Sunday, December 31

The Genre Committee

who sits on the "Genre Committee" that decides what music is part of what genre?

As I spent the better part of the last 4 days uploading the bulk of my CD collection to iTunes, to dump to my iPod, I noted that some of the genres chosen were laughable.
(metrics: 474 CDs equalled 5470 songs; 14.5 days; 19.34 GB) Once on my Mac, the download to the iPod took 60 minutes.
My biggest peeve is with the [World] genre; this should be abolished (it's very US-centric). At minimum I'd replace it with the country of the musicians. Seeing [Haiti] and [Senegal] means much more to me than (Rest Of) "World" - permanently relegating any non-US music as Second Class. Bah.

Actually, They* do an adequate job most of the time. iTunes' alternative is what you see when no Internet connection is available; the songs are imported with generic names: Track 01; Track 02 and so forth. (Advanced/Get CD Track Names will fetch the CDDB info after the fact, as needed)
*"They" is in flux, apparently; given the history behind the CDDB (and freedb), it's amazing this continues to work at all. iTunes is using Gracenote; there's no (obvious) way to change that provider.
While it was amusing to see "Weird Al" Yankovic put into the [Books & Spoken] genre, it was downright irritating to find no consistency among my American Indian selections .. listed randomnly as [World], [Folk], or [Unclassifiable].

Other examples: my Reggae CDs became [International] .. distinct from [World], mind you! Clannad's music became [Folk] (versus Celtic). Apparently They were trying to keep it down to 20 genres, worldwide. Oh, please.

And don't even get me started on the "Soundtrack" category. Most of the songs are compiliations, so labeling an album as one genre when the individual songs are quite different just .. well .. befuddles me.

Friday, December 29

"stubborn" lacks the connotation

Joseph Nye has an item over on HuffPo today that's worth a quick read: A New Year's Wish for George Bush.

After doing so, my 40-pence analysis: I know for a fact that President Quagmire lacks the brain cells to know the difference between a war and a campaign. If He bothered to ask His brain (Karl Rove - the Puppetmaster) about this at all, I'm sure He was assured that His base [now 29% and falling] would rally around a war, but not a campaign
(which sounds too much like a political campaign, with all those balloons and handshaking and ponies and buttons and banners and BBQ and oh-my-what-fun)
so he should put that silly thought of a PhraseShift out of His mind. I suppose Nye has to be (at least mildly) Politically Correct. He says that President Quagmire is being "stubborn" by using the phrase "The War On Terra" when that simply marginalizes the term [WAR].

Not having to be PC myself, and apparently a better student of connotations than Nye, I can say that the POTUS is simply pigheaded.

Bottom line: the only way this Rocket Surgeon will ever get it is when His daughters are drafted, and end up on the front lines. Then again, they might be al Qaeda's main target, since Britain's Prince Harry will apparently be kept far from the front lines. RHIP, ya know.

Thursday, December 28

Hoosier Translator

Jill's only been gone a few days, and already I'm having trouble understanding her new* dialect. She asked:
"can yew not send to the fastmail account anymore?"
I initially read that to mean "why can't you send stuff to fastmail?!?" as opposed to what she meant, namely: "please use the Gmail account, moron"

Turns out she just hasn't configured her mail client for the new ISP, but can read/reply to the Gmail account from any browser. I attribute the miscommunication to a Hoosier:Texan malprocessing error.

Noteworthy: Google currently has "about 4,670,000" references to [Hoosier] in its database, but NONE include the phrase [Hoosier Translator]. Until they reindex this blog!

Meanwhile, I'm dumping my 471 CDs to iTunes (long overdue project). Some of the CDs read at 20x or higher, while others are more like 2x (if the CD is either old+scratched, or used a high sampling rate). While I'm doing it "in background," it's still gonna take at least 3 days. Happy happy joy joy.
*actually, Hoosier is Jill's native tongue. She apparently went to a TSL (Texan as a Second Language) class years ago.

Monday, December 25


I'm wondering if I should get a playmate for my Mac mini. This would replace my oldest PC -- now on the "B" side of a KVM switch.

The Sony (PCV-J150) power supply has been a weak link (in addition to the 512 MB memory limit):
1- it gagged when I tried to install a midrange video card
(the Radeon 9250) a few months ago - so I put that adapter in my Sempron instead;
2- the connectors are proprietary, so a motherboard swap isn't possible (the connector won't attach to standard motherboards).
I still (sadly) have to run a few Windows-only apps, so I should also consider a software solution, namely running Parallels Desktop for Mac (speed isn't my primary concern -- the 1.83 GHz Core Duo shouldn't care).

I nosed around the web for a few hours, but can't decide what to do. None of the major players in the PC space (Dell, HP) build what I'm seeking. The closest thing I found Out There is AOpen's MiniPC.

The specs I like on the Mac mini are:
SFF (small form factor)
relatively green (+ for fanless)
legacy free (no parallel, PS2 or VGA)
meaning: USB 2.0; Firewire; DVI
multicore (since That's The Trend)
Gig-E (+ for Wireless-G)
I tend to prefer AMD over Intel, and while I don't need uberGamer-quality graphics, something that'll run stuff like Second Life* without crashing every hour would be nice. That's why running Parallels is not ideal - I'd be limited to the built-in graphics of the Mac mini - an Intel GMA950).
*which wants a GeForce 6600; Radeon 9600; or better
I like the mini-ITX form factor, which at 170mm is similar to the Mac mini's 165mm size (adding the system case will make the PC larger). Bottom line: my need isn't immediate, so I'll likely think about it for awhile longer.

Saturday, December 23

¡ Viva Fármers Brañch !

This morning, when I moseyed outside to fetch my weekend edition of the Dallas Managed News (inexplicably, it arrives Friday, Saturday, Sunday and most-but-not-all Mondays), I found this on my sidewalk:

The 2006 Farmers Branch (Texas) phone directory .. in Mexican*!
* why some people refer to the language as "Spanish" is Beyond Me. The language spoken South Of The Border bears only passing resemblance to that spoken in Spain. Here, Español==Mexican. Okay, maybe Honduran, too. And Nicaraguan, and Costa Rican, and Salvadoran, and ...
I live about 7 miles from Farmers Branch, so why this landed on MY sidewalk is also Beyond Me. It's also very interesting, given the recent news about Farmers Branch and their Wii (War against illegal immigration). Was this an honest mistake, or is Someone Out There sending a message?

And for those of you who are curious, this Páginas Amarillas ("Yellow Pages", for you gringos) is not a bilingual directory; it is ONLY in Español.

Thursday, December 21

SMU Jumps The Shark

It took 20 years, but Southern Methodist University (a/k/a SMU) here in Dallas finally found a way to top its previous worst-ever event. I wonder how many people remember 1987, when a recruiting scandal earned it college football's "death penalty"? (see SMU and The Death Penalty)

So, how did they top it? They just announced that they'll house the presidential library of the Biggest Disgrace In US History: that of President George W. Quagmire.

Oh, the shame. Sadly (!) the average SMU student aspires little more than finding a way to avoid jail while spending Daddy's Money for four years, then be hired by an SMU alumni who couldn't care less if their employee can read or write. In that sense, the George W. Bush Presidential Library is a perfect fit.

Has SMU jumped the shark with this one? You bet.

Wednesday, December 20

Santa's Elves Versus TXU

Conspiracy theorists may suspect that TXU controls the weather.

I wonder how today's Lump Of Coal For TXU distribution will go, given the heavy rain and thunderstorms that are prowling about?

In case you Missed The Memo, here it is (which landed in my inbox yesterday afternoon):

Elves? In Dallas? That's right.

Wednesday morning at 11 am, Santa's Elves will arrive in full force ... sleigh and all. This year they'll be giving out gifts of a different kind.

TXU wants to build 11 new dirty coal power plants across the state. Governor Perry has fast-tracked the permits for the proposed plants. If TXU's plan is approved, the result for Texans will be the equivalent of a one-ton lump of coal for every Texan, every year, for the next 50 years. So Santa's Elves have to come to the rescue.

Help deliver the message to John Wilder: "Thanks - but no thanks - on the dirty coal plants." Head down to 1500 Main Street (about five blocks north of Dallas City Hall) and look for the sleigh and elves.

What: Elves will hand out individually wrapped lumps of coal to Dallas citizens. Citizens will receive a postage paid envelope and are encouraged to re-gift the coal to TXU CEO John Wilder.

When: Wednesday, December 20, 11 am.
Where: Pegasus Plaza at 1500 Main Street, near Iron Cactus' Patio on the Plaza.
Look for the sleigh and elves.

Happy Holidays! Help keep them healthy by sending a lump of coal to John Wilder.

Thank you,
The Texas Team at Environmental Defense
What'll you bet TXU's John Wilder takes all the coal and immediately sets it on fire, so that we all can get a whiff of what he thinks about environmental sanity?

Sunday, December 17

the end of an era

Just about now, Jill-Bob is losing her -Bob status, crossing from Texas into The Great Abyss. Part of this is due to global warming, you see, as the Texas summers just got to be Too Much To Bear. You see, she discovered that it's far more pleasant to run in 40F weather, than 80F. So, she packed up her duds and critters and moved north, perhaps a few miles closer to Medicine Hat.

I've known Jill since, uh .. 1993, when I moved here from Los Angeles. It'll be weird knowing that she ain't within (easy) driving distance. Will The Saucer Crowd fade into extinction without her Maternal Guidance? Time will tell.

I suspect Jill's a pioneer of sorts, as past mass-migrations from the cold northern climes to the sunny beaches begin to reverse. Within our lifetime, we may see the extinction of the polar bear from the wild parts of the world, relegated only to zoos where they may be supplied an uninterrupted food supply. I also heard that the European ski resorts are having a tough time, given both a shorter season and less of their product (snow) to go around.

Politically, I have to wonder if the red-blue divide will turn into a north-south pattern, versus the current coastline-interior split. Those who remain in denial about global warming will stay in the south, sprinting from air-conditioned vehicles to air-conditioned buildings, while scarce energy continues to influence an upward price spiral. Eventually they may realize that there's a price to pay for those lofted ceilings and entryways, in the form of the BTUs needed to keep the human occupants comfortable. Eventually, but not yet. For now, the typically red-voting southerner will be happy to buy another Hummer (or F250 clone) to haul around whatever it is they haul around. Naturally, the elevation of those vehicles provides them ample opportunity to (literally) look down upon The Little People.

And the divide widens.

Back to present day reality: I suspect Jill will be rolling into her new digs around midnight* with Marvin, Simone and the others seeking a warm place to whiz. Good luck with The Grand Adventure, Jill-Bob.
* not being a classic Morning Person, it didn't surprise me that her 7am start time came and went.
Today, it's already 71F and aiming for a high of 81F. In mid-December. Go figure. Meanwhile, I programmed my TiVo to record the 8pm (24 Dec) [Spotlight] on LinkTV (DirecTV 375), titled "Global Warming: Bush's Climate of Fear". Sounds like a cheery way to celebrate The Holidays, eh?

Tuesday, December 12

spam survey

When I checked Yahoo email this morning:

25 new messages
of which
9 were flagged as spam
9 spams were in my inbox, not flagged
6 were legit messages

When I checked Gmail this morning:

22 new messages
of which
9 were flagged as spam (1 was a false positive)
0 spams were in my inbox
13 were legit messages

Can I draw any conclusions, other than that (assuming messages are similar) Gmail's spam filtering is much better than Yahoo's?

Saturday, December 9

no victory at Victory

Check another "thing I've never done before" off the list: I rendezvoused with a DART train (34°F on the platform) so that Jill-Bob and I could ride to a Dallas Stars game. Following her directions closely, I allowed a Red Line train to pass, then hopped onto the one which goes directly to Victory Station at the American Airlines Center. Voila!

Here's the view of the rink from our seats in section 312:

The only one doing any scoring (the Stars lost 0-2) was Jill-Bob, who scored a free Chipotle burrito coupon:

from the Chipotle blimp (doing acrobatics a few feet above our heads):

Jill-Bob was entertained by the guys from a local radio station (the "Jack FM Speedo Team"):

while I was entertained by the Dallas Stars Ice Girls. I wonder if they make house calls? I have some snow that needs shoveling too!

Aside: one of the advertisers was Yet Another Energy Drink : HAVOC. Isn't that market (pardon the pun) oversaturated?

Friday, December 8


I finally remembered to get a flu shot, while driving past CareNow (a local doc-in-the-box). It was $15 and so very exciting (zzzz). The information form that's handed out says the ideal time to be vaccinated is October-November, so I'm hoping the virus waits awhile before making the rounds.

Like last year, the small diameter needles are barely perceptable. They asked me to hang around for 10 minutes after the shot, to make sure I didn't have an immediate allergic reaction. I waited 8 minutes, then left. Do you think they'll come after me?

can you spell "brrrrrr" ?

It's a three-dog night here, temperatures dropping to the low 20s(F). Gotta git me 2 more dogs, I reckon. I recently installed new weatherstripping around two of my outside doors, where the old stuff had worn thin. Good timing, huh?

Speaking of timing, I have to wonder about Dubya's hair color. Now, 6+ years into His Debacle, He's starting to realize that 93.6% of the world's population Knows. We're onto the fact that He finally figured out that This Presidency Thing isn't just another big joke from His college fraternity days, something to add to His resume. Still, His incessant condescendence and smirking send me over the edge every time I see His face on the telly. His I-Am-Still-The-Decider mantra remains apalling, yet not surprising, given His reaction to the recent Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward - A New Approach. I secretly get a thrill by seeing the pain on His face each time He tries to avoid reality. Fascinating.

I just have to wonder if He has yet realized that the democratization of Iraq can never work*. Democracies (appear to - correct me if I'm wrong) require the "cooperation" of your neighbors. Here in the USA, we're bordered by Canada and Mexico. Iraq, OTOH, is bordered by countries that are not democracies and have no desire to go down that road. What on earth would persuade Iran, Syria and (Saudi) Arabia to endorse a style of government that would mean the demise of their own? I don't get it.
* unless He listens to Belacqua Jones (example: Send the Iraq Study Group home; victory in Iraq is within our grasp.
Entertaining read: Diane McWhorter's Unmentionable lessons of the midterm aftermath.

PS to Raul: yes, I updated Sundry on Thursday. You can now rest easier.

Tuesday, December 5

avoiding the Mall Hives

Saturday, I made my biannual pilgrimmage to an indoor shopping mall, albeit briefly. I went to NorthPark Center to locate the B&M version of The Apple Store. Fortunately, the mall's interactive map (MS-IE only, apparently) allowed me to park at the nearest entrance, which became the nearest exit once my shopping was done. Upon entering the mall, I found my destination about 4 stores away: perfect. My exposure to Mall People thus having been limited, I didn't break out in Mall Hives, as has happened before.

Good news about that experience: I also didn't have to Run The Gauntlet of those ubiquitous Red Kettle People. I don't know if that's a Northpark Mall Policy (banning them from the premises - as Target has done) or if I was merely lucky. Guess I should do some Target shopping, to reward them for their continued stance on the matter.

Saturday, December 2

the anti-shopping list

I've been spending more time with my Mac (PowerBook-G4) lately, partly due to the convenience offered by its built-in WiFi. One of my long-overdue projects at home has been to slap my DVDs, videotapes and (gasp!) books into a database, and it's much easier schlepping my laptop from room to room, than any of the 3 alternatives:
  1. writing stuff down on paper, then transcribing;
  2. entering stuff directly into my PDA, which lacks a fullsize keyboard;
  3. bringing the stuff-to-be-catalogued to the PC, then taking them back
Once everything's online, I'll be able to move them to MobileDB (on my Palm) and then use it as an anti-shopping list*. Keeping it updated will be easier, too, since I can update the database on the Palm, and it'll be HotSync'd the next time I charge it.
* anti-shopping list [ASL] -- a list of stuff I already own. If something's on that list, it means I shouldn't buy it again.
An ASL would've saved me several times over the years, when I spotted something in the store which intrigued me, and I didn't remember if I'd already ordered it online (hence, in transit) or if I'd simply added it to an online Wish List somewhere.

I expect my ASL to become more handy as I continue to age, and can no longer distinguish between the things I want and the things I already have.

I've been a fan of Instant Messaging for eons, but never liked needing client software for each protocol (AIM, YIM, ICQ, etc.) .. I've used Trillian on my Windows box for years, and now found a Quite Good One for my Mac: Adium. The interface is clean, flexible and works while I'm WiFi'ing my way around the globe. I tried one called [Fire] but it had a nasty habit of locking up, needed a [Force Quit] to return the system to normal. YMMV.