Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Productivity

I find myself with a lot of stuff that I have to do that I don't want to do—chores, errands, supporting my apps, running the homeowner's association for my neighborhood, and so on.  My main technique for trying to make sure that I get the important things done is to track it in a to-do list and then just make sure that I do all of the crappy stuff before I get to the fun stuff.  The fun stuff, for me, is usually things that work best when they have a few uninterrupted hours: gaming and creative endeavors, primarily.

I'm starting to think that it might be counter-productive though.  I can force myself to get those tasks out of the way before I get to the "big," planned fun stuff, but I'm finding that I still procrastinate with "little" things, like browsing Facebook and the news and clicking a web of links from here to there and then researching something about a game and then checking prices of things on Amazon and then reading about the album I might add to my Spotify queue.  And those little things, as we all know, can add up quickly.  I can easily procrastinate a couple hours before I get to the important un-fun things, and then that's two hours less that I can spend on the thing that I wanted to do in the first place—which now I might not even have the time to really even start before I need to start getting ready for bed.

So obviously the real problem is the procrastination with "little," easily distracting things.  That needs to be addressed, but what I'm wondering is if my plan to get the crap out of the way first is just enhancing my desire to waste time.  Time is increasingly my rarest and most valuable resource, and I'll freely admit that I spend too much of it on things that aren't that exciting.  So while the procrastination itself is the real problem, the way I'm treating it might just be making it worse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

West coast wrapper

This morning I went out of my way to pick up a little scrap of a plastic wrapper to throw it away.  I pulled out the trash drawer and tossed it in, only to have it change direction mid-air and float off in another direction under the cabinets.  I reacted by closing the trash drawer, leaving it there, and walking away.  Apparently my instinct was to pick up the trash and make things tidy, but my threshold for how much effort I was willing to put into the task was exactly that required for throwing it away once.  Twice?  Nuh-uh, no way.

Once I realized how strange that seemed a couple seconds later, I walked back, picked it up, and placed it directly into the trash.  But I wasn't happy about all that effort.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Road remorse

It's very common, though still illegal, for bicyclists in Washington to "split lanes" or "filter"—they ride through stopped or slow traffic, in the same lane as cars.  It's obnoxious everywhere, but there's one spot on my way home from work where it's particularly common, seconds before I make a right turn.  Multiple times I've had to brake because someone on a bike was trying to pass me on the right while I'm making a right turn, or they hadn't stopped yet and looked like they intended to pass.  It's far from impossible that one day on the way home from work, one of those bicyclists will get into an accident either with me or another car turning right, and it's far from impossible that they would be seriously injured or die.

I imagine that if I observed a person dying from such a thing, my first quick reaction would be shock, and my next reaction would be "serves you right"—feeling that cosmic justice had been dealt to that person for their idiotic course of action.  And then some sort of pity because it is sad for a human life to be snuffed out, even if that human life did something stupid to cause it.

If my vehicle were the one that the dead bicyclist were to have collided with, I wonder sometimes how I would feel.  (I think about it once a week or so, actually.  I mentally work through hypothetical situations and consider how I would react to them constantly.)  It's hard to predict how one would react to an event of a greater magnitude and importance than you've experienced before in your life, and in fiction, the survivors of such things always seem to feel overwhelming guilt and self-pity, but I really don't think that would happen to me—I don't think that I would feel even a slight bit of remorse or guilt.  That person wouldn't have died because I hit him while turning right; he would have died because he rode his bicycle in an extremely unsafe manner and caused a collision with my vehicle.

The same is true for other situations that you see occasionally in fiction, such as the man driving through a residential neighborhood when suddenly a child darts out in front of him and there was no possible way for the man to avoid hitting the child, who dies.  I've thought about that one too, and while there are certainly people who would be haunted by such a thing for the rest of their life, I honestly don't feel like it would affect me in that way at all.  I would feel anger—anger both that the child or bicyclist had been so foolish as to have gotten themselves killed, and yes, selfish anger that their irresponsibility would inevitably cause me no end of headaches in the form of court visits, insurance hassles, and no on.

But I can't feel guilt without a feeling that I've done something wrong, and I don't see myself as a person who could so completely distort the facts to blame myself for those hypothetical deaths.  I'm nothing if not rational and coldly logical.

Is that normal?  Would a normal person be overwhelmed with guilt and remorse for their participation in a fatal accident that was absolutely not their fault?

In fiction it's considerably more common for a character to be overcome with a lifetime of haunting sadness for something that was at least partially their fault—a parent who had a lapse in judgement that led to the death of a child, or a drunk driver who hit an innocent bystander or another vehicle.  And those I can understand.  I rarely feel remorse because I rarely make decisions worthy of regret, but at least I can understand what it would be like to be paralyzed by a past great error.  But no, not the hypothetical running-over-the-lane-splitter scenario.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Behold, Numbers!

The short version:
Rjd2—More Is Than Isn't: 8/10
Lily Allen—Sheezus: 9/10
The Roots—...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin: 5/10
Shakira—Shakira.: 5/10
Coldplay—Ghost Stories: 5/10
Mika—The Boy Who Knew Too Much: 7/10
Sombear—Love You In the Dark: 7/10
Phantogram—Voices: 7/10
The Glitch Mob—Free the Music: 8/10 (free)
Sia—1000 Forms of Fear: 8/10
La Roux—Trouble in Paradise: 4/10
Imogen Heap—Sparks: 6/10

I've been listening to most of these for quite a while.

I hadn't heard of Rjd2 before, but apparently they have a bunch of albums out, and More Is Than Isn't is their latest.  It's rather good, and I don't know what genre to say it is... parts are pretty and instrumental, parts are dance music, some are R&B, and there's a little bit of rap.  So I'm not sure who to recommend it to other than people who like a lot of variety in their music.  My favorite track is Behold, Numbers! (instrumental), and I'm quite fond of Bathwater (rap) and Temperamental (R&B), though there are more interesting instrumental tracks that I prefer a bit to those.  It's for sure worth checking out if you like weird variety.

Lily Allen is finally back with another smart pop album, Sheezus, and it's rather fantastic—definitely one of the best I've heard recently.  My favorite is URL Badman, a fun pop song with a chorus featuring a weird dubstep beat and bleating goats.  The title track is also really excellent, and there are several others that I'm really fond of, but Insincerely Yours is probably third place.  There's good variety in the sounds on the album, most are produced by Greg Kurstin (of The Bird and the Bee) who constantly cranks out songs I love, and the lyrics are clever and interesting.  Worth a shot for anyone who loves quality pop music.

The Roots' latest album ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is similar to a couple of their latest: it's got one really excellent track, a couple that are good, and quite a few that are rather forgettable.  The single When The People Cheer is one of the best rap tracks I've heard in years, and has an interesting video as well.  But nothing else on the album is even close.  Understand and The Unraveling are probably next up, but those are firmly in the "good, not great" category.

Shakira's latest is also not too exciting.  Apparently it's not even creative enough to come up with an album title.  The disc includes both English and Spanish versions of some of the tracks, and the Spanish ones are overall better.  My favorite is You Don't Care About Me, which is a great song.  After that, Empire and The One Thing are both good too.  But the rest of the album largely seems pretty mediocre to me.

Coldplay is trying for a lighter, more experimental sound in Ghost Stories, and it doesn't work.  Magic, Midnight, and True Love are decent but not worth an album purchase (or maybe even a single purchase).  There's probably a reason that most of the other tracks on the album aren't even available on streaming services.

Mika's The Boy Who Knew Too Much is another fun pop album though, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys "pop" music but not actually popular music that they play on the radio.  Touches You is a lot of fun and so's Blame It on the Girls, and Rain is probably in third place.  Other great upbeat tracks on the CD as well... definitely worth a try.

The Sombear album Love You In the Dark was an unexpected surprise of an alternative album that I came across on Spotify, and I ended up rather liking it.  The title track is appropriately dark and very well-crafted, and the opener Incredibly Still is really pretty.  And Never Say Baby is interesting as well.  The guy's got a weird, weak voice that I imagine some people will hate, but the instrumentals are interesting and solid.  Worth checking out if you like alternative music.

I also recently discovered Phantogram, and their album Voices is pretty good.  The opening track Nothing But Trouble is delightful and catchy and overall excellent, and strangely not a single.  Nothing else quite matches it, but the next two tracks Black Out Days and Fall in Love are quite good too.  Most of the rest is still uniformly good except a couple weak tracks toward the end.  Worth checking out for alternative fans.

The Glitch Mob put out a free mixtape EP Free the Music that I recommend picking up.  Pound 4 Pound and Mike, Aaron, and Eddie are both very good (though the latter is a bit obnoxiously repetitive), and there are other gems there as well.

Sia's got a new album out and it's good.  Hooray!  The best track on 1000 Forms of Fear is a solo version of Elastic Heart which sort of doesn't count because she already released a better version with The Weeknd on the Catching Fire soundtrack, but this version is still extremely good.  But Burn the Pages, Fire Meet Gasoline, and Dressed in Black all stand on their own very well.

La Roux has a new album Trouble in Paradise out and it's quite a disappointing change of musical style.  The lead single Let Me Down Gently is pretty good and so's Cruel Sexuality, and the album as a whole is not nearly as cold and jagged as her first, but it just doesn't work for me this time.  Third place is probably Uptight Downtown, which is largely unremarkable.

Finally, Imogen Heap has finally released her long-time-coming fourth solo album, Sparks, and it is definitely my least favorite so far.  Her previous album Ellipse had a lot of experimental tracks but a few good singles as well, but Sparks is even more weird and experimental and doesn't really have the melodies to back it up.  Me the Machine is pretty good even though some of the lyrics are pretty cringe-y while she name-drops technology terms like "downloading," but it deserves special mention as being performed while dancing while wearing specially-crafted electronic gloves and clothing from her Kickstarter project.  Cycle Song is also good and includes a lot of "ethnic" sounds, a wild departure from her usual bleeps and bloops, and Lifeline is a little more typical Imogen.  I'm torn; if the album had just dropped about five tracks and had been shorter I probably wouldn't have been as harsh on it, but with so many boring songs on an album from a favorite artist, it's hard to not be disappointed.


In addition to those, I recommend Jurassic 5's free single The Way We Do It, a fantastic rap track, and Doug Locke's #ThisCouldBeUs, a great perky summer song even though summer is just about over.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hand slap game

After returning from my flight to Ontario for my brother's wedding yesterday, my boyfriend Scott took me to a restaurant I love near home.  A minute or so after we were seated, I was startled when a table nearby shook loudly and a woman let out a shriek.  Then a minute later it happened again.  I looked back and saw that there was a young couple playing the "hand slap" game—you know, where one person puts their palms out facing up, and the other person puts their hands on top of the first person's hands facing down, and the face-up person tries to slap the back of the face-down person's hands before they can pull them away.  They continued playing throughout the entire time we were waiting on our food, and I was becoming extremely annoyed.  In lieu of actually stabbing them with my fork, or dropping a stack of heavy menus on their table, I had decided that the best course of action was just to walk over to their table and give them a death glare.  Scott suggested that it would be more effective if he went since he's black and therefore more intimidating.

But around that time, they got their food and we did as well, so I didn't give any death glares.  And they continued playing the game throughout the meal, with the slaps becoming more frequent and significantly louder.  Then she yelled out a word—I don't know; "shit!" or something—and we realized that she had Tourette's.  They weren't playing the hand slap game; the guy was holding her hands to calm her and prevent her from hurting herself and damaging things.

So that's how you make an awkward situation even more awkward.  But at least I never threw menus at her.


(Updated to clarify that I didn't actually go over to their table, though I got pretty close to it.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Random strings of characters at some domain name

Since I own various .com domain names, I have my email set up to deliver all messages sent to one of them into a single inbox.  Today I received a Twitter invitation from someone I don't know, sent to a fake address.  This didn't mean much to me until I thought for a minute what that meant.

Those Twitter invitations are sent out when someone signs into Twitter and gives Twitter their email login info so that Twitter can spam everyone in their contact list.  (I still don't know why someone would willingly do this.)  Since it was a fake address, this means that she must have gotten it from spammers, who like to use random strings of characters @ some domain name they don't own as the "From" address of their mail.  And since a Twitter invitation went out, that means that she added a spammer's email address to her contact list.  Not only did she respond to that spam, but also that she was like "I think I'll want to remember this address for later."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Change is not the right word

(Since today's pride day in Seattle I figured this was an appropriate topic.  I've been reflecting on this for a week or two so it's not exactly a well-formed thesis, but I'm curious how people think.)


I really feel like "change" is not the right word for social progress.  Sure, it's technically accurate—it was a change in the Revised Code of Washington in the past couple years that allowed two people of the same sex to get married here.*  But it implies, to me at least, that something's different: that the terms of morality have changed, or that it's some radical new idea, or that it's just another option and we decided to pick a different one.  And I don't feel like it's any of those things.  Maybe I'm reading too much into the word.

Treating women as second-class citizens and not allowing them to vote was never okay.  To call it a "change" when women were given those rights feels like whitewashing over a grievous injustice.  Similarly (and perhaps with a little hyperbole), slavery was never okay, arresting and killing gay people was never okay, and rounding up Jews into ghettos and concentration camps was never okay.  It just became increasingly difficult for people to justify those things to their neighbors.  A person in 1714 who owns ten slaves not a better person than someone in 2014 who owns ten slaves; he just had a lot easier time justifying his atrocities.  We're rapidly progressing to a point where more and more people agree that it's not acceptable to deny to gay people the rights that straight people have, and where more and more people will look back on the humans of 2014 and wonder why we were all so horrible.

Hopefully we'll all feel that way someday about societies that don't provide healthcare for the sick, and food for the hungry.  If the people of 2114 look back on the people of 2014 and are as ashamed of us for giving medicine to only those with money as we are of the slave owners in 1850, that's a good thing—then future generations have progressed to a point where the awful things we do (or don't do) today are no longer socially acceptable.

(Really, this largely comes down to morality versus ethics, a philosophical topic that bores me about as much as every other philosophical topic, which is perhaps ironic given that I just wrote this post.  I'm a firm believer in morality and right and wrong.  Our society's ethics allow behaviors that, to me, are quite immoral, but over time we seem to be slowly closing that gap.)


*And as a side note, I'm similarly annoyed by the phrase "gay marriage," where I'd strongly prefer "marriage equality."  I don't like the implication that it's this new, separate thing; it's fixing an old thing that was broken, and making it fair.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Finding meaning

I spend a lot of my thoughts trying to understand other people.  I'm not really intuitive at all when it comes to other peoples' emotions and behavior; most of human behavior is an absolute mystery to me, but I enjoy the observation.

One of the things that I find really hard to grasp is what appeal there is in going to bars and clubs.  I can understand from a simple "I like to drink alcohol" perspective or an "I want to find someone to have sex with tonight" perspective, but I am perplexed by the seemingly significant number of people who go to them for neither of those reasons.  Eventually they form friendships with some subgroup of the other regulars.

My first thought is always something like "Good Lord, if you're making friends with people at a bar, you go to the bar way too often and you need to evaluate your life," but I think that might be the point.  Bars and clubs seem like awful, terrible places to make friends to me, but to people who do not find places like those to be horrifying cathedrals of nightmare and agony, they aren't.  It's difficult for me to understand what it would be like to have a personality like that, and I have to repeatedly remind myself.

Another thought is always "why would you go to a bar every night or a club every weekend instead of doing something that has meaning?"  But that too is naive.  Everyone needs friends, and some people might find them there; and everyone needs some activity to relax, and some people would find that there instead of anxiety attacks.  But more than those, I think what I often can't really understand is that to an extrovert especially, those sort of activities do have meaning to some people.  (By "meaning" I mean in the lofty "purpose of life" sense, not just "any reason to do a thing.")  And as much as I like to feel superior to everyone else and say that the only things that give true meaning to a life are to create things and improve things and make life better for those who come after you, the things that I feel give my life "meaning," different peoples' lives must have different purposes, because we're all very different and have different skills and interests.

In fact, now that I think about it more, it's entirely consistent with my worldview that some people may be on this earth in a support capacity.  Not everyone needs to invent or build or create art for the world to become better, if the others are indirectly working toward the same.  Some people need to be the glue and the fabric that keep us connected as people, so that everyone else can do their best work.  And maybe having some people who like to go out to bars and clubs and "hang out" is essential to mankind in the symbiotic way that some tree needs a specific bird to eat its seeds and then poop them out somewhere else for it to survive.


(As always, I am generalizing plenty of things here.  I'm fully aware that some introverts like to go to bars and clubs, and that plenty of extroverts contribute directly to society's advancement.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

A philosophizing robot

I woke up this morning with some dialogue from a nonexistent game I was playing in my dream.  There were a lot of NPCs fighting with me, like Mass Effect.  Two characters were having an argument—one was a human like Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, and the other was a philosophizing robot with a voice like Legion from Mass Effect.  They recently met.

Captain: Not even a little gratitude for me swooping in and saving your ass back there?
Robot: Though I had not yet met you, I know that you always would have saved me.
Captain: What does that mean?
Robot: The world was designed so that you would save me.  That's the way it always happens.
Captain: Always?  Are you implying that you... reincarnated?
Robot: Not precisely.  Each choice we make is the beginning of a new reality, and then the old one ceases to exist.  Some choices compound to produce a vastly different reality from others that did not come to pass.  Perhaps in one, you too are synthetic life.  Or that which saves me is a force of nature.  Perhaps in another reality I am a dog.  In each case I am here, and I am saved by some seemingly coincidental, fortuitous event, and it matters not what form that takes.  My role today was to be saved, regardless of the form taken of either me or my savior.
Captain: (raises eyebrow)
Robot: That said... thank you.
Captain: So... you believe that everything is predetermined, then.  We have no free will.  Well, I think that's bulls—
Robot: Not precisely. We all make choices. Even synthetic beings make choices that ensure our continued survival. But regardless of those choices, in every reality, a pattern is set, and we all inevitably play our role in that pattern.  An architect set this plan in motion when time began in our reality.  We know not who or what this architect was, but it must exist beyond or reality, beyond our comprehension.
Captain: God. Humans called that architect God, and we stopped believing in him centuries ago.
Robot: Precisely. But perhaps you were wrong to. Or perhaps that is also a part of the pattern.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Double-click on the internet

I had a great idea for a website, which I would host at oplmgtfy.com.  But that's way too much work, so I'll just tell you what I thought of.  It would be a complete ripoff of Let Me Google That For You, but this one would be Old People Let Me Google That For You.

[Screenshot of a Windows XP computer desktop completely filled with icons.]
1. Double-click on the internet.
[Shows mouse cursor pointing at "Shortcut to Internet Explorer (3)".]
2. Try it several times.  You have to click really fast!
[Internet Explorer window opens, with six browser toolbars installed.  Several malware popup ads appear.]
3. Close all the popups.
4. Click in the white box next to the word MSN.
5. Type "the google".
[While typing, a dialog trying to get you to subscribe to Norton appears, and also one from the fake virus scanner that they downloaded, and also a script error from one of their browser toolbars.  Mouse cursor searches frantically for the X button without reading them.]
6. Don't worry about those; it always does that.
[Page failed to load.]
7. Hmmm, this stupid thing's always acting up.  Call your son.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Make you happy

The short version:
Vertical Horizon—Broken over You: 2/10
Sam Sparro—Sam Sparro: 3/10
Beats Antique—A Thousand Faces, Act II: 4/10
Derek Duke, Neal Acree, Joseph Lawrence, Russell Brower, Glenn Stafford, and Jason Hayes—Diablo III: Reaper of Souls: 4/10
Mika—The Origin of Love: 9/10

The band Vertical Horizon, apparently not content with having that one single fifteen years ago, has a relatively new album out, and the lead single is Broken over You.  Apparently they decided to promote the album by releasing the single for free with a bunch of B-sides.  Unfortunately most of them are pretty awful.  The single's okay and Save Me from Myself isn't bad either (also it's from a different album), and I must commend their generosity, but free is probably the most appropriate price for the EP.

Sam Sparro's first album isn't very good.  I ordered it along with his second album, which is notably better, but this one was a mistake.  The best track is probably 21st Century Life, and beyond that the only thing to really like is the obnoxiously titled S.A.M.S.P.A.R.R.O.

Beats Antique sent me a free copy of their brand new album A Thousand Faces, Act II, which was unexpected and cool.  It is definitely their worst album though.  The track Awaken is quite good, and The Rift and Jumpin' are pretty decent, but the rest ends up being pretty boring.

Not to break the pattern, the soundtrack to the Diablo III expansion Reaper of Souls is pretty disappointing too.  Lots of it is painfully boring, and much of it is off-key and weird.  And somehow despite using a live orchestra it manages to sound fake.  They said that they wanted the expansion's music to have a different feel from previous games, but this is just a miss.  The best track is the background music for the opening cinematic.  I'm particularly fond of the part from 2:00 to 3:00, a fun mix of epic and creepy, with a bizarrely off-beat melody that.  That section also plays a little too frequently during the game whenever there's a one-minute timed event, but I haven't gotten sick of it yet.  And The Wrath of Angels is quite good too, albeit short, and the epilogue music A Mortal Heart is understated but nice.  Most of the rest is just bland atmosphere, like The Guise of Man—that sort of thing works fine for a while but not for hours on end, or even for the duration of a soundtrack CD.

But the the latest batch of music wasn't all a bust: Mika's latest album The Origin of Love is really excellent, and a definite step up from his previous efforts.  It's awfully close to a pop masterpiece, with stand-out tracks Origin of Love and Make You Happy nearly impossible to not sing along to.  And there are several other very good tracks on the album, including Overrated.  I'd recommend the album to any fan of pop music; it's the best pop music I've heard since OneRepublic's amazing Native a year ago.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Selfies

My gym has huge signs all over the locker room prohibiting the use of phones and cameras.  Of course, this being 2014, people are completely obsessed with their phones and pay little attention to those signs.  I find this rather annoying, one because I do take the effort to follow the rules myself, and two because I'd rather not be yet another one of those people whose penis ends up on the internet because someone's taking a selfie nearby.  I'm not actually sure why it feels so different for someone to see me naked, which doesn't really bother me, and for someone to take a picture of me while naked, which bothers me a lot, but I imagine it's just the permanence—someone seeing me naked is a one-time ordeal, but once that penis is on the internet it's there forever and I've lost control entirely.  Just ask that famous naked guy taking a picture of the teapot he was selling on eBay, or the myriad athletes in the background when reporters are doing post-game interviews in the locker room for some bizarre reason.  I've had many cameras pointed in the general direction of my junk at this point, and I can really only hope and assume that none of them had the camera app open.

Anyway, I had a point to all that.  Last time I was at the gym I was thinking that bans like that have a very limited lifetime.  Wearable cameras like Google Glass aren't pervasive by any means right now, but in five or ten years I'm sure they will be vastly more common, especially in tech-friendly areas like around here.  If we can't get people to keep their cameraphones in their pockets for two minutes in the locker room, objects that we have to consciously retrieve and use, what hope have we to get people to take off our miniature Bluetooth earpiece cameras or contact lenses or whatever we'll all be wearing in a decade without even remembering they're there.  It won't be practical to ban them anywhere except, like, a military base.  (And then, how much longer until they're virtually undetectable and it's not even practical to ban them from the Pentagon?)

There are already only a few places remaining where we can expect to have any semblance of privacy; it seems rather inevitable that in just a few more years the only place you can have any expectation to not be photographed will be your home.  Public perception of things like Google Glass is overwhelmingly negative right now, and almost certainly for good reason, but think of how little time it took for it to become socially normal to take out your phone and play with it when you're hanging out with friends.  Sure, it may still be douchey, but it's certainly not abnormal.  It won't be too long before everyone's recording everything.  It's foregone.

I wonder how this will affect human interaction.  Will it desensitize us over time, or will we always have a desire for places where we have privacy?  I imagine that a desire for physical privacy (not talking about keeping my address private from advertisers on the internet) is largely a cultural trait, and thus easier to change than something ingrained into human nature, but I haven't found any research on that.  On Battlestar Galactica, bathrooms are coed.  I've thought ever since I was little that gender-segregated bathrooms were a weird concept, so I enjoyed seeing that topic explored on a TV show.  A lot of people today would strongly oppose the idea of unisex bathrooms as bizarre and radical.  Will that still be true after a few more decades of technological evolution have eliminated the last shreds of privacy we're clinging to?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spam

More than a decade ago, I started using a different email address every time I needed an account with a website.  That way, if one of them started to spam me, I'd be able to tell who it was.  Impressively, I've only gotten spam from one site in the past decade: Uproar.com, a site that offered various Flash games.  And that was only after they went bankrupt and their liquidation company decided that a good way to pay off loans would be to sell their list of customer data.

Okay, to be accurate, I've only noticed spam from Uproar.  I don't routinely go through my junk mail folder, so it's possible I've gotten some spam through an address I used somewhere else, but I haven't seen it and there weren't any examples in my most recent 100 spam emails.  And for a while I also had a junk-only email address that I used for things that I knew would not be trustworthy, and that gets an occasional email or two as well.

The majority of my spam appears to come from email addresses that have been harvested by malware.  I get quite a bit of my spam from addresses that I used for outgoing mail for tech support requests for my various apps, and then that address gets stored in someone's email forever, and eventually they get compromised and their email history is harvested and they get an address that way.  In those most recent 100 spam, I mostly see my tech support addresses.  The rest are all "shotgun-approach" spam, sent to asfw2b3bw2@mydomain.com or info@mydomain.com, both addresses I've never used.

Overall I'd consider my experiment to be an interesting success, and it suggests to me that the vast majority of peoples' spam problems are a result of human carelessness.  One of the many problems with the design of email is that it only takes one careless friend or relative to leak your address (generally via malware), and then it's compromised by spam forever.

* * * * *

UPDATE October 2014: I'm now getting spam from an address only used with Home Depot as well, so they shall be added to the hall of shame.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Farrah Fawcett hair

The short appendix:
Capital Cities—In a Tidal Wave of Mystery: 6/10

I accidentally missed an album in my post yesterday.

In a Tidal Wave of Mystery by Capital Cities is another decent indie pop album.  It's got two great tracks—the fantastically funky Tell Me How to Live, and the bizarrely delightful Farrah Fawcett Hair, and a few good ones, including Safe and Sound.  But more than half of the album is mediocrity.  I think it's definitely worth a listen, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend the whole thing.


(By the way, I've got a bunch of playlists up on Spotify if you feel like listening more than reading, sorted vaguely by genre:  pop/dance, alternative, instrumentals, electronica, and several others.)

A thing called love

The short version:
Goldfrapp—Tales of Us: 6/10
Robin Thicke—Blurred Lines: 6/10
Eminem—The Marshall Mathers LP2: 5/10
MS MR—Secondhand Rapture: 8/10
Penguin Prison—Penguin Prison: 6/10
Above and Beyond—Acoustic: 9/10
Blue Foundation—In My Mind I Am Free: 7/10
The Glitch Mob—Love Death Immortality: 6/10

Huh.  Guess I haven't posted here since the last batch of music.  Oops.

Goldfrapp's latest album Tales of Us is a strange case of "worse than the sum of its parts."  What I mean by that is that there are a bunch of songs that are very pretty in isolation, but listening the the whole album is sort of a chore.  The best tracks on here are Drew, Stranger, and Clay.  All three of those are beautiful songs with breathy vocals and dreamy instrumentals.  And they all sound alike, and like almost every other track on the disc.  Thea is quite good too, and it's the exception, but the other nine tracks all just blur together.

Robin Thicke's "everyone's so sick of this single now" album Blurred Lines is pretty decent.  Not being one to really listen to the radio, I'm not actually sick of the title track yet, and there are a couple other really solid songs on there: Top of the World and Go Stupid 4 U.  The rest is all at least okay.

I'm not really a fan of Eminem, but The Marshall Mathers LP2 was a free download from Xbox Music, and it's not terrible.  My feelings are actually kind of similar to Goldfrapp's album: there are some good songs on here, but my desire to listen to Eminem ends after one or two tracks.  Halfway through a whole Eminem album and I want to Van Gogh myself.  Berzerk is rather catchy, and then So Much Better and Desperation are probably the best after that.  The production and beats are really solid—I sort of wish that someone else would rap or sing on top of them instead.

MS MR's album Secondhand Rapture sort of reminds me of Florence and the Machine but with softer vocals.  Bones is great and totally sounds like something that could have Florence singing in it, and Hurricane and BTSK are both quite good.  Definitely worth checking out.

Penguin Prison's self-titled album is cheery funky indie pop.  Don't Fuck with My Money, Golden Train, and Multi-Millionaire are all great.  Most of the rest of the album is decent but doesn't live up to those standards.

Above and Beyond is a band that I respect but don't really love, but their new acoustic album is fantastic, and I like it a lot more than their "normal" work, which I suppose is well-executed music in an electronic dance genre that doesn't really entice me.  Acoustic is in a vaguely Sarah Brightman-ish pop-opera format, with emotional vocals and swelling strings.  A Thing Called Love is the perfect example and an excellent song, Love Is Not Enough is gorgeous, and Satellite / Stealing Time is quite good too.  Worth checking out, and it's irrelevant if you like Above and Beyond or dance music.  I have a feeling that a live performance would have been phenomenal; the recording of the strings here seems a little dull and fake, and I'm sure they'd be fantastic in person.

In My Mind I Am Free by Blue Foundation is somewhere between electronica and alternative, I guess.  I think that if I heard an instrumental version of the album first, I'd never suspect that there were supposed to be vocals; it's not that they're forgettable, but they don't seem to be the primary focus.  I'm fine with that; there are some interesting soundscapes on the CD and it's all just very entrancing.  Needles, Hard Life, and Ground Control are my top three.  The vocals on the whole album are like those, but the backing instrumentals offer a nice amount of variety.

The Glitch Mob's second full-length album Love Death Immortality is a bit disappointing.  There are several good tracks, but a lot of the album is pretty grating on the ears, and it leans too much toward generic dubstep to be as excellent as their first album was.  The best track is Carry the Sun, which is great all-around, but unfortunately nothing else on the album matches it.  Fly by Night Only  and Can't Kill Us are pretty good too, but wouldn't even be middle-of-the-road on their first album.  First world problems.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Boomerang

The short version:
Marina and the Diamonds—Electra Heart: 8/10
Lucy Schwartz—Timekeeper: 5/10
Serena Ryder—Harmony: 6/10
Sara Bareilles—The Blessed Unrest: 5/10
Ellie Goulding—Halcyon Days: 8/10
Katy Perry—Prism: 7/10
Lady Gaga—Artpop: 6/10
Mark Ronson—Here Comes the Fuzz: 7/10
Various artists—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: 6/10
The Weeknd—Kiss Land: 7/10
Sam Sparro—Return to Paradise: 7/10
Vince de Vera and Jason Garner—Shank: 3/10

The second album from Marina and the Diamonds, Electra Heart, is some pretty solid dance-y pop music.  The standout track Primadonna is happy and catchy and fun, and Home-wrecker's odd but well-crafted.  Not all of the songs are as upbeat—Teen Idle is much slower-paced and introspective.  Overall it's definitely worth a listen; nothing on the album is bad, and it's varied and pleasant to listen to.

The song Boomerang from Timekeeper by Lucy Schwartz plays during the end credits for season 4 of Arrested Development, and once I heard it I immediately had to know more.  It's infectiously wonderful, which unfortunately isn't representative of the rest of the album.  The opening track Ghost in My House is also quite good, and Curse is pretty decent too.  Most of the rest is merely okay, and there are a couple tracks that force me to look for the skip track button.  Those first few songs are absolutely worth checking out, but the rest wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

I heard Serena Ryder because she toured with OneRepublic and opened for their fantastic concert last summer at a winery out here.  Her album Harmony has a bunch of good stuff on it, but it's not all great.  For You is sultry and Bond-ish, Stompa has a sort of badass chick vibe, and What I Wouldn't Do is charming.  Worth checking out, but I don't know who in particular I'd recommend it to.

Sara Bareilles also opened for OneRepublic at the same concert, a bit drunk, but none the worse for it.  Her latest album The Blessed Unrest is not my favorite; it's mostly just pretty bland.  The opening track and single Brave is good but not spectacular, and unfortunately it's the best song on there.  1000 Times and Little Black Dress are probably the best after that.  I don't really recommend the album.

Ellie Goulding's Halcyon Days is another one of those obnoxious deals where a one-CD album gets re-released as a two-CD set, but luckily I didn't already have Halcyon.  (See also: Lady Gaga's The Fame and The Fame Monster.)  If both halves are new to you, it's a pretty great deal for 28 songs, almost all of which are good.  The best is Lights, which is an amazing song but a bit odd since it's from multiple albums ago, so it doesn't count.  Don't Say a Word and Only You from the first CD (Halcyon) are quite good, and Hearts Without Chains from the second CD (Halcyon Days) is as well.  Not one out of 28 tracks is bad, and though only a few are better than just "good," it's varied and interesting and a good deal.  Recommended.

Katy Perry's latest album Prism grew on me.  I wasn't too thrilled at first, but I started to like it more, and while the sound is pretty similar to her previous record, this one's solid too.  The best track is near the end, Spiritual, a nice little dark pop track.  This Is How We Do is pretty fun even though the lyrics are pretty annoying, and after that it's hard to pick a third, but probably International Smile.  If you liked Katy Perry's previous CDs you'll like this one too.

Even though I'm not as crazy about Lady Gaga as the other gays seem to be, Artpop is still a letdown.  A lot of the songs seem like they're weird for the sake of being weird, and just about all of them show potential but just don't sound great.  After a weak twelve minutes, the unfortunately-named Sexxx Dreams is definitely good, with an especially awesome refrain.  Then after that the album launches into Jewels n' Drugs which is so embarrassingly horrible that if you'd told me it was intentionally awful and recorded as a joke for her Saturday Night Live appearance, I'd totally have believed you.  Do What U Want featuring R. Kelly tries its best to make up for the agony inflicted, and it's a very solid pop+R&B mashup track.  And Fashion! is just sort of silly fun.  Overall, Jewels n' Drugs is the only bad track, but plenty of the disc is just okay, which makes it the worst of hers so far.

Mark Ronson's Here Comes the Fuzz was a random surprise I stumbled across (after finding his cover of Britney Spears's Toxic, if you must know), and I'm glad I did.  There's a variety of styles (though mostly hip-hop) and it's well-produced though some of the songs are pretty repetitive.  Ooh Wee featuring Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg, and Trife; and Diduntdidunt featuring Saigon are both excellent rap tracks, and I Suck featuring Rivers Cuomo of Weezer is just a silly dance track.  There are a couple other good ones, and no duds.  Recommended if you're into dance-friendly pop/rap mashups.

I got the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack for three standout, excellent tracks: Sia, The Weeknd, and Diplo's Elastic Heart, Coldplay's Atlas, and Who We Are by Imagine Dragons.  Beyond those three, there are a lot of tracks that aren't that noteworthy, which seems to be the theme of the past few months.  It's not bad, but I wouldn't recommend the soundtrack; I'd just suggest picking up those three fantastic singles.

The Weeknd has a new album out, Kiss Land, and just to be weird the best tracks are at the end and the one with the guest artist (Drake) is the worst track on the disc.  This is another CD that grew on me; I didn't really like it to start other than my favorite track Adaptation, but I came to really appreciate the title track and Tears in the Rain as well.  It's not strikingly different from his previous three-CD debut, but it's solid electronic R&B.

I just knew Sam Sparro from a Basement Jaxx song I really like, Feelings Gone, but I decided to check out his solo music and was pleasantly surprised.  His album Return to Paradise has two great songs, I Wish I Never Met You (featuring one of the most revolting rhymes I've ever heard: crackhead/blackhead) and Hearts Like UsShades of Grey is also strong song, a little calmer.  Recommended if you're interested in the disco feel of most of the CD.

Finally, another soundtrack to a game I haven't played, Shank.  It sounds a lot like the modern-western-ish Terran music from Starcraft, except not as good.  Most of it isn't noteworthy at all, and while it's probably fitting for the game, there's no particular reason to seek it out if you haven't played the game.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Illness

Over the past year or so it's become more and more apparent to me that I don't really have much of a way to tell when I'm sick.  Almost all of the standard cold symptoms are things that I have frequently or every day.
  • Headache—I have headaches all day every day, so this is not a useful indicator at all.
  • Body ache—I work out four or five times a week, so my body pretty much always hurts all over.
  • Tiredness—I am bad at sleeping and I work out, so I'm tired all over most of the time.
  • Fever—My head (especially around the eyes) usually feels like it's burning, and that feeling frequently extends to the rest of my body.
  • Stuffy nose—Allergies.
Generally the only way that I can tell if I'm actually sick is if I start feeling like I'm cold for no discernible reason, which is probably already a couple days after the point at which I should have been staying home and drinking plenty of fluids.  On the upside, since I never know if I'm sick or not, I never really have to use my sick days!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Christmas in Japan

Over Christmas 2013 and New Year's 2014 I went to Japan!  I was there for two weeks, with a platonic friend.  I took 2,500 photos.  (Although, in fairness, tons of those are different angles and exposures of the same thing.)  It was insanely expensive, even keeping costs as low as possible... probably as much as my previous two priciest vacations put together.  Maybe more.

You may be realizing that it's already three weeks into January, and you'd be correct, even factoring in wackiness with the international date line.  The reason is that I just haven't come up with much that was interesting to say about the trip.  I went into it sort of cautiously, not sure exactly what to expect, and I still found myself pretty disappointed overall.

The general areas we went to were Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Okinawa.  Tokyo is basically New York City except I can't read any of the signs and nobody is attractive.  Osaka is just a crappier version of Tokyo.  Neither one of them had much of particular interest to me.  I expected them to be... I dunno, more different than New York.  Certainly there were interesting experiences, including just the strange challenge of getting around in a city using only public transportation and little to no English.  And the half dozen vending machines on every corner.  But all it really did is reinforce in my mind just how little my desire is to live in a big city.  I just felt... uncomfortable... the whole time.  (For those of you who don't know me very well, I live in the suburbs of Seattle.  I can be in Seattle in 15 minutes when I feel like it, but my house has trees and deer and raccoons and it's sublimely quiet and I don't have to be around people.)  And it also reinforced in my mind that Japanese guys are not The Kind of Asians I Like, for what that's worth.

So yeah, Tokyo and Osaka suck, and if for some reason I were ever back in the country, I'd definitely skip Osaka entirely, and maybe spend a day in Tokyo.  Kyoto, on the other hand, was pretty cool.  It's pretty touristy, but in a good way: ancient things like shrines and temples.  Unfortunately there are a few thousand people at each of the attractions along with you, and the shrines and temples all charge admission and are trying to sell as many things to you as possible, but there are some undeniably cool things to see there.  And Okinawa is warmer and prettier, and there are islands nearby that are relatively unpopulated that are interesting to explore—I'd definitely do more of that on a theoretical second trip.  (And the Okinawans were way hotter.)

I think that some areas would have been a lot more interesting with a car, Okinawa especially, as there isn't a comprehensive train system there like there was elsewhere in Japan.  Not having a car restricts you to the most touristy (or commuter-friendly) areas in cities, and really limits your options for getting out and exploring.  Kyoto was easy to walk around in, but our inn that was half an hour outside the city was in a really beautiful and interesting area, and as I walked around there, I wondered if that's what I was missing out on by sticking to public transportation.  Nearly all of the most interesting things I saw in Japan were when I was far away from the nearest train station.

The other possibility is that I'm just not used to not being in total control of the vacation, and I couldn't enjoy myself giving up that control.  All of the best trips I've been on have been my agenda and my plans, either by myself or with someone who wasn't terribly picky about what we did.  But this trip gave me a distinct feeling of lack of control—I was an equal partner in the planning (already notably less than 100%), and being without personal transportation strongly contributed to that sensation as well.

So if there are lessons to be learned here, they're:
  1. I am not good at enjoying vacations where I feel like I'm not in control
  2. This is probably something I will need to work on
  3. Two weeks is too long to go on a vacation
  4. Mainland Japanese guys aren't really that attractive

What's that, you just wanted pictures? Well fine then, just look at the pictures, jerk.