Aberfeldy

I am head over heels in love with a new band and I felt the urge to share. Aberfeldy is a five member boy-girl band from Scotland whose sound has been compared to the likes of Belle and Sebastian, who happen to be one of my favorite bands. While both bands hail from Scotland and their music tends to fall into the quirky, alt-folksy pop category, Aberfeldy distinguishes themselves as more than just a copycat band. Released in August of 2004, Young Forever is their debut CD and itís awesome. Itís filled with happy, bouncy music and smooth melancholic melodies. It reminds me of songs that were written back in the 60s: simple lyrics, infectious hooks, pure sounding, and just harmoniously arranged. Although Iím constantly listening to the complete album (all 38 mins worth) straight through on repeat, I do have a few favorites. Check out ďA Friend Like You,Ē ďLove is an Arrow,Ē ďSummerís Gone,Ē ďVegetarian Restaurant,Ē and ďHeliopolis by Night.Ē I canít adequately put into words what listening to this album makes me feel. Wherever I am, whatever mood Iím in, whenever I hear one of their songs, my mood is instantly lifted and I suddenly discover that Iím bopping around the place like a fool.

Check out some audio samples on Amazon or on their website. Oh, and I forgot to mention that they use a glockenspiel in their songs, which is just crazier than a snakeís armpit, but it works and sounds absolutely sublime!

iTunes iBlows.

I recently acquired one of the new iShuffles, and one of the reasons I picked this thing up was that it is USB based without any weird cables or nonsense (something I didn’t like about my other mp3 player). Since I wasn’t familiar with iPods previously, I was figuring that I’d just plug the thing in to any computer and drag songs on and off the iShuffle like it were a USB thumb drive.

Apparently, that’s not possible–you can use your iShuffle (or part of it) as a drive, but it isn’t smart enough to find audio files you drop on there and play them. Instead, you’ve got to use iTunes to move music back and forth.

It’s too bad I didn’t do some more research on this before I bought, because while I generally like my iShuffle and probably am going to keep it, the compulsory use of iTunes really irritates me. I know where my songs are, and I know how to copy them over to another drive, and I want to handle things that way. I don’t want to have to get used to the iTunes interface, I don’t want the damn thing to take over all the media file associations on my computer, and I don’t want to have to install it on every machine I have that might have mp3s on it.

The worst part of it is, I should have known better. For all their famous interface brilliance that every iProduct user gushes about, Apple is also responsible for one of the shittiest-behaving applications this side of Real with the Windows version of their Quicktime product. Historically, the thing loves to rampantly change associations, and it’s damned near impossible to get to stop playing things in your web browser. (This is all circa a couple of years ago. Perhaps it’s gotten better since then. I prefer the alternative.)

Apple wants me to use iTunes because they think I’ll buy music from the iTunes store. They want me to be more satisfied with my happy Apple purchase by wrapping everything up in a nice brushed-metal interface, to protect me from the evil that is my filesystem. They want some extraordinarily unfriendly DRM built into their player so the MPAA and RIAA will give them favorable synergistic reacharounds as Steve Jobs and company further their efforts to become the masters of the next generation of multimedia products.

To which I respond: fuck that, Apple. Crippling what is otherwise a very good product like this really kills my inclination to give you guys any more money.

Legalize It!

Ventura County public defender Liana Johnsson is fighting an important battle to legalize female toplessness right here in the great state of California.

“At some point, men’s breasts became liberated and women’s didn’t,” Johnsson said Friday. “This is the only thing left that men are legally allowed to do and for women they have to register as a sex offender. The real issue is there should be equal protection under the law.”


Legalize today, get flashed tonight.

Finally–a lawsuit I can really get behind 100%. My faith in our legal system is renewed!

The complete story [via Daze Reader]

Stuff you need on your PC

Daemon Tools

This free tool takes an image of a CD that you’ve put on your hard drive and it mounts it to a virtual CD drive. Next time you are playing a game that demands that the CD be in the computer, just rip an image of that CD to your hard drive and point this at it. You won’t need to screw around with CDs anymore, or wait for them to spin up and be read.

CloneCD

To use Daemon Tools, you need a CD image creator. CloneCD is the best one I’ve used. It’ll read any CD (that I’ve tried) and make an image file of it on your hard drive, which you point Daemon Tools at so you don’t need the game CD anymore. The process is self-contained and fairly explanatory.

It’s irritating that game designers insist the CD be in the drive or else the game won’t start, especially when the entire game is on your hard drive–they just want to verify that you actually have the physical media. This lets you do an end-run around The Man, and improves your performance at the same time.

mp3gain

Now that I have one of those neato portable mp3 players I can use while walking around or working out or whatever, I’m really noticing the volume difference in my mp3s. I’ve wanted a program that would normalize my library for a while, and now I’ve found one.

I ran this tool on the ~3500 mp3s I’ve got on my machine yesterday. I kicked off the analysis part at about 10:00am, and it still wasn’t done seven hours later. When I arrived this morning, analysis had completed, and nearly every mp3 needed to have its volume adjusted. I started that and oddly enough, it was much quicker than the analysis portion. (Actually, it’s probably not odd at all. I just didn’t expect that, but I have little idea how this thing is working.)

About 15 minutes later, all of my mp3s are volume-adjusted and the difference has been extraordinary. I guess I had gotten used to adjusting the volume control for every song, but I sure notice (and appreciate) not having to do it now.

ClearType

I’ve known about Microsoft’s ClearType for ages, but I never ended up using it because I never had a laptop that I used much. The odd thing is, you’d think that my knowing about it would be enough for me to mess with it once I got an LCD monitor for my desktop machine (since that’s essentially a larger version of the screen that laptops use), but apparently that was a leap in logic I needed some help making.

I got that help from a Slashdot post today, had what we refer to in the business as a V8 moment, and installed the ClearType Control Panel entry for WinXP. I turned it on and configured it, and–holy crap! Things look very different.

I can see the point of the people who say that ClearType makes certain fonts look pretty fuzzy and indistinct. But it also makes most things look much better. Here’s an example–guess which screencap I had ClearType enabled on?

I’m sticking with it. Give it a try too if you have an LCD and a Windows OS and haven’t messed with it yet.

Philippine Facts You Won’t Find in Fodor’s

I’ve been waiting on posting about this because I wanted to accompany it with photos, but I haven’t gotten off my ass to get them developed and scanned. So here are a few notes from my frequent recent trips to the Philippines.

Filipinos are friendly: Why just the other night, I was outside my hotel when this young lady approached me. I must have looked tense, because she offered to give me a massage. I had to decline, but it’s the thought that counts.

Filipinos are very, very good drivers. Watching a Filipino cab driver get through traffic is like fast forwarding through a videotape of the National Frogger Championships. These guys can judge the dimensions of their vehicles to the nearest inch, at high speeds.

Filipinos love Karaoke. They have a Karaoke channel, which is like MTV but with those cheesy Karaoke videos. But that’s not all, sometimes on the Karaoke channel, they include the Karaoke voiceover. They also have Karaoke on the radio. Again, with voiceover. Let’s all pause and think about that one… !

The Philippine’s national hero is named Andres. That means I never have to repeat or spell my name for anyone.

Filipino cab drivers have interesting stories. Movie script type stuff. Intrigue, crime, extortion, corruption. Good stuff.

If you really want to see someone look surprised and confused, tell a Filipino cab driver that McDonalds in the U.S. doesn’t serve spaghetti!

Many Filipinos (especially younger ones) now speak English essentially as a first language. However, they have given some phrases their own twist. My favorite such phrase is “so there.” Appropriate usage: “As you can see, we underperformed last year’s quarterly results in terms of EBITDA, but there were non-recurring market factors suggesting that this is a temporary phenomenon. So there.” I always have to resist the urge to respond “nyah!”.

Filipino food is just above English food on the global food rankings. It just isn’t good. Luckily they have pretty good Japanese food, but it’s at Japanese prices. How Filipinos generally stay so skinny eating all that bacon and sausage and duck embryo is still a mystery to me.

Surprisingly, American businessmen generally do not seem to avail themselves of the local, er, talent. The Germans and the Japanese, on the other hand… I don’t know. Call them the Axis of Wakes Me Up in The Middle of the Night With Weird Noises From the Next Room.

Related item: Apparently there is a Filipina Hooker Standards Organization that controls the pitch and type of noises produced by industry employees. This organization has chosen “unsupervised children running up and down the hallways screaming and banging into things” as the ideal to emulate, and their enforcement is quite good.

I’ll try to post pictures sometime, though probably none related to the last item.

qdb.us

qdb.us is a quote database site I was just directed to. People submit snippets of their chats/IM sessions/whatever, and other people vote on them.

I like the minimalist design, but obviously anything like this is all about the content. There’s some great stuff on here if you are at all geeky and have some time to kill. Here’s a good one.

As an aside, whenever you see the [SA] in front of someone’s name, I believe that means they’re a devotee of Something Awful, which is another funny site to browse. I’ve found some other stuff on the Interweb with [SA] badging and it’s been some of the funniest, most inappropriate content I’ve ever seen. I’ll have to post links to it sometime.

New PC at Work

I’ve been saddled with an awful PC on my desk for years–it was never top-of-the-line, and now I believe it’s worse than at least three machines I’ve just got sitting around the house. I was never able to justify getting a better one, though, because all I really use it for is Internet access, email, Meeting Maker, and productivity software. I still do all my real work on my Unix machine, which cooks with gas.
Continue reading “New PC at Work”

Big Buns Storm

MOOD: Disappointed

Jeff and I were supposed to go snowboarding this weekend. My sister and I had rented a cabin in Big Bear, got all this snow gear, and invited a bunch of friends. It was going to be our first time in the mountains and I was really looking forward to the trip.

However, what with this huge storm hitting So-Cal, the trip’s a no-go. None of us have much experience in intense rainy or snowy conditions and it was deemed an unnecessary risk to try to drive up the mountains.

Sigh. Oh, well. Another time, I suppose. I guess I should use this opportunity to catch up on my movie viewing. Or now’s a good time as any to hunker down and get busy sewing what with my new machine and all (Thanks a bunch again, Jeff!) Yeah, I’m going to sew (or attempt to anyway.)

Scratch that. I’m going to sew tomorrow. I think it’s time for me to bust out our old Nintendo Entertainment System. We’re probably one of a handful of people who still have an NES that actually still works! You’ve just got to jiggle it sometimes, blow on the underside of the games, or slap the thing, but more often than not, it works like a charm. Now, what should I play? Duck Hunt? Zelda? Mario Bros? Metroid? Mike Tyson’s Punch-out? Hmm… Oh wait, I’ve got just the thing. Contra, it is. There’s nothing like a dose of UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, B, A, Select, Start action to rejuvenate the spirits.

Now, I’ve just got to wait for Jeff to get home so he can hook up the thing for me. Mmmkay.

Music vs Movies

From a Wired interview with BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen:

While music consumers want to own their MP3s forever, movies are usually a one-hit blast – fewer viewers will want to permanently own the movies. That means creating a digital rights management system for downloadable movies is likely to be a lot easier than it is for music. Music lovers hate DRM limits on their MP3s because they expect their music to behave like a piece of property – something they can own forever and transfer from device to device. In contrast, Blockbuster has long proven that people are happy to just rent movies. [emphasis added]

Obviously consumers think of movies as different than music, with good reason, but this statement bothers me. The reason people are OK with renting from Blockbuster is not that they’re fundamentally satisfied with temporary ability to watch the move–it’s because Blockbuster needs the physical medium (DVD, VHS tape, game disc, whatever) back so they can rent it to someone else. That makes sense.

Digital Rights Management, as content providers would like to establish it, is that you download a movie file and can watch it for a specified period of time before the file suddenly becomes inert and won’t play any more. To see the movie again, you’ll have to purchase another viewing–even though you aren’t getting any additional valuta from the issuing party. You don’t need to get another DVD, because you already have the file on your computer or entertainment device. The renter can’t argue that they’re providing you one of their limited copies of the movie, because of course that’s not the case; it’s a file, and copies are extremely cheap to make, and in any case they already did that for you last time you downloaded the file. All they’re doing is demanding money for you to watch what you already have based on their say-so. Without arguing whether that’s appropriate or not, that sure seems fundamentally different to me.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that the douches at BigChampagne think the average consumer is a lot dumber than I think she is. I guess we’ll see who’s right over the next decade or so.

Ballers Donate Pocket Lint

Several NBA players have pledged $1000 per point they score in a game today or tomorrow to UNICEF, which will use the money to help victims of the recent, crazy earthquake/tsunami disaster.

I’m probably the only jerk that thinks this way but if I were one of these guys I’d be pretty embarassed to put my name on an initiative like this. On the one hand, any donation is a good deed; on the other, if you are LA Raper Kobe Bryant and you’ve just signed a 7-year, $136 million contract in 2004, do you really want to publicize that you might donate $50K depending on how lights-out you are in the game Friday night?

I don’t want to get too precise here, but Bryant’s averaging about 29 points per game through today, so let’s say he scores that much and writes a check for $29,000. If I donated the same proportional amount of my salary that he donated of his, I’d drop somewhere around $100–and it’s not that that’s a bad thing, but I certainly wouldn’t want anyone building a promotional campaign around my mildly selfless act, especially when other rich entertainers are in the news for doing a hell of a lot more.

(And that’s not even taking into account his promotional income–though I guess he doesn’t have so much of that to worry about anymore.)

I probably come across as not liking Kobe Bryant here, and I can’t deny that’s the case, but that’s not really my point. It doesn’t take an NBA cap-ologist to know that all of the guys in this campaign are millionaires several times over–even Bob Sura–and thus they’re going to be donating about a quarter of one percent of their yearly income in toto. Were I in their place, I’d much prefer to make a donation of that proportional magnitude without it showing up in the newspapers.

You know what I hate?

I hate when I’m at the grocery store, and I’m just getting the essentials, and it’s been a long day so I’m not really paying that much attention, and I get two cases of caffeine-free Coke because I think it’s caffeine-free Diet Coke.

Really, this is all my nutritionist’s fault. If she hadn’t told me to lay off of the caffeine and give caffeine-free soda a try, I would have known to pick the white cases rather than the red ones, and ignored the gold cases entirely. I think I’ll try to bill her for this next time I see her.

In the meantime, does anyone want 23 cans of caffeine-free Coke?

Okay, I’ll Give You a Hint

According to the AP, the perpetrator of multiple incidents of laser beams hitting aircraft has been apprehended.

“On Wednesday night, a pilot preparing to land a chartered jet with 13 people aboard reported seeing three green laser beams about 11 miles from the airport. On Friday, a helicopter carrying Port Authority detectives was hit by a beam as they surveyed the area in an attempt to pinpoint the origin of the original beams.”

Bravo.

My Strange Mom or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Scottish

Last Wednesday, I received a phone call from my mother. Hereís how it went down.

Rinnng!

“Hello?”
“Lae (this is my Laotian nickname), you and Jeff go to Disneyland tomollow, yeah?”
“Uh, what?”
“You and Jeff go to Disneyland tomollow?”
“Uh no, mom. Weíre not going to Disneyland. Whatís going on?”
“You take my beeg, beeg president company boss daughter to Disneyland!”
“What?”
“My beeg, beeg boss daughter and boyfriend come from Scotland. You and Jeff take them to Disneyland tomollow, okay?”
“Jeff has work tomorrow, Mom. He canít go.”
“Oh. (long pause)”
“Are you still there?”
” …”
“Mom?”
“… YouÖ and your sister! Go to Disneyland, okay?”
“Whaaaaat?”
“My beeg, beeg president boss need someone take his daughter and boyfriend to Disneyland. You go, okay. You and Bee. He look for someone. You go, okay?”
“Um, canít they find someone else?”
“You no want to go to Disneyland? It free! They pay for you!”
“Um, not really, but Iíll do it if they canít find someone else. But only as a last resort, okay?”
“Okay. Bye.”

5 minutes later.

Rinnng!

“Hello?”
“Okay, you go to Disneyland tomollow.”
“What? Didnít I say that Iíll only do it if they couldnít find someone else?”
“Ah, they canít find nobody. You go. You take good care of them, okay? Donít emballass me. It my beeg, beeg company president boss.”
“Got it.”

So yeah, thatís how I ended up taking two complete Scottish strangers to Disneyland.


Above: My new friends, Lucy and Stuart (or is it Stewart?)