Dec 312012

Way back in 1998, I ran into my friend Paul Robichaux on the square in beautiful downtown Athens, Alabama.  This was right around the time that personal digital assistants (PDAs) were going mainstream, and by that I mean you didn’t have to be a tremendous nerd to have one.  (All right, yes, they were still pretty nerdy.)  Almost without exception, even the nicest mobile phones were still just phones.

e11I had purchased and used a clamshell electronic organizer a little bit, but the first honest-to-goodness PDA I owned was the Casio Cassiopeia E-11.  They wanted you to call it a “palmtop PC.”  It ran what was then called Windows CE, with mini-versions of Word, Excel, and so forth.

Paul had a PalmOS PDA.  About my Casio, he said “I like the built-in capabilities, but I think cascading menus are a horrible UI convention to try to bring to a three-and-a-half-inch screen.”

And so they were.  I used it for most of a year before dumping it on eBay and getting a Handspring Visor Deluxe, and was amazed at how much more readily the Palm operating system plugged into my life.  It was so intuitive, it almost felt anticipatory.  Stayed with it until I got my first smartphone.  In fact, I carried my Palm TX everywhere as recently as two years ago.

I have that “plugged into my life” feeling with my current phone.  I have a few nits to pick with the Windows Phone operating system, but it is really good at enabling what I want to do with minimal fuss.  Microsoft has done an excellent job with this mobile operating system.

So why isn’t Windows Phone doing better?

I think the biggest factor is simply that Microsoft is so late to the game.  Both iOS and Android are familiar and work well, so there is little incentive for folks to change horses when it’s time to re-up.  It takes a technophile, a contrarian, or both to even give Windows Phone a shot.

windows8I think there are other things going on here too, though.  I think Microsoft has made a couple of major mistakes rolling out its current Windows ecosystem.

For one thing, the Surface tablet came to market with a price that was much too high.  Many analysts suggested before its release that a highly aggressive price in the $200-250 range would be important to increase adoption rates.  Instead, it languishes at twice that.  With a keyboard cover, you can knock on $630.  That’s absurd for a device that needs so badly to make friends.

For another, I think Microsoft is guilty of the opposite UI paradigm problem I described at the beginning of this post.  The live tile motif is fabulous for a truly portable device.  But I think Microsoft has badly underestimated how conservative users are about their primary computing devices, whether they be desktops or full-boat bagged laptops.  Hmmm.  These tiles look great on my phone and on that tablet, but do I really want them on a 24″ screen?  To what end?  What are they doing for me?  What was wrong with my taskbar and Start menu?

I’m sure Microsoft has excellent, well-researched answers, but I also suspect they are scientific responses to what are essentially religious questions.  It’s just too much change at once, and the benefits aren’t obvious.  I know what the point of the paradigm is, and I still think it’s a little chintzy on my “real” machine.  Furthermore, I think they’re guilty of trying to dictate the moment when users don’t think of mobile and non-mobile, but just of computing.  I remain unconvinced that moment is inevitable.  But if/when it happens, I doubt it will have been particularly responsive to actions as deliberate as Microsoft’s attempted forced convergence.

Windows 8 is in serious trouble.  I think there are probably only ugly ways out on the full-strength computing side, a limp-along until the next Windows undoes the damage perhaps being the least so.  I think Microsoft still has a chance in the mobile world, but they need a different plan, and right now.  Get very aggressive with pricing, perhaps coupled with a little frankness and humor in advertising?

Microsoft, do you appreciate that you need hearts, not just minds?

 Posted by at 3:12 pm
Dec 302012

flower(Note:  Please also read my first review of this restaurant.  I did this follow-up review because my initial visit was on the very first day Four Leaves Asian Restaurant was open.)

I went back to Four Leaves Asian Restaurant today for my aforementioned “validation visit.”  I thought it would be fun for the family to go after church today, so that’s what we did.  I wanted to try some other parts of the menu this time.

The boys and I split the 2-in-1, one of Four Leaves’ signature sushi rolls with spicy tuna, salmon, and avocado, for an appetizer.  I gave Aaron a piece before I remembered I wanted a photo.

sushiThis was tasty, but very high at $16.  It’d be defensible at $11 and a good deal at $9.  I’ll drop in sometime for a dedicated sushi meal and see what I can build working from the regular menu before pronouncing Four Leaves too expensive in general on sushi.

Lea and Aaron went with Mongolian beef and sweet and sour chicken for their entrees, remaining firmly in the realm of mainstream American Chinese food.  Both were well-presented and reported to taste good.  I went with udon with a combination of beef, chicken, and shrimp (five good-sized ones—nice number in a combo!).  I enjoyed my noodles, but was a little surprised at how lightly they were seasoned.  I put both salt and pepper on them.

Nathan went with a chef’s specialty of crispy red snapper, which was beautifully presented:

snapperThese two fillets were fresh and delicious.  Lea pronounced it a credible rival for the similar dish at Surin—high praise indeed.

As with our earlier visit, service was very good, and though the manager didn’t speak to us this time, I did notice how carefully he was monitoring the goings-on.  Our sushi appetizer, four entrees, an extra cup of hot and sour soup, two sodas, two iced teas, and 20% for our server came to $96.  (Omitting the sushi and getting Nathan a $10 entree instead of a $19 one would have put our bill at $64.)

It was another positive visit, and I consider my earlier review validated.  Four Leaves is a fine addition to the area’s offerings of Asian cuisine.


 Posted by at 2:39 pm
Dec 292012

I received a large compliment recently when someone told me I was “very kind.”

“Thank you, but no, I’m not,” I told her.  “I’m kind of an asshole some significant part of the time, really.”

She persisted.  “No, you are kind, helpful, and understanding.  You just don’t suffer fools gladly.”

I thanked her again.  Still not sure I deserve it.  But, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit as I figure out how I’m going to deal with a second Obama term.  For four years I had no particular ill will toward the electorate, charitably considering the sociological impacts of Obama’s election while also remaining confident that we/they wouldn’t put him in again.

Guess what?  That was a bad approach.  There are a lot of damned morons in this country, and tens of millions of them voted to put Obama back in last month.  I mentioned earlier that it simply hasn’t been bad enough yet, and that I hope a condition bad enough to vote liberals out remains consistent with the survival of the American way of life.  I also mentioned earlier that the Republicans must do a much better job of explaining how self-reliance wherever possible is more consistent with the American dream than the Democratic fantasy of a cradle-to-grave welfare state.  I’m thinking about how I can write along those lines in the months to come, actually.

But I’m finished listening to breathless leftist fairy tales, even if only as a courtesy.  I’m not going to do it anymore.  I’ve been thinking it might be good for me to memorize a few short recitations, that I can deliver reliably and without emotion, to stifle such “discussion.”  For example, if the anemic economy or health care comes up, it might be something like:

“The economy has not improved because President Obama has fostered an exceptionally poor, tax-laden, heavily regulatory environment in which potential employers are unwilling to risk capital.  Obamacare is the largest component of this environment.  To secure your (ostensible) support for it, you were actively and repeatedly lied to about what the law would do and how much it would cost.  As we begin to feel its full negative effects this year, you’ll be played with more class envy nonsense and encouraged to blame a so-called do-nothing Republican House, when in fact the most anti-business president in the history of the country and his fellow thug Democrats are primarily to blame.  Economic growth comes from the private sector, not government.”

And then I’ll either change the subject, or walk away.  How many of those do I need?  I’m thinking five or six might do the trick for anything that might come up.

Excessive persistence on the part of the other party might prompt something like:

“You misunderstand me.  This is not that we don’t see eye to eye on some things; this is that you are wrong.  Until your reply begins with ‘I am wrong,’ we will not discuss this further.”

Rude?  Yes.  I’m not interested in being otherwise to such anymore.  If you don’t like that, then don’t bring up your stupid-ass fairy tale politics with me.  I promise, I’m thoroughly capable of a pleasant relationship independent of such.

We don’t today have multiple valid paths in a grand marketplace of civic ideas, infused with vigor by spirited debate.  We have an administration that, through a combination of ignorance and malice (and maybe we’ll debate the percentages of each later), wants to permanently and negatively alter the nature of the United States of America.  I won’t dignify support of such with the implicit validation of discussion.

Now as I said earlier, I do want to contribute positively to the discussion as well, because we’re going to need substantial effort going forward.  I’m thinking about how I can do that here, and I may be headed more toward a standalone essay sort of format—something that takes longer to write and research, but that is intended to stand on its own and (hopefully) provoke thought, if not immediate debate.  We’ll see.

 Posted by at 2:19 pm
Dec 272012

Bloody Mary with breakfast?  Yeah.  More than once.  New games and movies with the boys, enjoyed under new fleece throws?  Check, check, and check.  Must be that glorious time between Christmas and New Year’s, during which I live, for a brief time, in a manner inconsistent with responsible adulthood.

Well, I almost put up some real content this morning.  Wrote a pretty good post, and then said “you know what?  This is probably a Tennessee Valley Moms Network post.”  So, here it is.

Planning to see some longtime friends this afternoon.

Hope you’re enjoying your time off as well.  If it’s not time off for you, I hope you’re tolerating as best you can.

 Posted by at 12:13 pm
Dec 252012


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

 Posted by at 12:01 am
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