Friday, February 24, 2006

Conspicuous Consumption: The Results

So: (see what I mean?)

I got the CF Card reader (very inexpensive) but the vPod doesn't recognize it. But I can upload the images to the vPod from the camera, which it does recognize. And I might get a battery grip instead of an image tank, undecided as of yet but it's half the cost of a tank and it takes AA batteries instead of the special Canon rechargable battery. Still undecided.

Later (much much later, as in 4/25 later)
What I finally did: March 30th, bought the Epson P2000 from Circuit City, used it for the entire trip, and reset it to the factory defaults after uploading allllll my gb's of picture to my computer, repacked it in it's little carton, and returned it to Circuit City on April 13. There's a fourteen-day return policy. Lest you think I'm a complete schmuck, let me say that the P2000, and rockin' as it is, does not do for raw files as it does for jpg. For instance, you can zoom and rotate and do slide shows with jpg files but you cannot raw files. Let me also say that this is likely only time I will ever do this, and it is the only time to date that I've done something like that. But in the meantime I did have a convenient way to save my photos and show them to Mom and Grandma!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Conspicuous Consumption: The CF Card Dilemma

Mom and I have many things in common, including starting many of our sentences with "So..." So much so in fact that SHE named her blog in that vein. I love it!

I have this terrific digital camera, and two 1GB compact flash cards for it, with the intention of buying two more of that size. Each holds about 90-or-so RAW+(small) JPEG images. Which is great unless you are traveling out of the country and don't want to take your laptop with you. Which will be me on April 1.

I researched the heck out of this and had originally intended to go buy a "photo storage device." There are several nice ones out there, including:
  • Epson P-2000
  • Image Tank G2
  • SmartDisk Flash Trax
  • Transcend Portable Photobank
Most of them don't have a color display, something I personally feel is a must. I read bad reviews about the Flash Trax, good reviews about the Epson, and no reviews about the other two. At this point I'd pretty much set my sights on the P-2000 when I spied a discussion board post about using the new video iPod to the same end. More research ensued. You could ask why I even bothered since we already have (ahem, KENT already has) an iPod. First, you have to understand that the P-2000 and the 60GB video iPod cost about the same and have many of the same features. You also have to understand that Kent's original 40GB iPod was behaving more like an iBrick. It weren't doin' nuthin' for nobody. Dead dead dead. We talked, Kent and I, and saw an opportunity. He gets a new iPod and I get an image tank. I like the sound of "image tank" even though it belongs to something else. This saves us the cost equivalent of two iPods and hundreds in compact flash cards. Really. Logic doesn't work here. This is all emotional. Do the emotional math.

Wednesday. Off we go to Best Buy, get the iPod. Then to CompUSA, get the iPod photo upload adapter. And, apparently, an iHome. It stuck to Kent's hand all the way to the register, where it finally fell off and scanned itself before jumping into a bag with the camera adapter. Sneaky iProducts. Anyway, the iHome is way cool.

Thursday. Loving the hell out of that iHome, man. We woke up to Brazilian Girls Thursday morning, and Billy Joel Friday morning. I can't wait to see what random song from our entire music collection
(which, by the way, consumes 19.81 GB, leaving 40GB or so for me, although I may ditch some tunes before I take it with me but it'll be entertaining on the plane) shows up randomly on Saturday morning. But wait, we won't be awaking to an alarm Saturday morning (even though we actually did by mistake; it was Depeche Mode).

Friday. Proof of concept. I shot a few photos and uploaded them to the iPod no problem! Well, minor problem. iPod can't view RAW images so I have to shoot RAW+JPEG (small jpeg, so I get the most megapixels in the RAW image - it's just so I can preview it anyway). (Also, if you plan on trying this at home, dear readers, make sure you set your iPod in iTunes to Use As Disk if you want to be able to synch those photos back to your computer.) So, this isn't such a problem. I'm stingy with my megapixels, though, and would prefer not to have to shoot both RAW and JPEG but what the hell. I'd rather spend that money that I would have spent on the P-2000 on a new lens with image stabilization (more on that topic another time). I was also thinking I might be able to use a CF card reader to upload the images because that won't be such a drain on my camera batteries. I've read that uploading a 1GB card from 20D to iPod is a major battery drain and I'd just as soon not have that situation out in the field. Or on the Isle of Skye.

Saturday. Pilot the whole solution before the snow starts. Go buy CF card reader (SanDisk). Go shoot two cards full of pictures. Load one card from camera to iPod, then load one card from card reader to camera. See just what kind of battery drain there is, how much time it takes, blah blah blah.

Sinus Rinse - nice name!

At the pharmacy today...

Can you really call what we have these days a pharmacy? Walgreens, Eckerd, and RiteAid all look like mini-marts. Or a scaled-down K-Mart. I've switched from Eckerd to Walgreens recently. In our little neighborhood of Ghent (like a small Capitol Hill in Seattle, without the hill because we don't have hills in southeastern Virginia) we have four pharmacies. The three I mentioned above, and a REAL one, on Colley Ave, struggling to stay alive but which I don't visit because there's only this teeny-tiny parking lot they share with a church and Starbucks. We were fine with Eckerd. Then in came RiteAid two blocks away. Hate RiteAid. Their aisles are diagonal and confusing and they are always moving products around so you can't find anything. Then in came Walgreens, which all of Ghent and surrounding neighborhoods fought like hell, me too. Then I discovered that their photo processing was better than Eckerd. Then I discovered that they are less likely than Eckerd to run out of certain medications which, during one refill when Eckerd wasn't able to get a certain medicine for two weeks, Eckerd offered to send my prescription over to Walgreens. Besides, who needs a 24-hr pharmacy anyway?

Ya, well, it's nice. At 10PM their drive-thru pharmacy drop-off/pick-up is still open. That's nice. The pharmacist talks to you. That's nice, too. And remembers you. That's extra nice. It almost feels like a REAL pharmacy.

So...picking up where I left off. At the pharmacy today, picking up medicine refills, I spotted this thing called SINUS RINSE. Which is a hell of a lot nicer moniker than NASAL IRRIGATION or, as the pharmacist called it, NASAL DOUCHE. She really did. She also told me that you should use un-iodized salt because the iodine can exacerbate (nifty word) acne, even mild acne (as in, adults who have to really work to fight off the zits). This stuff uses the same ingredients: saline and bicarbonate, a.k.a., salt and baking soda. 100 packets. So ya, I could have gone to the supermarket and gotten a container of uniodized salt and more baking soda, but I didn't feel like it and ten bucks didn't seem like too much a price to pay for a little convenience. Besides I was thinking of making little packets anyway. They did it for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hard Plastic Packaging

From a 1998 discussion board post from some guy with the initials b.h.: "For Christmas I received a very nice portable cd player. It came in this blister pack, obviously designed so it can be hung on a hook behind the store counter. Can anyone enlighten me as how to open the f*****g thing? There are no "pull here to open" labels or anything like that. It seems that you have to completely destroy the packaging to open it. I almost cut myself with my knife. Does anyone remember
buying radios and such in boxes? God I hate blister packs. The label should say, 'destroy here to open'."

Every time I purchase something that comes in one of those damned packages (called a thermoformed blister package, by the way, not to beconfused with real blister packs that are the kind that Drixoral and Benadryl come in - those little flat things with indentations that you have to peel the back off. The difference being that they are manufactured differently) I mangle my hands. And we've allowed Them* to do this to us for eight years already. I actually searched the web for a grass-roots group against blister packages. I'm pretty certain there's something They can do to make them easier to open. Here are some commandments for packaging:
  • Thou shalt not make packaging that requires special tools (craft knifes aren't strong enough, and utility knives are usually buried in the garage/basement/closet).
  • Thou shalt not make packaging more difficult to use than the thing it encloses.
  • Thou shalt engage consumer focus groups before implementing anti-theft packaging
  • Thou shalt make packaging large enough to discourage shoplifting (Costco uses this to great effect without using blister packaging. For the most part.)
  • Thou shalt come up with a device that the store has to remove at purchase that subsequently enables the package to be opened like a simple clamshell, thereby serving multiple gods: the anti-shoplifting god, the clean-language god, and the right-to-simple-packaging god.
  • Thou shalt not make hazardous consumer packaging.
So what the hell brought all this on? My laptop, my sacred Vaio, had a dead LCD monitor and is being repaired at Sony; I have to Nick's left-behind tower computer and a PS2 mouse and keyboard. Both PS2 ports are pushing up daisies, so I had to use USB devices. Typing on the USB keyboard sounds like a heard of horses on concrete (think IBM Selectric), so I bought another keyboard. New keyboard has a PS2 connection, which I didn't think was a problem until I plugged it in and realized it wasn't the old keyboard but the ports that were the problem. ARGH! So, last night I purchased a PS2 to USB adapter from Best Buy. This morning I (ahem) "opened" the package to remove the adapter. Even my heaviest duty scissors barely made it through the plastic, and it just shouldn't be that difficult To add insult to injury, it was a blister pack inside a blister pack. At least I didn't cut myself this time. I saw someone in that same discussion board call it a "blister cut."

Is this stuff even recyclable?

*The Retailers and the Manufacturers

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The News from Norfolk

Dear Mom,
On Jan 24 we received a letter from Nick's commanding officer telling us that Nick hadn't returned to Fort Gordon. But didn't we drop him off at the airport? Well, no, actually. We didn't. He spent his last night in town with a friend who was going to take him to the airport. Apparently he didn't plan on returning. He'd been doing just fine, and was excited, until he caught up with his druggie friend, Trey, the last weekend of his vacation. Kent and I and Nick's friend, Lester, went to visit Nick at Trey's house, where we figured he was, and tried explaining what would happen if he didn't return. And he didn't return anyway. As of Feb 4th the Army considers him a deserter (absent without leave for more than 30 days). We haven't had a followup letter from his commander, though. I'm sure we'll see something soon since this is his home of record.

So, Nick is off drugging it up (I don't think it's anything stronger than pot) with Trey. If the Army goes all the way with this desertion thing, then Nick has pretty much ruined his chances for anything meaningful in the job market. We've both written several email to him, which we discovered he hasn't opened (long story). I'm very sad about this, and Kent and I have had an emotionally difficult few weeks. We're done reaching out to him - at least for now. We've been trying to for a couple of years and we're just tired of fighting. His inaction is exhausting.

In the meantime, Patrick has decided that he's going into the Army Reserves, as a Heavy Construction Equipment Operator in the Corps of Engineers. In other words, he wants to build and destroy things with bulldozers, cranes, and wrecking balls. Isn't that a dream for a lot of little kids? Apparently it still is for Patrick. His eyes actually sparkle when he talks about it. But the Reserves will put him through college (an engineering or architecture degree) and ask for about two more reserve years after that and his commitment is done unless he wants to go active duty. Heck, more power to him! He signed paperwork and everything. So, he's all relaxed and happy that his next six or so years are mapped out for him. And he still gets to row because he's going to ODU and they have pretty good rowing team.

Kent is in the middle of Coreolanus, which has gotten good reviews. He also finished his Master's (yay yay yay!! no more losing him to homework!). We've finished MASH through season 9. Season 10 isn't released yet. We just started watching Arrested Development (FOX). We figure that by the time season four is airing we'll have watched season's one, two, and three on DVD :) Funny funny show.

Best Buy sent off my laptop to Sony for a new LCD screen and ribbon. That was Tuesday, I think. Yesterday I got Nick's old computer out of the closet and fired it up. Patrick and his friend Jordon and having a combined birthday celebration tomorrow (Sunday) so today I was picking up the house and buying totally unhealthy snack food for them and their twelve friends. Patrick LOVES bakery cakes, especially the ones from Costco, so I got him a chocolate sheet cake from Costco.

And that's the news from Norfolk.