Monday, June 12, 2006

The Materialist as Philosopher

I talked in the previous post about certain THINGS coming to matter in ways that transcend base materialism. Motorcycles, for instance. But not everything can be so earth-moving, and so here's my nod to what Lincoln called, in one of his less well known speeches, the tawdrier angels of our nature.

Actually, I make no apologies for my love of gadgets. I used to feel--for about 15 minutes back in my freshman year of college--that my love of stuff was some kind of character flaw. But that was about the amount of time it took for the realization to penetrate my concrete-dense cranium that it is a disease which afflicts over half the population--virtually anything in the Western world with a penis, and many creatures without penises. "So," I argued with myself, "get over it and start feelin' the love."

To refer to that previous post, I realize that the reason I don't mourn more the passing of each car or motorcycle I let go of is because the action is always paired with the acquisition of a replacement, something by definition exciting and new. My anticipation and interest in the new & unknown always trumps my sadness at letting go of the comfortable. This business of selling a motorcycle and not getting another one is almost unprecedented for me. And I must admit that it is made tolerable by my leeching a couple much smaller goodies off the proceeds like a tax, a kind of carrying charge for my sacrifice.

In this case, we have two new toys to play with, both quite exciting, if nowhere near as alluring (to me) as a new motorcycle. Nor nearly as expensive (which is kind of the point of the whole exercise). Item No. 1 is a new cell phone. Given that my life as currently constituted would be inarguably impossible without a cell phone this is a logical place for my gadgetry passions to light.

I have no particular need for a do-EVERYTHING cell phone (like a Treo or a Blackberry), as I travel with a laptop pretty much everywhere. But even so, I check my email with my phone about 20 times a day, and I use it all the time to locate things, to find phone numbers over the internet, to check weather and showtimes, etc. Most mid-level phones now have cameras on them, so that was a feature I wanted to upgrade to. Sprint does not seem to have the most cutting edge phones (actually, no American carrier seems to offer what appears commonplace in East Asia), but they have been quite satisfactory as a provider of phone service in all the places I seem to regularly visit.
So, we stuck with them. I've also had really good luck over the years with a series of Sanyo phones (and apparently, talking to the Sprint Store reps and looking at J.D. Powers, my experiences are not exceptional) so we stuck with them, too. Susan got a Sanyo 3100 (to replace her nearly-carved-from-stone 5-year-old Sanyo 4700) and I got Sanyo's new MM7500. 1.3 mp camera, video capture capability, hi-res screen, MP3 player. Plus, I've never owned a flip phone, so that's something new. We'll see how this all works out.

The other new toy, the more significant one, is a replacement for this much-traveled 3.5 year-old Powerbook. I had planned to replace it with their new version of the same machine, the MacBook Pro, but after looking at their just-released entry-level MacBook I could not figure out why to spend another grand (not that there is anything to dislike on the former machine).
And so I'm ending up with a black one with as much hard drive space as I could get (for music files). It's otherwise quite comparable to this machine, but has a slightly wider screen. And they've made a bunch of minor but significant upgrades to things: magnetic, break-away power adapter (I damaged this one a couple years ago, but it's been functional, so I got lucky); lid held closed by magnets (not a latch); flush keyboard; brighter screen. The new one also has a DVD burner, which I'm not sure the value of but there it is. I actually think the plastic case is to be preferred to the metal one on my current machine, at least if you actually travel with the device. This one slipped off a bed onto a carpeted floor early in its time with me--it was not a straight drop, as my hands rather caught it part way down--and one corner is just slightly bowed out now as a result. I'm aware that both these injuries I inflicted would have been better suffered by this new machine.

Anyway, given the amount of time I spend on this machine (between email and blogging and listening to music and watching movies and surfing--literally a fair number of hours each day), I'm most excited to see how the new model drives! Updates to follow, I'm sure.

BTW, if you haven't seen Apple's new ads (which I saw on the website, but which Susan had told me about), they're definitely worth a look. Some ad agency earned its pay here, methinks.


Anonymous said...

Cool. Can't wait to see the new 'Book. I will, of course, have to give it a thorough once over before you use it to make sure it's what you really need. I'd really like one, but with my dozen or so Macs hanging around the house, I don't really know where I would put it.

-Alex Random

Jeffy said...

I understand the attraction you feel to new toys. They always catch my eye too. Luckily for me I get to play with so many of them at work that I don't have to actually buy too many.

I am anxious to hear how the new phones work out for you. Before too long we'll be looking to replace our ancient Samsung phones. They've been great performers, but the Sanyos look slick too. Were you able to get data service for your laptop via your new phone, or has Sprint priced that completely out of reach for people who are not paying their cell bill with an expense account?

I know how the new MacBook will work out for you - it will be great. We just got our first MacBook at the office, so I've finally had a chance to play with one. I agree that the plastic case will fare better than the metal one has. When the iBook finally got a G4 processor I started suggesting that model for several of our faculty since they sometimes put a lot of dents and bends in their Powerbooks.

So does the old PB G4 become the home computer for Susan?

wunelle said...

Gabby got the last use of the bluetooth cell phone, and it wended its way with him to Brazil. I decided with more and more hotels offering free wifi (even if I have to sit in their lobby to use it) and wifi being in more places generally, I really could live without the third phone.

The new Sanyo seems like their other ones: conservative technologically and very stout. The camera takes rather so-so photos, but I guess even when 1.3 mp seems big for a phone, it's still a quarter of our regular camera. Maybe I'll shoot you off a photo so you can see. Reception is good, ringers are loud, speakerphone is very useful and clear, screens are nice. It seems faster in its web access than my last one, but still not lightning fast.

The MacBook is on its way. Gabby and family bought one in New York to take back home, and I played with it a bit here. Very, very nice.

And yes, this machine will become the new home computer, finally retiring the 7-year-old iMac, which will go to a needy student.