Saturday, September 01, 2007

UW Dance Program builds on its successes in Lathrop Hall

Lathrop Hall Pseudo Panorama
Following on the heels of the UW Dance Program's 80th anniversary celebration during the last academic year, faculty, staff and students are gearing up for another busy year in Lathrop Hall. New students, guest artists and the public will be welcomed at a variety of special events throughout the fall (highlights listed here.)

UW Dance Program is housed in historic Lathrop Hall. There wasn't enough room to back up and get a head-on shot of the entire building in one shot with my point and shoot. Thus, the pseudo panorama. They faced the same problem in 1915 when Lathrop Hall, shown in vfm4's 1915, Madison, Wisconsin Set, was photographed, and they shot it at an angle. I could have duplicated that shot, but I wanted to show the whole building and the decorative UW planting in front.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ex-smoker's shadowy homage to the Wisconsin tobacco leaf grown in the Madison area

Ex-Smoker's Shadowy Homage to the Tobacco Leaf
I used to smoke the damn things -- now I enjoy them vicariously. I've long been interested in tobacco farming in Wisconsin partly because, as a former smoker, I had a kind of vested interest in the lore of the tobacco leaf.

The crop is also interesting as a part of Wisconsin agricultural history -- a cash crop that used to play a significant role in Wisconsin farming, almost died out, but has been making a comeback in recent years. Tobacco farming also gives our area a distinctive kind of farm building: tobacco sheds, those long, narrow barns that are designed to cure tobacco by gently drying it with controlled ventilation, which is usually provided by hinged siding panels that can open in a variety of ways. I pass many examples on the way to work. This was shot recently between Madison and Cambridge along Hwy 12&18. If you share my interest, there's more at my Tobacco Farming in Wisconsin set on Flickr.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Once people came here to catch a train and travel to faraway places, not to pay their electric bill

Recycled Train Depot in a City That No Longer Has Passenger Rail Service
Now you have to drive to Columbus, about 30 miles from Madison, to catch an Amtrak. It used to be so nice to catch the train to Chicago or Milwaukee to spend a day in the city -- no parking hassles, etc., and a nice relaxing ride each way. There are periodic efforts to bring it back, but so far -- nada.

In 1915 this was the New C. & N. W. R. R. Depot (Chicago & North- western Railroad) from vfm4's 1915, Madison, Wisconsin Set. Back then, it had some of the aura that a major airport has today. It was a busy terminal and a portal to adventure. As a kid I took the train to Boston from this depot. It was one of the great experiences of my life. Since then, I've driven there and flown many times. Neither comes close. The building still exists, looking pretty much the same, but it's no longer a train depot, and we no longer have passenger rail service in Madison. Now it's part of the headquarters of Madison Gas & Electric, which is handy, since their power plant is in the background. That's great for MG&E -- but life without train service sucks.

NOTE: This is part of the Madison 1915 rephotography project tied to the poscard set mentioned above. Some are blog posts, and you can access them all by clicking on the label below. A few appear only on my Flickr account. (See above, right.) By clicking on the Flickr set Madison 1915 vs. 2007, you can see them all displayed together. In addition, you might want to read the viewer comments or leave one yourself.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why can't Steve Jobs make the iPhone at least as useful as my old Psion Series 5?

I was taking notes for this post down in Wingra Park on my 10-year-old Psion Series 5 handheld computer, although my original headline was a bit too long (click on photo to enlarge). So I shortened it after uploading it to my iMac and Blogger. (Note: The doggies that wandered into the frame aren't mine, but they sure are cute, aren't they?)

The Psion Series 5 went on the market 10 years ago. I've "only" had one for the last nine years -- and when the screen cable breaks and shorts out, as they eventually do, I just buy another on eBay and swap the removable CF card.

Why do I go to so much trouble? What do I love about the Psion Series 5? This handheld beauty turns on instantly, since all the software is in ROM. The clamshell case is elegant and functional. It has a very useable keyboard -- and a complete sofware suite that reads and saves MS Office compatible files. Not to mention a really cool organizer and address book. The Series 5 no longer made, of course, but the software evolved into the Symbian operating system used in some Ericsson and other overseas mobile phones, some of which offer many of the original Psion functions.

I'd like something newer, mainly to get color and wireless/mobile functionality. Also, the uploading process has gotten rather laborious. To get formatted Word files, I have to first upload to a Windows 98 PC, then email to my iMac (the formatting, however, is flawless). Increasingly, I'm just using the Psion to capture keystrokes, which I save as text files, which I can upload directly to the Mac via a card reader. However, nothing has has tempted me yet. Steve Jobs could have with the iPhone, but he didn't, because he left out something important.

It's called a keyboard.

With the Series 5, I've written article drafts on deadline while flying across the country, with plenty of space on my tray for some snacks and beverages, while my traveling companions struggle with their laptops. And, as you can see, I take it down to the park. I take it to the coffee shop when I want to do some writing and don't need wireless to upload it right away. I couldn't have done any of that on an iPhone. I am not going to write by typing into a virtual keyboard on a screen that tries to make up for its shortcomings by guessing what I intend to write.

I don't know what Steve Jobs has against keyboards on handheld devices. It couldn't possibly be sibling rivalry with his sister, novelist Mona Simpson, could it? Whatever the reason, the lack of a keyboard ruined the Newton, a really cool handheld that was ahead of its time. And it threatens the future of the iPhone, by reducing all its high-tech wizardry to the status of an expensive toy.

And as long as I'm complaining, I should also mention that weird AT&T thing. Why, a quarter century after the government broke up AT&T and its telephone monopoly, is Steve Jobs apparently trying to reinstate his own version? Why should the iPhone only work on the AT&T wireless network?

Hackers around the world apparently are asking the same question and are starting to alter iPhones so they can either work with other carriers' SIM cards, or fool the iPhone into thinking it's on the AT&T network when it's not. According to the NY Times:
Two weeks ago, a company called Bladox, based in the Czech Republic, began selling an $80 device called a Turbo SIM. The thumbnail-size card, attached to another carrier’s SIM card and inserted into an iPhone, tricks the iPhone into thinking it is running on the AT&T network even when it is not.

The company has reportedly been overwhelmed by orders and is not selling the product on its site. But Jesús Díaz, a technology writer in Madrid, said he bought the Turbo SIM last week and was now using his iPhone on Spain’s Vodafone network.

“Everyone here asks me: ‘What is that? Can I see it, can I touch it?’ ” said Mr. Díaz, whose iPhone draws a lot of attention because Apple has not yet announced a deal to sell the device in Europe.
I wish the Czechs all the best -- especially since Europe, with its faster mobile data networks, should be an ideal home for the iPhone.

And in a broader sense, I hope the hackers convince Apple to open up the iPhone, not just to other carriers, but to third-party developers as well. If not, it will be the Mac vs. the PC story all over again -- Apple develops cool device, Microsoft or some other company transforms it into a mass market hit, and Apple is left with the elegant niche product.

The iPhone is a beautiful, elegant device. I would love to be able to use it. Remember, I'm not asking for much. I just want a keyboard. It doesn't have to be attached, as in the Psion. I wouldn't mind plugging in one of those little folding keyboards. Or using infrared. Or Bluetooth. Just give me a keyboard. Please.