Apple iPad Lands

Apple's new iPadThe reaction to Apple’s iPad has been extremely polarized. It’s either the Jesus Tablet or a waste of time and effort. My friend Jack called me right after Jobs’ presentation to say why he was so disappointed in it.

“You can spend $299 on a Windows 7 netbook and do all that AND have a camera,” he said (or words pretty much to that effect).

“So,” I said. “That’s Windows and crappy netbook hardware.”

“Well, I guess they’re selling the ‘Apple Experience,'” he said, finally making sense.

The iPad is not, in a feature-wise sense, the be-all, end-all computer for everyone. It DOESN’T have a camera for video conferencing, etc. That’s not a big issue to me, as I don’t do that much, and I have a camera on my desktop if I need to. But, for people like Jack who do video chats, it’s a deal. I wonder if we’ll be able to get a webcam that will attach to the iPad for people like him?

But Jack is a geek (me, too). On the MacBreak Weekly podcast, they talked about whether it’ll appeal to the mainstream, with mixed opinions. But, I got a good taste of how it’ll appeal to the mainstream last night.

As soon as I got home, I pulled up the iPad video on the Apple website and cajoled my wife into watching it. The Wife isn’t a Luddite, but she’s not far off. She reads the newspaper every morning to get her news, she doesn’t read blogs or even know what an RSS feed is. She doesn’t Twitter or, if you can believe, even use Facebook. Her cellphone makes phone calls. It can send and receive text messages, but she won’t send them because it “takes too long to type them out on that keypad.” So, if I want to text her from my iPhone, I have to pretty much send messages that don’t require a response or can be answered with “yes” or “no” (usually typed as “y” or “n”).

But, when watching the iPad video, she said “wow!” no less than six times. More importantly, when it was over, she said, “That’s exactly how I use the laptop now, only it’s more comfortable.” Then I told her about the iWork apps for the iPad and she said, “That would be the perfect computer for me.”

So, selling her on eBaying the MacBook to get an iPad was easy-peasy (as she would say).

I think the only question now is how I’m going to afford a second one, since it’s going to be difficult to get the first one away from her.

We've moved

After nine years in our great little mid-century modern, we’ve moved a few miles east. We’re still in Fayetteville, though, and plan to stay here forever. We wanted a few more amenities (garage, mudroom, more space, etc.) and a neighborhood with more kids that are The Boy’s age.

Packing almost the entire house in three days was exhausting — I had NO idea we had that much crap packed into that little house — and unpacking has been extremely tedious. Not only do you have to unpack it, but then you have to decide where to put it! We’re getting there, though. We’ve only got about 30 or so boxes to unpack, and much of that is just stuff we don’t use all that often (holiday decorations, etc.).

I’ll post some pics once I get some taken. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind, but I want to get some taken while the trees are in their full fall drag.

Daniel's first Cub Scout badge

Tonight was the Pack 46 Pack meeting, and Daniel received the first badge he’s earned: his Bobcat. He is very proud of himself, and we’re proud of the work he did to earn it. He also earned his Collecting and Languages and Cultures belt loops. Hallie taught the Tigers a short German lesson at the last den meeting to help them get that belt loop.

Daniel also got a hiking patch for going on his first hike with the pack last weekend. He’ll get a special patch after he’s hiked 25 miles, and at 50 miles they’re presented with a hiking stick. He REALLY wants that stick! And he loves hiking, so I’ll bet he gets it sooner rather than later.

Ice Storms, R.E.M.'s 'Driver 8' and One Little Boy

During the NWA Ice Storm of 2009, we stayed in two different hotels for four nights before being persuaded to stay with friends in Bentonville. It was on the fifth night of not being able to sleep in his own bed that The Boy couldn’t get to sleep on a borrowed sofa bed.

After a half hour or so of hearing him toss around, I went in to check on him. He was very upset. He said, “Daddy, why can’t I sleep in my bed tonight?”


His bed was at our house where there was no electricity, no heat, and a clogged sewer line that couldn’t be cleared until the power was restored. And it was getting down into the 20s at night. I reassured him that we’d be able to go home soon and he could get back to his routine.

So as I lay there and comforted my son who had held up for the first four nights like a champ, I nearly lost it, too. I had been trying to balance work (in the news business where we were busy covering the storms aftermath with something more like obsession and overkill than completeness) with making sure my family was safe and warm and my house was getting repaired and services restored. It had definitely taken a toll on me as well.

So I rubbed his back and sang the usual bedtime songs to help him get to sleep so that I could get some rest, too. But he piped up with a twist, “I want you to sing me a new song.”

I was surprised and a little nervous. I’m not a singer, and I just don’t know the words to that many songs — at least not ones appropriate for singing a 6-year-old to sleep. Bit it was late and we were both physically and mentally exhausted, so I sang him a new song: R.E.M.’s “Driver 8,” which is one of my absolute favorite songs and the first one I learned to play on my guitar close to 20 years ago and — most importantly — one of the few songs I know most of the words to.

“Driver 8” is a great song, but not really a lullaby from any direction you approach it. It could be about a deranged train engineer, a long ago failed relationship, just pastoral scenes from the South, or lots of other things. Michael Stipe’s lyrics in the the early days were often obscure and difficult to understand even when you could decipher which words he was singing.

So, I sang this great but possibly inappropriate song to a tired and frustrated little boy who was trying to fall asleep in a strange bed for the fifth night in a row.

And he loved it.

It didn’t really put him to sleep, but we had a long talk about “floaters” and why they would be on powerlines, which lead to a conversation about cropdusters (and trains, of course).

We got to go back to our re-electrified home a couple of nights later, and things returned more or less to normal, including the same old couple of bedtime songs.

But when he’s really tired or maybe not feeling great, he asks for “Driver 8” and it seems to help him get to sleep. It’s even more my favorite song than ever now.

My Life As a Reader: Part 1

Since my son was born a little over six years ago, I’ve taken a strong interest in books for children, not just baby books or books you read to kids, but the books he’ll be reading himself when he gets there.

As a child, I read voraciously. I read all the books I was interested in from our school library by the third grade and attacked the science fiction section of my county library shortly thereafter. My mother turned me on to The Hobbit when the Rankin Bass cartoon came on TV when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I checked out the novel the very next day. I moved on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy shortly thereafter, though it took some later re-readings to really tease the most out of those books.

But when I started checking out fiction for kids in 2003, I discovered that there are nearly more good books for kids these days that even a committed bookworm such as my myself could have read!

The Harry Potter books, of course, are often cited as the beginning of the kid lit explosion (and I’ve read and enjoyed those), and that series has spawned numerous knockoffs (some good, some dreadful), but there are librariesful of good kids books out there.

As The Boy gets closer to being able to digest books longer and more difficult than Sammy the Seal, I’m going to read more and more of these great new kids books (and some older ones that I loved as a kid) to help him get started as the same sort of life-long reader his mom and I are. I plan (though my track record’s not awesome) to blog at least quick recommendations (or warnings) about the ones I read.

Books that I read as a child made such an indelible impression on who I am today, and I want to him have that same sort of relationship with books, too.

So, I’ll start with three books that I’ve re-read in recent years that influenced me as a youngster.

I’ve written about A Heart To the Hawks by Don Moser here before, but I wanted to mention it again in this context because it’s such a good book and means so much to me.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is another nature-related book that has stuck with me. I’m sure I saw the Disney movie based on this book, but it’s the book itself that I remember the most. Every kid seems to harbor desires to run away from home, even if just for a little while. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, and I always imagined myself as a kindred spirit of Sam Gribbley, even if I didn’t run away to the Catskills and survive an entire winter on my own.

Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s fantasy-science fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time inspired a life-long interest in science that — despite my lack of science degrees or ability to do complex equations — lives on today in my reading habits. The way it describes things like tesseracts and folding spacetime in a way that young children can understand and get excited about it just flat amazing.

I look forward to The Boy discovering wondrous things in books like these and others that he’ll discover as he embarks on his life as a reader.