What I’m NOT Listening To

Live at the Gaslight – 1962
Bob Dylan

Live, very early Dylan. I picked up my copy at Starbucks.

I’m a Dylan fan, so I like this – but even those who don’t might like a couple of the cuts, including “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

Young, fresh, live, with background noise…this is a nice addition to the Dylan Library.

All music

Ever since I began this stero diet (never turn it on; just rip my CDs/iTunes to computer), the one missing link has been classical music.

I can still tell the difference – in some cases, at least – betwixt an MP3 and the original DVD, but – for most rock ‘n roll, that’s not an issue.

With classical, it’s more of an issue. The quiet passages, the fermata…hard to really capture with digital compression/decompression. I loaded up a Schubert CD (The Complete Impromtus) on the computer – big mistake.

Basically, there are two issues:

  • Especially with classical, the “ripped” versions are aurally weaker.
  • The shuffle concept fails. Even if I create a playlist of classical (or Mozart, or Copland….), I don’t want Movement X of Symphony Y played and then Movement Z of Symphony ABC next. Or second part of Sonota BB and so on. And shuffle is a big part of the whole “non-album” direction music is taking. But classical doesn’t work that way.

Thought I’d mention it…

Tools vs. Toys

Ansel Adams,
Clearing Winter Storm,

Ken Rockwell – a kickass photographer (nature, primarily) – has a great entry about how people think the latest camera (or circular saw and so on) will make one that much better a photographer (or carpenter yada yada).

Bullshit, he basically says.

He quotes some other photogs, and sums up with this:

Just about any camera, regardless of how good or bad it is, can be used to create outstanding photographs for magazine covers, winning photo contests and hanging in art galleries. The quality of a lens or camera has almost nothing do with the quality of images it can be used to produce.

You probably already have all the equipment you need, if you’d just learn to make the best of it. Better gear will not make you any better photos, since the gear can’t make you a better photographer.

Photographers make photos, not cameras.

It’s sad how few people realize any of this, and spend all their time blaming poor results on their equipment, instead of spending that time learning how to see and learning how to manipulate and interpret light.

That’s how Ansel Adams – with his now antique equipment – was able to get such great pictures. He trudged out to the ledge overlooking Yosemite Valley a billion times, in all kinds of weather, at ungodly times.

And when the time was right, he clicked the shutter.

And – my guess – a lot of times he never printed the negatives he took. That’s part of the job: Every picture is not a masterpiece. Even from a master.

Excellent article; read it to get over the “I need a 100-megapixel camera to take better vacation shots!” syndrome.

Well, THAT Sucks!

Via Jason Kottke, it appears that Suck.com has – after a long time with no new content – turned in to a porn portal. (More info from waxy.org.)

If true, it’s the end of an era. Suck was one of the first online content sites – some call it a webzine; I don’t consider it such – that just got the web, what it could do and how to present content online.

Well, Suck.com has been gone for some time now; only those who were on the Web in a big way before the March 2000 dotcom bust really recall it.

But it’ll be missed.

On the other hand, I hope someone got a great price for the domain (pointing or otherwise). Suck.com – while it means something to the old Webbies – is probably something people surfing for porn try just for shits and giggles.

(Update 12/30/2005: A nice history of Suck.)

My Billboard Top (whatever)

I have not turned my stereo on in months. CDs I rip to my computer, and – along with iTunes downloads – that’s what I listen to.


Here is what I’ve been listening to lately, in high rotation of 5000+ songs:

  • Rock Star – Hole/Live Through This
  • Idiot Wind – Bob Dylan/Blood on the Tracks
  • Praise You – Fatboy Slim/You’ve Come a Long Way Baby
  • Portland Oregon – Loretta Lynn/Van Lear Rose (with Jack White of the White Stripes)
  • Brother’s Love Traveling Salvation Show (live) – Neil Diamond
  • Fountain of Sorrow/Before the Deluge – Jackson Browne
  • Crazy – Alanis Morissette cover

These and Mozart’s Requim.

2005 Prognostications: Scorecard

Next week I’ll try to make my 2006 Prognostications, but I thought it might be more fun – and instructive – to grade how I did last year.

Here are the points I made, my comments on same, with a mainly right/coin toss/mainly wrong score:

  • Theme of the year: Security – Hmm. I don’t know. This was certainly a big part of this year’s tech picture, but I don’t know if it was THE theme of 2005. MS did spend a bunch to get an antivirus product rolling as I predicted, and the AOL commercials rolling over the holidays certainly point to the ISPs really using this as a value-added (almost required) service. I think I was more right than wrong on this one, but I still don’t have a true sense of what the year’s overriding theme was. I certainly was not wrong, but the story did not dominate tech news as I expected. I’ll call it a coin toss, but I was really more right than wrong, but not to the degree to win a “right” here. I think the security issues of 2004 made the 2005 issues more of the same-old-same-old, to a great degree. (Update 12/30/2005: Record year for security woes. I guess we are just getting used to it…).
  • Google will have another remarkable year – Yep, I totally nailed this one. Google’s stock price basically doubled over the year (~192/share last year at this time; currently ~430), and – if security was not the tech theme of last year, Google everywhere was. I expected two big splashes from Google this year; there were the following: 1) Google Maps – Goodbye Mapquest, hello Google/AJAX; 2) Google Wins Stake in AOL – While interesting – a mix of the old and new Web – the old argument of “gaining eyeballs” has not gone away; 3) Google Analytics – The full potential of this offering is not yet clear, but it’s a free, simple alternative to many expensive, complex systems. I could go on for some time here (Google offers free WiFi in San Francisco; Google and Sun Shake Hands; Google Earth and so on…) Google Google everywhere…
  • Google will do something remarkable with Blogger – I was wrong. While there have been incremental improvements in Blogger, such as auto-save and permalinks, nothing earth-shattering. Which still surprises me. I still expect something remarkable to come out of this (Pyra) purchase.
  • Six Apart will struggle – Given the recent outages of Typepad/Live Journal (here and here), I think I gots this right. And I don’t know the reasons for the partnership, but I firmly believe one goal behind Yahoo/Six Apart partnership was Six Apart’s desire to tap Yahoo’s expertise with networking/scalability and so on. That’s a good thing for all involved.
  • Blogging becomes mainstream – This has happened so suddenly and so persuavively over major non-blog properties (think Wired and MSNBC), and the sale of blogging properties (see Industry Consolidation, below) that – at this point of the year – it’s hard to imagine news anchors or tech companies without blogs of some sort. I nailed this one, as well.
  • Industry consolidation a-go-goGoogle Buys Stake in AOL, Oracle Swallow Siebel, Yahoo Partners with Six Apart, Yahoo buys Flickr, Yahoo De.licio.us, Dave Winer sells weblogs.com to Verisign. I could go on and on…
  • Demise/decline of Apple and or Sun – I’m totally wrong on this one on two fronts: 1) Sun keeps trying to be relevant (here and here, for example); 2) Apple had a kick-ass year. For a company (Apple) that is still way smaller than – for example – Microsoft – it still garners more (non-litigation) headlines than MS, simply because of innovation and the “cool” factor. One impressive statistic: On Google’s 2005 Zeitgeist (a yearly affair and more…), four of the top 10 searches at Froogle (No.’s 1, 4, 8 & 10) for 2005 were for iPods. Wow.
  • A serious Linux virus/Trojan will surface – Totally wrong. Why? Is Linux/Unix so secure that it’s less susceptible to Trojans? (I think yes); or is it that most virus writers still write for the best bang for the buck? (I think yes); or do the virus writers like to “stick it to the Man” (MS) and try not to hurt *nix (Yes, to a degree, but – if you’re writing viruses etc [for fun or profit], the platform doesn’t matter).
  • This will be the year of broadband – Yep. This was the year that began with the beginnings of everyone online all the time; at the end of this year, we are at the point not of “if” everyone will be able to be on all the time, but “when” this will happen. Power over power lines, city WiFi proposals, all major telecoms with DSL plays and so on. In 2005 we turned the corner.
  • Outsourcing – I wrote “Will keep increasing for manufacturing/development (why not?), but will decrease/not increase appreciably for customer service.” I still see this a true. Arguments?
  • Upstart Start-Up – I expected another Google or Netscape to come along and just change our perceptions about how the web works/could work. I don’t really see evidence of such this year; I was wrong.
  • RIAA & MPAA will again duck and miss getting hit with the clue stick – Oh, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. Especially if you extend the RIAA/MPAA to incorporate media companies trying to incorporate DRM (which is where the RIAA/MPAA miss the boat): Witness the clusterfuck that was Sony and its DRM. Bruce Schneier (previous link) covers most of the insanity, and gives a very good overview of just how out of touch so many major industries are with technology. Frightening and amusing.

My score?

  • Six correct – a couple right on the nose
  • One coin toss
  • Three wrong – a couple amazingly wrong

So only 66% correct.

No tech Nostradamus.

Let’s see how I do next year…

How to Gauge When the Terrorists HAVE NOT Won

Once we defeat these pesky terrorists, we will be able to send the most powerful people on the planet, guarded by some of the best trained officers to Iraq (or elsewhere) with the full-blown announcements that trumpet the Secretary of Agriculture judging a livestock fair in England.

If our most powerful folks have to fly under the radar, uh, something’s amiss (note the mix of new organizations, including some right-leaning outlets):

As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!!!”

12/21/2005 Update:

The Social Contract

Published in 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract is a non-fiction political/philosophy tome that examines the often precarious balance between liberty and government.

Rousseau’s book has been hailed/vilified as a blueprint for totalitarianism; hailed/vilified as an examination of the need to surrender some personal liberties for the greater good of society as a whole – and, often, this greater good benefits the individual.

Often it does not, so that’s part of the debate.

Rousseau’s book opens – famously – with the following line:

Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.

(Ever wonder where Marx got his famous line???)

Rousseau never flinches from this statement, noting how we – individuals – matter little in the pool of individuals that comprise society.

But – as he explains – this is not necessarily a bad thing. Face it, we’re all slaves of several masters, of which government is only one: family (parents, children, relatives, spouses), work, neighbors and so on. Hell, even if living alone – by choice – on a desert island – you’d still be a slave to tides, weather, other environmental factors mostly out of your total control.

Free will – in its purest sense – is just a concept, not a reality.

Government is no different: One gives up some part of liberty to help create a stable society and help safeguard the individual.

Examples (mine, obviously, not Rousseau’s):

  • Taxes: We pay taxes for many good reasons (yeah, lots bad, too..): So we have national defense, so when we call the police or fire department they don’t require a credit card before coming out, so our streets are plowed. Yes, the governments (city, state, federal) are taking our money, but there is no way any individual could provide the same amount of service alone.
  • Driver’s License: Have to take tests, wait in ungodly long lines and so on, but this is a way of regulating [some of the] nuts off the roads and so on.
  • Regulation: The bane of everyone regulated, yet as soon as something goes weird in this country (Enron, S&L; breakdown), all voters are for more regulations of this or that industry. Go ahead, read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and tell me regulation is a bad thing…

You get the drift.

We give up some freedoms/monies and gain security, safety and so on.

There are obviously imbalances – I don’t have kids but I have a house. So my property taxes are paying for school for someone else’s kids. The hard part is balancing the usurping of freedoms and government/society power.

But overall it works out, for the most part. Otherwise the “decisions” of the Zoning Boards would be which neighbor has the most guns. That ain’t good for no one…

Nice book report Lee, WTF does this have to do with anything?

Well, this week came the revelations that the Bush Administration has been secretly spying on Americans in America.

Since October, news accounts have disclosed a burgeoning Pentagon campaign for “detecting, identifying and engaging” internal enemies that included a database with information on peace protesters. A debate has erupted over the FBI’s use of national security letters to obtain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans. And now come revelations of the National Security Agency’s interception of telephone calls and e-mails from the United States — without notice to the federal court that has held jurisdiction over domestic spying since 1978.

Defiant in the face of criticism, the Bush administration has portrayed each surveillance initiative as a defense of American freedom.

— Washington Post, Pushing the Limits Of Wartime Powers, Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is where Rousseau’s argument about the difficult balance is tested.

And – I think – goes beyond what is necessary. And – as Ezra Klein reminds us – it’s not the wiretapping that’s the issue, it’s the secrecy. We have procedures for dealing with just what Bush has been scolded for/Bush has defended. They could have gotten a warrant – even after the fact but elected not to.

THAT’S what got the New York Time interested, and it even waited a year and omitted some facts from its story at the administration’s urging before publishing.

One of the beauties – and frustrations – of the US Constitution is the checks and balances built in. Brilliant stuff; often impractical. This is one of the cornerstones of the democracy we’re trying to bring to other countries.

So when Bush says he approved such secret wiretaps – without getting warrants (again, even after the fact from a Justice Department committee that virtually rubberstamps all such requests), this admission leaves one with three impressions:

  • The administration is trying to protect Americans. OK, that’s a good thing.
  • The administration felt they needed these wiretaps, but didn’t know they could get what were essentially secret warrants for this. Doubtful, but – if so – disturbing.
  • The administration didn’t really care about protocol – just do it, the President can order anything and it’s OK – so, we’ve circumvented the checks and balances. Highly disturbing.

I realize these are special times: Anyone who say 9/11 didn’t change our society forever is … not in agreement with me.

9/11 did change things, and presidential power is often discretionary in times of war, but has a war been declared – against anyone – on American soil?

Kafka is one of my favorite writers, but if he were to come back to life today, he’d recoil.

The reality of today’s news has basically put him out of a job. Non-fiction is more Kafkaesque than Kafka’s fiction.

And that’s not a good thing.


… a quarter century without John Lennon.

I was in college, getting milk from the Collegetown grocery store. That’s where I heard it about it. Wandering the aisles, I was wondering why the PA in the store (which played a local station) was playing cut after cut of Lennon.

Then they said why.

I don’t know if love is the answer, but random acts of violence certainly isn’t.

The Trouble With Analogies

Analogies can be powerful, offering an easier-to-understand explanation of a potentially complex issue.

Sometimes, they don’t help advance the argument.

A new bone of contention in the cable industry is the push (by the FCC) for a la carte (vs. bundled) cable.

The following analogy was used in the article:

“When you go into a grocery store to buy a quart of milk, says Cablevision Chairman Chas Dolan, “you’re not told by the grocer, ‘Well, you can’t have the milk unless you also buy a dozen eggs or a pound of cheese.’ “

True, but – if truly a la carte – should you not be able to buy 13 oz. of milk? Not a quart, not a pint? Isn’t that – those fixed sizes you may not want – bundling? A grouping where you’re paying for something you won’t use?

OK, same product (liquid milk). So, extend the food analogy to restaurants: If you don’t want the baked potato or rice pilaf, you don’t get anything off the meal. It’s bundled. Should we have to pay for each ounce of cheese, each slice of mushroom?

While the FCC argument has merit (why pay for what you don’t want?); it’s a bit flawed: One of the main reasons you get all these channels is that there is an agreement (structured how…I don’t care…) twixt the cable companies and the channels that basically help both sides, by hoping the end user will watch and the ad revenue will go up. If the channel is not there, it will not be watched; if there, maybe…

Bundling keeps costs down. (That’s my guess, and my business skills are much to sneer at.)

Sleep deprivation Dot Com

Working primarily on an e-commerce site these days, and the holiday rush is upon us.

So, the last few months have been, well, insane.

As in, “Sleep?! We don’t need no stinkin’ sleep!”

It’s worked out very well, overall. Sales climbing, no site crumbles and so on.

Sure, there have been hiccups and missteps, but that’s the cost of doing business. Try to identify; try to fix; try to make certain the badness does not happen (as often) in the future.

Yes, takes work and time, but remember: If I get a decent night’s sleep, the terrorists have won….