Marmaduke Explained

OK, this site is very funny: Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke. I mean, funny in a postmodern kind of way - not read-every-day funny, but definitely "read-once-in-a-while" funny.

(Hat tip to le grooveblog.)


CW show photos

Sorry this post is late in coming, but this past week was a busy one.

So last weekend, I got to play at Rudyard's with Christopher Wilson. It was the CD release party for his new CD, Read On. Those of you paying attention may remember that I wrote part of the soundtrack for the companion film by Jeff Faulkinbury (also titled Read On). What you may not know is that I also played as a studio musician on Christopher's album. So when it turned out that I would be in Houston during his CD release show, I jumped at the chance to sit in for a few songs.

As it would happen, I also got a new camera last week. It's a FujiFilm FinePix E900 ... a consumer reports best buy, I'll have you know. So I figured, what better time to pull out the new camera and take a few shots? Here are a couple of them:

You can view the full set here.


ecret-say ode-cay

I read a great article on LifeHacker with step-by-step instructions on setting up encryption in Thunderbird. It's actually super easy, and I just did it. My public key block is below.

For those of you not familiar with encryption, the basic idea is that you're communicating in a secret code. When someone sends you a message, they use your public key to encrypt (lock) it. Then, only your private key can decrypt (unlock) it - nobody else can read it.

PGP isn't totally uncrackable, but it's pretty close (with a 2048-bit key, cracking it by brute force on today's average computers would take longer than the known life of the universe). It's not "stake your life on it" level of privacy, because a) it's possible that someone's cracked it in another way and we don't know, and b) in 10 years time, a brute-force approach to our currently encrypted stuff will be trivial (especially with DNA computers and other massively parrallel algorithms). But in practice, that doesn't matter now - encryption between two people using PGP is (for all intents and purposes) private.

I like the idea of using encryption because it jives with our perception of how we see the world. When we write emails, we act like it's a private conversation; but that's simply not true. Anyone along the way -- from ISPs to random people sniffing packets on a network -- can read your email, and it probably happens more than you think. This is especially true in corporate environments where the management has not only the capability but the legal right to read anything you write on their computers. With encryption, though, it really is the case that (as we all assume) only the people involved in the conversation can read the message. Our assumptions of privacy become a reality.

Anybody else out there use PGP encryption? Wanna swap keys? Here's mine.

Version: GnuPG v1.4.3 (MingW32)



A Stupendous Day

Had a really great day today. After a slow morning start, Uberjam and I hit up some Chocolate Chip Pancakes over at Austin's best kept secret, Magnolia. Then we headed out to Inner Space Caverns to take a tour of some really wicked caves. Being in a cave really has a way of changing your perspective (see these photos (not mine)). We left the caves and I felt really outstanding - like a dose of mysterious had been dropped into my drink.

In the evening, we got some tacos over at Maria's Taco Express (slightly underwhelming for a first visit, but my enchiladas were full of cheese and cheese is GOODTM). The dog-bot came with us and enjoyed floating his ears in the car.

Ended out the day with a Lowdown gig at the Troubador. The set was great, saw a bunch of great folks, and heard Topaz throw down a wicked set with some new musicians - kind of a trance-like heavily textured palette with deep grooves and crazy sounds. Really great, as evidenced by all the musicians hanging out for almost the whole set.

The air this evening was smooth, relaxed. Austin in June is just like that, I guess. But as odd as it seems, this is the first night I've really felt at home here. I feel a connection to places, sometimes, in a dream-like way that's hard to explain. Maybe I had to go into a cave to find it here. In any event, day's end has me very thankful and sated. Some recent band news has my gears turning, and tonight it occurred to me how it will all work out. I'm happy to be here, now, in the present (which is good, because I hear that the future totally sucks).


Spreadsheet love

So Google Spreadsheets is pretty damn cool - to quote GPF, "in that 'push up your glasses' kind of way."

A few people online have been throwing it some flack, saying:
a) Get over it, it's just a spreadsheet.
b) You're not safe putting your personal info here, because you can't control what Google will do with it.
c) It's less reliable than regular spreadsheets because if you lose your network connection or Google's servers crash, you may lose data.

To them I say:

a) Yes, it's just a spreadsheet, but it has one thing that is brand new to the universe: the ability for remote parties to edit simultaneously. I've been looking for something like this for years, literally. Other products have come and gone, but Google Spreadsheets is here to stay, and is wicked easy to use.

b) Privacy is something we should all be concerned about. What we need is for companies like Google to make promises in their software privacy policies that are enforceable by law, and that they can't just change on a whim. I.e. "we promise that we'll never sell or give away your data to anyone, even the government, and that it's legally yours even though it's passing through our servers". We need to raise the bar for companies so that they are expected to create a legally binding privacy agreement with protections like these. They won't do it without pressure from us (and, probably, from congress). I trust Google, generally, but that trust needs to be replaced by legal standing. If you care about this stuff, as I am, you should join the EFF.

c) It's true that networked (web top) software has one major downside - what if the network is unavailable? Sometimes you REALLY need to view and edit your data when your network connection has been interrupted, or the server is unavailable.

There's an answer for this, though, and I predict it's not too far off. What we need is software that's a combination of web top and desktop, where the desktop portion can cache and allow you to work normally in the event of a network interruption. Some apps already work like this - most major mail clients like Thunderbird have an offline mode, so you can read your email without network access (like, say, on a plane) and even write new emails (to be actually delivered when access resumes). These new Google apps - calendar, spreadsheets, etc - need to have similarly stable desktop components available, so that when the cable company digs a ditch through your internet line, you don't get FUBAR, you just get a little message saying "network operation isn't available right now - you're in offline mode until it resumes". That way, you've also got a full copy of your data locally, in case the service provider goes belly up, gets hit by an earthquake, etc.

The good news is that with Google's advances, we've entered the time when simultaneous remote collaboration on data is possible. Once people have a taste of that, they'll never go back, and pressure for mixed web / desktop answers to these problems will mount.

For now, I'm just psyched to have these new abilities. In a, you know, push-up-your-glasses kind of way.


Quiet Monday

It's a quiet Monday evening here in Austin, TX. Uberjam, Emmet and I took a ride in the car with the windows down, so mister dog could float his ears a little bit, and all was right with the world. Now we're back home, Uberjam is finishing up an editing project, and I'm catching up on a few emails and blogs.

Of note:
  • I finally got a local number here in Austin. The reason that's important, strangely, is that since Austin is a one-area-code town, nobody lists the area code on anything, and if you do, you're obviously an out-of-towner, or at least a new-to-towner. So I got one. Ask me if you want it. And BTW, my old 713 number still works (forwards to my cell) so don't bother changing it unless you get a lot of calls from me.
  • Tomorrow afternoon I'll be attending a conference on the .NET 2.0 framework. Little about my gainful employment has been particularly thrilling of late, but I am excited about upgrading to the next version of stuff and geeking out with all the new programmingy things. IMO, the .NET programming framework is one of the few things Microsoft really hasn't screwed up in recent memory. It's just great.
  • My friend Jeff posts a succinct rant on why Bush can stick his head up his ass about gay marriage. Pardon my french.
  • Looks like google is on track to replace yet another of the key processes in my life with Google Spreadsheets. What's that you say? Online group-editable spreadsheets? Be still my heart. (And yeah, seriously, Google Cal is the shizzle ... Uberjam and I have never been so easily in sync on our calendars before.) I know one guy that'll be hitting refresh all night ...

That's all I got.



I think it's somewhat awe inspiring (or at least, humility inspiring) that after so long, a bug could still be found in the cannonical binary search function. This is, like, one of the most profoundly researched and looked over functions in history. Leave it to Google to have an array so big that they discover a dormant bug.