Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Monday: Live on Letterman

Live on Letterman has an impressive list of concerts. Here are a few of the best.

Foster the People
I just bought one of their albums on Amazon MP3 (it was the $5 album deal today), so it was lucky coincidence that I discovered this concert. The frontman seems to be putting out significant effort, but he hardly makes it seem effortless. I was watching a Rush concert last night and Neil Peart is incredible. Part of what makes him so amazing is the effort he puts in while looking cool as a cucumber. Meanwhile, Lifeson and Lee seem to get energy from each other and the crowd. Anyway, FtP are good. I like a bunch of their songs, but it's interesting that the concert seems to be really draining.

I have never gotten in to Wilco, but I think this concert will draw me in.

This is the concert that led me to LoL. Their sound is unique and the concert has some nice live versions of my favorite tunes. I could do without quite so many from the new album, but it's a small "price" to pay.

A pop music act with a cartoon as its frontman? Where do I sign up? Everyone seems to be having a total ball. It's like they all have real jobs, but this is the fun stuff they do on the side, and would do for free. The string section's head bobbing is wonderful.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Music Monday YouTube Trip: Edmunds Lowe Costello

Here is another YouTube trip. Remember, that each subsequent tune has to be in the Suggestions list for the previous song.

Dave Edmunds
Some of the best of the 80's.

Nick Lowe
If you look carefully at this video and the previous, you will notice that Dave Edmunds is in Nick Lowe's band and vice versa.

Elvis Costello
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding
He's so young! I need to get glasses like those. Only problem is, I would end up looking like an old Urkel.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Statistics: Healthcare Revisited

When Obama's healthcare reform was being sculpted, I characterized it as insurance reform. It results in more people being covered, but didn't do anything about the price side of things. It didn't do nearly enough to pull back costs.

I went looking for data about the number of doctor visits and found something terrific at National Geographic of all places. The Other Health Care Debate: Lines vs. Scatterplot has a really nice graphic that shows what I wanted to see.

In that graphic, I see that we in the U.S. don't go to the doctor often, but we still pay through the nose for healthcare. Really good statistical graphics can tell a vivid story. is absolutely fabulous. Professor Rosling is a world health specialist who has also become a statistical evangelist. He does a nice job of infusing interest and energy into his discussions. His recent video The Joy of Stats should be the opening salvo for any statistics course.

As Florence Nightingale said:
To understand God's thoughts we must study statistics, for these are the measure of His purpose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Education and Business: A Tough Combo

Achival's Blog brings us Why Education Startups Don't Succeed. It's an interesting read, especially for anyone who has been involved in the online education business over the past decade or so. The entire piece is worthwhile, but I particularly liked the bulleted list of don'ts at the end.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Coolest Gigs for a Violinist or Cellist

I like strings as much as the next guy, but let's face it: Not all potential gigs for a member of the string section are equally cool. Here are some gigs that I would imagine were pretty darn cool.

Look at the string section bobbing their heads near the end of O Green World (song starts around 6:00). Then, check them out swaying on Feel Good, Inc. (song starts around 35:00) They are getting into it.

Vampire Weekend
Not as cool as Gorillaz, but still pretty cool.

P. Diddy and Jimmy Page on SNL
This "video" only has the sound. I remember seeing this on Saturday Night Live in the 90's when they had what looked like a full orchestra on risers behind them as they played this.

Yo-Yo Ma and Lil Buck
Lil Buck's movement is amazing. So fluid and seemingly effortless.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Music Monday: YouTube Trip: It's All About the Kids

On my way in to the office today, I heard a song that became quite the earworm: MGMT's Kids. This got me on a YouTube Trip to cure myself.

MGMT: Kids
This is a good Monday morning earworm.

Peter Bjorn & John: Young Folks
Maybe the whistling is cheezy, but I like the tune.

Kanye West: Young Folks
Interesting song based on the catchy tune. I could do without his kvetching about the media, but oh well.

So, the Kids earworm has been replaced by Young Folks. Yay me!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Revisiting Early Algebra

This morning, I picked up the Post's Metro section and saw For educators pushing eighth-grade algebra, an ‘F’ in brain science, an opinion piece by a former math teacher. Sound familiar? Let's check the way back machine. Oh, here it is in Early Algebra: Crushing Kids.

Setting a timeline for Algebra is a bad idea. It crushes kids' opinions of themselves and of math.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Uber-Geek Edition

So, what have I done with my precation (that's a preliminary vacation used to burn some vacation hours and take care of stuff so we are a bit more ready for the summer)? I hacked my Wii!

Why hack a Wii? Our basement has video game stuff strewn about. Controllers, disks, and various accessories are everywhere. Disks are particularly hard to keep track of and I am constantly worried that a disk will sustain one scratch too many and will go down for the count.

The solution is to take a USB hard drive, connected it to your Wii, then install all your games to the hard drive. The result is that (with the right software) you can run all your Wii games without touching a disk.

How to Back Up and Play Your Wii Games from an External Hard Drive at Lifehacker got me started. Unfortunately, the process didn't quite work for me, so I resorted to...

Softmod ANY Wii, which really got the ball rolling for me. But first, I needed to get access to the inner workings of the Wii, so I went to...

Return of the Jodi, which explains how to use Lego Star Wars Original Trilogy (Jack did the game work to make it happen) to install the Homebrew channel using the Hackmii installer. With Homebrew installed, I went to the Softmod ANY Wii guide and followed the instructions (really closely) to get the system set up. The USBLoader (the software that allows you to install games to and then play them from the USB drive) they suggested didn't work for me, so I went back to the Lifehacker article and installed USBLoader GX, which works like a charm. I even got it installed as a new channel, so our Wii main screen has a channel I can select to view all our games in an interface that looks like the iTunes album cover browser.

Now all our Wii games are on the external hard drive, so the disks are in a case on a shelf, where they will stay forever. Next up: Finish installing new closet doors, clean the van, and maybe even clean the garage.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Go to Sleep

Go the F*ck to Sleep as narrated by Samuel L. Jackson is so good. I will think about this video tonight when Girl Kid comes out of her bedroom an hour and a half after "bedtime" because she's "thirsty."

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Grantland has me hooked. I stumbled onto Grantland when checking scores at ESPN, which employs Grantland's editor-in-chief Bill Simmons. The articles drew me in.
  • The Greatest Paper that Ever Died is the first article I read. It is LONG, but fascinating. I dimly recall The National (a failed attempt at a national sports newspaper), but this "article" brings it to life in a unique way. It is a series of quotes assembled as a transcription of an oral history of the endeavor. Really, really good and interesting.
  • Space, Time, and DVR Mechanics was eerie. It's like Chuck Klosterman was staring straight into my soul.
  • It's Time for LeBrondown, Part II rings very true.
Check out the articles. It's an online magazine I can really get into. The look is uncluttered. The writing is interesting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

End of Life Revisited

Discussions about healthcare consistently get me thinking about end of life issues. I have discussed this stuff before. Notably, in The Ugliness of Modern Death, but now I am past some personal situations involving death and so am more capable of thinking about these issues. is not a cheery site, but it is an important one. I recently bought Dr. Byock's Dying Well and really am looking forward to the read. It's morose, but critical.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Education: Will Choice Give Us Smarter but Isolated Kids?

I work for a company that does online education stuff. A coworker recently asked me what I think about what we do from the point of view as a former teacher.

First of all, I am in favor of choice.
  1. I don't think that one particular type of school is best for every student. For instance, some kids have significant learning or social issues that make a brick and mortar classroom environment a bad fit for them.
  2. Choice can lead to some competition. Some schools get so bogged down in just surviving that they lose track of the idea that they are supposed to be educating kids. Most public schools have a monopoly, so they don't have to care about the quality they provide. I understand that most people in public schools are wonderful, caring people who believe that educating children is a calling. My grandfather, mother, aunt, cousin, and I all fall into this group. I am not calling educators lazy or incompetent. All I am saying is that many educators could use a shift of perspective to help focus on what really matters.
On the other hand, a fractured school landscape worries me. I am a public school guy in great part because I believe in heterogeneous social environments that allow students to see different perspectives. We all need to be exposed to diversity. This isn't about having enough black kids or hispanic kids so the class picture looks diverse. This is about having truly diverse perspectives.
  • Rich/poor
  • Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Hindi/Atheist
  • American/Russian/Hispanic/Indian
  • smart/mediocre/struggling (each of these in each academic arena)
Choice is great, but so is heterogeneity.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Monday: Ida Maria and Yoav

Ida Maria's voice and energy work. Check her out.
The girl is gettin' it done.

Yoav (song: Beautiful Lie)
Cool song that inspired a couple remixes:Robert Sansixto mix and KeeMo's Terrace Mix ... but I like the original best. Yoav is yet another artist using on-the-fly sampling to create interesting music.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Scat and Underground

S&*t You Should Know is hilarious. The language is quite colorful, but the posts are informative and hilarious.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Everyone should read every entry, either to learn something or to learn how to teach others the idea.

Urban Explorations is incredible. Check out the photo gallery and the videos. Undercity New York is cool and reminded me of Man on Wire, which was an impressive documentary.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Math Education Wars: The Wrath of Khan

With their tutorial videos, Khan Academy has made a big splash in the education world. Having Bill Gates sing your praises in a TED Talk is a sure way to get a lot of attention.

Over at Action-Reaction, Frank Noschese has an article Khan Academy: My Final Remarks. I agree with many of his points. Here is a quote from near the end of the post:
Khan Academy is just one tool in a teacher’s arsenal. (If it’s the only tool, that is a HUGE problem.) Khan Academy can be useful for some kids as vehicle (build skills) to help them get to better places (solving complex problems).
On his Quantum Progress blog, John Burk also chimed in with Project Euler vs Khan Academy: The Future of Online Learning. I agree that Project Euler is really, really good, but that is a topic for another post.

Back in 2007 (before I ever heard of Khan Academy), I started developing instructional videos that are somewhat similar to Khan’s work. I think they are great tools, but they are not the be-all and end-all of online education. When placed in the context of a complete course, they can be helpful tools. We need to continue to innovate, but just shouldn't get too carried away by the latest educational fad and think it will solve all our problems. Good teaching isn't about amazing lectures. It's about feedback and engagement and connections.

At their best, instructional videos are pretty sentences. Quality education is a set of engrossing interactive stories.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brain Calisthenics: Using Perceptual Learning

A friend sent me a link to a New York Times article Brain Calisthenics for Abstract Ideas. The idea is that "playing" with a concept can yield big educational gains. A strictly top-down approach to education (here's the formula, now apply it) is not necessarily the best way to work. This perceptual approach seeks to leverage our ability to build intuition through experience.

Here are some of the games the article references.

Basic Math

Measurements and Graphing: Match the equation to the graph and learn to perceive basic measurement concepts.

Positive and Negative Feedback

Extreme Ball: Time a fan to blow and push a ball attached to rubber bands.

Extreme Population: Help your city reach a population of one million citizens.

Stabilize Ball: Time a fan to blow and stabilize a ball attached to rubber bands.

Stabilize Population: Help your city's population stabilize at 500,000 citizens.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

DaVinci's Resume

Back in 1482, a job-hunting Leonardo DaVinci sent a letter to the Duke of Milan. This letter got into the hands of a guy at The Ladders (a job search site) and it made the rounds recently as DaVinci's resume.

DaVinci's resume is interesting, but I prefer a geek's take on the DaVinci resume.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Music Monday: Emily Wells

Emily Wells is pretty amazing. She seems to be using the same type of technology as tUnE yArDs (Real Live Flesh), but the feel is very different.

solo: Symphony 1
a trio with Joey Reina and Sam Halterman: Symphony 6 and Symphony 9

Friday, June 3, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Larry Miller

Larry Miller's The Five Levels of Drinking is one of the greatest comedy bits of all time. It always brings back memories of my 20's. My friends were such drunks! One of my favorite lines from the bit:
If you're nineteen and you stay up all night, it's a victory. It's like you beat the night.... If you're over thirty, man, that sun is like God's flashlight.
It's from him that I got the expression "It's like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it." Larry Miller is so great.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amazing Time-Lapse Videos of the Sky

A couple time-lapse videos of the sky have taken my breath away.

The Mountain was filmed at El Teide, Spain´s highest mountain.
The mountain and the sky are amazing.

In this video, the sky plays opposite the telescopes. As in the other video, the sky is incredible, but I like watching the telescopes do their things.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Music Monday (Saturday Edition): YouTube Trip: Phantogram to Aesop

There are too many music posts sitting in my list of drafts, so it is time to do some house cleaning.

Here is a YouTube Trip inspired by a friend from work, whom I will call J-Dub. I need to do a Music from J-Dub post, but that will have to wait.

Phantogram: When I'm Small
J-Dub got my trip started with this gem.

I like the video for this, but had to listen to the song once without watching the video so I could focus on the sounds instead of the visuals.

Fun stuff.

Aesop Rock: None Shall Pass
Pretty freaky video, but the music is compelling.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Whipass and Ze

A friend from work sent me a link to a silly version of a song I know well, so this became a chance to reminisce. Let's take the story in chronological order:

First, a guy named Ray posted this audio message on MySpace for Ze Frank: Whipass (link to a page with the MP3)

Next, this inspired Ze to ask his followers to create remixes for the song. The longer version of the story and a link to the remixes are here.

Finally (today), I got a link to this video: Stress_Relief.wmv (which is FAR inferior to the original, but served the purpose of reminding me of it).

If you don't have Ze Frank's blog bookmarked and added to your Google Reader list, you really should. Lots of good, interesting, and/or thought-provoking stuff.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Various Bad Plus Concerts

Yeah, I know it's not Monday. I have too many music posts in the hopper to just dole them out weekly. Deal with it.

I dig the Bad Plus. Here are some links to concerts that show their range.

Live At the Village Vanguard is a New Year's Eve concert. This is the trio doing their thing.

The Rite of Spring is their take on Stravinski's 20th century ballet masterpiece. This is quite a limb they are going out on, but it works for me. Note that the first bit of audio at the top of the article is for the interview. Go down a bit to find the audio link for the concert.
[update: I just listened to this piece all the way through. It is ambitious and truly tremendous.]

With the Frankfurt Radio Big Band is on a site that is completely written in German, but the music knows no language. A big band's horns add to the compositions so well. The most remarkable piece is The Hope Chest, which starts at the 36:00 mark. The big band has a piece that the conductor/arranger wrote for them. The Bad Plus improvised their parts to accompany them on the fly. Note that there are two parts to the concert. In Part 2, the big band version of Giant is good stuff, as is the encore Layin' a Strip For the Higher-Self State Line.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Music Monday: YouTube Trip: Favourite Stand Action

OK, so this YouTube Trip isn't about discovering new music, but it was a fun journey anyway.

Haircut 100: Favourite Shirt (Boy Meets Girl)
If this doesn't make you smile, then I am sorry. You are just broken.

Love the energy.

Human League: Love Action
Man, I liked this band when I was in High School. I had an album full of remixes that I basically wore out.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two

OMG. Check this out. This Spring marks the 25th anniversary of the Beastie Boys recording of (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!). My God. 25 freakin' years since short, hairy Steve used to blast this out of his dorm room on Friday afternoons. But I digress...

Here is an extended video of a few songs from the Beastie Boys' new album. The video is called Fight For Your Right (Revisited), but don't expect the familiar old song. It's a short movie with a zillion stars and some new Beastie Boys music.

Speaking of the zillion stars, check out who all is in this video. When you see the list of cameos at the end, I think you'll agree that it's simply epic.

I also like the music. Good to hear something new from the Beastie Boys. Pretty sure I need to buy Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My First Remix: Panic at the Human League

The first time I heard The Human League's remix of Don't You Want Me, I was hosting a last-day-of-school party at the end of my Junior year of high school. We were blasting the music, swimming, sailing, and canoeing in the lake, and just generally having a great, raucous time.

When the song got to 2:22, I had a heart attack. I thought someone had bumped my precious turntable, made the album skip brutally, and (more importantly) probably damaged my turntable's stylus (you 20- and 30-somethings can get your parents to explain all that retro vinyl lingo to you). When I ran inside to check on my stereo, Bryan Reichhardt and Tammy Keysor were laughing at my panic. Good times.

This was the first remix I recall hearing and it made an immediate impact (once I calmed down). My love for remixes that started on that sun drenched afternoon is tied up with my love for jazz and mash-ups. Though I can appreciate a simple tune as much as the next guy, I like to see what artists do with a simple idea when unfettered by the constraints of a 4 minute long song that is fit for the radio.

Here are some albums that are full of some of my favorite remixes:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Music Monday: YouTube Trip: from France to Home

YouTube can help you discover new music. This isn't news, but I want to make a concerted effort to document some musical journeys I take courtesy of the popular video site. After the first song, I found each subsequent song from the list of Suggestions for the previous song.

Camera Obscura: French Navy
This is a nice, jaunty tune to start the journey.

St. Vincent: Marrow
Interesting video. I like the music. Annie Clark (her real name) rocks.

tUnE yArDs: Bizness
Wow, I like Merrill Garbus. She is one talented woman.

Mumford and Sons: Little Lion Man
Maybe you only heard of these guys when they were nominated for a couple Grammies last year. If you are into the Folk Rock thing, or want to hear what it's like, this is a good song for you.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: Home
This song is a good place to end our journey.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When late HS or early college students ask me what they should major in, I invariably quote Joseph Campbell: "Follow your bliss."

The xkcd comic Time Management gets at one aspect of this issue. The tolltip caption is the important part:
I never trust anyone who's more excited about success than about doing the thing they want to be successful at.
So true. It's not that success doesn't matter, but are you driven by success or by doing something and trying to be successful with it? If success is the driver, then I am somewhat leery. If you have a passion and want to be successful with it, then that is totally cool.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Executive Pay Back on My Mind

In today's WashingtonPost, Barry Ritholz gets right to one of my pet peeves.

Like Ritholz, I have no problem with people who earn massive amounts of money. What irks me is when risks and rewards are disconnected so people get rewarded for stupid risks or for lighting the fuse on a catastrophic bomb. These disconnects create flaws in the free market system that should be addressed.

After a Long Haitus, a Potential Game Changer

I've been a slacker.

Call it the Droid Effect. I used to use my laptop to read (and thus write) quite a bit online. Now, my online reading is done on my phone. I like the convenience, but I haven't been able to blog from my phone... until now.

Google has released Blogger for Android, so I'll try it out. I hope this does good things for my ability to post more frequently.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ramble: Not Just a Math Nerd: Word Fun

In case you thought I was only a math/tech nerd, here is a post at Language Log that made me laugh: The shock of seeing a new verb anniversarying. Here is my favorite quote from the article:
I don't mean to suggest that there's anything particularly wrong with verbing new nouns, of course: you can pretty much verb any noun you want to verb. But if you pick a solidly nouny noun and use it without warning or precedent as a verb, it may cause a certain shock, ....
Anyway, I am a bit of a language nerd. I like words. In a recent community meeting, I used the word penultimate to refer to the one before the last item in a list. The CEO of our association then asked me if I kept a list of words like that to use. I suppose I do, but the list is purely mental (as you might say am I).

New addition to this post. I have a new favorite initialization: MSO (minimal scatological object). I found it at Language Log Most of the People in the World Could Care Less.
The process has been generalized to give with a variety of MSOs ("minimal scatological objects"):

I could give a {damn|shit|hoot|(flying) fuck|crap|rat's ass}

The MSO can be an elaborate nonce formation ("a gnat's left testicle"; "a fart in a tornado"; "a rat's hairy scrotum").
Words are such fun.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ramble: Rx for Latin and Innovation

I had no idea that all that gobbledy gook on my prescriptions was a bunch of Latin abbreviations.

Understanding Your Prescription has a handy table so you can understand your prescriptions. I think it's kinda cool (but also kinda odd and scary) that doctors still use Latin abbreviations on prescriptions.

On a different topic, is "a registry of federally and privately supported clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world." Basically, if you have a medical problem and want to know what researchers are trying to cure or treat it, then this is the place to look.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Music Monday: Dizzy

I remember first seeing Dizzy Gillespie on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Those cheeks were amazing. Only now do I really appreciate his artistry. What a tremendous musician.

Dizzy Gillespie doing Manteca:
  • With His Dream Band: This is a tremendous group of musicians.
  • in Denmark: Damn, he looks cool in this one. If I had seen that video when I was a kid, I would have wanted nothing more than to be him when I grew up.
  • In Finland: The video's aspect ratio is screwed up, but the music is great.
And here Dizzy is on the Muppet Show where they had to distract the noise inspector from Dizzy's performance.