December 31, 2008

Where was I?

Abbreviated end o' year edition.

Early X-mas eve at Gayle's then dinner with Lisa and the mother-in-law at Atmosphere. Overall good, but I think we got the second-string servers (a misorder and a missed drink). Doesn't really matter though. Place was full when we got there at 8. We stayed through the evening's torrential rains and then headed home. X-mas day was at my brother's. The nieces had fun with their Wii, and the meal of lamb and greens was delicious. Next day, let's see... Slumdog Millionaire at Tara [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] then late lunch at The Porter in L5P. Great selection of foreign beers! Afterwards Mason came by and handed out "gifts" (I got a stack of the last couple of months of The New Yorker!).

Will eventually be adding to my fractured list of previous New Year's celebrations with this evening's sally to Palate and Feast. Taxis for all!!

posted by sstrader at 3:54 PM in Where was I? | permalink | comments (0)

December 28, 2008

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century; Alex Ross

~150 pages in. So far a very approachable review of 20th century music. Predominantly on the "classical" side, but with many stories on how different styles and different classifications have interbred. I think I recommend it to anyone interested, but I also have noticed that many of the refs in the book have been refiring my music history class synapses. YMMV. He's got streaming excerpts on his web page, but while reading I seldom stop to take advantage. Accessible knowledge is sometimes an inconvenient interruption.

Continue reading "The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century; Alex Ross"
posted by sstrader at 3:05 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | permalink | comments (0)

December 24, 2008

Happy x.mas!

[ via Studio 360 ]

posted by sstrader at 9:47 AM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

December 23, 2008

Moved

One of the big bosses had what-I-assume-was his 6+ foot tall, adult, developmentally disabled son in the office as I arrived this morning. There's something about the smile of an innocent adult that disarms you. I felt the strongest urge to talk to him and (with honestly no condescending disrespect) to help him out. The faces of the rest of us at work, even when smiling, hide a certain strain, and most of the time don't even hide it. The faces of children often include a bemused uncertainty; I seldom see innocence but instead, simply, pre-adultdom. This person had an unaffected smile with the unfocused, tired eyes of casual vulnerability. Anyway, he looked pretty happy that it was Christmas and that he got to hang out in the office.

posted by sstrader at 8:03 PM in Personal | permalink | comments (0)

The enhanced classes

Listened to Toby Miller, author of Makeover Nation: The United States of Reinvention on Media Matters (stream available). He discusses, among other subjects, the role of direct-to-consumer marketing of drugs and their use to alter personalities as one of the methods that America has, dubiously, excelled at using to reinventing itself. Similar discussions are echoed in Fukuyama's book Our Posthuman Future (see also my reference in in July 2005). Miller worries that people are presented with too much power with the direct marketing. He argues that just as the unskilled should not have the power to build bridges or airplanes, they should not be presented with the power to choose their medications. Not the perfect comparison but it gets to the point. Similarly, Fukuyama warns that as we have more freedom to alter our personality (he complements this with a discussion on our power to alter our physical self), we take away apparent deficits that are actually benefits. One of the driving forces behind human accomplishments is those "negative" feelings of fear, unhappiness, inadequacy. Take those away and we have less drive to conquer the objects of our distress.

Maybe we're still in a nascent age of mood-altering drugs. In the same way that there is an older generation who cannot adapt to using cell phones, text messages, and mobile internet--a technical alteration that gives us a connective and communicative power--there will be a generation that can't adopt the use of mood alterations that may give us concentrative and expressive power. Such drugs certainly don't exist today, but their potential to exist in the next 20 to 30 years is feasible. Once this is accessible and non-addictive, won't adoption of its use be as common as adoption of current technology? Once common to some, the gulf in ability between those enhanced and not could be similar to that of those born with rare physical prowess and those not. We could see an enhanced class of people who would be working on a much higher plane of consciousness with the rest of the population--most likely poor--fumbling around unfocused.

posted by sstrader at 10:05 AM in Culture & Society | tagged fukuyama | permalink | comments (0)

December 21, 2008

Two more EOY difficulties

Last Tuesday, I got an urgent call from the front desk at our condos: water was dripping from our condo to the one directly below. I rushed home preparing myself for the worst but found no evidence of damage in our place. Went downstairs and talked to the owner. He said for the past couple of months he'd see minor drips coming down from around where our dishwash/sink is. No damage in his place either, so pretty harmless. I dug around the dishwasher and under our sink but could find nothing. Lisa stayed home on Friday and the plumbers discovered that the garbage disposal was leaking behind the sink and then draining through the floor. A little expensive, but we escaped what could have been Bad News.

While Lisa was dealing with the plumbers, I drove up to Lawrenceville to pay a ticket for an expired tag. I completely bonked a few months back and forgot to renew. I got pulled over on the way to work but the officer was nice and said he'd just give me a warning instead of a ticket. Well, I thought he was being nice until I received a letter saying that I missed my court date and now owed $140. ?!? After a couple of calls, I found out I just needed to show my tag receipt and pay $29. Weird, but not really Bad News either.

Saturday, however, did end somewhat disasterously.

At around 2 AM, returning from a friend's party in Cobb, I got pulled over and ended up being thrown in the klink with a DUI. Lisa was no better and so had to wait for Mason to pick her up and drive her home. Fun! The officers at the jail were, to put it charitably, uninformative when I asked them what I needed to do to get out. Their reply, and, again, I am truly not making this up, was: what do you need to do? don't you watch TV?! I was non-plussed. One of my cell-mates, a young black kid named Antoine, was better informed and (apparently) more experienced with the process. Either way, the evening ended around 6 AM and the bed at home never felt so good. Sorry, no photos of me with prison tats. Impounded car was retrieved around noon (the Beetle has now done hard time). Bonding agent Faith (lover of the Lifetime Television Movie channel) was much more amenable than the officers. Court date's end of January and I'm required to make several scheduled calls to Faith until then. Makin' sure I don't skip out on me bond! For my first call, I'm going to grill her and make sure she hasn't left the state. Wacky!

And this happened just as Lisa and I were starting to use cabs more. Oh well.

posted by sstrader at 10:08 PM in Personal | permalink | comments (0)

December 19, 2008

Video and a mistake

I love being wrong. Scratch that: I love being wrong when being wrong is better than being right. Earlier this month, I had blamed a media converter that I had downloaded on infecting my laptop with a trojan. Blargh. I finally tested (no, I didn't have an OS image and I should have) and it installed and ran fine without issue. Not sure now who the culprit was, because I really hadn't done much else that could have infected me (that'swhattheyallsay).

Whilst researching, I found a good review of the software over at Gear Diary. I ended up purchasing the professional version with their "holiday discount" (hmm). I'm sure the 60-buck is just an idiot's fee, but after wrestling a little with free converters, I'll accept that moniker although I definitely wouldn't have gotten it for the msrp of 90-buck. The other option is to use multiple apps and much trial-and-error with configuration settings. Considering how slow video ripping is, the idiot's fee is more acceptable than the trial-and-error fee.

posted by sstrader at 8:05 AM in Home Network & Gadgets | permalink | comments (0)

December 17, 2008

Where was I?

Saturday the 6th we had our 2nd annual Christmas dinner in town with friends at Floataway cafe. We had a nice room with a big table for us and another table with a group that was--and I'm not making this up--much louder than us. Lawyers, I think. We hadn't been to Floataway for many years and it's only gotten better. Much warmer atmosphere than I remember. Guys:

3 guys 3 guys laughing

Girls:

3 girls

The room we ate in had an awesome, minimalist photo of a cloud:

cloud + me

After was drinks at Beleza. Here're our Floataway waitress and Beleza waitress (with a broken finger!):

floataway waitress beleza waitress

This past weekend was the 5th (?) annual Christmas party in Asheville that Natalie and Frank throw (only record is of the 2005 party when my car's battery died just as we were about to leave on Sunday). Drove up with Mary Miller; met everyone for a nice Friday night dinner at another b&b; then hiking Saturday morning(-ish) at the wonderful DuPont State Forest. Many nice trails, and you can get right up to the base of several waterfalls.

falls 1 falls 2

Lisa & I:

lisa & i

Party Saturday night and financial advice from Frank (now daytrading) Sunday before the drive back and then farewell dinner with Mary at Cypress Street (per usual).

Yesterday was Jack's funeral:

casket family
posted by sstrader at 6:47 PM in Where was I? | tagged annual holiday dinner with friends | permalink | comments (0)

December 12, 2008

My brother's father-in-law

Just got news that my brother's father-in-law, Jack Derham, probably won't recover from yesterday's surgery. At 75 he still gets programming contracts, and is always up on technology--sometimes with the very get-off-my-lawn-you-kids attitude of "we did the same thing 40 years ago..." Last I spoke with him was at my brother's for Thanksgiving. He thought the Macy's parade Rickroll was funny (the rest of my family was somewhat bemused by what it meant), and we talked about the culling of social networking platforms. I think he had some difficulty getting work recently (who hasn't) and maybe had some non-ideal experiences working at that age and with his health, but maybe it was OK. I'll miss him.

There is no understanding such an uncomfortable and sad collection of Jack, my dad, and Lisa's dad passing away. I want to say f-you to fate or whatever, but that doesn't even feel correct or true. I hope Betty and the nieces hold up OK.

Gone. A little after 2. The certainty was helpful for me; hope it's the same for others.

[ updated 15 Dec 2008 ]

Obituary from the AJC:

DERHAM, John John (Jack) Spellman Derham died of surgery complications at 2:11 PM on Friday, December 12, 2008 at St. Joseph's Hospital. Jack was born in Worcester, MA and lived for 18 years in Uxbridge, MA. He went to the public schools of Uxbridge until completion of his freshman year in high school at which time he attended St. John's Prep. He graduated in June, 1950, just a few days prior to the beginning of the Korean Conflict. He then attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C. After graduation Jack served 4 years, 3 months and 11 days in the United States Marine Corps. During his service he became involved with electronics which set the tone for his future career. His first job following his discharge from the USMC was with the Philco Corp where he began his studies in computer science. He would continue in this profession working for a number of different companies before establishing his own company, Direct Systems, Inc. He was a computer software consultant until his death. Jack leaves his wife, Betty Landrum Derham, of Marietta, Georgia; daughter, Lisa Strader and her husband, Bob, of Alpharetta, GA; daughter, Julie Jbara and her husband, Greg, of Los Angeles, CA; four wonderful grand-children, Caroline, Sarah, Zachary and Aidan; his sister, Rosalie Gittler of New York City, NY; and nieces and nephews. The family will receive visitors at H.M. Patterson and Son, Canton Hill, 1157 Old Canton Rd, Marietta, GA 30068 from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM on Monday, December 15. Funeral services will be held at Mt. Zion UMC, 1770 Johnson Ferry Rd, Marietta, GA 30062 on Tuesday, December 16 at 11:00 AM followed by a military burial at Cheatham Hill Memorial Gardens. Everyone is invited to a reception following the burial services which will be held in the Family Ministry Center at Mt. Zion UMC at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers please make a memorial donations to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in memory Jack. JOHN (JACK) SPELLMAN DERHAM

Visitation will be from 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM Monday 15 December:

H.M. Patterson & Son Funeral Home
1157 Old Canton Road, NE
Marietta, GA 30068
770-977-9485

Services at 11:00 AM on Tuesday:

Mt. Zion United Methodist Church
1770 Johnson Ferry Road
Marietta, GA 30062
770-971-1465

Military burial following:

Cheatham Hill Memorial
1861 Dallas Hwy., SW
Marietta, GA 30064-1945
770-424-1111

posted by sstrader at 12:15 PM in Personal | permalink | comments (2)

December 10, 2008

Think of the children

I've heard a rash of rehashing of the ole complaint that kids are too coddled these days. Happens every generation, usually from multiple directions: the poor are lazy, the rich are lazy, the (working) middle class are the only people who grow up earning their place in society yet they're being feminized by non-metal toys and too many Little League awards. I've always thought that this bias came out of the Protestant work ethic (you can only appreciate what you have by suffering to get it), but who knows. Ultimately, it should get filed under "walking six miles to school in the snow" and "get out of my yard, you kids." That is: an absurd romanticization that no one should really take seriously.

Oddly, many of those who bemoan the de-ruggedization of the American youth are the same who (1) put their children in safer, private schools, and (2) fear the harsh affect of violence from television. (Others of note are conservative talk-radio drug addicts Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, but no one really takes them seriously, do they?). So much for the value of a "tough" (your definition or mine?) environment. If we remember the absurdity of the acted violence in 40s-60s noir films (thugs used to slap each other?!) and the nonsense puritanism of television sex/hygiene even through the 70s (can't show bellybuttons, can't say the word pregnant, can't broadcast the sound of a toilet flushing), we have to ask if there could be any "commonsense" point where a line should be drawn.

Although this is a cry to action common to many generations, when has a perceived cautiousness in our society ever resulted in anything more than anecdotal oddities?

posted by sstrader at 9:59 AM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

December 6, 2008

BlackBerry Storm (4/5), not deserving all the hate that it's getting

Got mine the Friday after Thanksgiving and have been slowly assimilating it. Transition from my nearly 3-year-old Treo 700w. Requirements were: good camera, sync, and fast internet. Competitors were iPhone, G1, and a handful of Verizon smart phones. Not wanting to switch carriers, I went with the Storm.

Overall, I like it and wouldn't chose another. Looks great, both hardware and software, I can use Opera (my browser-of-choice for years), great 3.2 megapixel camera, I can access my Mindspring email, GPS and navigation, and Bluetooth earpiece. Several of these features are de rigeur for cell phones, but coming from the Treo I get to enjoy them for the first time with the Storm. I love the clicking keypresses! Press your finger over a button and it glows-but-doesn't-click; this gives you some feedback before clicking. And the screen scrolling is iPhone-ish. Any quirks are acceptable for a v.1 (what the Treo was when I got it). To quote a Digg comment in response to a (biased) Wired blog entry: iPhone got a lot a hate when it came out too. Storm's getting a backlash it doesn't deserve.

That being said, here are the issues I've found along with their solution (I think in order of me encountering them):

  • Can't hear callers but they can hear me - Remove battery. Experienced this only once and found the solution pretty easily on some website.
  • How to get documents onto the phone:
    1. Open Desktop Manager
    2. Click Backup an d Restore
    3. Click Advanced
    4. "Do you want to switch to Mass Storage Mode?" - Yes
    5. The BlackBerry will disappear from My Computer and a drive will be mapped. Copy!

    [ updated 5 Jan 2009 ]

    Alternately, try Options > Memory > Enable "Auto Enable Mass Storage Media When Connected".

    [ updated 14 Dec 2009 ]

    A recent update must have borked this again so that the Media Card gets a drive mapping but Device Memory does not. The resolution is to either configure the BlackBerry to show hidden files, or install a patch from blackberry.com [ patch found at "The BlackBerry smartphone is not detected as a USB Mass Storage Device when connected to a computer" (blackberry.com) via the discussion thread "Flash but no device memory Mass Storage Mode - 5.0.0.328" (crackberry.com) ]. I did both, and so am not sure which fixed the issue (but I suspect it was the former).

    To show hidden files: on the Storm go to Applications > Files > File Folders. Click the BlackBerry button and select Show Hidden in the menu. Now when you connect you should be able to see folders in Device Memory.

  • Try to open document and get error "Permission to your files was denied. Please configure your application permissions appropriately." - Using Mass Storage Mode (probably from the steps above). Change to normal mode by disconnecting from the computer.
  • [ updated 9 Jan 2009 ]

    Started getting the SIM Card Rejected error. here's an explanation and solution.

Here are some quirks or issues I haven't yet resolved:

  • Before putting it in my pocket, I have to go to the home screen and click the "lock" button. There's no hardware lock button.
  • Browser links click when touching the screen, not when clicking the screen.
  • Keyboard (sometimes) has a bug when typing in portrait mode. Key presses do not bring up the multi-key menu (ABC, DEF, ...) or allow you to cycle through available letters. Not sure how this happens or with what specific screens it succeeds/fails, but it makes the 3x4 keyboard useless in such a situation. Worst problem I've encountered. [ updated 10 Dec 2008 ] I just didn't understand the "predictive" typing that they were using. I was mistakenly trying to type multiple times to cycle through keys. Instead, just click the keys and the word options narrow to the most likely word(s). 95+% affective.

    [ updated 13 Jan 2009 ]

    The portrait alphanumeric keyboard usually works like the predictive, SureType keyboard: click each key once for a matching letter and the Blackberry will find the possible combinations of letters that make a word. E.g. DEF+TUV+MNO=fun,duo. Unfortunately and for no apparent reason, this feature disappears and I'm stuck with the multi-click alphanumeric keyboard. E.g. DEF,DEF,DEF+TUV,TUV+MNO,MNO=fun. Not.

    Luckily, Filmgirl, my god now, has found the solution. Go to Options > Language > Input Options > Predictive Input (check box) and uncheck, save, and recheck. Voila.

  • Using voice dialing: I had two cards with the same name (one my dad, one my brother). Voice dialing brings up multiple home, work, and cell numbers, so I decide to delete the phone numbers from my dad's card (no offense!). After I did that, neither name came up for voice dialing. After several experiments, I had to add a number back to my dad's card (555-1212) to get both names' numbers to come up with voice dialing. A complete WTF situation, but the only problem I'd had with that feature.
  • Contact birthdays and anniversaries don't show up in the calendar.
  • [ updated 10 Dec 2008 ] Checkboxes in the Opera browser are unclickably small. I'm comfortable with links and buttons now, but it is basically impossible to check the checkboxes. Blargh.

Syncing is an interesting issue; here's the situation: I have contacts in Outlook on my desktop, but I link the Storm to my laptop. Here was the solution:

contact.conversion

Gotta use MAPI just to get contacts out of Outlook (fu), then Thunderbird can get it into a more standard LDAP format, and Outlook Express can import that (along with a few oddball MS formats, but oddly can't import Outlook's pst files?!?). I'd say 95% of the data got converted correctly. I'm trying to look forward to how my contact data will exist in a non-Windows world, and LDIF may be the key. Sadly Outlook Express doesn't export LDIF and the BlackBerry won't connect to Thunderbird, so this is a TBD. There're a host of BlackBerry users and web pages bemoaning this, so I don't expect it to be fixed anytime.

My complaints are more detailed than my praises, but that's how it goes (successful features are all alike; every unsuccessful feature is unsuccessful in its own way...). A week+ of use and I stand by my 4/5. We'll see in a month...

posted by sstrader at 6:12 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Phones | permalink | comments (0)

Nerdcore Rising (4/5)

Saw it at the Plaza last night after Lisa spotted it yesterday afternoon [ website | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I've been waiting for this to come out! Learned about nerdcore in August 2005 and we saw MC Frontalot at Drunken Unicorn back in May 2006.

Most insightful scenes were in New Orleans. First, they watch two black blues musicians on the street during one of the many periods of tour downtime. Interspersed are interviews and voice-overs with Frontalot and the band plus others (nerdcore musicians, Weird Al, Prince Paul, Jello Biafra...) discussing the history of white appropriation of black music. Well done. The second scene was after their New Orleans show. They played the alwaysfunny "I Heart Fags". Choice line:

I heart fags 'cause I am a San Franciscan,
If you're dissin' on my homos then a censure's what you're riskin'...

After the show, several young gays, male and female, came up to hug Frontalot. Their warmth and appreciation was wonderful and Fontalot commented later how outsiders are outsiders no matter the reason.

Many angry geeks were interviewed--insisting that "they" control the world and "jocks" better watch out--but there were genuinely honest and funny moments too. Lots of geek ts, best was a chick's that said "+1 Shirt of Smiting". The movie had a good range of commenters, it was awesome that the director got Prince Paul. There was much to enjoy, and many moments of just honesty and uncertainty. Purchase imminent.

posted by sstrader at 11:17 AM in Cinema , Music | tagged new orleans | permalink | comments (0)

December 4, 2008

Twitter + APIs > Pownce

This caught my eye(s) a few days ago. "Pownce Deadpooled, Team Moves To Six Apart" [ via Digg ]. Once you get past the snarky comments, you get to some of the basic analysis of whyitwentwrong: lackluster features, bad marketing, bad luck/no critical mass. When it was released, I felt a great sense of meh, and I still think it only got any attention because of the geekstar power of Kevin Rose. Just look at the Online social networking category at Wikipedia for a sampling of the field of battle. Of the 400+ listed (plus many subcategories that may-or-may-not contain relevant sites with equivalent features), and if we guess that half are fighting it out for this space, you'd think star power would be a prerequisite for survival. Not so.

I had originally hated on Pownce as a rehash of what everyone already used. My complaint may sound prescient ([it's] another hipster fad technology that will find a niche geek community and nothing else), but that could pretty much define every social networking site out there. I recently signed up for Facebook and find it lacking as a member for the same reason that I found it lacking as a non-member: there's no link in this sentence. A year or so ago, I signed up for Twitter. See? I understand people have different comfort levels w/r/t online privacy, so maybe open v. closed is the pivot point in the 20 Questions game that decides where people plant their social networking flag.

For me, a blog + Twitter does the job (for now). On Thanksgiving, it was nice getting a barrage of tweets from friends' Thanksgivings. Even the simplest message made you feel a little more connected to others not there. And getting ideas out (such as this) is primarily for my own benefit but made available to any others who care. Sometimes useful (music and tech), sometimes connective like a Twitter Thanksgiving. Right now, Facebook doesn't offer anything to me beyond forcing my manias onto a larger audience.

Facebook and MySpace are at their core--and to simply quote the definition of social networking--mechanisms for friends to connect asynchronously (for non-US, see Orkut, et al.). These sites have garnered the critical mass to assure newbies that (1) they'll have a guaranteed group of IRL friends as soon as they connect, (2) they'll get an adrenaline rush of finding long-lost friends-and-relatives, and (3) they'll be able to glom on 2nd-order FOAFs for fun gossip. Instant audience! Critical mass is a powerful thing and for those not otherwise connected the simplicity of joining these sites is compelling. With their wealth of features, Facebook and MySpace v. blogging are the opposite of the Pownce v. Twitter story. Pownce is (was) more orderly and featureful, whereas Twitter is barebones and just a little bit chaotic with extra stuff APIed on. A July 2007 article from Mashable.com bet on Twitter over several competitors, including a month-old Pownce, but felt that if Pownce added a rich API that it'd be a close race. Huh.

(Addendum: "Why Twitter Turned Down Facebook". Facebook tries to acquire Twitter and gets turned down. A Twitter co-founder is surprised by their popularity despite a lack of features (though Pownce is not mentioned)).

posted by sstrader at 1:20 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)