Omir the Storyteller

Stories. Music. Politics. Technology. Baseball. Friends. Family. Potrzebie.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Which Omir Gets A New Toy


About five months ago my trusty UED started falling apart. What is a UED? I asked my friend Nathan that same question one time when he said I had a nice UED. I looked a bit puzzled and asked him, "What's a UED?"

He pointed to my Tungsten E handheld computer. "Useless Electronic Device," he replied.

I'd had it for about three or four years. I'm not sure how many, but I have a backup I made in 2005. Before that I had a very nice Handspring Visor that I bought because it had an expansion slot you could plug gadgets into. I bought that in about 2000 or so. It met its end one day at Toys 'r' Us when I dropped it on the floor and it went into a permanent black-screen sulk. The Tungsten was nicer in many ways -- faster, color screen, more memory, built-in SD card slot -- and I got very used to it. In fact I wrote a program for my Linux box that would timeshift some of my favorite radio shows, like Global Griot, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Says You and Music With Moskowitz, and let me download them onto an SD card so I could listen to the shows on my weekday commute rather than having to be tied to the radio all weekend, which never happened anyway.

I liked it enough that I bought one for my wife and helped my mother-in-law set up one for herself.

About six months ago, though, it started falling apart. First it wouldn't hold a charge quite as well as it used to. Lithium-ion batteries apparently are good for about 500-800 charges before they start not holding their charge as well. I compensated for this by buying an external, high-capacity battery that also had attachments for my camera and my ham radio handheld, neither of which I can find at the moment. Then the charging connection started getting wongy, requiring me to hold the charger plug at odd angles so the little "charging" icon at the top of the screen would come on. Finally, headphone jack lost one of the channels at the same time the speaker quit working, meaning I couldn't listen to anything, anywhere, or get any kind of audio feedback, including alarms. If I wanted to do anything on the bus I had to hold the Tungsten just so, so the battery would engage, and play games or whatever.

It was a bit frustrating, but I wanted a better model and honestly at the time I couldn't reallly afford to replace the Tungsten E, either with a new E or its successor the E2. The E2 has Bluetooth, which is one of the things I wanted, but I was really looking at either a Lifedrive or a T/X.

Last week I ended up with a little extra cash and the determination to do something useful with it, so I got myself a new Palm T/X and a 4 GB SD card. The T/X has both built-in Bluetooth (which I am still trying to figure out how to use) and built-in Wi-Fi (which I am also still trying to figure out how to use, as far as the T/X is concerned). It's about twice as fast as the Tungsten E, the colors look better (although it could just be my imagination), and the charger and headphone jacks both work as advertised. It took me about a day to set it up the way I want, and there are still some things about it I haven't figured out yet, like how to get an alternate keyboard layout to replace the built-in QWERTY keyboard that pops up at the bottom of the screen, but all in all I'm a happy boy. Yesterday I was listening to a broadcast of Says You from last October, just before the old headphone jack gave it up, as I snoozed on the bus.

This will most likely be the last handheld I buy, or at least the last Palm brand. The world is moving toward the convergence of phones and PIMs. My current phone has a calendar on it, the ability to upload MP3s (although only 10 MB worth, so it's only suitable for ringtones) and of course it functions as an address book and plays games. As people write more Java and Windows Mobile apps with phones in mind the need for a separate UED will become less and less. That's actually a good thing. When I bought that first Handspring the idea was to fill the expansion slot with a diabetic blood tester so I would have one less thing to lose somewhere. Someday my phone will interrupt me listening to my tunes so I can answer a call while I'm solving a sudoku puzzle, and no other devices will be involved.

But not yet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

File this one under "WTF LOL"


Anybody have any idea why I'm getting a bunch of hits from people who searched Google for a picture of an elephant I posted a couple of years ago?

It's interesting to see how the people who found this blog got here. Other than blatant self-promotion, I don't do any real advertising, because this blog is an on-again-off-again kind of thing, but it shows up on Google searches occasionally. One person searching for Aesop's "The Wolf And The Dog" retold ended up at my version of the story; another googling for "a quiet evening at home" found a post I put up about sharing music with my granddaughter.

Odd world, this blogtopia. (Yes, skippy did coin that phrase.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Summer Wine


One of the things I love about the Internet is that I get to run into new things all the time. That's one of the reasons I want to save Internet radio -- I'm always running into music I otherwise would never have heard of. Thanks to the CBC's Vinyl Cafe, I've been introduced to acts like Rufus Wainwright and Mike Ford (formerly of Moxy Früvous, who I learned about over the Internet when stations could still carry Doctor Demento and get away with it). I also found Lemon Demon, Da Vinci's Notebook and Worm Quartet thanks to Doctor Demento. Radio Paradise, KPIG, and KSER have introduced me to artists -- heck, entire genres -- I would otherwise never have come across.

And on Saturday after I put up the post just below, I came across a clip on Crooks and Liars by an Irish band called The Corrs. I'd never heard of them before, but I figured I'd give them a listen because of two words that described the clip:

"Summer Wine."

Flash back forty years ago this month. I'm just turning 12, I'm listening to the radio in my room in the basement in eastern Washington, and of course I know who Nancy Sinatra is. I know she's Frank Sinatra's daughter, I know she's had a couple of hits (like These Boots Are Made For Walking), and I know she's interesting in ways I'm just starting to figure out. What I don't know -- yet -- is that most of her songs are written by a guy named Lee Hazelwood, and when he wrote a duet that would spark a genre called cowboy psychedelia, they couldn't find anyone better to perform it with Nancy than Lee. The strings kicked in and Nancy's honey voice crooned:

Strawberries, cherries and an angel's kiss in spring,
My summer wine is really made from all these things .
. .
and then Lee came in with his baritone borderline growl:

My boots had silver spurs that jingle-jangled to
A tune that I had only sung to just a few

A song that hinted at so much more than it said, especially to a pubescent kid with a vivid imagination.

So when Nicole over at Crooks and Liars put up a YouTube video from VH1 of the Corrs doing Summer Wine with Bono of U2, I had to click on it. It took me right back to 1967. Bono's voice reminded me a lot of Lee Hazelwood's, and he and Andrea Corr sound great together, her on high harmony and him on lead.

This morning I went to listen to the song again, and it had been taken down from YouTube. I guess Viacom must have figured out it was there. So what could I do? I ordered a copy of the "Corrs Live From Dublin" CD. I can tell it's one of those songs I'm going to be listening to every once in a while.

When YouTube had to take the video offline,
They left me craving for more summer wine.
Ooooh, ooooh, summer wine . . .

If Internet radio goes away stories like that will disappear. So will sales of music that would otherwise never have happened. I know this. I'll bet you know this. Most of the music-buying public knows this. Why the entertainment-industrial complex can't figure this out, I don't know.