Friday, February 27, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: PBJ Is not Tom

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time is simple fun. YouTube has several variants on it including this.

this is not tom is a site that a particularly evil friend of mine sent me. I am already slammed at work and home, so he knows I don't have time for this, but alas I will sink hours into the site this weekend. Is this any way to treat your brother?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Music Monday: Interesting Music from Bobby

I live a cool, artsy, athletic, interesting lifestyle vicariously through Bobby. She lives in Portland and used to live near the Clown House. The stories she tells!

Anyway, Bobby has introduced me to too much great music to list, but here are some of my lasting favorites.

Cloud Cult
Albums I have: Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus, They Live on the Sun, The Meaning of 8
Videos: Lucky Today and Take Your Medicine and Chemicals Collide
Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus was the first Cloud Cult album I heard (and it consistently stays in my iTunes Top 25 Most Played automatic playlist), but if you want a more emotional experience, check out this review of Hippopotamus and then listen to They Live on the Sun. I am drawn to this music. It initially pulled me in with strong, diverse, interesting instrumentation, but then quickly hit me with lyrics that are at turns fun, touching, and heart-wrenching. Some of the harder-hitting songs don't work for me, but those misses are rare.

Album I have: Friend and Foe
Video: Wet and Rusting and Rotten Hell
The lower voices are my favorite aspect of this band. Don't get me wrong: I like the sound as a whole and I like the lyrics, but I especially like when the bass guitar or bari sax goes from providing a lyric low rumble to showing the surprising agility of an NFL lineman. Anything that can get random Parisian kids jumping up and down has to be pretty good.

Hawksley Workman
Album I have: (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves
Video: Jealous of Your Ciigarette and Striptease and You Me and the Weather and Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off
His lyrics are what make his music work for me. For some artists, I focus entirely on the music and don't even care about the words, but some artists pull me in with their lyrics. The music is simple, straight-forward stuff that seems like an extention of his voice.

Honorable mentions: The Wiseguys, Sleater Kinney, Franz Ferdinand.

Thanks to Bobby for introducing me to this music. It doesn't make me any more cool or artsy or athletic or interesting, but I like it anyway.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Best-of-Craigslist Favorites, Volume 6

More from Best-of-Craigslist:
I am finally caught up. More next month.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From Hope to Drama

Charles Krauthammer's opinion piece The Fierce Urgency of Pork is pretty scathing. For instance, he says:
The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington.
The first part of the article is about the drama Obama has attracted with his cabinet. Frankly, he left some drama untold (e.g., the Clintons). Democrats are drama queens and Obama is wrapped up in it.

Don't get me wrong: I trust that Obama's administration won't screw up the executive branch like his predecessor did. Still, he'll have to move past the drama that has surfaced.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Replacing FrankenPuter

My home computer is put together with spackle and duct tape. It's loud and the CPU fan is dying. I put this puppy together about five years ago, so I think it's time for a re-build (as opposed to an upgrade).

Ars Technica's Budget Box System Guide will be my guide once I am able to convince Mrs. Kid that we have a couple hundred bucks to spend on another computer. I know I could buy something cheap from Dell and get pretty good value, but I really like putting it together myself. Plus, I run Ubuntu on this machine and hate the idea of giving Micro$oft more money for something (Windows) that gives me no value.

Most importantly, there is something satisfying about knowing that you hooked it all up yourself. When you turn on the machine for the first time and get the BIOS check and it actually works, it's an exciting moment. I have experienced great moments of despair with my home-built machines. When I can't even get the computer to give me any image, it's not a happy scene, but over the years, I have come to expect those moments and I know that it always ends up working out OK in the end.

I might go cheap and buy a used box (motherboard, CPU, case) to get me started, but at least I will install some of the pieces and the OS myself. This won't be the ideal situation, but could save me some coin. Having a faster, quieter machine for $100 would be a good thing.

Wish me luck (first, with getting the green light, and then with pulling it off).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Flowing Puzzle Art

FlowingData has some cool graphics and animations for visualizing information. Here are a couple animations showing the growth of two big store chains:
KenKen is a new puzzle. Unlike sudoku, it actually involves some math (very simple math, but math nonetheless). I just did one and it is quite addictive.

Vik Muniz is an artist. The site is pretty darn cool and so is his art. For instance, go to the Gallery section and scroll down to 1994. Look at the video for his Pictures of Wire. Wow. This site is going to take a while to peruse.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Limits of what Darwin Knew

Today is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.

If you have never read On the Origin of Species, then you should consider it. I found it to be very readable. His essential points are very well-known, but the book that lays it all out is worthwhile and accessible to just about everyone. The distinction between understanding his basic point and reading the seminal text is kinda like the difference between knowing what Abraham Lincoln (also born on this day 200 years ago) did versus actually reading the Gettysburg Address, or knowing what Dr. Martin Luther King did versus listening to his I Have a Dream speech.

Rick Weiss' Something Darwin Didn't Know is like a miniature flashlight into my dark, dank intellectual soul. It gets at the essential core of my view of the whole evolution vs. creationism thing. Like Darwin, I believe in the power of evolution, but (also like Darwin) am unwilling to assume that it negates the possibility that everything was set in motion by some divine force. I'm not a creationist, but not because I think Darwin and The Big Bang provide all the answers. I am not a creationist because I don't buy in to anyone's story that describes how it happened, and I believe that knowing the real answer is unknowable.

Note that this also ties into A Church's Enlightened View Toward Darwin. Some people have extrapolated too far with Darwin's ideas. This is true of many religious folks, but also of many scientifically-minded people. He didn't say that his theories meant that theism was wrong. On the contrary, he was able to separate the role of a creator from the processes we can study scientifically. To Darwin, there was no conflict between science and faith. Here is a quote from a letter Darwin wrote to a Dutch student in 1873:
I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came, and how it arose.... The safest conclusion seems to me that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man's intellect....
I'm not anti science, but believe that science has its epistemological limits.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Congress' Political Pork Sausage

Dana Milbank's article A Horse and Pony Show is a look at the bailout legislation and specifically how Congress is conducting the negotiations around the bill. It ain't pretty, but I guess that Otto von Bismarck was right:
Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
I'd like to see the Dems do a better job of creating legislation. I hope Obama is able to change the Democrats' partisan, spendthrift ways. Right now, it seems that my fears about unchecked Democratic rule are coming true.

The Senate version seems to have less pork than the House version, so I hope the version that comes out of committee looks more like the relatively bi-partisan Senate measure. Donklephant's Alan Stewart Carl wrote Many Americans Still Wary of Stimulus which mirrors my thoughts pretty well. The last paragraph is on-target:
I actually expect elements of the stimulus to work. I just hope the economic gain far outweighs the wastefulness. I had higher hopes for Obama and the Democrats.
Frankly, I still have high hopes for Obama, but have always been expecting the Dems in Congress to screw things up. Maybe it will get better.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Life Tips: Updating Your Resume

Just about everybody knows someone who is looking for a job, and a resume is an important part of the job search. Here are some pages with advice for your next resume update.

6 Words That Make Your Resume Suck is a good set of advice for anybody writing a resume. In the past, I have used many of these. Luckily, the site also has suggestions for replacement words and phrases.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Resume Design is mostly geared toward people who would do crazy crap with their resumes, but one sin that hit me was a font: "Times New Roman." Oops. I've probably used it for resumes before. Time to go font shopping....

How to Write a Resume That Will Land an Interview is a good list of tips that starts with remembering that the idea of a resume is to get you an interview. One other tip that struck me: Omit your mailing address.

I am not planning a job hunt, but I should still re-write my resume now while I have these tips and ideas in mind.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Music Monday: Interesting Music from B-Sizzle

When I was in college and grad school, I had friends who introduced me to music I had never heard before. Mad Dog, Chris, and Ian were far more musically cool than I could ever be. After grad school, I didn't keep up with great music like I did when I was in school.

Now I'm lucky to work with several really cool people. One thing I like about my co-workers is that they have incredibly diverse, interesting taste in music. Over the past few years, a few co-workers have shared new music with me, so it's like a personal musical renaissance.

Here is the first in an occasional series of posts highlighting interesting music that friends have turned me on to. Today's entries are from a co-worker I will call B-Sizzle ("B" for Baltimore and Brooklyn). He's a print designer and an artist.

Animal Collective
These guys are from Baltimore and they really make good stuff. If you like Cloud Cult, I think you'll like Animal Collective.
Girl Talk
This guy is a DJ who does mash-ups. I love mash-ups. The problem with providing links to his songs is that I try to keep the content on this blog clean and much of the music he samples has some raunchy lyrics. Actually, some of the lyrics are downright obscene and absolutely rated X. Still, I like the music because he makes interesting mixes and segues.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Best-of-Craigslist Favorites, Volume 5

Here is another installment of some Craigslist postings I found amusing. I post these so you don't have to wade through all the obscene, sexually explicit, or otherwise tasteless postings to look for the good, clean stuff. Note: some of the funniest posts at CL are obscene, sexually exlicit, or otherwise tasteless, so if you want to find that stuff, go looking at Best-of-Craigslist for yourself.
Note: this only gets me caught up through December of last year. Next up: January.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

These Guys Aren't Idiots, but They Are Greedy

As I have said, corporate executive pay is out of hand. Eugene Robinson's article Idiots of the Universe is pretty on target. Here he quotes Sen. Claire McCaskill:
...I don't think any of us thought these guys were this stupid. I don't think any of us believed that they would take billions of dollars in bonuses while their institutions were literally days from being wiped out. But they did. And we've learned our lesson.
How did they not know this would happen? "These guys" aren't stupid. They are greedy. Some people (such as John McCain and Reston Kid) knew back in September that limits on executive compensation should have been part of the bailout.

I have always been skeptical about the argument that individuals acting in their own selfish interest makes the free market system work. People are greedy and that isn't always what's best for the system. I'd be interested in hearing the argument that defends the huge bonuses for people who run companies that just got bailed out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bailout Lingo

When listening to some congressional hearings on C-SPAN radio, I heard some lingo for which I wanted good definitions. Here are the two biggies:

Moral Hazard: If we bail out people who took bad risks, then they won't learn from the losses. They will continue to take stupid risks. This is basically my original problem with the bailout.

Cram-Down: A court-ordered reduction of the secured balance due on a home mortgage loan. Basically, a judge "crams" a reduced loan balance "down" the throats of the mortgage company. Before I heard the term, I wondered about this idea. Why should the home buyers take the whole hit for bad mortgages? It seems to me that the companies that wrote (and benefited from) the bad mortgages should bear some of the cost of writing down the values. Jim Gogek has an interesting take on cram-downs that is pretty consistent with my thinking.

C-SPAN rocks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sea Kittens

PETA has a new campaign called Save the Sea Kittens. When I mentioned it to some folks at work, they thought I was kidding, but it's for real. It even played a part on the comics page.
As I've said before, I am not a vegetarian and I have no problem with hunting for food, but sport hunting (yes, even fishing) seems cruel to me.

Still, calling fish "Sea Kittens" and hoping that will get people to stop eating fish is a bit over the edge. If it gets people to think of fish as other animals and makes them think again about the idea of catch-and-release fishing (which I call maim and release), then that's fine, but I'm afraid that the impact will do more to bring ridicule to PETA's efforts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Music Monday: Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the release of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Why a post about the 50th anniversary of a jazz album? Because it is one of the great and important albums of all time. Don't believe me? Listen to these people who know much more about music than I:

The album is absolutely sublime.

So What
Freddie Freeloader
Blue in Green
All Blues
Flamenco Sketches

And here is a Mixtube Playlist: Kind of Blue.