Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Think I Am A 48-Year-Old Millenial

I love the idea of the "Sharing Economy".
I think cars are vastly overrated.
I totally expect to watch what I want, when I want to (with no commercials).
I see no reason to own music.
I think cursive is obsolete, and try never to write by hand if I can possible help it.
I just say no to voice mail.
I find the dead tree format inconvenient for the most part.
I would not subscribe to a newspaper, even if it were free--who wants the clutter?
I don't want to do anything in person if I can do it online instead.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pay Now Option for Rental Cars

First time I have heard of the Pay Now option for rental cars. Here is a good overview of it. My take:

  1. It is a good development in principle, since it makes the industry more efficient, and shares the benefits with consumers.
  2. The implementation is generally fair--you can still cancel, for a modest fee.[1]
  3. There are also good consumer work-arounds. E.g., book fully-refundable well in advance. Then, when within a few days of your travel date, and you are confident things won't change, cancel that and book a pre-paid.
So bottom-line, this has a lot to recommend it, and there aren't any really nasty gotchas. Also, I think the prepaid option will pretty much eliminate any benefit to booking through the "opaque" sites, such as Hotwire and Priceline, because it will offer comparable savings with fewer restrictions and full transparency.
[1] Some companies far more fair than others. As of 01/27/14, Hertz is $50 for >24 hours, $100 for <24 a="" but="" completely="" hours.="" href=" do I cancel my prepaid rental PRIOR TO SCHEDULED PICK-UP TIME?" not="" outrageous="" pretty="" steep.="">Budget
, on the other hand, is an incredibly reasonable $10 any time before. I believe others are in-between.

My Goodreads Review of The Goldfinch

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Terrific. Beautiful writing. Good balance of plot, theme, character-development. Always interesting to me that a female author can create such fleshed-out, believable male characters, including the protagonist.

Although some may not agree, I appreciate the indeterminateness of the ending. It wrapped up the plot--anything less would be too unsatisfying--but did not wrap up the character's lives. That works for me.

For almost the entire book, I was mystified by Theo's obsession with Pippa. But by the end of the book I think I get it. Somehow symbolic, twinned with his obsession with The Goldfinch painting, a longing for something that can never be obtained. In his case, the loss of his mother in adolescence, and with that, the chance for a normal, safe, not-self-destructive life.

The sense of place is well-done. Particularly post-great-Recession Las Vegas. I have never been there, but that is just how I imagine it.

Beautiful, lyrical writing, likely to send anyone at least occasionally to the dictionary.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Smarter Amazon Reviews: Optioanl Structure and Meta-Data Needed

Amazon reviews are invaluable. It is getting to the point where I try not to make any vaguely "consumer durable" purchase without them. But there are problems with them. The one I would like to attack is getting more insight into which dimension of product delivery is bad. Is it the seller not the product? That's a crucial distinction--most products on Amazon have lots of sellers to choose from. Is it the entire product category that you don't like? As in--as cordless drills go, this is the best one ever, but I find they are never powerful enough? That's important to know--other people's use cases may be much more tolerant of whatever limitations you find in the product category. Is the product fine, but over-priced? Again, important to understand, might mean that if one shows up at a much lower price it would be a fine purchase.

Here is my attempt to do it right, in a review of a recently-purchased Electric Kettle. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kickstarter Idea: Wireless Charging Shelf

Background: We have 6 Qi devices in the family (all our phones plus my Nexus 7 tablet). Thus it is very convenient to keep a Qi wireless charging pad front-and-center on the kitchen counter.

Problem: this is messy, and uses valuable counter space.

Solution: I want a wall-mounted Qi shelf. One idea I have is for a custom socket wall plate, which includes mounting hardware for the shelf. That would probably be the ultimate, deluxe solution. But more costly, both for parts, and effort to install. And not portable. So it is one idea, but maybe not first choice.

A variant that might address these problems would be to have the charger-shelf plug in to the outlet.

The challenge here would be combat flimsiness and instability. I think it could be done. Combine a very rigid plug with a little raised "fence" around the perimeter of the charger-shelf.

If someone creates a Kickstarter for this, I'll fund it for $75.

For bonus points, create some kind of adjustment mechanism, to help position the device. I am thinking of some kind of slider, like on a printer, for different paper sizes.

(I'm pretty sure this thing will not be practical for even a 7" tablet. Win some, lose some.)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Touch devices digits

"Research out of Boston College indicates that consumers feel a deeper affinity for products they touch on a screen than those selected using a laptop touchpad or a mouse." I think this is partly a manifestation of the power of the brain-hand interaction, which I hypothesize as one of the reasons people sometimes surprisingly prefer tablets when a laptop might actually be more effecient.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Attention Book Clubs (and others): You Can Simultaneously Share 5+ Copies of a Kindle Book

The Amazon Kindle allows the same account to be registered on multiple devices (at least 5-6, maybe more). Each device will have access to all the books on that account, up to some limit, which varies by book but apparently is often 6, set by the publisher. To my mind, even if the number were only 3, that would bring the average Kindle book purchase down to the eminently reasonable $3-4 range.

This makes it very easy and convenient to simultaneously share a given book. I have searched high and low, I can't find any indication that this is any way illegal, or even contrary to Amazon's terms of service.

The only real catch that I see is, they all have to be on the same account. So some level of trust and cooperation is required, but not as much as you might think. Instead of buying the books using that account--which would require somebody's credit card to be attached to it, and thus available to all within your circle--you just take turns gifting the book of the month to the shared account. So mostly, you just have to trust that nobody in your circle will go rogue and take over the account and lock you out.

You also might think the everybody's progress would stomp on each other, but that also does not seem to be the case, in my experience (which, I admit, is limited to a 2-user-sized circle). When I open the Kindle app, it asks me if I want to synch to the furthest point read (because Mom is always ahead of me), but I just have to say no.

The only trifling issue that leaves, as far as I can see, is that everybody's highlights and annotations are going to get mixed together. For most people, I see that as a total non-issue.