Monday, January 31, 2005

While We're On The Subject of My Birthday...

60 Bottles of Beer in the Car...

Avalanche emergency kit:
1) Strong kidneys.
2) Strong liver.
3) Strong stomach.
4) Strong sinus passages.
5) 60 bottles of beer.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

National Felons League

Jamal Lewis gets a head start on spring training with a four month sentence in the slammer for trying to set up a drug deal. This should afford him the opportunity to work on his sprinting, dodging, and stiff-arm techniques.

Lest you forget, he is the team-mate of another Lewis who is walking as an unconvicted murderer.

As employees that get paid an inane amount of money each year to train and play a game for about 8 months out of the year, is it really too much to ask to stay out of trouble?

Stapled Shut

Tell me if you've heard this one before.

On the way home I decided to stop at the local office supplies store. You know, the one with the commercial with the two guys racing down the aisles towards the one open checkout, only to be stopped by a lady who informs them that "there is more than one way to success" or something like that as another checkout opens.

Bull.

After gathering up my stuff I head towards the one open lane where there are two gentlemen ahead of me. Gentleman #1 appears to be a business customer of some sort. He checks a couple hundred bucks worth of stuff through and then hands over some sort of voucher or coupon to pay for a portion of the bill. Whoops, that coupon has already been used. So he pulls out an envelope full of different pieces of paper and tries them all out.

The cashier has just turned 16, I think. She's scanning all these barcoded documents while staring at the computer screen. Some of them don't scan cleanly, and she keeps passing the paper somewhere near the scanner while watching the computer screen. She apparently doesn't understand the concept of the scanner beeping on success.

So finally it's gentleman #2's turn, and he has two items in his hand. This ought to be a piece of cake, right? As it turns out, he is trying to return one item for credit on the second item. He's purchased the first item on his American Express card, so the cashier asks for the card to issue the credit. Well, that account is cancelled. So I stand there while the cashier figures out how to fanagle a store credit onto a gift card and then use the credit for secondary purchase. She scans gentleman #2's receipt some 20 times (while watching the computer screen of course, as if she expects American Idol to pop up at any second).

By this time there are approximately 10 people behind me. I haven't had my after work wind-down yet, so there's dust and flame in the back of my mouth where I've ground my teeth. Here's the punchline - the second avenue for "success" opens right as gentleman #2 finally wraps up his order. Literally, I stood in line for 20 - 25 minutes, and my checkout time for 15 or so items took about 90 seconds.

The cashier asks me if I belong to or would like to join the stores reward program, and I tell her that I would be duly rewarded if she would just get me out of the store.

There is nothing more aggravating than waiting to give somebody or something my money. The sole reason most businesses are in business is to separate me and you from our money. Good businesses do this efficiently, and by doing this efficiently they give me and you a good, warm feeling that we will not run into obstacles the next time we frequent their establishment to be separated from our money again.

My vision of the shopping future in heaven (or Fantasyland, for those of you not-so-inclined) involves interactions with approximately zero human beings... and I'm completely not referring to the shopping experience that some grocery and home shopping stores are currently trying to foist on you*.

You go to the store, pick up a cart, and wave your SpeedPass-like device at the cart handle. The cart "logs you in" and you go shopping. Every item in the store is tagged with RFID which, when placed in your cart, adds it to your bill. There's a little readout on the handle of the cart that tells you what the damage currently is.

And when you're done, here's the great part, you walk out the door! Your cart tells a scanner in the door on the way out that X amount of dollars should be charged to account Y and, somehow, prints a receipt out for you (some genius can figure that part out).

Voila, I got the stuff I wanted, the business has separated my money from me, and I didn't have to injure anyone in the process.

*I'm talking about the self-checkout lanes. What a crock! Are those really supposed to help you get out of the store faster?** Scan my own items? Do product code lookups? Weigh the items? And what is with the micro-management of placing the item on the belt immediately after scanning it? I scan/lookup/weigh everything, put it on the belt which sends it to the other end of the store, pay for it where I scanned/looked it up/weighed it, walk down to the other end of the store, bag it, walk back and collect my receipt. Somewhere during the bagging process I'm trying not to put the items of the next customer into my bag.

**Needless to say, if I have so much as a quart of milk I use a checkout person.

Mary Jane - Not Just For (Adult) Medicinal Purposes

Here's something to get for your child's library.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Big Wheel Gets Updated

Maybe daddy can get me one of these for my birthday.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Hurrah!

There are a handful of articles out there centered around a recent interview with Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president of Sony. He basically admits that Sony had their lunch eaten by Apple and others in the portable music race (remember Sony's Walkman brand basically owned the space at one time?) due to Sony's tenacious clinging to ATRAC and DRM technologies. The reason for hanging on to ATRAC and DRM is because Sony also owns hysterically nervous record companies, of course.

This interview with Kutaragi seems to indicate that Sony will be turning over a new leaf. This little blip from MacWorld caught my eye:
When [Sony] did launch a service it stuck to a proprietary encoding system and offered no support in its players for the widely used MP3 format. The result has been a poor showing for Sony -- traditionally one of the strongest names in portable audio -- in the market for players based on flash memory and hard-disk drives.

[...]

Sony formed an internal group in November called Connect Company that spans several business units. Its goal is to tie together its digital music efforts in the areas of hardware, content, online sales and software, and to help Sony develop a more user-friendly digital music system. Later that month Sony said it would offer a new version of its Network Walkman player with support for MP3. Owners of earlier models can get their players upgraded to support the format.

SWEET.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Mississippi Burned*

Who peed in Anna Quindlen's Wheaties?

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that she isn't too happy about the outcome of the presidential election. This week she takes aim at a red state, Mississipi, in Newsweek's "The Last Word" column. After parsing through her scattered data and trying to Connect Up the Dots the conclusion seems to be, well, more abortion is a good thing in Mississippi. The more the better. In fact, let's make the state extinct.

She cites a bunch of data arguing from "the child is going to have a rough life and be a terrible inconvenience to everybody around it" point of view. Not stopping there, she piles on with specifically how the black population is contributing and can continue to contribute:

Black residents account for only 37 percent of the state's population, but for nearly three out of every four abortions.

A typical woman in Mississippi earns 74 cents for every dollar a man makes. A typical black woman in Mississippi earns 79 cents for every dollar a white woman makes.

Black children make up more than half of those in foster care and in the state adoption system, according to the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

She then finishes off with a non-sequitor, the plight of women in the state as framed by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. What this had to do with the rest of her column I have little clue, other than noting a bit of irony. The most trumpeted (to my ears) reason to protect abortion rights is a woman's right to do with her body as she pleases. Here Quindlen's makes a passing wave by citing the Institute's ranking of Mississippi as worst in the nation in "reproductive rights."

"Sometimes you don't even have to state an opinion. You just have to state the facts." I don't live there, but if I had some erudite, Pulitzer prize winner looking down her nose suggesting we'd all be better off through a variation of the final solution, I'd be livid.

* this is the ultra revised, i-found-the-article-on-the-Internet, paired-down-the-entire-post-after-having-a-chance-to-cool-off and thought-up-a-snappier-title version

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing



A little too late for Christmas, but my birthday is around the corner.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

This Is Asinine

The geniuses in my former home state are trying to pass a bill that will carry with it fines and/or jail time for writers of P2P software that do not take "reasonable care" in making sure that their software will not be used for illegal purposes.

How about people that put cars together? Those can be used for kidnapping and robbery. How about the makers of baseball bats? Those can be used to smack people around with during the execution of a robbery. How about the makers of panty hose? I mean, I could be wearing one of those (on my head, silly) to conceal my identity during said bank robbery.

It irks me that various industries are able to influence politicians to introduce such utter crap.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Don't Forget to Gargle

A woman in Adrian, MI is arrested for DUI after driving under the influence of a bottle of Listerine.

Hopefully she doesn't take her flossing as seriously.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

How Apropos

New York's oldest ISP, Panix, had it's domain name hijacked. The name is rather fitting.

Friday, January 14, 2005

VW Miata to Move Forward

One of the upity-ups at VW gives VWVortex an exclusive on the coming production of the Concept R. Oh sweet farfegnugen!

The Decline Of Western Civilization Marches On

Captain's Quarters offers excellent analysis if the Career Day fiasco at a San Francisco middle school, mixing together the issues of propagating crap to children at publicly funded schools, the ridiculous reach of "separation of church and state," and the case for diverting public funds to private education outlets. The wrap-up:
When public schools abandon any mention of God but think that telling middle-school girls that getting a boob job gives them their best chance of success is inappropriate but overblown, it demonstrates the need to give parents a choice to take their money out of the public-school system and put their kids in private education instead.

Copyright Madness

Lawrence Lessig weighs in on laws regarding copyright expiration, both for Europe and the US.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dr. Carter, Your Phaeton Is Ready

Volkswagen signs a deal for product placement on NBC shows. I think the interesting comment here is how TiVo is possibly changing the way companies think about advertising their products on television.

Isn't it, like, nine times out of ten that when you see a computer on a TV show it's an Apple? The only time I remember seeing a branded PC on TV are the IBM ThinkPads on Law & Order, Criminal Intent.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

An Extensive Review of the Sony MZ-NH1 MiniDisc Recorder

There is an extensive review of the Sony MZ-NH1 over at Epinions by one "MediaGeek." It's pretty thorough and should be checked out if you're in the market for Sony's top-of-the-line MiniDisc recorder.

A few comments:
But my biggest peeve with the base is that it doesn't have a connection for the USB. So you have to take the unit out of the base to use it with the PC, which I think is just dumb, especially considering how if you leave your MZ-NH1 idly plugged into your PC you can deplete your battery without meaning to. I can't see any reason why Sony couldn't make the base include power and USB.
That's not just dumb, that's retarded. I own a Sony MZ-N1 (the prior top-of-the-line recording in the NetMD era) and it had the USB connection and the power connected to the stand.
My understanding is that minidisc sales actually increased dramatically in the US when Sony introduced MDLP and the ability to download PC audio--mostly MP3s--to minidisc. I believe that, and it is a nice feature. However, up until recently, the software that Sony supplied to do this with was pretty miserable and unintuitive.
Correction: the software still is pretty miserable and unintuitive.
It's faster and makes more sense. Though it's not nearly as elegant as iTunes, it is at least as good as a MusicMatch Jukebox, if not better.
Although I've had my recent problems with MusicMatch, it's not even close to matching MM's functionality and ease-of-use.
If you're not crazy about SonicStage you can also use Real Player to download music to your MZ-NH1.
Not as far as I know. Real had a driver that worked with the NetMD models, but from my experience with my MZ-NHF800 Real doesn't even "see" the unit. I've hunted for updated drivers at Real's site but I didn't find any.

Regarding uploading recorded audio, the reviewer notes:
Transfer times are not super speedy, since Hi-MD is still only USB 1.1, and depend on what mode you recorded in. If you recorded in uncompressed PCM, then a full hour of audio is 650 MB, which takes a while to transfer by USB, but not quite a hour.
I just recorded my first sermon for my church using the NHF800. The recorded audio was about 45 minutes, and I believe I recorded it in Hi-SP. I could have sworn it only took about 5 minutes to upload into the computer. The conversion process from ATRAC to WAV (using the downloadable tool provided by Sony) took even less time. I'll have to pay better attention next week when I repeat the process.

Overall it's an excellent review from a person that has experience with MiniDisc. The reviewer also comes to good conclusions regarding the whole iPod vs. MiniDisc issue. I can't help but consider that with the ubiquity of the iPod Sony is perhaps out-geeking Apple with the MiniDisc format.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Like the New Shuffle But Already Have An iPod?

A nifty little hack will cure that.

Legislating Christian Morals

Dick Keyes of the Massachusetts chapter of L'abri has an excellent article* on Christian influence in legislation and politics. Quote:
Christian people need to be engaged in political life while being able to convincingly deny any aspirations of theocracy. Of course we want to “legislate morality”. Everybody does. The transcendent source of our moral values should not disqualify us. But the morality that we want to legislate must be the moral principles of creation ethics. So it is surely necessary to be involved in legal issues of life and death, marriage and family, environment, economics and truth telling. But I have little sympathy for trying to force prayer to God into public schools against people that don’t want it.
The only question I have is what he means by "convincingly deny any aspirations of theocracy." I assume he means that to include not actually having any.

*They apparently do not permalink the articles until the next one is up, so I'll have to change accordingly in the spring.


And When I Go To Heaven...

A preacher is summoned to finish his thought in person during a sermon this past week.

Moving Right Along...

I've moved over to http://idiotsyncrasies.com.

Pardon My Lexical Incongruities

My Engrish is not too good.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Rod of Correction Imparts Wisdom

Apparently there are designated tools for every home activity, and some folks aren't happy about it.

With the way things are headed, I believe it will become illegal to administer any sort of corporal punishment to your own children, public or private.

New Hi-MD Models?

Some of the MiniDisc Community Forum spies reporting back from CES have pictures of prototype Hi-MD models, although it's currently unknown if, when and where they will arrive.

A Little Something for Long Meetings

Although intended for bikes, this little gizmo could effectively be used to signal when it's time to move on to the next agenda item in those long meetings.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

San Diego Super-Chokers

Well, I have to say that was a bit disappointing.



After a Cinderalla season I didn't expect a heartbreaking ending like this. I'd like to think I've grown up over the past 20 something years, but I found I haven't changed much from that 8 year old who watched the Chargers lose in the championship game against the Raiders (and then again the next year to the Bengals).

I've never believed that you can boil a close game down to one or even two particular drives but sheesh, Marty, you had momentum and were driving the ball down the Jets' throat. Why did you pull up on that last drive?

There's quite a bit of squawk about it on the Chargers newsgroup, of course, and sportswriters noticed it as well.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Admiral, We Have Found the Nuclear Wessel

Are these guys getting their drivers licenses for these things at Sears or what?

A Little Less Boring Than a Gray Case

Not sure if the cubicle nazis will go for this, though.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Minimalism Is Good

From The Long Tail:
With the exception of specific tasks, such as search and transactions, the Web for me has mostly turned into another text-and-minimal-graphics stream that automatically delivers content of interest, differing from my email only in that it's not personal and doesn't require my response. In other words, the age of curiosity or routine-driven surfing may be ending. The future, once again, looks like Push.
Maybe it's just to hide my poor skills in Photoshop etc., but I've never been big in putting graphics-intensive sites together. Coding is alot more fun for me anyway.

I've only started blogs since the middle of last year and have to concur - my Internet time these days consists of reading e-mail and reading blogs that I've subscribe to through Bloglines.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Just In Case You Missed the Nader Debates

The Nader debates with Kerry and Bush, uh, are available on DVD here.

MusicMatch Moves My Cheese

Generally I'm quite enthused about upgrading my copy of MusicMatch Jukebox software. The upgrade mechanism in itself is neat. Nine times out of ten the upgrades are of the incremental variety, and (I think) have been downloading in the background over time as you have been using the software. When the update is fully downloaded, you get a little alert that says quick upgrade is available, and it starts installing at your prompt. When major releases become available, a separate download and install is required.

Both the incremental and major upgrades are generally good, I find, so when version 10 of the software became available, I quickly downloaded and installed. As always, there are interface tweaks that makes the player just a wee bit more cool looking, but this time around I noticed a number of things that annoy the ever lovin' peace out of me.

1. I archive my stuff onto CD/DVD ROM and used the "Audio File URL" field to hold
the name of the CD/DVD the audio file was archived to. Guess what? That field is no longer available as a column header in the library view. When I add new files to the library I generally put in a temporary identifier into this field so that when the library is sorted on this column this identifier falls to the bottom (or top) of the list. This allows me to find unarchived files sooner, burn them to CD, and then reassign the field to CD/DVD archive name. Every other conceivable field is available except "Audio File URL," although it's still available when I edit the track's tag. Argh... FIX THIS.

2. I generally view the library by Artist and then sort by album and track (respectively). I used to be able to start typing the name of the artist and the library would jump to that artist, jumping further with each letter I typed. Guess what? Typing the artist name doesn't work anymore unless you click on the column heading for the artist, which sorts by artist (indicated by an arrow on the column header), which is worthless because I'm already viewing by artist. And... guess what? When clicking on the artist column header, it messes up the sorting on album names and tracks. The albums and tracks are now sorted according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. How stupid is that?

3. There used to be a tiny play button next to each of the tracks in the library that would allow me to play that track without adding it to the playlist. That's extremely useful if you're putting a playlist together and want to sample the track without the extra steps of adding and deleting tracks. Well, guess what? Button gone.

4. The "Edit Track Tag" button is gone from the library manager. Guess what? I have to right click and go two menus deep to find that function, or use the menu bar at the top. That wastes a couple more of my precious nanoseconds during the day.

5. Highlighting tracks using the shift key in the library and dragging to the playlist... uh, guess what? The dragging motion every so often (again, think Heisenberg) continues to select (or deselect) tracks rather than drag.

6. Okay, you don't have to guess anymore. Although I am generally pleased with the upgrades, I have an uneasiness about the general direction of the software. It seems to be moving more towards an online/streaming experience. The various music services (MM has one built in to their Jukebox) and DRM schemes leave a bad taste in my mouth. MM has now inexplicably thought it necessary to include the "rating" field as a default column on install of v10. Guh, how much of my broadband is being used to tell the mothership what I'm listening to?

7. If I may beg, write a driver for Hi-MD MiniDisc. Even RealPlayer supported NetMD MiniDisc at one point. This I would probably blame Sony a bit more for. Their SonicStage jukebox software (which works in conjunction with and is available from their Connect online store) is a horribly convoluted contraption. It's a "best of" collection including hand-cuffing DRM schemes, commitment to an unpopular and generally ignored audio format, and a user interface philosophy believing that your experience should resemble a Flash application.

Of course, there ARE a redeeming factors in v10. The new Cobalt scheme is quite nice to look at. And I really like that they've changed the small player view from a bar to a brick. You can see more of the artist and track names without the annoying scroll. That can only mean that somebody else's cheese was moved...

UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not one of only a few that does not like the v10 upgrade. MM10 is getting hammered by users on download.com. Coincidentally, I was looking for a way to downgrade to v9 when I ran across these.

M-Law's 8th Annual Wacky Warning Label Contest

These are just not right.

My favorite: "Once (digital thermometer is) used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally."

I'm a Mid-Rank Nerd

I am nerdier than 77% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

How about you?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Prepare the Ship for Ludicrous Speed!

A former colleague finds this article on how to make Firefox even faster. And faster is gooder.

And You Lose Some...

Thankfully, technology today is accomplishing what the courts will probably not be able to do.

Maybe They Won't Assimilate Everybody

RIAA loses a subpoena case to get customer information from an ISP.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Neither Here Nor There

I'm currently sitting in a Best Western somewhere near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. My connecting flight to Hartford took off without me due to our plane getting away from San Diego a scant* bit late. Of course, the airline I flew on (hint: think recovering alchoholic) isn't allowed to pay for any of my invonveniences because it was weather related problems and "not our fault," so they offered me a reduced rate here and a small travel bag (lacking a clean set of underpants) as a consolation prize.

I was determined to write the all powerful rant on how the airline industry is going in the commode when I got to the room, but upon reflecting on still how relatively cheap it is to move your cheese from one end of the continent to the other and how they usually get you there in one piece, I decided to cool off.

Still, I think this is the final straw in my loyalty to this brand. Between my wife and myself we have enough mileage points on our branded credit card accounts to circuit the earth a couple times, but the next eligible date for flying is February 29, 2005. Besides, there are other airlines out there that apparently lack the "gotcha" pricing policies - a little here for bags over 50 pounds, a little more here for changing the date for your ticket, and God help you if you need to fly somewhere next week and haven't purchased the ticket yet.

For tonight, I'll console myself with listening to the new Willie Nelson album on the new MiniDisc recorder, watching Driving Miss Daisy on whatever movie channel is going on in the room, and catching up on my blog reading.


* Where scant is roundly equal to 105 minutes.