Awaiting the return of evil
Not quite space, but an incredible simulation
And finally, the one I laughed at the most, for no good reason: rubber streaks with a little blood to make things interesting
I can't sleep. I've stayed up way too late for a few nights, mucking around on the Internet. I finally got my taxes sent in, though things still didn't go right. H&R Block's website never let me file anything at all, and TurboTax's site kept complaining that I couldn't re-e-file before I fixed errors on my Minnesota tax return (my Minnesota return filed perfectly—it was the federal return that had problems).
I tried TurboTax's technical help chat to try to fix my problem. I went through three different agents, and they all just magically disappeared on me. But, even before I got online with the first one, I'd pretty much decided to do things on paper. I started downloading form after form, while waiting for the agents to come online. No, I can't do 1040A, I have to start over on the 1040. Oh, I need to do both schedule C and schedule ES. What's this 2210 thing? Hmm. Well, I just filled out the form, and in the end, it told me that I don't need to fill it out. Thanks.
So, I got all the numbers down. They didn't quite jive with what H&R Block had calculated, but it was within about 1%. I printed out my completed forms (fill-in forms are pretty neat), and wrote out my check. I dropped it in the mail a good two and a half hours before the next scheduled pickup.
I got back to my apartment, sat down, and realized I forgot to sign the forms (since they were the neat fill-in and print-out forms). At about 2:45 this morning, I realized I'd forgotten to include a W-2.
Well, at least it's not the end of the world. The W-2 information was filed by the University, and I definitely did sign the check. They should be happy enough with that, since it about halves my checking account at the moment. I suppose I'll call the IRS hotline sometime, though. Plus, one of the fields on the fill-in form was my phone number, so I might end up having them call me…
It's just around times like these that I really wish I had a girlfriend to get my mind off things.
I came across a pretty big archive of Marilyn Monroe pictures the other day. I had been searching for something completely unrelated, and somehow it popped up. Anyway, I looked through some of the pictures, and I was pretty surprised by how her appearance changed over time. A lot of the images show her as being a little bit chubbier than what is usually shown on TV shows about what she did. Personally, I think I like many of them more than some of the photos she's more famous for, though maybe it's more a function of whether her eyes were wide open or not…
I took an online test a while back to try and determine what sort of women I'm attracted to, according to appearance. It gave some contradictory answers, but it did remind me that I'm extremely picky. I think it said I was mostly interested in women who make up about 3% of the population, and I'd be competing with 50% of the guys for them. They called it the “supermodel” category, which leads me to question the test a bit since I know that I like women who aren't fat, but I usually find stick-like supermodels to be unattractive as well.
I also didn't like the test, because there seemed to me that many types of women I find attractive weren't in the test at all, but it's hard to say.
*shrug* I'm just so destined to be by myself that it doesn't really matter for me to try and dissect the situation too much…
Oh my god:
The University of Minnesota Alumni Association has rolled back the cost of membership…to a price not seen since 1904. Until February 14, you can activate a single-year membership for just $10.
In other news, I see that the Daily is switching to a broadsheet format. I always liked the fact that it was tabloid-sized. I find it impossible to read broadsheet newspapers comfortably…
After an American Experience episode about streamliners aired a few days ago, I've had a renewed interest in high-speed rail in the U.S. It turns out that some of the first fast trains ran between Chicago and the Twin Cities. For the inaugural run, two identical trainsets ran on parallel tracks, carrying sets of twins (people). The corridor was considered to be the nation's testing ground for (relatively) high-speed rail, with hundreds of people traveling the route each day on trains operated by Burlington, Chicago & North Western, and The Milwaukee Road. (Although, I guess, “testing ground” might be a misnomer of sorts, since there were faster trains elsewhere.)
Today, Amtrak's Empire Builder train runs about once a day from St. Paul to Chicago at an average of about 52 mph. I guess the record average speed for the (approximate) route was made in 1967, with a train averaging about 66 mph. The train today still gets up to about 80 in some spots, but not for very long, I guess.
Every so often, there are proposals to upgrade the line for trains probably running two to three times that speed (or more). When I was probably about 12 or so, I went to a meeting in Rochester where some discussion went on about some of the options. Obviously, the Rochester folks wanted the line to go through town, although it would probably make the route longer and whatnot. I just remember being excited because there was a little discussion of using maglevs, but I think the adults knew better than I did that maglevs are damned expensive and complicated (I just wanted to see something that was really fast.)
Got a new phone today for like $21.95 or something (plus a 12-month contract, naturally). Nokia this time. I guess Motorola just doesn't cut it in the mobile phone business. But, I get to keep the old one anyway. Maybe I can still get a warranty replacement for that one.
Anyway, the U keeps on giving me more disk space for my premium user account. I have to play a trick or two to get it all accessible on the web, but I now have 200 MB of space total. So, I now point to a random video file I found on the Internet: Japan 2003 National Yo-Yo Tournament
Just in case anyone wasn't feeling inferior today.
I don't like my new phone's contact list interface (Nokia 3595). It won't let me see the memory locations of the different entries. I can still do the shortcut of NN# to get to a number (i.e. 1# will fill in my parents' number), but it won't show me the name of the person I'm putting in. Also, my Motorola phones wouldn't just fill in the number—they'd “jump” to that spot in the list, and I'd still be able to move up and down in case I accidentally was off by one or five or fifteen… I'm only able to look through the list alphabetically at the moment, when I'd actually organized my list before.
Also, why does everyone have problems making small font sizes? When I say I want small, I don't want two-pixel-wide chunkiness… And could I get all of the lists in the user interface to have more than one thing on the screen at a time, please?
Of course, I've had issues with my other phones too. I guess that's just the way things go when you deal with these things…
Update: On the upside, I do have a pretty awesome wallpaper on my phone now:
I got a call yesterday for a job where I'd be working third shift, by myself, supporting offshored IT workers. I could probably handle having a job that had just one or two of those aspects, but not all three.
My dad and I will probably be driving down to Kentucky this weekend to visit my grandparents down there. My grandmother broke her hip recently, so we'll visit her and keep my grandfather company at home.
Heh. This is an awesome photo:
Late Night host Conan O'Brien presides over a mud wrestling match between Seattle's Space Needle (L) and Toronto's CN Tower during a taping of the show in Toronto February 11, 2004. O'Brien is doing four shows in Toronto. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/CHUM Television Photo/Handout
I guess Roseville is thinking of using instant runoff voting for a special election coming up soon. It's good that places around here are trying it out.
There was some news today about ethanol in Minnesota. Some researchers at the U got a paper published in the journal Science that talks about a new reactor they made that takes in ethanol and outputs hydrogen (which is in turn used to power a fuel cell). I've read about fuel cells before, and I'd actually heard that some fuel cells have been made to process gasoline and ethanol directly, so I'm kind of curious why there's all this work going into an intermediate procedure rather than getting everything done in one shot. Still, I guess it might be more efficient overall—hybrid vehicles like diesel-electric trains and the Toyota Prius are more efficient even though they are pretty complex systems.
Also, I heard a blurb on the radio about a new ethanol plant going up somewhere in the state. I guess they're all over, so that's not really new. Still, the news got me motivated to write a letter to Governor Pawlenty. I just requested that he look into whether corn is actually the best source of ethanol around here or not. I've mentioned before that the energy economics of it seem pretty awful in some studies—luckily, more energy gets out than goes in, but in some cases it's just a hair's width… I just asked him to look into sugar beets and other things, which seem like they might be better sources of energy (though it's hard to say for certain).
Once I get back, I'll have to send notes off to people about supporting instant runoff voting (see my previous entry). I listened to a discussion on MPR today where it seemed everyone supported it except for the Secretary of State of Minnesota… Kind of odd.
Oh, one more update… I'm heading to Kentucky this weekend, but I'm going home today, so if anyone wants anothe season of DS9 or something, said persons had better contact me quickly.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your drawls.
Ack! I thought something was looking funny on my LiveJournal friends page—my friends are no longer friends of me (or however you phrase that). Some people are not friended to my "mulad" account anymore, so I can't see private entries and stuff. Was this intentional? Was this an automated doodad somewhere in the bowels of LJ? I may never know. It'd be nice if the people I know who want to be my friend add that account back. Yeah, I know it's silly of me to have two separate accounts…
Still curious why I've disappeared from some friends lists, but I hope it has just been a fluke. I'm not aware of having any enemies or anything, so I'd hate to have started a bad trend.
On a much better note, my aunt Lori and uncle Scott were interviewed on MPR the other day. They're part of a small troupe that's started a new theater in Fargo. You can check it out here (with text and pictures plus the story audio for folks who aren't afraid of RealPlayer…).
Dunno if I'll have a chance to post tomorrow before I depart home for Kentucky.
Watching Star Trek: Voyager at the moment. It's on a local WB station in Danville, Illinois. It's been a long time since I've seen Voyager. Kind of a sappy episode.
Dad and I left home at around 9:30, finally getting on the highway just before 10:00 (had to get gas, you know). I noticed that some parts of I-90 in southeast Minnesota seem to have been re-done. It's been a long time, but I once went along that road on a class trip. I sat in the back of the bus and pretty much got sick to my stomach. I'm pretty sure I was in the fourth grade, heading to Winona or La Crosse so I could go on a short train trip on Amtrak. I'm thinking that we only went between those two cities, but now I remember that we also visited James J. Hill's home at some point, so maybe we actually got to St. Paul. At any rate, we ran into a lot of trouble because the train was late...
I mentioned some stuff about trains to my dad and he talked about an idea he had for getting new rail lines between the Cities and Rochester. His idea was to run the track (mostly just one set of rails, except in stations, etc.) on pylons along I-35 and then U.S. Highway 52 from Owatonna to Rochester. It seemed like an odd route to me until he explained that most of the way, it could use existing highway rights-of-way. Also, heading to the Cities from that direction would bring the rail line straight to the Mall of America and the Airport (and soon, both places will be major stops on the light rail line). Plus, Owatonna is a fairly major shipping town, so light freight could potentially be moved along the way sometimes. Having two towns pushing for a new line instead of just one would also be pretty good.
Something I'd forgotten to take into account when I prepared for the weekend was the fact that Minnesota Public Radio pretty much doesn't exist outside of the state. Pretty much every other NPR station has a different schedule, so I missed out on most of Car Talk and all of some of the other shows I wanted to listen to today.
I was surprised by a slightly scary-looking thin median around the area where I-90 meets up with 94 and 39. If a car lost control, it would barely dip before landing on the other side. Dad mentioned that one of the best barriers is actually chain-link fence, since it usually manages to stop cars, but generally doesn't damage them too much.
Anyway, stopped at a Culver's since I'd never been there before. My first impression was, Long John Silvers plus burgers. I had a bacon cheeseburger, and was amazed at how wide the thing was, though it wasn't amazingly thick. I suppose they cook quicker that way.
We went south on 90/39 and had to pay a toll in Illinois. My dad had gone on a trip to Tennessee with Habitat for Humanity just last month, so he sort of knew what to expect, though I still had to remind him to not get in the I-Pass lane...
So, we took a route avoiding Chicago. It's so strange for me to think of it, but Interstates aren't fixtures of the landscape that have been there forever. It just seems like that for me. I-39 is a flat, boring road that goes right down the middle of Illinois. After a while, I took over driving.
We made pretty good time. My dad was thinking that we'd stop in Peru/La Salle, but we were there by mid-afternoon. Got down to Bloomington/Normal by 5:00, stopped at a Steak 'n' Shake in Champaign for dinner, then finally stopped in Danville, Illinois around 6:30 for the night. I would have been happy to keep going a while longer, but I guess there aren't any major stops between Danville and Indianapolis.
We ran into some construction zones I hadn't expected in Wisconsin and around Bloomington in Illinois, but there wasn't any active construction going on. The lanes were squeezed a bit, but we pretty much got through without trouble, except that I got a bit confused by the lane switching required around Bloomington. I-39 ends just north of the area, then we had to jog west a little way on I-55 to meet up with I-74 and go south around the city, then we started east once the two roads split. Kind of a mess, though I guess it's easier than what we would have dealt with around Chicago.
Hmm. One thing that popped into my head while we were driving was the idea of a diesel-electric semi tractor, but I suppose there are reasons why nobody's done that before. I imagine the maintenance for the electrical system would make them unappealing to truckers. Hard to say.
That's an odd thing to end on, but whatever. Hey, look at that, it's Law & Order. Heh.
The single most annoying thing about my dad is the fact that he snores loudly and continuously at night. This is obviously not an issue for most people, and is usually not something I have to worry about, except for when I am traveling and need to share a room with him. I have phased in and out of something resembling sleep tonight, but I've mostly been frustrated by being kept awake. I'm escaping for a while to the bathroom to try and alleviate the stress.
There are a few things I had forgotten to write down. In Wisconsin, after a Wisconsin Public Radio station had been tuned in and subsequently faded out within about 5 minutes, we tried switching to music. After scanning up and down the dial, I found something that seemed okay, playing some fairly new rather alternative-ish song that I'll naver be able to remember. Of course, that train wrecked into '80s evil popstar music when it was followed by something by another artist I can't remember, but who is in the class of Rod Stewart whoever that was that wrote “Born in the USA” (My memory of music artists is exceedingly awful). (hmm, that would be Bruce Springsteen, right?) Anyway, Dad started up a tape after a while. What song was playing? “Mr. Roboto”
Something else I'd forgotten was the fact that my dad actually handed a guy the toll when we got to Illinois. I had been used to seeing the buckets used in the past—putting money directly in someone else's hand for a toll is not something I remember seeing when my family used to go on long road trips.
Oh. Valentine's Day. I was getting a bit concerned in the morning that we'd be overwhelmed by V-Day programming on the radio. I suppose we would have been if we'd bothered to try to find more NPR stations, but the radio DJs were restricted to only bringing it up once every hour or so. I had been starting to see the really sad side of the holiday that so many people complain about. I usually don't care one way or another about the day, but I don't like to be beaten over the head with it.
Before we left, I'd looked over the highway construction information on the various state DOTs' pages. I hadn't seen anything for any highway except I-65 in Indiana just north of the Kentucky border, which explains why I was surprised to see other construction areas (even if work has been suspended for the winter).
Well, my stress level has returned to normal, so I'll try to get to sleep. We'll see how that goes, since I can still hear my dad making noise through the door. I hope that I have my own room or something in Kentucky.
Well, we got to Louisville (actually, Taylorsville) around 1:30 or so, Eastern Time. We were amazed at the traffic on I-65 from Indianapolis to Louisville at 11 AM on a Sunday. I'd hate to see actual traffic on that road. Down at the south end of that stretch, 10 miles from the border (the Ohio River), we ran into some construction that has been going in fits and starts for most of my life. I don't know if we've ever been able to get over the bridge there at full speed. The roadway heading there is a mess, the roadway out is a mess (nicknamed “Spaghetti Junction,” though I think it may have been cleaned up somewhat over the years), and all of the other highways in the area are a mess. There are some stretches that are flat and smooth with gentle curves, but not anywhere near where those features would do the most good.
Anyway, Taylorsville is on the east side of Louisville, out kind of along the beltway I-265 (though we'd taken a side trip to drive by the older house that I had associated with my dad's parents when I was a kid). We managed to get where we wanted to go without making any significant U-turns (there was one intersection, but Dad just noticed he had to turn left, though he wasn't in the “middle” lane to be able to do that).
I had a hell of a time getting some sleep last night because of my dad's snoring. I guess he has a wedge-shaped pillow that he sometimes brings on trips that alleviates the problem, but we didn't bring it this trip. Sucks to be me. Anyway, I tossed and turned for about half an hour after I wrote the last entry, then finally decided that I wasn't going to be able to sleep at all unless I had something to cover up the noise. I pulled out my CD player, which fortunately has an FM tuner on it. Amazingly, the first station the channel-scanner found was a pretty good mixed classic-/modern-rock station. Kind of a weird combination, but it seemed to work well. In fact, I think that little station on the border of nowhere probably beats out 93X/KQRS for good programming by a large margin. There were some things I didn't like—some of the songs were a little too bluesy or conutry-y for my tastes, but those maladies were overcome by other excellent selections. I hope that the station broadcasts on the Internet.
Just to try and compete with the big boys in a small way, the station calls itself “K-Rock”, though the call letters are “WRHK” (wrahk?) I suppose stations east of the Mississippi have to pull the K- part out of their ass, while western stations have legitimate claim to the letter…
Still, I think the station should probably bribe the FCC to steal KROC's call letters from Rochester, MN. The Rochester station has been a top-40s station for ages, definitely not deserving of its call sign.
I listened to the station for about three and a half hours until the great programming was interrupted by The House of Blues Blues Hour or whatever it's called. I'm just not much of a blues person, at least not what Dan Aykroyd likes to call blues...
Fortunately, this was about time for me to get up anyway. I was rested enough, though lacking any actual sleep last night, I'm glad I didn't have to drive today.
Hmm. I should probably look up an Internet cafe or something so I can post these messages, though I'm a bit concerned about security in those places…
Heh. Now, if only DJs would tell you the names of the songs they play. Or, if in fact, DJs actually existed at 4:00 AM on Sunday… (Badly-remembered lyrics:)
The freckles on her chest
The dirt on her knees
Her pants at her feet
One more thing about that radio station in Danville:
… Coming up next: Music from The Cars, ZZ Top, and Audioslave
Anyway, my dad and I installed some hand-holds in the shower/tub for my grandparents to use. It was a somewhat troublesome process to figure out how to properly mount the rods, since we lack X-ray vision and can't see through the walls. One of the pilot holes bumped into a stud where Dad hadn't expected them, so things had to be fiddled a bit. In the end, though, all of the extra holes that were made ended up being hidden by the circular mounting area anyway.
Well, friends of mine that think I'm freakishly quiet will be happy to know that I understand how that can be disturbing. I've seen my uncle Joe pull this off especially well, though my Dad can do a pretty good job in this ouse for some reason. I haven't noticed when people move through the house sometimes. I've even seen Joe coming a few times, only to have him somehow go into stealth mode, and a moment later I lose track of which direction he went next. So, my quietness runs in this side of the family. My grandfather is really quiet and doesn't speak much either, though I suppose my uncle John kind of breaks the mold a little bit and seems to be a bit more chatty (though he's not here at the moment).
My grandfather is a lawyer, though I guess not a very litigous one. He's mostly been the type to work on the financial side of things, handling estates and sometimes certain organizations. He worked for one company (apparently one specializing in construction) around 1970 that led him to be at the Supreme Court once, which is a pretty neat thing to have done, even if it wasn't an amazingly interesting case or anything.
He's 89 years old now. Still handles a few estates here and there, I guess, but I guess the work is mostly just to keep him engaged rather than just sitting around all day. It looks like he may give that up fairly soon, though. He's received a few degrees. A B.A. in 1936, a Bachelor of Law in 1938, and a Juris Doctor(ate) in 1969. I guess he served a bit in World War II, but I'm not really sure how much. One of the previous times I visited, there was a story told about how he almost visited London one time during the war because some bad weather almost diverted the plane he was on, but then the weather cleared. I'm not sure where the plane would have been coming from or going to at that point, though.
Heh. I see from some of the pictures on the wall that he had wavy hair a lot like I do, though it was black. He seemed to be able to tame it somewhat, but one of the hairstyles is vaguely reminiscent of Don King, but it's not really bad or anything. It just sort of reaches a point at the top.
There are some photos that seem to be even older, though I don't know the stories behind those yet.
Hmm. Time for lunch.
Had some lunch and then went to Lowe's and Wal-Mart. Lunch was simple but good. My grandpa had made vegetable beef soup yesterday. I'd never even realized that you could make the stuff on your own. Soup from cans has devastated that line of culinary expertise, I think. Of course, it probably wasn't totally from scratch, but I didn't see much of what was going on. In some ways, the culture here is to take things slowly. A roast for supper was already cooking when we ate…
As nonsensical as the Twin Cities area is in terms of roads, I think Louisville is worse. It's barely-controlled chaos in some places. Oh well, that may have something to do with the fact that Louisville has probably been settled for considerably longer. Roadways around here are often named after people, which I find to be even more confusing than numbers. Every once in a while, the names are more purposeful—the road to Taylorsville is coincidentally named Taylorsville Road, for instance, but that seems to be the exception to the rule. I suppose things are the same in the Cities, though I-494 isn't named after anyone as far as I know.
Work to do…
My grandmother brought up the story that my grandpa invented a machine to grade test papers, basically what is used today to grade SATs and whatever. It isn't actually the precursor to anything that exists today—he invented it with a college friend, but I guess they never patented it. IBM came out with something more modern years later. It wasn't brought up today, but I think my grandfather's machine used electrical contacts that rubbed the sheet of paper, and would carry a current when it passed over a pencil mark (since graphite is somewhat conductive). I think current machines tend to be optical, but I don't know.
Heh. After coming back from Wal-Mart earlier, I was thinking, “You haven't been to Wal-Mart until you've been to Wal-Mart in the South.” Of course, Kentucky is really more of a border state than anything else. Natives usually have a bit of a twang, but it's nothing too intense. Still, the screaming mothers at the store today really gave it that certain feeling. My dad and I usually don't patronize Wal-Mart, but there didn't seem to be many other options in the area.
I watched a little TV yesterday and today. Yesterday, we mostly just saw the Daytona 500. We missed Bush starting the race. That's so strange. I guess he took a lap around the track in the presidential motorcade. Sheesh. Well, I suppose it's really not hugely worse than previous presidents throwing out the first pitch at baseball games, though I guess it was considered by some to be a kickoff of campaign activities—and it took place in Florida.
So, for that reason I thought it was funny that today is Presidents Day—Bush had his day yesterday at the racetrack :-p
I've been a little concerned that I'm down here among Southern Baptists while the gay marriage debate is playing out in California. Well. I guess that's a good reason for me to not worry about it. California's still a long way away. It hasn't been brought up yet, so we'll see if that holds.
Today has been even more laid-back. I suppose this is just about as low as I want to go in the activity department. At about this point, I have a tendency to just get tired out by doing nothing for too long and begin a downward spiral. So, I've been reading Catch Me If You Can, the book upon which the movie is based, not the other way around. I started in on it the other day, reading in bursts of a chapter or two when I get a chance. Since my grandparents have lost a fair amount of mobility over the years, my bed area downstairs hasn't seen much foot traffic except for my dad going in and out of his room from time to time. I've mostly just been sitting in one of the easy chairs with my headphones
on as I listen to the radio or a CD and read the book.
I'm kind of surprised by the radio stations around here. There doesn't seem to be a huge number of country staitons around. I guess it seems to be about the same ratio as I find in Minnesota. Still, the air is choked with various rock variants. Some are more geared toward the top-40s end, though most try to be fairly heavy rock or are some variation on classic rock or oldies. I'm appreciating the fact that the playlists are different than those in the Cities. Not quite as much overplaying of John Mayer Jack Johnson (or is that John Jackson? Reminds me of a Futurama episode or two ;-) Anyway, I've just gotten extremely annoyed by the Minnesota stations over the past several months since they beat their overly-short playlists into the ground.
A better strategy than restricting the playlist to 50 songs is to expand it. A lot. I need variety, dammit! It might be good to have scheduled times where certain genres are emphasized, though I'd hate to see certain songs essentially banned from daylight hours or whatever. Still, most stations make massive train wrecks most of the time when transitioning between songs. If scheduling is only going to happen on computers, then it's best to describe the songs in some way to prevent the new song from totally messing up the flow. Some simple beat and note (frequency) matching would be helpful.
WLRS 105.1 (“The Walrus” :-p) is now playing a new song I just heard on that Danville station the other night. Maybe we were all just going through a periodic drought period for new music. I suppose the aural pushers might take a break around Christmas. It would be nice to have some more stuff show up now. Ah. Then the segue to an aincent Red Hot Chili Peppers tune… Bleh.
Anyway, I'd read Catch Me If You Can. I guess I was surprised by the libidinous root causes of that whole escapade. That seemed to get glossed over from what I remember of the movie, though maybe I just try to avoid thinking about things like that. Reading the book yesterday definitely influenced my dreams last night. My mind gave me images I haven't had in a long while. They involved a girl I knew back in High School, though one I generally hadn't thought of back then. Still, I don't think I'd take this as a sign…she attended seminary after graduating from Byron :-p
Still, the book definitely reminds me that I'm not taking the appropriate chances to enjoy my life properly these days. Of course, this is another thing that seems to run in the family. Out of my dad and his brothers, only my father ever married. Both of his brothers (one older and one younger) are long-time bachelors.
My grandmother can't stop commenting on how she never knew that the younger brother, Joe, could cook. He's done a good job of preparing meals for us—often including a token amount of bacon ;-) Green beans, baked sweet potatoes, fried potatoes with vegetables, roast beef, and so on. Of course, it's not all exactly from scratch, but he's done a lot.
I should probably go see if I can help out with any of the repair/upgrade projects that are going on in the house. Dad was still slowly proceeding with installing new phone/fax lines upstairs so my grandfather could move his office up there if he wanted. His office is currently downstairs, though his space down there is much bigger than the room that he might move into later.
I should mention that my great aunt Nettie Lee visited today. She's 92 (or 93… hard to keep track of these things) and still drives everywhere. She seemed to be moving more slowly than the last time I saw her, but I think that must have been almost ten years ago now. She brought some chili that she'd made, as well as a Sara Lee pie she'd picked up somewhere.
My grandmother keeps getting visitors and phone calls, though I suppose they're mostly people from her church that are kind of fulfilling their duty to the congregation. They seem to enjoy visiting, though, and my grandmother definitely appreciates having different people come by to talk.
Another day, another (not) dollar. I guess I spent most of the day reading. I picked up Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond several months ago, but never managed to get into it. I guess the introductory bits by David Diamond had turned me off, plus there was still some latent over-enthusiasm for the stock market and the represented businesses which had hit their high shortly before the book was finalized and sent to the printers. Still, it's a good book, and I'd recommend it to lots of people. Linus is definitely an entertaining character.
Not a whole lot was going on today in Kentucky, though my dad and I installed another handhold—this time in the master bathroom. I hadn't snuck into my grandparents' bedroom yet, so I didn't even know it was there. Anyway, this installation pretty much went off without a hitch—mostly since we'd done it twice before.
Like I said, I spent most of the day reading, though I guess I did more of it without my CD player upstairs rather than listening to the radio or CD with my earmuff headphones downstairs. My grandfather had gone into town to visit his broker and get a haircut, my dad was out at the hardware store, and my uncle Joe was still trekking back from Illinois where he'd spent the night (presumably working on something). I was upstairs to keep an eye or an ear or something on grandma, just in case she needed something. Mostly, I just sat in the other room and quietly read, since I was more in the mood to read rather than listen to her repeat her stories over and over.
I went for a walk in the afternoon when a physical therapist showed up to help my grandmother exercise a bit. I took a walk around the “block” (hard to call it a block, since it's one of those annoying suburban squiggle roads that loops back on itself) and visited the local convenience store for the hell of it. Man, I really need to get out and walk more often. One of my feet started hurting a little after a few hours, though I'm sure it won't bother me too much.
My dad and I will probably go into town tomorrow. Maybe we'll try to find an Internet café or something, but I'd still rather not put my computer on an insecure network. Maybe I should try to set up an IPSec gateway on my home firewall eventually. That would give me a minimal security net, though it would probably be impossible to get the different computers working with the same version. Plus, I'd have to recompile the kernel on that old box somehow, and I'd hate to disturb its uptime ;-)
Well, my uncle has laid down on the couch in the adjoining room, so I'd better stop typing so I can avoid keeping him awake…
Today turned out to be a rather boring day as well. I'll be ready to head home on Saturday. My grandparents have made it difficult for me to watch any TV shows that I like, not that I necessarily like what I usually watch (and what I usually watch is recorded automatically by my computer these days, so I don't even know when it's on anymore). My grandma and grandpa generally restrict themselves to Fox News Channel. Scary, I know. I tried to start watching some stuff on the History Channel. The show that was on was about prisons, not necessarily the most enjoyable thing to learn about, but interesting nonetheless. I think that my dad, grandfather, and I were enjoying it well enough, but then my grandmother came in and started complaining about it before too long. Oh well, I'll be back to my own cable system soon enough. I just wish I got TechTV and one or two other things in place of all those sports channels I never watch.
Anyway, I've kind of been thinking about how a person or group might go about running a new radio station that plays stuff people actually like. Of course, it's impossible in more ways than one. Even if I somehow made a radio station myself, I'd probably end up scheduling things I don't like because I know other people like them. Still, I keep thinking about it, and it'll probably be on my mind until I get back to Minneapolis. I certainly hope the Cities stations will have turned over a new leaf by the time I get to my apartment.
If I somehow got control of a radio station of my own, I wish I could just start spinning random CDs that I own, but my collection is still relatively small, and a lot of the tracks I own are pretty much crap. Heck, most of them probably are. The good news is that there is usually one or two good tracks to make up for the rest, though sometimes I end up with something that I just consider to be a dud later. One thing I hate about my music collection is that I somehow spring for the slower, more mellow music, when I really would rather get pepped up by some faster beats and generally happier music.
So, I'd rather have control of a station that mostly played up-tempo music, probably usually stuff that you can dance to—or at least something that will get your feet tapping. I think I'd basically say, “we'll play anything except country, rap, classical, some ethnic music, and maybe a few others.” Which leaves all sorts of good music. That's really all I want—good music. Heck, even for the bits we wouldn't play, it might be nice to have hours where the music was influenced by another genre of music that generally doesn't get on the air (blues-influenced, jazz-infused, etc.). *shrug* Maybe it'd be a sucky idea. I guess in some ways, it sounds like how you'd define “college radio station.” However, I think the station would still have pretty heavy influences from popular music, rather than the fairly random stuff you get on college radio. The only thing I really want is to get away from playing only the top-40 hits of the past. Getting into the lesser-played tracks by new and old artists would be much more enjoyable.
It would be nice to alternate a bit between new and old music, showing musical influences along the way. That would be an especially nice thing to do during certain hours. Heck, if the station got to be good enough to be noticed by musicians themselves, it would be awesome to do interview sessions with the artists where they sit down and talk about the music that influenced them, letting it play and talking about it in-between tracks.
I also thought it would be great to have some time on certain weeknights (or, more likely, the weekend) when local and visiting DJs come in to spin some dance music. I figure maybe a good DJ could come in at least once a week, though the station could still have an hour or two of dance/electronic/ambient music each night or every other night.
Another time slot could be dedicated to “Jam Sessions” where jazz-style music could be played by live bands or random recordings (this would also be a good time to schedule a lot of music by Phish and other similar groups). An evening hour might be dedicated to stress relief by playing some fairly angst-ridden music for much of the hour, with a transition out to something more upbeat toward the end of the session.
Part of the idea behind the station would be a good system for selecting what music to play. Being a computer geek, I figure this would probably revolve around some specialized software for selecting appropriate tracks from a music database. I figure part of the DJs' jobs would be to go through the music library, cataloguing the music, assigning the various genres, influences, artists, etc. that are represented by the songs. Information like that as well as descriptions of the intro/exit of each song, such as the beats per minute and what instruments are used (maybe even the pitch). Maybe it's an impossibly high standard to reach, but the Cities stations seem to be bordering impossibly low standards at the
Since I'm a Linux geek, and since I just read Linus Torvalds' book, I figure it would be good to have a fairly “open” radio station. At the very least, I would want to have an online database available for listeners to look up popular songs, and what was playing at a particular moment on the radio. It might be a good idea to open-source the software used for cataloguing music—maybe even the database itself. A lot of people would think it's crazy, I guess.
Also, it would be beneficial to have listener input on how to make the station more enjoyable for them. I already know that people hate ads. I personally dislike a lot of the DJs out there—they talk too much, or at least mention things I could care less about. I'd rather have the DJs merely mention who just played (and the song/album titles) and then mention who's coming up, instead of talking about boring crap. I want the station to be about the music.
Anyway, it's only an idea. I'm sure it'll never get past that stage. Something that would be nice to have, but will never happen.
Bah, okay, I just have to pick nits about Evanescence. I'm getting a little sick of their ballad-ish songs, and I'm wondering if the studio recordings were botched. I had downloaded an MP3 (or random format x) file, and I was getting audio “clipping” artifacts at some points. It's hard to tell sometimes if the audio is really meant to sound like that or not. The vocals seem to be going off scale, is what I'm trying to say, and you get some static in it from that. Anyway, it's hard to tell from FM broadcast, but it seems that the original recordings may have this problem, so I'd hate to go buy their CD and have the static-y voices.
Most pop music recordings are so “hot” these days, they don't properly exploit the capabilities of CD audio. A lot of music seems to be normalized, so when the bass line kicks in or the main guitar riff starts off, the music doesn't really get louder—the rest of the music just gets softer! Well, that's what it sounds like to me in many cases, at least. That's stupid. I suppose the music producers don't want to scare people or something. Oh well.
One of the big things that directors of large bands (marching bands and orchestras, I mean) have to worry about is how to get the appropriate dynamic range. It's amazing when you do it right. It's a pretty awesome thing to listen to a quiet theater with just a clarinet or flute playing, then hear everyone else come in with a rush. Maybe the reason it's so difficult to get musicians to do that is because they always hear pop music on the radio played at constant volume…
Blah, I'm wandering. Time to go try to find something to do, I think.
Today, I guess we spent more time looking over the history of my father's side of the family. There are a lot more relatives than I really ever thought of. My grandmother grew up in Mississippi, I guess. A county neighboring Lincoln county, I believe (the county name must come from an American Indian word, so I can't remember it). Anyway, there was a school/university there that she attended. I guess I don't really know why my grandmother left Mississippi, though. Maybe my grandfather had gone down there for a time or something.
Anyway, her last name was originally Guynes (pronounced “gwines”), and the name can be traced back a while. The name was originally adapted from a French name, apparently. Her grandfather (Henry Hill Guynes, Jr., I think) served in the Civil War (for the South). He'd been in several battles, from what I understand, but ended up being captured in the Battle of Vicksburg, and was held prisoner until the war ended. It sounds like he walked all the way back, though his shoes were chewed up long before then and he showed up at home barefoot.
Of course, this leads my grandmother to say something along the lines of, “and that's how bad those Yankees were when they held prisoners,” though if memory serves, I seem to recall the South being much worse about prisoner welfare than the North. As with any war, I'm sure bad stuff happened on both sides…
I believe that she came from the Guynes and Biggs families (maybe the Love family), and my grandfather came from the Hicks and Yenowine families. My dad has done some of the genealogy of the whole thing, of course, so I can just ask him at some point, though certain parts are missing. We went through some of the family photos that are kept here, so I got to see some of the faces. Still, I never knew them really…
My grandmother is always proud to mention her father, who had lost his left arm when he was fairly young. Not the whole arm, but there was only a stub below his elbow. Apparently he could climb trees without a second thought, and he was a good carpenter (even metalworker, maybe) with just the one hand. He'd invented a utensil that acted as a combination knife and fork. One side had a heavier curved edge used for cutting, though it still had the tines of a fork. Need to get me one of those (I use my fork for cutting all the time! ;-)
While my grandmother's side of the family is mostly farther south, I guess my grandfather's side has been in this area for a long time. There's a map in the den that shows some of the area around Louisville (though not this far out in the country). The funny thing about the map is that it shows the region of Jeffersontown by mapping out some of the roads, but it mostly has little squares showing where each family lived! I don't think I've ever seen anyone make a map that way. Anyway, it explains some of the landmark names around here. There's a Kennedy school, but it's not named after the former president—it's named for the guy that lived across the street! I guess there's a Brown's Lane (or something similar) in town, named for the Brown family (families?) that lived in that area. I think that's really funny in a way…
Anyway, my family history in the U.S. is a little more interesting than I had thought. I just never heard a whole lot about it for one reason or another. I suppose I still don't even know a whole lot about my mother's side of the family either—it just garners a bit more interest since they came over to this country much more recently. Plus, that makes me 50% Norwegian with the other 50% divided up into all sorts of stuff… Much easier to deal with that side in some ways.
I think I'm going to try to sneak into the TV room around 7:00 so I can watch last night's episode of The Daily Show. Well, it'll probably be a repeat anyway. It would be nice to see something funny on the TV for once this week. I haven't had much fun in front of the tube down here.
Sorry to everyone who still bothers to read my entries on LiveJournal. It sucks to be you right now because all of my entries for the past week have suddenly appeared on your friends pages. Sorry about that, but you can blame the LJ staff, since their software doesn't properly parse the timestamps in my entries :-p
If anyone wants to read my slideshow-esque recounting of the week's events, take a look at this category on my website.
Today, my dad and I managed to pull out of my grandparents' driveway around 8:20 AM (7:20 in this time zone). We didn't have too many stops, and managed to arrive in Byron at about 7:20 PM. 12 hours isn't too bad for 750 miles. It looked to me like some snow had melted along the way, but it's hard to say how much, exactly. All I know is, last night I heard motorbikes revving in the distance. Tonight, it's snowmobiles.
I drove probably about a third of the way, including the last stretch on the way home. The only time on the whole trip where you can legally go above 65 mph is in Minnesota, where the Interstate highway speed is 70 mph (well, you only get that high in rural areas, and nobody counts the stretch of I-94 from the Cities out to Hudson for some reason…) My dad pointed out to me that there was actually only one I-Pass–only lane in the center. The lanes to the left are the automatic buckets, and the lanes to the right have people in them to make change.
We had lunch in Urbana-Champaign, supper not far past Tomah (where I-90 and I-94 split in Wisconsin), and even got to listen to some NPR on the radio on the way. That Danville radio station I had liked on the way down has either changed formats to talk or had some strange program on while we came through before noon. Oh well.
I had a strange service provider pop up on my cell phone in Wisconsin. Einstein PCS? Never heard of them. Hopefully the call from my uncle I got won't give me any extra charges, since I was on that network at the time.
Last night, I didn't get to watch The Daily Show like I wanted. Supper was delayed, and we didn't even begin to eat until 7:00. But, my Dad and I stayed up until 10:00 to watch the episodef of Monk that was on USA. My parents are cable-impared, and miss out on that show since ABC is being idiotic about scheduling the show, since they aren't playing it very often. Dumbasses.
Now that I've rained the bits and bytes of hell upon everyone, it's time for me to check some e-mail, and probably go to bed early…
I should be heading back to Minneapolis tomorrow.
Blech, I'm sleepy. My sleep schedule is somewhat off since I ended up sleeping more with no Internet and restricted TV. Now I'm tired since I was in the next timezone, I guess. Oh well, I'll be back to what passes for normal in no time.
I think that at about 9:00 PM on the Friday before I left, I realized that I should probably try to call Erik and hang out with him more often. In theory, he's helping with teaching at the school right next to my apartment, so it wouldn't be hard to visit with him if he has an open schedule afterward… I suppose my desire to get to know some girls may have led me to distance myself from my male friends. I needed time to recover from being around guys all of the time in my CSci classes, I guess. Still, I'd want to spend time with some girls if the opportunity arose, but that's not going to happen if I never hang out with anybody…
I was guilted into going to church this morning in Rochester. It would have been nice to lounge around after driving all day yesterday, but no… I was worried that one of the pastors would mention Mel Gibson's movie, and one of them did. I was seconds away from getting up from my pew and leaving the sanctuary, but he managed to stop talking about it before that happened. It would have turned into a mess if I had left—my parents were on my left, and my brother and one of the church's pastors was on the right. Neither direction was a good option. Oh well, the guy didn't outright say, “you should go see this movie,” he just said something like “it sounds like this is an accurate portrayal of what [is believed to have] happened.” Still, I wish he'd actually see the movie before promoting it in any way.
But, I'm in Minneapolis now. Brought my brother up with me, since he'd visited home over the weekend. There was a little tension since we might have had to deal with bad weather, but things cleared up by the time we left (still wet on the road in some places, but not too bad).
Now I see that The Daily Show was all repeats this last week, so I didn't miss anything there. I'll have to go through the other shows my computer recorded and see if anything interesting showed up over the week (there appears to be a good Frontline episode).
Oh yeah—I'm glad Ralph Nader decided to run again. I wasn't sure if I wanted him there or not, but the Democratic nomination race is kicking out the candidates I like (er, the main candidate I liked, at least). By the way, the “Nader is a spoiler” argument doesn't carry any weight with me. In Florida in 2000, Gore and Bush were separated by 537 votes. The 10th-place finisher, James Harris of the Socialist Workers Party, had 558 votes, so that theoretically makes about eight people possibly responsible if you want to play the candidate blame game. In truth, the voting in Florida was just fubar in general (with tens of thousands of ballots considered “spoiled”), so you can't blame any of them.
400 more songs…No hype, no BS…That's Drive 105
Stop talking, dammit! That is hype and BS in my book. I hadn't bothered to check before, but almost every break between songs on Drive has an interstitial remark (somewhere north of 98% of the song changes while I've been listening today). It's endless self-promotion, which becomes very annoying. If you're going to waste my time talking between songs, at least tell me who the friggin' artist is. Commercial breaks seem to average between 5 and 7 minutes, while I generally can't be bothered to stay on the same station when listening to talking heads and ads for more than 4 minutes straight.
On my trip to Kentucky last week, I (probably re-)discovered that McDonald's, schools of bartending, and other organizations will make different ads for different regions of the country. The ads in Louisville often have exactly the same wording, but the themes are sung with a southern accent and country music, even when played on rock stations. Since we get urban-themed ads up here, this leads me to believe that there may be other versions. Personally, I have a very strong dislike of hip-hop, so I'd prefer to hear some rock-themed ones if they exist.
Oh yeah. I like the fact that Drive plays Phish every once in a while, but I think they have more than just one song. They seem to be suddenly playing half of Guster's tracks, so why not give fair treatment to some of the other bands out there. Go out, burn your playlist, and start over if this is so difficult…
Yesterday I started playing with GJay, a Linux-based program that analyzes music for audio frequency usage (which parts of the spectrum are heavily used) and BPM, giving the computer a fairly good idea of what a song sounds like. You can go in manually to give songs ratings and “colors,” which can be interpreted in any way you want.
I use the location on the color wheel (hue and saturation) to indicate genre. More saturated colors are used for “heavier” music in my system and less saturated colors (approaching white in the middle) are “lighter.” So far, I've got classic and modern rock in the blue and purple range, with red going into pop/hip-hop/rap, then circling around to techno/dance in the yellow/green range. Cyan, on the opposite side of the color wheel from red, is reserved for classical music, and occasionally sees other acoustic stuff. I use the value (brightness) scale to indicate how “happy” the song is, so it's kind of a representation of mood.
There's also rating, which the randomizer doesn't seem to use much other than to avoid certain songs below a cutoff point. It'll take forever for me to put all of the color/rating data into the system, and I'm sure the info will get corrupted at some point (at least it's in an XML file).
So, I get to cheat on the random playlist thingy going around (though some of the selections still aren't so good):
Heh, you might notice that most of the artist names start with A, B, or C. I've mostly only categorized the songs toward the (alphabetical) beginning of my music archive. My computer was still analyzing music when I woke up this morning (though it had gotten through over 50% of my collection overnight).
I was surprised to see that the “Just Played” feature of Drive 105's website is actually served by YES. They have computers that tune in various radio stations all over the country which do audio “fingerprinting” of the songs played. I imagine they don't actually have everything in their database, so that explains the gaps sometimes. At any rate, I think it's a sucky interface. You only see one song, while most people would want to see the last twenty—at least—in one glance.
Okay, I lied. My computer is still analyzing music. I had forgotten that I copied most of Dan's music collection off the living room computer one time, and I'd also copied some music back when I worked at CSOM (unfortunately, most of that turned out to be jazz, which I wasn't a huge fan of…) But, I think it'll be done soon (/me crosses fingers).
I need to find a program to tweak the volumes of the songs on my computer though. iTunes does this automatically, but my old player doesn't have this functionality built in. There are some plugins I can use, but one I tried in the past didn't pre-analyze the songs—it only went on the moment-to-moment volume of a file, which just seemed to mess things up more (and is generally not what I want anyway—I complained about this type of behavior the other day). There are some other tools I can try, but I'm not sure how well they work.
Anyway, this analyzer program is still doing a fairly good job so far. Having more music available to go between helps a lot. I've got something like 6770 music files (though many are duplicates or silly files), so there's plenty of wiggle room for the algorithms. One nifty thing is that the software is good at finding duplicate files. I've been getting files common to my normal collection and Dan's old one show up right next to each other in playlists. Sometimes the affinity for music by the same band is a little too heavy, though. I suppose I should just be glad I don't have a lot of stuff by Everclear ;-)
I just pulled my CD settlement check out of the mail. It had actually been sent home, but my mom mailed it here. $13.86. About what I expected, I guess.
In other news, Wired has a pretty awesome issue this month, though it bugs me that it is the third place I've seen the military-funded desert-traversing AI robot project story. I think I've also come across in in IEEE Spectrum and Scientific American. Someone wants to get more funding…
Update: Oops, it was SciAm and Popular Science.
Ah, The Daily Show. Where would we be without you?
Hello! And welcome to Moviefone
To select – The Passion of the Christ – press one
To select – Jesus Christ – as your personal savior – press two
If you are one of they who mock them yea verily, I say unto thee – press three
If you need instructions again in tongues – press four
Hulabalala! Nrabulalala! Nraah! Blualablah! Haaa!
Such sophistication ;-)
Heh. For everyone who gets annoyed by the religious overtones of the president, maybe you'd like some scarily happy atheist-themed music. Listen here, about 1:25 in.
On a completely different subject: I don't know how in the world I wandered into this thought process, but I'm kind of curious about euphemisms for defecation at the moment. Actually, I'm specifically interested in polite euphemisms… I've hunted a bit with Google, but a lot of them are very sickening. As a kid, I was told to call it “big business,” which is pretty funny now that I think of it. I've never heard anyone else call it that (and no, when financial analysts talk on TV, I never get confused ;-)
Update: Oh my…
I was going to call Dan or Erik or somebody to try to do something tonight, but it didn't happen. Time slipped away as I tried out a new skillet that I bought. Well, I guess it was actually labeled an omelette pan, but the difference from it and a skillet was only a slight curvature. The omelette pan was anodized aluminum, so I guess it'll basically never corrode (in theory). There's a non-stick surface, of course—I think it's something other than Teflon, but the label didn't mention what it was.
Anyway, I just needed something with a lid, since some of the skillet meal things available need to be lidded when cooked. I was pretty much forced into buying the Calphalon stuff at Target, since that was the only way I could get something with a cover. The nifty thing is that it's a glass lid, so I can what's going on without guessing. Now if only my oven had a window…
I walked by the Stone Arch Apartments yesterday. It's pretty much right at the end of the Stone Arch Bridge, which is kind of a crappy location, unless you only ever want to go downtown or St. Anthony. I suppose it's too expensive for students, but if someone were to live there and then have to go to the U everyday, that person would have to walk around the apartment to get around the big metalworking company behind it. I guess there's the service road in front that heads straight toward Dinkytown, but it's not a public road.
Tomorrow, I think it will be an early spring-cleaning of the apartment. I also have to remember to pay rent this weekend, though at least February goes to the 29th this year.
Aagh! Life is not better with the butterfly. Stupid Flash-based ads keep on pegging my CPU from time to time. They pretty much lock up my browser every once in a while, but the really evil ones have at least been becoming less common lately. I have a hunch that the Linux version of the Flash player doesn't timeslice with the browser properly, though I suppose it could be the browser's fault.
I set up my computer to record Tripping the Rift on SciFi, but I don't know if I'll like it. I was kind of surprised by the fact that Gina Gershon plays Six in that. The voice in the ads sounds like Terry Farrell to me.
Oh weird—now that I look up Terry Farrell on IMDB, I see that she did do the voice of Six in a Tripping the Rift short made in 2000. Maybe they're making the ads from the original short? I dunno. Wow. She grew up in Iowa too. Funky.
Anyway, I really have no idea what Gina Gershon sounds like, so it would be hard for me to tell if they have similar voices. I only know Farrell's voice since she was on for most of Deep Space Nine and had been on Becker for quite a while (not that I ever watched it much). I think I've only seen significant amounts of two of Gershon's movies (neither of which is Bound or Showgirls, by the way). Such a sheltered life I lead…
I was having a heck of a time getting any P2P software running on my little corner of the Internet. Anyway, I finally got online and started searching for some things. After googling a while and finally deciding to just do a brute-force attack on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, I finally discovered that the song I'd had in my head since my trip down to Kentucky was. Yeah, I ended up going through almost the entire list to figure it out. It was “Figured You Out” by Nickelback.
Oh. Yay. Them.
Well, whatever. I also have listened to almost all of the songs that seemed “new” over that trip. Boy. I remember when radio stations would play songs before they hit the top of the charts (and when they actually told the listeners what the fuck they were playing, for another thing…)