Another modern life problem

Spotify applicationHow many times these days do you have problems getting support for a product or service? Tons, I’d guess.

I joined Spotify Premium a week or two ago. The concept is great – being able to have access to more music than is in iTunes and be able to have whatever I want on my iPod (as long as I keep subscribed via the $10 a month subscription).

As I said, the concept is great. Reality? It doesn’t work. I was able to get only one album to sync to my iPod, and then no more music would sync.

Support? I tried every avenue: Google search, their help pages, email help – nothing.

So I’m calling you, Spotify – help or I’ll quit.

(Updates 1. Spotify did respond by email, though their response did not totally solve the problem. and 2. Thanks to a friend, I will maybe be able to get to the root of the problem; see comments.)

A huge contrast is 1and1 web hosting. They are great! Real humans answer the phone, 24/7. I’ve called in a ton of times and almost every time, I get satisfaction. Their rates are also among the best in the business. If you need to host your website or grab a web address of your very own, I’d highly recommend them. (Note that this is an affiliate link; if you click through and sign up, I’ll get a few cents out of the deal.)


Taking Time

Loveland Pass TrailThis is the very first guest post by Heather, my wife. Yay! (She wrote it back in August.)

It’s 100 degrees this August day in Denver. The school year has started at a time that feels way too early. Our family’s getting cheated out of beautiful days in the mountains, and togetherness around campfires. Summer is not over yet! The narrow window of warm summer mountain days has not closed.

“Busy” has started for everyone but me, and I am alone. What a rare place to find myself. I head rebelliously to the mountains for a hike. I want to see the exotic colors of “the best show of wildflowers in years.” I’m pulled in, determined to soak in the beauty, alone or not. I park and start walking. A short distance later, I leave the forest and the carpet of wildflowers behind and trudge along alpine tundra, passing little springs flowing from melting snowfields. The sun flashes silver and sparkly on an emerald alpine lake. Massive, intimidating and stunningly beautiful peaks surround me on all sides.

I am small in the vast silence. I see how big God is. I speak, but no human hears. My voice and footsteps fall like a tiny drop of rain in the ocean, but the sound reassures me. I’m a little scared. I sit, read, and think, letting a fresh breeze blow away the stale and the stuck in my mind. The sun has moved, the clouds are gathering. It’s time to go back down. Things look different going this direction. I feel invigorated and happy. This heart-pumping day has changed me. Life among mountains always does.


Chevrolet Sonic Review

Opel CorsaThe Opel Corsa is the European version of the USA’s Chevrolet Sonic.

The Corsa (shown) is a great little car. Our family of five did a day trip of 160 kilometers (100 miles) across Belgium and Holland without any problem, in spite of the relatively small size. The feeling of quality was evident in all the controls, how solidly the doors shut and in my general perception of the components being substantial.

The Corsa/Sonic handles well. It was quite comparable to the Ford Fiesta I drove a few days before driving the Corsa.

Sadly, the Sonic has an ugly front end, but it’s still a good car – far better than the Aveo, which it replaces in the Chevrolet line-up. The Aveo was based on a relatively cheap quality Suzuki.

A huge difference between the car you can buy in Europe and the USA model is more than cosmetic – the European models can be bought with diesel engines. In the 1.3 liter model we rented, I recorded about 43 miles per gallon. According to Opel’s website,* the gas (petrol) model gets about 23% less fuel economy. (And the Sonic will get even less fuel economy than the European gas model.)

I found the power from the small turbodiesel to be more than adequate. We’re not talking sports car territory, but it had more power than our Toyota Corolla, which has an engine that is almost 1.5 times bigger than the Corsa’s.

I’m just sad that American cars don’t get such great small engines – when they are already being made and sold in the rest of the world.

And finally, here is a great article on why America just doesn’t get diesel cars, from Automobile Magazine. (It’s a PDF. And copyright pardons, please. And forgive the poor quality of the scan; I spilled water on the page.)

* Note that this link is to the Vauxhall Corsa, England’s version of the Opel Corsa.


Recapturing that lost childhood

Matchbox Mustang No. 8During the summer, I saw an amazing toy car collection worth thousands of dollars. It was not in a museum – but in a home office. Few people beyond the collector, his wife and daughter ever see these cars.

So why would he invest so many hours and and so much money in that? (One small set alone is worth about $1,000.) My theory is that he is trying to recapture some of his lost childhood. He remembers when he saved up and bought those cars when he was a kid. As a proportion of his income, the little cars might be similar in what they cost him today, maybe.

I collect little cars (in spite of my primary emphasis on collecting digitally). I don’t pay very much for them. I don’t collect very many. But to anyone who visits my home office, they will see probably 6 or 7 little cars lined up, looking at me. Am I trying to recapture some of my lost childhood? Maybe. Mostly I just like cars and it’s fun to see those little cars every day.

What’s the difference between the previously mentioned collector and me? He goes to great lengths to find specific models. He’s willing to pay a ton when he finds the pearl of great price. I just randomly pick up a Trabant when I see it at Walgreens. Or a friend will give me a Mini.

By the way, the model shown is from the amazing collection. (He very kindly let me take several pictures – which are in now my digital collection.) That white Matchbox Mustang is one that I owned when I was a boy. Today on eBay with the box it costs $100. Sadly it won’t regain a place of honor in my collection.


Blogging inspiration

The inspiration fairyA friend and I had a discussion about inspiration and blogging. Sometimes the spark of creativity has left. Sometimes I wait for the inspiration fairy to touch me, and sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

My friend asked if my move from 5 posts a week to 2-3 had been good for my traffic and engagement. I replied that Shiny Bits is my personal sharing with interested people – and I don’t mind that much if traffic and engagement result.

Sure, I’d love for thousands to enjoy what I put up here. But I won’t water down my posts to try to bring those thousands to my fold. Instead, it’s gratifying when a real connection is made and lasts. That makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks for enjoying what Shiny Bits offers. And thanks for sometimes being my inspiration fairy.

By the way, this great fairy painting is from Dover Publications. They have lots of copyright-free images for your blogging pleasure. And they didn’t share who the painter was.


Large graffiti

Giant graffitiMy son is standing next to giant letters that someone sprayed on this construction site in a major city.

I can’t remember seeing graffiti that big before.

(You can click on the image to enlarge it.)


Anonymous photography

People I will never meetOne thing I love about photography is that you can take photos and have them for a while.

We took a long trip this summer, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking at the photos I took, over and over.

This family was in the Harrod’s Store in London. I will never know who they are. They will never know who I am. We will never meet. But I can wonder about what their lives might be like.


How to decorate your home

IKEA rugsHa! I’m not going to tell you how… that would be impossible. An easier question for me to answer would be which car you should buy. If you want gentle advice on that, ask.

However, I did want to give a small pointer on decorating your home – add spice where you can.

These amazing rugs are on display at our nearby IKEA. They wouldn’t fit anywhere in our place, but they could in yours. They’re definitely quirky designs and might work well in front of your flat color sofa.

A great way to get ideas is to visit a place like IKEA. Look at how the pros who designed their sample rooms do it. Observe the juxtaposition of plain and complex designs. Light and dark. Flashy and simple.

Then go to your neighborhood charity shop (Goodwill) and get what you can to make it happen. Sprinkle in more things from IKEA. Stir and serve up neat.


Quick Review: The Help Movie

The Help was great.

The movie certainly was not perfect. White ladies were all made out to be demons, except for Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan and the hurting character, Celia Foote. The African American ladies were painted as almost angels.

True, the situation was appalling. People like Skeeter, Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson – and Martin Luther King – put their lives on the line to stand up for what was right, and helped culture and society change. Highlighting that courage and strength of character was worth the price of admission alone.

The visual texture was excellent. Pacing was fine. I thought not reading the book was an advantage; the experience of enjoying the story stood on its own. My wife had read the book and still fully enjoyed the film. But she had comparisons of how the film was different than the book, such as how the film was softer in its treatment of characters.

The film challenged my way of thinking about injustice in the world today. Similar conditions of virtual (and real) slavery still abound. What am I doing to change things?


My style council

Wearing shortsMowing the lawn. Hot. Shorts.

So I wore some old short shorts – attempting to stay cool. My 10-year old daughter pointed out that I was seriously out of style.

It’s nice to have someone watching out for me.

(And by the way, I was wearing shoes when I mowed the lawn – thanks James & Bill, from the comments.)