Monday, March 31, 2008

The wrong word

There is no such thing as a mute [sic] point.

A truly clever grammarian would work in a clever line about the relative mootness of this debate.

Now playing: 2NU - She
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Someone recently tossed my car.

That is to say, I woke up to find the contents of my car strewn about the interior. Both visors flipped down, the glove box emptied on the seats, the fold-down backseat pulled down and the costumes in my spilled out across my backseat. My few CDs still there, but moved around. The XBox 360 game I borrowed remained in place, and the collectible Voltron knockoff in the trunk looked undamaged and still sealed.

They took the few bucks I had in change for meters and the paper. Not a great way to start the day but it could be much worse. No sign of forced entry, no damage to the vehicle.

Moral of this story: Lock your doors and don't become a victim of opportunity.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blue men in my ears

Last week, I caught a show of the Blue Man Group.

The opening act was a one-man show: VJ Mike Relm. If you haven't seen his act, he does on-the-fly video mixing and deejay shenanigans. I should get the DVD, since a mere audio cd forces you to miss half the show, to paraphrase George Lucas.

I didn't know very much about the Blue Man Group going in; I know they do music, I've heard people say they enjoyed the shows, I'm aware that the performers paint themselves blue. but I can't say for certain that I heard any of their music before that night.

What an incredible experience. The concert was pretty interactive and very technical, full of eye candy and LEDs and neon. The Blue Men themselves don't really play anything like a traditional instrument: A maze of PVC acting like tubular bells; ten-foot thin plastic whip sticks; a full grand piano struck with a mallet on its strings; 55-gallon drums lined with streaming LED signs, covered in water and lit with strobes.

I saw only one instrument that you could buy off-the-shelf, and even then, they had modified it: a meter-wide bass drum held up by springs and rigged to blast like an enormous spotlight when struck.

I watched them cover The Who's "Baba O'Riley" (aka Teenage Wasteland); this video will give you an idea of the intensity, the interactivity, the technology, and the downright weirdness that is the Blue Man Group. Feel free to check out some of the other videos, and I'll see you back here in a moment.
(Direct YouTube link)

Three drum kits with standing drummers. Three guitarists. The occasional singer or two. Dudes on zithers. Video cameras brought into the audience happened several times, and they brought a few people up on stage a few times: one fellow read the credits at the end of the concert (the Blue Men never speak), and two people came up on stage for custom, er, wearable souvenirs including a baseball cap with a marshmallow tower and spit-airbrushed concert shirts.

Their primal percussion and fourth-wall breaking really drew me in, and I really enjoyed the entire concert — this from a man who usually won't admit to liking live music in general. Plus the genuinely funny physical gags served to make the entire experience somehow more personal and intimate.


Now playing: Blue Man Group - I feel love (feat. Venus Hum)
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Go get 'em, Walt

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. — Walt Disney

Good advice.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tech toys

I bought the bullet and bought a fancy Bluetooth headset.

Like many recent tech purchases, I tend to listen to other people's experiences and do a decent amount of research before plunking down dollars for a gadget. So far, I like my little cybernetic ear roach.

You want one? Check it out. They come in red, too.

UPDATE:I've got an Amazon link there to a black Jawbone that should come through an RSS reader.

And speaking of music

First, A great big shout to fellow geek Peggy for pointing at Plopbox, a repository of eight-bit music, covering some 4400 tunes as of this writing. When you hit that site, grab your headphones or crank up the volume and yank off the knob! The in-browser player is very handy.

I also came across C64music, a label devoted to preserving the vintage sound of that era. Buy their stuff, or obtain it illegally. I sure wish they did another live show.

Finally, yay for Firefox extensions.
Now playing: Martin Galway - Comic Bakery (Danko mix by Tomas Danko)
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Music management step three

11390 songs imported (37.8 days, 46.94 GB).

Approximately 33000 files (roughly 140GB) left to process.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Better geeking through technology

What do I do on the first day of accursed Daylight Saving Time?

I play actual first edition (sorta) D&D via Skype with my old game group in Austin. Tomb of Horrors.

No lie. Word to Gary.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jon Stewart explains a series of tubes

I haven't seen this clip before. I knew the phrase "a series of tubes" came about as a congressman explaining the internet; Heck, there's even a Wikipedia article.

(Direct link)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Music management step two

A few bits of handy knowledge that might save someone time in the future. Obviously, the software is Mac-, Leopard 10.5.2- and iTunes-centric, but the underlying knowledge can easily be transferred.

Whenever you plan to do a lot of automated processing, I find it helpful to make sure that you've got good data to begin with. You've heard the expression "Garbage In, Garbage Out?" It comes from computer science, baby: you give a system nonsense, and you'll get bad results. You can't magically expect a computer to read your mind, no matter how nice it would be.

So, little tip one: I want to delete empty directories in my source music data. Very important to not delete anything that a program's expecting. I found a recent instance of Photoshop crashing and burning — silently, natch — if the /tmp folder was missing. (Repair Permissions fixed this for me.) In Finder, hit Command-F to bring up a find Finder window. First, make a search option for "Kind" is "Folders", then add a second option. Pull down the first choice to "Other..." and pick "Number of Items", then "equals", then type 0. Bam, empty folders for deletion. There's a staggering number of options to use in a query, including an image's F-stop setting, which makes for some interesting implications.

I do have a pretty high Geek factor, but I still sometimes find myself embarrassingly behind the curve; Adding cover art to digital music is a wonderful idea. There's a fellow who's written a handy Dashboard widget to grab album art from Amazon called, imaginatively enough, the Amazon Art Widget. If you don't have tons of music, Fetch Art will go through a grab any needed art as a batch operation. It's not quite set-it-and-forget-it, but it's a good step to take.

Speaking of craaaazy filesystem eccentricities, the Mac OS filesystem is not case-sensitive; it's case-PRESERVING. So it doesn't know the difference between "FRiED WeaSELS" and "frieD WeaseLs" but it will make sure to remember that you typed it funny. This is a problem when you're copying over from Linux ext3. Solution? Format your Mac drive as HFS, case-sensitive. NB: Sloppy programming will make your life hell, so don't do this for a non-data-only drive.

Some ripping programs use something called VBR (Variable bit rate) to rip music- instead of sampling the entire track at a single rate, you vary it- a smaller bitrate for the simple parts of the track, a higher bitrate for the complex bits. This is all well and good, but some programs get confused and wind up reporting a wildly inaccurate time- I'm talking songs that appeared to be twenty or thirty minutes long, when they actually were only three or four minutes long. As I understand it, this came about after a series of Ogg Vorbis tracks were converted to MP3 without re-ripping. iTunes evidently freaks out with some of the VBR tracks and reports the incorrect length. The solution? A (ironically Window-only) program called Vbrfix. It works, but takes time.

If you're wanting to do a large amount of tagging and organizing, Mediarage has more than a dozen little mini-tools that are up your alley. Definitely a tool for the power user.

Finally, Musicbrainz is saving me a lot of time. It identifies music via an audio fingerprint of sorts- regardless of source or bitrate, it actually identifies music by how it sounds. Definitely very neat when it magically works to get rid of that "unknown artist, unknown track." I'm using software called Jaikoz to query and hit their database.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Living in a cyberpunk world

Guess which came from a 1992 RPG sourcebook and which came from a 2008 news article. Talk about a case of future shock. (Yes, the game lists a price in euros.)

News source here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another one gone

Gary Gygax died today. I grew out of D&D by the time I went to college, but I'm still into role playing games. I don't play as much as I'd like these days.

Say what you like about the man or his games, but you can't deny his influence on the gaming industry. Really, who hasn't played D&D or known someone who has?

I don't like this trend of death lately.

Dargin tribute video

The Australian has a good photomontage with audio of Alan Dargin's memorial service in Sydney.

Four minutes.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Music management step one

I bought a half-terabyte Western Digital "My Book" external drive today for use in sorting music.

Stay on target... almost there...