« December 2002 | Main | February 2003 »

January 31, 2003

Behold, the Mighty Adverb!

Dear readers,

I recently googled my way to an online list of adverbs, which I just had to share with you. I find it thrilling to be reminded of the many ways in which our actions can be modified. I think I'll write a script to insert a random adverb into the closing line of my messages.

Winsomely yours,


PS: That adverb list that I linked to is a suplement to a text adventure game. Can any word gurus out there offer up a superior link?

Urgent Overture

That's the subject line of the latest Nigerian Gold Scam email that I received. It'd make a hell of a name for a jazz fusion piece. No, wait! A progressive rock piece, half an album long! Actually, it's a damn fine band name too: "ladies and gentlemen, let's give a big welcome to Songdog and Urgent Overture!"

January 30, 2003

Honored By Edison ParkFast

"Pomp and Circumstance" was playing over the parking garage sound system this morning when we dropped off the car :).

January 29, 2003

I Have a Master's Degree ... In Science!

I officially graduated from New York University on Monday, January 27, after completing a four year program of part-time study at New York University, during which I also worked full-time as a professional software developer. Over the course of my graduate study I've changed jobs a few times, and I also found the time to get married!

I'm not sure what's next, except for not having to attend classes these days. It's been a long (but rewarding) haul, and it's good to be done!

I would have posted this sooner, but I've been awaiting NYU's official confirmation that my degree was conferred.

New York City Observation #3

Seen on Sutton Place: two tough-talking men, walking purposefully down the street carrying a crowbar and a bottle of WD-40. Their family, a woman and two children, followed them about fifteen feet back.

New York City Observation #2

Tourneau makes watches in the several-thousand-dollar range. They've got what appears to be a showroom space on 58th Street and Madison Avenue. An oversized marquee has about a dozen clocks inset along its length, each showing the current time in an exotic foreign city.

The minute hands are off.

Tourneau is supposed to be a name that inspires trust, but when they tell you that it's 8:10 AM in New York, 1:08 PM in London, and 9:14 PM in Singapore you have to wonder a little bit. You'd think they'd be able to keep their clocks in synch, either by good engineering or by the brute-force expedient of sending someone out to do it once a day. It must make the watch salesmen crazy to walk under that thing every morning.

I just thought of this: maybe they do set it once a day. Ouch.

New York City Observation #1

In New York City when the subway doors open a crowd rushes to board the train whether or not there are people waiting to exit. The best that disembarking passengers can hope for is to have half the doorway left clear by those on the platform, who make it very clear with their expressions and postures that it injures them greatly to be forced into this concession. I'm sure people do this in other cities, but I imagine that, like many things, this problem is bigger in New York.

Well now it's spreading. Yesterday I took an elevator downstairs in the office building where I work, and when we reached the ground floor, several passengers squeezed into the elevator before those of us onboard could exit.

I can't wait for this to start happening with taxis.

January 23, 2003


On the train this morning a guy somewhere up in front of me was talking on the phone:

I was in an AOL chat room. Right. And this girl just starts chatting with me. I don't know who it was. No. She started talking about cybers_x! You know? Yeah. I'm not really interested in that, but I went along with it. She's sixteen. I'm like, what the hell? Do you know me? Is this a case of mistaken identity? Who do you think you're talking to? She's a cheerleader. Yeah.
Somebody's in for a little bubble-bursting. (Note: the word "cybers_x" was altered to protect Songdog.net. Google is powerful. All hail Google.)

January 22, 2003

McDonald's Absolved?

A group of individuals recently sued McDonalds for not informing them that the chain's food were unhealthy and fattening. That suit has just been dismissed. I think the lawsuit was a bit much, but it might not be a bad idea to require more prominent warnings on foods that are particularly high-fat or otherwise unhealthy.

Search By Humming

The Midem conference is taking place in Cannes this week, and Fraunhofer is demonstrating an intriguing new product which allow people to search a music database by humming. In concert (no pun intended) with a good melody reference this could be a wonderfully useful tool. Maybe Google can get in the game.

It looks as though Fraunhofer has been working on this for a while. There are at least three big, interesting problems that need to be solved in order to roll out a system like this.

First, a database of melodies needs to be created, and preferably in an automated way, which would require the dynamic identification and transcription of a vocal or instrumental melody from among the other musical parts of a recording. Second, a user's hummed query needs to be analyzed to identify relative pitches and rhythm. Finally, the user's query must be run against the database. Due to variations in humming ability and the accuracy of remembered melodies, the search engine needs to effectively find near or partial matches.

When all of these problems have been effectively dealt with there will be a many uses aside from the search engine. Automated transcription alone would be of great value to individual musicians, composers, and arrangers, not to mention sheet music publishers. Where can I get my hands on this stuff?

Social Mobile Phones

IDEO has created five design concepts for mobile phones. They are intended not to inspire products, but to inspire better mobile phone behavior. Great stuff! I can't tell you how many times I've wished for something like their SoMo5, the catapault mobile!

Via Boing Boing.

January 21, 2003

Observatory Destroyed By Fire

Australia's Mount Stromlo Observatory was destroyed by forest fires on Saturday, January 18. The fires were started a week ago by lightning strikes in Namadgi National Park, too remote for effective firefighting. They have claimed four lives and four hundred homes. The observatory has lost six telescopes and a brand new spectrograph scheduled for installation on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.

January 15, 2003

Mourning Announcement

The Supreme Court has upheld the 20 year extension of copyright which was enacted as law by Congress as the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998. The Court decided that the law was not a violation of Constitutional rights.

The law is a grievous limitation on the availability of huge quantities of material. Many published works from the early part of the twentieth century have not been available for a very long time, and it's not worth the cost to publishers today to track down the copyright holders in order to arrange republication. No one is making money off of those works, not the creators and not the publishers. When the copyrights expire then these works will be publishable again, for a charge or for free, but that day is firmly twenty years farther into the future than it ought to be.

Morning Announcement

This morning, as my NJ Transit train pulled into Penn Station, a voice over the coach loudspeakers said the following:

Well folks, we're arriving almost on time this morning. This demonstrates that it can happen. Let's just remember today for a while.

January 14, 2003

Tire Tracker

Michelin is planning to install radio frequency ID (RFID) tags in each of its tires. The tags will be capable of reporting tire pressure and wear information to a vehicle's computer, via short-range (two foot) transmissions.

But there's another side to this. If each tire has a unique signature (which they almost undoubtedly will) then they could be used to track a vehicle. Sensors in or near roadways could record tire signatures as cars pass by. Our vehicles are going to start leaving a data trail wherever they go. Are we ready to accept the consequences?

January 12, 2003

Songdog's Photoblog

Songdog.net has a photoblog! New photoblog entries will be posted periodically, and all entries will be available at the main photoblog page. A sample photo also appears on the main blog page; a random photo is loaded each time you reload the page.

All of the photos were taken by me. So far I've only posted digital camera images (from my Canon S300), but I'll probably be including some scans of my film shots in the future. I've been wanting to set this up for a long time, and I hope you'll enjoy seeing some of my photos! Welcome, one and all, to the photoblog!

January 11, 2003

Long Night

So the Metafilter NYC Meetup last night was a lot of fun--check out my photos! I was there until about 12:15 but little did I know the night was still young. After leaving, I...

  • ...couldn't catch a train, so I walked through Times Square to the Port Authority Bus Terminal
  • ...couldn't get a ticket, so I walked all over Port Authority Bus Terminal
  • ...got yelled at by a cop
  • ...couldn't catch a bus, so I walked to the 33rd Street PATH station
  • ...waited for 45 minutes for a PATH train to Hoboken
  • ...listened to a woman telling her friends "whenever I get really drunk, I just start crying," as she sobbed uncontrollably on the platform
  • ...took cash out of an ATM at the Hoboken train station at 2:00 AM, alone
  • ...waited in line for a cab amidst dozens of twenty-something Hoboken barflies
  • ...took a very expensive cab home
  • ...fell into bed around 3:20 AM.

I suspect that my fellow MeFites who were returning to Bridgeport may have gotten home before I did. Hmph.

January 09, 2003

New Year, New Sheet Rock

I neglected to mention another apparently annual event:

When we returned after our week and a half holiday in Massachusetts, we found that major portions of what had been our bathroom ceiling were now settling in comfortably on our bathroom floor. We live on one floor of a multi-family house, and something had gang seriously agley with the upstairs plumbing.

Didn't this happen last year? Why yes, it did. We made a very similar discovery. The only real difference is that last year it was northern half of the ceiling which had to be cut away and replaced, and this year it was the southern half.

Last year it took until the summer for our landlord to finish the repairs. To be fair, his chosen handyman had hung up his ladder to write a novel, and our landlord was himself in the midst of a career change.

This year our landlord happened to discover the damage before we did when he dropped by our apartment with an assessor to show how nicely everything was appointed. Everything was going swimmingly until they opened the door to our be-gypsumed bathroom.

Our landlord has already been by once to cut away the remaining bits of southern ceiling, but the promised repair crew is nearly a week late, so for now we have six superfluous extra inches of headroom, and a promise of visitors.

January 06, 2003

New Year, New Video Card

OK. I've been quiet lately. I spent most of the last two weeks doing very little computing, which is most unusual for me. I've spent my holiday vacation with family and friends in Massachusetts, and got to enjoy some nice snowy weather. I had a very nice, relaxing time.

When I got back however, I had a problem: after running maybe 18 hours my computer locked up nastily, and when I rebooted I had no video signal. After some investigation I concluded that my video card was kaput. I put in an old one, got online, did some research, went to the store, and bought a replacement card (really nice one, too!).

The thing is, this happened last year, too: I replaced my video card, and ultimately most of the rest of my system after a series of cascading problems. Not wanting to lose the new card (or anything else) I went back out to the store and bought a uninterruptible power supply with voltage regulation. It feels better to have it, but still, keep your fingers crossed for me, ok?