Sat - July 7, 2007

Migrating This Weblog 

I think I will be migrating this weblog over to — it should be a little easier to maintain, and may get indexed better by Google (since they own Blog Spot). 

Posted at 10:29 AM    

Sat - June 2, 2007

The Visa Dance 

There’s a VISA card commercial on TV these days (which Elise hates), showing (symbolically) the well-choreographed, smoothly flowing gears of commerce. Consumers are happily using VISA cards, until someone has the audacity to use a check, and everything grinds to a halt.

Which is exactly what happened today when I had the audacity to use my VISA card. The merchant had to call in, and eventually I had to talk to the bank. It turned out that actually using the card means you can’t use it. I had bought some software the day before, for $39. The charge was recorded in London. Since I was buying something in Seattle the next day, this raised a huge red flag.

The problem with that is that I had purchased online! I don’t understand how VISA can be ignorant of the concept of online transactions, especially because when I set up a merchant account, we had to tell them that we were selling online (and had to pay a somewhat higher rate per transaction as a result). They should have been able to distinguish between a brick & mortar transaction in Seattle and an online transaction.

Anyway, thanks for the commercials VISA — but next time you might want to portray happy people using checks (which give you an automatic receipt and are much harder to use fraudulently) and a VISA card user being treated like a potential fraudster. Why again should I be using a VISA card? 

Posted at 05:01 PM    

Sun - February 25, 2007

Interstate Map 

The US interstate highway system, rendered like a subway. 

Posted at 10:40 PM    

Wed - October 25, 2006

“Opal’s Blues” 

The song “Opal’s Blues” by the Be Good Tanyas has no connection to my Opal outliner. I just like it.

I thought there was a song called “Opal” on their new CD, Hello Love, but it looks like eMusic has mislabeled Ootischenia (which is apparently named after a town in British Columbia). 

Posted at 08:11 PM    

Sun - October 15, 2006

More free & legal music: Insound 

In addition to my earlier post about sources of free (and legal) music, I had bookmarked Insound. They sell physical CDs, but also have a lot of MP3s. I did a bunch of downloading, and found some good ones. 

Posted at 05:45 PM    

Thu - September 28, 2006

Copyright Jungle by Siva Vaidhyanathan 

Interesting article on copyright (I thought the summary in “CHECKS AND UNBALANCES” was particularly good). Thanks to Steve Peterson for the pointer. 

Posted at 10:53 AM    

Sat - July 15, 2006

Climate Change 

Yesterday I finished reading the book Winds of Change, about the effect of climate on civilizations (and nations). Today I saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth, which covered much the same ground. I thought the film was more powerful -- obviously the images (such as the time-lapse disappearance of Lake Chad) made a difference, but I think it was just better done. The book went into a bit more detail about the science of things like the ocean conveyor belt. The movie also discussed this, and mentioned how shutting it down once plunged Europe into a short ice age. This could happen again. We just don't know. It's certainly irresponsible to do nothing when the stakes are so high.

It's definitely worth seeing the movie. And then taking action! 

Posted at 10:04 PM    

Mon - November 14, 2005

DRM-Free Music 

I've written earlier about sources of free (and legal) music. It’s typically in MP3 format, which you can use however you like, with no restrictions.

It’s also possible to buy MP3s. Again, you can use these however you like. You’re not tied to a subscription, or need to authorize specific machines. I’ve become a fan of eMusic, and have in fact subscribed. You can get 40 downloads per month for $10 — 1/4 the cost of the iTunes Music Store. And their download manager supports Mac OS X.

Of course, cheap songs aren't much good if the selection is poor. Given my tastes, I find the range of music is pretty comparable to iTunes. In fact, sometimes both sites have the very same album review. However, if you want only super popular stuff, you’d be out of luck.

I do prefer using iTunes to preview tracks — eMusic gives you streaming audio files, which I have to double-click after downloading, then delete.

I’m about to start my second month’s set of downloads, and haven’t had any complaints yet. eMusic offers a free trial, so I think it’s well worth checking out. And if you are interested, let me know — you get the 50 free songs, and so do I, if I refer you! 

Posted at 11:24 PM    

Sat - November 12, 2005

Free Music on the Web 

Sadly, Epitonic no longer seems to be updated. It used to be my favorite source of free and legal MP3 music, as it was well-organized and had useful reviews. I’ve gotten a ton of music through here (463 songs to be precise). Probably my best finds are Handsome Family and Jon Vanderslice. So far as I know, their archives are still there, so check it out!

betterPropaganda seems to be the successor, though somehow I just haven’t gotten into it as much. has a fair number of free downloads, though it can be difficult finding things, and the quality of individual MP3s can vary widely (some have been unplayable, and others are inexplicably truncated — including a find, “Rudy” by Blood or Whiskey).

A site I visit regularly is Fingertips, which picks 3 tracks every week. The reviewer’s tastes are close enough to mine, and while I haven’t kept track of which songs came from here, I know Delaney was a find.

And of course, the iTunes Music Store has a track or two for free each week. I can’t say it’s made me track down an artist, but it is a good way to be exposed to new music. 

Posted at 01:50 PM    

Sat - March 12, 2005

Happy Birthday 

Oops, we might have been breaking the law at work yesterday when we had a birthday party for an employee. 

Posted at 09:09 AM    

Fri - November 26, 2004


We ended up with 14 people at the table yesterday. Elise assigned a lot of dishes, so all I had to do was the turkey, stuffing, cranberry-orange relish (which the grandkids love to make, if not eat), creamed onions, and gravy. I used a meat thermometer to gauge the turkey — it indicated that it was done about an hour before I expected. There was a bit of pink in it, but it was still fine. 

Posted at 12:55 PM    

Fri - October 1, 2004

Kerry/Bush Debate 

After watching a small part of last night's presidential debate, I think I know why Reagen and Clinton were elected. Although Reagan always seemed like a phony when he spoke, he also always seemed comfortable and happy. And Clinton seemed even happier to be talking to people.

By contrast, both Kerry and Bush seemed very ill at ease. 

Posted at 08:00 PM    

Sat - June 26, 2004

Farenheit 9/11 

Elise and I just saw Michael Moore’s latest documentary, which is essentially an indictment of George W Bush’s presidency. The witnesses are in large part the companies which have profited from his involvement.

Go see the movie now. It’s possible you won’t get much opportunity to. The Carlyle Group, one of the companies which gets prominent mention in the film, just bought Leows Cineplex — which happens to be one of the chains showing the movie locally.

As for the film: Moore took a few cheap shots, but not many. He doesn’t make any real attempt to be unbiased, but most of the facts speak for themselves — and they don’t paint Bush or the war on Iraq terror in a very good light. I was never a Bush fan (I think he’s wasted innumerable opportunities to be a good president), and I didn’t really expect the movie to make me madder. I was wrong. 

Posted at 07:20 PM    

Sat - February 7, 2004


Washington State's caucus to select a Democratic candidate for president were held today. Elise and I attended.

Some people think that a primary would be more democratic, but after having attended two caucuses (cauci?), I think this system is actually more true to the democratic spirit. The way it works is that a bunch of your neighbors who consider themselves Democrats (you don't actually have to be registered with that political party) show up and discuss the candidates before picking delegates. The first caucus we went to was held in someone's living room, and it was easier to hold the discussions than the large auditorium used this year (where other precincts were also meeting and it was thus quite noisy). But there were discussions. Uncommitted attendees were swayed. I learned enough to have a second choice should my first choice drop out.

Our precinct got to pick 4 delegates to the next level caucus, and after several rounds of voting, it was 2 for Dean, 1 for Kucinich, and 1 for Kerry. I decided it would be fun to be an alternate delegate for Dean, and won a mini-election. (I had been an actual delegate for my candidate, Paul Tsongas, back in my first caucus.)

One of the more interesting arguments for Dean was that senators hardly ever win, governors win. Presumably this is because governors have actual executive experience? 

Posted at 02:28 PM    

Sat - December 13, 2003


You keep hearing that America is getting fatter, but now I have proof. I can't buy pants.

I'm probably gained some weight since I was in college, but I still have the same basic dimensions (tall and thin). I've noticed that any trip to buy new pants is incredibly frustrating -- very few are in my size. Last night, I visited several stores, and didn't see a single pair that would fit.

And it's not just brick & mortar stores. I've occasionally looked on Amazon, and almost everything I look at simply doesn't come in my size, despite the fact that they don't have the same inventory concerns as a store at the mall.

I don't remember any real problems 10 years ago -- it's not like I had to go to a special store for really tall people (like some people I've known). So I have to conclude that the bell curve has moved away from me. 

Posted at 10:25 AM