Saturday, July 21, 2007

i like ilike

A confluence of promotions caused me to discover yesterday, and am I glad I finally paid attention. 

I was futzing around on the iTunes Music Store podcast section and saw iLike promoted there (didn't follow through), and then last night a new friend on Facebook shared the iLike application with me (followed through).

I've found iLike to be a clean, simple interface to show the music I enjoy, see what my friends enjoy, find new artists based on my taste and play the time-sucking iLike Challenge, a game where you listen to snippets of tunes and have to name the artist or song. On the Facebook app, after selecting or entering the names of the bands you like, you quickly see not only whether the bands are touring, but whether they're coming near you. Indicate you'll be at the concert, and you get a list of all the other Facebookers that'll be there with you.

Later this weekend, I'll install the iLike sidebar for iTunes and see where it takes me. If you're into music and want to map your tastes to those of your friends, give iLike a spin.

On a side note: I can't believe how much I've enjoyed diving into Facebook since they opened the platform. Find a lot of interesting new things and people, which is why I play in social networks anyway, right?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

nhl to make live games available on web

Saw the story in the Wall Street Journal today that the NHL will be "using Internet video to make up for the dwindling television audience." And they'll be doing it via a "Center Ice" package showing about 45 games a week at a cost of $169 for the season.

The notion of playing "where the (censored) is the puck?" on choppy internet video is laughable. Even if it's offered for free (hell no, I'm not paying).

Commish Bettman is quoted in the article saying "we need to be nimble in this space." Of course he's referring to these internets we're using. How about we be nimble in another space: high def signal.

Hockey in high-definition is a remarkably satisfying experience. Now that I've got a plasma HDTV, I have a hard enough time tolerating the standard-def hockey games via Center Ice on DirecTV. Standard def sucks. Putting up with watching the playoffs (THE PLAYOFFS!) on standard def Versus was infuriatingly unsatisfying.

If you're serious about being nimble, Bettman, you'd better move all your broadcasts to high def and quickly. Hey, make a deal with HDNet to broadcast the "Center Ice" package in high def only. I'd pay a premium to get that coverage, even though most of the games are done by the time I get home from work on the West Coast.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

getting music while on my motorcycle

I'm getting ready to go on a six day motorcycle ride through Northern California, Oregon and maybe parts of Washington, to boot.

For my birthday a couple weeks back, Left Coast Mom and the kids gave me a great gift: Iasus Noise Terminator in-helmet speakers for my Shoei RF-1000 helmet. Since I'd chosen not to get the optional radio/CD unit for my BMW R1150RT, my long rides have been rather quiet affairs.

Now, I've been riding motorcycles for 19 years, and one of the things I've always pined for is the ability to take music with me on the road on the bike. No good road trip is complete without a soundtrack, right?

However, I've only ever tried using my daily ear buds inside my helmet(s), and it's quite the painful experiment since the ear buds are so thick and my helmet is so tight. I've even drawn blood from scratching my ears trying to get the frickin' helmet off once I realize there's no way I can stand the pressure of the ear buds pressing against my drums. Now that I'm using Shure e4c ear buds with my iPod, I know there's no way I can get the helmet over those without really tearing my ears up, literally. So I don't try. I ride in silence instead.

Enter: these IASUS 3D Bass Helmet Speakers. They're less than 1/2 inch thick, and they mount directly to the helmet. To boot it's as if they're made specifically for my RF-1000 helmet, as right behind where my ears sit inside the helmet, there's a patch of vinyl that the IASUS speakers fix onto perfectly. They have a ring of velcro that glues into this spot, so I can take the speakers out when I'm doing short (music-free) rides, or don't want to be bothered with the wires hanging out.

The speakers come with a cord extender that has its own volume adjuster, so even with my thick motorcycle gloves on, I can turn the volume up and down while the iPod stays snug inside my jacket's inside pocket, safe from the elements.

Installation took all of 2 minutes to peel off the tape covering the velcro glue backing and press it into the helment. When I test-drove the speakers wearing just the helmet out the back deck, the sound inside the helmet was nice, but I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to hear the music once I got out into traffic. On top of that, I wear foam ear plugs whenever I ride, so wouldn't that block out even more of the sound?

I just had to give it a whirl, so I suited up, put in my ear plugs, donned the helmet, fired up the iPod and took off.

Much to my delight, the IASUS speakers are the perfect pitch for helmeted riding. The foam ear plugs block out enough of the ambient sound that the music comes streaming through clearly at neighborhood speeds (up to 35 mph) even with my helmet visor open.

The real test came when I accelerated to get onto I-280 near our house, and the IASUS speakers passed the freeway riding test with flying colors. Even when I was doing 80 mph (I mean 65 mph!) with a decent cross-wind, I could hear the music clearly over the motor, the street noise and the breeze. Not in a WHAT-I-CAN'T-HEAR-YOU!!?!? way, but in a nice, mellow, this will be entertaining background noise on that first 12-hour day in the saddle kind of way. I've got over 40 Gb of music to run through on the ride to and from Oregon, so I'm not worried about running out of tunes.

The real test for the IASUS will be if I can listen to podcasts in my helmet without missing any content. If I can, then I'll be able to catch up on my outstanding books-on-tape on the way to ride the twisties of the Pacific Northwest.

Next post: my experience installing throttlemeisters on my motorcycle (think: cruise control for motorcycles).

Only 10 days till the road trip!

Friday, July 13, 2007

favorite new texting application

I've grown so accustomed to ignoring the reminder beeps on my Treo, that I need another way to capture my attention that it's time to do something.
It's a killer app where you plug in your cell number, a date and time to be reminded and the subject you need reminding of.

At the appointed time, the reminder comes in to your cell phone as a text message (I pay a lot more attention to these than the other beeps and boops) telling you it's time to move the car or it's time to head out for that doc appointment or it's time to schedule the visit to the vet.

Bonus: I can sign up my significant other to be reminded, too (as long as she's game for it).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

our corn's first silks

our corn's first silks
Originally uploaded by thomas pix
Just uploaded a set of photos of our backyard garden. This is the first time (as an adult) I've grown corn, so I'm amazed to see the formation of the ears coming... and fascinated by the site of our first silks.

See the set here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

surfing shoulders

In Cory Doctorow's boingboing post today about David Byrne's blog (still with me?), he captured exactly what I enjoy so much about blogging and reading blogs:

This is one of the things I love most about blogs: getting to shoulder-surf thinkers who make me smarter.

Well said, Cory. And thanks for the blogging you do to make me smarter.

i-ACT 2007: gabriel's return to africa

Gabriel Stauring is one of those folks I find myself admiring more and more as time goes by. He's now chronicling his third trip to the Darfur region of Africa over at the i-ACT page on

When I first encountered Gabriel in the online community, we were both just beginning to learn about the atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. Since then, Gabriel's been a man on a mission, c-founding and dedicating the lionshare of his waking moments to raising awareness about what's happening in Africa on top of acting as a Family Consultant, providing in-home therapy for abused children and their families.

I've had the privilege of meeting Gabriel face-to-face once, and he's got all the hallmark qualities of a strong, silent leader: humility, approachability, drive and charisma. And I admire how he's using technology to support his work:

i-ACT is Interactive ACTivism:

  • We use technology to reject the standard excuse of inaction - ignorance
  • We debunk the myth that ordinary people cannot stop genocide
  • We replace statistics with names, faces and stories
The age of bystanders should long have passed - we have entered an age of knowledge which empowers us to protect. Join us as an upstander. Become an i-ACTivist.
The first time I heard Gabriel was headed to Darfur, I was concerned his passion to do something about the situation was blinding him to the very real possibility something bad would happen to him. Instead, through his blogging and v-logging what was happening on the ground there in Darfur, he provided a glimpse for me and thousands of others the humanity effected by this seemingly-far-away atrocity. He made it more real for me than ever before, and I know now it's because it was Gabriel who was sharing his experience, not some unknown-yet-credentialed reporter parachuting in to capture 90 seconds of news.

When I heard Gabriel was going back to Darfur, my fear for his safety didn't materialize like it had the first time. Instead, I found myself hoping that what he'd see was measured improvement since the prior year. As he (and his travel companion Stacy) posted: things weren't much better, and in some cases, things were worse.

And now, less than a year since he was last in Darfur, he's back again. Please join me bearing witness to the story Gabriel has to share. He's posting daily at i-ACT3. Become an upstander with me. Tell five friends of Gabriel's work. Ask them to do the same.

Let's remove the excuse of ignorance from standing in the way of progress for this important cause. Stop Genocide Now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

q&a with Mike Grier

Found this nice treat on the San Jose Sharks web site: a Q&A with Mike Grier.

Those who've followed my blog for a while know I'm a huge fan of Grier's, and this Q&A only reinforces his status as a class-act.

Now that the Sharks are re-tooling their logo and introducing those (ugh) new-style jerseys this season, I think it's time to take the plunge and augment my Washington Capitals Grier sweater with a Sharks Grier sweater, too.

Can't wait for the hockey season to start again. Only 2 months until training camp!

Friday, July 06, 2007

my simpsons avatar

My Simpsons Avatar
Originally uploaded by thomas pix
also called: fun with 2-D graphics.

While I aspire to have pants this orange (but not feet this tiny), I don't think I could ever wear them out in public.

We'll see if my avatar makes it to another part of the Simpsons movie site (let me know if you see it!).

You can make your own avatar here

Thursday, July 05, 2007

video of battle at kruger

Thanks to Robert, our tour guide at Safari West this week (review of the trip to come later), I was turned on to the amateur safari video below that shows a battle between lions, crocodiles and Cape buffalo. It's worth watching every second of the eight-minute-plus footage.

If not for Robert's educating us on the toughness of the Cape (don't-call-me-water) buffalo, I wouldn't have guessed the eventual winner.

Evidently, the buffalo don't get mad, they get even, and they bring the whole family.

UPDATE: I see that Time magazine has a review of the Battle at Kruger video posted online, too, and it goes a little deeper into the science/behavior stuff (of both the subjects and the video's viewers on YouTube)

Monday, July 02, 2007

cool new toys for the birthday

This evening, finally got my birthday gifts from my wife and kids, and she really surprised me this year (again!):

I got a bunch of new gadgets for my Canon Powershot S1-IS camera, including filters (polarized, UV filter, etc) and two new lenses (a 2.2 Telephoto and a .45 Macro Wide Angle) along with a carrying case for all and some tripods.

Nice timing, as we're about to take my folks to Safari West for an overnight stay and safari tour. Can't wait to add more photos to my Flickr stream.