Player Problem Resolved (For Now)

Following my rant two days ago, I marched down to Future Shop yesterday and got myself a new player, after waiting about 15 minutes in line, of course.

I almost didn’t think I was going to get one. When one of the salespeople said there were none left on the shelves, I was like, “Either I’m going to get a new one, or I’m getting one in the same price range, because that cost $240.”

So customer service made the guy go to the basement and fish out the one of four players they had in stock.

I am also the reluctant new owner of a two-year service plan, which I vowed not to get, even after seeing all those consumer news reports on how it’s a rip-off. Oh well. At least I know if this joystick breaks off, I have a service warranty receipt to wave around in their faces.

Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Or this.

Loquacious D and the Player (MP3, that is)

For well over a year, I’d been enamoured with the idea of joining the cool kids and getting myself an MP3 player.

My commutes were long and lame. And workouts in the cardio room at my gym were almost unbearable. Try huffing and puffing on a treadmill that’s on an incline while trying to watch either MuchMusic, whatever how-to show on TLC or Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room on CNN. Hard.

This time last year, I decided I was getting me an MP3 player. But then I procrastinated for months. But which one should I get? I mean, I saw all those flashy TV ads for the iPod, and while I admittedly was taken, something inside told me not to fall for the flashy hype.

Enter into my world Creative Labs, which apparently had a line of players which was said by tech reviewers to rival Apple’s. For months it was: Creative Zen or Apple iPod? iPod or Zen?

I finally ended my internal struggle last Friday when I marched into the Future Shop downtown after much deliberation and went straight for Creative’s newest product, the Zen V Plus. It had everything I was looking for: 4 GB worth of space for any song I always wanted to have but didn’t have in my music library. An FM tuner to listen to the radio in the morning. And the most crucial thing: it was SO cute!

It’s too bad the honeymoon only lasted until Wednesday night.

One thing I remember reading – which was a bone of contention for anyone reviewing the Zen V Plus – was the five-way directional joystick located just under the screen. On more than one occasion, the reviews stated this device was not the friendliest to wannabe users with fat fingers.
This is a picture of the hand I use to operate my Zen V Plus. No fatty tissue here. Only long, spindly fingers.

So you’d figure chopsticks like those would be ample enough to manouvre a simple device with an eeny-weeny joystick, right?

Well, here’s my case for trial separation from my Zen V Plus. Here’s a picture of what the Zen V Plus looks like, in all its flashy, cute glory:

See? THAT is the model I fell in love with in all those print ads. Now, here’s a picture of MY Zen:

It may be hard to see from the picture, but just compare for a sec. Notice anything different? Let me help you out: the promotion picture farther up has something my Zen is now missing: a JOYSTICK.

That’s right. Sometime on Wednesday night, my joystick disintegrated and is somewhere in the recesses of my player, rattling around whenever I pick it up.

Sure, the sound quality is great, and it still downloads like a dream. It’s just that now if I want to navigate through all the directories, I need a FINGERNAIL to do it. And I’ve been running out of those this week.

I think it took me three or four tries – and about 40 minutes – to just find an e-mail for Creative’s customer support in the U.S. And now I have to trudge back down to Future Shop in hopes they see my plight and help rectfy this.

‘Cause Lord knows, after putting up with Best Buy during my camera ordeal, I do NOT want to have to go through this with their sister company, which I hope is 100 per cent LESS idiotic.

A President, An Entertainer and A Dictator

This has been a bit of a crazy week for check-outs in the world of the well-known.

First, James Brown – the Hardest Working Man in America – decided to stop working and on Monday, he and his dancing shoes took their rest in Atlanta.

(Leave it to the Godfather of Soul to try and upstage Jesus. *Shrug*)

But you had to hand it to the man – he certainly had an arrival and “lying in state” at the Apollo yesterday that could rival any member of any royal family, anywhere. And now word is circulating that cocky R & B entertainer Usher – who considered Brown his mentor, and probably considers himself heir apparent to the Hardest Working Throne – is interested in playing his idol in a biopic, should one ever come to pass.

Then former U.S. President Gerald Ford took his leave on Tuesday. His funeral was today, the beginning of six days of mourning, with all the trappings a former head of state is no doubt entitled to.

And just over an hour and 20 minutes ago, Saddam Hussein got his membership card with the Human Race revoked via a nice, thick piece of rope.

I’m still trying to (a) process the words “Saddam” and “executed” and (b) consider, given the man had another trial that was running concurrently when he got his sentence last month, if that was really the right thing for the authorities to do.

Ah, well – doesn’t matter now, does it? That videotape will probably hit YouTube faster than you can say “Suleymaniyah”, anyway.

The Colour of Christmas in Toronto …

… appears to be green this year.

Not like it’s the first time we’ve ever had a snow-less Christmas or anything, but with a few days to go and the worst thing we’ve had lately being a thin layer of frost in the morning, it’s kind of … well … odd.

I mean, Ottawa’s got snow. There’s snow to the west of Ontario. Heck, I’m sure there’s even been snow in northern Ontario (you can prove me wrong if you want. I probably am).

But all this rain – which I guess, had it been cold enough, would have been snow – is a bit much to take, even if I still think anything’s better than snow.

I guess this is typically what winter in Vancouver is like? Although even their weather has been a bit extreme.

Either way, it’s weird to be hearing songs about dreaming of a white Christmas or sleigh bells in the snow when there’s no white snow to speak of.

The Nutcracker … Finally.

So yesterday, my mom and I partook in a tradition many cultural arts lovers and their kids carry out annually around Christmas.

We went to see The Nutcracker.

So what, big deal, right? Well, there’s a personal story behind the trip.

According to my mom, when I was about five years old, she promised to take me to see the Nutcracker at Christmastime.

Christmases would come and go, and occasionally while seeing a version of the ballet production while in front of the TV channel-surfing, I’d make a comment and she would say, “Next year, we’ll try and go.” So the promise continued, and came and went unfulfilled.

Before long, I was in my mid-twenties and would occasionally ask with a wry smile, “So when are we going to see the Nutcracker?”

So THIS year, after about 24 years of promises and guilt on my mom’s part (so she says), I decided to nip this in the bud once and for all. Two weeks ago, I trudged down to the Four Seasons Centre, grabbed the last two seats together for the December 16 matinee show, and off we went yesterday.

For someone who’s never ever seen a live ballet production, I must say I liked it … although I did feel a little dazed and sleepy towards the end. Maybe it was lack of sleep. Maybe it was the novelty finally wearing off.

Returning home on the subway, I asked my mom what she thought.

“Well,” she said, “if I took you when you were five years old, after a long week of work, I’d probably have fallen asleep.”

O, Workplace Gifts

Ah, December. How I love thee.

The tryptophan- and diabetes-inducing food. The fun-but-sometimes-messy-and-rumour-mill-generating corporate party drink-fest extravaganzas.

The workplace gift exchanges.

This year, I decided to go for the gusto and take part in not one, but two Secret Santa gift exchanges.

If you’ve got the type of workplace I do, you know the drill. Find something, $10 or under and preferably unisex, to give to someone else, and hope when they rip off the pretty wrapping you’ve covered it in that they like it.

Some people get the zany, off-beat gifts. Others are the lazy, last-minute contributors, who may just settle for getting you merchandise from your institution of work (I’ve luckily not encountered anyone like this so far.)

Me, I’m kinda the practical-gift-type. Because I don’t know about all of you, but it’s nice when someone gets you something you can use, that you know won’t end up all by its forlorn lonesome in the darkest back corner of a desk drawer or in a box at your house.

And it’s always cool when you get something in the allotted monetary range, and you see that person get your gift, and when they’re checking out their loot they think, “This can’t be the limit! But this is such a nice gift!”

I think everyone deserves nice gifts, even if the price tag’s in single digits. I don’t know if anyone I’ve given gifts to at work actually uses what I give them. Who knows, they might re-gift them, for all I know.

But I just get a kick out of seeing the look on the face of the person who gets my gift. Even if it’s fake, it’s just the act of putting thought into a present and giving it that matters to me.

P.S.: I have noticed one thing, though – I’ve now had the uncanny distinction of having the same person receive my gift two years running now. And it’s not as if the gift pool is small, either. I’m hoping it’s some sort of coincidence, but I find it weird.

Is that some sort of omen in Secret Santa tradition? Just wonderin’.

Just Call Me an Old Friendster

Last week, while out at Sunday lunch with friends, we got to talking about social networking sites and whether we’d used them.

My friend’s boyfriend said he really didn’t see a use for them – the only time he interacted with other people was for gaming purposes. My friend doesn’t really have time – she’s so busy – and so understandably, she said she just wasn’t really into it. A third friend shook her head – she really wasn’t into it that much. But my other friend mentioned that she’s on Friendster. She asked me if I had a Friendster account.

I said no. I also explained that I had been on a networking site before – invited by another friend of mine long ago – but she was never on. In fact, whenever I did log on, NONE of my friends that had accounts used them. So I eventually got bored. And the last time I logged on, I was getting unwanted e-mails from some 25-year-old who had pictures of girls in all sorts of sexy, come-hither poses on his network list. In fact, pretty much everyone listed on his network list were girls in all sorts of sexy, come-hither poses. So I hit the delete button.

A couple months ago, a friend I met through work sent out a, “Hey, I got a MySpace account! Come sign up and visit me!” only to – after I’d created an account, even though I’d never had the urge to have one – find out she’d deleted hers about a week later because she’d been getting unwanted e-mail from someone. (Actually, in between writing this post, I finally got around to deleting my account … like, literally, eight or nine minutes ago.)

So, then my friend said, “You should join.” And as of about four days ago, I’m the brand-new owner of a Friendster profile page. So a logical question might be, why on earth – given my past experiences with social networking sites – would I sign up for yet another one?

And I say, why not? Yeah, consider me a REALLY late-latecomer to Friendster, the original network that’s been out for years, but it’s all fun. Can’t hurt, right?

And if any of you that I’m friends with happens to be on Friendster, look me up. I’m looking to expand my network.

Zanta Sighting # 2

So my friend and I returned back to the building in which we work, to meet up with a couple of her friends before they all went to a party on the east side of town.

We passed by the atrium, which was cordoned off and draped in sheer fabric. Beyond it inside, we could see people milling about and hear someone singing on stage. No doubt the space had been rented out for a Christmas party for some company or the other.

As we headed towards the exit, we passed this elevator, and suddenly my friend said, “Oh my God – that’s Zanta!”

I – still in a tryptophan-induced haze from all the turkey and other foods I’d gorged into my body about several hours before – whipped my head around … and there he was, in all his Santa-hat-jacket-and-shorts-wearing, pectoral glory.

Zanta. In the building of my place of work. Again, being semi-normal. Wow.

That better not be a trend.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes … sorta.

Pardon the appearance of the blog.

I’ve just switched over to Beta, and it’s kinda warped the look of this thing.

Once I hang of this, hopefully it won’t look as bad.

Speaking of which: does ANYONE know how to change the banner of the top of this thing under the new Beta system? I’ve hated it for months and have been dying to give this site a makeover.

Suggestions are appreciated.

Not Too Shabby, Mr. Bond

So last weekend, a friend and I decided to go see the newly-released latest installment of the James Bond series, Casino Royale.

From the moment he was picked, we’d all been hearing about whether Daniel Craig would be up to snuff, having to fill the shoes of previous Bonds such as Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton and his predecessor, Pierce Brosnan. I actually didn’t really care all that much, having never really seen an entire Bond movie from beginning to end.

Until now.

Before going to see the film, I hadn’t heard a single bad thing about this movie, considering how cheesy the franchise can be. But now I see why.

I actually really enjoyed it, for what it was. I thought it was pretty sleek, and the stunts impressed me quite a bit.

Daniel Craig did a really good job in this, considering he’s a bit of a thug for most of the movie. But it was nice seeing a flick like this with no crazy gadgets, and a bit of character development. I know a number of women were going to see this movie because they thought he was hot.

Personally, I wasn’t as drawn to his looks so much as I was to his athleticism. Dang! It’s tiring just to see this guy run! Makes me want to go to the gym to work on my fitness.

Here’s what interests me about this whole Bond thing now. So Casino Royale was a re-make … and from what I hear, every single movie in the Ian Fleming series has now been captured on film. So what happens now? If it’s decided that Mr. Craig has done good and should make another Bond film, do they write a movie script from scratch? I would think that the allure of the films would be that they were based on books. How would an independent script sell?

In any case, I’ve gotta say it was four hi-fives out of five for this one. If someone like me likes this movie, then it’s got something for everyone who likes a good action flick.