Thursday, December 21, 2006

I just found a new album that I totally love, by a band called Kill Hannah.
I love music with strong female lead, powerful lyrics, overwhelming electronic sound, great editing & mixing. Kill Hannah fills this bill completely.

How would I describe this band?
Think of: Hole, the way they could have been. Courtney Love just cannot sing. The lead singer of Kill Hannah sounds amazingly like Courtney, but with vocal control, great pitch and timing. This makes the music that much more powerful and energizing.

The album I have is Believer. There are 2 songs on there I have to listen to over and over again (don't you love it when you find a CD like that?): "Lips Like Morphine" and "Crazy Angel".
Hearing a female vocalist singing "I want a girl with lips like morphine / knock me out every time they touch me" is beyond intense.

I hate bands where the lead singer's voice is out of control. Courtney Love is not the only one like that; Shakira is equally terrible. Shakira can really shake it, but her voice drives me insane, I can't stand it.

If you like power female techno/pop bands like I do, check out two of my other favorites. The first you've surely heard of - Evanescence.

My all time favorite band is one you may not have heard of - Garbage. Shirley Manson can even whisper, and it's powerful. Their latest album is not that great; you have to listen to the first 3 albums: Garbage, Version 2.0, and Beautiful Garbage.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


It's fun to watch people dance. Everyone has different ways of dancing. Dance is like a person's fingerprint: no two people are alike.

To me, dance is an expression of energy. One's body and emotions work together to direct flows of different kinds of energy in visually intriguing ways.

You can't keep your eyes off of a really good dancer - they attract and hold your attention. They evoke something from you that you can't find anywhere else.

I know some people think that dance is only sexual. It certainly can be. But that's not all it can be; there's much more. Dance can inspire and uplift the viewer, they can feel it in their heart. And the viewer energizes the dancer. There's a 2-way flow of energy between performer and audience, a kind of cyclical hurricane of energy that can build and build, seemingly endlessly.

Dancing just feels great, too, way more than any other form of "exercise" I have ever experienced. Once you get past the fear of performing in front of others (if you have that), it's such a great release. Dancing can make you feel like you're on top of the world, like you can do anything in this world that you set your mind to. Probably because it's true.

Why don't we feel that way all the time? I am not sure. I think if anything inspires you as much as dance inspires me, you need to do that thing regularly; whatever it is. We all need an energy adjustment from time to time - and we each have to figure out what it is that does that for us. We're all different, yet have many common things in our psyche and personalities. For me, dancing is a fix-all, so long as I can just let go of my petty problems and issues and feel the flow of movement and energy.

I think that the more humanity learns to dance in different and interesting ways, the more depth of understanding we'll have about our world, our reason for being, our future, and about each other. Dancing is beyond an "international language", it surpasses all language, connecting to something in us that's deeper and stronger than any language. You can't see it on television; all the lowest quality dancers can be found there. You need to see dancers with real talent. Michael Jackson had great dance talent in his time. Usher has it, you can tell from many of his dance videos. But overall, top ballroom and latin / salsa dancers have it. To see the good ones, you've got to go to a professional dance competition or showcase and watch the professionals dance.

Perhaps if the leaders of the world practiced dancing, separately and then together, they would be able to find more common ground on the topics that "really matter", instead of always being at war with each other. They could add their energies together, instead of subtracting from each other. (They were supposed to learn to cooperate in Kindergarten; what the hell happened with that, anyway?)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My wife asked me to do something, which I believe is the funniest thing I've ever been asked:

"Honey, don't forget to turn the basketball hoop so the dog doesn't fall in the pool again."

In order to understand this, you have to know what our back yard looks like.
We have an in-ground pool with a short basketball hoop on a pole plugged into a hole in the cement edge at one end of the pool, so you can swing it 360 degrees around. It's usually pointing away from the pool so people can walk by, but when you want to play pool-basketball you swing it back around to face the pool again.

The basketball hoop was pointing to the side at an angle. Our little dog Heide walks around the pool often times.

The day before, Heide fell into the pool right near the hoop and nearly drowned.
We think it was because she bumped into it, or maybe she was being chased by a cat or a bee or something. (She's a small, not-very-brave doggy, but she's a sweetheart).

It's just that my wife's question sounded so mechanical, like the instructions to a Flash game or something...

Your goal: turn the basketball hoops to get all the evil dogs to fall into the pool.

Coming to a flash game archive near you.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I'm really excited about my new job. I recently left my old one, and now I am part of Fastech Learning Center, which teaches many programming languages quickly and in a practical, hands-on way. I'm starting to teach Perl and Unix courses, with more to come in the future (PHP, MySQL, HTML/DHTML, Javascript and CSS, since I know those already).

This is a fun place to be - I was getting tired of working for the multi-mega corporation where I would never get to see the other parts of the business. As an engineer I never really got to see much related to finance, marketing, or even manufacturing of the things I helped design. I was really getting curious about those aspects of business.

I am really happy with my work now. Teaching is probably the most fun job I have ever had, next to software design. In my new job I get to do both - software development helps me stay up to date with the latest technologies like Web 2.0, AJAX, playing around with the Distributed Object Model (DOM), etc.

It's so much fun to see people learning something new from me, and being successful at using it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Well, I was right. XM satellite radio is 64Kbps [wikipedia], and Sirius uses about 96Kbps. Excerpt from a Sirius receiver product page [electronicexpress]:

Beyond the reception issue,
the only other major drawback is sound quality, which some may find
subpar. Sirius describes its sound as "digital quality," a euphemism
for "digital audio with a bitrate so low that we don't want to scare
people by revealing what it is." Whatever it is, its character is very
close to what you'd hear from 96 kbps MP3--clear and listenable, but
lacking depth, fullness, high-frequency extension, and dynamic range...

That's just horrible. I can barely stand to listen to my old 128Kbps mp3's anymore, I rip all my music at 256Kbps. When I tune in on Shoutcast, I only listen to channels with 128Kbps or higher. There's no way I'm going to listen to satellite music at anything lower than 128Kbps. Especially if I have to pay for it every month!

So much for satellite radio.

What's more likely to happen in the next year or two is that your cell phone becomes a streaming audio system at a higher bitrate. It's wireless, and more portable than any receiver bolted into your car. As the bitrate increases for data communications on cell phones, it can be used for anything, not just music.

As far as I can see, satellite radio is dead.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My headlights look much brighter now that I cleaned 'em with the brass cleaner, as described in my previous weblog entry.  This evening I was driving home from a local restaurant around 8:30PM, and noticed the difference.  They look about 30% brighter now.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The headlights on my 1999 Mitsubishi 3000GT have been turning foggy over time. It's the outer part of the plastic headlight covers where the problem is. I thought it was some weird coating, I tried scratching it off but it doesn't help; it's like the plastic itself is crystallizing or something. I've just been living with it for years now, with poor illumination on the road at night-time... until today.


I saw an article on digg about some guy who figured out how to remove scratches from the plastic cover on his Ipod, by polishing it with Brasso. Other people leaving comments below the article swore it worked.

My cell phone is 1.5 years old, and had lots of scratches, so I went to the grocery store to buy some of this stuff. The place I go to does not have Brasso, specifically, but they did have a generic looking brass polish, so I bought it. It took a lot of rubbing this smelly liquid on my cell phone screen with a cloth, but it made my cell phone screen look almost brand-new!

Then this weekend it occurred to me - why not try that stuff on my car lenses? They're clear plastic, just like the cell phone screen. So I tried it. And it WORKED. I rinsed off the goop after rubbing for about 10 minutes on each side of the car, then let it dry. Check out these pics.


Yes, I know my car needs a wash really badly. It rained the other day, just a little bit, which always deposits dirt like mad.

I think my headlights will work a lot better now. There's no reason to spend hundreds of dollars replacing the lenses (especially since I couldn't find any on the Internet for this car), when you can simply spend less than $7 on a bottle of this stuff, and about 20 minutes of work.

I can't wait to try driving with my lights on after the sun goes down.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

My ipod wiped out every song I had from it's memory, and I think it's Itunes' fault. Luckily, Itunes keeps my "library" on hand (along with my favorite podcasts, audio books, etc.) so I was able to reconstruct what I had on my ipod... sort of.

The failure scenario went like this.

I needed to move 2 episodes of Firefly to my laptop from my main home computer, so I could watch them in another room last night, and my normal keychain memory stick was not big enough. I remembered you can use an ipod the same way, so I copied the files onto my 1GB Shuffle - and it turns out I barely had enough room. So after copying the files to the ipod for transport and yanking it from the computer, I plug it right in to my laptop (where I have never used it before). Itunes opens up (I had installed it but never used it), and says "this ipod is part of another server/fileset/something or other, are you sure you want to switch it to a different set and wipe out all your songs?" I don't remember the wording, but you get the idea. Naturally I clicked "no", and closed Itunes. Then I pulled the files off the ipod, and deleted them from the ipod itself; the transfer was now complete.

That was yesterday. Today I plugged my ipod into my main computer, as usual, just like I have done so many times before, and guess what it says to me: The same exact message! It thinks I had switched my ipod to the laptop computer, and now I'm trying to switch it back! The only 2 choices it gives me are "no" and "yes", so I click "no". And guess what - the ipod does NOT show up in Itunes when you do that! I tried it twice.

You have to click "yes", and wipe out all your files, to get it to show up in Itunes again - even though I never granted permission for it to do anything on the empty Itunes computer (my laptop).

This is an extremely severe bug, in my opinion. Apple should never have shipped Itunes with this, and a number of other, extremely irritating bugs that I deal with every week.

So I guess I won't be using my ipod as a memory device, ever again. That's really screwed up.

Itunes is extremely poor software. I'm a programmer and know what can be done, and Itunes is not up to my standard. It's just too bad it's the best thing out there, for what it does.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Learning about Market Research

I am beginning to realize the importance of market research. I’ve never really understood marketing, or selling for that matter. I’m a techie at heart. But I’m trying to understand every aspect of business in general, today, for my own education.

Market research is when you have a good idea for a product, and test it on a s mallish set of live customers to see their response, especially if you have multiple styles/types/colors/patterns/choices, and test to see how people receive them. You get data back about which models or colors they like the best, etc.

Let’s say you have a great idea, and want to implement it and sell it. But that’s not enough, what if people won’t buy it, or don’t like it. The more successful you are at shipping product to many stores quickly, the more danger you might be in, if you don’t have a product that will sell well. You cannot predict exactly what people will accept, only the people themselves can give you that knowledge - through market research.

Some great ideas will never fly. For example, my idea of making solid gold coins with imprints of video game characters, like Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Sonic, etc. I thought it would be cool. But now I realize NOBODY would buy that. Here’s why. It turns out the class of people who like those arcade games is completely separate from the class of people who understand gold investing and coin collecting. Sure there is probably a little overlap, but in general, arcade gamers are years old, and collectors (who have the money to spend on gold coins because they have a steady good paying job!) are generally years old.

Suppose you create a cool new toothbrush design, and the plastics company says it will be easy to manufacture. You can even do the math, and realize you’ll make a lot of money from this, if it will only sell. That’s the question – will it sell? And at what price will you make the most money? If you price it too high, few people will buy it, and you lose money. If you price it too low, too close to what it costs to manufacture ship, you don’t make any money either. There’s actually a “sweet spot” in between, for any product, you just have to find it.

The best thing you can do with a product like a new style of toothbrush is generate a variety of patterns and see which ones people prefer. Pick only those with strong response, and throw away the rest. Then find out what prices people would pay for them. I’m not sure how you do that, maybe put them in a “test market”, i.e .1 or 2 stores, at a certain price, and different stores at a different price, etc. But now, for that to be a reasonable test, you have to know your customers. All those stores must be in the same general neighborhoods (or have similar types of customers). You have to get a feel for what would happen if you raise the price $.50 each, lower it that much, etc. Find the perfect “knee in the curve” for maximum profit.

It’s not just for maximum profit however. The customers will be more comfortable if they see a reasonable price on your item – reasonable from their point of view. If the price is too high, not only will fewer people buy it, but the ones who do will more likely be irritated when it turns out to be a plain old toothbrush – “for that price, I thought it would be electric or something!” You’ll get complaints, and unhappy customers. It’s not worth creating extra conflict for people who already have enough difficulties in their lives.

Your products need to genuinely help people, at a reasonable price, to benefit both you and them as much as possible. This can best be achieved through proper market research.

If you’re going to do all the work and overcome all the obstacles to make and sell a product, shouldn’t you get as much money as possible from that effort? Market Research enables you to fit this product more perfectly to your customers, making it as successful as possible, at a fair price for the customer.

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