Friday, 20 August 2010

Book synopsis: Credit

Ryan Alexander is a young business analyst in London, dreaming of being a startup millionaire. He wakes one morning to find several million pounds in his bank account. What will he do?

He takes it and invests it... rather well, as it turns out. When the original owners of the money catch up with him, they're not sure whether to sue him or hire him... nor are the people who bungled the attempt to steal it from them.

The story explores the questionable credit status of modern society: our reality-media values, our virtual libertarianism, our media-propagated vices. What does credit mean in our hyper real age?

Friday, 13 August 2010

On devices

So, last month my Macbook Pro died - a logic board failure. My perfect, portable, emailing, browsing, report writing, movie watching, photo editing, ipod syncing sliver of aluminium (with backlit keys) was done. Priceless data safe, but expensive hardware now history. Well, fixable, but half the cost of the laptop again + shipping + duties = a laptop (+ shipping + duties).

I was peeved, but at least I had my work laptop and my trusty Google phone (nexus one). I could do most of the above list from my phone too: email, browsing, movies, photos, vids, music... and it stored or accessed the data for most of my 'stuff'. It dropped at 14:04 this afternoon, as I was lifting 4 year old daughter's birthday bike into the truck, and the screen cobwebbed. Again, data safe, expensive hardware consigned to history. This was a blow.

Barbados does not have an Apple store, or Apple-certified support centre. From a strict licensing perspective Apple products do not exist here. Nor do Google phones. Barbados is off the technorati map, basically. Having these items was not some status thing, for me - I've had macs and PDAs for years. They were, on reflection, talismans of my first world ties. I am still a technologist, honest! Look, I've got the decent laptop and phone to prove it. I may live in an IT backwater, but I wont succumb to the local ambivalence/antipathy/apathy/crumb-gathering towards technology. My tokens of civilisation. Gone.

"Good grief, geek, get over it!". Tell me, how would you feel if your TV broke, and it would cost too much to replace it. You'd like to think it wouldn't bother you: "I don't watch much TV anyway". We all like to think we're social, healthy, 'doing' kind of people who don't have time for TV. Try it. See how much you miss it. It's a passive addiction, like electricity: you don't think about dependence unless its not there. We don't have TV. We have an internet connected mac mini attached to a TV. All our content is pulled, there's no push, no broadcast, no channel-surfing chewing gum for the eyes. Content matters to me. Good content is rare in this part of the world: you can pay hefty premiums for dozens of US ad-filled, repeat-laden channels, or watch the single local channel, or pay hefty fees for a little more bandwidth and go seek on the infinitely various internet. If I'm going to pay big money for content anyway, I might as well get the most selective option.

So, the devices I use to access and manipulate content are important to me. And now two of them are gone in as many months, and I can't afford to replace them. They say that madness, true madness, starts with one of your senses going nuts: an unscratchable itch or a sound that won't die away... I'm about to enter content deprivation, and my senses are twitching...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Sporting English

So the England-Pakistan test match is over a day early, with Pakistan collapsing for just 80 in the second innings.

English sport has always seemed to lack the professional ruthlessness of other countries. I think the English have always been uneasy with professionalism in sport, as though it undermines the spirit of sport, the British sense of fair play. After all, we didn't invent these sports so that people could make money out of them. This sense of 'fair play' has pervaded into the professional era. How often have you seen an English team or player narrowly win (or even lose) a seemingly obvious victory because they seemed to lack the killer instinct to mercilessly dispatch an inferior opponent? English teams have rarely, if ever, won convincingly. Deservedly, yes. But not convincingly. Leave it to the Aussies or South Africans to show us how to win consistently, even against superior talent, always with spirit and determination, rarely unconvincingly.

Yet, this summer saw inspirational performances from an English team that, above all other accolades in my mind, has proven it can ruthlessly dispatch inferior foes. I saw first hand an English 20/20 cricket team that was not only exciting to watch, but showed that methodical level-headedness of consistent winners. Collingwood keeps talking about confidence, and I think that's part of it, but the main part is British sports people being unapologetically professional. And what better sport to laud the rise of a truly professional attitude in England? Let's see the other sports take heed when representing our country.