Meanings of songs

A while ago I started to listen to Vampire Weekend.

Then, it turned out, we had them in town to play the Amazon winter party.

Lately I’ve been listening to them again. I can’t really say why I’ve latched onto them right now, but I have.

These guys are an incredibly political band. Their songs are intricate, fast, and full of meaning.

This begs the question about the meanings. I found a great little (big?) site: rapgenius.com. Not only do they show the lyrics of the songs, but they manage to have a huge amount of analysis of the songs themselves.

A good example of this is their page for Holiday. You would think this is a song about holidays. Nope. It’s about the US invasion of Iraq.

Another is Finger Back which even mentions Dostoyevsky’s second wife’s comments on a phrase. (!)

This is simply a fun site to explore.

Heartbleed

This isn’t anything new by this point. Heartbleed has been around for a few weeks at this point. From what I understand this had been a zero-day vulnerability for a while being exploited by folks like the NSA.

But this isn’t a rant about that.

This is about changing passwords.

Lots of them.

One good thing that’s coming out of this is that I’m getting a lot more cognizant of my password usage.

Like most people, I started using the same password on a lot of sites when the internet was new. I had three different passwords mainly — my low, normal, and high security password. This was, unfortunately, spread far and wide.

Now I’m going through and auditing 600+ passwords that Lastpass is storing for me. Some of them are defunct. Some of them are already good. Some are in the long list of passwords that are the same over a bunch of sites.

…sigh…

I can say that my Lastpass master password was my high-security password. Now I have a new one of that too. This password then generated by pwqgen which, in turn, was inspired by XKCD. *

Back to changing passwords.

* – No, it’s not “correct horse battery staple”.

Piracy

I was over at a friend’s place today and she was trying to show some Beyoncé’s videos to me that she had purchased from Apple. Of course it was hard to actually get the videos on to the machine to even start playing.

In the time it took to get the legally get the videos, I could have downloaded the videos from Usenet or a torrent site. At the end of it I would have non-DRMed content while she would still have the same content that’s hard to play.

At the end of the day, who’s better off? I have content that I don’t own, but I can play or I can have content that I can’t play that I’ve paid for.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just give some money to Beyoncé and just be done with the whole thing?

Sigh…

Spec sheets über alle

Consumer electronics these days have been transformed into a battle of bulleted lists over actual functionality. Ok, most of the CE space has been, there are a few notable exceptions like Apple still running around not pimping how many megahertz they are running. In general though, everything is marketed as faster and better with the numbers to back things up even if they don’t really many anything anyway.

I ran into an example recently with a recently shipping bit of gear. It’s a set top box like most others but it has an optical digital audio output in addition to the conventional digital-over-HDMI that every other previously shipping box has.

This is both objectively and subjectively dumb. It does however add an extra bullet point on the spec sheet.

Subjectively it’s a bad idea because these set top boxes are aimed at the “normal” people out there, not audiophiles. The typical setup consists of a TV with a smattering of HDMI inputs, a cable box and maybe a blu-ray or a game system. In general these people don’t have a receiver in the mix at all. If any optical is used it’s for the audio out from the TV into a sound-bar or something like that.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the folks that have receivers that are connected up to an array of speakers. No problem. Except that the HDMI will already carry the audio just fine. The only place for optical audio is from devices like high-def audio that no one really uses. The HDMI, to reiterate, already has the digital audio bit stream and since it’s digital doesn’t need any additional anything to make it work.

Objectively, what’s the bottom line? What’s the bill of materials (BOM) cost of this? I’m figuring you have to have a TOSLINK transmitter that likely weighs in at around $1.50 but associated driver circuitry that might add another $0.50 to the unit. Even if you can get that down to $1.00 on BOM costs, that’s a reasonable fraction of the total out-the-door cost. On the other hand, if you just add a headphone jack or standard RCA connectors you now have something that could be plugged into anything and the total cost will be likely a quarter of the final cost and far more useful in the end. (Think: hooking up headphones or something similar) Hell, just drop it and save the cost for something that no one is going to use.

What’s the problem with the cheap and useful solution? You don’t get to put on another line item on your spec sheet. If no one has something on their spec sheet, there might be a reason for that, right? It’s like cars don’t typically come with self-inflating pontoons because they are, for the most part, very un-needed.

Silly, silly, silly.

Doing, not thinking

Over the weekend, like I mentioned a few days ago, Ennie and I went trap shooting.

It turns out she took some video of my shooting some of the single-double-double round.

The way this game works is it’s like a normal trap course with five stations. At each station you shoot five shells for a total of 25 shells for the course.

In normal trap you get one clay each five times at each station. In the single-double-double you only go three times instead of five at each station. The first go-around is like normal and you get one clay. Your next turn you get two, one after the other – after you say “pull!” you get one clay, then when you shoot at that you get your next clay on report. The last round you get both of the birds at once.

This is a fun game since you don’t have a chance to think about what you’re doing. You just do it. If you thought about things you wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing. (This is what happened to me on one of the rounds by the way)

On report:

 

True double:

You’ll probably need to view these full screen to see the action. You can see the speed of the game. This isn’t something you can think about. You just react to the situation. You don’t know where the birds are going to fly or their elevation. You yell “pull!” and just deal with what you’re given.

It’s nice to just do and not think some times.

Leica – Again

A goodly while back I wrote about ordering, then canceling the order for a Leica M Typ 240.

No, I didn’t buy one — or even order one today.

I did hold one. Well, not the M Typ 240, but an M7 with a fast 50mm lens mounted. It feels so good. The camera feels like it’s carved out of a solid hunk of brass. It’s solid. The focus is sweet.

The M Typ 240 is just like the M7 except a tad thicker, but otherwise it’s the same camera. It’s the same camera as the M3 from 1954. Ok, so it has metering. And no film. But it’s hard to tell them apart from a few feet away unless you know what you’re looking at.

Sure, one looks shiny and new, the other looks 60 years old. But other than the missing window to the left of the viewfinder they looks like siblings. Because they are. (The missing window used to illuminate the frame lines, the light now comes from LEDs)

One of these days… Then I have to worry about affording glass. (Which is one of the few things that go up in value in the field of photography)

Good, better, best. Best-er?

Ennie and I went out trap shooting again today. We both did ok. We both wanted to do better.

My high score was 20 out of 25 and En managed a 19 (including 11 in a row if I recall!) I also pulled a 12 out of a single-double-double round. (You get five shots at each of the five stations of the course – one with a single clay, a pair one after the other (second on report), and a pair that’s a true double at the same time)

You always want to do better. You can say that if I manage to shoot a perfect 25 the next step would be to shoot two in a row. After that win some competitions. Where does it end?

You can say, in a way, it doesn’t end until you have a gold hanging around your neck or something. Even then, do you not strive to be better still?

- = -

We shot three rounds each. Three boxes. 75 shells.

The leading female (multiple olympic golds, etc) shoots 40 rounds a day. Every day.

I’m sure she wants to be better too. Even though, on the face of it, she’s already the best.

Zen and the art of lawnmower repair

We have an awesome lawn mower. It just rocks.

Well, rocked.

It’s a Honda with hydrostatic drive so it’s self-propelled. We got it when we first moved to the house in Solon. It worked wonderfully until one day around three years in the drive stopped driving it. By chance Rick was mowing our neighbor’s lawn at the time. Rick lived on the end of our block and he had a business mowing lawns for various businesses and residences around us. He finished the job we started and we sent the mower off to Solon Hardware to get fixed.

We intended on mowing the lawn some more.

We really did.

Except having Rick mow the lawn was infinitely more convenient.

So it sat idle in the shed.

The we moved to Seattle. And it sat idle next to the shed.

A week or so back my boss mentioned he’s in need of a lawn mower. That, of course, got me thinking. I have an awesome lawn mower and he has a need. New this mower is around $800. I figure a 12-year-old one with low mileage has to be worth something. Maybe $100-200.

I filled it with gas and nothing. It wanted to start… but no joy. A sputter was all that I got.

Enter ether. It ran a bit. It really wanted to run. But it still didn’t.

That was last weekend.

Today I sat down with some carb cleaner and went to town on it. I took it off and hosed it down and reinstalled it. Now, as long as the choke was on it ran fine. Progress.

Then I found this video:

 

The thing I didn’t do was remove the bowl. It looked kind of foreign to me — like it didn’t want to be removed. The video showed it should be removed and clean out.

A quick look at the wiki page on carburetors got me going even more.

No problem. Go in again and this time tear in a bit further. My float valve was a bit different than the one in the video, but otherwise it was just the same. (My valve was captivated by the float and not just sitting there — just a slight difference in how it goes back together) Another generous rinse with the carb cleaner and things looked clean inside as well as out this time. I fiddled with the valve, float, pin combo for a moment until I figured out how they went together and it was off to the races.

Reassemble the lot under the light of my headlamp. I realize that the gaskets probably need to be renewed — they went together this time, but next time might be a different story.

It runs. It runs as good as new. Once it warmed up it got to a beautiful low idle just barely ticking over. Everything works like it ought to. The blade spins. The drive drives. The idle idles.

Victory!

YouTube and Wikipedia for the win! I’m still no master of carburetors by any stretch of the imagination, but I can say that at least I fixed one!

:-D

Far Eastern Art – Denny Way

I found this walking on Denny yesterday. It’s on the hill headed up to Capitol Hill.

It’s been there for a week or two.

A book, I’m sure written with all the heart in the world, transformed into a tool to keep a basement window open.

On Amazon, this is a $145 book. History of Far Eastern Art.

I think I might make a print of this. I like it for some reason.

Reliance on the Google for mail

For a bunch of reasons — laziness and lack of experience in the modern realm — I rely on my email being hosted by someone else.

Sure, I can set things up myself if I really wanted to, but it would be more than a pain in the ass. Between making sure I don’t get used as an open relay to ensuring that my email can actually be sent (since most mail servers are hesitant to accept mail from random servers).

In my case I rely on the google.

The has some plusses and minuses.

The big plus is that I got grandfathered in with the Google Apps for Your Domain thing. My mail hosting for vec.com is free. It works well most of the time.

Then there is the other side of the “free” sword.

Today a couple of times I wasn’t able to get to my mail. An outage was happening. And since I have free, there isn’t an SLA for the uptime of the service. The outages were only a few minutes long each time, but I realized how helpless I felt at that moment.

There is still upside though. If it were my server… I wouldn’t have anyone on call except me. I would have to fix it myself. While I wouldn’t be helpless, I would be the only help around.

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