Did Ronald get in a little trouble down there?

don't say that i never try to bring some humor into your daily lives. today i present you with the underground machinations that is Ronald McDonald.

the NY Times ran a piece comparing the latest offerings from ReplayTV and TiVo. i am of course biased and think the TiVo won. either way, having TV without one of these babies is like having the Internet via a 48.8kbps dial-up. how's that modem working out for you, Otter? heh.

speaking of Otter, go read his flame on Madonna and her latest video. i was standing in my chair screaming in agreement with him as i read his piece; hope you are too.

for those laptop users out there, here is a product that allows you to put the "lap" back into your portable PC. i know one person who swears by a similar product.

time to make the doughnuts!
posted @ 08:39 AM CST [link]

song in my heart, words in my head

early reports are in and it appears that Sony's MDR-EX71SL earphones resoundly whip Apple's stock iPod buds. these little beauties came to me via Japan and took about 2.5 weeks to get here; damn customs office. they are true inner-canal earbuds that come with 3 different sized rubber gaskets which are used to make a solid seal in your ear. nifty. what that gasket allows is pretty unique: deeper than normal bass, the ability to listen to music at a lower volume b/c outside noise is sufficient dampened, and the added bonus of being pretty silent for your neighbors who don't want to hear your CD mix devoted to the best of Slaughter: fly me to the angels please! thus, i am impressed. order yours now and screen out your neighbors mouthbreathing!

via unnamed sources (thanks Chip!) i am now listening to the latest Matthew Sweet CD, Kimi Ga Suki. that translates to I Love You * Life. check out the discussion here for more info. needless to say, it is all that. i have been needing some new Sweet and this is just the ticket. time to dig out his other albums i own and put them on the iPod.

congrats to Baylor Baseball for making the NCAA super regionals. they play old man Murray State this friday.

i will leave you with this site and hope you find it as enjoyable and funny as i did.

i'm out!
posted @ 08:42 AM CST [link]

the mob has spoken

appears that Diageo PLC, owner of the illustrious brand Guinness, has scraped the FastPour system that was in trial in England. although it stuposedly didn't alter the taste, users just didn't go for it. read all about it from the WSJ.

Microsoft has a new language called F#. no, i am not kidding. "F# is meant to bridge the best of the functional, imperative, object-oriented and typed-classed languages." umm, ok. it is partly based, in application, on functional languages such as Lisp, Scheme and ML. interesting read, but something i won't be learning. heck, i still need to work on C#. what's with all the pound signs and calling them 'sharp'? crazy MS.

gotta run - got code to mangle and applications to break. ;-)

posted @ 09:31 AM CST [link]

Comprehension is not requisite for cooperation

William Gibson has an interesting entry in his blog; it ruminates on media and where we have been and where we may go. i think it has some keen insights and i particularly enjoy what he says towards the music industry. check it out. oh yeah, click here if you need help. heh.

stumbled upon a neat article on Wired's site about how the war was fought in Iraq and how IT played a role in it. although it sounds like we may be a decade or more away from the 'cyber-soldier', it appears that our government is making use of the technology at hand, or at least trying. i find it funny that the troops use MSN to pop messages back to Centcom. guess the don't got mail. ;-)

Duffy at Donewaiting linked to an interesting NYT article on how Wal-mart is homogenizing the media available. it makes some good points, but i find some of them trying to pander to hype. take this quote:

But with the chains' power has come criticism from authors, musicians and civil liberties groups who argue that the stores are in effect censoring and homogenizing popular culture. The discounters and price clubs typically carry an assortment of fewer than 2,000 books, videos and albums, and they are far more ruthless than specialized stores about returning goods if they fail to meet a minimum threshold of weekly sales.

that sounds scary, right? in truth, i worry about this about .0001 of a percent. why? well, re-read Gibson's blog. do you think, say in 10-15 years, that people will still buy CDs from mainstream suppliers in a physical media format? the success of iTunes is proving that the days of needing a store to provide you with a CD are going the way of the Dodo. at some point we will be able to download and burn our own music, with liner notes and pictures, and it will fit my tastes. this freedom that technology is going to bring will causes retailers like Wal-mart to matter less in goods that can and will have a digital form. DVD movies? from Wal-mart? f-that: i will download The Matrix Part XII and burn it to my own DVD, never leaving the house, and then i will watch it on my 75" plasma flat screen with Dolby 6.1 and THX. maybe not tomorrow, but soon, in my lifetime. anyway, i don't truly worry about how Wal-mart shapes the media available in their stores; they are playing an end game with outdated goods. :-)

posted @ 09:38 AM CST [link]

sometimes everything is easy

seems to be a lot of discussion going on about The Matrix Reloaded. reading my favorite geek site, QT3, i culled a couple of cool links: (a) a good NYT's article on Cornell West's role in the flick, plus Corporate MoFo has a great commentary that posits one way of dissecting the film. interesting stuff.

been listening to a lot of music lately, particularly the new Blur release, Think Tank. after several listens through i am really liking it a lot. i recently revisted several of their previous releases and i can see why some folks are taken aback: Think Tank is no Parklife. it is also not "hit" driven, so you won't get a rowdy summer anthem like "Song #2". what you do seem to get is a mostly thoughtful, introverted CD, which alludes to the fact that Damon Albarn is getting older. you can hear the Gorillaz's influences, such as the falsetto that Damon Albarn uses on "Good Song" or the bass beats in tracks such as "On The Way To The Club", so he isn't that old. heh. it also is not as derivative as Blur's previous stuff. where you might hear Beatles or ABC rips on songs such as "End of a Century" and "The Universal" (which has a great video takeoff on Clockwork Orange), instead the tracks on Think Tank are decidedly more Radioheadesque. i am not saying that Blur is copying Radiohead, but rather they have moved into that 21st century sound, where computer effects are obvious and used to give the music a more disconnected feel, as well as to help layer the sounds upon themselves so as to develop complex rythms and soundscapes. "Ambulance" is a great example of that, with its intro bleeps and chirps that sound so PC and the drumbeat that is Pro Tools metered. it is worth a few listens if you are into Blur, the Gorillaz, or Radiohead.

could this long weekend get here any quicker, please? killin' me.

off to work!
posted @ 08:31 AM CST [link]

Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die

how about that Matrix movie, huh? nice action. i can't believe it didn't beat Spiderman, though. so what were everyone's thoughts?

had a busy weekend: a little work, a little yard work, saw Explosions in the Sky (they got off - an excellent show!) and hung out with my pops a bit. all in all a good weekend. was hot though. damn, it's not even June yet. going to be a scorcher this summer.

i think the mustang is gone. they had a serious buyer looking at it yesterday, so i am back in the egg. i already miss being able to outrun small missles. ;-)

filling up the iPod nicely - got about 8GB used up. sure wish i had an Apple PC: guy at work converted all his MP3s to AAC and saved 2GB in space. 2GB! good grief.

well, this is just a short catch-up note. i will fill-in more in a bit.

posted @ 08:06 AM CST [link]

and the only devil in your world, lives within the human heart

being new to Apple products, i am kinda in awe of their attention to detail, particularly with the iPod's packaging: it is almost origami-like. i have read about Apple and the attention they have paid to making things esthetically pleasing, but sitting here and taking in the level of detail, well it leaves me impressed. the clear plastic cover that protects the iPod during shipping has faint white lettering in four languages stating, "Don't steal music". the four-leaf folded sleeve that holds the manuals and software is white with a single line of grey text: "Enjoy". Even the plastic bags that encase the ear buds and lanyard remote are backed in mirror gloss and fronted in clear plastic. it is a very impressive.

as for choosing what CD would steal my iPod's virginity, well i cheated; yeah, i can't be trusted. see, after semi-reading the instructions (c'mon, i am in IT for a living, i should be able to figure it out without having to read them all,) i ripped two CDs to my HDD using MusicMatch: the The's 1989 Mind Bomb and the Smashing Pumpkins' 1994 Gish. i then transferred both to the iPod in one single command! so they each win, right? ok, in truth, MusicMatch transferred them in alphabetical order, so the Smashing Pumpkins was first. to make up for that unfair advantage, i played Mind Bomb first. i can't think of two albums that i would more rather have with me on a desert island than these two.

in high school i was a huge fan of The Smiths; thus, i fell in love with the The b/c Johnny Marr played guitar for them. little did i know at the time, but it's possible that Matt Johnson has effected me more than maybe any of The Smiths' CDs: his lyrics are dark, poetic, and haunting. merge these lyrics with the music it is a fantastic album which i recall spending many a day and night listening to it during my college days. from the beginning of the Muslim call to prayer on "Good Morning Beautiful" to the gorgeous duet between Sinead O'Connor and Johnson on "Kingdom of Rain" this album was a door opener for me; it was The Cure or The Smiths for my 20s. i think i even owe Otter thanks for recommending it, b/c even though i was aware of the The's Infected while i was in high school, i never owned it. it was Otter who either owned several the The CDs or it was Otter that goaded me into buying it so we both could listen to it - a friend indeed is a friend with new music. heh. i do remember clearly that it was a great day for me musically when i got that CD; here's how much i love it!

i feel the same way about Gish. although Siamese Dream was my first Smashing Pumpkins CD purchase, it was Gish that made me realize how much blood, sweat, and tears the Pumpkins put into their work. where Siamese Dream came out as super-alt-rock with sonic guitars, loud screaming vocals that were heartfelt, Gish introduced me to the Pumpkins musical dynamic: soft vocals, building rhythm bass and guitars that end up erecting a wall of sound, only to slowly fade away, ready for the next track. "Rhinoceros" is just amazing. every time i hear it (like i did again this weekend) all i can do is smile and say, "damn!"

here are the first ten (plus one - our amps go to eleven) CDs i put on my iPod, chosen b/c i love them and b/c they are a few of my favorites:
1. the The - Mind Bomb
2. Smashing Pumpkins - Gish
3. The Pixies - Bossanova
4. Tripl3fastaction - Broadcaster
5. Monster Magnet - Powertrip
6. Local H - As Good As Dead
7. Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
8. Godspeed You Black Emperor! - "lift yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven!" (disc 1 & 2)
9. Quicksand - Slip
10. Fig Dish - That's what love songs often do
11. Buena Vista Social Club - [self-titled]

and yes, except for where mentioned above, this is the order in which i put them on. :-)

this isn't to say that my time spent with the iPod has been flawless; MusicMatch is basically a POS. it will occasionally crash my PC to a system reboot, which isn't pleasant and can cause serious issues. the first time it crashed in this manner i was ripping a CD to my hard drive and the database for MusicMatch became corrupted. since my iPod was connected at the time, it also hosed the iPod. i was forced to uninstall MusicMatch, re-install it, and then format the iPod's HDD. this took much longer than the time to write this sentence, including not one but two levels of tech support at Apple. in the end, the iPod got back up and running and i learned a valuable lesson: i now keep it disconnected while using MusicMatch to rip CDs. as a work-around, i have been ripping CDs using CDex and that seems to work better (no crashes, of course) but i still have to use MusicMatch to transfer music from my HDD to the iPod. i am going to look into XPlay and see if it is any better as a transfer program.

funny thing about Apple support: both levels of tech support engineers couldn't say enough about how lame it was that i was having issues, about how lame it was that i was having to reboot after uninstalling applications (like i had to do about 4 times with MusicMatch) and about how lame it was that i didn't own an Apple. the first level of tech support was even going to end the tech support call by telling me to call Microsoft b/c this was *obviously* a problem with my PC and Windows XP (even though my PC has recently been freshly formatted and had Windows XP Pro installed, with no issues with ANY of the other 30-40 applications i use on a regular basis.) fortunately, i was pushed up a level to another tech support guy, who while nice, was much of the same. eventually i fixed the issue myself via trial and error. so it is safe to say that i was unimpressed with Apple's tech support; while they were both very nice individuals, the holier-than-thou-b/c-we-use-Macs attitude wore thin and i think was uncalled for. MusicMatch is the program that caused this issue to begin with (by crashing and corrupting a memory address on the iPod's HDD.) Apple chose to bundle MusicMatch with their product and if it doesn't work well on Windows XP then the people to blame are the developers, not the manufactures of the OS. i know that Apple likes to poke fun and part of their shtick is the whole "we're simple to use" mantra (which i heard about 22 times during my 2 hour tech support call) but in truth they are still a PC/software company and as such, they can't avoid all the pitfalls, although they may limit many of them b/c they only have a single platform for which they write code for. well, welcome to the Windows world, boys; there is more than just one PC maker out there, so you might want to make sure your software is stable enough on more than one of them. ;-)

all that said, the iPod has been nice. i mowed with it on Sat and i have used it in the car a couple of times (using the Belkin TuneCast mobile FM transmitter.) i loaded about 6GB of CDs on it and i am sure i am going to use the heck out of it this week at work.

nite nite!
posted @ 12:02 AM CST [link]

brently wept

so here is a little poll...
via FedEx's website i can see that my iPod is waiting for me at home, thank god, so i am going to be using it this weekend!

so i want to ask: what will be the first album of MP3s i put on it? what should it be?

lemme know what your guess is. i will post on monday revealing the secret.
posted @ 03:20 PM CST [link]

time to make the doughnuts

this is my "brently is excited" post, so be prepared and please read each sentence in an internal voice that is both breathless and filled with expectation. muchas gracias!

first and formost - my iPod is not only in the country, but is in Houston! i am hoping FedEx delievers it today while i am at work; that way i can spend all weekend trying to fill that bad boy up! 30GB is a lot of MP3s. mmmmmmm, MP3s!

next up - Cracker has a new CD out, which is a re-recording of their old hits, with Leftover Salmon backing them up. as one Amazon reviewer puts it, its a "a mind-tingling alt-rock meets bluegrass" sound! i will be buying this shortly!

/. had a link to an excellent article on software development and artists. it is a long read but makes some keen insights. here are a few of the salient points that stuck out to me:

As far as I can tell, the way they taught me to program in college was all wrong. You should figure out programs as you're writing them, just as writers and painters and architects do.
Big companies want to decrease the standard deviation of design outcomes because they want to avoid disasters. But when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don't win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies.
I think the answer to this problem, in the case of software, is a concept known to nearly all makers: the day job. This phrase began with musicians, who perform at night. More generally, it means that you have one kind of work you do for money, and another for love.
Empathy is probably the single most important difference between a good hacker and a great one. Some hackers are quite smart, but when it comes to empathy are practically solipsists. It's hard for such people to design great software, because they can't see things from the user's point of view.

it's a good article. i highly recommend reading it when you can set aside some time.

here is an interesting blurb about downloading music and sell-through. what stands out is this:

Nielsen//NetRatings reports that nearly 31 million active Internet users,or 22 percent of the active Internet population ages 18 years old and up,downloaded music in the past 30 days and 71 percent of this audience purchased music in the past three months.

now that doesn't say that they purchased what they downloaded, but it does say that 22 million active internet users bought music in that three month period. 22 million! that is a lot of music buyers! so while i can't say this refutes the RIAA's numbers, it certainly is an interesting piece of information.

well, hope that is enough to get you through your friday. hopefully this weekend i will have something new and fun to play with! i will of course post pics, impressions, and gleeful banter. heh.

posted @ 08:52 AM CST [link]

sail to the moon

man i am tired. swear the days are getting longer. i almost feel too tired to try to be witty, so i will just have to suck all the same.

i want to post that i think the upcoming Radiohead album, Hail To The Thief, is going to be a big hit. it is another gorgeous musical masterpiece and i am already feeling it after just a couple of listens. track 3, "sail to the moon" needs to be on constant repeat...i find myself absently humming it for no reason at all. anyhoo, i dunno if this is some marketing ploy or what, but it is going to be a damn fine release and i can't wait to own a real, legal copy. knowing Radiohead, the booklet that comes with the CD will be as entertaining as the music.

i am off to count sheep.
posted @ 10:58 PM CST [link]

If (strEconomy != "Positive") Then {

a lot of troubling news today concerning the IT industry. first, Larry Ellison is saying the good times are over. here is the passage that stood out most to me:

But some analysts say the industry's problems go deeper. Customers already have all the
technology products they need and software makers haven't come up with innovative new
products to spur buying. Indeed, many are fed up after being aggressively sold complex
systems that cost millions to install and did not deliver.

after having spent 3 years designing a system that was indeed complex and "did not deliver" i can wholeheartedly concur with that paragraph. zing!

if this story wasn't enough, the ITAA today released their survey concerning IT spending for the remainder of 2003 and it is 25 pages of bleak news. print it out and read it while you are stuck in traffic commuting to that job that you hate and wish you could quit except for the fact you bought a house, a car, a kid, and lifestyle that requires your subservience to the Monty Burns’ of the world. ooops - sorry, i must have taken the negativity pill. heh.

in all truth, while some of these reports and news blurbs highlight what we already know (these are bad times for IT, my friends), i think the future will hold a lot of success as well. Ellison is partly correct when he said, "The industry's maturing. The Valley will never be what it was." the industry has matured and with that the heady days of 200% annual growth are behind us. but with maturity comes change and those firms who readily adapt will be posed to earn above average returns on investment. i think the same holds true for the IT worker. while it is rather obvious that more and more IT jobs will eventually move themselves off-shore, where labor will be cheap and plentiful, i also think that there will be a burgeoning field for developers and engineers who can understand and architect systems that are inventive and cost-effective. as far as the IT industry goes, we are just exiting the Dark Ages. software development is slow, labor-intensive, costly, and often does not deliver the desired results. you'd think we were still using leaches. at some point the industry is going to have to learn from its mistakes. successful development is going to need a solid basis in a process of software development that is easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy to follow. current tools like Rational Unified Process are useful, but let's face it, when an organization can argue for 5 months over Use Case granularity, then something has to give. RUP is not the answer anymore than Microsoft's Milestone-based approach is. these are stepping stones towards a greater good, much as C progressed out of Bell Labs' B. additionally, the infinite leaps and bounds in software toolsets is slowing (so that something akin to Moore's Law isn't taking place in the software market every 18 months.) this homogenization of toolsets, where such languages as Java and C# share similar structures, uses, and costs of development, will finally allow developers to focus on learning the ins and out of one tool (and hopefully be able catch their breath from the technology treadmill that has been churning since the late 60s, early 70s.) this might allow organizations to finally start to look for ways to make development more science and less art. heck, maybe in the next 20-30 years of the IT industry we can make it out of the Renaissance and into the Industrial Revolution. we can hope!

Return True;
posted @ 10:34 PM CST [link]

sunshine of your love

Dar and i did a little yard work this weekend. we are almost done with the front beds; we added some caladiums around the front trees and bought some beautiful hydrangea in blue and purple to line the walkway. we still are one big plant away from being done, but for now it looks a lot nicer than it did!

cool article on Salon about The Matrix. nothing really new, but is a good read to get the juices flowing for the upcoming movie. so excited - woot!

appears that the record companies are exploring various hacks to stop users from illegally downloading music. they still don't get it: rather than develop a system that would be economical and loved by all, they would prefer to spend their resources on trying to fight the tide of songs flowing out on public and private networks. i say "still" b/c it has been pretty much mouthed by many that they would PAY to download music if they could get good quality and have it in a format that they can use in the same way they do their CDs. instead, what has been offered up is mediocre selection and a system that treats consumers like criminals by crippling the MP3s. sad sad sad. maybe iTunes will prove the promise of the utopia that could exist. if you build it, [they] will come. sure wish i had a Mac so i could try it out. arrrgh.

i spent the remainder of my weekend watching all the Simpson's episodes that TiVo has been gathering for me. up to this point i have watched 9 episodes this weekend alone, and i still have about 7 to go! i gotta keep plugging away to stay ahead of TiVo! btw, Fox finally figured it out b/c all the episodes lately have been from 1993-94 and they are great. man, i love these old episodes.

Auf Wiedersehen!
posted @ 03:08 PM CST [link]

i am as you as you are me

i am a big lover of music. in the last several years, i have heard more and more about bands using Pro Tools to do their own recording and editing. while a full set of Pro Tools can run you upwards of $10-15,000, many small bands can spend $500 and buy a set-up that allows them the freedom to record wonderful albums; i think someone mentioned in passing that Kevin Tihista used Pro Tools to record most of his fantastic debut CD. i guess products like Pro Tools are taking over, b/c according to this Rolling Stone article, 4 out of 5 pop CDs are made using Pro Tools or like products, which sounds like an amazing statistic. be sure to listen to the MP3 that the writer made with the help of legendary producer Butch Vig; it's not "Hummer" or "Lithium" but it isn't total crap either.

ok ok, i know i am becoming a zealot with this 'new iPod kick' and i haven't even gotten mine yet; so in that regard, it is like i drank the kool-aid prior to even visiting Guyana. nevertheless, Georgia College & State University has a very cool program utilizing iPods. check out the course example from the Humanities and Fine Arts class The Gothic Imagination. i think it is very cool that an educational institution is trying to inspire those who have to attend. congrats to GCSU for being inventive and big ups to Apple for their continuing work with educational programs.

while i am talking about the iPod i'd like to mention what i think is a sharp business move by Apple. during my undergraduate b-school days i often thought about how smart Honda was as a company. in the early 80s Honda came out with a line of 'economy' cars for the US market, headed by the Honda Civic. these cars were small, inexpensive and got a gazillion miles to the gallon; since this was during the era of rapidly rising gas prices and a crushing recession (kinda like now), many people bought these cars out of necessity, rather than desire. but in a twist of good fortune (or more likely smart product development), the Civic owners found themselves with cars that were built with excellent quality, lasted forever, and as such, they were pretty much adored by their owners. here is where the smarts comes in on Honda's part. see, Honda knew that economies are cyclic and eventually the recession would end, consumers would demand larger and more loaded car models, which would be reminiscent of the 50s and 60s (at least in size and price). Honda bet that the young boomer college grads and family starters would eventually want new cars, cars that were not about economy or no-frills, and that these people were going to remember the quality and design of their little Civics and think, "hey, i sure would like to spend $50K on a decked-out, leather adorned, family car, like maybe a Pilot." Honda consistently score tops in several vehicle categories and their consumers are some of the most loyal ever. why am i talking about Hondas to make a point about Apple and the iPod? b/c i think Apple is using the same method, let's call it 'foot-in-the-door/upgrade' marketing. see, i don't own a Mac, or an iBook, or a Powerbook. the last Apple computer i truly used was in about 1990 when Baylor's English labs were all Mac. that's 13 years. since that time, i have not only gone PC, but my career is PC. not many people write code on a Mac. design graphics and web sites? sure. but write code? not so much. but i am getting an iPod and i bet you one thing: if i love that iPod like people in the 80s love their Civics, i bet our household ends up with an Apple computer. why? b/c that $500 investment is going to open the door for me, exposing me to the quality and ease of use that Apple users rave about. this is something i am not likely to experience without an iPod, b/c i, like most people, won't "switch" when it costs me $2-3K to test an Apple PC; the barrier to entry is too high. time will tell if this is part of Apple's plan, but i am sure many a PC firm eyes the iPod as a 'marketing gadget' that could threaten their mainline sales. you never know: every week i see a farmer at the front of my subdivision driving around inspecting his crops in a beat-up 1996 Honda Accord. ISYN. ;-)

lastly, tonight i leave you with William Gibson's thoughts on blogging. enjoy!
posted @ 10:36 PM CST [link]

the triple crown

what makes the Internet so great? is it the vast wealth of information at your fingertips? nah. what makes it great is the vast wealth of sites that catalog useless knowledge and the others who offer great humor, at length, for free. hope you enjoy these.

have i mentioned how excited i am about ordering my iPod? here is the WSJ's Walter Mossberg's thoughts on the new iPod. can't wait for mine to show up!

previously mentioned in one of my entries, Local H's The No Fun EP is now available for sale on the web. if Scott and Brian don't make it to your hometown, at least you can feel the noise via their latest offering. oh yeah, by the way, it rocks! ;-)

since i thought yesterday was tuesday, i am very excited to find out that tomorrow is the last day of work for the week. you know, everybody's working for the weekend. seriously.

Dar made some mint juleps this evening (that's what happens when you move to the suburbs, stay home all day and watch Martha Stewart...it's a sickness, i think.) all i have to say is, why waste good bourbon by mixing it with super sugary water? i guess just like the Kentucky Derby, this is something i am not going to get. i'll continue to drink mine with just a little ice, thank you very much.

lastly, what in the hell is MLB doing? changing home field advantage for the World Series? someone should take a hit out on Selig. seriously.

i'm out!
posted @ 09:40 PM CST [link]

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