Friday, May 29, 2009

everything in its right place

when you're an office cubicle drone like me, sometimes it's the little things that can provide a quick and refreshing uplift.

i may be more fortunate than most in that my employer provides everyone with at least two monitors - can't tell you how much that improves efficiency when you're working in multiple applications.

being a somewhat tall individual i need my monitors raised up off the desk in order to maintain a comfortable viewing angle; to that end i use the desktop computer for one monitor and an actual monitor stand for the other.

this setup has been in effect for a long time, the monitor stand for the left monitor in front of me and the desktop computer for the monitor on the right.

now, i also frequently listen to music at work; in the past pre-ipod days i connected my headphones to the headphone jack on the front of the desktop. this has always been fine but for the fact that the headphone cord would often get in the way of my mouse activities or generally laying on or about any papers in front of me.

(side note: you wouldn't guess how weird it feels when you try to click a mouse button while a cord is stuck underneath the button's edge; your mind expects an audio and tactile feedback for the "click" that never comes and it's in its own little way very jarring)

what's embarrassing is that it wasn't until the ipod came along this week that i had the revelation this minor annoyance could be avoided. the ipod connects via usb to draw power from the computer so in effect i'd have the same issue with it as with the headphone / computer media player setup.

let's recap: mouse is on the right side, cords connected to the front of the desktop interfere with mousing / paperwork typically interacted with by the right hand.

hey, idiot, why not stick the desktop computer under the left monitor and put the monitor stand under the right? elegance in the simplicity of the solution

now my ipod is tucked away safely at the left side of the desk where very little work goes on to disturb it and the mouse is once again unhindered by a tangled web of cords.

of course this has necessitated the relocation of my water glass to the right side of the desk so as to avoid costly and frustrating spill accidents with the ipod, but as i lack the fear of change it should be manageable.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

my wife served me the Apple cult Kool-Aid, and I think i'm gonna like it

they say that parenting is its own reward, but my lovely wife and son very nicely and generously decided to enrich me further yesterday with the gift of a shiny new iPod Touch.

this brings to an end the long and arduous timeline of me every so often saying aloud "you know, i think i'd like a portable music player for my car rides / office work / toilet time"

this is my first product ownership experience with the iLifestyle so enthusiastically endorsed by my good friend and fellow blogger Steven and i think it will be a good one after i slog through the maddening swampy morass that is digital music management - file formats, libraries, etc.

about half a decade back i had a bad experience with iTunes; it ran slow on my computer at the time (still isn't a lightning-fast app on our new laptop) so i opted primarily to listen to music through Win Media Player which has always been a steady if somewhat dull application. at some point though i purchased a Marcy Playground album, ironically entitled MP3, that was only being sold through iTunes.

now, if the album format had actually been MP3s that would have been peachy because Win Media Player can play MP3s; however, the album was in iTunes infamous DRM - AAC format, abbreviations which basically mean a format that could only be copied a certain number of times and which could not in any way shape or form be played on Win Media Player.

the realization that i couldn't listen to that album on my usual Win player left a sour taste in my mouth and i kept a wary distance from iTunes from then on.

well with this sharp new Apple product at my disposal, iTunes is going to be a part of my life again and in the time since we last met Apple has claimed to mend its ways by offering downloads in the new iTunes Plus format which is higher quality, isn't hampered by DRM (limited copies), and a claim that they can be played on "many other digital players".

the problem is that Win Media Player isn't among those "other" players, so if i should somewhere down the line decide to kick Apple and the iTunes scene to the curb and i made all of my subsequent music purchases in iTunes Plus format i'll either be S.O.L. or at the least have to find and go through some conversion process to fix all 11+ GB (and counting) of music into some workable format for Win Media Player.

so for now at least i think i'll be buying music from Amazon and other places that sell in the universally-accepted MP3 format.

another adoption issue i had to contend with last night was re-introducing my music collection to iTunes - you see, also some time ago Win Media Player drew me aside and said seductively, "hey why not convert your mp3s to our wma format, which is better in almost every conceivable way" (how exactly it's better i can't now recall). so i said 'sure why not' and let win media player convert all my files to .wma .

now when i pointed iTunes in the direction of my music folder so it could create my all-important iTunes library, iTunes said "WMA? well, we at Apple certainly don't associate with that kind of scum" and started converting the files to the unwanted iTunes Plus format based on default "import" options. before i could put the brakes on the process, it had already converted most of my Alice in Chains and other A - B artists.

not sure what i can do about those at this point, but i was able at least to change the 'import' option to classic MP3 and let iTunes chug overnight converting all my remaining WMA back to the MP3s that they all were originally when i first downloaded them :P

so now the worrywart in me is silently wondering if the multiple conversions are going to have a noticeable effect on sound quality, though realistically if i wasn't repelled by the sound of the converted WMAs years ago i'm probably not going to detect anything amiss with the re-converted MP3s.

lastly i think i have to come to grips with discontinuing my use of Windows' My Music folder and get with the iTunes folder; since iTunes puts copies of the files it converts into the iTunes folder, it'll probably be cleaner in the long run if i just put all of my music in there.

lingering questions remain, such as the fact that i haven't yet found in iTunes any feature like the "monitor folder" feature in Win Media Player that periodically looks at your music folder and adds any new items found to your "library" (i.e. available songs for playlists); so far it looks like you have to manually tell iTunes every time you add new music to your folder?

and so it goes; the happiness of receiving a cool gift from my terrific wife, only marred slightly by my neurotic nature with regard to technology :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TBS keeps doing the meta-shill thing

some time ago i commented on a phenomenon on TBS where in between shows they featured short clips of comedians doing stand-up routines curiously revolving around the consumer product featured in the subsequent commercial.

e.g. "so he says 'I can't believe it's not butter' and I'm all 'I can't believe you always leave the toilet seat up'. am i right, ladies?"

well the evil marketing geniuses at TBS have done it again with My Boys, the sportswriter-lady-that-pals-around-with-a-bunch-of-guy-friends sitcom that is "the funniest show you should be watching".

smart people that they are, in order to rectify the "should be watching problem", TBS sandwiches My Boys in between episodes of the popular syndicated show The Office.

that's not the evil genius shilling part though-

last night, while waiting for the second Office half-hour we left the station on TBS (score one for TBS) and My Boys played out its story. During the opening there was some bit between two 'My Boys' wherein one complained that the other always kept singing annoying jingles that get stuck in his head all day; to wit, the accused replied with a sing-songy bar of "Nationwide is on your siiiide!"

fairly harmless in and of itself, until the first commercial break rolled around and - small world! - the first featured ad is for Nationwide Insurance with its hauntingly familiar tune.

that coupling would be bad enough right there, but then the My Boys writers go back to the well later in the episode when one My Boy reassures a second My Boy by stating "don't worry, i'm on your side", which reminds the second My Boy that the first My Boy being on his side is "just like Nationwide Insurance".

so there you have it - a glimpse into the future, the bitter fruit born of the seeds of wanton commercial-skipping that were sown by our Tivos and DVRs - the unholy merging of comedy and advertising.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Adam Sobczak - blog photo debut

we've been home from the hospital a week now and, amid all the craziness of adjusting to a little person and his schedule, i'd like to throw a few photos onto the blog for those well-wishers i know who haven't had a chance to meet the lad in person.

Day 3 - calmly contemplating the camera

Hanging Out With A Visibly Tired But Happy Dad

Deep in Silent Meditation - Pacifier Style

Back At Home - Celebrating The Winning Goal In His Sleep As The Monkey Crowds Cheer

Thursday, May 07, 2009

siete de sobczak

with happy heart and exhausted brian ...-brain!... i am pleased to announce the arrival of Adam Michael Sobczak to the world!

kiddo drew his first breath at 3:27 a.m., weighs in at a healthy 8 lb 9 oz and spans an impressive 20 3/4 inches in length.

dad could not be more proud of his son or his wife who logged a lot of hospital bed hours and other accompanying necessary unpleasantries to bring him out of hiding.

mom and baby are both doing well, hanging out in the hospital room for a few days. support from friends, family, and coworkers alike has been great; we are fortunate to have such a network of well-wishers available to us.

although he didn't arrive on his original estimated due date of May 5th (thus depriving me of the ability to see how many years i could get away with convincing Adam that Mexicans are crazy about celebrating his birth), we are crazy happy to have him here now.

future posts with pictures to follow - stay tuned!