Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Play to win

Filed under : Baseball,Gadgets,Stores,Tennis
On June 24, 2010
At 7:30 am
Comments : 5

Was yesterday the greatest day in sports ever or what! You notice I didn’t put a question mark there because there is no other option. Of course, you’d have to have the unique set of circumstances I did and be American, a tennis fan, and a Yankee fan to feel this way and I know that’s true for only .0008% of you. I was reminded of the fact that I started my blog in earnest about four years ago during the last World Cup because I used the title I wanted to use today then, Magic Jewball, Sporting Fool. But let’s count all the great things that happened:

1. USA! USA! (That was the soccer part, duh). I knew this because they announced it during the Wimbledon match I was watching which was…

2. … thirty hours long! I swear, I woke up late-ish as usual and since John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were carrying on from the day before and just finishing their match from the previous day (it had gone too long and Wimbledon doesn’t have lights or final tiebreaks), I figured I’d eat breakfast when it was over. Folks, in case you weren’t following, I had breakfast at 4:30pm. And they still weren’t done, it was like 118-118 in the final set or something. Maybe it was infinity+1 – infinity+1. I’m not really sure these guys are human, I think they might be comprised of those machines that just shoot balls at you across the net. And they finish today.

It’s the third day now and the longest tennis match ever. Actually, the fifth set alone is the longest match ever. The really important thing to note, though, is that suddenly tennis is on the news which it never is and even more so because soccer which never is has been using the last 30 seconds of sports time that is allotted to sports no one cares about. So, right, wow. But the pinnacle, I think, of shattered earth is the fact that Deadspin is reporting on a tennis event which doesn’t involve a shot of jiggling breasts or a view upskirt. Mind blowing.

3. The Yankees won in the middle of the night in an extra inning thriller. I made up the thriller part, it was actually a very poorly played game, but the ending was teh awesome.

4. Jonathan Papelass had his save blown in Colorado by a former Yankee. I’m sorry, I just don’t like that guy and I wouldn’t no matter what team he was on.

So right, that was all good. It was a good day to be a sports fan in New York. And even if you are a Mets fan, Jerry Seinfeld was calling the game at New Shea, so you had that. I don’t know who won that game, I only tuned in to hear Jerry call Lady Gaga a jerk and to see Keith Hernandez look embarrassed as they showed his old scenes from the show. And it was worth it.

In non-sports news, it was also an exciting day for me because I finally got a new phone. If you remember, my old one had a giant crack formed in its screen as I attempted to check email at 4 in the morning. You may think based on the timing that it is an iPhone but you would be wrong! That’s a red herring because I actually used the release of the iPhone to convince T-Mobile to give me a free smartphone since I was thinking of switching. In fact, I was thinking about having no money but you know, I might switch in a few years. They didn’t ask me when. And the Internets informed me that T-Mobile took that as a good reason to give away phones so I am now the new, proud owner of a BlackBerry Bold which I lovelovelove. Everything looks good and sounds good and moves quickly and it can do all sorts of fun things.

But this is also good news for you because I took that occasion to change my mobile theme to one that works on more devices. If you normally visit me on a mobile phone, you are probably looking at it right now and I hope it’s clear and legible, if lacking in the frippery of my normal theme. If you’re looking at a little screen and seeing my normal black & gray & flowers, please let me know in the comments what device you’re using so I can get on that. If it’s an iPad, I can’t help you… yet. But they say they’re working on it. You are very important to “them.” They will be right with you, please stand by.

By the way, and back to sports for a moment, people sometimes ask me why I’m a fan of one person or another. Is it their nationality? A big forehand? Hotness? Sometimes! But not usually. Most often it’s by personality (see the Papelbon example above there) and I find that out by sitting through my yearly matches at the US Open and seeing who appeals to me. Someone determined and classy, who respects the fans and doesn’t argue with the linespeople, and who seems to be having a good time. I know, it’s a tall order. A few years ago, in fact, I saw Nicolas Mahut play and he was an ass. I even mentioned it in a post. But see, if you can maintain your composure and give it your all for ten hours (and counting), I will become your fan. Of course, I was already a fan of John Isner because of Twitter. If you are funny on Twitter or even just talk to your fans on Twitter, I will be your fan. New rule. Also, tiebreaks. That should be a new rule. But of course, then I’d just be reading articles about Venus Williams’ underwear on Deadspin, so there’s that. Hooray for week long matches!

Heaven 17 – Play To Win


You can’t download a cupcake

Filed under : Gadgets,Stores
On April 28, 2010
At 3:00 am
Comments : 7

While I wait for answers I need for my next post, I’m focused somewhat on getting myself a new cell phone, something that wasn’t supposed to happen for a while. And when I say cell phone, I use the accepted term, but I rarely if ever talk on it; I use it as an all-purpose internet access machine, just as I have since I originally discovered that I never, ever have to be away from the web. This one is 2.5 years old and while I know it is sadly out of date, the phone I really want is financially out of my reach, so I just stick with it. Until this weekend when I knocked it off the night table and cracked its screen. Oops. But I have a list of things I need and I won’t bore you with them, the only bit of information you need to know here being that the phone that fulfills all of these requirements doesn’t actually exist. But I almost bought a phone today anyway!

I went to the T-Mobile store, just to play with the phones to maybe get used to the idea of simply replacing my BlackBerry with a newer, better, faster BlackBerry. Not to buy one. But the guy talked me into it! Really! And maybe in my heart of hearts I really did want it. Then something went wrong and as they were ringing me up, the credit card literally in my hand, the transaction couldn’t be completed because of my cheap and ancient plan. I felt disappointed, but, whatever, I could just phone up T-Mo and get it done. But that’s the thing: I haven’t. And I doubt I will. I probably will just keep on waiting for the Perfect Phone to come along and in the meantime use my sad Curve with the cracked screen. I have worked in retail sales, although never on commission, so I have a vague idea of the psychology of this. But a big purchase like this one is something I never imagined letting myself be manipulated into making. Weird!

The other thing it made me realize is why the Nexus One, the phone I covet (although it doesn’t fulfill all the requirements either) has less than 2% of the market. Because it’s only sold on the Internet! I can’t go into a store and play with it and feel like I can’t leave without it and have the slick salesguy convince me that this promotion will end TODAY and I need to get it NOW. I think Google, which does so many things right, has done this thing wrong. When it appears in the store next to the lesser Blackberry or G1 or whatever, then people will want it. Now, it doesn’t work this way for Apple, but people didn’t run out to buy the original iPod either. Apple had to build that “I’ll buy this sight unseen” fanboy clientele and Google hasn’t accomplished that. Not to mention, I also coveted an iPad and happened to have a torture session dentist appointment this week which put me next to the Apple Store. All through the drilling, I kept saying to myself, “survive this and get to go see an iPad!” Well, I did survive and I did go to the Apple Store and guess what? I didn’t like the iPad. It didn’t feel comfortable in my hand and there wasn’t multi-tasking, at least as I’m used to. So now I don’t feel bad that I can’t afford one because I wouldn’t buy one. But I had to try one to figure that out. And I had to be in a physical store to do that.

Zappo’s comes closest to replicating that, by sending shoes overnight and allowing you to send them back free with no repercussions. But if you’ve seen even one episode of Sex and the City, you know people can be talked into shoes like a tech nut can be talked into a 3G BlackBerry. But not by websites… yet.

There is a story to this post title. When I started the baking business, while I was still at the record label, I told a co-worker about it and he said, “Good idea! You know, you can’t download a cupcake.” There are some things that the Internet still cannot provide.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Sdtk – I Want It Now


Another one bites the dust

Filed under : Gadgets
On March 12, 2009
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 2

You would think that when I say, “I have a new Blackberry!” it would be in that good way but you would be wrong. In fact, it is a replacement for my old Blackberry which decided to stop being able to charge (I think this is something like a person who decides to die by cutting off their feeding tube). And this is actually my third Curve, as the first one had a sound problem after about a month. The problem was that it had no sound. I discovered this when I overslept one morning since the alarm went off sans beeps.*

And because the port was broken, it also couldn’t be connected with my computer so nothing on it could be saved. That is, nothing on the actual unit, as my music, photos, and contacts were on a memory card. Those were safe. But all my preferences, settings, and downloaded programs were gone daddy gone. I spent a bit of time writing all that down and yes, it has been a royal pain in the ass to download everything again, try to remember what my bookmarks were, have to hunt down my WiFi key again, change permissions, etc.

But the worst thing that happened was this: my BrickBreaker high score was reset to zero. Oh, the humanity! I may have to spend the next few weeks working it back up there. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

*This is a lie, my alarm is actually this song. Could there be a gentler way to get up?

[youtube width=”445″ height=”364″][/youtube]

Yeah, I have a beeping alarm clock go off ten minutes later.


Did you hear the one about the iPod that jumped to its death while playing Disintegration?

Filed under : Gadgets
On January 8, 2009
At 2:15 am
Comments : 12

This could be the longest title I’ve ever done but it was worth it. And I even left out the part about leaping onto the tracks beneath a subway car. And it’s all true.

You will remember (or be reminded) that I have said that I tend to listen to The Cure’s Disintegration on rainy days (I’m so melancholy and dramatic, what can I say). Today was a rainy day and that figures into this story because I was carrying an umbrella in my hand. Sure, I have two hands but I had my iPod stuffed into a pocket. It stays dry that way too. I take a really crowded subway to work, the #1 (we’re #1!) and as my train stopped at 50th Street, a lady pushed past me to get out of the car. This is not unusual. In fact, I push past other people. It’s not like there’s anywhere for people to get out of your way. You just have to use your elbows. Well, the cord to my headphones got caught on one of those elbows. Or it may have been her coat. Or her bag. It all happened so fast.

Wham! The cord came out of my pocket. So I put my hand in to plug it back in. NO IPOD. I looked and there it was, face down on the ground next to the tracks. Yes, it had managed to go flying into the three inch gap between the car and the platform. I was kind of stunned. No, I was utterly stunned. And then the chime ding dinged and the doors closed. Holy fucking hell. There went my iPod. Gone forever in the space of three seconds. No one seemed to have noticed at all. I said to the lady next to me, “that was my iPod. My iPod fell onto the tracks.” She looked at me and said, “really?” in the tone of voice you might use if I told you that cereal tastes better with raisins. I went on with, “that was $200!” Actually, I have no idea if it was $200 because it was a gift from a dear friend, but that’s how much I estimated it would cost to replace it. More on that later. But the important thing is, she just gave me a kind of, “mmm hmmm” look. These are the moments, ladies & gentlemen, when you just want to reach out and bash people in the head.

When I got to work, the universal comment was, “why didn’t you just go get it?” Excuse me? I’m not risking my life for an iPod. Unless it was really new and I didn’t have the music backed up. Plus, if you think I’m going to be reusing a device covered in puke and rat droppings, you are sorely mistaken. Some track worker is probably having a look at it right now. It’s probably still playing the Cure, I have the whole discography.

The funny thing is, I just bought a shiny new toy with my Hannukah money yesterday. It’s called a Slingbox and it allows me to watch my home TV on any computer or even my Blackberry. Yes, live TV or programs I’ve recorded on my DVR. Waiting for the bus. At work. In hotels. In the kitchen. The sky’s the limit. As long as they have Internet access in the sky. But, well, this really put a damper on things. “Look, I have a fun new gadget!” has turned into “holy hell, I lost my beloved old gadget!”

But now I have this difficult task of replacing Old Faithful. I was sure I would buy a refurb. Every Apple device I’ve ever purchased, including the MacBook on which I am currently typing this, has been a refurb. Fantastic bargains. But there were no iPod “Classics,” as the one I had is now called, on offer. Then I made the mistake of looking at iPod Touches. This put that Bloodhound Gang about doing it like they do it on the Discovery Channel in my head the whole day. That’s because it’s called The Bad Touch. I basically spent the whole day dithering over whether to get a Touch or a Classic or a Nano. Or should I just get an iPhone and not carry around two devices all the time? Stupid flying iPod. Why did it have to rain today? I, I’d really like to know. That just put another song into my head, it’s by APB and those are the first two lines. See how crazy this has made me?

This evening, I went to the Apple Store (the cheerful Apple guy said mine was the saddest story he had heard all day) where I spent twenty minutes doing the exact same dithering I had done the whole day, only this time it was in front of the actual objects. I really did want a Touch. But did you know? The Touch is exactly like an iPhone except it costs more and does less. Yes, yes, I don’t need to pay $70 a month for it, but I already pay $60 a month for the Blackberry! And when I stood in the Apple store playing with it, I realized that it would make me want an iPhone every day. Because I’m never near WiFi except in my own home and I can check my e-mail and surf on an actual computer there. It’s for when I’m out. And then I’ll be using my Blackberry and its tiny little screen. Now, I do love my Blackberry and I wrote an ode to it a while back, but, well, surfing on this screen is really awesome.

I ended up buying a Nano (purple!) on the theory that my Blackberry contract is up in November and this will tide me over till then. But I haven’t opened it because I’m not sure. It’s really hard to fathom paying just a bit less than it would cost for an iPhone, which is a phone and browses the web and does e-mail and plays music and a hundred other things, and getting this… music player. If only T-Mobile would let me go. That’s a song by Heaven 17 and probably a lot of other people.

So, anyone want to take over a T-Mobile contract? Free Curve with memory card!

I’m only half-joking.

I could go with so many references in this post but here’s the one that rainy days sound like to me.
The Cure – Plainsong


I can see right through your plastic mac

Filed under : Gadgets
On January 13, 2008
At 10:15 pm
Comments : 4

It’s Monday in Australia and you know what that means: tennis is back! Game on! So far I have nothing to say about that, though. Lucky for you, non-tennis fan. Tomorrow it’s Monday in the US and if you had as many tech feeds as I have, you’d know that Macworld begins. What does that mean for me? Nothing! Despite having a MacBook Pro and really loving it, I’m not a fanboy. Or fangirl, although I’ve never heard that term used. I don’t even use any of the programs that came with my Mac, other than iTunes and I’m actively looking for a replacement for that. So I thought I’d use this occasion to describe to you all my favorite non-Apple programs that fill my hard drive with utility. Also, lots of people probably got shiny new Macs over the holidays and your minds are fresh and open!

If you are a non-tennis fan and PC user, today is not your day on J-Ball. Come back tomorrow. No, actually, many of these are available for PC. And they’re all free! I’ll go in alphabetical order.

Adium is the program I use instead of iChat. Adium is the sister-program of Pidgin for PC’s and I can see all my AIM and gTalk contacts in on place. It also plays Crowded House’s “I get your tongue in the mail” line when I get e-mail. But that was my customization.

Audacity lets me edit song files. Make your own ringtones!

Burn does just that. It burns CD’s and DVD’s. This is how I make DVD’s because I find iDVD clunky and full of all kinds of stuff I never use.

Cyberduck is yet another bird themed program that I use for ftp.

DoubleCommand lets me remap my keyboard. I use that for precisely one thing: to make shift-delete do a forward delete. The fn key is way too far away to make this convenient the way Apple has it set up.

ffmpegx is what I use to convert video from one format to another.

FireFox is the browser I use instead of Safari. Safari makes sites look prettier but FF has all those add-ons that I can no longer live without.

Gimp is the open-source (read: free) substitute for Photoshop, if you do Photoshoppy type things.

Handbrake rips my DVD’s to my hard drive so I can load them onto my iPod. Then people can look over my shoulder on the subway while I watch The Simpsons.

Max is a program that encodes CD’s. That is, I use it to rip CD’s to my hard drive because iTunes doesn’t use LAME, what I consider the best encoder. You can also use it to encode in lots of other formats, like Ogg and FLAC and others. Occasionally, I use iTunes-LAME, which encodes right in iTunes.

MPEG Streamclip is what I use to edit video. I find iMovie iAnnoying.

Quinn is Tetris. That’s all you really need to know.

Senuti (read it backwards) moves songs from my iPod to my hard drive. Sometimes I rip a CD at work and then I want to listen to it on my home computer. And there we are.

Skype is a “phone over Internet” program. It’s free to call people who also have Skype and reeeeally cheap to call those who don’t. You’ll need a headset.

SuperDuper! is the back-up program I use. I don’t have Leopard but even if I did, it doesn’t make bootable back-ups. It’s free for the basic and like $28 for the version with the bells and whistles.

Thunderbird is the e-mail program I use instead of Mail. I use it because it’s cross-platform, so I keep it on a USB drive and tote it around between my work PC and home Mac. You need a special script to do that but it’s easy. Even easier is if you have either two PC’s or two Macs.

VLC is what I use instead of Quicktime. It plays lots of video formats that QT can’t or won’t.

Wiretap Pro
(I have the paid version but the free one does quite a lot) records any sound the Mac is making. This includes cassettes that I want to import and make into mp3’s, Skype conversations with sketchy customer service people (check legality in your state – in NY only one person needs to give consent), Internet radio interviews, etc.

I should also mention Songbird, which is Mozilla’s (the FireFox and Thunderbird people) alternate to iTunes. But it’s in Beta and is full of bugs. So I downloaded it but never use it.

I also have lots of candy in my menu bar.

Alarm Clock makes the most expensive one you’ll own. I use it as a kitchen timer, actually.

Google Notifier
tells me when I have Gmail.

You Control Tunes
puts the controls to my music in the menu bar so I don’t have to switch programs when I’m in another and want to change songs or pause.

Show Desktop is something I missed from PC’s (actually, that’s their slogan: “The only good pc feature, now on the macintosh”). It automatically hides all your active windows so your desktop is clear.

If you have any others, please share! I’ll need something to distract me from Nalby’s foibles this week.

Title comes from:
The Who – Substitute