Friday, July 25, 2008

Shall We Play A Game?

I saw WarGames last night on the big screen, and it was a treat. A solitary one, too, since I couldn't find anyone to go with. Hell, it was hard to find someone at work who had heard of the damn movie(which is celebrating it's 25th anniversary, making me old).

When I arrived at the theater, the audience was mostly mid-thirty-somethings with wedding rings, beer bellies, bald spots and - sigh - children. Though the kids were a little endearing; like watching a geek-torch passing.

There was a small technical hiccup in about three-quarters through(which prompted the expected Joshua jokes), but I didn't mind since that gave me an unexpected bathroom break.

Seeing the old-school computer hardware -- floppy disks, modems, green terminal text -- was interesting. I can only imagine how fantastic this all seemed in 1983.

In a behind-the-scenes feature that aired before the movie, Mathew Broderick revealed that for the two small scenes where he plays Galaga in a *gasp* arcade(a true relic of the times), the producers of the movie bought him a Galaga machine and put it in his trailer. He also had to learn how to type(no one had computers then). Galaga got a lot more of his attention then typing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hot Hot Heat

I hate sweating. The sticky, slick slimy feeling of your shirt clinging wetly all over; like being pawed at by a moist-palmed pervert. And that little trickle down a leg or the small of your back, it's a sudden jolt of ickiness. A reminder of how disgustingly flesh and bone you are.

It's been remarkably hot lately. My room nearly reached 100 degrees Sunday and yesterday. My apartment has AC, it just doesn't reach my room. I have a large, towering ineffectual fan instead. If you want to move hot air around, I can't recommend it enough. At least today is a little cooler.

I've been good with the exercising, and up until a brotherly visit last week, good with the eating. I'm back on track now, though, so hopefully my goals can still be reached this summer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Something Useful For A Change

Music is personal. Tastes vary wildly from person to person. My Desert Island All Time Top Five Records probably includes some music you'd gladly use for a signal fire. Listening habits, however -- especially with the advent of the iPod -- seem to be very similar. Stop me if you have the usual playlists: by genre, by artist, maybe a work out or happy mix, and if you tire of those -- and who doesn't -- bam, you just hit Shuffle. And skip, skip, and skip. Why does that same Madonna/Radiohead/Kanye song always come up on shuffle? Is Apple fucking with you? Who knows.

There is a better way, at least if your goal is to get a fresher mix of your favorite songs, new songs, and stuff you haven't heard in a while. And it's (relatively) simple: iTunes Smart Playlists.

The main foundation for my playlists are taken from this fantastic article by Andy Budd, iTunes Smart Playlists. I highly recommend the article; it's useful and easy to implement. The basic idea is to create several "feeder" Smart Playlists: favorites, new songs, songs not played often, and a mix of songs that haven't been played in a couple weeks. All of these are combined into one "Master" playlist. The only real difference is that I try to rate all my music - leaving audiobooks, podcasts, and videos unrated so they won't show up - and as such my "feeder" playlists have a rating condition. Usually "rating greater than three" or "rating equals x", while in Budd's system, only the favorites playlist is rated. Budd's system will work fine, however, for anyone who is not as anal as me when it comes to rating their tracks.

My ":Master Mix" playlist is limited to eight hours of music, the maximum amount of music I imagine I would need for a workday.

Budd also uses his master playlist to make several genre centered playlists. I also do this, but I set up the same feeder system for each genre, instead of having it feed from the master list(since mine is "only" eight hours).

I name my genre playlists after radio stations around Laurel, Maryland, where I grew up.

My radio playlists are:
  • : Radio (Alternative 99.1 HFS)
  • : Radio (Classic Rock 94.7)
  • : Radio (Indie 102.7)
  • : Radio (Oldies 100.3)
  • : Radio (98 Rock)
  • : Radio (Hot 99.5)
  • : Radio (95.5 The People Station)
This adds a personal touch, rather than just the same old boring "Alternative", "Classic Rock" title playlists. I add the ": Radio" prefix to keep them near the top of the Playlists menu on my iPod or iPhone. Of course it should be noted that no "Indie 102.7" ever existed, but I needed to call the Indie radio playlist something.

All of these playlists use two feeder playlists: "Genre Feed" and "Genre New". "Genre Feed" looks for songs in the genre that have not been played in four weeks, have a rating over three, and selects two hours at random. "Genre New" looks for songs in the "New Music" playlist that match the genre, and limits the selection to one hour of music(the rating, and other considerations are already handled by the "New Music" playlist).

The ": Radio" playlists combine these two feeder lists, limited to one hour of music, selected at random. Since the "feeder" is twice as big as the "new" playlist, you should get a 2-1 ratio of "old favorites" to "new music". This can be tinkered with to your liking, providing you have enough "new" music to fill up the "Genre New" playlist.

This kind of set-up is perfect for a limited storage device like the iPhone. 8GB is not nearly enough for a sizable music library, so instead, my iPhone syncs the above Radio playlists and my Mix playlists. After listening to some music while I'm out and about, I re-sync it, and the playlists get re-populated with fresh content.

Still, I love having access to my entire library, because sometimes you just want to listen to The Replacement's entire catalog or you need to hear one of the more obscure selections in your collection. For that, I still use my video iPod with 160GB of storage.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Reoccuring Dream

A Reoccurring Dream: I'm a little boy, at the age when first memories begin to form...the youngest I ever was. Not yet fully aware of myself. I'm sitting in front of a television. A commercial comes on - for what, it doesn't matter - starring another little boy. He's blonde. He's handsome. I know because my babysitter says so.

A little boy thought: I'm blonde! So I am handsome!

I run to the bathroom to look at myself. I see the boy in the mirror.

A little boy thought: I don't look like the boy on TV...

...I must not be handsome.

My first memory; my first disappointment.

There is an element of this dream in every day that's happened since.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Couple Of Random Thoughts

  1. I now we all love our iPods/Zens/whatevers to death, and we can't imagine daily commutes - or life - without them. I count myself among the countless hordes you can identify by spotting those white earbuds, or a pair of noise canceling headphones when I'm feeling really pretentious. But you will never, ever spot me wearing those while ordering my coffee, lunch, or anything else for that matter. You won't see me doing what the prick in front of me did today: taking one bud out, and then draping it over his ear. Hole-lee FUCK, people. Look, this is not an ATM or an online order; there is an actual human being behind the counter who deserves your attention when they are trying to take your order. Especially since you will be the first person to bitch if anything is wrong. Plus - and I know this may come as a shock - your music will wait for you. It will not gleefully ignore the pause command and go on playing while wishing a fuck you at you, robbing you of your favorite song. Come one people, we are trying to have a civilization here!
  2. We have two elevators at work. Sitting in the lobby one day, I noticed the "5" above the second elevator door was burnt out. Watching the descent, the car goes to "6", disappears for a few seconds, then goes to "4". During those few seconds, I like to pretend the car is in the Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

July Update

So far so good with the running. Getting up early, running, then heading to work knowing I don't have to hop on the treadmill before eating some lunch. Of course, getting up is still a bitch.

Eating is going pretty good too. I'm fixing a lot of meals at home, then saving half for lunch the next day. The extra tupperware cleaning is annoying, but it saves a lot of money.

Just have to keep it up.

Monday, July 07, 2008

NetFlix Has Me...

In an official act of singlehood, I finally signed up for a NetFlix account. I know I'm very, very late to the party. Technically, I had one when I was married - but it was really my ex-wife's account. I had little input on the movies arriving in those neat red envelopes.

Now, though, I'm in total control. Already my queue has hit triple digits, filled with movies I've missed the last couple of years, classics I've neglected to see, and favorites I want to see again(but for some reason do not own).

My first arrivals came Saturday: 3:10 to Yuma, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and Season One, Disc One of LOST. Yes, LOST. I never boarded the LOST train(or in this case, plane) when it first aired, but now I'm all aboard. Those first four episodes hooked me.

NetFlix should definitely help with my goal of staying single the entire summer, keeping me locked away in my apartment, basking in the glow of the TV while manipulating my queue and rating movies in hopes of getting some good suggestions from the NetFlix robots. I already can't wait for the rest of the first season of LOST(though I'm told after this, it gets really weird until picking up again in the fourth season).

I also watched American Psycho for the first time over the weekend, and I have to say, now I understand why some people just couldn't see Christian Bale as Batman. After all, Patrick Bateman is pure evil. Not exactly superhero material. Like Bruce Wayne, though, Bateman is a mentally disturbed member of the upper class, alienated from everything around him. Though he doesn't imagine demonic cat-eating ATMs or daydream about dismembering hookers with chainsaws, Wayne is still very unhinged. And for some reason, I can imagine Wayne going on at length about his favorite artists and albums(though I doubt Huey Lewis and the News is in big rotation in the Batmobile; more likely he rocks out to something dark and elegant - like Led Zeppelin1).

1He definitely does NOT listen to anything Goth.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I've decided July will be dedicated to my fitness and health. I've been pretty good about the gym since February, going five to six times a week. I've lost almost 20 pounds(while being asked if I was remembering to eat...believe me, I would never forget that, I love food too much).

Going into July, though, I find myself plateauing. So, I'm going to start seeing a personal trainer on Sundays, and I'll be eating better(during the week...I still cave to some cravings during the weekend. Like pizza. Hmmm, pizza...). A food journal is in order.

My goal is to drop to 10 percent or below in body fat. Last time I checked, I was in the 11-13 percent range, but I'll get a definitive measurement Sunday at my first session. After that, I'll have a new weight program that I'll be doing three times a week.

In a sort of addendum to the fitness goals for the month, I'm going to try and get up at seven at least three days a week to go running outside, instead of doing the treadmill at lunch. For one thing, I'll feel like I'm using more of the day, and for another, I'll be freeing up my lunch time for other things. I've done this twice so far this week. Getting up at seven can be hard, but once I get running, I feel great.

I'll be posting about how all of this goes.