Plug Adapters – Standards Personified

Plug Adapters

Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

This illustrates why I started my long-stalled book on the history of standards. Plug adapters. A conspiracy started by Brookstone to screw travellers out of $50 every time they forget their little bag of plastic cubes. Why, oh why, can’t the world embrace a universal socket standard? Is it because there wasn’t an IEEE back in the days of early electrification? Is it because the government owned electrical utilities in the 19th century wanted to protect their own electrical equipment industries and insure that imports wouldn’t work in their plugs?

I’ve never found a satisfactory answer, and sitting here in a hotel room in La Defense, with a useless inert Treo because Sprint PCS isn’t a GSM standard, my Thinkpad’s EVDO wireless dead to the tune of a 15 Euro hotel internet charge because I don’t have a GRPS antenna …. IEEE be damned, the world is a long, long way from standardization, best intentions aside, and the sufferers are the travellers.

FORTUNE: This American wants you to buy Chinese

FORTUNE: This American wants you to buy Chinese – May 29, 2006
“I subscribe to the notion “Happy wife, happy life.””

My boss, Lenovo CEO Bill Amelio, on why he is commuting 9,800 miles from Singapore these days. I think I have subscribed to the same school of thought, which explains why I’m not shopping for a house in Raleigh these days.

What I’m reading

I’ve been through a bit of a dry spell on the reading table, but that’s changed with a couple deliveries from Amazon and a recent birthday present or two.

First, one I picked up for the plane ride to Paris, is David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, a recent collection of his non-fiction (there are those who say he is finished with fiction, but I digress). The opening essay, an account of his visit to the Adult Video News Awards — the Oscars of Porn — had me laughing so hard on the flight over that the hostess mistook my laughter for an off-base appreciation of her banter with the person across the aisle over the intricacies of the in-flight entertainment system. Wallace is the master of the footnote — indeed, as readers of Infinite Jest and his other works will attest, the real joy in a Wallace reading lies in the pica-point footnotes. Good stuff, and my son Eliot agrees, Wallace is a true genius.

Bless my wife, she gave me Glass Plates & Wooden Boats: The Yachting Photography of Willard B. Jackson at Marblehead for my birthday a couple weekends ago. A true coffee table book, this one is not only photos of beautiful yachts and working boats of the North Shore of Massachusetts at the turn of the century — the golden age of Corinthian yachting in America — but the accompanying text is great maritime history. One of the most beautiful collections of yacht photography in my collection.

I went through a few China books last month. Gate of Heavenly Peace by Jonathan Spence and the excrable Mao: The Unknown Story. Also blew through Hannibal on the flight from Beijing to San Francisco, but airplane novels leave me unhappy in general.

In literary sightings, Jimmy Guterman, former editor in chief of Forrester’s now defunct eponymous quarterly (to which I contributed) Forrester, is contributing to the front of the book for Fortune. He has a piece on telephones and airplanes in the issue with John Lassiter of Pixar on the cover. I can’t find the story on the Fortune (read CNN Money) site, otherwise I’d be linking.

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