And I’m back, having kicked the dog in the haunches and sent him off whimpering. No real reason, other than I got sick of the whole micturation-and-whine mood. After a while it takes work, and I’m too lazy. Thanks to all who sent a nice buck-up-laddie note; it helped. These days the visits of the Dog are rare and quick, and nothing like the DC days when the mood would settle for weeks. The worst thing, in one sense, is the feeling of ingratitude I have, the inability to take solace in all the good things with which I am blessed. You feel like such a heel. But as I said, it’s gone. Woke this morning and said “No sir. Not today.” The very fact that I can do that reminds me that these moods are more or less a matter of will and self-indulgence. Entirely separate from the issue of actual real depression, which has the same relationship to my bleak moods as three PM snack-time hunger to kwashioikor.

This morning I took Gnat to get screened for school. It’s mandatory. They test the eyes and ears, put the kid through a battery of tests designed to test all sorts of skills. Fill in the blank, name opposites, identify adjectives, repeat patterns, find rhymes, identify alliterations, reconcile Social Security expenditures with income in the out years, etc. The building where the tests were held were in a “changing” neighborhood – inner-city Chicago avenue, which has been down so long most of the gentrifying influences of the 80s and 90s passed it by completely. It looks oddly timeless in its crummy decreptitude.

We were buzzed inside an early 60s institutional building – one of those low-slung windowless bunkers that used to say Progress! And Modernity! Here our children will learn to confront and vanquish Sputnik! It’s a confusing place – no front desk, just a few signs taped on the wall, hallways branching off in peculiar directions. We found the right room, filed out some forms, and off she went. Hearing and vision 100%. While we waited for the next tester (testress would be a better name, if redundant, since the staff was entirely female) we sat on the floor and read books. I’d brought my Lusitania book, expecting a long wait, but had only a chance to read a few paragraphs. (Highly recommended, incidentally; the Lusitania never gets the attention nowadays that Titanic gets, possibly because there was some moral ambiguity about the event – the question of munitions - and because it went down so quickly there aren’t the many tales of the Doomed Ship that lent the Titanic tale its rich narrative. The Titanic eased itself into the grave, compared to the Lusitania.)

Off she went. She came back with a certificate, looking slightly . . . conspicuous and self-conscious.

The testress signaled for the other testrixes to pay heed:

“Perfect score,” she said. “In all the time we have done this, she’s only the second one to get a perfect score.” A round of applause! The expected score for 4 /1/2 year olds is 30 out of 68. She got 68 out of 68. We looked over the results; the testricine explained what they’d done, and how she’d not only got everything right but done so in a snap. And so begins a lifetime of overachievement and self-identification through testing!

Zombies continue to rise from the grave seeking brains, publicity

Boring tech talk now. This is the supposed new iPod Shuffle killer from Sweden. What sets it apart is the screen, of course. Because when you’re jogging or walking you really need to see the equalizer. As for what the numbers mean below the levels, I have no idea – time elapsed, time yet to come, time is on my side, time to play B-sides, time until your Cds roll over, etc. The little things on top are equally useless – 128K (bit rate? Who the hell cares about this on a flash MP3 player?) SAS, which I believe is the name of a European airline; perhaps it makes reservations; SCAN, which does – what? Then there’s a 1-> button, which may advance you one song, then AB, which is helpful for those who have trouble reciting the alphabet and need to have a few letters spotted; then a lock to show whether you’ve locked the controls, and a three-bar battery indicator. And then that grey line, which looks like a tattoo for a college freshman, and makes the entire unit Extreme.

I’ve used my shuffle more than any iPod I’ve owned, and it has to do entirely with the shuffle feature. I was reading this Insty entry today, and thought: yes, fine, competition is good, etc. But I’d never consider the iRiver described, because it’s ugly. At least to me. I put a great deal of importance on a device’s aesthetics – I chose the wine I’m drinking now on the label, for example; when the price is the same I’ll go with the label that best reflects what I like to look at. But it’s more than that. Instapundit linked to this, which slammed the iPod for a variety of reasons, and not one is germaine to my experience. I listen to music at home, on the dogwalk, in the car; I use iTunes to score the family movies. Everything works fine for me, but what do I know? Excerpt:

Apple has, in the creation of the iPod, selectively omitted and disabled many of the very features that make digital music a revolution rather than a gadget. In order to put music on your iPod you must use Apple's iTunes software. If you need to put music onto your iPod using a computer that doesn't have iTunes on it (which is 9,999 PC's out of 10,000) well then, tough.

That’s right. So don’t buy one, then.

Once you get iTunes to let you put music on your iPod, it's there to stay.

Uh – right, but it’s also in your iTunes, on your computer.

You can't take it from the iPod and put it on a different computer.

Unless you put it on another medium, like a DVD or hard drive, and move it to another computer. Can you use the iPod to transfer music? No. (Unless you have that one program that does just that, of course.)
But I don't care about this, anymore than I care whether I can use a novel to transfer beer upstairs to a picture frame. It's irrelevant to my needs.

You can delete it or you can play it, but that's it. So if, for example, you owned a computer which you used to encode all of your CD's to MP3 format, and the hard drive on that computer died with all your music still in it, you could not then restore those music files from the copy on your iPod. Why not? Because if Apple permitted you to copy music off of your iPod onto an unfamiliar computer you'd just use it to give all your music to everybody else. You are, in Apple's view, a criminal by default.

Who cares? Back it up! I have every Mp3 backed up, twice.

By the way, if you wanted to encode your CD's in the quality that an audiophile demands by using the free, open source Ogg Vorbis audio compression software, you're out of luck again because the iPod doesn't support Ogg Vorbis either. Why not?

Let me speak for millions here who just want to listen to music: I don’t care about Ogg Vorbis. If Ogg Vorbis came to my house and waved tentacles at me demanding in a slobbery moan that I kneel and submit, I would shoot it. I don’t know what it is and I don’t care.

Ogg Vorbis is free, so it isn't because it's too expensive. It's because Ogg Vorbis has no provision for copy control, unlike some variations of MP3 and Apple's own AAC formats. As we all know, you're a criminal so you mustn't be allowed to use formats which allow you unrestricted control over your music.

I don’t mean to be mean, as the Elvis Costello song that just popped up on my Shuffle said, but really. Please. If you wanted to copy your AAC tunes, here’s what you do. Download WireTap or whatever audio ripper you like. Hit the “Record” button. Play the song in iTunes. Hit “Stop.” Watch in amazement as Quicktime boots and displays a nice little AIFF file of the song you just played. Burn to a storage medium for backup purposes. Voila! Somewhere a copyright lawyer falls over dead in his bathroom, clutching his heart, never knowing how or why.

Anyway. It may pain some that the iPod is popular just because it has cachet, but so it goes. If nothing else, this is a rare occasion where something related to computers has achieved market dominance for style points, and I think that’s a good thing. The more style the better. My tie today wasn't Ogg Vorbis friendly either, but it looked hella good with my shirt.

And now back to work. See you Monday.

JOE Returns 02 28
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