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February 22, 2005
...it smells like... victory. ;)
So Saturday we ripped all the carpet out of the office and bought enough new laminate flooring to replace all the carpet left in the house. Unfortunately the laminate needs to acclimatize to its new environment (you know, sniff around, set up its den, mark the perimeter... oh wait) for 48 hours before installation, which meant that the office was empty all weekend but for stacks of laminate--which meant that the front hall was full of office furniture, and the living room was full of stacks of books. (We have a lot of books. It doesn't seem like nearly so many when they're on the shelves, but we could build fairly substantial forts out of these stacks of books, and still have paperbacks left over for ammunition...)
So last night while Jen was at a New Works (er, sorry, The University Co-op Presents the Cohen New Works Festival) meeting, I spent 3 hours putting the new floor down in the office. I think I've gotten the hang of this flooring, since that was all it took. Tonight I'll do the closet and the bedroom hall, put in the mouldings, and then we can reassemble the office.
I'm really digging my Creative Zen Touch. My first impressions were that it is a bit more substantial than Jenny's iPod, specifically slightly heavier and slightly wider. I'm okay with that; it's still pretty small, and the extra size is due to a larger battery. So far it seems as if the claims of ~24 hours continuous play life are more or less true (it's hard to say because I'm not using 96Kbps WMA or whatever the claim is based on; I have both high bitrate MP3s and some WMAs that were automatically converted). I am a little disappointed with the software integration. The Touch isn't yet 100% compatible with Windows Media Player; you can copy over all the songs on a playlist (or all songs in your library), but you can't copy over the playlist(s) themselves. Supposedly a firmware update due in March will bring it up to full MTP compatibility, after which AutoSync should make life wonderful, but until then I have to use Windows Explorer to create playlists. I didn't bother to install any of the Creative software (except the required drivers), since I've never had a good experience with Creative software. :)
As far as sound quality, I'm very happy. I'm not sure I can hear any difference over Jen's iPod, but it might be the default earbuds; the sound is very clear, though. The player's interface is interesting; it does a very good job of not ripping off the iPod without sucking. It has a touch-sensitive strip used for scrolling; I've read a lot of complaints that scrolling through long lists is painful since you have to repeatedly stroke the strip. Apparently none of these people discovered that if you stop at the end of the strip and hold your finger there, the player will keep scrolling. :-P Anyway, so far I'm really happy with the player itself. The carrying case is annoying, though. It's very protective, but once the player is inside the case the only control you can actually access is the power button; you can kind of get at the volume buttons through the elastic sides, but the play controls are all covered by a stiff protective guard. It's really a shoddy design. The worst part is that nobody makes MP3 accessories for anything but the damned iPod; there's no such thing as a third-party Zen Touch case. Sigh. I'll probably post an update to this once the new firmware comes out.
February 9, 2005
Jen wants me to do this iTunes quiz. The only problem is I don't use iTunes. ;) So here's my Windows Media Player quiz...
How many total songs?
Home: 2406 items; Est. Time 160h, 12m, 17s; 12.44GB
Work Laptop: 705 items; Est. Time 46h, 57m, 58s; 3.30 GB
Sort by Song Title - first and last songs?
First (Home): --- by John Mayer. I have no idea what song that is. First song I can actually identify is "01 Breathe (2AM)" by Anna Nalick, which for some reason keeps reverting to the filename even though I've set the title manually like 6 times now. I hate technology.
Last (Home): Yo-Yo, Mandy Moore. 3 different copies of it actually. I think I need to clean out the collection. :)
First (Work): 3AM, Matchbox 20
Last (Work): You're So True, Joseph Arthur
Sort by Time - first and last songs?
First (Home): Welcome, The Offspring, at a whopping 9 seconds.
Last (Home): Live in DC, Chris Rock, at 55 minutes.
First (Work): Theme from Flood, They Might Be Giants: 27 seconds.
Last (Work): The Lady Of Shadows, Loreena McKennitt: 11m, 32s
Top Ten Played Songs
Last Ten Played
Find 'sex.' How many songs show up?
Not a one, either at home or work.
Find 'death.' How many songs show up?
At home, just one: Rob Dougan Clubbed To Death Ve (the song title is chopped off there...) by Moby. None at work.
Find 'love.' How many songs show up?
Home: 124 items -- but I have Love Shack three times, and lots of other dupes too. :(
Work: 30 items, no duplicates.
October 6, 2003
Wow, whole lot of new CDs coming out this fall: Dido is already out, Barenaked Ladies comes out on 10/21, Sarah McLachlan's first new CD in 6 years on 11/04, and a collection of Tori Amos's music on 11/18. That's not even counting R.E.M.'s special edition "best of" collection, due out 10/28. It's like a smorgasbord of musical goodness.
September 26, 2003
OpenP2P.com has an article/interview titled Independent Label Go-Kart Records Embraces MP3s which is quite interesting. A quote:
Instead of suing little girls and filing ridiculous lawsuits, we here at Go-Kart have decided to embrace this new MP3 technology, and have unleashed the first commercially sold MP3 CD… We feel that this format is the perfect way to promote bands, rather than take away from them.
They even include instructions on how to burn the mp3s to other CDs. Greg Ross, who runs Go-Kart, seems like an entirely sane person. Along with services like irate radio, CDBaby, and Dell's (hopefully good) upcoming music service, it looks like within a few months you won't need to illegally download songs you want, which is a definite improvement. (As Greg notes in the interview, filesharing services suck for finding what you want anyway, so I'll be happy when there's a good, my-rights friendly service where I don't have to worry about getting 4 minutes of a 20-second loop or digital bleeps and bloops instead of (say) Sheryl Crow's cover of Cat Stevens' First Cut Is The Deepest. Of course whether Dell will be the first big service to sell big-name artists and still manage sane DRM settings is an unfortunately open question.)
August 29, 2003
The RIAA's sue 'em all campaign has resulted in a 22% drop in file sharing, but at the same time, CD sales have plummeted by 9.4% and, "Specifically, curtailing file trading may not improve CD sales, but instead may accelerate their decline."
Golly, who'd have thunk that suing your own customers would actually have negative repercussions?
March 20, 2003
Last year, we went to a Dar Williams concert here in St. Louis. After the concert I was kicking myself for not taking along some sort of digital recorder—a minidisc recorder or some such—because in the course of the concert, Dar sang a pair of tremendous duets with her opening act. Those versions of the song are lost, unless I miraculously find someone who bootlegged the concert.
It seems to me there's a huge opportunity here. If the artist were to have every concert professionally recorded, and the results were burned to CDs and sold at the end of the concert, you could create an entire new revenue stream with a huge bonus: unauthorized bootlegging would virtually vanish (who wouldn't shell out for a high-quality, authorized recording of the concert rather than deal with the hassle and risk of a lower-quality recording they made themselves?). All it would take is some recording equipment and a couple of towers of CD burners.
March 18, 2003
Dar Williams, perhaps one of the best-known modern singer-songwriters, released her 6th solo album, The Beauty of the Rain, on February 18th. This album is an interesting mix of symbol and story, solo effort and collaboration, though it continues Dar's gradual sidle towards a more mainstream sound.
February 18, 2003
Stumbled across an interesting post at Blogcritics today: Blogcritics: How to Keep Inventory Down but Keep Rare Items in Stock? CD-R's, in which Eric Olsen notes a news story about the Smithsonian Institute's novel* method for keeping inventory down without allowing any items to go out of print:
When the Smithsonian Institution bought Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, the museum agreed to keep every title in print. Initially, requests for rare, out-of-stock albums were fulfilled with dubbed cassettes.
Now, music fans hankering for "Burmese Folk and Traditional Music" from 1953 can pay $19.95 and receive a CD-R "burned" with the original album, along with a standard cardboard slipcase that includes a folded photocopy of the original liner notes.
This idea is very similar to something I posted about last October, in reference to the Internet Bookmobile. It's also quite similar to an idea I had for a revamp of music sales.
Our Barnes & Noble doesn't have a music section, which annoys me. Ordinarily, today I would stop by on the way home and buy Dar Williams' new CD there, but as they don't have a music section, in order to use our Reader's Advantage discount we had to preorder the disc from the website… which means waiting for it to ship. It seems to me that there's an easy way for B&N to set up a music section in a very small section of the store and yet have a complete inventory—by burning the CDs on demand. (I swear I've posted about this before, but I cannot find the post.)
I hate walking into a music store and finding that they don't have the CD I want; a just-in-time delivery model would make that a thing of the past.
* Okay, not really novel, if they've been doing this since 1996. But it's not mainstream or expected.
August 28, 2002
I stumbled across this interview with general counsel for Verizon about peer to peer, and found it somewhat reassuring. The RIAA/MPAA have pushed so hard for the laws and protections they want (in order to maintain their stranglehold on music and video respectively) that they've started to irritate the big boys of telecom.
April 10, 2002
Okay, this last week and a half has been insane. I'm going hermit tonight.
So here's a big chunk of an update, because I've been too busy to post any for a while.
Anyway, Jenny and I ushered at a play called Copenhagen Monday night. There's no action in the play at all; it's nearly pure dialogue. I mean, obviously, the characters move around, gesture, and whatnot, but everything interesting happens vocally. The basic plot of the play is that Werner Heisenberg (of Uncertainty Principle fame) is visiting his old friend and mentor, Niels Bohr, and Bohr's wife, in their home in Copenhagen.
Actually the play relays multiple visits, from as early (IIRC) as about 1924? to as late as post-World War II. The whole plot, however, centers on one specific visit Heisenberg made in 1941, the motives for which had been shrouded in mystery. (Yes, this play is all about theoretical physics. Well, sort of.)
Heisenberg, Bohr, and Bohr's wife are all dead, and Heisenberg (in some sort of unexplained afterlife sort of thing) is trying to explain his actual motives for that 1941 visit. The crux of the dilemma is that 1941 was, of course, the height of German power during WWII in Europe, and Heisenberg was the head of the German nuclear program. Bohr lived in Copenhagen, and Denmark was at that time a "conquered" nation.
If you really want all the details of the plot, I'm sure you can find a review or a plot summary somewhere; the play apparently won a Tony. What I wanted to say about the play is that a) it was quite good—much better than you might expect a nearly purely dialogue-driven play about theoretical physicists to be, and b) I was both torn and interested by the discussions of actual physics in the play. As you might expect in any work which is intended for mass consumption, the discussions of Uncertainty and quantum and nuclear physics were heavily simplified. This is a good thing, and a bad thing.
It's a good thing because it allows the play to make a point about the human condition—that is, the play drew an interesting metaphor between human perception, memory, and introspection, and the difficulties (better, impossibilities) inherent in the scientific ideal of pure, objective measurement independent of subjectivity or observational effects. It's a bad thing because the metaphor has limits. I rather enjoyed the discussion of "the unobservable observer", for instance, but the play did bring to mind my Art History class in college. In that class, the professor brought up Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in relation to art. I don't remember the precise way in which he used the HUP, but suffice to say that it was based on a hugely erroneous "understanding" of the HUP specifically and quantum physics in general. The four or five of us in the class who were engineers were pretty uniformly horrified by the usage, but several of the other students in the class seemed to take it as an excellent point.
Now, my point here is very definitely not to say that art students are idiots, or even that art students don't understand physics. As a matter of fact, I told Jenny about what the prof had said, and she was of the same opinion as I was—in fact, she more or less condemned even the art history the prof was teaching as well. My point, rather, is to say that there are (admittedly indistinct and wavering) limits as to how far a metaphor may be pushed, and in some cases I felt this play flirted with those limits. I still liked it, though. :)
The Dar concert last week was, as expected, fantastic. The opening act was Kris Delmhorst, who I had never heard of before. Jenny's assessment was that she had a gorgeous voice, but could use some help in the songwriting department. Personally, I strongly regret that I did not have some sort of recording device, because Kris came back out to sing harmony on both Iowa and If I Wrote You, and as much as I already love both songs, she added a whole new dimension to them. Especially to Iowa; her harmony was this sweeping, rolling sound, indescribable but wonderful. I wish I had a copy of those two songs.