Archive from October, 2005
Oct 23, 2005 - entertainment, observations    No Comments

Corteo: The Show Moves On

I finally went to see Corteo this afternoon, catching the last show before it leaves Minneapolis and heads for San Fransicso. As I said back when Alegria was in town, if you ever have the opportunity to see a Cirque du Soleil show, go.

Sitting in the 4th row back from the stage, it was almost too close (the show is heavily aerobatic, with people flying on wires all over the place), but it was definitely worth it. I’m not even going to try to describe the performance, it simply cannot be done with words, you have to experience it for yourself. And the DVDs, the music CDs, and the TV airings on Bravo don’t get you there either. Yes, they’re good … but they only give you a taste … and it’s simply not the same. I find myself comparing the evening to the MasterCard commercial series:

  • Tickets: $70
  • Parking: $10
  • Bag of popcorn the size of your head: $5
  • Chance to see Cirque du Soleil: priceless

I went alone this year (was trying to get some friends to go … and they were interested … just not enough to commit to a date so we could get tickets. Their loss.) and, although watching those lithe, limber athletes bounding around both sky and stage (reminding me how out of shape I am … and how old I’m getting), it was still fantastic. Even better was seeing that Minnesotans have grown up a bit from when Alegria was in town: not a single cellphone went off during the performance (at least, none that I could hear). The opening announcements I found creative yet subtle when dealing with this:

“… after the show, please remember to turn your cellphones and pagers back on …”

No “please turn them off, now” message like the last time (for all the good it did … just read my post) … just a polite reminder to turn them back on when you leave. Inverse psychology, if you will. I like that.

And still, there are some things that are so traditionally “Minnesota un-nice” … I think they’re typical of human behavior regardless of the state or city … like trying to get out of the parking lot after the show. Rather than go into a diatribe around each instance, I offer the following “Tips of Parking Lot Etiquette”:

  • When entering the lot, think ahead. It may make perfect sense to put the car as close to the exit as you possibly can, but parking in the aisle you know people are going to be driving down when their trying to leave means you’ll have to make a jackass of yourself backing out into the exit lane when you want to go.
  • If you must park in the exit aisle, go find a restaurant or bar and have a cocktail (or two) after the show. Wait for 30 minutes (or an hour) before trying to go extricate your car. You’ll have more fun, and spend less time waiting.
  • When walking to your car, remember that there are people in large, heavy, metalic motorized vehicles that are already trying to leave … walk through them at places that will do the least damage to the flow of traffic. You may find that things are easier for you to get out when you finally get into your car if you let more people ahead of you do the same.
  • Since we’re all trying to do the same thing (leave), show a little courtesy for the people around you. Honking your horn, flashing your brights, or riding up on the trunk of the car in front of you because they’re not moving as fast as you’d like them to (nevermind that they can’t go forward right now because the traffic light at the exit is red) isn’t going to get you out the door any faster.
  • While I’m on the subject, keep in mind that we all have to squeeze out the same exit … so share. Just because you’ve got an SUV doesn’t make you special (stupid, probably … special, definitely not). Wait your turn.
  • Last (but definitely not least), relax. Be patient. You’ll get out just like everyone else.

In short, think. The very people who don’t think of those around them … are the same ones who get so mad when someone else’s lackof thinking directly impacts them.

That said, even the antics of my fellow Minnesotans didn’t tarnish the evening. It was a damn good show. If you ever have a chance … GO.

Oct 4, 2005 - podcasting    No Comments

Podcasting vs. 500 Cable Channels … the winner? (psst … it ain’t cable)

Catching up on my podcasts (I listen to way too many of them … but I can’t help myself), I’m listening to Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code for September 22 right now, as Adam’s doing a bit of comparison/contrast on the popularity of podcasting here in the states, while the concept is a little slower getting off the ground elsewhere around the globe.  To summarize, Adam believes:

  • Podcasting is popular here in the US because people are fed up with what radio/TV are currently offering … the technology now exists both for you and I to both create and share content (audio now, and video coming) … and people are “voting with their ears and eyes” by hunting down something new.
  • In the UK (for example), the media (BBC) does better programming, so there’s less frustration or dissatisfaction … hence podcasting, while growing, is growing slower.

I completely agree.  The networks (and I’m talking television, cable, and radio) have done a wonderful job packaging up pablum that the unwashed masses have greedily consumed.  Problem is … we may be unwashed, but we like a bit of variety in our diet … and the networks are doin’ a poorer and poorer job with the meal planning (to continue the analogy).  What with all the talk of obesity in America, you could extend things even farther and say that our media habits are as cholesterol-and-sugar-heavy as our eating habits, except that it’s our minds that are getting fat, slow, and lethargic.  Spoon feed the same boring … well, crap … and see what happens?

But I digress.  Here’s another angle to consider:  Remember when cable (TV) first made its appearance?  Remember all the promises made by cable/broadband proponents?

  • Enhanced TV (with additional embedded content)
  • 500 channels (or more) … you could literally find anything you want to watch

That was then … this is now:

  • Enhanced TV … if you have a High Definition TV and you’re watching one of the few programs that use it
  • More channels than before … not 500 … unless you count the 20 channels of in-car NASCAR + 20 channels of football + 20 channels of baseball + multiple ESPN channels + all the HBO channels + all the Showtime channels (that show the same movies) + … get the picture?

Why has it been this way?  Simple:  money.  It costs money to fire up channels (tv, cable, radio, doesn’t matter) … money to produce shows.  Where do you get money?  Advertisers … but it comes with a price:  the advertiser then controls (or, at the very least, influences) the programming.  And, it costs a lot of money.

Not with podcasting.  In fact, anyone can create a podcast.  All you need is an iRiver and a trip to Rob’s podcast411.com website (and podcast) to go through his tutorials and you’re off and casting … and you can podcast about anything you want.  You can even do video casts … with nothing more than your home movie camera if you choose.

Welcome to 500 real channels with content that spans the map.  Check out indiepodder.org or podnova and see for yourself.

Oct 1, 2005 - science    No Comments

The Universe Is Huge. What We Are … Isn’t

If you’ve ever wanted to know how big/old/whatever the universe is … now we know.  So, the answers to questions that have been plaguing scientists (and the occasional quiz show) are as follows:

  • 13.7 billion years old (accurate to 1%)
  • 73% dark energy, 23% cold dark matter, 4% atoms
  • Expanding at 71 km/sec/Mpc (accurate to 5%)
  • Expand Forever

Now we know.  Man … we (i.e. that which you and I actually see in this universe) are only 4% of what’s there … ponder that the next time you encounter some self-important person who thinks the world of themselves, their beliefs, or their causes …

… it’ll help you put them in perspective.

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Oct 1, 2005 - javascript, xml    No Comments

When mixing JavaScript and XML, sometimes things act strangely

I was tweaking a script I use to manage podcasts (bridging the gap between iPodder and WinAmp), I needed a date formatting function. No problem, the DateFormatter from Gazingus.org is an excellent module (if you need date formatting in JavaScript, get it, it rocks).

Problem is, I’m writing Windows Scripting Host format scripts (using their XML schema and generating .wsf files) and I came across some interesting behavior in the cscript engine. If the engine incounters a ‘<‘ (“less than”) symbol in a JScript block, it bombs with the following error:

Windows Script Host: Expecting a valid name

Even more irritating, you’ll get the error even if you comment out the offending line (doesn’t matter which way you do it, line comments (//) or comment block (/* … */) … which tells me that it’s the XML parser part of the engine that’s barfing (it doesn’t get to the JScript engine). This took a little while to figure out … and if you think like an XML parser, it (sort of) makes sense: it hits the ‘<‘, thinks a new XML element is being started, and doesn’t like what it sees next (in the case of the date formatter, it usually was a number).

Ok, fine. Now what? Well, the solution (at least, my solution … I’m sure there are others out there that are more elegant) was to rewrite the logic converting all less-than comparisons to an equivalent greater-than comparison. For example:

formats['DD'] = ( date < 10 ) ? '0' + date : date;

becomes

 

formats['DD'] = ( 10 > date ) ? '0' + date : date;

and so forth. The logic still holds … it lets you plug it into a WSH file without generating a parser error … and it’s still a cool chunk of code.

Save yourself the trouble of rewriting Gazingus’ script, here’s a copy with the “patches”. I’ll post my iPodder script after I add some comments.

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