Thursday, December 23, 2004

Is That Serial or Cereal?

Last night, Dawn and I got into a discussion about mumbling. She does it a lot and it can be frustrating for me. Once upon a time, Dawn would get mad at me for constantly asking her to repeat things, but it really wasn't that I wasn't paying attention or didn't care. If I didn't care what she was saying, I wouldn't ask her to repeat herself, for instance. Anyway, the problem was that she mumbles a lot. Then last night after she mumbled something at me I started trying to recap some of why it's frustrating for me and I said something along the lines of "you do it a lot. there's mumbling, there's drive by mumbling, and there's serial mumbling." This lead to quite a bit of laughing, the kind of easy, happy laughter we haven't had near as much of as we might like or as we often used to. Dawn said she got the drive by mumbling (mumbling something at me as she walks by and out of earshot) but wanted to know whether it was serial like cereal and I said, no, like a serial killer - mumbling something and then mumbling again and again when asked to repeat.

Friday, December 17, 2004

How 'Bout That iPod?

I've had my iPod for almost a week now. I've used it every day and I love it. I love having all of our music on a device I can take to work or use with any of our stereos. On the stereos in the bedroom and living room, we connect it with Y-audio cables (1/8" stereo on one end and an RCA audio pair on the other). For the little boom box in the breakfast nook, I've actually used the cassette adapter - as my friend Duane says, they can't really make a CD adapter because the cord will tend to get wound up. Hah. In the car, we can use the FM transmitter. It's not all that great when there's any kind of interference, so I don't tend to use it much, or haven't yet. I figure on our trip to LA for Christmas we'll use it. I love that I can not only look, when I go to the CD store, at the list of stuff we have, to make sure I don't buy something we already own, but that I can have a text file list of artists or albums I'd like to pick up.

And I can use it for carrying other files around, such as the hysterical fake MasterCard ad where MasterCard collects all the things RedSox fans said they'd pay to have the Sox win the Series... $5000. Motorcycle. Car. House. First-born child (go Sox). And Denis Leary's left nut. Not to mention the Fenway Flasher video, of a woman in the stands right behind the plate talking on a cell phone who flashes her breast a little and then completely while the pitcher pitches. Several friends I've shown it to have been watching the play, strangely enough, and not seen it without it being pointed out to them.

Naturally, being an erstwhile (read "limited budget at present") gadget-head, I have certain ideas about how the iPod and iTunes could be better. Shocking, I know. So, let's see... In no particular order... and I've only been using iTunes with iPod for so long, so I'm sure there'll be more.
  1. It's my bloody music, I should be able to copy it off the iPod with iTunes. I know, I know. DRM. Fuck that. I don't have pirated music on my computer or my iPod. Period. If my home machine gets blitzed, I don't want to have to re-rip 250+ CDs or buy all the stuff I've already bought from iTunes. Now, yes, I can, in fact copy the data off the iPod using it as a hard drive, but it is poorly organized and it would be a major production to get it all sorted out again. Not to mention that wouldn't help me with the playlists, which are becoming more important to me because...
  2. It isn't really all that easy to find a point in a list that contains thousands of entries; I've been listening to all my music in alphabetical order by song (since 10/18 whenever I'm at work, pretty much, and now sometimes when I'm at home). If I want to go to that particular point in the iPod's master list, it will take several minutes to scroll through using the touch wheel. Not that I can think of anything to do about that off the top of my head. The iPod's interface is pretty simple and that means it's going to have some limitations.
  3. The iTunes interface is quite simple and generally very nice, but there are some things that are just really annoying about it's lack of compliance with Windows' keyboard behavior. For example, the context menu key works some times (while editing a field) and not others (with a single song highlighted). It would be nice if I could use that to get to the context menu so I can bring up Get Info for the song that's currently highlighted. Oh, and this one is classic - say you're going to highlight a bunch of songs using the keyboard. You find the first one, hold the shift key and use the down arrow to go down several songs. But wait, you went one further than you meant, so you hit the up arrow thinking it will un-select the one you picked by accident. Nope. Guess again. What it actually does is to leave all the songs selected, including the last one that you don't want, and then add in the one that sits before the one you started with! Huh?
  4. Oh, and going back to #1, the iPod should really synch both directions with iTunes. That is, I should be able to say the iPod is the master and my two computers are the slaves. If I am at work and buy a song and add it to the iPod, I want it copied automatically to my home computer the next time I hook up there. And if I change a playlist or the name or info for a song, I want the change to propagate among the three sources as necessary until they are all the same. I mean, even if I'm manually managing lists, if I grab the whole library and throw it on the iPod, it shouldn't duplicate anything that's already there!
  5. There was a #5 I was just thinking of, but it's late and I can't think of it now...
OK, I just noticed that you can hit ^I to get to the Get Info screen, but it would still be nice if the context menu worked the way it is supposed to. The home and end keys don't really work the way I would expect either with or with out control, shift, or control-shift. I don't feel like figuring out what they do or which do nothing right now. The just oughta do something sensible like jump to the top or bottom of the list the way other Windows applications do.

As for the problem of trying to get songs out of the iPod onto a computer, there are various packages available, such as iPodRip. iPodRip isn't all that great, but it's working at the moment. I'm going to have to look around some more and see what's out there... and if I don't find what I want, then I'm going to write one myself.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

These Boots Are Made for Walking

My co-worker Michelle comes by a little while ago and asks if I want to go for a walk. No, I've got work to do, I say. Just 15 minutes, she says. So, I say, no, 30. Wait... didn't I say I couldn't go?

It felt good to walk, although my headache is bugging me a bit. I haven't had any exercise in a month, since I tried to go for a bike ride and wasn't sure whether I was going to die first from my heart jumping out of my chest or from choking on all the residual mucous from the cold I evidently wasn't as far over as I thought. Ick. Now I just need to start get back into a better habit again...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Enough Already!

Hallelujah! Dawn had finally had enough of torturing me that she gave me the rest of my gadgets tonight! I'm very happy. Basically, she got me an iPod and a Belkin kit. She says she was planning to give me the iPod the first night of Hanukkah, but then Elisabeth put her up to giving me pieces from the Belkin set one at a time.

This actually could have resulted in 8 gifts without ever getting to the iPod, which would really have been mean, but she relented after giving me the batteries (for the FM transmitter, it turns out), the headphone splitter, the cassette adapter, the FM transmitter, and the car charger. That gets us through Saturday night. Sunday night, first she gave me the belt clip carrying case. It's more or less been a foregone conclusion what is ultimately coming, but the carrying case really confirmed it. Then she had me close my eyes and had Rachel give me a wrapped cube. Hmm. I wonder what this could be?! She even had me open it with my eyes closed.

Needless to say, I was very excited and had it hooked up and synching within minutes. In fact, I think it was fully loaded with nearly 20G of music before an hour was up. Then she let me have the rest of the pieces from the Belkin kit (the Y audio cable and the car charger cable to connect to the FM transmitter). And I told her about some of the things I'd been thinking about. See, Elisabeth called me the week before Hanukkah started, asking me about iPods, supposedly for herself. Now, I did know that she was considering getting herself one, but I am much too suspicious to leave it at that and wondered if she was calling on Dawn's behalf. I also considered the possibility that Dawn might have called my friend (& co-worker) Duane, whom she knows is a serious tech-head and would be perfect to give her advice about what to get.

Turns out Elisabeth was really calling for herself, but gave Dawn the information too, and that Dawn had been trying to call Duane but our office's phone system doesn't actually ring through to a person unless you know a name or extension. Anyway, Dawn gave me an iPod & I'm very happy about it. I've got all our music loaded on it and we're going to fall asleep to some of it playing from the iPod through our little bedroom stereo tonight.

The Nutcracker Suite

Tonight, we and my parents took Rachel to her first Nutcracker ballet. We've been looking forward to it, especially Dawn and my mother, for a while, and talking it up a lot, playing the music every couple of days, and so on. Dawn even goes and gets a nice new dress and dressy shoes for Rachel (which are ultra cute, by the way).

While Dawn's doing that, Rachel's playing more or less by herself, so I start on a project, a gift for Dawn. Can't say more about it right now, since Dawn might read this, but suffice to say suddenly it's 4:15 and I've got to get dressed, make a snack for Rachel, and get us all out the door - Dawn's been home for a little while and she and Rachel are almost dressed. I do all this and we are actually in the car by about 4:40, which isn't bad because we don't have far to go - we're actually only taking the truck to get it closer to where we'll be having dinner after the show so that we won't have to walk all the way home with Rachel right about her bedtime.

Problem is, I don't really think we should park right by the restaurant because it's metered and probably already busy, so I try to get somewhat close to the mid-point between the restaurant and the theatre, not really paying attention to the fact that there are a bajillion blocked streets in that area. Very quickly, now, Dawn and I are bickering over where to park and how to get there. Ugh. Finally, I just take a space. It is a lot closer to the theater and restaurant than our house is. This means that even if it didn't turn out near as well as planned, it isn't actually an unmitigated disaster. Dawn and I, however, are both annoyed and touchy.

Now we have to walk a few blocks. It's cold. Rachel doesn't want to walk. Dawn and I are irritated. Oh, what a delight. The ballet was actually great. Rachel did really well and sat through almost the entire thing without bothering other people. She wanted to leave just before the end, so I took her out to the lobby and we kinda tooled around looking at stuff until it was over.

Then we went to dinner. Dinner was so-so, at best, but the service was lousy and, of course, it's late and Rachel is tired and hungry, so the last thing we wanted was to have to wait a long time for food. Of course, the server clearly doesn't have children and didn't get our little hints. Things like "could we have a bit of tangerine for her to eat while we wait" that say to me "go get it quickly".

The walk home went a little better, except that we couldn't find Rachel's jacket. Hmm. Did we leave it at the theater? I wasn't in the seats when we actually left, and I hadn't taken it when I took Rachel out, but I couldn't remember for sure if I'd seen Dawn or my parents carrying it when they left. Instead of walking directly to the car, we walked a block or so out of the way to go back in the direction of the theater. Dawn is very upset at this point, because it's Rachel's only heavy jacket and if we don't find it or get it back from the theater fast we're going to have to replace it, which won't necessarily be easy (or fun, since Rachel's not big on jackets). We don't really have a lot of hope of finding it, since Dawn was walking in front of Rachel and me most of the way, and we'd have seen if she dropped it. Luckily, about 40 feet before Dawn went ahead of us (when we stopped so Rachel could jump off a little wall), there was the jacket. Some one had picked it up and put it on top of a hedge. Whew.

By this time, Dawn and I are starting to be a little more conciliatory about our... adventures on the way to the theater. My friend Chris one mentioned a book called The Tipping Point to me; I want to read this book - it apparently talks about how people behave when they are, or think they are, under stress. Like getting freaked out about whether we're parking as close to the theater as we thought. Or that we're not precisely on the same page about the plan.

All in all, it turned out well. Rachel was ultra-cute in her new dress and enjoyed the ballet. We had a good time and Dawn got to take Rachel to her first ballet.

Friday, December 10, 2004

My Wife is Being Mean to Me

Dawn is being mean to me. That's the only way to describe it. And she says it is my cousin Elisabeth's idea. Here's the deal. It's the third day of Hanukkah. We are celebrating it and that includes, although it is not really part of the tradition, gifts each night. I suppose Rachel's really young enough that she wouldn't have noticed if we didn't do gifts, but we feel like it, so we are.

The first night, Dawn gave me a very nice card. And no, that's not when she started being mean, clearly.

The second night, she gave me a very small package. It contained a pair of AAA batteries. Not just ANY batteries, these are clearly from A DEVICE. You know the type. They're not from a name brand. They're not in a package batteries would come in if you bought them from a store. They're not loose, either, though. No, they're wrapped tightly in semi-rigid plastic with a hole down either side. This pair of batteries obviously came directly out of a larger package with other items in it. When we got our Tivo, it had a pair of no-name AA batteries for the remote control wrapped in this same fashon. So, am I getting a small remote? Duane suggested that it might be a small vibrator.

So, then I'm reading the batteries. Dawn wants to know what I'm doing. Well, you gave me batteries. I'm all for giving someone everything they need to make a gift work, but... breaking it up into multiple gifts is... something. It's not as if you gave me a CD and I can read the liner notes, so I'm stuck reading the side of the battery.

Last night (third), I get another very small gift. This one, I can actually identify without opening almost immediately. It's a short 1/8" stereo headphone splitter cable by Belkin. I look at Dawn. "People say you need this," she says.

This is when I become convinced that Dawn is being mean. And she says it's Elisabeth's idea.

But, yes, Dawn... I am enjoying it.

Define Normal

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless for the time being, is living a bit of a normal life and some other friends are alternately amused, impressed, or aghast. Regardless, we want to hear more, especially the single ones for whom there have been jokes about his creating some sort of lesson plan based on his... exploits.

Here's one of the updates he gave us the other day. The background is that he was going to dinner with a recently divorced co-worker who is stacked, and whose sister he has apparently dated in the past. And, yes, he acknowledges that he's breaking at least 5 rules and is being bad. We (principally I) are trying to get him to start a blog...

You mean you guys CARE about the 22 year old I ran into at the restaurant? The one I went to Burning Man with and who makes a beeline to my table from the bar with a screech and a hug? So I introduce her to my date, but I introduce my date using her sister's name instead of hers? Whoops. So then when my date asks "So how do you know eachother, from school?" The girl answers, "No, we got to know each other taking showers together at Burning Man. Can't wait until next year. Have you been? It's a lotta fun..." Smile. Hug. Exit 22 year old nanny. Can you imagine the next question I got? "So are you thinking of my sister that you mix our names up?"

Now see, at this point, things could go either way. Smooth recoveries are essential. "Actually, I was thinking about your sister. I was going to ask you how she was doing right before Jordan walked up. By the way, did you notice Jordan had forgotten my name?" Take notes. Lines like this are key. It's like a sub commander ordering "Launch countermeasures!"

"What makes you think she forgot your name?" my date asks. I pointed out small signs that gave me a 70% feeling of accuracy that Jordan had spaced it. She's a spacey blond. My date continues with her train of thought. Notice, ... no name switch in topic right now. "But she remembered the showers," my date points out. Big grin on my part. "They always remember the showers. I'm good with a wash cloth." Smile. Silence. "So," I continue. "How is your sister? Does she ask about me?"

A fun night. Of course, when I got home I got an email. Another co-worker. She sent me a .jpg of herself, ... full frontal nude shot. To both home and work email. Jinkies. So it was a dash back to work, delete, delete, delete, toss out a bunch of other stuff to hope the network guys are asleep at the wheel and not checking Zip files, ... you know, toss out a bunch of stuff and cross fingers. And then phone call with a gentle reprimand that "reply all" is dangerous. And yes, thanks, I did think the picture was nice. (This is another secret test to see if they are paying attention. Prudence demands switching to the private email account...)

See what I mean? Even if it's all bull, he tells a great story. Having finished this one, he then claims that since he can scarcely believe it & he's living it none of us, nor anyone else, would believe it or want to read it on a regular basis. AND, he wants to hear our stories of the normal. Of the group of us, 2 or 3 are married or coupled and the others are single. According to him, 'normal' includes things like the following:

Fighting with the wife or girlfriend over what color the new towels in the guest bathroom need to be. Saving time two weeks out to actually schedule sex. Being woken up at 4am on a Sunday by a pair of brightly alert pair of child eyes that are staring at you so hard that the auto defense systems in your medulla oblongata alert you to being potential prey, followed swiftly by the question "Are you awake, daddy?"

Well, OK, if you say so. I'm happy to oblige, since I can, starting in a few minutes...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A 3-Year Old's Logic

We were lighting our Hanukkah candles last night.

Rachel: "We have candles at my school too!"
Daddy: "Oh really? Where are they?"
Rachel: "In the boy room"
Daddy: (thinking "the boy room??") "Where's the boy room?"
Rachel: "Next to the girl room"
Daddy: (uh-huh) "Where's the girl room?"
Rachel: "Next to the BOY room!"