Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Something old, something new

A while back I stumbled across a web site called Pandora that I thought was fairly interesting, but filed it away in my mind and went about my usual daily internet-surfing routing of slashdotting, digging, IMDBing, and the like. In the past few weeks, though, I have, oh, how should one say it...rediscovered what it has to offer. See, there's this thing called the Music Genome Project that is, in a nutshell, an effort to analyze "genes," or building blocks, of songs. Apparently there's something like 400 individual qualities that music can be judged by, and the guys at MGP have basically broken down all the music known to mankind, or at least a healthy chunk of it, and interpolated it based on these 400 characteristics.

Pandora, then, is an extension of the efforts of the Music Genome Project. You go there, type the name of a song or an artist, and you are presented with either the song you typed, or a song that epitomizes the essence of the artist you requested. You listen to the song and click a button saying you like or dislike it. Pandora then generates a new song, by a new artist, that shares similar "genes" with the original.

So, basically, Pandora helps you find new music that you will probably like. It's awesome, and free, and you should check it out, like, right now. I have been using it a great deal these past few weeks, and it is pretty impressive.

On a totally different note, I went shopping on Black Friday last week, and while I did not go to any stores until about 8am, I found the entire experience to be interesting at the least, and, dare I say it, enjoyable at its best. I found a nice knife set for $20, some cheap DVDs at Circuit City, and other typical BF-type items. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to qualify that I went with my wife and her friend, and on my own it probably would not have been as fun. My recommendation for next year? Give it a try. You might like it.

And finally I have to say Hi to my aunt and cousin who came for a visit last weekend. We all had a great time with you, and I'm so glad we got to spend thanksgiving with you two.

Monday, November 26, 2007

One for the road

Wow, what a week it's been. Kah-razy. In a good way, to be sure.

Here's how it all went down.

Last Tuesday, fresh off a trip to Nashville to see some family on my wife's side, we saddled up and hit the friendly streets of Minnesota for a temporary southward migration to the slightly sunnier climes of Lincoln for a visit with some family from my side, as well as plenty of friends from back in the day and whatnot. We had a stopover in Des Moines on Tuesday night for some delicious tacos and good times, courtesy of my wife's brother and his wife, not to mention their son who is old enough to walk but young enough to entertain everyone in the room by pretty much anything he does.

Two points if you can guess our first stop once we hit Lincoln the next day.

After a delicious pre-Thanksgiving feast we spent the day with friends and family, as is often our wont when we visit Lincoln. Wednesday night I saw several friends, including one who made the trek from way down south with her husband and young daughter. 'Twas great to see all y'all.

Thanksgiving itself was appropriately awesome, as one might imagine, and even included my aunt from Florida and cousin from Colorado. I tell ya, man, when you put a bunch of us in the same house, and throw in some long-distance relatives for good measure, it's always cool. Many games of cards, and games of the board variety, were played, much popcorn and ice cream was consumed, and a multitude of photos were snapped by all involved. 'Cuz that's how we roll, sucka.

And such went the weekend. It was relaxing and enjoyable, and I'm glad we're heading back for Christmas in a month.

On a side note, on Saturday I submitted a story to Digg, as I do upon occasion, but this was of particular note for a few reasons. First, the "story," as it might be called, was merely a photograph that my brother Andy took on Thanksgiving morning. Additionally, the image was put up on a directory of one of my web sites is, as are all my web sites, hosted by my brother's web server. As of Saturday afternoon the story had over 100 "diggs." It quickly rose to several hundred, and then skyrocketed to well over a thousand. By the time I went to bed, the story had over 2,300 diggs and was the number two story of the day.

The real surprise came during the next few days, including today, upon examination of the server logs. As of this morning, the photo has been accessed over 150,000 times by individuals across the globe, and the original story has over 3,200 diggs. Goodness gracious, that's a lot of bandwidth, but Dreamhost didn't even break a sweat. :)

So anyway, we're now back at home and setting into our usual routine, which can be nice after many days of being on the road and away from home. *whew*

Sunday, November 18, 2007

There and Back Again

We just rolled into town from a trip to see some relatives in Nashville. As much as I know that air travel is, really, the safest way to go from A to B, I still get jittery (much like Luke when he knows Vader is on the Command Ship, or, like Wicket when he meets Leah) whenever the plane takes off and lands. But once again, thanks to excellent piloting and the Good Lord Above, we made the trip without incident. It was a great visit, seeing lots of family and attending the baptism of our nephew on Sunday morning. It was quite warm down there, so we spent time on Saturday playing with some of our other nephews in a park near my wife's brother's house, where we were staying. We had a gigantor meal this afternoon, and I believe I am more or less recovered from it, and my tummy should be sufficiently stretched for Thursday's turkey marathon. I'm sure my brothers will out-eat me (Phil, how do you do it?), but it's good to try, eh?

Ok, time for bed. Sleepytime, here I come!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


So a while ago my wife and I got what is basically the perfect clock for our living room. It matches the color of our furniture rather well, and it is just the right size for our wall, and it contains European, not Roman, numerals. However, it recently stopped performing its most basic, and only, function, which is telling time. The hands no longer make their day-and-night trek 'round the circumference of their dwelling. Instead, the clock, as may be said, now displays the correct only twice a day. Changing the battery yields no results. I'm no horologist, though I do enjoy singing from time to time, and I fear the repair of our timekeeping apparatus is beyond my humble abilities.

Thus, I decided to phone the number on the back of the clock, which one is, apparently, to do in lieu of returning the clock to its place of purchase. I was told by a friendly voice on the other end to do, however, exactly that. So tonight I brought it to Target and asked if I might exchange it for one that, well, works. My request was twice denied, and rather than attempt a Peter-scale hat trick with subsequent managers ever higher on the corporate food chain, I accepted reality and vacated the store, proverbial tail between my figurative knees.

However, a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man, and this small setback only served to compel me to pursue the matter further. And, thanks to some sage advice from one of my wife's friends, Step Two will involve what my friend Jon refers to as a "Strongly-Worded Letter." Such techniques have a rather high success rate, so I am ever hopeful we will end up with a working clock soon enough.

Tomorrow we leave for Nashville for our nephew's baptism, and less than 48 hours after our return on Sunday we will be on the road to Lincoln for Thanksgiving. 'Tis the season, my friends, and the season is good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Verdict

So I guess I shouldn't leave y'all (or, as my wife informed me, all y'all, which is the correct plural form of the singular y'all) hanging about the slippers post. Well, they arrived just fine, and wow, they sure are comfy. I basically wear them all the time when I'm at home, and it's like being in outer space for my feet. It's like there's a party on my feet and my slippers are invited. Wearing these slippers is like the tactile equivalent of an Amigos Meat Nachos.

We saw The Bourne Ultimatum tonight at the $2 theatre nearby, which is actually $1 on Tuesdays. Good movie, but I was kind of confused, partially at the plot in general, but also by the fact that Matt Damon is a decent action star. Weird.

Is it wrong to sneak candy into a movie theatre? Is it extra wrong to sneak candy into a $2 theatre? Is it even more extra wrong to sneak candy into a $2 theatre on $1 night? Why do hot dogs come in packages of ten and hot dog buns come in packages of eight? I suppose there are some things we were never meant to know, and in the meantime, I'll continue purchasing Gummi Worms in advance so as to enjoy them during the show. It may not be right, but it's such a tiny offense that I can still sleep at night. But perhaps it's so wrong that I shouldn't be able to sleep, and my heart has been hardened by years of candy-sneaking. *sigh*

Tom, if you're reading this, the movie you asked me about was either The Returner or Casshern. I own the former but not the latter. Note, however, that both movies cannot be in close proximity of each other, as such a confluence of awesomeness would be unsustainable in our current space-time continuum. I actually voided my computer's warranty just by watching those trailers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Milestones in Computing

When I was eight my parents got a Mac 512K-E. It had one half of a megabyte of RAM and no hard drive. The floppy discs it used could hold as much as 800 kilobytes, or, 0.8 megabytes.

In the early 1990s we got a Mac LCII with an 80 megabyte hard drive and one floppy drive. I thought we would never fill up that hard drive. We did. At one point, over one quarter of the hard drive was taken up by the installation of King's Quest VI, the installation of which was contained on nine floppy discs.

My brother Andy purchased a one gigabyte hard drive a few years later. He allowed me to use 100 megabytes of it, which I thought I would never fill up.

We later got an iMac with, if I remember correctly, a four gigabyte hard drive. I thought we would never fill it up.

Shortly thereafter my brother Phil purchased what I considered to be the pinnacle of MP3 players at the time: an Iomega HipZip. It used removable 64-megabyte discs--more than enough for listening to music on the go.

My brother Phil also purchased one of the first consumer-level digital cameras in the early 2000s. He spent nearly one hundred dollars on a 64-megabyte card for it. I thought he was out of his mind to want so much storage space.

In the summer of 2004 I purchased an iMac with a ten-gigabyte hard drive. I was fairly certain I would fill it up.

In the fall of 2003 I purchased an external 160-gigabyte hard drive. I thought I would never fill it up. I began booting solely from the external drive.

In the spring of 2004 my iMac began smoking and stopped working altogether (perhaps a computer designed without an internal fan was a poor idea, Mr. Ive). I purchased an eMac with a 40-gigabyte hard drive. I continued to boot from the external 160-gig drive, thus ensuring minimal data loss in the event of another smoke incident.

In the summer of 2006 I purchased an external 250-gigabyte hard drive, bring my total storage up to near half a terabyte*. I thought I would never fill it up.

Today my wife and I purchased a 320-gigabyte hard drive for less than what Phil paid for his 64-megabyte camera card six years ago. I imagine we will fill it up, probably much sooner than we think.

*to put things in perspective, my brother Andy once told me that an isolinear chip holds roughly two to four terabytes

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Burning Daylight and Petrol

It's just a bit depressing now that we are finished with Daylight Savings Time and the world, or at least the Twin Cities, settles into a darkening slumber by 5:45, especially considering that it will only get worse for the next month and a half. But therein lies the positive: it's only temporary, and on December 21st all bets are off, and we start gaining sunlight by about a minute per day. Free sunlight! How cool is that? Very, says I. Anyway, the dark evenings are good for guilt-free indoors-residing, and as an added bonus, my morning commute is much lighter now, so that's cool.

I have been re-watching some of the DVD extras for the first three Star Wars episodes, and am continually struck by how grand those movies are. The sheer amount of time, effort, and good old-fashioned work that went into the process of bringing Lucas' vision to life overwhelms the mind. Say what you will about the movies, but it's hard to deny the richness of the tapestry upon which they are woven.

My brother Tom got engaged about one week ago, so mega-congratulations to him and his fiancée, who plan on getting married sometime in the spring of 2009. They came up for a visit a few months back, and we had a great time with them. She's a wonderful girl, and he's one lucky dude. :)

Time to eat some Wheat Thins and Costco Sharp Cheddar for breakfast. G'day mates.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Old Friends Long Gone

Doritos Fiery Habaneros, is your firey taste and crunch
Now gone and lost forever, to no more augment my lunch?
Was ever there a chip so hot, so tasty and so good,
As you, O Fiery One, foremost of all snack foods?

'Twas two years ago that I, upon an unsuspecting hunch
Purchased a snack-sized bag, and quickly brought them home to munch
But on the way did I, in fit of hungriness
Rend apart your topmost seam, to expedite my mouth's access

To sample your magnif'cent taste, which further set my mouth ablaze
And stumbled hastily home did I, in blissful smold'ring daze.
Not searing hot were you, as Andy Capp's Hot Fries, also
Not insufferable, your vehemence, like Chester's Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

But gone are you from retail shelves, no more can you be found.
Checked all the grocery stores, have I--checked every one around.
And though you may be discontinued, no longer on the vendor rack,
I nonetheless remember you, a true and tasty snack.

one point if you know the work to which my poem alludes
two points if you know the other sci-fi reference

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Several years ago I got a nice pair of slippers from my parents for Christmas. They were your (well, mine, to be precise) typical moccasin-style winter footwear, with leather construction and a soft lining, so quoth the attached tag, most likely. There was no tread or pad or any other friction-inducing material on the underside, which caused them, and by consequence, me, to slide something awful on any slippery surface (hence, possibly, their moniker?). I wore them outside many times for short errands, like retrieving the daily post, and had many a close brush with death thanks to the extremely slippery slipper surface and subsequent skating across many an icy driveway.

Which is why it's nearly impossible to get these kinds of slippers anymore. For every time I nearly fell, there were probably others in the world who did fall, thanks to the lack of any built-in mechanism on the slippers to prevent such a tragedy. I have been to dozens of stores to try to purchase a new pair of comfy winter footwear in the past few years, but all the modern versions of my good ol' moccasins have uncomfortable, and ugly, plastic-ey pads on the soles. No dice, man. And as such, I have continued to wear my old slippers long after they should have been sent out to pasture.

But possibly no longer. As I type this, I have a brand-new pair of slippers waiting for me at home, thanks to my wonderful wife and the Land's End web site, where she found a pair that, while not identical to my originals, has done away with the new-fangled sole design in favor of something called a "crepe" sole. I don't know what it means, but it looks comfy and infinitely more flexible than anything else I have seen lately, or ever. Apparently they arrived in the mail today, and I'm pretty pumped to get home and try them on.

Hey, it's the little things that make life worth living. :)