Archive | October, 2011

FM Technology

28 Oct

Having been fortunate enough in the last 8 weeks to have acquired both an iPad 2 and the latest iPhone, the iPhone 4S, and marveling and reveling in both devices and how transforming they are in my life, I thought it would be appropriate to riff on things that we take for granted that are, in a word, “FM Technology”.

This post won’t make sense without a little back story on what I mean by FM Technology. Back when I started working for Motorola, in 1992 in the marketing department for cell phones, one of my first assignments was to create a brochure designed to tell layman (aka, our customers) how cell phones actually work – presumably in a bid to educate folks to avoid warranty claims and customer satisfaction issues. I wasn’t sure where to get started so I reached out to a guy that had befriended me on my first day, and worked in product development doing both engineering and marketing (can you imagine an engineer doing marketing? Welcome to Motorola … but I digress).

This guy was young – about my age, and when he got my call, said “Sure, I’ll help you. It’s easy – let’s meet for lunch in the cafeteria and I’ll tell you how it all works.” So, met him for lunch that day, and we talked about everything BUT the assignment – kids, families, etc. – two guys getting to know each other. As we were wrapping up, I said “Oh man, we forgot to talk about the ‘how do cell phones work’ thing!” He said “Oh, hey,that’s easy to understand. It’s FM

technology.” I look at him quizzically and said “Ok … umm, I know there’s a radio in there and all … but it runs on FM?” And he looks across the table at me as he stands up to leave and says “No man, it’s not like that. Fucking Magic! That’s how they work!” I stand there dumbfounded and he laughs and pulls out of his pocket a floppy disc (remember those???) and says “I wrote it all up for you. Give me a call if there’s anything you don’t understand.”

Generally speaking, I consider anything in the “FM Technology” category as something that was transforming to the way you live your life and the habits you have in your life. Additionally, I often think about my dad and grandpas whenever I use something that is “FM” – My Grandfathers were both passed by 1978, and my dad passed in 1992. My dad did experience cell phones in his last year, but barely – it was a device to keep he and mom safe while they drove back and forth to his cancer treatments. He never actually made a call on one. But all three men appreciated a good gadget and they knew their son/grandson to be a serial early adopter of cool stuff. I always think “wow, what would dad/Grandpa Mel/Grandpa George think of this!”.

So, now you know what FM Technology is, let’s talk about some:

Smartphones:Whether an iPhone, a Droid, a Windows phone or a Blackberry – think back just 6 years ago – 2005.  6 years ago, the Motorola RazR was the “it” phone.  It was sleek.  It was fast. You could surf the web, get email, it was small, light, and above all COOL AS ALL HELL.  But … it wasn’t FM – it was derivative of the same stuff I was selling in 1992.  Come forward just one year, however, and the iPhone was introduced – the first true SmartPhone – it was transforming.  WiFI connectivity so you could surf the web on it and do email without suffering at cellular speeds.  Cellular data for when you don’t have WiFi.  Music.  Apps, etc. etc.  An entire new lexicon entered our world – “there’s an app for that”, “SmartPhone”, etc.

iPads: Since iPads enjoy an 85% marketshare here, it’s iPads not tablets – and again, transforming. They are, more or less, grown versions of smart phones, but really what they do is bridge between a PC and a phone. It is so nice to be able to “instant on” this thing and get email, read media, watch TV, video, etc. Perfect for the business traveler. What is happening in the educational market with these is astounding – entire universities are giving them to their students. Just this week, District 214, which is a school district near us, announced that by the end of 2014, every kid will have one and that’s how they will deliver textbooks from now on. My own media habits have completely changed – I read books on the Kindle app, read online versoins of Wired, Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver, Road and Track, and browse at least 6 or 7 newspapers a day plus news sites like The Daily Beast, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Reuters, BBC, ABC, MSNBC, etc. to feed my political news “jones”.

Who saw this video last week:

 

GPS: While I still love a good ‘ol fold-up road map, and for planning and situational awareness, there’s no substitute, GPS is again, FM Tech. The fact that it is embedded in your SmartPhone/iPad, etc. even better. And even though I always said “there’s no way I’ll ever have factory GPS in my car” as I have a portable plus the iPhone, etc. for this – guess what? Now that we have it in our GTI – it came packaged with other options we wanted such as leather, heated seats, etc., I can honestly say I won’t buy another car without factory GPS installed.

HD Television and DVR: What prompted me to write this blog this morning is that I this morning, I was watching a program recorded from HD Net on our TiVo DVR on our HD plasma TV. Transforming stuff? Hell yeah! TV that hangs on a wall. Images that look better than movies, in some cases, better than reality. Being able to watch programs you want to watch, when you want to watch them. And with the addition of streaming programming from HuLu, Netflix, YouTube, etc. etc. our entire viewing habits have completely changed.

Microwave Ovens: Remember when these first came out? Again, completely transforming. Your daily behavior changed. Popcorn? ZZAP. Want steaks for dinner but they are all frozen? No problem. ZZAP. Hot cereal? Lunch? Leftovers? Etc. etc. Now, what is funny about Microwaves however, is that the market defined the usage. Remember when they first came out that they promoted that you could cook a whole turkey in one? When was the last time you saw anyone promoting microwave ovens for cooking turkey? Ever have turkey from the microwave? I did. Once. Never again. Bleah.

And of course, the original FM technology: Cell Phones. These truly did become Fucking Magic when you could carry them discretely in your pocket and be in touch from basically anywhere. When they did away with roaming fees on these, and made them ubiquitous was when they truly achieved FM status.

What other FM Technologies have you enjoyed?

As you were,

Stew

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Dear Fellow Travelers:

18 Oct

As most of you know, I am a FREQUENT traveler for business. Over my business career, I have probably flown nearly 3 million miles, have stayed in thousands of hotel rooms, rented hundreds of cars, etc. On American Airlines alone, I’ve flown 1.6 million miles, making me a lifetime Gold member of the AAdvantage program – 400,000 miles away from lifetime Platinum. Right now, I’m in the middle of a big “travel jag”, so a list of notes to fellow travelers is what has come to mind.

– Dear Novice Traveler in the TSA line: The fastest way through the TSA line is to follow the rules. And they are really simple – everything comes off but your socks, shoes, pants and shirt – that means your watch, your belt, your shoes, your bracelets, etc., and you need to empty your pockets of EVERYTHING including paper. Please, figure it out – we’ve been doing this awhile.

– Dear Person With the Big Toiletries: While we’re at it – your toiletries can only be 3 ounces or smaller and they need to fit in a quart zip lock. I’m sorry you’re an idiot and brought that jumbo jar of BedHead hair product for $50 at the salon and now you have to abandon it. We’ve been doing this for more than 4 years. 3 ounces or less. If it is that important for your look, and you can’t buy it in that size, then buy a 3 oz traveler “empty” and transfer the product yourself.

– Dear Guy Wearing the Bluetooth Headset But not on a Phone Call. You look like a dork. Just sayin’. I get it, if you’re on a call, but I don’t if you’re not. You want to have the headphone in so you can take a call at a moment’s notice? Buy an iPhone.

– Dear Idiot Shouting at the Gate Agent over the Fact that your Plane Got Cancelled Due to a Thunderstorm: Guess what? She’s not going to help you. Guess what? She IS going to help me though, and that’s because instead of walking up shouting, I will walk up smiling and say “hey, crazy day, huh? Well … help me the best you can, I know you don’t have too many options for me. I’ll appreciate whatever you can do.”

– Dear Person Who Stops Walking In the Middle of the Terminal, who I then Trip Over: Do you just suddenly stop driving on an expressway because you’re lost? Or do you pull over to the side to avoid getting killed? Same idea applies here? Can’t find your gate or need a moment with your phone? Pull over. Let the rest of us go by.

– Dear Person with Group 4 on their Boarding Pass trying to board with First Class: There’s a system that we follow. They say “Group 4 can board now” and you can board. Not before. I will give you a pass if you do not speak English or truly do need extra time in boarding but take 5 minutes before flight time to figure that out.

– Dear Person sitting in My Window Seat in my Row: No, you cannot have it. I reserved it. “I figured you’d prefer the aisle” isn’t the right answer.

– Dear Person sitting at the Window seat when I DO choose the aisle: PLEASE let me get up and move out of your way, rather than you crawling over my knees and putting your ass in my face without warning (yes, this really happened, last week). Oh, and I’m sorry you have a weak bladder and need to pee every 20 minutes. Maybe you should have reserved an aisle seat.

– Dear Person Traveling Only With a Paperback Book and a Jacket: I’m sorry the flight attendant took your jacket down and handed it back to you so I could put my rollaboard up there, but welcome to the reality of travel nowadays.

– Dear Stinky Food Eater: A can of Tuna? On an airplane? REALLY? Man, there is a special place in hell for you, sir!

I have so many more I could add … feel free to comment with yours.

As you were,

Stew

Think Different. A Tribute to Steve Jobs.

6 Oct

We all know now what happened yesterday – Steve Jobs, the incredible visionary behind Apple Computer, passed away at the entirely too-young age of 56 years old.  Steve truly was a person who created disruptive thinking that forced entire industries, and one could say the entire technologically-driven world into reinventing themselves to fit the brave new circumstances.

We all know the technologies he invented – he led the personal computer revolution first with the Apple II, then the original Macs, then the iMacs, iBooks, MacBook Airs, incredibly capable desktop machines used in graphics and more.  He invented the category of advanced computer animation for filmmaking with his founding of Pixar Studios.   He changed how we buy and consume music to a track-by-track model, and allowed us to imagine carrying our whole “record collections” in our pants pockets.  He created the entire smartphone category and gave it wings with the iPhone, and again with the personal tablet category with the iPad.  And who knows what else is in the pipeline yet to come from Apple that will disrupt our world again.

I’m a firm believer in reinvention – reinvention and change are what drive our world forward, it is what pushed cars onto roads to replace horses and buggies, replaced prop planes with jets, replaced gas lamps with electricity, telegraphs with phones, encyclopedias with the internet, and more.  Progress.  There are many in this world who fight change at every turn (and I’ve riffed on that before:  Ch-Ch-Changes), who want to return to the old ways of doing things, who fight progress, who fight making our world a better place, a greener place, a less polluted place, who fight technology that can fight global warming, who fight new healthcare breakthroughs because they are afraid of challenging their own beliefs, who avoid the difficult conversations we need to have about our world because they represent change.

Steve Jobs succeeded because he “thought different.”  At every turn, he pushed his people and his teams to think different, be different, make different things. He famously disliked and did not use market research because he believed that the consumers don’t necessarily know what they want yet.  Doing so freed him, and the people that worked for him into being able to have truly disruptive, innovative, different thinking.  The concept of “because that’s the way we’ve always done things” did not occur in his world.

Much in our country, and in our world, in the years ahead, is going to require us and our leaders to Think different.  We can’t do the same old crap.  We can’t go back to the “ways of our forefathers”, the literal interpretations of “the framers” of our country’s constitution, to old ways of thinking.  We must push forward, and we must, absolutely must, think different.

Do I hope that Steve’s legacy is some really cool stuff yet to come from Apple, and a company that has the discipline to continue to turn out really cool stuff?  Yes, of course, as a dedicated gadget geek, of course I hope that.  But what I really hope, as we mourn the loss of a great man and a great thinker, is that perhaps some of his thinking – his tireless pursuit of reinvention, his endless push to do new things, try new things and more, will result in our people, our leaders and our nation, and the world being motivated to ditch the old ideas and create the new ones.  Because that, folks, is the only way we move forward.

Think different.

Because Steve Jobs told us to.

As you were,

Stew

It’s the Simple Stuff

3 Oct

A Facebook post by a work colleague, Stephen T, over the weekend, in which he extolled the virtues of a weekend of simple pleasures including time camping with his daughter, wife, grandson and dogs, a ride on his motorcycle, and a glass of wine got me thinking about how much I also enjoy the simple things. I think this desire to enjoy simplicity is often driven by the world we live in – and the place. The world has become much faster – there is no denying it. What used to take days takes minutes. What used to take hours, now takes seconds. What used to take minutes happened instantly. Case in point – the Amanda Knox verdict – it happened in Italy this afternoon. We knew about it in the US seconds later. The “news alert” was zapped to my iPhone via text alert. Fast.

Anyway, not what this post is about. What it is about are simple things that I love. Last night we had a simple dinner. It was FANTASTIC. Chicken roasted on the grill, with baked potatoes, steamed broccolini, french bread and a glass of wine. The chicken was prepared as simple as it gets – a little olive oil rubbed on the skin, a generous sprinkle of salt inside and out, a good grind of pepper over the skin, and then cooked old-school style on my charcoal Weber grill. SIMPLE.

Other simple pleasures I love? A beer, enjoyed standing in the back yard on a Sunday afternoon after doing some yard work. Waxing the car by hand. A walk with the dog. Sitting and playing my guitar. A drink with a good pal: last evening, after 9:30, I floated over to my pal GASHM’s house and he and I enjoyed a bourbon on the rocks while sitting by the outdoor firepit, just chatting.

Time spent with Robin of course is high on the list, but our favorite times are always just simple. Reading in bed. Watching TV together. Going grocery shopping together. Going for a walk together. Farm stands and farmers markets (I could do a whole post on just that one!) – going, picking out fresh stuff for dinner and enjoying a cup of coffee while we enjoy the time together.

In food, while I love cooking exotic and complex things, it is the simple stuff, like the chicken from last night that jazzes me. I love perfecting the simple. A perfectly cooked medium rare steak. A proper burger. A perfectly cooked fried egg where the yolk is hot but still runny, but the whites are firm. A hot dog. A proper martini. Hot chocolate made with milk and Hershey’s syrup. Popcorn, not cooked in a microwave, but in a pan on the stove. Simple stuff.

I know this is starting to read like the song “Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and all that. But seriously, in this tech-driven, instantaneous, real time, 24x7x365, debit card, Amazon.com next day delivery, Instant Queue, Xfinity world of ours, isn’t it a treat to put down the smart phone, iPad, Android, PC, Mac, turbocharged, direct-injected stuff and enjoy the basics? There’s such a push at all times to just “go and do” … gotta go do things, gotta go places to do them, etc. Yeesh! How about “Don’t go. Don’t do.” instead?

So, after you read this, of course, sign off the tech. Put aside the smart phone and the iPad, clip the leash on the dog and go for a walk. Give a good friend a call and go have a beer. Cook something for dinner that didn’t come in a package, and use only salt and pepper to season it. Enjoy a glass of wine, or a cold beer, or a hot cup of tea. Hold hands with your loved one. Make chocolate chip cookies. Dunk one in a cold glass of milk.

And revel in the simplicity of it.

As you were,

Stew

I love College Football

3 Oct

We spent a marvelous weekend in Champaign IL visiting our son at University of IL, and seeing the Illini play the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday.  Having grown up deep in the heart of Iowa, with no professional sports around, college football was the religion drummed into me since my early days, and it was so much fun to relive the excitement.  Here’s the best things I love about college football Saturdays:

1) The pure excitement of it – yes, pro fans are rabid and mad too, but the excitement seems so much more pure with college ball than pro ball.  Entire stadiums filled with the team’s colors.  Entire stadiums singing the loyalty song at the top of their lungs, or participating in a unison chant (ILL-INI, etc.), and even the intensity of the athletes themselves.  Yes, there are questions about “are college athletes pros, or should they be paid” – the reality is all of them are seeking something bigger and greater than just making sure they have their contract.  There is much more pure intensity.

2) Tailgating:  Again, pro football also has tailgating, but … I love college football and tailgating seems like it is endemic to the sport.  Whether a simple beer and a brat, or an elaborate setup with residential-sized grills banging out filet mignon, tailgating is part of the sport.

3) The Students – this is the key difference in college ball.  Every college team has their student section packed with young kids who are there for one reason only – to cheer on their school to victory.  The student section at Iowa when I was there took up the entire north endzone, plus the first section on the west side of the stadium.  At Memorial Stadium in Champaign, it is the north end zone (called the “Block I”), plus an entire section of the east side.  Every kid dressed in orange, all screaming at the tops of their lungs.  It’s the “12th man” of the sport.

4) The rivalrys and the loyalty.  Pro teams are generally defined by where you live, but you never lose the loyalty to your alma mater – I don’t live near Iowa City and haven’t been to an Iowa game since 1991, but I still bleed black and gold, although now I put on the Orange and Blue for Illinois as well.

5) Related to Rivalrys and Loyalty, college ball does draw a different crowd to the games than the crowds you get at pro games.  Because colleges tend to be concentrated in smaller cities, they draw from around their area for fans, and often that’s the only game in town for these folks – my experience growing up is a great example.  While we enjoyed rooting for the Vikings and the Chiefs living in Iowa, reality was that OUR team was the Hawkeyes.  At the tailgate this Saturday, there was a large tailgate next to us all from the area around Effingham, IL – Effingham is close to nothing other than Champaign, and therefore, these folks are ILLINI fans, first and foremost.

I could go on and on, but there you have it.  At Saturday’s game, I felt more pure excitement and got so completely into the game, just like the old days of going to Hawkeye games.  May have to start going to those again now that the kids are older.

As you were,

Stew

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