Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Music Rights for TV DVDs

I just read this article on securing music rights for DVD releases of TV shows. The difficulties particularly annoy me since I imagine they are holding up the DVD release of The State and make releasing the Beavis and Butt-Head music videos almost impossible. There has to be a better way.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Greasemonkey script for Rhapsody

I wrote a Greasemonkey script for Rhapsody that shows full album names in the album lists. The truncated album names were really getting on my nerves. Hooray for Greasemonkey!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Anti-aliased Emacs on Fedora Core 4 (and 5)

I managed to build Emacs with anti-aliased fonts on my FC4 machine. I mostly followed these instructions (ignoring the Debian-specific stuff), with the following extra steps:
  • I had to install the libpng-devel RPM (I used yum). The lack of this library was not detected by the emacs configure script.
  • I had to install setarch to use during the build process. The exec-shield functionality and randomization of virtual address spaces in Fedora Core 4 messes up the emacs bootstrapping process. I ran ./configure ; setarch i386 -R make bootstrap to build emacs.
The build seems to run fine, and the anti-aliased fonts make a big difference.

UPDATE (10/27/06): I just did a re-build on Fedora Core 5 using these instructions, and everything went fine. Now, when compiling, you need to run ./configure --with-gtk --enable-font-backend --with-xft; setarch i386 -R make bootstrap to make things work. Hopefully soon this code will be stable enough that someone releases an RPM.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wall Street Journal through ProQuest

I found a fairly decent way to read the Wall Street Journal (which charges for online access) through ProQuest, which I can access through the UC Berkeley library proxy. Go to this page to see issues by date. Then, after choosing an issue, sort the articles by page number rather than alphabetically. Finally, skip all the articles listed as being on "p. 1", as they are just short blurbs; the long articles start on "p. A.1".

Monday, November 28, 2005

Vlissides

I just read on Lambda the Ultimate that John Vlissides, co-author of the well-known Design Patterns book, just passed away. I talked to John a few times when I was at IBM, and ended up co-authoring a paper with him. I remember him giving me good advice on grad. school the first time I met him; he told me how he worked insanely hard (16 hours days) as a grad. student, and how (not unsurprisingly) it turned out to be a bad idea. He also gave me a free copy of Design Patterns, which I thought was really nice of him. Anyway, he was a really good writer and a very nice guy, and I was sad to see the news of his passing.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

"I'm da boss"

I just finished watching Raging Bull for the first time in a while; what an incredibly powerful film. The very last moments, where La Motta repeatedly mutters "I'm da boss" while shadowboxing, reminded me in some remote way of the ending of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Both endings take a small piece of thematic material, emblematic of the work as a whole, and fade away while repeating it more times than one would expect. When the work finally does end, the audience is left with a sublime echo that resonates more deeply as one reflects on the work as a whole. Anyway, just a random connection that popped into my head.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Microloans

I just saw this site Kiva, which looks really cool. It allows you to loan money to small businesses in the developing world, and get paid back if/when the business succeeds. It looks like all their businesses are funded now, but I put myself on the mailing list for when they find more.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

TV on DVD

This sounds familiar. And yet again, one must ask: why no mention of The Wire, which is at least as marathon-inducing as any of these shows?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Rosen on Recording

Here's an interesting book review by Charles Rosen of Performing Music in the Age of Recording. It made me feel bad that I don't perform music nearly as much as I used to; I really need to get a piano.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Catching Up

It looks like Alex Ross is catching up on episodes of The Wire, and he comes to the same conclusion I did a few months back. Yet another confirmation of his good taste :)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Doctor Atomic reviews

I thought I'd collect links to reviews of Doctor Atomic as I find them. I'll try to update this list as I see more reviews. Maybe I'll add my own after I see it :). Alex Ross has some cool stuff up on the opera too.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Best-Of Compilations

When I used to watch a lot of television, I can remember seeing certain commercials for "best-of" compilations (like Ultimate '70s or Piano by Candlelight Platinum) so many times that the little song excerpts would merge in my head into a new song. Even now, I can still remember chunks of songs from some '50s love songs compilation commercial I saw in elementary school, and I cringe when I think about it. I always found it jarring when I'd here the full version of some song that I only knew through an excerpt from one of these commercials. It was almost always disappointing; my brain was so used to the commercial that the real song seemed worse than a chunk of it in the context of the commercial. Or perhaps the song had been built up too much by being associated solely with a "best-of" collection. Anyway, not sure if others have experienced this; just a random thought.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Little School Pride

It looks like MIT came out first in the new Washington Monthly college rankings, which emphasize both academics and service to the community (also covered in The Tech). The statistics used to compute these rankings are not ideal, as acknowledged in the article, but it still seems like a good idea to me. Hopefully they'll be able to find better ways to measure service in the future and MIT will stay close to the top.

I've been meaning to write a couple of other posts; I'll hopefully get to them soon.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Saul Bass Titles

You can view stills from a bunch of titles done by Saul Bass here. I posted on Saul Bass before (but the link in that post is broken). Cool stuff.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More on Diet Coke

Here is a page that breaks down the various diet versions of Coke, vaguely related to a post of mine from a while back.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Poor Guy

Check out the White House press briefing [RealPlayer link] where Scott McClellan tries to dodge questions about Karl Rove. He's not very good at it, and it's just kind of sad to watch.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On del.icio.us

After hearing about del.icio.us for a while, I decided to get an account, and it's pretty cool. Now I can easily access links to my online bills / accounts and technical papers that I check from time to time. I've also been trying to bookmark things I think are worth reading; it's for cases where I don't feel like writing a blog post about an article or posting it on NewsDog, but I still think others may want to take a look. There are RSS feeds on all the pages, although the only one I imagine anyone else would want to track is the last one. Anyway, good stuff.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ForecastFox and Berkeley library proxy

Here's something that about 0 of you care about. I use the ForecastFox extension in Firefox to show the upcoming weather, and I also use the UC Berkeley library proxy to access certain web sites from outside school. Unfortunately, the proxy configuration script lists AccuWeather, the site ForecastFox uses, as one that needs to go through the proxy, thereby necessitating a login to the proxy server every time I want the weather forecast to show up. To fix this, I changed the script to not access AccuWeather through the proxy server; here is the altered script. Just use that link as your proxy configuration URL instead of the standard one, and you should be set.

Obligatory Stella Review

I just watched the first episode of the new Stella show on Comedy Central, and given that my blog is called Raking Leaves (Quicktime link), I figured I should comment. To put it briefly, it's funny, and still weird in that Stella way, but it just didn't have the impact that I was hoping for. Stella's lunacy just doesn't work as well over 22 minutes as it does in 2 minute sketches. And, I agree with this Dana Stevens review that this stuff might be too weird to get big ratings. But, don't get me wrong; the episode had really funny moments, and I'm definitely going to watch whenever I can. And, I know from experience that Stella gets funnier after a few viewings, so maybe I'll take another look at the first episode sometime soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Wire Season 3

I just finished watching it, in spite of my current massive workload. I'd say that in the end, it didn't quite match Season 2, mostly because it was a bit too sprawling. To really appreciate Season 3, you need to remember Season 1 and some of Season 2 in a fair amount of detail. The amount of mental effort required to try to track all the plot connections detracts from the impact of the episodes. I imagine that upon a second viewing of all three seasons things would connect in a deeper way, but that's 37 hours of television, which is beyond even an addict like myself. Also, I didn't find the running theme of politics in the third season to be quite as compelling as the inside look at union workers from the second season. Nevertheless, Season 3 is definitely worth watching if you've seen and liked the first two.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cable Choice

I heard this interview with Tim Winter, director of the Parents Television Council, yesterday on the radio. From the things I had previously heard and read about the PTC, I assumed this guy would be some sort of nut, but he was actually fairly well-spoken and reasonable. I was pleased to hear that his group wants to deal with objectionable content on cable by allowing consumers to only pay for the channels they want. This solution would also solve my problem of wanting HBO, but not wanting to pay $50 for the other 200 channels on digital cable that I'll never watch. Anyway, even though some of what he said was BS, he seemed thoughtful, which was a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Thursday, May 19, 2005

PDF e-books

You can get free e-books in PDF format here. Normally these things are a pain to read on a computer screen, but the typesetting in the PDF helps a bit. And, on my Tablet PC it's actually pretty comfortable to read longer documents, so this site should come in handy.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lens Flares

Here's a nice, insightful essay on Punch-Drunk Love that talks about the lens flares that appear throughout the film. These flares always caught my eye, and the essay does a nice job of linking them in to the film's overall use of color.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Busy

I'm getting hammered by the end-of-semester workload, as usual. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll be pretty busy through the end of July...so posting may be sparse. Couple of random things. I saw Romeo and Juliet at San Francisco Ballet last week. Being somewhat unappreciative of dance, I went primarily to hear all of Prokofiev's wonderful score. The orchestral playing was good, but not great, and as a friend pointed out to me, I was probably one of the few audience members that really cared. You never see music critics reviewing how an orchestra plays for a ballet, and the dance critics don't seem to write much about it either. I guess you can't have everything, but it would be nice if the standards were higher, since some of these ballet scores are rarely if ever played in full by a top orchestra like the SF Symphony.

Second, Backpack is a pretty cool service that I started using. I always thought that done right, this type of web-based organizer / scratchpad would be really useful. That's all for now.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Sandow on Indie Rock

Another nice post by Greg Sandow, this one on indie rock. It's great to see a another "serious" classical music person understanding this stuff (like Alex Ross). Hopefully people like Sandow and Ross can help classical music find ways to be more relevant and accessible.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Running Numbers

I've often wondered what it means to "run numbers," something that Harvey Keitel's character does in Mean Streets; this article answered the question.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Sleeper Curve

I just finished reading this article on a topic near and dear to my heart, television. I instinctively recoil at the hand-waving arguments made in the piece, but I do agree with its overall gist that television drama has become more complex. Couple things, though: Johnson doesn't mention film at all, and I can't imagine that trends in television are unrelated to what's going on in movies. I know that David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, aspired to bring the complexities of film to a television series, and that his vision for the show was deeply influenced by the intertwining of domestic and mob life in Goodfellas. Given the similarity of the media, it just seems like an obvious point to address. Also, as a nitpick, Johnson left out discussion of two great shows that would fit nicely into his arguments. The first is The X-Files, which used all kinds of obscure terminology and was really fun to watch until it jumped the shark. The second is The Wire, which I blogged about recently. In terms of plot complexity, it's probably harder to follow than any of the shows mentioned in the article.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

How To Do a Film Festival

So I was looking at the schedule for the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival, and I was completely overwhelmed. Tons of films, lots of which could be good, and few of which I'll actually have time to attend. Does anyone have a strategy for picking out films to see in a situation like this? If so, I'd love to hear about it. For now, I used this GreenCine Daily post as a sort of filter. Perhaps the interface on the film festival web site is not ideal; I remember the web site for the Seattle International Film Festival being better last year.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sandow

Greg Sandow writes a great blog on the state of classical music. Reading this entry made me wish I had been in Pittsburgh at the time. There's lots of other good stuff there; check it out.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Wire Rules

I just finished the second season of The Wire today; wow. It was even better than the brilliant first season. The show doesn't have the same hype as The Sopranos, and it's not as good, but it's the closest I've seen another HBO show get. So, when you have some time, get the DVDs; you won't regret it. But, seriously, wait until you have some time. I have the 3rd season too, but I need to wait a couple of weeks to start watching it to avoid the distraction. Anyway, it's past my bedtime.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

GreaseMonkey

GreaseMonkey is perhaps the coolest Firefox extension I've found yet. You can do all kinds of cool web page modifications with it, as listed here. Right now, I have all links to New York Times articles going to the single-page format, and a script that fixes some of the crappiness in allmusic. Once you've installed the extension, to install the linked scripts just right-click and select "Install User Script...".

WHRB

Just wanted to give a quick plug to the online stream of WHRB, which is the best classical music station I've found online since Andante Radio, which is no longer free. I just heard a fantastic performance of Das Lied von der Erde on there the other day, and you'll rarely find a station that plays pieces like that in their entirety anymore.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Speeding Up Windows

I just managed to speed up my parents' computer a huge amount by disabling indexing in Windows, as shown here. Seriously, it's like having a whole new computer; for people who don't use the Windows search feature often, this thing should definitely be off. And Google Desktop is better for searching anyway. I went pretty nuts for a paper deadline before break, and now I'm relaxing; my usual pattern, which hopefully I'll be able to break and actually do work ahead of time. I know, unlikely, but one can dream.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

OKCupid

I must admit, this test was kind of fun. What I won't admit is the results of the test :). The last thing I need is another web site to waste time on, but maybe you need one.

Friday, March 11, 2005

It's a Retirement Community!

I was reading this article about an F.B.I. agent who infiltrated the New York mob, and this part caught my eye:
The agent infiltrated the crew of Gregory DePalma, who was charged yesterday as an acting capo, or captain, in the Gambino family. The agent discovered that the DePalma crew held planning meetings at the United Hebrew Geriatric Center in New Rochelle, N.Y., at the bedside of Mr. DePalma's son Craig, law enforcement officials said.

David N. Kelley, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Craig DePalma had been comatose and in a "vegetative state" at the home since he tried to commit suicide in prison several years ago.

The elder Mr. DePalma and his crew had the "lack of grace" to plot strategy in a nursing home, Mr. Kelley said, "and we were right there with them."

Here the parents have the child in a nursing home, but it still sounds a lot like the first season of The Sopranos.

Also, check out the cover of "Creep" by these guys (via Alex Ross).

Friday, February 25, 2005

Listening to CD's With

Here's a cool article where Pat Metheny explains why he likes some of his favorite CD's . Hopefully the Times will do more of these; the Watching Movies With... series was great.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Friday, February 18, 2005

Rambling

First, go here to opt-out of getting pre-approved credit card offers (via Lifehacker). I find that these offers are most of my junk mail, and I've heard of problems stemming from others getting ahold of your pre-approved cards and signing up. Good riddance.

I bought a bunch of CDs at Amoeba today: Peter Grimes, Quartet for the End of Time, Miles Smiles, and Mingus Ah Um. Total cost: $8, after the use of a gift certificate. Thanks Sylvia!

While I'm sort of on the topic, I just put together a semi-decent stereo. I got a Technics SA-DA10N receiver (thanks to AJ), the JMlab Chorus 706s speakers (used from Craigslist), and a Sony DVP-NC875V 5-disc CD/DVD player. I'm really happy with the whole setup. I found the AudioReview and Audioholics sites to be very helpful. Oh, and my speaker wires were created exactly as described here, same parts and everything.

I visited the Legion of Honor for the first time a couple weeks back and loved it. The views are amazing, and the art collection is solid too, with a lot of great Rodin. It made me want to watch Vertigo again, as did this thought-provoking writeup (via GreenCine Daily). And this page, which contrasts shots from the film with the current appearance of the same San Francisco locations, is also worth a look.

To conclude, Elephant is a powerful and disturbing film, and The Wire is a good show through 8 episodes of the first season. Enough for now. Wait, one last thing: Alex Ross has more on applause.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Electronic Dance Music Guide

Check it out. A bit biased, and not really clear on the differences between the genres. But very fun to play with.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Package Tracking RSS

If you have a UPS or USPS tracking number, you can use this page to make an RSS feed to track your package. Sweet.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Lifehacker

I ran into this site Lifehacker that "recommends the downloads, web sites and shortcuts that actually save time." Then I wasted a bunch of time surfing the site. Something is wrong here.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Random Friendster Idea

I had an idea for a Friendster feature the other day. Sometimes I'll click on the link that shows all the ways I'm connected to some person who isn't a friend, and the list will be really long, with many paths of length 2 to the person. This is someone who I should in some sense already know; he or she is connected closely to a lot of my friends and is likely to be in my social circle. It'd be cool to see a list of the people who are not your friends (on the site) but who are most closely connected to you in this way. They might be people who you know and want to add as friends on the site, or if you don't know them it might be fun to wonder why. It would also be interesting to see some score representing this closeness measure on the person's profile, instead of just seeing one path to the person like the site shows now. Anyway, of course I can't work on this, and it might just be a dumb idea, but why have a blog if you can't post possibly dumb ideas and see what happens?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

KCRW

I saw this article in the Times last Sunday on KCRW, a radio station from Southern California playing all kinds of cool and eclectic music. Then I remembered hearing about the station before in this Frontline documentary. Anyway, I finally took a listen online, and I really like what they've played in the last 40 minutes or so. And, they've got a reasonably high quality MP3 stream; good stuff. Incidentally, I read the Times article while flipping through an actual print version of the magazine, and I doubt I would have read it otherwise, a phenomenon discussed before.

Well, He's Left

I just found out that Robert O'Callahan, a mentor and friend while I was at IBM Research, has moved back to New Zealand and is now working full-time on Mozilla. My time working closely with Rob was really fun and an incredible learning experience, and I know others who have interned with him and feel the same way. Anyway, he's got a blog now that definitely looks like a worthy read. I'm looking forward to seeing how much better Mozilla will get now that Rob is devoting all his work-related energies to it.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Real Quick

Not much posting lately, as I've been busy moving to a new pad; it's slowly becoming habitable. Some random things: first, check out the Lichtenstein exhibit at SFMOMA while it's still there. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about his work. Second, the Renée Fleming recital today was awesome. I think that with her voice, just about any song would sound incredible. Third, check out this crazy story about a fallen doughnut king that a friend sent me. The writing seems a bit melodramatic, but it sort of matches the guy's life. And finally, go Eagles!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Applause

Two interesting posts by Alex Ross on applause at classical music concerts. It drives me nuts when people are out of their seat and heading for the exit as the last notes of a piece are still echoing through the hall. It'd be cool if the applause etiquette was relaxed a bit eventually; maybe people who get turned off by the stiffness of a classical concert might start attending performances more often.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Endings

Here's a nice article on endings in films, books, symphonies, etc. Some random films with outstanding endings that come to mind: Magnolia, Decalogue 10, Manhattan, Charulata.