Monday, March 31, 2008

The phantom buzzer

I hate the buzzing noise my dryer makes when it's done. I hate it so much. Worse, though, is that I've now gotten to a point where I hear it even when it's not going off. I'll just be sitting at home, and I'll imagine this awful noise coming from the laundry room. But the dryer isn't buzzing at all. It's all in my head. What an awful disorder.

Currently listening: Morcheeba, Bradley Burgess, and Manda—Run Honey Run (my current musical obsession)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I was just Rickrolled by a news station on TV. I was sitting at lunch, and Never Gonna Give You Up started playing, and then a few moments later the smiling news anchor said something about Rickrolling.

It was awkward.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


A few times I've visited Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music, which is a pretty cool site for anyone with an interest in electronic music. It's even sort of educational. After seeing it again on Friday, I decided to finally sit down and browse through the whole thing this afternoon, tracing styles of music from their origins, and listening to hundreds of sample tracks. The site breaks electronic music down into seven genre groups from three areas of the world (Midwest United States, Western Europe, and the Caribbean), and then traces the roots of each genre from the 70s and 80s (or even really early in the 20th century in a couple cases). If the site does anything, it proves just how many wildly different styles of electronic music there are. "Techno," the term that most people who don't have an interest in electronic music use to mash together a couple hundred styles of music into one, is just one of the seven.

If I had to say a number off the top of my head, I'd say that I hate about half of the music on there. In fact, out of the dozens of subgenres in "Techno" and "Hardcore," there isn't anything I really like. Certainly "my" category is Downtempo—I own a lot of CDs that fit here, including New Age, Worldbeat, Ambient Breaks, Trip Hop, Downbeat, and Acid Jazz. The thing that I find interesting is that a ton of the music I buy is in some way "electronic music," but not much of it is really covered by the genres on this site. I think that's mostly just because almost everything is "electronic music" these days. Modern electronic-influenced rock and pop is mostly omitted; only older styles like Disco and 80s New Wave that were stepping stones to later styles show up. Of course, that's kind of the cool thing about music—a site like this can list hundreds of different styles of music, and then you realize that it's just a start, and there are a lot of styles that aren't even covered in those hundreds.

Even though it's far from comprehensive, there's still a lot of interesting content on the site, and it's worth the couple hours it will take to go through it and sample the tracks.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For the curious, here are the styles that I like listening to from time to time. In a lot of these cases, especially outside of the Downtempo category, it's not music that I can listen to for more than a short while before getting annoyed. Underlined styles are the ones I have favorite CDs in and would buy more CDs in.

House: New Wave, Synthpop, Italo Disco, Dub, Hip House, Techno Dance, Progressive House, Synthtron, Nu Italo Disco, Tribal House, Funky House, French House

Trance: Symphonic Trance, Breaktrance, Dream Trance, Ibiza Trance, Tribal Trance, Goa Trance, Industrial Experimental, Industrial Rock

Techno: None.

Breakbeat: Electro Funk, Progressive Hop, Abstract Hip Hop, Funky Breaks, Big Beat

Jungle: Jungle, Drum 'n Bass, Jazzstep, Liquid Funk, Atmospheric Jungle

Hardcore: None.

Downtempo: Ambient, Psychedelia, Electronic Classical, Early Synth, French Pop, New Age, Ethereal, Dark Ambient, Worldbeat, Ambient Trance, Ambient Psy, Ambient Breaks, Trip Hop, Downbeat, Acid Jazz, Illbient, Nu Jazz

Currently listening: Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

Radical Connector

The short version:
Mouse on Mars—Radical Connector: 4/10
Goldfrapp—Seventh Tree: 7/10

One bizarre album that I've been listening to a lot recently is Radical Connector by Mouse on Mars. I don't know how to describe it... maybe experimental electronic pop. Nothing on here is radio-friendly, and some of it is absolutely grating, make-you-grind-your-teeth noise. I feel pretty generous giving it a four out of ten, and it's only because of the fairly catchy but very odd track Mine Is in Yours (live). Blood Comes and Wipe That Sound (video) aren't too bad either. But then there are tracks like Spaceship that make me want to break the disc in half. The best I found for that track is the AmazonMP3 sample, which sadly is the most listenable part of the song. Even 60 seconds of the track Spaceship should be enough to ward you away from this album.

Considerably better than that was Goldfrapp's latest, Seventh Tree. I never know what to expect when I get a new Goldfrapp CD. Versus her last two albums it's a huge departure, but it's actually fairly similar in style to her first one, Felt Mountain. Whereas the last two Goldfrapp discs were loud and electronic and rowdy and featuring songs about cunnilingus, Seventh Tree is unexpectedly soothing and pretty. I like it. The style is still strongly influenced by electronica, but it's more breezy and not nearly so in-your-face with it. More than most other albums I've heard in a while, when I'm listening to this CD I get a feeling of texture. It's really quite something. The best tracks on here are A&E (silly video for a beautiful song), Clowns, and Happiness. Now contrast those peaceful tracks with Lovely 2 C U from the last Goldfrapp CD. Anyway, I really like the album, and if you liked Felt Mountain, you'll like this one, but if you only know Goldfrapp from dance songs like Lovely 2 C U, you should take a listen before you buy.

I've also been listening to yet another Muse CD, and I'm going to move on to ones by Hybrid Tango and Sia pretty soon.

Currently listening: Hybrid Tango—Barrio Sur

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I just got the incredibly-delayed Battlestar Galactica: Season Three set yesterday. I didn't have a chance to watch any of it, but hopefully I'll get an episode in tonight. I need to get through this season quickly; I'm already starting to see tidbits of Season Four spoilers online, let alone all of the references to surprise plot twists in season three. I may just need to make sure that I avoid being linked to to übernerd sites like Slashdot and Wired and Engadget until I'm finished with this season.

Currently stuck in my head: Keane—Atlantic

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bialystock and Bloom

When I perform annoying mindless tasks, I often find myself humming or talking or beatboxing or something else to take my mind off of what I am doing. Today while vacuuming, I bizarrely found myself repeating the line "Bialystock and Bloom! Bialystock and Bloom!" line spoken by Ulla in The Producers, which I haven't seen in about six months. I don't have a clue what brought that to mind. Did Ulla vacuum in either of those movies? I thought she just answered phones and danced.

I guess six hours or so spent today qualifies it as "spring cleaning."

Currently listening: Enya—La Soñadora

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A fairly unlikely supervillian

[This post contains minor Heroes spoilers if you haven't seen more than a couple episodes of season one.]

The SharePoint Designer team is far from large enough to take up its own building, or even its own floor in a building, so we share space with various other teams. One nearby team is Project. They've got a world map up on the wall with pins and strings and peoples' faces to show just how international the team is, which is kind of cool.

Of course, in the wrong hands, that information could be very dangerous. Imagine what could happen if Sylar got a visitor badge and found that map. If I wake up some day and read in the news that some engineer on the Project team was found with his or her skull opened up and their brains removed, I'll immediately know what happened. Be on the lookout for a telekinetic villian with the superhuman ability to create Gantt charts.

Currently listening: 50 Cent—In da Club (hey, at least I'm honest)

A trick I've discovered

When Discover sends me credit card applications, they don't put their name or return address on the envelope. Luckily, I've discovered how to determine which ones are from Discover and which ones are from someone else (that I also probably don't care about)—the font they use for my address. It's a dead giveaway.

Superheroes happen here

I dreamed that I was at a team-wide meeting at work, and one of the program managers was up in front of everyone arguing that we should change the UI styles of the feature I'm working on.

Him: What font is it using?
Me: Um, Segoe UI 9.
Him: That's so boring. Everything uses that font. What colors?
Me: Um, black, white, and blue.
Him: That's stupid. We need something exciting.

He complained that it wasn't sleek enough. For a demonstration, he logged into World of Warcraft to show us his UI (WoW lets you replace the UI with your own), which was minimalist and futuristic, with a superhero theme. He had added a lot of mods that made the game look like a comic book—when he attacked monsters or they attacked him, Batman-style "BIFF!" "BAM!" starbursts would appear on his screen. During this "presentation" my own program manager just yelled out "come on, this is bullshit!" which was fairly awkward.

He played for about five minutes or so, and never got to the thing he wanted to show as inspiration for our UI. At that time, he got a Facebook notification popup, and it appeared over his WoW window. I don't remember the exact text, but it was somebody's status update, and it was pretty offensive, at least as things that appear in popups while you're giving a presentation go. It was something very close to this:

At that point, my manager's manager stood up and told him that that was enough. He was pretty annoyed that he never got to show his idea, but he sat back down and shut up. Then the dream ended.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I feel like I've just awaken while camping. I'm sore all over (from working out, not from sleeping on hard ground). It's cold in my house. It's been raining all morning. (Is there any better way to ensure an area gets lots of rain than to go camping there?) Even the shower was the proper amount of not-refreshing to be a campground shower; I think it was the strange lukewarm temperature I settled on after being tired of turning the knob back and forth between scalding and icy. Plus, my shower is about the dirtiest it's going to ever get, as I plan on cleaning up the bathroom this weekend.

Not the ingredients of a great morning start.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Economic stimulus

So, I got a letter from the IRS today. It's a letter informing me that in May I'll get another letter. That letter will tell me whether or not I'm going to get mail from them yet again including a check. There is, of course, no value in the mail I got today; it doesn't tell me anything. It doesn't even tell me that I'll be getting any money, but rather just that I'll get another letter that will contain actual information before I get a check, if I do get one. It's the same thing that happened like half a decade ago. Apparently they didn't get anything from all of the people who complained about the pre-pre-check letter letter last time.

Lewis Black says that $34 million is how much it cost to send everyone mail about it last time it happened. I'm sure glad to see that my money is being spent responsibly.

Anyway, this post was just an excuse to link to this:

Lewis Black—Tax Rebates and Common Sense (2002)

It isn't his best stuff, but at least it's a very topical rant.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sleeping naturally

As of late I've been unable to wake myself up using an alarm—or rather, I've had even less luck with it than usual. I'm just waking up when my body decides it's time to, ignoring the alarm clock or shutting it off subconsciously. Normally I'd think that that was probably healthy, and I could maybe even turn off the alarm and just try it out for a week, but I'm sort of on call this week (more specifically, on email), and I need to be awake and accessible when normal people are awake. I just need to be extra vigilant about getting to bed early enough. Unfortunately, this hasn't been happening because I've been better about working out recently, and as I've previously identified, I can seemingly choose to sleep, exercise, or neither, but never both.

Currently listening: Goldfrapp—A&E (sillyvideo, beautiful song)

Monday, March 10, 2008


I get an inordinate amount of postal mail about tooth whitening. Probably an average of forty or fifty ads a year. Before moving out here I don't think I ever saw a dentist advertise tooth whitening through the mail, but here it happens weekly.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


If the US Government can afford to fund a research study to find out if chimpanzees affect the weather when they masturbate (or whatever their latest project is), I'd think that they could afford to do a little research and tell me the optimal amount of water to leave in the glass I keep on the bathroom counter so that it is least likely to be tipped over when I reach for it.

(Although, as it stands, when I do tip it over it serves as a nice reminder to wash the counter, which isn't so bad.)

Currently listening: Sia—I Go to Sleep (this version has a faster tempo than the album version)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I'll say it once, and I'll say it one more time, but no more after that

When I buy consumable things such as groceries and toiletries, I tend to buy them in pairs. I think this might have started as a logical way of having to visit the grocery store (or their website) only half as often. Buying tubes of toothpaste in pairs not only means you only have to buy toothpaste half as frequently, but also half the time you already have another tube ready if you happen to run out. But now I think it's just habit. I don't even think about it much anymore. I was in Safeway (yes, the physical store—I know, shocking) the other day, and I picked up two sticks of antiperspirant before I even noticed it or thought about what might happen if I ran out. In another year or two this will probably just become an integral part of my peculiarity matrix, and I won't even remember that there was a start to it all.

By the hammer of Thor

February's TV show to watch while working out was the first season of 30 Rock, a comedy that surpassed my wildest expectations and is actually pretty good. Ever since finishing it, I've had great fun using the phrase "by the hammer of Thor!" as a general-purpose exclamation, at least when nobody else is around. The main character, Liz Lemon, inexplicably started saying that occasionally for the last few episodes, and for some reason it really caught on with me. It's way more fun than my usual swearing alternatives.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Misaddressed mail finally pays off

My email alias at work is very frequently mistyped by other people, so I end up getting a lot of peoples' mail. Sometimes it's weird personal stuff, like information about someone's kids' upcoming cheerleading competitions (this one has happened three times or so already), or someone's travel itinerary, and rarely it's particularly confidential, like some corporate strategy in some area of the company that I didn't know existed, and the sender will follow-up with what I call the "holy crap please destroy that mail immediately and don't share it with anyone" email. (Serious business is serious business.) I get some sort of misaddressed mail on average about once a day.

Today I got another misaddressed package delivery. It turned out to be a box of hardware for Microsoft Game Studios. I informed the person it was supposed to be for, and he came and picked it up from my office a couple hours later. For my troubles I received copies of Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties for Windows, and Mass Effect for the 360. Finally, misaddressed mail pays off!

Now I just have to decide whether it's worth waiting for the PC release of Mass Effect (May 6) and making a trade.

Triple cheeseburgers

Imagine a rocky mountain hillside. There are about half a dozen people running up it; it would have been a challenging hike, but these people are running it, and they're in pain. They're all staying together, yelling encouraging things to each other. There's also a man in a white lab coat and a paper "diner" hat putting a stethoscope up to people, saying things like "you're burning a lot of calories." They get to the peak of the hill, and in the distance you can see two things: a Wendy's, and another restaurant with a generic-looking sign that just says "BURGER JOINT" in caps. It also has what appears to be a guard tower.

When the runners first see the Wendy's, maybe five or ten minutes away, they scream out "Triple cheeseburgers! We're almost home!" and begin to sprint. Then a voice booms out from BURGER JOINT, and the camera zooms in and you see that it's Michael Cera in a fast food uniform, yelling into a bullhorn while squinting to read text from their sign. "No! Come try our... dog farts! Er, dog brats! Brat dogs. Ugh, just go to Wendy's." He sighs and goes back inside.

The camera cuts to inside the Wendy's, where you can see the runners all entering the restaurant with faces of exhaustion and anticipation. The first man, a heavy-set black guy drenched in sweat from head to toe, grins and says, "I'd like a triple cheeseburger, please!"

Now you just see the Wendy's logo, and the announcer says, "Wendy's: you deserve it."

This dream brought to you by Wendy's. (Ugh, I hate Wendy's. Why can't someplace better buy ad time in my dreams?)

Currently listening: Mouse on Mars—Mine Is in Yours

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Girl You Lost to Cocaine

The short version:
Muse—Showbiz: 7/10
Sia—Some People Have Real Problems: 8/10
Hello Stranger—Hello Stranger: 9/10

Though I may not have much to talk about, I can always talk about the music I've been listening to. I've been primarily going through three great albums over the past few weeks, and the first is Showbiz, going backward in time through Muse's collection. It's another strong rock CD. It's my least favorite of their albums that I've heard so far, but still definitely worthwhile. After three albums I can't really say much more about their style of music than I already have, so check out Sunburn (video), Muscle Museum (video), and Unintended (video).

I also decided to check out the solo work of one of the most prominent vocalists who performed for Zero 7, Sia, starting with her album Some People Have Real Problems. The musical style is pretty similar in places to a lot of Zero 7, so it's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan. The album itself is soulful and varied, and it's one I can listen to two times in a row or more without getting bored. My favorites are probably The Girl You Lost to Cocaine, Academia (zomg catchy), Playground, and Beautiful Calm Driving, all of which are pretty amazing.

But the real surprise was the self-titled disc from Hello Stranger. It was suggested to me by a friend and I didn't really know what to expect from it other than a general feeling of terror based on how hideous the album cover is, but the album is excellent all around. It's perfect feel-good pop-rock, one of the best albums I've heard in a while. Listen to Take It to the Maxx (awful video), Kubrick Eyes, and Dancing for No One.

Currently listening: Chris Cendaña—Velvet Fingertips


I'm enjoying these little dream-flashes that I sometimes get in the mornings, where just a single image or sound or concept appears in my mind right after waking up, and then quickly dissolves. I don't know if they're bits of actual dreams I've had and already forgotten, or if they're some new mental thing that I've started, but they amuse me.

Today when I woke up, the only thing that was on my mind was an organization named CMOP (pronounced "see-mop"): Crappy Modems for Overstimulated People. I assume that their mission is to make the internet so unbearable for people who have become addicted to Facebook and MySpace that they start to let go.

Currently listening: Hello Stranger—Her in These Eyes