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Category Archives: Review

So last Saturday night, one of my big storage hard drives died. It was from an accidental fall, but I lost over a terabyte of data.

I’ve been working with computers on and off since I was maybe twelve. In the last twenty years, it’s been pretty exclusive. One of the appallingly normal things that happens of course is when a hard drive goes tits-up on you.

At this point in life, I am goddamned tired of it.

I didn’t lose much. 95 percent of what was on that drive is recoverable because it’s stored someplace else–On Apple’s iTunes servers in this case. I replaced the drive with a NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit and will spend the next week or so putting the contents back together.

The reason for this is that Apple started making purchased iTunes content available online. “Stored in the cloud,” in the modern marketing vernacular. When you buy something, it downloads to your computer, and is also available from them directly.

So, when you think about it, what would be the point of storing the media files locally? Part of it is in order to have the content available in a network outage. Sure, we live in an era of robust bandwidth and fast access, but we’re a clipped fiber-optic line away from the dark ages even now.

Also, it’s because there’s part of me that still lives with the old way of computer thinking. All the content I own, I want “near” me. It’s all intangible, but I still gotta have it close. It’s really one of the minor absurdities of this current internet age.

I’ve been dabbling with the whole “life in the cloud” thinking since 2002 when I got my first wireless card for my Dell. When I went back to Macs in 2007, part of the impetus was that much of the software I wanted to use was available online, and open-source. Plus the computer was leaner and lighter than the Windows machines of the period.

Hard drives are finally superfluous, and SSDs are cheap enough to get and throw into your machine, if it didn’t already have one. Back in 2007, I figured most of my crap would be stored online by 2010. It took a little longer than that, but it’s true enough now.

The Macbook Air was a hint of that life to come. The 11-inch machine I got in late 2010 had a 64 GB SSD, 2 GBs of RAM and was in a package smaller and thinner than the last PS/2 keyboard I owned. Astoundingly small. It still gets me how thin and light that computer is.

When Google introduced Chrome OS and the Chromebook concept, the Macbook Air felt like the hardware counterpart of the impossible dream Chrome OS represented, a life lived online. No more computers with vast amounts of storage on spinning disks ready to fail. In fact, the hardware was supposed to become essentially irrelevant.

This video from Google back when the CR-48 prototype was introduced demonstrates this concept in appalling detail. Made all the more sickening when I think Google could have sent ME one of those pilot computers! I signed up and everything. Damn.

Yesterday, Google introduced its newest reference model Chromebook, called Pixel. Now to this point, all extant models of Chromebook followed the example of the CR-48: A modest amount of RAM by current standards–from 2 GB to as much as 4 GB–and a small SSD, no more than 32 GB usually. An internet appliance disguised as a laptop. Acer introduced the C7 which, intentionally or not, was the real steal among Chromebooks, in that you’d buy the hardware for $199 and upgrade the RAM and storage easily and cheaply with off-the shelf components. This was because it was essentially a low-end Windows machine retooled slightly.

Lenovo, Samsung and HP released models of Chromebook that hewed closer to the CR-48 concept than Acer, but all with the subtext that the hardware was not so important.

Enter Pixel. At first glance, it looks a bit like the CR-48 crossed with a Retina Macbook Pro. Gorgeous, well built, faster that the rest of the Chromebook brand, and with a sinus-clearing pricetag. For $1299, you get a laptop with a 12.85 inch touchscreen in a 3:2 orientation (harkening back to the days before wide-screen laptops became all the rage), backlit keyboard, aluminum body, 32 GB SSD, WiFi and an i5 processor. For $1449 you get all that, a 64 GB SSD and LTE access. You also get three years of one terabyte Google Drive space, which if bought separately of course is more expensive than this machine.

The blogosphere and commentosphere have not been kind to Pixel. Those who are unclear on the concept deride this machine as a $1200 web browser. Others actually go so far as to recommend Apple computers as better buys than this machine. Astounding when you realize comment trolls HATE Apple with a passion usually reserved for Obama. Or atheists.

The haters are stuck in an old way of thinking about their computers and their data–that your machine must be completely autonomous, able to handle e-mail, coding C++ and video editing with nary a sweat, whether you actually do any of that or not. In that paradigm, RAM and storage and running native apps are the only things to consider with computers.

This is the mindset that Chrome OS would supplant. Nothing is kept on the local machine. Nothing. Everything is online, so viruses and software bloating are not an issue.

Among those who actually get Chromebook, the pricetag on Pixel is still an issue. Chrome OS was supposed to make the hardware irrelevant. It’s hard to sustain that argument with a $1200 computer. It’s a valid point.

My take on it is, Google brought out a proof-of-concept with basic hardware–an oversized netbook really–with CR-48. It was offered for free because those who received the computer were volunteer testers, and the OS still needed tweaking. The first Acer and Samsung models were pretty much built on the same hardware profile, save for the Samsung Series 550, which was billed as the top-end model with more RAM and a faster processor than the Series 5.

The next generation diverged in various ways from the CR-48 reference. Acer’s was probably the most radical, and definitely the cheapest. Lenovo and HP both brought out machines that also diverged from the original in variously interesting ways.

The common denominator in all of them though, they’re cheap. Build quality is variable, but acceptable for the price.

Pixel is Google’s example of the high end. Most every aspect of this machine, based on the specs, is something we as adopters of the Chrome OS have wanted in a “dream Chromebook.” As I think about it, I believe most all the specs on Pixel were mentioned in Google’s Chromebook forum as things that would make the experience better.

I am using an Acer C7 myself. I got it back in November with the tacit understanding I was going to void the warranty and open the case, upgrading it as much as possible as soon as possible. This now has 16 GB of RAM and a 64 GB SSD. The upgrade took only a few minutes and required twisting five screws (four for the SSD). It also has a larger battery, answering the main painpoint for the C7, its short battery life.

As I read the specs of the new Pixel, my only concern is the RAM. In Chrome OS, the more RAM you have, the more tabs you can open and leave open in Chrome. On previous models you could have as many tabs open as you wanted. After a period of inactivity however, the OS would purge some tabs in order to open up space, so when you returned to a tab it would end up needing to reload. Also, in my experience with the Series 5, there were also instances of stuttering video which may have been RAM or CPU related (it used an Atom processor).

Well with 16 gigs of RAM, that ain’t a problem. I have 20 tabs open here, of which I access maybe half to two-thirds every day, whether here or on another device running Chrome–a real benefit of Google’s ecosphere. None have needed to reload as yet. My usage is not too different from other Chromebook users, except for the number of tabs. Apparently more than five is aberrant behavior.

Most of my data is online now, spread among several sites for various purposes. Their access is platform agnostic, as it should be. Apple’s is not, as you’d imagine. I am, for all intents and purposes, a denizen of the online world.

Which is why that hard drive dying like it did galled me so much. “Aren’t I past this? Aren’t we all past this?” I asked myself as I ordered its replacement.

Almost, but not quite.


One morning some years ago, I sat in a coffee shop in town and poked out a screed about what was up that day, which I re-read to re-fresh. I got some nookie earlier that morning, apparently–nice to hear that that used to happen to me sometimes. But I was also going on about not having internet access at home and hitting up the various wireless hotspots in the Old Pueblo to bumble around online when I wasn’t at work or trying to sleep. Which led me to talking about tha few-chaaah! “The Cloud” is a big deal right now, but has been a long time coming. I am not going to claim prescience or anything like that. I will simply appreciate the hell out of this Mercury Aura Pro.

In October 2010, Apple did a refresh of the fabulous Macbook Air into two models: A 13-inch like the original and, most excitingly for me, an 11-inch model–the portability I always needed. Also, SSD was not merely an option but was standard on these foxes. Plus, the prices were much more realistic. Small and light too. Two annoyances typical of Apple: the RAM was soldered directly onto the motherboard (no upgrade path possible) and the SSD was a non-standard design, though it was removable. Plus they used these funny Pentalobe screws to fix the bottom plate to the machine. Clearly upgradability (and thus longevity) was not in Apple’s design philosophy anymore.

No matter. I obsessed over getting one of these, especially the little 11-inch. No question I was going to get that. I went for the $999 base model (1.4 GHz CPU, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB SSD) knowing that the 64 GB storage was going to be a problem, but only a small one as long as I kept a 2 TB drive handy and looked seriously at online storage, which by now was improving in availability and options. I’d already spent eight months experimenting with the iPad as a computer replacement (no dice), and really wanted a real frickin keyboard again. And not to have to deal with iOS on a day-to-day basis for all my computing needs.

Not too long later, Other World Computing came up with a solution: The Mercury Aura Pro. They’d come up with a line of SSDs exactly like the ones in the new Macbook Airs, only much higher capacity. The low-end was 180 GB–slightly more, mind you, than my black Macbook Marlena‘s hard drive, but much faster in terms of access. Just lovely! Expensive as hell, but worth the bother if you really need/want the space. Almost six months into my sojourn with this Macbook Air, I routinely maxed out the storage thanks to iTunes. I kept an eye on the Aura Pros though. The 180 GB model was my target, if only because that would bring this computer more into line with what I had with Marlena. Plus I could swing the $400-plus price tag if I was really careful, but no more than that.

So I placed the order yesterday (Friday) and put in for Saturday delivery since the price on the 180 model had dropped by about $60 from what it was back in January. It showed up this morning. Took me longer to get it home than it did to install it. OWC was kind enough to include in the box the two screwdrivers needed to perform the install: A Torx for the screw that holds the SSD in place in the computer and a Pentalobe to get at the ten screws holding the bottom plate in place. Those little bastards were a pain, but once you got them off, the plate just popped right out. If you’ve ever looked at tear-downs of this model of computer, it’s mostly battery inside. I took a couple of pictures I’ll try to include here. Like I said, it took longer to get the thing home than it did to get the drive in, even with the tiny little screws and the funny screwdriver.

Performance tests of this drive are just a Google search away if you’re curious. I am not writing this as a review of this SSD anyway as such is not necessary. I am writing this as an appreciation. In terms of speed, the SSD is an obvious win over any hard drive. The 2010 Macbook Air has the fastest boot time I have ever seen in a computer–even counting the DOS days. The OWC upgrade doesn’t improve upon that, but it’s also no slouch. This is still as peppy as it was, only now it has some lebensraum! The $400-plus price tag might give an indication of why Apple did not add substantial storage to these computers. The size and the apparently underpowered CPU have been criticized by various haters out there, but this was a pretty brisk seller for Apple when it came out so the compromise was worthwhile.

What it means to me though is that I can hold on to this computer for a long time–which you might say I’d have to in order to justify dropping a hunk of change into this little honey. I bought this originally with the idea that I could upgrade to a 13 inch Macbook Pro next year while at the same time retiring my black Macbook Marlena (if Mom ends up finally buying a new computer at that point), maybe selling both to underwrite the upgrade. I don’t hold on to old tech anymore out of sentiment. If it’s not useful, out it goes.

As I’ve been using this computer though, and keeping a weather eye on the developments with Chrome OS, I realize that this computer is damn near perfect for what I need right now and for the forseeable–even more so than Marlena was. It’s lighter, smaller, and in some ways faster than that computer–though not really up to resource-heavy tasks given the slower CPU. My computer use right now is practically at thin-client level. I use this to watch TV shows and movies with Hulu and Netflix (and iTunes). I also use it to sync my phone and drop in the occasional audiobook. I also use it to write, and am trying to increase that usage wherever possible. With Zoho Writer out there (at the moment more feature-rich than Google Docs), I don’t really need a heavy-duty computer for writing, trolling websites–I mean research–or for “multimedia,” to use an outdated word. I don’t game and if I do it’s on my iPhone, so I don’t need the latest and the fastest. Besides, I’m tired of heating up a room with my computer.

The Chromebooks look interesting, and if one can make a few habit changes would be viable for most computer use. I still believe that the Chrome OS will make a far superior tablet OS to all the alternatives out there right now, including Android, once web designers make the distinction between mobile and touch (and stop using fucking Flash!). Inertia and habit are the main reasons why anyone would want a physical keyboard at this point, including me. The keyboard/pointer paradigm of human-computer interface is clunky but no one has come up with a truly compelling alternative. The iPhone OS and what we’re seeing so far from “Windows 8″ are really innovative ideas, but the iPhone OS is a powerful smartphone operating system–not meant for heavy lifting–and “Windows 8″ is an intriguing idea grafted on top of the biggest pile of baggage outside an ex-girlfriend’s head, the MS Windows OS.

So what I’m getting at is that there aren’t many options on the horizon for your forward-thinking tappity-tapper here. As I said, I’m intrigued by the Chromebooks–even if Google didn’t send a CR-48 to yours truly when I really REALLY could have used one. Damn you all. However, if the Chromebooks were about the size and heft of this very Macbook Air–and maybe had a little more generous SSD inside (16 gigs? Really? Not everything is in the cloud yet Google…), I would scoop up one lickety-frickin-split. And love it. Each time I think about it though, I realize I’ve got it pretty good with this little Macbook Air. And the Mercury Aura Pro has made it even better.

Good Looking out OWC. Good looking out.

For the past few days, I’ve been pondering this idea of an Artificial God. To give a bit of background, this idea comes from a speech by Douglas Adams in 1998. Here is the link to a transcript.

The basic idea is that some concepts, though clear products of the imagination, and as not-real as, well, money, have a definite impact and a definite meaning to us. Money, and the entire system of transacting these pieces of paper–or better, sliding a plastic card through a little device–forms the very real underpinnings of our civilization. So much so that we’d doubtless drop back 100,000 years if the whole system collapsed. Having it in place though has allowed unprecedented advances in art, technology and science to happen. Shakespeare, Heinlein, Apollo 11, the Empire State Building, John Ford, Richard Dawkins, the Beatles, all these people and their works, and so many tangible things exist because at its heart, our civilization depends on a largely imaginary concept, and evolved from that and around that. It allowed the species to delve into philosophy, science, music, learning, in a way impossible otherwise.

The same can be said for God. God as a concept. God as principal creator as envisioned by a species of tool-makers and creators. Such a concept is strictly a product of the human imagination–make no mistake, Douglas Adams was very much an atheist and found the other way of thinking a bit silly. But he saw the need some may have for such crutches, hence his extemporaneous speech.

This comes to mind as I read a book by Becky Garrison called Jesus Died For This? To be certain, I am not her target audience–her disparaging references to the New Atheists are eye-rollingly typical of Christians. Also, her interludes of trying to commune with the spirits of St. Brigid and St. Kevin while travelling in Ireland do read like flights of fancy. However, she is trying to find something authentic and, well, “real” to her–the “risen Christ.”

I can identify with this. I did the same thing for a short time some years back. I was never a born-again Christian. That would be impossible because I don’t believe in the resurrection as an actual historic event. I believe my description of such a thing would be “highly fucking unlikely.” I cannot be a Christian for that reason right there. Also I cannot countenance–let alone actually believe–in the notion of Biblical literalness or (chuckle) infallibility. That I would describe as “bullshit.”

I do love the English language.

So how could I possibly identify with an avowed Christian like that?

Why, the search for authenticity of course. The search for capital-tee Truth. For Garrison it is the search for the “risen Christ.” For me it was just trying to find a way to reconcile my Catholic upbringing with my travels through Zen and the findings of science. The Truth was there somewhere.

Perhaps it was in a more metaphoric reading of the Bible. A reading filtered through human nature and Buddhist thought. The connections between Jesus and Buddha were explored by Thich Nhat Hanh, and I commend you to his teachings.

Trouble with that was, of course, the schitzophrenic nature of God in the old versus new testaments. Not to mention the contradictory views of Jesus in the four gospels. I am not talking Rashomon-style point-of-view errors, I am talking about the sort of depictions that can only come from four separate traditions based on one story, what we call the Gospel of Mark.

So suffice to say there was some serious cherry-picking done by yours truly. In fact, except for Ecclesiastes and Mark (and maybe Romans), the rest of the Bible is completely useless, even as a metaphoric guide to human behavior. Complete and utter shit.

But of course, what all that inspired over the last two millennia! Ah yes, the art and music! Yeah, not all bad, and should each and all be considered on their own merits, and owing to that other imaginary concept, money. Excess time and excess money and someone’s devotion can produce amazing art.

And that is the Truth right there, isn’t it? Devotion. Inspiration. Even the word speaks of the “cool breeze” of the Jesus Sutras. Spiritus Sanctus. Sacred breath, sacred wind. (watch which hole it’s coming out!) Inspiration is the heart of creativity, whatever that inspiration might be. Some of my material in Turboblues comes from the time when I took inspiration from my cherry-picked vision of God. Even at my most starry-eyed though, I knew it was the product of a powerful (albeit sleep-deprived) imagination. God as love, love as the product of devotion, or through the power of sex, sex as the timeless yet long-lost union with the divine. Ikkyu called his brand of lust-infused Zen “red-thread.” It’s the less imaginative, the less daring, the simple-minded, who conflate lust with something bad. Lust is what it is. Used well, it can bring you to quite tangible, almost divine bliss. Used poorly, well, you might understand Hell as it truly is. Hell’s not a place, though I have been there through misused lust.

In any case, that way of thinking, that circular and circuitous route to and through an imaginary god, had to stop. It was the product of a powerful imagination and a lot of thinking. And lack of sleep.

So bring this back to Artificial God, why doncha!

I’m getting there.

Man has a peculiar ability to create, beyond mere problem solving. He creates tools and thinks of processes to solve problems, like how to kill food more efficiently, or to stay warm, or to eat better. He sees the lightning, hears the thunder, feels the wind and the sun, and comprehends this according to terms he understands: Hierarchy. Pecking order. Leadership. Something that makes such mighty forces must be an entity greater than himself. And these things must be “made” by someone, else how did they come to be?

So he combines all this into something he calls, well, one of the billion names of God. Every tribe had its personal name for this being, and make no mistake, it was a human being, only amplified a thousandfold. Fallible, emotional, petty, just like humans. They create totems, symbols, icons, to signify their god, and invent amazing stories to entertain themselves, because this creation of theirs inspired them. In time, as generations picked up, made sense and made use of the concept, it became an institution which was itself picked up and used and understood in differing ways.

Fast-forward through the ages, and God becomes less real, more idealized. More abstract. Terms like infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent become used to describe the god we call God. The world of phenomenon known to the ancients gives way to a world described by something called the Scientific Method. The world this method describes is one of simple processes which, when writ large and repeatedly, shows enormous complexity. Even to the point where a simpler mind would intuit a designer. The ancient concepts die hard, and the world as it truly exists (like, say, at the quantum level) is one that is foreign to our thinking.

Douglas Adams posited an Artificial God as a way of inspiring creative thought while something enormously better becomes more well known. Richard Dawkins wrote a wonderful book on that something better called Unweaving The Rainbow, and I fully commend that book to you as well.

Unconsciously, those who search for a Theory of Everything follow the same path to the divine. Their search may one day bear fruit, and it may not. The Artificial God of their understanding inspires them to push back the darkness, but it is definitely an artifice, and they do not pretend otherwise.

The god of my understanding was always an artificial one and try as I might, I could not pretend otherwise either. But I do love the work I got out of it.

So I’d heard about Moleskine cover mods for Kindle and iPad via They’d included a link to this cover, so I clicked it to see what the deal was.

The integrated notepad was a nice touch, it seemed. I’d actually spent the prior few days bemoaning the fact that the Kindle has a keyboard but no simple text app. There are hacks out there sure, but it just seemed silly not having this capacity. Still does, by the way. Anyway, including a nice notepad was one way to resolve this dilemma.

And Hoo! It was on the left side. I am left-handed, so I was hooked. Bought it. Boom. It just arrived tonight via FedEx so I sat down to open the package.

Remeber, Kindle owners, how much of a presentation opening the Kindle box was? The big reveal, how well put together the presentation was, the little touches? Well it’s the same here. Inside the FedEx box was another 6 x 10 box with a black ink band about the middle around the box reminiscent of the Moleskine notebooks themselves. “Kindle Cover + 2 Volant Notebooks,” then to the left of that a drawing of the open cover with Kindle and notepad, and below that, “Limited edition for Amazon Kindle.”

Open this, and there is the cover wrapped in black crepe paper bound by a black sticker that says “Kindle Cover.” Unwrap this, and there is the cover itself with the notepads inside.

Lovely presentation.

First thing I noticed, the smell. I have an M-Edge cover I’ve used since January, and it took about a month before the chemical smell went away from that fella. This, however, has a nicer smell to it. Moreover, the smell doesn’t permeate your hands like with the M-Edge. The interior is cream-colored, like a chamois. The Kindle is held in by four elastic bands that were a bit of a struggle to get on.

The Volant notepads have black covers and off-white pages. Almost too nice to doodle or rough-draft upon. But, this is the purpose of these pads, to be used. Once the pad is slid into the pocket on the left there is room to clip a pen into the pocket. A loop for a pen sewn along the inside spine might be better in the long run.

As with the Moleskine notebooks there is an elastic band on the outside meant to hold the cover shut, which is good especially with the notepad flopping around. Yeah, the notepad does not have a rigid back to it so it sags, especially if you have the cover folded over for one-hand use, as I always did with the M-Edge. A workaround I will try is to use the elastic to help keep the notepad in place. We shall see…

Overall, my first impression is a very good one. The price is comparable to the Amazon and M-Edge covers, the presentation was lovely, and having a notepad with the Kindle is good if you need to jot down ideas, swatches of interesting text that bomb through your head (this happens to me you see…) or whatever. One of the other Amazon reviews talks about having difficulty finding replacement notepads. That’s as may be, and we’ll see what happens at that time. I may have to darken the door of a bookstore that carries Moleskines to see what’s what, or search online. These notepads are wider than traditional reporter notepads, and are not spiral-bound like all the ones I’ve had. The lack of a rigid back is disconcerting, though I might just try sliding a piece of cardboard into the pocket in front of the back cover to see how that does.

I still give this five stars, even with the very few downsides I see. Short of making something of your own this is a great cover for the money. Plus if you’re a lefty you really ought to just *get* this, if only for the fact that it’s something set up ideally for us.

A couple of things at the outset. I love to read. I love books. Depending on what’s going on, it could be an audiobook or something I picked up at a used bookstore (around here at this point there’s just Bookman’s to fill that niche). Also, I have this idealistic vision of portability and versatility offered by electronic books. I worked for almost nine years for a company that did electronic publishing so as a matter of course I saw the inherent strength of reading without paper. It fits perfectly with the same way of thinking that had me transfer my entire CD collection to MP3 many years ago, followed by my DVD collection. Part of it could be letting go without fully letting go, I don’t know. Such is the story of the last five years of my life.

Anyway, back to the point. E-books to me have always made sense. Microsoft’s e-reader format was an early favorite, I read several books on my old Dell Axim that way. And of course there was HTML and plain ASCII (Project Gutenberg). But electronic books could not sufficiently pass the Crapper Test. That is, can you comfortably do it while on the crapper? Ten years ago wireless ethernet barely existed and no one wanted to park a laptop of that era on their lap in the bathroom. Just silly.

It was a matter of time before the technology caught up to the promise though, and it did eventually with Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle a couple years ago. This was all coming in increments of course, the biggest innovation being the e-ink screen which is capable of showing a passable greyscale image while needing only enough juice to create the image and practically none at all to maintain it. Amazing. Add to that faster processors and, of course, a tiny rendering of Linux for the underlying OS.

The biggest innovation that Kindle brought though was its infrastructure. Kindle and especially Kindle 2 take advantage of the iTunes model of transaction, only Kindle 2 makes this tighter by augmenting it with something called Whispernet, basically a cellular modem whose purpose is to send and receive small bits of data, whether its tracking your progress in a book or downloading a book to the unit. Nothing fancy or data-intensive, hence it’s being wrapped into the cost of the unit. That cost has come down a lot in the last year. Currently Kindle 2 comes in two flavors, one with a U.S. Only wireless plan for $259 and one with U.S. and International for $20 extra. Amazon also has the bigger and costlier Kindle DX, designed for the rendering of textbooks primarily and is scaled up in size for that purpose.

Barnes & Noble are trying to one-up Amazon with something called the Nook. At the moment I’ve only seen pictures of it myself, but it is adorable. it has an e-Ink screen like the Kindle, but where Kindle has a hardware keyboard Nook has a color glass touchscreen that can display a keyboard and spiffy bookcovers as well. The price-point is similar to the Kindle, though no international plan is available at the moment. Nook also has WiFi (wireless ethernet) built in where Kindle does not. Nook also has the advantage of being able to render PDFs without the conversion (and subsequent fees) that Kindle requires. Barnes & Noble is also trying to leverage its physical locations to foster Nook use with the WiFi (finally free at B&N and soon also at Borders) and with exclusive content, though they haven’t been clear on what that content will be. Nook will also have all the accessories that Kindle has, though not exactly the same given the structural differences between the two. Nook will also be expandable via micro-SD cards, which Kindle painfully is not.

Both devices feature some form of audio support, though Kindle has the advantage of supporting Audible’s 4 and enhanced formats. This is an advantage if you are a regular Audible user. Which I am.

Of the two I am drawn to the Kindle, mainly because of the Audible-ready aspect, but also because of the Kindle app for the iPod Touch. That was itself a matter of pure timing as it was available with a wide selection of books I wanted when I wanted them, whereas the Barnes & Noble eReader did not. The Kindle app works very basically, and after the enhancements of the latest version is quite workable as an eReader. The Barnes & Noble version, which is a rebranded version of the very robust Fictionwise app, is much more feature-rich than the Kindle app and has the distinct advantage of a well-entrenched e-reader format with a selection of free books readily available online. Kindle is going to port its reader app to Mac and PC soon, and one wonders if a Linux version will appear somehow or someway (without needing WINE of course).

Thanks to the apps and the ubiquity of the iPhone/iPod Touch, I can move from one realm to the other without having to commit to a single format. As I said above though, of the two my leaning is toward Kindle, though I won’t be making a purchase for another few months (here’s to hoping the tax refund is there and reasonably substantial). The closed-in nature of Kindle/Amazon is a concern to me, and the Chump Factor here is immense, especially given the fickle nature of Amazon’s cell providers of late and its disturbing lack of WiFi.

E-Readers are the future, like it or not. Reading is wonderful beyond words (an odd expression sure, but here it is), and books are lovely bulky smelly things. The notion of a library in one spot and within reach is tantalizing and satisfies my habit of reading several books at once. The absurdity of formats and competing devices and gestalts is annoying, as it was with Beta/VHS, HD-DvD/BluRay and Mac/PC, but it will harmonize eventually to be sure.

Just as long as I get my money’s worth out of whatever device I get before it obsoletes on me.

A little time to sit pays dividends as I correct the mistakes of an earlier time.

It’s bugged me how the interior of Turboblues looked. Some of the same stupid stuff I found in Roadside Truckstop happened in that earlier book. I was never able to gather time to make these fixes previously. After all, I assembled Turboblues during a crash session in November, 2005, and revised/added as time went on. The original publication happened one late overnight at a local Kinkos as a result of my having three-day weekends. I was so astounded by the fact that I could self-publish and have it look reasonably OK that I took the beast and smashed it together.

Scanning the material in a quick proofing-editorial read (Roadside Truckstop helped me dust off those old skills), I see the personality of Turboblues more clearly than I did even when I assembled it. One of my most favorite poets is a man called Ikkyu. He was a Zen practitioner/master who lived and died five centuries ago. His was a practice known as red-thread zen. The link will take you to a short essay about him. Reading his material during the time that I did had a strong influence on my writing during that period. A lot of Turboblues is about my red thread, if you will, where the bulk of Roadside Truckstop is about the journey motif, another huge thing in my writing and in my life.

Like Roadside Truckstop, Turboblues has a personality, but is a mix of periods in my life. I was in a different place when I wrote the various pieces in these books and I was in very different places in my life when I assembled them as well.

Taken together  you have me.

I just received the proof copies of Roadside Truckstop tonight and, well, wow.

I made a few real bonehead layout mistakes, but fixed those. Other than that, I am going to be honest with you.

This is a great fucking book.

Sorry kiddies, but I have to give myself props here. Maybe it’s just the swoon from having this in my hands, you’d say, but remember I already went through that swoon a year and a half ago with Turboblues. This ain’t swoon. This is seeing your daughter on stage in her first school play and being smitten because she’s actually good.

Here it is. If you’re reading this, please go buy my book. Thank you.


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