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HankNow 01.08.07
iPod Not in my car, Near Death, Pizza, Hugs Spider-Man 3

1.08.07

Just had to resolve my five year old obsession with getting my ipod installed in my car in the most seamless way possible.

It all started in 2002 when I bought my first 1G iPod "The Refrigerator" as they are called now (I still have it by the way and in many ways think it is still the best iPod they ever made). Regardless of which iPod is best, the truth remains that since my first one I have been consumed with getting this thing to play through my automobiles OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) stereo system just the way I want it to.

In the beginning I had a 1995 PVW Passat that I adored. It being a VW and all I figured there HAD to be some way to get my iPod to play through the OEM stereo. So I went to the already increasingly influential internet and did some serious posting to newly formed iPod and Passat related forums, spending way too much time trying to figure this thing out. (A little scrubbing around closed forums yeilded the first posting I did on the subject as being on November 26th, 2002 at 11:49am, incase you were wondering.) What transpired was a period of trial and error, discovery and of course a whole lot of wasted time. Instead of re-living each and every moment of these past 5 years I thought I would just give you the high lights.

-Did not even try an FM transmitter after reading the first reviews.

-Found out through the help of a knowledgeable guy at Circuit City that RF modulation was the way to go. Even though he had NEVER HEARD OF AN IPOD, he convinced me that was worth the investment becasue RF modulation worked great for other auxiliary sound inputs like CB radios and the like, (yeah, good buddy!). It worked quite well at the time and gave me a cool retro looking toggle switch I had to use to go from "regular" auto stereo to my "super ipod sound system". Cost about $90.

-Discovered and became one of the first buyers of the aftermarket blitzcraft aux input cables for the iPod. Cost $70 for a cable that plugged into the back of the existing head unit and allowed the iPod to occupy the mysterious AUX function. Along with the introduction of ProClip USA line and I was able to successfully install and mount my 1G in my Passat for an amazing wall of sound experience. Cost about $150.

Then I got hit by a drunk driver.

So this is really where the story begins. I was forced to make a decision about buying a new car and simultaneously the auto world was clambering about Apple iPod integration. Even during my 15 minutes of podcasting fame at MacWorld 2006 I was present at Steve Jobs keynote where he unveiled iPod agreements with five major auto manufacturers, Honda being one of them.

A kernel was planted and once again I went to the internet to discover the truth, I found that indeed Honda had announced something called the Apple iPod Music Link. And If that does not sound like the coolest implementation of an iPod in a car, I don't know what is. Well it turns out it is not.

I can honestly say that the purchase of my 2006 Honda Civic was partially inlfuenced by the announement by Honda and Steve Jobs. My thought process was this. If someone smart enough (Apple) finally figured out how to talk to the dumbest people in the world (auto manufacturers) the results should be nothing short of astounding. My new Civic has a $5000 NAV system with a 7' color LCD display, the Honda iPod Music link was going to play through the NAV system, I was going to have full color album art, meta information and who knows what else, and all in complete control from my stering wheel.

Well, in an effort to keep this short like I said I would, the whole thing is an abomination. It is the poster child for what is wrong with the auto industry and the nutcases that think they know what the consumer wants. I mean, well heck here are excerpts from the letters I sent to American Honda Corp.

Letter one excerpt:

Honda iPod Music Link.
The audio system brings me to the other area I have a lot of difficulty understanding the lack of design sense. Honda iPod Music Link.

The announcement of the Honda Apple iPod Music Link was actually instrumental in my decision to lease a Honda product. I have been listening to music in my car for many years using an Apple iPod, and each year there are more and better ways to make this connection easier and more graceful.

It seems incredibly inequitable to charge approximately $350 for something (after installation, which is another story!) and have there be no discernible attention paid to the interface. I am a long time user of Apple computer products, and the one thing I had hoped would be born out of the partnership was a decent interface or GUI. If I had known that I was not going to be getting an interface that at the very least would display the song titles on my beautiful seven inch NAV display, I would have purchased the Denon ICE or Harmon Kardon iPod auto integration systems for the same amount of money. If I had known that all I was really getting was a connection between my OEM audio system and my iPod, I could have done that for a lot less myself as I did on-my last two Volkswagens.

I spent a hefty sum to get this thing installed and though I can hear my iPod crystal clear through my system (and I really like the sound system), the interface is blindingly, outrageously poor.

I do hope that this can be addressed in future updates to the system, but I have this sneaking suspicion that there might not be any updates.

Thank you very much for your time and I hope some of these comments have been helpful.

This first letter yielded a $100 certificate to and parts or maintenance done on my Honda Civic.

Excerpt from letter Two sent about six months later:

I am writing you to find out what my options are concerning the complete dissatisfaction I am experiencing the purchase, installation and usage of the iPod Honda Music Link system.

I will make this as short as I can, but still give the overall picture.

I purchased my 2006 Civic EX in January of this year. Truthfully part of my decision was based o n the announcement that Honda was integrating the Apple iPod into 2006 OEM music systems.

Since I was the first person in Southern California to have this system installed at Miller Honda in Culver City there was a lot of head scratching about how much it would cost and how long it would take. Ultimately the purchase and installation of the system ran me $392.20

This was more than the two competing system I considered, the Harmon-Kardon Drive+Play for $200 and the Dension DICE for $153 (both require installation).

All in all I was happy to have a system, as long as it worked. But, as luck would have it I have been plagued with problems since the system was installed.

Initially I contacted Mike Fenner at American Honda Customer Service (who I am cc: on this as well) and he was incredibly understanding concerning my problems concerning the cost and the fact that the system does not work very well. He agreed with my sentiments 100% and even sent me gift certificate towards future Honda parts and maintenance for which I am very grateful.

After that I considered purchasing the only audio option for the Civic, the Bass Speaker System. The cost plus installation as quoted my Vadim at the Honda Dealer in Santa Monica was $765.

I contacted Mike Fenner again aghast at this price quote. We had a brief phone conversation and he sent me another gift certificate for $100 specifically towards the purchase and installation of this particular audio add-on.

Since then my iPod Honda Music Link system has stopped working all together, that is why I am writing to you today.

I really do not want to put anymore money or time into this system, especially the idea that I would spend over $1000 on a system that is available after market for about half that cost.

What I would really like is to be re-imbursed my initial expense so that I can get one of the above mentioned systems installed and continue to enjoy the usage of my 2006 Honda Civic.

I look forward to hearing you thoughts,

Te second letter clinched the deal. A very friendly customer service representative from American Honda was immediately in touch with me and low and behold cut me a check for the whole amount I invested in the system. Don't believe me? here is the check.

He was also very candid about how the whole music link dabacle is being treated over at Honda. In a nutshell, Honda decided to roll out a useless sales gimmick just to get on the Mac/iPod band wagon. He said plainly that the system was not well thought out, but that there is some hope for possible future recovery through software. I for one am not holding my breadth.

So, I guess that is the end of this tale. I am kind back to square one about how the friggen to get my iPod to play flawlessly and seamlessly in my car with cool album art and artist and track info on my 7" LCD NAV screen.

I mean come on, is that really too much to ask?


10.09.2006 Hugs Not Drugs

This appears to be a moment of all points converging on items related to hugs and I need to share some bits of it.
While on Spider-Man 3 I met a new friend whose outlook on life I greatly appreciate. Amongst the many things that Shyam has opened me up to is the power of the hug. Shyam invited me into a group that he started called ftx (french toast hugs). An amazingly powerful concept that revolves around making and giving away free french toast in public places while offering up hugs to those wayward toast eating souls.

It works, big time.

This is Shyam giving number 38 his official ftx shirt the day before we gave away 300 pieces of french toast at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, NYC.

Shyam has done ftx gatherings in India, NYC Times Square, NYC Central Park and at the Burning Man Festival. I will not pretend to be able to display the power of ftx here on interactivehank, you can read more about this wonderful offering at Shyam's blog. (There is a great picture of my right on the top!) I have also been mulling the idea of asking him if we can open a website, but I don't want to insult the whole thing in any way, website's are all getting a bit passe.

But The whole introduction to ftx has opened me up to hugs in general and seems to have cleared the airway as well. So, recently there has been two other hug related things that flesh out this entry into the obsessive nature of HankNow pages.

The ftx group post cookout group photo. Our favorite guy was the dude on the far right who showed up about half way through and never left.

 

First is a short video about a guy who gives away hugs on the street (looks like Toronto to me, but I am not sure) and gets shut down and then reopens due to undeniable public need. It is a nice video to watch if you want to be reminded on mankind's ability to be compassionate.

 

 

And secondly, after watching this video if you feel like giving a hug, even a virtual one, you are in the right place. Shyam sent me notice of a great opportunity to share your warmth with those folks who are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here is the pitch:

Send-a-hug

hi everyone, my great friend daisy mertzel’s birthday is coming up this December. now I know many of you don’t know her but let me tell you a little bit of what she does.
when hurricane Katrina hit she felt like she wanted to do more than namelessly donate to a relief fund. she wanted to actively make some sort of impact in these people’s lives. that’s when she got the idea of ‘send-a-hug’. daisy realized that going somewhere and giving someone a hug and gift – that kind of interaction from a stranger means a lot to anyone, especially someone who has lost everything. so she asked friends to get a new stuffed animal and she would take their picture on a Polaroid camera holding the toy. the friend would then write a short note or drawing to the stranger that would eventually get the gift. daisy would then put the note & photo into a self-addressed envelope with her friend’s address. she drove to Louisiana with her pup Percy and handed out well over 400 of these ‘hugs’. when the person picks your gift she gives them your photo and note and tells them this hug is from you. she then gets a photo and note from them as well and sends it to you from them in the pre-addressed envelope. that way a hug is formed between 2 people who would never have met each other. a re-connection with the fact that we aren’t alone.

it may seem like a small thing, but like all of my friends’ art – when I finally experience it firsthand it is nothing small at all. it changes my life for the better.
when I got my letter and photo from the lady in Louisiana who picked the brown dog “roscoe” I gave – it affected me more than I would have expected.

so daisy’s bday is coming up and collecting the stuffed animals and getting the photos is always a long process for her. well thankfully I am not working now and am trying to put together a SURPRISE present for her of a huge pile of toys, photos & notes ready for her to go. so I have bought a bunch of Polaroid film and stamps and envelopes and am eager to come and meet you if you can supply a new stuffed toy.

if you would pass this on to your friends or co-workers I would appreciate it. I know that the end result would be a gift to more than just the person getting the toy. daisy plans to go to military medical hospitals next year and having all her ‘hugs’ ready to go would be a huge help to this smiling gal.

please feel free to email or call me if you have questions or are ready for me to drive over and pick up your hugs. (if you know me you know I don’t really need much reason to drive my car!). my info is:

shyam
dirtypuppy8@yahoo.com
http://www.send-a-hug.net

love you all. –shyam.

That's it. Thanks for stopping by and consider hugging someone soon.

-#38


10.06.06

I spend a lot of time frigging around with iTunes and making my 27,361 song music library better. Here are a bunch of tools that I thought you might like to know about.

Fun Stuff iTunes Essentials:
If interested in extending your iTunes functionality, you may be interested in the following stuff.

Senuti
It is iTunes spelled backwards and it is the easiest, cleanest, simplest, free-est way to get music to or from anyone's ipod to anyone hard-rive.

iTunes Library Manager v5.0
If you are interested in having multiple libraries that you can choose between, This is the only option. The creator came out with a major update just the other day (9.2006), so it appears things are going well on developing this script. I have different libraries fro Music, Voice and Children's music. Costs $10.

Volume Logic
This came out with the first release of iTunes and it remains one of the only must have enhancements. It uses an algorithm to basically mimic what happens to music over the FM dial. Ever wonder why music over the radio sounds so good.  Volume Logic does it for your iTunes, of yeah, guess what, it is free as well.

SRS iWOW
The creators of surround sound have put out a itunes plug-in that creates a pretty intense surround sound environment. It costs $19.95 and has a 15 day demo period. Large, futuristic interface as well

EatBrainz
Ever wonder if there is a magic button to help you find so called meta data or tags for your orphaned tracks, tracks that say things like "Track 01" and that is about it, or maybe toss in an "unknown" in the genre dept. iEatBrainz is the magic button. It may not find all of your "lost" tracks, but it will certainly find enough of them to warrant its price tag, oh did I forget to mention it was free?

Corripio
I have waited and waited to deal with the lack of album artwork in my library because I thought I would never give a darn, well times have changed and now I feel that those tracks that lack artwork are just about as "naked" as those orphaned tracks were before iEatBrainz got through with them. This is where Corripio comes in. It is an artwork fetching tool, seems to work quite well, but I just started using it today. They ask for a donation, but it is fully functional for the total cost of zero dollars and zero cents.
Now that artwork fetching is built into iTunes (as of version 7) these programs are kind of useless, sorry guys.

GimmeSomeTune
Basically does what iTunes should and certainly will some day soon. Places a nice customizable "play-pause-forward-reverse" menu-et in your tool bar. Also displays your artwork in an equally customizable floating box on your desktop. I have tried a few of these iTunes controllers and I like this one best.

CoinStar iTunes Certificates
If like me you think that CoinStar is very cool, you may not know that CoinStar not only will spit out an iTunes gift certificate in exchange for your spare change, there is NO service fee applied to these transactions. Be warned, not all CoinStar vending machines create iTunes certificates. Check the website or I imagine there is a Google Maps/CoinStar iTunes mashup out there already.

AllofMP3
On its last legs, but still open, AllofMP3 is a Russian website that sells virtually every album out there at a fraction of the cost of iTMS and as a bonus you can select your compression scheme, from mp4 all the to multiple loss-less formats. The interface is a bit wacky, but there is a LOT of music there to download.

iVolume
From the iVolume webpage: iVolume improves the built-in 'Sound Check' function of iTunes to have your songs actually play at the same volume level. That pretty much says it all. Cost is nothing from nothing leaves nothing.


I promised pizza stories, so here are the pizza stories. But my pizza stories got spread out a little bit, here are the links.

PIZZA HAT TRICK

Right now it is 9.17.06, but my story goes back to Halloween last.

I kind of have to work backwards a bit since there is so much ground to cover. Barely a day back online and I had to put some of my life data down, and why not start with a doozey, Oct 31, 2005 12:01 am, the moment I faced death.

I was coming home from a late night babysitting for Jack, heading up Bundy Blvd. coming onto the intersection with Pico where I would turn right to head onto the 10 fwy.
As I approached the light which was turning yellow I got an immediate bad feeling and perceived something coming very fast at me from the opposite direction. The next one second or so were long and very detailed.
The car was going at least 35-40 mph, it was in the south bound lane heading diagonally across all the lanes towards, well towards me. I braced myself for the impact. People have asked me why I didn't try to get out of the way and all I can say is that the whole thing was literally a second or a second and a half from the time I saw the car until the time I was totaled.
I remember the hit, the airbags going off, the smell, my head hitting the steering wheel and the feeling that I be dead.


Thanks to Google Earth I can give you the exact location of the accident. (of course during the day though). He was in the far right lane heading south, well sort of diagonally south as he passed three lanes and only through the grace of god hit me on the passenger side, kind of at a cross angle. If my car had not been there he would have plowed into the driver side of another car coming rapidly to a halt in the next lane over.

After the impact and for the next 90 seconds or so I was in shock, unsure if I was alive or what had happened. I remember I could not breath. The incredibly noxious fumes from the airbag were constricting my throat. I almost started to panic when I realized I could open the window. The cab of the car was filled with a white vapor-like smoke from the airbags as well. It was truly the scariest part of the whole thing.
I looked outside and there was someone there. I finally put it together and I rolled down the window. They asked me if I was all right, I said I thought so. They asked me if I needed am ambulance and I said I don't think so.

Mistake one: Always ask for an ambulance.

I had been told, but was in no frame of mind at the time, to always ask for an ambulance at an accident that has any appreciate damage. This is how it works. If you ask for an ambulance then it automatically generates a police response, this means that accountable party, in this case the drunker than shit driver cannot leave the seen of the accident without incurring a "hit and run" designation. It means no one leaves legally before the police arrive. It is a good idea for sure to take this tack.

My thinking was that since I was alive and the only injury I had was a nasty burn on my right fore arm from the air bag, then I did not "need" an ambulance, but I did say to the good samaritan outside my window, I would like to request the police? He said 911 had been contacted and I proceeded in my dazed state to do the same.

Meanwhile, Mr. Drunker than shit driver was outside my passenger window. He was a kid, maybe mid twenties, he was going going about whether or not I was OK? and kept interjecting that HE was OK, Are you OK?, I'm OK, I am really OK, are you sure you are OK? It kind of went on like that for awhile.

A little while later I got out of my car, this was perhaps 3-4 minutes after the impact. It was one of those things where you are on the other side of a looking glass, everybody is slowing down looking at you, wondering what happened, I was alone, very alone.

The drunker than shit driver (he is the guy on the left with his hand raised) came over and goes through the "you OK, I'm OK" spiel again. I nodded through it and hoped he would leave soon. We commenced exchanging our info, I had such a hard time trying to remember why info I needed. Drivers license number? Insurance? His or mine? Name address??

About this time the other guy in the picture came over to me and made a pitch. He told me they were all at some club about two blocks away on Pico and that the drunker than shit driver was a really cool guy, that he had just met him this evening and that maybe I could just let the whole thing kind of go by, make some sort of financial deal with the dude and let bygones be bygones. This guy will now be called drunker than shit guy.

I called Patti, she came right away and was very helpful and supportive and comforting. It was great relief to see her.

What then followed was a odd waiting period, calling 911 again to make sure someone was one the way, negotiating with the vulture-like tow trucks that appear within minutes of any accident and staying as far away from drunker than shit driver and drunker than shit guy as I could. I remember hearing another group of young folk go by and them saying, "Wow, like I was just drinking with that guy, he seemed pretty cool".

Eventually the cops came, the drunker than shit driver and his cohort had long vacated the area in another friends car, perfectly legal and perfectly bizarre. I told my story to the cops, they were quite helpful, they exchanged a lot of codes words and numbers about what to do about the drunker than shit duo, and they left.

I woke up sore, so grateful to be alive and happy than I had ever been to see my son.

About three weeks later I had to go to the truck yard and remove my personal belongings from the faithful VW Passat that had saved my life. I discovered two things; One is that the car did not look as bad to me now as it had the night before, (though it was deemed a total loss by AAA) and that I felt luckier than the owner of the car next to mine which had some serious fire damage.

My lucky Passat

His unlucky something

 

One last note is that about a month after everything was done and I was happy in my new 2006 Honda Civic sedan with NAV and the Apple iPod Music Link I realized I had left $500. in cash in the rear trunk driver wheel well. Emergency/earthquake cash. I tried to find out where the car was at that point, but the closest I got was some junkyard in Palmdale. A small price to pay for my health, but I do often wonder if anyone will ever find that cash?

 

 

 

 
 
 
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