March 31, 2010

8-bit DSotM

In honor of my new PS2, here's a recently posted arrangement of Dark Side of the Moon for NES:

posted by sstrader at 8:23 AM in Music | permalink

March 29, 2010

Joining the ranks of gamers

After years of outsider curiosity, I've finally purchased a game console to try out the world of video games. I'd played in HS, but never cared enough to take time out and commit to gaming after that. Another flaw in my geek genes.

After lengthy advisory session from Ryan at work, I ordered a PS2 with an 8 GB memory card and a second controller. He has a PS3, but based on price, console quality, and game selection suggested that a PS2 would be suitable. First games are Prince of Persia (only available on PS2 and another reason for that choice), Xenosaga 1 (I'd watched the animated series streaming on Netflix, so thought it'd be interesting), and a three-pack of Resident Evil games (the movies being a guilty pleasure). I really wanted to try out Mirror's Edge--the HD trailer looks awesome--but that requires a PS3. I also briefly considered just getting PC games, but I wanted it to be more seamlessly TV-centered and using a laptop+keyboard was less compelling to me.

All items are currently floating through shipping space right now. Excitement.

posted by sstrader at 1:06 PM in Home Network & Gadgets | permalink

March 25, 2010

Hate and American politics

On his prompting, Mason and I were wandering the internet looking for examples of radical liberal violence that match the recent radical conservative violence. Working from those vague definitions, I found an unintentionally hilarious LEO (law enforcement officials, I learned) thread from a year ago and posted it for discussion on Reddit. The sheer WTF of some of the comments make it the must-read thread of the week. To wit: In any internet discussion in which I have participated, the people that threaten and bully other posters are always liberal. Seems they forget that it's the conservatives that are armed. And: I think they are more fueled by self hate. Since they are "obviously" superior to everyone else, and since they hate themselves, then they have to hate everyone else too. It was a circle-jerk of less-than-intelligent posters, but this is the internet and that stuff's cheap and plentiful. Entertaining, yet irrelevant to our search!

Randomly and coincidentally, public radio had two stories today covering that very subject. First up, Are Smashed Windows Signs Of Cultural Divide? from Talk of the Nation. A well-balanced panel of presidential historian Robert Dallek, Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, and Tufts University prof. Peniel Joseph. Worth it for the range of ideas tossed about in the discussion.

Later, When Right-Wing Extremism Moves Mainstream from Fresh Air interviews Mark Potok, who did a study called Rage and the Right, comparing recent activist groups today to previous eras. Overall a good interview (Potok points out, notably, that groups like the tea party movement are not homogeneous). In the study, he found an increase in anti-immigrant groups. Terry Gross outlined the recent incidences:

  • Death threats against congressmen
  • Spitting on congressmen and throwing around "faggot" and "nigger"
  • Faxing images of a noose to a black congressman
  • Posting the (wrong) address of a congressman, resulting in his brother's gas line being cut
  • Throwing rocks through windows and threatening that "snipers" are following

Are these events out of the ordinary (or even that violent)? And are they matched by acts from the radical left? No high-profile liberal outlets match the conservative ones (think Glenn and Rush) in calling for violent uprising, thus legitimizing what would otherwise be only fringe violence. Notable American terrorists of our generation are generally right-leaning. You have to go back to the 60s and 70s to find the violent leftist groups (SDS and Black Panthers), but even then they're matched with violent anti-segragationists (KKK and John Birch). In fact, going back to Bush II's presidency, liberals who spoke even rationally against the president or the war were subjected to threats of violence (think Dixie Chicks and Bill Maher). I came to this subject looking for balancing examples, but they're hard to find.

This is a difficult metric.

posted by sstrader at 6:18 PM in Politics | permalink

Updating multiple domains with DDNS using a Linksys router and DynDNS

[ updated 28 Sep 2010 ]

Had to update to a newer Linksys router (E1000) and discovered that you cannot configure it with multiple, comma-delimited DDNS domains. After firmware updates etc., I found this article confirming that the E1000 and E2000 don't allow it but the E3000 (+$$$s) does. The validation is done on the page in JavaScript here:

function check_hostname(F)
	var obj = F.ddns_hostname.value ; 
	var returnvalue =  check_domain(obj) ; 
	if ( !returnvalue ) 
		alert("Illegal value");
	return returnvalue ; 	

To get around the validation, go into your favorite script debugger (Opera's Dragonfly for me, otherwise Firefox's Firebug), break on the conditional, and when the page is saved and the breakpoint activates, change returnvalue from false to true using the Command Line pane. Of course, you have to repeat the process anytime you change the form, but needless validation avoided!

You can use a Linksys WRT54G router to update the IP address for multiple domain names managed by DynDNS's service. This is useful if your home ISP account uses a dynamic IP and you are hosting multiple domains or simply multiple sub-domains.

On the Linksys router admin page, go to Setup > DDNS. In the host name field, you can add multiple hosts separated by commas. I haven't found this documented anywhere, but it seems to work for me.

posted by sstrader at 8:20 AM in Home Network & Gadgets | permalink

March 23, 2010

Where was I?

March 3rd went to see the documentary on gig posters called Died Young, Stayed Pretty at The Plaza. Spoke with the director and purchased a copy afterwards. The characters were entertaining and good editing, but the subject wasn't fully examined (what are the copyright concerns? what is the history? are there regional differences?). Still, entertaining.



Shakespeare Tavern on the 10th to see a dramatic reading the Two Gentlemen of Lebowski. They did a more active read-through than expected with some bounding about the stage and frequent White Russian refills for The Dude. It worked perfectly as both Shakespeare and Coens. We, and most of the crowd, were in tears throughout.

Show's about to start on Twitpic tickets.shakespeare.2010-03-10

ASO on the 12th with the Liszt 2nd Piano Concerto and Petruchka (plus a Beethoven overture). This was a nice complement to January's Rite of Spring and last November's season opener with Garrick Ohlsson performing Rachmaninov 3rd. The piano in Petrushka seemed too muted (says the pianist). Otherwise nice.


Friday the 19th was hanging out at the Cheetah where Lisa got a signed pic two years before. Only excitement this year was dropping my phone on the way home and having to replace the battery. :-/

posted by sstrader at 11:25 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | permalink


There's much to ignore in this post-health care bill climate--possibly more noise now than when the bill was being debated. There are the expected accusations that supporters were fooled into a flawed compromise, yet shouldn't all legislation that seeks to satisfy 300+ million citizens contain some compromise? Few were so dreamy-eyed as to think utopia would or could be achieved (especially considering the stonewalling that Republicans tantrumed at us up to and including complete contrariness in the final vote). And the mincing over abortion was absurdist theater. The primary goal of this health care reform was to insure the uninsurable and to lighten the load for those nearly uninsurable and the religious tried to stop that. It would have been nice to have the Canadian system (man, they lord that over us, justifiably) so that everyone would pay less. But looking again at those zero Republican votes, we should consider this the best compromise we could hope for.

It bears repeating how the misguided and superstitious wanted to continue to allow those poorest of us to die by blocking the bill, and hoped to do it based on the merest fraction of how the bill would actually work. If you want to view moral cowardice, watch those same people cheer their tax dollars as they are used to kill foreign civilians. There's no more clear example of how religion holds back social progress. They are base opportunists. A writer in The Independent back in August 2009 pointed out that there are some areas in which a conservative philosophy could be a useful corrective. But that's not what these so-called "conservatives" are providing: instead, they are pumping up a hysterical fantasy that serves as a thin skin covering some raw economic interests and base prejudices. It hasn't changed a bit since then.

Summaries of note:

posted by sstrader at 12:49 AM in Politics | permalink

March 20, 2010

Hobby Frames and framing album covers

After going to the Run For Cover exhibit of album covers, I decided to frame some of my own. After searching in various locales online, I settled on a place called Hobby Frames. Their web page has a certain Geocities charm that makes you expect to see a tilde in the URL, so try not to judge them. To test the waters, I ordered a gatefold frame ($41 total = $29 + $12 shipping!) with the intent of christening my gallery with Tales from Topographic Oceans. Sadly, I have been so far unable to find that (I think my mom still has a box of albums that were hidden in storage, if not, prepare for a meltdown) so I started with Nursery Cryme:


Smell that 1971 vinyl fabulousness! The frame is wood with a sturdy, scratch/stain resistant matte black enamel and it comes with an acid-free foam board plus glass. Minor lip on the frame so little of the album cover is lost. Everything's held in with bendy metal tabs. A+++++++++.

posted by sstrader at 5:40 PM in Art | tagged genesis, yes | permalink

March 19, 2010

Distortion in music

So I went for my first jog in like six months last night (pain. my legs were burning and rubbery at the same time.) and my route takes me by a bar called The Tap. It was a beautiful night, so the patio was hopping and they piped music outside on tinny, little speakers. Now, the sound is bad enough on those things, but add a crowd of chatty people plus my moving position and the music was almost unrecognizable as music. Interestingly--as would be expected at your average middle class bar--the music was top 40 pop and was very recognizable despite the distortion. Your brain filters out the non-essential stuff. I forced myself to listen to the sound without filtering and it reminded me very much of how Sparklehorse added distortion to some of his songs. It made me consider that the original intent was to create a musique concrete sound environment where the artist attempts to forced the listener to become aware of the non-musical distortions that are normally elided (as with last night).

Early Frank Zappa--and many, many others--would use similar techniques. This is not, however, what Pink Floyd was trying to accomplish and could be considered the opposite. Their sound environment was more theatrical and intended to pull you into the conceit rather than make the superstructure visible.

posted by sstrader at 4:41 PM in Music | permalink

Words, art

[ updated 6 May 2014 ]

Was alerted to a new (ish?) art site called Artsy. They link to contemporary galleries and museums, including ones representing Barbara Kruger, and provide a clean presentation of art+bio. Neat. Did a successful test search for Liu Bolin, inspired by my obsession with a couple of his photos I'd seen a few years ago at Klein Gallery in NYC.

Two American women concept artists are on Twitter (although, I have doubts that it's them). Both are a natural fit for short text. Barbara Kruger has one account, infrequently updated. Jenny Holzer has four (that I could find). One that's straight up jennyholzer, three with cheeky variations: alsojennyholzer, fakejennyholzer (bio: Abuse of social media comes as no surprise.), and notjennyholzer. All use the same-ish style: short, wisdom-lite comments written in a cruise control font. JH has the most frequent updates and thus (by far) the most followers.

posted by sstrader at 10:10 AM in Art | permalink

March 18, 2010

Fiction and life

I have a deep mistrust of people who don't read fiction, but I usually can't justify that mistrust. It feels a little smug. I usually extend that to those who only watch movies for cheap entertainment, finding more moody cinema to be inscrutable. This morning on NPR, a british writer (Sebastian Faulks) expressed the justification quite well when reading in the voice of a Mary Sue character--a lover of fiction--from his recent novel (A Week in December):

But surely [fiction] is just the opposite [of escapism], said Gabriel. Books explain the real world. They bring you close to it in a way that you could never imagine in the course of the day. People never explain to you exactly what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? They don't have time or the right words. But thats what books do. It's as though your daily life is a film in the cinema. It can be fun looking at those pictures. ... But if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen, you have to read a book. That explains it all.

The omniscient narrator or overly personal narrator found in books give us insight into others' worlds and our own.

Pump Six, from a book of short stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, describes a similar moment of "what is the value of art". In an Idiocracy future, Americans spend time working at jobs they can barely understand as society literally crumbles around them; they have become too intellectually deficient to understand how to maintain the civil engineering infrastructure. In their off time, they screw and take drugs. You could argue that life's value comes from our enjoyment of our leisure time, but taken to this extreme all insight has been lost. This is the life of those who abandon books.

It may sound a smug conceit, but rather than a prediction it's a warning.

posted by sstrader at 8:18 PM in Language & Literature | permalink

Android, iPhone, criticism

Tim Bray's left Sunoracle for Google; working on the Android. In his announcement of the switch he denounced the walled garden that is the iPhone. He re-visits the thoughts I had concerning the iPhone, more sharply: It's a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord's pleasure and fear his anger. ... I hate it. Non-Android-bashing is his job now, so take that for what it's worth. RWW reported that the Droid (unlike the Nexus One) basically matched the iPhone's sales when you compare the first 2-1/2 months of each. An unlike comparison, but all we have to judge is imperfect metaphors at this point.

In the Slashdot discussion of the Tim Bray story, several people take this opportunity to take up what is becoming an old chestnut of internet flame wars. One, criticising disingenuous arguments defending the iPad's limitations:

That the iPad is crippled because it's simplified for grandmothers (it's not, it's designed for internet addicts who already have at least one computer); that the walled garden is for security (it's for profit and lock-in)...[ 1 ]

And another pointing out the feeling of missed opportunity:

The iPad is a nice device. But there are a lot of things inherently wrong with it. And I find it worrying that Apple, otherwise often a pioneer in technology is capable of ruining an otherwise good device and wants to severely restrict what I do with it. I think there's something very wrong with that.[ 2 ]

This second, and certain thread replies, gets to an interesting point. Many who have been criticizing the iPad (ahem) have been treated as idealists or fanatics. Apple holds a special position among geeks, and so criticizing them can hold special weight. Like asserting that Beethoven was a hack or Einstein dull-witted, criticism of Apple can appear to be merely attention-grabbing. I had mentioned before that my old iRiver MP3 player restricted copying from it to a computer. This is an archaic idea that would not be tolerated in today's marketplace. If a company decided to create such a consumer-limiting device, any geek would immediately rail against it on principle. If it were made by Apple, those geeks would be mocked.

From the original news story, I noted what I called the backlash backlash: criticism of the iPad was the first order backlash, and criticism of that criticism was the second order. I've always been befuddled by criticism of criticism in the arts. There, it represents a gall that another person might have an objective assessment of what some believe to be subjective: aesthetic quality. Other, more general possibilities explaining hostility towards criticism are (1) that you can't criticize unless you are an artist, or (2) that critics are simply arrogant and negative--tearing down that which is better than them. A complement to this belief is that praise of a work of art is both true and valid.

posted by sstrader at 6:18 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Phones | tagged android, iphone, mobile development | permalink

March 15, 2010

Viewing YouTube videos in Opera 10.50

Everytime I tried to watch a YouTube video, the video region was replaced by the message "Old Flash? Go Upgrade!" with a link to Adobe. I finally found this thread on YouTube support explaining that you have to delete all YouTube cookies to get videos to play. Success. So far with Opera 10.50, I've had one lockup (w/ a pdf). It's still in beta, but the new features are worth the risk. Very smooth performance.

[ updated 15 Apr 2010 ]

Problem returned. Summary of solution tweeted by Opera and available here. From the guy who found the workaround: This is a lame solution to "block" the videos to those who uses flashblockers, or adblockers, or etc.

posted by sstrader at 11:09 PM in Internet | permalink

March 11, 2010

Mini-Wheats and Lucky Starr

A few months ago I changed my morning cereal from granola to mini-wheats (cinnamon, mostly). I make that change every six months or so, so it wasn't an unusual thing. Before granola was raisin bran. Around the time of that change was when Mini-Wheats started using that crazy, anthropomorphic mini-wheat guy who seems nice enough:


posted by sstrader at 8:49 AM in | permalink

March 8, 2010


Heard this morning from Lisa about Linkous's suicide on Saturday. He was one of my favorite pop musicians. I'd first heard of him back in 1995 when Album 88 was playing tracks off of Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionhorse (Lisa and I were just starting to date at MicroHelp). Completely fell in love with the distorted pop quality.

I don't latch on to pop music that often and finding his was such magic at the time. He was similar to Wilco, and yet Linkous used the studio to create a sound-world reminiscent of Pink Floyd's early, creative experiments and that had less of the alt-country, awshucks quality. A good example is his song "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man" from his second album. The use of distortion throughout seemed to express a feeling of impotence regarding free will. In one sense, the radio distortion that drowns the song foils his attempts at expression; in another, it's his hand that controls the distortion and chooses to detune the radio station that is his voice. I still feel it is the pinnacle of his music making (see also Luke Lewis's praise of that song over at NME).

We went to see him twice. First at the now-defunct Music Midtown back in '95 or '96 when he was in a wheelchair. Then, a year or two later, we saw him standing tall and rhinestone-cowboy-hatted at the also-now-defunct Echo Lounge. Packed house and beautifully performed.

As with DFW, I hate seeing him go and hate that they both had such difficulties to force them to leave in such a manner.

posted by sstrader at 7:39 PM in Music | permalink

March 6, 2010

Today's reading list

Found some videos by Paul Robertson a few weeks ago and created this playlist. It consists of Pirate Baby's Cabana Street Fight (a b&w violence-fest), Kings of Power 4 Billion% (colorful, dimension-warping adventure), and Devil Eyes (lovely/sad, space friendship story):

I'd first found his artwork from his uniquely NSFW Livejournal page left in a random Reddit comment. His animation style uses video game left-to-right traveling as the primary framework. Interesting. Pirate Baby and Kings will give you epileptic seizures if you're not careful. Devil Eyes is a completely different mood.

Also from a Reddit comment, pictures from the Hyssop Lounge blog. Post are mostly YouTube videos, but several contain a wealth of great photos of musicians and stuff. See 2day pitures: 29 and 2day pictures: 30 for awesomeness. All, however, are frustratingly unlabeled.

posted by sstrader at 4:51 PM in Today's reading list | tagged photos, videos | permalink

March 5, 2010

New server

New web server so pages and images are either (1) faster or (b) missing. Looks 90% set up, but I'm sure there are some rights not locked down. Ping me if anything looks glaringly (or even slightly) awry.

posted by sstrader at 12:25 AM in Home Network & Gadgets | permalink

March 1, 2010

Albums, the loudness war

On Saturday, we went to the Run For Cover art show at the Spruill Gallery just north of Perimeter Mall. Hundreds of classic album covers in their natural habitat: all cardboardy and filled with vinyl. Yes and Pink Floyd were well represented. Saw several classics in their original form: Their Satanic Majesties Request with the 3D cover, Physical Graffiti with the crazy windows, plus The Velvet Underground with their (non-peeling) banana cover. We loved the gallery space and will definitely be watching for more shows there.

run-for-cover.front run-for-cover.back

A year or so ago I found my copy of Meco's Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album in my parents' basement and swore I was going to have it framed. Hasn't been done yet, but now I think I'm going to frame several others and we'll fill a wall with awesomeness. I have quite a few albums that were included in the show. I recently went looking for a print of Tales from Topographic Oceans and found a screenprint from the artist for $2,500. Framing my copy of the album will be considerably less expensive.

In a small back room in the gallery, they also looped three videos related to album covers. One was a scene from Spinal Tap when the band got the first copies of their album Smell the Glove (It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.). Another with Pink Floyd discussing when Storm Thorgerson first presented his design for DSotM to them. The third was a short documentary on the owner of Record-Rama: at 3 million records, the largest single collection in the world. Though a nice enough guy, the owner brought up the debatable idea that analog vinyl sounds better than digital CDs because it preserves the high- and low-end frequencies. His comment brought fervent nods from an older couple watching with us (though I fear they weren't that much older...) who had never heard of the loudness war. I'd learned about this from a now-un-find-able Slashdot thread back in July of last year. This video is the tl;dr version of the Wikipedia article:

posted by sstrader at 11:20 PM in Music | permalink