Archive for October, 2006

Lunch Time with Ira

October 31, 2006

Nearly every day for the past year, I’ve spent my lunch time listening to another Ira’s radio show (and again on the ride home) on my favorite $25 gadget.

I love the XM Radio for so many reasons, but this is one of the biggest.

An Open Letter to “RanchoManana” on the terroristic RNC/GOP Television Ads

October 25, 2006

Not watching television any longer, I wanted to see what the GOP was doing for television ads in these weeks preceeding the election. I found terrorism. Flat-out terroristic messages.

A quick definition for you:

ter‧ror‧ism[ter-uh-riz-uhm]–noun

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.Using “terrorism” to “terrorize” us — Delicious.

“The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.” You said a mouthful there.

I proceeded to another ad — also terroristic, based on a straw-man argument…

…and commented:

“Yeah, it’s a lot better to make our kids (and their kids and their kids…) pay.
This is a ridiculous ad. This is one screwed-up country.”

I got a couple responses and tried to respond to one of them thoughtfully, but YouTube limits responses to 500 characters (and here we are).

First the response that prompted my lengthy retort:

You’re right. Wht don’t you get out and go live in France or Germany where the governments confiscate up to 60% from the average working class income earners for “social welfare” programs. 8.9% unemployment rate sound like a plan to you? dolt.

Read the rest of this entry »

Like Music? Pandora.

October 23, 2006

Thanks to another heads-up my from my most excellent friend, Jim, I played all evening (along with about 6 — no, 5 — cups of green tea) with a great new(?) service at Pandora.com. I had other shit stuff to do, and once I got ‘er all tuned up I was able to get that, uh, stuff at least started — all to some similar and many unfamiliar sounds from the uncharacteristically strong sound from the ‘ol Toshiba laptop.

PANDORA was started by the guys at The Music Genome Project. They’ve been listening and catalogueing all sorts of music since 2000. Quite a gig if you can get it. Of course, someone had to catalogue the crap too. I’m not sure if that’s a valid category, but I can think of about 100 bands I’d save some time on and just batch into “crap”. I digress…

It works really well, and looks good to boot. Very clean.

Pandora Player

You can rate all of the songs you hear with a “thumbs up” or the down version. How very TiVo-esque, but it works and it’s intuitive. They start you off with a track from the band you choose (you can also base a “Station” on a song — but that’s not how I listen to music) and then roll out the tracks based on the Music Genomes.

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Hate a song (or somthing about it)? LOVE a song? You can take your feelings a step further by snapping the “Guide Us” button at the bottom right.

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Right away I thought I stumped ‘em. “Radiohead” comes up in a “Mountain Goats” station and before I hear it, I giggle. And then — it fits, perfectly. Wanna know why the system popped it in? Just ask.

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  • Mellow rock instrumentation? Not always, but in this case, OK.
  • Folk influences? Check.
  • Acoustic sonority? I like the sound of that — check.
  • Major key tonality? It certainly is, although most of the time gimme a minor chord.
  • Acoustic rhythm guitars? Yes.

Detailed and an interesting insight.

Want to share your “Station” with a friend or find public “Stations” to give a listen to?Couldn’t be easier.

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The player has visual ads and when you sign up you are told that they’ll have audio ads too — gotta support it some way. They give an option to subscribe for $3 – $4 per month (based on length of subscription/donation).

Give ‘em a try at http://www.pandora.com

Coping with loss (of many thousands of dollars)

October 18, 2006

I’m not a rich man. I’m not poor either. I’m also not unique in my predicament. I’ve been stuck in a job for the past few years (has it been five years already?) — for a couple of reasons, but with real consequences.

I like the people I work with. I even like the work on occasion. The problem comes in the form of compensation. Let me preface further discussion with the following; I know there are a number of things I can do to change this. There are also a number of reasons that I haven’t.

Here are a couple of them:

  1. As I stated before, I like the people I work with (No, I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass here).
  2. The health benefits are excellent — This is important when you have three children.
  3. I seem to lack some “testicular fortitude” with the boss.
  4. I like having an office (with a window and a door). It’s a nice space.
  5. In many ways I prefer a small company (although this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be).
  6. I’m not interested in another “job” — my next move is working for myself, making my own decisions.

It’s also been years since my last pay increase. I’ve supplemented things in a number of ways over the years. I’ve overspent on credit cards. I’ve refinanced the house to pay off the overspending. I’ve eBayed things on a number of occasions. Ang has gone back to work — which has the additional benefit of giving her a bit of sanity (in, quite literally, one of the most insane places). I’ve done some hit-and-miss side-work after hours — and even been paid for it a couple of times. I’ve planned and continue to plan on bigger and better things moving forward, but the reality is that I’ve shortchanged my family of between $20,000 and $30,000 in salary over this past five year period — figuring in only Cost of Living Increases, and this lower wage position.

My salary bubbled up along with other technology folks in the late nineties — to a point that wasn’t maintainable — so I took my 26% pay cut in stride after the Plural layoff. It sucked, but it was a reality I understood. I also figured it would get better. It hasn’t. In real dollars, I’m making 9% less now than I was in 2001 — at the already reduced salary. Figure in more dramatic 26% initial cut and I’m now making 68% a year of where I would have been.

Let me reiterate, that I know I am not alone, but that only takes the edges off of the pain.

Want a real big number? I’ve missed out on over $160,000 if the bubble hadn’t burst and I had just done a good enough job to get the bare minimum salary increase. It’s not as big a number as those seen by the truly rich, but it’s much, much bigger in ways that really matter.

Like most Americans, I’d have probably just spent it all on hookers and blow. Right?

So I’ve become a real bargain shopper. I dig thrift stores — I found an amazing number of like and brand new shirts the other night for about $5 each. I like to find ways to simplify. It’s amazing how this “slip down the ladder” has changed my perspective on what is important. I still have pride. I’m much more comfortable with who I am. I couldn’t care less about how big my television is — I don’t watch TV. I don’t care that my car is 11 years old — in fact it’s a fact I revel in. It’s economical, paid-for, and a blast to drive. I smile every time I climb in. I don’t go out like I used to. I’d rather grab the camera and find something interesting to shoot or hop on the bike than head to the bar. I spend countless hours coming up with ideas for new products. I fill Moleskine after Moleskine with jottings and story ideas. I continue to work towards a better life.

Oh, but that’s all so boring!

My wallet’s not as fat — by a long shot, but I’m not bored.

Game 1. This is the playoffs guys.

October 4, 2006

Went to the Metrodome yesterday to take in game 1 of the ALDS between the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland As. I didn’t like what I saw. The Twins were useless against Zito which was bad enough, but Gardenhire made a few decisions that weren’t exactly “playoff caliber”. I expect some of you will think to yourselves, “here goes another ‘fan’ thinking he can outcoach the manager.” Hell, I might even think that way. Anyway, here are the problems I had with the Twins and some of the decisions that were made both in-game and more globally.

Inning 1. Luis Castillo ekes out a lead-off walk, from a very “walk-prone” pitcher in Barry Zito. Now is the time for “small ball”. Let Punto move him over to second with a bunt. Nope. Gardy sends him and he’s thrown out. I like a stolen base as mush as the next guy and if it’s successful you set a nice tone for the game, but there is also the inverse of that. A couple more pitches and were on to the second inning.

Inning 2. Make Zito actually throw a few pitches! A 1-2-3, eight pitch inning.

Inning 3. Eleven pitches this inning. Why is Phil Nevin in the lineup? He sucks against lefties (.243 for the season, .211 with the Twins), has really done nothing for the Twins (8-42, .190BA, 1HR, 4RBI), and is this team’s 2006 version of Bret Boone. Then I saw that he got two dingers off of Zito in Texas. OK. I understand. He still sucks.

Inning 4. Twelve pitches. Castillo gets another walk to lead off the inning and this time Gardy has Punto do what he should have in the first. It goes for naught however as Mauer slaps another ball into the ground and Cuddyer does nothing with his opportunity.

Inning 5. Thirteen pitches. White gets a two-out double and Mr. October, Phil Nevin, weakly pops out to end the inning.

Inning 6. Things are getting desperate. Bartlett pops out on one pitch. Castillo gets on base again — a single. Punto pops out on the FIRST PITCH. Mauer shows some discipline and gets a walk and then Cuddy ends things with a ground out.

Inning 7. Eight pitches. Someone (Rondell White) finally got to Zito with a homerun to left. Reyes and Neshek are warming up in the pen (this will be important later).

Inning 8. Bartlett takes five pitches to get a nice lead-off double. Castillo misses on a bunt and then he decides on his own to try to hit (this was confirmed by Gardenhire). He grounds out weakly on the third pitch to third. Three pitches later (Punto – 2, Mauer – 1), nada.

Inning 9 (top). Even after not getting Bartlett across in the eighth, the crowd was finally into the game and then… Jesse Crain — to meet Frank Thomas. Why? The Twins are down by one. The crowd is in the game. Neshek (a crowd favorite) is ready — and not someone Frank has seen much (0-1). To be fair, Crain had a decent September, but he’s got nothing that Thomas hasn’t seen. Neshek or Reyes were the right choices here. BOOM. As soon as it cleared the fence, you just knew the Twins…

Inning 9 (bottom). …would score a, now meaningless, run in the bottom of the ninth. Cuddyer got a dome-triple and scored on Hunter’s ground out. Throw in Morneau and Rondell White’s non-clutchness and you’ve got a 3-1 loss.

Did Santana pitch great? No. Did he pitch well enough to win? Maybe. If the Twins don’t start hitting and if Gardy doesn’t start treating this like the playoffs, it’s going to be a short playoffs season for the Minnesota 9.

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