Well, not that far from it.
I could bore you all endlessly with posts about my frustrating working situation, but as this is a public blog I can't go into specifics without getting myself fired, a possibility which seems all too realistic in any event, regardless of my own behavior. Suffice it to say that if you come up to me and ask me about work, be prepared for a loud, voluminous tirade filled with expletives and almost certainly requiring beer either before, after, or during, more likely all three.
I could also confuse you thoroughly with detailed descriptions of my various tennis outings, and in fact this is stuff I enjoy writing about, but I also know the target audience for that particular information is, well... let's say the demographic currently resides between my chair and keyboard. I tried it once with my dear friend MM once, and her lack of response was eloquent. I will not subject the rest of you to it.
I wish I had some funny stories to tell, like the one about the remote, but I don't. It's not that funny things aren't happening. Well, actually, they aren't. Two weeks ago I received two corneal abrasions mowing the lawn, and that's not funny, nor is there any funny way to tell that story. It fucking hurt, and I'm glad it's over with. Three weeks ago I tweaked my back playing tennis and haven't been on the court since, and that's REALLY not funny, because it's frustrating the hell out of me. Two days before this happened I had one of the best hitting sessions I've had in about 3 years with my doubles partner Mike, the absolute crest of which was a 27 stroke backhand rally in which we spent about a minute crushing the ball from backhand corner to backhand corner cross-court, each trying to out-angle the other. Mike won the exchange, finally, with an absolutely gorgeous little flip that hugged the net and had so much spin that it hit the ground and shot sideways, dead left - I never had a chance. After sessions like that I really want to get out and hit more just like it. Then I hurt my back. Fucking hell.
One thing about enforced physical inactivity (and pain killers, to be totally honest), is that the brain tends to compensate. That is to say, I've been thinking more than normal, and that's actually a meaningful statement, as I tend towards the introspective, probably a little too much for my own good. Lots of notes on little pieces of paper, some short stories germinating, if only I can form a plot around some really fun ideas, etc.
But one thing that I've concluded, and this I will share now, is the following thought:
The CD/DVD is dead. Or at least, it should be.
I know, blue-ray won the format wars. Now we can all get behind this great new format and watch our videos in beautiful HD. But I'm wondering - why are we supporting any kind of mechanical-based format any more?
Let me explain.
Way back when, there were LPs. LPs were great, analog, and very specifically limited to a known degree as to how much information they'd hold (i.e. roughly 45 minutes of sound). You put the LP on a rotating platter and dropped the needle, and sound came out of the speakers based on the amplified micro-vibrations of this needle. The quality of the final result relied largely on several known factors : the quality of the needle (
Next came the digital era, with the sound further discretized into 1s and 0s, and essentially glued, again, onto a plastic disc. But still the medium of delivery relied on a mechanical device: a much smaller, much faster turntable. DVDs, both the first generation and the new blue-ray versions, are exactly the same - we just got better at making the bits we glue onto the plastic discs really, really small so we can put more and more bits on the same sized plastic disc. More bits means more data means higher fidelity sound or video, all of which is well and good.
But it's not all that good.
I can tell you for fact that the things-that-spin method of data delivery is no longer either practical or necessary. I can't recall the last CD/DVD drive I bought for a computer which lasted more than 3 years. Hell, even DVD players only last 4-5 years and then the things explode in some fashion. Most last significantly less.
This is horribly inefficient. Not to mention, it creates a lot of extra trash when people buy the $30 DVD player from Wal-Mart every 18 months, including all the packaging (box, styrofoam packing materials, unread manuals, etc), and then throw all of it away and do it again. I'd love to know the percentage of space in a typical landfill is dedicated to the dessicated remains of things-that-spin technologies.
On the other hand, a typical thumb drive (also called flash drive) holds about 8 GB these days. This is nearly identical to the amount of data you get on one dual-layered standard DVD. There are no moving parts required to access this data. The amount of packing for these drives is a fraction of what's required for LPs/CDs/DVDs. There's nothing to break. Imagine buying a thumb drive with Wall-E on it. You pop it into the slot on front of your player, and INSTANTLY your menu screen comes up. No waiting for the drive to spin up, no wondering when the thing is going to break. Neither the player nor media has any moving parts to cause any issues. Drop the thing on the floor all you want, it won't break. You can't scratch it. And storing it takes up a fraction of the space the DVD did.
Even better, this same thumb drive ALSO has the soundtrack on it. You get into your car, pop the drive into the front of your audio player, and listen to the soundtrack as you drive to work (or, if you want to, play the move audio and watch it in your head as you drive). No waiting for anything to slide in and out of any slot. No hoping the thing spits out that old Thompson Twins CD that's been stuck in there since 1994. And no mechanical parts at all, so no skipping.
But what about the new Blue Ray discs, you ask? Aren't those supposed to hold more data?
Indeed they are. A single layer blue ray disc holds about 25 GB, a dual layer 50 GB. You'll recall, the more data I can store on my media, the higher fidelity I achieve, and so the better my listening/viewing experience. As is the general rule with computers, however, the technology is advancing with harrowing speed. You can already buy 32 GB flash drives for $100, enough to hold more data than a single layer blue-ray disc. And while this is too much to spend on a DVD, there are two things I can promise you with absolute certainty:
1) This is a HUGE profit margin. These things cost probably around $5 or so to manufacture en masse no matter how much data they hold. In the same way that you can now buy an 8 GB flash drive for about $15 (which is a little cheaper than the cost of a normal DVD now), in a few months there will be higher capacity flash drives available, and the top-of-the-line drives available now will cost almost nothing.
2) These new drives are already ready to go, the manufacturers are simply waiting for the right time to hit the market with them so that they can maximize their profit margin on the current version before they make them the new old version.
So, the technology exists to make this a reality already. It's nothing more than mule-headedness which keeps us using these idiotic things-that-spin.
However there's even more benefit to solid state media - it can be re-written infinitely. So what, you ask, who cares? Well, if you get tired of the Rocky collection, you can simply buy the Rambo collection and replace the old Rocky movies on the same media. You waste nothing (except the time and brain cells you killed trying to re-enact the wrestling scene between Balboa and Thunderlips from Rocky III), and don't have to be embarrassed while trying to dump your old collection on Craig's List.
But, even better, take the following scenario:
You have an old media style which is permanent. Suddenly, a new technology is available which allows you to store more data on a different kind of media. Now, suddenly, your huge library of old-media entertainment is obsolete. You'll have to buy a new player and host of new media to get the advantages of the new technology. Your old media and player becomes landfill fodder, and you spend tons more money you didn't want to to own something you already own.
Now let's pretend you have re-writable solid state media.
You have a huge collection of 20 GB media iGimmicks (tm). Some of them hold a movie and its soundtrack, others hold a few different versions of your favorite musical. You plug them into your player, which checks out the contents and brings up the appropriate interface for allowing you to experience your data.
Suddenly, it is announced : new compression scheme available, higher fidelity, better sound, available now!
Worst case, you don't have an internet connection. You take your media and iGimmick player to your local iGimmick retailer (you were going to have to go to the store anyway to buy the new player and media, so this isn't actually imposing additionally on you at all). Hand them your player and box full of iGimmicks. One by one, your iGimmicks are plugged into the upgrader. The upgrader looks at the media, sees what you have, and converts or upgrades, as needed. You now have the newest version of your stuff, same media, no garbage generated. While all this is happening, they also install the new version of the player software on your iGimmick player (for the record, called iSprocket). It may be that your storage capacity, in some cases, isn't enough to hold the newest version of the item in question (you are obsessed with Cats, alas, and have every version ever produced on one of your iGimmicks). No problem. You can upgrade that particular iGimmick to the new higher-capacity version, and continue to use the old one for something else. Would you like to check our stock of available media which will fit on that model of iGimmick? We have a lovely selection of Equus home videos...
Or, if you're like us and have high-speed internet in your house, all of this can be done without you even having to leave the house. Your iSprocket is internet ready, and can tell you when new versions are available. It downloads and installs the new player software automatically, and lets you convert your media as you sit there in your own home. Those iGimmicks which can't be converted, take them to the iGimmick store, they'll hook you up.
This scheme works for more than just movies and music. Any data can be handled this way. Software (new version of GTA, anyone?), books (Robert Jordan series coming right up!), you name it. iGimmick can handle it, with all the same advantages.
So let's review.
Solid-state media (thumb drives, and other similar technologies which have no moving parts) is cheap to produce, cheap to buy, generates less waste from packaging, doesn't break under normal circumstances (you still shouldn't put it in the microwave), does entirely away with player-based mechanical failure and hence decreases waste further by not clogging landfills with old broken players, takes up a fraction of the space of traditional disc-based media, is almost infinitely upgradeable without wasting media or delivery systems, and can be implemented immediately with existing technologies.
What the hell are we waiting for?