It seems like yesterday…

“10 years. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.”

I have found myself saying that a lot this week. Like many other people, I have been thinking a lot lately about what happened 10 years ago. It’s an event most of us will never forget. 9/11 changed life as we know it for all of us.

I remember my father telling me how he remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. I also remember his father telling me the same thing about Pearl Harbor in 1941.

9/11 is that event for my generation. I remember it like it was yesterday. I’ll remember it until the day I die.

More than 3,000 people died that day. I didn’t know any of them. I don’t know how I would feel if I did. You hear stories of people who were on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. You also hear stories of people who were supposed to be on the planes.

It’s hard not to think about it. Turn on a TV or a radio and it’s right there. There are 9/11 specials on almost every channel this weekend. NPR is doing about 12 hours of coverage on Sunday. My station aired several stories about it. It really makes you think back to that day.

I was still in that in between period of my life. It was before I went back to college. I was 22, working in a factory at the time and I was listening to the radio. I think I was listening to Howard Stern (he was still popular back then). Since he was based in NYC, he was talking about it just a few minutes after the first plane hit. I remember him talking about how the first reports indicated that it was a small plane and it must have been an accident.

Then it was clear that it was a much larger passenger jet. He kept talking about how the building was on fire and how there was debris falling. I walked over to the break room and turned on the TV. I turned on the Today Show and not 10 seconds after I turned on the TV, they showed the second plane hit the other tower. Live.

“HOLY SHIT!” I remember saying loudly. That got the attention of my boss, who was walking by. My boss just happened to be my father.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“You have got to see this. Two planes flew into the World Trade Center.” I was wearing a Walkman (remember those?) and as soon as the second plane hit, Howard Stern said “This is a terrorist attack. We may have to leave. I don’t know what to do.”

I remember my dad scolding me a bit, telling me to go back to work…but I couldn’t. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen.I watched the buildings burn and finally went back to work. I kept listening to Howard Stern, who really did a fantastic job describing what was going on. I give him credit. He was right there in Manhattan and he didn’t leave. He was on the air until well after noon (his show was on from 6-10am) and he took phone calls from people all over New York and the country. People described what they saw and how they felt. Looking back on it, Howard Stern provided some of the best coverage of 9/11.

10:00 was break time. I went back into the break room a minute or two before and walked in just as the South tower collapsed. I, and the rest of my co-workers sat there stunned as the North tower burned. We were still there watching when it collapsed at 10:28.

We went back to work shortly after that, but not much work was done. All of us were glued to radios. By now, every music channel had flipped to a news network. There were reports of other planes being shot down or crashing. You really had no idea how many planes there were or when this would end. For me, it got real when I heard that President Bush was on Air Force One surrounded by fighter jets.  I lived 10 miles from a nuclear plant. “What if they hit the nuke plant?” I remember thinking.

I remember turning on the TV as soon as I got home from work. What else could you do but sit there, stunned, as you watch people covered in dust and ash walk home from Manhattan? I remember watching another building near the WTC collapse around 5:30 that afternoon. They still weren’t sure how many people died. Nearly 40,000 people worked in the World Trade Center. How many of them were at work that day?

I can’t believe it was 10 years ago.

The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years. You can’t go into Canada without a passport now. You can’t get on a plane without taking your shoes off, or getting groped by an agent. Everyone is watched more closely. In some places, if you’re a Muslim, you’re suspicious. That’s life in America now.

One thing is for sure. Terror attacks will continue. Events like this will happen again. When it does, the people who experience them will say the same thing.

It seems like yesterday…

Spotify: All Hype or the Real Thing?

After a hugely successful run in Europe, Spotify made its debut in the United States last week. It’s designed to be a legal version of Napster, only you don’t download the music. You can create playlists from a library of 15 million songs and share them with friends.

Spotify, like Google Plus, has started with limited access. To get in, you need an invite. You can sign up and wait for Spotify to send you one. Other sites are handing out invites for free. I got mine through Klout.

So, after having the opportunity to play around with Spoitfy for almost a week, I’m ready to give my opinion on it.

I don’t get it.

The 4 or 5 times I have opened Spotify, I find myself staring at the screen saying “What am I looking for?”

Spotify has an iTunes-like interface. I don’t like iTunes. If I didn’t need it to sync my iPhone (and I won’t when iOS5 is released in a few months) I wouldn’t use it.

Spotify lists popular songs which you can either listen to or put in a playlist. You can also search for artists or songs.

Here are just a few of my issues with Spotify:

1. The search doesn’t work very well. Searching for something like “Green Day” will only bring up songs. It will include any song with the words “Green” or “Day” in the title. Plus, I don’t really want to search for songs to put in a playlist. With Pandora, if I pick an artist, Pandora will pick similar music for me.

2. The ads are annoying. You can see in the screenshot above the big ad on the bottom of the screen. There are also random pop ups as you continue to use the program. It’s annoying. However, that’s a small annoyance.

3. It’s not free! If you sign up for a free account, you get unlimited streaming. That’s not expected to last forever. Several reports indicate that after 6 months, free accounts will be limited to 10 hours of streaming per month. Pandora is free.

4. No mobile access. If you want to listen to Spotify on your phone, you must have a premium account, which costs $10 a month.  Pandora has free mobile access.

Spotify does have it pluses. If you spend a lot of time listening to music at home or at work and you want to spend the time creating playlists, Spotify is pretty cool. Again, I don’t think unlimited streaming is going to last very long on free accounts, but if you want something specific as opposed to the randomness of Pandora, Spotify is for you.

If you need to find a song quickly, Spotify works pretty well. I was trying to think of the name of a song and I found it by using Spotify.

I think people with different musical tastes will have differing opinions on Spotify, but for me, I’ll stick with Pandora.

If you want to try Spotify, you need an invite. And unlike Google Plus, once you’re in you’re not given invites to share. Your best bet is to go to Spotify and enter your name for an invite.

What say you? Have you tried Spotify? What do you think? Will you ditch Pandora (if you use it) for Spotify?

Netflix: Right or Wrong to Raise Prices?

If you’re a Nexflix subscriber like I am, you were probably a little surprised when they announced that prices on their streaming + DVD plans were going up. I currently have the stream + 1 DVD option for $9.99. Under the new pricing plan, Their streaming only plan with remain $7.99, but they’re splitting the DVD plan off on it’s own for another $7.99. That means my plan will cost $15.98. This isn’t a small increase. This is a nearly 60% jump in subscription fees. This jump has led to a lot of upset subscribers, many of them saying they will definitely be dropping the DVD’s from their plan. Some are saying they will cancel their subscription altogether because of it.

I wonder if Netflix has shot themselves in the foot because such a sudden increase. I wouldn’t be surprised if A LOT of customers drop the DVD part of their subscription. One person I know said “Who cares. No one watches DVD’s anymore.” That’s not true, at least when it comes to Netflix. They may have a decent sized streaming library, but it’s nothing compared to what they have on DVD. For example, Netflix has no streaming agreement with HBO. That means any HBO show you want to watch (The Sopranos, The Wire, True Blood, Deadwood, etc) has to be watched via DVD.

In the grand scheme of things, $15.98 a month to watch just about any show or movie you want is not that expensive. However, Netflix has not given any indication that they will use this price increase to add more content on the streaming side. A day after Netflix announced the rate hike, they announced a new streaming deal with NBC/Universal. However, this certainly isn’t worth a 60% rate hike. I would even be more comfortable with an a la carte-like DVD plan, where you pay $7.99 for streaming and $2 for every DVD you want. But that option isn’t on the table.

What will I do? I’m not sure yet. My first thought was to dump the DVD plan, but I have until September 1 before the new rate kicks in and I’m only in Season 2 of The West Wing. There’s no way I’ll get through that by September!!

What do you think of the rate hike? Will you cancel your Netflix plan?

UPDATE: Apparently, people are really pissed about this. This post from Gizmodo explains.