When “Magical” Isn’t “Good Enough”

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The consumer electronics market is a tough field to navigate. On the one hand, you have amazing, magical devices for sale that have revolutionized industries, on the other, you have devices that aren’t those devices, but look like them, or may behave similarly, or provide an experience that is “not unlike” the real thing.

They’re “good enough.”

This is an interesting predicament.

Most people want the real thing. They’ve seen it and held it and talked to it and had a great experience with it. When it comes to price, however, they start to squirm.

“It costs how much?”
“I have to get the contract?”
“But what if I transfer from another carrier?”

Or, the killer:

“The guy at the other store told me that the other phones are open. And open is better.”

So, at some point, people start looking for this thing called “good enough”. Truth be told, it’s a pale shadow of what the real thing is, and it’s really not necessarily all that much cheaper, but it usually is cheaper, which makes people feel like they’re being thrifty and smart by not spending the extra $100 and getting the real thing.

I fell into that trap, too. You feel good about yourself for maybe all of a few days, until you realize you spent a lot of money for something that simply isn’t, well, real. It’s close, it’s almost there, but it’s not. Then you get a week into it, then a month, and soon you realize that this thing you’re using ever single day, something that you’re essentially integrating into part of your life, falls short. You purposely didn’t get the real thing in order to save a little money, but the gap widens as time increases. After a few months, you start to wish you had dropped the extra Benjamin and picked up something that will actually satisfy you, instead of something that leaves you perpetually empty.

One of the interesting trends this year (and highlighted by CES), as pointed out by many websites and commentators, is the rampant Apple-copying taking place. It has now become systemic. Manufacturers left and right are creating products to compete with Apple products that don’t even exist yet. Furthermore, they’re building software to match what Apple has in a way that will undeniably leave consumers saddened and confused.

What will happen when a person buys a rip-off Apple phone with a rip-off Siri voice interface that connects to a rip-off cloud service? They will, inevitably, feel ripped off. They’ll see people who actually considered the long-term cost of their purchase and feel resentful towards them, because they had the chance to buy something real and didn’t.

Take, for instance, this:

The consensus is competing voice control technology demonstrated at CES does not yet outperform Apple’s Siri, but the expectation is companies will continue to invest in the technology and result in great improvements in the years to come. Nuance, which licenses its voice recognition technology to Apple for Siri, said competing smartphones with improved speech technology will arrive in the fall of 2012, or one year after Apple launched the iPhone 4S.

The issue here is that these companies are reacting to Apple’s presence and innovative use of technologies that they may have disregarded for being too clunky. Instead of simply waiting for another company to come along and show them “how it’s done”, however, Apple decided to actually do something. Now that their competitors see how good it can be, they’re scrambling to put something on the market that people will also like.

But it’s not, however, the “real thing”, it’s “good enough”.

Now, people are going to start looking around, they’re going to see more of this voice-recognition and voice-control software out there, and they’re going to think “Siri? Who needs Siri? This is just as good as Siri!” Only it won’t be, and they’ll realize that after a few weeks of using it, they paid almost as much as their Apple-toting friends for something that’s not even close to what Siri can provide. Add to that the ability for Apple to continue to improve their software and Siri backend. Do you think Samsung is going to continue to improve their software for free? No, they’re going to include their speech recognition technology as a bullet point on a slideshow, to pay lip service to the consumer, to sucker them in. Then, when it’s time to sell more phones or tablets, include a new version of the speech recognition engine, weather the storm of insults and complaints, and collect money.

“Good enough” isn’t. Remember that.

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Fun With Numbers

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Apple announced the iPhone 5 4S yesterday, much to the chagrin of the internet. Well…perhaps not to the chagrin of the internet, but everyone was expecting something called the “iPhone 5”, and Apple announced an absolutely amazing piece of kit they’re calling the “iPhone 4S”.

There was a lot of backlash, from what I understand, which seems…silly? I think that’s probably the best word to use right now. Silly.

See, the iPhone 5 was supposed to have all these amazing features, like a dual-core A5 processor, a higher-resolution camera, and image stabilization when shooting video. It was supposed to do all these amazing things with even better battery life, too. What a product! Yet, what we got was…the…wait let me check on this…we got the iPhone 4S…thing…with a dual-core A5 processor, higher-resolution camera, image stabilization, and something called “Siri”. Ok? But this silly piece of hardware is…well just look at it! It looks the same as the iPhone 4! And it’s called the iPhone “4S”. PEOPLE can you hear what I’m saying? It has a four in the name. Four is not five, my dearies. This is clearly a disappointment.

Let’s talk about what’s NOT in the iPhone 4S:

  • Angels
  • Puppies
  • Teleportation
  • Mind reading (OK it sorta has that)
  • The number five!!!!!!1!11!!!!!one! Helloooo!!!!!11!!!!!
  • A kidney dialysis machine
  • I think that about covers it.

    Seriously, though, the next iPhone is revolutionary. Not because it looks like an iPod touch, but because it’s basically an iPad 2 in the palm of your hand.

    I don’t think it’s time for a chassis redesign, and I’m glad they stuck with the iPhone 4’s slick glass and steel thing. There’s so much more in there, and all it will take for people to understand the beauty of the iPhone’s new guts is moseying down to their local crystal palace (aka Apple Store) and fiddling with the thing for five minutes, in which time they’ll realize that they can be twice as productive with this new pocket computer than they are with their current one. Game, set, and match.


    The Reason for the Season

    Feel the love.

    I’ve been trying to digest the Apple news over the past few days in a way that would be meaningful, and it’s been difficult. Amidst all of the noise regarding unrevealed iOS 5 features, unrevealed Lion features, unicorns flying and granting wishes, and the future of all three, I was able to come up with a coherent thought that I think captures what I actually think about the future of mobile.

    When Apple started getting serious about iOS, Google also started getting really serious about Android, and the divide that grew between the two has been significant. A lot of people get Android phones now because they’re “just like iPhones”, until they realize that their Android-powered device can’t do X (very rarely do I ever run into a situation that’s the other way around), or needs 20 steps to do Y. A few people get Android-powered phones because they want to do things that they “can’t” do with an iPhone. There will always be things that Android devices will be able to that iOS devices won’t be able to do and vice versa, but that’s not the key metric here. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not those things actually make sense and are “doable” by the majority of users. In my opinion, they’re not. Most people don’t have the ability to or desire to root their phones, don’t want to dig into firmware files, don’t want to jailbreak their devices, don’t want to do all the stuff that the advanced users (who tend to be the most vocal) use as ammunition against the competing platform. In the end, most users want to pick up the phone, send a few texts, make a few calls, hop on Facebook, and have fun doing that. Oh and play games. That tends to be about it. Does this make me upset? Yes, sure. I tend to use my stuff a little more, but hey, not my phone.

    As mentioned in the past, Apple is doing some neat stuff with their product reveals as of late. Apple is telling people how they work. This is important because yeah, it’s about the user experience (UX), but the reason you’ve got such a killer experience is because of all this hardware underneath, because of this glass, because of this epic battery. Apple is communicating that there’s a lot that goes into the design and production of each device, and that should make you feel good. You should look at all this stuff and feel like they made it for you, to fit your lifestyle, your aesthetics, your pocketbook.

    So, that brings us to now. Apple unveils all these new things that are a part of its new iOS, and some people1 looked at all that and had a very meh response, saying that this release was more of a parity release, that it wasn’t really breaking any new ground. I continued to look at this iOS release, however, and I think I figured out why I feel so excited about it. Whenever Apple has released a new product or new version of their OS, Android users have always held it over Apple users’ heads that they’ve been able to do this for months or years or millennia or whatever. Now, they can’t do that. Now, a person deciding between iOS and Android is going to have to choose between The Real Thing and a knockoff. This is where we’re at, folks.

    People used to walk into a store and have the sales associate give them a weighted assessment of iOS vs. Android which probably included that ridiculous “open” buzzword in there somewhere. What does “open” mean for the end user?2 I’ll let that one percolate for a bit.

    Ultimately, “open” is just a word, a marketing tactic that has no meaning for the customer, for the actual user of the product. “Open” is only meaningful to the developer (and marginally, at that). For the customer, it’s meaningless, but it sounds good, like you’re sticking it to the man or something. For the baby boomer generation, this is great because they used to stick it to the man, and maybe it makes them feel good. But let’s extrapolate that out a little bit. Let’s say a person hears “open” and buys the Android phone because they think it farts rainbows or something. Now they think that everything they do is better, the perceived benefits of using an “open” phone start to shine through. Until they see something running iOS. All of the things they thought were so great are also clearly on iOS, but look better, respond better, feel better. Where’s “open” now? Where’s Android now? It’s just another cheap imitator.

    A new iPad owner will be able to pop the top on their new iPad and start using it right away as his or her primary computer. There will be little to no configuration, and all iOS devices will be kept in sync. Apps will use iCloud, people will love the experience, and the whole thing will grow its own. The Apple club is getting bigger, and the cost of entry is dropping like a rock. As highlighted by other writers, Apple is re-stating its devotion to being a hardware company, a mobile devices company, not a software company. Sure, Apple writes software, but only because its software sings on its devices.

    For any other company, a software release that brings in features that others have had as “standard” for a little while would be “just” playing catch-up; for Apple, which designs software that is already powerful to the nth degree, “catching up” means creating almost unstoppable inertia.

    ___

    1 I’m counting myself among those people.

    2 I’ve been in carrier stores before, and listening to these floor guys try to explain it to the customer is hilarious. Listen in sometime and you’ll see what I mean.


    Grandma’s Secret Recipe

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    Sometime back around 2005, Apple released this operating system called Tiger. It represented a huge leap over the previous operating system under the hood, but also represented a palpable shift in Apple’s software development that looked like it took cues from other places. At the time, I was using an app called Konfabulator to view “widgets” that existed on an invisible layer that I could invoke with a keystroke. It was really cool at the time, and I used it to store things like an iTunes player, weather, movie showtimes, and directories for local restaurants (even though I probably shouldn’t have been going out to eat as much). I loved it, and I thought, “Man, this is a really cool piece of software, but it doesn’t feel ‘at home’ on my Mac.” These thoughts would crop up periodically, but not often, and they didn’t get in the way of using the software. This software would eventually be acquired by Yahoo, and, like most things that Yahoo acquires, there isn’t much more to say about it now.

    I also used a couple other pieces of software interchangeably called “LaunchBar” and “Quicksilver“, both of which were system-wide apps that were invoked by a simultaneous press of the Command and Spacebar keys. With Quicksilver, a customizable window would pop up in the center of the screen and, as the user started typing, would drill down through an indexed list of results to what the user wanted. Quicksilver was really powerful, though, and could be customized to run Google searches, play songs (by album, artist, playlist, etc.), locate images or albums, mail messages, etc. Launchbar was similar, and it lived in the top-right corner of the screen, a tiny bar that would drop down when invoked (using the same keystroke). Over time, I came to like Quicksilver more, and really used that almost exclusively.

    Why am I writing about this obsolete software? Because of the manner in which it was cast into oblivion.

    All of these pieces of software somehow found their features absorbed into and assimilated by MacOS. When one looks at MacOS now, the presence of “Dashboard“, “Spaces”, “Spotlight”, “Exposé”, and so many other features are built right into the OS. There are even dedicated keys for these features on current Apple keyboards. Spotlight was also more than just an app launcher or search tool, it was a powerful, system-wide indexing engine that took everything in your computer and made it easy to find. That’s a huge win for people looking to ditch Byzantine and overly-complicated file systems. When delivering the keynote for Tiger, Steve Jobs said that these features were “Built-in, not bolted-on.” And, while I agreed with him that this was a better way for most people to experience this software, I couldn’t help but feel awful for the developers who poured a lot of time and effort into making this software, only to have it basically ganked by Apple. I was doing just fine with the software as-is, but there were lots of other folks out there who didn’t have that software, people for whom Spotlight and Dashboard were going to be revolutionary. I knew that, too.

    Now, we’re seeing this again, and I’m not sure how to feel. The first time I saw this happen, I had tuned my machine to my tastes with software that modified the way the system worked so that it suit me perfectly, there was almost nothing stock about it. This time, however, I’m not one of the pioneering souls on the bleeding edge of the jailbreak world. Rather, I’m in that big group of people who is waiting for Apple to release new stuff so they can get at what some of the daring few have had for a while. I’ll discuss a few of them here.

    Notifications

    Apple’s new Notification system is ripped directly from the Jailbreak community’s developers. This concept was illustrated in a video not long ago by Andreas Hellqvist. Then we got wind that this guy got snapped up by Apple to develop their notifications. I’m not saying this is bad. In fact, good for Peter! He was hired by Apple because he had done some really great work. Good job, sir. I’m saying that this is interesting because of the way Apple took cues from the non-Apple-sanctioned developer community, who always push hardware and software to its limits in order to make something unique and fun.

    Safari

    Safari now has tabs (yay!) and an integrated “Read Later” list. If this sounds familiar to you, you might already be a user of Marco Arment‘s “Instapaper” service and/or app. It’s really fantastic, and has been a staple of my iOS experience for a while…but only because there were very few better solutions. Apple’s own MobileMe service was less than stellar in syncing information between my iOS devices and my home computer (admittedly, it wasn’t awful), but it was cumbersome and not Apple-like in its fluidity and simplicity. It needed to be just…better. Instapaper on iOS filled that void, and lots of apps started including hooks for Instapaper in their apps to allow the user to quickly send stuff over without too much fuss, and made everything feel more connected, like there was a synergy there. Now, I really don’t think I’m going to be doing much with Instapaper any more, and that makes me feel a little sad.

    In an interview with Marco, he talked about Instapaper’s functionality extending beyond the whole “read it later” thing, and how Apple building that functionality into its iOS devices isn’t really a threat, since there’s so much more there. After seeing what iOS 5 will have built-in, I’m not sure that many people will want to spring for extra services that aren’t tightly integrated or explicitly woven into the iOS experience. Actually, I don’t even think it’s a question of ponying up a few extra bucks for an app that’s really effective, I think that most people just won’t care.

    Wi-Fi Syncing

    This cropped up about a year ago, and made its rounds through various news sites. I’m not sure how many people still actively use this through the various iOS updates, but I know that the idea of wireless syncing appeals to a lot of people.

    Walk through the door, take off your shoes and grab an apple to nosh on, and by the time you’re ready to settle down, just about anything that has needed to get to your device is there, synced and good to go. This sounds so great, but it reminds me of the early days of Bluetooth, using Jonas Salling’s “Salling Clicker” to control my old PowerBook G4’s music playback and volume. I also used to sync my Nokia 6600 using iSync over Bluetooth as well, and it all happened automatically. I’d walk through the door, head toward the fridge, and my Mac would pick up the Bluetooth signal and start playing music exactly where it had left off when I walked out the door.

    What I’m saying is that these “new” technologies and features aren’t new at all, they’re updated versions of old ideas that used to be cobbled together from various bits of software that were made by all sorts of developers. The “newness” comes from being baked into the device on an OS level. Again, not bolted-on anymore.

    There’s more, too. “Reminders”? Please, it’s a to-do list with geofencing. Hardly groundbreaking. Other apps (TextFree, Google Voice, WhatsApp) do what iMessages already does, so that’s not new, either.

    So where’s the innovation? If you look at everything Apple’s done over the past few years, all the “progress” they’ve made and “innovation” they’ve done, you’ll come up with a long list of stuff that they didn’t really think of. So why does this company consistently do well if all they do is essentially take other people’s ideas?

    I think the answer to that is this: they put all those little things together in a way that no one else can in a package that is an absolute joy to use. It doesn’t matter that I was able to control my Mac with my Nokia 6600 five years ago. What matters is that the same action feels a thousand times better now and is easier to the nth degree. Add to that the fact that there are hundreds of millions of these devices out there, and you can see that these small “pseudo-innovations” gain a whole lot of inertia.

    There’s still more that I’d like to see from Apple, but I think they’ve done a stellar job with this one so far. Can’t wait to see where they go next.


    The Times, They Are A-Changin

    WallThe news that the New York Times is finally enforcing their paywall was anticipated, but is being met with frowns and “thumbs down” reactions from folks all around. The whole thing seems really ridiculous, and far too complicated, as Gruber points out. NYT really botched this whole thing, and it just shows how far away their head is from reality.

    This reminds me of an interesting article I saw the other day on electronista. As discussed ad nauseum all over the web, the publishing industry is staring a radical paradigm shift in the face in much the same way the software industry did when iOS rolled around and shook things up. The old paradigm of high-dollar subscriptions and stacks of paper is out the door. People can find all they want with just a few searches on the internet, and they can get most, if not all, of this information for free. Why would someone want to fork over just a tad under the cost of a new iPad in order to read a feature-poor version of their print edition?

    We see Apple, once again, looking a ways out and realizing that the New Publishers are going to start jumping all over this in the same way the new developers jumped all over developing for iOS. Their new subscriptions are a gift to New Publishing, telling all those folks out there with good ideas to get crackin,’ and then there’s this, which is basically a gift to every indie developer and writer out there:

    The template is also expected to simplify in-app issue and subscription purchases, and, theoretically, foster magazine development. ” Imagine a guy drawing and writing a comic book,” a source says. “He can’t sell it to Marvel or DC so he hooks up with a programmer and within days, he’s getting his comic book published and sold on iTunes.”

    This is New Publishing, folks. How much will this guy charge for his work? Twenty dollars? Too much. Ten Dollars? Maybe. Five dollars? Probably. A fiver and you’re reading some fun stuff. When he decides to serialize it, he’s putting subscriptions out there for $10/year, maybe even less depending on how he feels. Maybe it’s only eight for the year, and for an extra two bucks as an in-app purchase you get a special background delivered to your app every week. This guy doesn’t have to break his back to deliver a stellar background to you every week, in fact he loves to do it.

    Same goes for the writer who’s got the good ideas and is pushing the boundaries of where industries might be headed, or the gal who can shot photos like it’s nobody’s business. All these people want to put their good stuff out there, they know how they want it to look, and they’re going to do it.

    The first lap is just a warm up; it’s the second lap that counts. We were all there when New Publishing came through the gates, and we joined that parade.

    Sadly, it looks like NYT is pricing themselves right back into 2001. It was a good run, guys, but I’m looking to go the distance.


    Close Encounters of the HiFi Kind

    Bust out your b-boy skillzOne of the most exciting things about being a technophile is the reactions I get to experience from friends and family members regarding new technology and its place in their lives. For some members of my immediate family, technology is something to be shunned or, at best, regarded cautiously. The intersection between life and technology seldom occurs and, when it does, the intersection is typically relegated to the living room TV or family computer for just a few moments.

    The general distrust of technology is not unique to my family, however. As phones have increasingly taken on more characteristics of computers, many of my friends have opted for lower-tech, less-capable devices that offer the illusion of simplicity and security1. There seems to be a general trend, however, towards devices that are intentionally simpler or less advanced than the iPhones and Androids of today. This seems to go hand-in-hand with a trend that was very prevalent in the early 90s in consumer electronics: blinky things.

    This isn’t a joke or intended to poke fun at things that blink and glow, it’s an observation about the level of interaction that most people have with their technology, and the way that technology is designed today vs. twenty years ago. Currently, almost everything we see in the mainstream consumer electronics space is being geared towards user-friendliness and maximum functionality. We see device after device being introduced into the marketplace with the same glass face, the same general form factors, the same trend away from confusing buttons and towards devices that shift and morph as the user invokes different commands and demands different functionality from the device.

    A close friend of mine was discussing his experiences in Japan in the early 1990s when Japan was leading the world in technological advancements in the consumer electronics space. His defining memory of the era was of blinking lights. He told me about his friends who would go shopping for electronics, looking expressly for the devices and gadgets that had the most blinky lights on them. Contrast to the devices of today, which have few, if any, lights at all (save for the screen).

    I believe that this shift in the visual appearance of devices also has a great deal to do with the intended usage of devices and the sea change we see occurring in mainstream media in general. In a recent discussion I had (referenced here as well), I argued that media consumption is moving away from the all-you-can-eat huge cable bills and more towards selective, pay-for-what-you-watch models. This means that people have to go out and find what they want to watch in order to actually watch anything, which means that the consumption of media must be intentional. This is incredibly important when we look at how these new fit into our lives.

    My father picked up an iPad recently (it was off, but plugged in and charging) and said something interesting. “How do you know it’s charging?” he asked. “There’s nothing blinking on here.” He’s right, of course, but that simple statement illustrates the difference between current-gen devices and last-gen technology. In previous generations of electronics, devices were ambient, non-interactive, and representative. The stereo represented music, the typewriter represented writing. These gadgets were single-function, specialized devices. They were large and expensive, and sometimes required some sort of technical training in order to learn how to operate them. The trend in recent years, however, has been away from single-function devices like stereos, typewriters, and cassette players. The shift has been decidedly towards convergence devices whose role in day-to-day activities is not clearly defined because it is so amorphous.

    In the early 90s, a person could glance over at his or her stereo and be greeted by an array of lights and digits that portrayed all sorts of information which varied by model and type of stereo. This information, however, was specific to the gadget and usage case thereof. In that scenario, a person would have any number of different devices to display very specific pieces of information. Thermometers, clocks, typewriters, stereos, and more have all been replaced by multi-function devices that are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and some people feel threatened by that. Gone are the blinkenlights, gone is the specialized knowledge required to operate the machinery, gone is the sense of self that is then inevitably tied to the gadget. Instead, we see inherently mutable devices with no single purpose taking center stage. Suddenly all the gadgets that people have been hoarding over the years are rendered useless or unnecessary, and the owner of said devices suffers a bit of an identity crisis. Should we decide to keep the devices, we clutter our lives with junk. Should we decide to pitch them, we admit defeat to the tides of change.

    This, however is not as bad as it may sound. A shift away from clearly defined objects means that our sense of self becomes tied to ideas instead, tied to our interactions with technology, not the technology itself. We come to think more critically, more abstractly. What are we looking for? How do we find the information we seek? Is this information important? How should we process and/or internalize this information?

    Ultimately, a shift in the type of technologies that our lives revolve around signals a shift in our self-awareness. When you think about it, another analogy comes to mind, one that I discussed recently vis à vis the transition Apple is making with their new data center.

    Let’s get existential, shall we? Let’s get right into it. Here it is: our sense of self, our identity, by being disassociated from things, now lives…wait for it…”in the cloud.”

    Bet you thought you’d never see the day, huh?

    1 One of the most often-heard arguments I have heard from my paranoid friends/family members is “What if you lose your phone?” or “What if someone steals your phone?” I actually faced that exact scenario recently and discovered some very interesting things about security and vulnerability that will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows. I’ll describe that story in detail soon.


    Si tu n’étais pas là

    My friend’s mom passed away recently. She was a beautiful lady, a ray of sunshine for all who knew her. I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with this, for some reason, mostly because it seems like she was so young, had so much left to give. Instead of being sad, though, I wanted to do something different. I want to share who she was to me, how she touched my life. Some people ask me sometimes how I am who I am, and part of it is because of what she taught me when I was younger.

    Dear Mom,

    It’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I can still remember your laugh, your smile, and so many of the things you’ve taught me. I remember being scared to come to your house at first, because I didn’t know if you’d like me. I remember the dogs, the laughing as they barked at me, jumped on me, their paws frantically scratching on the wood and tile. There were hugs, smiles; never was there judgement. I remember countless nights spent on your couch, watching movies. Sometimes you’d wash the dishes or you’d be on the computer, but you’d always be close by. Laundry was a given. I remember trying to cook on your stove. Sancocho, boiled chicken, ginger tea when we were sick. You always hugged me, brought me into your heart. Christmas in Grayslake with your crazy presents, laughing until my sides hurt and I needed an inhaler to keep my lungs open but never wanted one because who cares when it feels so good? The memories are too many, it seems like I can never remember anything until it hurts…but again…who cares when it feels this good? Graham died, and Rachel cried so much, but you were gentle, I know. You loved him. You loved all your kids, those with two legs and with four. You loved your Rupi-bon, your Buddy, your little girls; I feel so lucky to have been your Paulywog. Years passed, mom, and you never stopped caring, never stopped smiling, never stopped trying to calm the dogs down when I walked through the door, still nervous because everyone there meant so much to me. You taught me how to peel an orange (to which you could only remark, incredulously, “You suck” in that way that only you could say it that made me feel so warm), how to make dulce de leche, to care about the simple things. High school dances, pictures in front of the fireplace. You cared for me so much, and I don’t even know why. You were excited when I came, excited for me to be there. Why? I never understood it, but it didn’t matter. You were always there. I passed by your house a million times, back and forth from school, from martial arts, from becoming a better me. The stable. Oh man, the stable. You put me on a horse there, laughed at me as I rode because I was so awkward. Just once, but that was all I needed. Maybe riding wasn’t my thing, but you loved me just the same. Years, mom, years. So long. And I miss you now. I hadn’t seen you in a while, and now I won’t, but I can still hear your voice, the squeals and laughter, I can hear it all so clearly. I can remember your tiny office where you did your work. God when will the memories stop? I hope never. Even if it hurts just a little bit for the rest of my life, I’ll love it, because who cares when it feels this good? You daughter, a beautiful, radiant soul. What can I say about her? She lives with your love, your beauty. I hope you know that when I see her, I see you too. I see all the things you wanted for me, all the things you want for the the world. She tries so hard and yet lives with your grace effortlessly. You did good, mom. You created something beautiful and gave the world a gift. I can’t hold you anymore, so I hope that when I hold her, you feel it too. I hope you feel the love you gave me. I hope that when you look out from the eyes of the horses and dogs and people you’ve loved, you see a world made more beautiful, more peaceful, more whole because they’re paying it forward. I’ll never stop missing you, but I’ll always hear your voice and remember that I’m your Paulywog, and I’ll take another step forward. Thank you, mom. I love you.