Fuming at Apple these days, but loving a little plastic coiled device...

    •  It’s one of my favorite and most oft-referenced movie scenes, from the 1987 Oliver Stone film, “Wall Street” when wannabe millionaire Wall Street whiz kid Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, confronts actual billionaire Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. At the heart of Fox’s ire is Gekko’s apparently boundless greed, and at one point, Fox asks him, “How much is enough, Gordon? How many yachts can you ski behind?”

    Let me assume the Fox role today, and Apple can be Gekko, when I ask, how much is enough, Apple? How many times must I pay for the same thing?

    For years, before Apple launched Apple Music, there was Apple’s iTunes. And, for years, my family spent who knows how much money downloading our favorite songs to play on our various devices. Each song for a while was 99 cents, then it went up to $1.29. Maybe it increased again at some point, maybe it didn’t. At some point you devolve into the mindless drone that Apple wants you to be, and you robotically click “Buy Song” with nary a thought.

    I love music because I grew up in a house where music was often playing on the stereo. I like to keep my parents in the loop when it comes to today’s songs that I’m digging, so, a few Christmases ago, I clustered around 150 songs into a big playlist in iTunes and burned several CDs for them to play at home and in their vehicles. I was a bit apprehensive, wondering if they’d truly appreciate the gift, but my angst was for naught because they play those CDs a lot.

    So, for their anniversary last week, I figured it was time to burn a handful of new CDs for them. I made another playlist, this time in Apple Music, for which we pay around $16 a month for our family account to download all the songs we want.

    I got the first batch of songs ready, slipped the CD into the Apple MacBook Pro, and clicked “Burn Disc.” Immediately, a prompt popped up on my screen, indicating there were 18 problems in connection with the 18 songs I wanted to burn. One click later, I learned that each song could not be burned because they were in a “protected” format, courtesy of Apple Music.

    I Googled the matter and found I was not alone in my seething rage. I clicked on supposed “solutions” to the problem, and learned that they really weren’t solutions at all. I could pay around $50 for a “converter” that would make the songs burnable, or I could go to the iTunes Store and buy the 80 songs I wanted to burn…the same songs I’d downloaded as part of our $16 monthly Apple Music subscription.

    How much is enough, Apple? Obviously, it’s never enough.

    • Is there a malfunction in our homes that makes our heart skip a beat more than anything related to plumbing? If we’re having an electrical problem, we don’t exactly want to die as a result, so if we’re a novice we’re not going to do much more than check our circuit breakers before calling a professional.

    But if we have a clogged toilet or a clogged sink or we need a new float or stopper in our toilet’s rear tank, we’re going to make every effort to maximize our limited skills to take care of matters ourselves before shamefully summoning an actual plumber.

    Every couple of years or so, we have to call the plumber to run a snake into the pipes below our kitchen sink and dishwasher. We know it’s time to make the call when the sink in the bathroom directly below in the basement starts to drain sluggishly or back up. The plumber comes out and typically makes short work of our problem.

    But the other day, we noticed the sink in one of the upstairs bathrooms was barely draining. A day or so later, it was clogged, and we had nothing like Drano or Liquid Plumr in the house to dump down the drain. So my wife made a quick run to the store and returned wearing a wry grin. She held out the bottle of drain cleaner in one hand and pointed with her other hand at something peculiar protruding from the label in strange fashion.

    “It has its own snake,” she said in an excited whisper, as if we’d bet let in on a secret shared with only the privileged few.

    Granted, it was skinny, plastic and just plain minuscule. In a world of 100-foot long motorized plumber’s snakes and their big spools, it barely qualified as an inchworm.

    But that didn’t curtail our intrigue. We scurried down the hall toward the bathroom with the offending sink, uncoiled the snake, and, about 30 seconds and some foul blackish gunk later, the drain was clear. We didn’t even have to use any of the drain cleaner.

    There was a bottle of champagne in our fridge leftover from New Year’s Eve and at a brisk pace we made our way back down the hall to properly celebrate this joyous discovery. But upon arriving in the kitchen we mutually came to our senses and got our priorities back in order. Instead, we put an anti-climactic exclamation point on the moment with a mere high-five.

    The champagne could wait. My birthday’s coming up, after all.