Wednesday, May 31, 2006

28% Dixie. I am a Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Are You a Yankee or a Rebel?

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Modofinil?!!

Have you heard about this new drug Modofinil (aka Provigil?)?

It's one of these "human enhancement" "smart drugs." It's a drug that turns off the human trigger to sleep so that your body doesn't "need" to sleep!

This drug was originally aimed at narcoleptics. It turns off your trigger to sleep and increases your concentration.

So there are a number of questions that I think are valid about this thing... Some of which are:
  • Is it really safe? Don't we NEED sleep? Doesn't it at LEAST play a role in long term memory as well as other body regulation stuff?
  • Is it a good idea to have normal people compete with human enhanced people? It seems like this would increase the gap between the haves and have-nots. Ya' know? Some people will just not be able to compete. Imagine what it would feel like being a kid growing up around "enhanced" kids.
I heard about this drug on the Weekend America from APM for today. It's in hour two. I recommend you check it out. You can listen to the hour at their website. You can fast forward to this entry or just listen all the way through and learn about the band Camera Obscura at the same time. :)

Weekend America: May 27

The person who wrote the report on this drug apparently still has a few that he's been using. I wonder if it's a prescription drug? I wonder how easy it is to get it?!

[ NOTE: There are other human enhancements that not only involve drugs but also involve robotics and nanotechnology. ]

Friday, May 26, 2006

Crazy Teenagers and their High-Pitched Ringtones

Teens Turn 'Repeller' into Adult-Proof Ringtone
All Things Considered, May 26, 2006 - The war between teens and authority figures has a new -- or old -- front: ears. British shopkeepers tired of teenage loiterers have turned to the Mosquito teen repellent, which emits a high-pitch frequency that most teenagers can hear -- but not most adults.

But now teens have struck back against the Mosquito: They are using the same sound to communicate without adults' knowledge.

At issue is a text-message ringtone that emits the same pitch as the Mosquito. Using it, students can learn about a new message while they're in class -- where they're not supposed to be using their cellphones. Most of their teachers can't hear the alert.

Inventor Howard Stapleton, creator of the Mosquito teen repellent, says only a few people over age 30 can hear the Mosquito's sound, which has been dubbed "Teen Buzz."

You can hear the annoying teen buzz at the story's website. You can learn more about the "Mosquito teen repellent" by searching on Google for that phrase.

Rhode Island leads the pack...

Test scores are in: Northeast still has dumbest drivers
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The tiny state of Rhode Island still ranks rock bottom in terms of driving knowledge, according to a national test conducted by GMAC Insurance. Oregon drivers answered the most questions correctly.

The test revealed that about one in 11 licensed drivers in the United States would fail a state drivers test, according to GMAC Insurance.

Rhode Island ranked last year, also, with an average score of 77. Last year, Oregon's average score was 89, which still placed at the top of the rankings that year.

Based on average scores, northwestern states generally ranked highest while the bottom-ranking states were mostly in the northeast. One exception was Vermont, which ranked third. Washington state drivers ranked second. Drivers in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia ranked at the bottom, with D.C. finishing just ahead of Rhode Island.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Best Hip-Hop Album of 2006?

Pick a Bigger Weapon by The Coup

From Amazon...
Let's face it: Most rap artists aren't interviewed by Political Affairs, a self-proclaimed "Marxist monthly," but then again, Boots Riley isn't your typical rap artist. The "raptivist" certainly doesn't mince words on Pick a Bigger Weapon, the Coup's first release in five years. (You may remember the Oakland duo's previous release, 2001's Party Music, with its original pre-9/11 cover shot of them blowing up the Twin Towers.) In 2006, Riley's acidic political and social commentary has never been sharper or timelier, and his keen sense of humor plus the fluid, soul-drenched beats (courtesy of partner Pam the Funkstress and a stellar session band) make it insanely palatable. The truly vital "My Favorite Mutiny," which also features Talib Kweli and the Roots' Black Thought, pulses with funk rhythms and punctuating horns while three of rap's smoothest spitters deliver the straight dope. Riley offers a radical history lesson on "Head (Of State)": "Bush and Hussein together in bed... billions made and millions dead." On "We Are the Ones," he warns, "we're the have-nots, but we're also the gon'-gets." The slow jam "BabyLet'sHaveaBabyBeforeBushDoSomethin'Crazy," with singer Silk E, is witty, seductive, and poignant all at the same time. In his PA interview, Riley says Pick a Bigger Weapon is full of "anthems for the struggle," and like the best of George Clinton, James Brown, and KRS-One, this is music for your mind, body, and soul. Is it too much to ask to have this added to high school curricula? --Marc Greilsamer

One of the songs off of this album was recently featured on NPR's Song of the Day, "I Love Boosters!". You can listen to the song at the NPR story, "A Song for the Shoplifters".

There is actually an interesting collection of artists featured on this album. Check it out. It's music you can dance to that has a LOT more meaning than the typical hip-hop, "Gee, you have a big butt; sit on my face because you have nothing better to do since you're a woman."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

No, seriously...


I gave my word!


The Bard


Hippos Make Me Laugh


I dream of straight highlighted hair...

From today's RocketBoom:
From yesterday's RocketBoom, Amanda Congdon was wearing a hilarious shirt. Hopefully you'll understand the reference. (if you don't, you're either too young or WAY too old)

Need a better look?

( if you're interested, you can buy this shirt at Busted Tees )

Amanda also recently did something with her hair. Isn't that nice?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Toto, We're Not on Campus Anymore...

Update: Something I forgot to mention... While hanging around the bees, I noticed that one of the farmers who takes care of the fields out there had a dog that liked to chase him around as he drove his equipment. It was pretty cute. Oh, dogs...

So this morning my adviser asked me to meet him out at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee research lab. I had to figure out where that was. It was out on a dirt road by the cows with the glass stomachs...

I don't do any work with honey bees, but a few of his other students study their swarming formation as well as how they do nest site selection. The hope is to build a model of their dynamics that actually makes accurate predictions about how the bees work.

Anyway, I created a photo set for the pictures I took today. Here are some examples...

Above is my adviser (an electrical engineer, mind you) smoking off the top of the apparatus. He wants all of the bees to clump on the bottom of the apparatus. You see, there is a queen in there caged so she can't take off. The bees clump around her and do their nest site selection process. The piece of plywood protects the bees from rain.

Below is a picture of the eventual clump...

There are several thousand honey bees in there. I took this with my cell phone. This clump is no more than a couple of feet away from me. I'm not wearing any protective gear.

Apparently the bees are very docile during nest site selection. They don't become defensive until they have a nest to defend. Right now they're too preoccupied with finding a nest to care about my presence. In fact, you can stick your hand right into the middle of the bundle. My adviser did it a number of times... I didn't. :)

They're interested in their nest site selection process, not their foraging process, so they put a glass of sugar water on top to feed them. They end up feeding their caged queen by regurgitating through windows in her cage. Apparently this is how they do things anyway. (just without the cage)

Anyway, the bees do this "waggle run" dance that you can watch. Bees that find a nest site that they "like" land on the top of the pack and move in little figure eights. Whenever they do a turn, they wiggle their rear ends for a certain amount of time that corresponds to the distance the nest site is away from them. On top of that, the angle the figure eight makes with the sun (or gravity; they can pick whatever reference makes the most sense, and they don't even have to have a line-of-sight with the sun because of the wavelengths of light that they can see) corresponds the angle the nest site makes with their current location. This allows them to radially map the world around them. They can pick out nests (little tiny holes no more than a few centimeters wide) that are miles away.

Isn't that crazy?

Memories.... and Catholics....

To make a long story short, my dad decided that he wanted to switch from using various POP3 providers to using one big IMAP provider (that accepts forwards from all of the POP3 providers) so I found myself moving some of his mail around...

Well, I noticed there was a "Ted box" that had some old messages I had forwarded to my parents. Some of them were from as far back as high school graduation (1999). I noticed one in particular that still seems funny to me. There was a kid I knew in high school who was very Catholic, but he had a good humor about it. As many high schoolers did, we apparently exchanged senior pictures, and his picture had this written on the back of it...
Dear Ted,
Senior year has been
great. I remember the
day we met. You were
walking down the halls
praying the rosary aloud
and I said, "Why don't
you take it outside, God-
Boy!" And you said, "Why
don't you mind your
own damn business, pig-
fucker!" Yes, you were
so pious...
Call me.
Your friend,
. . .

I still laugh. How absurd. How funny.

Oh, to be 18 again...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

ThanksNo

Thanks to 43folders creator Merlin Mann for this (from here):

ThanksNo: http://www.thanksno.com/
Hi. The person who sent you this link is a friend who likes you a lot but wants you to respect their email address, their privacy, and their time.

Chances are, this person asked you to visit this page because you did one of these things:

  • Forwarded a funny story, a virus warning, or a photo that you enjoyed
  • Sent email to lots of people in the “To:” line (instead of the “BCC:” line), exposing your friend's email address to strangers
  • CC’d your friend unnecessarily on something you had sent to someone else
In any case, you might want to go back and have another look at the email they’re replying to. They asked you to visit here because, while they love getting one-on-one, personal messages from you, they really don’t want to receive more messages like the one you just sent. Cool?

You’re not a bad person, and no one hates you, but it would be valuable to learn the very personal preferences of your friends, family members, and co-workers before including them in unrequested email or choosing to expose their private address to people they don’t know.

Thanks for understanding, and if the same thing ever happens to you, feel free to reply to an email you don’t want by pasting this in:
Hi there, beloved friend of this email recipient:

Please visit http://thanksno.com/

Because this person likes getting personal messages from you, but doesn’t want any more email like this, please.

Love, ThanksNo.com

ThanksNo.com is a free service from your friends at 43 Folders, and is provided in the hope it will be useful, but it is offered on an as-is basis and without any warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just for Pun

Weekend America just ran a story about the 29th annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships. I'm thinking about entering. :)
The 29th annual "O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships" is in Austin, Texas on Saturday. Barbara Bogaev and John Moe have some "verbal jousting" with two accomplished punsters who are emceeing the event - Gary Hallock and Steve Brookes.

Online resources:
* The O.Henry Pun Off in Austin, Texas, organized by Gary Hallock
* Punster and folksinger folksinger Steve Brooks

I really recommend you download hour 1 of the program and listen to the segment. It's PUNNY. They've got two punsters and they just can't stop. It's GREAT. Fastest pun in the west!

Maybe next year I'll enter. :) It's in Austin! In May! That would be fun.

Example pun: "Driving on so many turnpikes was taking its toll."

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Star Wars Easter Egg

Saw this on Weekend America's (NPR show) website...
Special Treat: Find the Easter Egg on the Star Wars DVD.
Put disk 1 into your player. When the main menu comes up, select OPTIONS. When the Options screen comes up, press 1, 1, 3, 8. (You may have to press 10+, 1, 3, 8, depending on your remote.) Instead of seeing bloopers as in Episodes 1 and 2, a video of Yoda rapping will start to play. Enjoy! Courtesy of the Easter Egg Archive.

Go Go Gadget Human Cannonball Launcher!!

Dean Kamen (Segway inventor and FIRST founder) and DARPA have invented a device to launch police, military, first responders quickly on top of buildings like a human cannonball.

DARPA Set To Leap Buildings In A Single Bound
Cannonman

No joke. It's a seat on a track. Launches you up in the air 5 stories in 2 seconds.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Stephen Thompson: Extraordinary Writer and Music Visionary?

Stephen Thompson is one of the contributors to NPR's Song of the Day. Some of the articles he has written can be found here (for some reason this list doesn't include the article he posted today; maybe it takes a day to get onto the list).

I never cease to be impressed with the music that he has highlighted on NPR. Perhaps he and I just have similar tastes in music; however, I also am very impressed with how he writes. Other contributors to NPR do a fine job, but there's something about Thompson's writing that shows that he has gone beyond simply learning how to write professionally. His writing shows that he has worked hard to hone his writing talents just as sharply as his ear for interesting music.

From his bio (I've bolded a few things I thought were noteworthy)...
Stephen Thompson is an online producer for NPR Digital Media, where he edits and contributes to Song of the Day (a daily column on NPR.org), among other projects.

In 1993, Thompson created The Onion's entertainment section, The A.V. Club, which he edited until December 2004. As a guest music commentator on NPR's Morning Edition, he has discussed topics ranging from summer pop anthems to his own bizarrely ill-conceived 2,500-mile road trip to attend 2006’s South By Southwest music festival. His entertainment writing has also run in Paste magazine, The Washington Post, and The London Guardian.

During his tenure at The Onion, Thompson edited the 2002 book The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Crown), and copy-edited six best-selling comedy books. While there, he also coached The Onion’s softball team to a sizzling 21-42 record, and was once outscored 72-0 in a span of 10 innings.

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Thompson recently relocated from Madison to Silver Spring, Md., leaving behind his wife and two children. (They promise to join him soon.) His hobbies include watching reality television without shame, touting the immutable moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers, and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

I can honestly say that Stephen Thompson is one of the many important things that supports my allegiance to NPR. Thanks, Mr. Thompson, for your service. (is that a silly thing to say?)

It's going to take some time to fix this love of mine...

I'm going to blog about the genius of Stephen Thompson shortly, but before I do, I think this deserves some attention.

As usual, from NPR's Song of the Day, I learn about another great artist. I've bolded some entries from the story that I thought were particularly well-written. As usual, you can hear the song from a RealAudio stream at the article.

A 'Time' for Sweetly Subtle Devastation
NPR.org, May 19, 2006 - Even when she was singing in the poppy punk band Tiger Trap, Rose Melberg had a flair for sad, gentle melodies. During a career evolution that's taken her through stints as leader of Go Sailor and the appropriately named Softies -- and on into her sweetly whispery solo work -- those melodies have only gotten sadder and gentler.

As lovely and bittersweet as "Take Some Time" gets, it's Nick Krgovich's sly minor-key piano line that grants the song its status as a major-league tearjerker. Melberg doesn't hide her emotions to begin with -- "Just let me take a trip someplace / where no one knows my sad, sad face" -- as she piles on bittersweet vocal harmonies. But the elegant plinking of Krgovich's piano propels an otherwise straightforward lament into the realm of the sublime.

"There was once a time when all I wanted was to just be by your side," she sings, adding, "Now that's all but died." There's enough pathos there to support a hundred ballads, but in spite of all those tiny but devastating flourishes, "Take Some Time" never sounds overwrought: It surveys miles of emotional wreckage, yet the scene it sets seems oddly sweet.

On another quick note, (and I'm tempted to blog about this separately too) as much as I hate to admit it, RealAudio streaming beats out all of the competition. It's clear. It doesn't have any of the funny higher harmonics and sampling problems that you get with other streaming types. In radio streams, the buffer often lets you rewind and pause the live stream just like TiVo. This advanced buffering does to streaming what "ESP" did to "DiscMen"... It makes it so that a few dropped datagrams/frames/packets don't seem to make much difference.

I'm really impressed with RealAudio. It sorta sucks that it's a proprietary format. However, it makes sense that they'd be the best at streaming... They were really the first!

So I really hope they stick around. Most likely though people will just get faster and faster connections and the substandard protocols will end up performing well even though they're crappilly put together. I have a feeling they've been engineered that way. Real is robust, so it works now. The others are not robust, so they'll work later (and probably thrive) when robustness isn't needed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I miss Rat Chicken...

Rat Chicken Trilogy

It's been a long time, Rat Chicken.

See if you can name the melodies that they use in the background of each of their songs.

Lovers Who Uncover

NPR's Song of the Day brings us a "foot-tapping, hand-clapping pop [song]" today. As usual, a stream of the whole song is available at the article.

Hands Clap, Then Wave in the Air
NPR.org, May 18, 2006 - The Little Ones' debut EP recalls Built to Spill in more ways than one: It occasionally brings to mind the Idaho rock band's odd sound, but it also spawns a similar sense of excitement and discovery. An L.A. group featuring former members of Sunday's Best, The Little Ones recently released Sing Song, a charismatic EP full of bright, sugary indie-pop.

Meshing head-bobbing rhythms with powerful pop melodies akin to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or Talking Heads, "Lovers Who Uncover" sounds like a song from an early Built to Spill or Shins record. A passionate pop song that's catchy enough to burrow itself deep into listeners' brains, it skillfully combines handclaps with fists-in-the-air chanting.

Singer Edward Nolan Reyes holds on to notes and syllables to the bitter end of his range while guitars, drums and tambourines burst all around him. If there's ever a textbook on writing foot-tapping, hand-clapping pop songs, these guys should write the introduction.

Women in Iraq

Just another example of how handing these people a democracy doesn't also hand them democratic values.

Activists Seek to Protect Iraqi Women from Honor Killings
Morning Edition, May 18, 2006 - Volunteers in Iraq are setting up secret shelters for battered women. Activists have documented 2,000 honor killings since the fall of Saddam Hussein, as the rights of women seem to diminish in the face of strengthened tribal life.

The story talks about more than just the honor killings. It also tells the story of a woman in love with one man but forced to marry her cousin. The cousin would abuse her and keep her from leaving. She eventually found a way to get a divorce and her parents said they would let her marry her original love if she moved back in with them. When she went back to her parents' place, her father locked her in her room with chains to her bed. During the interview, she showed the interviewer her swollen ankles -- swollen from the chains.

And I think she was a Kurd! The Kurdish areas of Iraq are some of the safest and most "civilized" areas! (this statement doesn't really have a whole lot of support; there is some funky stuff happening there too... just not God bombing)

"Grace" lyrics (by Kate Havnevik)

I can't find these anywhere on the Internet, so I thought I'd post them myself (based on what I think I hear from listening to the song). This blog seems to get a lot of lyrics-related hits, so this seems like a good thing to do here.

"Grace" by Kate Havnevik (lyrics)
I'm on my knees
Only memories
are left for me to hold

Don't know how
But I'll get by
Slowly pull myself together

(How? (repeated slowly over and over in background))
(I'll get through this)

There's no escape
So keep me safe
This feels so unreal

Nothing comes easily
Fill this empty space

(How?)

Nothing is like it seems
Turn my grief to grace

(How?)

I feel the cold
Loneliness unfolds
Like from another world

Come what may
I won't fade away
But I know I might change

Nothing comes easily
Fill this empty space

Nothing is like it was
Turn my grief to grace

Nothing comes easily
Where do I begin?

Nothing can bring me peace
I've lost everything

I just want to feel your embrace

I love you
I love you
I love you
I love you
I love you

The "(How?)" are really speculation. I don't know if that's what she was intending, but that's what I think they sound like, and I think it makes sense for them to be "(How?)".

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I hate the National Review

The following is paraphrased from The Daily Show last night. Jon Stewart just brought up the point if you live in a black and white world, then saying that embryonic stem cell research sacrifices innocent lives is not consistent with support for the Iraq war. Ramesh's response was that the Iraq war is okay because civilians aren't intentionally targeted. It went something like this:
"Well, I'm against any war where civilians are intentionally targeted, like in Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
-- "National Review" editor Ramesh Ponnuru (paraphrased)

"You are a brave man for coming out against Hiroshima."
-- Jon Stewart (in response, paraphrased)

(raucous laughter)
-- crowd (in response, paraphrased)

He may have said something like, "I really have to hand it to you for coming out against Hiroshima." Either way, I think you get the point.

Check it out at Comedy Central. I'm sure the video will be available soon.

winmail.dat no more!!

Thanks to Hawk Wings for pointing this out.

Ever get rich text e-mails from Windows users that have a single "winmail.dat" when they're supposed to have lots of normal attachments? This is one of the things that Microsoft does to assert its dominance over stupidity. (you can't argue with that; there's no reason for handling attachments this way. It's purely because Microsoft is mean and stupid, just like all those guys in high school that liked to beat up people like Bill Gates)

Before the typical recourse would be to respond to your poor unfortunate peer and tell them to change their address book entry so that you receive "plain text" and NOT "rich text." That will get rid of the "winmail.dat"...

Well, now there's another option that lets Windows users be blissfully ignorant, which is arguably safer.

TNEF's Enough
TNEF's Enough allows Macs to read and extract files from Microsoft TNEF stream files. The files are usually received by SMTP based e-mail programs from Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook users. The SMTP based e-mail program will usually receive either a MIME attachment named "winmail.dat" or a MIME attachment with the type "application/ms-tnef."

That's right. It's an application that can open "winmail.dat" files. Open the application. Open the "winmail.dat". Extract your attachments. Voila.

Beautiful. It really is. And it's freeware.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aaron Sorkin...

So Aaron Sorkin has written a new show...

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Bradley Whitford AND Matthew Perry are in it.

I'm skeptical... They pulled Sorkin from West Wing because he became a drugged up batty lunatic, didn't they?

Right now it's scheduled to be up against Grey's Anatomy and CSI (I refuse to put the colon after "CSI") on Thursday (that's right, GA is moving to Thursday). That's gutsy. They might need to change that (and there's rumor that they are going to).

For more info, as usual, check out NPR ATC.

Don't Mention the War!

Hilarious John Cleese... Check out the audio story at NPR:

Hooligans No More: Cleese's World Cup Decorum
(audio will be availably shortly)
All Things Considered, May 16, 2006 - When the World Cup begins in Germany next month, fans from England will be faced with the task of not being too rude to the host country. Part of the problem: a lingering bitterness about World War II. Years ago, comic actor and writer John Cleese transformed that hatred of all things German into humor on the TV show Fawlty Towers. Now, he's created a song called "Don't Mention the War" to instruct his countrymen how to behave when in the Fatherland.

The story is great, and the song is pretty funny too. However, you may need to check out the stories page and click on the "Music Interludes View" to hear the song.

NUGGETS!!!

I think there's a lot of geek potential for this first one. It's a sort of emergent music. The horizontal line is a little like an inverted piano... And the balls that swing around strike keys on it. They vary in speed, so you get this continually changing music.

whitney music box

You can choose lots of different "instruments" to use. There's a lot of geek potential to it. There are a lot of signal processing type comments you could make about it... So I'll let you think about that.


My next nugget is a muglet.

Muglets

Add your face to some goofy interactive e-cards. I don't really feel like doing it myself, so I offer you one that is already made. Lots of fun there. I recommend clicking on the buttons on the left side. That's right, you got it.


And finally, to avoid living in places that rain so much that you can never ride your bike, check out yet another Google Mashup...

WeatherMole

Click on your location on the map. See what pops up below.


And that's it. Thanks, again, to RocketBoom for these nuggets today.

Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy

Funny 16 second clip from Scrubs...

Grey's Anatomy mentioned in Scrubs

Those crazy Mountain Goats

So on today's NPR song of the day, I was introduced to The Mountain Goats (and also to Trembling Blue Stars, the band that originally sang the song that The Mountain Goats is covering).

So I did a little more research... and found a song called "No Children" with some pretty harsh lyrics. They were so harsh I couldn't help but laugh a little while listening to them. Take a look:
I hope that our few remaining friends
give up on trying to save us.
I hope we come out with a fail-safe plot
to piss off the dumb few that forgave us.

I hope the fences we mended
fall down beneath their own weight.
And I hope we hang on past the last exit,
I hope it's already too late.

And I hope the junkyard a few blocks from here
someday burns down.
And I hope the rising black smoke carries me far away,
and I never come back to this town again.

In my life, I hope I lie,
and tell everyone you were a good wife.
And I hope you die,
I hope we both die.

I hope I cut myself shaving tomorrow;
I hope it bleeds all day long.
Our friends say it's darkest before the sun rises;
we're pretty sure they're all wrong.

I hope it stays dark forever,
I hope the worst isn't over.
And I hope you blink before I do,
and I hope I never get sober.

And I hope when you think of me years down the line,
you can't find one good thing to say.
And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out,
you'd stay the hell out of my way.

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me,
hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die,
I hope we both die.

Zheesh!!

Yay for "2000's Indie Rock."

A Marxist Basketball Player?

This is ... well, slightly fascinating (to me).

Steve Nash, Basketball's Selfless Socialist? (audio will be available shortly)
Day to Day, May 16, 2006 - Phoenix Suns basketball star Steve Nash says he's read Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto. On the court, Nash is famous for passing the ball to teammates, giving up scoring opportunities himself so others can score. In a league full of flashy, high-scoring players, could Nash be an example of a Marxist player? Nihar Patel investigates.

It gets more interesting as it goes on. It's amazing how people who become professionals in what they do really branch out and become intellectuals... Bringing in aspects of other fields that they probably had no interest in when they were younger.

I think this is particularly true of basketball coaches. I'm SURE Duke's coach is very philosophical in his playing -- that's why he gets scheduled to talk for all sorts of team building conferences that are business related rather than basketball related. This is probably very common for successful pro coaches too. And... maybe even pro players.

Big Love for _Big Love_

I've been watching the new HBO series, Big Love, in its first season, and I'm really hooked. I remember feeling this way about other HBO series when they first came out, like The Sopranos. It's really a well-done show. There is a lot going on, and it's always fun to be rooting for an unconventional hero.

I highly recommend it. If you have HBO, you should try looking on your "HBO On-Demand" -- all of the episodes will be there until late July. Otherwise, look out for it on DVD.

It started out slow, but I think all good things do. After just a few episodes though, it got really addictive. There are two episodes left, and the momentum is really high for me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Free Skype This Year!

It looks like all calls from US/Canada to US/Canada are going to be free with Skype until the end of the year. No joke. It used to just be Internet-to-Internet calls, but now it's all calls (that is, now it includes Internet-to-land-line and land-line-to-Internet).

I'm SURE this is a response to AOL IM announcing that they're going to have a Skype-like service with free incoming calls.

And I'm SURE that AOL's announcement was a response to Google Talk.

Thus, Skype and Google Talk (and thus AOL IM too) are really starting to shake things up. Any bets on when land-lines will start massively disappearing? (even faster than they already are due to cell phones)

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make-a-movie with a message generator

This is kinda fun.

make-a-movie with a message generator

"Choose your sample, create your subtitles, send to your friends ..."

( thanks to the May 15, 2006 RocketBoom for this... )

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'You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve'

Yay NPR's Song of the Day
Anti-Consumerism in an Accessible Package

As great as albums are, there's something special about a single, especially if it's a band's only output. When there are only one or two songs to choose from, it creates a bit of mystery and excitement: A single teases more material to come, and it changes a song's context entirely.

The London duo Johnny Boy returns to this great tradition with "You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve," a single that's as catchy as its title is long. With a sound rooted in '60s girl-group anthems, it's an underground pop masterpiece: Sly and timeless, it works on multiple levels.

Incorporating a wall of sound worthy of Phil Spector -- complete with intense strings and crashing cymbals -- Johnny Boy converts its wordy and unmistakable message into a chorus that's never as unwieldy as it should be. The title is rumored to refer to TV's Sex and the City, but that just adds to the mystery. Luckily, the B-side is terrific, too.

It's a nice song. Listen to it at the above link.

Also check out the Johnny Boy web site, where you can also stream a few of their (few) songs.

Have AirTunes? Try AirFoil for Windows and OS X

I learned about AirFoil today.

For a long time I have wanted an "AirPort Express Base Station with AirTunes" just so I have the ability to easily beam my audio all around the apartment. However, I was upset that it would only transmit stuff out of iTunes. I often use my AM/FM tuner or RealPlayer or other applications that I also would like to broadcast into the kitchen or the living room.

Now, I could have used an FM transmitter, but over an entire apartment the signal-to-noise ratio can get very low, so I didn't bother.

Well, today I learned about AirFoil, which has a version available for both OS X and Windows. It's shareware. To buy a full version, it will cost you $25.

It does EXACTLY what I want. It will broadcast ANY application's audio to your base station.

So now I may have to buy an AirPort Express. That's sorta depressing because I think these little things are over-priced and behind-the-times. They clearly aren't ready for 802.11n. However, they're compact, and I'll probably only use it for the audio... It would be nice if there was a model that didn't act as a wireless router/repeater. Maybe it would be cheaper...

(oh, and Rogue Amoeba has some other neat products too. Most of them are audio related)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Al-a$$-ka

Update: The U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms (or maybe just someone using a computer inside the senate building?) has already viewed this page... Not more than fifteen minutes after it was posted... That's so weird.

I had CNN Saturday on in the background a few minutes ago and happened to catch a story on Alaska.

Alaska gets a cut of all oil that flows through its Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). So far this year it has brought in something like $4 billion to the state. In fact, at present day oil prices, it's so much money that Alaska is running a $1.4 billion surplus!

So what do they do with that extra money? They put it into a special fund that currently has $35 billion in it. This fund sits in an interest-bearing account somewhere. That interest is then divided among all of Alaska's residents. Last year, the interest provided each of Alaska resident $855.

On top of that, if you divide the amount of federal money going into Alaska for public services among all of the people in Alaska, it turns out that the per capita amount is something like $12,500. That's more than ANY OTHER STATE. In fact, I think it's MUCH more than ANY other state.

Ted Stevens is an evil man. He was the chairman of the senate appropriations committee until 2005. Think that has anything to do with how Alaska is doing today?

How We Talked Back Then

This week's This American Life show (Episode 312), so far, is terrific.

TAL: How We Talked Back Then

You can stream it for free, or you can download it for not-so-free.

This episode revisits some old episodes from back before the Internet was really popular.

The first segment actually has people read old letters that they either wrote or received or just found. These letters include job applications, love letters, break-up letters... And they're all really funny. It's GREAT to hear people read letters, most of which were written in the 80's.

The second segment replays people's reaction to their newest Internet experiences back when the Internet was a strange and mysterious thing. The first story is from a woman who meets a man from Microsoft on-line after viewing his website. She's amazed she can read someone else's private website... They talk personally for a few days... They then meet! She likes him. Eventually he takes her back to Microsoft late at night... He promises her a copy of Office 97... and one thing leads to another. Then after that, he tells her he's not interested in a relationship until he makes his first million.

It's GREAT. If I had the time, I would transcribe some of it. It would be great just to read the script! However, hearing it... hearing it is precious.

You put beer in my margarita...

Add 1/3 bottle of Miller Lite to margarita mix for "a little bit of bubble action?" Really? Seriously?

Will that work?

Meta-blogging!!

Recently, the wise Tim posted this post on the wonderful Hawk Wings blog, which features interesting news and views about e-mail (specifically Apple's Mail.app). He admitted that this post had nothing to do with the point of the site, but he felt it was worth posting. I don't mind this. My real qualms come from one of the comments, as seen in a second... His post went a little like this.
Santa Claus, hobbits and the space pen

This post doesn’t really have anything to do with what this site is about.

Sometime during your childhood you realise that Santa Claus and hobbits aren’t really real. A bit later, maybe in your twenties, you work out that Marx asked the right questions, but might not have hit upon the right answers.

Advancing age brings further bitter-sweet advances in maturity. I had just such a moment today.

Merlin Mann ruthlessly strips away a myth that has sustained me for many years. I have always believed that the Fisher Space Pen is the archetypal example of American extravagance and waste, the icon of a culture gone mad with abundance.

I was wrong.

That's fine. But then some idiot posts this comment:
Marx was wrong? Perhaps the cycle is to read Marx (Karl, not Groucho, though I rank them equally in the scheme of world history), then believe Marx, then listen to the right-wing criticism of Marx, then abandon Marx, then grow up larer to re-consider Marx, then settle in to an understanding that Marx was right–just how to apply his principles is the crux of the problem with socialism. “The devil is in the details” as they say, and dumping Marx into a country such as Russia which seems to have had an eternal history of exploitation and abuse of ordinary citizens did not fare well.

I’d move from the USA to Norway, a socialist/Marxist state, except I just don’t want to freeze my butt off. Norway is sometimes ranked using tangible and not-so-measurable factors as the “best” country on the planet. In terms of the overall economic wealth, personal health, and happiness of the citizens.

So, maybe Marx was right after all, but few schools in the US offer meaningful discussions about what constitutes a free, happy, and healthy society. For all the hoopla about the US, our government throws away such a vast quantity of money on war that (the money spent on the war in Iraq alone could wipe out world-wide starvation, according to the UN) our own standard of living continues to degrade. One could cogently argue that capitialism and the American experiment failed. We live by the myth of the entrepreneur. “Each of us could be a Bill Gates worth 250 billion, if we only got the right break tomorrow.”

So, just as we might do well to re-assess the role of the Space Pen, tossing out Marxism as you did in an off-the-cuff remark perhaps is worthy of deeper discussion in some other forum.

I'm SURE he was just trying to be cute, but after a while... It just gets OLD! This commenter seems to have real acceptance problems. He'd have to, wouldn't he?

Okay. I'll calm down. Taking a page from Jenn's book, here are the bunnies... (which she learned about from me, I'll have you know!!)

Just a little non-trivia, mmm hmm.... yea yeahh...

Delivered to me today, as usual, by Page-A-Day:
Q: Which six U.S. state capitals are located on rivers named for other states?

A: Austin, Texas, on the Colorado River; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, on the Mississippi River; Trenton, New Jersey, on the Delaware River; and Bismarck, North Dakota, and Pierre, South Dakota, on the Missouri River.

It's not trivia when you need to diagram the sentence to figure out what the hell they're asking...

No Vlog Left Behind...

A few posts ago I made this comment...
( Why do I find it funny that Rocketboom uses an attractive blond female (Amanda Congdon [1][2][3][4], Northwestern grad and 1981 baby) to do their vlogs? I mean, it's nothing against her. It's not like she's not qualified for the job; she is. In fact, she may not even think of herself that way. After all, there's nothing she can do about it. However, I have a feeling it may (perhaps subconsciously) have gone into the vote as to who would be the "frontman" for RocketBoom. )

Well, strangely enough, the Friday, May 12 RocketBoom seems to be related to this question. It's not quite an answer, but it's something.

This summer's defining band: Sound Team?

NPR's Song of the Day: Let the Summer of Sound Team Begin
Every summer has that album: one that defines the season while hearkening back to the mysteries and epiphanies of summers past. This year's incarnation may well be the work of a band called Sound Team.

I'm not sure if I agree there...

However, the song grew on me as I listened to it. Stream the song from NPR to see what you think.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Distraction-Free GMail Browser (for OS X)!!

Update: As discussed in a more recent Hawk Wings post, there's no need for a special application for this. You can do the same thing (in Firefox or Camino, for example) with JavaScript bookmarklets.

Do you like GMail, but realize that the only REAL way to work with GMail is through a browser? Well, you might like this... A stripped down browser just for GMail. It's less distracting. It's more like a Mail.app for GMail.

A dedicated, distraction-free browser for Gmail
Michael McCracken likes Gmail a lot.

But he finds that reading it in his normal web-browser is too distracting. Bookmarks, other open windows and the Google search are constantly tempting him away from his work.

So he created a dedicated WebKit browser that loads only Gmail without the distractions:


See the Hawk Wings post for more information, including where to download the app.

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Variety and Jalapenos, New England and Texas

This was a terrific commentary. The audio should be available shortly. The punchline: variety is the spice of life; however, that's only if you know how to apply it. Use variety for tasks that repeat very quickly... For example, move around your plate as you eat your dinner. However, do not use variety for things that don't repeat often. For example, sing Happy Birthday every year... Don't sing something new every year.

Sharing One Secret to Happiness
All Things Considered, May 12, 2006 - Psychology professor Daniel Gilbert has spent a lot of time thinking about what makes people happy. He shares one of the secrets he has uncovered. Gilbert is the author of the new book Stumbling on Happiness.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Billie Jean Is Not My Lover

Those who know me should find this pretty funny. (keep in mind that the following is from another blog, not mine)

Seven for all Mankind
My Sevens from Nordstrom Rack are back from the tailor - this is their internet debut. Mary's Tailoring on State St took the ankles from a 10" to an 8.5" opening, which made my sister ask, "Did you just say you took a pair of jeans to a tailor to get them tapered? Who are you?"

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In the ghetto-ohhhhhhhhhhhhh....

Update: Wikipedia has a category for 1981 births.
Up-Update: GEE-zus there are a lot of 1981 births on Wikipedia!!!

For some reason, lately I've found myself seeking out people who were born in 1981 (like me). There's just something special about my birth year right now. I'm not quite sure why. I guess maybe I just miss having peers around? You would think I'd be okay with anyone 1979 - 1982, but for some reason I've been clinging onto 1981.

Is that strange?

1981 babies, unite!

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Boxers or briefs?

"Internet Explorer or Firefox?"

"Mac or PC?"

Freeganism!! Parkour??

Wikipedia: Freeganism
Freeganism is a lifestyle in which an attempt is made to abstain from purchases so as to curb the corporate drive for profits. This drive is seen by Freegans as the source of ethical negligence. This display of eroding concern for ethics or morals by corporations was initially an issue mainly taken note of by vegetarians, vegans and animal rights supporters in general. The Freegan notion of boycotting products that violated the consumer's own code of ethics began with animal products but evolved to include a broader range of commodities. It is important to note that the term is relatively recent and its definition may fluctuate in actual daily use. The word "freegan" is a portmanteau of the words free and vegan.

Wikipedia: Parkour
Parkour (also called freerunning, abreviated to PK) is a physical discipline of French origin in which participants attempt to pass obstacles in the fastest and most direct manner possible, using skills such as jumping and climbing, or the more specific parkour moves. The obstacles can be anything in one's environment, so parkour is often seen practiced in urban areas because of many suitable public structures that are accessible to most people, such as buildings and rails.

A traceur is a participant of parkour.

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NYC Museum of the Moving Image

Update: The Friday, May 12 RocketBoom seems to address the parenthetical comment down below...

I think I'd love to go to this museum:

Museum of the Moving Image

It's featured in today's RocketBoom:

RocketBoom: May 11, 2006

It's probably important to view the Rocketboom vlog. They show some neat things within the museum.

( Why do I find it funny that Rocketboom uses an attractive blond female (Amanda Congdon [1][2][3][4], Northwestern grad and 1981 baby) to do their vlogs? I mean, it's nothing against her. It's not like she's not qualified for the job; she is. In fact, she may not even think of herself that way. After all, there's nothing she can do about it. However, I have a feeling it may (perhaps subconsciously) have gone into the vote as to who would be the "frontman" for RocketBoom. )

Faster than a horny Jellyfish

The Jellyfish, Nature's Fastest Creature?
Faster than the blink of an eye, or a speeding bullet... it's the sting of a jellyfish. NPR science correspondent Joe Palca reports on new research that reveals how fast jellyfish stingers move on their targets.

Astronauts can experience forces four to five times the normal pull of gravity, or gees. But when a nematocyst spits out its dart, the dart accelerates at more than one million gees, creating as much pressure as a bullet hitting a target. That's enough force to allow the delicate jellyfish to stun even heavily armed crustaceans.

I notice they include another picture elsewhere on the site but not on this page. I'll put it below.

Impressive Jellyfish.

Hushed Pop on a Thursday Afternoon

NPR's Song of the Day has done it again.
Born in Sweden to Argentine parents and raised on bossa nova and Joy Division, Jose Gonzalez makes music that's haunting and ominous, yet seductively heartening. Hailed by music bloggers in much the same manner as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Tapes 'N Tapes, the singer-songwriter has attracted praise that's significantly louder than his music.

The song of the day is "Heartbeats" (the audio of the song is available at the link above) off of the Veneer album. This song was originally by The Knife off of their Deep Cuts album. In fact, it's a very popular song for both artists. It sounds great for both artists, actually.
On "Heartbeats," Gonzalez reworks a song originally performed by the Swedish electro-pop band The Knife. It's the only cover version on his achingly intimate debut album, Veneer, which pairs Gonzalez’s acoustic-guitar work -- a style that merges classical and Brazilian techniques with the folk style of Nick Drake and Bert Jansch -- with his hushed, fragile tenor.

"We had a promise made, we were in love," Gonzalez sings with melancholy resignation. His sparse bossa-folk resonates on an intensely personal level: If it were performed in the middle of a crowd of thousands, it would still seem crafted for an audience of one.

Some other lyrics from the song...
one night to be confused
one night to speed up truth
we had a promise made
four hands and then away

both under influence
we had devine scent
to know what to say
mind is a razorblade

to call for hands of above
to lean on
wouldn't be good enough
for me, no

one night of magic rush
the start a simple touch
one night to push and scream
and then relief

Note: I think there are some slight differences from the the original lyrics.
Jose Gonzalez

Fun.