Friday, April 30, 2010

Whistle Weasel, or APP THE SECOND

Can you whistle?

Did you ever think "man I am so tired of tapping on the screen to play my cell phone games, I wish I could control one with the pleasant tones of my whistling"?

Can you find it in your heart to help out a poor hang-gliding weasel with a wicked hankerin' for pineapples?

Boy howdy, have I got the Android app for you. It's called "Whistle Weasel", and I am stoked to bring it to you for free. So get to the Android Market right now; you have no excuse not to download, rate, and review the snot out of that sucker. You might even enjoy playing it! You might enjoy even more watching your friends sit there and whistle at their goddamn cell phones!

(also, if you get a high number of pineapples, post it here. if yours is THE HIGHEST, I will let you request a feature that I will try a little harder than usual to bring you in the next version.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do you couchsurf?

If so, and if we know each other, would you please vouch for me? I'm just starting on the site, and would like to surf in a couple weeks, but I understand that someone with approximately no history looks kind of sketchy.

In other news, I woke up yesterday at 5 AM, and for some reason, I have the sort of personality that thinks it totally makes sense to go biking a lot instead of going back to sleep. I went to Seward Park and almost saw Mt. Rainier, almost at sunrise. It was cloudy. I froze my toes and had the best croissant, as Cafe Presse opened. I think the baristas didn't quite know what to make of me. I didn't quite know what to make of myself.

I hesitate to blog about this sort of thing, as it must make people think I'm Calvin's dad, or some kind of crazy outdoorsman. Really, it's a part of my personality that pops up only rarely, and I will not join you if you want to do a similar adventure, because you can't plan these things. Nevertheless, I hope I never lose this part of my personality.

In other other news, I'm quite excited about things! It may be a time of great change! I may have just planned the next like decade of my life! I'll keep mum though, because I'm really just throwing out theoretical ideas; we'll see what actually comes to fruition.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook, you're done.

Up until now, I thought the "waah my boss saw the photos of me at a party" crowd should just use better judgment, or edit their preferences better or something. But today, I tried to understand my Facebook privacy settings, and I couldn't. Or at least, I'm not confident that I understand the ramifications of all the choices I've made in their labyrinthine privacy settings.

I used to think that Facebook maybe cared about its users, but sometimes had an experiment go wrong. Or they were maybe going to change the game so the whole world cared less about privacy, and maybe this would help society or something.

I feel sorry for Facebook, really; they're in a new industry where it's not clear what you can and can't do, and if you step over the line, the whole internet blasts you. Furthermore, with so much data about everyone, there are all these cool things you could do if people would let you, but to do them, you have to get people's permission. And more permissions for more things -> more complexity.

But maybe they should just quit while they're ahead. Today, Facebook haters, I stand with you. To try to use Facebook without accidentally making huge privacy errors is too much of a headache. And if Facebook actually cared about its users, it would take much bigger steps to make sure this situation didn't happen. I'm not deleting my account, because it's useful for its basic purpose (remembering people's email addresses and stuff), but I'm sure not going to be adding more information there.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Busy

Can I just talk for a moment about how bad Hotmail's new ad campaign is? It's on buses and billboards and stuff, and it's about the "New Busy." Examples:

"The New Busy use cab drivers as therapists."
"The New Busy make beavers look lazy."
"The New Busy always keep a suitcase packed."
"The New Busy like to play Fill the Calendar."

God! Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! How could you be so wrong?! I'm probably someone they're trying to target with the "new busy" campaign. I want to vomit!

Here's someone else's summary of why. Here's my summary:
- the campaign is trying to "create a tribe" by offering a definition for your life.
- the campaign assumes that your life is defined by your achievements. This is false.
- the campaign assumes that, even if your life were defined by your achievements, you would want to admit that your life is defined by your achievements. This is false.
- finally, the campaign assumes that your achievements are defined by how "busy" you are. This is false.

Argh! This campaign is so incredibly poor. It is about three cuils of reasonable. The thought behind it is the reason that we all hate our lives these days. It might have flown in the 1950's. ("The New Busy buy a cookie-cutter house because it's faster!" "The New Busy mow their lawn with a gas-powered mower!" "The New Busy fast-forward their old Amos 'n' Andy tapes so they can listen to them twice as fast!") But it is about twelve steps backward in the 2010's.

In other news, I decided on my habit for this month-or-so; it is so blindingly obvious that I should have been doing it for years. It is this: I will sleep enough. And to ensure that I do so, no alarm clocks. Done! Easy! And because I am not NEW BUSY, this is not a problem.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Two nights ago, I was in Leh

Argh you can't link in titles. Leh. Of course I've never actually been there, but dreams are nice.

How are your habits going? Over the last 4 months, I've picked up 4 habits: listening to language tapes on my way to work, getting to work at 9, meditating daily, and not eating desserts. They've all been crumbling a bit, but still holding together. I get in to work at like 9 or maybe 10 but usually 9ish. My meditation is down to maybe 10 minutes per day. And after Easter hit, well, I've been eating desserts as if I had never resolved not to. (language tapes are still doing well. Pom pudh pasar thai dai nit noy khlap.)

In April, I thought maybe I'd resolve to practice my dual n-back skills, as improved working memory would be very nice. But maybe I'm better off doubling back and picking up on those habits I've let slide. (or a little of both. I can do dual 3-back pretty competently now, anyway.)

But otherwise, life is nice! Have you picked up any habits that have helped your life? Can I help you keep them?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Children International Again.

Have you met these people? Have you been able to walk away without feeling either like a terrible person or pissed off at them?

They're a charity where the deal is that you donate $22/month, and the money goes to one particular kid in a poor place. And of course it does all these wonderful things for this kid, vaccinations, education, etc. Anyway, they're very visible, at least around Seattle, because they have canvassers go out on the street to persuade you to sign up to sponsor a kid. And once you make eye contact, they will not take no for an answer!

So of course, this is annoying. I've met them twice before, I think, and never signed up; the first time, because you don't just sign up for a $262/year commitment on the street just like that, and the second time because I was so weirded out by the first time.

I met them again today. An affable lad named Tristan and a cute girl named Kat. Both of my general demographic (err, young, white, reasonably well-off). I could tell as soon as Tristan started talking to me that they were from Children International, because nobody else in my demographic approaches me on the street.

They gave me the whole spiel, I told them I'd met them before and didn't want to give them money, they continued their spiel and told me the details. Now, I don't want to give them money, but why not? I laid out my objections:
1. "They could be a scam." But I know they're not, I researched them before.
2. "You don't just sign up for a $262/year thing on the street." But I've researched them before, and in fact I am currently actively looking for places to give money to.
3. "It's just a band-aid, it doesn't get to the root causes of poverty." But it sounds like they know what they're doing, and they're on my side with this one. If kids are dying of dysentery or whatever, sure, they'll vaccinate kids against it, but they'll also get a well installed so the kids have clean water, and also by paying for a kid's education, maybe he'll become an engineer.
4. "You don't know the long-term effects." Of course not. And who knows, maybe this could turn out awful somehow. But that seems unlikely; it seems mostly likely that this could be mostly good, and that's about as good a solution as I know.
5. "You should do charity closer to home." Okay, that's not even MY objection. Sheesh. I like the idea of helping faraway kids just as much as helping nearby kids. (plus your dollar goes a lot farther in a faraway place.)
6. "They'll bully the kids. Force them to write letters and stuff. It's all imperialist-weird." From my prior internet research, this seems untrue. Plus, they're adamant about not putting the kids into a weird spot; they're secular, not pushing any agenda.
7. "I'll do it later. I'm doing things today; context-switching so I can think about poverty is not productive." But then I won't do it later. (have I ever before?)
8. "It's too much money." What? I am planning to give much more than that this year sometime to someone. Why not to these kids?
9. "This seems too easy. Donating money isn't that easy." Why not? Wouldn't this be the ideal charity; one that helps kids holistically, and then makes it easy on the donors too?
10. "They shouldn't be out on the street." Again, why not? These are not paid salesmen, they are young men and women who really care about what they're doing. Who better to raise money for an organization?
11. "They're an inefficient charity; give somewhere else where your money will be used more effectively." I don't think they are; looks like they're a 3-star organization where 82% or whatever of your money goes to aid.

I couldn't figure out any reason not to give to these folks! Besides that it felt too good to be true, and that it felt weird. And that I was angry at them, because whenever I tried to segue out and move on with my day and say "Well I'll look into it later" or something, they would not let it drop! But for a good reason: if they do, I'll never donate. But I still do not want to donate to them! But I can't figure out any reason why. It was this sort of terrible logic tornado that I used to get myself into more than I do now, and so I just at one point had to say "I am walking away now. Bye."

Argh! I guess the thing to do is to just not think about it, and continue with my philanthropic adventures to try to figure out what I actually want to donate to. But I guess I'm just curious: Have any of you done this? Or do you also hate these hard-selling fundraisers? Or are you also weirdly fascinated with them, kind of like Mormons or Scientologists?

Friday, April 09, 2010

More Musics

The Decemberists- The Crane Wife- So, title track is awesome. They're still the Decemberists, though. I can't decide if I think they're the Heroes of the 2010's, or if they still make music too long and whiny. I guess they need some filler to make stuff like the Shankill Butchers stand out more.
Basement Jaxx- Scars- You know, it's pretty fun, and easily digestible, and there are a lot of guest stars and stuff. It's practically a compilation. Varied, interesting tunes, pop through and through.
Movits!- Appelknyckarjazz- I don't get it. There's the novelty factor, but after that I don't really want to listen to it. I guess I'm incapable of really enjoying non-English music? (ugh.)
Owl City- Ocean Eyes- After the first listen, my friend Greg was making fun of it, and I said "oh shut up, you know it's just the Postal Service prequel that never existed." And then I promptly ate my words a couple listens later. Like turned to mild dislike turned to cavities. His lyrics are so bad. But unlike YACHT, I don't even want to like the character he's trying to be. I mean, maybe if he grew up a little bit he could make some really inspiring music! (and/or, y'know, become Ben Gibbard.) But somehow, that never happens, does it?
Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- okay, counterexample. A couple albums ago (Alphabetical) I thought they made sappy lame music, and now they make this solid pop gem. In a league with, say, Peter, Bjorn, and John's Writer's Block. Best Alternative Album? Grammies are irrelevant, but this is not a terrible choice.
Belle and Sebastian- interruption. "Everything in its right place" just came on. Chills! Even a decade later! Okay, end interruption. Belle and Sebastian- the Life Pursuit- How do they still make such catchy, achingly pretty tunes? Maybe that Owl City guy should take songwriting lessons from Stuart Murdoch. For about twelve years.
Mika- Life in Cartoon Motion- Finally got this album. So good. I wanted to hate it for so long (because metacritic did!) but it is very _____, and eventually I usually come around to liking things that are very _____, for any value of ____. Burningman memories don't hurt. Care to stop being all cool and we can put on this album and dance around like fools?
Mika- The Boy Who Knew Too Much- so it's longer and not as consistently great. I mean, sophomore slump the way Arcade Fire did, where your first album is such a zinger it's hard to repeat.
Soul Coughing- Irresistible Bliss- this was fun to rediscover. Cool like a poetry reading.
Talking Heads- Speaking in Tongues- I didn't know they made another album as good as Remain in Light! Also, I feel like the Talking Heads rival the Beatles in "number of songs you have to have a passing knowledge of, in order to get pop culture references to this band." For example, Burning Down the House, Girlfriend is Better, and This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody). They're all stellar.
Bobby Birdman- New Moods- singer plus loops. Catchy pop (featuring his beautifully rich voice! think Jens Lekman). Probably produced for twelve dollars. Love this guy. Another dude I would go see in concert anytime.
Nosaj Thing- Drift- relaxy technoey squelchy goodness.
Orkestar Zirkonium- s/t- see Movits!. I want to like them very much; they are nice background music, and it sounds like you are not in the United States of A.
My Dear Disco- Dancethink- I'm getting tired of writing about music again but I wanted to shout out to these folks, because I really like this debut album. Do you know Tally Hall? They are also from Ann Arbor, and they also make colorful all-over-the-place music, a little amateurish but quite good. Throw in a dash of Portugal The Man, and video game music, particularly of the Final Fantasy and Sonic varieties.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Webcomics Top Three

I was just noticing, again, how I really like Hark! a Vagrant, and while we're on the subject of "things that are good", wanted to send you my beliefs about comics that are The Best, because I like making lists.

First of course must be Nedroid. Oh my, this one is wonderful.

Second would be the aforementioned Hark! a Vagrant. It blends dry humor with pretty good drawings. She injects a lot of personality, which is difficult when your characters are different each time. Well done.

In third place is Dinosaur Comics. All the pictures are the same every time. This pictorial laziness was a reason I used to hate xkcd. But like xkcd, it has nevertheless won me over. (bonus points whenever he plays with his own format by introducing God or raccoon and cephalopod neighbors.)

Honorable mention goes to Left-Handed Toons (especially ones of the form "10 bad comics"). Any recommendations of yours?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Let's do a music post

because I haven't in such a long while! I can't possibly recap everything I've been listening to, but I was struck recently by a couple songs that are really extraordinarily cathartically fist-pumpingly good (you know, in that way that I fist pump, like when a song just gets everything right all at once). But I like lists so I expanded that into a few songs that deserve list mentions. Let's start with that list:

1. Andrew Bird- Fake Palindromes: The rockinger this guy is, the better. There are two key moments in this song: 0:14 and 1:29, right after "... in her eyes for you" when you realize, crashing violin thing again, sounds like something big just happened!
2. Mika- Touches You: This, friends, is a splendid pop song. Three minutes and change, well produced, crispy drums, exuberance, and some falsetto. What splendid falsetto! Perfectly timed! Just when you think you know the last chorus is coming in, at 2:30, it's a falsetto verse instead. And then there's a chorus under it, and then when you're like "this is great, the layered chorus, I just wish the backing track would drop out" it totally does!
3. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife 3: at 3:14 when he was doing the kind of low chorus for a while and you're all "why don't you just sing the fuck out in you know a high octave Colin Meloy" and THERE IT IS.

Okay let's end this list at three, because now I'm reaching. Point is, these are great.

Now let's do an album roundup.
Eno/Byrne- My Life in the Bush of Ghosts- this is pretty atmospheric. I would gladly listen to it. But it has no words; I cannot remember it so much.
Byrne/Eno- Everything That Happens Will Happen Today- "I Feel My Stuff" sounds like it's the most fun track here, but then after a few listens you realize that "Strange Overtones" is the one that really sticks with you, and is so good it maybe deserves a place on the list above. Overall it sounds a little folky for me, and maybe hard to listen to a bunch of times.
Headlights- Some Racing, Some Stopping- borderline too twee for me but just borderline, I still like it.
Passion Pit- Manners and Chunk of Change EP- on first listen I knew this would be one of those albums that I remember. Their sound is fuzzy and friendly and rocking and I want to compare them to someone and I don't want to say Broken Social Scene because they're just my go-to fuzzy band. Uhh, a less frenetic Los Campesinos!? Anyway, I recommend.
Modeselektor- Hello Mom!- this is the kind of music I want to listen to but I don't know when. Almost backgroundey enough to be background music, but just a little in-your-face sometimes. I think this is "techno". I like it.
Throw Me the Statue- Moonbeams- I do not love, but do solidly like this album. Good straightforward Seattle pop. I absolutely would have bought it for my dad for Christmas, but there's a topless girl on the CD cover! TMTS, are you listening?
Venetian Snares- Detrimentalist- this is a caffeine nightmare. Avoid, unless you're into that sort of thing.
Daedelus- Denies the Day's Demise- this... well, his live show is so wonderful, because he is so charming, he has such cool gadgets, he's really into it, and there are so many sounds coming into your ears at once! It doesn't translate awesomely into a CD. (still, he puts on a great show.)
Daft Punk- Alive 2007- I wouldn't say it's harder, better, faster, or stronger (see what I did there?), but it is certainly more. Good if you'd like to listen to Daft Punk one more time. (see what I did there again?)
Fiery Furnaces- I'm Going Away- speaking of more, this band is only capable of making more. If you also like more of them, or also dig their autistic stage presence and lyrics, or also have a weird crush on Eleanor Friedberger, this is a record for you. Also, do let me know I'm not the only one.
YACHT- See Mystery Lights- grew on me grew on me. You're not allowed to get on my "good" list with such lame lyrics, and noncommittal stage presence, but somehow they did. I can't tell if they take themselves seriously. If so, they're all about Illuminati and secret religions and symbolism and stuff; more likely, they like the words "illuminati" and "secret religion" and figured it's a good shtick for their band. But they're a little catchy! You might like it.

Look, let's pick this post up later. It's getting Too Long.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

"Is it a Party?" LIVE in the App Store!

All you iphoners: you can get it now! I strongly suggest that you do! I suppose I am biased.

In other news, I tracked my happiness again. And found... nothing. All the scatterplots are all over the map. Well, so it goes. Guess there's more to "happiness" than one number. (of course, right?)