Review: Blackberry Storm

I am not a gadget nerd.  In fact, I am oddly gadget adverse — unless it works out of the box and works easily, I will put the gadget down and never pick it back up again.  This is odd considering what I do for a living but there it is: I generally don’t do gadgets because they have terrible UI design and they annoy me.  I love my iPod, I put up with my Palm Tungsten because I need a checkbook, and everything else gets on my nerves.

I have, up until now, avoided the Blackberry addiction.  What I wanted originally out of a phone was a phone that made phone calls.  Then I wanted a phone that made phone calls and got me football scores when I could not be watching football.  But as my parents, and my entire family, moved off into gadgetland and away from actual phone calls, simply having a phone that made phone calls became more and more challenging.  Over Christmas, I had weird arguments with my Mom because I couldn’t get to my regular email until 8pm at night and there was Mass Panic.

Something generally needed to be done, so I gave in and got a Blackberry.  And, because I will carry it for the next two years, I got the Latest and Greatest, the Storm.  Keep in mind that I don’t have an iPhone, so I am not comparing it to any Apple devices. It has also been updated to the newest service packs.

Good:

– It does what I want it to do!  It gets my mail!  It runs twitterberry!  It will get me into Facebook if I am feeling masocist.  It generally gets on the net and grabs news and my feedreader!  Google mobile apps are a real lifesaver and I became very happy after I discovered the LJ mobile interface.

– I have been very happy with the Gmail support.  It deals with my email flawlessly.  It is not difficult to send or respond to mail, and it has really nice Gmail — Contact book integration. It doesn’t crash and support for reading email is very smooth and very clear.  Considering that Gmail with push mail integration was my #1 feature request, this makes me quite happy.

– Google Talk is very good.  It will run multiple conversations at once and thread them. It will alert when someone has responded so you don’t need to stare at the Blackberry.

– The web browser works well in landscape mode with zoom.  I found I could read Washington Post, NY Times, CNN, etc. without any real problems.

– I can type about 30 words/minute when the keyboard is in QWERTY landscape mode.  This is actually very good — and I like that it lights up the letter it thinks I want under my fingers before I push it.  Granted I type normally at around 90 words/minute, but this is really so much better than the terrible SMS I was stuck with before.

– The contact book and calendaring systems are very powerful, which is expected from a Blackberry.

– I actually like the size.  It is smaller than I expected and very thin.  It fits in my hand comfortably.

– Post a full day of use, it was down 1/2 a battery.  This is, of course, after the service packs were applied.  Before that, it drained 1/4th the battery in an hour of use.  Apply the patches!

Quirky:

– The tilt sensor is a little bit quirky.  Sometimes it doesn’t respond, and sometimes it tilts when you don’t want it to.  I get that it’s like that for all these sorts of devices.

– It gets confused where you want to click sometimes.  You have to click away and click back where you want before it will respond to the click.

– When typing on the QWERTY keyboard, sometimes it pops up and suggests some strange characters.  I’m not sure how to turn that off, but I really don’t need anything outside the main ANSI set.

– I couldn’t… figure out… how to make a phone call.  And it’s a phone!  Nominally!  I did figure it out, but then I had to navigate a voice mail system, and I got lost trying to get the button pad up.  Not the most intuitive interface in the universe.

– When using the browser, it likes to zoom in/zoom out when what you really want to do is scroll.  I’m sure that’s easily controllable, but I’m not sure how.

– Twitterberry has a deeply goofy interface.

– You do have to really press on the screen to get it to do anything, and I worry about two years of wear and tear on the device.  I can see that breaking.

Bad:

– The interace for setting an alarm is terrible.  Just terrible.

– The screen gets gunky fast.  As in, a half an hour of use fast.  I found micro-fiber cloths clean it pretty well, but it desperately needs a cover.  It has to have a cover.

– The lock button is in an awful place and it is not obvious in the least.

– The “say a command” button gets pushed every time I try to put it back in its little case.  Gah.

Overall, I can see how people get hooked on these devices.  Just being able to get my email without being plunked in front of a computer is a fantastic thing indeed.  In general, using it is a real positive experience.  It does occasionally do some inexplicably strange things on me, but in general I have walked through everything I want it to do (read RSS feeds, leave a comment on LJ, get twitter, read my mail, launch google talk, send an SMS, organize contacts) and it does all of this pretty well.

If you have an iPhone, don’t bother.  But if you have Verizon and you’re eyeing one yeah, go ahead and get it.

Stimulus Nattering

I know the stimulus bill argument is over and done and Obama is signing it in Colorado today, but I was struck by a question that I really had no answer to and it was — how are tax cuts stimulative right now at all?  This makes no sense to me but I am looking at recovery.org and it lists $228B in tax cuts.

* How does patching the AMT hole keep people from paying AMT when they aren’t rolling over their stock options and taking out enough in profit to pay AMT?  I asked H&R Block about AMT, since I am starting to get concerned about paying it, and they gave me a handy little ‘your introduction to AMT’ thing which basically said if you cash out your stock options, it will bite you.  But if everyone is taking a 40% bath on their stock options, is anyone cashing them out and thus avoiding AMT?

* How does fixing the rate of capital gains taxes at 15% help… anyone?  If no one is making money from capital gains because all their stocks and funds took a huge bath, how does that get money into the economy?

* If small businesses are falling over one after another after another, and the banks won’t lend to start new ones or keep revolving credit for existing ones, how does giving tax cuts to small businesses help any small businesses?  How does some $100 a week or even a $1000 a week help if what the business needs is $50K in revolving credit?

* How does a tax cut to me — which I will not see because I make too much money — giving essentially me $30 a paycheck — do anything?

These are real questions.  I am not trying to be facetious.  I just don’t understand how tax cuts on $0 moves money around the economy.  The problems are so much fundamental that sloshing pennies around just doesn’t do anything.

I am generally in favor of direct Keynesian stimulus because hey, a job at least gets a paycheck into someone’s pocket, even if it is short-lived, and at the end of the day someone gets a road or a train out of it.  But realistically, I don’t think it will work, either, not without coupled with some seismic shift in understanding:

– How the credit crisis works
– How we got into this mess
– What it means when there is oversupply
– Why retail is massively overbuilt
– etc.

The system has shown cracks that painting over and patching with some spackle is not going to help.  In the last 10 years everything in the world changed and we were busy having two wars and spending ourselves into the grave.

The days when someone can graduate from high school, get a factory job, go buy a house and be content until retirement are very much over.  But how do you tell that to the 45 year old autoworker at GM?  What do you do?

Quick Test

I did the upgrade to WordPress 2.7.1 through Blue Host’s new tools.  It was really quite painless, but I am checking all my plugins and whatnot.

Nothing to see here but a horde of dancing monkeys.  Dance, monkeys, dance!

Warning: Politics and Football Metaphors Ahead

Watching the brand shiny new Obama White House is like watching Michigan Football before it started to Drastically Suck beyond All Comprehension: two fruitless runs up the middle and then OH hand off to the half-back in the back field. Two fruitless runs up the middle and then OH we decide to pass and hey that sometimes works. Two fruitless runs up the middle and then check this out it’s the Option.

This generally makes me want to throw things at the TV. Here we are at 3rd and 8 again for the 42nd time this game! Are they going to do something now?

I am picking up the same frustrating vibe. Sure, yeah, they’ll eventually drive down the field but look at all the messing around first. The newest incarnation is the complete so-called “Geitner Plan” that was “released” yesterday. There’s no plan. It’s the political incarnation of running up the middle for maybe a yard. We have a banking crisis, the banks are refusing to lend (still), foreclosures are still hoovering capital out of the market, banks are turning into capital-eating zombies, and the entire system needs a good, solid audit from the top down. We have lots of bankers who are out of work who I bet would like a paycheck to become government auditors.

What are we going to do? Not what Geitner and Larry Summers recommended to Japan (which they eventually did) or the Sweden plan of lopping off heads of zombies. Oh no. We’re going to do… what? Sort of bad bank? Sort of not? Sort of be very nice to banks and half-privatize, half-nationalize and not really bother with audits or try to figure out what we wrong and force the banks to suck up their bad risk and bad bets and close the doors on the ones that are clear failures? Because we most certainly have zombies running around going “Oh give us 6 months and our assets will be worth something OH give us 6 more months and we’ll have it figured out OH just 6 more months really…”

And now Team Obama, who clearly plays by the Big 10 Playbook, will be forced to sort of try another run up the middle and will get roundly thunked for it and then come around and go oh I guess we should come up with something real if we’re going to make the down.

Gah. I still love Obama for his Incredibly Wonky Ways and his ability to craft an actual sentence but come on guys. I’d rather you take an extra two weeks and present something real than whatever nonsense is being picked off the bottom of your shoes.

Completed Projects

I got a ton of completed projects out of my queue. Don’t think that I have stopped crocheting! I just started several projects at once and they all sort of finished at once.

I made fade this nice black shell stitch hat with a carnation that I sent through the mail so I couldn’t put up until it was received. I made the flower much tighter than the first one I did and it came out well. The picture doesn’t really do it justice.

Katie demanded a bag that had to be pink with pink flowers! She would not let me stripe it with any other colors so the bag is very very pink. I was able to put in a little purple on the flower. For the picture I pressed it into its proper service, carrying around stuffies. Spongebob was pressed into service for this picture.

I made an amazingly purple bobble-headed hat and scarf. It is amazingly bobble headed and purple. And a scarf! You can see the stitches from the side view are actually pretty even.

Everyone wants scarves… just as it gets warm out. But I have yarn for scarves, so scarves shall be made!

Coffee Maker Query

One of the medications I am on makes me continuously nauseous, so I had to give up drinking coffee because it is too acidic and move entirely over to black and green teas. While this is probably healthier for me, and I am a slave to your bog standard gunpowder green tea and my Adagio Masala Chai, it means that only Eric is drinking coffee in the morning. Making a big pot of coffee for one person is sort of wasteful and Eric would like coffee more on demand in push button format. I ask this question of yea olde list o’ friends:

* Does anyone have a pod-based coffee maker they recommend? Money is not really an object for the coffee maker. I am more interested in making a good cup of coffee over price.

* Is there a good service out there for coffee that is an analogue of Adagio? I would not be able to live without Adagio Teas and if there is a mail-order catalogue service for coffee, I would like to peruse it.

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The Yarn Garden

My mom took me to the Yarn Garden in Annapolis, MD. This is a tiny little store stuffed on a second floor of a small complex in the corner of a giant strip Mall by the Annapolis Mall (the one with the Michael’s and Cheeseburger Cheeseburger and a ton of other places.) This store was:

A. Tiny.
B. Crowded.
C. Stuffed from floor to ceiling with hand-dyed, local and imported yarn to the point where it is impossible to walk, and it ran the gamut from standard $4/skein yarn to $35/skein imported 100% silk.

It is one of those stores where you go in with a plan. You cannot sort of browse because the aisles are tiny, the shop is full of old ladies who all want to talk to you about knitting, and other people trying to buy things. It is a shop where you trip over other people simply trying to shop. It is also the last True Bastion of the US Economy — they were doing so much business it took forever to get out of there.

My mom was buying, so I brought home for skeins of yarn for two different targeted projects — a second version of my ruffle scarf and a scarf for Eric. I brought home this Noro yarn from Japan and Rowan Purelife yarn from Britain. Also, I now have a yarn winder.

Personally, I believe it is when you have actual hardware is when you are committed to the hobby.

Yarn Garden is highly recommended, although have a plan. If I get visitors, I promise a pilgrimage.

On another note, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is the first weekend of May. I am highly considering going this year.