My slacker nature was really pushed to the limit lately. There should be some sort of law mandating a 14 hour work week for slackers but until then I’m the victim of this exploitive system. Just like this guy…
But, all this work has allowed me to check out some podcasts on my way to and from work and here are two I give virtual thumbs up to.
Let’s face it, a lot of stuff generated by us on the web is crap. In fact, for some ‘glass is half empty‘ types it makes them think that the whole experiment is leading to the downfall of Western civilization. Well, I think that is crap (so there!). Of course most of what is produced is crap, that makes us appreciate the really good stuff. If we listened to this sort of nonsense we’d miss out on those gems that might not ever see the light of day if we had to rely on the dinosaurs of publishing and recording acquisition and distribution. So, with no further ado I give you…
Hall of Mirrors – Tales of Horror and the Grotesque – Mike Bennett writes and narrates this creepy tales in a Twilight Zone/Night Gallery style. The stories (at least the ones I’ve read so far) aren’t the sort of horror in vogue today in the theaters (that torture porn garbage) but rather more subtle and much more interesting. The podcast also benefits from the fact that Bennett has a superb voice and is simply brilliant in giving voices to his many characters. These are definitely ones that will stay in my collection to be replayed every fall as Halloween approaches.
12 Byzantine Rulers – Lars Brownworth has put together an impressive and fascinating history of the Byzantine empire by profiling 12 of its most important rulers. He’s got a brilliant, clear style and are so good I feel a bit guilty not paying for them. Even if you aren’t a history buff, check these out (they’re in relatively small bits – less than 30 minutes each) and use the knowledge you gain to bluff your way into a tenured professorship at your local university.
I’m a few hours late but figured I’d share this New Year’s tradition. Every year in many of the Germanic countries people watch a short movie that was filmed in 1963. For some reason I haven’t been able to understand, even though the film is in English it’s found an incredible level of popularity in countries for which english isn’t the native tongue and is virtually unheard of in english speaking countries (I was first exposed to it in 1988 when I was stationed in Germany).
So…in the interest of spreading cultural awareness, here’s Dinner for One. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago I finally accepted the fact that the laptop I bought a couple of years ago no longer had the ‘umph’ I needed. I don’t think I utilize particularly greedy applications or programs but it was becoming clear that my slacker ways had rubbed off on to my computer and it seemed determined to do as little as possible.
So, I picked up a new one as an early Christmas gift. My old one was then handed down to my wife who has even fewer processing requirements than I have. She in turn was able to mothball her old laptop which, I think, utilized mice and some sort of tread mill in order to generate power. In other words, everyone came out a winner.
My new laptop, like most of them out today, had Vista pre-loaded on the system. I was a bit dubious since I’d read a number of underwhelming reviews and I have to admit I don’t see a huge difference between it and Windows XP. There are some minor pros and cons but nothing about the operating system itself that has freaked me out, yet.
The one thing that did get my (proverbial) goat is that many of the programs I use frequently weren’t compatible with Vista. The inconvenience ranges from mildly annoying (my Rosetta Stone language software – If I didn’t have an on-line alternative courtesy of the U.S. Army I’d have to shell out a couple hundred bucks to get a Vista compatible version) to a matter of life and death (my MP3 organizing software didn’t work with Vista).
I have two MP3 players, a Creative ZEN Xtra (40GB) and a Rio Karma (20GB). I refuse to get an iPod for a number of reasons I won’t get into now but I’m quite happy with both of these. The software for the Rio worked well but it’s the ZEN that I really need since that’s the one I take with me whenever I go anywhere and therefore has a lot of files being put on and taken off of it.
Creative was no help whatsoever (for $12 I could get some sort of technical assistance but message boards said that for that price I’d get the honor of some tech weenie telling me what I already knew – the software isn’t supported by Vista) so I spent a couple of days frantically trying to figure a way out of this maze when I found MediaMonkey. Despite the unfortunate name (I’m not a big monkey fan. I’ve never forgiven them for what they’re going to do to the State of Liberty once they take over.) it is actually a better media management tool than the ones offered by Creative or Rio. It was a huge pain to have to edit all of the ID3 tags (I’m still not totally done with that) as not everything transfered over smoothly but within a week or so I had a semi-coherent music library again.
And the even better news…now I can get ready for some serious post holiday gameplay.
I used to have to keep all my electronic documents in folders that would be labeled in one way or another. The problem was always that usually my documents fit in multiple categories which required me to put the same document in multiple folders or try to remember that one folder had material that was relevant to other subject matter (and given my shoddy memory that was hardly a good idea). I was never particularly satisfied with either solution and wasn’t aware of any tools to help me organize my material better.
Then, I hit a perfect storm…
About six months ago I switched my internet browser to firefox and immediately wondered why I ever used internet explorer. Among its great features is the ability of users to build ‘add-ons‘ and get customized additional features. One of those add on is Zotero which is a tool designed for researchers and students to organize their reference material. Among other (many other) things you can do with Zotero, you can:
- store links, snapshots of webpages, or files (in any format)
- categorize all of your entries via tags
- generate bibliographies in numerous styles
- grab meta-data from a bunch of sites like Amazon for citations
- etc. etc. etc.
Best of all, Zotero is free and being constantly worked on and improved (and wicked easy to use). Here’s an audio interview with one of the development gurus discussing what’s next for Zotero.
In related news, check out this article by Clay Shirky about the end of traditional categorization or this video by David Weinberger, author of a book titled “Everything is Miscellaneous” who discusses the same sorts of things.
If you’ve found yourself in possession of a lot of .pdfs, audio/video files and other assorted electronic documents on your hard drive, thumb drive or other storage media, do yourself a huge favor and use Zotero to organize your collection(s).
(Note to self…if you’re going to suck up to some group make sure they aren’t a non-profit first).
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this site but I’m glad I did. The Department of Defense has been inviting a number of lecturers to come and speak on the theme “Rethinking the Future Nature of Competitions and Conflict”. The lectures are fairly recent (the series went from October 2005 to September 2006) and has some pretty heavy hitters.
The nice thing? You can download the videos for free and view them at your conviencience.
I’m (slowly) going through them now but if you’re even remotely interested in terrorism, check out Marc Sageman‘s lecture on Global Terrorist Networks. He is very influential in the field of terrorism studies even though his ideas have yet to filter down to all the talking heads on your favorite 24 hour news channel.
The even better thing?
It looks like this program will be continuing (it actually already has) with a series titled: Rethinking the Relation Between Economics, Resources, Technology and National and International Security.
So, in the words of Fergie from her “Fergalicious” song (and god help me for knowing that reference…I can only plead it it’s been on heavy rotation on Sirius lately):
“Check it out!”
Santastic II is the second (hence the ‘II’ in the title) Christmas mash-up album compiled by DjBC. This stuff (so far at least, I’m on track 6) is a bit more ‘out there’ than the first Santastic but it’s still good….check it out.
Here’s an album called Santastic! that is a collection of 18 mashups of holiday songs. I’m listening to the album for the first time right now so can’t give it a complete review but track 2 “The Christmas Massacre of Charlie Brown”, is noteworthy and fun.
Besides, the thing is free and your mp3 player is just begging for some more Christmas music.
I’m thinking this is really good stuff to have an your Christmas party (although a couple of the songs are tagged NSFW so you might need to be a bit selective depending on your audience) since it’ll be familiar enough for people to recognize the tunes as holiday oriented but with enough of a twist that’ll get your recognized as being on the culteral cutting edge!
Yet again, the Teaching Company is offering a free lecture for download. I’m letting you know about it a bit late here but it’s called Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and was offered to commemerate Halloween. Anyway, get it quick, I’m not sure how long they’ll offer it for and enjoy!
I don’t know why but I woke up this morning with a hankering for some Blue Oyster Cult. The band has always been one of my favorites (I’ve seen them five times in concert) and I still think they’re one of the most underrated rock bands from the 70s and 80s. Anyway, here’s a music video some fan made from YouTube.
If you like the song you can also download some cover versions of it here. I don’t link to the original because I KNOW you’ve already got that in your music collection….
Noodle Heaven is a really fun (and free!) program that allows you to play around with sounds and make your own music. I first used the program a few years ago when I got an album by the Afro-Celt Sound System (they’re quite good by the way, if you’ve never heard of them, check them out). The original version of the program was included on the CD.
The program has been updated since then and you can now start with sounds from 5 different songs (three by Peter Gabriel and two by Afro-Celt Sound System).
So, if you’ve ever had a reoccuring fantasy of being a big time record producer or just like fidgeting with stuff this should occupy a lot of your time.