Wow! You really can order anything from Amazon.

Did you know you can buy mannequins on Amazon.com? I didn’t until I read a follow up news article about the guy who is protesting a city order to lower the height of his fence. I suppose I should explain how this particular revelation came to me and why I give a shit.

So this guy by the name of Jason Windus in Santa Rosa, California built a six-foot fence around his yard so that he could let his dogs outside without them running all over hell’s half-acre, but he lives on a corner lot and his city has an ordinance that says you can’t have a fence that blocks the view of drivers at an intersection and one of his neighbors complained so he had to lower part of his fence to 36 inches. It’s probably worth mentioning that this wasn’t a chain-link fence but a wooden slat fence, hence the obstructing the view of drivers issue.

Dude’s pissed so he did what any red blooded American would do to protest government overreach and busybody neighbors: He set up a Naked Mannequin Garden Party in his yard:

Then things took a dramatic turn overnight as someone(s) in the neighborhood stole two of the naked mannequins from Windus protest scene!

Late Wednesday night, Windus heard what he thought was “some kids having fun” outside his house on Peterson Lane. Those revelers, he believes, made off with a mannequin who’d been outfitted with a blond wig, leopard print eye mask and nothing else.

The following morning, a second female mannequin was missing. In their haste to get away, the thieves apparently jostled the life-like figure, whose right leg fell off. The wayward limb spent the night on the sidewalk.

Source: The Press Democrat

What kind of America do we live in where a man can’t have a Naked Mannequin Garden Party without some of the guests being kidnapped?? (Mannequinnapped?)

So all of that led me to this article at the Sacramento Bee titled: “Man orders more naked protesters from Amazon as thieves snatch two of his mannequins.”

Windus blames the thefts on the city order to lower part of his fence to 36 inches, KGO reported. He had outfitted a mannequin with an army-style helmet to serve as a guard, but that apparently failed to deter the thieves, Windus said.

Despite the mannequins gone missing in action, Windus says he’s not giving up on his protest, The Press Democrat reports. He replaced the lost partiers with three other mannequins he had in storage, and has ordered two more from Amazon.

Source: The SACRAMENTO Bee

My first thought was “What the shit?? You can buy mannequins on Amazon?!?” Whereupon I immediately went to Amazon and searched for “mannequin” and — HOLY SHIT! — not only do they have them, BUT THEY’RE CHEAP TOO! $50 for a complete mannequin?? I may have to start my own garden party!

This is relevant to my interests because of Ralph. Ralph is my Security Mannequin. I picked him up way back when I did a stint as a part-time retail worker at a Meijer store for a second job in my early 20’s. They were going to toss him into a dumpster and I stepped in and gave him a proper home. It’s got to be at least 30 years now that he’s been a constant presence in the background of my life. When I moved into the apartment in Canton back in 1998 he sat on the half-wall that separated the stairway up from the front door from the living room area. He wears one of my old Les’s Place BBS t-shirts and one of my many hats. His job there was to stare with dead eyes down the stairs and startle folks coming up from the front door, which he did often.

*Knock Knock*

“Maintenance… GASP!!”

These days he sits on the bar in the basement wondering when someone is going to pour him a goddamn drink. Amazingly enough, in all this time, I’ve never taken a direct picture of him. I have tons of pictures where parts of him are visible in the background, but the best I can do is this heavily cropped shot from the Christmas before last:

Still wearing the same shirt that hasn’t been washed since it was put on him.

As you can see, Ralph lacks arms and, more importantly, anything below the waist. That hasn’t stopped him from loyally guarding my home from intruders by lurking in the background and being a little creepy. I would really like to have at least gotten him some arms by now, but I’ve never taken the time to actually do so. I’ve also thought about trying to find him a female companion and, thanks to Amazon, that reality is within reach! Why, I could have a whole mannequin army now!

Now that I think about it, my wife might object to that idea so I guess it’ll have to wait. The world is safe from my legions of fiberglass minions… for now. In the meantime I’ll have to take a proper picture of Ralph when I get home tonight.

I may never take advantage of Amazon’s offerings of cheap mannequins, but the fact that I could is somewhat amazing to me. When I stop to really think about it, this probably shouldn’t be so surprising to me. I’m sure this has been a possibility for a long, long time. I mean, you’ve been able to buy a 50 gallon drum of lube from Amazon for years now, so why wouldn’t you be able to buy a mannequin? (I just know that search query is going to cause no end of amusing emails from Amazon on “things you might be interested in!”) The only reason I didn’t know about it before was because it never occurred to me to search for it. All these years of loneliness for Ralph and all I had to do was check on Amazon.

Amazon.com’s 25 Days of Free Christmas songs.

Just a quick note to let folks know that Amazon.com is giving away free MP3s of Christmas music every day until December 25th. So far they’ve put up “Joy to the World,” by Casting Crowns and “Snow Angel,” by Tori Amos. Both totally free as in beer. Don’t worry if you weren’t there on December 1st as each one will be available up until the 26th of December.

They have an advent calendar style page set up where you can see each day’s release. Check it out at the Amazon.com 25 Days of Free in December. It does require that you install the Amazon.com MP3 downloader software to grab the files, but they have no DRM and the downloader should work on all platforms.

Amazon.com makes their Wish List universal.

I’m a long-time fan of Amazon.com’s Wish List service as you can probably tell by the link to mine in the sidebar. It solved one of the ongoing problems I had as an adult of being asked what I wanted for my birthday/Krismas/whatever and not being able to recall anything that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Now I just tell people to check out my Wish List and perhaps mail them the link. The one drawback is that Amazon.com isn’t the best place to shop for, say, computer parts and there’s times when I’d like to add a couple of parts to my wishlist.

Back when Google was testing out “Froogle”—now known as Google Shopping—they had a sort of universal wish list through that, but it was never terribly useful and was yet another wish list you had to point someone to. So it’s a pleasant surprise to learn that Amazon.com has made their Wish List service universal:

Sometimes you’ll find things you want to add to your Wish List when you aren’t browsing the Amazon.com website. That’s OK, you can still add those items to your Amazon.com Wish List with the Universal Wish List Button!

The Universal Wish List Button is a browser button that will let you add items to your Wish List even if they aren’t listed on the Amazon.com website. Click here to get the button!

To get the button, all you need to do is click on the image for the button and drag it to your browser’s tool bar as instructed. It should only take a few seconds for the button be added and appear in your browser’s tool bar.

Once you see the button, it’s available for you to use immediately. When you’re browsing a website and you see something you want, just click the “Add to Wish List” button in your tool bar. You’ll see a confirmation screen, and the item will be added to your Amazon.com Wish List.

When you or your friends & family browse your Wish List, they’ll see non-Amazon items listed with a “Shop this store” button. If they decide to click the button to purchase the item, they’ll be taken to the store where the item is listed—and the transaction will take place outside of Amazon.com.

When you purchase an item from another website, the seller of the products on that site will charge your credit card, ship the product to you, and handle all customer issues. Amazon.com has no control over your experience once you leave our website, and the A-to-z Guarantee does not apply to these orders.

When you click the button it pops open a small window with the link to the page along with a picture of what it thinks is the possible product and a spot to put in price info and comments. You can even cycle through the images on the page if the product image isn’t correct until you find the right one. I added a EVGA video card I’ve been wanting from the folks at New Egg.com as a test and it works pretty well. They’ll still have to register an account with whatever online store you’re linking to and they’ll have to manually tell it your shipping address, but otherwise it keeps everything under a single Wish List. Don’t know how long this option has been available, but it’s pretty damned cool.

Amazon.com really needs to work on their product suggestion routines.

Got the following email just a few moments ago:

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Mercenaries or other games in the PlayStation 2 > Adventure category have also purchased Disney Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour. For this reason, you might like to know that Disney Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour will be released on August 12, 2008.  You can pre-order yours by following the link below.

Just so you know Mercenaries is an action game in which you play a mercenary (natch) who runs around blowing up everything in sight while tracking down various bad guys you’ve been hired to put out of commission. Hannah Montana doesn’t do anything even close to as entertaining. Or at least she doesn’t for me. 

All I ask is that I’m allowed to believe the reason said customers out there are purchasing both was for Krismas gifts to their kids and not because of the other, much more scary, reason that comes to mind.

The only problem with ordering an anticipated game through Amazon.com…

… is the fact that you rarely get to play it on launch day. The copy of Grand Theft Auto IV Collector’s Edition Anne bought me for our anniversary shipped on Monday. Which means it’ll probably arrive either about the time I leave for work today or sometime tomorrow at the earliest. You’d think Amazon would recognize how big a title this is and set up something along the lines of what they do for Harry Potter books to ensure that the title arrives on the day of release, but it’s only a video game so they don’t go through the extra trouble.

Anne had told me about the present ahead of time in part because she thought I might want her to cancel the order so I could pick up the game at one of the midnight launches, but I told her it wasn’t that big of a deal. Surprisingly I’m actually handling things pretty well without the usual can’t-wait-to-play-the-game cravings of times past. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m older and more mature, but I suppose the fact that I’m immersed in a new job where I’m trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible also plays a role. Though there are the occasional moments, like this one, where I get a little bit antsy.

It also helps that Anne and I have been watching the first season of Burn Notice after hearing about how good it was from Nate, the coworker from my previous job. If you like spy shows that have a little humor in them then this may be right up your alley. It doesn’t hurt the appeal that Bruce Campbell has a recurring role in the series. The story centers on Michael Westen who works as a spy of some sort—we’re never really told what agency, if any, he’s a part of—who has had a burn notice put out on him. It’s the spy equivalent of being fired it seems and usually they just kill you, but in this case they dump him back in Miami and make it clear that should he try to leave the city the FBI would be all over him like white on rice. All his accounts and resources have been frozen so he has to take on odd jobs helping people to get the scratch together to find out who put the burn notice out and why.

Essentially it’s your typical reluctant-hero-helps-some-deserving-person every week show with an overarching background plot that deals with the problem that has disrupted his life. Like the Incredible Hulk but with spies instead of big green semi-deaf former body builders. Instead of just endless making the background story arch an endless procession of dead ends except for the occasional special episode, however, this show actually advances the background story arch with every episode. Things change over time and our hero gets a little closer to finding out the truth as the season progresses. This makes it very watchable and a refreshing change from the typical show of this sort. It has plenty of humor and action and is definitely worth catching in reruns if you’re not the sort to just bittorrent the shows like I did. When it comes out on DVD I’ll probably pick it up it’s that good. It looks like the second season starts on July 10th and I’m looking forward to it. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Hear a song in GTA IV you like? You can buy it in-game.

Now here’s an interesting idea: Rockstar Games and Amazon.com have teamed up to bring you the option of buying any of the tracks you hear in the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV from within the game itself:

The in-game radio feature of the Grand Theft Auto games has long been lauded, and now players will have the chance to scoop up the songs they hear in the game to listen to in the real world. A new technology called “ZiT” uses the game’s cell phone feature. When players hear a song they like, they can dial a number on their in-game cell-phone to receive a text message detailing the artist and track title. For users that sign up for the new Rockstar Games Social Club, an e-mail will then be sent with a link to a custom Amazon.com playlist which features the tracks phoned in. These DRM-free tracks will be priced in the 89-99¢ Amazon price range.

The game’s soundtrack reportedly includes over 150 tracks. The developers are “aiming for music geeks by handpicking rare, hard-to-find songs such as Electrick Funk’s 12-inch treasure ‘On A Journey’ and Elton John’s “Street Kids’ off his relatively unheralded Rock of the Westies,” as well as songs exclusive to the game like “‘Vagabond (Liberty City Mix)’ by the Greenskeepers and ‘War is Necessary’ from iconic rapper Nas,” according to a press release posted on Yahoo! Games.

Citing the success of downloadable music sales as implemented in Rock Band as an inspiration, but boasting the ability to take songs outside of the game, Amazon and Rockstar are looking for similar results from players of Grand Theft Auto 4. “Music has long played an integral part of the game playing experience,” said Ronn Werre, executive vice president of EMI Music’s Sales, Licensing and Synchronization unit, in a statement. “We think giving players the ability to identify and buy their favorite tracks from Grand Theft Auto IV’s popular radio stations is a great new music discovery tool for fans and an innovative new revenue stream for artists.”

This shouldn’t be too surprising as Rockstar has sold box sets of the soundtracks from previous GTA games, but it’s certainly novel in its approach. I’d actually be more inclined to use this method as I generally don’t like every song in the game (I rarely listen to the rap stations for example) so I’m not inclined to spring for the whole box set, but would be up to perhaps snagging a song or two that catches my fancy. The fact that you can do it in-game and then take the files to real-world players is pretty freakin’ cool.

For those of you who have been asking in email…

… yes, my Amazon.com Wish List is up to date. It’s always up to date because I read a lot of video game and gadget related blogs and am always finding stuff to put on it and then looking at it to see if there’s anything I’m not that sure I want anymore to remove. I’m kind of obsessive about it considering how infrequently it actually gets used.

Not that I expect you guys to get me anything, but after the fourth email came through about it I thought I’d just make an entry saying so. The fact that you guys stop by and read my blathering every day is pretty cool in its own right.

Amazon offers one of the three current consoles on the cheap!

It’s that time of year again and Amazon is once more offering their Amazon Customers Vote offer where they offer up amazing deals on items that garner the most votes. Of interest to gamers everyone is the possibility of getting one of the three next gen consoles at ridiculously cheap prices. How cheap? Well how about a shiny new Nintendo Wii for $79? Or perhaps an Xbox 360 Arcade for $99? Better still score a 40GB PS3 for only $139!

But only the one that gets the most votes will be offered at the special price and only 1,000 units will be made available. So go vote for the one you’d most like to buy and then be prepared to click quickly should it win.

By the way, as of this writing the Nintendo Wii is leading the pack with 55% of the vote, the PS3 is second with 31% and the Xbox 360 is taking up the rear with 14%.

Correction: I will NOT be doing some video blogging soon.

Got an email from Amazon.com that the release date on the RCA EZ 201 flash RAM based video cam I had ordered had been pushed back until sometime in November, which is weird as Amazon lists three different affiliated shops selling the camera that all claim to have it in stock. Given that I just destroyed my laptop I opted to cancel the order for now and just slap it on my Wish List. Once we get that close to Christmas I tend to stop buying myself things because people are gift shopping around that time. If I don’t get it for Christmas then I’ll plan on picking it up sometime after then.

My thought was I’d use the money I was saving from my birthday along with what I would’ve spent on the video camera to replace my laptop, but it doesn’t quite add up to the amount I’d need to pick something up from Best Buy and I have to use Best Buy because some of my b’day money is in the form of BB gift cards. The cheapest basic laptop BB has at the moment is the Acer Aspire 520 which is around $550 at the moment and it only comes with about half as much RAM as you should really have to run Vista.

So it looks like I’m just saving money instead of doing anything at all. Anyway, just wanted to post an update on the whole video blogging thing. Ain’t gonna happen yet.

NBC dumps Apple’s iTunes and moves to Amazon’s Unbox for video downloads.

NBC hasn’t been happy with Apple for awhile now in part because Apple refuses to deviate from its one-price-fits-all policy for downloads. So NBC decided to take its ball and go play with Amazon’s new Unbox download service. The other reason for the switch? Amazon’s Unbox allows for more restrictive DRM on downloads:

“This further expands our longstanding relationship to bring a robust content offering to the marketplace in a variety of ways that will benefit the consumer and, at the same time, protects our content,” said NBC Universal’s president of digital distribution, Jean-Briac Perrette, in a statement.

“Protecting content” is a tip of the hat to NBC’s concerns over DRM. Amazon and Apple both use DRM for video, but Apple’s DRM policies are considered to be “too lax” by many players in the TV and movie business. Apple’s terms allow for authorized for playback on as many as five different devices. Furthermore, Apple-approved devices can be authorized to play content purchased from five different accounts.

Compare Unbox: Shows bought from Unbox can be kept on two computers max and can be stored on up to two different (approved) media players. Users cannot “mix” accounts, meaning that a PC cannot have authorized content purchased from two different accounts accessible at the same time. As you can see, Unbox is more restrictive.

This is a bit of a gamble for the folks at NBC as Amazon’s Unbox files won’t work on Apple or Linux PCs nor on the ever popular video iPods, the latter being the most significant as it’s still the dominate portable media player. Again given the fact that all of the shows NBC is worried about protecting with more restrictive DRM are available for free on BitTorrent you have to wonder just who and what NBC thinks it’s protecting its content from. Once again they opt to punish the legitimate consumers in hopes of squeezing a few more pennies out of them.