Monday, November 21, 2011

Fire Burning in My Hands

I'm a spoiled child. A grown child, but a spoiled one nonetheless. See, my mother knows me very well. She knows I love gadgets and such and that I take care of my things (in other words, she can buy me something and know that it won't broke within a week). So when Amazon announced the new Kindle Fire, without me even having to ask, my mother bought me one. She intended to give it to me for Christmas, but since it arrived so soon (she thought it would have been delayed), she decided to just give it to me now.

And I couldn't be happier!

Here it is:

Beautiful right?  Yeah, I know!

When I mentioned I was getting the Fire as a gift, I received a lot of requests to "tell me what you think of it."  Who am I to say no?  I think I've played with it enough over the weekend to give a bit of a review.

I will start with the bad to get it out of the way.

  • My biggest issue is that the Fire is wi-fi only. I'm one of those instant gratification people and if I have something that can connect to the internet then I want it immediately.  I don't want to have to go searching for a wi-fi hotspot. Then I thought about. Aside from when I'm out in the street, walking around (and obviously NOT using the Fire), everywhere I am, or would be, has a wi-fi connection - work, school, Starbucks, library, and, soon, even the subways. So really I'm covered. I can get over it.  And if worse come to worst then I can always turn my phone on and make it a hotspot.
  • The glare.  I've gotten used to my regular Kindle (which I will NOT stop using) and it's wonderful glare-free screen.  It's not horrible, but just slightly annoying. I haven't tried it in the sun, but I'm sure it will be a bit problematic. But... I got used to it with my phone, I'll get used to it with the Fire.
  • There isn't an easy way to access the internal storage. Granted, you couldn't do this with the regular Kindle either (then again, the interface there was pretty much the file management tool), but since this is a tablet which has more functionality, it should be easy to access. The only workaround I've found was to download a file manager app. This solved the problem, but really, it shouldn't have been an issue in the first place. Of course, the reason I even had to do this...
  • When you transfer documents, videos, photos, from your computer to your Fire, they are supposed to go into their appropriate tabs based on their file extension. I've noticed, though, that some files do NOT even appear. They are stored in the Fire, but just not visible.  This happens most with .DOC files.  I wanted to save my resume on the Fire (hey, you never know when you're out and someone wants a copy of it), but it doesn't appear in the Documents tab (where personal docs would go) though I can access it using the ThinkOffice app (which comes with the Fire) or Documents to Go (which I downloaded). Also of note, if you create a document, it doesn't appear in the Documents tab.  Boo!!!
  • Minor pet peeves: The Recent Items Carousel feature is pretty cool, except it's always on the Home screen and you cannot hide it or delete items from it, so be careful with what you read and watch.  If you let someone else use it, they may see that you've recently viewed something, ahem, naughty.
  • Another minor issue is that the Fire, while it comes with the charger, does NOT come with a USB connector like the regular Kindle to easily transfer files from your computer to your Fire. I was lucky enough to have one (well two, because of my Kindle and my phone), but for those that do not, you can work around this by emailing any documents/videos/other files to your Kindle Fire email (generated when you register) and syncing the items to your Fire when you have a wifi connection again.
  • One last, really minor issue - not all the apps are available for the Fire yet. This isn't a big deal for me since I'm not much of an app girl, but for others that love their apps or can't live without certain apps, just be advised that some may not work just yet.  I'm sure that will be handled soon as apps get updated though, so don't fret too much.
So,did I scare you away?  I hope not.  Here's what's good and wonderful about it, in no particular order.

  • It's beautiful! Okay, I got that out of the way...
  • It's not heavy at all and it's nice and small (small enough to fit in my petite hands), but substantial enough that you know you have it with you at all times.
  • You get ONE month FREE of Amazon Prime! Okay, that's not a lot and we all know Amazon does this to suck you in and buy Prime after the month is up, but really, it's worth it (and $79/year for Prime? that's not so bad). And if you don't want to pay for prime, well there's a Netflix app and it works lovely.
  • Apps are easy to download and they download fairly quickly (as long as your wifi connection is strong enough).
  • The Recent Items Carousel, despite what I said above, is pretty cool.  You don't have to go searching for a document, book, or video again, it'll be front and center (assuming, of course, it hasn't been weeks since you've last viewed it).
  • Books, documents, etc. are bookmarked just as in the regular Kindle, remembering your place when you last viewed it.
  • Email set up was a breeze (for AOL and GMail) and, you can sync your GMail contacts to your Fire. I assume you can do this with the other email servers, but most, if not all of my contacts are on GMail anyway so I never bothered to check.
  • It's able to recognize a load of files, the list is here: recognized files. It still doesn't support EPUB, but it does read MOBI.
  • The video and sound quality are excellent. I tested a video on the Netflix app and it was very clear. Little, if no, pixelation at all, which means the resolution is awesome.  As for the sound, I didn't test to see how loud it was since, for the most part, I will use my headphones with it anyway.
  • The reader is pretty amazing. You can change the size and font of the text (for MOBIs, AZWs only of course, no PDFs) to your preferred style, which I thought was pretty cool.  But even better was the text/background change. You can have black on white, white on black, or brown on beige, which looks most like a page from a paperback. With PDFs, you can use the finger squeeze (or whatever it's called, I swear I'm a techie!) to enlarge or shrink the page.
  • Cloud access is quick (assuming, again, a strong wifi connection) and this also gives you an additional 5GB of storage on top of the 8GB (really 6.5GB with the OS taking up the rest), or more if you choose to pay for it. 
  • The web browser is like most any browser.  It loads quickly, though it will load a mobile version first if it's available, but you can always change this to the regular page. The browser is tabbed also so you can open up several pages at a time.
I can't think of anything else right now, but if I do, I may or may not update this.  Also, anybody reading this (and any Amazon people reading this), if you can answer any of my issues above (maybe I'm missing something), please let me know.  I assume things will get better as Amazon receives feedback from their customers, but really, there are few improvements needed which is pretty darn good for their first attempt at a tablet.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go play with Fire...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cirque's Zarkana... Can I Go See It Again?

I started a new job last week.  Well, it’s not technically new since I did a three week temp stint there the end of May.  Fortunately for me I found another temp position within the company doing something I actually like.  Maybe that will be another post.  Anyway, when I worked here three weeks ago, the first thing I did was look up what perks I get.  This may not be a big deal for many of you, but I work in the entertainment industry, we get all sorts of perks.  The two things I noticed were discounts to Yankee games and discounts to Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana, my two favorite things.

Now, I am a HUGE fan of Cirque du Soleil, so much so that I am a Cirque member so I can be sure to get first dibs on tickets when they go on sale.  This of course meant I was receiving a load of emails and mailings about their latest show Zarkana and in some(most) cases information about discounts.  For those of you who know me, you know that up until May I wasn’t working so I would see these emails and postcards and such and sulk knowing I couldn’t buy tickets.  So, of course, I saw the discount at work and thought, “I’m working now, maybe I can afford tickets.” Ummm… nope, still expensive (as most Cirque tickets are, but truly worth the price!). 

What’s a girl to do?  Call her mom.  My mother loves the shows as much as I do (for the record I’ve seen 11, now 12, out of their 22 shows) and she said she’d buy the tickets.  I was set!

Then curiously, I received an email from Cirque about Blogger Night.  If I had a blog, I could register to win tickets to see Zarkana and well… blog about it. I know my blog isn’t very popular and it’s not completely geared towards the Arts, but I figured, why the hell not.  The worst that could happen is I don’t win tickets. No big deal since mom already said she’d buy.  So I registered, clicked send and pretty much forgot about it…

Until I received an email saying, “Congratulations, you won tickets for you and a guest for Blogger Night!”  Well, go me!

I called my mom to let her know the good news.  Just in time, too – she was just about to order tickets!
The day of the show arrived and I met my mom at the pre-show cocktails at Oceana that they offered the bloggers.  Must say, the food and drinks were damn good!

Mom and I made our way to the show at Radio City Music Hall, sat down and waited for the show to begin.  As with all of the Cirque shows, the show really begins a few minutes before the stage performance as the artists/clowns walk around and interact with the audience.  It’s an extra treat that I’ve always found endearing of the shows.  I pity the people who show up right on time or late as they miss this.


The show begins with us meeting the magician Zark who must find his way through an old theater to be reunited with his lost love.  What I failed to realize, and I read later in the playbill, was the cutout of the scenery where Zark makes his appearance is shaped like the New York skyline.  My fault for not reading that BEFORE the show so I could have paid closer attention, as it was my eyes were moving around fascinated with everything else going on.

As Zark moves through the theater he encounters all sorts of characters (the acts). Of course, these are the acrobats and clowns doing the usual swinging rope, juggling, high wire, trapeze, contorting, etc.  With each Cirque show there is a uniqueness to each act, but I feel like there is always that one that stands out (obviously, seeing as many shows as I have, you can easily get bored with seeing the same thing over and over).  The one that stood out to me the most was the contortionist. 

While my mom was cringing as he shifted his body into various mind-boggling positions, I was fascinated by the artistry of his movements.  In the past, if the contortionist was female, she would be in a one piece leotard, if male, usually the same thing or just tights and no top.  However, the man performing was in a loose-fitting white ensemble.  The top was flow-y and removable (being used an additional prop). The rotating stage he was on must have been made of some material that enabled him to slide effortlessly into his various positions.  The lighting on him provided shadows larger than life against the walls that only emphasized his movements and made us think there were three people performing instead of just one.

Other noteworthy acts were the sand painter and the trapeze artists.  The sand painter was something new to Cirque (as far as I know), she seamlessly painted various scenes from the show.  The trapeze artists… well, I love them just for the sheer fact that they are flying around.  I would LOVE to get to do that one day.

Of course, even with all of this, I sometimes wonder if I go to the shows to see the acts or hear the music and see the scenery.  As with all of the previous shows, the music of Zarkana, fun and sensual, did not disappoint. As soon as I have money again I will order the CD. (I have the music to almost all of the shows - I told you I was a fan!) The stage came to life with huge archways that moved and shifted into different objects (the snakes were the most impressive) and “sang.” Something new with this show was the use of LED screens to project images of things actually happening on stage.  It was a pretty neat trick especially when one of the female artists fell into a big fishbowl of sorts and end became a baby.  Or when the clown was in space and we felt like we were floating along with him.

All in all, it was a wonderful show and I definitely recommend everyone go see it before it ends in October.  Of course, I’m also very biased and would recommend anyone see it even if it was bad, luckily it wasn’t.

I had some videos, but I am not as tech savvy as I thought, so you only got pictures from the show.  I think you’ll deal. Enjoy them nonetheless.

Until next time…

*All photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I do, I do, and NY does

A wonderful thing happened on the way to a party Friday night (June 24th)....

A (new) good friend of mine is in the gay porn industry and occasionally does Go-Go dancing on the side at gay bars/clubs. If I can, I always try to go and support him, if not financially, at least for moral support.  (By the way, he's the nicest, sweetest, most lovable person on the planet and smart!) This particular Friday, he was performing at a bar downtown and I dragged my gay husband ("GH") with me (not that he minded much).

I met my GH for dinner before heading to the bar. We both knew that the vote for same-sex marriage was happening that evening and we were glued to our phones (me on twitter, him on Facebook) and feeding each other information as news was updated. When the amendment on religious exemption was passed, my twitter feed blew up with congratulations everywhere as we all assumed that meant same sex marriage had been legalized.  No, it didn't. The passing of the amendment was so gays and lesbians could not sue a church if they were denied a ceremony. In this, I do agree since churches are technically "private."  I use the word private loosely, but it is their right to say no.

The amendment though signaled good things to come.  If this was passed, the likelihood of passing the overall bill was very high and sure enough about a half hour later...


Ecstatic, overjoyed, happy... those words don't describe what I was feeling.  Perhaps GAY works best here. *wink*  While I identify as heterosexual, this was HUGE for everyone! I have many family members and friends that can now experience what I experienced when I got married seven years ago. Nothing can top that, except maybe giving birth to a child (which I know nothing about).  I turned to my GH and asked when he was getting married and told him I was going to be his maid of honor whether he liked it or not.

I was so excited I couldn't even finish my meal!  GH and I paid and left to the bar. Once there, we met with my friend, who proceeded to pick me up and give me the biggest hug on the planet. He had just come from Stonewall and told me the atmosphere there was charged with excitement and joy. I was near tears I was so happy.  I couldn't have been prouder of my state at that moment.

Of course, while the LGBT community was happy with the news, I can only assume the wedding planning industry (and the economy in general) was also happy.  Economists predict a $184 million increase in revenue for the state of New York, most of that most likely going to New York City.  Mayor Bloomberg is already trying to cash in, by promoting New York City as a wedding destination. I predict an even bigger increase in revenue, but I didn't study economics in college so I'll keep my mouth shut.

For the record, a small part of me feels this is all ridiculous. Until the Supreme Court deems the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, there will never be true equality in terms of marriage. The original constitution does NOT say anything in regards to marriage because, well... marriage, in and of itself, is a religious concept and our founding fathers were adamant about separation of church and state. The union between two people, however, is very much a federal/state concept.  Let's face it, if we want to get married, going to the church isn't enough nor is it recognized by the government.  No, we have to go down to City Hall and pay for a license to be ALLOWED to marry, then pay again to actually get married. And technically, that should be unconstitutional as well.  Why the hell, should I pay for the RIGHT to get married. That's like saying if I want to make a salad with ingredients that I already have in my home, I have to first go down to my local government and get permission. What they've done is turn my RIGHT into a PRIVILEGE. Like I said, ridiculous...

Regardless, it's a great time to be in the city and the state of New York. We're moving in the right direction... finally.

As a side note, Rhode Island approved civil unions yesterday (June 29th).  Couples in a civil union will be afforded the same rights as married couples.  It's not exactly the same, but it's something.

Also, if I were gay and getting married, I would so want this cake:

I stayed out until 3am celebrating with my friend and a good portion of the gay community.  I loved every minute of it and I wish I could relive the moment over and over.

To all my gay friends & family in relationships, I anxiously await my invitations!