Thursday, November 28, 2013

Is my new bike rack really going to be relaxative?

My new bike rack has been delivered.

I haven't opened it yet, but when I read the back of the box, I remembered the comments I'd seen on Amazon about its instructions being hard to interpret. 

That seems entirely predictable if they were translated - from Mandarin? - by the person who came up with this piece copywriting for the back of the box: 

I have a feeling I recognise the style of Google Translate. 

After the struggle I'm expecting to fix it together and onto the car, I may be looking for some other relaxative equipment for the weekends. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gosh, I've got ten overlapping devices

Time was when you watched TV on your television, made phone calls on your phone and used a computer to, well, find out how a computer works and make neat records of your gas bills using your newfound expertise with spreadsheets.

Today, if you stop to think, there is a hugely complex overlapping of functions between the devices we use. I don't think I'm particularly techie, but I was surprised to be able to list ten separate devices which I switch between according to mood and what's appropriate (e.g. not playing Words with Friends on my Kindle on a Monday morning in the office.)

Experimenting with Google Docs' Drawing programme, I have tried to show the similarities and differences between my various gadgets - some limited by technology, others only by habit. I have grouped them under 'computers', 'phones' and 'TV', but the point is that those are pretty artificial distinctions because, if you look at the various capabilities of each, many of them can do the same things: for instance seven out of the ten can connect to the internet and six have internal file storage.

To a large extent, we have moved to a world where, as was being talked about five to ten years ago, content has become operable between devices. For the first time last week, for instance, I watched a whole TV show on my Kindle Fire. It was rather satisfactory, with good sound through the headphones, and a decent picture. It only felt unusual to be able to move the screen around so easily, as one does all the time when reading a book.

It will be interesting to see where this process is going: will the only consideration ultimately be the size of the device, with all devices being capable of much the same functions?

Maybe not: I rather like the fact that my Kindle is more of a receiving that a transmitting device: it's for reading, watching, browsing, even though it could do more if I asked it to. But I don't feel I should be producing stuff when I'm using it - whether emails or documents or even organising photos etc., as I do more on my laptop. So maybe in future devices will appeal to different moods or energy states rather than clustering around functions.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Enrich your life

War and PeaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Enrich your life with a great book which is also a treat to read. I cannot recommend it too highly.

First of all, Tolstoy's work: it is famously long because it is epic not just in its geographical and historical sweep but, perhaps more importantly, in the distance it covers between the public world of grand political events and the inner world of individual minds and souls. It is as if Tolstoy is trying to capture the essence of human experience by showing how those worlds relate rather than highlighting one at the expense of the other. In the process he gives us an intimacy with all his main characters that allows us to share not just their hopes and fears, but their own puzzlement with the details of experience that people notice but perhaps never mention even to their nearest and dearest. In short, it is fascinatingly real, and, surprisingly to me, had some of the qualities of a good soap opera: you have your favourite characters and storylines which change as events unfold.

Second, the translation: I have tried to read a couple of previous translations, and never got hooked. This one is perfect. The language is elegant without being stuffy, never self-conscious and never trendy. The introduction by the translators helps, showing their passion for what they are doing and their commitment to creating something that somehow sits, as they say, 'between' the original Russian and our English. The physical book itself is beautiful: it's nice to have a design on the hard cover rather than having a paper cover that will soon get worn.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Harvest festival

(A banana helps the tomatoes to ripen apparently I wrote here. Incidentally, good to see that Google ads are on the ball: offering Banana Ripening Rooms as an ad attached to that post.)