Road packets.

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I write this from the right seat of our car as we head down US 23 towards central Ohio, Columbus, the city of my birth. Had a great time last night with Nancy, Alan, and Kate in GPW, and my mission to Canada later in the morning went as well as any sojourn to Canada does these days…I swear, even some of the Canadian customs people are severe and grumpy in these paranoid times.

Nancy captures a telling moment about the postmodern nature of our getting together around a table laden with laptops and phones and cameras. We’re there, able to capture content at the drop of a bon mot, which is almost too much capability.See something you want to preserve, no matter how fleeting? 3 seconds later, you’ve grabbed and saved…and you hope you attach enough metadata to find it later in the rapidly-filling-up terabyte hard drive hanging off of your machine. At its best, having mucho life captured gives you the capability of illustrating your anecdotes almost parenthetically…holding up the iPhone as you say “and then we left Spriggy outside,” and there the dog is, captured in digital amber, just as he was, shivering.

A small handful of pre-MacWorld speculators hoped that the new MacBook Air would feature the same ubiquitous networking as the iPhone…no matter where you go, if you’re within faint wifi range or a cell tower, you’re online. But no, as network-y a machine the MacBook Manila Envelope is, it, like the iTouch, still only has wifi. Sad, because that ‘packets anywhere’ concept, especially on a long road trip, is a compelling proposition. Time and time again now we (if nothing else) reassure ourselves and alleviate stress by knowing to a Google Maps certainty that the Hampton Inn we seek is precisely where we think it is…and we can call them to reassure ourselves even further by poking that doohickey there.

Aahhhh. Peace of mind through packet presence.

Me, I’m dubious.

Monday, January 7th, 2008

I’m starting to get a lot more Google search results that are, well, a lot like this one—attempts to appear relevant, only we know they’re just faux-sites laden with bottom-feeding ads. I’ve been showing some older folks (yes! Older than me! Hard to believe!) lately how to use their computers, which these days has to include some intensive search engine instruction…and it’s hard to explain to a person who thinks that the whole machine on their desk is ‘some kinda magic’ that a link like this really represents subhuman scum trying to subvert the true ways of the internet.

The ‘you are looking at this’ reminds me of a classic story from my college TV station. I’ll be brief. In the days of live booth announcers, we had versions of our legal ID (“You’re watching WOUB-TV Athens and WOUC-TV Cambridge”, or simply “You’re watching public television.”) in varying lengths, from fifteen seconds down to three. You chose the right one to fill the time. What happens when the duty director calls for a two-second ID? The young woman in the booth intoned, “You’re watching television.”


Continuing my theme of being awash in nostalgia for the old days of television, I came across this wonderful collection of scanned-in photos, meticulously annotated, of television stations and facilities in Atlanta, Columbus, GA, New York, and elsewhere. Wow…the gear, the clothes. There’s even a photo of an actual Vidifont I have sweated over in a noisy tape room on West Peachtree Street. So, I was inspired to clean up my Vidifont brochure pictures a bit. Mmmm…Vidifont, is there nothing it can’t do?

Happy Iowa day.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

It’s the day of the Iowa caucuses, and as a designer who has been there (“on the scene! Live! With boots on the ground!”) to design two television stations over the years (I’ve been annoying Sammy with “that’s my eight! that’s my three! Those are my county outlines!” as we see an Iowa newscast or two on C-SPAN) I can verify the one tangible piece of reporting emerging from the Hawkeye state.

It’s damn cold there.

Heck, it was damn cold there last April, when I made a midnight run to pick up a denim jacket from a 24-hour Wal-Mart in Mason City just to keep from shivering in meetings.

Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess how the actual caucusosity will play out (at this moment), but folks seem to think there is a real role for retail politicking (as opposed to the tarmac-politicking that Tim Crouse delineated in 1972 and reporters have been re-characterizing since then.) But as New Hampshire proves, you can have small-scale retail politicking and then go and, like, y’know actually vote, like most of us do in the primaries.

One of my favorite Crouse-like moments of this campaign thus far, accurately capturing the cold, fatigue, and caffeine-craving is chronicled here at the CJR.

Why can’t we get together and come up with a system that assures we, the voters, of much more of a retail experience, where we might actually be able to go somewhere and hear he or she speak, no matter where we are?

It’s not like there hasn’t been a truckload of reports on how poorly this primary structure is gonna serve us this year. And Iowa just serves as this odd, frozen offbeat way to get the mania started.

Christopher Hitchens tells us that the caucuses are a sham, the Times says that they empower just a few people in a state that has just a few mostly white people, but most of the network news promos breathlessly say “the first votes are cast!” Well, yeah, if by ‘cast’ you mean people standing around in one corner…then another…then they’re lured over by the living room fireplace by warmth and cookies.

Brr. We went for a walk today to the park and it was substantially less windy and cold than yesterday, but I still got an Iowa flashback or two. Here! In Atlanta!

Bright resolutions.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

“Well, you just know it’s gotta be a better year than 2007.”

That’s the compiled fervent wish of the websites of people I either for-real know and therefore visit or think I know and therefore visit. If wishes were a renewable energy source, we’d be all set, because I can feel the collective semiconscious out there wishin’ and hopin’ for a bright sunny day with every ‘page down’ I press.

I share that optimism—although a quick review of last year’s early posts will show you that I generally evince a slight default optimism—even in the face of the sad events that started last year, so, well, another data point toward the theory that blog posts don’t mean much of anything.

I think we have a chance in the next 45 days or so to set a political course for our fellow US citizens that will lead us to brighter times, although I’d say this year’s slate of republicans and democrats has a much higher goofball ratio than any I can remember…and I can remember Barry Goldwater. That’s gotta be a good thing. I’m going to be studying the weather mapping databases to see if the added hot air masses over Iowa and New Hampshire disrupt the jet stream.

New Years 2008 did transition for us from foggy dampness to bright, clear and cold, which is a practical improvement, if not a portent. We’ve done all the right year-end-transitioning things—I tweaked the CSS on Sammy’s site, made note of the end-of-year mileage. We went over to my brother’s house for a New Year’s Day dinner packed with those good luck foods that southerners revere (although most of the diners were transplanted midwesterners.) Black-eyed peas, greens, mashed potatoes. Dark-chocolate-coated Edamame. You know, the traditions.

On the way back, I realized we now have a car that alerts us—while driving—when the temperature drops below 37ºF, but isn’t smart enough to realize that if the roads are bone-dry, there’s nothing too threatening about those conditions.

So in many ways, Sammy and I are set for 08. Our bills are paid. We have lots of friends we care about and (often) get a chance to visit. We have the stuff that some covet—a cool car, a cool phone, lots of cool computers, ipods and a cool HD set. Our house is warm (enough) and we’re saving water from our dishes and showers.

The decks are thus cleared for positive consequences. Well, let’s see, eh?