Thursday, June 5, 2008

I seem to have started something

Last night, I think I started a dissertation. The problem was (is?) that I don't really know exactly what I'm writing about, and so rather than get through this exam with a whole bunch of post-it flags sticking out of books that I've read (and an extreme inability to recall what each color stood for), I'm going back to the basics: index cards. Yup, index cards.

I've done this before--not with index cards precisely, but with the same idea. The most successful papers I've written have been the result of recording in a word processing document all of my observations and important points of fact and interpretation--anything that interests me, really--and then printing it all out, cutting the individual notes, facts, pieces of evidence, ideas, clever turns of phrase, anything that occurred to me as I was reading, and laying them all out on the living room floor in logical hierarchy:

Main Point.
piece of evidence one
pieces of evidence two and three, which need to be understood together
Subpoint two
----uh oh! I have no evidence for this; better reconsider!----

You get the idea: it's a very concrete way of determining whether or not you've proved what you set out to. And to get an idea of what is provable within the scope of your paper.

This time, it's a little bigger, but I'm organizing the index cards as I go. Category cards get written up in portrait rather than landscape format so that they can act as dividers--but if the category proves unuseful, then that card gets set behind the 'no longer useful' category card.

It's flexible, and it allows me to take all the things that I find interesting and see what I can make of them. And it will, I hope, mean that at the end of taking this exam, I'll be well on the way to proposing rather than just knowing more but having no idea what I'm going to write on.

(Wish me luck.)

I've always liked Kool-Aid. Really.

We're getting new phones--Dr. Fledermaus should have an email-capable one for work (they'll pay) and so I'll be piggybacking on her acquisition, likely, with a family plan.

And so it's a good excuse to finally cave into my brother's recommendations and get a picture/email/web capable phone. (Photos he sent from the Mariners game last week, and the announcement of the CTA Bus Tracking web site, were the other two things that put me over the edge.)

So I've been doing a bunch of research, and come to the pleasant surprise that the reason the iPhone is selling so damn well is because it's cheaper than its competition.

For comparably-capable phones (no other has the music capacity of the iPhone, but all of these have qwerty keyboards) and plans (including email and web access, about the same number of minutes), here's the two-year cost of ownership (equipment purchase, activation fees, monthly charges including an estimated 25% taxes and fees).

8Gb iPhone: $2080
US Cellular HTC PPC6800: $2142
T-Mobile Wing: $2327
Verizon LG Voyager: $2480 (actually, it's probably higher; this doesn't include activation since we're currently VZW customers)
AT&T Tilt: $2558

The iPhone doesn't include insurance, but look at it this way: over two years, I could drop one in Lake Michigan and replace it at retail, and it still comes out to the same cost as the Voyager and the Tilt, which are the other two that come anywhere close to iPhone is slickness (yes, that's slightly different from coolness).

Now the only problem is that the web is vibrating with anticipation of a new iPhone release sometime in the next month or two. What's a consumer to do?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Two kinds of sex

We went to an elementary-school graduation party for a friend of ours on Friday. He's a methodical kid, loves assembling things from Legos, loves Star Wars (has since the age of one!), loves order and pattern and words and numbers, and really doesn't understand instinctively the social cues that most of us take for granted. It's been a struggle for him to get as far as he has, and so the celebration was well-merited. But that's all a little beside the point--there's wisdom to be shared here.

A couple of weeks ago, C. and his mom were in the car, and C. said, "There are two kinds of sex." His mom (from whom he inherits this trait of speaking his mind!) said, "Oh, really? Tell me more." So he explained, "Well, there's the biological kind, where you have kids. And then there's the other kind, which involves alcohol."