Tag Archives: music

Girl from Mars – Magneta Lane

I first saw this video at the Microsoft Company Meeting 2008, and looked for the song everywhere, but couldn’t find the Magneta Lane version. They recorded it just for Microsoft. Nevertheless, the original Ash version is great too, so get that in the meantime.

Magneta’ Lane’s MySpace page does mention the song, and maybe a release is on the way.

Update: Forgot the music video from Ash. I like it.


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I could get cable for this…

My wife and I only recently bought a TV, but we still don’t get cable or even have an antenna. If we ever did, the only things we’d watch are Discovery, History, and Food.

This is the closest I’ve come to signing up:


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Rudeness is destroying the arts

or Why I Don’t Leave The House Anymore

“Am I disturbing you?”

The last movie I saw in the theater was the 3-D version of Beowulf. The theater was fairly empty–maybe 30-40 people total. Two teenage girls sat two seats to my left. A man was in front of me. The two girls talked loudly through before the movie and when it started, they didn’t stop. They continued to talk and laugh loudly until the man in front gave up first:

Man: Excuse me ladies, the time for talking is over.

Girl: I ain’t talking to you! You turn right around and shut up. I ain’t disturbin’ no one.

Main: if you don’t stop talking, I will go get a manager and have you thrown out.

Girl: You shut up. Turn around, turn around… turn around mister.

Girl: <to me> excuse me, sir, am I disturbing you?

I looked at her and said, “Yes, you are.”

She shut up after that.

That wasn’t all in this showing. A man/woman couple behind me had the following exchange:

Woman: shut off your phone!

Man: I ain’t shutting off my phone! I don’t shut off my phone for anyone–I don’t even shut it off in church!

Woman: shut it off!

Man: No way!

(this repeated a few times in a similar vein.)

This man got up and left half way through the movie when his phone went off. He came in 20 minutes later with a friend, and they stood in the doorway and talked VERY loudly to each other and on the phone. The man in front of me got up and asked them to leave, and they did..after a minute or two.

What goes through the heads of these imbeciles?

“Thanks for coming to our bachelorette party!”

My mother, grandmother, and family friend were in London. They got tickets to see Dirty Dancing (which they thought was good, but not as good as the movie of course). Apparently that show is popular as a destination for girls’ bachelorette parties. The entire performance was punctuated by screams and yells every time the lead male came out.

I’m not against a good time, but this is the theater not a private party. Most of the audience is there to see a show. The theater should advertise certain days as more appropriate for this thing–theater aficionados beware.

“It isn’t real Texas theater unless you get drunk off your rocker.”

When my wife was visiting family in San Antonio they got tickets to see the touring Phantom of the Opera. They had nosebleed seats, which made the experience even more unfortunate.

Apparently, the theater serves beer throughout the performance–not just intermission. The guys in front of them got up half a dozen times to refill their beer glass throughout the show, blocking their view for a significant period of time. Add to this, the glare from the beer glasses, the opening of cell phones during the performance, bathing everyone in bluish glow, talking, and basically acting as if they were at a rodeo.

What is wrong with people that this is accepted behavior? Why aren’t these people kicked out more often? we (I’m including myself)willing to tell them their behavior is unacceptable and get management to act  ? And I mean without a refund–maybe even a fine or a ban.

Edit: My wife was so upset at the experience that she wrote the theater a letter of complaint.

Yeah, I’m a snob. So what–it doesn’t make me wrong.

All of these stories come down to rudeness at a basic level. People just don’t care what effect their actions will have on others. Sooner or later, this will creep up into the higher arts–classical music and opera, if it hasn’t already. Nobody will enjoy anything because of the few who just don’t care and ruin the experience for everybody.

I actually don’t think I’ll ever attend the theater to see a film again. We finally bought our first TVand a sound system. It’s modest, but it’s better than having expensive experiences marred by idiots.


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Fighting Brain Rot

Alex Shalman has a great post at zenhabits about how to avoid letting your brain decay into apathy and atrophy. It’s a great call to action, to find ways of self-improvement. I think the behaviors listed here dovetail very nicely with the attributes of highly effective programmers.

By continuing to do as we always have, the quality of results will be the same as always. Only when we step out of our comfort zones, and push ourselves to improve, will we gain useful new experiences, knowledge, and ideas.

I think the methods of expanding the mind are highly applicable to software developers. I just have a little bit of commentary on each one.

11. Reading – I think I would have put this at #1. It’s the easiest way of cramming information into your skull. It’s the most efficient method of information transfer, and that’s our bread-and-butter as programmers, so we should become expert at it.

10. Writing – We write code for a living, not necessarily prose, but communication is key to so many areas in life, that learning how to write effectively is critical to most careers. For myself, I definitely find it easier to express myself in writing than in-person. Doing this well becomes a critical ability.

9. Puzzles – Developing a large software project is in many ways like an enormous software project. It’s so large, though, that we can’t comprehend it all at the same time. But practicing other types of puzzles can train our brains to look for patterns and to develop new, creative ways of thinking. My favorite offline puzzle is the New York Times Crossword, but I enjoy the occasional sudoku.

8. Mathematics – a good understanding of boolean logic, prepositional calculus, discrete mathematics, asymptotic notation, etc. are great things for developers to have. A general understanding of algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and statistics also comes in handy more-than-occasionally. Another valuable idea that comes out of mathematical understanding is the idea of precision in thought and rigorousness in testing or understanding your software–think loop invariants.

7. Painting – I am definitely not an artist by any means, but the underlying principle of some kind of artistic self-expression is important. The creative side of your brain must be regularly exercised. For me, this is in the form of building Legos.

6. Cooking – I initially found this to be a peculiar choice, but it makes more sense when I ponder it. Cooking is at once creative and precise. Not only does it use all the senses, but it requires you to think on your feet and be very, very organized and detail oriented, especially when you start cooking for more people. Planning and execution both become huge issues.

5. Music – I wholeheartedly agree, and I’ll even go out on a limb and say that you need to listen to lots of genres of music, especially classical. Why classical? Because it exhibits more musical complexity than all others. It doesn’t minimize various musical aspects (variation, melody, harmony, tempo, timbre, i.e.) for the sake of a single one (i.e., rhythm).

4.Poetry – I used to write fiction and poetry in high school and earlier, but it’s been quite a while. I do remember it being quite the exercise to compose sonnets–it forces you to be extremely creative with grammar, syntax, meaning, vocabulary, and more.

3. Meditate – This is an art I need to learn more about. I find I do this automatically in some situations where I’m not otherwise preoccupied (the shower), and I can solve a question I’ve had. I find that NOT doing something is as important as doing something in many cases. When I’m faced with an especially thorny problem at work, it really helps to just write down my thoughts about it and let it sit for a few days while I think about it in my off moments. Most of the time, I can come back and have a better solution than if I had started right away.

2. Learn a language

A language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming is not worth knowing. – Alan Perlis

The original article obviously means foreign spoken languages, which I definitely agree with. I speak Italian, and the insights it’s given into my own native English are quite valuable. If you’re a careful student, knowing two languages definitely forces you to think about the meaning of words and constructs. It’s much harder to take things for granted.

I think the same is true of programming languages–knowing more than one helps your mind think about a problem in different ways. Once you understand functional programming, for example, you will never look at programming the same way again.

1. Question Everything – This is analogous to love of learning in my Effective Programmers essay. It’s not being a jerk and denigrating everybody else’s ideas. It’s asking yourself continual “Why” questions in order to understand the issue.

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Podcasts I listen to

I got a 4 MB blue iPod Nano 2nd Genfor my birthday last June, and while I do have a few music playlists, I almost exclusively listen to podcasts. I can’t believe I went so long without one of these. Putting together the list below led me to some others that I might give a try, but for now here’s my list:

Education

  • In Our Time – A weekly BBC production discussing various events, people, or ideas in history (recent or ancient). Always interesting. About 45 minutes long.
  • Philosophy Bites –  A weekly interview with someone about a specific philosophical topic. About 15 minutes long.
  • Talk of the Nation: Science Friday – Weekly show about all sorts of issues relating to science. It’s in a very easy-to-listen-to format. Broken into segments. About 1hr per week.
  • Science Talk from Scientific American – I don’t think I like it as much as Science Friday, but it’s still very interesting. It’s usually focused on one or two topics per episode, sometimes recording of lectures by prominent scientists. Weekly, about 30 minutes.
  • Grammar Girl – Nice and short, answers to tricky grammar questions. Often plays off current events. Weekly. 5 minutes.
  • Get-It-Done Guy – I’m a fan of Getting Things Done, as I kind of discussed in my entry on Outlook. This is a nice, short podcast with simple ideas for efficiency in your life. Weekly. 5 minutes.
  • Legal Lad – Answers to interesting legal questions. Weekly. 5 minutes.
  • Fundamentals of Piano Practice – really just somebody reading out loud the online book of the same name. I play piano, and I’m learning a ton of fundamental principles from this book that help. The hands-separate method? I’ve played for 8 years and never had it explained to me so clearly. It’s obvious in retrospect, but that’s the kind of good thing you learn in this book. Unfortunately, new readings haven’t been added since October. Varying length and frequency.
  • Learn Jazz Piano – I haven’t listened to any of these yet, but I’ve always wanted to play jazz. Infrequent (but still being updated!). 30m.
  • WordNerds – Interesting discussion of words and language. I always learn something interesting. Every three weeks. 30-60 minutes.

Business

  • MarketPlace – I like to follow the business news, and their format is really good. Entertaining, informative. Daily. 30 minutes.
  • MarketPlace Money – Their weekly show that goes into more depth on topics, discusses more “timeless” issues, answers questions. I really like this one. Weekly. 1hr.
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – Forums at Stanford with lecture and questions by famous entrepreneurs. These are frequently interesting, especially if you want to start a business someday. Weekly. 1hr.

Fun

  • Car Talk – how can you not have this on the list? They’re hilarious. And I do learn something about cars. Mostly, just fun, though. Weekly. 60 minutes.
  • LAMLradio: LEGO Talk Podcast – Interviews with LEGO builders, and others in the online LEGO community. I like it, but you probably have to be familiar with the community to follow it. Weekly 15 minutes.
  • MunchCast – A weekly show about junk food! I’ve only listened to the first episode, but I’m hooked. It’s more interesting than it sounds. Weekly. 30m.

Technology

  • .Net Rocks – Very well put-together show about .Net development, upcoming technology, interviews with industry pros. Twice weekly. 1hr+
  • This Week in Tech – Casual discussion of the week’s computing news with Leo Laporte. Highly entertaining. Has the cranky John C. Dvorak on often, but the panel rotates. Weekly. 60-90m.
  • Windows Weekly – Covers Windows-specific news (mostly) with Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte. Also interesting stuff. Weekly. 1hr
  • Security Now – With Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. They talk about all sorts of security-related topics. Very interesting, very well done. They have a knack for explaining difficult concepts in a way that’s easy to grasp. One of my favorites. I am not a security guru, but this is fascinating stuff. Weekly. 1hr.
  • HanselMinutes – with Scott Hanselman who now works at Microsoft. Discusses various technical topics, usually related to programming. To be honest I don’t like this one as much very often, but I still listen to it occasionally. Don’t know why…a little dry?
  • NPR Technology News – stories culled from various NPR programs into a 20-30 minute collage. Weekly.
  • The Tech Guy – another Leo Laporte show, in a longer format, with interviews, callers, and more.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Restaurant Guys – Discusses “food, wine, and the finer things in life.” If you like food, you’ll probably enjoy this podcast. I was probably interested in about half of their shows but something about them bugged me so I’ve dropped them for now in favor of other things. I may add them back soon. Daily. 1hr.

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Will someone please stop these people! (RIAA)

Washington Post story. You can no longer put the CDs you BOUGHT onto your iPod.

 Update: ok, apparently the story is wrong. Still, the RIAA is evil…

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Infinity – Infinite Storage

Anybody who’s taken high school or college mathematics know how phenomenal exponential growth is. Even if the exponent is very, very small, it eventually adds up. With that in mind, look at this quick-and-dirty chart I made in Excel, plotting the growth in hard drive capacity over the years. [source: http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/hist-c.html]

Hard Drive Capacity Graph

Ok. it’s ugly, but notice a few things:

  1. The pink denotes the data points from the source data or what I put in (I added 1000 GB in 2007).
  2. The scale is logarithmic, not linear. Each y-axis gridline represents a ten-fold increase in capacity.
  3. At the current rate of growth, by 2020, we’ll have 1,000,000 GB hard drives. That’s 1 petabyte (1PB). (by the way, petabyte is not in Live Writer’s spelling dictionary–get with the times Microsoft!)
  4. The formula, as calculated by Excel, says that the drive capacity should double roughly every 2 years.

Also, this doesn’t really take into account multiple-hard drive storage schemes like NAS, RAID, etc. Right now, it’s quite easy to lash individual storage units together into packages such as those for more space, redundancy, etc. I’ll ignore that ability for now.

So 2020: that’s 12 years from now. We can expect to have a petabyte in our computers. That’s a LOT of space. Imagine the amount of data that can be stored. How about every book ever written? How about all your music, high-def DVDs, ripped with no lossy compression?

Tools such as Live Desktop and Google Desktop take on a whole new level of importance when faced with the task of cataloging petabytes of information on your home PC. Because, let’s face it, you’ll never delete anything. You’ll take thousands of pictures with your digital camera and never delete any of them. You’ll take hours of high-def footage and never watch or edit them, but you’ll want to find something in them (with automated voice recognition and image analysis, of course). Every e-mail you get  over your entire lifetime can be permanently archived.

What if you could get a catalog of every song ever recorded? That would probably require more than a few petabytes, even compressed, but we’re heading that way. I don’t think the amount of music in the world is increasing exponentially, is it? Applications like iTunes and Window Media Player, not to mention things like iPods, would have to have a critically-designed interface to handle the organization and searching for desired music. I think Windows Media Player 11 is incredible, but I don’t think it could handle more than about 100,000 songs without choking–has anyone approached any practical limits with it?

What about the total information in the world–that probably is increasing exponentially.  Will we eventually have enough storage so that everyone can have their own local, easily searchable copy of the vast sum of human knowledge and experience? (Ignoring the question of why we would want to)

Let’s extrapolate this growth out 100 years to the year 2100. I won’t show the graph, but it approaches 1E+20 GB by the year 2100.

How do the economics of digital goods change when you can have an infinite number of them? It’s the opposite of real estate, an ever-diminishing good.

On my home PC, for  the first time, I do have a lot of storage that isn’t being used. I have about 1 TB of storage, and about 300 GB free. I suppose I could rip all my DVDs, rip all my music at lossless compression (it’s currently all WMA / 192Kbps).

The rules of the game can change quickly when that much storage is available. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming decades. Of course, all this discussion is completely ignoring the increasingly connected, networked world we live in.

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20 Things to do when the Internet goes down

Even if the Internet connection goes out, your computer does not become a dumb brick. There were days these last few days where I didn’t bother turning it on. Then I realized all the things I could still do.

(My home Internet connection finally came back this morning. I’m bit upset that they didn’t figure it out earlier. It turned out that the first technician grossly misdiagnosed the problem. He put in an order for a new drop to be put in. Turned out it was just a broken modem. Why didn’t they try that earlier? Worse, why didn’t I think of it earlier. To be honest, I did think of it, but didn’t push it. Now I just need to get my money back from Comcast.)

Without further ado, here’s my suggestions for what to do when the Internet goes out:

On the computer:

  1. Organize photos in Picasa – I have nearly 6,000 photos on my computer. Many of them need to be deleted, organized, tagged, labeled, e-mailed, etc. (Yes, e-mailed–I can queue them in Outlook until the connection comes back).
  2. Organize My Documents – I’ve let My Documents folder get very messy. Lots of files that don’t need to be there anymore. Others need to be filed, or re-filed.
  3. Organize e-mail – I’ve got hundreds of folders in Outlook. I’ve tried to keep my Inbox empty and put things into @Action, @Someday, or @WaitingFor folders before they find a permanent home, but sometimes it still gets out of hand.
  4. Organize and fill in information in Windows Media Player. I still have music tagged with the wrong genre…
  5. Program. I’ve got two major programming projects I’m working on. They don’t depend on the Internet. The Internet is NICE if you need to learn something, but there’s always plenty of stuff to do that doesn’t require it. Write unit tests, run code coverage, design graphics, do all the other stuff if you must.
  6. Write e-mails to family. Long ones. Your mom will thank you.
  7. Catch up on podcasts. I got through ten episodes of Ask a Ninja, and nearly all backlogged podcasts. Now I’ll have a flood when I sync tonight.
  8. Write blog entries. I use Windows Live Writer. I should have done more of this.
  9. Play a game.
  10. Better, write a game.
  11. Setup appointments and events in Outlook for the next year.
  12. Read some classic programming texts.
  13. General computer maintenance. Defrag your disk, delete temp files, delete old installation files you haven’t used in 5 years (yes, I have some of those…). Use DiskSlicer to find where your space is going.
  14. Do long-avoided projects. I have approximately 20 hours of audio I need to edit and split into tracks. I’ve been putting it off for a very long time.

Off the Computer:

  1. Practice the piano.
  2. Read books. I’ve just started Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Very good, so far. Go buy it. If you’re a geek, you’ll like it. How can you not love a 2 page diversion into the mathematics of when a bike chain will interfere with a broken spoke and fall off? Other than the geekiness, it’s a good story.
  3. Learn to cook a new dish.
  4. Do crosswords.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Relax.

Or just go to the library and use the Internet. I only did this a few times, despite it being within walking distance from where I live.

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Shout-out to Sweet St Music Technology

I want to thank Chuck Brown of Sweet St. Music Technology for sponsoring my Buy Me a Lego campaign. I took a look around his site, interested as I was, because I’m an amateur musician myself (I play piano). I used to play alto sax in middle school, but never became great at it.

Anyway, Sweet St. has a large collection of band instruments, recording gear, studio gear, DJ equipment, guitars, digital pianos, and more–you name it. I liked looking through the band instruments–took me back. And the digital pianos. But if you need anything at all, take a look.

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Copying Beethoven

I was lucky enough to score some tickets to an advance promotion of Copying Beethoven from Washington’s Classical Station, WGMS. It opens this Friday. I was pretty excited. It was in the very nice E-street Landmark theater in downtown DC. Apparently, they had given away hundreds of tickets, but no more than 30 people show up. It’s a week night, but that seemed pretty low.

The movie tells a fictional account of the last few years of his life through the eyes of a young, female music copyist. The plot is fiction, but the insights into his mind and passion for music are the heart and soul of the movie; and these, I believe, are not that far off the mark. I am not an expert on his biography, but I have read a volume of his letters and the man in those was certainly portrayed in this movie: prone to a fiery temper and bouts of rashness, but then kinder, sadder, yet always passionate. This constant fluctuation of moods was appropriate and definitely inspired a sympathetic understanding.

I very much enjoyed the discussions of music, inspiration, God, and his family (in the form of his nephew): they also confirmed the sentiments I gleaned from his letters. The fact that Beethoven was a bridge between classical and romantic music is not-so-subtly represented, especially in one amusing scene.

The highlight of the movie, however, is the premier of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Obviously, the entire Symphony could not be represented in the movie, but significant portions of each movement are played with great dramatic effect. The camera movements brought you directly into the orchestra with him, the musicians, and the choir. After this, the movie slowly winds to a close, somewhat anti-climactically, but this was probably accurate in real life as well.

Ed Harris does a wonderful job–I wasn’t sure I would get used to him, but after a while I forgot about the actor and just saw Beethoven. Diane Kruger also does a wonderful job in her fictional role.

7/10. If you truly appreciate Beethoven, you will love this movie.


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