Castle eBusiness

This page written circa 19 October, 1999.

I reflected recently on why people live in the location - city and country - that they do. I ponder now on why people live in the house that they do. Is your house your home, or a place to store your possessions and your self?

Scratching about in old diaries recently, I was amazed to read how much running about I did in 1977. I must have consumed petrol like there was no tomorrow, and did I cover ground or what! More recently my catch-phrase might be: "If I have to leave the house, it means that either home isn't as appealing as it could be, or I have no choice because I need to go to work or to buy something." I simply do not like the hassle of going anywhere when there is so much to enjoy hereabouts. (Kay on the other hand, likes to get out, even grocery shopping. Also, being a generalisation, I make exception for the occasional thing.)

My attitude did not start here or as a result of meeting Kay or having Meri; a major appeal of Newtown was that I could get most everywhere I might want with only a very pleasant journey on foot. Of course, when living alone I ventured out a lot, especially to nearby friends.

Each morning, the alarm clock radio affords me about 30 minutes of contemporary cultural exposure, as such. Fully half of the advertisements on KLLC (admittedly the yuppie station of the Bay area) advertise something available via the web. The company is typically only identified as something.com, and there is zero expectation of you going there physically. All this advertising makes sense when you learn that shopping "portals" are seeing a fall in traffic... it is independent businesses with their acts together that are getting all the net bucks, and there are a lot of them these days.

Buying a new car? No problem. Thousands of cars have been ordered over the web this year alone. Amongst the most unexpected is www.webvan.com, who deliver groceries in response to web-based orders. They claim to be cheaper than the stores, to have extensive stock, and to deliver with 15 minute precision at almost any hour of the day. Sadly they have not yet reached Vallejo Street with their coverage, but they will email me when thay have expanded this far.

I cannot resist adding here an almost-irrelevant paragraph comparing amazon.com with barnesandnoble.com, purportedly the two largest booksellers on the net. I recently had cause to purchase from each. Now amazon is one of the original retail EC companies... their stock is (proudly) virtual. Barnes And Noble is an America-wide chain of bookstores that has recently aggressively promoting their web presence. The two compete directly. In fact there should be no competition.
Amazon emailed me confirmation within seconds of my order being placed late on Friday night, confirming the item in stock. It was shipped Saturday, the next day's email confirmed, and I got it, by plain surface mail, by Monday night.
On the other hand, bn.com did not email even an acknowledgement of the order for over a week, and did so only on the day that the parcel arrived with half the order, in spite of my checking the box requesting that the stock item be held until the back-order arrived. My email pointing out the error received reply sans apology in merely a few days, but four weeks has not seen another packet from them, despite the two-week claimed delay. (The cancellation eventually came 17 Dec!) Amazon emails you if a delivery does not occur in the anticipated time frame, offers to cancel, and reassures you that you will be offered another chance to cancel when the item becomes available, but assures you also that they have not given up.
The message is that B&N is not a web company, merely a very large shop with a PC and a printer. They are vastly better at locating out-of-print books, a minor consolation.

But I digress. This vision of obtaining all that you want with no need to leave your house has resided in the mind of Jeff Bezos, head honcho de Amazon, for some time. However, it is now happening, big time: If you don't believe it, Frigidaire/Electrolux have announced the development of the e-fridge/freezer. This wonder will have a touch screen, camera and barcode scanner built into its door. With the aid of these it will be able to keep track of your food stocks, and ensure that the order it places with the grocery web site covers all you needs.

I'm hoping I work out this desire to stay at home, but then I've been hoping I'd get sick of dacquiris too. One visualisation of my retirement involves sitting in cafes with the likes of Andrew, reading the newspaper, watching the natives go about their activities, not unlike the old Greek or Lebonese gentlemen I used to see in ethnic cafes, or playing a game in the park. Hard to imagine me in any sedentary mode, in reality. Perhaps I will regain the urge to flit about before I am unable to do it... but in the mean time, roll on webvan, I am going downstairs to play trains or just watch the grass grow.

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