Archive

Feedburner Glitch

I’m painfully aware of the fact that a number of my posts just resurfaced on Google Reader and probably other aggregators earlier today – as far as I can tell this is a side effect of the Feedburner move to Google’s servers, and should not happen again.

Top albums countdown should begin in proper this weekend.

Case-sensitive HFS+: What a Mistake.

Alternate title: Come on, Adobe.

Having once had serious issues with filename capitalization in a Java project that resulted in a lot of headache and a small army of mv‘s, when I reformatted my computer with a new hard disk two months ago I chose to use the case-sensitive version of the HFS+ filesystem.

And besides one trivial and easily-fixable issue with an AdiumX theme package, all was fine.

That is, until I tried to install Adobe’s CS4 suite just now.  Instead of the friendly OS X installer app, I was greeted with the following message:

wtf adobe

So.  Now I get to reformat my entire hard disk again.  Just because Adobe is too damned lazy to get with the standard that every other OS X developer – even Microsoft, which didn’t officially support case-sensitivity as of a year ago and typically produces the shoddiest OS X applications; even the free software Indie developers who toil for hours without pay on their works – has flawlessly followed.  This is unbelievable.

What’s worse, apparently this happened with CS3 as well, and even after a small riot about it on their blog, they still couldn’t be bothered to fix it for CS4.  The difference between CS3 and 4 is small enough that I already couldn’t believe CS4 needed to exist; could they not be bothered to fix some filenames?

The 5 Most Disappointing Albums of 2008

It’s New Year’s Day, and so it’s time to begin the annual music wrap-up for 2008. Hopefully this year it will be done before April. In a fresh and innovative twist, today I present a new feature: the top 5 most disappointing albums of 2008, in order. Partially because I haven’t yet pieced together how to rank top albums number 20 through 5. Enjoy!

Children of Bodom – Blooddrunk5. Children of Bodom – Blooddrunk
It’s an unfortunate fact that from the point when you first fall in love with a band on, that irresistible urge to constantly reinvent will cause them to drift slowly yet inexorably away from what you loved so much about them to begin with. Whether or not this is acceptable depends on whether their idea of “new and improved” is in alignment with your own.
I never really loved Children of Bodom, but I thoroughly enjoy their earlier work, in particular Follow the Reaper. At least, I enjoyed them enough to sit (actually, stand) through Between the Buried and Me (whom my good friend Dylan and I have seen more times than bands we actually like by kismet) and (groan) Black Dahlia Murder to see them live. Follow the Reaper was a fairly ideal blend of influences and styles, much like the incomparable Paradise Lost from Symphony X was last year.
Unfortunately, Children of Bodom are going places that I simply don’t enjoy as much as their earlier work. While technically proficient and well-written, Blooddrunk simply wasn’t the album I was hoping for. Thrashier and angrier, it’s not the type of metal I normally listen to. It’s just a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown4. DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown
Let’s face it, Dragonforce has had their day of glory. Through the Fire and the Flames has been played to death and then some, and while their other material is certainly more diverse than that one song and no less noteworthy, that composition represents a sort of culmination of what DragonForce has stood for these past few years. Beyond that quintessential song, most of what you’ll find are merely bits and pieces which are ultimately hard to distinguish from that image.
They really needed something fresh, a grand reinvention, to really capture the world’s attention again – and here they failed to deliver. Sure, Ultra Beatdown has its moments, but they’re fleeting little bits that are easily forgotten when all is said and done. At the conclusion of the album, the only thought I had was, “that’s it?”
Amusingly, nearly all the professional reviews point out this flaw of this apparently critically acclaimed album, and they all hand-wave it away, claiming that lack of innovation is a hallmark of the power metal genre. This is, of course, ludicrous, considering that DragonForce’s modus operandi of speed was in itself a revelation, if nothing else due to how incredibly flawless their execution was (at least, in a studio environment). More of the same isn’t going to cut it for a band that everyone seems to have seen enough of.

El Ten Eleven – These Promises Are Being Videotaped3. El Ten Eleven – These Promises Are Being Videotaped
After discovering El Ten Eleven’s wonderfully cathartic take on post-rock on the Helvetica soundtrack, I fell in love with Every Direction is North, their 2007 LP release. A beautiful mix of light electronics and post-rock guitar lines reverberating away into the ambient synths in the background, Every Direction is North would have made a serious run at my top 5 of last year had I known about it then.
Thus, I was excited to see that they were releasing yet another album already this year. I hoped that the transgression of not putting them on my list last year could be made up with the release.
Sadly, this was not to be. Elements of the previous album are still here, but they lie buried amidst an alien and alienating chaos of jarring electronics, beats, and lines so abrasive and repetitive that they would make tracks from C-64′s Transitional Days feel unwelcome.
It’s not without its moments, but the album completely shatters that which I loved so much about El Ten Eleven’s music to begin with: that same time-melting hypnotic sweetness which makes Explosions in the Sky so beautiful, but with a bit more drive. Instead, it seems like the duo have chosen to go all drive. And it’s a pity, too, since the album art is so nice.

Bloc Party – Intimacy2. Bloc Party – Intimacy
Bloc Party has had quite a welcome to the music industry. Silent Alarm was received with boisterous enthusiasm – for good reason – and A Weekend in the City was met with tepid response, followed by cautious embrace. Now, with Intimacy, it seems like the band has gone in yet another radically different direction – or have they?
Much of the initial response to A Weekend in the City was simply shock at how completely different it was from Silent Alarm. While people eventually accepted the second album for what it was, it seems like this reaction went straight to Bloc Party’s collective heads, and they sat down to try to write a proper followup to their debut album.
However, that sophomore album came into existence for a reason, and the band was not about to let go of their desire to write another Weekend in the City quickly.
And as well, being one of the few “it” bands of the moment means that they must have felt the need to innovate and reinvent their music on the new release.

The new album sounds like all of these things.  At once.

Simultaneously and alternatingly aggressive, placid, capricious, and altogether schizophrenic, Intimacy seems to be the direct result of exactly such a tortured writing philosophy. No two songs sound like they belong next to each other, and few of them sound like they even belong on the same album.
The primary appeal of Silent Alarm was, for me, the pure, raw energy that it had. The writing wasn’t anything terribly special, but there was something attractive about the conviction and spunk with which it was performed. On the other hand, A Weekend in the City represented a fresh aspect of the band – relatability. Suddenly, the music itself had something to cling to, rather than simply the gusto with which it’s played. It seems that with Intimacy, Bloc Party picked the writing of the first album and the enthusiasm of the second to mix into its new bastard child, and it just doesn’t work.

Junkie XL – Booming Back at You1. Junkie XL – Booming Back at You
What happened here?

I should be more specific. Junkie XL’s previous album, Today, was a delicious mix of Big Beat, Trance, and Pop sensibilities into a wholly… whole album. Lush production, good songwriting, and well constructed lines made Today one of my favorite albums to this day.

Booming Back at You seems to be the antithesis. Never mind the fact that it sounds like it was written in 1985, the album is dry, electronic, repetitive, and simply unpleasant to listen to, as if writing it was a chore and the listening experience needed to be a chore for the spite of it.
Bloc Party was probably the biggest letdown of the year, but this album takes the cake in how simply atrocious the actual album is for its own merits. What happened here?

I guess the common theme among all the entries here is change. After all, you can’t have disappointment without expectations, and you can’t have expectations without history. For all I know, all of these artists will blow me away in the next two years – for now, it’s hard to say.
Look for my top 20 album list (that’s right, going for broke this year) in the next two to three weeks. This time, that’s a promise.

2008: in cities

Following Sunil’s lead (after Kottke’s lead), here is the list of cities I visited in 2008, in order. I only ended up flying 15183 miles, but I visited 2 countries I’ve never been to before.

  • Bothell, WA*
  • Seattle, WA*
  • San Francisco, CA*
  • Foster City, CA
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands*
  • Den Haag, Netherlands*
  • Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  • Mazatlan, Mexico
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Inglewood, Los Angeles, CA

One or more nights spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Yes we can.

obama wins!

I keep repeating the words “President Barack Obama” in my head.

And every time I do it, it sounds yet better.

Thank you, America.

That’s not the only victory we appear to be on track to win tonight.  It looks like Gregoire will be our Governor of the state of Washington again, without a doubt.  Good: I don’t want someone running our state who has insisted repeatedly that he has “better things to do.”  We’re on track to reject Tim Eyman’s terrible transportation initiative, and accept a real solution in SoundTransit.  Darcy Burner, bless her, is winning by cascades in Congressional District 8.  The death with dignity initiative appears to have succeeded.

There are also losses.  It looks like Proposition 8 is winning in California.  This is quite a blow on such a historic night.  To take away a right that so many people finally and blessedly enjoy should be criminal.  Similarly, a measure appears to have appeared and passed in Arizona banning unmarried couples from adopting children.

These losses are a reminder to us that our job is not done tonight; indeed, our job is never done.  In President Obama’s own words:

For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how theyll make the mortgage, or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

Obama is not the solution – he is a remedy.  The Senate and the House majority is not the answer – it is a solace.  We must never rest, we must never cease to question.

I leave you with perhaps the most powerful words Barack Obama has spoken in these extraordinary 21 months:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one thats on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we cant, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when womens voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we cant, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

This is it.

After 21 months, we are finally here.  This is the moment of truth; this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

No matter what you do today, and no matter what you don’t do, there is one thing above all that you must do today.

Go vote.

Misconceptions, Episode 1: The Bill of Rights

I’m starting a short series on some amusing misconceptions that people commonly have.  Here’s the first; enjoy!

We all remember being small kids on the playground, yelling “this is a free country!” at one another while generally being miscreants.  The idea of the American “free country” is something I suppose we are all indoctrinated with early in our lives, but while a portion of it is indeed a key essence of who we are and where we came from as a people, it seems like a lot of people were never taught quite what it all means.

Take, for instance, this bright young lady:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

Now, to be fair, she’s far from the only sadly misguided American.  Nothing titilates me more than people on online forums who have been moderated complaining about their freedom of speech being limited, and threatening to bring lawsuit.

So here, simply, is a breakdown of what the Bill of Rights is, and what it isn’t.

The Bill of Rights is a list of what the Government cannot do.  Specifically, it’s a list of rights that the government can never take away from its citizens, either informally or by law.  It gets hairier if you are an employee of the government, however…

The Bill of Rights is not a list of what you are entitled to do.  For instance, if you’re on private property, such as an Internet forum, you have to abide by whatever rules they enforce.  Again, there are hairy exceptions, involving reasonable expectations of privacy and so on, but that’s the general gist of it.

Join us next time as we deal with swimming polar bears!

Moving to WordPress! [update your subscriptions]

After a happy 13 months with Chyrp, I’ve finally decided to move to WordPress, despite the fact that “powered by Chyrp” is the 24th most popular Google search term coming into my blog.

Why?

I really don’t know. I’ve been pretty happy with Chyrp, and its AJAXian nature has been nice. I guess I just needed a project to occupy myself with.

Anyway, the bottom line is simply that in (hopefully) a few hours’ time, the current subscription link at dontexplain.com/rss will no longer be valid, instead being supplanted by feeds.dontexplain.com/dontexplain. Update now!

Bill and Jerry’s Excellent Adventures

Bill Gates: Clown Club member

If you haven’t heard the backstory behind the ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, Microsoft hired Jerry Seinfeld. To do ads with Bill Gates. To the tune of $10 million. The whole ad campaign costs around $300 million. Better be good, right?

If you haven’t seen the actual ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, the first installment can be found here, and the second here. Go watch them now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So what did you think? What, you didn’t get it? Yeah, me either. When no one got the first one, Microsoft remarked that they’re just supposed to start conversation about technology and Windows. Instead, it’s started a lot of conversation trying to understand the commercials from an absurdist point of view, as if they were an adaptation of Waiting for Godot (surely he’ll come tomorrow…). None of it made any logical sense.

Until I read this.

So Bill & Jerry went to live with the “common” folk. In the process, they bug everyone in the house with their presence. They make people adapt to their tastes rather than actually adapting to them. When they order out for Chinese they coast on their reputations and offer nothing of value back in exchange for the food. Finally, they are framed as thieves due to lack of security and assuming that everyone in the house is really honest.

This actually sounds more like Vista than I initially gave them credit for. newbill123 on Digg

So it is about Windows Vista after all! Now if you’ll excuse me, Windows Explorer appears to have crashed for no reason again.

Blogging from Google Chrome [impressions]

Initial thoughts on Google Chrome (more to follow tonight):

  • This browser is really pretty.
  • They’ve done an excellent job maximizing viewing space, with ultrathin borders. Your tabs are actually rendered in the titlebar, saving even more space.
  • Speaking of which, why has no one thought of inverting the tabs and address bar before? This is genius, and makes perfect sense.
  • Renders fast, as can be expected with WebKit.
  • Did I mention that this is really pretty? Make Google Mail/Apps look like this!
  • Awesome-Omni-bar is great, but the auto searchbar detection failed at detecting Wikipedia’s search box. Amazon.com worked great, though.
  • Interesting that Google is using Windows font rendering, seeing as how Apple’s Windows WebKit implementation (Safari) uses Apple font rendering. I’d prefer Apple, but this is fine.
  • Resizable textareas is a built-in feature.
  • Damn, this is pretty!
  • Have yet to run into any of the background technical things that is supposed to make Chrome shine (tabs hanging, memory leaks, popups, etc), but so far a good experience.

Looking forward to plugin support so I can mess with tab opening/closing behavior. So far, a great entry into the market, even if I still think we already have too many browsers. Maybe we should just kill Opera and replace it with this?