Monday, April 28, 2008


Well, just in case tomorrow is hectic, and I don't get around to it...
I won't be posting any new posts here for about a week.
I'm headed west again to see family and go to the Third "Bay Area" Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA. To see some photos from last year's events, check out my flickr set here.
Looking forward to just chillin and soaking up those California vibes.
There's a small chance I might blog from the road, but I kinda doubt it.
So have a good week, and I'll post when I get home.
Cyen out.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Awesome Geek Photo

So as a self proclaimed geek/nerd, one of the things I've come to realize over the years is that there are degrees of nerdom/geekdom. What one person considers "You are a total geek" can be totally different from another person's definition. Over the years, I've taken conscientious steps further and further into the geek-lifestyle, only to learn that just when I think I can't possibly get any more nerd-ish, there is someone out there more nerdy/geeky than me.
What I love about this photo, is the sense of pride you see emanating from "Tron Guy". I'm certainly not ready to take this step and make my own tron suit, but I applaud "Tron Guy's" decision to do this.

Tron Guy's Website:
Link to Scott's flickr page

Thanks for sharing the photo under creative commons Scott.

This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons license. If you use this photo within the terms of the license or make special arrangements to use the photo, please list the photo credit as "Scott Beale / Laughing Squid" and link the credit to

Movie Review - The Visitor

Yep, another movie review here.
Took a gamble and went to this "artsy" indy film tonight. I enjoyed it to a certain extent, but at the same time I think the film could have been better. (My friend fell asleep during this one, so I know at least one person who didn't like this one ;)

The Visitor (imdb)>
view the trailer here. (note, after time, this link to the trailer won't work anymore).
What I liked most about this film was that it was a story. I am finding that I enjoy movies that are based upon a story, and it doesn't have to be a complicated story either. Just tell me something about a person or a place and I'll listen/watch and probably enjoy it.
It was a slow movie. No car chases, no explosions, etc... But sometimes you need movies like this (well, I do anyway).
What mostly drew me to give this movie a chance was that it was directed by Tom McCarthy who also directed one of my all time favorite movies called "The Station Agent" (imdb).
The Visitor was a story of an older man named Walter (A professor at a college) who has fallen into a rut in life. Just going through the motions everyday, and not really "living". (I wished the movie focused more on this line, but not so much). Then, for work reasons he goes to New York City. While there, he meets up with a man, Tarek, who is from Syria, and his girlfriend from Senegal. The man, Tarek, is a drummer (on a Djembe). As Walter starts to emerge from his everyday life he takes an interest in the drum music, and starts to build a relationship with Tarek. Then we learn the problems involved...
Spoiler alert - you might want to stop reading if you don't want to know more about this movie.
still here? good.
We learn that Tarek and his girlfriend Zainab, are in this country illegally. Tarek ends up getting arrested and then gets put in a detention center. The movie then starts to get a little political and attempts to show some of the "injustice" regarding how a person of illegal status is treated. I noticed a lot of "not so subtle" background images during the filming (images of the American Flag, the Statue of Liberty, the Twin Towers, etc...).
Overall, I liked the story and the acting. But, I felt Walter was just a tad bit too stiff for the role. It felt "forced" that he liked music.
I didn't like the way the film ended either, but I won't go into that.
Bottom line: I can't recommend this movie to just anyone. The dialog was a little stiff and the political message was a bit much, but if you want to see a neat story, then go ahead and rent this one.

One final note:
I SO want a Djembe now!!!
I had half wanted one before, but after seeing and hearing one on the big screen I want one :)
That's a common symptom for me when I see a movie. I tend to get absorbed in a movie then come away thinking "I could do that" or "wouldn't it be neat if I tried ___" - I'll have to wait this desire out, cause I really have no room in my apt for a Djembe, and it's not like my area has a lot of drum circles I can visit. Oh well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bell Shooters "not guilty"

So, this morning I woke to my clock radio to hear a very sad news item (one of many)...
The police that shot a man while in his car 50 times were found "not guilty".
The case brings up all sorts of questions, one of which is racism (though some of the police men were also black). To me, from what little facts I've heard on the case, it is not a case of racism, but more on police brutality, and the abuse of power.
To be fair, I was not there, and I know how difficult a policeman's job is to make split-second decisions. That being said, there just appears to be something wrong here where an UNARMED man gets shot about 50 times while he's sitting in his car.
My condolences go out to the family of Mr. Bell, and to the community as a whole who must now deal with this issue.
(on a side note regarding the media's role in this story... this article by the Associated Press, is quick to point out things like: They were at a "seedy strip club", they were drunk, the credibility of his friends, etc... These all sound like "excuses" to me, and detract from the real issues here. In other words, if it were a white male, in front of a bank, who just got done working, then the story would be a tragedy. Shame on you Assoc. Press.)


So, I'm still not entirely sure what this website is about, other than I know it's run by Ze Frank (a really funny and talented dude). But, it appears they have run this as a contest, and I was just looking at some of the submissions and they are both cool and -i gotta say- a little creepy too.
Basically, take a photo that was taken a long time ago of you as a kid. Then take another photo today, trying to match the same photo. Makes me want to break out the ol' photo album and see what I could do. What amazes me is that in many of the photos, these people managed to somehow capture the same clothes that they wore. Neat stuff...
Check out some of the submissions here.
Or see the winners here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A musical interlude post

Blue today

So I have to admit, I'm a little down in the dumps today over the defeat of Obama in the PA Primary. I'm trying not to let it get me down, but I had my fingers crossed that he would have pulled a win out. Listening to all the political pundits put each of their spin on it is enough to make your head spin. I'm hopeful that Obama is still in the lead over Hilary, and that he'll be able to maintain that lead. But I'm not encouraged by my own past record of never picking the guy that wins. I might just go to the George Castanza model if Hilary wins the nomination, and I'll vote for McCain.
So, in related news...
I learned a few days ago, that a good friend of mine has almost the complete opposite political beliefs as I do. I'm stunned because I always thought we had similar outlooks on life. But here's the thing that's been bugging me... He's a conservative Christian too... I can't seem to get my head around the idea of these Conservative Christians and how they justify their political beliefs with the teachings of Jesus? I don't mean that as a slam, I just don't understand.
I was hoping I might be able to pick my friends mind since I don't know any other Republicans, but I also don't want to jeopordise our friendship by getting into arguments/debates about politics all the time.
I was going to email him about a topic like torture. I went online (I think it was on wikipedia) and saw a statistic that 66% of Republicans support Torture. This blew my mind.
If any republican's out there find this post, please post in the comments if you're willing to discuss this with me.
So I've been thinking of a question lately (probably not an original thought)...
If Jesus were alive today (you know what I mean), do you think he'd be a Republican or a Democrat?
Anyone willing to touch that loaded question with a ten foot pole? :)

Well, I'll close with a half-hearted cheer - Go Obama :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day

So in the past, I used to buy a small tree and plant one on Earth day. That was back when I lived at home and actually had a back yard. Well, now (and for a long time) I've not done that because I live in an apartment complex. I thought of just buying a tree anyway and just driving around looking for a random place to plant it, but in living in one of the most populated states in the nation, that doesn't always work.
So instead, I'm not sure what I'll do. (note, I feel like I do a lot through the year, so I don't have any pressure to do one thing on one day. To me it takes a bunch of little things all the time, to make a difference.)
I might go buy a book!
I just heard an interesting comment about books and the environment. I actually don't know if it's true, or just one of those internet rumors that gets started and then goes wild. But, I think to a point it makes sense. I'll paraphrase cause I can't find the original article... Are Books good for the environment or bad? I mean basically you're killing a tree to get to all it's good paper right? But this article said that if you have a lot of books on a bookshelf, it acts as a great insulator! So in the long run, it keeps your house or apartment cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, thus saving energy and thus being good.
I know, it's a stretch, but any excuse I can use to buy a book I'm all for.
Well, maybe as the day goes on, I'll think of something a little more worthy, and do something nice for the earth today. Hope you will too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Two more movie reviews...

A nice Sunday for me today...
I had a good time at my MakePhilly meeting (photos here).
Then came home and popped in two netflix movies, that I'll recommend both to you.

The Bicycle Thief (imdb)>
This is part of my new idea on renting movies... I'm trying to see movies from around the world.
So just off the top of my head real quick... USA (of course), Mexico, Brazil, Japan, France, Mongolia, Australia, Africa and now, Italy.
This movie was originally made in 1949 (Yep, black and white). It was nominated for an Oscar in 1950 (didn't win) but has won several other award Including a Golden Globe.
It's strange... overall, this was not a great movie for me. The storyline was just way too simple here. I don't even want to explain it cause it will give the movie away.
What I DID like about this movie... it was based on a story, good acting, and most of all, it transported me to another time and another country for a little over an hour or so. To see the backgrounds, and the way the people talked, and to see the extras, etc... THAT was fascinating to me. To see how the father treated his Son who (I'm guessing) was about 8-10 years old... by just handing him some money, and telling him to get on the bus, or to drop him off at 7am on a busy street corner for his JOB and say "I'll pick you up at 7pm". That kinda blew my mind.
Obviously (from the title), when someone yells "thief" on a crowded busy street, many of the Italian men would rush to try and apprehend the thief... For some reason I can't see that happening today. So, just overall I loved to see the different time period and different culture here. I recommend the movie to anyone who has an interest in either of these.
(oh, I gotta say too, the expressions of the kid (Bruno) were priceless. The way he constantly was looking up to his father (both literally and figuratively) was great.
(note: I'm not sure why the above movie poster is called "bicycle thieves" and not "The Bicycle Thief")

Next up...
Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Prdatory Lenders (imdb)
(not to be confused with a Made for TV movie called "Maxed out" in 2007).
Ok, I've had this one sitting on my DVD player for a little over a week now, as I was having a hard time actually wanting to watch this movie. I knew it was going to be depressing and probably get me angry. Guess what... I was right.
Please... if you are currently in debt right now... start thinking now about a plan to get out of debt. Here's what I did... add up all your debt. Pick a "reasonable" time frame that you'd like to be out of debt by (I chose 5 years - aka 60 months), divide your debt by 60, and that is your monthly payment. THEN promise yourself, that you will tighten your belt, and not make any firther purchases that will put you further in debt - ie: whatever your weekness is, whether it be toys, entertainment, collections, etc... Don't buy anything else during that time.
Then, when you finally get out of debt, and pay off that last credit card bill, swear to yourself, that you'll never do it again, and that whatever you charge on the credit card, that you'll pay off that bill every single month in full. (ok, sorry, I'm off my soapbox now).
This movie is both shocking, depressing, and really something that EVERY PERSON should watch at some point in their life. My advice, would be to show it to every teen before they go to college and are exposed to the temptation of signing up for their first credit card.
In addition to this movie being about personal debt and credit cards, it touches on the government spending issues too... Here's just one quote I pulled from the movie that made my jaw hit the ground...
The US Government spends more on interest than on Homeland Security, Education and Health care COMBINED!!!
There are a lot more nuggets of info that just really get a person fired up. Like how several of the past presidents have taken money out of the Social Security pool to pay off interest on loans. And how Bush has made it harder now for people (not corporations) but people to claim bankruptcy.
All I can say is... This country is in deep deep deep trouble. I think we're currently seeing some of the warning signs of just how deep of trouble we're in (housing market, banks collapsing, debt, falling value of the dollar, rising prices of gas, food, etc...) I think it's gonna get worse too.

But on a lighter note...
Who wants cake? ;)

Rent The Bicycle Thief, and if you are currently out of debt, rent "maxed out". If you're in debt, I'd say skip the second movie. It's too depressing.

Movie Review - Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Quick movie review time...
Forgetting Sarah Marshal (imdb) - the new movie from Judd Apatow (actually I'm not sure how much he had to do with it other than produce?)
Bottom line... you can forget this movie.
It was just phoned in this one. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets another girl, etc...
As someone on imdb pointed out... the editing really had some major problems. I don't know what happened there, but it was such an abrupt cut scene that I felt like there was something wrong with the projector.
Ok, I think I did laugh at maybe one or two jokes, but for the most part, it was just yawn for me.
On a side note too, I REALLY didn't need to see the full monty for actor Jason Segel. Once = comedy, twice = too much, third time = exhibitionist.
I did like the English guy (Russell Brand), but he didn't make the movie worth it.
I also was impressed with actress Mila Kunis, it was nice to see her actually act beyond her TV show "That 70's Show".
Unless you are a big Apatow fan, my advice is to skip this one.
To be fair though, at the end of the movie several people clapped, so apparently some people must have liked it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Awesome drumming

Found this video via digg...
I'm not a big fan of the rap part, but the drumming was intense. Though I have to wonder (as someone who has no formal training in drumming), is this a "technically" difficult piece to play? Or is it just awesome cause the guy is putting on a show, what with all the Tats, the head bobbin, etc... Regardless, The beat and melody are rockin.
(note: I did not even attempt to figure out the lyrics, only word I could make out was Reebok's ;)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stephen Colbert Show update...

Well, I'm back home now after a LONG day. But all in all, it was worth it, and I had fun.
I left the office at 2pm today figuring that would give me plenty of time to get over into the city, into an area I wasn't that familiar with the area - though it was neat because it was only a few blocks away from a Bar I used to frequent often "back in the day" (some 20+ years ago!) called the "Chestnut Cabaret", lots of local bands, and some alternative bands there too. I was introduced to Reggae there and will never forget that experience. Anyway, I got sidetracked there going down memory lane... sorry...
I found parking with no problem and proceeded to try and find the Annenberg Center. It wasn't clearly marked, but I did see some papers posted up that said "Colbert report", so I eventually found my way to the right spot. There was only about 14 people in front of me at this line... cool. But, I learned this line, was just to check-in, and to get a seating number. I got #162. The auditorium held about 900 people, but there were about 100 (maybe more?) "VIP" people who got all the good seats up front. Many of these were teachers and staff of the Penn University. I saw one guy with a Nutter Hat too (Mayor Nutter) so I presume there were some political big wigs there. (Michelle Obama was a guest tonight).
So, from about 2:30 until about 6:40 I did nothing but wait in line. This was the grueling part. At one point, they let everyone into a large room, to wait for the last hour or so. This part almost drove me insane... I got stuck next to this threesome. Two guys, and one girl, and their voices and conversation was driving me up the wall. The one girl had the kind of voice that was like a chalkboard sliding down a hill of broken glass. And as if that wasn't bad enough, their conversation was pure drivel. Everything from how cool she was in 10th grade, to the three of them comparing who had the worst cell phone* of them all - without giving one example as to why! Then when the one guy started talking about clipping his nails, I almost turned around and punched him. THEN they'd have something good to talk about in the future - "Remember that time when that long haired crazy guy just punched you for no reason?"
That was one of the longest hours of my life.
But then the good part...
The show!
The theater held about 900 people and it was almost all packed! (no one sat next to me which was fine by me cause I had extra leg room), I was afraid though that one of the ushers was gonna ask me to get up and leave so a twosome could have my seat. but (knock on wood) that didn't happen. I often wonder if that happens because I scare people, or because I'm a big person and no one wants to sit next to me. Trust me though, I'm not complaining.
It was really interesting to see how the show was put together. Tonight was shot out of sequence, where we saw the band called "the roots" play. They are going to edit this clip to come after the main show tonight. all because it would have meant they would have to move the band and put Stephen's "Big C" desk where the drums were :)
What surprised me the most... Stephen is honestly having a good time up there. It wasn't all just and act, he was actually having fun. And because of that, I did too. At one point we (the audience and Stephen) were watching a previously filmed clip (on the liberty bell) and Stephen was laughing at his own jokes :) (Not in a conceited way, but because he thought they were funny).
The band... Wasn't so impressed. They did a "rock and roll" version of the national anthem, and I gotta say, that annoys the heck outta me. EVERY rock band, I'm sure has done, or will do, a Jimi Hendrix type National Anthem, and they usually end up butchering the song. Then after the big song, the lead guitar player does the old "smash the guitar" thing. Yawn. What a waste of a perfectly good instrument.
(Though it was funny to see the bass player trying to be tough by breaking his bass, and not having enough strength to slam his guitar, he basically just tossed it in the air, hoping it would break- lame ;)
It was neat to see Michelle Obama too. I gotta admit though, her voice and intonation fell right into that "every other politician" format and nearly put me to sleep. Funny how they all sort of talk the same way isnt' it? Michelle, Hilary, Obama, and even McCain... they all have the same style of public speaking.
Well, other than all the waiting, the show was a hit for me. Thanks Stephen for the free ticket, and for putting on an entertaining show!
Tip of the hat :)

One more observation...
I'd say the average age of the audience was college age (it was on a college campus after all).
As I was walking up to the main building one of the other building had a stream of students exiting... it was so comical... almost every student as soon as they hit the outside air, they had a cell phone to their ear. I was amazed. Then during the hours of waiting, I was amazed that almost every kid had their cell phone out and were either texting, talking, or playing a game on them. What did people do before cell phones? It was kinda creepy in a way.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harry Potter in Court today

This is an interesting story via reuters news.
J.K. Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter books) is suing a "fan" in order to block him from releasing an unofficial Harry Potter encyclopedia.
I put "fan" in quotes to suggest that although he very well can be considered a huge fan, it also occurs to me that he could be abusing that term to make money. I don't believe that is the case based on what I know so far.

It's an interesting debate here, and I'm not sure how I feel about it as I can see merit to both of their arguments. That being said, I think that I'm leaning towards supporting Steve Vander Ark's position. As long as it says "unofficial" on it, I think he's safe, there are many unofficial guides for video games, and I think it's the same thing.
JK, if you think you can write a better encyclopedia (and I think you can) by all means... go ahead and do it.

Another battle over copyright and intellectual property. Let's see which side the courts come down on... Money/Corporate vs Artistic freedom?

PS> Thank goodness for Apple's auto spelling feature. I made so many typo's in this post it's not funny. Some mistakes and some because I can't spell very well. Thanks Apple (and firefox).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's just a coincidence

I just had to post this real quick...
A few days ago (Friday?)
I read this scathing article by Scientific America, about a new film coming out (or straight to DVD?) regarding Evolution vs creationism (or I.D.) called "Expelled".
The book that I've been reading (see previous post) called "Black Order" is also about evolution and involves as one of it's key plot points - Darwin's Family Bible.
This morning, I sat down to have an awesome big breakfast made of what I found in my fridge - Some frozen Ravioli's and some leftover seafood stew (I know, odd combination, but it tasted good and I'm stuffed!) as I plopped in front of the TV, flipping through the channels, I land on a show about (you guessed it) Darwinism and Hitler. (which again ties into the book I'm reading).
OMG! This show was such propaganda produced by "Coral Ridge Ministries" on the televangelist network! It's called "Darwin's Deadly Legacy". Let's see if I can sum up their show in two sentences... Darwin Caused Hitler to exterminate the Jewish people, and Darwin caused the boy(s) to shoot all those kids at Columbine. And it must have been true, because Ann Coulter was in it! (I hate to link to this, but to be fair I will, I think you can watch the show on their website). Oh, and by the way, Coral Ridge's website is full of ads for Ben Steins movie - ha!
Believe it or not, none of the above coincidences struck me until just now...
I sat down to read my book again, and the first sentence of the chapter starts with, "The SS started out as the personal bodyguard for Hitler..." I happened to think "SS" huh, the personal bodyguards to our USA President is called the "Secret Service" also "SS" - Is that a coincidence? It must be. Right?!
So that little thought train got me to then realize all these coincidences together. I had to jump up and blog this before I moved onto something else.
And here's the kicker...
As I started up the computer (well woke from sleep), I have a small desktop widget that displays thumbnails of all the photos on my computer - out of (I'm guessing) 100's maybe even 1000!?, who's image is there but my favorite Author "Robert Anton Wilson". RAW has written several books that changed the way I think, one of which is called ... wait for it... "Coincidance: A Head Test".
So really...
I'll ask one more time...
This is all just a coincidence right?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Book review

Ok, not a real in depth book review just a quick post to say that I'm enjoying another James Rollins book called "Black Order" (I'm only about halfway done). Huh, I just went over to James' website and I think I've read more of his books than I thought...
I know I have read: Map of Bones, and Amazonia.
I'm not sure, but I think I read "Excavation" a while ago as my first introduction to this author.
I enjoy Jame's writing because he tends to blend fact with fiction, and introduces a little history in there too. If I had to pick a favorite so far, I'd have to go with "Map of Bones".

I'm also looking forward to the next book in my lineup of many, called "Mount Dragon" by co-authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I've read a couple of their previous books too and enjoyed them... Relic, The Cabinet of Curiosities, The Codex.
Their website here.

IF anyone happens to find this blog post on the intertubes, I'm interested in Fiction books that involve archeology. The idea of building a mystery or a thriller around an archeology plot line, really fascinates me. Please leave any suggestions in the comments.

Friday, April 11, 2008

No video Flickr

So as a big fan of flickr, I'm torn with all the hoopla about their new "feature" that they introduced a couple days ago... Video. Some people are apparently loving it, and some are not. I think I fall in the "not" category, but I'm willing to give it a chance. I read this article on wired, and I tend to agree with one of the comments... Video on Flickr is like "jumping the shark".
I just don't quite get the thinking here. Flickr has a huge LOYAL fan base and their entire service is based on photography. Now, out of the blue, they introduce this video option (with a limit of 90 seconds). Why? I mean Youtube (and a bunch of other online video sharing services (vimeo, bliptv, etc...) have this pretty much covered.
Well, I hope this isn't the spiral downside to flickr that yahoo will taint. (Flickr was a stand alone service, then along came yahoo and bought them out. Now yahoo is in financial troubles - depending on who you talk to - and we get something like this?)
I guess it's time I start looking to google's Piccasa...

photo credit: seldon72 used under CC

Nerd Fighters

I just discovered these two guys yesterday on youtube. I'm impressed. I'm going to have to look into there thoughts and links a little deeper now.
Please watch both embedded videos.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Strangers in Good Company - movie

Ok, I probably shouldn't post this, in the chance that one of my friends might see this and tease me about renting a "chick flick" - but I don't care. It was a good movie. (And to be fair, I would fully accept the teasing - time to man up ;)

So, this movie came up as a netflix recommendation. I have watched so many independent and foreign films that I never know what netflix will recommend to me. (I would imagine I'm a real pain to the netflix algorithms because my movie tastes are so varied).
If you're a guy, and reading this, you can stop now, and go watch a baseball game, or some other manly cliché. But, if you don't care what other people think, and would like to see a good movie - OR maybe gain points with your lady next time you have to rent a movie together ;)
Ok, moving on...
This was a strange movie, I will admit. It's called Strangers in Good Company (imdb). It's not a complicated movie to review actually as the storyline is straightforward. A bunch of elderly women (in their 70's and 80's) are on a bus trip out in the country, when the bus breaks down. The women find an abandoned house and decide to take refuge there until (hopefully) someone finds them. Ok, I should fess up... I missed the first 5 minutes of the movie! I put it on, and pushed play, thinking I had time to take my dinner dishes out to the kitchen, then I got sidetracked putting away some leftovers, and by the time I came back in, I missed the part about the bus breaking down! I never went back to rewind it, cause it didn't seem important to me at the time. Oh well.
So anyway, these women, using their wits and skills learned over a lifetime, try to survive on their own. In a way, it's a sad movie. There is a lot of talk of death and dying, and reminiscing. But at the same time, you tend to feel happy for them for living a full life and having these stories to tell. Imdb uses the word Melancholy, and I suppose that fits well. It's certainly not an action adventure movie at all, but it was entertaining. A sort of raw look at the human spirit, and the frailty of getting old. Now, here's the strange part... None of the women in this movie were professional actresses, and apparently there was no official script. So the dialog is free flowing and awkward at times, just like in real life.
The cinematography was very well done too. It was filmed in Canada, and some of the scenes were just so peaceful.
My biggest complaint... Some scenes were - shall we say - altered to keep the movie progressing. One example, two of the women try to set up a makeshift fishing net, using a pair of pantyhose. Later, they hold up a string of large fish caught in this "net" - I'm sorry, as someone who has fished before, there is NO WAY this contraption would ever catch a fish larger than a minnow. It was obvious they added this into the movie, and it really bothered me.
If you're looking for one of those movies that probably only 5 other people have ever seen, then go rent this one. It's a gem, in spite of some rough edges.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

itunes - you got competition!

So, lets start from the beginning...
I admit, I've downloaded some songs from the internet back when Napster was new. I discovered Napster just when it was starting to cause all sorts of trouble. I knew it wouldn't last forever, so I grabbed some songs that i felt "justified" in doing so. For example, I had/have a large cassette tape collection. So rather than try and convert all my tapes into an mp3 format, it was easier for me to grab the songs off napster. So in that sense, I paid for them already. I will admit, I grabbed some songs with no justification, other than I believed the record industry had made a TON of money off of my purchases since I was a young teen. I started out with 45's as a young kid, along with some albums. When A young teen, I got back into 45's and albums (my favorite music store was "Peaches"! - now you might be able to tell how old I am now?)
Anyway, When it became clear to me that napster was headed for legal troubles, I stopped downloading. I soon switched to limewire, but I only limited my downloads to songs I could not find anywhere else. In other words, If I could buy them legally, I would, but since I could not find the cd, and any local stores, I would go to limewire.
(we're only talking a few songs here, it's not like I was downloading a huge library).
Then along came itunes.
I started to feel guilty in not buying songs, and I felt, that the new itunes store that offered songs at ¢99 each was a fair price to pay. So since then I've bought all my music via itunes (again, if itunes didn't have what I was looking for, I would see if limewire did - but itunes has a vast library, so that's rare.)
So just last week...
I forget even where I saw it (on the internet somewhere I'm sure), I heard something to the effect of " has gained a foothold in the mp3 selling business and is now #2 in sales".
One of the big selling points of amazon... NO DRM!!! (DRM = Digital Rights Management = I can play an mp3 that I bought on my computer, my ipod, put it into a homemade itunes movie, bring it into garageband, etc, with no limitations. Wikipedia) IF I used an alternative mp3 player, I could play them there too.
Well, tonight, I decided to check it out.
I might be a new convert now.
A lot of their songs are priced at ¢89 (compared to apple's ¢99). AND, on a whim (after hearing my sister's itunes/soundtrack post, and seeing Pink Floyd, I decided it was time for me to embrace Pink again. (That's a whole other story for another time as to why I put a self-imposed ban on myself from ever listening to Pink again.)
So, I stopped over to the amazon store. Guess what... For "The Wall" (which is a double disk album with 26 songs) they were only charging $8.99!! At first, I thought this was a typo, or maybe that was for one of the disks and not both. But sure enough, $8.99 for all the songs. Wow! (I know, you say it louder ;) Itunes was charging the full price of about $26 for the same songs - AND Amazon has the benefit of being DRM free!
So a no brainer there.
It was a little confusing at first, I had to download a small "helper" program from Amazon, and the install/download process is slightly confusing, but I figured it out pretty easily.
So, I think from now on, I'll be checking Amazon first for any new songs I want, then itunes.
Kudos Amazon.
(ahem... apple, are you listening to your customers?)

PS> Music is amazing! I've not heard some of these Floyd songs in over 20 years, yet as I listen to them now as I type this, I can remember most of the lyrics like it was yesterday! Music and memory are a powerful combination.

PS2> I'm aware apple has toyed with some DRM free songs. But I still don't understand it. Something about having a choice, or paying extra or something? anyone understand it, please leave a comment.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Lazy Mind?

So, I've been thinking lately about a few things, one of which, is how do I motivate myself to learn more? (which in itself is some weird logic loops, because by thinking about this and hopefully someday figuring out the answer, I will have learned something!)
But I've been mentally frustrated over the past month (maybe longer), about my inability to learn. Is it a physical limitation? (ie: I'm not that smart), is it an age limitation? reaching that point in life when you start to feel "comfortable" with having thought a lot and can accept what you know as your limit know (which is scary).
Is it a time limitation? There is SO MUCH that I want to learn yet! That I feel overwhelmed. There is no way that I'll have enough time to learn it all - therefore, how do I pick and choose where to best put my time?
Finally, (which I think is the root of my problem) I'm lazy. I'd much rather watch the season premier of Battlestar Galactica (which was awesome by the way), than to pick up a book, or jump on the web, and learn about what does a "volt" mean in relation to a 9 volt battery?
I enjoy being entertained! I don't enjoy the "process" of learning (somethings).
So, I think I've figured out now:why... my next process is... how do I "fix it"?
Well, that turned out to be a self reflective rant that I didn't intend when I started this post.
But, in this post, I hope lays a glimmer of an answer...
TED talks. I've blogged about this awesome event before - and how it's awesomex2 that they post some of the talks FREE on the web, so that joe schmoe's like myself can watch them.
I watched two this morning...
Possibly one of the smartest man alive - giving a talk about such things as "universe", aliens, and the future of the human race (Stephen Hawking!)
Then I just watched this talk, which was amazing!
I wish I had .003 percent of this guy's energy!
I'll embed Clifford Stoll's talk here, but I also enourage you to watch Stephen's talk too...

Friday, April 04, 2008

youtube - being corporatized

So, maybe it's been a slow process where I had not noticed before, but this morning it hit me like a ton of bricks...
Youtube is being (has been) corporatized!
So, it was only a few days ago, that I noticed youtubes new policy of putting advertisements into the videos. They "pop up" about a quarter to a third of the way into the video. I know... this is a capitalist society and all that, but it saddens me to see websites that started off as a "grass roots" project for users to share video content turn into just another large advertisement for big business.
Today's youtube page was nothing but Rolling Stone's videos, to promote (that's code speak for "advertise") their new upcoming film.
I stopped over at the youtube advertising page, and sure enough, they have a whole section dedicated to putting more ad's on their sites, and embedding them into the videos.
It's just a matter of time, until the people get tired of being advertised to, and they'll move to a new technology for sharing videos.
I'm also curious... I don't know yet if youtube is forcing their ads into the videos of the users without them having a say or not. I've not uploaded anything recently so I don't know if there is an option for this or not.
If youtube forces an ad onto my video, and then doesn't pay me for it - I won't be using youtube anymore.
Remember youtube/google - Don't be evil.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Baseball been bery bery good

I had more I wanted to say here, but I ended up sitting in my chair tonight watching TV, and playing with my new toy (kp3), and now I lost my train of thought as to what I wanted to say. So rather than wait until tomorrow where I might lose even more, I'm just going to throw this out there...
Last night I went to a Phillies game! My friend got some last minute tickets through his office, and asked if I wanted to go. I told him "to be honest, I'm not a big baseball fan, so if you know someone who does like baseball more than me, I think he should ask them" - luckily, he didn't so I agreed to go :)
We got there just a little late (still first inning), because of a traffic jam going over the Walt Whitman Bridge. A car had broke down on the bridge - ugh.
We made our way through the stadium (which was very nice and clean) down to our seats. The seats were amazing! We were about 7 rows back from home plate. If you drew a line from the Right fielder, through the batter, that would be where we sat. The tickets go for $75 a piece! Yikes! I was thinking of my family out on the west coast, because they're all big baseball fans, and I so wanted them to be there but 3000 miles can put a kabosh on that. I know they would have loved it though.
I can't comment too much on the game itself, and I don't know much about the game. I will say, that twice, we saw two amazing plays! The batter hit the ball, and it was headed right between the center fielder and the Right field. The right fielder started running to try to make the catch (I thought, no way, it's going to be a base hit for sure), but much to my surprise, the ball had such a spin on it, that it literally curved right to the right fielder where he made the catch! I have never seen a ball curve that much after being hit. It makes me wonder about the physics involved in that. I can understand how a golf club can embue a golfball with spin, but a bat? And a spin that goes in parallel with the direction of the bat? That's crazy! (I know, it probably happens all the time, but it's the first time I've seen it and from the perfect angle.)
I was also blown away by how clear the big screen was! You know the one that's basically a large screen TV just above (or below) the scoreboard. The picture was incredibly sharp, and brilliant colors. very cool.
Lastly, the prices! OMG! One beer (bud) was $7.00! (I fell for the extra ¢25 for the phillies aluminum "bottle", only to throw it out at the end of the game, because we realized it would be considered an "open container" if we were to get pulled over by the police!) A Hotdog, was $5-6... and they had these little 6" stuffed toys (Philly Phanatic) that sold for $14!!!
I mean, I had this vision in my head of baseball being a sort of blue-collar "Every-mans" game, but you'd have to be rich to afford these prices! The thing is... people all around me were buying this stuff up! So, I gotta give the stadium credit cause they know they can get away with charging these prices cause people will buy them.
Overall, I enjoyed myself, and had a fun time. The weather was a bit cool (they said it was in the high 30's!) but I just had my jacket on and was comfortable. No complaints.
It was easy to get caught up in the buzz of the game too, there was a genuine enthusiasm that seemed to be amongst the entire crowd. It was opening night after all.
Who knows... I might become a baseball fan someday :)
(though to be honest, the Phanatic's antics were the highlight of the show for me ;)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 Coupon

Ok, I may be about a half hour too late in posting this, but it should still work...
Here's a coupon I found online for $25 off on any item on
Enjoy :)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My Own Personal soundtrack

Ok, this was fun and interesting. I got (stole) this idea from my Sister's blog today.
Copied and pasted here:
This meme went around ages ago, but I didn't have an ipod to participate. I grabbed the format from Stories from the Red Tent. If your life were a movie, what would the soundtrack be?

So, here's how it works:
1. Open your itunes library
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie
7. I added one more feature, though. I listened to each of the songs (except the first one) that came up then included a line or two from the lyrics which seemed especially fitting.

So then, the soundtrack of my life:

Opening Credits:
Title: The Hornburg
Artist: Howard Shore
Album: Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
Lyric: Instrumental

Waking Up:
Title: Miracle
Artist: Erasure
Album: I Say I say I say
lyric: The Miracle of Love...

First Day of School:
Title: Little Things (HA!!)
Artist: Good Charlotte
Album: Good Charlotte
Lyric: How fitting! HA! This song starts with a dedication... "This song is dedicated [this is good charlotte] to every kid who ever got picked last in Gym Class, to every kid who had no date for a school dance, [this is for you], To everyone who's ever been called a freak, [this is for you]"

Falling in Love:
Title: Down
Artist: David Gahan
Album: Hourlgass
Lyric: Opening line... "I need some company"
Chorus: "Down on the Ground, there's no one around"
Ok, this little blog meme is starting to freak me out now.

Breaking Up
Title: Joan
Artist: Erasure
Album: Chorus
Lyric: It's just not within the scheme of things, to give up your life so easily,

Title: Aprés Moi
Artist: Regina Spektor
Album: Begin to Hope
Lyric: I must go on standing.
(ok, this one doesn't really fit)

Title: Break Stuff
Artist: Limp Bizkit
Album: Significant Other
Lyric: It's just one of those days when you don't want to wake up, everything is F*d, everybody sucks
Oh so fitting! (well, on my bad days anyway).
Ok, I cheated on this one. The first one that popped up in my shuffle was "dreidle" from the SouthPark Cartoon. But since it's not really a true song, I'm not counting it. But it's interesting to see how the remaining songs fall...

Mental Breakdown:
Title: Cold
Artist: Tears for Fears
Album: Elemental
Lyric: Cold... bring to me my big ol' sweater, nothing more will make me better.

Title: Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C Major K 299
Artist: Pierre Narrato
Album: Classics for relaxation
Lyric: instrumental
I can visualize the scene of driving along in my jeep with the top down on a sunny day in the country ;)

Title: Eye in the Sky
Artist: Jonatha Brooke
Album: Back in the Circus
Lyric: I am the eye in the sky, looking at you, I can read your mind...

Getting Back Together:
Title: Contre Le Temps/Back Door Man
Artist: Hesperus
Album: Unicorn
Lyric: Every married woman, I believe she's got some back door man. (blues song).

Title: Mess of Doubt
Artist: The Giraffes
Album: The days are filled with years
Lyric: Right now, nothing glued down, my life is just a mess of doubt
(note: I'm not married, so not sure if this one applies)

Birth of Child:
Title: Why should the Fire Die?
Artist: Nickle Creek
Album: Why should the Fire Die?
Lyric: I'm not scared of being alone...

Final Battle
Title: Nothing
Artist: Depeche Mode
Album: 101
Lyric: Sitting, waiting, anticipating, nothing.... Life is full of surprises, it advertises nothing. What am I trying to do, what am I trying to say, I'm not trying to tell you anything you didn't know when you woke up today.
(with all my dm songs it's about time one of them popped up)

Death Scene:
Title: New Favorite
Artist: Alison Krauss & Union Station
Album: New Favorite
Lyric: I saw the light go out...
I skipped another one that doesn't match up... a techno song called Home Zone by Digitalism.

Funeral Song:
Title: Come Play
Artist: Tweaker
Album: The attraction to all things uncertain
Lyric: Techno Instrumental - again doesn't fit in here.

End Credits:
Title: A Question of Lust
Artist: Depeche Mode
Album: 101
Lyric: A Question of Lust, a question of trust, a question of not letting what we've built up crumble to dust, it is all of these things and more, that keep us together.

Ok, this experiment was fun at the beginning, but the last several didn't seem to fit in. Oh well, it was interesting - thanks Sis!

Funny to note, that my song library has 2090 songs in it. I'm amazed at the repeated bands of DM, and Erasure. I have such an eclectic library too, which this list does not reflect. Perhaps, it's not as eclectic as I thought it was? Interesting too, how you can listen to the lyrics intent on finding a thread of meaning in relation to these topics. Some were a stretch I'm sure.
I almost want to go back through my library, and then intentionally pick some of these songs and see what kind of story that would tell. Maybe another day...