Blown away!

Filed in Entertainment Ind., General, Music, TechnologyTags: , , ,

I'm blown away by the Apple iTunes system.

I'm getting myself organised for a musical future, and part of that involved converting and importing into iTunes all of the Karaoke VCDs and DVDs we have in the house. When the tracks become part of the system, they're easily accessible, and they'll get listened to. The process of converting and importing the Karaoke tracks took three days of AppleScript scripting to automate and process, along with lots of Chinese typing, but I now have more than 700 karaoke tracks; both audio and video; in my iTunes library. Being a perfectionist, I then proceeded to correct the data for the tracks in my library, and create playlists (unrated, not played within the last month, ≤xGB) that I could use on our Apple TV and iPhones.

Did I say iPhones? Yep! I've waited more than a year for Apple to release the iPhone in Hong Kong, and I was registered with Hutchison 3 in both the local store and the online database weeks before the official launch. Even though we can't really afford it at the moment (who can?), we went ahead and purchased one white 16GB and one black 16GB, two colours so that my wife and I wouldn't accidentally pick up the wrong phone. Before buying the phones, I calculated the Total Cost of Ownership for the All-You-Can-Eat package. It comes out to HK$12,000 over two years per phone which is a lot of money, but not as expensive as the TOC in some other countries. The HK$12,000 included an upfront payment of $6,000 including the 'iPhone' cost, the 'Plan Prepayment' and the first month's subscription fee; ouch!

The iPhone is so cool. It has its bugs but the current functionality is great, and the potential is simply awesome. When comparing the iPhone to other 'smart' phones, people need to remember that the iPhone is not so much a phone as a portable computer with added phone functionality. It's a completely new paradigm. For the purposes of this article though, I'll only describe one function; Apple's included Remote application.

Here at home, we have two desktop Macs, one Apple TV, two portable Macs, and now two iPhones, and iTunes is completely interlinked through our wi-fi network. It's incredible. At this very moment, my iPhone is controlling the iTunes library on my iMac which is broadcasting the music through the Apple TV connected to our hi-fi system! How cool is that??? I could remote control the Apple TV directly but I don't get to set ratings while connected to the Apple TV, only when connected to an iTunes library on one of the Macs.

Life is suddenly becoming so much more musical ;-)

The Cost of Companionship

Filed in Dogs of our LivesTags: , ,

People sometimes ask me if looking after 11 dogs is expensive. Well, it is and it isn't. On average, we go through one 15kg bag of dog food each week which isn't too bad. The food cost doesn't scare us. The potential medical cost does.

Over the last month, all of our kids have had all of their shots including one for Heart Worm, a combo 5-in-1 shot, and yesterday the mandatory Rabies shot. Because we have 11 kids, we don't go to the vet. The vet comes to us. The home visit costs extra but everything gets done quickly and smoothly. Fortunately, the vet (and other vets in the past) is good to us; we don't usually have to pay full fee because they're aware that our kids are rescues, and that we have 11 of them.

But medical costs include more than just the shots. One of our kids, Batty, has a back problem that nobody has been able to diagnose despite expensive examinations, x-rays and MRIs. In the early stages of the problem, he would go for a run and be in pain the next day. For a while, we thought it might be something called 'Tying Ups' but that proved to be wrong. He was also tested for hip dysplasia because he's part German Shepherd but that too was incorrect. We have had muscle biopsies sent to the U.S., and they've shown that he has muscle atrophy so it's quite possibly a spinal nerve problem. All of these examinations cost money, and since there's only one company in Hong Kong that provides MRI services, they can charge a lot for it.

Unfortunately, Batty's condition is worsening. He was doing ok until a couple of weeks ago, two of the other kids on two separate occasions accidentally landed on his back in their excitement at seeing us return home. Since then, Batty has been in more pain and is very uncomfortable even while taking daily pain killers.

We're reaching for straws now. I've ordered copies of the MRIs and x-rays. Our vet yesterday said that he has a few friends who can read the MRIs. I'll give the copies to him and see if they can recognise anything. If nothing comes of that, I'll send the copies over to L.A. to a renowned chiropractic vet there recommended by a nice couple I met while staying in Studio City. And if all that fails, I'll arrange to take Batty to a 'Chirovetpractic' in Florida who claims that Batty is a typical mis-aligned sacrum patient, and that he can fix Batty with a simple examination and realignment of his spine and sacrum. To most vets, he sounds like a snake-oil salesman, a seller of hopes, a 'cowboy' as one of my friends calls them, but it might be worth a try anyway, especially since the fees for his services are not unreasonable. It's the air travel to and fro that will cost big pennies!

Occasionally, the kids get into a scrap and they'll get a hole or a rip. Most of these simply need antiseptic cream and time to heal. Beethoven once had a severe rip in his ear, so severe that you could see the soft bone (軟骨 Chinese terminology ;-) within, but even that healed up on its own. In fact, after a week or two, we were advised to stop applying antiseptic cream to the wound because it was interfering with the healing process!

Most of our kids are between eight and nine years old now. As they get older, there will no doubt be more sickness and illnesses to deal with. That's a little scary, but they're truly wonderful companions, and keeping them well is worth every cent!