Archive for September, 2008

18
Sep
08

Chariots of ACiD

Something magical happened tonight during my semi-regular night time walks. Inspiration surged through me to the chords of Laura Ingalls Wilder audiobooks and I took flight. I soared for at least 30 yards. A good, slow fullback rumble. I had started running.

It’s been years, and years and… years since I’ve ran. I’m about to leave work or I’d write more about it.

Here’s the catch. All I have to judge my progress is a pedometer. It’s great for measuring my walks, but I’m pretty sure it won’t gauge running. At least without some pretty advanced mathematical trickery on my part (editing my stride length, running backwards 1/3rd of the time, practicing javelin). So, how do you literate athletes measure and judge your runs? Not your diarrhea, I’m pretty good with that. But your long, inspiring races on the pounding shores and concrete lanes? Help.

As a reward, here’s an awesome rap video from 1990.

I hope that video works. The uploaded disabled embedding. How RIAA of them. 8=D

Time to go home

17
Sep
08

Capturing online lectures to mp3 format

Taking college courses online is great. You’re not tied to an inflexible lecture schedule. There’s less commuting. As busy, working adults, my wife and I can tailor our schedules around careers and family. With lectures and course content being online it’s easy to pick up where we left off, studying how and when we want.

In some instances though, those same advantages can prove to be drawbacks. Lectures often last upwards of two hours. Often the course material available online is thorough to the point of excess, and even though – in the olden days – one could theoretically spend hours a week reading low-tech, printed course material or researching periodicals and reference material at the library, I don’t think it was a common problem. When you’re faced with all this immediately available information on a course website it can be overwhelming. A week’s worth of work can turn into many hours spent online fostering neurotic, completist urges. Reading a text book is straightforward. Cruising a course website can be a meandering, branching time sink.

With that in mind, I’ve been searching for a way to record my course lectures into a more portable format. They are presented in some form of (I assume proprietary) web browsing tool and there’s no download option to be found.

Originally, I wanted to use Audacity, a pretty serviceable open-sourced sound editing suite. According to some dox I’d read, recording sounds this way should have been easy. In the line-in mixer, I’d have an option to record directly from my sound drivers. Nope. Failing this, there should be some options in my Control Panel’s (Vista) Sound area that I could enable. Couldn’t find anything and was way too lazy to download device drivers to properly patch up my system. Last option? Run a cord from the line-out to the microphone input on my sound card and record this way. This had me picturing explosions, plus if I was too lazy to install drivers, there’s no way I intended on dig through boxes of cords and wires to find the appropriate cord.

My search led me to Freecorder, a free browser based recording toolbar. “What the hell?” you say. “Exactly.”

Turns out it works fabulously. A simple download and install (Internet Explorer or Firefox only. Opera users like me are left wallowing in our k-radedness) loads the toolbar in the browser. The recording options are fairly robust: you can choose a wide variety of mp3 bitrates, or export as .wav file. So far there’s been no hiccup, and the only drawback I can find is that the program splits the mp3 into bite-sized chunks after its recorded. Perhaps this is a function of me recording off of a website that changes “slides” every couple of minutes as a new topic is covered, perhaps it’s a setting to be changed, or perhaps it’s a feature saved for the “Professional”, paid for version of the software. Regardless, it’s not that big of a deal to me, especially considering the ease of use.

Another thing that’s great is it appears to not save any periods of silence. For instance, I’ll start an hour long lecture and go do something else. If I forget to turn it off, I haven’t noticed it filling up my hard drives with hours of silent data. As someone who has ran into this problem converting analog cassette tapes to .wav format, this is a nice trick to discover.

Couple that with the aforementioned ease of use, and Freecorder is a pretty tight little score that I bet a lot of people could get a lot of use out of. Now my wife and I can load this to our mp3 players and listen on the go, giving ourselves more time to focus on the important things in life, like our new Pornographic Mp3’s for the Blind production company.

Thanks Freecorder!

09
Sep
08

Get rich quickly: Freddie Mac

A decade or so ago, Philip Morris got sued by people who claimed to not know smoking was bad for one’s health. In the aftermath, the stock plummeted. Back then, I wasn’t too financially responsible (nor responsible in general), but I knew in the dark recesses of my heart that that was a fabulous time to purchase some Philip Morris stock. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money and all these years later I harbor a deep loathing for “Asciigod The Younger – Financial Weakling”. Had I had money, and mad that move, I’d be a substantially richer Asciigod today.

Situations like that don’t come around all that often; huge corporations in insanely profitable sectors don’t usually take ginormous stock hits. However, I smelled Blood with this Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae fiasco that’s currently occurring.

I’m not too sure how all of this will pan out, and this Wall Street Journal article on the matter predictably ventures no guesses. Honestly, I’m not following it enough, nor am I yet savvy enough to offer too much of a prediction of my own. Let’s just say I feel comfortable with the risk of losing a small investment versus the reward of huge returns should things get back to normal. My money’s on black.

At the worst, Young Asciigod was a better stock picker than me. I can still kick his ass though.

09
Sep
08

I Have No Mouth, But I Must Yelp

File under: Old News

There’s a friend of mine who lives in California and can keep up on the latest Karaoke happenings and restaurants with Yelp. I kind of imagine that in certain places (major metropolitan areas mostly), Yelp probably has a pretty active community. I envision people cruising in convertibles, checking their iPhones for the latest reports on what’s hip, hot and happening. Not so much here. Still, it’s a pretty good idea even if it has been done before in other forums. Unfortunately their doesn’t seem to be a universally popular tool of this kind on the internet. Yet.

Regardless, I’ve started posting some reviews for places in my area. Hopefully some people will find them useful and appreciate it. Later, I’ll have to do some digging around to see what people recommend in my area. A cursory exploration has suggested restaurants are popular here. And that’s about it.

So, I’ve updated my blogroll a little, and focused more on personal friend’s sites and myself. Goodbye Get Rich Slowly, I outgrew your training wheels.

Check out my Yelp profile here.

02
Sep
08

School and loathing

School’s started back up and I couldn’t be happier. This summer I had pretty much nothing to do but work, scheme and take care of doctor’s obligations. It was a real bummer man. So it’s nice to be back on campus. Even if I’m a dirty old man, I can still pass for a dirty young man. I get carded buying Depends.

My wife’s decided to attend my classes with me which is tight. It cuts down on the girl watching, but that’s OK, I feel creeped-out doing that anyway. A lot of guys are interested in younger women, but for some reason they’re usually not that appealing to me. I prefer my women to have been beaten down by life. Others see wrinkles, I see canyons waiting to be filled with fresh tears. Ego-trippin-son.

But nah, it’s cool to have my wife along. It gives us a chance to hang out, I imagine it’s going to be good for studying, and most importantly it wakes me up on time to get to school. All my classes are at night which is a bonus in that it also serves to get me geared up to tackle working when I get done.

Another rad thing is my new automobile. This is my first car with air conditioning. It’s also my first car that wasn’t produced in either the 80s or early 90s. Just barely, but still. It’s hard to stress how much less grueling commuting to school is in a car that (hopefully) won’t break down 3 or 4 times a semester. Fact: I have had AAA premium service just to safeguard against my cars breaking down while I’m on the road. Between my wife and I, we’ve used it EIGHT times in the past 10 months. That’s some bang for your buck. On a side note, eight is the maximum number of service calls two people can make over the course of a year. My timing, thank you Lord, continues to be impeccable.

My wife’s also enjoying getting back to school for personal reasons. She’s re-registered as a student, but hasn’t technically enrolled in any classes. She does have two undergraduate degrees (Spanish and Environmental Science and Policy), and works in her field. But she’s a woman of many interests, and wants to further her education soon. Nothing is concrete, but she’s been considering Engineering or Law. Either way, I know she will succeed at what she chooses; she’s a real smart woman, with a far greater work ethic and focus than I possess. So, yeah, this is getting her back on track with the schedule and routine of classes. I hope it helps her as much as it helps me.

What’s nice about this year is the books are cheap. I’ve been noticing a trend towards more online course material, which is great. Maybe it’s partially a product of taking upperclassman level course, which may be produced to be flexible for working adults. Mostly, it’s probably just the sheer convenience for the students and, I assume professors, to do a majority of the interaction online. Either way, it makes books a lot cheaper, and the content a lot richer. For a Finance class for instance, all of the text is available online with lectures, multiple practice quizzes, expanded materials, forums, etc, all of which can be taken at ones leisure. Working overnight, with a lot of downtime, this is obviously an awesome benefit for me. I realize this isn’t breaking news, but I’m glad it broke in my collegiate career.

Also, I’m trying out this Textbook Rental Service called Chegg.com (which is a URL strangely similar to a well known porn torrent site…). It’s for a math text, and it’s something I’m positive I won’t need once I pass the course. So using this site will save me around 80 bucks if I’d bought the text outright at a bookstore. Pretty nifty I think, we’ll see how the shipping time is. Apparently they also plant a tree for each rental, which is a nice gimmick, but completely secondary to the cost saving benefits.

.,-~~”( EDiT!!!) “~~-,. Chegg.com coupon code: LQ10 (5% off nukca!)

Aside from that, I’ve picked up a fun little web based RPG called Kingdom Of Loathing. From my short introduction to the game, it appears a lot like an oldschool favorite of mine from the BBS (Bulletin Board) days: Legend of the Red Dragon (LORD or, these days LOTGD). Essentially, you get a certain number of “turns” a day, which is really nice in lowering the addiction factor. I’m assuming games like World Of Warcraft are fun, but I’m worried I’d end up doing nothing else if I started playing. You use these turns to do adventure-y things, all designed around a warped sense of humor of puns, beer and bum jokes. The basic gameplay mechanic is great, easy to get immersed in, and thus far addicting enough.

I haven’t delved much further into it, but I’m seeing hints of MMORPG stuff like crafting, “meatsmithing” (don’t ask), clan gaming, etc. There looks to be a lot of depth to this crude game, but I’m sure that’s all been covered elsewhere on the interweb.

Not so long story made short: I like it. I would highly recommend it to anyone with similar sensibilities to my own, which, chances are if you’re reading this you possess.

Had a good holiday weekend (Labor Day). Fixed a friend’s computer which had the most viruses on it I’d ever seen. By a long shot. That including my sister’s computer when she was like 16 years old, and my mother in law’s computer who’s Internet Explorer taskbar looks like the interface to a supercomputer. It was a bitch, but that’s what the “computer friend” does I guess.

And now, back to work. Homework calls.

CHEERZ!