Friday, July 8, 2011

Listening to the cloud

First of all, sorry about my week-long hiatus.  I've been so busy at work, working odd hours, and doing stuff around the house and I've just simply been too tired to do anything.  In my short spurts of down time, I decided to dip my toe into cloud computing.  I've had a Dropbox account for a while now to keep some files available to my computer and my phone, but I wanted something that could do just a bit more.  The most obvious place to start was my music collection.  Compared to some people I know, mine is paltry, just shy of 1000 songs and about 3GB in size.  I do keep some music on my android phone, but by no means do I have all of it on there.  I've tried 3 different services, mSpot, Amazon mp3/Amazon Cloud Player, and Google Music.

First of all, Google Music is in beta and currently only available in the US by invitation.  You can request an invitation on the site and I got mine within 2 days.  As of right now there is NO storage limit, so those of you with thousands of songs can rejoice.  Unfortunately, the PC app and android app could definitely use some polishing and is lacking some functions the other two offer (such as a lock screen widget on the phone).  I'm sure this is because it's in beta right now though.  No word yet though on when this will become available to everyone and how much it will cost (if it will cost anything at all)

Secondly, mSpot is fairly simple and easy to use.  Signing up for free gives you 5GB of space.  One complaint is that compared to Google's and Amazon's services, the PC application was VERY slow to upload.  The sound quality also seems to be degraded on my phone and noticeably sounds worse than the original file.

Right now, I prefer Amazon.  They also offer 5GB for free which is plenty for my smallish music collection.  The android app is very functional and offers decent control. The sound quality is also much better than mSpot.

I must say, it's pretty cool to have my entire music collection anywhere I go without it taking up space on my phone's memory card, and for those of us who are still lucky enough to have grandfathered unlimited data plans, we can listen anywhere to our heart's content even if wifi isn't available

Friday, July 1, 2011

"He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life" -Homer Simpson

Today I managed to pick myself up a copy of Weird Al Yankovic's new album "Alpocalypse".  It's his first album since "Straight Outta Lynwood" 5 years ago.  It's a typical Weird Al affair... a polka, a few original songs in the style of other artists, and of course his signature parodies.  In this album he rips off Bruno Mars, T.I., Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and even Lady Gaga.

The Lady Gaga story is an interesting one.  Even though according to the law he doesn't have to ask the original artist for permission to do a parody, Al likes to do so anyway before he even starts work on one.  He asked Gaga's manager and he declined unless he saw the lyrics.  Al wrote the lyrics for "Perform This Way" (parody of "Born This Way") and sent them to her manager.  A few weeks passed and the manager said he wanted to hear the full song.  Al scrambled to get it recorded and pushed the release of this album back to do so.  Her manager still didn't like it and Al put the song up online and wanted the proceeds to go to charity, because he didn't want the song to go to waste

After it had been online for a less than a day, Gaga and her staff saw it (apparently her manager never showed her the lyrics or the finished song), loved it, and immediately gave Al permission to put it on his album.  I'm glad it worked out for him too because the song is very well done and catchy.  "Polka Face" is still my favorite though so far, probably because I saw it live last summer.

Luckily for Weird Al, there will never be a shortage of popular songs to parody

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Watch your step!

We all know restaurants and stores put those "caution: wet floor" signs out just to cover themselves in case of a lawsuit if someone slips and falls and hurts themselves.  Just like probably everyone else, I tend to tune them out because what's a damp floor going to do?  We walk over freshly mopped floors and drive during the rain all of the time.

My shoes have no-slip soles so I have even more traction than the "average" person and don't even think twice.  And it's true, most of the time there's nothing to worry about... unless oil or grease is involved.  When the two mix, it's a slippery combo no matter what you're wearing.  Today, someone was mopping the kitchen area at work and greasy surfaces are inevitable.  At the same time, I was told to get another container of sweet tea from the fridge.  As I was walking back up front with the heavy, odd-sized container, one of my feet slipped and I fell flat on my hip, hit my knee against the side of a deep fryer, slammed my wrist on the edge of the fryer, and spilled four gallons of sugary, sticky McDonalds sweet tea on me.

Ironically, we don't have those caution signs in the work area.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are today's parents too lazy?

One of the things I've been noticing over the last few years is that when out in public at Wal Mart, a restaurant, or whatever, most kids seem to be out of control.  My parents sometimes remark to my sister and me saying "Oh, if you had done such-and-such when you were that young, we wouldn't take you out" or "we would have punished you on the spot."  I'm not talking about simple kid stuff such as constant whining or being full of energy, but things like talking back, running off, and throwing tantrums while parents just ignore it.

At work I see this ALL the time.  I've even had some parents tell me that they just give up saying it won't help one bit when the child in question is only 6 or 7 years old!  My parents have told me that when they were young, their parents kept them in line by using the belt.  My parents rarely used corporal punishment on my sister and me, but we did get grounded and had certain toys and video games taken away when it was called for.

From stories I hear from my friends who are new parents, they don't even do that.  Even my girlfriend says the same thing about her younger brother who has no respect for anyone, sneaks out of the house, and smokes weed in the house.  What I want to ask is why parents today are so soft? What is it that makes them so lazy and not actually parent and raise their kids?

What do you all think and what are your experiences with this?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Never too old for the park

Today was the first day in the last 6 that I've had more than 2-3 hours in a row to just relax and not do anything productive.  Luckily for me, the weather was cooperating and today was a nice, sunny, 75 degree day (24 C for my non-American readers).  My girlfriend and I spent a good half hour on the phone talking about how she's having the entire house steam-cleaned and how her mom was driving her crazy.  I suggested that we do something together so she could get the heck out of the house.  Since we are both broke college students, neither one of us wanted to do anything that involved spending more than $10.  After a whole 2 minutes of deliberation, we decided to go to the park by her house.

I picked her up a half hour later and drove the 5 minutes to the park.  Now, since it was a beautiful Saturday, the place was bustling with kids and their parents trying to keep an eye on them as the little ones ran all around and played on the equipment.  My girl and I found an old piece of equipment, a monkey-bar like structure that stood about 7 feet tall, and climbed to the top and just sat on it talking.  It was quite relaxing, really.  After about 15 minutes of that, we took turns on the swing set, chased each other around playfully, and ended the day by walking around the track and through the towering trees for a bit before taking the basket out of my car and having a picnic consisting of random snacks we each grabbed from the pantry before we left.

Even though the two of us are clearly too old and too big for the slides and other equipment, we still managed to have loads of fun spending the entire afternoon together.  I guess whether you're 10 years old or twice that age, you can still have fun at the local park, even if all you do is chat, act like a kid on the swing set, enjoy the weather, and enjoy the company of someone else.