Welcome Back Piggly Wiggly

Last fall I sent a letter to Piggly Wiggly about how bad their “free” wifi was, and how it made me waste time by coming there when I had work to do but the wifi was barely usable. It should be noted that they have changed their provider, they no longer require an account to login, and it is 1000 times better now. I’m eating grocery store sushi, doing a little bit of work and will get a Starbucks Americano on the way back to the office. It’s much more convenient to have this option back in the rotation and I thank Piggly Wiggly for straightening this out. I don’t know if my letter had any effect but I’m glad I sent it.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for July 26, 2009 – “The Alan Bean of Podcasting”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for July 26, 2009. I play a song by Wolf Parade; I play a sponsorship announcement from Bob’s Institute of Time Control; I talk about vacationing in the North Carolina mountains and trying to refocus on what is important; about enthusiasm for and history of new media as it waxes and wanes; I talk about conventions I have and will attend; once again I take a dump on podcasting awards and then play some angry lo-fi punk from Pissed Jeans to seal the deal. Take that!

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Bigger (Revenue) Than Jesus

This weekend is when the sales tax in the city of Myrtle Beach is hiked to 11.5%. Those tax and spend Republicans are at it again. I thought I’ve been places with crazy high sales tax before but I’ve never seen it this high anywhere I can recall. I note that God himself is only asking for 10%.

This extra 1% is to pursue marketing campaigns to replace the tourists that the city has spent the last year running off, and they are doing it by making everything a tourist might buy in the city more expensive in a time when people are already hurting for cash. Nice thinking, y’all. Maybe then you can increase that another couple percentage points so you can run an advertising campaing to convince people that 14% sales tax isn’t really that high.

Packratism, Online and Off

I’m the first to admit that I’m a packrat. I’m not anal retentive because that would imply I’m organized about it. I’m more of the “throw it all in that room and sort it out later” type guy, where “later” is always a day that never comes. I’m also like this with not only physical goods but the digital. I know intellectually that all of these atoms and bits of squirreled away stuff is in fact a manifestation of my procrastination. I don’t want to make the decision about what to do with it now, so I push it off to the horizon on a timescale that will always be safely distant as to be assumed to be not happening. At this point I’m fighting a rear guard action to avoid becoming one of those crazy old guys that gets buried in their own house under 30 years of unread mail.

Just today I noticed that the same external drive that holds my Time Machine Backups also has a folder called “Videos to Watch.” This thing is full of 56 GB of vlogs downloaded between November 2006 and July 2007. The funny thing is the vast majority are of shows that I probably unsubscribed from right around that time. Channel Frederator, Command N, the Scoble Show on Podtech, Rocketboom in the Joanne Colan era, etc. I unsubscribed because they built up and I didn’t watch them. When I posted about this the other week, this is not a new phenomenon. I was interested in all of these shows in the abstract enough to subscribe but not enough to make the time to watch them with any regularity. It’s an ongoing problem.

Now I have all these episodes of these shows that are a slice in time. One part of me wants to hang on to them for their value to the historical record of new media. The other part of me, the one that is winning right now, wants to delete the whole fricking directory and never think about it again. If I had forgotten I had it, it couldn’t have been that valuable to me. Sure, watching Robert Scoble get demos of products that probably didn’t interest me at the time and may even already be defunct or out of business by now has some mild morbid curiosity factor but frankly I’d rather have those gigabytes back.

Today and through the rest of next week, I’d like to throw away as much stuff as I can stand to from my office. It has become a disgrace that makes my loved ones unhappy and me unproductive. Although I have bounced off of GTD several times, I appreciate the value of its central tenet. Don’t procrastinate, deal with things immediately and decisively and don’t put them off for later or chuck them in the pile of things you will never look at again. This is truly the aspect of myself I like least, and I need to work on it to make myself happier in life. Maybe I’ll find bliss in a pile of trash bags. It could happen.

Let’s Do the Rock, the Chimney Rock!

On Top of Chimney Rock

On our vacation in the North Carolina woods, yesterday we went to Chimney Rock Park. There is an elevator to the top but because we brought our dog, the only possible way we could get to the actual Chimney Rock portion was to climb the stairs. I don’t have a good count but it was a pretty solid climb up, I’m guessing the equivalent of 25 flights or so. Our dog did very well on the whole trip, not being wild on the leash or spastic on the stairs. There were a few points where it was tricky to manage him and the traffic in the opposite direction but overall it wasn’t too bad. He got a lot of admirers along the way, and up at the peak he was a big hit.

The view from the very top of Chimney Rock is quite beautiful. You can see a whole lot of the Lake Lure area from it. It made a lot of sense to tackle that very first because after we went up and down that thing, we didn’t have a lot of desire left to do much more stair climbing.

On the way down, we almost didn’t go through “The Subway” tunnel because there was a sign saying something was closed and we assumed the whole pass was. However, a park dude who was right there assured us that we could go through. We were glad we did because not only did we get into a nice area in “The Grotto” but we also were able to climb down to the main trail from there, but with far fewer other people on the stairs. In fact, no one.

Looking out from the Grotto

After that, we met up with the main trail and took the side trail to Hickory Nut Falls. After the stretch up the stairs to the top and back down, it was nice to spend some time walking down fairly flat trails. There was a little rise and fall to it but nothing like the rest of it.

It was a little odd how people kept greeting us with encouragement. “Only 10 more minutes, don’t worry! It is worth it.” It dismayed me a little bit. Did I look like I was in that bad of a state that other tourists needed to give me pep talks? As it turned out, this whole stretch felt like a breather. We were able to stop and give the dog water several times and to go at whatever pace we felt like.

The other huge advantage is how cool it was comparatively. This whole stretch was under the canopy of trees anyway and as we approached the falls the mist and water must have cooled things off at least 5 degrees if not more. The falls themselves are pretty. It is possible to climb around down to where the pool underneath is, but we opted not to. There was a pretty thick layer of slime on all the rocks and sticks underwater, and it didn’t seem like the best wading experience ever. Plus, there is always the downer of getting your feet wet and putting on socks just to hike some more. If I was going to get my feet wet, I would want a little more bang for my moisture buck.

Hickory Nut Falls

After a little time at the falls, we packed everything up for the hike out. As is usually the case, the return trip seemed to go much faster than the trip out. By virtue of doing the Hickory Nut Trail last, we didn’t need to climb the stairs to meet back with the other trail but could just keep going straight out to the parking lot with no stairs involved at all.

After we left the park, we got ice cream in the little town at the base of the park. It seemed like a nice little place. On our way back to the cabin we stopped at a swimming hole and played with the dog out in the water, just to give him some swimming for the complete tired-out experience. After all, a tired dog is a well behaved dog.

Follow that up with a little grilling on the deck of the cabin and we had us one great vacation day. This is the kind of stuff I signed on for.

My Full Tilt Fantasy Poker Wrapup

The results of the main event of the World Series of Poker are in and the fantasy poker season at Full Tilt has been settled. By virtue having picked Phil Ivey and Eugene Katchalov, I came in 739 in this last event, earning $4.9M of the fantasy dollars. To point out the “Ivey Effect” of basically having the baseline of this event be over $4M: my brother had Ivey as an A and one other guy that cashed low so he had $4.2M . He came in over 10,000th place. More than 9,000 places were determined by the 700K in the middle.

By virtue of my 39th place overall, I came in 4th in the Poker Road Forum league and have already been paid a cool $15 American into my Poker Stars account. I’m pretty sure that the Poker Road Forum league kicked the absolute ass of every other one. PR had 13 people in the top 100 of the overall season.

This was an unbelievable amount of fun, and I picked up a little cash between the PR payout and cashing in the freerolls associated with the events. I can’t wait until next year.

Sad Confession: I Don’t Really Watch the Videos

The previous post about switching podcatchers and my podcast consumption workflow also involves me confronting a sad fact. I subscribed to multiple video feeds. I always have the best intentions with these things, but I don’t actually watch them. The only one I’m anywhere current on is TIki Bar TV and that’s about 6 months behind. I have over 100 episodes of Meet the Gimp to watch. Like, every one of them past the first episode. I have downloaded every episode, I just don’t watch them.

As part of dealing with my computer issues I needed a little more free space and the very first thing I dumped overboard was a directory with 12 GB of TED Talks in it. I tried to watch a few, hated the “Look you chumps at the wonderful bones we insightful rich are willing to throw you!” vibe of the ones I did watch. When space got tight, out they went into the bit bucket before anything else.

I care about the videos, at least I think I do. However I don’t watch them when I drive or walk the dog or as I type code at my dayjob, which is basically where all my audio podcast consumption occurs. I feel like I care but I don’t actually watch them. Sorry, video folks. I still want to learn how to use GIMP so I guess I have 100 X 10 minutes to spend with them.

I Move to Bashpodder for my Podcast Pleasure

My recent computer woes led to some corruption that makes python no longer run on my MacBook. This means that I can’t use Juice as my podcatcher anymore. To be honest, I’ve been using Juice for years without ever liking it but without much of an alternative since I refuse to use iTunes as my podcatcher. In a way, losing python was a positive because it forced me off the fence and into looking for a better alternative.

Luckily, I found it first try. I decided to try out Linc Fessenden’s bashpodder. It’s a 50 line bash script that takes a simple text file of feed URLs and fetches them. No muss, no fuss, no BS. RSS feeds in, podcasts out. I like that. There are now many variations as hackers have fiddled with the functionality, but I’m running the core vanilla mainline version. This one collects together shows into a date based directory. Because of the way it is using wget to fetch the actual files, in most cases it preserves the timestamp of the server version of the file. This actually helps me out a lot in my attempts to listen to shows in chronological order. I did make my own little hack to it, changing where it does the logging of a show URL to the history. The original script does it unconditionally, I have it check the exit code of wget and only put it in the history if that was successful. This way, a failed download will retry later.

Switching from one podcatcher to another is always a bit dicey at first. Since some of these feeds do the insane thing of keeping hundreds of episodes in them, if you aren’t careful bashpodder will fetch every one of those and fill up your hard drive. Here’s how I handled the transition. It was a bit labor intensive and required me watching it, but after the first run everything was perfect. The thing to be aware of is that there are two files – podcast.log and temp.log. The first is the permanent list of fetched files, the second is a working copy and at the end of the run the two are combined, duplicates filtered and the whole thing resaved to podcast.log. As files are fetched, it checks to see if an URL is in podcast.log and if it is, bashpodder skips it.

I ran the script from my MacBook in a terminal window. I ran it via:

sh -x bashpodder.shell

so that it was outputting all of its variables as it worked. When it would get to a new feed, it would splat out the list of file URLs that were parsed out of the RSS feed. I’d copy the files from the list I didn’t want downloaded and just put them directly into podcast.log via a file editor. You can be somewhat sloppy with this. When in doubt I let it fetch the file and I’d delete it later. If the URL goes into podcast.log more than once, no problem. It will get taken care of later. This required me riding the script for 45 minutes or so, but I mostly got the old shows into podcast.log manually. After the first run succeeded, I ran the script one more time. It fetched a few at the edges that I missed but then was completely caught up. I deleted files that I knew I had already listened to and away I went.

Now when I run it, I get only the new files. They go into that day’s directory, they sort themselves out somewhat by timestamp. I set up a cronjob to run this at 5 AM and now I’m in business. All the scripts that I use to put the files on my Insignia MP3 player work fine with the new directory structure and I’m back in business. Thanks Linc. This workflow is better than what I had, I no longer have Juice bogging down my machine and eating a lot of memory to do this simple task, and the whole thing runs in a simple bash process that I’m comfortable modifying if I want to. Right on.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast Extra: Balticon 43 Panel, “Peer Media vs Broadcast Media”

I’ve been having a hard time getting the show produced lately. I had planned to do an episode this weekend but my MacBook is fighting me every step of the way lately. Because of all these problems, I’m filling in the gaps with the audio of a panel I was on at Balticon 43 a few months ago. The panel was conceived of and moderated by Thomas Gideon, and my co-panelists were Patrick McLean and Earl Newton. If I recall correctly, this was the morning after I had met Earl for the first time and hung out with him for a few hours late into the previous evening.

I enjoyed being on this panel and I’d like to thank the other three guys and all the attendees for making it a good one. Here is the audio for your enjoyment.

Offline Times

The combination of my illness, some computer problems and a fair amount of things around the house to do (many of which I still have to do) led to a three day stretch with as little online time as I can remember when I actually was home and had working internet. You know what? I didn’t miss it that much. Friday was mostly sleeping on the couch recuperating. Saturday had a chunk of that as well as trying to fix some issues with my MacBook (short version: I made them worse) and Sunday was errands and the like.

There have been times where I find myself jonesing to get back to my computer. This wasn’t one of them. I realized this evening that after some restarts this morning, I never even turned my email client back on. I hadn’t checked FriendFeed or Facebook, hadn’t turned on my IM client or looked at any email. I’m enough of an internet spazmo that this can probably be considered a positive development.

The Precise Cold

This is a weird one. Yesterday at lunchtime I felt fine. By mid afternoon I was sneezing a little. By the time I left work, I was starting to feel bad. All evening I felt worse and worse, and by the time I went to bed I felt miserable. When I got up this morning I felt the worst yet, and I just decided to not go into work today and made the call of shame to my boss.

The weird part is that I know that between 2 PM and 3:30 PM yesterday, I began having cold symptoms. In my entire life, I don’t know that I could ever determine the onset of a cold to +- 45 minute resolution. Maybe it is possible with the flu where you tend to have a a more violent and extreme set of symptoms, but colds are usually just a smear of feeling bad and runny noses.

It’s slightly interesting as a phenomenon but not interesting enough to keep me awake. I’m taking the strongest cold medicine we have in this house and going back to bed.

My OS X Freezes

Starting last week, my MacBook is periodically hanging. When it does, I can’t force quit, I can’t gain control of windows, all I can do is to forcibly power down the machine and restart. Of course, I’m 3 months past the one year warranty expiration and I didn’t pony up the $249 for Apple Care. I thought you could buy it retroactively but now it appears that you can’t so either I misremembered or that policy changed.

Just this morning, it started to happen and I had top running in a terminal window so I could see it. The top two processes were nmblookup. Does this have something to do with it? My worst fear was that this was hardware, so I would actually be happy if it was software and something fixable. At least one other dude in history has had problems with nmblookup on an OS X box so maybe I’m not alone. Anyone have any experience with this?

My Full Tilt Fantasy Poker Picks for the Main Event

Going into the main event of the World Series of Poker, I’m sitting at 101st overall in the Full Tilt Poker fantasy league. The top 100 finishers get entrance into special freeroll that pays out an entrance to the 2010 main event (really, $12,000 which is about the equivalent – you can use the money for whatever you want.) I was under no illusions that I could coast regardless where I finished after event 56 but this is a tight spot. I have to have a good main event.

After a month plus of playing this hard and trying to gather as much information about each player, which events they were entering, their past performance, etc – the main event was different. I could make the assumption that everyone was playing. I sort of went with the zen and just picked without over thinking it. I picked Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonious out of defense. I expect that most everyone will have them and if I don’t and they do well, I’m sunk. This really comes down to picking the couple of highest finishing more obscure players and whoever does that will do well.

Here then are my picks:

A group:

Phil Ivey
Patrik Antonius
John Juanda
Eugene Katchalov
Justin Bonomo

B Group

Kathy Liebert
Jacobo Fernandez
Sorel Mizzi
Vitaly Lunkin
Shaun Deeb

C Group

Jeffery Lisandro
Steve “mrsmokey1” Billirakis
Tom Dwan
Shannon Shorr
Matt Hawrilenko

I’m on pins and needles about it. The main event is so sprawling I’m not even sure if any of my picks have played, what their stacks are, who is out. I made my bet, now I can only hope it works out for me. I’m leaning more towards younger internet players than name pros so I hope a few of those bets hit.

Holiday Weekend

My age has really started showing. We did our late night system upgrade Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and come Friday, I’m still tired. Our plan today is to paint our bedroom. We thought about doing some of the taping and furniture moving and prep work last night, but I opted not to. My thought was that today is going to suck no matter what but yesterday didn’t have to. I don’t like doing this stuff and I accept that it needs to be done but it’s a horrible thing to be endured. Once we begin, my interest is in finishing. This hit must be taken, but with any luck it can be confined to today.

A few years ago, we made the mistake of going to Myrtle Beach State Park on the day of July 4th. We go to this park fairly often but there were easily 20X the maximum number of people we had ever seen there. Just the act of getting into the park and into a parking space was about 30 minutes. We’re going to avoid that sort of thing this year. I actually feel like doing something like that but don’t feel like fighting crowds. Maybe we’ll hang out at the Conway riverfront.

Once the painting is done, I really need to record some podcasts. When that is in the can, my agenda is reading comic books and lying around. I don’t have to get too much battery recharging done because in a few weeks we’re going to the mountains near Asheville. If I can keep my batteries from dying until then I can get some recharging done then.

How To Tell You Are Exhausted

Yesterday was my third anniversary with my job. As a celebration, I and my coworkers worked all evening and well into the night upgrading systems. All day today I have been completely off. I ended up getting up to walk the dog at 6 AM after just a few hours of sleep. After that, I slept for a few hours until the yard guy showed up with his small engine joys. I dragged into work shortly around noon and dealt with typical day after issues but never felt like anything was clicking. I actually amazed myself by remaining awake all evening.

I sat down to write a blog post and got into the second paragraph before I realized I was posting the same thing I did a few days ago. I believe I know how to fix this and it involves a pillow.