idea backed up by some kind of evidence. (Some of the quotes in the piece pull from writing done in the 1890s!) I think a lot of the times, in insular communities, such as the teaching profession, passion can get in the way, because people allow their feelings to reign free over their logic. Thus, my words to my students today served twofold: not only to try to be more honest with them, but also to practice what I preach; it does no good to stress out and let these processes completely ruin my educational experience. There were tests I had to take when I was in school, there will be tests when my students' children are in school. Instead of being so frustrated by them that we (as educators) allow them to completely derail our day, our teaching, our plans, etc. it's a simple (and surprisingly easy, in my experience today) adjustment to try to follow my Mom's advice to me as a child: Don't sweat the small stuff.*

*Meanwhile, I do feel the need to add as a post-script that there are several huge things happening in the educational field right now. Just as much as it's not worth sweating the small stuff, I feel that we have an essentially moral obligation to try to make the big things better. And certainly, I don't want my cheery outlook (for now) on the subject of testing to make it seems as though I think everything is coming up roses.

There are problems that need fixing.

But before we rush in with guns blazing claiming that we have the one, true, right answer to educational reform (revolution!) it's worth the time we take to seriously and slowly examine why we are making such bold claims and what is truly wrong with the system as it's composed today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

disappearing businesses.

Of the 4 Hollywood Videos in Albuquerque, 3 are having closing sales. There are only 2 Blockbusters left, both on the uber-westside, one that appears to be practically in Rio Rancho. This is a weird development, at least to me, because I remember when I was younger begging to go to the video store, and there always being one around. There was a Blockbuster just down the street from our house as kids, and there were even movie rental sections in most of the grocery stores.

I know this isn't a recent development, but, as I rent most all of my stuff from Netflix, I'm only now discovering it.

The benefits of Netflix and subscription-style services don't need me to extol them but it is fascinating to me to think about the domino effect that these sorts of shutterings can have on the community at large. The vanishing of rental-stores would seem at first glance to help out the mom and pop joints, but if big business rentals can't compete with Netflix, why would a local store? So we have the closing of both local and national level rental stores, which pushes already-established businesses to splinter even further. Big box stores like Wal-Mart obviously have the shelf space for everything, but stores like Hastings and Borders (even Barnes and Noble) which seemed, at least to me, in my childhood, to be primarily book stores (or music in the case of Hastings) now have to flood their floors with a variety of merchandise, some of which they know something about (presumably) and most of which they don't. They sell board games in Borders, movies in B&N and incense and posters at Hastings. Why? Because once people are in the store, businesses are trying to squeeze anything they can out of their customers. As previous markets evaporate, businesses that have been successful, even if only marginally so, try to shoehorn in as much of that evaporating model as they can, in at attempt to vacuum up any leftover crumbs.

It's not just that it seems to me, but this is quite obviously a failing model.

So what's to be done, then? Are we just to concede market space to the clear winners? Should everyone except Netflix stop renting movies, should everyone except Nike stop selling shoes? Clearly, this can't be. Competition has to exist, in order to help the market thrive. Or, at least, that's the theoretical answer. But in the world that we're living in, I can't help but look out and think that the real-world evidence isn't supporting that theoretical answer.