Friday Random 10:

You know it’s been a long hard week when the Random 10 is my first post since Wednesday night. Someday, on the Final Reckoning, I hope I’ll get an extra day of eternal bliss in exchange for the day I had yesterday.

Anyway, the music:

  1. Alberta Adams, “Remember” (Chess Blues)
  2. Choir of St. John’s College (John Tavener, composer), “Song for Athene” (Christmas Proclamation)
  3. Petra Haden, “Our Love Was” (The Who Sell Out)
  4. Lou Ann Burton, “Shake Your Hips” (The Oxford American Southern Music Sampler, 2005)
  5. Bill Cosby, “Oops!” (I Started Out As A Child)
  6. The Velvet Underground, “Foggy Notion” (Peel Slowly and See)
  7. Shirley Horn, “Fever” (The Main Ingredient)
  8. Solomon Burke, “Diamond In Your Mind” (Don’t Give Up On Me)
  9. The Dramatics, “Get Up and Get Down” (Dead Presidents Soundtrack)
  10. Billy Jones & Ernest Hare, “Barney Google” (Edison Diamond Disc)

One last note: these are the random tunes playing in my iPod, but the tune playing in my head is Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion”:

Oh little darlin’ of mine
I just can’t believe it’s so
And though it seems strange to say
I’ve never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

But I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
When the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Special bonus: the connection between “Mother and Child Reunion” and Chinese cuisine.

Weird connections to the news pt. 2: Tony Snow

Who knew that my childhood home in Tidewater Virginia was such a nexus of fate? Last year it was my onetime boss’s spacewalk; today it was Tony Snow, one-time writer for the Virginian Pilot and editor of the editorial page of the Daily Press (my hometown newspaper in Newport News, Virginia), most recently Fox News commentator turned Bush administration press secretary.

And the Daily Press was, if I recall, a bastion of journalistic excellence in the early 1980s when Snow was the editorial page editor. But at least that was when it was an independent newspaper, before the Chicago Tribune buy-out.

The Great Record Rip: preparation

I haven’t finished The Project yet (latest stats: 12031 songs, 996 artists, 882 albums; 265.99 GB of lossless audio; 36 days, 13 hours, 22 minutes, and 17 seconds running time), but another audio project beckons: the Great Record Rip. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the recent owner of a Denon DP-45F turntable, and with an iMic I’ll have the capability to take audio from the record player and digitize it.

Except, like every other project, the devil is in the details. So while the Denon is at the shop getting tuned up after twelve years in a box, I’m trying to put the software pieces in place so that I’ll be ready to start ripping some audio (in addition to my never-released on CD David Byrne record, the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, and other oddments, the Lucadamos have let me at their stash of vinyl as well) when it comes back.

So what do I need to rip records? The following links suggest some help:

Oysters, anyone?

NYT: The Oyster Is His World. What is it about oysters that inspire great food writing? The article about tireless oyster promoter Jon Rowley (who happens to be the same guy who first shipped Copper River king salmon fresh rather than canned or frozen, so pay attention) is a great read.

Particularly interesting from my historical perspective: the description of Totten Inlet Virginicas, oysters native to the Chesapeake Bay where I grew up and which are now farmed in a bay off Puget Sound, as “the best oyster on the planet… uncommonly plump and sweet, with a memorably pronounced mineral finish.” Interestingly, Rowley credits micro-algæ for much of the character and flavor of the oysters, meaning that they might not taste so sublime coming from the Chesapeake. Still, I don’t know: oyster shells are the preferred paving material for driveways in the part of the world I grew up in, primarily because people insatiably ate so many of the things (at least prior to the James River kepone pollution problems and the Dermo and MSX epidemics) that they were about the cheapest building material around.

Googlin’ Europe (except Austria)

Greg Greene tipped me off to the new satellite coverage of Europe in Google Maps, which led to a minor productivity drain earlier today. See: Florence, Längenfeld and Sölden in Austria, the Tower of London, even a certain well-known mouse.

One caveat: you can’t search the map in Austria—or apparently in Romania. And searching in Switzerland is a little funny: Google finds Luzern (but not Lucerne) but Geneva and not Genève, and shows Genève on the map.

Oedipus Rex: PG-13 or R?

On the train back to Boston with my coworker yesterday, I was looking over the sheet music for our next TFC concert when my coworker asked about my next performance. I told him, “The first week in May we‘ll be doing Stravinsky’s Œdipus Rex.”

“Cool,” he said. “I’ll have to bring my daughter. She’s thirteen and taking voice lessons. She’d love it.”

Ah, I thought. But will she—or you—love the story? It’s such a nice story too—just in time for Mother’s Day.

The music, though, is absolutely astonishing. Stravinsky wrote some of the most amazingly inventive, sinuous melody lines for this work, which sports a libretto by Jean Cocteau. I think my personal favorite is the herky-jerky chromaticism of the passage where Œdipus batters down the door, kills his mother/wife, and puts out his own eyes. The music, if you’re not careful, sounds a little like a circus act. Last night in practice it sounded like the arrival of the Furies: after a couple of rehearsals John Oliver’s intensity kicked up a notch and he urged us deeper into the meaning of the music, and the results were unsettlingly good. I am looking forward to hearing the orchestration next week.

Of course, the question is, can I in conscience recommend the piece to my co-worker? I guess I’ll have to do what I would want him to do for me when I have a kid: send him the synopsis and a pointer to some of the music and let him make up his own mind.


I proved that it is possible to work five hours in New York City, six hours on a train, and still get back in time for a 7 pm rehearsal. You have to get up at 4 am to do it, though.

Another discovery: the parking lot at South Station, which is nearly deserted at 4:50 am.

Friday Random 10: Long day’s journey edition

Quick update today. We drove all afternoon down to Lisa’s parents, including one seven-mile stretch around Newark that took about an hour. So needless to say I’m a bit mad at mechanical objects, am seeing red, have no desire to push a shopping trolley, and spent a good part of the afternoon seeing primary colors, mostly a red mix.


  1. Beth Orton, “Shopping Trolley” (Comfort of Strangers)
  2. Woody Allen, “Mechanical Objects” (Woody Allen: Standup Comic)
  3. Sundays, “24 Hours” (Blind)
  4. Minus the Bear, “Fulfill the Dream” (Menos Il Oso)
  5. The Cure, “Primary (Red Mix)” (Close to Me [EP])
  6. Frank Sinatra, “Half as Lovely (Twice as True)” (The Capitol Singles)
  7. The Stills, “Allison Krausse” (Logic Will Break Your Heart)
  8. Blind Lemon Jefferson, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (Anthology of American Folk Music)
  9. The White Stripes, “Forever for Her (Is Over For Me)” (Get Behind Me Satan)
  10. Bob Dylan, “Walls of Red Wing” (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3)

(Mis)Use Case: Vista User Account Protection

Paul Thurrott: Where Vista Fails. A long list of major and minor feature and UI issues in the latest (February) community preview of Vista, the next version of Windows. Some of these issues seem minor, but one in particular, the User Account Protection model, caught my eye. It’s good to see that Windows will be moving toward a model of requiring separate point authentications to perform certain actions, but it sounds like they’ve overdone it with the actions that require re-authenticating, not to mention the warning dialogs:

Once Firefox is installed, there are two icons on my Desktop I’d like to remove: The Setup application itself and a shortcut to Firefox. So I select both icons and drag them to the Recycle Bin. Simple, right?

Wrong. Here’s what you have to go through to actually delete those files in Windows Vista. First, you get a File Access Denied dialog (Figure) explaining that you don’t, in fact, have permission to delete a … shortcut?? To an application you just installed??? Seriously?

OK, fine. You can click a Continue button to “complete this operation.” But that doesn’t complete anything. It just clears the desktop for the next dialog, which is a Windows Security window (Figure). Here, you need to give your permission to continue something opaquely called a “File Operation.” Click Allow, and you’re done. Hey, that’s not too bad, right? Just two dialogs to read, understand, and then respond correctly to. What’s the big deal?

What if you’re doing something a bit more complicated? Well, lucky you, the dialogs stack right up, one after the other, in a seemingly never-ending display of stupidity. Indeed, sometimes you’ll find yourself unable to do certain things for no good reason, and you click Allow buttons until you’re blue in the face.

Hopefully this gets adjusted in future builds. Otherwise I think a lot of people won’t get the benefit of the feature—they’ll disable it based on the annoyance factor.

I’d love to chat…

…but I’m currently drowning in comment spam. I don’t even want to think about what the trackback spam picture looks like right now, too…

I’m about this close (holds fingers together) to turning off trackback on this blog entirely. I can’t remember the last time I saw a meaningful trackback ping.

Like sand through the hourglass…

…go the Bush Administration veterans. Last week it was Andy Card, today it’s Scott McClellan. And buried by McClellan’s resignation, a note that Karl Rove is stepping away from his policy coordinator position to return to his core competency of oozing slime political strategy oversight for the upcoming 2006 elections.

I’d love to see what the internal death pool looks like at the White House. It’ll be interesting to see who else steps up to Josh Bolten’s call to get out of the pool.

Great coverage on this issue in Talking Points Memo, of course, including a note that Turd Blossom’s replacement as policy coordinator was involved in the 2000 Recount Riot in Florida, also known as the Brooks Brothers Riot. Also like the observation that if Tony Snow, Fox News radio host, takes over the White House press secretary job, it would be “more like an interdepartmental transfer than a job change.

A year ago today: reentering the workforce

One year ago today, I blogged about my new job with iET Solutions. It’s been a busy year, and we’ve done a lot: launched two brand new product lines; built a product management capability from the ground up; started hitting our release dates; even gotten ink in some fairly serious industry journals (check out this roundtable with our CEO).

I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last year too. My writing on the blog may have fallen off, but my professional skills and experience have grown immeasurably, and I appreciate all of you who have stayed along for the ride.

Ignorance of the Law is no excuse: Thermodynamics part 2

It’s apparently Perpetual Motion Day today on the web. Following up my rambling about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and business models that claim to “create value,” I spotted the following two articles. Can you see the common theme?

  • CNet: Getting gas from trash. “The two by-products of from digester would be methane, a liquid fertilizer, and solid compost. Eten envisions selling each of the products wholesale…. Eten said he was inspired by William McDonough, a designer who co-authored a book called Cradle to Cradle, which argues that a product lifecycle can be designed with little, or even beneficial, impact on the natural environment.”
  • BBC: Natural light “to reinvent bulbs.” “Previous attempts to make OLEDs like this have largely failed to make an impact because traditional phosphorescent blue dyes are very short lived. The new polymer uses a fluorescent blue material instead which lasts much longer and uses less energy. The researchers believe that eventually this material could be 100% efficient, meaning it could be capable of converting all of the electricity to light, without the heat loss associated with traditional bulbs.”

Yes, folks, trying to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a core part of your business plan is probably a bad idea. In the first case, it’s certainly laudable to try to do something about garbage production, but the question is: can selling methane, compost, and fertilizer produce enough money to offset transportation and holding costs? Probably if the raw material is free… but there’s no free ride in the world and I would expect waste management companies or the supermarkets providing the raw material to eat up any profit margins to be had from converting their wastes to usable products.

In the second case, the researchers have either been misquoted or neglected their thermodynamics education. Heat is always a byproduct of the translation from one form of energy to another, unless that translation does no useful work at all.

Bartering up: capitalism and the laws of thermodynamics

Great story today about a guy exploiting (in a positive way) the power of Craigslist, and conducting a series of barter exchanges that so far has started with a red paperclip and ended with a year’s free stay in a house in Phoenix.

Of course, any reader of This Old House Magazine knows that there are many old houses that are available for essentially free, provided you can move them or otherwise improve them. So theoretically Kyle MacDonald should have had his house a long time ago. But this is the rub about Craigslist: it’s not a perfect market, because not every buyer or seller is plugged into it.

The larger economic point that is missed by the article, and by the premise of MacDonald’s experiment, is that there is no way to overcome economic friction. Part of what MacDonald is doing in his “trades up” is exploiting private valuations of goods that are lower than his own private valuation, and thus apparently creating value in the trade. But this overlooks the value of MacDonald’s time and the opportunity cost that he incurs by spending time on this project. The other factor is the value contributed to the project by people like Annie Robbins who acts economically irrationally because she admires the anticonsumerist principle of the exchange, and by the snowmobile company that donates goods and travel in exchange for marketing publicity. In fact, that particular trade may well have destroyed traditional value somewhere along the way.

So here’s the larger economic question: are market exchanges in particular, and the market in general, subject to the laws of thermodynamics? Is it possible to have a trade that “creates value”? Or is what happens merely a shifting of value from one party to a different party with some inevitable loss of friction?

A lot of modern negotiation theory is based on the principle of the “win-win” where both parties at a table derive benefit from a trade. The question is: who loses? Does every win-win have an external party somewhere who is not represented at the table who is disadvantaged by the trade in some way?

These aren’t theoretical questions. A lot of the politics that surrounds business is based on the conflict between people who believe in win-win (or at least tout its value) and people who argue on behalf of the damaged external party. Think industry vs. environmentalists.

Friday Random 10: The Great and Not-So-Great edition

This week’s list has a repeat, the CYHSY track (which is included according to the rules of the meme), but the rest is the usual pleasant all-over-the-map assortment. Well, mostly pleasant: once the novelty of hearing Alex Chilton’s once-great Box Tops cover Blondie’s “Call Me” wears off, you’re left with a halfhearted cover that neither illuminates the original nor says anything good about the talents of the cover artist.

Fortunately the Dock Boggs and Blind Lemon Jefferson tracks kind of balance out that track. Happy Friday, y’all.

  1. Maria Callas, “O madre mia, nell’isola fatale” (La Giaconda)
  2. Spacek, “Eve” (Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Soundtrack)
  3. Sufjan Stevens, “The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts” (Illinoise)
  4. Daniel Lanois, “Rockets” (Rockets)
  5. The Box Tops, “Call Me” (When Pigs Fly)
  6. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Is This Love?” (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)
  7. Dock Boggs, “Harvey Logan” (Dock Boggs: His Folkways Years)
  8. Blind Lemon Jefferson, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (Anthology of American Folk Music)
  9. Radiohead, “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (OK Computer)
  10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “The Curse of Millhaven” (Murder Ballads)