The Best Christmas Present


[UPDATE: Best presents for Christmas 2007]

No joke — A Christmas present that actually works. I visited my sister’s house recently noticed that they are still regularly using the gift that I gave to them last Christmas!  It is a simple device that receives a radio-signal from ACCUWeather and provides a 5–day forecast. A partner at MBHB initially recommended it to me.

InnocentManThose who know me will realize that I purchased the RadioShack version.

What to get for me? How about the newest Grisham? The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

4 thoughts on “The Best Christmas Present

  1. 3

    This (the wireless weather forecaster) is actually a fascinating illustration of how tiny tweaks in a product can dramatically change things. The unit you got your sister, and the new one at Brookstone, are essentially the same technology and content, both designed by the MIT Media Lab-bred wizards at Ambient Devices (the folks who invented The Orb that was the cool ‘in crowd’ product several years ago.)

    The Radio Shack one was the first of the home weather displays (which turns out, to my surprise, to be an ENORMOUS business) which used a wireless receiver to get a “real” five day forecast, rather than just estimating temperature changes based on barometric readings. It sold OK, and helped to raise the bar in the market for these things.

    The following year, with the Brookstone version, Ambient tweaked the product design to make it simpler, easier to read, more user-friendly…and made a key change: the new one is battery-operated, and can be stuck to your refrigerator with its built-in magnet (as compared to the older one, which plugged into the wall.) The result? An absolutely blow-out product, which became Brookstone’s top seller, the cover of its holiday catalog, and one of the hottest gifts of the season…even at Brookstone’s $85 compared to Radio Shack’s remaindered inventory at $12.95.

    Now that they have some of the key factors figured out, look forward to seeing a bunch of other cool ‘ambient’ displays arriving this coming year, with other content (aside from the weather) that is personal, relevant, from brand-name sources, and delivered wirelessly. I find this a fascinating story, and hope someone writes it up as a case study. Happy Holidays!

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    I would like to share my very favorite legal book of all time, which is “Forensic Fables by ‘O'”. The author Theobald Matthew was a barrister practising in England in the 1920’s and simultaneously publishing short articles in the humorous magazine Punch. Each article featured a short anecdote, rarely more than about 500 words, coupled with a sketch by the author of the people in question. I am not sure if the book is still in print, but it can be purchased through Amazon and deserves to be better known amiongst US readers.

    To give you a flavour, there is the story of The Kindly Judge and Little Effie. The girl in question as a ward of court and the subject of a dispute between her grandmother and her maiden aunt as to whether she should go to school or be tutored at home by a governess. The judge interviewed the girl, who had close-cropped hair and let her try on his wig and robes to put her at her ease. When he resumed sitting in court, he picked up the grandmother’s affidavit (if my memory is right) which explained that Effie was in good health apart from a recent attack of ringworm of the scalp which explained her unusually short hair. The judge abandoned his sitting and sent out his clerk for a jar of anti-ringworm fluid. MORAL: Read the affidavits.

    This is only one of a large number of anecdotes which not only reflect charmingly on times gone by but also contain some useful lessons for us today.

  3. 1

    This present represents a severe health risk to those who live in northerly climates and whole natural gloom can only be increased by the contemplation of what the weather is really likely to do to them in the middle of winter.

    A very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to the author of this blog and to all his readers.

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