Thursday, November 11, 2010

Let your mouse do the walking.

A few days ago, I wrote about the demise of the rake. Now, another old-time implement appears destined to bite the dust...

RICHMOND, Va. – What's black and white and read all over? Not the white pages, which is why regulators have begun granting telecommunications companies the go-ahead to stop mass-printing residential phone books, a musty fixture of Americans' kitchen counters, refrigerator tops and junk drawers.

In the past month alone, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania approved Verizon Communications Inc.'s request to quit distributing residential white pages. Residents in Virginia have until Nov. 19 to provide comments on a similar request pending with state regulators.

So, there's one more thing in your junk drawer that will disappear. Besides, who knows anybody's phone number anymore? I don't, and couldn't tell you the phone numbers of the people in my cell phone's directory if you held a loaded gun to my head. They go in, and when the phone rings, their name comes up. When I call somebody, I look them up by name.

And a survey conducted for SuperMedia Inc. by Gallup shows that between 2005 and 2008, the percentage of households relying on stand-alone residential white pages fell from 25 percent to 11 percent. Dallas-based SuperMedia, which publishes Verizon's telephone directories, has instead focused on its yellow pages and paid advertising listings and their online equivalents.

I don't know where this is all going, but if they asked me, I'd tell them to give me a CD with the phone listings on it, and I'll load it into my PC and look up numbers that way. I use the Yellow Pages on occasion, but why do I need a bulky book in my house when I can have a thin CD? If some old-timer wants a phone book, let him pay for it or special-order it.

It will wind up in a closet with his Rolodex, handwritten personal phone book and his TV Guide collection. Let's move it along, gang.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kindle me this.

I used to be a voracious reader. Then, I discovered television. Television required little eye movement, there were lots of choices and I could do it while I did other things. I enjoyed music too, and among all those attributes, it required even less eye movement, making it even more appealing.
At some point, reading books became less of a habit and more of a chore. I had good intentions. I used to peruse local book stores and pick up something that I thought looked interesting - usually history or some other non-fiction - and I'd run home with it and leaf through it before settling down to watch my favorite TV programs.
The book would sit until I finally decided to place it in my bookcase where it would sit in its original, pristine condition, usually with the receipt as the well-intentioned bookmark at page one.
Over the years, less and less on television and even less music became appealing to me. Television is full of low-budget junk "reality" shows, and music has become irrelevant to the point that re-formed super groups of the 1960s and 70s are more relevant than their contemporaries. But that is another matter.
Then, along came the Kindle. It is both a gadget (I love gadgets) and an electronic book device. It is the movie-rental equivalent of books. When one gets the urge to read a particular book or newspaper, one can order it just as one would pick up a movie or CD, only instantly from the comfort of home. Not only is there the immediacy of the medium, but the Kindle versions are considerably cheaper than their paper counterparts.
As I do with other major purchases, I thought long and hard about whether or not I should invest in this thing. I intended to rekindle (pun) my interest in reading and satisfy my urge to stay current, lest I wither and die, left to the ignorance of today's old folks who never embraced technology and are now lost.
I have had it for a week, and have started reading "The War for Late Night" by Bill Carter, the story of how Leno went to 10 o'clock and Conan O'Brien took over "Tonight." It's a fascinating report of the history of the changeover and documents the backroom deals that led to Leno and O'Brien's moves to earlier time slots.
It's nice to sit in the quiet of my living room after my evening workout and read a chapter or two. Not lost in all of this is that the first book on my journey back to my days of voracious reading is a book about television.
It's a start.