Sunday, 18 June 2006

I called my dad this evening to wish him happy Fathers Day and we talked for a while, which was cool. We don't get to do that as often as we'd like sometimes, and I always enjoy chatting with him about whatever's going on. Right now they're busy completely renovating a house they bought - like as in gutting the whole thing and redesigning and rebuilding. Quite the project.

Anyhow, it's Father's Day, and it's a complicated day for me. When I called my dad passed along my wishes to him, he reflected them back to me. I think he knows how important that is to me, or at least I hope he does. Most people don't know about me being a dad, and the whole story behind that. I don't often get a chance to talk about Brian, my foster son whom I adopted several years back. He died about six years ago. Some people would say he died of depression. Suicide's a hard word to say out loud in context. It's been a journey, both before and since he died.

The one things that's kept me going in the years since is the group of guys Brian knew before he died, people whose lives he touched enough for them to stick around and hang out with me from time to time, even these many years later. They're all older now, adults out on their own in one way or another. One's on an aircraft carrier on the Pacific today. Another is driving a big rig to southern California right now. Others are here in town going to college and working, still others have moved on, and so it goes. In their own ways, they each stay in touch. I am proud to call them my friends.

A co-worker sent me a quick email on Friday, and it has to be one of the most thoughtful, nicest things anyone's said to me in quite a while. And she didn't send it because she works in HR and has to do these things. She sent it because she really cares. She remembered and went out of her way to say something. You can't put a value on that...

"Just want to reach out to you with a few words given that Father’s Day is Sunday.  I hope that you celebrate knowing that you’ll forever be a Dad.  And not only did you touch your son’s life, but you continue to touch the lives of those boys with whom you interact today, and this blessing should be celebrated. May the times you spent with your son fill your heart always."

I am grateful today for friends that care, for Brian's friends that have stuck around over the years, and for the time I had the opportunity to spend with him, however short and however difficult. I hope he's in a better place. I am sure he is.

To all the dads out there, hug your kids, no matter how old or young. And to those of you with dads, if you haven't made that phone call yet or dropped by to say hi, you still have a few minutes and it doesn't have to happen just one Sunday a year. Make the call. Pay the visit. Today or tomorrow, it all counts for the same.

Happy Father's Day.



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Personal Stories
Sunday, 18 June 2006 18:01:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Note: The game described in this article is no longer available.

Dead-mans-tale1Come Monday/Tuesday time-frame we should see the new Windows Live Messenger IM client move out of beta and into general "gold" release (it's the new name for what was previously called the MSN Messenger client).

Also starting up at apparently the same time is a cool movie-centric promotional method tying the film and the new software together. Using your Windows Live Messenger IM client, chat and play interactively with Billy Bones and Jack Sparrow, and then recruit someone else to help you continue to uncover secrets. Dead Man's Chest is the name of the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which is set to show in theaters starting on July 7th. Dead Man's Tale is an online pirate IM adventure.

As of Sunday afternoon, the "Billy Bones" IM persona was not actually online, but something tells me it will be very soon.

Arrrrrr!! This could be fun.

Meanwhile...

(found via LiveSide.net)



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Tech
Sunday, 18 June 2006 17:38:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 17 June 2006

logo.jpgI first discovered and wrote about Pandora some time back, in December or so. Well, since then the Pandora crew has been hard at work and there's more new features that make the great thing they'd developed even better.

To re-cap, Pandora lets you enter the name of a musical artist, and it creates a "station" of similar, complimentary music based on the original selection. That music streams and plays in the web-based player like a radio station. And it's complete songs that play, not just clips. You can also rate the tracks and there are links to do things like buy from iTunes or Amazon. You can also take discovered songs you especially like and create new stations from those.

In a nutshell, use Pandora and you'll find lots of music you'll like that you'd never find otherwise.

But anyhow, about the new stuff...

On the Pandora blog just yesterday they announced some new features, one of which is called Backstage. It's a back-end into much of the information that drives Pandora. Here is how they describe it:

We created Backstage as your door to the music universe that lies behind Pandora. Search for an artist or song to start your exploration.

... whenever you hear a song you love, just click the song, album, or artist name to learn more. That click will take you "backstage" where you can browse an entire universe that tells the story of more than twenty thousand artists and their collected works.

Sample entire CD's, read about the history of your favorite bands, look at artist photos, build your musical profile, buy albums and tracks from iTunes or Amazon, and get all kinds of great recommendations for songs, albums, and artists you might enjoy.

Find something you like? You can create a new station with just a single click. Have some time on your hands? Just want to browse? Want to settle a bet about how many albums The Cure released in the 80's? Hop over to http://www.pandora.com/backstage and search for your favorite artist or song to get started.

Very cool stuff.

There are some other feature tweaks to the main Pandora interface, too. You can now rate a song with a single mouse click. Just mouse over the song you want to rate, and click the thumb (up or down) graphic that pops up. They've also added the ability to create a new station from any artist you encounter while listening. Just click the song menu and select "New Station: from artist" and Pandora will instantly create a new station for you.

And if you're wondering how the Pandora team does all that music comparison and correlation so you can find music you like, well guess what? It's a people-driven process, not automated. No wonder it works! Learn more about the people that manage the musical cataloging here.



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Random Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 17 June 2006 12:08:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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What podcasts do you listen to? Which ones actually keep you coming back?

Honestly, there are so few podcasts out there that I can stand to listen to anymore. I deleted a whole slew of podcast subscriptions the other day because I felt like I was wasting massive amounts of time on those occasions when I did listen, and because many of them have simply turned me off completely and therefore got skipped over and never listened to (and honestly that's most of them).

What are my pet peeves? Okay, here's my harsh list for what will cause me to kill the audio before the podcaster even gets started.

  • Any podcast that opens with anything even remotely like "your speakers are about to blow up" or "warning, "the sound you're about to hear may cause damage." Give me a break. Everyone says that, and the only potential damage is me pushing a pencil through my ear to drown out the un-original intro.
  • Don't say "welcome to the world of (anything)." That's as lame as the movie trailers that start with "In a world..." People laugh and cringe at the same time. And it's sad when cringing is accompanied by uncomfortable laughter.
  • Open your show with "blahblah podcast" plus the date and then never use the word podcast ever again. Use of the word "podcast" more than once in any single sentence, or in more than one sentence in a row should be a felony. Agh. I know it's a freakin' podcast, it's not like it magically found its way onto my computer - I had to do all kinds of work to find it and access it. Tell me something I don't know and (here comes the 'o' word again) original.
  • As much as it might mean to you, chances are nobody else especially wants you to pontificate about how you and your girlfriend celebrated her 31st birthday this past weekend. In fact, your girlfriend probably doesn't want you saying it either...
  • Podcasts about podcasting. Uh, yeah.
  • Crappy indie music. Note that I have nothing against independent music if it's good. But any music that's bad (indie or otherwise) is bound to drive away listeners. The operative word is 'crappy.' If you played "We Built This City" on your podcast opener, I'd probably click the 'Close' button, too.
  • Repetition
  • Repetition
  • Repetition
  • Seriously, you don't need a blog entry with the same copy/paste text on the page for every episode. I'm reading to see what's different, not what's the same. I already unsubscribed from the podcast, don't tempt me to do the same with the blog.
  • Snot noises (sniffling, etc). Seriously, blow your nose or take a decongestant or something.
  • "So I thought I would talk about something like that and so ummm yeah so uh I am going to talk about that now..." GAH!

They can't all be that bad...

Anyhow, my new goal is to find 10 awesome podcasts that attract, deserve and retain my attention. Let me know if you have suggestions.



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AudioBlogging | Blogging | Random Stuff
Saturday, 17 June 2006 10:14:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Not exactly my typical blog topic, but I found this to be very interesting, and somehow I think people like Bill and Melinda Gates might think so, too.

It certainly might be worth putting some serious thought and effort into. Is this possibly the changing face of education?

The Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, MD is not your typical school. Instead of the standard educational model, this private school takes a radically different approach - Kid-powered learning, if you will. 73 students and a few teachers have turned the traditional model on its proverbial head. Done right, this could be a powerful form and method of education. It sure looks like the kids are well-educated, smart and (perhaps most importantly) involved in their world.

There's a DVD that a film maker made about the school and its students, and you can view the trailer here:



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Random Stuff
Saturday, 17 June 2006 08:14:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Love it. The bathroom: It's not just for laptops anymore.

Introducing iCarta (click to view larger size). Thank goodness there are people out there inventing these things and making a zillion dollars as a result. Is it really that simple? Who the hell funds these things, anyhow?

ICarta

Specs:

  • 4 Integrated high performance moisture-free speakers deliver exceptional
    clarity and high quality sound
  • Charges your iPod while playing music
  • Audio selector allows you to play iPod shuffle or other Audio device
  • Integrated Bath tissue holder that can be easily folded as a stereo dock
  • Requires AC Power (AC Adapter included)
  • Easy to remove from Wall Mount


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Random Stuff | Tech
Saturday, 17 June 2006 07:23:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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