Apologies for the long silence: let's just say that the cumulative effect of jet lag isn't just down to the number of time zones you traverse, but how long it takes. I live near a regional airport, and what was originally going to be a 90 minute transfer at the long-haul hub before my final sector turned into an 8 hour wait. As a result I got home with 36 hours of sleep deprivation and a nasty little cough — only five time zones on this trip, but it feels like I just flew in from Australia.
I acquired three notable things in the USA: an Amazon Kindle Fire, a small remotely piloted camera drone, and a sense of total mystification at current Republican politics ...
Let me tackle the Kindle Fire first.
The KF is a 7" tablet running Android 2.3 with a custom interface whomped up by Amazon. It's a rather basic machine in terms of specs (8Gb of storage, not expandable via micro-SDHC card; wifi only for connectivity: battery life of 8-10 hours). What makes it attractive is the design and packaging (nearly as good as Apple in terms of the out of the box experience), the ridiculously low price, and the content curation.
The KF is not ever going to grow up and turn into a general purpose computing platform — a direction I believe the iPad is heading in. Rather, it's a media consumption device pure and simple, which expects to live somewhere with wifi and broadband so that it can grab stuff out of the cloud.
Pluses: the lovely colour LCD display is much more comfortable to read off than any e-ink display I've ever used. Sorry, but e-ink is like muddy newsprint, and refreshes slowly: I can read on it, but it's painful, and as for making annotations ... no, just no. Oh, and you can watch movies or listen to music. Even run apps.
Minuses: the Amazon app store is US only, and checks which country your credit card was issued in before letting you download anything at all. Even free apps are subject to this check. And because I don't have a US credit card, all I can use are the core apps that come with it — unless I want to jump through jailbreaking hoops.
Luckily for me I bought the KF as a reader that I could chew through books and sideloaded DVD movies on, not under any expectation of using it as a mini-iPad. So what I can say about it is, it does what it says on the tin: but if you want a real 7" tablet you should probably grab a Motorola Xoom or pester that nice Mr Cook at Apple or something.
The drone: they're selling these things in Toys'R'Us. It's a radio controlled flying webcam. Back in the 1970s it would have been science fiction, or a very expensive superblack spy plane. I'm not sure what I'll do with it — apart from annoying the cat — it probably falls into the "cool toy, no obvious practical uses" category.
Oh, and finally: the politics.
I understand the basic point of the Republican presidential primary: get the party members out to pick a candidate from the shortlist of folks with a budget to run for president. And I understand that the candidates therefore need to appeal to the base. And I get that Romney is utterly unacceptable to one sub-group (due to not being a Real Christian) and to another sub-group (due to being the policy equivalent of silly putty), and that Gingrich is in there to deliver a big fat Fuck Off to the RNC over his past treatment (not to mention the narcissistic personality disorder). Rick Santorum I'm at a loss to explain unless he turns out to be Sasha Baron Cohen's greatest ever and longest running parody act: I'm waiting for him to either call for the reintroduction of the ducking stool for witches, or to be caught in an airport toilet cubicle with an underage [male] page and a couple of lines of cocaine.
But what's with the whole race to the bottom over racism and sexism?
I mean, these guys seem to be competing to shit all over the latin-American vote. And the whole ludicrous insanity of their anti-abortion and anti-contraception stance looks like they're actively trying to get every female of child-bearing age to vote against them. (It's like they've read "The Handmaid's Tale" and think it's a road map, not a warning.)
It's one thing to try to appeal to an ageing, mostly white, mostly Christian, base: but it looks to me as if there's no way to get the Republican nomination and actually win in an election where they need to get the unregistered/independent voters to come out for them. Or am I missing something?