Cheat To Win

Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:29 PM] http://www.scrabblewordfinder.com/
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:29 PM] D=
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:29 PM] I did the same thing in 1998 against a girl I was playing Scrabble against online, using a program called X-Words Deluxe.
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:29 PM] I had bet the girl over the game; whoever lost would have to write the other an 8 page letter.
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:30 PM] I did not know this existed
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:30 PM] ahahaha
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] I won, obviously.
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] She wrote me the letter.
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:30 PM] That is so amazing
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] A year later, I would admit to cheating.
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:30 PM] I am gonna hustle people at scrabble now
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] She would hit me repeatedly.
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] Three years later, we got married.
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:30 PM] =O
Matt Fernandez (AIM) [7:30 PM] That’s so romantic
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] Shortly after that, I started working full time for the company that made X-Words Deluxe.
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] I would tell my bosses this story.
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:30 PM] They would laugh.
Dan Dickinson (AIM) [7:31 PM] And that concludes Dan Anecdote Hour.

The Six Words Of Comedic Death

“Hey, do you guys like comedy?”

If you’ve ever walked through (or near) Times Square in the evening, you’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase. Every night, countless young adults aspiring to be the next big thing in comedy come out in droves trying to sucker tourists into coming to a comedy club. Every time I see a group wandering from shop to shop get suckered into talking to one of these poor souls, my heart aches for them. I want to walk up and shake them free of the poor comedian who will get an extra thirty seconds of stage time if he manages to sell them tickets. But my personal experience has always been limited; I have never in fact been to one of the comedy tourist traps that grace our fair city.

Last night changed this; last night, the shape of the NYC comedy scene finally became perfectly clear in my eyes. Take the post that follows as a warning, as a guide, and maybe even as light entertainment. And please, do not take it as an indictment against particular clubs, or acts, or even the poor folks who hawk tickets on Times Square; this is more a rant against what mainstream comedy apparently entails these days.

Continue reading

Sweet!

There are weeks where the news just keeps topping itself, where it feels like the universe is trying the one-up itself into oblivion. We’re certainly in one of those weeks – just look at the news stories crossing the globe. White Sox sweep the series, Harriet Miers withdraws from the Supreme Court nomination process, Sheryl Swoopes and Sulu both come out of the closet, and we’re almost to Fitzmas.

But all of these pale in comparison to the shock and horror NYC faced last night: the entire city smelled of something sweet, somewhat resembling maple syrup. From Columbia down to SoHo, crossing waterways over to Staten Island and, yes, even Astoria/LIC, the smell could not be denied. Reports say it even made it all the way to New Jersey. The New York Times is running the delightful headline, Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers. The Post, insisting on being doom-and-gloom all the time, is running with “STRONG WHIFF OF WORRY DOWNTOWN

You want to talk terror? Try sitting in your apartment and at 11 o’clock at night, having the sudden urge to have breakfast. Then realize that urge is because the world around you has become tinted with sweet – unidentifiable sweet. It will drive you mad, trying to figure out what the smell is. Worst of all, you cannot do anything about it.

As of press time, the police have no idea what caused the smell, although we’ve been assured that emergency response teams were sent out:

There were so many calls that the city’s Office of Emergency Management coordinated efforts with the Police and Fire Departments, the Coast Guard and the City Department of Environmental Protection to look into it.

Visualize this, for it is a hilarious mental image. For further amusement, imagine the radio chatter.

Conspiracy theorists are already speculating as to the cause. Most point to an insidious attack from Canada. Of course, I have my own crackpot hypothesis: a multi-corporate advertising campaign to get New Yorkers eating breakfast again. It is obviously the most skipped meal in the city, and what better way to kickstart the industry than delicious chemical warfare?

I, for one, welcome our new smelly overlords. I am tired of the horrible odor of the 51st St. 6/E/V station, the Chelsea streets that smell of dog pee in the summer, the constant diesel fumes. I say, give me more smell subversion! I want the city smelling of fresh baked pretzels, or sizzling bacon, or hot grilled souvlaki, or anything even remotely considered delicious.

Bring it on, olfactory assassins!

RELATED TANGENT: Coffee Shop on Union Square serves Brazilian Pancakes with a Passion Fruit syrup. The pancakes are excellent (“brazilian” = slightly fried to give them a crispy top), but the syrup should be considered a weapon of mass destruction. Not because it’s bad, mind you – but because it is so concentrated and fruity. Might be a good hangover cure.

Direct IM Compatability

Just a quick note, as this happens a lot:

When it comes to IM, there seem to be two groups of people. One use official clients (iChat, AIM) – they’re convenient, they’re pretty, they’re well supported and sanctioned by the services involved. The other group tends towards third-party clients, either due to hatred for the official clients or, more frequently, because the official clients lack functionality they need.

I fall in the latter group, for a bit of both reasons. iChat, originally, was a huge RAM hog, was unbearably slow, and clutters up my display with a new window every time I get an IM, making conversation tracking a bit painful. I switched back to Adium because it solved all of these, and added some nice new features before iChat did, like a Jabber client. I can’t live without tabbed IM; the number of conversations I have to hold open with coworkers are countless, and I have NADD.

The downfall is, unfortunately, that as Adium is based in open source goodness like libGaim, it is not fully supported, and as such, falls short on a few features. File transfer was notably one that, for years, was particularly painful – it’s a little better now, but still not quite there. The feature that currently is painful, and the cause for this post, is Direct IM.

Direct IM is one of the AIM technologies that a lot of people don’t know they’re using, but can invoke without realizing it. Direct IM enables a tunnel from one client to another; previously, this was the only way to get “user is typing” notification before AOL added it to the proper AIM spec. These tunnels get invoked whenever you try and drag and drop an image onto an AIM conversation, especially in iChat.

I have a lot of iChat users that try and send me images. This is what happens:

  • User drops image onto IM conversation.
  • iChat demands a Direct IM conversation.
  • Adium prompts me for it – there’s no auto-accept. This prompt is easily lost.
  • iChat gets really baffled by the connection, as does Adium. As such:
  • All the IMs I send to the other person are lost.
  • All the IMs and pictures they send me are lost.
  • The only way to recover is for both of us to disconnect from AIM and start chatting normally (and this is hard to coordinate when you can’t IM each other).

How to avoid this? I beseech you, iChat users – if you see me on IM, and you want to send me a photo, and you do not see a microphone or a camera next to my name, ask me to switch to iChat. Adium doesn’t do AV communications, and I always have a microphone or camera on every machine I sign onto AIM with. This is a clear sign about which client I’m using.

Thanks for your understanding.

Eugene Mirman CD Recording Report

So, tonight was the first of two nights of taping for the next CD from the very funny Eugene Mirman. Here’s the notable bits:

Leo Allen opened with about 15 minutes of material, including a good bit about trying not to eat babies, even when they’re smothered in delicious baby sauce.

Eugene ran through a lot of his recent bits – the Edinburough hand-washing, the Planned Parenthood, a few others – as well as plenty I hadn’t heard before, which is always a bonus. Seeing the same comedians a lot in NYC can lead to recycling of material, so getting fresh material during tapings is always good – my laughs are a little more spontaneous, anyhow.

The thing I’ve grown to really enjoy about Eugene is his ability to stay aware of what’s going on. He chuckles as he goes, obviously enjoying himself. He’s aware when jokes aren’t working, and is able to cut himself off and playfully note that he’ll “fix THAT one for tomorrow night” or taunt “for those of you listening on the CD, you won’t hear this, as I’m cutting it out”. When technical difficulties abound, he can bounce back with some grace.

And boy, did he have to bounce back tonight – when he started one of his closing bits, which involved audio being played from the soundboard, he first managed to get the microphone stand wedged, unable to move with even the mightiest of forces. Then, while the bit was playing, it mysteriously crapped out, with the audio equipment breaking horribly. The solution? To have someone run downstairs and grab his bag from the coat room, bring up his iPod, and play the bit from there, which he had loaded on “just in case”. It ended up being smart thinking, and even with a low battery charge, he was able to get through the bit the second time.

It was a very good time, and hopefully the jokes that fizzled (and there were, sadly, a fair number) will be repaired tomorrow night for a nice full CD of material. Also making things enjoyable was the never-resting Kathryn Yu, who I do not actually disapprove of.

Eugene’s previous CD is, inexplicably, available twice from the iTunes Music Store, and highly recommended. The new CD will be available on SubPop sometime in the near future.

Vacation Postcard

Dear World,

I’ll have you know I am most enjoying my week off. My percentage of vacations being at least slightly derailed continues to hold at 100%, although to be fair it was not a complete derail this time, nor am I in any way miffed or upset by the circumstances.

I’ve had two lovely, relaxing days strolling around NYC with Suw in her post-conference state, and I am lucky to have another two or so ahead. I do find it slightly odd how we endlessly have blog-related matters to debate, as I typically don’t find much cause to talk about blogging with the people around me – but no matter. (Suw’s recap of today was also just posted).

I’ve also been finding myself purchasing a number of items I had been looking forward to – a new iPod Video, The Warriors, and Shadow Of The Colossus. To capsule review all three:

  • The iPod fills all the major gaps in functionality I had with my existing iPod (album art, battery life, click wheel, another 20GB of space) and the video capability is a nice bonus. My only major complaint is the lack of a remote port. Oh well. Full review coming next week.
  • The Warriors, while not a perfect game, is probably the most enjoyable beat-em-up I’ve played since Final Fight. I just tore through the movie tonight, and Rockstar really has got it down to an almost uncanny degree. Full review coming in the near future.
  • Shadow of the Colossus deserves to be sleeper hit of the year. I don’t have the patience to play it for long stints of time with company around, but I’ve burned through the first two colossi, and this game is a huge breath of fresh air. Anyone who appreciates games as more than mere entertainment – and who can stand a game that discourages ADD-style playing – owes it to themselves to pick this up.

I apologize for the lack of pictures as of late; I seem to have lost my battery charger for my camera, and I am nearly out of juice. I will be running to the Sony store any day now to buy a new one, I promise.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Keep in touch, won’t you?

Warm regards,
Dan

Industry vs. Artistry Braindump

Tonight, at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie Hall Notables (of which I am not a member) presented their first event of the 2005-2006 season, entitled “Artistry vs. Industry”, with four musical artists from a variety of genres speaking out about their experiences in these modern times. The panel included:

  • Natalie Merchant, of 10,00 Maniacs and solo artistry fame.
  • RZA, of Wu-Tang Clan.
  • Lou Reed, of Velvet Underground and his own solo artist fame.
  • Leila Josefowicz, a violin virtuoso.
  • The panel was originally scheduled to be moderated by DJ Stretch Armstrong, but was instead taken by WMYC’s John Schaefer

What follows are the few notes I was able to jot down after the whole affair ended.

  • Lou Reed is a bitter but terribly funny man. He has huge disdain for music press. He was also wearing Nikes, which I’m not sure why I found interesting but at least made a mental note of.
  • Leila seemed a bit shaken by the company, and said “Dude” a lot. She is, it was noted, one of the very few classical artists with a recording contract.
  • Natalie was very relaxed, as was RZA.
  • John Schaefer was wearing socks with flags on them. Again, not sure why this stuck in my head, but there it is.
  • First mention of iTunes occurred about 2 minutes in.
  • During some lamenting about the death of college radio and the gradual Clear Channelization of the airwaves, Natalie laughing mentioned that when she worked at her college station, she once on her show laid on the floor of the studio, totally high on something, and played Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control 75 times straight.
  • Each artist had their own fair share of stories about getting dicked over:
  • Natalie was locked into a contract for 18 years, which shocked Lou and RZA to a great extent.
  • RZA got dicked on royalties early on in the Wu-Tang career.
  • Lou brought up Metal Machine Music and what is now known in the music industry as the “Lou Reed Clause”, where artists have to release work “representative of the artist”.
  • Leila mentioned that she can’t afford to buy her current violin, its on loan – it costs $3,000,000.
  • Copyleft was brought up briefly, but both Natalie and Lou like to keep full control of their music. Nat brought up that she wants to keep control in case a group she objected to co-opted her song; Lou just seemed to want to keep his music locked down out of distrust of the music industry.
  • Lou’s advice to new artists: “Keep the copyright, keep the publishing.”
  • Lou is a big fan of satellite radio, and named dropped The Verbs as a band he discovered by listening to it.
  • Natalie went independent not because she has a great desire to be The Man, but because she wanted to spend time with her son.
  • RZA has a mountain in ohio he goes to for songwriting. It’s called Wu Mountain. I am not kidding.
  • There in fact is a connection between RZA and Lou, in that RZA sampled Venus In Furs for a song on the Blade: Trinity soundtrack. Lou admitted that originally he denied all sampling request – what changed his mind? “I started liking some of the tracks.”
  • All the artists lamented know-it-all engineers and producers.
  • RZA and Natalie both use drum machines at home for starting work, but use real musicians in the studio for recording.

Sorry this is so scattered, it’s hard to take notes after the fact.

Pat Kiernan Rocks The Sidekick

They were covering Digital Life on NY1 this morning, showing off the new Juicy Couture Sidekicks. The on-the-scene guy made mention of that Pat loves his SideKick – then they cut to this split shot showing Pat holding up his Sidekick and asking what the big deal is about the Couture one. He even scoffed a bit when he found out it was merely pink and not any better.

I love this channel.

PREVIOUSLY: I Love NY1, and Email From Pat Kiernan.

Analyze: iTunes 6.0 Video Files

I had some change to blow from a previous gift certificate on iTMS, so I decided to buy an episode of Lost and see what interesting stuff I could find.

First, the main summary in iTunes:

I think the listed bitrate means jack (see below QT screen); very notable is that this has FairPlay version 2 DRM. Also, file type is .m4v.

Nothing terribly surprising here, although it’s nice to see proper track numbers on a per-episode basis. I wonder if we’ll lose the “Album” and “Artist” labels for TV shows in the near future, they seem a little inconsistent.

“Remember playback position” is checked by default, so they act as bookmarkable files. The “Video Kind” field is interesting; I obviously can’t select a value here, but on the two videos I did have in my library (both episodes of Teen Homicide), I can only pick from “Movie” and “Music Video”. It would be nice if I could choose “TV Show” for, you know, if I add my own TV shows.

Now, going outside of iTunes:

The path is unsurprising given the metadata (I use ~/Music/ for my music directory), so no tricks there. Failing to find fun here, I pulled it open with Quicktime Player:

Here we can see the proper bitrate (693.96 kbps), dimensions and framerate, and most amusingly, the metadata for the description of the track – which is totally unexposed in iTunes once you buy a show – or at least a chunk of it, anyhow. (This data IS available in the store, as the description.)

Above all else, I am fairly impressed with the quality, although like everyone else, I wish the video was a touch larger.