please pack light

… come on … everybody sing … do the right thing …

Although I was a bit late to the party, I watched An Inconvenient Truth a few weeks back. In my post-movie, environmentally-friendly haze, I decided that I’d try and replace all of the light bulbs in my home with compact fluorescent ones. You know, CFLs, those spiral shaped ones that draw little power and last for years and years.

I went to Home Depot the next day and found their massive selection of bulbs. I grabbed some for my outdoor motion-sensor lights, some for my bathroom lights, some for my kitchen, but could not find any bulbs that could be used with three-way lamps or dimmers… in Home Depot! where they have EVERYTHING! So I stopped at Albertsons on the way home — nope, none there either. They still have a big selection of incandescent bulbs, but I’m on a mission here.

I brought home those that I could use and put them in to use. I jumped online to find some dimmable and three-way bulbs. I was shocked and surprised to discover that they’re not that easy to find online either. The only place that I could find that sold what I wanted was an Ace Hardware Outlet in New York. This is crazy, I thought, but I placed an order anyway and as of yesterday, I have a bunch more lights and lamps using the CFLs. So, lesson number one is that these things are tough to find, but that’s not the worst of it.

I have a beef with packaging. The wasted paper and plastic that goes in to the packaging of goods for sale these days is crazy. On top of that is the way they do that hard molded plastic that’s secured by heat-sealing the pieces together into sharp-edged, ridiculously hard to open containers. You NEED a knife or scissors to open them, forget about trying to tear them. You know the ones I mean. Well, the CFL manufacturers, in all their environmentally-friendly wisdom, have decided to use such packaging for their products. I feel like, while I’m trying to do the right thing here, they’re fixing one thing and breaking another. Why not use compact, recycled paper packages, like regular bulbs are packed in? I recognize that the bulbs are a little more fragile, and that due to their contents they need to be secured a little more tightly, but it’s silly that one good move is offset by an equally bad one.

Mr CFL manufacturer, please, rethink your packaging. Mr CFL retailer, please stock more options. Mr Consumer, please do what you can too.

And after this public service announcement, I now return you to your regular schedule. Please move along.

sound of silence

… people writing songs that voices never shared … no one dared … disturb the sound of silence …

The hard drive in my computer failed recently. Mixed luck had it that of the two drives inside the machine, the one with the operating system and the bulk of my files survived unscathed, while the one with all my ripped MP3s died a horrible, ticking, scratching death. On a side note, I took the opportunity to basically build a new PC and installed a new OS, but that’s not the point of the rant.

After getting the new drive in and everything hunky dory again, the task of ripping all my CDs reared it’s ugly, repetitive, tedious head. I think it might have been the fact that I had a little over a thousand CDs to do that really got me excited at the prospect. But off I went, ripping while reading email, ripping while doing my daily check of certain web sites, ripping while playing a game of Spider Solitaire before bed, starting a rip when I went to bed or to shower or to the gym or for a bowel movement.

And along the way, something from my past came back to haunt me with a passion. There was a time, in the early ’90s I think, where bands had either a really bad sense of humor, or just wanted to piss people off. Some of them still haven’t grown up and recent releases offer the same viciously annoying trait. Silence!

You know what I mean. You’re driving along, listening to a CD and all of a sudden, you get silence. It might be that after the last listed track on the CD you get five minutes of silence before a hidden track starts. It might be like the Cracker CD that has many tracks along the way of five seconds of silence. It might be like the Korn CD that starts at track 32 (or something like that), with loads of silence up front. Even an angelic goddess like Sarah McLachlan somehow fell victim to this pastime, putting a wonderful vocal version of Posession at the end of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, before her record company decided to put the enhanced data on Mirrorball Sessions into the first audio track, rendering many CD players and computers totally stupid in the process!

Why? Why? Why?

It’s just flat out annoying. I submit They Might Be Giants as another offender on Appollo 18, although theirs is not silence, merely 30-something songs of about five seconds each that really mess with you when you decide to play the CD in shuffle mode.

I like my music. No, I love it. But don’t make it hard for me to listen to it — that’s just downright stupid. And when someone has been a victim of a hard drive crash, it causes blood to boil when the 783rd CD to be ripped is another item of evidence in the “Case of the Sound of Silence”.

Thankfully, the practice seems to have died off recently. But if you know a band that is about to release a CD, beg them to do the right thing and forever hold their peace.