The Other Ipod & Zencasting

God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

That was one of my faves from an entire gamut of such levelheaded quotes as spoken by Tyler Durden aka Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Even after this being playing-in-a-loop at the back of mind I went ahead to buy an IPOD. Not exactly an IPOD. But the other IPOD. God created Apple, ITunes and IPOD for the classy dudes. For the masses he gave Windows, Media Player and Creative Zen. Creative Zen isn’t a poor man’s IPOD but indeed it’s an intelligent man’s IPOD. Yep, I may admire the professional qualities of Steve Jobs. I may re-read The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, I may have booked ICon at the local library even before it is released or I may even aspire to build a small network of Apple Mac Mini at home but I may not buy IPOD.

Why ? I hate to pay Apple 100 bucks every year when my battery dries up. $105 just to open a lid of IPOD and tuck in a mobile phone battery may prove a costly for the masses like me, especially for ones who loves to listen every single genre of songs available. While I love the IPOD wheel and have read enough of gaga over it’s UI, I felt that on the same price with an extra GB of storage, a FM radio and voice recording capabilities(which I am sure I would never use), Creative Zen Micro was a killer buy. A true replacement for those IPOD Minis . It has a battery that can be easily replaced. Infact only after I bought it I saw for myself that the batteries of Zen can be easily misplaced too. Yeah, the back lid is just not tight that even when Unni Krishnan is singing Enakke Enakka!!, in your ears, it might have fallen down on the stairs.

Creative Zen looks cool to me just because I haven’t used any other mp3 player except CD players until now. It is certainly not durable. The casing looks as though it might even break with the first fifteen days that I might return it to Best Buy to take a refund. But the user interface is nice as an IPOD. As anti-hyped, the touchpad isn’t all that bad. I got used to it before I was out of the store counter. Creative Inc known for their computer audio/video accessories have done a great job in designing Zen and it’s generation of MP3 players. It’s been born from the dis-advantages that IPOD currently has and will attract people who don’t want an IPOD. I’m just a little curious about the performance of mini drives, which is used in Zen or IPOD mini. I would feel comfortable with a flash drive because these mini drives poses risk of read/write issues and might soon end up with clusters of bad sectors. The sound is crystal clear but don’t believe if someone says Zen or IPOD only have such clear sounds. MP3 players are digital and will certainly have more or less the same frequency. It’s actually your headset/earbuds that might make the difference.

I’ve been hearing the podcasts for the last few months. So for those who religiously worship Creative’s Zen, let it be re-christened as Zencasting. And the thing about podcasting is that it simply doesn’t impress me much. Podcasts may be a hit but may not take-off as blogs, is my humble belief. This may not be a prophetic statement but may become true as Podcasts are widely understoof. I may also probably change minds once Evhead‘s Odeo is released for public. But for as of now, other than BBC stuff I am still figuring out the good Zen[Pod]casts.

I might stick with this Creative Zen until Steve decides to gift me an IPOD or he releases IPODs with replaceable batteries. This Zen unit is a lucky one. It gets to play some of the best songs ever composed. Be it Illayaraja or Rahman. Currently our Maestroji is singing the cult classic, Adi Vaadi Enn Kappa Kezhangey.

Update 26 May 2004 IST – As an anti-climax, the ZEN which was fully charged this morning, lost all it’s battery charge by evening even though I had only listened to it for two hours. I had switched it off for the rest of the time. Yep, I’m returning it for an IPOD test drive. I might probably settle with those 1GB flash drives with FM and voice recording(as said before, though I wouldn’t be using it). Best Buy, here I come.

Over the weekend

That moment - Closest Look !!
[More on Flickr]

Other than polishing my monday shoes and watching three flicks in a row, I did some nice tripping around the suburbs of Seattle to glimpse the forever beauty they had in themselves. The state of Washington is called as the evergreen state and every inch of that is goddamn true. Lush green trees around you would make your ride a comfortable one. Especially if your headphones sing Illayaraja, Rahman or Dire ‘Sultans of Swing’ Straits, your drive would be certainly memorable.

Seattle is the the kind of place you would aspire to plan a honeymoon. Often, honeymoons settle down to be moneymoons. Thats a different story though. If you live in Seattle, you could enjoy that same atmosphere day in and out. I wished to take a trip to Alaska to enjoy it’s natural beauty. But after glimpsing Seattle, I’m certainly happy that I saved bigbucks on that trip. It appears exactly like the Dehraduns and Mussories as described by Ruskin Bond in his lovable stories.

Lake Washington seperates Seattle from the town of Kirkland. And that provides a great view of the Seattle landscape from Kirkland. Kirkland has the smallest of roads and cross flags planted on crossings. Yet it consists of the costliest of condos and a hugely priced real estate. Kirkland and Mercer Island are the small heavens of Seattle.

The Argosy Cruise which takes off either from Seattle downtown or Kirkland, takes you through the long strech of Lake Washington for an hour and half. There is a live running commentary about what we see on the shores, throughout the trip. Lake Washington’s shores are filled up with the homes of rich and famous. You encounter the ultra famous home of Bill Gates, the neo designed house of the Author of Excel/Word and others. So the interesting commentary sounds like a stock quote with number droppings quite often. You also travel beneath the hanging bridge of Seattle which is a freeway called IWA-520. Other than the sour cream and onion chips packets, I heard(?!) they serve good cocktails.

While the cruise was exciting and refreshing just like greenery you see around, it is also a must-go for the visitors. Some pictures of the Kirkland Cruise on the Flickr.

After Starbucks it’s Netflix


[Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix] [Pic: detnews.com]

As Starbucks is for coffee, Netflix is for movies, says Reed Hasting, Netflix CEO. I prefer to change Reed Hastings’ words. Like Google is for search, Starbucks is for coffee and Netflix is for movies. For all the three brands have been under-estimated when they came about. And slowly people started submitting to them. Now they rule their areas of operation, however modularized they are.

Having a Blockbuster right outside my apartment complex, I was tempted to join Blockbuster’s DVD by mail program so that I would also get some coupons for in-store movie rentals. After all I thought, brand doesn’t matter. A movie buff requires only a store with movies and it will do. After constant pressures from few of my like-minded friends, I landed at Netflix.

Netflix was a suprise to me. I got DVDs delivered in one day interval and I’ve been watching movies nearly everyday for the last month. More than my urge to watch movies, it’s Netflix thats pushing DVDs one after the other, three at a time, like a server robot to make me watch movies. Thats one reason I started the two-minute reviews category in the blog. Still, with the in-flow of movies, I’ve not been able to jot much. The more I watch the less time I get for other stuff. Cable no more attracts me. Even HBO seems so trivial. When I have Netflix, I can nearly watch any hollywood movie I wish, within a day’s time. Though I miss those days of watching a movie trailer in Star TV and waiting for it to be premiered, Netflix is a killer service.

A friend who went ahead with Blockbuster cancelled it’s service because even the first DVD arrived five days after him subscribing to it. Another friend gets movies regularly from Blockbuster. So Blockbuster isn’t any less than Netflix except that Netflix has seven years of pioneering experience in DVD rental-by-mail industry. They also have a stupendous back-end. Probably a well developed Data Warehouse I suppose. They analyze every subscriber’s movie likings and have put up a movie recommendation section that just rocks. Also their strategically placed collection centers play a vital role in Netflix’s progress.

Netflix heavily relies on the well developed the American postal service. Else even day-dreaming a service like this would be waste of time. With heavy rumors surrounding Netflix being takenover by Amazon, though I hate consolidations in the industry, if only Amazon could add more value to the existing Netflix service, it would be a warm welcome. Also, Blockbuster planning to double-up it’s rental stores as collection centres would increase it’s service capabilities exponentially and would be a looming threat to Netflix. If only success depends on customer satisfaction, Netflix wins hands-down.

I already have 65 movies in a queue ranging from Psycho to Identity to Malena to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So one day it’s Dennis Weaver trying to runaway from a truck driver in Spielberg’s Duel. Another day it’s Branko Djuric as Ciki becoming victim of a bombing in No Man’s Land. Be it Antonella Attili falling in love with movies and Cinema Paradiso, Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones writing a diary, Robert De Niro boxing his way with the Raging Bull, John Cusack and you getting crazy inside the head of John Malkovich, Shahrukh as the stupendous Mohan Bharghava catching the next AirIndia to India or even Nana Patekar doing a realistic act as Sadhu Agashe while couting Ab Tak Chappan, the possiblities with Netflix are limited by the number of movies released. Netflixing Life !!

Mastering sub-meals on the way

a_seattle_subway
[Click Pic for a bigger version]

For an aathu payyan like me, there aren’t many choices on the Subway. Either I go with the foot long bread stuffed with cheese and other vegetables about which I have no clue or I end up drinking just Pepsi producing countless burps. Been eating on this sub-way for a while on what was recommended to me. This time I had a special recommendtion from a friend and it worked well. So if you are sub-beginner trying to catch hold of the rocket science behind a Subway Footlong [Salad Sandwich], here’s the formula –

Roasted Garlic bread
Provolone Cheese
Olives
Onions
Lettuce
Tomatoes
Capsicum aka green pepper
Cucumbers
Honey Mustard Sauce
Oil & Vinegar Sauce
Parmesan Cheese powder
and finally
Salt & Pepper

This makes up for a delicious veggie footlong and when combined with a Lays onion sour cream chips + Pepsi, works well. Still, when I came back home I had some sambaar saadham with vendakka curry. Mega Delicious.

Learn it the hard way

Never get these free internet access deals. I did that over a month back. But after that I got a Comcast Cable Internet moved on.

Today, when I had to call them up to get the free deal disconnected, it was a big pain. I had to talk my way out. Whatever I had said they had some plan or the other which was literally forced to be taken. When I said ‘No’ to everything saying my Cable internet actually gives 4mbps download speed and I may not need any better internet connection, the voice from the other side just threw a cancellation number on me and hanged up. I was pretty polite to tell them why I may not need their connection anymore.

All these customer services are just a humbug. I feel a big letdown.