July 31, 2007

Lemming management, or why the iPhone is kind of a scam

If you're like me (and whether that is a good thing or not is a matter of considerable debate), you've been watching all the iPhone mania and asking yourself one question:


Maybe I'm overthinking things, but I have a hard time understanding what all the fuss is about. I have to admire the marketing folks for giving this thing that sort of messianic je ne sais quois, but honestly I can't buy into it. I know I'm a little late to this particular party, but I got into a conversation about it over the weekend, and it sort of flipped the rant-switch, so here we are.

My basic problem with the iPhone is this: it's targeted at the early-adopter, the gadget geek who wants the latest and greatest, the bleeding edge technology. This is the group that has been salivating over this thing since they'd heard about it, and you've been telling them (and everyone else who'll listen) that it's going to revolutionize their lives. But in the end, all it's really doing is adding time and cost to their lives, which isn't exactly the kind of revolution I think they had in mind. Let me explain (there is plenty of time, so no need to sum up).

Let's say you're a full-on Apple disciple. If that's true, you probably have a Mac of one kind or another, and love it. You probably also have a great big iPod with the video screen, and have ported over your whole cd collection, and are enjoying your iTunes and watching Scrubs on the metro in the morning every day. Now, you're just itching to pick up this new iPhone, because holycrapitsaphoneanditplaysmusicanditsawifisupercoolinternetcruiserandohboyohboyicantwaittogetone.

And so you camp out for a few days, you and your brethren turning every Apple store into its own little Geekstock village. And the doors open on That Fateful Morning, like the heavens themselves (just with more casually dressed angels), and all of your patience and enthusiasm is rewarded with the Greatest Electronic Gadget Ever, the iPhone. So you rush home to fire it up, figuring the first thing to do is move all your music from your iPod to the phone, since clearly now that you have the iPhone, you won't need the iPod anymore. This is going to be so effing cool, you think, until you get home and realize....

Your iPod: 40GB
The iPhone: 8GB, max

Which does pose something of a problem. See, it's one thing if you have one of those 512MB players, where you just switch out a few songs here and there since you're only working with a couple hours' worth of music anyway, but with 8GB? that's 20% of your collection, a fifth of your music will fit onto the Next Big Thing. Which means that you'll actually have to be judicious about what moves from one to the other, the avoidance of which is more than likely a big reason you bought the 40GB iPod in the first place.

So really, you can't replace your iPod with it.

Okay, so at least you can replace your phone. That's easy, right? It's a cell phone, so I won't need my current cell phone anymore. True, but as cell phones go it's awfully expensive, and it's not exactly slim and portable, is it? Say you're currently carrying a RAZR. That's a decent-sized phone, as the more recent models go, and the iPhone is considerably bigger than heavier than a RAZR. Part of the reason I don't want a Blackberry or a smartphone is because they're just too big for me to want to carry with me everywhere I go. But that's just me.

But yes, you can replace your cell phone with it. As long as you already subscribe to AT&T, or are at the end of your contract anyway. Otherwise, prepare for the $125 cancellation fee from your existing provider on top of the $600 for the iPhone and the AT&T activation fee that's going to accompany the Joy of iPhone Ownership. And while we're on the topic of cell phones, let me ask this question: in the past 12 months, how many times have you dropped your cell phone? How paranoid are you going to be about scratches, dents, etc after dropping $600?

And as for the internet thing, I would have to imagine that the people who really need/want internet access as part of their wireless activities probably already have a Blackberry or a smartphone or something, which again only bears replacement if you're at the end of your contract or if your current device isn't working very well. The wifi thing is cool, but if you already have data service, then do you need the wifi? I don't have it, so I don't know. But it's a reasonable question.

So in the end, you pay $600, still have to keep your iPod, and making significant changes in other areas of its functionality stands to cost you even more money. Does that sound miraculous to you? I don't really see it.

Okay, so maybe the ubertechie early adopter isn't the best target audience. How about Joe Average Consumer? That's easy: $600. No thank you, I'll wait, at least until they sort out all of the bugs (which I won't even get into here, but it's not like this thing performs perfectly out of the box). The list of things I could otherwise do with $600 is long and distinguished. Plus the added $50 or so per month it's going to cost someone who doesn't already have data service on their cell plan. That's a lot of money that if I haven't already spent, it's probably not because I've just been waiting for this opportunity.

I realize also that the word 'scam' is kind of severe, but if someone told you to give them a bunch of money in return for changing your life, and the only change is that it ultimately made your life more complicated, not less, then that's probably the same word you'd use. Plus a few choice others, I'm sure.

Don't get me wrong, I think the iPhone is cool. I have a coworker who was right up front to buy one, and I got to test-drive it a bit. It's definitely an innovative little device; I'm just not sure it's worth the $600 price tag. But they're selling, so what do I know.

Jeans-wearing CEO and a borderline-cultlike marketing culture: priceless.

July 30, 2007

Obligatory (but not burdensome) recap

I don't get to nearly as many of them as I should, but I did make it out to the Happy Hour on Friday. The short version: loads of fun, great people, many laughs. Good times, as I have come to expect with this group.

This is my third-ish HH since I started this blog, and I'm still learning a few things (besides names and faces, of which there are many to keep track). For example, I'm still kind of getting used to referring to myself as "a blogger" in the first place. I know I'm going on two years here, but still. I don't talk about it often among my friends (the ones I know in 3-D), so it's something I rarely refer to outside of the HH's. Plus, I don't post all that often; I'm generally lucky to get something up weekly, what with my schedule. So it's still a little strange when someone asks me if I blog. It's getting better, in that I don't pause for nearly as long now, but it's still a little odd.

More than that, I am still apparently unprepared for when someone tells me that they a) read, or b) like this blog. Especially the latter. So it was pretty surprising when I had, on more than one occasion, not just recognition but enthusiastic responses to my blog. I have never taken compliments particularly well, my reflex generally being deflection and self-deprecation. It's always just kind of been my way. It was no different on Friday, I don't think. This may have resulted in something that looks like clumsy embarrasment rather than actual gratitude, so if you said something nice about me or my blog, and I tripped all over myself in response, please let me just say here: thank you, I appreciate it. While I may look like an idiot (and it would by no means be the first or last time), I am a very appreciative idiot.

Fortunately, the weather wasn't as much of an issue as it could have been. I got rained on in VA (heading to and from the metro) but not in DC, which was a very good thing. I was a little worried that it would keep people away, but this was not so. These folks are like the Postal Service: not rain nor sleet nor snow shall keep them from their appointed rounds. Of shots (the drinking kind, not the kind of shots you might expect from other kinds of postal workers). There was a very good turnout, and I was pleased that so many faces are becoming more familiar to me now, which is great, and I'm still meeting some people that I read often, which is also very cool.

- Kathryn and KassyK, two of the first blog-acquaintences I ever made, sort of bookended my HH experience: got to catch up with KK first thing, and Kathryn on my way out.
- Managed to greet gn, H, and Gen without falling victim to the awkwardness of the hugshake. I have only really met these girls together; they're like the Musketeers, just much hotter. And no swords (Ahem). Delightful, all of them, but I did have to give gn a hard time for not bringing treats to share...
- I dare you to spend five minutes with Jo and keep from smiling our laughing out loud. It's pretty much impossible. You'll lose before you get the watch started.
- Arjewtino is at least as funny in person as he is online, even if his short-term memory is a little spotty. And the former coworkers were great fun as well.
- INPY can work a room. And a patio.

And I got to see other familiar faces, and a few new ones. All in all, a good beginning to an excellent weekend, and a great way to end a long week. Hopefully it will be less than four months before I get to another one. Thanks to the hosts, and best wishes to Roosh on his travels.

July 20, 2007

Climate (out of) control

The good news:
When the Metro doors open, a cool, light breeze blows onto the hypercrowded afternoon train, giving the riders near the doors a brief moment of comfort on a hot commute.

The bad news:
You're at Rosslyn.

WMATA gets the gas face*.

* A gazillion ultra-cool points if this makes any sense to you at all. Seriously. A gazillion.

July 15, 2007

And then there were four

Generations, that is.

Saturday morning marked the passing of my great-great-uncle Mote, succumbing to cancer at the age of 97. Mote was the last remaining member of his generation of my family, and he had served as the family patriarch, in a way, for the past several years. We were fortunate enough to have him with us for that long, and long enough for him to meet the fifth generation, the children of my cousins, over the past three years.

I've written before about how pleased I am with my family, and how blessed I am to be related to them. I can't say I knew Mote all that well, given how far apart we were in age and geography, but I certainly had (and have) a great deal of affection for him. It's always tough, when you're a kid, to relate to the much-older generations, and by the time you are old enough, there just isn't enough time. But Mote was the grandfather-type with the gruff, gravelly voice and twinkle in his eye, and he was always happy to take a few minutes out to chat with us kids.

I do have one Mote moment, which will always serve as characteristic of him in particular and my family in general. This part of my family tree, my father's mother's side, has bi-annual reunions, where as many of us as possible get together in Ithaca, NY, and catch up. It's been a tradition for at least as long as I've been alive, and will hopefully continue for decades to come. In 2000, we had a double celebration, my grandmother's 80th birthday that year, and Mote's 90th. It was a lovely weekend all around (and it was also the site of the summer-prank story I referred to in the past post). But the funniest conversation I had all weekend was with Mote.

Mote comes walking by, and I inquire as to how he's doing. He says, "You know, I'm a little tired. I think I might be getting old." Now bear in mind, he's turning 90. I chuckled, and asked what brought this on. He then told me about the week leading up to the reunion. He had, in the seven days previous, done the following:
- played 18 holes of golf
- resurfaced/resealed his driveway (and yes, by himself)
- he and his wife, on the way to Ithaca, stopped and picked $25 worth of blueberries, so they could take them around to their friends, who were in many cases much younger than he was, who couldn't get out themselves (and blueberries were running at $0.75 per pound, by the way).

He spoke of these things as though it was the perfectly normal activity level for someone his age. I was tired justs thinking about it. So naturally, I told him that the kind of week he'd had would wear anybody out, even a strapping young lad like himself, and that I was sure he'd recover as quickly as ever. That, in a nutshell, was Uncle Mote. And by the end of the weekend, he would curse the heavens for raining and preventing him from mowing his daughter's lawn for her (who is my parents' age, give or take).

I'll always remember the big sunglasses and the big smile, on display for the whole weekend we would see him. He is survived by his wife, Dot, and an enormous extended family that will miss him dearly, all while hoping to have the kind of long, full life that he enjoyed himself.

And boy, did he enjoy it.

July 12, 2007

Here's to you, Mr. Absurd Cause-and-effect Connector

If you haven't yet seen this, you should, if only to enjoy the feeling of your hand involuntarily smacking into your forehead at its ridiculousness.

The story refers to this research, which I don't really have an issue with. It's objective, measured data taken by researchers. Left alone, it seems reasonable, and kind of obvious. It's the inane interpretation that I can't stand.

This is a professor of finance (and we'll leave aside for a second the fact that he's a professor of finance, not social studies or psychology or sociology or any area of academia that would make him, I don't know, credible in this discussion), who should if nothing else be a fairly competent analyst, in general. And what he does is look at people who are at a minimum 18 years old, and deduce the cause of their behavior to be an experience that is roughly 12 years old by then, ignoring the host of influences that might have been present along the way. Whiny? Clearly, it's because of a single program they watched as a 6-year-old. That by itself should get him fired, for intellectual laziness unbecoming a college professor, and for piss-poor analytical skills which, if applied to his finances, would have him living in a Maytag box under a bridge somewhere, unable even to afford the coffee cup to collect donations with. Or, in a highly-placed position with the Bush administration. But I digress.

We're living in a time where
- kids can divorce (or sue) their parents
- the act of parental discipline has been reduced to softly-spoken comments and standing in a corner
- the 'tweener' age group has among the highest buying power of any demographic, and therefore marketing panders to them like nobody's business
- getting (and staying) in college is so competitive, and the pressure so high, that parents have increased the pressure on students to "succeed"
- the cultural role models are predominantly hypersexed, undertalented, spoiled brats who have done very little outwardly worthwhile to achieve their success
- everything is negotiable, from traffic tickets to hotel reservations to, well, everything.

But the reason they're self-centered is because some kind old man in a cardigan said they were special. Uh-huh. Right.

Actually, what I find really amusing is the clip from the FOX News program Fox & Friends, where their crack staff of investigative journalists takes on the issue. Watch it here. What's great about it is that the anchor guy basically gets most of his facts wrong. The "research" he attributes to the LSU professor is actually the study at SDSU; the quote about having room for improvement is actually not from the professor at all, it's from some commenter in a chat forum. The LSU professor didn't actually research anything, he just ran his mouth, and ignorantly at that. Clearly, he could do a stand-in on Fox & Friends if this whole teaching thing doesn't pan out (heck, it might keep him out of the Maytag box, you never know), considering the high standards of journalistic and intellectual rigor they have in place there.

I don't even want to get into his comments about Asian students; I really don't have that kind of time. But obviously, if you want to evaluate the influence of a television program on our youth, your best control group is one taken from a completely different social structure and culture. Yes, I think that is the Nobel committee on Line 1, sir; I'm pretty sure you should take it. Moron.
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