Friday, December 08, 2006

The re-up

I just saw this headline on Staying Put: Bonds to re-up with Giants for $16 million. I had never heard the term "re-up" before watching The Wire, but according to The American Heritage Dictionary, it can in fact mean "to sign a renewed contract for employment or service." It's still kind of funny to refer to Bonds as doing a re-up.

Better Slate RSS feeds

Finally, Slate has upgraded their RSS feeds so that there are separate feeds for each department. I've wanted for a long time to have a feed for the Today's Papers feature, so this is great.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thompson and Bordwell Blog

I just found the blog of Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell (via GreenCine Daily), authors of Film Art: An Introduction. I picked up the book since it was the text for a film class I started to take; I couldn't handle the weekly 3-hour film screenings in the middle of the day and dropped it. But, I still read most of the book and learned a ton from it. The blog is beautifully written, the kind of stuff that makes me want to drop everything and watch movies all day. These two entries on Soderbergh's latest film are a good sample of Bordwell's style. Check it out.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Again on The Wire

Slate has a great lengthy interview with David Simon. We were re-watching some of the first season last week, and it's just stunning how many connections there are with small moments in the fourth season. I think this post is right that The Wire is best when watched in chunks, as it will essentially be "a 66-hour movie" (as Simon puts it) when it is finished.

UPDATE (12/05): Here's another interesting Q&A.

Monday, November 20, 2006

David Milch's New Show

Here's an article on David Milch's new show, John From Cincinnati. It sounds promising: with Deadwood basically over, and The Wire and The Sopranos close to being done, I need a new show to become obsessed with.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How Much Coffee to Drink

Just wanted to point out this NPR story from a while back on recommended amounts of caffeine consumption. I've switched from drip coffee to single americanos, which both taste better and have a predictable amount of caffeine. I haven't gotten jittery since, and I've been sleeping really well too. It might not work for Cog, but it works for me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

End of Tower Classical

I had heard about Tower Records going bankrupt a while back, but it took this article to make me realize that this means the end of the classical section in the store at Lincoln Center. I remember many a leisurely afternoon spent browsing there and listening to recordings through their very nice headphones. And, I got a bunch of my favorite CDs there, including the Böhm Tristan and the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Bach cantatas recording. Anyway, I guess I should enjoy Amoeba while I can.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

New York Times Reader

I've been using the Times Reader application on and off for a couple weeks now, and overall it's very nice, though there are some annoyances. I first read about the reader in an article on Slate, which raved about the readability of articles inside the reader. I agree that the text rendering and automatic columns in the reader make a huge difference, especially for long articles. Also, being able to read offline is really nice. On a recent flight, I was able to read most of the Sunday Times without having to flip pages on a crowded plane.

There are some problems, however. Although the Slate article claims that a week of the paper is stored, I've found that articles are deleted within a day, which is actually really annoying. Also, I've found that certain articles just never appear in the reader; I assume this bug is fixable. For some reason, the reader consumes an obscene amount of memory, often more than 100MB. This isn't a deal breaker, but if reading 5 papers through similar readers requires 500MB of memory, then that will be a big problem. Finally, it's annoying to be separated from the web while reading the articles; I don't see the most-emailed articles list, and it's harder to quickly search for something on Google or Wikipedia.

Anyway, if you have Windows, the reader is definitely worth a look.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

You Know

It's yet another web site on The Wire that sucked up an hour of my time. The Q&A sessions with David Simon are especially worth reading.

Clothes on The Wire

A behind-the-scenes feature was just posted on clothes in The Wire. It's cool how much thought goes into these things.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

GOP Contract Tanking

The Tradesports contract on whether the GOP will keep the House has gone way down in the last few days, as you can see above. Let's hope this holds up.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The State on iTunes Store

MTV has just released Season 1 of The State on iTunes, and supposedly if it sells well, it will eventually be released on DVD. The members of The State even did a new skit to promote it. I bought an episode to give it a try, and overall I'm not impressed with the experience. First, playing the video back on Windows maxes out the CPU on my laptop, and it's not a slow machine; apparently this is a problem with Quicktime for Windows. So, I can't even watch the thing in full-screen mode. Second, they took out the copyrighted music from some of the skits. In the "Pants" skit, it's a little strange to not hear "Cannonball" during the pants shopping scene, but it's not a big deal. However, "$240 Worth of Pudding" is now missing "Sexual Healing," and they did a terrible job of sticking in another song. The skit was originally done in front of a live studio audience, with Showalter and Lennon responding to the crowd. Now, they dubbed in a fake laugh track over the new song, and it's just not nearly as funny. Anyway, I might still buy the DVDs, but for me the episodes on iTunes aren't worth it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Props to Sudoku Slam

Sudoku Slam, the best Sudoku site on the web (and free!), is ready to go. It's also getting lots of attention, both on digg and Congrats to splag and Bill for a job very well done.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More on The Wire

There is way too much to read about The Wire these days:
  • Heaven and Here is a blog dedicated entirely to the show. Watch out for spoilers: they sometimes comment on episodes before they've aired (they are available early on HBO On Demand).
  • Tim Goodman has been doing episode breakdowns on his blog.
  • Slate has a TV Club feature breaking down the episodes.
I found a couple of these links via Matthew Yglesias, a fellow addict.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Wire will be completed

I just saw that The Wire has been renewed for a final 5th season. Hooray! Now I just hope they actually make those two two-hour Deadwood movies to give some closure; the end of Season 3 was satisfying, but definitely not as an end to the show.

David Remnick profile

It's here (via Emdashes), for all you fans of The New Yorker.

Friday, September 08, 2006

calendar for Cal home football games

I made up a calendar on 30 Boxes with all the Cal home football games, so I know when to not move my car :). It's here (ICal file) if you'd like to use it; I successfully used that link to import into Google Calendar. Let me know if it doesn't work.

Gillian Welch on Pandora

I've been using Pandora a bunch lately, and I'm starting to really like it as a radio alternative. I made this Gillian Welch station with just a few of her songs, and it seems to generate a really nice mix. The only downside is (as usual) you can waste a lot of time, tinkering with stations and reading about bands.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Only a couple days left...

Tim Goodman seems to like the fourth season of The Wire, which was provided to critics in its entirety; it almost makes me want to change careers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

investing tidbits

I've been reading a lot about investing lately, as I need to make some financial decisions in the near future. I started with The Intelligent Investor, which was very interesting. I then sought out a discussion of index vs. actively-managed mutual funds on the web, and at first couldn't find much useful, impartial information. Then, I hit upon a great resource: Google Scholar. I found a bunch of interesting papers, both on actively-managed funds and on market anomalies, i.e., phenomena that, at least on the surface, seem to contradict the efficient market hypothesis. Here are some of the more interesting things I came across (you may need various subscriptions to actually read the papers):I also found this page, which documents various stock market anomalies.

So, what did I conclude? I'm now fairly convinced that a smart person that devotes a lot of time to research can beat the market, in the long term. I'm also pretty convinced that I don't want to spend that kind of time on investing, and even if I did, I may be too risk-averse to be successful. So, for the most part, I'm sticking to index funds.

Vaguely related: this Business Week article on adjustable-rate mortgages is worth a read. Looks like a lot of people made bad decisions with these things.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

hedging the election

TradeSports is a cool site with futures markets for all sorts of events. I've been following the markets for the GOP keeping control of the House and Senate in this year's elections for a while. Just recently, I decided to buy some contracts in the House market, meaning I would make money if the Republicans keep control of the House. I figure that if they lose, I'll be happy enough to not care about the lost money, and if they win, the money I gain will be some small consolation. It's a fun experiment. Right now, the market is predicting only a 46% probability of the Republicans winning, so things are looking good (except for my small investment)...

Monday, July 31, 2006

San Francisco Symphony Mahler recordings on eMusic

I was browsing eMusic the other day, as suggested over at The Abstract Factory, and discovered that all of the recent Mahler recordings of the San Francisco Symphony are available. Talk about a sweet way to use your 25 track free trial! Anyway, I grabbed Symphonies No. 1, 2, 4, and 9 (I already owned tbe 6 recording). All are really good, but I highly recommend Symphony No. 2, if only for the absolutely stunning singing of the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. The recording of course can't reproduce the live experience (one of the best concerts I've ever attended), but it's still very nice. I'm pretty seriously considering staying on as an eMusic member; with the entire Naxos catalog, they have quite a broad classical selection, and the price is right.

Friday, July 28, 2006

couple classical music things

First, Joshua Kosman, the classical music critic for the SF Chronicle, is also now blogging (via Alex Ross). Second, the BBC Proms is now happening, and you can listen to a bunch of recent concerts for free. Finally, Bayreuth is also going on. Anthony Tommasini is keeping a journal of his experiences, and Operacast has a schedule of online broadcasts.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Behind the Scenes for The Wire Season 4's been a while. Those who know me know I've been busy. Anyway, here's something that whet my appetite for the upcoming season of The Wire: they've started a behind-the-scenes feature on the web site, with lots of interesting information. I can't wait until the season starts. In other HBO-related news, The first 4 episodes of Season 3 of Deadwood have been great. I also went back and watched some episodes from Season 1 a while back, and found them even better than when I watched the first time. I definitely plan to re-watch the whole series when I have time.

Incidentally, Tim Goodman, the television critic for the SF Chronicle, has a nice blog on television. He has lots of interesting tidbits on HBO shows in this post, and posts on the The Sopranos here.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Re-reading books

I just finished The Metaphysical Club, a very interesting book that I recommend. Apart from its main tale of the evolution of pragmatism, it has many fun side stories, including the beginnings of some universities (Johns Hopkins, the University of Chicago) and some background on academic freedom. Anyway, good stuff.

After finishing, I was thinking about what to read next, and decided on Portnoy's Complaint, which a friend bought for me a while back. It's a new read for me, and for a while I've been wondering what the proper ratio should be between reading new books and re-reading old ones. For many good books, I imagine I would get much more from a second read than from the first; this certainly holds for film. On the other hand, I always feel that there are tons of good books that I haven't read yet, and I should be working on those. I guess the same dilemma holds for movies, but since I can watch a movie much faster than I can read a book, I haven't given it as much thought.

Anyway, any thoughts on a good ratio? Or is going with your gut the best thing to do?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

FreeNX rules

I just got FreeNX installed for remote access to my school Linux computer from my home Windows machine, and it is amazing. I used these excellent instructions for Fedora, which worked almost perfectly. The only kink was that my existing installation of Cygwin interfered with the Windows NX client; Cygwin does not enjoy having two versions of its DLLs loaded simultaneously. To fix the problems, I renamed the DLLs in the NX client bin directory, so that the DLLs from my standard Cygwin install were used. Everything works great now, and the system is far more responsive than just using a local X server.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Swine of the Times" in Harper's

I wanted to recommend the May issue of Harper's, which includes a great article "Swine of the Times" on the pork industry. All I can say is, these ain't no charmin' motherf***in' pigs (through no fault of their own, of course). The author is Nathanael Johnson, a friend and a very good writer. So, grab the magazine off the newstands and check it out.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Personality Feedback

Check out, a web site AJ wrote to allow anonymous feedback on your personality traits. Cog has some interesting thoughts on the site. And, of course, if you'd like, rate me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Complete New Yorker Blog

For those of you that own The Complete New Yorker, Between the Squibs is a new blog that tries to dig through the mountain of articles and find some of the great ones. They just accepted a submission from me, and I'm looking forward to having time to read the other posted articles. Oh, and if you don't have the collection, think seriously about getting it or asking for it as a gift. The software sucks, but the content is amazing.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thelma Schoonmaker

I heard this interview with Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese's editor, a while back. It had many interesting anecdotes, and it sparked my interest in Michael Powell, to whom she was married. I just saw The Red Shoes last night, and it's a wonderful film.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Various logs

Inspired by Abstract Factory, my filmlog, musiclog, and booklog, all with RSS feeds. I'll do my best to keep them up to date. I might cheat and write about old stuff once in a while too.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Thought for Graduate School Admissions

I was discussing the admissions process for the EECS department with a friend at lunch today, and a question popped into my head. Why is there nothing similar to "early decision" for applying to grad school? Actual early decision probably would not work, as we have no admissions office reading applications, so the extra work of going through applications early would be too much. My idea is instead to have a checkbox on the regular application, saying something to the effect of, "If admitted, will accept offer." This should probably actually say something like you won't accept an offer from another school, whatever the early decision form says for undergrad admissions.

According to my friend, this information would be useful during the admissions process. There are lots of qualified students that get rejected for essentially arbitrary reasons, and with this information, it might be slightly less arbitrary, as certain students could be accepted to guarantee a certain yield. The very top students would be admitted regardless of whether they had committed or not, but for others, checking the box may provide their application with a little boost. Of course, applicants who don't check the box may be at a disadvantage compared to those who do. But, some applicants who would definitely come to Berkeley may be at a disadvantage now, since they can't communicate this information to the admissions committee.

Anyway, I'm curious as to what others think about this proposal.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wikipedia shock

I had a bit of the "Wachet Auf" Bach cantata stuck in my head earlier today, so I went to seek it out on Rhapsody, but couldn't find it. Then, as I often do with random things in my head, I looked up its Wikipedia article. Lo and behold, the article links to a recording of a full performance of the piece...done by the MIT Chamber Chorus, when I was singing. Yikes! I realized that if they had our Wachet Auf recording, they may also have the Schubert Mass performance from the same concert, where I sang in the trio in the Benedictus, having never taken a voice lesson in my life...yup, it's there. Well, we gave it our best; enjoy, worldwide Internet listeners.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Met. Opera and Levine

Here's a nice article on James Levine, showing him geeking out about some Mozart. Incidentally, I've been making fairly decent quality recordings of the Met. Opera broadcasts this season; check out this site for the schedule, and Operacast for where you can listen online. Wozzeck was really good, and An American Tragedy grew on me after a couple of listens. Let me know if you want the recordings.