Tuesday, May 11, 2004

One cd at a time? How archaic!

I am being treated like a child. Though I can not protest too much because I am the one dishing out the infantile behavior to myself.

Two weeks ago today, I had what can only be called the Exxon Valdez of coffee spills on top of my desk. I lost a lot of paperwork and, more importantly, soaked my cd/radio walkman and Odyssey 1000. For those of you who do not know what an Odyssey 1000 is, it's like an iPod, only made by a company called e-digital. It stores and plays back up to 5,000 songs in mp3 format.

The walkman was completely toasted. It won't work at all since the spill. So, I threw it in the dustbin. The Odyssey kind of works. The battery no longer draws a charge from the power cord, and I can't tell if it's drawing power to play when it's plugged in. I took the back off the unit so it could dry out, and when I replaced it, the hard-drive refuses to boot up if all four screws are completely tightened. If I loosen one particular screw one-half turn, however, it appears to work fine (except, of course, for the quickly draining, un-rechargable battery), except, of course, I know it is not working fine.

I called the tech support guy at e.Digital, but in the end I don't know how much help he'll be. He said I could send it back in, but this is the fourth time I've sent it in for repairs inside of a year, the company is no longer marketing the unit (in favor of selling the parts to other companies who manufacture and market their own mp3 devices), and the warranty is expired. So in the end I may wind up buying a replacement unit (if e.Digital even has any stocked replacement units. If not, I guess it's hello iPod...).

It's amazing how much these little boxes worm their way into your life. My Odyssey totally transformed my lifestyle. Since I was able to effectively carry most of my cd collection around in my pocket, it totally changed the way I listened to music. If I wanted to hear a particular song, I'd just push the menu button, dial it up, and press play. Instant gratification. Or, more often than not, by simply just setting the unit to play songs randomly, I would come across songs I ordinarilly wouldn't choose on my own, or selections I loaded into the machine because they were part of a "collection" I was putting together (80's music, punk rock, one-hit wonders, particular artists' singles and bsides) but that I hadn't previously paid a lot of attention to. This has led me to "discover" a lot of great music that I didn't even know that I owned. Since I sent the unit back into to be repaired, however, I'm back to my old system of making a mental note to myself (or, in some cases, a more reliable paper note) to grab a bunch of cds when I get home and put them in my man-purse. This is, of course, a far more cumbersome and thoughtful process which inevitably leaves something behind. It also occupies a lot more of my mental capacity than the Odyssey's "Shuffle Folder" option which was best compared to a mythical radio station that played nothing but 5,000 of your own personal favorite songs. And I never had to call the request line because it almost always knew what I wanted to hear next.

Perhaps that was making me a bit mentally dull, however. For instance, had I not soaked my Odyssey the day before I got the new gorgeous Loretta Lynn cd, would I have taken the time to listen to it as endlessly as I have? Would I have discovered the joyous musical nuances and the stories and characters hidden in the lyrics if I had loaded it in to the unit, given it a couple of cursory listens, and then let it fend for attention among over 4,000 other tracks?

There are blessings in disguise, I suppose.

As for the cd walkman, I have a rather irrational brand loyalty to Sony when it comes to portable audio equipment. My first portable cassette player in 1984 was a sony walkman. If I remember correctly, I owned two more before I upgraded to cds in 1988. I owned a terrible radio shack model for a couple of years before going back to Sony where I've stayed ever since (which is only three units in about ten years -- two were literally played to death and the third Antonio left behind in the Library). Anyway there's a Panasonic model on sale at Best Buy that plays cds, mp3s and radio. Or I can get a Sony model that plays cds and radio from ebay for about the same money.

Decisions, decisions...

I also am realizing that I have a brand loyalty to my Odyssey 1000. Given the prospect of switching to a brand that is a clear upgrade, I actually feel nostalgic for things I even thought of as shortcomings on the old unit. The devil you know, I suppose...

Anyway, why am I treating myself like a child? This is going to be extremely anti-climactic to anyone who has read this far, but I'm forcing myself to have a lid on any beverage I have on my desk from now on. At least while I'm at work. If I could think of some way to coerce Antonio to adopt the same practice when working at home, I'd probably try it there too. But I know how well that's likely to work. Plus, then I'd be treating someone else like a child.

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