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 [email protected]mydomain.com or [email protected]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.

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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.