Holy crap, the Cubs just traded to get Nomar Garciaparra! My experience from living in Chicagoland is that I am becoming a Cubs anti-fan for some reason. The longer we are here, the more I long to see them not even make the playoffs. Thus it has made me happy to see my Braves surge whilst the Cubs fall to pieces just like their stadium. This trade might change that a little for me, though. I’ve been a fan of Nomar since I followed him as a Georgia Tech Yellowjacket. I’m not sure I can root against a team with him on it.

The Siderunners

I mentioned them in the previous post and I realized that I never made The Siderunners a band of the day, even though I’ve been listening the hell out of their CD. They have a page for their album at CD Baby that you can listen to the songs and even buy it straight from there. It reminds me a lot of Jason and the Scorchers, the first “alt country ” band I ever really got into. I recommend everyone give this a listen.

Old School File Trading

I’m writing up here this brainstorm that I had. With luck, maybe someone will take it and run with it.

I have on occasion checked out CDs from the library. Sometimes, I put those in a computer with RealJukebox or iTunes and ripped those things to keep afterwards. I realized not that long ago that if my goal were to do a lot of that, it would actually be much more efficient to take my iBook to the library, rip the CDs I’d like to keep and leave. Since it takes around 5 minutes to rip one with iTunes, if I spent an hour or two I could get a big pile of new music that way. As I understand it, this is all unimpeachable use of the technology. There is no problem with me making a copy for personal use, even of a CD from the library, as long as I’m not sharing the subsequent files.

The brainstorm is this: one could very easily use Meetup to arrange a local “Old School CD Share.” A group of people meet at a coffee shop or other similar place – preferrably one with free WiFi so the CDDB information can be automatically accessed. All bring laptops and some of their CDs. The group passes CDs around the table, ripping whatever they want. With Meetup, it would also be easy to request specific ones and get folks to volunteer to bring them. In fact, a really organized group could arrange distributed purchases such that people are buying a few CDs and the whole group gets the music.

Here’s the wrinkle I would add, because it fits in with my musical philosophy. I would ask that every person that is involved brings at least one oddity, something obscure that they are “championing” to the group. This would be something that you personally love, but no one else probably would have heard of. In my case, this would be something like Paul Melancon or Glass Eye. The rules would be that everyone must, in addition to the blockbusters, rip and sincerely give a listen to at least one CD championed by someone else, and every person must have a championed CD ripped. This means that everyone gets exposed to a little new music and everyone gets a chance to spread music they like to new people. In the best case, you also bring a little literature or at least an URL for your championed bands and this results in some new sales for them.

So, I’m curious to hear from readers. Does this idea seem as good to other people as it does to me? I’ve noticed something similar happening spontaneously at work, when we lend each other CDs. I no longer listen to the CD, instead I just rip it and hand back the physical disk to the owner in a couple of minutes. This is how I found out about The Siderunners, a group I have now in my iTunes and that I really enjoy listening to. Can anyone see actually doing this?

Buy my Bookshelves!

Any of you Chicago area readers of this blog need some sturdy-ass bookshelves? I have some for sale at a very nice price. If you say that you read the blog, I’ll even try to find some cool extra stuff to throw in (if you want it.) The new house has a lot of built in shelving and these things are very heavy where moving is paid for by the pound. Thus, while they have been great for us, we are getting rid of them. I’d like to see them go to a good home, so please buy them and fill them with well-loved books. Otherwise, they go to the tender mercies of the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Hard Truths from the Gaping Void

A few months ago I stumbled upon Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void weblog, enjoying his crazed cartoons and his jaundiced insights. He has one post that he keeps adding to that is just completely fricking brilliant, called “How to be Creative”. The original post is good, but he has a couple elaborations that are even better:

He has one observation that is straight out of the advice I hear over and over for new writers, most of whom are looking for some sort of silver bullet that will allow them to become successful without spending all that boring time with their ass in a chair doing the work:

3. Put the hours in.

Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what seperates successful people and failed people is time and stamina.

This stuff is all good reading, and worth thinking about if you have any ambitions towards being creative – as an artist, as an entrepeneur, as a software developer, as a person.

DNC on your iPod

I’ve seen this around in various places, but I give the credit on the link to the very first person I saw link to it, the incredible Dr. Jonny X. For those with an iPod and/or iTunes, you can for free get the audio of the speeches from the DNC. Now all it needs is a table of contents that says exactly what time in the the file each speech starts. That way you can skip straight to Barack Obama.

Open Source Wheelchairs

Via Worldchanging comes this story about the Free Wheelchair Mission. They have a crazily simple design that can produce a usable wheelchair out of simple materials like lawn furniture and bicycle tire for a price of $42. Moreover, they are distributing this design openly and encouraging people to copy it in order to distribute more of these wheelchairs to people in the developing world who need them.

What if someone wants to copy your wheelchair design?
We encourage organizations to copy our design, or our passion. There are aspects of the design that we could patent, but doing so would hinder others from helping. We truly want to give a wheelchair to every human in need of one. That is a huge task, and we encourage anyone to help in any way.

This is a fabulous idea. That $42 wheelchair can for a small outlay of cash completely alter the lives of people in the poorest places on the planet. That is truly good thinking. On their website, they have a link for people who want to get involved and help. This seems like a very simple and cheap way to make many many lives substantially better.


I saw a reference that Instapundit was opening up a comments thread for people to leave real time comments about John Kerry’s acceptance speech. Here’s what I think is a prototypical example of what is there:

1 minute: A war declared *on us* by terrorists

next minute: we went to war because we *wanted to*
Posted by: Zach at July 29, 2004 10:29 PM

Very nice. These folks, despite all that has happened in the last year and a half, somehow think that the war in Iraq in any way addresses terrorist attacks on the United States. There you have a shining example of the Instapundit brain trust in action. It takes a real act of will to believe things like that despite all the facts, but IP readers are willing to make that act of will.

BitTorrent of the INDUCE Act Congressional Hearings

Via Joi Ito’s blog I found this link to Lawrence Lessig asking people to download via BitTorrent the hearings on the INDUCE Act. Since one of the key points of the hearings is that P2P technology has “no potential for a substantial noninfringing use”, by in fact using P2P technology to download the hearings themselves is a wonderfully recursive refutation all by itself. So, thus, I am downloading it (and uploading too, since that’s how BitTorrent works) and will watch it once it is all down. If you join in too, then all our downloads will be that much faster. The torrent file is right here.

Barack the House

Early this evening I saw the speech by Barack Obama at the DNC. What is there to say but “Wow!” As a current Illinois resident, I followed his ascent from just one member of a crowded Democratic primary field for the Senate race to a dominating candidate. People forget in the pyrotechnics of the Jack Ryan debacle that even before the scandal broke that Obama had a 25-30 point lead over him. I’m a little sad that he is running defacto unopposed because this man would righteously kick the ass of any Republican challenger they could possibly field.

Obama is the real deal. When I hear him speak it makes me feel good, like anything is possible not just for myself but for the nation. After watching that speech, you can’t help but feel that he will very soon become a national name. God love him, I can’t wait to cast my vote for him for President whenever I am allowed to.

Update: Patrick Nielsen Hayden expresses a similar sentiment but also links to the text of that amazing speech.

Update #2: Via the official Obama weblog (Obama has a weblog? Cool!) comes this link to the CSPAN video archive of the speech. It’s in Real format which ain’t optimal but it is what it is. If you missed this speech, you ought to watch it. It contains the seeds of what should become the liberal and progressive playbook for the future.

eBooks, Hard to Love

Here are a pair of articles about eBooks, both from people who are knowledgable users of them who are discussing the limitations of them. The first, from a link sent in by Mike Cane, is about how a guy that uses Microsoft Reader as his viewer got screwed because he buys so many devices (PCs, pocket PCs, etc) that he used up his 6 activations and is now SOL. This is not unlike the Cory Doctrow piece a few months back where because he bought lots of iTunes music and buys lots of new Macintosh laptops he got into a position where he had no more activations either. In both, there is a salient detail in common – the people who get the most severly boned by the DRM restrictions are really really good customers! People who buy lots of books and music or other DRM-locked content and also buy lots of machines and handhelds will be the people who run into these restrictions. My contention is simple – any system that is set up to guard against an unproven and unquantifiable threat and does so by setting up roadblocks that impede your most committed customers from spending more money is Bad Fricking Business.

In the other article, superdude Charlie Stross discusses why more of his books aren’t available in electronic form which also ends up ranging into some general discussion of the medium.

I don’t much write about ebooks here any more, because what I say from time to time is so damned similar. Bad business decisions are keeping people from spending money. Fear of piracy is costing publishers far more money is sales that can’t happen than the pirates could have ever caused them to lose. If they priced their ebooks reasonably (ie, not the same as the hardcover) they could have a nice revenue stream that scales beautifully, in that it doesn’t involve expensive presses running expensive paper through, and expensive teamsters moving books into expensive racks in grocery stores and bookstores. It’s a damn shame that the only major publisher that gets these points is Baen books, a publisher of which I care to read maybe one book in 100 that they publish. It should be noted that Baen is making much more money than they did a few years ago, and their electronic strategy is a very significant portion of that.

Shrook Comes back to Life

A new release of Shrook is out, V2.11, and along with other problems that have been fixed, it seems to have unboned the atom parsing that was boned in the previous release. I had a bunch of feeds that suddenly began coming in empty when I upgraded last time, which was a true pain in the ass. If you look at my blogroll, which is an export of my Shrook subscriptions, that is why there are some duplicates as I temporarily subscribed to a non-atom feed.

One thing that I think that is happening but I’m not sure about is that when an entry is updated, rather than giving me a duplicate entry for that feed, it updates the previous entry and marks it as unread again. That’s better behavior than having some entry that gets updated a lot come in as umpteen separate entries, you just get one that changes along with the information in the feed. I like that much better.

Week 18

Forgot to post this last week. This morning I was at 224 pounds – two pounds less than two weeks ago and 22 pounds down from baseline. I’m getting even a little farther under that 228 plateau that I was stuck on for so long. I did actually do a little strength training this week, trying to improvise a reasonable routine out of some training bands. I did do some more bike riding than usual last week, and am generally getting more excercise. With this new job I’m riding to the El stop which is a little farther, and then walking farther to the office after I leave the train. All in all, my days have more physical activity in them now than they have in a long time.

WREK Alumni Weekend

I almost forgot to download the WREK alumni weekend MP3 files. Starting at 7 PM EDT tonight, they begin getting overwritten with this weeks stuff, so if you have any interest, time to get cracking. If you just want to listen, there are also links to playlists that you can use to just listen and stream those files.

I’m using the information I learned about using wget as a remote object mirroring tool to get them all. Would you believe I’ve been using wget for years and I didn’t know it would do all that link following business? You learn something new ever day.

Bandwidth Troubles

… but not with the computer, with life. Not only have I been too busy to blog much lately, but until last night I was hundreds of items behind in even reading my feeds. The new job is taking up a lot of time, as new jobs tend to do. I am trying like crazy to learn the ins and outs of Compiere while also learning the ins and outs of the best way to get via the El between Evanston and Lincoln Park. It’s been a busy week so far and they will all be busy up until the point where I can work remote. Nothing ill is occurring, but there may be atypically long periods of radio silence from me on this here blog.

A Little PR

Just in time for my leaving the company, Orbitz put out a little press release about the seatmap work I did for them. Pretty cool, no? When I first saw this, I thought it was some kind of reportage until I realized it was something Orbitz paid to put on the PR newswire. I do like the headline they have on it – “The End of the Middle Seat Blues”. It was a relatively straightforward thing to do technically, but it seems to have really rocked the world of folks within the company. It’s nice to have done some work that excites people.

Day out in Evanston

I’m on my own in the house today, and I decided to get out on this beautiful day and bike around the city. I just felt like riding by the lake, and when I did I just happened upon Ethnic Arts Festival. I wandered around it for a little while, not buying anything but just kind of gawking and listening to the klezmer band for a little while.

After that, I rode up to the Grosse Point Lighthouse. I’d been meaning to get there for a while and tried to go the other week but the tour was sold out that day. First we looked at the exhibits in the couple of rooms in the restored keeper’s quarters, then we watched a short video on the history of the lighthouse. After that, we walked up the 141 winding steps to the top of the tower and got to see the lighting mechanism, which really was a beautiful brass and glass affair. The whole thing had an ingenious series of prisms and mirrors that focused the light from the sphere of the light into a tight plane that is visible further. While were up there, we also got a nice view of the Evanston lakefront area. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me to record these artifacts and vistas.
After the lighthouse tour, I rode home by another little street festival on Central Street. This seemed like a lot of density of stuff happening all at once, but I guess such is life on the North Shore in summer.

WREK Alumni Weekend

This weekend at WREK they are commemorating the move out of their old studios by bringing in a lot of alumni to spin records all weekend. It’s half over and I still haven’t heard any of it, but I’ll save off all the MP3s and make myself a few CDs of the whole event. If I was around Atlanta, I would have gladly been involved. I could have made a CD but that’s just more work than I could have done in this very busy time so I had to let the event go on without me. I’m looking forward to listening to it. Here’s an information page about the event.


Via Mitch Wagner comes this column about the BSA and how they cook the books to show losses to software piracy. It includes this funny and pithy insight:

In fact, I’ve always lumped the BSA with groups like the MPAA and the RIAA as organizations whose members sit on a massive pile of cash even as they complain about how much their rear ends hurt.

Clearing the Aggregator Decks: Environmental Links

This blog has been heavy on the personal stuff and light on links to cool stuff lately. Here’s the first of a few posts that are collections of interesting links that are building up in Shrook.

Here’s an article on how to hack a flashlight lightbulb with LEDs that will be brighter, last longer and use less power.

Via Worldchanging comes a link to a news story about scientists who recommend growing crops to replace the use of petrochemicals.

Meta-Efficient has an item on using bamboo flooring in lieu of wood. According to them, bamboo floor is more durable than wood and can be harvested in 4 years or less if farmed in plantations, as opposed to the decades it takes to grow mature hardwood trees.

Via WorldChanging comes this fascinating interview with Amory Lovins in which he points out that by increasing our energy efficiency over the last 25 year the amount of energy used per GDP has shrank by 40%, and that shrinkage is our biggest source of energy!