Randy's Corner Deli Library

08 December 2009

Little Life Enhancements

I've never been moved to write about little stuff. But in this instance, the little stuff has added some enjoyment to my life and I thought I would share it with my loyal readers.

First, I've been itching to see what Blu-Ray discs look like in my home, in my living room. Now I don't have a lot of money to spend, and indeed a really outstanding argument could be made that I have no money to spend on seeming frivolities like a Blu-Ray player. But I have to tell you that I have been an audiophile since I have been 15 years old when I got my first Pioneer SX525 receiver with quadrophonic stereo speakers in, oh, about 1976 and perhaps before that, and I've never let up. Music and its delivery has been an integral part of my life since I can remember, so when the opportunity came to enhance my video and audiophilic experience, I am usually among the first to jump on board. I did it with Super Audio CDs (SACD), DVD-Audio (a popular bomb, but still quite the auditory experience) and I did it with HD-DVD, the loser in the format wars of 2006-2007.

So it was that I came to finally decide that, for the right price, I would ante up and see what Blu-Ray had to offer. But money is such that it couldn't only be Blu-Ray. No. As a loyal and long-time Netflix subscriber, I became aware of networked Blu-Ray players that could also pull down my choices in instant movies from my Netflix queue. So it was that I went looking for a networked Blu-Ray player about a month or so ago. After quite a bit of research, I was going to get the LG model as people had complained that the Sony model didn't do Netflix very well if at all, or so I was led to believe. I went shopping at Best Buy (a misnomer) to see what they had, and sure enough, in their "best" Blu-Ray players was this item:

So I got home and checked on Amazon.com for the as-usual better price and soon enough, I was the proud owner of my first (and probably last -- depending on how long it'll hold up under normal use) Blu-Ray player as more recent comments and ratings from others convinced me that Sony had fixed its software issue with this player.

It isn't so much the quality of the video that is so striking, but the audio mixes that accompany the discs. For example, The Who at the Isle of Wight in 1970 is a magnificent video, but for me, the major and best feature of the disc is the sound quality of the concert. You can hear Entwistle, Moon and Townsend chatting it up between songs so clearly it's like having a front row seat, without the problems that one might encounter in time travel. When I tell you it's an experience, believe me.

For those of you who don't have Blu-Ray players, but have Netflix accounts and a computer network in your home, the prices on these things have come down even since I bought this one -- the price I paid was $213.95, no tax and no shipping charges. (I have requested a refund.) It's now well under $200 and is just not an option for those of you who want to complete your home theater experience. I spend a lot of time at home as going out is a major expense these days and going to the movies is too often a quality gamble; I am not into paying $12 for a ticket to a movie that I am not really sure is going to be worth the effort and bother of sitting with strangers watching a film. The last one I went to was "A Serious Man", the Coen Brothers' newest film, and one that I will undoubtedly buy used in Blu-Ray when it comes out because the sound designer did such a superlative job on it and I can't wait to get it home when it does finally hit stores. I cannot recommend this player more highly for any amount of money. It's little things like this that make life worth living.

The other little thing that has enhanced life a lot has been the purchase from Sprint of its new "Hero" phone which runs on the Google Android OS. This thing has been absolutely amazing and with the Blu-Ray player has brought me, at last, technologically into 2009 and beyond. The Google OS is very good, and the people at HTC in Taiwan who created the user interface for it have done a magnificent job. There is no doubt that Google and its own App Store will, by sheer force of numbers, eventually come to dominate the market for touchscreen phones. The Android OS is on phones from T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint. There may be more carriers of which I am not aware, but those three account for a whole lot of people. More people than AT&T where the i-Phone is trapped.

The thing is just amazing. However, I know as well as the next idiot how to break something and when I tell you that little things mean a lot, I mean exactly that. I needed to find a case for my new phone to protect it from breaking. As it happens, I have hard tile floors on the first floor, and I knew that one day, despite herculean efforts to be careful, I would drop the thing and my Hero would be dead, and I'd be out another $180 for a new phone.

So it was that I went shopping for cases, thinking that a rubberized one would do the trick. However, I found this little product on Amazon.com:

I didn't know it at the time I ordered it, but it was hard and "rubberized" plastic and came in two pieces. I was tempted to return it to get the $10, one piece silicone-rubber-whatever case, but the cost of the return shipping made that impractical so I bit the bullet, so to speak, and snapped it onto my phone and shut my mouth and just dealt with it.

Let me tell you that the two piece case saved my phone over the weekend because when I dropped it, and it was only a question of when, not if, that I would do so, that little $5 Chinese chatchke saved my phone as when it hit the tile in the kitchen, the energy from the drop from my white fleece pullover where it could and did slide out to the floor caused the case to split in two pieces saving my Hero. I just had to write about it, and what's more I couldn't recommend a case more highly for your mobile phone. If you have a chance to get a hard, two piece case for yours, by all means, get it. It'll save you more aggravation than you care to think about, not to mention hard-to-come-by money.

Little life enhancements. Good things.

**Update: 1800 PST: Amazon refused to refund my money, as it's not their policy to do so after the item ships, even if the price subsequently drops and the item can still be returned. What bullshit. So they want me to return the thing and THEN get it cheaper from THEM? So I argued a bit with the "leadership team director" who was, by his accent, in India, and got him to send me a promotional gift certificate on a "one time only" basis. This is a ridiculous policy, especially when the item can still be returned. Amazon, are you listening? Probably not. But your man in India made me a wee bit happier in giving me a gift certificate for the difference. Thank you for that, "Eric".

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