Home, James…

I get to indulge in the most satisfying of trips… The one that takes you home. Sure, I’ve got to cross a third of the continent, but every mile is worth it. The longer I’m away, the more I want to be there. I guess there’s nothing fading about my brand of homesickness. I’m even becoming more generous with what I think of as “home”; a phrase that now encompasses wide swaths of Virginia, DC, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Any trip back east is a cause for celebration, but this isn’t a normal trip home. I get the extra perk of seeing one of my oldest friends getting married to a truly classy guy. Now I’m not usually a proponent of weddings as a rule, but this one is getting my personal seal of approval. Congrats, Sandi and Jon!

Location, Location, Location…

Usually, I’m first on the boat when it comes to rolling out new and interesting tech. I’m still on the fence, though with Facebook’s new “location” service (and its cousin Foursquare). As much of a technophile as I am, I’m feeling a certain level of unease with the whole idea of mobile tracking. I mean I’m as much of a Facebook whore as anyone, but wow, that’s some serious self revelation.

Aside from the gee wiz factor, I just don’t know that I’m seeing that much utility here. Maybe if I were a 21 year old bar hopper, but as a typical suburbanite slob, I’m missing it. Tracking is pretty new on the mass consumer side of things and I know it’s been a real revolution in industry, so I’m guardedly optimistic that it will prove to be something just as powerful in the hands of the individual. Until then, I’m glad It’s an opt-in kind of thing.

Something is better than nothing…

So it feels like I should at least write something this weekend. Well, technically, I guess I have been doing plenty of writing, but none of it for publication. As much as I love my ranting and raving here, occasionally I do have to take a break to do actual productive work. As everyone knows, of course, I try to keep that to a minimum.

It’s the spirit of something being better than nothing that has kept me busy most of the weekend. I’ve been doing alot of bitching and complaining lately, but I forgot that if you want to change anything, first you have to start. Most of the weekend has been getting up a head of steam for that start. Getting entrenched in the day-to-day is the easy thing to do. Twisting up your fortitude to start making hard decisions, now that’s tough.

Don’t worry, I can’t imagine a circumstance where I’ll quit my bitching… but my hat’s over the wall. Now I’ve gotta go get it.

Convoy…

Yesterday, what the media are calling the last American combat convoy left Iraq. That draws down the force in being to something a little larger than 50,000, from one at its peak hovered around the 140,000 mark. Seven years is a long time, particularly for a country that can be challenged by paying attention to a 30 minute television show.

For someone who has spent most of his life fascinated by history, just the phrase “last convoy” brings to mind certain imagery. Watching the Strykers lumbering across the Iraqi desert, it’s hard not to conjure up images of the final Soviet personnel carriers crossing out of Afghanistan or the iconic picture of the Huey evacuating CIA operators from a downtown rooftop during the fall of Saigon.

In every case, there’s something unsettling about the scene – something unfinished. We seem to be pathologically hard wired to demand an ending to every story or to expect that some final grand gesture will bring closure. Study history long enough and you come to the conclusion that nothing ever really ends it just becomes part of our collective past and informs the future in the same way that Vietnam informed the Soviets in Afghanistan and both influeced how we did and didn’t behave in Iraq. Eventually, and probably sooner rather than later, the Iraq experience will inform whatever comes next. And history sweeps on towards the next last convoy.

A message to Comcast…

Dear Comcast,

We’ve had a long history. I’d love to say that we’ve stayed together because of your amazing products or first class customer service, but we both know it’s only because you’re effectively the only game in town in terms of “high speed” interment service.

All I wanted to do today was swap out my older-than-dirt cable modem for a brand spanking new model. Nothing fancy, nothing extreme, just trading one piece of hardware for another. Like everything else in the universe, I assumed that this would just be a plug and play experience… But you know better don’t you? You know how important it is that I call you and wade through your “automated customer support” menu before sitting on hold for 25 minutes waiting for a real person to come on the line so they could tell me that I needed to be transferred to someone in your “internet department.” The best part was then spending another 15 minutes on hold so I could manually provide a serial number to you.

This is the year 2010. Are you seriously going to tell me that somewhere deep in the bowls of the Comcast corporation there isn’t a computer that could have remotely interrogated my shiny new modem, figured out where it was on the planet, and tied it to my account? I mean it’s not like I’m standing up a supercomputer or a server farm over here. All I really want to do is be able to connect my MacBook Pro to washingtonpost.com and Facebook. Just seems like something we could have made happen without going through an hour long process. Of course you know better than I do, as technology is new and frightening.

I’m glad we’ve had this time together, because it’s reminded me just how much I’m looking forward to kicking you all the way to the curb as soon as I have half a chance. Have a great weekend.

Your friend,

Jeff

Techno-fail…

I’ve been noticing more and more in the last six months that I’m getting alot of lag in downloads and even in regular web surfing. Gaming? Fuggidaboudid. It was one of those things I’ve been meaning to get into, but hadn’t quite found the time to attack. Status: Annoying, but not critical. Until a few days ago when I was downloading two patches and trying to read the Post. That’s when Safari actually stalled out. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Stalled out and stayed that way for the better part of five minutes. In internet time, that’s effectively forever.

Knowing that there was an issue somewhere, I started running through the normal tech support stuff. Ran the diagnostics, cleaned up files, rechecked and cleaned connections, ran speed tests, visually inspected the hardware… and that’s when it hit me. Sitting quietly in the back of the “TV nook” was my cable modem; the same cable modem I bought when I was living in Virginia in 2003. Yeah, 2003. Somehow in my grand plan for tech replacement, I missed the modem completely. Probably because it’s one of those ultra-reliable always-on kind of things that I’ve never needed to think about, at least until it started choking the rest of my tech.

I think I can safely say that when it comes to the widgets connecting your house to the interwebs, seven years and two generations has been a bit too long to wait between upgrades. A trip to BestBuy seems to be in order today.

Reader…

I’ve liked books since I was a kid. In 5th grade when the other kids wanted to play kickball, I had my nose buried in a biography of Douglas MacArthur. Seems I could never walk by a book store without at least popping in for a look and I would never have dreamt of leaving the house without a least one book stashed somewhere. Unfortunately, stashed is usually where they would end up staying. It would take me months to read a book carving out five or ten minutes at a time to focus on it.

I’ve been hesitant, even hostile, to the idea of using an e-reader. In fact, I blasted the concept pretty roundly right here not so very long ago. The historian in me couldn’t quite come to terms with the idea that books could be anything other than words printed on paper and bound. It seems that, at least in this case, I may have been misinformed.

I’ve bene regularly using the Kindle app on my iPad for the last few months and my book consumption has been way up. As much as I hate to admit it, it just makes reading more convenient. Since the Kindle app crosses devices, I can start a page on my iPad and then finish the same page on my iPhone without missing a word. The app records where I stopped and picks up there regardless of what device I happen have in my hand. Add in over-the-air downloads from Amazon and it’s pure convenience… and we all know how I feel about that.

The e-reader has basically replaced the printed book for me. I don’t anticipate that the books filling shelves in the office will ever go anywhere, but I definitely won’t be adding to their number nearly as often. Of course some titles aren’t electronic and some may never be, so I suspect that there will always be room in my heart for both print and electronic books, but for sheer ease of use, I’m officially leaning way into the electronic camp. If you’re a reader and haven’t given it a chance yet, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.