22 November 2007

My First Thanksgiving Parade

After living in New York City for so long but still haven't gone to a single Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I agreed wholeheartedly when Wife suggested that we go this year. The weather was great, not raining and not cold. There was only one problem - time. We didn't bother to get up early and got to Columbus Circle around 10 a.m. The video above pretty tells the story. Layers and layers of people lining the streets, even the side streets. Sure you can see the big balloons quasi-floating in the air, but there were much other things to see on the floats, too. Some people, perhaps living near the parade route, brought 2-step ladders to get themselves above the wall of people. Good move, I will consider lugging one along all the way from Brooklyn the next time I go, if I ever go again.

I thought the Border's Bookstore in the New York Coliseum, uh, Time-Warner Center, would be open, so last night I told my Son that we would visit the store after we were done with the parade. Son re-prioritized the whole thing and was a nag the whole time, complained that the parade was boring and that we should go to the bookstore instead. After running south a few streets in hoping of catching a better glimpse of the parade, I gave up and broke from the group (Wife and In-Laws), and went to Border's with Son. The store was closed, it was Thanksgiving Day after all, what was I thinking? Not giving up, I trekked uptown to the Barnes & Noble just outside Lincoln Center, only to discover that it too was closed. The only stores that seemed to open were the ten (I exaggerated) Starbucks I came across during the trip from Columbus Circle (around 57th Street) to Lincoln Center (around 65th Street). Not to waste a nice chance to be alone with my Son, with no other kids to fight with him, I bought tickets to see a 12:45 p.m. show of The Bee Movie. We had about two hours to kill so I took Son over to Central Park and let him roam the two playgrounds at West 67th Street (Adventure Playground and the unimaginatively named W. 67th Street Playground). With about 45 minutes until show time, we each had a hot dog for lunch, eaten on the bench just opposite the hot dog stand. Not only Son enjoyed Bee Movie, I too had a few good giggles as it has many jokes for adults, like a mosquito that ended up being a lawyer said it was an easy move for him because he was already a bloodsucking parasite in the first place.

It was a great day to spend with my Son, but there was one big issue. In the morning, fearing my weak bladder would cause troubles while watching the parade, I skipped both my OPC-3 drink and, more importantly coffee. I was supposed to pick one up at a Starbuck's later on, but didn't. Combined with a dubious egg-filled pastry piece for breakfast and just the hot dog for lunch, topped with the stale air in the movie room in the basement, the lack of coffee gave me a nasty headache by the time the movie ended. I spent the rest of the day feeling awful and sickish, but otherwise it was a great day, parade or not.

15 November 2007

Lanyard, I'll Tumble For Ya!

With my new cell phone, I made a change to the way I carry the device. Up to now, I have been carrying phones on the hip. Now I use a lanyard to dangle the phone from my neck. For me, the hip is the worst place to carry a cell phone, pager, or PDA. So many times I suddenly discovered that the phone was no longer clipped onto the belt and had to scramble about finding it. I have been lucky so far and always found the cell phone either in the car or at home in some places that I recently knelt down, perhaps to tie shoelaces. I still remember the time the nice $50 PDA Skins flew off the belt, the clip completely ripped off, when I squeezed through a conference desk and an arm chair too fast. Then there was the time the PDA, in some belt-clipped case, fell from the belt unnoticed. I discovered it absence shortly afterward, but only after I ran over it with my own car!

Hopefully with the lanyard such disaster will not happen. I do have to be careful not to swing the Razr2 against some hard object. For now, with the cold weather, I can ensure that won't happen by nesting the phone between the layers of clothes I wear.

I like the fact that the lanyard sports a breakaway connector. It is a safety feature involving a mechanism that when pressed releases the device from the lanyard. Good thing to have, in case one's device get stuck between a subway car's closing doors. Better lose the gadget than your life, no?

One thing I am tempted to use is a Bluetooth headset. When the lanyard is used together with a wired headset, the two tends to tangle up. A Bluetooth headset would solve the problem easily. I vow not to become one of those annoying lunatic talking on their Bluetooth headsets in public. I think those people should be made to wear a sandwich board that declares, "I am on the phone, I am not talking to you" whenever they use the headsets, so that passersby can safely ignore them instead of responding to them out of courtesy, only to be embarrassed.

12 November 2007

Razr2 v8

The pleasant surprises in life, I love them. This past weekend I went through the bi-annual ritual of selecting a different cell phone plan and upgrading the device. I am aware of the unnecessary amount of trash generated by cell phones that got discarded simply because they lack certain whiz-bang features. I plan to eventually donate my old phone via Staples. For details, visit http://www.collectivegood.com/donate_phone_Staples.asp

I would rather keep using the old cell phone, even with a cracked outside screen a few weeks after I had it. Napping on the couch with a cell phone clipped to the belt is not a wise thing to do, trust me. But then some of the number keys were falling off, the antenna came off a few times and had to put back with Crazy Glue. Worst of all, the device had so little memory. For a while, I was using it as a personal digital assistant (PDA), entering notes, reminders, alerts, etc. but the phone quickly ran out of memory. With the new Razr2 v8's 2 gigabytes of memory, I am sure I will finally have a decent PDA to us one-handed while riding the subway or waiting on the platform. I still keep the Handspring Deluxe for other PDA tasks, but for simple tasks likes reminders, I would rather save on AAA batteries by using the cell phone's rechargeable battery.

The last time I changed cell phone, I didn't care too much about cell phones and regarded them just as tools, something to get a job done, i.e. stay connected. The iTune Phone was just out and the phone rep suckered me into getting a rip-off phone, from Motorola but not the real thing. There was some problem with it, besides the inability to easily load and play music, and I traded in for a Nokia phone. It served its goal, albeit I could use more, lots more, memory space.

Two years later, the iPhone, the real McKoy, is out and much as I love it I am not too keen on paying the premium it demands. A couple hundred dollars for the phone, stuck with AT&T possibly forever, limited number of apps, plus the costly monthly fee. This time next year maybe there will be more apps to make the device more useful, but for now I am not ready for it. I just wanted a cell phone with lots of memory to store my notes and calendar entries. The rep suggested the Motorola Razr2. I heard about the Razr before but never researched about it.

Ten hours after the phone was charged I started to play with it. It has one port mini-USB port for everything, from power to headset to data transmission. At 2 megapixel, the camera is pretty decent. My first digital camera was 2.2 MP. The nice thing is iPhoto readily recognized the phone's camera. With my old phone, I had to email myself photos taken with the phone camera, incurring whatever cents that do accumulate over time. The best feature I like so far is the ability to play music on the device. Bluetooth provides a somewhat painless way to send the music files over the air. I probably will explore the possibility of using the USB cable to send tons of files to fill up the 2 GB of memory quickly, but for now I don't mind sending songs one at a time. I get a peek at how iTunes categorize my music by digging into the its folder structure.

I especially like the Razr's ability to use any music files as ringtones or alarm sound. In these dark days of Digital Rights Management, it is probably illegal to do so, but at least there is no technical hurdle to overcome. With the iPhone, one needs to shell out $1 for the song then another dollar to convert it to a ringtone. Or rely on hacks and fight a game of cat-and-mouse with Apple.

My goal for now is to load all the songs in my son's playlist on the iPod to the Razr. It is only about 200 MB so in between I also sneaked in some from my own list. Now only if the Razr came with some decent full games instead of the lame demos...