Sunday, November 11, 2007

MP3 players and HL2 Ep2

I've been thinking it's finally time to join the portable mp3 player generation. I have a Philips Expanium portable CD player that reads CDs, CDRs, and CDRWs, plus MP3 CDs (on any of the aforementioned formats). Basically, if you can put it on a disc, it'll read it. But it was still disc-dependent, and I don't like burning disc after disc just to get what I hoped a dedicated flash-memory mp3 player could give me, with infinitely reusable internal memory and expandable SD cards.

I took the plunge on the Insignia Sport. Sports 4GB, plays music, video, and pics, and has Bluetooth for just over $100, I thought it sounded pretty good. There are several things I hated about this player.

1. First and foremost (and I guess this is pretty common, so deal with it), it doesn't allow me to just browse my mp3s by folder. It's entirely dependent on ID3 tags, which I don't have all filled out nice and neat. So, half my music ended up under "artist" or "unknown." Annoying trying to find anything that way. Is that "Fall To Pieces" by Avril or Velvet Revolver? Who knows.

2. If I delete a song off the player, it freezes up everything, stops playback, etc.

3. If I back out of a menu, it doesn't just go back to the item I was on previously. It jumps back to the top of my music library, making me scroll all the way back to wherever I was on the somewhat loose scroll wheel.

4. Ahem, the loose scroll wheel.

5. Inability to read my m3u playlists from MusicMatch, and inability to make its own playlists.

6. Impossible to remove battery cover. It's not even mentioned in the manual. Nothing about the battery at all, which makes me think to get it replaced when it eventually dies, you have to ship off your player to the shop for a few weeks. Bleh.

7. With the given form factor and unintuitive interface, it'd be a nightmare to use either while driving or with sweaty fingers on the treadmill.

That's the big stuff. I could deal with the fact that it didn't come with a AC adaptor. I borrowed Laura's iPod USB to AC adapter and it worked fine to charge it up. I guess the most telling thing about it was that the protective insert on the SD card slot said "DUMMY" on it. That's how I feel having plunked down money and being so disappointed. But hey, live and learn.

So I'm going to return it and go back to my Expanium. I can burn 700MB of mp3s to one CDRW and potentially rewrite the disc several times as my tastes change. It takes longer and isn't as convenient, but dammit, if none of these other mp3 player manufacturers are going to have a folder/file browse system like the Expanium, then they're just not going to convert me.

Started and finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 tonight in just under 8 hours, taking an hour longer than Episode 1, though it was infinitely more satisfying. I'd heard as much from others (Tippy, et al), but it's something you really have to walk a mile in to FEEL what the game is all about. The Source Engine still impresses (especially maxed out on a Geforce 7950GT), and has a bit more polish and flair this time, including the motion blur effect also included in Portal, as well as more splatter and sheen on things. The truly frantic battle against the Striders was tense whether you have God Mode on or not.

But most importantly, when I saw the Hunter first pounce on Alyx...it made my gut sink. The animations, character definition, voice acting, and heart put into these characters are so genuine that you don't even notice it, and it stings all the more when they get hurt, as much or more than when heroes in movies take a fall. You didn't fight side by side with the guy in the movie. You didn't aim the flashlight while the hero shot up the baddies. He didn't provide sniper cover for you while you inch your way to the gate controls at the end of a heavily contested alley. It means more here, and fuck Roger Ebert if he thinks games can't be art. He states that, "video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic." Bullshit. Go play the Half-Life saga start to finish and talk to me then.

That said, Eli Vance, I hope to see you in Episode 3. Maybe the Vortigaunts can work their magic on a father as well as they did on his daughter. I'll go back down there and stomp Antlion guts till the cows come home if a little larvae will put you back the way you were.

Made a run for goodies the other night, grabbed F.E.A.R. Platinum Edition, Voltron: Red Lion (Vol 4), and South Park Season 9 (the only one I was missing). Aside from the depressing (and, of course, cliffhanger) HL2: Ep2 ending, I'm a pretty happy camper right now.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shit on TV, Neck Pain, Everyday Sunday

Tila Tequila has her own show. I won't tell you what channel/network in the hopes that you'll avoid it, or at least make it more difficult for the sad fucks who really really want to watch. People are pining to get in her pants. That's like shit getting a hard-on for garbage. So shallow. So stupid. 13-year-old boys will unfortunately keep this crap on the air for a LOT longer than it deserves. This has to be the most worthless, degrading, pointless show I've ever seen. It's better with the sound off, but best not to be watched at all. Just Google her and spank it to the nudie pics on there.

My neck hurts a little today. Started about 24 hours after the accident, which apparently is "normal." Hopefully it will go away in a few days rather than render me paralyzed.

Heard "Let's Go Back" by Everyday Sunday on the radio today and really liked it. You can hear the whole thing at their MySpace page, and while it does sound a lot like Quietdrive and the other recent kings of cookie-cutter pop-rock, I won't deny something I like on principles alone. I'm not sure yet whether to plunk down for the retail CD, select Amazon MP3s, or just that one song. Amazon's store makes it way too easy and affordable to resist. Decisions, decisions....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Car vs. Guardrail. Guardrail Wins.

We're fine. Just a couple bumps and bruises. That's the important thing. Now the rest of the story.

We were driving back from a visit to NYC tonight, and it was going well. It started raining in western Pennsylvania, but still, it was going pretty well. We got into Ohio and were getting off I-76W and onto I-71S. The leftward curve was fairly sharp. It was rainy. It was wet. The back tires lost traction. The car started to slide and Laura tried to turn into it. Maybe it was a lost cause already at that point, maybe she over-corrected, who knows. Whatever the case, the car suddenly spun clockwise, putting the front left of the car into the guard rail. This added to the spin, bringing the back left of the car into the rail as well. The spin continued until we came to a stop 270 degrees after the rotation started and we were perpendicular to oncoming off-ramp traffic. Luckily, everyone behind us stopped in time and only one person immediately behind us caught a little of the rail herself while trying to avoid hitting us.

Laura was completely freaked and I tried to point her in a direction to get the car off the road so we could calm down and avoid any more trouble. We parked. A lady ran up to see if we were okay and if we wanted her to call the highway patrol through her OnStar system. We declined and said we'd be okay.

The next knock at the window was the girl immediately behind us who also just barely kissed the rail, wanting to see if we were okay and whether we should swap insurance info and such. We did, and at that point I skimmed my cell phone book for the toll free highway patrol number (I programmed it in "just in case" several road trips ago; came in handy today) and reported the accident. The cop showed up about 20 minutes later. We'd swapped info already and the girl behind us stuck around to make sure her side of things was covered.

We surveyed the damage together. Both headlights were out of commission, one not even lighting and being pushed about 3 inches into the front end, and the other lighting properly but pushed at an angle that only lit things off the side of the road. We wouldn't be driving home tonight, regardless of the other damage, which we probably could have driven with on the whole. Also, the remainder of Laura's birthday cake (Happy Bday indeed) was crushed inside the trunk upon impact, unfortunately.

Everything's squared away with the cop, he radioed the tow truck, and luckily my AAA-Plus membership was on hand to trump Laura's basic membership, giving us 100 free miles of towing as opposed to 3. Turns out we had the accident exactly 100.2 miles from home, and the tow guy didn't want to haggle over $0.60 for the extra two-tenths of a mile.

So we're back home, not planning on going anywhere for a while now. She's got to figure out what she wants to/can do with her driving situation. I could drive her to her second job when I get off work during the week, or she's thinking of renting something for a week. We'll see.

In the end, we're home, my car is still fine, the apartment is still fine, and overall we're fine. Nothing a hot shower and a bit of alcohol can't drown out for the night. Just glad to still be here. Cheers, all.