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Picture_44 Whoah, I actually listened to a enough music this year that was released in this year that I could pick a favorite. (note: Nelly Furtado is timeless, so she'll always be out of the running) Hemstad's self-titled album put out by Catbird Records wins! Except you can't buy it now. It's sold out. But wow, check out that sample song "Fyllekärring". You should totally go back in time and buy this album.

Here's the top 20 list of 2006 of my most listened to stuff recorded by Last.fm. Number in parenthesis is the number of times played. The problem with this list is I tend to throw one band on and listen continuously, so bands like Hemsted, who got over 100 plays on my computer, don't even show up. I'd say this list is a good representation of what I completely freaked out on for a good week or so this year. Definitely the case with Be Your Own PET.

  1. Be Your Own Pet (1,008) - I really liked this band (obviously). I guess they got a lot of shit for being children of musicians or something, but the lyrics are pretty good and the music is good so I don't know what the big deal is. Good band. I'm a little amazed I listened to them one-thousand times, but the songs are short, fast, and good. Except for that one with the line about Bad Brains. Eeesh.
  2. Sublime (666) - Perennial favorites. If you didn't live in SoCal in the early 90's you won't understand. I mostly listened to obscure studio stuff and random 8-track recordings done around the "Robbin' the Hood" days. Sigh...
  3. The Breeders (573) - "Rediscovered" after discovering how awesome The Amps were (see #11). I love their cover of "Shocker In Gloomtown", though I got a lot of hell for saying I liked it better than the GBV version. Ooh, I just did it again.
  4. Pavement (543) - Will be on my list every year.
  5. The Mountain Goats (461) - Made my favorite album in 2005, I managed to get a hold of a bunch of unlabeled lo-fi stuff and probably spent a couple of days picking through it.
  6. Guided by Voices (437) - Sometimes I spend a week just listening to GBV.
  7. The Vandals (317) - Oh boy. That's shocking. Totally punk rock Republicans, but the good kind. I spent a couple days picking through these old Orange County bands I had forgotten about, I guess the Vandals got more play than anyone else. Also, a lot of that has to do with the jokey song: "I Have A Date".
  8. The Fucking Champs (300) - Mostly listening to IV. This stuff is great for programming. I'm not much of a metal fan but this is just brutal.
  9. The Flaming Lips (275) - This isn't what you think. When that last album came out I had to remind myself how much I loved these guys and to clean my brain out. This is pretty much all "Transmissions from the Satellite Heart" and "The Soft Bulletin". I can still listen to "When Yer Twenty-Two" and have vivid flashbacks of driving around LA in my little truck, delivering shit in the heat, thinking how lucky I was. I was pretty lucky.
  10. Pixies (274) - The book on the Pixies caused this. After I read it I went back and listened to everything again with fresh ears. It's great to see them get the respect they deserved, but kinda sad they are pretty much over the whole thing and just cashing checks.
  11. The Amps (261) - I completely missed The Amps the first time around. Wow, Pacer is my favorite album listened to in 2006 for sure. Fucking Kim Deal is on this list three times.
  12. Weezer (260) - Oh god, what decade are we in again? I think this is pretty much all that "Dusty Gems" collection. Specifically Paperface.
  13. Mad Professor (249) - Though it doesn't show up on this list that much, mainly because dub and reggae songs are so long, I listen to a healthy amount of Reggae/Dub/Dancehall. I think Mad Professor ranks highest because of the dub work on my favorite artists (not shown: I discovered Jacob Miller this year! Whoah.)
  14. Tsutomu Kouno (249) - This is video game music from Loco Roco. The songs are a minute long so they get a higher play count. Also: nerd.
  15. The Jesus and Mary Chain (207) - I finally bought all those post "Automatic" albums I swore I was going to buy. They were okay, I dunno why I listened to them so much, I blame that "Moe Tucker" song.
  16. The Thermals (203) - New album was very good, definitely better than "Fuckin' A". Also, again, short songs chart higher. "Pillar of Salt" getting most of the play. I would love to be in this band.
  17. Ramones (196) - No wait, I meant this band.
  18. Sweetie (196) - Oh right, I'm in this band. Is it okay to listen to your own music? I don't care. Omar writes damn good songs.
  19. Green Day (187) - Living in the Bay Area made me remember the bands of yore. I saw these guys play once at some co-op party when I was at Berkeley and I thought they sucked. Look at me 15 years later listening to the album they had just put out back then. Me + teenage love songs = BFF!
  20. Lady Sovereign (185) - Embarrassing! And that's saying something, considering items 1-19. Make way for the S-O-Veeeee!

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Picture_2I didn't get to into it in my last post, but the other part of Coffee Break Spanish that impresses me is their adoption of good tools.

Their blog is run off of TypePad, an excellent blogging service  for businesses. I use TypePad specifically because I don't have to maintain or troubleshoot an installation, and frankly I don't have time in my life to fret over a bad database index or some dumb PERL requirement. Oh, I could run MT or Wordpress, and I know there are cool little things I'd love to do with my blog, but really, TypePad just works. I think this is why it's been such a hit with businesses who don't want to call up the IT guy every time something goes wrong with the blog.

I'm not familiar with the many podcast services and directories they use except for iTunes, but I can imagine they all increase awareness in their own way. And it looks like they use Feedburner to track it all which is very smart.

They sell course materials through PayPal, and printed shirts and clocks through Cafepress. For community boards they use ReadyBB which is hosted PHPBB.

Finally, they are paying attention to their listeners. Not long after I posted about finding their podcast, Mark,  the teacher, was in the comments so you know he's watching Technorati or at least the iTunes referrer log as I didn't link his site directly.

It's a 3rd party tool success story if there ever was one. As a web developer I'm interested in seeing where they take this, as a student I feel like I'm in good hands.

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Picture_1_1 This year I decided to learn Spanish. One would think the surname, the place I grew up, the sombrero, would all indicate some working knowledge of Spanish–but no, I'm pretty much illiterate when it comes to the language.

"¡Hola, Andres!"
"Plato."
"¿Que? Que es, plato?"
"Yo vivo en una escuela de pescados. Plato."

See? Gibberish. Don't be fooled, I have excellent pronunciation, mainly due to years of practice imitating my dad saying "Chicago", otherwise, I'm a mess.

So, I did some looking around and it turns out there's a podcast being produced by (I'm not joking) a pair of Scottish podcasters in Scotland. The chemistry between them is outstanding, and Mark, the teacher is very good at balancing the lessons so they aren't too advanced but stay interesting. I think the key to the podcast is they try to keep it around 15 minutes and each episode builds on the previous work.

It's called "Coffee Break Spanish" and it's entirely free.  There are study materials that cost a nominal fee (like $1) that are produced along with each podcast, but I haven't needed them.

The only thing that's a little odd is the differences between the Spain Spanish versus the Mexican Spanish  my parents speak. For example, "mujer" in Mexican Spanish means "woman" but in Spain it means "wife".  And of course there is the Spain Spanish lisp that would probably get a few laughs if I tried talking to my relatives with it.

But I can't recommend the podcast enough. Check it out.

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Toot, toot.

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Thanks to Justin for recording this. And thanks to everyone for coming.

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Stikkit finally about two weeks ago put a "keep me signed in" item on their sign-in page, now I can go back to using it as my home page. They also added are taking requests for their new API, so if you had tried it out before and didn't stick with it, go look again.

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Many of us are going home this week to visit parents or see family members. It

  • Copy/Cut/Paste. I remember working in an office with some guys who were doing tech support, and a woman called in asking what information she should put into the settings for her network. The tech told her to "copy and paste" from the email and she had no clue what he was talking about

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Who is buying all these green lasers?

Is there some sort of secret drug manufacturing step that requires green lasers? Ick... is there such a thing as Laser Play? Does it have to do something with DRM/DMCA/BluRay? Are they about to be banned or something?

Everywhere I turn for Christmas I see lasers. Lasers! Buy a Green Laser! It's green! It's brighter! Was my old laser weak? Who is buying these green lasers?

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Long Beach Museum of Art
Originally uploaded by Amber Dawn.

We took a quick trip down to LA this weekend on a VERY strict schedule to see a ton of places. Amber took some photos, these are them.

I took some too.

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Because it's easier to think up ideas than actually do them, today on the bus I thought it'd be a neat hack to take a Wii controller, and this code for detecting a Wii's location, tape a video camera onto it and then either scan in a 3d object by moving the Wiimote around it, or generate panoramas by moving your Wiimote from left to right.

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Cameron's post about Multi-Tap comes with a neat script.

Since moving to San Francisco I'm actually using all those phone features that used to be kind of pointless when you're commuting in a car. My phone has an RSS reader, so I can keep up with the news*, I have a huge number of bookmarks, and appreciate when people add accessibility headers to their sites. Google also provides these helpful "landing pages" which seem to show up at random.

I've grown so used to using operating systems that allow customization (real customization, not themes and colors) that it's frustrating to have to use someone else's idea of a good text entry system. Sony's idea of "predictive word suggestions" is when I'm typing a word like "the" it scans the last time I used the word "the" and offers up the word I had used after it last time. Not very useful... I'd actually pay for a better SMS app on my phone.

*BBC's feeds are better than anyone in the US, which is probably due to the desire to maximize pageviews/adviews, so I have to read the occasional story about Manchester United (?) trading someone for someone. Anyone got a good RSS news feed with a real summary?

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Vintage T-Shirt Book
Originally uploaded by torrez.

Hey, someone sent me this book to review and it’s pretty good. If you were alive and dressed yourself in the 80’s you probably owned one of these shirts and should get this book or buy it for someone as a stocking stuffer provided they have FAT ankles.

As you probably know I skated a bit, so the skate shirts were pretty cool to see, but the best part of the book is the music shirts.

Oh, and there’s some bits to read in this too, they interview t-shirt collectors who specialize in different types of shirts. Yeah, if someone asks you what they should get you or you need a Secret Santa gift under $15 get this book.

Amazon Link To Book – Added bonus, check out the comments. :)

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Sitting home at night, pouring yourself a glass of Hotaling's, and cracking open an old programming project seems like a good idea until you find yourself writing the same method three times in a row, each time worse than the previous. I can't even remember what this method was supposed to do even though it's called, "

Being a light-weight sucks.

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Unlike the Zune I actually shelled out for this one. $350 puts this in the serious GAS (gadget acquirement syndrome) range. Call me crazy but eBooks are one of those technologies that I lust for. Some people get hot for LEDs or overclocking their computers. Me: eBooks. Way hot.

Buying It

Apparently, the only place you can buy a Sony Portable Reader, besides the Sony store, is Borders books. I am not sure I fully understand this reasoning as it's a bit like selling cars at a scooter store. Yes, we like to read, but are avid book buyers actually going plunk down one hundred times the cost of a book for a gadget like this? I don't think so.

I walked into a Borders for only the second time this year and asked to see the device. The clerk said he had been waiting for someone to check it out as he wanted to see what it looked like. When he brought the box out from behind the counter it was small. Really small. From photos of Sony's previous reader, the Libre I had thought it'd be just a bit smaller than my 15" Macbook. Instead this thing is roughly a bit taller than a paperback book, and about 3/4ths as thin. Opening it up I was put off by that awful Sony purple. But that faded as soon as I started it up...

The Display

I think the clerk and I both said "woah" when it first booted. All reviews say it looks like paper and they're right. Though not the sort of paper you're probably thinking. It does not look like book paper, instead imagine if there was a mockup of a video screen printed up on cardboard and taped to the screen of your laptop. It would look too crisp, too clear, almost like you're holding a demo model of a laptop instead of an actual laptop and then you hit a button and BAM! a new page just percolates in...OMG YOU'RE A WITCH STONE HIM!

So basically, the paper thing is true. Totally readable. Totally awesome...unless you are trying to read something with line breaks inserted. Why do people do this? I had to put together a quick and dirty ruby script to fix all the Project Gutenberg pages because some joker thought to add line breaks in the plain-text (example). Cory's books don't do this so I can read them at any resolution. But people who aren't fortunate enough to make a script will be SOL and have to read jagged lines. PDFs are great if they bleed to the outer edges of the page, most of the eBooks I own have big margins which is great for printing, not so much when reading on a small screen.

Another oddity that has to do with the technology of the display's refresh. Let's see if I can explain this in one sentence: The display is made up of millions of tiny balls which are dynamically magnetized to show you their black or white side. This takes a bit of time (about a half second) and it's a little weird to get used to, but once you do it's no more distracting than actually turning a paper page. If you time it right you can hit the "next page" (there are three next page buttons and three previous page buttons, take your pick) button just as you finish a paragraph.

I wasn't able to read my Ruby On Rails PDF book, my Ruby PDF book, or an old Objective-C PDF book I had been wanting to read. I was able to output a .pdf that was readable on the reader, but that took a lot of time, and I realized plain-text was good enough. 

The Controls

Not the best part of this gadget. There are some weird things about it that I am not sure if it's Sony trying to be clever or they had an intern do it. No device needs over 20 buttons on it if it's not a keyboard. This thing has 10 buttons labeled "1" to "10" so you can skip around or select menus (which I suspect is because using the joystick and waiting for the screen to refresh takes a lot of time, hitting a button corresponding to some percentage of the book is easier. It's so sad watching people come up with alternate iPod interfaces when the iPod interface is so elegant.)

The Store

Hah, yeah right, I'm never going to use that store. Total waste of time and money. There are just too many free Gutenberg books to read.

The Verdict

If you are an eBook geek, get this thing. If you take a lot of trips, get this thing. It's easy to read, I carry around about 20 books at all times, and it takes Sony Memory Sticks so you can probably carry a few hundred around without a problem.

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