I've put together 14 high-quality original podsafe instrumental tunes from my Penmachine Podcast into a CD album you can buy. It also includes a bonus data DVD with a bunch of cool stuff that isn't on this website. Find out more...
This is "Penmachine.com: November 2006," a page that archives an entire month's entries from my online journal. The latest material for that month is at the top. For my newest entries, visit the home page.
James Kim, who is well known from CNET and other technology media, disappeared with his family, including his wife and two very young children, while on vacation, likely somewhere between Portland and the Oregon Coast last Saturday, November 25. They were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with license plate DOESF.
This whole part of the continent was hit by a nasty snowstorm just about that time, so that is not a good indication. If you have seen or heard anything about the Kims, please contact the San Francisco Police at 415-558-5508 during normal business hours, or 415-553-1071 after hours.
I'm spoiled by the view from our front window, but on those rare occasions when there's a big snowfall and then the sun comes out, it can still blow me away.
I opened our front curtains this morning and said "Holy crap!" at the spectacle (my kids were nearby, so I restrained myself a little), which you can see here, even though I'm feeling rather ill today.
My dad took these photos of our house last night before the full force of the 50-cm snowstorm hit:
It's been coming down pretty much continuously since, so the drifts are now up to my knees in our yard. While it does snow in Vancouver at least once every year, the city isn't well equipped for it. Plus, because it tends to happen when cold winds from the B.C. Interior hit warm wet air from the Pacific, temperatures usually sit just around freezing, so it's extremely sloppy and messy, especially on our many hills.
And now the temperature is supposed to drop to minus-10 Celsius tonight, which will turn the slush into ice. I know the rest of Canada laughs at this, but all the downed power lines and tree branches don't lie—it's not business as usual.
Saturday, November 25, 2006 - newest items first # 1:53:00 PM:
Chris Pirillo (second from left in the photo) was one of the panelists at November 11's Music Tech Summit in Seattle (where I also recorded J Allard and Thomas Dolby).
His session with Christina Calio of Microsoft's Zune project, Jessica Stoner of Pandora, and Bill Valenti of Melodeo was particularly useful for IHR listeners: they talked about how to promote and distribute your music in the new online environment. Chris, not being one who was selling anything, had some nice contrarian points to make, and he has posted my audio on his Chris Pirillo Show podcast—over at Inside Home Recording, we link to his copy of my recording, which also includes some of his personal announcements at the beginning. The episode is about 1 hour 10 minutes long.
Here's a direct link to the MP3 file (about 32 MB). My apologies for the sound quality—after moving venues suddenly because of a gas leak, I wasn't able to get my iPod mic into a very good position. But things are still largely intelligible. Enjoy.
Trans-Talk reports that the first Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo jet, the largest passenger plane since the introduction of the 747 decades ago, will stop in to Vancouver International Airport as part of its round-the-world test run next week.
It lands here at 7:30 a.m. and leaves at 4:30 p.m. on November 29, and should be visible from the usual runway vantage points, although only media (and, presumably, passengers on other aircraft passing through the airport) will be allowed anywhere near it.
I'm usually not too much of a linguistic pedant, despite my job. But today I will be. Numerous times since Robert Altman died this week, I've read people who say "he will be missed."
I see the phrase all the time when people die. I suspect those who write or say it think that it's somehow polite or reverential. It's not—it's one of the worst uses of the passive voice out there, because it drains an important sentiment of all personality. He will be missed by whom? By you, presumably! If you're saying that you're sad because he died, then say, "I'll miss him." If you're saying that people in general will, then try, "We'll all miss him."
Death is a real thing. I also dislike usages such as, "Three hundred civilians were killed in an attack by rebels today." No. That makes it look like they died because of the indirect activities of "an attack." Better: "The rebels killed three hundred civilians today." People did something, and it's worth writing in a way that makes what they did clear.
He will be missed is evasive and vague and loses all the emotion, and is no more useful (or polite) than saying, "He will continue to be dead" or "He will be cremated." So if someone dies, and you miss them, say so.
My oldest daughter, who is eight, has been having a terrible time getting to sleep these past few nights. Not in that typical kid "I don't wanna go to bed" way—she's tired, and wants to sleep, but is simply having difficulty doing it. She wants me to sit in the room too, but when she does nod off and then awake later, as we all do, she is afraid when I'm not there, even though there is a night light and all.
It's hard, because she is stoic about it, but it also worries her that she has this trouble. It's likely to pass—she has fallen asleep every other night of her life, after all. She seems prone to fretting about a number of things, and of that she says, "I don't like being so sensitive."
Yes, it frustrates me as it does her, but I'm sure it won't be long before I reminisce fondly about this time, as I do about the time, now growing distant, when I could actually lift both her and her sister up and carry them around.
Neville Crane in Australia came across my tsunami articles recently, and posed this question:
In researching the Anchorage earthquake and tsunami of Good Friday 1964, I happily came across your excellent web page explaining the tragic 2004 Indian Ocean tsumani, together with references to the Alaskan event.
The reason for my interest is that I am writing about annual Australian surf lifesaving championships, and in particular those championships that were held in very large surf. The surf lifesaving movement in Australia consists of thousands of volunteers around the country who give their time to train and patrol surf beaches. Since inception over 100 years ago, hundreds of thosands of lives have been saved.
In Easter 1964, I was participating in our annual championship at Collaroy beach in Sydney. Collaroy is normally a very gentle beach with small,regular waves. However, by Easter Sunday the surf had turned monstorous with waves quicly peaking to around 15-25 feet and then crashing on a sharply rising beach that had been carved out by the pounding surf. You may not be familiar with our Australian surfboats, but they are around 25 feet and are rowed by a crew of four, plus a sweep who controls direction with a large sweep oar. They are designed to handle very rough seas when other methods of surf rescue are unable to cope. However, on Easter Sunday is was carnage all round . Surf boats were being cartwheeled and spat back up the beach, with broken boats and bodies all round. It was not so much the sheer size of the peaking waves, but their awesome velocity and force after breaking that did the damage. Even as waves were diminishing on the beach, calf depth water was bowling over strapping lifesavers as if they were ninepins.
Clearly, no one had seen anything like this surf before ( or since). Luckily, no one was killed at our surf carnival and other Sydney beaches were closed, so this extraordinary phenomenon was soon mostly forgotten. My reason for approaching you is see if you may know of reference sources that may point to the effect of the Alaskan earthquake on the east coast of Australia. References in newspapers and other publications were scant and brief at the time. I suspect tsunamis were so unknown here at that time, that the impact on Australia after crossing the Pacific passed pretty much unnoticed and unrecorded.
Surf started to build on the Sat after Good Friday, raged all day Sunday, then began to abate Sun evening. All over by Monday. There has been nothing like it since.
Here was my response:
I don't know of any formal sources, but the timing suggests that the surf you experienced could have been influenced by the Good Friday '64 quake. As I'm sure you know, storms in the same area of Alaska are the main source of the huge winter waves of legendary surfing on the North Shore of Oahu, and have been implicated in such far-away changes as the breakup of ice sheets in Antarctica.
The path between the quake epicentre and Sydney is also fairly direct, with few obstructions (it even seems to skirt the Great Barrier Reef), so in my very amateur estimation, it's quite possible you did experience waves from the Good Friday quake in Sydney.
Neville followed up:
I agree that the wild occurence was a direct result of Alaskan earthquake, even though no study/records done. The east coast of Australia is very long and the Great Barrier Reef starts some 800 miles to the north of Sydney, so I guess wave action could easily span this barrier and hit unimpeded at sydney.
Does anyone think we're wrong?
Sunday, November 19, 2006 - newest items first # 4:28:00 PM:
They're his words, not mine. Starting in the early 1990s, Thomas Dolby spent more than a decade out of the music business, building his company Beatnik from a MIDI synthesizer and web audio firm into the world's leading provider of polyphonic mobile phone ringtones. Now he's back recording and touring, and says he's like the Austin Powers of the music industry, unfrozen and amazed at the new opportunities.
Nikon's new D40 digital SLR, just announced, is smaller and less capable than the D50 I own and the D80 (or older D70s) and D200 higher up the chain, but for $600 USD including the lens, it is likely to blow away comparably priced all-in-one "prosumer" digicams.
When I was looking for a new camera this summer, I considered some of the all-in-one models from Canon, Panasonic, and others, but in the end my collection of old Nikon-mount lenses from my film SLR days and the already low price of the body-only D50 tipped the balance for the DSLR. This new model would be an even easier choice (though I'd probably still go for the D50 personally).
If you've been looking at spending $500-600 on a capable digital camera, you should check out the D40, as well as competing, slightly more expensive models from Canon and Pentax. While they lack movie modes and rotating LCD screens, and while you must look through the viewfinder in the old-style way to use them, digital SLRs generally take way better pictures in a wider range of conditions than most non-SLR models.
Then you need to use SwitchResX or modify some preference files yourself, and the mini thinks it has one reaaaaalllly wide monitor. That means it doesn't behave like two displays normally would—you get a single menu bar across both screens, splash screens pop up in in the middle of both displays, and you really should have two identical-height monitors, since you have no way to arrange how they relate to one another in the Displays preferences—but it's a pretty neat hack nevertheless. Not for everyone, but possible.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - newest items first # 3:52:00 PM:
Apple's new iPod shuffle is smaller, cheaper, and sturdier than its predecessor. Ars Technica gave it a torture test, and it even survived a drop from a third-storey balcony onto concrete and being immersed in beer (so maybe it might make it through being washed by accident?)—but not being run over by a car.
Some say it doesn't sound as good as the original shuffle, but it seems like a pretty decent deal to me overall. In fact, it's quite easy to spend more than the shuffle costs on some decent headphones for the thing. It's not quite disposable, but if my experience with my shuffle before I got a big iPod last Christmas is any indication, it's well worth the $80 USD Apple is charging for it.
Monday, November 13, 2006 - newest items first # 9:35:00 PM:
On Saturday the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which is best known for presenting the Grammy awards, put together the Music Tech Summit, and as one of the several talks and panels, J Allard talked about the Zune portable media player, which is being released tomorrow. Allard is the head of the Zune team (he started the Xbox project before that).
I've posted audio of his 47-minute talk, including Q&A from the audience (me too) at Inside Home Recording.
How about that? My wife (pictured) and I both got to meet Thomas Dolby today at the Music Tech Summit in Seattle.
A construction crew also severed a gas main outside the Experience Music Project building right after he started his opening talk, so there was a significant delay before the organizers found another theatre venue nearby in the Seattle Center. There were a number of insightful music industry types there, as well as Microsoft's J Allard, head of the new Zune team. I took a big bunch of photos throughout the day.
I also recorded audio, which I'm hoping to make available either through the grammy.com site or at Inside Home Recording in the near future after I do some post-processing of the sound to improve its quality. I'll let you know.
Friday, November 10, 2006 - newest items first # 2:22:00 PM:
Tonight I'm heading to Seattle for the Music-Tech Summit at the Experience Music Project.
The opening speech is by none other than '80s synth-pop legend (and current ringtone mogul) Thomas Dolby, and the closing address is from J Allard of Microsoft's Zune and Xbox projects. Plus there are a number of forward-looking music types from IODA, CDBaby, and other organizations there too.
With any luck I'll be able to get some podcast interviews in with one or two or a few people. We'll see how it goes.
For $30 USD, Desktop Transporter from Devon Technologies looks like a perfect solution for when I need to provide remote technical support for Mac users like my in-laws. VNC is free, but a bit more technical than I'd like for them, and Apple's own Remote Desktop is much more powerful, but also ten times the price. Nice niche-finding, Devon!
Mitch Ratcliffe doesn't like that oil company BP assigned a price to human lives in industrial accidents—$20 million USD and up, according to the Financial Times. Mitch calls it "immoral" to assign a price to a human life.
Perhaps, but we, or our representatives, at least unconsciously do it all the time. For example, perhaps a dangerous stretch of road in your community has killed 20 people in the past five years (it lacks guardrails, or has landslides, or is too twisty, whatever). If it would cost $2 million to fix and make safer, voters or councillors might approve the expenditure.
If it would cost $80 million, they might turn it down. In essence, we say then that the potential of 20 further lost lives is worth spending $100,000 per life, or $20,000 per life per year. But not $4 million per life, or $800,000 per life per year. People might argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere to save more lives. And they're probably right—because that money would save lives more efficiently, perhaps closer to that $100,000 per life mark, or less.
Yes, it's an imperfect analogy, but companies and governments and individuals make the calculus all the time. BP may have been callous in its assignment of price, but there's some honesty in it. And the amounts are substantial—our governments (and by extensions, we) aren't willing to spend even a few dollars per person to save the lives of people with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Maybe that shows the meaninglessness of a dollar value. But we continue to measure effort and commitment in dollars in our world, and "at any price" is almost always (except, perhaps, when occupying Iraq) a lie.
From my side of the border, as a self-declared crazy left-wing Canuck liberal, today's U.S. election results are encouraging: Republicans reduced to minorities in the House and likely Senate, and Rumsfeld finally out of a job—oddly, on that last one it looks like the network that broke the news was... Comedy Central! (And there were still a few anti-gay measures passed, alas.)
The question, now. Do the Democrats have any ideas? Given the gerrymandering and incumbent inertia of American electoral districts, having (probably) both wings of government flip to the Democrats is a strong repudiation of what the Republicans have achieved (or squandered) in recent years. Yet the Democrats have not shown much in the way of strong policies that would change what Americans apparently dislike about the Iraq war, Guantanamo and secret prisons, domestic spying and fiscal priorities, environmental issues, or whatever else is bugging them.
So the Democrats have two years to find a good presidential candidate and establish platforms and records of policy decisions, or to screw up again. Here's hoping they succeed.
...when I was still a Sun employee, I got into serious trouble for using just ONE of the words in that phrase... cool. Yes, cool. It came up as a black mark in my annual employee performance evaluation. So Tim, times have changed when you call a Sun product "f***ing cool", and all they care about is the F-word. [...] We all have to decide what constitutes "professionalism" for our own business. And my standards might be much lower (or rather different) from yours.
The generation of students we're turning out today need skills nobody really cared about 50, 40, even 20 years ago. Where we used to prepare students for a "job for life", now we must prepare students to be jobless. We must prepare them to think fast, learn faster, and unlearn even faster.
Dave Shea has a point about the occasional nightmares of shipping things into Canada from the U.S. or other countries. But I've found that simply refusing to deal with any company that uses UPS as its shipping agency makes things a lot better. FedEx and even the ol' regular U.S. Mail/Canada Post seem to handle the customs and brokerage issues much more elegantly, and I rarely get charged nasty fees anymore.
I hadn't heard about it until today, when my cousin mentioned her new service to my wife, but the Inukshuk network here in Canada seems like a fascinating way to get Internet wherever you are in the coverage area.
It's a tad experimental, using "pre-WiMAX" wide-area wireless networking in some not-well-explained combination of line-of-sight (presumably microwave) and WiMAX technologies.
But whatever. The key thing is, in major portions of Canada's 20 main metropolitan areas, including much of Greater Vancouver, you can schlep around a wireless modem about the size of a paperback, plug it into any wall socket for power—at home, at work, at the coffee shop, even in your car with a power inverter—and then hook it up to your laptop (or a wireless router like an AirPort Express) for Internet access. Prices range from $45 to $60 Cdn a month in three plans, depending on the bandwidth, monthly data usage, and carrier (either Bell or Rogers) you choose. Pretty neat.
Back in the summer, I did some investigating about how to encrypt folders on a Mac to keep files secure, and that turned into an article in the long-running online publication TidBITS.
As of today, I've also converted it into a small article in the December 2006 issue of Macworld magazine, which is reaching subscribers and newsstands this week. It should appear soon on the current issue page. Feel free to pick up the December print magazine too, and check out the "Mobile Mac" section. Buying it would be even better. :)
Here's my new little favourite thing: in Vancouver in the past few months, nearly all the public restrooms I've used have switched their hand soap dispensers over from the old, pink, drippy liquid detergent to lovely, self-foaming stuff that doesn't leave puddles on the countertops and works much better on your hands, even before you get them under the tap.
To whoever made that decision, thank you. And I hope it becomes a universal soap type in public washrooms from here on in.
Friday, November 03, 2006 - newest items first # 2:35:00 PM:
My cousin's little daughter is two and a half, a fantastic little girl, and today for the first time since she was born we're babysitting her overnight at our house.
Everyone is tremendously excited, especially our daughters, who are six and eight, and who think their little second-great-cousin once removed (or whatever she is officially) is the Best Thing Ever. Which she pretty much is.
So I expect we might not sleep very well tonight, and will wake up early tomorrow for playtime, and I'll be changing diapers again for the first time in five years. It'll be great.
Thursday, November 02, 2006 - newest items first # 5:22:00 PM:
Man, it has been hard to keep quiet about this. But it's out there now so we can finally talk about it. Apple has just posted an online how-to seminar about podcasting:
Podcasting is one of the most explosive technologies to hit the Internet. And with literally thousands of podcasts available on Apple iTunes, the need for high-quality production is critical. In this free, on-demand, three-part seminar Apple experts take you behind the scenes to see what it takes to perform a great-sounding podcast, produce a professional show, and promote a podcast to reach as many people as possible.
The host of the second part, "Produce," is none other than Mr. Paul Garay, my co-host at Inside Home Recording, and our show appears in the little iPod screenshot in the corner. The other two hosts are Joe Cipriano, voiceover guy for the Fox Network, numerous awards shows, etc., and Pete Alcorn of the iTunes Podcast Directory.
Of course it's heavily focused on Apple technologies (GarageBand, the iTunes Store, etc.), but there are a lot of useful tips for podcasters regardless of how they produce their shows.
And needless to say, we're pretty excited to be in it. Tell your friends! Sign up! It's free!
I have been listening obsessively to CBC Podcasting's reposting of the 2005 Massey Lecture Series by Stephen Lewis, and on several occasions it has had me close to crying in the street.
Lewis is an angry man, and with good reason. He is the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, and he details the excruciating reality of millions—millions!—of people who die, and millions—millions!—of orphans left to fend for themselves every year. After listening to each episode it's sometimes hard to think straight, because they make me sad and angry too.