Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Palm Foleo pulled, or I should have been a technology analyst

Jeff Hawkins unveiling Foleo in May (courtesy of PC World)

The Associated Press and many others are reporting that Palm has pulled it's Foleo device, just before shipping it to market saying the company "needs to focus all its resources on developing its next-generation smartphones." Uh, ya' think? More info from the AP article available here: Palm Cancels Foleo Companion to Treo.

As I mentioned here and here when the Foleo was first announced in late May, this thing was a solution in search of a problem. Like many Treo users, I am proud to have been one of Handspring/Palm's early adopters for the the past 7-8 years, so when someone aching to love your product and evangelize it to the moon can't find something good to say about it, you've got trouble ahead.

Despite my continued annoyance with the company and their lack of a new, updated Palm operating system and more non-Windows devices, I'm glad to see them making a decisive move like this one with the Foleo. The sooner they stop wasting time and money on that thing, the sooner they can move forward with good stuff for the Treo and new Linux operating system. Until then, I'll putter along with my Treo 650. It's almost two years old and a bit haggard, but it still allows me to continue my power-user tasks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tougher Canadian border crossings ahead - for some

The Seattle P-I has a story about the "Wait at Canadian border going from bad to brutal" partly because of construction, but also due to tougher checks in anticipation of the coming Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. The bad news is wait times and traffic congestion will increase dramatically. The good news is the crossing is getting a total makeover so that it can handle the expected increase in traffic for the winter games.

As I've mentioned before, we have Nexus passes because we do Vancouver, BC daytrips fairly often and they make that trip a breeze. I'm so glad we have them and I'm not sure how we'll be impacted by the construction changes ahead, but it can only be better than not having them at all.

In fact, I'm already planning to get a pass for the baby so she can travel right along with us as soon as she and I are mobile. She doesn't need a passport, so I was a little surprised that babies need a Nexus pass too, because it's basically a background check card. So her application should be really easy to fill out. Residence for last five years: gleam in her dad's eye, followed by uterus at mother's address for past 9 months.

But everyone in the vehicle has to have a Nexus pass if you use it to cross the border, so we'll be following those rules as soon as possible, hopefully followed by another quick and trouble-free interview at the border office. However, given how nasty some of the border agents are portrayed in the P-I article, perhaps both me and the baby should head to the interview wearing easy-on, easy-off clothes in case cavity searches ensue. Adult onesie, anyone?

Monday, September 03, 2007

What's in a name? Maybe a lifetime of joblessness

The top three questions I've gotten with this pregnancy are "How far along are you?" "How are you feeling?" and "Have you picked out any names?" Talk about a loaded question. Do you go with some old family name or something that instantly pegs your kid to a particular era? Oscar, Doris, Curtis, Wanda, Moon Unit, Leopold or Brittany anyone? A name can also tie you unmistakably to a particular area of the country, socioeconomic group or even race.

Think I'm kidding? Check out this Slate article on white vs. black names for babies. The title says it all. A Roshanda by Any Other Name: How do babies with super-black names fare?

Even if you're not exactly sure what a super-black name means, you know it when you hear it: often lots of syllables, random capital letters and apostrophes, or references to luxury retail products or TV stars.

What's interesting to me is that, according to the researchers referenced in the article, until the 1970s or so, Black and White parents chose pretty similar names for their children. But due in part to the Black Power movement, some Black parents began adopting increasingly distinctive names. Also, the researchers found "no negative relationship between having a distinctively Black name and later life outcomes after controlling for a child's circumstances at birth."

Hmm. I seem to recall ABC's 20/20 doing a show (Top 20 'Whitest' and 'Blackest' Names) that disputed that finding by showing that if two job applicants with identical backgrounds were up for the same position, the ones with more "ethnic" or Black-sounding names were not called for an interview.

Given that, J. and I agreed that a key criteria for baby name options was that it look and sound good on a resume. Seriously. Does a more traditional name guarantee future success? Of course not. Is it one less hurdle for a child of color to grapple with in life? I think so. Sure there are people who are exceptions to the "traditional is better approach" to naming who do well in life with very unique names. However, the use of varied spellings of the name "Unique" as outlined in the Slate article seems to belie that. My personal favorite is a local baby a firefighter acquaintence came across during a service call whose name was spelled something like "Omyuneeque" pronounced "I'm unique." Uh, right. See you at the job fair.

Still, since people are so interested in our name options, I've probably derived a little too much fun from answering their questions with complicated, poly-syllabic names just to see the reaction. "Well, we're leaning towards Myshan'Tymeeka Traniece Jazmin-Raven or DeLoQuéShaunishia Möet Lexus." Every single time, a stunned silence and rapid eye blinks ensue as the person tries to comprehend this information or quickly find a polite way to say, "What the hell are you thinking?"

Then I laugh and say, "Kidding. No, we have settled on a short list of very traditional names that we cycle through each day, trying each one for fit. Nothing unpronouncable." An audible sigh of relief follows. One man added, "Well, that's really what I wanted to ask but I wasn't sure how. Some of these kids are walking around with names THEY can't even spell." Exactly.

But there's further name narrowing to be done after you decide on a general strategy and make it through the ethnic vs. crossover name mine field. When you start considering actual names, you have to take into account the personal baggage you and your spouse/partner may associate with particlar names. You throw out those that remind either of you of someone you dated or really disliked or which just rub either of you the wrong way.

"Beatrice?! That was the name of the mom of the girl who was mean to me in middle school." "Shayla?! Why not just put strobe lights in her room and send her to pole dancing lessons?" And on and on it goes. We definitely went through many, many names to get to the handful or so that we were both pretty okay with. But I think we will just have to get a look at her before we decide.

And if the kid REALLY hates it, she can always change it when she's older like these well known singers did: Enjoy!