Grab bag: Static magic quadrant

New mix: Don’t be in love with the autograph

Again, posting the tracklist here because Art of the Mix is gone. I will send this one out, just as soon as I get around to sending the last ones out (yes, I’m aware that I’m about three months behind on that). Here’s, depending on the numbering system, 4.23 or JHNCD0035:

  1. The Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood 1: Tunnels” (Funeral)
  2. My Morning Jacket, “The Way That He Sings” (At Dawn)
  3. Big Star, “She’s a Mover” (Radio City)
  4. J-Live remixed by Steinski, “Them That’s Not (Cash Mix)” (What Does It All Mean?)
  5. Thao, “Bag of Hammers” (We Brave Bee Stings and All)
  6. Van Morrison, “Domino” (His Band and Street Choir)
  7. Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago” (Illinoise)
  8. The Reindeer Section, “Cartwheels” (Son of Evil Reindeer)
  9. The Long Winters, “Blanket Hog” (When I Pretend to Fall)
  10. Cat Power, “Free” (You Are Free)
  11. Vampire Weekend, “One” (Vampire Weekend)
  12. James Brown, “Bring It Up (Hipster’s Avenue)” (Star Time)
  13. Spain, “Dreaming of Love” (The Blue Moods of Spain)
  14. Freakwater, “Out Of This World” (Old Paint)
  15. Sonic Youth, “Rain on Tin” (Murray Street)
  16. Eva Cassidy, “Songbird” (Eva By Heart)
  17. Beck, “Diamond Bollocks” (Mutations

Grab bag: Simplify Media and the stimulus package

  • Read and comment on the bill. Seems like it’s a little late in the process, but better late than never.
  • Explaining the XSS vulnerability in Safari’s RSS feed reader. Seems to have been a specific problem for the filtering strategy that Apple used to filter feed content.
  • The most amazing cross-platform personal media sharing tool I’ve seen yet. Install locally and remotely, sign in both locations, and stream music from one location to the other. Yes, stream–it sends the music as an MP3 stream regardless of original format (AAC, etc.). Just connected my home library from my office and it was responsive almost immediately (though it takes some time for all the data to populate). Apparently also available as iPhone client.
    (tags: mac itunes mp3)

Friday Random 10: because it’s been too long edition

I put the iPod on shuffle earlier this week and was struck by two things: out of 1500 songs, it came up with two Nick Drake songs off the same album; and there are all kinds of ways to be embarrassed by your musical taste.

  1. Smithereens, “A Girl Like You” (Blown to Smithereens: Best of)
  2. Nick Drake, “Things Behind the Sun” (Pink Moon)
  3. Sonic Youth, “New Hampshire” (Sonic Nurse)
  4. Nick Drake, “Place to Be” (Pink Moon)
  5. Minor Threat, “Look Back and Laugh” (Out of Step)
  6. The Byrds, “You’re Still On My Mind (rehearsal – take #43)” (Sweetheart of the Rodeo)
  7. Marvin Gaye, “You Sure Love to Ball” (Let’s Get It On)
  8. R.E.M., “Driver 8” (Fables of the Reconstruction)
  9. Pete Yorn, “For Nancy” (musicforthemorningafter)
  10. Bob Dylan, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” (The Bootleg Series: Vols. 1-3)

Grab bag: Darwin Day

The meltdown: Where we are, where are we going

There’s a combination of feelings I’ve had over the past months as we work our way through the meltdown and resulting bailout of the banking system and the overall economy. Nausea and dread are pretty high up there; anticipation, wondering when the next shoe is going to drop; puzzlement.

For me the big one is the last one. I’ve got an MBA from a quantitative program, albeit with a focus in marketing rather than finance, and I’ve been having trouble finding a perspective that concisely explains what is going on, much less being able to get enough information that I can explain it to anyone else.

To that end, this interview with Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) on CSPAN was helpful (hat tip to Dave Winer for tweeting the interview). I’ve started it where he begins to explain what actually happened on September 18, when we were hours away from all the funds vanishing out of the banking system via an electronic run on the bank:

So that’s how we got to where we are. The question is, where’s the bottom?

I see conflicting evidence points. Bankruptcies and foreclosures abound, for sure, and there are people who are hungry. But there are still venture deals happening (albeit with existing portfolio companies) and companies are still hiring. So what’s going on? Has the meltdown not trickled all the way down, or are there simply a lot of firms that were less vulnerable thanks to their debt position that are going to ride this out?

Grab bag: Time to watch carefully

Grab bag: Funding, countersuit, trombones

Grab bag: Defining success

Grab bag: Roundup roundup

Now serving Gravatars

WordPress 2.5 and later have built-in support for Gravatars — site-independent avatars. They’re basically small pictures that can appear next to your comments across multiple sites, depending on the email address you registered with the main Gravatar site.

I hadn’t gotten around to hacking the theme I’m using–which apparently predates WP 2.5–for Gravatar support, but (per the Codex) adding the support was trivial. I added this line of code in the comments loop and was all set, aside from some trivial additions to the CSS to display the gravatar in the right place:

echo get_avatar( $comment, $size = '48' );

You can see what it looks like below. And if you sign up with the service, when you leave a comment on my blog your avatar (G-rated only–my blog policy enforces it) will appear next to your comment. Nice trick.

Is it new MacBook time yet?

I have a  feeling, like a disturbance in the Force. It’s the feeling I get when it’s time for a new Mac.

I’ve been a Mac user for a long time… since my first year of undergrad, when my dad splurged on the best Mac ever made, the SE/30, for me. I’ve had, including the SE/30, two desktops and three laptops since then, as follows:

Machine Purchased Duration Fate
SE/30 September 1990 5 years Given to younger sister; recycled
Power Mac 7200/90 ca. October 1995 ca. 5 years Given to father; recycled
PowerBook G3 (Pismo) August 2000 2 y 11 mo Given to younger sister; then to cousin
PowerBook G4 1GHz July 2003 2 y 9 mo Given to younger sister
MacBook Pro 1.83 GHz March 2006 2 y 10 mo to date Current

So there have been a lot of machines and my laptops have been lasting a little under three years; why? Two words: case problems and capabilities.

The G3 was great; had no problems with it other than having to replace the power adapter four times. But when we moved out west to Seattle we decided that we’d keep in touch via videoconferencing, so upgraded to a machine that could handle video on iChat. The G4 had terrible case problems–a hinge stuck, then broke the bezel when it got forced open–and also had power adapter problems. We fixed the case and upgraded to a MacBook Pro when they first became available.

The MacBook Pro has been great; except… well, it got dropped. It landed on the side where the power connector was, which dented the case near the power connector, making it difficult for the MagSafe to function properly. It charges but you have to fiddle with the connection, and lately it’s been turning itself off. Plus, I haven’t been able to prune the data on the hard disk enough to keep more than 3 GB free at any given time, meaning the machine is prone to slowing to a crawl.

The cost to me to repair the case and the power board was quoted by the Apple Store as a minimum of $500, and I’m thinking very hard about doing that. But I’d also want to replace the hard drive, and that starts to bump up the cost close to the lowest-end MacBook.

Yes, MacBook. For the first time, I think that my needs are converging on Apple’s consumer line rather than the Pro line. The MacBooks are much more capable than they were three years ago, and I’m no longer doing the sort of programming that made me want a faster machine then. And I’m not sure that spending an additional $600-$1000 would give me a comparable increase in value. There are numerous side-by-sides that attest to this (Gizmodo, MacRumors, Engadget). The main issue appears to be the screen in the MacBook, and I’m going to have to go in and look at it to decide if that’ll be OK. (I don’t watch DVDs on my laptop much anymore, but I might be watching more TV there.) There’s also no FireWire support, and no card slot to plug in an expander–a problem if we want to keep using our ca. 2000 digital video cam. And there doesn’t seem to be a way around that, so we might have to keep the old Pro around just to do video.

We’ll have to think a little more about it, I suppose.

Grab bag: Watchmen edition

In awe of the immensity of it all.

The Bad Astronomer (fellow UVA alum Phil Plait) points to a really spectacular Hubble image of an unusual spiral galaxy. For me, the takeaway is when you look at the really big version of the image (not the 28 MB one but the 4.3 MB one) and look at all the background galaxies. Not stars, galaxies–hundreds of them, all shapes and sizes. Here’s a tiny corner of the image:


When I see a picture like that, I think, how could we possibly be alone in all this beauty?