Mixed Bag, This Week

Posted in Life on September 25th, 2009 by Tom

This isn’t a major content post, just kidnof me complaining.

-Editors new record dropped Monday, but Hastings doesn’t have it. F.
-After repeated attempts, Windows Vista refuses to install on my computer
-A cautionary tale: Intel’s Socket 775 Stock Cooler is a piece of shit. It is incapable of doing anything resembling a decent job at cooling the quad core processor that I had burning away in there. It was idling at 65 degrees, Celsius, which is bad news bears. I got a little adapter so that my super-fan from the old case could find a home in the new one, and now the processor only gets up to 65C under full load. Wee.
-I got my schedule put together for next semester:


Sorry to phone this one in. I was really banking on getting to rave about the new CD or Vista, but despite my best efforts, neither materialized.

Crossing the Rubicon

Posted in Music on September 18th, 2009 by Tom

rubiconI’m not a HUGE fan of the Sounds at the time of writing, but the band has a lot going for them. In general, I think Sweden produces some of the highest quality indie music on the face of the planet (please refer to my love affair with the Shout Out Louds, my favorite band at the moment, who was in the recording studio this August!), and the Sounds are no exception. If I had to be critical, you could say that they’re a tad bit gaudy; their lead singer Maja Ivarsson being noted for her over-the-top stage performances, and so on. That all comes with the territory of a New Wave revival band, though, so I can’t be too hard on them.

That said, I’ve enjoyed their most recent effort from just the beginning of June, Crossing the Rubicon, a lot more than I anticipated. ‘My Lover’ was OK as a single, but past that there are some other real gems on the album. I never get through one of these things without talking about the ‘balance’ of the album; this one is pretty strange! The bulk of the good tracks fall mostly in the middle. Sure, the opening ‘No Sleeps When I’m Awake’ is OK, but I kinda get distracted by what those lyrics could possibly be mean to really be into it. The previously mentioned ‘My Lover’ and the dance-y ‘Dorchester Hotel’ work as a nice pair, but then we finally get to ‘Beatbox‘.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

This is the Sounds at their best, flirting with hip hop influences through the medium of the electronic New Wave sound in which they are so at home. This is in sharp contrast to the last 3 songs at the end of the record where they turn off most of the synth and slow everything down. Man, it does not work at all. I can understand wanting to do something different, but you gotta know your forte, and it is always a little uncomfortable when a band pretends to be something they’re not. That’s just the end of the album though; I’ve got to reiterate the most of the first two thirds are the Sounds at their best.

My favorite track on the record, ‘Underground‘, is a happy medium between the synth-heavy pop-beat tracks that are ‘signature’ for the group and their attempt to extend their range as a musical ensemble. The vocals are less urgent, and more empathetic, leaving one with not only the inclination but also the opportunity to ponder their meaning. ‘Midnight Sun’ is similar in this fashion, but represents the extent to which the Sounds should have pursued this musical line of thought. It would have made a fantastic conclusion, or even penultimate track.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

Crossing the Rubicon – The Sounds
(Sorry I’ve been getting lazy about the purchase links; you should look into buying this album!)


“Why Would He Do That?”

Posted in Politics on September 16th, 2009 by Tom

Normally I don’t like to give stuff like this that much attention. It should be a non-story, and really there’s little-to-no information to be gained from it. That said, even I like to indulge in junk-news on occasion: As if I didn’t love President Obama enough, this really can only help his image.

Not that I care at all about the MTV’s fully-decked sparkle-spectacle that is the VMAs, but that action there of all places spawned this news story serves to underscore how funny this all is. That Kanye West would get so bent out of shape over an award of such insignificance is eyebrow-raising to begin with; that he would get all emotional about it on Leno sortof makes me giggle.

The President offhandedly calling him a ‘jackass’ is comedic gold. I just posted the audio because I hadn’t heard it before today, and it made me laugh pretty hard. Just listening to the intonation in his voice kinda reminds me that he’s a normal guy who has normal opinions and reactions to the silly stuff that goes on in our country. It helps to recall that, from time to time.

A Fond Farewell

Posted in Technology on September 12th, 2009 by Tom

xp-logoThis post ends with a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Wow. That is not at all indicative of where this entry is going, though. Apologies in advance for the misdirection. I just recently got a new computer. In this case, it is worth noting that ‘got’ actually means ‘built’, which is why this entry is something of note. With some money saved from my Boston excursion, I decided to sink some serious cash (a few hundred dollars) into some new hardware. Included in this purchase was a a new case, video card, motherboard, processor, and memory. Joining the new components were a few hold-overs from my then-current machine: DVD burner, SATA hard drive, and power supply. These, in addition to a new 24″ display, would become my new machine!

For those interested in raw specs:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550, 2.88 GHz
Memory: 4 GB OCZ DDR2 800
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT w/ 512 MB DDR2 memory onboard
HDD: Maxtor 100 GB SATA

All of which has been crammed into a SilverStone microATX form-factor case which looks like a tiny microwave. Getting this thing to work was a bit of an ordeal, though! Since I’m using my old hard drive, I wanted to keep my data on there if possible, and avoid wiping it clean. Problem is, when it was all connected together, the machine refused to boot Windows XP! This really should have come as no surprise, as I’d changed every single major component of the machine; some confusion on its part is to be expected. The way I got around this was through a really fancy trick I stumbled upon that allows you to rebuild your installation of Windows XP. That article saved me!

So I now have my old install of XP running on an all-new hardware set! It moves noticably faster, especially in loading applications and browsing graphics-heavy websites (I am glaring at your, GMail, WordPress) that would normally cause the old machine to falter and occasionally fail! Now it’s no problem. Except I will probably go blind staring at the tiny letters on this humongous screen.

Sitting on my desk in front of me is a copy of Windows Vista Home Premium that I picked up with the promise that they would mail me a free copy of Windows 7 when the release date happens on 22 October! So right now, my machine is running XP; in a day or so I’ll switch over to Vista, bitch about it for a few months, and finally settle on Windows 7. This really gets at an important point that maybe only I am getting too bent out of shape over: Saying ‘good-bye’ to Windows XP is not going to be easy.


My XP Desktop In Its Final Days

Sure, XP and I had our sore spots: We didn’t meet until 2006, when XP was well over 5 years old, and already being pushed off the stage by the flashy-but-faulty Windows Vista. Until then, I’d been using a workhouse of a machine that ran Windows 98. That’s right, friends: I ran Windows 98 through 2005, and I liked it. XP was unfamiliar, with its reorganized control panel items and strange-and-slow search feature with that stupid dog that I hated. When I finally made the switch when I built my machine that was supposed to get me through college during my senior year of high school, I was irked with the damn thing. Glitzy menus and weird color schemes that I didn’t trust, and utilities I was unfamiliar with…

Somehow though, in the intervening 3+ years, while I wasn’t paying attention, I came to love the blasted thing. I made it my own, throwing the taskbar up to the top of the screen (an aesthetic decision I still catch flack for) and using the silver theme (suck on that, Apple-ites with your faux-brushed aluminum: it ALL looks fake, even in 32-bits of color). I know the network setup all too intimately, with Truman’s complex secure wireless login procedure. My beloved Firefox (then, version 1.5!) and I first met during my introductory phase to XP, signaling a whirlwind romance that continues to this day. I logged what must have amounted to hundreds of hours on IM clients, built the BrakBlog.com and Schrödinger’s Blog websites using tools in XP, and even typed my college application essays in Office XP.

And to forsake such a history for what?! To submit myself to maneuver about the bloated feature-creep ridden copy of Vista that sits before me? I’m glad that our engagement will be a short one. Vista never really wowed me. The few positive things one can say about it are outweighed by the cost at which they come. I do look forward to 7 in all its 64-bit glory, however. It’s the first time in my memory that they’ve redesigned the OS with the express intention to run faster than its predecessor, while still using the same hardware; even if it doesn’t totally succeed, having its heart in the right place goes a long way in my book.

What I’m getting at is similar to my point about cellphones: I’m continually amazed how casually people are willing to toss away something that has borne witness to many critical decisions and important discoveries. Sure, maybe I am getting a little carried away with it; it is just an OS after all. But I will miss it. Like someone you used to love, I will soon forget how easily we used to get along, recalling only that we were once privy to each other’s most intimate secrets, but not what they were. Resigned now to uncomfortably negotiate one another in public libraries and professional office settings… Our encounters an awkward imitation of what was once an elegant step performed by knowledgeable partners.

Windows XP, it was a good run;

“Goodnight, sweet prince! And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

Follow up on ‘Lungs’

Posted in Music on September 11th, 2009 by Tom

lungsIn what I believe was the inaugural post of the music-focused segment of the blog, we talked a little bit about Florence + The Machine. I only had a handful of tracks, but I was so impressed I felt like I had enough to post on. Well, I made good on my promise and finally got around to listening to Lungs all the way through.

I was pleased to hear not just the previously cited ‘Howl’ and ‘Cosmic Love’, (still the most solid tracks on the record) but also ‘Dog Days Are Over’, which I didn’t realize was on the album. Not only is it on there, but it’s the opening track! Fantastic.

But in this brief little addendum, I really wanted to point out just a single track: like the others, it is supremely crafted, and makes fantastic use of the vocal capabilities of the ‘Florence’ component of the group. Past that, though, the wordplay of the lyrics, combined with a feeling of genuine emotion, made ‘My Boy Builds Coffins‘ stand out among even the best songs on this record. I can’t recommend this album enough!

[ mp3 ♫ ]