Thursday, August 31, 2006

CNN's Toilet Conversation

If you haven't heard, technical difficulties at CNN prevented them from turning off Kyra Phillips' microphone during Bush's Katrina gab on Live From. As a consequence, she was responsible for turning it off, and she didn't know that. Thus, we got to hear her chat about some "asshole", her husband, her brother, and his wife who apparently is a "control freak." It's pretty wonderful. Check it out.

US anchorwoman left red-faced after toilet conversation is aired

Of course, the video is available from YouTube and other sources. The one below is exactly as it was when broadcast. However, many others have added a third track involving fart noises and other bathroom sounds. Sometimes I hate people.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Manual vs. Battery-Operated (or "The Ignorance of Gillette")

In the latest Gillette Fusion advertisements, Gillette says that the Fusion is available in "both manual and battery-operated" versions.

If you're not aware, the battery-operated Gillette Fusion has a button that you press that will cause a 1.5V battery to drive a small DC motor that causes the blades of the razor to vibrate in a circular motion that lifts hair away from the face.

Now, if that's the "battery-operated" version, then I would say that a version described as "manual" would have a little button that you could press over and over again to cause the blades to do the same thing, except that they would be powered by your hand rather than the battery. That's what "manual" means. A manual transmission is one that requires me to shift the gears. If I get an automatic transmission, then it does the gear shifting for me. However, on BOTH cases gears are being shifted.

In Gillette's case, the "manual" simply strips out functionality. There's no way I can get the manual razor to do what the battery-operated one does. In fact, it takes different blades that do not permit this sort of motion.

So it's a really poor choice of words. Something more like, "Available in vibrating and non-vibrating versions" would have made more sense.

But instead they say "manual"... And it makes me mad every time I hear it. I think they purposely did it this way because any other way would make the "manual" version sound like it did less.

This is simply not The Best a Man Can Get.

A fun, sexy anthem that shimmies with cool confidence.

Under the Influence of Giants

Three Decades of Pop Music, Colliding at Once by Kathryn Yu
  • Song: "In the Clouds"
  • Artist: Under the Influence of Giants
  • CD: Under the Influence of Giants
  • Genre: Pop

On Under the Influence of Giants' "In the Clouds," Michael Jackson meets Prince meets The Bee Gees meets a significant chunk of the Billboard charts over the course of the last three decades. Students of pop culture and funky dance music, the band's members have created a quintessential summer soundtrack. Their colorful, crowd-pleasing sound seems made to serve as a backdrop for flirting across crowded rooms, wading through dance floors and rubbing up against an army of sweaty party people.

"In the Clouds" practically bursts with infectious energy, spilling over with disco beats and Vocoder-enhanced backing vocals, while singer Aaron Bruno unleashes a mean falsetto, evoking a younger and hipper Barry Gibb. The result is a fun, sexy anthem that shimmies with a cool confidence. Accessible enough for pop radio and savvy enough to span multiple eras of popular music, Under the Influence of Giants crafts a heady cocktail of soulful rock, slick party-pop and sly R&B. It's likely to get ubiquitous in a hurry, and it deserves the inevitable overexposure.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Thursday, August 24, 2006

5ives from Merlinn Mann

Another genius blog from Merlinn Mann: 5ives

Some recent samples:

Five things I’ll bet can be hard for pirates

1. getting decent disability insurance
2. rum allergies
3. sexual harassment from that fancy new bosun
4. irritable bowel syndrome
5. finding one-legged pants that won’t make your hips look too broad

Five people who are much more enjoyable if you imagine them as pro wrestlers

1. Ann Coulter
2. John C. Dvorak
3. Donald Trump
4. John Stossel
5. Tony Robbins

Five kitchen tools that sound kind of dirty

1. chocolate fountain
2. melon baller
3. meat baster
4. boning knife
5. corn holders

Five possible meanings of that Kanji tattoo you can’t read

1. “See Rock City”
2. “L.A. Law / Thursdays at 10″
3. “due diligence”
4. “Kajagoogoo4Evs”
5. “I fellate goats while sporting a tattoo that I was told says
‘Harley Davidson’”

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Too Much: Thompson Brings Two for One

Lisa Germano

Today NPR Song of the Day's Stephen Thompson brings us two songs, "Too Much Space" by Lisa Germano and "Woke Up New" by The Mountain Goats. The former is the song of the day and the latter is a companion piece that "picks up where [the song of the day] left off". You can stream Lisa Germano's song from the article or from her myspace page. "Too Much Space" describes the pain of having too much space in bed, making too much coffee, generally trying to adjust after losing someone special. "Woke Up New" speaks of exactly the same things, but it looks ahead to the future. Both of these are good songs.

Music for the Morning After, and Beyond by Stephen Thompson
  • Song: "Too Much Space"
  • Artist: Lisa Germano
  • CD: In the Maybe World
  • Genre: Folk-Pop

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle has a similar gift for coming by emotional rawness honestly, and his "Woke Up New" (audio) picks up where "Too Much Space" left off, but with a few days' worth of reflection hinting at brighter days ahead. After winsomely brushing past the practical details of newfound solitude -- absentmindedly making too much coffee in the morning, for example -- he eventually comes to tentatively revel in the moment "the world, in its cold way, started coming alive." An ideal companion piece to Germano's song, it examines the morning after the morning after from a newfound and hard-won perspective.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Electronic Fountain of Youth? OLDIES?

The iPod, an Electronic Fountain of Youth by Annabelle Gurwitch
Actress and Day to Day contributor Annabelle Gurwitch has discovered an electronic fountain of youth -- it's called an iPod. But like most miracle elixirs, Gurwitch found that the personal music device has some nasty side-effects...

Annabelle Gurwitch (IMDB, Wikipedia) is 44; she'll be 45 in November. During the piece she refers to 80's music as "oldies." To be fair, there are a few Bowie songs from the 70's, but I wouldn't consider these "oldies."

Are "oldies" in the eye of the beholder? Can "oldies" to her be the same as "oldies" were to my parents (who are in their 60's)? I'm pretty sure that their parents didn't have "oldies," but I'm also pretty sure that their parents didn't have a culture that revolved around the radio for MUSIC in the way that ours does.

To me, "oldies" always reflects the music that was available on the radio when radio started to become a popular device for distributing music. That is, I think "oldies" should always be music from the 50's and 60's and some of the music from the 70's. After "oldies" we have "eighties music" and "nineties music" because, really, those decades had very distinctive sounds. I think that's fair. Isn't it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

(for Anna) Album Review: Classics by Ratatat

[In some ways, this post goes out to Anna (a Ratatat fan) and is dedicated to her friend Damon, who unexpectedly passed last week. Today is the day of his funeral. Take care, Anna, and best wishes, Damon.]

Music critic John Brady gave a review of the new album Classics by Ratatat.

The Day to Day review spells their name "Rat-a-tat", but I've never seen it written any other way than "Ratatat".

The music is pretty groovy. This album is pretty killer. Check them out.

Losing All Control: My Song of the Day

Morning Edition this morning had a musical interlude that caught my attention, and so I thought I'd focus on it today as my own sort of "song of the day."

The song is called "Losing All Control" by Rooney off of their 2003 self-titled album Rooney.

21-Year-Old Brit Makes Me Smile

Lily Allen

NPR's Song of the Day: Lily Allen: Tomorrow's Pop Today by Bruce Warren
  • Song: "Smile"
  • Artist: Lily Allen
  • CD: Alright, Still
  • Genre: Pop

Fortunately, the disc is also massively appealing, mixing the pop fizz of Bananarama, the gritty storytelling of The Streets and the bouncily rocking ska of No Doubt. Her U.K. hit "Smile," a stylishly breezy pop song with a summery groove, functions as the perfect musical kiss-off to an unfaithful lover. It works on a number of levels -- an anthem for the jilted, a declaration of independence -- but it's best suited to serve as an irresistible filler of dance floors for many months to come.

You can stream "Smile" from the link above or get it at her myspace page or her website.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lyrics: "Strangers" by Golden Smog

It doesn't look like these are available on the Internet anywhere (yet), so I'm going to post them here. I'm not saying these are the correct lyrics. These are the best I can do. I've identified where I got a little confused. Any help anyone can give would be appreciated.

Lyrics: "Strangers" by Golden Smog
Where you're goin' I don't mind
Kill my world and I kill my time
So, where do I go? What do I see?
I see many people coming after me
So where you're going to I don't mind
If I live too long I'm afraid I'll die
So I will follow you wherever you go
If your offered hand is still open to me

Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two, we are one

So you've been where I've just come
From the land that brings losers home (home??)
So we will share this road we walk
Mind our mouths and beware our talk
To peace we find tell you what I'll do
All the things I own I will share with you
If I feel tomorrow like I feel today
We'll take what we want and give the rest away

Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two, we are one

Holy man and holy priest
This other life makes me weak in my knees
When we get there in your place (place??)
Soon I fear you're going to carry us away
In a promised life you made us believe
For many man there is so much grief
In my mind despite the things we faced (despite??)
If I live too long I'm afraid I'll die

Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two, we are one

Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two, we are one

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SoaP is good clean fun

Snakes on a Plane picked up where the hype left off and actually built from there. It was satisfying in all sorts of ways. I'm very happy that this movie was made.

At first I feel like it's too bad that there are so many people who insist on not seeing this movie. I feel like it's sad that many of these people only picked up on the SoaP hype a month or two ago and some of them never heard any of the hype. I feel like if they were in on the joke, they'd enjoy this movie more, but because they weren't they feel like it's just another bad action (or even horror?) movie.

However, then I think about it and realize that this is a great B movie. That's all it is. Because of that, it's not going to do well in the box office. Additionally, it's only going to be appreciated by an audience that enjoys the subtlety that makes a B movie so special. (in this case, it's a spoof without being a spoof)

So this movie isn't going to be a cult classic, but how many B movies are? You must look at this movie through the B movie lens to really judge it. Through that lens, I think it's a great success.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Awesome Story: A Magician's Quest

A Magician's Quest for the Perfect Card Cheat
Dai Vernon, considered among the most influential magicians of the 20th century, could do just about any trick that called for sleight of hand. He was obsessed with learning the secrets of crooked card dealers. But there was one move he couldn't master.

He's referring to the "center deal." He tracked down one of the few people who could do this deal and learned it himself. Then he video taped instructions on how to do the center deal. You can watch the 1982 video at the story site.

It's really a neat story.

The Fall TV Line-Up

New fall TV shows
With the fall TV season looming, there doesn't seem to be a lot to get excited about. Here, however, are five shows that sound promising enough to at least not make me get queasy.

The list includes Studio 60, Jericho, Heroes, Runaway, "Gilmore Girls"/"Veronica Mars".

A real quick summary: (I recommend you read the link above for more interesting details)

Studio 60 borrows many of The West Wing characters (and Aaron Sorkin himself) to setup a show about the behind-the-scenes look at an SNL-type TV show.

Jericho is a sci-fi serial drama about a town in Kansas that loses contact with everything around it after a huge mushroom cloud appears over Denver that registers no radiation whatsoever.

Heroes is like a group Unbreakable. A group of people simultaneously realize that they have super powers. In fact, this probably picks up where Unbreakable left off (M. Night is a terrible writer). (in other words, the interesting part of Unbreakable was how the main character was going to deal with what was obvious throughout the rest of the movie; M. Night ends the movie at that point) (I recently learned lots of interesting M. Night trivia that shows he really is the most awful person in Hollywood)

Runaway has Donnie Wahlberg as the lead. It's about a lawyer who is framed for the murder of a beautiful co-worker thus forcing him to grab his family and flee.

Gilmore Girls is old, and some people really like it.

Veronica Mars is about a hot crime fighting high schooler, just like Buffy.

There is some potential there for sure.

How far will a dollar take you?

How about a round trip bus ride from Detriot to Minneapolis and back for only $5?

How far will a dollar take you?
A bus company in the Midwest has landed on a formula for success by charging as little as $1 a seat between Chicago and Minneapolis. But do you get what you pay for? Diantha Parker reports.

Fifty bucks is pretty good. But Hughes knows he could have done better:

HUGHES: I booked about two weeks in advance. I know a couple of my buddies from school booked about three or four weeks in advance and got $1 trips. So their entire round-trip from Detroit to Minneapolis cost $5.

That includes a 50-cent booking fee. Word of mouth has attracted about 100,000 passengers to Megabus so far. The British-based company keeps prices low by selling tickets online. That means no ticket windows, fewer employees, and no boarding passes. The bus driver just checks a list for your reservation number.

Their website is Megabus.com.

Supergroup Golden Smog: Happy Side Project

CD Reviews: Supergroup Golden Smog's 'Another Fine Day' by Ken Tucker
Fresh Air from WHYY, August 17, 2006 - Golden Smog is a side-project for veterans of rock bands such as Wilco, the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and lesser-known groups.

Golden Smog has put out three albums since 1992. The group's new collection, Another Fine Day, got our rock critic thinking about the pleasures and perils of musicians who moonlight from their day jobs.

I haven't been able to stream the story. It seems to be unavailable.

However, you can stream plenty of Golden Smog music from their MySpace page to start. Also, here is a Pandora station that I created for Golden Smog like songs.

For more information about Golden Smog, check out the Wikipedia page.
Golden Smog are a loosely connected group of musicians (arguably a supergroup) comprised, at various times, of members of Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Wilco, The Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, The Honeydogs and Big Star.

Doesn't that make your mouth water?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

An awesome wedding/anniversary idea

This is from today's Day to Day episode during their "A Hundred Bucks of Gas" series.

Eating Cherry Pie on the Way to Sleeping Bear
When radio producers Dan Collision and Elizabeth Meister decided to get married five years ago, they did it in a style that fit their mutual passion for roadside attractions and a diner pie: They hit the road and tied the knot in Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Since then, they've pledged to spend every wedding anniversary burning up a little highway from their base in Three Oaks, Mich. This year, the car was pointed toward Lake Michigan:

Check out the story. The audio will be available around 3pm today; however, this story is fully available in text form. It has pictures from the most recent trip as well as links to the places where they stopped.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sad story for the day

Bruno Kirby and Billy Crystal in _When Harry Met Sally_

Bruno Kirby Killed by Leukemia at 57
Recently diagnosed with leukemia, Bruno Kirby, well known for his parts in Billy Crystal’s comedies, “When Harry Meets Sally” and "City Slickers" and drama "The Godfather: Part II" passed away on Monday.

His death came as a great shock since not too long ago, he took a memorable turn on "Entourage" aired on HBO, playing a producer who becomes bedridden with grief after his Shrek doll is stolen.

In a statement Lynn Sellers, the actors wife, released on Tuesday, she expressed her gratitude to the fans and made the causes of her husband’s death, public, complications caused by leukemia.

Northwest to Employees: Dumpster Dive to Save Money

Northwest Airlines Advises Employees on Penny Pinching
Airlines have become experts at frugality. Now one has offered tips to employees, as well. Bankrupt Northwest Airlines has cut most workers' pay and has given some a booklet with "101 ways to save money." Suggestions included: shop in thrift stores, take a date for a walk in the woods or on the beach. And don't be "shy about pulling something you like out of trash." Northwest now says the tips were "insensitive" and has stopped distributing them.

Pandora Stations: Share Your Stations!

I was introduced to this via a comment on a recent post.

Check out:

The idea is that you submit a Pandora station to the website where other people can find it. Then those other people can vote on the station by "bumping" up its popularity. This will make the stations more visible. You can even post your new stations using a simple bookmarklet.

I'm surprised that Pandora doesn't have something similar to this built into its system. I think it's a good idea.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Teng's Flamboyant Contraption Takes Off

NPR's Song of the Day: Teng's Flamboyant Contraption Takes Off by Tom Moon
  • Song: "I Don't Feel So Well"
  • Artist: Vienna Teng
  • CD: Dreaming Through the Noise
  • Genre: Chamber-Pop

She has an interesting sound. (her myspace)

I setup a Pandora station for her (listen to it here) and it associated her with some other notables (I may update this throughout the day):

On a related note, Catman Cohen doesn't list Tom Waits (myspace) as an influence on their myspace page, but they must be shooting for that sound when they choose to sing songs with a low gruff voice accompanied by piano. Granted, they has other songs that are very different than this, but many of their songs sound much like a gentle Tom Waits. Am I making this up?

Also, check out the cover of Catman Cohen's How I Want to Die -- the Catman Chronicles 1. It's a steamy blurry image of an orgy (a multiracial 3-some actually). Pretty hot stuff--the blurriness lets the imagination make it even hotter, really. If Tom Waits were here, he might say that he was "getting harder than Chinese algebra."

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car

Los Angeles Living, Without a Car
Morning Edition, August 15, 2006 - Chris Balish is the author of the forthcoming book How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life. The talks with Renee Montagne about how to live without a car, even in Los Angeles.

It's not just about Los Angeles. Check it out. Well, probably check the book out, but the story is a good listen too.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bubble Shooter

Yet another free on-line game to keep you from ever being productive ever again . . .

Bubble Shooter

It's not cool; there's no contribution; CMU sucks

[ update: Whoa, RB as well as GoRobotics linked to here. Thanks, RB and GR. :) ]

This was featured on today's RocketBoom.

Ballbot balancing in the CMU motion capture lab, with Ralph Hollis looking on.

Dynamically-Stable Mobile Robots in Human Environments
I just want to note that they bought their own pre-assembled IMU. That takes nearly all of the challenge out of this project.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the papers. The entire control system is simple LQR. They've added some PI control to correct for some frictional effects, and both coefficients were tuned experimentally. Oh, and there's no ISS discussion in sight. If they ever want this thing to actually track an input, it would be nice if they actually built an input into their system, wouldn't it?

[ update: Need more? Well, on top of this, the critical nonlinearities in this system are sinusoids (gravitational and rotational effects). A sinusoid is not only globally Lipschitz, but it's pretty darn linear around the equilibrium. In fact, if it wasn't, then their linear controller (of which the LQR coefficients are based on the Jacobian linearization of the model!) wouldn't work at all. See? This just isn't an interesting plant to control (inverted pendulums are so 1836; were they ever cool?). ]

So where's the contribution here? I'm not convinced this is even a masters-level project. (perhaps a homework assignment?) This might make for a good undergraduate thesis. That is, it has no significance. It doesn't matter. In fact, it only looks cute to the uneducated.

Does no one do any significant theory anymore?

sapphic or Sapphic?

NPR's Song of the Day today is a pretty jazz tune written by an openly lesbian singer, pianist, and composer of some acclaim (the Guggenheim Fellowship in songwriting) whose name is Patricia Barber (born 1956; her website; her myspace).

I'm really impressed. She has some beautiful songs--some jazzy and some not--that make use of a combination of her talented voice and really great instrumentals in the background. Sure, there's piano, and that's nice, but there's also a jazz band (picture the slow background music behind Mike Myers' poetry in So I Married an Axe Murderer), and there are also songs pairing her angelic voice with the hypnotic sound of an acoustic Spanish guitar. Oh, and this description completely takes for granted the power of her lyrics.

Go and see what I mean. Three of her songs are available for streaming from MySpace and the song of the day is available from the article.

Greek Myths in a Same-Sex Love Song by John Murph
  • Song: "Narcissus"
  • Artist: Patricia Barber
  • CD: Mythologies
  • Genre: Jazz

An openly gay singer, pianist and composer who won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in the new category of songwriting to create Mythologies, Barber confirmed in a recent interview that the song involves a Sapphic love affair -- "It could be the gay wedding song," she says -- but the poignancy of "Narcissus" comes not only from her intentions, but also through its wistful beauty.

Shouldn't "Sapphic" be uncapitalized there? I'm sure that it's debatable whether or not capitalized Sapphic and uncapitalized sapphic can be interchanged, but I think that it's more common to use Sapphic to refer to a particular form of poetic construction and sapphic to refer to lesbians.

Either way, it's a pretty song.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

This movie shouldn't be a secret

In 1984, Val Kilmer was in a movie called Top Secret!.

This is a hilarious movie. It's wonderful. Oh, and Val Kilmer performs ALL of his songs! Who knew that Val Kilmer sings?!
Plot Outline: Parody of WWII spy movies in which an American rock and roll singer becomes involved in a Resistance plot to rescue a scientist imprisoned in East Germany.

I highly recommend it. It's a laugh and a half.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Panera's Green Sugar--I mean--Tea

Ever ordered an Iced Green Tea from Panera? I made that mistake recently. I took a sip and wondered if I had ordered some strange green lemonade. So I did a little research . . .

Panera Bread Nutrition Information: Iced Green Tea
Ingredients:
Water, evaporated cane juice, brewed green tea, plant extracts-color, natural flavors, citric acid.

Did you notice that first ingredient behind water? It's "evaporated cane juice." Notice that it comes before "brewed green tea." That's right, the most plentiful ingredient (aside from WATER) in GREEN TEA is EVAPORATED CANE JUICE. Panera's Green Tea has more SUGAR than GREEN TEA!!

A 16oz Green Tea has 23g of sugar in it. A 20oz Green Tea has 28g of sugar in it. (in both cases there are 2g of other net carbs in there, FYI)

Clearly Panera Bread is not a northern company. No northerner would dare include sugar by DEFAULT in any sort of tea, ESPECIALLY GREEN TEA! Putting sugar or even milk in green tea is sacrilege. So I looked it up... Where is Panera Bread headquartered?
6710 Clayton Road
Richmond Heights, MO 63117

So how do I get the sugar out of my tea?

Make the most of the meteor shower and the weekend

Make the most of the meteor shower
Don’t let a glaring moon get you down — find clear skies this weekend

First, the bad news: When the shooting stars reach their peak this weekend, the moon is in just about the worst possible location. It's just a couple of days past its full phase, meaning that the moon's bright disk will be glaring down like a cosmic headlight almost all night long.

The good news is that the shooting stars reach their peak this weekend — which gives you an opportunity to get far away from city lights, stay up until the wee hours, see what meteors you can, and still recuperate in time for the work week.

That's a thought.

This (is your) American Life (too, dad)

Last night I went up to my sister's house. Since I was up there, I slept at my parents' place. So this morning I hung around and listened to my morning public radio at the house.

Now, dad doesn't really listen to radio unless he's in the car, and he typically doesn't listen to NPR unless he's on his way home from work and listening for the news of the day. Radio is not the recreational wonder for him that it is to me.

However, occasionally I can tell that the same thing that lives inside of me that gets a kick out of the spoken word maybe has its roots in him. He'll pause. He'll clearly be basically eavesdropping on the radio. Sometimes he'll give a, "Huh, I didn't know that." He'll chuckle. He's clearly doing more than just hearing the background noise; he's listening, and it keeps him anchored in one place longer than he would be if he was in a room of silence or (even worse) pop-country music.

So, dad, I know your secret, and it's okay. There's no need to hide it. You like public radio. Just admit it. You'll feel better after you do. Mom won't mind. Really. Just let it out.

I say, "Wizard," you say, "Rock!"

Today's Weekend America is fantastic.

I just listened to a story about "Harry and the Potters," a "rock band" touring around America now trying to encourage kids to read. They all dress like Harry Potter characters and write Harry Potter related rock songs. It's pretty neat.

Additionally, since the IBM PC turned 25 today, they had a 28-year-old computer geek on to talk about the past, present, and future of personal computing. Now, I was never a computer camp geek. I never really was a camp geek in general. However, I did grow up with "C:\" and have a fondness in my heart for DOS (remember when DOS 6.0 came out and "deltree" became available? THAT was pretty hot. And remember DR-DOS? What about 4dos? Awesome). Likewise, I was one of those kids who had six computers and had a fully wired networked house with a file server and a firewall circa 1995, way before it was cool to have any of that.

It's a great show, and there's more great stuff to come in hour 2, including a discussion of Peak Oil, Whale Oil, the weekly High-Brow-Low-Brow, bed bugs, weeds, memory, and much much more. Check it out. And yes, you can listen to it all on-line.

If you're not into audio books (available at the library; some are even available for download!) and National Public Radio, then you're just not cool enough for me. :)

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Friday, August 11, 2006

"Good Enough" for me

Idgy Vaughn at Her Website

NPR's Friday Song of the Day features Idgy Vaughn whose debut CD Origin Story "straddles the line between contemporary folk-pop and traditional country, offering 10 subtly hued yet largely autobiographical stories."

If that sounds like something interesting to you, check out her MySpace page. Four of her songs are available for streaming, including "Good Enough", which is the song featured on today's SotD.

Idgy Vaughn on MySpace

A Country Song Springs to Life by David Brown
  • Song: "Good Enough"
  • Artist: Idgy Vaughn
  • CD: Origin Story
  • Genre: Country

As she steps to the microphone in her sundress, holding her jumbo-sized guitar, Idgy Vaughn looks out of time somehow, like a classic country singer from the '50s. Even her story resembles an old country song come to life: A single mom moves from Illinois to Austin, Texas, and works as a truck-stop waitress until one day, one of her coffee-sipping regulars wins the lottery and loans her the money she needs to chase her dream as a singer-songwriter.

One of the most affecting is "Good Enough," a song about a daughter losing her mother's love -- and that, sadly, was inspired by a nightmarish child-custody battle with her own disapproving parents. Vaughn's debut may or may not make a big splash, but it resonates with a rare authenticity.
Idgy Vaughn on NPR's Song of the Day

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What brings people to coffee shops?

I'm sick of the news today. I'm sick of hearing about Iraq, Israel-Lebanon, and already very sick of hearing about the foiled terrorist plot (face it, they know very little more than they did early (like 5am) this morning so all news is boring news)... So I certainly don't want to post a news-related post here... so how about something personal?

I like to hang around my apartment from breakfast until lunch to get a little work done and ingest enough eats so that I can leave the apartment to get work done elsewhere for long enough that I won't need to eat any more than the few snacks I brought with me (three clementines today, but usually an apple and two clementines). This not only gives me control over what I'm eating, but it keeps me from spending $5-$10 a day on coffee and other coffee-shop-related eats.

So today after lunch I struggled figuring out where to go. Stauf's is always a good choice. They have plastic cups available and self-serve water that makes them especially appealing. Plus, it's a nice atmosphere. It's large, but not too large, and has a nice window view of Grandview Ave. If it's quiet in the shop and it's raining outside, you can put on headphones and listen to something soothing (like José González) and look out across the few other people in the shop out at the falling rain. It's relaxing and somehow makes for a productive mind.

However, yesterday at Stauf's around 3pm (the day I ran into Tom and Craig) the place was packed and loud. It was hardly ideal. And it scared me away from the idea of going to Stauf's today. So I thought of going to Cup o' Joe by the Lennox. Both shops are close enough to the girlfriend's so that when she calls me I can run over (tonight's softball night, if it doesn't get rained out, and she'll be gone all weekend with the family). I usually am pretty productive at Cup o' Joe, but it's a tiny place and does not provide water with as easy access. Plus, it's harder to smuggle in the aforementioned fruit snacks.

So after much in-car deliberation, I ended up at Stauf's. I'm very happy I came. Today is one of those rainy days with few people and a quiet atmosphere (they aren't even piping in music (crap, they just started!) which makes for a much niftier atmosphere for work and my headphones).

So that got me thinking... What brings a crapload of people to a coffee shop at 3pm on a Tuesday but basically no people at 3pm on a Thursday? Both days had relatively similar temperatures. It wasn't raining earlier today, so I don't think the rain kept people in today.

So what gives? What's the deal?

Any thoughts?

Putting His Hand on the Heart of Music

I like the music of José González quite a bit.

Yesterday NPR did a segment on him, and I think it's worth noting.

Putting His Hand on the Heart of Music
An Argentine dad who loves Brazilian music, a Swedish childhood listening to Western pop, a stint in a hard-core metal band ... that['s the curious pedigree of singer-guitarist Jose Gonzalez, who can bring a hushed, haunting quality even to Kylie Minogue's pop hit "Hand on Your Heart." His music, well-known in Europe, is now finding an audience in the United States.

The story also includes a World Cafe segment about him from April 11, 2006. I haven't listened to it, but the "Set List" makes me think that the segment will include four of his songs.

I think it's also worth noting that his album Veneer has an AVERAGE rating of 5/5 stars from 23 reviews on Amazon and an AVERAGE rating of 5/5 stars from 20 reviews on iTunes.

Hushed and haunting is a great way to describe much of his music. However, he's a very versatile artist. I really think that anyone who thinks that "alternative" is the right way to describe her music tastes will like José González and should check out his music.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why wasn't Bush mentioned in this article?

NYTimes: A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749

This story demonstrates how mining search data, even when it does not have names, can be used to tie a search history to a particular person.

This is exactly why it's dangerous to allow the Bush administration to force Google, Yahoo, and other major search engines to release their search records to them. Even if explicit names aren't given to the government, they might as well be if enough searches are given to them.

I'm not sure why this wasn't mentioned in the NYTimes article. There is definitely a privacy issue when thinking about marketers who have access to this data, but ESPECIALLY with the recent civil liberty violations with the Bush administration and the major search engines, I'm feeling much more worried about government intrusion.

Song of the Day BLOG

UPDATE: I sent them an e-mail about the "Previous Post" and "Next Post" flip, and now I notice that they're back to their old format.

Maybe the blog format is up and coming and was just released too soon. Maybe it was released today, but they found some bugs so they got rid of it (temporarily?).

Fascinating stuff.

NPR's Song of the Day has just changed its format to a blog format where the permanent links give you individual day pages similar to the previous format (though the "Next Post" and "Previous Post" links on the individual posts seem to be flipped at the moment).

So that's interesting.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

POPURLS.COM

POPURLS.COM: popular urls to the latest web buzz

That's pretty cool. It shows the most recent top URLs on digg.com, del.icio.us, and reddit.com, the three big cool social "bookmarking" sites.

[Thanks to rocketboom for this]

Allison Stewart: This time you decide

She's at it again--this time with Franz Ferdinand.
  • Song: "A Song for Sorry Angel"
  • Artist: Franz Ferdinand & Jane Birkin
  • CD: Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited
  • Genre: Pop
You decide.

Personally, I think she still needs to work harder. I think she's shooting for obscure and cool and informed and intellectual (notice that 2 of the 3 paragraphs she writes are not about the song but about things only tangentially related to the song) while still limiting her musical horizons to the view seen through the lens of an alternative broadcast radio station (and I'm being generous with "alternative").
Fifteen years after his death, Serge Gainsbourg remains legendary as the louche bard of sixties Europop, not to mention the inebriated Frenchman who once propositioned a teenaged Whitney Houston on live television (a moment now enshrined forever on YouTube).

Because Franz Ferdinand is a vaguely arty Scottish rock band, its disdain, at least, comes naturally. Its members turn "Sorry Angel" -- Gainsbourg's tinny, mostly spoken-word meditation on regret -- into a mostly sung dance-floor romp, complete with vintage cooing by Gainsbourg muse (and Hermes bag namesake) Jane Birkin. The result is a hypnotic, thumping ode to love and death, performed with an air of ennui Gainsbourg would likely have appreciated.

That's your song of the day.

What is SotD supposed to be?
Every weekday, "Song Of The Day" will highlight another new or notable song with a short essay and a chance to hear the music itself.

Look for our critics to examine their favorites in everything from indie-pop to hip-hop to roots-rock to jazz and beyond -- one song at a time, one discovery per day.

Sometimes I think that Ms. Stewart's "discoveries" make it hard for me to consider her a bona fide "critic."

But maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe NPR's "Song of the Day" should be taken over by MTV VJ's and Top 40 DJ's. Maybe that will get them more ratings. Personally, I think that will just make people interested in SotD turn on the radio more thus making SotD moot. On the other hand, those listening to NPR may not want to switch away from their NPR, so this gives them a chance to stay connected to Top 40 culture without giving up their news. However, I think the audience that cares about such things probably aren't staying up to watch Carson Daly late at night and probably are okay with actually hearing new and notable songs on "Song of the Day." I dunno. Maybe that's just me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Triggers" is a pretty strong word

I'm starting to think that maybe news articles (journalism in general?) should be called "popular publishing" or perhaps "popular writing." The Associated Press (AP) and their colleagues seem to be the equivalent of the Britney Spears of the information world.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Perhaps the experts mentioned in this article were the ones being especially dim and brainless; however, there seems to be a reasonable chance that their work was wrongly manipulated (perhaps unconsciously or simply ignorantly) by the AP. I'm not saying the AP has an agenda or anything. I'm not saying news is biased one way or the other. I'm just saying that journalists compensate for their vapidness by tapping into their lack of education to produce savory and completely incorrect pieces of fiction. Even if the work did posit a causative relationship, the AP should have provided a little more skepticism and a little less gospel.

Study: Sexy music triggers teen sex
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

In other words, there is some correlation between age of sex and number of "raunchy" songs (of course, there are issues with this classification). However, we should not jump to the conclusion that the music is CAUSING the sex. That would be a logical fallacy. It simply isn't right to do. It's wrong. It's wrong to do.

Couldn't it be that something else "triggers" both the taste in raunchy music and early sex? Is that outside the realm of possibility?

In all fairness, the article does mention:
Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives, said explicit music lyrics are a cultural expression that reflect "social and economic realities."

"We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor" for teens initiating sex, Chavis said.

However, that's all it does.

This article (and this study, perhaps) will just be used as fodder for conservatives with an ax to grind. Also, because this issue seems pretty innocuous, moderates (or people trying to look more moderate) will join on to stamp out the evil music lyrics to win votes (remember Hillary Clinton's war against Grand Theft Auto?).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Good job, C-Net writers Evers and McCullagh

Researchers: E-passports pose security risk by Joris Evers and Declan McCullagh
LAS VEGAS--Radio tags used in everything from building access cards to highway toll cards to passports are surprisingly easy to copy and pose a grave security risk, researchers said this week.

At a pair of security conferences here, researchers demonstrated that passports equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags can be cloned with a laptop equipped with a $200 RFID reader and a similarly inexpensive smart card writer. In addition, they suggested that RFID tags embedded in travel documents could identify U.S. passports from a distance, possibly letting terrorists use them as a trigger for explosives.

I applaud these writers for . . .

  • . . . correctly using the term "radio tag" or "RFID tag." Many writers (who I criticize for this only because as writers they should know better) refer to these things as "computer chips" or something equally stupid.

  • . . . pointing out that these tags are not secure, can easily be copied (even from hundreds of feet away!), and present lots of privacy issues.
However, later on in the article they do display a small hint of incompetence, but only because one of their experts is not being careful with his words.
At the Black Hat conference, Lukas Grunwald, a researcher with DN-Systems in Hildesheim, Germany, demonstrated that he could copy data stored in an RFID tag from his passport and write the data to a smart card equipped with an RFID chip. The copied chip could be used in a forged passport, for example. "We programmed the chip to behave like a passport," Grunwald said in an interview with CNET News.com on Friday.

As you can see in Meriam-Webster's definition of "chip" . . .
6 a : INTEGRATED CIRCUIT b : a small wafer of semiconductor material that forms the base for an integrated circuit

Now, an RFID tag itself doesn't qualify as a "chip" under this definition. There's no semiconductor involved. There's no integrated circuit. It's just a piece of metal. It's pretty dumb. It's passive. It has no power source. It's the RF equivalent of a bar code.

However, a commercially available programmable RFID tag definitely has integration with circuits sitting in silicon. (in fact, an RFID "chip" may not have a conventional RFID as a part of it at all)

And so here "RFID chip" is acceptable.

But if they were to claim that a passport has an "RFID chip" in it, then I'd have to squeeze my stress ball and count to ten and then hit someone or something. I shake a little bit when people refer to "electronic passports" as is done later in the article. However, if I breath deeply, I realize that that's acceptable.

In the future I think they may have some secure "RFID tag like" solution to this "problem" that will involve integrated electronics. For now though, it's just a super unsecure barcode. Nice job, government.

At the end of the article:
Alternatively, Grunwald said, due to some problems with the RFID tag in the German passport, the government decided that the passport will still be valid, even with an inoperative RFID tag. The Chaos Computer Club, a German hacker club, came up with a creative solution, Grunwald said.

"The CCC is recommending to just microwave your passport," he said.

That's my kind of recommendation.