I use Gmail frequently (via Google Apps). I use it out of necessity more than preference. The interface I like the best is MS Outlook, but that's on my OQO Model 02 (UMPC). And that computer's performance has degraded (Vista) over time, its extended battery died (swelled up like it was about to have little baby batteries), and the maker (OQO) went bankrupt (making upgrades and batteries unattainable), so my ardor for that platform has waned. And even before that, the ability to switch between the three main computers I use daily and have my latest drafts right there is certainly a benefit of Gmail no one can deny.
So what don't I like about Gmail? To my mind there are two egregious errors in their product:
- Their spam email catching system is great, except for the false positives.
- There are conversations, and then there are sub-conversations. And the one shouldn't be viewed as the other.
Spam is a major problem. I should know, I've used the same email addresses for 12 years now, so I get 1,500+ spam emails a day. And while Gmail does an amazing job at eliminating those from my inbox, it does so at the unacceptable cost of taking away a small fraction of my legit email. Because I get so many spam emails, and because Google offers no sorting options, there's no way I can review my spam mail in Google to catch the legit ones Google has wrongly flagged. And thus, I lose some legit email. Maybe I've lost some from long lost friends, maybe I've lost some from an ex-gf writing to apologize for some distant sin, maybe I've lost some from business colleagues about to offer my company a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'll never know, because Google eats 'em up. I can't believe that Google doesn't have any configurable options for their spam filter. It should at least have an option for turning it off, or for only marking things as spam that are guaranteed to be spam. Let's be clear, some things are safely discarded as spam, if Google has seen the same email sent to 13,492 of their users, that's not an email from my long lost cousin Jim. It can always safely mark that as spam. But Gmail will also mark as spam an email from your long lost cousin Jim that it happens to suspect is spam, based on unspecified criteria. Perhaps Jim's email includes a url pointing to a picture of their newborn baby, who is unfortunately and spam-suspiciously named Buy. Point being Google treats both sorts of things the same, moving both to the spam folder when I should have some control over that. And if you're not going to do that, at least give me access to the spam folder via POP, so that I can examine them more efficiently myself. In Outlook I can quickly clean out my spam folder by various sorting techniques. Since I get so much spam, sorting by title aggregates 98% of the spam and I can just walk through it and delete it in chunks very quickly, rescuing the false positives as I go. Gmail feels, apparently, that sorting email isn't something users would ever want to do, so they provide no such options (unlike everyone else). So, Gmail causes me to lose some valid email, and that is frustrating. I still use Gmail, knowing this, but only just barely, hoping some solution will appear on the horizon.
Everything is not best viewed as one conversation. There are many situations in which Gmail's version of a "conversation view" is unworkable. For example. I post a job ad on Craigslist. I get 150 responses from applicants. Some of the applicants keep the CL post's original title, some change it. Some people insert their own title, but often enough using generic titles that others are also using. Gmail's criteria for a conversation is based on the email subject. So these odd groupings of conversations start to appear in my inbox. One job ad, 150 responses, might show up as 14 different conversations. And, worse yet, I open up one of these conversations and see 25 responses, I then reply to the individual people in the conversation, and when they respond they show up nested within that same conversation, while other new responses are still showing up at the end of the conversation. And when any of those people reply, that entire conversation floats back up to the top, but I've got to go walk through the thing again, looking to see if 1 person or 14 people had replied to these separate but wrongly grouped conversations. It's totally unworkable. I invariably need to switch to Outlook to deal with these situations, otherwise I can't keep track of things and end up failing to respond to lots of people. For god's sake, Gmail, let us turn off the conversation view when we need to!!! One thing I deeply resent is when people or companies think they are so much more clever than everyone else and force a feature on you that you don't necessarily want, and they suppress features you have long needed and relied upon on the grounds that they know better what you need. Gmail is the only email front-end that I know about that forces you to view everything as a conversation, with no option to view it normally. If they really wanted to do the conversation thing right, aside from letting you turn it off when needed, use better criteria for what is a conversation. It should not just be based on the subject of the email. There are hidden headers you can use, which I believe Outlook and others use to thread messages. Also, you can pretty well guess threading based on any quoted content in a response.
Anyway, I have other complaints about Gmail, but those are the two points where their product is (for me) completely broken, and barely usable.
My friend from high school, Edie, was having a wedding reception Saturday evening. I already had plans Friday, and couldn't be away from work or home for very long, having just had a holiday recently. I also wanted to try and do the trip on the cheap, and that meant keeping it short. I found a Virgin American flight for $219 that would take me from LA to DC and back in 26 hours.
Since the trip was going to be so short and semi-frivolous, I decided to make it a challenge. I decided I would try to travel very differently from my usual way. This time I would take as little as possible and have everything go as smoothly as possible, no luggage, no hand bags, no laptop, park at the gate, and do a rental car on the other side.
Only things I allowed myself to take were:
- noise cancelling headphones
- extended battery (for phone)
- cell phone charger
- antibacterial hand wipes (nobody wants the H1N1)
- Travel still sucks. You can remove the stress of getting to the airport on time, dealing with security, worrying about the overhead bin room available, worrying about under seat space giving you no place to put your feet, and when every negative you can control is removed, the fact is, modern travel still really sucks.
- Wear something with a zippered pocket. I was constantly worried about dropping stuff, my hoodie had the sort of packets which allow anything to drop out, and my pants threatened to lost things whenever i was seated.
- The zippered pocket would have solved most of my problem, but even so, a little bag would have gone a long way to making life simpler. As it was security was more of a hassle, and I had most of my stuff in the behind the seat pouch, which wasn't ideal.
- The most annoying item in my pocket was the toothbrush. I took my usual one in a holder, and toothbrushes are too long for comfortable pocket use. I should have gotten one of those folding ones.
- Anti-perspirant. While I didn't smell, it was no doubt in part because I borrowed some anti-perspirant after a shower in DC.
Virgin was always my favorite way to fly because of their in flight entertainment system. Unfortunately, they now charge $8/movie, which reduced the fun of it somewhat. On the plus side, they had in flight wifi internet! First time I've used that. Worked quite well. It cost $8 for the flight, but it paid for itself. I watched a few movies and videos off the internet, and kept up on email.
Best moments of the trip:
- Seeing my friend, Edie.
- It was chilly and pouring rain in DC, and I love rain.
- I played Frisbee in the rain, and I was still better than everyone else!
- I watched a movie about a conspiracy involving the Titanic. Apparently there is a conspiracy which says that Titanic never sank! That a scheme was hatched to sink her sister ship, Olympic, by relabeling her Titanic, and then collecting the insurance (Olympic having been damaged some months before). Apparently there's a conspiracy about everything. I even heard one about Mother Theresa once.
And that was my trip.
From a larger work entitled "The Faces of Love":
in a parallel universe somewhere
we are lying still,
some aimless sunday morning.
we are looking at the world sideways,
but each other right side up.
i am opening my mouth to speak
and you are opening yours to yawn.
i pause, and watch your eyes squint shut.
your arms swing wide to stretch,
your body writhes,
the edges of your mouth curl up,
and when it's done,
your gaze again meets mine,
and for a moment i am lost
we made this little world of ours:
our refuge from the universe of things
we can't control
and upon which we can't rely.
and now i make a free choice,
as every morning,
to love you.
not for all the goodly reasons
every other they do,
but for all the reasons
they have missed.
you are still looking at me,
i crawl my left hand over
and renew our introduction.
i draw you in, our limbs entwine.
the day can have us for its use,
but not quite yet.
Poet Taras Zaitsev, various poems over various years
Translation by Quinxy von Besiex, 2009
I just rented The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, to see if perhaps I had misunderstood it as a child, and wrongly thought it stupid. Nope. I was right all along. We watched in school, got out of classes for it, and all gathered in the gym. A former alumnus was one of the main actors, though I don't recall now who.
After so many years, and with fresh eyes, I'm almost surprised that I come away with the same feeling I did then. I don't get it.
The main character has a very stupid name, all his friends have very stupid names, and not only are they all brilliant scientists, they are also adventurers, rock stars?!, and are featured in their own comic book heroes!?!?!. Oh, and Buckaroo is also the best brain surgeon in the world, an expert race car driver, one of the best pistol shooters, is fluent in 12 languages (and has written songs in each of them). Everyone in the world knows Buckaroo and his odd little band and even the president of the US of A gushes like a school girl when he calls, and will put the fate of the world in Buckaroo's hands. I just don't get it. For the love of god, couldn't the author have shown a little restraint? It's like this was the result of a bar bet, where one author said to another, "I bet you can't write a screenplay where the main character is best in the world at more than 15 totally unrelated things."
And the way the story is told I always assumed this was the poor translation to screen of some popular (and meritorious) 1950s comic book. But from what I can tell, nope, this movie is only what it is, which is odd since they give many allusions to external and unexplained story lines and vocab.
If people liked this movie as just a bit of idiotic fun, as just a bit of, "Oh my god, can you believe they made this stupid movie so stupid!" as they do with Plan 9 from Outer Space, where we all think, "Wow, Ed Wood was one messed up dude." Okay, awesome, that I could get! But from what I gather, people view this movie in some other light, and I don't get it.
Update 3/19/2012: I was browsing Netflix today and saw that this movie was listed in the "satire" category and, well, I was mightily confused. I re-read the Wikipedia and IMDB entries and sure enough everyone seemed to consider this a satirical movie, including most importantly the creators of the movie. I don't mean to sound wildly stupid here, but I had no idea. So I rewatched the movie, trying to see its absurdity and ridiculousness as some sort of vehicle for satirical statement. While I hated the movie slightly less, now knowing that the creators were trying to be and were aware they were being ridiculous, I am still clueless about what sort of statement they were allegedly making. It still just seems like a really bad movie to me.
We modern men are busy folk. To prove this to yourself merely look at the shaving tools this man of the new millennium uses:
- Gillette Fusion Power Phenom, my electrified, five-bladed stubble remover. Because five blades make shaving 5x faster, 5x closer, and only 3x more expensive. And electricity because though I'm not convinced it helps, I deserve no less.
- Nivea for Men Active 3, body wash, shampoo, and shave gel! And I understand they're coming out with Nivea for Men Active 5 in 2010 (body wash, shampoo, shave gel, toothpaste, and sun tan lotion)! I can attend to almost all my daily ablutive needs with one bottle.
I am excited for what the future holds in men's toiletries, and all the time I'll save.
The truth is no longer a commodity in which I have a right to trade. I have tried to shield you from the grim reality of this bloody war. But the enemy of free men, these dastardly British, emissaries of a mad, despotic king, have traced our rebel band to this small isle on Parrie Sound. They have encircled us, we are cut off. If there must be a kindness found in this moment it is that they have granted us these 7 final hours to set right our mortal affairs, and pray for the arrangement of our immortal ones.
And so in these hours, where the light of the day has failed, where the full moon has risen to give us one final parting glance, I see the infinitude of unshared moments (yours and mine) that hang in this balance. Alas, if it be God's will that His universe play such games, then He is welcome to my flesh; and come morning these earthly jackals intend to deliver it.
But we shall test His will this night. We may have sighted a weakness in their lines; and the good Book says, "He helpeth those who helpeth themselves.".
If these become my final words, then we have failed and all is lost. But find comfort that we struggled to our dying breath.
Yours, in life and death,Captain Phillip von BesiexSept 6, 1777
New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney recently caught hell for using the N word (the full word) while recounting to a reporter a phone call she'd received. I don't think I've ever heard of a case before where people were outraged at someone accurately quoting another person, so long as they were presenting the quote in a negative light. Despite the vile nature of the word, and the strong preference I and others would have to see the word neutered when quoted, out of respect, it seems to me unreasonable to cast the quoter in the same light as the quoted. Read about Maloney Apologizing.
Often when I try to translate Taras Zaitsev's work I am only able to beautifully translate a few lines of a given poem or work. See more here.
This is from a letter Taras wrote to a woman he was courting.
i am doing so very much (slightly) wrong. and i know this. and yet i do it (slightly). and i hate myself for doing it (slightly). and yet i do it (all the same). and i do not wish our nascent little we to go all wrong for my momentary microidiotisms.
you are wondrous. and i do like you, so very hello much. and you seem to like me, which is not surprising, but surprises. and in my surprised delight, i get lost between the subtle differences in our personal languages, where nuances live, and i (for not speaking your tongue, yet) die. i lose my nerve and become an awkward sort, a little uncomfortable in my own skin, and not comfortable enough to access yours and give you the confidence that we are a kind of right. and in that, i throw the rhythm off, slip your grasp, and we go cartwheeling out; and i linger at the periphery, wondering if you'll take my hand again, so we may dance another round. if only, if only you have faith enough to keep stretching your arms out, fingers ready to take mine, just a little longer, until this brief, uneasy phase passes, and i get back to being my more me. i would hate to see us lose out on the potential for grand conspiratorial adventures, and a burgeoning mayhap, because i was a fool...
And from some footnotes in his "grey book"
i wasn't sure,
until you took my hand.
such a simple, thrilling thing.
a perfect moment.
Fingers touched with speculation
The hope beyond comfort, beyond proof, the long supposing...
Poet Taras Zaitsev, various poems over various years
Translation by Quinxy von Besiex, 2009
I recently hosted a New Orleans Funeral for a Dead Cat party. The backstory is that I was driving down from SF to LA recently on my motorcycle and saw a dead cat along the side of the road. I had only the sound of the whistling wind and my internal monologue for hours on end, and was rather pensive. And so I thought about this noble cat, separated from his family, without anyone being able to mourn him, and as I was having a party the next weekend anyway, I thought I'd turn it into a New Orleans style wake/funeral for my new, dead, cat friend Bartleby.
The scooter group I help run is doing a ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco for the Amerivespa event over the July 4th weekend. Amerivespa is the event for Vespa owners. While I'm not a present or past Vespa owner (I'm into vintage and retro bikes), I am a scooterist at heart, and appreciate their unhurried, machismo-lite sensibilities; particularly in comparison with the tendencies of most bikers.
The ride up will avoid the highways and stick to the coast for most of the trip, stopping overnight in San Luis Obispo. We'll pass through some of California's best features, including Big Sur, Ojai, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and finally I'll depart from the group to spend some time with my sister in San Francisco.
If you ever wanted to ride along coastal California, now's the time! If you don't own a scooter, rent one and join us! We've got 10-12 people already going, and at least one support vehicle.
The group will leave July 1st from NoHo Scooters at 9 AM, and return the evening of July 6th. The ride up will be 125cc friendly, but must do some freeway on the way back to save time.
Map And a link to the route in Google maps.