Freedom
by Jonathan Franzen
A great book about a guy from Minnesota.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
I am the last person in the world to read (and thoroughly enjoy) this novel.

The Circle
by Dave Eggers
Predictable, creepy, and fun. A book of our times. Like it on Facebook!

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
by Jon Gertner
Definitive proof that I was born a generation too late to achieve greatness.

December 24, 2013 December 24, 2013 reviews by Scott No Comments

Reports keep surfacing that various suitors are preparing to make bids to buy T-Mobile.

An acquisition is probably bad news for me. T-Mobile’s long status as a fourth-tier outsider has led it to make a lot of decisions that are pretty great for customers.

For example, back in the day it was the only telecom to publicly denounce the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. In 2013, it was the only telecom to state for the record that it does not sell customer data or call logs to government agencies (the other companies had no comment). They have transparent and non-confusing pricing. And now they offer free international roaming and data, which is insanely great for travelers.

If Deutsche Telekom sells their shares to SoftBank, my only hope is that the continued foreign ownership keeps the management interesting and forestalls the adoption of the same creepy, cozy relationship that the other telecoms maintain with the government.

December 24, 2013 December 24, 2013 in-the-news by Scott No Comments

I gazed out to our front yard, and what to my wondering eyes should appear:
Frosty melted and turned into a (functioning) iPhone–oh dear!

A phone appears in the snow

December 23, 2013 December 23, 2013 oddities by Scott No Comments

Garrison Keillor is not a conventional author, so in hindsight it shouldn’t be surprising that after a very conventional introduction, Mr. Keillor calmly stepped in front of the podium, glanced toward the ceiling, and began humming a hymn with the tacit assumption that all present should sing along in four-part harmony. (The audience obliged.) So began the event billed as “Garrison Keillor reads from and discusses O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound.”

The other circumstance which shouldn’t be surprising is that Mr. Keillor did not read from anything. A man who can recall Shakespeare and Frost with the same ease as his own verse, mingling them effortlessly with his richly detailed tales, has no need for such a crutch.

Fortunately, there was discussion.

Freddie’s question was my favorite: “Do you ever get writer’s block?” Keillor stood next to us and responded without hesitation: No. People who get writer’s block are the kind of people who want to have written something, not those who want to write. “Dentists don’t get dental block… or at least, if they do, they don’t tell anyone about it.”

December 3, 2013 December 3, 2013 reviews by Scott 1 Comment

I’ve been riding the same broken-down GT fixie that I bought on Craigslist in 2004. Nine years is a good life for a city bike. And it never really fit me anyway. With the slightly longer commute that came with my new job and house situation, it was finally time to upgrade to a winter-capable commuter bike that could support all my weird requirements:

  • Lugs for racks and fenders (I want a front basket–more on this later!)
  • A way to carry a chocolate malt on the go (Possibly not in the winter.)
  • Clearance for wider 700c tires (to absorb the potholes) and studded winter tires
  • A guard to keep my pant leg from getting greasy or snagged
  • At least one disc brake for stopping power in dirty, wet conditions
  • Maintenance-free belt drive technology from the future!

Since I was looking for a mostly off-the-shelf solution, this list narrowed my options down to basically one bike, the Spot Wazee, which arrived Saturday. I got mine through Belmont Wheelworks, Spot’s unofficial non-dealer in the Boston area.

L1003573

Yeah, it’s great!

L1003567

The frame is made in Taiwan, but it still has some nice touches that are usually found only on US-made bikes, like this brake bridge detail:

L1003583

The rear hub is fairly heavy but it shifts like a dream. This is my first internally-geared hub and I’m impressed.

L1003584

The Gates Carbon Drive is really well made. At low speeds it is less efficient than a chain, but the difference is hardly noticeable. It’s quiet and smooth. And clean to the touch!

L1003576

November 24, 2013 December 23, 2013 bikes by Scott 4 Comments

These are a few of my favorite things: “The 20th-Century Architecture of Eero Saarinen

November 20, 2013 November 20, 2013 design by Scott 1 Comment

This whole article is unsettling: Residents Suing to Stop ‘Fortresslike’ Plan for World Trade Center.

Summary: A small group of New Yorkers are suing the NYPD in what will probably be a vain attempt to keep them from turning the streets near their new World Trade Center into a militarized ring of security checkpoints and barriers. The report indicates that cyclists may even be required to dismount just to pass through.

Boston is getting a dose of security fever these days, including the sudden and rapid proliferation of state-operated video cameras on streets and in parks–stuff I strongly disapprove of. But stories like this one make me glad I don’t live in New York.

November 13, 2013 November 13, 2013 rants by Scott No Comments

Keyboard on desk

They keyboard on my Mac laptop has nice keys–they got that part right–but the overall design is a human-factors nightmare. One’s wrists rest on a cold, flat aluminum surface and a too-sharp metal edge cuts against the band of your wristwatch.

The typing experience on Macbook laptops has made me pine for my old Thinkpad. If only Lenovo built laptops with display quality, battery life, and performance that were in the same league as Apple’s.

I don’t usually plug products here, but this one is pretty great: the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard. I’m still on the fence about the bizarre-looking mouse that’s bundled with it (though I concede it’s pretty comfortable). But the keyboard is amazing and comfortable beyond my imagination. I appreciate the clever use of magnets for the battery doors and the height-raising stand (presumably included for the benefit of standing-desk people). It is also pretty easy on the eyes. Glad I tried it!

Note to Microsoft: why don’t you sell this product in your Microsoft stores?

November 10, 2013 November 10, 2013 computers by Scott 1 Comment