Monday, May 17, 2010

I pay my Apple-taxes, damnit!

Just two weeks ago, I documented the untimely demise of my Xbox 360, and here I am again blogging about another moribund piece of cherished consumer electronics.

When I tried to wake my MacBook Pro from sleep this morning, the screen remained black. The harddrive spun up, the fans kicked in, and the backlit keyboard responded as it should, but the screen showed nothing.

I ran through the usual steps I go through when something goes amiss, but to no avail. I went poking through some forums, and after a joyless half hour of troubleshooting, I came to the conclusion that the graphics card had gone tits up.

Apple customer care were fantastic, and told me to bring it to my local reseller for a free replacement of the defective parts, and [after assuring me that I'd be looked after if the local repair guys royally cocked up this job the same way they did the last] I brought the computer in for a test. Sure enough, it failed, and I was told they'd have the computer back to me in full working order by Wednesday at the latest.

I bought my computer in January 2008, and paid just under €2,000 for it. A non-Apple notebook with the same specs would have cost €500 less. Since getting the computer, I've had issues with dead pixels on the display (graciously fixed by Apple even though my computer was one month out of warranty), intermittent difficulties with the LCD backlight not wanting to turn on, and a kernel panic caused by something as banal as installing outdated printer drivers on the (self-proclaimed) "world's best operating system". No more than 18 months after first getting the computer, I noticed that the body of the machine seemed to be expanding in the heat, resulting in a number of unsightly bulges and protrusions around the seams, and when I lay my palms down to use the keyboard, I hear the housing click underneath my hand.

At times I wondered how Apple could justify the premium they charge for their computers, but really, my MacBook Pro is the best computer I've ever owned, and likely the best money I've ever spent. It's amazing to think that all my grievances about a computer that's 30 months old can be cataloged in a single blog entry. I have a far less sophisticated understanding of the Mac's operating system than I did any of my Windows-based PCs, but I feel as though I don't need to really understand it in order to get the performance I expect. I can recall the handful of times my Mac crashed, and I can remember specifically what caused these issues, which I consider 'progress' for operating system stability.

I love my MacBook, but I'm not an Apple fan. I'm going to try and get another 30 months of use out of this computer (5 years is a lofty goal for any piece of tech), and once it's time for a new computer, I'm going to buy whatever offers the least hassle for the user.

In other news, it's my birthday tomorrow, so I'm taking the recent self-destruction of my prized possessions a little more personally than usual.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

RTÉ - not credulous nitwits?

I watched a few snippets of TV3's "The Truth About Travellers" the other night, and this episode focused on the superstitious nature of everybody's favourite gate-selling, farmer-intimidating, bare-knuckle-boxing Irish vagabonds.

When they discussed the Knock shrine, (one of Ireland's finest tourist spots for the reality-impaired) they say that "it was 1879 when our lady last appeared here" [8:10 into the programme]. That claim is restated a few seconds later, without any hedging. 

While I understand that TV3 is Ireland's tabloid network, and most of their viewers won't understand what "allegedly" means, I was still a little annoyed with the credulity with which they presented this claim - particularly as it implicitly validated the travellers' religious devotion.

I know I'm comparing apples to oranges here, but RTÉ's coverage of the Pope's excursion to Fatima today eased the pain somewhat, merely because they put the word 'reportedly' before "appeared to a group of kids" when discussing a similar alleged religious apparition. Sure, this is the same TV network that still shows the Angelus, but the reporters are doing the best they can to sound impartial.

Such a small tweak makes a huge difference to an organisation's credibility, but I fear that there are hardly enough discerning viewers left to care.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Shrug-Shuffle

Note: This be a video-heavy post. It’s probably not worth your while continuing if you’re not able to view videos right now.

Back in the Napster days, and just before Eminem had released his second (mainstream) album, I was online looking for any additional Slim Shady material available, and I encountered a recording of the Insane Clown Posse’s piss-take of ‘My Name is’ called ‘Slim Anus’.

Fun as that was, it didn’t particularly interest me in the group, but for some reason the name stuck with me for quite some time.

Turns out that Insane Clown Posse, over ten years after their attempt to gain attention by piggybacking Eminem’s success*, are still around, and still making music. Their latest music video has made them something of an online phenomenon, and, well, it’s too mind boggling for me to really describe, so give it a whirl yourself:

I'm sorry, I should have warned you that the preceding video features middle-aged wiggers self-consciously boogieing to third-rate music with third-rate special effects whilst spitting despicably hateful lyrics. Hateful for the past few hundred years of human scientific progression, I mean.

There is no hope for these people. It's hard to reconcile their doe-eyed enthusiasm for all the wonderful things in everyday life with their sense of inquiry that extends as far as "I don't wanna talk to a scientist / Y'all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed."

Domestication of animals, sound waves, heredity, the light spectrum, and large meeting places are all ascribed to some 'magical' or 'miraculous force in this video, by a pair of irony-deprived twerps who swear profusely in a pathetic attempt to elicit an emotional response in the listener. Granted, the juxtaposition between lyrics that may have been written by a six year old assigned poetry homework with the usual chest-beating of gangsta-rap is certainly hilarious, but when it's so patently unintentional, it just makes these face-paint-wearing, middle-aged white rappers look a little silly.


What worries me is contemplating the people who pay money to listen to music like this - or the fact that these chuckleheads make enough money from talking about "shit that'll shock ya eyelids" that it has become their full time jobs. After some cursory investigation, it seems that these cretins have amassed a loyal following by incorporating lyrics that reach out to every downtrodden nitwit misfit imaginable, creating a nice community in the process. Twenty years into the process, just after their ebullient "fuck you" to scientific inquiry, the ulterior motivation behind the previous two decades of violent posturing are revealed:

According to Bruce, the group used profanity and references to violence and sex in their lyrics because "to get attention, you have to speak their language. You have to interest them, gain their trust, talk to them and show you're one of them. You're a person from the street and speak of your experiences. Then at the end you can tell them God has helped me out like this and it might transfer over instead of just come straight out and just speak straight out of religion."[90] Bruce also states that "The ending of the Joker Cards, the way we looked at it, was death. Heaven and hell. That's up to each and every juggalo [to decide]. We're not an ultra religious group. I don't go to church or anything. I like to believe in God."[54] - Via Wikipedia

Truly, to be so arrogantly stupid, you most be of the religious persuasion.

"FUCKIN' rainbows, after it rains / There's enough miracles to blow ya' brains"
If you're this ignorant, you owe it to humankind to blow your brains out

If four minutes of watching these morons doing the shrug-shuffle in front of crappy backgrounds (some stolen wholesale from Google Earth) wasn't enough to get you vexed, then feel free to watch this spoof from Saturday Night Live, which succeeds in being less absurd than the source material.

*Ironically, the ICP/Eminem ‘beef’ allegedly started because of the then-unknown Eminem trying to piggyback off of ICP’s success. (Just want to cover myself in case any juggalos come in here)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

How my girlfriend broke my Xbox 360

At a glance, my girlfriend seems to be your typical attractive girl with crippling self-esteem issues who’s happy to settle for less, but don’t let that fool you. My girlfriend is in fact a lizard-person. My proof? She’s cold blooded. She devours heat, complaining incessantly about the temperature, and wraps herself in multiple blankets whilst poking me with her icy extremeties to coopt my body warmth.

If we’ve got an hour to kill before going somewhere, she’ll likely engross herself in a book, whereas I’ll pick up my Xbox 360 controller.

I love my Xbox 360, but I’m aware of its foibles. Every console has its idiosyncrasies, like my PS2’s penchant for chewing up 20% of the discs I put into it, or my NES’s occasional hissy-fits in which it refused to play the cartridge in the slot until I blew into it, even though Dad told me not to. In the case of the Xbox 360, it’s the constant threat that it will succumb to sudden-console-death syndrome. The lingering dread of those flashing red lights make you truly appreciate the precious time you have with your console, and all the more willing to make concessions to ensure its reliable operation.

In my case, this ‘concession’ meant setting a room aside for the 360 in which there was no heating. This past January, there was snow literally piled up to the window, and yet the heating remained off. I sat in front of the TV, teeth chattering, deriving great enjoyment from Borderlands, all the while holding my breath lest the resulting exhalation-fog upset my accuracy.

Of course, when lizard-girl spent two weeks at my place, and I wanted to play games, and she wanted to read, it made sense that we could do both activities on the same couch, and ignore one another in a way that felt like quality time (I acknowledged her during loading screens). After about twenty minutes of struggling to turn pages with her quavering, frozen digits, she made known her objection to my lifestyle choices. I told her that turning on the heat would kill my Xbox. She told me that she’d be in bed, bundled up with her book until I turned the heat on.

I relented. The heat was turned on. Lizard girl resumed her position on the couch, and we had a pleasant evening. I began to enjoy combining the modern conveniences of central heating and electrical appliances, and continued to warm the room in the temptress's absence. Gradually, my concerns about the console's health ebbed away, and all was well in the kingdom.

Until four months later:

One "I can't live like this" conversation is all it took for her to destroy the only thing I truly loved.