Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back To The Future

I'll be the first to admit that I don't exactly live on the cutting-edge of technology. I was very slow to embrace online social networking until I discovered the addictive joy of cyber-stalking people via Facebook. I still don't really know how to work the four remotes that are mysteriously required to operate our one TV. I didn't own an iPod until a year ago. Hell, until about 2002 I was dragging a Walkman with me to the gym. Not even a Discman, people. A WALKMAN.

So it might just be the non-techie in me talking here, but I just do not get this new Kindle contraption. Apparently, the great appeal of the product is that it's a wireless, hand-held electronic reading device that's approximately as small and lightweight as...wait for it...a book! Books, I might add, are also wireless, hand-held reading devices.

According to Amazon, it can instantly access more than 90,000 titles and store up to 200 books at a time, which I admit would be pretty handy for traveling. But it also costs $399. I mean, think about how many actual books you could buy for $399! For someone who reads at a steady pace of about a book a month, it will take at least a couple of years for the Kindle to start being cost effective. (Hey, I just did math!)

Who knows. Maybe digitizing books is what it will take for people to start reading again. The AP reported a few months ago that 25 percent of adults didn't even read A book last year, which is sort of horrifying. Maybe it's all that archaic paper and exhausting page turning that has been holding the literary world back.

Still, I have my doubts. In my experience, book lovers tend to hold onto their favorite tomes like treasures. As Jo March from Little Women once said, "Some books are so familiar, reading them is like being home again." (She might have just said that in the movie version, but it doesn't make it any less true). It's hard to imagine a Kindle evoking the same kind of response. Books are meant to be loved and dog-eared and displayed on shelves. And let's face it, if you slogged your way through Ulysses or The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire than, dammit, you want everyone who visits your home to know it!

And then there's the whole issue of the name. I'm not quite sure what they're going for by calling it "Kindle." Does it mean that they're hoping to ignite the general populace's love of reading? Or that we should all run out and burn our old books now that the Kindle has arrived?

It's hard for me to imagine it really catching on, but I've certainly been wrong before. It could be that in a few years almost everyone will be reading by Kindle-light, while the remaining holdouts cling to our outdated paper and wait for books to come back as retro-chic---like people in the 70s who hung on to their vinyl and swear it still sounds better.

I guess I'm just a retro kind of girl.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In Which I Make Al Gore Cry Non-Biodegradable Tears

A few days ago, I read an article in the New York Times about how Portland has become a super bicycle-friendly city and has the nation's highest percentage of workers who commute by bike

After I read it, I felt a pang of guilt about the fact that I live in the most car-centric city in the world. The moment passed quickly, however, when I remembered that I love my car, and hate bicycle riders.

Yes, driving in Southern California can be torturous. It's ALWAYS rush hour here, and when it rains people completely forget that their vehicles come equipped with brakes. Sometimes when I'm sitting in traffic on the freeway I momentarily lose my mind and scream at the cars around me, "JUST MOVE ALREADY. MOVE! LUCIFER'S BEARD, WHY AREN'T YOU MOVING?!"

But the point is that I can scream. I'm safely tucked away in my own little temperature-controlled cocoon of steel and glass, where I can listen to NPR or sing along with my awesome mix CD as loudly as I want. I know it's wrong, but I just can't help it. As much as I miss living in a pedestrian-friendly city, I do NOT miss public transportation. I do NOT miss standing outside in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of winter, waiting to cram myself into a jam-packed train full of people with questionable personal hygiene.

(For those who may not know, Los Angeles does actually have a subway. This is something I often forget, but I was reminded the other night when I caught the last 20 minutes of "Speed" on cable. I have yet to meet anyone in this city who has ever actually ridden it, and it wouldn't surprise me to find out that someone built it for the sole purpose of filming a movie scene and then just decided it was easier to leave it there.)

As for my general dislike of cyclists, well the truth is that they just bother me. They pedal along, blithely unaware of all the disgruntled drivers behind them, and seem to believe that their two-wheeled dexterity exempts them from following the rules of the road. The run-ins I've had with bicycle riders over the years have done nothing to dispel my prejudice. Back in college when I was Rollerblading (remember Rollerblades?), a man who was riding behind me accused me of somehow causing him to crash and fall of his bicycle. And because I stupidly gave him my real name, he sued me for $2,000 worth of damage to his bike. Another time, while jogging, a cyclist running a red light smacked into me and sent me sprawling into the middle of the busiest street in Boston.

Need another example? My friend Neetu (who is an avid cyclist, but I forgive her because she has many other admirable qualities) once took a nasty spill while riding her bike around the college town she lives in. While she was lying prostate on the sidewalk, a man with a hook for a hand attempted to administer first aid to her. Which just goes to show you that nothing good ever comes from riding a bike.

So, my apologies to Al, the lovely, outdoorsy people of Portland and Plant Earth. On this particular issue we're just going to have to agree to disagree. When it comes to my little blue Toyota, my attitude isn't very green. In fact, it's more of a smoggy gray.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ballroom Blitz

Bet you thought that after I got engaged my posts would be full of sappy declarations of love and dreamy visions of my upcoming union. I kind of thought that too. But after only two months of engagement bliss and being mesmerized by the sparkling addition to my left hand, reality has sunk in.

Being engaged means there will be a wedding. Which means we have to plan a wedding. Which means we have to figure out to pay for a wedding. And when you have two large sets of Irish Catholic families anticipating a full and robust bar, a sister who is morally opposed to bridesmaid dresses, and a mother who is a rabid ABBA fan--well, the task of putting together an event that will make everyone happy becomes quite daunting.

We took our tentative first steps a few weeks ago when we went to Barnes & Noble to pick out a wedding planning guide. There were literally hundreds of books and planners promising to deliver the crucial advice needed to achieve the wedding of your dreams on any budget. One particularly unhelpful guide recommended that to save money we should forgo the open bar and just buy a keg. It also suggested choosing an inexpensive yet memorable venue--like the Minneapolis City Zoo!

As I looked at Matt across the stacks of bright pink books full of pictures of happy brides, I could see the rising panic I was feeling reflected in his eyes. If we couldn't t even commit to choosing a book about wedding planning, how were we going to plan an actual wedding?

So this is where you, dear reader, come in. To anyone who's ever planned a wedding, had a wedding or even ever been to a wedding, I'm pleading for any advice or guidance you can give me. In exchange for your assistance, I promise not to turn this blog into a forum for my bridezilla-esque rantings.

Unless, of course, you've long harbored a desire to visit the Minneapolis City Zoo.