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Monthly Archives: March 2011

2011: The Year of the Big Sickie

Published March 29, 2011 - 3 Comments

Oh no… what now???

Let’s see… the year started off with pneumonia, then graduated into black-balled hematoma… and now… another cold! I’ve never had such a miserable year, and it’s only March! That doesn’t bode well for me looking forward.

I started feeling the telltale “tickle in my throat” at the end of my last night shift.  By the time I woke up on my first day off, I was in full fledged sick mode.  Coughing, stuffed up, spitting up green stuff, and feeling pretty miserable.  Which of course meant that I had to share my misery with as many people as I could! I turn into the biggest baby when I’m sick.  Just ask any woman who’s ever been with me during these times.  It’s a wonder they haven’t conspired to put me out of my (and their) misery.

It’s a pretty crappy way to spend your 4 days off… not that I had any plans, but still…

In Defense of Rebecca Black – Friday

Published March 28, 2011 - 15 Comments

Chances are you may have heard of the latest YouTube sensation, Rebecca Black.  Rebecca’s self-produced song and video Friday has gone viral, currently sitting at almost 61.5 million views.  Yup, that’s right.  61.5 million.  Last night when I looked, it was just under 60 million.  It shows no signs of slowing down.

So let me just put this right out there  so there’s no confusion…  I do not like this song.  I do not think that it’s very good.  The lyrics are childish, and the singing is poor in my opinion.  Its immense popularity online is due to the fact that it’s not a good song.  Some have even labeled it the worst song ever.  I’m not sure if I agree with that, but it’s certainly a contender.  So that’s the bad.

Now here’s the good.

Rebecca Black is a 13 year old girl who had the guts to follow her creative instincts and make this video to be put online.  When I say that the lyrics are childish… well, they’re written by a junior high student… I’m sure that if I was a 13 year old girl, they would make perfect sense to me.  Maybe in a few years Rebecca will look back at this video and cringe, but right now… to her and her friends…  this is their life.

Whenever anyone puts something online, whether YouTube, a blog, or anything else… you open yourself up to attacks from people who you have never met.  I’ve experienced that to a certain degree with this blog, but that’s nothing compared to what this girl is receiving.  The comments are beyond critical… they’re downright mean, abusive and disgusting.  Many teenage girls (and boys, for that matter, but primarily girls) have enough self-esteem issues without total strangers telling them that they’re worthless, that they should develop an eating disorder, and to try cutting themselves… I’m not kidding.  You won’t have to read very far in the comments on YouTube before you see things that make your stomach turn.  It’s horrible, and disgusting, and I wish that YouTube would lock down the comment section.  That won’t stop people from bashing Rebecca and her song in other ways, but it’s better than reading that bullshit under her video.  Ask any of those idiots what they have done to contribute to society in a positive way, and good luck getting any sort of answer.   Rebecca certainly has a lot more going for her than anyone who thinks that it’s ok to tell a 13 year old girl to kill herself.  I don’t like the song, but there is a proper way to express that.  Millions of cyber-bully comments intent on destroying her as a person… It makes me sick.

To her credit, Rebecca seems to be handling her dubious “fame” relatively well… but admitted that she cried when she read some of the comments.  No shit.  I was fighting a whole wave of emotions when I read some of them… I’d love to have a couple of minutes alone with the people who wrote those things.  As a parent of a little girl who is only a few years younger than Rebecca I know that it’s not possible to protect her from everything…  but that just makes my blood boil…

And as much as I’m not a fan of this song… once you hear it, it’s kinda hard not to get that “It’s Friday… Friday… Friday…” out of your head!

I wish Rebecca Black much success… just please… not as a singer…

Loser Like Me (Glee Goes Original)

Published March 22, 2011 - 18 Comments

I’m a Gleek.  That’s not news.  Some of my friends will roll their eyes and stop reading right here.  The rest might read a little longer… a tiny few might even read to the very bottom and even click on the videos.  Chances are, those people have already seen them in last week’s episode titled “Original Song”.

So, despite that fact that I’m now a self-described Gleek, I’ve always taken issue with the cover songs they sing being included in music charts, especially when they broke the records previously held by The Beatles…  I think that many of their versions of popular songs are at least equal (if not superior) to the originals… but I don’t believe that it’s right that they can release a half dozen songs every episode that shoot up the charts and knock out legitimate artists from their positions.  Well, last week Glee took a huge step forward toward credibility by debuting two new original songs.

I’m not surprised that they chose to play it safe and go primarily with their brightest star, Lea Michele.  I’m convinced that girl can sing anything you throw at her, and I will happily buy it.  She’s oozing with legitimate talent (not a pretty image, I know) and has a huge future ahead of her.  So having her take the lead in their first venture into original material was really no-brainer.  But it worked!  The songs are good.  The singing is great.  The two of them combine for an emotional roller coaster, which obviously appeals to moi.  Get it Right tears you down a little… pulls back the outer layers… exposes parts of you that you might want to hide…  everyone’s been there…    and Loser Like Me is incredibly catchy and builds you back up.. ending on a high note…   Kudos… Both these songs are proud new entries in my iTunes library. I really wish that they sold videos of the Glee songs, though. I’d love to have these (and a few of the others) in great quality.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of Glee, I encourage you to take a listen to the songs and maybe even leave a comment… honest feedback is always welcome!

Who’s Your Gnomie?

Published March 21, 2011 - 2 Comments

My sister and I have a longstanding disagreement regarding the existence of certain little human-like folk called Gnomes.  Ever since we were kids, she swore up and down that they were real.  That’s ridiculous!  Everybody knows that the Dwarfs drove them to extinction!  But that’s another story.

So I was tickled pink when I saw the first trailer for Gnomeo & Juliet, the retelling of a classic tragic love story from the point of view of two rival groups of garden gnomes.  I knew instantly that I wanted to take my sister to this movie.  We don’t hang out enough, and this was a chance for me to get some good ole fashion brother-sister teasing in, under the pretense of a sibling family outing.  Good times.

My sister operates in her own space-time continuum, meaning she was her usual late self getting to the theatre.  I was worried that we might not be able to find good seats.  Ha!  As we walked in and looked around… we were the only people in the theatre!  A mother-child couple arrived shortly after us to ruin the experience of having it all to ourselves.  That’s fine.  No one wants to waste that experience being there with their sister.

The movie is showing in 3D only at this theatre.  I wasn’t thrilled about that because I’ve had my fill of 3D movies.  Thankfully this movie actually took advantage of the 3D for more than just a few simple tricks… aka Toy Story 3 which I could have seen in 2D and been just as happy.

Elton Gnome

Gnomeo & Juliet is quite funny.  When the frog starts singing “Your love is doomed… your love is dead… doomed!  Doooooooooooomed!” I thought “how familiar!”.  Seeing “The Hoff”‘s head bouncing around on a computer screen saver was hilarious.  That reminds me… I need to go searching for that screen saver!

And if you go see this movie, you’d better like Elton John.  I think that every song used in the movie was his.  They even gave him his own gnome!

All in all, Gnomeo & Juliet was cute.  I’m sure that my kids are gonna love it when they finally get to see it… NOT in 3D!

Oh, how did this affect the longstanding belief that Gnomes are real and not imaginary creatures?  I’m sure that my sister’s delusions have only been reinforced by the experience.  Poor thing.

First Day of Spring? Hard to Notice…

Published March 21, 2011 - 8 Comments

I had completely missed that today is the first day of Spring until I noticed someone else mention it online.  March 21?  First day of Spring?  Oh.  I suppose that does sound right.  Looking outside, it’s hard to tell.  Yes, the snow has diminished considerably, but it had to.  There simply wasn’t anywhere else for it to go!  But the remaining snow is still significant.  I still can’t get anywhere near my BBQ.  I tried yesterday, but the mound of snow infront of it is huge, and solid.  There’s no way that I’m going to be able to get rid of that with a shovel.  Best to let Mother Nature take her sweet time, except that side of the house doesn’t get much direct sunlight, so I wonder if it’ll be July before the pile is gone.  Happy thoughts…

Inside, it’s not much better.  It doesn’t look like Spring.  I certainly don’t feel like Spring.  This is the time of year that screams “rebirth” and “growth”, but I’m not feeling that.  I know that it’s still early… there are no butterflies or bumble bees… plenty of really stupid house flies that just seem to roll over onto their backs and flail their tiny legs until they either die or I drop them in the toilet.  I suppose they end up dying in there too, don’t they?

Anyway, my point is…

I don’t even know what my point is.  Just rambling today, I guess.

Forced Twitter Break

Published March 21, 2011 - 0 Comments

Some people have probably realized that I haven’t been on Twitter very much lately.  I stopped short of disabling my account, because I’ve done that already with Twitter once before, and regretted not being able to re-enable it after the dark cloud had passed.

I’m hoping that the break will only be temporary, but I need to take some time to get my shit together…  because as they say in Definitely Maybe…. my shit’s a mess…

A Visit With Dr. Lisa

Published March 18, 2011 - 0 Comments

I had my regularly scheduled appointment this afternoon with my family doctor.  I’ve mentioned her before… Lisa is awesome.

The first thing I had to do when I got there was step onto the scale.  That was new.  Something tells me that she`s going to be getting me to do that more often.  Then we got into the question of how I’ve been.  I told her that I was off work for a month, and then showed her my favourite pic on my iPhone.  She`s a doctor… she`s seen it before.  But she`s never seen it looking like THAT!

She laughed when I told her that I had been worried it might fall off.  I think she thought I was joking.  I wasn`t.

But then we got into the nitty gritty of why I was there.  My blood pressure was surprisingly lower than I had anticipated.  When she asked me how I was doing with work, and some other things… She could tell from the look on my face that I wasn’t doing well.  I have a horrible tell when it comes to that personal stuff… I can`t look her in the eye… I just tend to stare at a spot on the wall or the floor.

Lisa thinks that I should go back and talk to my old psychologist about some of the things that are bothering me.  It`s hard because if you ask me what needs to be done… I know the answers.  I`m not stupid.  Supposedly far from it (although I have my serious doubts).  But it`s getting from Point A to Point B that seems to be the problem.  I know what has to be done.  But I can not seem to do it.  And every time that I think I’ve hit rock bottom, I fall a little deeper in the rabbit hole.

She asked me a couple of very tough questions. I wasn`t keen on answering them, but I did.  There`s no point in lying to her… she knows way too much about me.

I have to go back and see her in 6 weeks, which is a shorter time-frame than normal.  I suspect that if things haven`t changed much in that time, that I`ll become a regular fixture in that office… again.

As I left, she reminded me about the Coke and fast food… and that I should really make that appointment with the psychologist… just to reinforce things… I nodded…  we both know that I won`t make that phone call.

And in 6 weeks, we`ll probably go through the same thing again.

Me and my Big Mouth

Published March 18, 2011 - 2 Comments

You know how they say you should never reply to an email or discussion board when you are angry?  Instead, take a step back, breathe, sleep on it, formulate a response (if one is even necessary) and then reply.

Yeah… I am not so good at that…

I use this blog and my Twitter account to vent about things in my personal life, and a lot of time I do it without putting much thought into it.  If something is not going well in my life, I may not want to talk about it, but chances are that I have written about it somewhere.  Maybe in my journal (which has been packed away since the New Year), maybe on another blog, or maybe right here on WaS or my Twitter account.

Imagine my surprise last night when I received an email with one of my tweets copied and pasted in it.  I never, in a million years, thought that this person would ever see that tweet.  They do not use Twitter and I did not believe that they even knew how to check the public page, or would even bother to.  OK…  at that hour of the night, and in the frame of mind I was in, I never even thought about it period.  To be honest, I barely remembered even writing it, but I knew as soon as I saw that email that I regretted it.  I had spewed something off while hurt, and it was now passed.  Except that it really was not, because there it was… in black and white still.

So let this be a reminder to you… think before you click that send button.  Because once it is out there in Internet Land, it is impossible to retract.

And for me…  this is not the first time that I have done something like this… and knowing me… I doubt it will be the last.

I’m Off to See the Wizard…

Published March 18, 2011 - 4 Comments

I tweeted earlier in the week about some possible good news…  Now’s as good a time as any to announce that it looks like I am heading to Toronto in May because of WordCamp Toronto 2011.  Notice I say “because of”… not “to attend”.  No, I have no plans to attend WordCamp.  I think I’d be a little outmatched by some of the people there, and somehow it just doesn’t seem like my thing.

“Hi, I run a fledgling blog about  ________ with a few thousand subscribers…   I know that’s a little small, but I hope to make it to the Big Leagues someday… what do you do?”

“I bitch and complain about life… I have about 5 subscribers, depending on whether my Mum and Sister are checking up on me that day…”

“Oh.”

So.. if not to attend WordCamp Toronto 2011.. why then would I be interested in it?  Well, the reason is quite simple… I received a heads-up that someone I’ve chatted back and forth with for awhile has decided to speak at the event.  Yup, you guessed it!  Yasmine Mustafa, founder and CEO of 123LinkIt is coming to Canada!  I’m pretty stoked!  I’ve gotta be, if I’m gonna do a 18 hour drive to Toronto just to sit down and have a bite to eat with this person!  (And let me tell ya, if she doesn’t whip out the company credit card and expense my meal, I’m gonna be pissed!  OK.. maybe not…)

I think that I’m going to work the trip to Toronto into part of an early vacation.  I’ve never actually been to Toronto before, so there are definitely some things that I’m interested in finally seeing.  Remember my list of 130 Things About Me?  Somewhere on that list it mentions visiting each of our provinces and territories at least once.  It’s not like this will be my first time visiting Ontario, so it really doesn’t count… but another thing on my list is to see Niagara Falls.  So that will be a must-see!

So there you have it.  WordCamp Toronto 2011.  May 14, 2011.  Somewhere in Toronto.  I’m sure that it’ll be easy to find.  Just follow all the bloggers…

Product Review: Loving My New Dlink Boxee Box!

Published March 17, 2011 - 0 Comments

Boxee Box is a beautiful thing.

Update 16 Oct 2012: Because of Boxee’s sudden lack of updates and support, I can no longer recommend Boxee Box with as much enthusiasm as I did when this blog post was written.  Technically my Boxee Box still works very well… but… it seems like an abandoned product now… hard to recommend people spend money on this.

I don’t have cable.  I don’t even have rabbit ears… well, that’s not entirely true.  I do have rabbit ears, but they don’t seem to work very well with my Dynex 40″ LCD TV.  Those same rabbit ears will work perfectly when attached to an older TV, but with the Dynex they’re useless.

 

Everything that I watch now comes from the internet, either downloaded as torrents, or streamed from the television networks.  There aren’t too many times that I wish I could watch live TV, and when that does happen, I pull out the old TV and watch whatever it is on the rabbit ears.

 

I’ve tried numerous methods of getting my downloaded content to play through to the LCD TV.  The XBox 360 was my preferred method until Microsoft did a software upgrade that couldn’t install completely due to the lack of a hard drive on my console.  Rather than revert back to whatever version it had been running, the XBox 360 seemed to go its default configuration.  That default does not play DivX movies, and any time I tried to upgrade the software, it refused because the onboard drive is full.  I don’t play games, so there shouldn’t have been anything taking up space on the drive, but the onboard drive is so pathetically small that whatever software updates had been downloaded from Microsoft filled it to capacity.  Essentially my XBox was now an expensive brick unless I was willing to go purchase a hard drive.  Add to that, I was less than pleased with the wireless adapter that I purchased earlier… it seemed that the XBox option was becoming increasingly more expensive and not worth it.  The final straw was that Netflix claims to  be able to stream through a XBox 360… but when I signed up for Netflix at $8/month I quickly discovered that it requires a Microsoft Live Gold account for the XBox 360 to be able to stream.  I wasn’t about to give Microsoft more money, especially for a service that I wasn’t going to be using for anything other than streaming content from a third party.  I considered cancelling my Netflix account, but at $8 it really is a nice service.. especially when you consider that it can stream up to 6 devices, so my kids are each able to watch shows on their netbooks, while I can watch on my iMac, iPhone, and (eventually) the LCD TV in the living room.

More than one person suggested looking at a Sony PS3, which is supposed to be a fantastic media server.  I was considering it, and then I read about a little company called Boxee.  They have been operating in the United States for a little while, and have recently expanded into Canada.  I started to read more about them, and sent out a request for feedback from my Twitter followers.  I received some great responses from them, and decided that the Boxee Box from DLink was worth it.  The cost was $200, but if it worked as well as I was hoping it would, this would be the solution to all my problems.

 

Boxee automatically adds TV show information including a picture.

The Boxee Box looks exactly like it sounds… it’s a black cube that sits near your TV and acts as a bridge for any multimedia content that you want to consume.  Unlike most media servers that try to hide themselves, Boxee Box wants to be noticed!   One of the corners is cut, forcing the unit to sit at an angle.  It has USB ports to plug in external hard drives or memory sticks, as well as an ethernet port and built-in wireless to connect to any shared folders on your network.  Setting up the Boxee Box takes about 10 minutes, and then the fun begins.  Once you tell it where your media is, it scans the network and creates a list of movies, tv shows, and music.  It is also capable of displaying your pictures, but I don’t believe that it scans for those; you have to add those manually.

There are a few really great things about Boxee:

  • It plays anything you throw at it.  I have yet to find a file format that will not play, so no re-encoding anything.
  • It comes with built-in apps for things like Netflix, YouTube, Vevo, Revision3, and more!
  • The flipside of the remote control has a full QWERTY keyboard to enter data rather than hunting and pecking on a virtual keyboard displayed on the TV.
  • There is a free downloadable iPhone app, so you can use your iPhone to control Boxee.
  • Boxee fills in gaps of your TV shows automatically, if they are available from the TV network.  These are streamed from the internet, and not your local network.
  • You can add a “Watch Later” button to your computer’s browser that allows you to quickly bookmark online content (ie YouTube) and watch it later on your TV.
  • Boxee can link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts to show videos that your friends have shared through those social networking sites.

 

 

As great as it is, Boxee isn’t perfect.  I initially had some problems with my remote control seemingly losing connection to the box.  When that happened, I turned to my iPhone to control Boxee, but not everyone has that option.  The remote control problem appears to have fixed itself.  No idea what caused it.  Boxee also isn’t always the greatest at cataloguing the content it scans.  I have hundreds of “unidentified files” that I can play by going into the File Browser, but it hasn’t picked them up as being movies or TV shows.  Boxee also appears to be quite slow when launching new content, but it’s less Boxee’s fault and more the network it’s running on.  If it’s playing content from a hard drive directly attached through the USB connection, it’s fine.  If it’s playing a movie across the wireless network, it can be painfully slow starting.  Once it achieves enough of a buffer, it begins playback.  That’s normal for any media player connected wirelessly, but it certainly is painful when you click something, and wait and wait…  and good luck trying to skip to another part of the movie.  I’ve found this does not work well.  I’ve also noticed that when you stop a movie and try to resume it later, it may give you the option to resume, but when you select that, it starts at the beginning again.  That’s probably my biggest annoyance with Boxee at the moment.

The US version comes with different apps than the Canadian one.

 

Because content rights differ between countries, the apps that come installed on Boxee in the United States are going to be different than the ones in Canada.  As more agreements are struck with content providers, Boxee is able to update software on the unit automatically.  A perfect example is music video site Vevo which was only recently added to Boxee.  I’m sure as time goes on, I will start to see even more content listed when I sit down to watch TV.  And more content is always a good thing!

All in all, I’m quite pleased with my Boxee Box.

I’d love to hear from other Boxee users about their experiences

 

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