Monday, January 31, 2005

JHymn, iTunes & Fair use

Like buying music at the iTunes store? Does DRM make you claustrophobic? Enter JHymn. Click your DRM troubles away. It even includes a built in MP3 converter. It doesn't get much easier than this.

Edit: I wanted to add this link to an interview with the author of JHymn, published 2005-01-27.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


I made pizza from scratch tonight. Dough from scratch. Sauce from scratch (food processed canned whole tomatoes, reduced in a saucepan, enhanced with garlic, olive oil, and hot peppers). The pizza was topped with coarsely chopped fresh basil, pepperoni (pre-baked to cook off some fat), onions, green peppers, black olives, and mozzarella cheese. I kept the toppings sparse enough that it was all really well balanced. Yummers. I'm looking forward to my leftovers!

Friday, January 28, 2005

A Microsoft employee's take on WMA/MP3

Chris Anderson of Microsoft bought his wife an iPod. He writes:

I picked it up two days ago, and since have been in process of converting our 3000+ songs from WMA to MP3. I decided that I wasn't going to ever again rip to a proprietary format. I want my music where I want it, not where Microsoft or Apple dictates.

That cracks me up...a Microsoftie publicly renouncing WMA. Someone should remind him that MP3 is a proprietary format. It's just "de facto" and thus it has broad support.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Who cares?

I pulled my keys out of my pocket. I heard a coin fall. I noticed it was a penny. I kept walking.

Monday, January 24, 2005


I was fiddling around on my guitar last week, just pushing on strings trying to find some chords. (I'm still on the two-string lesson in the book, but I was just fiddling for fun.) I hit this chord:


which is D, G-C-E, which is a C/D. So I play this chord and I think to myself, Man, that chord reminds me of this part of Worlds Apart from Big River. You see, my friends, when I was in high school, I was a choir boy and I took voice lessons. I sung a lot of these kinds of songs. I made a note of this chord and how it reminded me of this song. It would be played when "one" would be sung, as in, "two worlds together are better than one." Anyway, I was at my parent's house this weekend (today was Mom's birthday) and I brought back The Ultimate Broadway Fake Book from my voice lesson days. Today, I looked up that part of the song. Mind you, I haven't sung this song outside of the shower in at least five years, and even when I sang it with accompaniment, it was only with a piano. And you know what? It was the exact chord; the tab notated in the book was identical to what I had played. I was amazed at my sheer awesomeness. I figured I would be off by a few steps or something, but to nail that chord exactly, man, who knew I was that amazing :)

Saturday, January 22, 2005


I was reviewing log files from my 1and1 hosted accounts. Some of these numbers blow my mind. After removing all known search engine user agents, in the past nine weeks, has had visits from 4083 unique IP addresses. has seen 3638 unique IPs. Blows my mind, man.

Edit: I'm stupid and I don't know how to work a pivot table. That was total page requests served, not unique IPs. The unique IPs served numbers are more like 415 and 181, respectively. Not quite as mind blowing :)

The Mac Mini: The iPod of HD Movies?

Robert X. Cringley offers a theory about the Mac Mini: Apple will offer HD movie downloads a-la iTunes, and the Mini is the set-top box—complete with DVI to hook into your HDTV—to play those movies. Just like the iPod and iTunes did for music, the Mac Mini will do for movies.

I, for one, could see myself being a consumer of such a product and service. I would welcome the option of downloading movies if the cost and quality was comparable to a rental at Blockbuster. If the quality were to exceed that of Blockbuster—which HD would do until the HD DVD format war ends—it would only sweeten the deal. Does this excite anyone besides me?

Via Slashdot.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


"I'm so overexposed that I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse." -Barack Obama

Monday, January 10, 2005

Renice (blog, links) introduced me to today. It's a "social bookmark" site. At first I didn't get it. I looked at her links and I didn't get the appeal. And the layout looked sort of lame, frankly. I already use to store my bookmarks server-side, so why switch?

Then took a longer look...and I got it. When you create a link there, you give it a bunch of "tags." A single link can (should?) have multiple tags. Unlike a traditional hierarchy of folders where a link lives in just one spot, tagging allows you multiple paths to a single bookmark.

It doesn't end there. The URLs are human readable, and you can perform intersections on tag sets. For example: to see every link that I've tagged "friend," you can go to To see every link that I've tagged "blog," visit To see the intersection of the two sets, which is to say links that are tagged with both "friend" and "blog," go to Pretty cool, eh?

There's also a social aspect to it. Bookmarks you post there are public (obviously), and it's interesting to explore the Internet through other people's bookmarks. You can do things like visit to see bookmarks that everyone has tagged as "csharp" (I chose to write it out since # is a special character in a URL). Then you can find a link created by someone else and click on the "csharp" tag underneath it to see everything that that individual has tagged "csharp." Then see what other categories that person has tagged other links in that category...and explore! You can also click the "and x other people" linkwho else has the same page bookmarked.

There are RSS feeds available for every tag (, for example). You could create dynamic lists of links on your blog with something like that.

Adding links to your account is easy. You create a bookmarklet (a bookmark to a javascript location which executes a little code) which you just click on, type your tags, and you're done.

I have two concerns, maybe just one, really: the lack of a hierarchy was a concern, but then I came to understand the set intersection which can accomplish the same thing. The other concern, the real concern: how is funded? There are no ads and no fees. I don't know how it can sustain itself. It's funny: if it had Google text ads, I would be much more comfortable with the service. I don't want to see it go away, and I don't really want to pay for it, either.

I'll be switching from for my server-side bookmark management. a9 is perfectly functional, and it introduced me to the freedom of storing bookmarks server-side., however, offers a unique and cool way to store, share and browse bookmarks that is unlike anything else I've seen.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


On today's Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn back home. This was a jolting issue in USA Today newspaper on Friday, that, "Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same. The campaign...required commentator Armstrong Williams `to regularly comment on NCLB [No Child Left Behind] during the course of his broadcasts,' and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004."

Senators led by Democratic leader Harry Reid have written the president, Albert Hunt, to say that Mr. Williams should give the money back, that this was a violation against the law of blatant government propaganda.

Wait a tax dollars are sponsoring this kind of propaganda?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tsunami aid, per capita

On The McLaughlin Group last night, John brought up the topic of tsunami relief aid pledged by governments, per capita. I touched on this in a comment here earlier. I found a breakdown of not only per capita data, but also per capita normalized by GDP. The leader in the normalized data is Qatar, with $53.46. The United States comes in 27th with $1.19, right behind France with $1.50. It's interesting data for sure. I've put it in a CSV, sorted by the normalized data. I'd also like to see something like this for private donations, but a quick search didn't yield anything.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

How to remove search engines from the Firefox search box

  • Go to C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins
  • Each search engine has two files; a .src and either a .png or a .gif file. All you have to do is delete the two files for the search engine you wish to remove (for example google.src and google.gif) and restart Firefox.



Ahh, the joys of apartment life: Parking outside. My car was covered in a sheet of ice this morning. When the door wouldn't open, I punched the seams around the door to crack the ice so that it would budge. And the ice was too thick for the scraper, until I realized that it has a "claw" side opposite the scraper side, which was enough to break it up. But the ground was covered in ice, too, so as I pushed against the glass with the scraper, my feed slid away. Fun!

Phishing on the rise?

I've noticed a dramatic increase in the number of phishing emails that I've received recently. In the past week, I received a total of 14 phishing emails. They pretend to be PayPal, Citizens Bank, HouseHold Bank, KeyBank, Washington Mutual and some guy named Clay.

Does this mean that the profit potentials of phishing are greater than those of spam?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


In December of 2003, I signed up for an account with MSN Billpay. They offered an account that was free to pay certain companies, including Illinois Power. It meant one less check to write every month, and it was free, so it was great!

As I was balancing my books the other night, I noticed an unexpected $2.95 withdrawal in November and December. I eventually figured out that it was MSN Billpay that was responsible (it had the same code as the Illinois Power withdrawal). I went back to their website and I couldn't find any mention of their free account level. Did something change? Was I ever notified?

I clicked to cancel and found that I had to call an 800 number. Annoying, but no big deal. When asked why I wanted to cancel, I explained that I was unexpectedly charged for service. He told me that I was not the first person to say this. Apparently, there was some click-through that I was presented with when I logged in on 1st August, 2004. Crap, I thought, I was notified (even though I had no memory of it), so I doubt they'll refund me my money. But when I was prompted with, "Is there anything else I can help you with today," I asked for the refund anyway. "No problem," he said. Sweet.

The moral of the story: If you want something, don't be afraid to ask, even if you're sure of the answer. You just might be surprised.

Word of the Year

I was listening to Focus 580 on WILL yesterday for a few minutes. The guest was Dennis Baron, head of the English Department at the University of Illinois. He was talking about Words of the Year. His choice was "roadside bomb." He said that someone else had said that "blog" was their word of the year. A few minutes later a woman with an elderly-sounding crackle in her voice called the show and asked, "What is that word, blog? I've never heard it used before." The guest went on to explain how the phrase "web log" merged into "blog." He even spelled it for her. It made me chuckle.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Best Buy pricing

I wanted to buy the Garden State DVD. The Best Buy circular from this week had it for $19.99. The price online was $17.99. So I ordered it online for in-store pickup. I got it for $2 less than the price at the exact same store. Crazy Best Buy.

While I was at it, I bought the cheapest DVD player that they had, the CyberHome CH-DVD 300. I'm sick of crawling on the floor to use the Mac laptop as my DVD player. I wanted a remote. Done. Oh, and it's really easy to hack it to be region free.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


I made a pot roast for dinner tonight. Following the Cook's Illustrated recipe, I used a chuck-eye roast, seared it, covered it halfway in a beef broth/chicken broth/water/carrots/onions/celery/thyme/garlic mixture and slow cooked it for four hours in a covered Dutch oven. The result was meat that simply fell apart and melted in my mouth. The only possible downside is that I'll be eating the leftovers from the 3.5 lb roast all week. And this is not an especially lean cut of meat. But so, so good. I enjoyed starting it in the middle of the afternoon and checking on it every half hour while cleaning the apartment. It was a great way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


I've been practicing my new guitar. I guess it's an entry-level model, the Fender DG-7. I bought a teach yourself guitar book, which came with a CD. I've gotten pretty good at the first lesson (E-F-G on the high E string), so I decided it was time to play along with the CD. It was awesome. There's whole band on the CD backing you up. This one song (I'm using the word "song" generously here) was pretty repetitive and I didn't really get the point. But with a band behind me, it made sense. I'm excited to keep going!


I've been looking at a few pictures of this disaster and thought I'd share. This photograph really brought home the point to me; made me understand the magnitude of this disaster. I saw debris...then I noticed the human shapes...and then it hit me. There are a lot of dead bodies there. I'm also really struck by the appearance that all of the bodies ended up in pretty much the same position, and almost all of them face-down. It's just astounding.

Renice weighs in on the most chilling photo she's seen.

And if you haven't already done so, consider donating. Buy one less CD or DVD this month, or brew your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks.