Thursday, December 25, 2008

15 CDs for 1 cent!

Remember Columbia House? You know, that mail order CD and cassette giant that used to put those stupid little card stock fliers in TV guides, newspapers and just about every magazine under the Sun. Oh yeah and the other company, BMG.

They are like nobodies now, but they used to be huge! Columbia house would offer you more free CDs or cassettes than your heart could ever desire, if you just sold your soul to them. OK, it wasn't exactly the price of soul. They made you buy between 6 and 12 more titles at full price over the course of two years. The catch was the "full price." It was like double what you'd pay in the store. It was printed in the size 2.5 pt font at the bottom of that card. Contrasted with the large print "15 CDs FOR THE ONE CENT," it was basically invisible.

But all that can be forgiven. At least there was a contract you *could* have read and nevermind that, you signed that card to get the CDs. The unforgivable part... That was their blasted lettering scheme for ordering CDs and cassettes. What was it you ask? You don't remember? Well, I can't beleive you don't remember how friggin stupid it was. Here it is, ready? C for cassette and, wait for it, *T* for Compact Discs. Yes, that's right, 'T." Retarded.

No one called cassettes, "cassettes." They were called "tapes." You have no idea how many times I meant to order a CD and I got a *tape* instead.

Columbia House sucked.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Self Serve

We're all familiar with the term "self serve." It's a lot like the phrase "help yourself." Why is it that some people just can't figure that out? Of course, I'm not talking about those that are physically incapable. I'm talking about a healthy, average member of society that just can't take the time to stop and learn how to interact with the world around them.

I don't know how many times I've seen someone standing at a kiosk in Sheetz or the self checkout aisle at Walmart pounding on the screen like a chimp gone wild. The typical problem I see at Walmart is impatience. Wait the five seconds after you place an item in a bag for the scale to weigh and measure it. Pushing on the scale, and banging on the screen is not going to help you, or anyone else in line behind you.

If you can't participate in the modern world, please use the normal checkout line and leave the self serve checkout aisles to those of us that *can* help themselves.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trash or Treasure?

In my spare time I enjoy playing photographer. There is something about photography that has always intrigued me, though I think it has always started with the "coolness" factor of the newest camera technology.

That said, during the recent purchase of a new (to me) camera I've read a multitude of articles discussing the quality, specifications, and performance of current and past camera models. One thing I've noticed is the seemingly universal dismissal of older technology. We all know how quickly technology advances these days. A personal computer from more than about 4-5 years ago is considered completely worthless to some. The same is true of other electronics and especially cameras.

There is a plethora of used digital photographic equipment out there that can be had far below, literally fractions of the original retail price. Most people know this, especially if you shop at garage sales or on eBay. The camera I recently bought was about two years used, and about 1/3rd what it cost when new. Some people might say I'm crazy for buying a used digital camera from a few years ago, when technologically speaking, it's a dinosaur.

True, the camera is definitely old and will continue to be outpaced as newer cameras are released. That said, it still takes fantastic pictures. Alternatively, if I took every penny I spent on the used camera, and bought the newest technology I could today, I would have other trade offs. These trade offs would limit my speed or artistic freedom, and if I don't get the picture I intended on taking, was it worth it to have that quality? Absolutely not.

Used technology has it's place. I've seen computer servers doing the same job they've been doing for 20 years, and doing it well. Cameras are the same way. A used film camera from the 1960s or 70s can still take great photographs. True, film has a lot more resolution than even the newest digital cameras have, but the camera itself is old, and probably doesn't get every last ounce of performance out of the film that a newer film camera and newer lens might.

Great photographs don't have to be taken on the best film or best, camera, nor do they require the latest and greatest technology known to the world. They require only skill and artistic ability. The worst crime would be if they were not taken at all. So find a camera that lets you do your job and do it well. If it happens to be a used camera, oh well, just don't pay a lot for it.