Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's here: the Foleo future of Palm

Okay, I hopped up this morning all psyched to see the future and it turns out the future is already in my tote bag. Here's the deal. Palm founder Jeff Hawkins announced the next generation Palm device is a smartphone companion that is similar to an ultra-portable laptop. It's called the Palm Foleo and it's shown below next to a Treo. Palm announcement site is here. Write up from the D5 conference announcement is here.

I guess it's sorta cool if you don't already have a laptop but I do. And it rocks. See it over there. In fact, it's nearly the same form factor as the "next gen" Foleo and I already carry it with me most everywhere. So as the Engadget site pointed out: "Damned if we need yet another friggin device." Hear, hear.

Almost two years ago, after one too many trips through airports lugging a gigantic, employer-provided laptop that left me with sore arms and and an aching back, I vowed that my next laptop would be the smallest thing out there that I could afford. After much research, I settled on the Sony VGN-TX670P, a 2.8 pound wonder that has stood me in good stead ever since.

In addition to the expected suite of Microsoft productivity programs bundled with it, I've also used it to create mini-movies and slideshows set to music. It's no gaming marvel, but neither am I and that's not what I bought it for. I spend 95% of my time on it doing desktop publishing, text content creation and editing, internet browsing, and e-mail, with picture downloads and edits, and the occasional DVD viewing session thrown in for good measure.
So here's a comparison table I put together of the main highlights of the two machines.
Device Palm Foleo Sony TX-670VGN
Screen 10-inch screen 11.1-inch wide-screen display
Weight 2.5 lbs 2.8 pounds (3.5 pounds with AC adapter)
Keyboard full-size keyboard Considered smallish/cramped (but I like it fine)
OS Linux Windows XP
Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF Create, edit Word and Excel docs, view but not edit PPT. PDF viewer Full versions of each program included
Email Can read, create, edit using VersaMail or Outlook Mobile. Future iteration of the device will allow e-mail over Wi-Fi to do e-mail Outlook, webmail
Web connectivity no built-in network connectivity, but relies on its host smartphone to connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi
Boot up Instant on Several minutes
Battery life Five+ hours of use 6.6 hours in drain test by
Other USB port, video-out port, headphone jack, and slots for SD and compact flash cards for memory expansion DVD/CD player/burner, 60GB Hard drive, two USB 2.0 ports, four-pin FireWire, VGA video out port, PCI Express card slot, headphone jack, Sony Memory stick slot, SD card slot
Price $499, after an introductory $100 rebate. $2,100 almost two years ago

Although the laptop cost more, I also get more, can connect to the VPN at work, and do lots of other tasks with the numerous programs that are already installed. And, if needed, I can also connect my phone to it and use the unlimited data plan I already have on my Treo to connect to the internet, which is essentially what the Foleo does. So consider me completely underwhelmed by the Foleo. For me, it feels so...2005.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Big Treo announcement tomorrow

I use a Palm Treo 650 phone/PDA for just about everything: phone, e-mail, mo-blogging (mobile blogging), writing and editing documents with a foldout keyboard like the one on the left, web surfing, getting driving directions, listening to MP3s, and more. In a word: power user.

So you may be able to understand my excitement to learn that Palm's founder Jeff Hawkins is planning a big announcement tomorrow at the D5 conference organized by Walt Mossberg and Kira Swisher of the Wall Street Journal. Info about the Palm announcement is available on the CNET blog Crave.

I've been with the Palm operating system since they were used in Handspring PDAs. I even had the goofy first generation Handspring Visorphone attachment that slid into the back of the unit and made the already-chunky device bulkier than a Maxwell Smart shoe phone, for those of you old enough to remember that mid-1960s comedy about a hapless spy with wacky gadgets. I didn't care: I was a convert and I evangelized the device to everyone I knew, eventually convincing at least two co-workers in my newsroom then to jump on the Handspring bandwagon.

Seven years and multiple devices later for this early adopter, I'm itching to up upgrade again. But I don't want one of Palm's newer offerings with Windows Mobile OS. I want to stick with the Palm OS because of all the third party software that's available for the devices. So I sit. And lust after smaller, cooler, smartphones from Japan with smaller bodies but bigger screens (think supermodels of the PDA set), faster connections, wi-fi, and more, and consider switching. But I can't!
I've waited this long. Guess I'll cool my jets and see what tomorrow brings. Some rumors say Palm will roll out a Linux OS that's been in the works. Others says it'll be an iPhone killer, which is surprising, since the iPhones have barely hit the market yet. But Palm and Hawkins have revolutionized the industry before, so I'm not alone in my eagerness. We shall see if the actual announcement lives up to the hype.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My pregnancy FAQs

Since I've been pregnant, it's been great hearing all the well-wishes from folks. I have yet to hear any negative comments, as in, "Expecting? Wow. Good luck with that. I wouldn't trade places with you for all the money in the world."

But I do get the same few questions from almost everyone. So they seem ready-made for an FAQ.
  • Are you excited? yes very, especially Jason and my folks

  • How are you feeling? I feel great and have since the beginning, except for sleepiness in months 2-4.

  • Any morning sickness? Not a drop of morning sickness, which was awesome during my three week fellowship to Europe. I ate my way through each country and had no qualms about trying local delicacies. In fact, my travel mates were a bit amazed. I blogged about it a bit here.

  • Do you know what you're having? We're having a girl, so the deluge of pink clothes has already begun. I may offer a prize to the first person who gives me a non-pink article of clothing for the baby. :-)

Given these questions, I loved this cartoon from website I wonder if has this t-shirt yet. :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yes, of course my dog needs a couch from Costco

I love my dog and I love Costco. This weekend, they both made me very happy. I've seen and read stories about Costco CEO Jim Sinegal like this one in Time magazine. He and the chain just strike me as more fair to employees and much less evil than their big box, blue vest wearing competitors that shall remain nameless, though no less reviled.

So I was out tooling around with Isis the wonder pooch this weekend and stopped by Costco to get gas and pig ears. J. and I have a running joke that you can't get out of that place without spending at least $100 because it's all so affordable and enticing, but I was firm in my resolve to avoid the pull of the family packs of everything. With just the two of us thus far and limited storage space in our kitchen, stocking up on mega anything doesn't make sense.

But on my way to the pig ears, what should I spy but new pet furniture. I've been looking for a good, affordable, easy to wash, comfy bed for Isis for a while, but couldn't bring myself to spend the $75-$150 asking price at some other stores for their no doubt stellar, but quite budget-busting, pet bed alternatives.

But check this out. An Isis-sized couch that matches our color scheme perfectly. Plus, it was just $25 (!) and the cover can be unzipped on each section to remove the padding for washing. I love it! She looks like she's falling out of it but she usually curls up on her bedding, so it works great. And when she lays there post-pig ear noshing, all shiny, content and cozy, it makes me very happy.

The picture below shows her after she was startled by the sound of J. pumping up a basketball out of sight downstairs. Her first response was a startled, "What the he... What is that?!" And with the hissing of each successive pump, her head turned more and more sideways until her ear was almost parallel to the floor. Hilarious. Dogs are the best.
And I got out of Costco having spent less than $50 (if you don't include the gas. But that was outside. ;-) ) Excellent.

Gas, border blunders, and rainbows enroute to Portland

How do you have a border blunder enroute to Portland from Seattle? Well, you have to try really hard. No, Homeland Security hasn't put the smack down on interstate travel. Actually, we were feeling a little cooped up this weekend and needed one of our long-overdue daytrips to Canada. Normally we go a couple times each month, but we've been a bit busy with household projects, then Mother's Day brunch at our place for the extended family, then recovering from brunch ;-), so the day trip kept getting shunted aside.

Also, gas is currently at $3.59/gallon (!) or more for premium here in the Seattle area. I recently put $66 in my tank after driving it until the little gas tank light came on and then the Distance 'Til Empty (DTE) mileage countdown stopped calculating. If my car could talk, it was probably saying:

Red gas light. DTE: 25 miles. You might want to get gas soon.
DTE: 16 miles. Uh, perhaps you didn't hear me earlier, what with the music cranked and all. But we need to get gas. Not now - RIGHT now.
DTE: 9 miles. Okay, you're making me nervous. We just passed a gas station. Ooh! There's another one! How about that one up ahead?
DTE: 4.5 miles. Please, for the love of Pete... I feel lightheaded...
DTE: *. I'm not talking to you anymore.

If my mom or dad is reading this, don't worry, this isn't a common occurrence. I was just trying to get to Costco gas so I could save a few cents/gallon. Which I did, but it just makes me angry to see gas so high when I can think back to college when I drove an '85 Pontiac Bonneville with a huge tank and gas was just a dollar per gallon. Yes, really. Because I loved that when I got my work study check and put $10 in the tank, it meant 10 gallons. These days, putting $10 of gas in the tank is like giving a thimble of water to a person dying of thirst in the desert. It's almost not even worth stopping for.

Despite all that, we opted for a road trip anyway because it's still a relatively cheap getaway. So we got up a little earlier on Sunday intending to go to Vancouver, BC. Until J. realized he'd left his passport and Nexus card in the car we dropped off for service Friday. Aaaargh. I've penned an ode to the joys of Nexus before, so you can understand our insistence on traveling with it.

You can still cross the border with a birth certificate and driver's license until next year I think, but he didn't have his handy and we didn't want to wait in line with, you know, those folks. The ones who are capable of driving up to the Peace Arch border and its GIGANTIC park and arch, passing multiple signs about crossing into Canada and leaving the U.S., who then wait in line for upwards of 10-45 minutes, and get all the way to the front either having buried their passport in the trunk under mounds of clothes and coolers, or having come through all of that WITHOUT THEIR PASSPORT OR DOCUMENTS. I mean COME ON. Were you in a coma for the past six years and just woke up last week and decided to drive to Canada? Does your doctor even know you're out? Isn't your license expired? It happens more often than you'd think. We see those folks and the poor drivers behind them who suffer for it whenever we cruise through the Nexus lane.

So instead of that hassle, we opted to head south to Portland to have lunch on NW 23rd and walk around the Pearl District's funky shops. It was... just okay. Partly because we had our hearts set on Vancouver, BC and partly because it was a chilly, rainy, craptastic drive and walk. I mean, we had a good time as usual spending the 2.5 hours each way chatting, listening to music and the BBC on satellite radio, and discussing news stories from there and from the NYTimes that I read aloud from my Treo. But it was pouring down rain the entire way, which put a bit of pall on things, regardless of the company.

There were several upsides to the trip though. First, we visited some friends from my TV days in Medford, OR who just moved up from San Diego. They're both still in news, so we played the "who of our former co-workers have moved where" game, and we got to see their adorable, precocious four year old daughter and giggly 5 month old son. They also gave us some much appreciated tips on baby gear, kid wrangling, and job juggling with little ones.

The second upside to the otherwise soggy trip came on the way home when we got some sun for about 15 minutes and saw this lovely rainbow. Aaaah. And of course, we spent several lovely hours in each other's hilarious company with nary a TV in sight. See? You can always find positives, even in a sea of rain-drenched dreck.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Maternity wear: you thought you felt bloated and unattractive before...

So now that I'm officially at the halfway mark in this pregnancy, my clothing needs have ramped up substantially, much like the size of my hind end.

What I've discovered is that department stores hang signs that say "Maternity" and "Women's World" in lieu of posting their real thoughts overhead: "Since you're fat or pregnant, you probably don't care how you look. Wear this."

These departments are always right next to each other, as if having an expanding uterus and being plus size are basically the same thing. Then, the selection in both departments mainly consists of dresses and tops that look like:

A. a confetti machine vomited onto stretch polyester

B. Jackson Pollack made some cash on the side before he died by taking his paint splatter technique and branching out into women's wear

C. there's a hot new Amish clothing designer on the scene. Motto: black and white are the new black.

As proof, I offer the following shots taken at a local mall recently.

Did someone order a clown car? No? How about a tunic to remind you of what a psychedelic acid trip might look like if acid were totally not on the list of verboten pregnancy drugs?
I mean honestly, can you depress me even more? And if you go to the chi-chi maternity boutiques, you find more tailored and trendy clothing, but it's also at highway robbery prices. Like "long sleeve cotton t-shirt - $58." WTH?! It's COTTON. It's a T-SHIRT. With a slightly longer hem to accomodate the bump. This stuff isn't hand loomed by virgins in an authentic monestary in the hills of France. It's mass produced in some sweatshop-ish manufacturing facility by underpaid, overworked people with few employment options and no health insurance. So they are certainly not getting their cut of the $58.

There are even maternity jeans by the same people who make the trendy super dark or skinny leg or distressed denim that all the A-list celebs are wearing. And just like those jeans, the price tag is $150+. For jeans. With a stretch panel. Again: it's COTTON. With some LYCRA. For criminey's sake, on a cost per wear basis, that's not even remotely logical.

As you turn away with yet another pair of black stretchy pants, the sales people try to upsell you and say, "Oh, you should totally get the jeans. It's all in the cut and how it's tailored. It totally lifts and accentuates your rear." Um, I'm a Black woman and I'm pregnant: if I get any more rear lifting and accentuating, I'll be able to reach over my right shoulder and get lip balm out of my back pocket.

So what should I happen upon today but relatively affordable maternity clothes in styles that are appropriately scaled up versions of the items on the regular racks. Where? The Gap, that paragon of clothing standardization. So it's not a massive selection or remotely chic and the paparazzi won't mistake you for some chickie from the O.C., but there was no wildly printed top in sight: a huge plus in my book. So I bought a simple summer frock and actually felt kinda pretty when I went to dinner with J. Can't tell you how much that means when the expanding waistline keeps you from crossing your legs and tying your own shoes may soon become a memory.

Also on the bright side, I've still had no morning sickness, my doc says I'm gaining weight at an appropriate pace, I feel great, and most importantly, I don't work in a garment factory. Things could always be worse, right?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fellowship continued: Portugal's high art and lower classes, all in one day

So I've decided the toothpaste is out of the tube and all I can do continue to post periodic highlights of the tail end of my fellowship trip before the warm glow and memories fade. There's no way to fully capture the wealth of experiences, connections, laughs, surprises, frustrations, and insights I gained during the three weeks, so I'll just touch on the big stuff, to use a technical term.

So after leaving the awesome Gulbenkian museum, we headed to the suburbs of Lisbon to meet with some of the city's immigrant residents and several community activists working with them to provide services to youth. This was a major highlight of the trip because we actually had a chance to talk with immigrants to the area, instead of just talking about them, which is how a lot of bad public policy happens.

Over the course of 2-3 hours, we visited a class for children at risk of dropping out. It reminded me the Boys and Girls Clubs in the states because the program serves a dual purpose of providing a safe, welcoming place for kids to engage in constructive activities, have fun, and be with caring adults. In addition, this program worked specifically with children of immigrants who are struggling to learn Portugese, have sometimes-difficult family lives, and are either out of school for disciplinary reasons or at risk of dropping out. The kids above were doing a project that uses construction of model airplanes to learn about math and technology. They were like most 8-14 year olds: energetic, some shy, some self-assured, and all eager to connect with us. They practiced their English, asked us about the U.S. and where we were from, and a couple kids showed off their dancing skills demonstrating traditional African dances that they have melded with hip-hop-inspired music. Despite the challenges the kids face, they clearly felt at home in the program classroom and the room was just filled with typical youthful exuberance. The kind that lead adults in the program to quietly pull one or two rambunctious kids aside and firmly suggest that they cool it.
From there it was over to a settlement where we were instructed to leave our valuables in the van with our driver because it was going to be a lot rougher neighborhood. Once we arrived, we met a resident activist (third from right below) who moved to Portugal himself 17 years ago from one its former colonies in Africa (Cape Verde I think) and now helps more recent transplants navigate the system to get documents, work and other resources.

He showed us around the settlement, set into the hills outside Lisbon. It's basically a shanty town that is allowed to exist sort of outside the law. Every few months, the authorities come and bulldoze a few homes, and residents simply cobble them back together from scavenged cinderblocks, tin for the roofs, and other materials. I snuck the picture below as we crossed a roof in one of the areas. You can see how they've managed to cobble together a community.As illegal immigrants in many cases, they exist on the outskirts of the city and of the law, so when the bulldozers come, they leave, and return when it's safe to rebuild and begin anew. Talk about resiliancy.
Despite these challenges, activists like our host are trying to make life better for the younger generations who have been born in Portugal and know nothing of their parents homeland in the former colonies, beyond the language and customs maintained at home. Like many 2nd generation immigrants, they struggle between cultures trying to find their own identity which is inevitably different from their parents' but not quite that of the country where they were born, all of which creates family tensions between generations.This is the computer lab the activist helped build with other community members. When the young man in the middle heard we were from the states, he said, "Oh! Whassup! Thug life!" A reference to 2Pac Shakur. Great. Europe exports fine wine, luxury goods and centuries old languages and art. We export teachings from dead rappers. I was at least heartened to see that they were all busy using localized versions of Google and Windows programs to look up high end cars and other consumer goods that are completely out of current reach for them to create powerpoints and montages of their favorite things. It all shows the reach of computers, the internet and pop culture, even in the midst of poverty.
Our host was great and wonderfully candid about the situation there and what they face day to day. It provided much more insight into the complexities of immigration issues than some of the discussions throughout the trip with academics who were well-versed in the theory of immigration, but not so much the day-to-day reality.
The visit continued at another nearby location. More on that soon.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sarkozy wins: what hath France wrought?

Ultra-conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has won the presidency in France and I must say that I'm worried. The BBC in this article summed up the mood in Paris this way: "There is a feeling in Paris tonight that France, as Mr Sarkozy said in his victory speech, has turned "a new page of our history." Unfortunately, I fear that the page came out a dog-earred playbook used by American neo-conservatives to set us on our current, acrimonious approach to world policy. Many of the people I met recently in Europe pointed to this policy as a prime example of why Americans have lost so much support in the world community.

Even American wire services are describing Sarkozy as "a blunt and uncompromising pro-American conservative" without giving a more nuanced explanation of his views and plans. It's as if the fact that he's pro-American is good, period. They don't explain that he is pro-neo-conservative America. (Shudder)

Which is also why the French presidential election outcome is so perplexing. There are already many pundits weighing in on why Sarkozy won, what parts of his platform resonated the most with voters and whether people truly support his plan for France or simply didn't find enough of a plan expressed by opponent Segolene Royal. Heavy sigh.

The only thing more distressing than the election outcome is that I had to turn to CBC news out of Canada at the far end of the cable dial to find any news about the election late tonight. Mon dieu: must we always be so inwardly focused? In honor of the general level of U.S. interest in world affairs, I'm off to to navel gaze before turning in - a feat that is becoming increasingly difficult as my girth grows. Five months down, four to go. Good night.