Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following music the most last week:
  1. Blur
  2. Swervedriver
  3. Wilco
  4. The Charlatans
  5. Afghan Whigs
  6. Supergrass
  7. The Boo Radleys
  8. Modest Mouse
  9. The New Pornographers
  10. Neko Case
To provide a more balanced view, here are 10 songs drawn totally at random from my music library:
  • Ray Ray Rain - Bettie Serveert
  • Suit of Lights - Elvis Costello & The Attractions And Confederates
  • Fever Dream - Iron & Wine
  • Dance Of The Seven Veils - Liz Phair
  • Honey White - Morphine
  • It's Great To Be Here Again! - The Posies
  • Babies - Pulp
  • Holland - Sufjan Stevens
  • Our Days In Kansas - Tullycraft
  • Say Can You See - Wilderness
My iPod is obviously thinking of the Dilettante in Distress.

And one more thing. Here's something odd and fascinating—a banjo version of "O Fortuna!" from Carmina Burana: Sandy Bull - Carmina Burana Fantasy. Spooky.

NP: O2 Arsenal Podcast

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Google Reader Redux

Google has updated Google Reader. I posted about this when Google first introduced Reader about a year ago. Now, they've updated it quite a bit, and the results are quite an improvement.

They've addressed all the little annoyances that have been building up (though not enough to try feeddemon again) very well. Now, you can view your feeds according to how you've tagged them. This makes this a much more logical experience than before when the default was a long list. For example, I can either read or ignore the feeds from my music blogs without having to scroll through them or ignore them while I'm working on something else.

All and all, given my hour or two with the changes I'd say "job well done". They've managed to fix some of the things that were starting to annoy me without breaking the whole thing altogether. If you rely on RSS as much as I do, give it a whirl.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Grammar Questions

I just overheard a grammar question at work! No really.

It concerned the correct spacing around an em dash (—). For the record, no spaces are required on either side.

Small things like this make me smile. And yes, I know I'm a grammar geek.

NP: "Stevie Nix" - The Hold Steady

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Speaking the Truth to Power

Olbermann does.

Current events is a nightmare from which I'm still trying to awake.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Buzzword Bingo!

For those of you who don't work in Internet technology, this may be of very little interest to you. For those of you, like me, who work in technology, we have a nasty little secret: our industry relies a gibberish of buzzwords to attempt to communicate. I'm positive that this isn't a big surprise to anyone, but we have to say: Enough is enough!

I've seen this my entire professional career. It started making "use" into utilize, turned into turn-key, cooked up soup to nuts, pausing midway to disintermediate, and now it utilizes solutions to solve problems (even I'm scratching my head at that one).

I've been railing about this problem for years, editing all the crap out of any document that crossed my desk, but it keeps cropping up. The worst offenders seemed to come from the big consulting companies (I'm looking at you Accenture).

At one former company, we even played "Buzzword Bingo" during company-wide videoconferences or other meetings. It's quite easy. Make a list of buzzwords. Place a check next to one of your buzzwords every time you hear it at the meeting. At the end, the person who guesses the most correctly wins the game. My personal best performance occurred in 1999 at a company-wide teleconference. I chose the terms "special sauce", "incentivize", and "900 pound gorilla". I kid you not.

It's been so bad for so long that it has (of course) inspired a parody. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Web Economy Bullshit Generator. The sad thing about this is that all these still meaningless buzzwords still show up surprisingly often, even though this parody is at least six years old.

What is the Problem Exactly?
As the article points out, "solution" used to a good word with a fixed and clear meaning. Now, it's used so much in the industry that it has become meaningless. I mean, does "business solutions" mean anything to you? A few years ago, I fought a protracted, and ultimately useless, battle to not include this word any where on the site I was helping to redesign and re-write. Even my current company has "solutions". Solutions to what problem, I'm not really sure.

Just Use "Use", Don't Utilize It
My first encounter with buzzwords was with the seemingly innocuous word, "utilize." Of course, this means to add utility to. However, I began seeing it used where the much shorter and more elegant "use" would be preferred. I'm not sure why this occurred. Maybe they think those extra syllables mean that it's a "smarter" word than the alternative. I say bullshit.

Being Smart Versus Sounding Smart
The running theme with all the buzzwords popping up boil down to using complex words to connotate ideas that don't require that level of complexity. This ignores one of the foundations of good writing: never use a 25 cent word with a 10 cent word will do.

Using buzzwords don't make you sound smart, they only make you sound like you're trying to sound smart.

A Solution to Solutions?
If you want to communicate clearly and concisely, remove all buzzwords from your writing, or as a former co-worker of mine marvelously put it: eschew obfuscation.

As with most things pertaining to the written word, you don't have to look any further than Hemingway for sage advice:
Be careful.... It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.
This passage from The Garden of Eden has adorned every office or cube at every job I've ever worked. Working with words is my career, and I use it as the guiding principle for every bit of writing that I write or edit. It doesn't matter if the writing is for a mass audience on a Fortune 500 company's website or for my yearly review. I'd encourage everyone in the tech industry to do the same.

UPDATE: 37 Signals and Lifehacker jump on the bandwagon. And that example isn't that far from what I actually see.

NP: "Brand New Cadillac" - The Clash

To Autumn

Today is the first day that there is a distinct hint of Fall in the air. Although the leaves haven't begun to change, the skies are crisp and clear, and the breeze has just that touch of coolness that indicates that my favorite season is finally on the way.

In honor of this, I point you to what many folks think is the finest poem ever written in English: To Autumn, by John Keats.

Full disclosure, I've always found Ode to a Nightengale much more interesting.

NP: "Lover's Town Revisited" - Billy Bragg

Friday, September 22, 2006

50 Worst Things to Happen to Music

Since Friday is all about music here at Flannel Enigma, I thought it would be appropirate to bring you Blender's 50 Worst Things Ever to Happen to Music:
49. That dude that yells "Freebird" at every rock show

. . .

40. Parrotheads
For millions, Jimmy Buffett isn’t just a guy who writes songs about putzing around the Caribbean — he’s a shining symbol of the “good life.” That so few of them will get any closer to this life than hanging out in a dank bar called The Banana Boat, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sipping a frozen daiquiri and waiting for their turn to karaoke “Margaritaville” is monumentally depressing.
I won't give away any of the top 10. Some of it makes sense.

NP: "Coldsweat" - The Sugarcubes"

Friday Music Report

According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following music the most last week:

  1. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
  2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  3. Wilco
  4. Swervedriver
  5. Uncle Tupelo
  6. Elvis Costello
  7. Blur
  8. Sigur Rós
  9. Luna
  10. British Sea Power
And for a random sampling of my musical tastes, here are 10 songs from an iTunes random smart playlist:
  • Disenchanted - The Church
  • Clap Your Hands! - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
  • Everything Is Good For You - Crowded House
  • Go Home, Get Down - Death From Above 1979
  • No Dark Things - Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Breet - Film School
  • El Captain - Idlewild
  • Failure - Kings of Convenience
  • X.I.Y. - Pinback
  • Tunic (Song For Karen) - Sonic Youth
NP: "5 - 4 Vocal" - Pavement

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lewis and Clark: What Else Happened

This coming Saturday is the bicentenniel of Lewis and Clark's return to St. Louis after their voyage of discovery that extended white America's knowledge of this continent to the Pacific ocean. With that in mind, I'd certainly recommend Lewis and Clark: What Else Happened.

This blog not only provides daily updates (save for a period of time when New Orleans, the source of the blog, was underwater) from the Journals of Lewis and Clark, but also provides historical tidbits about what else was happening elsewhere in the world while the captains were on their two and a half year adventure.

I've actually made it through most of Lewis and Clark's Journals, so I look forward to exploring this site a bit more thoroughly. The Resources page on the site gives a number of jumping off points to find out more about the expidition.

NP: "New Dawn Fades (Live)" - Joy Division

The Classics in Your Inbox

Too busy to read? No matter how odd a premise that sounds, given the opportunity to provide a solution to a problem I didn't even know I had: DailyLit.com. This service will e-mail you bite size chunks of classic works in the public domain via e-mail at whatever frequency you request. Not sure you'll find anything to read? Here are a few examples of how it plays out (three I've read and one I haven't, extra points to those who guess correctly):
I'm not sure how some of the poems will work in a plain text e-mail format, but I thought I'd pass this along for your consideration.

NP: "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!" - Sufjan Stevens

The Office vs. The Office(s)

Coinciding with the premiere of what may well be the best American comedy sitcom tonight, Slate's Liesl Schillinger compares four versions of The Office--two of which are complete re-imaginings of the original British version for France and Germany.

I think the writer is on to something when she talks about how each of the four versions reflect something of how each culture relates to its work life. For example, I enjoyed the original BBC version, but the U.S. version premiering tonight on NBC strikes much more closely to home.

NP: "Disco Man" - The Damned

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pirates Part II



My pirate name is:


Black Tom Read





Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Even through many pirates have a reputation for not being the brightest souls on earth, you defy the sterotypes. You've got taste and education. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Pirates

In honor of talk like a pirate day, I give ye The Pirate's Realm matey. Arrrr.

Arrr!

NP: "Shine a Light" - Wolf Parade

Monday, September 18, 2006

Atlanta is Nation's Most Wired City

I'm never very trusting of such lists, but it's still kind of cool that Forbes calls Atlanta America's most wired city. There's probably a lot of truth in their caveat about the high population in the suburbs artificially elevating the ranking, but wireless hotspots are still popping up all over the place through the metro area. Of course, I rarely get to the suburbs to confirm my suspicions in this area.

NP: "Kill Them with Kindness" - The Satellite Rides

R.E.M. Inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame

R.E.M. was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Saturday evening. While these days it's probably more in vogue to make fun of R.E.M. than to praise them, I feel like this event should still be noted with appreciation for what they were and what they meant to music in general.

During my formative years in the 80s, most of the music you could hear on the radio was pretty terrible (we tend to forget that as we age I guess), and my discovery of R.E.M. and other underground bands like the Replacements kept me going musically in the redneck wilderness that was my high school (or at least I thought so at the time). Knowing who these bands were allowed you into a certain "in" circle of those who musically got it. And yes I know I was an arrogant little bugger. And chief among these badges were R.E.M. and the Smiths. So, I'm pretty happy that they were thus enshrined, even though the large R.E.M. collection there gave me the impression that it had already happened.

I was also lucky enough to catch their live performance from the awards show on the local PBS station. Bill Berry rejoined the band onstage for a three song set, and the band without Michael Stipe then played back-up band to Gregg Allman for a performance of "Midnight Rider" (and somewhere in Atlanta Senior's head imploded).

So without further ado, here's their performance from Saturday evening. And yes, I'm still searching for the mp3s.



Their induction is nicely timed with the release of And I Feel Fine: Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987-- a retrospective of their years with IRS records which really should remind all of us that back in the day, R.E.M. were pretty damned good.

UPDATE: What he said.

NP: "Zurich is Stained" - Pavement

Friday, September 15, 2006

New Georgia License Plates

Unlike some, I've never really minded Georgia's current license plates. Georgia, however, never really listens to me, so they've unveiled new Georgia license plates for next year (larger image). They certainly didn't consult me when they retired the Olympic commemorative plates a year after I got one (for the record, I liked them quite a bit). (via metroblogging Atlanta)

Is it just me, or does a blue plate for Georgia just seem kind of odd [Ed. Note: insert southern meat and three joke here]. I mean, blue plates just scream Michigan, Connecticut, or Delaware to me. Maybe that's just what I got used to during my learning to drive years (and the many long trips from Atlanta back to Virginia (another state that wouldn't look quite right in anything other than white).

And what's up with that brown plate. Is UPS now a state sponsor?

NP: "Blue Monday" - New Order

Friday Music Report

According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following music the most last week:
  1. The Mendoza Line
  2. Echo & The Bunnymen
  3. Pavement
  4. Pixies
  5. Wilco
  6. Luna
  7. Swervedriver
  8. Blur
  9. Joy Division
  10. Sigur Rós
I'd really encourage you all to sign up for Last.fm (if you haven't already). It's really a cool service. Not only does it track what you listen to day to day, which in and of itself is pretty interesting, it also allows you to discover new music based on your tastes. Finally, it allows you stream Last.fm radio to your PC either based on your personal listening tastes or on the recommendations it generates from users with tastes similar to yours.

So, go ahead, take the tour, and sign up. It's free and I wouldn't pimp the service so much if I didn't think it was cool.

On to a completely different way to slice my music collection, here are 10 tracks drawn totally at random from my iPod using iTunes' smart playlist feature:
  • (I Was Born in a) Laundromat - Camper Van Beethoven
  • You're A Big Girl Now - The Charlatans U.K.
  • Latin Simone - Gorillaz
  • Conrad - Jets to Brazil
  • Work All Week - The Mekons
  • The Sunnyside of the Street - The Pogues
  • Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Live) - Uncle Tupelo
  • I'm From Further North Than You - The Wedding Present
  • As Ugly As I Seem - The White Stripes
  • Sucker M.F. - Wolfgang Press
NP: "Intimate Secretary" - The Raconteurs

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

80 Gigs of iPod, Oh My!

For once, I'm glad I held off on getting a newer iPod. Apple announced a whole bunch of new products today, including an 80 gig iPod! With the new iPods, you'll also be able to download games such as tetris, and they have increased video resolution to go along with all the movies iTunes will now be offerring.

In addition to the new 80 gig iPod, the shuffle has shrunk to an incredibly small size, and the Nano got some extra memory as well.

Finally, iTunes got an update (7.0) to support all these new features. So far, it's the only thing that I've been able to play around with much. It now supports adding album art to your playlists, which makes things a lot easier for folks like me who don't really want to scan all their CD covers or run willy-nilly all over the Interweb looking for images to add manually. So far, so good.

I'm sure there's more, but there's only so much to get on a wishlist in a given day.

UPDATE: OK, so I spent some time last night playing with the new version of iTunes. Overall, I really like the improvements in the design. Perhaps the biggest change is the ability to download cover art and then "flip through" your CDs in a jukebox-like interface (this is due to CoverFlow, whom Apple has apparently purchased).

It took quite a while to download the cover art, and I have a lot of "albums" for which no cover art exists, but it's still pretty cool and a nice addition to the program.

NP: "Modern Girl" - Sleater-Kinney

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Music Report

A full report has returned, since I've been pretty much chained to my computer for the last two weeks, and Last.fm has been listening. I listened to the following music the most last week:
  1. The Charlatans U.K. (I'm just now getting around to absorbing their new album, Simpatico)
  2. Pavement
  3. Afghan Whigs
  4. Luna
  5. Pylon
  6. The Smiths
  7. Joy Division
  8. Steve Earle
  9. Idlewild
  10. Modest Mouse
To give everyone another view into my musical tastes, here are 10 songs drawn totally at random from my music library (thanks to the iTunes smart playlist function):
  • "Soul Meets Body" - Death Cab for Cutie
  • "The Entryway" - Foreign Born
  • "Shocker in Gloomtown" - Guided by Voices
  • "Oh My God" - Kaiser Chiefs
  • "Last Great American Whale" - Lou Reed
  • "Snake" - Magnapop
  • "Ghost" - Neutral Milk Hotel
  • "Back to the Old House" - The Smiths
  • "The Seer's Tower" - Sufjan Stevens
  • "Ziggy Stardust (Live)" - Wilco
NP: "This is Not a Love Song" - Public Image Limited

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Build Your Own Punk Song

I hope everyone had a great labor day. In honor of the first day back to work, here's a great way to waste a few minutes.

I've probably spent far too much time playing with Punk-o-Matic, a flash app that lets your choose from different beats and riffs to build your own punk rock masterpiece. The instruction voice-over can be a little brash and annoying at times, but it is a good way to waste a little time and smile at the silliness of it all.

Of course, I've yet to create anything that I'd slam dance to.

NP: "Bring on the Dancing Horses (Extended Mix)" - Echo & the Bunnymen

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following music the most last week.
  1. Pavement
  2. Afghan Whigs
  3. My Bloody Valentine
  4. Pulp
  5. Pixies
  6. The Smiths
  7. The Fall
  8. Radiohead
  9. The White Stripes
  10. Death Cab for Cutie
These results come from a pretty limited sample, since I was traveling last week, but I suppose two full days of listening is enough for a valid, if small, sample.

Continuing the random theme, here are 10 songs drawn totally from my iPod using iTunes smart playlist feature:
  • "Desperados Under The Eaves" - Warren Zevon
  • "Altamont" - Echo & the Bunnymen
  • "Breakdown" - Suede
  • "Second Chance" - Scott Miller & the Commonwealth
  • "Deep Wilson" - Kristin Hersh
  • "Love Will Tear Us Apart (edit)" - U2 & Arcade Fire
  • "Camera " - Editors
  • "Rainbow Man" - The Pogues
  • "Subterranean Homesick Alien" - Radiohead
  • "Mountain to Sound" - Spoon
It seems my iPod like Warren Zevon a whole lot more than my listening habits would attest--he's made this list two weeks in a row, and I only have two albums or so of his music. Strange. I guess he's joining Elvis Costello among my iPod's favorite music.

NP: "Real Nighttime" - Game Theory