The WTF? Files: Shards O'Glass Freeze Pops, and Dead at 50+
Test your knowledge: Programming Language Developer or Serial Killer? Can you judge which is which from the photos? I scored 8/10, so I "know my JavaBeans from my fava beans..." Hint: the only one you'll likely recognize on sight is David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam." Consider that a freebie.
From the WTF? Files: the Shards O' Glass Freeze Pops ad (which ran during the Super Bowl, but was lost in the Jackson Boob Affair shuffle) that turns out to be a parody produced by the anti-tobacco campaign, truth, and a compelling pop-up ad geared towards the 50+ crowd that leads to the AARP Media home page: "These days, doctors don't pronounce you dead. Advertisers do."
"The authority to unilaterally keep a defendant locked up - conceivably for the rest of his or her life - used to be reserved solely for kings, who could ignore any part of the realm's legal system. This monarchical power - as I've indicated in reporting on the indefinite imprisonment, without charges, of American citizens Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla - has been expanded by George W. Bush to include defendants at Guantánamo." - The Village Voice's Nat Hentoff
I'm not certain what to make of the situation down in Guantánamo. I can hear the outraged calls of "they were responsible for 9/11, or they might mastermind another attack - let's lock them up and throw away the key!" and about 10 percent of me - the fearful, gut level part that would like instantly to feel safer - agrees.
The better part of me says there must be a more just, transparent way to deal with these issues. Indefinite detention without due Constitutional process smacks of the shameful Japanese internment camp days during World War II, when Americans of Japanese descent were detained as being threats to domestic security. Read the full post on farkleberries original flavor™.
That's the title of comedian George Carlin's latest book, designed to "offend four ways." George is a real trooper; I remember seeing him at SUNY Plattsburgh's Angell College Center years ago, during his early-90's "college touring" days, and while that wasn't a high point in his comedy career, he was a hoot in person.
CARLIN: It's a big freak show. You gotta just enjoy it. That's my attitude. The human race is destroying itself slowly and it's wonderful to watch. It's being led by America, which has all the money and the power and the guns.
We're all given a ticket to the American freak show the day we're born and some people, they put their ticket away. Me, I watch the show.
Toys for Geeks: Magnetoids™ and Shower Shock™ Caffeinated Soap
Here's a great new piece of hand candy (no, not that kind) that looks like fun: Magnetoids™, the Curiously Strong Magnets! (Sorry, wrong ad.) via BoingBoing. They're simple - two powerful spindle-shaped magnets that bounce, attract and repel, and do all sorts of neat tricks.
I know some tricks you can do with Magnetoids™. You can erase all your ATM and credit cards, as well as those of everyone who happens to walk a bit too close to you. Or, you can casually place them on top of someone's computer tower or laptop near the hard drive, or on top of a videotape machine. Watch the fun begin!
Not that I'm trying to give anyone ideas. And then, there's Shower Shock™:
Are you one of those groggy early morning types that just needs that extra kick? Know any programmers who don't regularly bathe and need some special motivation? Introducing Shower Shock, the original and world's first caffeinated soap from ThinkGeek.
...each bar of Shower shock contains approximately 12 servings/showers per 4 ounce bar with 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving. No, we're not kidding and no you don't eat it. The caffeine is absorbed through the skin... have smelly co-workers that sleep in too much? Give them the gift of Shower Shock...
Whoa. Caffeinated soap. That sounds like the answer to half the world's problems.
If you've been reading news stories between the lines, what worries many opponents of gay marriage isn't just gay marriage, but what might happen after that legal barrier is crossed. As the Village Voice's Richard Goldstein pithily explains, they may be barking up the wrong tree:
After the Supreme Court nullified sodomy laws, both Antonin Scalia and Rick Santorum uttered the B-word. But it was the Massachusetts marriage ruling that brought this issue to the paw-front. "What about a person who loves their pet?" asked a legislator from New Hampshire. "Should we allow them to marry?" Nebraska's attorney general had a similar query: "Does that mean you have to allow a man to marry his pet?" (Decency forbade him from including women and their four-legged fancies.) A Boston rabbi put it more concretely: "What's next? Marrying a dog? Marrying your cat?" (At least he was species inclusive.)
Even Marilyn Musgrave, the Colorado Republican who wrote the federal marriage amendment, has raised the fearsome question, "Are you going to discriminate against . . . animal lovers?" To be fair, pet nuptials are not the only thing on these troubled minds. Opponents of gay marriage also worry about incest, polygamy, and, in Scalia's case, rampant masturbation. But what really gets them hot and bothered is the love that dare not speak, bark, mew, or quack its name.
Maybe this panic isn't merely symbolic; maybe it's the subconscious demanding to be heard. When dudes talk about doing it doggy-style, are they alluding to the real thing? When they call Hillary Clinton a bitch, are they paying her a compliment? If all men are dogs, what does that say about their predilections? How can we be sure that, left to their own devices, many guys wouldn't opt for Lassie or (shock! horror!) Trigger?[read the full article]
Movie Unreview: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex,* But Were Afraid To Ask
Every once in a while instead of renting a new release at the video store, I'll take a gamble and pick an old classic I've never seen before. This week I decided to get Woody Allen's 1972 ensemble farce, Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex,* But Were Afraid to Ask.
Let's just say...it hasn't aged very well, and it's little droopy in the trousers. But then again, look at Woody Allen.
In the intervening 32 years, the impertinent questions answered in Allen's bawdy vignettes are no longer the domain of dogeared paperbacks in the back rows of the bookstore, but glare eye-level from every women's magazine at the grocery checkout aisle: "Do Aphrodisiacs Work?" "Are Transvestites Homosexual?" and "Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Achieving Orgasm?" These burning questions once reddened cheeks at theaters everywhere, but remember, these were the Nixon years.
The funniest bits? "What's My Perversion?" - a mock TV game show spoof of "What's My Line?" complete with fake commercials, featuring a young Regis Philbin as a panelist; Burt Reynolds and Tony Randall as white-coated control room supervisors inside a man's brain during a hot date (with Allen dressed as a hapless "gun-shy" sperm, afraid of where he might be ejected - on a ceiling, or heaven forbid, "what if this is a homosexual encounter?"), and finally, an absurdist Eurocinema spoof in which Allen complains about his new wife's frigidity to anyone and everyone who will listen. He's hilarious as the shady "Latin lover," speaking in subtitled Italian with a Brooklyn accent.
The w[u]rst? Gene Wilder as a sheep-obsessed physician who ends up on Skid Row chugging Woolite™ in the horrible, misnamed segment "What is Sodomy?" You'll never watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory the same way again. Equally bizarre is a pre-Rocky Horror Frankenstein groaner with Allen as a "Brad" to a young blonde's "Janet," featuring a 50-foot-high milk-spurting breast unleashed upon an innocent town by a mad sex-research scientist.
See this if you must, but bring some aspirin: for your head, not for between your knees, as in the contraceptive method Ann Landers once suggested to young women in the 1970's.
From Overlawyered, a post on Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) proposal to implement a "loser pays" system in federal courts, designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits.
From the Myrtle Beach Online Sun: "The Seneca Republican has introduced so-called loser pays legislation, which establishes a set of guidelines under which the loser of a federal lawsuit could be required to pay the winner's attorney fees.
To receive compensation for attorneys' fees, the winning side must have made a settlement offer that was rejected and then file a petition with the judge requesting compensation. The judge will make the final determination. 'Loser pays' does more to stop frivolous lawsuits in the federal court system than any other reform," Graham said. "Litigation designed to shake someone down for a settlement would be far less frequent if each party had something to lose.
Opponents say Graham's legislation would limit access to justice. Ordinary people might be dissuaded from filing non-frivolous lawsuits for fear of paying court costs if their case loses, said House Minority Leader James Smith, D-Columbia and an attorney. And the "loser pays" reform will end up "chilling folks' ability to fight injustices," said Sue Berkowitz, executive director of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center."
I'm all for frivolous lawsuit reform, but "Loser Pays" strikes me as an example of kicking someone when they're down, regardless of whether the judgment goes to the plaintiff or the defendant.
The proposal's one saving grace is that a settlement has to be refused by the plaintiff before the "loser pays" rule can be invoked, but imagine a scenario where a patient's family sues a doctor for malpractice. If the doctor offers a small sum as out-of-court compensation, and the family refuses to settle for that amount, they stand to lose thousands of dollars in legal fees if they proceed with their case and lose - something many families can't afford to risk.
Maybe a "Split the Bill/Let's Go Dutch" schema would work, both parties entering the suit knowing they will lose something, depending on how long the case goes on and how much the lawyers are being paid. Maybe that would not only discourage frivolous lawsuits, but "overlawyering" in general. What do you think?
Here's another classic: the Duluth, MN "Bubble Trial," where a diabetic woman was awarded $125,000 after she slipped and fell into a city sculptural fountain after "a prankster...put...five gallons of dish soap in the fountain, creating a mountain of soap bubbles 8 feet high and hiding the fountain." Unfortunately, the lady suffered a cut that turned gangrenous and required skin grafts, and she did run up high medical bills. However, one wonders why she walked into an 8 foot high mountain of soap bubbles in the first place.
You never know what hides inside soap bubble mountains: avoid them like gangrene.
This morning I was having a pleasant flashback to my early days of computing. The year was 1983, and I had my first real hands-on experience using personal computers at Salmon River High School in Fort Covington, NY under the tutelage of two fantastic teachers, Mr. Gene Childs and Mr. George Emery. They've probably both retired from teaching at this point, but they really inspired me to want to learn math and computing.
Back then, this was a rare and delightful thing: a rural classroom filled with about 40 Franklin Ace 1000 computers - self-contained units, not just "dumb terminals" - so each student could work at their own machine. Each one of these Apple clones had a 12" green-phosphor monitor, a 1MHz CPU processor, and boasted a whopping 64Kb of RAM. Impressive, non? All this for a mere $1049, with a 5-inch floppy drive only $479 extra, plus the interface card. That's a lot of cash for what ended up being a pile of scrap metal and cadmium contamination. Unfortunately, the Franklin Computer company eventually lost a lawsuit launched by Apple for copyright infringement.
The computer lab was one of the "hot spots" of the school, even more popular than the gym or the outdoor smoking lounge (Yes, we had a smoking lounge. This was 1983, and smokes could be seen hanging from many a lip). During any study hall or free period, it would be packed with teens (mostly geekish boys) playing text-based or simple graphic games and writing programs, their shiny new cassette Walkmans blaring Duran Duran or Quiet Riot into earphones. Remember any of these names? Broderbund's Lode Runner™, (the original) Castle Wolfenstein™, XYWrite™, RearGuard™, and any number of text-based BASIC versions of Dungeons and Dragons™, many homebrewed.
Wow. That memory makes me smile. This was the genesis of the global Revenge of the Nerds: the first time in high school history that we geeks could in some way claim superiority over the "popular" kids. Sometimes I would be so obsessed with writing BASIC I would go to sleep at night or daydream in numbered lines of code: "0 START 10 OPEN DOOR 20 STEP INSIDE 25 SUBROUTINE: IF DOOR IS LOCKED...." I'm not kidding.
Who knew then where it all would lead? This was where the Revolution began, in the form of a keyboard and a green screen. Man, do I feel old. I still have two boxes filled with 5-inch floppies of those programs. ;) Sure, there are older systems; the Altair 8800's, the Heathkits - but that was before my time, and with all due respect, before the personal computer was accessible to the general public. When kids start to get their hands on a technology, imagination takes over.
From the Associated Press in Toronto: "Currently, there are 78 medical users in Canada permitted to buy government marijuana, which is grown in Flin Flon, Manitoba. An ounce sells for about $113, and the marijuana is sent by courier to patients or their doctors.
The Canadian government also has suggested it may decriminalize marijuana, a move criticized by U.S. drug and border agencies, which threaten more intrusive searches of cross-border travelers. Some patients report that marijuana alleviates the pain and nausea associated with AIDS and other diseases. But marijuana's status as a medicinal drug has not been formally approved, [Robin] O'Brien [a consulting pharmacist] said. 'There's no pharmaceutical company that's going to come forward to take it through the regulatory process because they can't get a patent on it, so it's kind of a limbo drug,' he said."
If you've seen Lost In Translation...or if you or your kids own anything emblazoned with a Hello Kitty™, you understand Japan's fetish fetish (yes, it's written twice for a reason). However, this one is just weird: Pink Girl culture, via BoingBoing. This fad has a long history: remember the Japanese pop duo Pink Lady? Well, this guy hasn't forgotten.
I can understand the logic behind "targeted" ads (like the sort you see at the top of this blog), using the webpage's text content to select and generate dynamic advertising aimed at readers. It makes perfect marketing sense: whoever invented it was brilliant. However, in the real world, you sometimes get unexpected out-of-context effects.
Here's a similar scenario. You utter the word "porn" at a crowded cocktail party, perhaps while discussing First Amendment rights, censorship laws or something equally inocuous: some clueless sod overhears you, sidles over and whispers, "Hey, honey...did you say porn? I've got a great collection at my place...." You get the idea.
Well, the same thing happens here. One of us may post about sexual-enhancement e-mail Spam, and the targeted ad on the page starts displaying a clickthrough link for "Cheap Viagra!" I write a post about how much I dislikedThe Passion of the Christ, and the ads start touting "The True Story of Jesus! Are You Saved?" and "Mel Gibson DVD's 30% off!"
Fer land sakes. I wonder what the header ads will start selling on farkleberriesUSA after this post.
farkleberriesUSA's design just received a face-lift...or is it a tummy-tuck? Perhaps it's more like liposuction.
We've just switched over to a fully CSS-based template for faster loading and a cleaner, sharper look. If you're looking for the events calendar, don't worry - it'll be back very shortly, pending a few code modifications. I probably should have warned my fellow blogeurs of the pending design change, but I thought it might make a nice mid-week surprise.
Then again, they may want to whack me over the head with a keyboard for sneaking this one in. We'll see.
Kelly and I were cleaning our mudroom (A.K.A. the black vortex), and I walked by my old LPs one time too many... the temptation was just too much!
Wow, Supertramp - Crime of the Century, sitting right next to the Saturday Night Live soundtrack (Don't worry, it didn't catch anything from that!), and I still have a decent turntable attached to the home theatre!.
Great tunes? - Bloody Well Right! Unfortunately, my Chicago albums didn't fare as well, they go played a lot, and sound that way.
The music of "my time" somehow seems much more simpler now then it seemed at the time - I guess that's what growing-up is all about, eh?
SeeYa - I'm gonna go listen to more sounds of the 70's!
Religion and Politics! Aristide, Jesus, and the Dead Sea Film Cans
Some random thoughts on a Friday afternoon, inspired by a visit to a friend's blog, listening to NPR this morning, and a Monday movie date to see The Passion of the Christ with a friend:
Ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still insisting he was kidnapped by US forces at gunpoint and forcibly taken out of the country. Could the reason be that he wants to "save face" with the people of Haiti? If he has any aspirations to return to power in Haiti, by claiming to be kidnapped he would come across as the unfortunate victim of a "bully nation," rather than someone who willingly allowed himself to be spirited out of the country to save his own skin. Thoughts?
Frankly, I am a bit disturbed by the number of people who are holding up Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as some sort of canonical religious work. Folks, it'a movie. Repeat after me: m-o-v-i-e. From some of the things I'm reading, some people are behaving as though Mel had uncovered the long-lost Dead Sea Film Cans portraying Christ's actual crucifixion. Certainly, a film about the event that is that graphic will stir up plenty of intense emotions, especially for devout Christians who have pictured these events all their lives. That's what good movies do. But let's not get carried away.
It said, "you can't pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe - you either believe and follow all of it, or none of it."
From what I've learned about theology and philosophy, the original 'Bible' was the Hebrew Torah - and it contained many more Commandments than the 10 we assign such importance to today. Many of the teachings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament were essentially "picked and chosen" and modified from its existing 613 mitzvoth, or commandments. Some of these 613 were apodeictic, or absolute mitzvoth - and others were assigned varying degrees of essentiality, and are more appropriately termed "good works" ("do a mitzvah"). So even the "absolute" laws of the Bible were selected from many contained in a far older document. Looking back in history, Jesus would have been seen as a rebel religious leader who preached a radically new interpretation of then-accepted Hebrew doctrine - he "picked and chose" which parts of the Torah he felt were essential: obviously this would not sit well with the establishment of the time. For that "heresy" and that perceived threat to the exisiting, fragile balance of power between Rome and the Jewish nation, Jesus became a political prisoner and was tortured to death for his beliefs and actions. He undoubtedly wasn't to only individual of his time to die in such a way, but his name and the circumstances of his execution are legendary today.
However, let's us not forget that there are many people around the world today who are also making that ultimate sacrifice, by being imprisoned and tortured for their political or religious beliefs; many in ways as gruesome and gut-wrenching as those depicted in Mel Gibson's movie. Who do they die for? Will it ever end? Will we make films about their final hours? Let's remember where this movie really came from: the Hollywood moneymaking machine.
How evil are you? Just for the record, I chose "chicken" as my favorite meat, because SPAM™ and kippered snacks were not options. I suspect a choice of "beef" on this quiz will send you straight to Hell.
You want Evil? How about liver paté on wholegrain pumpernickel with pickle slices, or sardine-n-onions on rye? Via Two Eggs of Singapore.
This is a strange story. At about 3:00 this morning I awoke with a headache and heartburn. Normally, my first instinct would be to stroll into the bathroom, prepare an Alka-Seltzer, and go back to sleep. Not last night, I woke up and I had a wild idea about blogging.
Before you say, "Lenka, get a life!" - it occurred to me that there should be a simple means of generating Blogger™ code to create a list of recent posts, including titles and links to the posts. Then it hit me, like five-alarm chili: the code was already there, in the template. It just needed some tweaking.
I rewrote the Blogger template code between the [blogger][/blogger] tags, and used the permalink URLs to generate links utilizing Blogger's current title fields. This new "mini-post" code can be placed in the template to sit on your sidebar, and replicates the current posts on your blog, without the timedate or post body (although I am sure these could be incorporated somehow as well). There doesn't seem to be a problem using two [Blogger][/Blogger] code areas in the template, but try it first in preview for yourself. The result can be seen on the sidebar - click on any title, and you are instantly taken to that post. Here is the prototype code snippet - just replace the '' with '<>', and change the font definitions to your taste, or remove the font tags if you're using CSS:
Variations might include omitting the "posted by" reference if only one individual posts on your blog; I used the author nickname field on my group blog, farkleberriesUSA.
One caveat: unless you are using a framed sidebar, try to make sure that the "recent posts" appears lower in the page code than your first instance of [Blogger][/Blogger] tags. Reason? The permalinks will always bring up the first instance of the linked text - if your "recent posts" list appears higher on the page, you may end up viewing the link that appears on the list, rather than the actual post. Also, keep in mind that Blogger basic defines the number (or days) of posts displayed "globally" for your blog - for example, if you set your Blogger formatting to display 7 days' posts per page, only those 7 days of recent posts will show up on your sidebar.
Other than that, it seems to work fine! Let me know what you think!!
Blogging Books - and, In Search of...The Perfect CSS Book
This weekend, by accident, I found an excellent book on blogging during a search for the perfect CSS guidebook. First, let me tell you about the CSS Book Search. It's actually very hard to find The. Perfect. CSS. Book.. This is a case where I've had to go to three actual bookstores and leaf through books, rather than buying online. But I digress.
The blogging book I was initially referring to was Rebecca Blood's The Weblog Handbook (2002, Perseus Publishing). A slim neon-green tome, this invaluable book is packed with practical advice and insights on starting, maintaining and growing a successful blog, from a writer's perspective.
Blood's book doesn't focus so much on the technology or mechanics of blogging per se*, but rather on the juncture of form and function and maximizing content via the uniquely immediate and dynamic nature of blogging. I'd recommend it to anyone who keeps a weblog or is contemplating starting one - if you're not yet a blogger, Rebecca's book will certainly inspire you with its possibilities. All social constructs develop their own distinctive etiquette and ethics, and blogs are no exception - Rebecca's detailed and instructive look at these aspects will not only help you become a better blogger, but may save you from learning the hard way what not to say or do in your blog. Even if you've been writing for a few years, the information within will help you focus, fine-tune, and take your blog content to the "next level."
Think of it as the Dr. Spock Book for your blogchildren - I don't know how I've blogged for three years without it!
Back to the elusive CSS book. Many books I examined were two to five years old, an eternity in the technology world. Some CSS books focus on the design aspect too heavily or spend too much time on the more arcane uses like Aural CSS and speechreading; some are too dry and technical and lack practical coding examples, while others are so basic that they aren't suitable for users with intermediate previous Web experience (Look! You can make a text box with borders! Now, let's make RED borders and BIG text! You get the idea).
Like Goldilocks' porridge, I still haven't found the one that's juuust right! - but I'm getting close. Perhaps I shouldn't be this picky, but at $30 to $50 bucks a pop, I'd like something more utilitarian than a future doorstop, which is exactly what happened to my $ 69.95 Windows 98 Bible last year.
Anyone have a recommendation for a design-oriented, intermediate-level book on Cascading Style Sheets? I would really welcome your advice!
Well, I spent the weekend filing our taxes... We're a 21st century family - our books are on Quicken, and we use TurboTax to file - I personally think it's the only way to file.
Enaways - one note of interest... Remember the Advance Child Tax Credit that "W" was touting as the "Jumpstart for the nations economy"? Well, I have 2 kids, so we got a check from "W" and Uncle Sam for $800. Very cool, I thought... at the time.
As it turns out, the first time I filed (electronically, remember??) my return got "bounced-back", because I forgot to include that $800 in my return. OOPS, my mistake - but the government is very forgiving in that arena, just add last years credit amount to the form, and re-file... For free!
TurboTax is very cool - it keeps a running total of your refund/what you owe as you work the forms. Well, I typed in my $800 error, and watched my current years refund reduce itself by (you guessed it!!!!) $800.
Yup... I've said it before, and now I'll say it again... The government givith - and then the government taketh away!!!!
I bet she's glad they weren't Supersizing. A good friend of mine once found a metal watch buckle in the ranch salad dressing at the W****'s in Plattsburgh. If I remember correctly, I think all the restaurant offered as compensation was a voucher for a free salad. A long time ago, my dad once found a large - albeit cooked - caterpillar in his serving of fried cauliflower. Ecch.
On that note, off to make dinner tonight and watch a movie...probably School of Rock, or Lost in Translation. Ever find anything interesting in your restaurant food?
Consider for a moment that the words we use say more than we realize.
In northern Canada, back in 1978 -- stay with me -- a Soviet radar satellite equipped with a nuclear reactor crashed & spread radioactive debris across a snow and ice covered 61,000 square miles. Officials made efforts to communicate with the native population, but were hampered by the fact that, while the indigenous people had 15 or 20 different words for snow, they had no word at all for 'radiation'.
Well, an article on the etiquette of vomiting brought to mind (aside from my college years) the sheer volume of words and phrases we use to describe, well, puking. What does this say about our society, our values, our goals in life? And, more importantly, why is it that I still find puke stories painfully funny, decades after my elementary school years?
Apart from these important questions, I submit for your consideration:
-float a biscuit
-drive the porcelain bus
-pray to the porcelain god
-chunder and my personal favorite, upchuck
Almost gives you a new appreciation for America's twist on the English language.
"His pants could have been down because he was mooning a car he was drag racing," Platt said. "His pants could have been down because he was urinating out of a window. His pants could have been down because he wasn't feeling well."
From CNN: "NASA scientists say the Mars rovers have found what they were looking for: Hard evidence that the red planet was once 'soaking wet'. 'We have concluded the rocks here were once soaked in liquid water,' said Steve Squyres of Cornell University['s Athena Project]. He's the principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit. 'The second question we've tried to answer: Were these rocks altered by liquid water? We believe definitively, yes,' said Squyres."
Call a pessimist, but I'm not that excited about the fact that Mars may have once had oceans: I'm more worried that that might mean our oceanic planet may eventually look like present-day Mars.
Here's a conspiracy theory for you: what if all those aliens flying around in UFO's are Martians that left that planet when its oceans dried out? Now they've been bothering us for years, because they couldn't find a better planet to set up shop. Earthlings, take note. Dang, I miss the X-Files. ;)
This weekend, I finally gave in to my urges and purchased one of those little portable MP3 players - the ones that look like blobs of plastic with a couple of buttons and headphones sticking out; in fact, mine reminds me of the Pagoo™ - that little pre-DSL-World virtual answering machine that looked like a pager. The model I got was a Rio S10, a basic player that comes with a padded case, earbuds, software and matching USB cable.
Upside? It's light, easy-to-play, gives you at least 20-30 hours of music on a single alkaline AA battery (try that with a Walkman®) and the sound quality is very good, no matter how much you shake-rattle-or-roll, because the device has no moving parts. The downside? If you're not at least moderately computer-literate, you'll undoubtedly run into some downloading errors and media snags, but with a little trial and error (and a few computer reboots, but to be fair, the computer I used is a cobbled-together Old French Whore of a Dell) you'll get about 20 to 30 songs on the out-of-the-box device with enclosed 32Mb memory upgrade.
You also need to observe the correct order of switching-on and plugging-in: first, you need to start the Rio Music Manager software, then you plug the USB cable into the player, then insert the USB cable into a free slot on your computer, then finally, you turn on the player. Any deviation will result in the player not being recognized by the software. Also, if you attempt to download a corrupted music file to the player, you will create a "glitch" in the memory, requiring a full erase of the player, and restart of the downoad. The fact I mention trial-and-error is because there appears to be little detailed troubleshooting info on either the Rio website, or the online documentation provided with the S10.
Anyhoo, now I'm having fun downloading .mp3 and .wma tunes from my hard drive onto the little gadget, like this first playlist of "Dionysian walking music":
Overseer - "Horndog"
Blondie - "Heart of Glass"
Patrick Hernandez - "Born to Be Alive"
The Kings - "Switching to Glide/The Beat Goes On"
Blondie - "Atomic (Xenomania Mix)"
Blur - "Boys and Girls"
Bon Jovi - "Its My Life"
Bran Van 3000 - "Drinking in L.A."
Collective Soul - "Heavy"
Fatboy Slim - "Going Out of My Head"
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - "Five"
Kraftwerk - "Expo 2000 (Orbital remix)"
The Urge - "Jump Right In"
The Strokes - "Last Nite"
Pink - "Just Like a Pill"
The Verve - "The Drugs Don't Work"
Moulin Rouge Soundtrack - "Because We Can Can"
Sugar Hill Gang - "Rapper's Delight"
Bernard Herrmann - "Twisted Nerve (Kill Bill Vol 1 OST)"
If nothing else, it gives you an idea of my strange, all-over-the-place music collection.
Note to self: rip songs using more compact file modes (so you don't end up with 9.5Mb songs that run a paltry 3:30 apiece), purchase a memory card upgrade, and never, ever put earworm songs like "Twisted Nerve" by Bernard Herrmann (that godforsaken whistling song, from Kill Bill Vol. 1 that plays as an eyepatched Daryl Hannah walks down a hospital corridor in preparation for murder) on a portable music player.