Sunday, August 10, 2008

Panic Time

I didn't get the job that I've been waiting three months to hear back from. Frankly, I'm stunned, and I don't mean to sound conceited when I say that. This position was an administrative assistant position in a field in which I have my Master's Degree, in an industry that I have worked in for almost twenty years. Now I'm screwed. My unemployment is due to run out in a few weeks, and although I've applied for over 30 jobs in the past few months, I've only been asked in for two interviews. I'm beginning to think I'm cursed. So many cover letters, so little interest in me. It's gotten to the point where I've started applying for part-time work, just to start working again. I just don't understand the lack of responses. Either I apply for a job in my field or a related field, only to be told it went to someone with more experience, or I apply for admin jobs that I don't hear back from because (I suspect) they think I'm overqualified. Last year I settled for a retail job at a tea shop and it was a nightmare. The pay was low, there was no health insurance, and the owner was a total nightmare. It's gotten to the point where I'm reconsidering whether I should stay on Boston's North Shore. And no, I can't seem to get a job in Boston, either, despite the numerous institutions there that are related to the industry in which I worked. Perhaps I should just apply for jobs in my field anywhere I see them and then move there. The only problem is that we just renewed our lease this month, so I'm stuck here for another year. I could apply for a job elsewhere and have a long commute, provided it's still in-state, but that might not be practical. I really love living in Salem but it seems I just can't get a job here. I never had such difficulties with getting jobs (and keeping them) in New York.

Perseverance, prayer, positive thinking, and witchy spells (courtesy of Salem's many witch shops - I'll accept help from all denominations) all didn't help, so I don't know what to do next. I've tried personnel and temp agencies in the past, but frankly, they suck, and the ones that hired me four years ago when I first moved to Massachusetts never called me with any jobs. I'll just have to keep looking. Maybe this is a sign to switch careers, to stop looking in this particular field and industry and do something entirely different. A more optimistic person could look at this as a good thing, a chance to start over. But I've always leaned towards the "glass is half-empty" school of thought. Sure, I could do something different, but what? Maybe I could go back to school, take one of those one-year certificate courses, or sign up for those programs I see on T.V. ("A rewarding beauty career awaits you at Blaine Technical School."). I can't help but feel like I'm at a very low point in my life. No job, no prospects, no money.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unemployed in Summertime

I've just discovered Emiliana Torrini, a British electronica/low-fi recording artist. She's sort of a cross between Bjork and Ivy. My sister recommended her 1999 album "Love in the Time of Science" because one song, "Unemployed in Summertime," applies to my current situation. I still don't have a job, but for the past three months I've been waiting to hear back about a job to which I applied way back in May. It's basically my dream job - an opening in my field of study, in a creative environment very much like most of my previous jobs. After moving to Massachusetts, I couldn't get a job in that field, so I settled for a couple of jobs that, in retrospect, were a mistake. But for some reason I couldn't get an interview for the more creative jobs to which I applied. This time, I applied in late May, interviewed in early June, and was told the job would start in early July. Then the job's start date was pushed back to late July or early August. Just when I started to lose hope, I was called for a second interview. I felt it went well, but was told I'd hear back from them in three weeks. Which means, if I even get the job, it won't start until late August. I feel like this job could help me get back on track, not so much career-wise, but life-wise. I'd be in a job that makes me happy in a field in which I know a lot about, and thus, would feel like I'd be making more of a contribution to the position, instead of taking another job that would turn out to be another setback in my life. Then I'd feel like I was actually being a productive member of society. Maybe these three months of anxiety will pay off in the end. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I can take solace in Emiliana Torrini's song - a breezy homage to that period of time when you just get out of school, before you've found your first job, and the trials and tribulations of the working world haven't yet made you hardened, bitter, and pessimistic. And, as Emiliana reassures us,"It'll be okay."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Trolley Folly

Interloper trolley riding past the statue of Roger Conant, founder of Salem (which many people think is a statue of a witch because of his pilgrim hat)

Summer in Salem is the start of the tourist season. The season peaks in October, due to the city's notoriety as being the location of the most infamous witch trials in American history, and that event's tenacious association with Halloween. When I first visited Salem as a tourist eight years ago, I went on the Salem Trolley tour. Everyone who visits Salem does. If you visit Salem you have to, too. The tour was very enjoyable- an hour-long ride through town, complete with a knowledgeable tour guide regaling passengers with anecdotes from Salem's long and interesting history, which includes a rich maritime tradition as well as all of the witch business. Years later when I moved to Salem and became a resident, I always got a kick out of seeing the trolley drive through downtown, clanging its bell. When it drove up the pedestrian mall to make stops to pick up passengers, that familiar clanging reminded you to get out of its way or risk being run over. For many years the Salem Trolley was the only tour-slash-transportation amenity for tourists. But two years ago, that changed. A Boston-run trolley company established their own Salem trolley tour. To add insult to injury, they make the same stops as the Salem Trolley because these were already established trolley stops. While waiting for passengers, the Boston-owned company often leaves their trolleys idling in the spot that used to be reserved specifically for the Salem Trolley, forcing the Salem Trolley to park behind it like a second banana and get the leftover tourists that couldn't get a seat on the out-of-towners' trolleys. But my beef with the Boston-based trolley isn't just the fact that they came to town as interlopers, horning in on the territory of a local company (I know, I know, they have a right to - free enterprise and all that). My problem with this new trolley company is the aggressiveness that they display while trying to garner business for themselves.

While the Salem Trolley is a locally-owned business, the Boston-based company runs tours in a few other cities, so they're "organized." They know how to market themselves on a much wider scale. Their representatives have practically taken over the entire downtown Salem area. They started out with their yellow-shirted representatives setting up shop, so to speak, on the archway of the Visitor's Center, right in front of the trolley stop at which they leave their trolleys idling. I can understand that, when they first came to Salem, they didn't have a storefront. But this archway is public property. It has a large concrete outcropping on either side that tourists would sit on to rest, study their maps of Salem, or wait for the next trolley tour. But then the new trolley company representatives started using it as if it was their office. They monopolized it, sitting on it with their maps and brochures to hand out to passers-by. As if this wasn't bad enough, they now have representatives positioned at key points on the pedestrian mall (i.e. every corner). These representatives ask everybody who passes them if they'd like to take a trolley tour. The original Salem Trolley representatives never bothered anybody. They have a souvenir shop that doubles as their headquarters where people can purchase tickets. But this year, the Boston-based trolley company has established their own storefront, as well as a kiosk right in front of their storefront. So I don't see the need for their reps to still be out on the streets bothering people like they do.

Another nuisance around town is the new bicycle rickshaw industry that sprang up in Salem two years ago. An enterprising company set up rickshaw cabs attached to bicycles to take people around town. It seemed like a clever way to take people around Salem. The premise is that the drivers will take people anywhere in Salem that they want to go, for free. Well, sort of. It's actually a tips-only service, but you wouldn't know that to hear the drivers pedaling around Salem. They yell at every pedestrian they pass "Free rides around Salem." Some of them do add "Tips only," but then again, some don't. The drivers are all twenty-something goatee'd slacker dudes who probably ride their dirt bikes on their off-time. Or perhaps they're those "skate fuckers" (to use Jack Black's term for them in HIgh Fidelity), who skateboard on public plazas despite the signs that read "No Skateboarding Allowed." Now the rickshaw drivers are bothering people too. I constantly get shouted at by these rickshaw dudes whenever I walk through town who ask me if I need a ride, and after I've started walking away, some of them continue to shout at me. Then they get flippant. One guy yelled at me from across the street, and when I told him I didn't need a ride, he yelled "Are you a witch? You've got red hair." If he thinks that's going to make me want to pay him a fat tip to take me somewhere around Salem that I can walk to and know how to get to because I'm not a tourist, he's sadly mistaken. Last year a second rickshaw company started up in Salem. They call themselves "pedicabs." But rickshaws or pedicabs, whichever you want to call them, it just means that now there are twice as many slacker dudes yelling at people around town.

Ubiquitous goatee'd slacker dude rickshaw/pedicab driver

There was a time when I could walk through downtown Salem relatively unmolested by purveyors that cater to the tourist industry that helps to fuel Salem's economy. Nowadays, from late spring until after the Halloween season, I am accosted on every corner by a trolley tour representative hawking their free maps and pricey trolley tours, or shouted at by rickshaw bicycle dudes trying to attract fares. They are a nuisance to visitors and residents alike. Add to them the myriad of ghost-tour operators and haunted Salem walking guides handing out brochures, and the occasional halfway-house-resident drug addict asking me for a dollar "for the bus (or train) to Boston," and I can't walk two feet in downtown Salem without having to say "No" to someone. Sure I'm polite, but how many times do I have to say "No thanks" in a single day? I feel like getting a t-shirt made that says "No, I don't want a trolley tour/rickshaw ride. I live here." I know the history and I know where I'm going. I shudder to think what new mode of tourist transportation will hit the streets of Salem in the summers and Halloween seasons to come, bringing with them new and as yet unforeseen methods of ensnaring customers.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Riding On My Bike

It's been two months since I lost my job and l am still unemployed. But I haven't been sitting around my apartment watching soap operas and game shows all day. Last month I bought a bicycle (thank you George Bush and your economic stimulus check!). I had thought about buying one last year because I need a form of exercise and I hate jogging or going to the gym, but alas, I never did. This year, however, I was motivated to get a bike for two reasons: exercise, and transportation (which, come to think of it, are the only two reasons to have a bike in the first place). I bought it for exercise because, in the past year and a half, I've been unemployed twice and had a job in between those bouts of unemployment that made me miserable, all of which resulted in my regaining 30 of the 50 pounds that I had lost in 2006. So technically, I am overweight, again. And I needed transportation because my mother sold her house in another state and bought a house here in Salem. It's about a 5-minute drive from where I live, but since I don't have a car, I walked to her house, which took 30 minutes. So I bought a bike. Now it takes me 15 minutes to get to my mother's house.

The last time I rode a bike, Jimmy Carter was President, gas was less than a dollar a gallon, and the Solid Gold Dancers were entertaining America with their carefully choreographed yet erotically charged disco dance moves. In other words, a long time ago. But you know what they say - you never forget how to ride a bike. And it's true. When I took that baby out for a test ride at the bike shop, it felt really good to be zipping around on a bike again.

I've had it for about a month now. Of course I had to trick it out. I bought a bell (to warn people to get the hell out of my way - nicely, of course); a rear-view mirror, to see if any cars are coming up behind me; and a wicker basket, to take home the occasional cans of Diet Coke or roll of toilet paper that my mom gives me when I visit her (I am unemployed, remember, and sometimes you just run out of the necessities, ya know?). I also have a water bottle-holder, but as yet no water bottle, though a bottle of Dosani or a can of Arizona Diet Green Ginseng tea fits perfectly in it. I decided against handlebar streamers a la Pee Wee Herman. And do you know that when you buy a bike today, the kickstand costs extra? Apparently, kickstands no longer come with the bike, like they did back in the day when I was a kid. You have to pay extra for them! Sure, it was only $8, but it's the principle. Of course people need kickstands, so of course if you charge extra for them, people will buy them. Another thing that's changed since I had my last bike is that bikes now have front and back gears. My three-speed bike actually has seven gears in the back wheel, and three in front. So going up a hill now requires both hands to shift gears. And the right hand brake is for the back wheel only, while the left hand brake is for the front. Bicycles sure are more technologically advanced since my old-school Schwinn, that's for sure.

Anyway, I'm really loving my bike. At first I was really tentative about where I rode it. There's a condo complex down the street from me that forms a U-bend, so I rode my bike around that several times. Last week I got adventurous. I had to go to the bank, which is on the same street where I live. Mind you, I live on a busy street - full of traffic, shopping centers, and schools. But there is a generous bus lane that gives me ample room to ride my bike in. So I bit the bullet and braved the traffic to get to the bank. Once there, I realized there's a residential side street across from my bank that takes me into downtown Salem with little traffic, so I took that route to get to town. I always wanted to ride my bike around Salem Common. It's one of my favorite walking places in Salem, and I always envied the people who rode their bikes around it. So after making it to the Commons and riding around in a circle about ten times, I realized that The Willows, Salem's beach-side boardwalk and amusement center (it's very small) was practically a straight shoot from the Commons. So on I rode, again riding in the bus lane specifically designed for the tour buses that park and let tourists off at the Willows. I relaxed at the Willows, ate a hamburger at the burger joint that used to be an old carousel, and got a wicked sunburn. But I was so proud of myself for making it down to the Willows on my own. There's no public transportation to the Willows, and I always hated the fact that I had to rely on my sister to drive us there in her car. Now I can get there on my own. And I'd better make the most of my summer unemployment time while I still can. With my luck, I'll land a job soon and my free-wheeling days could soon come to an end.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Grateful Red

I had a job interview this week at a local museum that has a really great gift shop. Of course I do go to museums for the culture, you know, but a great gift shop is what makes a trip to the museum truly worthwhile in my opinion. This museum carries a large selection of Asian and Asian-inspired fine gifts like ceramics, textiles, and prints. So the last thing I expected to find there was this little piece of Kawaii (Japanese for "cute"). It's called Momiji. Momiji are message dolls. Each doll has a slot on the bottom and comes with a blank slip of paper so you can write a secret message to your friends and hide it in the doll. It's one of those cute-but-completely-impractical things that I enjoy buying now and then. Although it looks Japanese, it's actually made by a British company that is as equally enamored of cute Japanese Kawaii as Gwen Stefani (her Harajuku Lovers line of products) or anyone who buys Hello Kitty stuff (including me). But although they had several Momijis to choose from, I had to get this one, called "Laughing," because she has red hair. She's just the latest in my collection of red-headed figures.

I started collecting red-headed action figures and toys about ten years ago. So far I have, among others, Agent Scully from The X-Files, Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider (the video game, not the movie with Angelina Jolie), and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy from the Batman and Robin movie (which was so bad that, even though I saw it in the movie theater when it was first released, I totally forgot that George Clooney took a turn playing Batman until I saw a clip of him from the film on t.v. years later). My collection had originally started out as an Evil Redhead collection (hence Queen Beryl and Poison Ivy), but the lack of evil redheads forced me to expand my collection to include those on the side of good (like Agent Scully). Now anytime I see anything cool or funky with a redhead on it, I have to buy it, like this:

"Fafi Doll" from MAC Cosmetics' spring collection, inspired by the work of French graffiti artist Fafi

I think I know why I've got this obsession with red-headed toys. It all stems from childhood, as indeed, all obsessions do. When I was growing up in the Seventies, there were no red-headed dolls (except for Raggedy Ann, hardly a raving beauty). Barbie only came in blonde, first as Malibu Barbie in the early Seventies, then Superstar Barbie during the disco era. And other little-girl dolls that I had came in blonde or brunette, not red. Why? When Barbie was first introduced in 1958, she came in blonde, brunette, and red-head, and all three hair colors were available through the late Sixties. Then the notion of California Blonde seemed to take hold with Malibu Barbie, and the brunette and red-headed dolls disappeared (although some of Barbie's friends still came in brunette). So I think I have deep-rooted insecurities about being a red-head because it wasn't consistent with America's idealized standards of beauty when I was growing up. Of course, not helping matters was the fact that, during the Sixties and Seventies, the most famous redheads were either wacky comediennes like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, or Shirley Booth (t.v.'s Hazel), or else they were pigtailed, freckle-faced kids like Pippi Longstocking or Heidi Doody (puppets count). But what about Lana Turner? Or 1960s fashion model Jane Asher? They were red-heads and beautiful. Thankfully, today redheads have cast off the negative association with funny-looking funnywomen or bratty neighbor kids. Think Sarah Ferguson, who landed herself a prince, or Marcia Cross from Desperate Housewives. These days, many actresses are dyeing to be redheads (geddit?).

And speaking of dyeing, when I was in college, I dyed my hair jet black. It was kind of a punk thing, but maybe deep-down, I wanted to change my hair color to experience life as a non-redhead (because I got called names in grade school because of my hair: carrot top, Irish setter, etc.). I immediately regretted it, however, and had to go to a hair salon to have the black bleached out. Now, I wouldn't change my hair color for anything in the world.

My mother found this book recently when she was packing up her house to move. It dates from 1965, and since I was born, er, shortly thereafter, I can only surmise that this was one of my very first books ever. I have no recollection of it at all, but the worn-out spine and the paint stains on the inside front cover attest to the fact that it must have been read a lot. The little girl protagonist has red hair, which I'm sure is why my parents bought it for me.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Unemployed Again, Naturally

I got laid off from my job at the tea shop. This past Friday was my last day. So for the second time in 14 months I find myself back at the unemployment office. While waiting my turn to file my claim today, I was treated to free entertainment in the form of a white trash guy (a chav, to use British terminology) on his cell phone - while sitting right next to the sign that read "For the consideration of others, please turn off your cell phone." He was putting the heat on some guy who owed his girlfriend forty bucks, using ominous yet vague threats like "If you don't pay her then I'll do what I have to do." Then he called some girl that he apparently had been involved with eleven years ago, who was accusing him of popping pills in front of his daughter (an allegation that this young man insisted was unfounded). And he wasn't at all embarrassed at the fact that everyone in the waiting room was now privvy to his personal life.

I wasn't too upset at being laid off again. This time it was due to the economy. The tea shop has been losing money for the past three months because no one is coming in to buy overpriced gourmet tea during the present housing crisis and impending recession. So the owner decided to restructure the staff, and chose to eliminate the only full-time employee (me). But far from being angry, I'm actually relieved. The owner was a nightmare - an impatient, passive-aggressive, anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive pathological liar with an anger management problem. She scheduled me for several ten-hour days a week (with only one half-hour break) so that my actual work week was between 43 and 45 hours, yet as a salaried employee I was only paid for 40 hours. None of the hourly employees worked a full 8-hour day. They only worked 6-hour days, so basically I was making up their two extra hours at no additional cost to her. Everyone who works for her dislikes her. So upon being laid off I feel like a prisoner who was paroled early. Some highlights during the past eight-and-a-half months:

1. The Amex Incident: The owner forgot to put a stamp on the envelope when she mailed the check to pay her American Express bill one month. Not surprisingly, the envelope with the check came back to her, thus making her payment for that month late. When I gave her mail to her that day she plucked out the envelope, waved it in front of my face and said "When you see this, you put a stamp on it and put it back in the mail. Now the payment is late!" Typical: she avoids accountability for her own actions. For every mistake she makes (and we all make mistakes), she'll either lie to avoid admitting it, or she'll turn on those around her, as in this case, genuinely convinced that someone else was at fault.
2. The Phone Incident: She was in the middle of carrying some items out to her car to take over to her business partner when the partner called. When I gave her the phone, she barked "Stay here!" I assumed she wanted me to wait because she needed my help with moving things to her car. So I stood there awkwardly while she chewed out her business partner for calling her while she was on her way out of the store - to go see her business partner! Typical: this woman loses her temper at the drop of a hat, over insignificant things. She spoke to her partner the way she talks to all of her staff - like we're idiots wasting her time. So when she finished the conversation, she threw the telephone down on one of the tables and stormed out the door like an immature child. If there were any customers in the shop at the time, or if she had done that in someone else's establishment, people would wonder what the hell was wrong with that woman. When I asked if she needed help carrying things out to her car she said no. The reason why she made me wait for her to get off of the phone was so that I could take the phone from her and put it back in its base (something she does all the time -she never hangs up the phone. She hands it off to someone else to put back for her, like we're her handservants). Yet she didn't even have the common courtesy to hand the phone to me. She threw it down on the table, leaving me to pick it up and put back for her like I was her lackey.
3. The Baby Incident: She doesn't like children. It's obvious, judging by her reaction whenever children came in with their parents. But when this one young mother came in with her baby, the owner was being really sweet with the child. "I looked just like you when I was your age," she told the baby, who couldn't have been more than a year-and-a-half. It surprised me how good she was with the baby, until the mother and child left without buying anything more than a cup of tea and a pastry. Then it all made sense. The owner turned to me and said "Usually the way to their hearts, and their wallets, is through their kids." (I should have known). She said it in all seriousness, and I detected a sick sense of pride, as if she was imparting her years of retail wisdom to me, so that I can follow her example. What little respect I had left for her went out the window that day.

When I was first hired, I thought the job would be a nice, relaxing change from the fast pace of the corporate environment. But the owner put sales pressure on her staff to sell more of the merchandise, claiming "I don't make money selling tea." If I wanted to harangue customers and resort to high-pressure sales tactics I would have gotten a job at the mall. But the hypocrisy behind the shop's mission was that she would tell customers "We're more than just a gathering place. We're an institution, where people can come to get healthy mentally, physically, spiritually." Yet she was anything but. It was a retail establishment disguised as an oasis of relaxation. And ironically, the owner stressed out her staff and had everyone walking around on eggshells. During the 8 months I was there, we went through 6 employees. Three successive employees quit after only three days, including one kid who took his fifteen-minute break and never came back! The owner never had any real respect for any of her staff. We were all underpaid and overworked, with no health insurance. And judging by her behavior, I seriously suspect she has a personality disorder. She's a liability rather than an asset to her shop. While she may be a good business woman, she has no business managing people.

I know there is a world out there beyond the tea shop - one that is reasonably more well-adjusted, respectful, and with benefits. At least I can sleep at night knowing I remained true to myself. I got along well with the people I worked with and I can say that they genuinely liked me. I also take pride in the fact that I truly assisted customers without resorting to exaggerations, untruths, or tactics to try to make a sale. It's too bad the owner values dollars and cents above customer satisfaction. But she'll never change. And I don't think the shop will make it to Christmas this year. As for me, I started this blog last year to give me something to do while I was unemployed, so perhaps this means I'll be able to start blogging more again.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Hate Apple and iTunes!

Actually, I don't really hate them. I'm just mad at them right now. A couple of days ago I bought myself an iPod Nano 3rd generation in pink (my favorite color). It was a birthday present to myself. I wanted to be able to download music videos and watch them on my iPod. I had visions of watching, anytime I wanted, all my favorite videos. Videos that I would spend hours in front of the television during my formative teenage years back in the 80's waiting for MTV to play, like Madness, The Cure, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Pretenders, etc.

I walked over to my local Target in the pouring rain just to buy it. I thought I hit the jackpot when the sales associate told me that I was entitled to a free $25 iTunes gift card with the purchase of the iPod. Woo hoo! When I brought my new iPod home and plugged it into my laptop, I got an error message that said the iPod was corrupt. So I schlepped back to Target, by which time the rain turned torrential, because I wanted immediate gratification and didn't want to wait until the next day to replace it. So I took my new iPod home only to have the same problem. Since I didn't want to go out in the rain a third time, I decided to surf the net first to see if others had this problem. In short, it turns out that the new iPod requires the Mac operating system of OS 10.4.9 or higher and iTunes 7.6, neither of which I had. So that's my first beef with Apple. They make it so that their older software and operating systems don't support the new products they release, thus requiring consumers to either download, or spend $130 on the newest upgrade. I tried to download the upgrade, but since I have dial-up (I know, I should really get with the times), it would have taken 12 hours to download it. As it happened, it took me 3 hours to download the iTunes 7.6 upgrade, only to learn I couldn't install it because I didn't have OS 10.4.9 or higher. I finally got the bright idea to try the computers in the management office of my apartment, which are available to residents. I thought surely they would have high-speed internet access. I was right. It took 4 minutes on the office computer to download the upgrade that would have taken 12 hours on my laptop.

Once installed, I was ready to download music videos. I hit iTunes' New Wave Nation, the perfect homage to the era that spawned the music video. Alas, the selections were meager. So I downloaded ABC's The Look of Love and then hit the current video section to grab Amy Winehouse's Rehab. But with my dial-up connection, each video took 3 hours to download. And once downloaded, I wasn't able to play them in iTunes, even though it should support the videos because I purchased them from iTunes. And even worse, when I tried to load the videos into my iPod, I got a message that says the iPod won't support the music videos at all. I think it only supports movies and television shows purchased on iTunes, not music videos. How misleading! And another beef I have with iTunes is their new "iTunes Plus," which means that, even though I had iTunes, there were some songs and new albums that I couldn't download unless I upgraded to the newest version of iTunes. So it was like having iTunes but not being able to buy anything on it.

So now I'm completely pissed off at Apple. They are the undisputed leaders in MP3 players and legal music downloading, so perhaps they feel they can get away with this blatant marketing ploy of continually upgrading software and products while rendering previous versions practically obsolete. I do like my new iPod, but I still can't play videos on it, nor can I watch them in iTunes. And is it just me, or did Apple re-design the ear buds that come with the iPod so that they don't fit in the ear as well as the original iPod's earbuds, thus forcing you to buy the more expensive but better-fitting in-ear headphones? Perhaps the matter requires more investigation online, but as it's four o'clock in the morning (I'm downloading the new Nada Surf album, Lucky, and it's taking over 5 hours), I'm too tired to surf the net for more answers. Maybe tomorrow.