Thursday, October 29, 2009

99 Problems

Lately I've been using the iPhone instead of the old iPod to play music. It has a playlist that comes with iTunes that's called "Recently Added". It automatically includes whatever new music you've recently added (duh) to your music library.

And I have some new music that I want to listen to. So I go to that playlist on my phone and try to find the new music I want to listen to, and it's all jumbled! Not jumbled like gibberish that you can't read, but jumbled like the artists and songs appear to be in no discernable order. Not alphabetical by artist or song, not by date added, nuthin. Just a track here or there that has no rhyme or reason for being there, and no way to find the desired track other than scrolling through the entire list until that one comes up. It's annoying, but a minor annoyance at best.

My workaround had been to just go back and find the artist and the song I want and play it that way. That worked just fine. But being the dork that I am, I needed to find the answer to make the playlist sort correctly. And I found that answer on some random online forum. I also found that we iPhone/iPod users need a reality check for what's minor and what's devastating. The playlist thing? Probably wouldn't ever qualify as devastating. But reading some of these posts, you'd think the world was coming to an end, solely based on an incorrectly sorted song playlist. What the hell will happen to them if their hair got messed up by these gusty winds? Or god forbid a piece of debris flies into their eye. OMFG.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Moving Pictures

As reported previously in this space, on our drive to preschool every morning I try to play new music for Judah. I believe I've uncovered the prog rocker in him, because from the moment I first played "Tom Sawyer" by Rush, that's all he wants to listen to. Like for weeks now, that's all he wants to listen to. I get in the car and pull out the iPod and say "What do you want to hear today?" and the answer from the back is "Rush". And by saying "Rush" he means "Tom Sawyer".

At the end of the song, I usually try to let it carry over into Red Barchetta. But we've never made it very far into the song before he tells me he wants to hear that last song again. I love hearing that very first sound in Tom Sawyer, but after a while of repeated listens it begins to lose its luster. So one day I decided to skip over Red Barchetta into YYZ. Now the boy rocks out in the back, literally rocking back and forth, fists pumping, copying his dad trying to air drum copy Neil Peart playing YYZ. Believe me, the translation ain't pretty, but it's cute to see the kid go off like that.

And because the repeated plays of Tom Sawyer followed by YYZ never ends in a way that coincides with our arrival at preschool, there's bound to be problems. The boy wants to hear Rush and he wants to hear an entire song. Stopping in the middle of YYZ would never do. It must resolve completely. But I've been fortunate enough to be able to reason with Judah and tell him that we'll pick it up where we left off. And he says it back to me in a very serious manner, telling me that tomorrow morning after brushing teeth and putting on sunscreen and putting on shoes and getting in the car, we'll listen to the rest of it.

So he trusts that I'll stand by my word. That is, trusted until yesterday when I got into the car and the iPod was out of juice. Lucky for me, Lily bought me one of those dock extra battery thingies where you plug it into the bottom of the iPod and it gives it new life. I plugged it into the iPod and a few seconds later the screen reappeared. I navigated to YYZ and pressed play. Judah immediately objected and stammered that it wasn't where we were supposed to be in the song. When the iPod runs out of juice, it also loses its bookmark, losing our place in the Rush tune. Judah let out a full on "noooooooooooooooooo" and started crying. That's the power of Rush.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tight N' Shiny

I let the dirt pile up on our cars for about a month. It was time for their bath. The last few trips to the local hand wash places weren't really doing the trick, so I took matters into my own hands. Problem was that Lee's car wash was always external only. So the insides of the cars were in serious need of a vacuum and a decent wipedown. In other words, time to get down to business.

The last few times I washed the cars, I let Judah in on the fun. He loved spraying the cars with the hose. But the last time he used more water spraying the driveway than the cars. So this time I waited until his nap to get started. I pulled both cars into the driveway and started spraying and sudsing up the vehicles. About mid-way through, I thought "I wonder if I'm gonna hear the obligatory crack where somebody asks if they should pull their car up next in line." And bingo, about 2 minutes later some passerby says "Should I pull my car up behind these? Heh heh!" I put on my best fake smile so's not to seem like a grump.

I brought out the dustbuster for some sand removal in the Passat. Judah likes to take his shoes off in the back seat every day after school, and the sand from the swing area gets deposited in the carpet. I have no idea how that swing area can have any sand left after every kid probably deposits the same amount of sand in the back seat of their car at the end of the day. There was so much sand cemented into the carpet that the dustbuster wasn't cuttin it, and I had to bring out the vacuum cleaner. I even Windexed the windows. I got so medieval on the cleaning detail that I used leather cleaner to try to remove some of the food smudges in the back seat.

At the end of it all, the clock showed four hours later. And Judah was up from his nap watching "The Tale of Despereaux". I did the math in my head of how much time the car wash took times the rate I normally get paid for work. Multiplied by the precious weekend time lost with my family, and it was definitely a losing venture for me to wash the cars. Three days later it rained for the first time in eight months. Point well taken.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Get Off My Cloud

We've all heard the stereotype about LA people and their cars: They get in their cars just to drive to the house next door. I always thought that was bullshit, but I've discovered that it's true.

The street parking area directly in front of my house is somehow the most popular parking space on an otherwise vacant block. For instance, my old next-door-neighbor's daughter would always park in front of my house to go to their house. Which made no sense to me, until I noticed that her path was a tiny bit easier because she could make a beeline to their door instead of having to walk through grass and around a tree. One time Lily told me she overheard this neighbor loudly complain "Dammit! Somebody parked in my spot" when there was a car parked in front of his house. Funny, it seemed like his spot was actually the area in front of my house.

And when one of the guys directly across the street got a new girlfriend, her favorite parking spot was in front of my house too. The space in front of their house was always open. But it was probably easier to walk directly from the car door than to walk around the front or the back of the car.

She'd often spend the night at his house, because her car was in the spot on my side of the street at all times. One time she must have gone on vacation with the dude, because her car was parked in the same place for about a week. One more day would make a full week and I was about to call the city to have it towed, but that day the car disappeared. Soon thereafter the guy moved out, I assume to move in with her. At least the spot in front of my house was open again.

And then recently the remaining guy across the street decided that it was too much trouble to park in his driveway, or park in front of his house, or even bother to park in a way that doesn't block my driveway, and he did this with his SUV:

Makes perfect sense. No having to pull into his driveway, it's a direct route to his front door, and no having to walk around the tree. I sent him a little friendly e-mail with this photo attached and the subject line "What's wrong with this picture?" It also asked him to be thoughtful and mindful of the fact that Lily needs to use the driveway to unload the kids, groceries, etc. He replied and apologized and said it wouldn't happen again. Now his new roommate has discovered the convenience of parking in the spot in front of my house. I think I'm just gonna start setting out orange cones in the spot when I leave for work. Or maybe just park on my lawn.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rotten Apple

I've logged plenty of time waiting at the Genius Bar in The Apple Store. If you're a regular reader of this column, you already know about the hours logged. I wonder if, through osmosis, I've attained Genius level status myself. Well this trip to the Genius Bar (abbreviated as "GB" from here forward) is directly related to a trip I made a few months ago to the GB. That initial trip was made because our "Early 2005" model Power Mac G5 - you know, the temperature-flawed model with more fans than anything else - leaked its coolant and caused the fans to blare even louder than usual.

After doing a little online research, I found that this G5 coolant leak was more than just an isolated occurrence. It was widespread enough among G5 owners to warrant some peeved Apple devotees to start posting threats for a class action lawsuit. Needless to say, someone at Apple must have read the grumblings, because when the Genius at the GB first popped open the hood on the G5, they said they'd replace the innards at no charge to me. Even after being out of warranty. 2005 is a long time ago in computer years. My G5 was back and good as new in a few days. Or so I thought.

Lily informed me that last week the computer was starting to crash regularly and the fans on the G5 were on full blast before it would crash. It sounded strangely like the problem that was fixed months ago. And upon further review, fixed just out of the 90-day guarantee on those repairs. Blast. The thing I dreaded the most was lugging around the heavy and rather unwieldy CPU to the GB.

The only appointment I could get for the next day was at The Apple Store in Manhattan Beach (instead of my usual closest Santa Monica location), but I like Manhattan Beach so I clicked "Yes I'd like to wait around in the Apple Store for an hour at least so I can get some service on my broken Apple computer". To make things more convenient, the only time available was 10:30 am. That gave me just enough time to go in to work for about 45 minutes before I'd have to leave again to get on the 405.

The next morning I unplugged all the wires from the G5, hoisted it out of its resting spot and into my much more reliable car. On the drive to school, Judah ceaselessly asked questions about why the computer was in the car. Google Maps told me it would take around 20 minutes to get to Manhattan Beach. Figure in the suggested arrival time (10 minutes early for the appointment), and I was out the door of the edit suite at 10 am sharp. Because I'd had several cups of coffee, like I always do, I thought it would probably be a good idea to take a leak before heading out on my journey. But the bathroom at work was occupied, and I wasn't about to mess with the schedule-making gods at The Apple Store.

I arrived at the Manhattan Beach Village/Mall thing with a couple minutes to spare. As I lugged the CPU out of the car, I spotted three mentally-challenged men moseying toward the same mall door as I was. I turned on the jets as best I could to pass them, and I reached the door just ahead of them in time to press the wheelchair door button with my foot. One of them appeared to be amazed with my superpowers, and he smiled and elbowed one of his cohorts.

Some sort of field trip at The Apple Store was going on. One where the teenage students all had to wear yellow t-shirts while they watched somebody in a bright orange t-shirt setting type in iWeb. I was wearing a bright orange t-shirt that day. I hadn't been briefed on the color-coordination scheme, and I just hoped nobody in a yellow t-shirt would start asking me questions. Maybe the scowl on my face would do the trick. Another person in an orange t-shirt welcomed me to the GB waiting line and asked my name, if I had an appointment, my most hated thing about PCs and people who buy them, and multiple choice questions on why I thought Bill Gates is the antichrist.

As I waited in line, I looked up on the screens above the GB for my place in the queue. My name appeared second. Oh goodie. I wouldn't be waiting long this time. 20 minutes later I found myself on the verge of joining in on the rant of a guy whose iPhone wasn't turning on, and who didn't want to wait in line four hours for non-appointment customers. I briefly considered bolting to the nearest restroom. Finally Michael called my name.

I told him this has happened before, blah blah blah, and he did the required turning on of the computer, checking the crash report, and checking the repair history. Apparently he'd heard the online grumblings about the G5 coolant thingy too, because he was very apologetic and not all high-and-mighty as some Geniuses can be. He told me straight out that there'd be no charge for the repair, and he started filling out paperwork. Nature was calling rather loudly by this point. I asked Michael where the nearest bathroom was. He told me it was between Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, wherever that was. I told him I'd be right back, but he said he was finished with the paperwork.

He handed me a sheet of paper to sign. I did the "gotta pee now" dance while he explained the terms of the agreement, like how my computer could be erased, I shoulda backed up, yada yada gotta go pee now dude SHUT THE HELL UP! I said thanks for the help and I practically sprinted out the door with my head on a swivel looking for Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel and the space between them that held the key to an empty bladder. It was on my right, just past the group of women and their toddler kids who were about to be run over by a man ready to use the temporary insanity plea. I wove my way past them, hating all people who were stupid enough to have kids. The hallway did that Vertigo effect thing, but the men's restroom was in sight. I speed walked down to the end, briefly detoured by the hugest security guard I've ever seen. He took up at least 85% of the hallway.

I busted open the restroom door, greeted by a small room with four stalls: One was out of order with plastic draped over the urinal, the other three were in use by the three mentally-challenged men I went past on my way into the mall. Another man was already waiting, obviously in about the same pee-state I was, because he hopped around for a moment muttering something incoherent before bolting out the door. Not a good sign.

At least that meant my turn was next. And that turn was not coming quickly enough. One of the stalls kept flushing, and the sound of rushing water only made it that much worse. I tapdanced around and seriously considered using the sink as a urinal. Finally one of the guys started backing away from the urinal, and I was in there faster than he was probably comfortable with. I didn't care. I didn't have a care in the world.