Z2K9 — The Day the Music Froze During the Loading Screen

Update 1/1/2009: All better. The thing “fixed” itself. I was this close to composing a strongly worded letter written under only natural light.

In the time between beginning this post and finishing it, it looks like Microsoft formally announced a solution to the issue, the always exciting “it’ll fix itself tomorrow.” Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that I want to listen to my party mix now. Anyway, um, enjoy the increasingly less relevant post below.

I’ve stood by my MP3 player for more than one-and-a-half years. The 30GB Zune isn’t the prettiest, thinnest, or most useful MP3 player, but I like what it does and how it does it. I spent a lot of time getting the video compression settings “just right,” and I didn’t need to purchase wrist weights to “maximize” my runs. I’ve gotten used to people confusing it with a dumbbell but I have never had the “I think someone stole my mp3 player,” panic because I know my husky baby isn’t going anywhere, if only because it would be a real burden for a potential thief if he or she needed to scale a fence.

My previous MP3 player, the geek approved Rio Karma served me just fine (though a few minor repairs) from 2003-2007, at which point it started turning into “computer junk,” component by component, necessitating a new player. Microsoft’s been good about updating the original, 30GB, player even though it’s now one-and-a-half generations old. I can’t argue with that, and the free Zune Software/Music Player is actually a program I’d whole-heartedly recommend to anyone, whether he owns a Zune or not. Everything was going swimmingly – the only real issues I had were occasional freezes (which disappeared with the latest 3.1 firmware) and a totally buff right bicep. This morning, I saw that one of the “tech news” websites I visit was reporting “Hundreds of 30GB Zune Players Fail Across the Country.” I have one of those. Uh-oh.

zune crash
Probably not the sort of top 10 list for which they hoped.

Skimming the article, I saw that the problems started around midnight PST last night, and most users experienced the freeze as their greeting as they turned on the device this morning. Of course, I still hadn’t turned it on, but I was watching The Matrix last night, and needless to say, perhaps the computer gods were not happy at the ending (with Neo’s bring the physical virtual and verbal smackdown to computer program) and were taking their vengeance. Being that guy, I decided I wanted to see the crash myself so I could poke around at it. Well, I succeeded in seeing it crash/freeze, but that was about all she wrote. Apparently, one can disassemble the player, change the computer calendar to any date but 12/31/08, unplug and replug the battery, then reassemble and use it just fine with no issues, but I decided I was done losing tiny screws when I decided the Rio Karma wasn’t worth fixing.

For a device considered not very popular, the news certainly got around. CNN posted a front page link (below “the fold,” though) to a brief writeup. (Now, to the doubters’ credit, the time between Christmas and New Years is ridiculously slow for the news.)

In terms of why it crashed, December 31, 2008 is the 366th day of the year. Odds are it has something to do with something in the software planning on each year being 365 days. Not the most exciting bug, but an easy one to forget to check for. Of course it could be an ugly coincidence, but Occam’s Razor, people.

I was going to write here about how it could be a challenging bug to fix because the devices didn’t even get to the point where the firmware updates can be initiated and it could be a support disaster, but being that the darn thing will apparently fix itself, I’ll spare the words. (Note to Microsoft employees: I have no idea if that little spiel back there about “doesn’t even get to the point where the firmware updates can be initiated” is even remotely accurate. I’m just counting on all 7 of the readers of this site nodding their heads and saying, “that Dan. He knows about computers.”)

Star Rating is pending the results of tomorrow’s self-update, but let’s not jump to any conclusions.

**

Two stars – nice it sort of fixed itself, not so nice that I actually had to say, “well, I have that song on my MP3 player, but unfortunately, it’s not going to work until noon tomorrow.”

BUT, I have seen some pretty good overly dramatic names for the “situation”: Z2K, Z2K9, ZUNEPOCOLYPSE. I guess give credit for the “social” for making enough noise the problem to be seen in more places than just some isolated support forums.

Of course, none of the postings made any mention of Judgment Day or this being Skynet’s first move, so I’m not completely impressed. That said, in terms of a future where our ground up brains might be used to fuel Gregorian Calendar does help me sleep better at night.

People Who Say “Cheers” Instead of “Goodbye”

Special note on the title: I figured that there must be an opposite of the word “greeting,” and it turns out it’s “valediction.” Instead of using a houty-touty word such as that, I’ve grouped everything into the serves-all “goodbye.” You’re welcome.

I saw some of the MTV Movie Awards tonight, and Johnny Depp, accepting Best Performance for Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (Piratey-Boogaloo), did the normal awards-show spiel after receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the audience. Nothing out of the ordinary… except, instead of ending his speech with “thanks,” “bye,” or even the ‘look at me, I’m a World traveller’ and I want you to know it, “Ciao,” he dropped this gem: “Cheers.” What is this world coming to. And that’s not a question. Given the wide variety of ways to say “goodbye” (even some that serve to combine it with a “thanks” aspect), he has to give the trendy, pretentious “cheers.”

euro
Cheers, hippy

Let Johnny Depp serve as an example for the problems with the phrase, but his usage was no more egregious than any others’. I take exception with this expression for three reasons:
1) “Cheers” is a drinking-related saying. That’s fine, but this what at an awards show, not a restaurant. It wasn’t even the Golden Globes which (obviously) serves alcohol. This is the biggest issue – it makes no sense.
2) It reeks of Eurotrash and, even worse, Americans who wish they were Eurotrash. You know these people – they refer to manual transmissions as “standard” and call elevators “lifts” just so you can make a weird face at them to which they respond by saying these exact words (every time): “I was in London, and that’s what they call them in London.”
3) I’d like to take credit for being part of the cusp of the expression “not so much.” In fact, my earliest documented utterance of the phrase was way back in July of 2004. I challenge anyone to beat that. I’m not claiming to be first, but I’d like to think I beat any of you seven reading this to the punch. How is this related to “cheers?” Well, tangentially at best. I guess I’m just a little bitter, and my lexicographic warning radar is going of like crazy about the soon-to-be “cheers” phenomenon. Consider this my warning to people who want to keep European lingo where it belongs.

People Who Say “Cheers” Instead of “Goodbye” get ZERO stars. The English language has hundreds of thousands of words, and provides myriad tools for making up words (such as “spamera” – n. a digital camera used to take pictures which will later be e-mailed to everyone the camera owner knows, but no one will look at. Usage: “Yeah, my mom is unfortunately bringing her spamera to my nephew’s pre-school graduation next weekend, so I’m definitely going to spend time familiarizing myself with the delete button in my e-mail program.”) Hmm. That’s actually a pretty good made-up word. Anyway. Lots of words, easy to make-up new ones. Does the bowel of the English language that is the British dialect really need to be given a colonic every time someone decides that he’s too cool for “bye” or “thanks?”

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

Using “Forrest Gump” as a Verb

So I was reading USA Today the other day. Yeah, I know, it’s the best newspaper in the history of ever, and it’s seemingly also the official newspaper of travelling, being that most of its readership statistics stem from the fact that hotels usually give it away to hordes of travellers each morning.

\"I\'ll Forrest Gump you, you crazy hippy!\"
“I’ll Forrest Gump you, you crazy hippy!”

In Robert Bianco’s (TV’s Robert Ebert) review of an upcoming episode of HBO’s Rome, talking of the historical revisionism at/for the expense of entertainment, he says that “… Vorenus and Pullo Forrest Gump their way through ancient history.” That’s some genius wordsmithing right there. I actually caught the episode in question (the whole travelling thing and hotel’s usually having HBO), and it was dull to say the least, for whatever that’d be worth. I doubt that “Forrest Gump” becoming anything other than a popular movie will ever happen [a verb, baseball team, or restaurant…..oh wait], but let’s give USA Today credit where credit is due.

*****

Using “Forrest Gump” as a verb receives 5 stars due to journalists lowering the bar and creating new words based on pop culture as opposed to investing in a thesaurus and picking one of the many that people should know but probably don’t. Just kidding. Go USA Today!

Monicaann F. Spade’s Letter to the editor of the Morning Call

Even USA Today wouldn't have letters to the editor this bad.
Even USA Today wouldn’t have letters to the editor this bad.

I know what you’re going to think” that I have some ridiculous obsession with the dictionary. That I spend all my nights thinking about the new word I’m going to learn the next day, and that I have a huge wall-hanging devoted to Webster and Roget. Well I don’t. This entry is entirely coincidental, and should be noted as such.

Some days you wake up and look to the newspaper to find highly (by “highly”, I mean “moderately”) intelligent and informative discussion on world issues. Today, that was not the case. I enjoy reading the letters to the editor, just to see what some idiot is complaining about this time. The thing about letters to the editor that interests me the most is that, in order to actually get a letter published, you have to be so offended by something that you’d actually take the time to sit down and write a whole, long diatribe and then actually send it in to the newspaper. The length of time that this takes is usually what weeds out the people who are just kinda annoyed, from those who are genuine activists. I mean, I think it would usually be a two-day operation, and by the second day, you’d re-read it, say “This isn’t worth complaining about”, rip up the paper, and throw it away. Again, today, that was not the case.

What follows may indeed be the stupidest letter to the editor I’ve EVER read. And I mean EVER. The letter in question refers to an article on the front page (of which the merits will be discussed later) of the Allentown Morning Call’s October 5th edition. The article was in regards to what I’m sure is the gala event of the lexicographical calendar” the unveiling of this year’s new Webster’s Dictionary words. I imagine it to be like a car show, where they lift the sheet off of a big sign with the word on it, and everyone in the audience OOHs and AHHHs. Anyway, seeing as how it’s the dictionary, and it has just about every word imaginable, it’s getting harder to find new words to put in every year. This year, one of the “words” is… I’m not kidding, “Bikini wax”. I guess this is justified, as this phrase has an entirely (by “entirely”, I mean “somewhat”) different meaning than just the sum of the two words.

You wouldn’t think that someone would be offended by a dictionary. But someone was. Monicaann F. Spade of Allentown was bold enough to write the following letter.

“Regarding the Oct. 5 article “Check Latest Dictionary”: Did they have to put in “Bikini wax?” Isn’t anything private anymore? What happened to good, clean dictionary words?”

I’m not exactly sure what Dictionary this person is reading (perhaps the “My First Dictionary”), but in mine, I can find at least ten examples of words that you couldn’t even say on FX at eleven at night. “Good, clean, dictionary words”. Does this man/woman not understand that the purpose of the dictionary isn’t to be selective in what words are chosen to be in it? It’s a damn dictionary. Its job is to include every word and abbreviated phrase in the language so that someone knows what it is.

Imagine you’re a woman and you come from France or somewhere like that. You don’t know English, and you make new friends who decide that before your big trip to Laguna Beach or wherever, you all should go for a bikini wax. Having no idea what they’re saying, and possibly (going solely on the stereotypes here) being against bikini waxes, you go to look it up in the dictionary, except it’s not there. You see bikini: swimsuit, and wax: (probably a scientific description of the makeup of wax). You think “oh, I’m getting a new swimsuit made out of this wonderful waterproof material”. You’re screwed.

Three questions about this person cross my mind. 1) Why would you take offense to this, or even care, especially after the newspaper printed, in gruesome detail, the crimes committed by 22 ex-ministers against children; the article that totally ruined my morning and week for that matter? 2) Why would you feel the actual need to write a letter to a newspaper that can do nothing about the Dictionary’s policies (maybe hoping to spark a protest of something incredibly stupid?), and 3) Why would you ignore the more important issue of “Why the hell is this article on the front page anyway, instead of a more important story which was probably buried in the back of the section?”

Anyway, I think you get my point.

*

This letter to the editor receives 1 star as it was the most dumb and unwarranted complaint I’ve ever read in the paper, but it provided me with five minutes of laughter and fifteen minutes worth of review fodder.