Thursday, March 20, 2008


I've never been one to jump on a bandwagon. I find that in going along with the crowd a lot of good things get passed over unnoticed.

Take the iPOD bandwagon. Apple makes a great product here, to be sure, and they revolutionized portable music with an easy interface and attractive device.

However, while Apple's products are very good, if I was a grade school teacher I would put this note on Apple's report card: Does not play well with others.

If you're content to limit yourself
to Apple products, you'll be fine with an iPOD. But if you are like me, and don't want to become dependent on one company, there are many alternatives.

Recently, I thought it would be fun to get a portable music player. I'd been working hard and wanted a new toy. Doing chores to music makes the task much more enjoyable, like a spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. I've played with other people's iPODs, and found them interesting, but they have shortcomings.

One of my complaints was the device's reliance on iTUNES, which constantly wants you to download upgrades.

My other problem was with Apple's white trademark touch-sensitive dial which has an extremely high "cool factor" but is too sensitive at times to use accurately. Furthermore, the dial has different functions depending on where you are in the menu systems. One of these functions is volume, so you can't adjust the volume if you are scrolling through the menus. You can only adjust volume if you are on the now playing screen.

iPODs account for 75% of the portable music devices sold these days. But there are many other manufacturers out there and they do as much or more than an iPOD at a lower price.

Case in point: I bought a 4GB Sony NWZ-S616F from Target the other day. I settled on the Sony based on user reviews at Amazon and Circuit City websites which indicate that Sony's MP3 players are very reliable. Sony's controls are all buttons, which have a solid "click" and the volume control is completely separate from the menu controls, so you can adjust it any time. The interface is clean, colorful and intuitive. Sound quality is adjustable through various preset EQ (what they used to call tone controls) settings, plus two customizable settings. The device also shows video, pictures (it makes a great replacement for wallet photos), and has an FM radio tuner which works at least as well as our tabletop stereo receivers. iPODs don't do radio, and an otherwise comparable iPOD Nano costs a good $40 more.

If that's not enough, the Sony's run time on a full charge is 33 hours vs 24 hours for an iPOD!

Sony's MP3 player can be fed with tunes, pictures and videos by doing nothing more than dragging and dropping files in Windows Explorer. If you want cover art and to make playlists, it works with Windows Media Player as well as Sony's own software which you can download or not at your discretion.

So by not jumping on the iPOD bandwagon, I got more, spent less, and am not dependent on the manufacturer for anything further. That's why I'm calling my new Sony Walkman my antiPOD.

Friday, March 7, 2008

California vs the EPA

Sing to the tune of Super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious:

Cuz the EPA won't let us regulate themostest,
Arnold Schwarzenegger's gonna sue theman who hosed us,

Dumb is the little minded Johnson guy,
Dumb is the little minded Johnson guy.

The EPA administrator says that we're apest,
For doing something that we're sure isreally for the best,
But Stephen Johnson's own employeesseem to side with us,
To try explaining his behavior they areat a loss.


Cuz the EPA won't let us regulate themostest,
Arnold Schwarzenegger's gonna sue theman who hosed us,

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Farr Follies

I sent a letter to the president of Amtrak a few weeks ago. I was concerned with the way Amtrak was handling the Coast Starlight service disruption after a mudslide closed the tracks in Oregon. A couple of weeks later I received a nice, if somewhat vague reply signed by Alexander Kummant himself.

Since Amtrak is a federally funded transportation system, I also sent copies of my letter to our two lady senators and to our Congressman Sam Farr.

Sam Farr's staff sprang into action. They sent a copy of my letter to Amtrak's president seeking an explanation of Amtrak's actions on my behalf. Amtrak in turn sent Sam Farr a copy of Kummant's reply to me.

Sam Farr's eager staff sent me a letter proudly
informing me that they had investigated my complaint. They concluded that Amtrak had already replied to me and they sent me a copy of Mr. Kummant's letter which I had already received from Amtrak directly. No further action was taken by Sam Farr's office, as far as I could tell.

For this we need a Congressman?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another illiterate homonym

In my February 14th entry
I noted some homonyms posted by illiterate AOL users. One used "BAND" when he meant "banned" and another used "bread" when he meant "bred."

If that wasn't bad enough, I've begun to notice the misuse of homonyms in news stories, written by people who would have had to take an English class or two to qualify for their jobs.

Today this headline showed up on the KSBW website:
"New State Plan To Council Ailing Homeowners."


Council: a group of people elected to govern a local district; an appointed or elected body of people with an administrative, advisory, or representative function.

Counsel: advice sought from or given by somebody, especially somebody who is wise or knowledgeable