03/03/2003

Internet radio is perhaps one of the cooler faces of network technology. Through a server like Shoutcast I can pick from hundreds of music “stations” run by people like me. Those stations are broadcasting continuous music, and I can connect and listen whenever I want. There aren’t any ads (well, some stations promote themselves now and then) and it’s crystal-clear digital sound.

Of course there’s a down side to all of this: the evil empire of the RIAA has decided this technology is somehow overstepping the bounds of copyright, and therefore it must be crushed and eliminated in order to preserve the monopoly the RIAA has enjoyed for decades. Therefore, internet radio is now subject to an FCC tax– levied per song per listener, as I recall– which makes operating these stations an expensive proposition. It’s especially important to note that internet radio is taxed at a higher rate than standard AM/FM broadcast radio. Interesting.

In any case, I believe the RIAA will eventually crumble under the weight of its own legal division as it continues trying to fight the twenty-first century, and we’ll all be rid of a greedy self-centered corporate monster.

In the meantime, I’ll continue listening to Shoutcast and occasionally run my own server just for fun. Let the tunes begin!

03/03/2003

I just read a fascinating article that points out how a bag of flour that today costs 69 cents was equivalent to about three days’ wages for someone living in the Middle
Ages. ¬†As technology and society have advanced, so has our ability to provide food for the populace. It’s astounding to consider that just before Gutenberg’s time, a single book might cost the equivalent of $6,000 in today’s dollars.

Yet despite our staggering advances, there are still places in the world where people live in conditions that are quite literally the same as those people in the Middle Ages. Wealth, technology, and access to food and health care are distributed in a shamefully unequal manner. I whine because my internet connection isn’t fast enough, while across the world someone cries because their infant son has died of malnutrition.

There aren’t easy answers to these sorts of problems, but it does make one pause to consider the bountiful wealth we enjoy without a moment’s thought.

03/03/2003

James Watson, co-Nobel laureate for his work on the discovery of DNA fifty years ago, has made some comments that are both funny and thought-provoking. He claims that stupidity is genetic and should be “cured” using gene therapy. While it’s certainly true that intelligence is related to one’s genetic traits, a discussion like this inevitably leads into whether it’s “right” to tamper with the human genome to produce more intelligent people.

The whirlwind of discussion surrounding gengeneering never seems to stop. We have an enormous capability, yet we don’t really understand (or, sometimes, want to understand) the implications and responsibilities that come with it.

03/01/2003

Holy cow, I found out there’s another person reading these musings… my friend Mike!

I imagine within a few weeks this site will be like Slashdot and will have millions of readers hopping in for an interesting anecdote with their morning coffee.

Okay, so maybe not.

02/28/2003

Hiliarous bumper sticker:

What if the hokey-pokey IS what it’s all about?

02/26/2003

I was called for jury duty yesterday morning. I trundled down to the Boulder Courthouse (a place which I’m quite familiar with by now) and went obediently to the Jury Assembly Room. There I was treated to a lovely 20-minute video about my responsibilities as a citizen, the jury process, yada yada. Truly an entertaining experience– look for the video at your local Blockbuster soon.

Anyway, then we went to the courtroom where we were introduced to the District Attorney (Ms. Laskey) and the defendant (Mr. Moore). Apparently Mr. Moore had been driving with a revoked license and was caught. Oops. He had elected to defend himself in this trial, which was probably not the wisest choice on his part.

They picked twelve of the thirty of us (I was not one) and questioned them about their personal status, feelings toward law enforcement, etc. Everyone “passed” I suppose, and then Ms. Laskey asked a few questions of the jurors. She was articulate, well-dressed, and obviously very experienced with this sort of thing. Mr. Moore had his turn, and he asked a rambling question that must’ve gone on for two minutes (after which the juror he had asked said, “huh?”). He was wearing his Broncos sweatshirt and jeans, and was a pretty stark contrast to the DA.

Well, they selected the jurors and everyone else (me included) was allowed to leave. That was that. It might have been interesting to watch the trial, because it’s my opinion that Ms. Laskey was going to chew him up and spit him out… but I had things to do, so I guess I’ll never know how it came out.

So my civic duty is covered for at least one more year. One of these times it might be fun to actually sit on a jury, but for now I’m happy to have only spent the morning.

02/20/2003

HP has impressed me once again.

I bought a new drum kit for my laser printer (I don’t even know what the drum kit is for, but it’s pretty expensive). It came in a nice box, of course, and inside the box was a note about recycling. HP wants me to send back the old drum kit– which looks like a large and fairly complicated collection of plastic, gears, and metal– so they can reuse it by filling it with whatever goes into a drum kit.

Now, that’s all well and good, and I considered whether it was worth it to me to recycle it. Then I saw the UPS slip.

See, HP included a postage-paid (blank check) UPS Ground shipping label that I could slap on the box. Then I can send it back to HP, they reuse it, and the Earth says “thanks”.

That’s cool.

02/18/2003

An eight-year-old named Rod lives next door. He really impresses the kids with his belching prowess. It’s to the point where the kids let loose a burp and compare it to what I can only describe as the Rod Scale.

Alex: (buuuuuuuuuuuuurp!)
Kyra: “Wow Alex, that was as good as Rod’s burps!”

Or, on the other end of the scale:

Alex: (burp)
Kyra: “That burp wasn’t nearly as good as Rod’s.”

Dinner conversation will never be the same.

02/18/2003

To my great surprise, I learned that at least two people in the world read this journal!

One is my friend Tad, who stumbled across it on my da Vinci Projects site; the other is my pal Roy who insists, “Hey, I’m a fan!”

Thanks for reading, guys. I’ll try to keep things interesting…

02/18/2003

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 31 today– a good prime number, and as I say to people, the 6th anniversary of my 25th birthday.

02/16/2003

I just downloaded and installed a nifty little gadget. It’s called WayV and it recognizes mouse strokes like a PDA stylus– and performs actions based on them. For example, I can “write” an M on my screen and it’ll launch my mail program. N for Netscape, K for Konqueror, / (slash) to kill the window, and so on. Fun!

02/15/2003

Valentine’s Day was fun as always. We made heart-shaped sugar cookies with the kids. Kyra had her friend Amanda over, and they decorated them (and of course ate several in the process). We gave some to friends’ kids, and hoarded the rest.

Laralee hid little Valentine notes around the house… well, that’s not exactly accurate. She wrote the little notes, and the kids hid them. Then they’d come up to me and say things like “Dad, don’t you need to use your stapler?” When I said I didn’t really, but thanks for asking, they’d insist, “No, I think you should get out your stapler and staple something.” Lo and behold, there was a little note under the stapler. Et cetera.

And I, being the incurable romantic that I am, rented “The Bourne Identity” for us to watch. What a terrifically romantic movie…

02/11/2003

I got my “new toys” today: four brand new Shuttle SK41G small-form-factor computers, and all the little trinkets that go inside. These puppies are awesome little silver boxes, less than half the size of a standard desktop system, and they really pack a wallop.

So I spent a couple of hours putting everything together, and basked in the soft blue glow of the power-on LED and the translucent front panel. Tomorrow I’ll actually set everything up, and then (sadly) they’ll be shipped off to Boulder to act as my new faster-better-stronger web and database servers.

Now if I can just think of an excuse to get one for the house…

02/07/2003

The kids’ current favorite song (which means it’s what they listen to over and over and over):

Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”

Go figure.

02/05/2003

Wow, I must really be a geek.

Today I installed the latest version of the KDE window manager, and it’s really really sweet. It has a whole new look, lots of nifty features (the kind that make you say, “now why didn’t they think of that a year ago?”), and a bucketload of functionality. But only a geek would really get excited about a new window manager, right?

Now that I have ten (count ’em, ten) desktops running, and I switch between them every few minutes, I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to run boring old crummy crashy Windows again…

02/05/2003

It’s 2:09 in the morning. I’m still working.

Yeesh.

02/04/2003

Continuing our five- or six-year tradition, Laralee and I watched “Groundhog Day” once again to celebrate the momentous holiday. What a great movie… very funny, and despite the obvious humorous slant of the plot it has a good message at heart.

One wonders, though, how in the world Groundhog Day got started. Is it purely an American holiday? Who came up with the notion that a large rodent seeing its shadow would indicate another month of winter? It boggles the mind.

02/02/2003

Holy cow, after about two years of procrastination (coupled with guilt) I finally got around to updating my web site. The content is largely the same, but now it’s linked to my online journal and if things go well I’ll be updating photos and other stuff to keep it “fresh”.

It’s about time.

01/29/2003

… So I’m helping a client (well, actually a client of a client) set up a web site on a new server. I talked directly with the service provider so I could get the technical lowdown about what the server supports and so on. My favorite answer was when I asked him about the type of server:

Me: “So this is a Unix server, right?”
Him: “Yes sir.”
Me: “What kind, exactly? Sun, Linux, SGI?”
Him: “It’s Unix.”
Me: “I know; what operating system?”
Him: “One moment.”
(long pause while he consults with the IT gurus)
Him: “Sir, it’s a Unix system. We support all your Unix software.”

Uhh…

01/29/2003

It would be funny if it wasn’t so painful.

This afternoon I was hacking away, furiously trying to write some code to help a client import database files into his web system. Smoke flew from the keys as I slapped out PHP– I was in a hurry because he was waiting to upload his data.

The phone rang, and it was another client who said she needed me to make some changes to the reports her web app generates. She was running financial reports, trying to plan next year’s budget, and she needed those numbers by the close of the day so she could submit the budget.

As I was talking to her, I got an e-mail from a third client who had just learned that an e-mail was going to be sent to 20,000 people this evening, inviting them to go to her web site. I needed to put some new stuff on a certain page so they could access it, and (you guessed it) it had to be done right away before 20,000 people got sent to the wrong place.

Man, I wanted to scream…