One of those mornings

Five pairs of waders. All of them leak.

Row out to motorboat with wet feet, wet socks, inside of expensive wet cracked boots at low tide, 8 am, blustery warm November morning, going to get some clams. Get onto motorboat which is awash in rainwater. Bilge pump has failed. Battery dead. Row by towing the 18-foot water laden dead motorboat with dinghy. A gazillion itty bitty strokes into the blustery wind later, get motorboat to ramp. Get crescent wrench, pop the terminal leads off the battery, load into the back of the car, take home to charge. Will haul boat later today on the high tide and leave it on the trailer.

And so ends the boating season of 2008. Leaky waders. Dead boat. No clams.


Interesting front page story in the NYT this Sunday morning about President-elect Obama likely having to surrender his Blackberry and email privileges for the duration of his term due to security concerns and public information laws. At first I was reading the piece, saying “Boneheads. Email good. Luddites in government, bad.” Then the security concerns were cited and I suddenly thought it is maybe not such a good idea to have the Commander In Chief on the RIM network sending emoticons to the National Security Advisor: “Dude. Chechnya! WTF? Call me! (Go Sox)”

Still, for an administration that is releasing weekly “fireside chats” on YouTube, that is seeking a National CTO, and which delivered on the promise of technology first opened up by Joe Trippi and the Howard Dean campaign,  it seems utterly ass-hatted to take away email. But, unless a secure alternative can be developed, the president-to-be may be in the same boat the president-that-was found himself eight years ago when he sadly signed off of his AOL mail account and told his friends it was nice knowing them electronically.

How many times should I pay for the same thing?

If I pay for the New York Times to be delivered to me in hard copy every morning, do I have an automatic right to the electronic edition delivered to my Kindle? If I pay the Wall Street an annual fee do I deserve to get the Kindle edition for free?

This is a buy once/use many times in many different formats argument – not a multi-user argument, though the metaphysics of simultaneous media consumption is very trippy, e.g. I pay one pay-per-view charge for the movie and the entire family can watch it. But each of us pays a ticket to enter the theater (obviously because the theater is in the business of renting seats, not content). Being a music copy protection crank, and a notorious copyleftist, I will acknowledge my responsibility to pay for original works and not pirate them, but must I pay, as the man said in Men in Black, for The White Album yet again because a new format has been developed?

The newspapers in particular – that’s a tough one. Obviously they need every dime of new revenue they can get, and if they can build circ electronically then power to them, but what about faithful subscribers to that content in other mediums? Should we not get an all-inclusive license however we want it delivered? I can see the papers actually paying me to go paperless – a green rebate like the grocery store that knocks a nickel off the tab for every recyclable bag I bring with me in lieu of paper of plastic. But no, I suspect a couple things at work – specifically to the Kindle case.

  1. Kindle doesn’t feel like an open format that the New York Times can offer like, say, a PDF version for download from its site. It’s Amazon’s and that’s that.
  2. Amazon is getting a piece of the transaction, so what do they care that I pay the NYT directly for the paper edition?

So, what happens if Bezos opens the Kindle format to the public domain and publishers can suddenly go direct to their subscribers, and if their circulation management tools are strong enough, recognize a subscriber seeking a multi-channel license and discount it accordingly?

Amazes me that 12% of all Amazon purchases of that portion of its book inventory that has a Kindle version are indeed for Kindle owners. E.g. – take a best seller, put it online in print and kindle formats, and more than ten percent of the customers buy it for the electronic device.

The “R” Months — clamming recommences

Foggy Saturday afternoon in November with temps in the 60s and a low tide means it was time to go clamming after seeing the clam police had opened up my favorite clam spot for fall harvesting. This is a spot you need a boat to get to, so it tends to be hardly hit by the recreational crew. As a somber aside, in my daily sculling this fall I have seen a massive increase in the number of clammers out looking for clams. It makes me wonder if some of this activity — both commercial and recreational — is driven by the economic cycle and the simple fact that people are looking for some income and some protein.

Anyway, I needed some quahogs for chowder and stuffed quahogs. All waders were leaking, including a hardly used pair of new neoprenes some f%$king rodent like a mouse or chipmunk decided to chew up for nesting material. All the other pairs were cracked, a sign of either ozone rot (never store waders near anything with an electric motor, like a refrigerator) or old age. So … I know what I want for Christmas.

When we went to the landing to get the boat I discovered some Cape Cod version of a horse thief had taken a set of bolt cutters to my dinghy’s lock-up chain. Fortunately the dinghy didn’t get pinched, but now I am in a high state of paranoia that either some yacht club moron officer is deciding a new policy that no dinghy’s shall be chained to the yacht club fence, or the town is going to get serious about cleaning up the abandoned mess of abandoned dinghies, canoes, catamarans, scows, punts, and skiffs littering the shore around the landing. In any event, I need to go down there with some sort of waterproof plea to leave my dinghy alone as I intend to continue using it until mid-December. Any way, if you who wields bolt cutters is reading this, do me a favor next time? Post a notice or call me?

Like I said, it was foggy. But this time of year there isn’t much boat traffic to worry about, and the course to the clams is basically head due south from the mooring for two minutes and stop.

Son and I focused right on chowder sized clams, the ones with shells as big a closed man’s fist. Instead we found some decent ones — right between cherrystones/littlenecks and true chowders. Here Fisher lives up to his name and demonstrates some jerk rake technique (a Ribb jerk rake no less).

I came up with this in my rake, a perfect baby horseshoe crab. Horseshoe crabs are right out of the days of dinosaurs, living tribolites, so I wanted to make sure this one survives to make more. They are hard hit by commercial fishermen who cut them up for trap bait.

The Tweener Paradox

The void between smartphones and ultraportable notebooks has been called the “tweener” space in computing. This week, in his review of the so-called Netbook, space, the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg dinged this not-a-phone-not-a-laptop device as one that has never taken off. UMPC is a perfect example.

So what is a tweener? To demonstrate I like to line up my ThinkPad X200 and my Blackberry 8300 and in between drop down a 7″ x5″ moleskine notebook. That, in my mind, is the Tweener, the device that hasn’t lit the world on fire yet. But … I’ve owned a tweener for two months now – an Amazon Kindle – and while it is version 1.0, it has definitely found a place in my life, even if I can’t run a spreadsheet on it or make a phone call.

Why? The interesting thing about the Kindle — aside from E Ink, the technology that permits it to display text in such great resolution – is the points in has in common with phones. Instantly turns on – no boot time, long standby battery life, and pervasive, always on wireless connectivity (switched on or off with a hardware switch at my discretion). That wireless service, unlike a phone, does not carry usage or monthly charges, doesn’t require a separate relationship with a carrier like Sprint or TMobile, indeed, is “free” in the sense that it is subsidized somehow by Amazon to provide a channel for me to buy books and have them delivered to the device.

Whispernet – the name of the service built atop Sprint’s network – is a big innovation, but not one necessarily conducive to always-connected internet. Yes, there is a web browser on the Kindle, but the device is not intended to be anything like the crop of 7″ to 10″ mini-laptops that have taken the market by storm thanks to Intel’s Atom processor. Those machines, which are moving rapidly towards 3G wireless connectivity, has so far relied on ordinary Wifi (802.11 wireless lan) connectivity atop XP or various Linux flavors.

Would I seek out a reading experience on a netbook the way Amazon has positioned the Kindle? No. Kindle is optimized for ambient light reading and as such is indeed a book replacement. A netbook … I need to get my hands on one our Lenovo S10s and see what the fuss is about beyond the sub-$400 price.

Anyway, long way of saying I think the future is bright for Tweeners, especially when connectivity becomes pervasive and people begin to seek them out for dedicated tasks such as e-books, GPS nav devices, etc.


Critter from the Bay: Mantis shrimp

I went sculling this morning under grey, windless skies, taking advantage of a rare chance to get out on smooth water in November before things shut down late next month. I walk down Old Shore Road with the shell on my head, and launch at the bottom of the hill next to the new boat ramp. As I stepped into the shallows I saw this cool creature, about eight to ten inches long, dead, but only recently so gauging from its good condition.

This is a mantis shrimp – at first I thought it was a lobster tail some well-to-do bait fisherman had discarded after an expedition for a big striped bass (lobster tails are legendarily good bait, but at current prices, better in one’s stomach) – according to Wikipedia, mantis shrimp are so named for their resemblance to a Praying Mantis, but they are not shrimp. They are also known as “thumb splitters” by scuba divers because of their ability to destroy an appendage brought too close to their mandibles. Indeed, they can allegedly shatter aquarium glass and are apparently highly intelligent creatures.

The Chinese call them “pissing shrimp” for their penchant to void their bowels while being cooked.

I have never seen one of these on Cape Cod before, but know from saltwater fly fishing that they do “move” into southern New England waters in the fall and have the fastest “strike” time of any creature in the world. The Cape is their northernmost range on the eastern seaboard, and I know from experience that the south side of Cape Cod, jutting out as it does into the Gulf Stream, is last stop for a lot of tropical species which work their way up the coast all summer, only to get stunned and stranded by the first chills of the fall. A manatee died last month after making its way to Dennis, and there have been catches of tarpon, barracuda, and tiger sharks in Nantucket Sound in the past.

Here’s a video of one attack a crab.

The weekend that was and whereabouts for the week

Staying put on Cape Cod this week – first week in who knows how long (not counting recent “staycation”) where I haven’t gone somewhere for something. Big project brewing, lots of desktime needed.

However, this past weekend saw the restoration of the old chicken coop continue. With my son and I re-roofing the little shed with fancy architectural-grade shingles donated by the munificent Cousin Pete, who also gave us the chapter-and-verse lesson in how to shingle.

Rest of the weekend was filled with, a lame Halloween (1 set of trick or treaters), sculling on the harbor, a good beachwalk under gunmetal skies, some clock change adaptation, a big writing project, the start of Moneyball on my Kindle, and the psychic crossover from summer mode to winter bunker mentality. Here’s a cheery sight. The Lowell’s dock getting taken in before the winter ice trashes it.

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