What about this car is Smart, exactly?

I know, I know, it’s been a few days since you heard from me last. I’ve worked for the past six days and I’ve been busy, but we’re back! I kind of liked the review I did of my new Galaxy Tab, so I figured that I would continue along that vein for a while. The other day, while I was out collecting material to blog about, I happened to stop by a car dealership. There’s a story here.

My mother’s Hyundai needed to have a weatherstrip reapplied to it, so one morning, I woke at the crack of dawn to drive it over to Hyundai for her. While I waited, I walked through the local area, and happened by a car dealership (whose name I will withhold, because I have no sponsorship deals, *cough* *cough*). I wanted to sit in a Smart Car. Not drive it, per se, and I’ll explain why later, but just sit in it.

So I made my way into the dealership, walked around a little, metaphorically kicked a few tires, and then found my prey. This…little number…was black, and looked like it was smiling at me. (I can’t be the only one who thinks that the front end of cars look like smiles, can I?) I walked around the car, taking all of two seconds to do so, and sat inside. I should just say now that they’re absolutely adorable. They can even come with moo cow stripes, and faux wood vaneer paneling (if you should ever want that…). This will be the last time I say anything positive about the Smart Car. But look at this one!

We're going off-roading!

AWEEEEEEEEEEEE

The inside of this car was…well, was it the inside? I don’t even know, really. It was so small that I could have been sitting on the outside and have felt equally as comfortable. It was a very luxurious “interior”, I will say that, but I could really only fit myself and perhaps a backpack on the seat next to me. The “trunk” could fit maybe a loaf of bread and four litres of milk, but I’d be deeply afraid of exceeding the car’s weight capacity if I dared but that much into it at once.

The controls were relatively intuitive, all of the levers were in the right place and the display was clear. Surprisingly, the blind spots in that car are quite large; I was shocked by this because, again, there isn’t really much of the car in the first place, so how could there be blind spots? The fuel economy is astounding, though, at roughly 36 miles to the gallon (or roughly 6.5 litres/100 kilometres). Wait, hang on. My mother’s 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe gets nearly that many miles to the gallon (32), and it is a much, much bigger car. Am I missing something here? I know that it’s a hybrid vehicle, but does that mean that you can just give up on fuel economy?

There was a specification sheet posted on the window, so I got out again and looked at that, though it wasn’t really much to call home about. On the upside, should the owner of a Smart Car want to replace their entire engine, it would be relatively cheap, because all they would need is the engine from the newest Singer sewing machine model. (I actually have a whole slough of jokes involving sewing machines, I might whip that out again.)

I toyed with the idea of test driving it, but then caught myself. For those of you who don’t know, Kamloops is built almost entirely on hills. If you want to go anywhere in this town, you have to go up a hill or down a hill, and frequently, many of these hills are also highways! So, some older cars, or cars with less power may have a little trouble here and there. I have no doubt in my mind that this car would be unable to do highway speed at all, let alone up a hill. Furthermore, Kamloops, like most of Canada that isn’t Vancouver, has a vicious winter. There can be several feet of snow, thick ice, blizzards, you name it. Some quick questions: does this car even have a heater, or is that too heavy? Do they make doll-sized snow tires, too? You’d probably want more weight in winter anyway, so what does one do? If you have a Smart Car and drive it in winter, let me know.

So now that I have inspected the “interior”, the power and specifications, I want to know more about what really matters, price. This car dealership wanted to sell me this car for $15,000. Sorry, how much? Is the metal in this car even worth that much? I could get a new Honda Fit or a Hyundai Veloster for that price! The cost of this car must have come exclusively from the doll-sized tires. I imagine that I could likely build a Smart Car myself with only the following parts: a Singer sewing machine for an engine, four wagon wheels for tires, an industrial sewing needle for a transmission, a milk jug for a gas tank, some assorted rubber pipes for the various tubes, and plexiglass for the windshield and windows. There you have a brand new Smart Car for less than $1000.

Maybe I’m being too hard on this poor little car, but really now. If all you’re going to claim is fuel economy, and you’ve almost lost that to a car nearly 6 years older than you, you really ought to work on your innovation. Especially for $15,000.

I promise I’ll post again tomorrow, I need to sleep now. Rant coming soon!

 

The Rant: STRESS

For those of you who don’t know me, I have a lot of stress in my life. It’s not that my environment is particularly stressful, or that I have a lot of real stress. A lot of my stress is self-induced, because I, like many people in my family, worry constantly about the future. We plan for every situation, every outcome, little things that are really, in the end, unimportant. Regardless, this worrying can cause a lot of stress over time, and of course we all know that stress is bad for our health. I had an old dentist tell me once to cut the stress out of my life, I had a doctor tell me that, my driving instructor, teachers, family members. “Cut out the stressssssss” (I dragged out the ‘s’ because I wanted that to sound nasally and annoying).

Cut out the stress. What the f**k does that mean?! How exactly does one simply go from stressed to not stressed? Is there a switch somewhere? A form to fill out, perhaps? Or should I just stop paying the bill, and they’ll cut me off? The phrase “cut out the stress”, or any variation of that is absolute garbage. Maybe saying something with words like “begin to reduce” or “slowly bring down” would be more effective, but sentences that demand an sudden stoppage of all stress in your life are some of the least helpful things in the world. Their ineffectiveness is only amplified when the person telling you to cut out the stress gives you no concrete advice on how to do just that.

The key word above is “concrete.” Some people may tell you to do yoga, or some other new-age, trendy practice from Dr. Oz. A simple Google search, however, will bring up half a billion results. I’d like to go through one of these advice websites now, with all of you. Just a disclaimer: I did not single out this website for any reason other than the fact that it came to the top of the Google Search listings. I do not intend to defame the author or the content of the website, and am merely going to critique it with artistic licence. I’ll list the tip in bold, and then my thoughts below that. (The link will be at the bottom.)

This website intends to offer me seven tips on how to de-stress instantly. I can do instantly.

  1. Go for a quick walk.
    Here I am, at the office. I’m managing several files, working with clients, trying to think of what I’m going to make for dinner tomorrow, I’m also worried about the economy, my finances, my wife/kids/other family member, I have a weird pain in my chest, am I having a heart attack? STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING, WE’RE GOING TO WALK NOW.I can see where this would be helpful if you actually lived in a world where you have an opportunity to get up and stop whatever you’re doing and go for a little walk. The only people that I can think of who would live in this kind of world are retired people, and what could they possibly have to be worried about? If I was retired, the minute I got stressed, I’d just leap up and start racing around. Probably confuse the hell out of everybody.
  2. Read some fiction. 

    Please see above for a quick explanation about why this is unfeasible in the modern world. Furthermore, allow me to simulate what a scenario would look like if someone took their break at work to read a fictional book.”Ah, finally I can sit down and read this adventure story. Hmm, maybe I should grab some coffee first. Oh did my phone just vibrate? There goes my desk phone. Wow, this coffee isn’t very good, but at least now I can sit down. Oh, that sounds like my email, I should see if that client got back to me. Ahhhh, now I really need to pee. Oh my break is over.”

    And yes, someone could conceivably “unplug”, but if someone has that down already, then what exactly do they have to stress about?

  3. Meditate or pray.This is probably the most reasonable one so far. The only two things I can think of are: what if you’re not religious? and, what exactly do you meditate to? Can you say, without a doubt, that at this exact moment you could stop and just start meditating? If you can, good work.
  4. Watch a funny video.This is also quite reasonable, aside from the fact that many workplaces (the centre of most of life’s stress) block sites like YouTube or Vimeo from their employees. If you’re at home, or can somehow manage to find a way to watch YouTube at work, then looks like you’ve got this one in the bag, congratulations.
  5. Make a herbal tea.This also has logistical issues, given that not everybody has access to a source of hot water when they’re stressed. If you’re at the office, that access can be temperamental. At home, it’s much easier to do, but one would actually have to buy herbal tea (which can be so pricey!), and then take the time to make it, and then actually sit there and drink it. I say it like that because most herbal teas taste like the juice that collects at the bottom of your garbage bin.
  6. Punch a pillow.Really? Are you kidding me? Okay. I don’t know about your work, but at mine, we don’t have a pillow dispenser in the staff room. And even then, if I punched a pillow and any one of my coworkers came in, I would be the subject of office gossip for weeks. This is not a viable workplace tip. At home, if you can a) not upset your wife/partner by punching one of the nice pillows, then excellent. Also b), if you have a young child, who, coincidentally, walked into the room at the same time that you were punching a pillow, try explaining that to him or her.
  7. Take slow, deep breaths. 

    This is probably the only one I would actually recommend. This can be a very soothing practice, if you have the patience and mental capacity to focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Just keep doing this.

So if any of these can actually help your stress, let me know. The breathing doesn’t do very much for me in the long run, and the rest of this is practically guff. This website is where I got these tips from, and when I looked at the other Google listings, other tips fell into the same general vein. If you’re as stressed as I am about unimportant things, let me know! Or just punch a pillow, whatever.

Stay a while, and listen…

When I was writing my last entry about my new Galaxy Tab, it took about three hours longer than it normally takes me. This is partly due to the fact that I couldn’t stop playing with my new toy, but also because I needed to ensure that all of my copyright usage was in order. Just terms like Google, iPad, Samsung, even Galaxy Tab, all are locked away somewhere by some impossibly ancient man, who I shall now refer to as The Keeper of the Patents.

I imagine him to look something like this: Image

I don’t know if anyone has ever been inside a patent office, but I certainly haven’t. I’ve always pictured the patent office to look something like a massive room, with gray walls and a gray floor. There is one door, at one end, and no windows. Walk in through this door, and on your right, you see an empty water cooler with an abundance of small Dixie cups, and in front of you, several miles of that velvet rope they use to form queues at banks. One must stand in this very orderly queue during the office’s business hours of 11 am – 1 pm, although there is a one hour lunch break that takes place around 11:30, and all staff are entitled to two fifteen minute breaks (these are standard hours in any government building, though, so no one should be surprised here).

If, by some reason, your unfortunate soul should make it to the front of the line and actually manage to speak to The Keeper of the Patents, you will first realize that he is, in fact, The Watcher (as depicted above), and that he is the only person that works there. You present your patent documents to him, and he looks them over. He’ll mull over them for a few hours, and either a) tell you that you need form 36b, and send you home, b) reject the patent outright for no apparent reason, or c) approve the patent and then sacrifice a newborn lamb on your papers as an appeasement to the patent gods.

Of course when I say patent gods, I mean judges across the continent, because if it looks anything like Apple, expect to get sued.

 

(All licensed trademarks and copyrights used in this article are the property of their respective owners, of which I am not.)

In a Galaxy far, far away…

Copyright goes to Samsung and all respectful owners.

I have been in the market for a new tablet for quite a long time. I’ve looked at Acer models, the Playbook, the iPad, just about every tablet out there, except for the Galaxy Tab. I normally don’t do product reviews on this blog, but I figured that I could mask that by sharing my experiences with my new tablet (spoilers).

For this review, I should say first that I am using the Galaxy Tab 2 7″, which is running Android 4.0, and I have 8 GB of built-in memory. If you would like to read more about this particular breed of Galaxy Tab, please see Samsung.

Now, what will I go over? I want to touch on my first impressions, the usability, and the app experience. This may not sound like a lot, but usability is a very broad category. I’ll even try and throw in some humor along the way.

First Impressions

I woke up this morning, not intending to buy a tablet, and somehow found myself racing off to the electronics store. I don’t really know how this all happened, but I think I managed to justify it against future earnings. I was testing the tablet out before I bought it, and right off the bat, it felt smooth. There’s nothing that can ruin the experience of a tablet more than having to wait for a screen to load or watching the graphics glitch, even if just for a second. I didn’t experience that on the tablet when I was trying it (and I still haven’t, spoilers again). It feels light in your hands, and it’s a good fit; I personally find 7″ more reasonable than 10″. For price, I paid $283, taxes and surcharges all in, but I didn’t buy a case of any kind, nor did I buy product protection. This isn’t a bad price, especially for what you’re getting, but I think I would have been more comfortable with a final price of $250.

Bringing it home, the box is very simple. The tablet is tucked snugly into a paper holder, and underneath, there are only three other pieces: the charger adapter, the charging cord, and the manual. After removing some protective stickers, one button press turns the device on, and set-up is a snap. It’s recommended that you have a Google account when you buy any Android device, because Google’s apps are so tied into the system. I have several Google accounts, so this was no problem for me. The touch screen still feels smooth, although at this point, I was trying to remain keenly aware of any changes to that. Set up took all of five minutes, and that’s just because I got up to get a glass of water. If you have a Google account on another Android device, say your phone, your apps, settings, bookmarks, and history is already imported into this tablet, making working with both extremely easy. By this point, I was thoroughly pleased with what I had seen.

Usability

The real test was yet to come, though, because I had yet to see if it could handle my usage. After the transfer of my settings was completed, I noticed that the apps on my phone had been installed on this tablet. I opened up the app drawer, but instead of having all of the apps sorted alphabetically, I noticed that the pre-installed apps were in one section, and my apps were in another. This isn’t a huge thing for me, it was just weird, because this is the first device I have ever had that did that. In a way, it’s kind of handy, two flicks and you’re at all of your downloaded apps. Another downside, though, is when you want to add an app to the home screen, the graphical process is a little awkward. There’s a small delay while the device loads the graphics for the procedure of moving an app to the home screen, and while this looks very fancy, if you want to move apps around quickly, it can be kind of a pain.

In terms of settings, I found it relatively easy to configure the device to do whatever I wanted. I say relatively because I might have liked a small tutorial in terms of where my notification bar is, but the device is very forgiving in terms of one’s ability to play around. The speakers on the device are quite nice, and the sound is clear. A headphone jack is also built in, as a plus. One downside I noticed was when I was watching YouTube videos, and I would imagine this would apply to any video being watched. Holding the bottom of the device (while in landscape mode. I know, it’s confusing), can put you in a position to accidentally block the speakers along the bottom. Though this can be easily corrected by using a different position, it seemed strange to me to put the speakers in an unnatural position. I found the device very easy to use, though, and I would certainly deem it “mom-proof.”

App Experience

Wow, I love this app store. In this version of Android, it’s called Google Play, and it looks so slick. The app fills the screen with all kinds of content, and it’s very easy to navigate for any games, applications, movies, books, or music. Almost any app you could imagine is in this app store, but it’s important to keep in mind that some apps are not designed to display on a tablet, so mileage may vary. All of the apps I had on my phone (Facebook, Twitter, the BBC, Skype, etc) all work beautifully with the tablet, but some apps developed by smaller outfits may not be as rapid to update. One of the very few downsides I noticed falls mostly to my old habits. On my Android phone, there is a button built into the phone to access settings. This button works on the home screen, in apps, and just about everywhere. This tablet does not have a button built into it like that, but there is often a similar button coded into the app itself. All this really took for me was a little searching and I found it, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

All in all, this is a gorgeous tablet. I told myself that I was going to return it, and that’s how I justified buying it, but I think I fell in love with it. I like that I can expand the memory with a MicroSD card, and I like that it plays so well with my Android phone. If I had to rate it out of ten, I would say a 9, just because of the graphical delay when moving  apps to, and around, the home screen. If you have a chance to, I recommend trying it out. It may not be as popular as the iPad, but for a price that is $300-500 cheaper, it’s an excellent second choice.

Updates! I’ve gone gold and worldwide

I’m an awful person, it’s been almost a week since I posted. But I can make up for it! First, lame excuse: I was camping, which is why I couldn’t blog. I normally get very twitchy when my cell phone reception drops to two bars, so being entirely out of reception for a full four days was almost too much for me. I did end up in a hospital, although for an ear infection, not for withdrawals.

I’ll add in here, I don’t like to camp. I have never liked to camp, and I possibly may never grow to like camping. Somehow, though, my entire family got the impression that I did like to camp, and yearly, when the moon is high, we sacrifice a virgin on the hood of our car, and leave for some god-forsaken campground. If I went camping and had electricity, running water, a nice bed, CELLPHONE RECEPTION and a relatively normal stockpile of food, I would like camping. Clearly, I went without any of these things.

But! There is good news here. When I returned home, after showering twice, I logged into this blog I run, and lo and behold! I don’t want to brag, but we (I say ‘we’ because you, reader, are involved) have hit fifty unique views, per day. If that weren’t enough, not only am I viewed in my beautiful country of Canada, I am being read in Mexico, Brazil, the Phillipines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. So, hello, hola, hoy, good-day, and howdy (I needed to be cheeky for that last one). I can’t even describe the feeling I get when I think that fifty people somewhere in the world are reading the nonsense that I unleash on the web. Thank you all, and here’s to another fifty.

Wait, there’s more! I made a promise to myself last year. Some people, they want to quit smoking, others want to lose weight. I wanted to get a gold card. What is a gold card, you ask? Starbucks allows its customers to register their gift cards online and continually reload those cards, and with every drink you buy, you get a star on your account. If you read 15 stars, you have green status, which I believe entitles you to free syrups and refills. Don’t quote me on that. HOWEVER. If you get 30 stars in one year, then you are awarded with gold status and something magical happens. In terms of perks, you get a free drink now and again, and some other stuff, blah blah blah, if you’re interested, please go see Starbucks. The best part of gold status is that Starbucks will create a personalized gold coloured gift card for you, with your name on it, and mail it to you. I decided last year that I wanted to have a gold card, so I bought drinks occasionally, and by December 15, I had 28 stars! However, in my foolishness, I didn’t know that the stars were wiped at the end of the year, and I didn’t make it to 30 on time. I swore to myself that I would do whatever it took to get a gold card, and this year, I accomplished that goal (it was entirely worth the 60$ I spent on coffee).

I have no intention of going to Starbucks as frequently now, because I have what I want, but I plan to whip out this card as often as possible, because loyalty has its rewards.

I will publish the next part of the rant tomorrow, but in the meantime, thank you to my readers, you’re the best.

(But you already knew that.)

1800 Unique Views & Thank you!

1800 Unique Views & Thank you!

1800 Unique Views & Thank you!

I just want to thank everyone who’s ever come to visit this website, it makes me feel like someone is actually listening ;).

Here’s to the next 1800!

(no idea what that alcohol is, I just thought the number was fitting)

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