Archive for March, 2011

Spring cleaning, chicken style

Spring has arrived in Kirkland, which means that the daffodils are blooming, the rain-soaked hills around us are sliding toward Lake Washington with $900,000 homes in tow, and everyone is engaged in some sort of spring cleaning. For the chickens, spring cleaning means rolling around in the dirt as much as possible. Theoretically the dirt baths keep parasites at bay, but I know a kid who bathes regularly in dirt and still managed to get head lice. Anyway, the chickens clean up well enough in the rain which has not ceased since March 1. Julie spent a full four hours this afternoon at William’s track meet in a relentless downpour. Which she did as the better, more dedicated parent. I told her that I was looking forward to seeing the two of them back at our warm house so she could give me a big wet Willy. Which she did not think was funny. But I believe that as long as I am able to amuse myself, that will be enough to get me to summer.


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Most people reading today’s headline that the Zune is finally dead will be asking the same, bewildered question: The what?

If you can’t remember what exactly a Zune is, you are not alone. Set your time machine back to 2006 when Microsoft released its own portable music player to challenge Apple’s iconic iPod.  To make inroads into Apple’s style-conscious fanbase, Microsoft released it’s new product in three colors: Drab, Blah, and Yawn. I got my Zune from the next generation in which the color choice had been expanded. It was gray. Oh yes, the Zune did come with an FM radio, which was a feature the iPod did not have. This came in handy when you ran out of songs from the seriously limited Zune Marketplace.

But I loved my Zune. Yes it was clunky and would not let me share music between my own computers, but I used it to create the soundtracks for many a road trip, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf of Georgia (that would be Canada). My kids asked to get Zunes for Christmas and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that Santa owned an iPod.

In 1991, Geoffrey Moore explored the difficulty of taking a product from early adopter to mainstream consumer in his besteller, Crossing the Chasm. That’s the usual focus of attention–products that have made the leap successfully. We want to forget about personalized home pages and New Cokes and new Gap logos. But they are interesting studies in how companies catapulting through endless success can suddenly fall into cataplexic failure by simply not paying attention to its customers.

Microsoft got to the edge of the chasm and looked down instead of ahead. At the bottom of the chasm you find people like me, buried beneath a rubble of HD DVD players and worthless dot-com stocks. And faintly, with a failing hardware connection and the battery running out, you can hear a lonely Zune playing Johnny Cash, and he is singing about the end of the world.

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