Tuesday, 30 August 2011

He's My Best Friend

MichaelAngelo's Creation on the Sistine Chapel CeilingI noticed something strange about doing stuff with my toddler. Lately I am actually enjoying doing stuff with him, as in: it's no longer a chore or the fulfillment of my parental duties; it is actually fun to do stuff together with him. It feels less and less like duty and more and more like doing stuff together with a friend you care for.
It goes without saying that anything done with a toddler is still a pain. You are limited in the choice of things you can do, you are limited in the scope of what you do, you are limited in the time you can devote to doing anything, you have to allow for the strain of carrying a 15kg+ person in your hands for significant periods, you have to allow for unexpected toilet related demands, you have to allow for sudden and unexplained changes of heart... In short, you can't enjoy anything the way you used to back in those prehistoric days. You know, the days before you had children.
That, however, does not mean you cannot enjoy yourself. Just the other week I went for a drive with my son to get a certain car charger. Following a successful mission, we spent time together at this huge toy shop (I'm proud to say we went in and out without any toys being purchased and with my son totally happy with that), and then we spent some time together stuck in traffic. Yet because we are good friends it was all fun - even the traffic jam. My son was intrigued by its causes, we were discussing things we saw on the way, and he even held a few green lights for me using his great mental abilities (long enough for me to cross).
It seems as if a certain threshold I was looking forward to since my son was born has been crossed. I am no longer the caretaker of a baby; I am the caretaker and the friend of a boy. We're no longer doing stuff for the baby; we are doing stuff with the boy. The difference is huge.

Image by welshmackem, Creative Commons license

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Guardian

One of my guilty pleasures while touring the UK has been the daily purchasing of The Guardian newspaper followed by private moments of indulging myself with its contents. It is, as far as I can tell, the best newspaper in the world.
Contents wise, it is informative and full of analysis and columns by some of my favorite writers (Cory Doctorow, Ben Goldacre). It is also short on the bullshit department: on the day in which the mostly Murdoch dominated rest of the crowd chose to put a photo of David Cameron's baby daughter on their front page, to commemorate her going back to hospital on her first birthday, The Guardian was the only one to relegate coverage of this nonsense to a small photo on page 13. That's the way you do it.
My mate Pat Condell may describe The Guardian as a left wing, middle class wankers' festival; I would argue that description captures me to a T, explaining exactly why I like The Guardian as much as I do. Even if I would prefer to call it "depth" instead.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Conclusive British Humus Review

Folks have been waiting for this ruling for goodness knows how long, which brings me great pride in settling the argument once and for all: which is the best commercially available humus in the British isles?
To settle the argument, yours truly ventured to the depths of local supermarkets to try the humus on offer at both Tesco and Asda, the supreme rulers of British supermarketing (and, by the looks of it, car fuel too).
First observation: in the local English English lingo, humus is referred to as "houmous".
Second observation: British humus is reasonably priced at about 1 GBP per 200 grams. Perhaps this reasonableness is only the result of the strong Aussie Dollar. Sadly, you can't get your humus in packs larger than that, but for a good reason: none of the local supermarket humus contain preservatives, which means their shelf time is quite short.
Tasting observations: Both the Asda and the Tesco humuses are surprisingly good, definitely better than the average crap that passes for humus in Australia and even good enough to sell at humus superpowers such as Israeli supermarkets (at least by my humble opinion). The lack of preservatives gives them an edge in taste, and I judge both to be better than Yumi's humus back home in Australia.
Of the two contenders I would say the Tesco one is better. Its taste is slightly smoother and more authentic (rather than chemically), but the real Tesco winner is variety. Tesco sells humus in lemon, humus with sweet chilly sauce, and a multitude of other guises (most of them weird); of those, I rule its chunky humus to be the best of the lot by a wide margin.
Ultimately, the British humus lover is let down by the lack of dipping options. Just like Australia, getting your way to proper pita bread is all but impossible. My own reviewing was conducted with the aid of wholemeal bread and baguettes. Oh, the sheer heresy!

The Joys of English Travel


Travelling through England can be such a joy! (Warning: heavy sarcasm)
No, I am not going to complain here about the poor cuisine or the special love affair the Brits seem to have with carbs. I'm not even going to discuss the strangeness of the contraptions they refer to as "showers" in the UK.
Instead I want to talk about car travel. In our recent journeys we covered quite a lot of UK mileage, yet nothing even remotely close to what we often cover in Australia. I'm glad we haven't gone through Australian scale distances, because the driving we did was hell enough: it felt like we got to see the rear end of all the tractors, trucks and caravans in her majesty's kingdom. When it rained, and it poured like crazy yesterday, we got to know some roads whose draining was less than optimal, causing us some scary moments.
The peak of the lot goes to a caravan driving ahead of us on the highway. Its side mirror broke off all of a sudden, flying for a direct hit on our rental car's front bonnet. The boom that followed explained why I am now going to be charged 650 GBP due to damage to my rental car (my travel insurance should cover that, but it is still going to be a pain to sort out).
The point is that England turned out to be the first place ever where I damaged a rental car. While this could have happened anywhere, credit has to be given to England for having some poor roads and horrendous traffic. It's just not fun to go on a driving holiday there; it makes you appreciate Australia so much more.

Image by Highways Agency, Creative Commons license

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Our Children's Future

Just An Illusion   (HDR)Given that we're on family tour duties at the moment, it was inevitable for me to receive hints at my need to produce more children. In the arguments I've been hearing it is clear that people take it for granted I don't want to add to my current tally of one child because I don't see myself changing nappies again. Those assumptions are correct; I do not understand how anyone can willingly go back to the days of baby rearing unless they suffer from acute amnesia.
However, in my case there is more to me not wanting more children than that. I said it here before but I will repeat it again: there is much more to me not wanting more children than me not wanting to wake up in the middle of the night by a screaming baby again. That much more of a reason of mine comes down to over population and the environmental disaster that us humans are bringing upon ourselves.
It is no longer a case of some scary futuristic vision; it is a case of science. As mainstream media like the Sydney Morning Herald report (see here), we - as in, humanity - are on our way to increase our planet's temperature by 4 (!) degrees by the end of this century. Think about it - four degrees!
The implications are dead obvious. We will not have enough food to feed everyone: current forecasts estimate the planet would be able to sustain between half a billion to one billion people. That implies roughly nine out of ten would die under less than favorable circumstances: they will die of starvation, they will die of disease, and they will die in wars - wars over the planet's last reserves of food.
We can live our lives as usual and pretend none of this would happen, but the sad reality is that we're ignoring the inevitable. Soon enough our window of opportunity for preventing this scenario from coming to be will be shut, too, raising an obvious question: we can all raise multiple children each today, but what world is it, exactly, that we are going to leave behind for them?
Call me selfish, but I don't see the point in bringing more children to a world such as ours.

Image by Kuzeytac, Creative Commons license

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Contrarian

christopher hitchensI'm currently reading Christopher Hitchens, an activity that is simply delightful. As I said before, I don't always agree with the guy, but he is so good at expressing himself that I very much like hearing what he says. It makes me think of things in various previously unimaginable ways.
One of the ways in which Hitchens describes himself uses a word I have never heard before - contrarian. It appears Hitchens takes pride in taking an opposite view to that of the mainstream; he likes to disagree, he is good at explaining why he disagrees, but he will also admit to being wrong when presented with counter evidence.
I have to admit I like that contrarian quality; it is something I would like to aspire to. I probably am already a contrarian, to one extent or another. Being able to speak one's mind openly, with clarity and without fear of reprisal is a quality I find admirable, especially if one's opinion tends to be evidence based. I can't expect many people to be as good as Hitchens when it comes to being a contrarian; the number of people who can out-debate him is probably less than the number of fingers on one of my hands. Still, there is no wrong in being inspired, and Hitchens is an inspiration. If Hitchens is a 10 out of 10 grade contrarian than I am probably a 3; which means the only way is up.
I am therefore issuing a warning: expect an increase in this blog's reporting of stuff that would make you cringe. Expect to be offended.

Image by the|G|™, Creative Commons license

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Grudge Match

The events from a couple of nights ago, discussed here, won't let go of me. On one hand I am finding it hard to move on; on the other I am being accused of childishness by virtue of the fact I am holding a grudge against a kid. To these accusations I will say, loudly and clearly, that yes - I am holding a grudge. The purpose of this post is to explain why.
I will go to extremes in order to clarify my argument. Let us say that instead of what really happened, the girl who attacked my son used a pickaxe to kill him and cut him into little pieces (a scenario inspired by several Pink Floyd songs). Would I be accused of childishly holding a grudge under such circumstances? No, I wouldn't; and my point therefore is that there are circumstances in which holding a grudge is unanimously justified. The question is, where exactly is the threshold following which grudge is justifiably held?
In order to try and answer the question, let us look at the actual crimes committed against my son by his young cousin:
  1. My son was stripped naked.
  2. A bid was stuck tightly into my son's ear (see photo).
  3. The perpetrator lied in her account of the events.
The third point is probably the easiest to dismiss; virtually all kids lie, and we do not know enough to estimate whether this particular child is a pathological lier or not. The first point is a tough one, but you can argue that the girl who did the act was behaving the way she behaves with her dolls; I would still say that even children should know better, but there is some benefit of doubt involved. However, there can be no doubt about that second point: any child older than two (or, if you want to be on the safe side, three) knows when they are harming someone else to such a severe extent: we could have easily ended up in hospital and my son could have easily lost hearing on his left side.
But we are not talking about a three year old here; we are talking about a child of school age. For such a child to perform such an act there has to be an ulterior motive. There has to be the active intention of causing harm!
The intention to cause harm is my answer to the question of when grudge can be understandably held against someone. People kill others while driving and get away with it because all they they were trying to do was drive home from work when someone jumped underneath their wheels. However, when someone actively tries to harm another I hold it against them; I am not alone there, because civilization has gone to great lengths to deal with such people. Therefore, when someone actively tries to intentionally harm my son without provocation, I will hold a grudge against them. It is that simple.
You can argue against me that I am going too far with this grudge of mine given that it is aimed against a six year old and not against a responsible adult. My answer is that it is exactly because of the criminal's age that I haven't reported her to the police and did my best to see her jailed. However, this streak of evil that this six year old has displayed is more than enough for me to act cautiously around her. As I said before, when I see her I see the devil.
Perhaps in ten year's time this cousin would be able to produce a clean record that would allow me to consider bygones bygones. Till then I do not see any option but to treat her as persona non grata in the best of cases. I am not going to even try to pretend being a member of a happy family here, for here is a person I am holding a grudge against.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Angry Dad

It's hard for me to recall ever being as upset and angry as I am at the moment. I am hoping to use this post for therapeutic purposes.
I spent the night looking after my toddler at his grandparents' place while the rest of the family took part in a party on the other side of the house. My son's young cousin was supposed to be sleeping at the room next to him.
I woke up to find my son naked in his bed. His clothes were pulled off him, the quilt pulled away from him, and he was shivering in bed - too tired to try and rescue himself. He did complain about ear pain, though.
Eventually I pieced the puzzle out: the cousin was the one who went to my son's room and undressed him. Not only that, she stuck a small bead very tightly into my son's ear; it took me a while and it took some considerable effort to ply it out.
Reporting this so shortly after seeing my son in the helpless form he was in is very hard; I keep seeing his shivering naked body before my eyes. When I see the cousin it feels as if I am looking at the devil, not at another small child suffering from what I suspect is a bout of jealousy. I can't see how I am going to allow her near my son ever again, but it appears as if the rest of the family does not share this sentiment of mine. It appears this is the price to pay for being the only one to see their own son in the helpless position he was in.
I suspect one of the things upsetting me the most is the fact this whole affair took place on my watch. How was I supposed to suspect such malice?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Internet on the Go

SIM card vending machineOne of the first things to greet us as we cleared customs at Heathrow Airport was this big vending machine selling "SIM CARDS".
It offered a variety of SIM cards, including a data pack from 3 UK that offered 1gb of data for a month for 20 GBP. I got one, stuck in my wifi hotspot, and had Skype up and running on my iPhone to coordinate airport pickup within less than a minute.
We had the Internets some 15 minutes after landing. That's the way it should always be.

P.S. It took us much longer to locate the toilets. You won't hear too many superlatives concerning Heathrow from me.

Image by whatleydude, Creative Commons license

Friday, 19 August 2011

No GAC for Me, Episode 2

Ticket pricing information for Melbourne April 2012's Global Atheist Convention is out (see here). Members of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, such as yours truly, can even order tickets already - two weeks ahead of the general public.
Go on now and order your tickets!

This post is here to not only tell you that tickets are available, but also to tell you I will probably not be buying one. The reason has to do with pricing.
It comes down to the lack of ticketing options: you can either buy a ticket to the whole convention or nothing; there are no day tickets. I can understand why, given demand, the organizers chose to go down that path: you can applaud their consistency in also bundling catering with the event ticket. However, personally, it would be hard for me to stay away from the family for an entire weekend, while on the other hand it would be financially hard for me to justify spending $310 for the sake of giving Richard Dawkins the opportunity to finally meet me in person.
I hope to still be able to take part in "side events", where I might be able to meet many of the people on the other side of much of my Twitter activities. I also hope they'll make the convention available online for the rest of us to enjoy.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


3am; can't sleep

Nothing like blogging to keep a very jet lagged me awake through the day. I will therefore go with a post dealing directly with sleep.
One of my recent pleasures lately had to do with being sick. One of the weird effects that being sick has on me is in helping me recall my dreams much more vividly than usual. As in, we all dream several times each night we sleep, but usually we don't remember much if at all upon waking up. I don't know if I'm a freak or not, but when I'm sick I tend to feel like I have the weirdest dreams ever; the thing is, I don't if those freaky dreams really are freakier than usual because I'm sick or whether the fact I'm can't sleep too well (by virtue of the fact I'm sick) helps my ability to remember more of my dreams than I usually do.
One dreamy experience I had this last week which had nothing to do with my own dreams took place when the toddler of the house decided to crash his parents' bed at 2:00AM. Usually he does it when he doesn't feel well, but I suspect this time around it was due to having a bad dream; it was actually I that wasn't feeling too great at the time. You've heard it already: I was sick.
Eventually we all settled down to sleep. Only that as toddlers do, ours turned here there and everywhere; lying on my stomach and doing my best to sleep, the little gem ended up sleeping directly on my back. What does one do? I decided on the stiff upper lip approach and did my best to fall back into sleep.
Only that something weird started taking place: through my relatively sensitive back, I could feel my son's head beginning to shake ever so slightly but continuously. The shakes rocked his entire body, but there could have been no doubt they originated at the head. I was clearly experiencing my son's REM sleep firsthand.
This personal experience of mine leads me to ask a simple question: given the obvious nature of this experience I've had, how come it took science till the 1950s to discover REM sleep? Even then, it was discovered almost accidentally.

Image by slapjack, Creative Commons license

Saturday, 13 August 2011

What the?


I am beginning to think that perhaps Melbourne winters are unsustainable. Every winter, especially since the arrival of our son and the efficient home importation of every virus from childcare, we have weeks and weeks of feeling bad. That collides with work demands, where we still have to deliver despite not being up to the task, to make us feel even worse.
Take the latest bout as an example:
  • I started feeling bad last Tuesday.
  • I was out of the office for a week with what the doctors (plural!) described as a cold with flu like symptoms. I had everything a good cold delivers, from a sore throat to weakness and muscle pains.
  • Still feeling less that great but half healthier rather than half sick, I went back to work on Thursday.
  • On Friday we had ourselves a bus expedition from work. I suspect the bus air-con didn't do me well.
  • As of Friday night I am back to feeling properly sick. As these words are typed, there is no conclusion to this sickness on the horizon.
I have had two weeks of severe uselessness and it's still ongoing. Which makes me ask, what the?
On the positive side, my wife has been taking care of me (at the cost of working even harder), and even the toddler allowed me to have a rest in the middle of the day instead of playing with him. It's all very nice and certainly makes me realize how much I love the people I live with. But hey, viruses, I got the point; please let me get on with my life.

Image by JD Hancock, Creative Commons license

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The LinkedIn Sell

Adriano Gasparri - My LinkedIn ProfileI was never too sure about the value LinkedIn brings to my professional advancement, but I joined the bandwagon like almost everyone else I know through work. My dilemma is still very much there, though: is LinkedIn worthy of having me in it?
For a while I have been having reservations about this network: do I really want my CV to be there for all to see, even the occasional Google searcher? I decided the answer is no, and asked LinkedIn to make my profile invisible to anyone I am not in contact with.
Then there is the question of whether my LinkedIn contacts want my other LinkedIn contacts to see one another. You could argue the whole idea behind LinkedIn is to connect the professional world through this virtual six (or three, in LinkedIn's case) degrees of separation. Personally I am not entirely convinced we are doing the right thing by our online "friends".
Another question is to do with the information users can buy from LinkedIn. Apparently, users who pay for premium LinkedIn accounts have access to information conventional [free] users don't. I wonder if that privileged access allows them to see stuff I flagged as private; I cannot claim to know the answer there. What I do know is that premium accounts are sold with the ability to uncover otherwise hidden information as their primary benefit; surely this means that people you wouldn't necessarily let into your backyard can sneak a peek.
Last but not least, today I had the privilege of learning LinkedIn is pulling a Facebook on us: as you can read here, LinkedIn has recently invented a privacy setting determining whether your name and photographs to be used for third party advertising. So far so good; the trick is in the default setting, which says "I allow". I truly wonder whether anyone of the millions registered to LinkedIn would consciously make this choice...
It seems to me that the main question to ask is whether the privacy issues introduced by LinkedIn are worth its potential assistance when the time comes up for us to look for another job. I am not sure whether LinkedIn offers significant privacy risks, although their latest Facebook like trick is a bit of a worry as a sign of things to come. By the same token, I am even less sure how much LinkedIn can truly contribute to my career.

Image by Adriano Gasparri, Creative Commons license

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Panic on the Streets of London, Birmingham

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I wonder to myself, what is behind all this rioting/protesting? It's not just the UK I'm wondering about, it's also Israel. Both are countries I am particularly interested in because that's where the bulk of my family lives.
I cannot say I am well versed with the situation in England. What I can say is that during my limited visits to North London, mainly in order to tour the Arsenal stadium, what I saw in the streets did not inspire me to feel as carefree as I feel in Melbourne. At home I never have any issues walking the streets in broad daylight, but in London? The fact sports and electronics shops are reported to be the most looted indicates there is more than protesting going on in the UK; there's crime.
Things are quite different in Israel, where a peaceful protest movement managed to get the government to the brink of capitulation. Their fight is to make life more tolerable: less working hours, easier and cheaper rent, the financial affordability to raise children. Coming from the same background myself I can see exactly where these protesters come from; my only grip is to ask where have they been all these years with the poor Palestinians' plight. However, my complaint is addressed by the fact the current protests are led by the same left wing organizations that have been leading the anti occupation movement in Israel for years.
Despite the differences between the UK and the Israeli protests - the rioting vs. the peacefulness, the high crime vs. the legal protest, I see similar roots to both movements. The way I read it, both in Britain and in Israel people are complaining against the undeniable fact our societies are becoming less and less equal. On one hand of the scale we have the ultra rich, a tiny minority who earn hundreds of times above the average. All the while the middle class is shrinking while the lower classes are expected to accept their fate and be quiet.
The consumerist nature of the protests - the looting of plasma TVs in England and the rent protests in Israel - indicate exactly at that. In today's consumerists society, you are what you own, what you drive and where you live. That is what we have been trained to think over the last few decades. That, however, is a totally unsustainable model to build a society on, given that people cannot derive long term happiness from a big screen. People have aspirations, people need a sense of hope to drive them. When hope is lost, people go out and protest.
The irony is that Israel, with all the bad things going on there, seems to have produced a more mature culture where the protest takes on a decent and honest nature. England, on the other hand, one of the most sought after immigration destinations for the poor of this world, is doing the opposite.

accurate rendition of the flag

Images by belkus (top) and ygurvitz (bottom), Creative Commons license

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Real Life Answers to Age Old Questions

You know that age old question that bugs us all, which smartphone we should put our hands on? I assume we all know the question "deteriorates" into choosing between two candidates - the Android on one side and the iPhone on the other. But where do we go from here?
There are arguments aplenty in favor of each side. Currently, my Android experience is making me more appreciative of the iPhone; with iOS5's release coming up and its partial release from the shackles of iTunes I am definitely leaning there. Or am I?
I suspect the argument would be automatically resolved for me once the practical matter of finances enters the picture. Let's look at the candidates to compare:
  • iPhone: The cheapest reasonable plan you can get for the iPhone, from the likes of Virgin Mobile, would cost you $1200 over two years. It would give you something like 300mb of data per month and enough calls to satisfy reasonable chattering instincts. Note I doubt this plan would be available at the release of the iPhone 5, predicted around September; there will probably be a period where you'll have to pay much more.
  • Android: The strongest phone out there at the moment, the Samsung Galaxy S II featuring a dual core CPU, currently sells for $655 unlocked (see here for example). I suspect you will need to pay a bit for shipping on top.
    If you were to take the unlocked phone to TPG or Amaysim and pay them $15 a month you will get plenty of calls as well as 1gb of downloads.
The math is simple: over two years, an iPhone would cost $1200 whereas an Android giving more value for money would cost less than $1050. On top of that, neither TPG nor Amaysim require any commitments, so you're not truly locked with them for two years the way an iPhone locks you down.
Granted, there are good reasons for paying more and going with Telstra's superior reception; I don't think I can justify the cost for myself. Those financial difference, the $150 saved and the freedom to move where the wind blows, will probably win the day for the Android with me.

Image copyrights: Samsung

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bad Dad

Day 128

To parents who claim the birth of their child was the happiest moment of their lives: surely you've enjoyed conception much more!
Euphemisms: Took ear infected toddler to see doctor. "He's more of a pain in the... than usual", I said. "Quite irritable", she wrote down.
[Quoted from my Twitter account]

Spending the day at home with my son today, both of us being sick to one extent or another, did contrive to bring back to my consciousness a lot of the lesser things one has to deal with when one becomes a parent. Things like spending entire winters at various stages of being sick due to childcare imports and kids' habit of coughing and drooling right in your face.
The idea of making the most of this situation, coupled with my desire to try my hand at professional writing (as discussed in my previous post) made me think of potentially starting a new blog dedicated to such thoughts. A blog I could use to practice a certain specific niche writing which I could also use as some sort of a reference.
There are some issues with the idea, though:
  1. I'm doing enough blogging already; it's not like I really have the time for my existing blogs.
  2. If I was to maintain the current rate of roughly one post a day in any of my blogs, that would mean this particular blog will suffer reduced posting frequencies.
  3. I don't know whether I am capable of coming up with parental material to maintain a living blog with. Given time and incentives to do so I think I can, but when having to do so between all my other commitments? I don't know.
Still, there's no harm in entertaining thoughts and coming up with article/post ideas. As a tribute to Phil Plait and his lovely blog and TV show, I though of calling this potential new blog of mine Bad Dad.

Image by pasukaru76 (away on vacation), Creative Commons license

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Spreading the Words

For the first time in almost six years I dedicated hours of my precious free time to fill out a proper job application. I did it with much devotion because the job at hand was for a famous international technology website looking for a part timer: that is, in other words, the best opportunity I can think of for putting my foot in the door of the technology writing world while keeping my day job.
I don’t for a minute think I stand much chance of landing the job. Statistically speaking, mine is bound to be one of many applications. Second, this and my other blog are the only presentable references I can offer an industry that is shy of giving new writers a chance.
At this stage I am happy, though. Happy because I am taking the initiative.

I am working on other initiatives, too. Much less ambitious ones.
I recently finished reading Scalzi on Writing. In this book, a successful full time writer (John Scalzi) aims to give advice to would be writers. He doesn’t do it by telling us how to hold a pen, but rather he does it even better by sharing insight from the life of an author (including insight into some very personal information, such as income figures).
One of the few practical tips Scalzi does give away is the suggestion to put one’s hand on a Writer’s Market index, identify publishers with whom mutual symbiosis may be achieved, and start offering them stuff to publish. That is, start writing stuff suitable for them to accept.
I started working on that first step already. I bought the Australian 2011 Writer’s Marketplace, an index of journal and book publishers specifying the type of submissions they accept. Come September I will acquire the American 2012 Writer’s Market, a similar book that obviously has more depth to it. I do wonder what administrative crap I will have to go through if my nominated writings is actually accepted and I need to issue an invoice, especially for overseas clients; then again, I see that as the least of my problems in an otherwise dream fulfilment affair.
The question, then, turns into what is it that I should be writing about. Looking at these blogs of mine, the majority of stuff that I write would be classified under opinion articles. However, while I can state my opinions at will in my own blog, I doubt anyone would pay to hear them without me being able to demonstrate some form of authority on the matter.
I am therefore of the opinion my writing should focus on things I am an expert in, at least relatively speaking. For example, I might not be the most knowledgeable Bill Gates like IT expert, but I see no reason why I cannot explain aspects of simple Internet usage in a publication aimed at older demographics. Experience indicates I am perceived as a technology expert of sorts: just yesterday a friend of my wife’s whom I hardly know emailed her to pass a home theater question over to me; he perceived my expertise merely through the way I described his own TV to him while we were in for coffee a couple of months ago.
Granted, the likes of Ars Technica would probably find I don’t have much new material to teach them about technology. I should, however, be able to find certain niches of generally non technologically inclined publications and offer them an article. I already mentioned older people, but I can also write an article on Internet privacy or lack of to, say, a women’s magazine. I’m sure many of readers there use Facebook.
Another topic I consider myself an expert in is parenthood. Let me clarify: I am no parenthood expert in the conventional sense; then again, I am of the opinion most people trying to pass themselves as authorities on the matter aren’t experts either. Where I can contribute is in the niche of telling parenthood for what it is. As in, between all those people claiming the birth of their child has been the happiest moment of their lives there must be people who could benefit from a reality check. I noticed how my stories of parenthood’s woes prove quite popular at work; a colleague unaware of my writing aspirations already told me I should write my material down, and she was only half joking.
It seems like what I need is good ideas, which I should then try and match to one of the potential customers at the Writer’s Market. Help coming up with such ideas would be greatly appreciated, by the way!
The ball is in my court. I suspect I would have to endure quite a large number of rejections before anything I write gets published, if ever. On the positive side, after years of blogging to myself and enjoying it, I find the idea of spreading the word quite attractive.

Image: Amazon

Monday, 1 August 2011

Who Killed the iPod Touch?

One of the main reasons my wife was driven off the Apple iOS world and into the arms of Android, aside from my own preaching, has been the way we perceived Apple to have killed her iPod Touch. I have told this story here before, but let us go over the witnesses’ testimonies again.
My wife bought her new second generation iPod Touch on June 2009. At the time it was the most recent release (the third generation started selling during September 2009). She greatly enjoyed the first year of her the iPod Touch’s life, playing games and surfing the ‘net while boasting about its battery life. The battery lasted her weeks between charges, often more than a month!
Then I came and ruined it all for her when I upgraded her gadget from iOS3 into iOS4, the then newly released iPhone operating system. Since that upgrade, done on July 2010, the iPod Touch turned less useful than a paperweight. Rather than that Internet worthy gadget it used to be, it turned significantly slower. More importantly, its battery wouldn't last a day!
We couldn’t really tell if the problem was software or hardware related, but after much suffering and tooth grinding we just moved on. My wife is now the happy user of a Nexus S Android phone, which cost us the same as the iPod Touch did but does more (it’s a phone, you know; you can use it to make calls).
We didn’t throw the old iPod away, though. We couldn't sell it on eBay given the poor battery life, so we decided to keep it as a games machine for our toddler and as a music player for us. For security reasons, and given the iPod will no longer be used for business like activities (calendar and contacts maintenance, emailing) I removed all personal material from it, including the removal of all email accounts.
Lo and behold – the iPod’s battery now lasts us a whole month again!

The court will now adjourn as we weigh the evidence to try and assess who is to fault for turning our expensive gadget into a worthless brick.
The iPod Touch is running version 4.2 of iOS, which happens to be the latest. True, iOS 4.3 has been out for months now, but it does not support our “old” (just recently turned two years old) device. It doesn’t look like Apple would support it anymore.
Then there is the fact the problem we have encountered has existed for about a year since iOS4 was released and prior to Apple stopping second generation iPod Touch support. During that time the Internet was flooded with complaints from “old” iPod Touch and iPhone 3 owners concerning iOS4 performance issues, yet Apple did not bother addressing or even acknowledging the problem.
Eventually, as per my personal experience, we could see the problem is strictly software related (as in, operating system) rather than hardware related. That is, a year after its “upgrade” to iOS4, the device’s battery shows it is still capable of carrying the device for weeks between charges when the burden of managing email accounts is removed.

Given the above, I can only conclude that Apple is at fault here for killing its own device in order to force its replacement with the latest model. That is the only plausible explanation I can come up with given the ease with which Apple could have tested for the problem’s existence and offered a code fix (and given their eagerness to publish code fixes each time a new way to jailbreak their toys is identified).
I consider this verdict crucial to anyone considering buying an Apple, be it a MacBook Air, an iPad or an iPhone. Be prepared to have your device killed within the year!
I also see this as a damning blow to Apple’s claim for being the green environmentalist. How can Apple be green if it forces us to throw away our not so old “junk” in order to buy the latest? Being green does not only mean green manufacturing; it means being green throughout the product lifecycle. There, it seems, Apple fails us – perhaps on purpose.
One final thought: think of the uproar if other companies lacking Apple's cool image were to adopt similar policies. Imagine the uproar if Microsoft was to kill Windows XP in such a manner! The fact Apple gets away with it says something about Apple, but more importantly says a lot about us house trained consumers.