We watched Ken Burns’ documentary on Mark Twain over the last two nights. It’s amazing what one book can do for you. He was generally unknown until he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and got critical acclaim with Huckleberry Finn. He wrote lots of other books and articles and funny quotes, but nothing as significant. He became rich and poor several times due to his writing and the publishing house he founded, but being overly greedy (after all, he said “I am not an American, I am the American”) lost a lot of money in get-rich-quick schemes. Later in life, he became involved in politics and was always a sharp critic of social ills, especially those caused by racism and religion.

Other interesting things: He smoked 40 cigars a day; wore only white suits after his wife died; was asked by Bell to invest in the telephone but he refused thinking there was no market for a telephone (although he invested in many other money-losing ideas); was the first to write a manuscript on a typewriter; he took the name “Mark Twain” (his real name is Samuel Clemens) from the Mississippi riverboat term for where the water becomes calm (“quarter twain”, “half twain” and “mark twain”), he was born and died during Halley’s comet visit by Earth.

I got my new cell phone, a Nokia 3650, on Friday. My initial reaction was “Wow, this thing is huge”. It’s just a little bigger than the Nokia that I was using temporarily but it looks a lot bigger in your hand. Aside from that, it’s a really nice phone. The screen is easily readable outside which is rare for a color screen. And the quality of the screen is great, although I don’t like the typeface that they chose (reminds me of the GEM GUIs from the late 1980s).

The best two things about the phone are the reception and the battery life. With my Motorola phone, I could scarcely get a signal anywhere at home and I couldn’t move my head much while on the phone or I’d lose the signal and certainly couldn’t walk around. I always thought that was because we live in a rural area, but now I see that it was just the phone. With the Nokia, I can walk anywhere around the house (except near the front door for some reason) and the signal is strong and the quality of the call is as good as our 2.4GHz cordless phones.

The battery life is much longer than I’m used to too. With the Motorola, I could almost go 2 full days on standby if I didn’t use the phone much. But if I made just 1 call longer than 20 or 30 minutes, the phone would need a charge that night. With this phone, I talked to my parents for an hour, many other (shorter) calls to test it and I used the internet heavily and didn’t charge the phone until last night. It supposedly can go 7 days or more in standby mode, which should be handy for a short trip when I forget the charger (like I did last weekend going to Spokane).

The battery life and the better reception are enough for me to be happy. But the internet access makes it even better. It’s much faster (40kbps) than my Motorola (9.6kbps) and the color screen is wider and easier to read than the Motorola. So I can monitor the site more effectively now and can now even view graphs like I can on our intranet site.

The phone is loaded with features that I doubt I’ll use. For example, I can take pictures of people and set the photo to display when they call me. But do plan to use the Calendar and ToDo lists when I get it syncing with my desktop. The bluetooth adapter for the computer should be here Wednesday and that should be fun to play with.

One downside is that the software that it comes with is Windows-only. Why it needs software in the first place points to poor design (you need software to control your software?), but when you use a Mac, you live in the (lucky) 4% of the world, so you learn to accept these inequalities.

I downloaded the entire new Belle & Sebastian album the other day and have been listening to it ever since (I even got the artwork!). The CD is not even available yet and won’t be for another two weeks. To pay for it, I have to wait for the recording industry to manufacture plastic discs and cases, print some paper inserts, wrap them in plastic, work out the distribution deals, do market-planning and then ship them to the stores. In an hour, I had the entire album and I still can’t pay the artists for the music I’m enjoying. The industry is the obstacle rather than the facilitator.