November 2007


Amazon has introduced a new electronic book reader they plan to sell for $399, to compete with the likes of the Sony reader, which goes for $299. Electronic book readers have been amazingly unsuccessful these past few years. The Sony has not taken off due to low number of available titles and less than customer friendly shopping experience.

Do we really need another attempt at this? Amazon has a few things going for it however, including 90,000 digitized titles available, ability to download through wireless broadband without a computer, and new releases and best sellers priced around $10 rather than the $22-$27 for hardcover books. Public domain books may go for a little as $1.99. I like the look of it, measuring out at 7.5″ X 5.3″ X .7″ and coming with 180mb of free memory.

Still, it seems pricey to me. What is the advantage of reading electronically? Well, storage for one. The Kindle can hold up to 200 text only titles. Pictures require higher memory demands but wouldn’t be an issue with most fiction books. It can also read newspapers, magazines and blogs. The small keyboard enables note taking in the margins and the ability to conduct searches. I suppose if I was stuck on a commuter train an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, the Kindle would be wonderful. Sitting around the house with some free time on my hands though, I’d pick up a hardcover or a paperback book rather than the Kindle.

If they could price it closer to $149 – $199, even if they charged a bit more for the titles, I would consider it. As it’s priced now, $400 would buy me 16 hardcover books; at least a year’s worth of reading.

 

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The Republicans had a bit a of knock-down, drag-out debate tonight in St. Petersburg. You can view video of most of the questions posed at the Republican debate on YouTube, including the somewhat odd ball opening song. The main subjects included immigration, gun control, and government spending. The Democrats did their YouTube debate back on July 27. You can see the top ten questions posed to them here. Giuliani and Romney engaged in the most interesting sparring. McCain seems to me to be increasingly irrelevant. In my opinion, his age would be a factor for me if I were a Republican voter, which I’m not. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 5,000 questions were submitted and approximately 40 were chosen, more than twice as many as were considered when the Dems debated on July 27. Immigration seems to be the defining topic for the Republicans, more so than the Second amendment. The Dems though will try to make it the Iraq war, which, if the situation is getting better, may not be their best angle of attack. I give the Republican candidates a lot of credit for showing up and debating, especially since they have debated seven times previously, and debating via YouTube doesn’t seem to fit in with the Republicans style. I think the YouTube format is great for drawing in a younger audience and getting twenty-somethings interested. Still, they did debate and with six weeks until Iowa, I think tonight showed that the two candidates with the best chances for the Republicans are in fact Giuliani and Romney. Huckabee seems to be gathering steam, but he may be running out of time. I wouldn’t try to pick a winner or a loser in these debates, but rather try and come away with a sense of how each candidate articulates his position and whether all the answers a candidate gives, taken as a whole, seem reasonable.

Microsoft Windows is aggravating me to no end. I click on a desktop icon; nothing happens. I click again and wait. When I get ready to click a third time, two copies of the program try to load. It takes my laptop with 512 mb of memory nearly five minutes to boot and three to four to shut down. I use XP which I believe is the best version of Windows thus far. I have not used Vista but from what I hear, it’s not much of an improvement. Dell continues to sell XP to businesses in spite of the new Vista OS. I click shutdown on my laptop and it doesn’t shutdown. When I walk back to the desk, Google toolbar is preventing Windows from closing and I have to click “End Now”. Other programs occasionally operate similarly in Windows. XP is very good but there are many user interface type annoyances like this. I am seriously considering an Apple for my next laptop and/or desktop even though there is a substantial price premium in that decision. Windows sympathizers say that Windows has had to adapt to many more hardware configurations that Apple, deal with viruses and firewall defense. Apple’s OS X has to work basically on only one hardware platform. I don’t really buy this anymore. Back when I could buy a Zeos computer, or when IBM was pushing microchannel technology, sure, I agree there were major hardware differences. Now, you have Dell, HP, Toshiba and not very many others selling PC’s using more or less the same designs. Microsoft could have adapted XP or Vista to a more rigid hardware platform in my opinion through better promulgation of standards. I wouldn’t rant so much if Windows were free or $29.95. The prices they are asking for Vista, which is up to $399 for the ultimate version, along with the confusing array of versions, and the associated annoyances will doom it.

For tracking the political vote in the 2008 election, I recommend this web site. It currently has the electoral votes from the 2004 election on the map. If you scroll down just a bit. it lists chronologically in a table all the upcoming primaries.

 Here are the primaries it shows that are scheduled for January:

State Democrats Republicans
Iowa January 3, 2008 January 3, 2008
New Hampshire January 8, 2008 January 8, 2008
Michigan January 15, 2008 January 15, 2008
Nevada January 19, 2008 January 19, 2008
South Carolina January 26, 2008 January 19, 2008
Florida January 29, 2008 January 29, 2008

Most of the primaries are taking place in February, specifically February 5, although there are other February primaries. This site rates each state as to how strong they are leaning to the Democratic or Republican side. Hovering your mouse over each state pops up a box with detailed info on how that state votes. There is no advertising on the site, which is also a plus in my view. Although it is currently only updated for the primaries and has some old information from the last general election, this will be a nice resource to use next year for reliable non-partisan vote tracking information. Below the primary schedule is the prototype for the 2008 election tracking. Check it out & see if you think whether it’s worthy of a bookmark.

An interesting article about Mike Huckabee by Hendrick Hertzberg is in this week’s New Yorker magazine. In the last paragraph of the article, Hertzberg writes “He [Huckabee] seems to regard liberalism not as a moral evil, a mental disease, or a character flaw—merely as a political point of view he mostly disagrees with. That may not seem like much, but it makes a nice change.” Yes, a very nice change indeed, which means Huckabee won’t have a chance at the Republican nomination. Still, it gives one hope that perhaps the dialogue on the Republican side is starting to change, if only slowly, and but one candidate at a time.

Comparing political candidates has always been difficult, at least for me. I read with great interest the blog by Moonseed posted yesterday Nov 23 about the web site selectsmart.com. She made a wonderful find here. There are twenty-six questions you answer on the site provided by selectsmart.com. The priority of your answer to each question can be adjusted to either low or high. At the end, based on your input, all the candidates are weighted with a percentage that conforms to an ideal candidate based on how you answered the questions. My top six are below:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate  (100 %) 
 2.  Barack Obama  (88 %) 

 3.  Dennis Kucinich  (81 %) 
 4.  Joseph Biden  (81 %) 
 5.  Christopher Dodd  (80 %) 
 6.  Hillary Clinton  (80 %) 
While I really like this insight provided, the utility activated by clicking on the information link next to the candidates name that outputs in the above list allows you to compare any two candidates and their positions This feature is, dare I use this overworked word, awesome. Like a lot of voters, I use my “sense” of the candidate rather than deeply researching their positions. Obviously, this can be a big mistake. This comparison feature, takes the work out of research and gives a very information summary.

This election is somewhat unique in that there are no incumbents running for president. This has enabled debates that previous incumbents were reticent to participate in. After all, they had everything to lose. Most of the candidates on both sides are participating in most of the debates, most of the time. I consider myself a centrist and came to the conclusion that I will vote for whoever seems able to win on the democratic side. I just feel we need a change, all around. I’m leaning for Hillary because she seems she can pull it off, but if Obama seems to be overtaking her, I may go with him.

Of course, we have to ask – can this site be trusted? As far as I can tell, it seems accurate and trustworthy. Still, in politics, you always have to keep one eye open and remember the Reagan maxim, “Trust but verify”.

Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)
[His great niece, Judith Guest, wrote “Ordinary People”].

I drove by the local Best Buy on the way home this afternoon after leaving my brother’s house. People are lined up outside, some in tents, waiting for the store to open early Friday morning. It’s cold out, intermittently raining and windy. I’m glad, should I say thankful, that I’m not one of them. I understand that JC Penney is opening locally at 4:00am on Friday. They call the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday; the busiest shopping day of the year.

I suggest that Thanksgiving be moved to the fourth Tuesday in November, or even the fourth Monday. I believe this would alleviate some stress during this time; and hopefully avoid requiring people to camp out in the cold. Retailers complain that the earlier the day of the week, the less people are out shopping. By moving the date to a day early in the week, it should have the effect of spreading out the initial shopping rush over several days rather than just the three currently, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, assuming everyone returns to work the following Monday. If Thanksgiving became a Monday celebration, as is common with many of our holidays, the initial shopping rush would spread to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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