Perspective

I’ve only worked two days at my new job and I can honestly say that it beats anything I’ve done in recent years (mainly proofreading and writing).

The major difference is that I am now dealing with the public, something I haven’t done since the last time I worked retail way back in…I can’t even remember. Oh wait, I think it was 2010. Anyway, dealing with people is a nice change after suffering under a fluorescent tube at a desk, proofreading piles and piles of paperwork that after a while made you wonder if any languages, including English, made any sense.

Some customers love to talk, some don’t. Some don’t care if you “stuff all the shit in the same bag*” while others are extremely particular about item placement. You can make connections with people you would have never otherwise thought, and it’s a beautiful thing.

For all intents and purposes I am a Courtesy Clerk (aka boxboy) at a local grocery store. It’s not a glamorous position nor is it a full-time gig but I am finding so many positive things in my being there.

The perks are many. This store in particular uses Rewards cards and one of our perks is that we are issued an upgraded card that gives us points (cash back) on purchases, and 10 times the points on private-label brands. The amount is distributed four times a year and can really add up. There’s also discounts on cell phones, auto purchases, etc.

I’m also working with a fun bunch of people, most of whom I already know after shopping at this store for nearly 10 years. A lot of people we knew, however, have moved on to other stores or left the company but the current staff is about as happy as I am to be there and is comprised mostly of younger people. I’ve already told them that I can keep up with them so don’t worry about it.

Then there’s my commute. It takes me literally 10 minutes to walk to the place, or 5 minutes on a bike or 2 minutes by car. I haven’t had such an easy time getting to a job since…ever.

There’s more good than bad at this point and I’m happy to be a part of it. The pay is minimal but the perks, environment, people, and commute definitely make up for everything else.

Some may see this as a step down when compared to what I used to do or what I could be doing.

In my case, it’s exactly what I needed in order to break the rut I had been swirling in since 2003. It’s all a matter of perspective.

*My city has recently banned plastic bags, so a lot of customers are not prepared for their haul if they find more than their bags can hold – if they remembered to bring their bags in the first place.

Dead., Part Deux

(Note: I started this post last night, February 25, 2014. You will see references to “today” throughout the post and at a certain point, I will explain why. Trust me, you will enjoy it.)

In a post on February 3, I mentioned that my iPod touch had suddenly and unexpectedly died and there was nothing I could do to revive it outside of visiting an Apple Store and speaking to a…Genius.

Fortunately for me, that won’t be happening. I have something to show you.

Photo Feb 25, 10 05 18 PM

See the date? That’s today. Okay, maybe that’s not enough proof. Here’s a shot with the year.

Photo Feb 25, 10 14 31 PM

As you can see, it does indeed show February 25, 2014 or today’s date.

Ladies and gentlemen, my iPod has risen from the dead like a messiah. It’s back to 100% functionality and I’ve been slowly filling it up with the music it once held, a task I really, really despise since I have so many songs in my library.

So what did I do to get this thing working again?

Dunno. I suppose if I knew exactly what I did, I would gladly tell you so that you could perform this same operation on your iPod/iPhone should it ever be terminally stuck on the “Connect to iTunes” screen no matter what you do to it:

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I tried so many different ways of resetting it that I ran out of ideas. I mean , honestly, how many can you think of with only a volume rocker, power button, and Home button? Which ones do you hold down and for how long? It’s things like this that drive me nuts about Apple and their not-so-forthcoming instructions on resetting your iPod. Makes me mad.

At any rate, I’m not entirely sure of which buttons I pressed in order to get it working but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the Power button and the Volume Down bottom.

I had read somewhere that doing so and holding them down simultaneously for around 40 second, gdio


(Flash-forward to February 26, 2014 – the REAL today)

Alright folks, here’s the story.

I worked my first eight-hour shift last night at my new job. It was from 12pm – 9pm. It was fun but tiring and the first time I worked such a shift, or eight hours in general, in a long time. I walked to and from work, a brisk 10-minutes from home, and being the job requires me to be on my feet all the time, I was pretty tired by the time I got home.

Then I thought it would be a good idea to try and write a blog post and you can see by the sentence that ends in “gdio” I didn’t quite finish. In fact, here’s a screencap of what happened while I was writing the draft:

Capture

I fell asleep a few times and managed to wake up in time to grab this, a screencap in which my hand apparently came to rest on the V key.

So there’s my explanation. Back to the post.


Anyway, yes. Holding down the Volume Down key and Power button apparently did the trick because after holding it down for so long then connecting it to the PC, iTunes happily told me that my iPod was now in Recovery Mode and had to be reset. Victory, finally! Being it was useless at this point I figured I might as well blast the drive clean and start over.

So it was done. The iPod was restored back to like-new condition (internally, at least) and complete with the “most advanced iOS ever,” aka iOS 5.1.1!

Photo Feb 23, 8 52 57 PM

Hey, it’s old. It can’t be upgraded past this version.

I’ve since started to slowly fill it back up with music which as I stated before, is a pain with my collection. Obviously, I also lost all of my apps and am slowly going through my account to see which ones I had on there when it decided to implode. I’m looking at it this way: if I can’t remember them then chances are I don’t need to download them. I’m using more apps on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and my phone anyhow so it looks like my newly revived iPod will now be dedicated 100% to music.

That’s fine with me, because looking at my downloaded app history, I have no idea why I had a Poo Tracker app on it anyhow.

Cutting the Cords

Cryptic__45First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you out there who care to celebrate it. We do and there was plenty of celebrating around these parts as it is also my birthday – 45th to be exact. I used the photo you see here as my Facebook profile picture today in order to cryptically acknowledge my date of birth.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the meaty center of this post.

As you know, things are starting to turn around for us. We’ve figured out how to pay for the car and I’m going to be trained for my new job tomorrow morning then start work the following week. Even so, money will still continue to be tight around here so we’ve decided to do what we could to cut back on some of our expenses.

One of the biggest and essential expenses we have is our bundled Verizon FiOS bill, which at present is just over $100/month for phone, Internet, and TV. Our contract is up next month which means that our 2-year honeymoon price will soon be out the window and it could then be upped to $150 or maybe $200. That’s way too much especially when this guy can’t tell you the last time he sat down and watched a network show. Remember, I don’t even own a DVR. That’s how important TV is to me.

rokuWe were looking into a variety of options including cheaper TV and Internet service. We don’t care about the landline because of our unlimited everything plans we have on our mobile phones. Even so, if we did get a new TV provider, we’d have yet another honeymoon period before our rates would jump to some crazy amount. Not what we want.

So after much deliberation, we decided to do the following once the contact is up.

  • Ditch the landline. We just don’t use or need it.
  • Keep FiOS Internet. It’s just the opposite of the landline.
  • Cancel FiOS TV service. It’s back to terrestrial TV for us.

So what will we do for TV? Roku, the tiny little box that streams content via WiFi directly to your TV, will be our TV provider.

Yes, we figured that this would be the best way to go once we get rid of our TV service and while it doesn’t have everything, it’s a means of entertainment. I bought a Roku 2 box the other day and here’s what I really like about it.

  • Almost free TV. Roku has a bunch of different channels that you can add to your account, the main one being Hulu Plus which runs $7.99/mo. (Hint: download the app then sign up for a Plus account through the app and get 3 MONTHS free vs. the standard 7 DAYS when you register via your computer!) And “almost free” means just that. While a lot of the content is free, movie channels require you to register with a credit card should you want to rent or purchase content. In fact, Roku also requires credit card info as some channels are not free.
  • Setup. Probably the longest part of setting it up was entering my ridiculously long WiFi password via the on-screen keyboard. The rest was a breeze.
  • Download the app. It makes using the device much simpler.
  • More than TV. Pandora and Slacker channels are also available so you can rock out to your favorite tunes and when you sign in to your account, your stations will be there and ready to stream. Handy when you have it connected to a surround sound system like I do.
  • Headphone jack in the remote (Roku 2 and 3). Talk about privacy! I watched a bunch of stuff last night and didn’t disturb a soul.
  • Watching streaming content from my La-Z-Boy. There are some shows like Leo Laporte’s The Tech Guy that I’d rather watch on my 42” TV and not on my small monitor. This solves that problem.

So what’s not to like about it?

  • Limited programming. You would think that with the plethora of channels you get that content would be endless. Well, it is. Some shows on Hulu Plus may only have one random season available and that could be the first or the ninth. It’s really hit-and-miss, and a lot of the movies are not the best. Popcornflix, for example, is just horrid although I did watch a documentary about the Dalai Lama last night which was interesting.
  • Not another account! Some channels require you to register in order to view content. This was fine and well until I realized that I needed a notebook to jot down all of my info for these accounts I just created.
  • Useless channels. In addition to creating new accounts, many channels cannot be viewed unless you have a qualifying cable TV account. This is pretty useless when your goal is to ditch your provider for the sake of something cheaper. Why do I want to watch such a channel on Roku if I already have it on FiOS? Duh.
  • Some channels listed but cannot be viewed. One such channel is Travel Channel which shows up on the Hulu guide but whose content can only be viewed online and not via Roku.
  • Limited content. Some programs may show up but you’d be disappointed to learn that only short clips can be viewed. It looks like a lot but in reality they are mostly just a few minutes in length.

One of the things I will miss about FiOS is watching my Dodgers play. While I can still get selected games via standard TV, a majority of the games are broadcast on cable so I’ll miss out. This is my sacrifice as is Ann’s abandoning of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters.

The thing is that if you sit yourself down and search long enough, you will find something to watch on Roku and as of now, I’ve got around seven movies in my Hulu queue just waiting for me. If you’re one of those who absolutely must watch the next episode of that Kardashian reality show then Roku is most likely not going to be for you.

But if you’re someone just looking for some kind of entertainment whether music, movies or TV, this gadget will probably be worth the money you’ll invest. As a matter of fact, I bought two of them this weekend to plan for the impending doom of FiOS TV.

By doing things this way, we may end up spending around $60 for our TV service ($50 for Internet and $8 for Hulu Plus) vs. the over $100 for our new bill.

The cord cutting has indeed begun and while not 100% satisfactory, I’ll gladly pay the lower price.

50 years ago: Ladies and gentlemen … the Beatles giveaway at Dodger Stadium

It was 50 years ago today…

Dodger Insider

beatles pixBy Mark Langill

The Beatles made their United States debut 50 years ago on this date in 1964 on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” By September, the Fab Four were appearing at Dodger Stadium in a promotion straight out of left field.

Stumbling in the 1964 standings and on their way to a sixth-place finish in the National League, the defending World Champions decided to jump on the Beatles bandwagon. To boost late-season box office interest, the team offered 12″ x 18″ portraits of the British singers by artist Nicholas Volpe, whose Union 76-sponsored illustrations of various Dodgers since 1959 had proved popular with Dodger fans and collectors.

The Beatles portraits were separated into four games – John Lennon (September 12), Paul McCartney (September 15), George Harrison (September 29) and Ringo Starr (October 3) – and distributed to “children through the ages of high school.” The Beatles would later perform their…

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Dead.

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Joe Mama and Motodork. Those are the respective names of the iPods you see here.

Joe Mama was purchased in 2006 after much debate over features and dimensions. My other choice was the Zen Vision: M, a player that like the iPod has seen various changes over the years. Joe Mama has served me well despite being “only” a media player and its 30GB capacity has always seemed to be just right, even if I have a 32GB card in my phone and rarely use it for music. Joe Mama has only seen one battery change since its purchase, a battery bought on eBay and replaced by yours truly. I still use Joe in the car and whenever I want to take my music with me. It’s held up flawlessly.

On the right we have Motodork, the name inspired by a perpetually jobless individual who had nothing better to do but ride his minibike up and down the streets over and over.  Motodork, originally dubbed Meatwad, was purchased in 2010 after I realized that an 8GB iPod was pretty much useless to me. Sporting a whopping 64GB in storage space, Motodork was all the iPod I would ever need and more: apps, WiFi, email, etc.

But Motodork pretty much lost any value it had left with me once I got an Android phone and started using apps and streaming music, checking email, etc. on that device. Eventually it ended up becoming my alarm clock because I didn’t need it for much else and it was even more useless when I got my tablet.

And that may be what made it angry.

You see, about a week ago, I woke up and saw the screen you see in the picture above: the “Connect to iTunes” message. I had had that message show up before and it disappeared when I either did what it said or plugged it in. The culprit is usually a battery that is so dead that it doesn’t have enough juice to even start up.

This time after trying both, nothing happened. I then tried the old reset and still nothing.

I hit the Internet and searched for relevant terms and found solutions, provided my computers would recognize the device when I connected it. At this point, iTunes can’t find it and Windows lists it as an “Unknown Device” without drivers.

I have been trying without success to revive Motodork even though Joe Mama is the true music workhorse. Apple Forums, tech blogs, advice from friends – none of it has helped.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that Motodork, which is not jailbroken I might add, is officially a paperweight after less than four years of service. And whenever I turn it on, it’s telling me to connect it to iTunes. It’s pretty much dead. The good thing is that I was in the process of selling it to a friend but I held out for whatever reason. I would have been embarrassed if it stopped working after the transaction,

But Joe Mama just keeps on plugging along, playing music just as it was intended to do, after eight years of use. It’s a testament to less being more, and more not always being the best in the long run. In fact I’m still considering a 160GB iPod Classic somewhere down the road to replace Joe Mama.

As for now, I’ll still use Joe until it decides to take a dump which is fine. I’ve already got a replacement battery ready to install.

RIP, Motodork. I hardly knew ye.