Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I need a break.

I began blogging on 5/7/06. I started writing one blog, and gradually built up to five blogs a day. I got out of bed at 3:30AM to start my daily writing.

I did it for fun, but lately it has seemed too much like work. I'm not sure that I am officially "burned-out," but I have definitely lost enthusiasm for the daily grind of blogging.

Since the blog obligation was only to myself, and I have no contract, it's an obligation I am free to suspend, cancel or modify at will. No one has a paid-up subscription for words they won't receive.

Therefore, after 2,715 posts, I have decided to take some time off. I need to finish writing a few books, and some essays, and maybe I'll even try poetry and songwriting. My to-do list includes many unread books and un-watched DVDs. I want to spend more time swimming, and walk my dog more often.

The break will last at least a few weeks, but might even be several months. J. D. Salinger has not published an original work since 1965, but I won't be away that long. Even if I don't come back full-time until the Fall, I might pop back in occasionally if I think there's something worth saying.

I am continuing to write BookMakingBlog, my blog about writing, editing and publishing.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Circuit City reincarnated as a Web-only biz

Circuit City's Website was revived over the Memorial Day weekend, as Systemax relaunched the brand as an online-only consumer electronics retailer.

After the original Circuit City's bankruptcy earlier this year, its assets were auctioned, and acquired by Systemax, which also owns the TigerDirect and CompUSA brands.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Palm Pre is almost here, and you'll be able to buy it at Wal-Mart

Sprint Nextel plans to start selling Palm's much anticipated new smart phone, the Pre, on June 6 for $200. The device could give Palm a needed boost in sales and help Sprint stop the defection of subscribers to other wireless carriers. The price requires a new two-year service plan and a $100 mail-in rebate.

The Pre, which looks like an iPhone but sports a slide-out keyboard in addition to a touch screen, is seen as Palm's chance of reversing a long slide and taking on newer smart phones like the iPhone and BlackBerry.

The phone, which was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, has a capacitive touch screen, slide-out keyboard, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, and Bluetooth. One of the most appealing features of the Pre is its new operating system, which is called webOS. The OS was built from the ground up with Internet connectivity in mind, and it has a finger-friendly user interface that can run multiple applications at once. Palm is planning to use webOS on a variety of devices, but it needs the Pre to be a hit in order to gain market share.

Sprint lost 1.25 million of its valuable contracted subscribers in the first three months of the year, even worse than the drop of 1.1 million in the fourth quarter.

Given their challenges, Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar said the device is a "make or break product" for both companies. Kumar is skeptical that the Pre will be a runaway success because the smart phone market is already so crowded, and said the Pre should be priced lower than the $199 iPhone.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said Palm has "a legitimate shot of resurrecting themselves," but argues that for the Pre to be successful it would have to become the dominant smart phone at Sprint, which he thinks is unlikely.

Palm also said Tuesday that it will also start selling a wireless charging dock for the Pre called the Touchstone, along with a special back cover that makes the phone compatible with the dock, for $70.

In addition to the usual Sprint sales channels, the Pre will be available at Wal-Mart, which is making a strong upgrade of its electronics departments to lure customers from rivals such as Best Buy and Amazon. They are all fighting for a share of business from recently closed Circuit City, which had over 700 stores and more than $11 billion in annual sales. Part of Wal-Mart's strategy is to offer high-end smartphones, such as the Pre. (info from The Associated Press and Information Week)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Napster cutting prices for music has cut the price of its online music streaming service to $5 a month from $12.95, and threw in five song downloads for customers in a move to better compete with rival iTunes.

The company gained notoriety in the early years of music downloading with its free music swapping service, but following copyright lawsuits emerged as a subscription-based service. It has struggled to grow its user base from over 700,000 last August, and compete with music retailers like Apple's iTunes store.

Napster said the new offering stands up well against iTunes because 5 songs a month will cost just $5 even if they are new releases. By comparison, iTunes recently began charging up to $1.29 for newer, more popular tracks. Napster also allows unlimited full-length song previews versus iTunes' 30-second samples. Subscribers can also buy additional MP3-format songs priced between 69 cents and $1.29.

Sites such as MySpace, Pandora and imeem pay for song streams with advertising revenue so don;t charge for the music, but Napster does not have any ads.

The plan will be marketed through Best Buy stores starting today including with pre-paid cards that will cost from $5 for one month to up to $60 for a 12-month subscription. Online buyers of lengthier subscriptions will get a few extra song download credits thrown in.

Users of Napster's existing $12.95-per-month computer-based music streaming service will be switched over automatically on their next billing cycle.

Others who pay $14.95 a month to be able to download unlimited numbers of songs and play them from portable devices, will be given a choice to stick with their plan or switch to the new plan. Subscribers who pay $7.49 to have five over-the-air song downloads to mobile phones will not be affected. (info from The Associated Press)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Free samples of Howard Stern on XM satellite radio

The Howard Stern Show is a basic part of Sirius satellite radio programming, and available at extra cost on XM.

From may 18 through May 25, Howard is available for free listening on XM.
CLICK for info

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sprint & Verizon will sell itty-bitty Wi-Fi router

Sprint will join Verizon Wireless in marketing Novatel’s pocket-size battery-powered Wi-Fi router with embedded cellular data modem.

Verizon announced earlier this week that it would be first to market on May 17. Thursday, Sprint announced availability during the first week of June. Both carriers are pricing the Novatel-made MiFi 2200 at $99 after $50 mail-in rebate with two-year wireless-data service contract.

The 2200 incorporates CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A cellular-data modem and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, enabling up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices to access the Internet from places where fixed hot spots or Wi-Fi networks are unavailable. The MiFi’s rechargeable battery provides up to four hours of active use and 40 hours of standby time on a single charge. It measures 3.5 inches by 2.3 inches by 0.4 inches and weighs 2.05 ounces.

The device is the first of its kind to operate on batteries, enabling consumers to take it easily from car to car. Recently, Autonet launched a transportable in-vehicle cellular hot spot, which consumers can move from car to car, but the device must be docked with an installed mounting kit. Kyocera continues to offer a KR2 Wi-Fi router that operates off AC, comes with car cigarette-lighter adapter, and accepts a cellular EV-DO data card to connect to up to 20 Wi-Fi-equipped laptops to the Internet.

The Novatel device will be available through all Verizon Wireless channels. Sprint will offer it online, in its stores and through select other retailers. Soon after, it will offer a version to wireless wholesalers.

Eligible Verizon price plans include $39.99 monthly access for 250MB monthly allowance and 10 cents per megabyte overage. A $59.99 monthly plan comes with 5GB monthly allowance and 5 cents per megabyte overage. Consumers can pay a higher price if they don’t commit to a monthly plan. In that case, the user must get a $15 Mobile Broadband DayPass to access the service for a single 24-hour period.

Sprint’s eligible plans are the $59.99/month broadband-only plan and the $149/month Simply Everything Plan + Mobile Broadband plan, which covers a phone plus the device. Both plans include up to 5GB of data per month, plus 5 cents for every MB more. (info from TWICE)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Even if you did't care about Star Trek on TV, you'll probably still like the movie

Before the release of the new Star Trek "prequel" movie, there was some loud grumbling from diehard fans who feared that it would be untrue to the original.

I can't imagine any real ST fan not liking the movie, and there's a lot that will appeal to "kids" who were born too late to miss out on the original fun. My wife, who never watched any of the TV shows, and grumbled through the movies she went to with me, actually had a very good time. I was never a Trekkie or Trekker. I never went to a Star Trek convention. I never wore Kirk pajamas or Spock ears, but I did see every movie and every episode of every TV series. I could not imagine not going on opening day, and I loved the movie.

I thought that the cast was mostly unknowns, but Generation-Xer Cousin Dave pointed out that if I was 15 to 25 years old, I would recognize them as current stars. The producers were smart to pick a theme that would appeal to my generation, and have a cast that would appeal to kids.

Zachary Quinto (above, right) looks so Spock-like that he could be the original Nimoy's son, or the current Nimoy's grandson. We even get to see the present Quinto-Spock talking to the future Nimoy-Spock. At the end of the conversation they both give the Vulcan/Jewish spread finger salute. My wife said that she read that Quinto's fingers had to be temporaily glued together to do the stunt, but the glue didn't show. As Nimoy-Spock was about to leave Quinto-Spock he said something like, "It would be self-serving to use the traditional farewell, so I'll just say good luck;" meaning it would be wrong to say "live long and prosper" to himself.

I went to a 6:30 screening, that had a mix of old farts like me and young families with kids. A few seats away from me was a bearded guy of approximately my age (63). At several points in the movie where there were homages to the original STs, it seemed that he and I were the only ones in the theater who were laughing or applauding.

This happened the first time Quinto-Spock raised his eybrow, and when Bones said, "Damn it Jim, I'm a doctor, not a..." and when Scotty said, "I'm givin' 'er all she's got, Cap'n." I did not hear "I canna change the laws of physics" or "He's dead, Jim, dead," but I'll likely see it again and will listen closely.

Chris Pine was perfect as Kirk, confident, smart, horny, willing to break rules and piss-off people when necessary. I can identify with that.

Early in the movie we see Kirk at around age 12 speeding in an ancient Corvette. While driving he raises the top so it can be blown off the car and heads for a cliff while being chased by a cop in a flying motorcycle. Kirk leaps out just in time and as he crawls back up from the abyss, the cop asks his name. Is a squeeky kid voice, he replies, "James Tiberias Kirk." It was as assertive as "Bond, James Bond." A few years later Kirk shows up at Starfleet Academy and gives away his futuristic motorcycle before heading off into space.

Kirk soon tries and fails to pick up Space Cadet Uhura in a bar. Later she is hot for Spock, and Spock and Uhura have a passionate goodbye while standing in the transporter bay, as Kirk watches them.

Kirk has a sex scene with a green woman, and when her roommate arrives he hides under her bed, but the second woman tells the green woman that she hears him breathing, and Kirk runs out of the bedroom in his undies.

There's an early scene where Kirk meets Dr. McCoy. McCoy warns Kirk about the dangers of space and explains that he just lost everything in a divorce. All he has left are his "bones."

Because of his "cheating" manipulation of the Kobayashi Maru test, Kirk is suspended from Starfleet and not allowed to go into space on an emergency mission. Bones comes up with a faked excuse to take him on board the Enterprise, allegedly because Kirk needs his medical attention.

When Spock is acting-captain of the Enterprise, Kirk pisses him off, and Spock maroons him on a frigid planet. Kirk is chased by a monster and seeks refuge in a cave and is saved by Nimoy-Spock, who gives him an update on Vulcan/Romulan history. Nimoy-Spock takes Kirk to a Federation research station where he meets super-geek Scotty. Nimoy-Spock gives Scotty advice on modifying the transport equipment so Scotty and Kirk can be transported to the Enterprise whle the ship is moving at Warp speed. The arrival on Enterprise is very funny, with Scotty trapped. (I won't spoil it for you by explaining it.) Quinto-Spock is pissed off to see Kirk again. They get into a fight. Spock realizes that his emotional ourburst shows that he is unfit for duty, and Kirk takes over as Captain to fight the Romulans.

Anton Yelchin stole the show as 17-year-old Chekov ("wictory," "werry," "Wulcan").

McCoy had a great line to Spock: "Are you Vulcan crazy?"

At the end we see Captain Pike in a wheelchair, a precurser of the Pike head mounted on a mobile box in the original series.

The conclusion has Nimoy reciting, over the original theme music, "These are the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise..."

I can be emotional and loud in movie theaters, and my wife often cringes. Sometimes during a really preposterous scene I'll yell BULLSHIT, as in the original Batman movie when an airplane was brought down with a shot from a handgun.

Long before Gene Roddenberry, British writer Samuel Talyor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote that a "willing suspension of disbelief" is necessary to enjoy art and literature. I was unable to suspend disbelief to accept shooting down the plane, but I had no problem with the new ST movie plot line happening before the TV series, and also happening in an alternate/parallel zone of existence so two Spocks could have a meeting.

Friday night, I had not even one negative outburst, and there was much to laugh and clap about.

I was pissed off that the melted butter didn't seep through to the lower third of my popcorn, but I can't complain at all about the actual movie. Based on the reviews, I expected it to be really good, but it was still better than expected. Purists may dislike the writers changing the Kobayashi Maru story line, but the new version worked out fine.

Acting, casting, writing, special effects, photography, music, everything was outstanding.

For me, most movies are a $10/90-minute nap. This time I stayed awake for all 2 hours and 6 minutes, and I'm now old enough for the Old Fart Discount.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I'm taking a few days off to finish writing a book and start a new one. I should be back during the week of 5/11.

Friday, May 1, 2009

New itty-bitty camcorders

Yesterday Pure Digital Technologies introduced the second generation of its Flip Ultra camcorder line, both both standard- and high-def models.

The Flip Ultra ($149 suggested retail) and Flip UltraHD ($199) feature two hours of recording time, a two-inch high-resolution anti-glare screen and a AA battery recharging system using a built-in USB arm.

The Flip UltraHD is available in black or white (with chrome trim), and has 1,280 by 720p HD resolution. It will capture up to two hours of recordings on its 8GB of built in memory and includes an HDMI output and 2x digital zoom.

The new Flip Ultra model is available in black, white, yellow and pink, and offers 640 by 480 standard-definition resolution. It records up to two hours on its 4GB of built-in memory, and includes a composite-video output and 2x digital zoom.

The new models are preloaded with FlipShare onboard video editing, filing and sharing software. The system enables fast file sharing after plugging the camcorder’s USB arm into a Mac or PC.

Pure Digital said it sold more than 2 million units since the introduction of the first Flip Family camcorders about two years ago. The company also claims that its Flip Ultra is No. 1-selling camcorder in the US, and its Flip MinoHD, launched last November, is currently the top-selling HD camcorder in the country. (info from TWICE)