November 2005


In addition to the Pong Clock I mentioned yesterday, I found another random Christmas gift, but at least you can actually buy this one (and only $14.95, such a deal!). It is a replacement set of tiles for Scrabble based on internet slang referred to as leetspeak. The tiles are extra cool because they have green letters on a black background so they look like an old school monochrome computer monitor. I think playing with the L33T tiles might finally give me the edge I need to beat my Scrabble wizard grandmother.

If this was really for sale, it would have to be on my Christmas list. I know that I bookmark a lot of weird clocks on my favorite links, but the Pong Clock is perhaps the best yet. It has a video screen that plays out a random game of pong where the left side wins once an hour and the right side wins once a minute. So cool.

Click “more” to see a list of all of the interesting web sites I found this week. I keep track of my favorite sites using del.icio.us, a free web site where you can access your favorite links from any computer and share them with friends. You can also see all of my favorite links (not just the ones from this week).

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If you’ve read my “About Me” pages, then you know Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I guess that’s because I have so much to be thankful for. Even though I know we’re supposed to be thankful all the time, I still like taking a special day to remind ourselves of that and to take a break from all of the commotion of life to enjoy time with family and friends and to share in the many blessings the Lord has showered on each of us. I hope you have a blessed and wonderful celebration of thankfulness today!

43 Things. 43 Places. 43 People. 43 Folders. What’s with all the relatively new 43 sites these days?

43 Things, Places, and People are all run by the same startup. They are basically sites to keep and share lists of things you want to do, places you want to go, and people you want to meet. I guess they’re kind of like del.icio.us in that they incorporate the idea of sharing your list with others. I first found 43 Things via the A9 search engine (they let you search it specifically since the startup is funded by Amazon), and I actually thought it was kind of nifty. And why are these sites called 43 something? According to the web site, because “43 is the right number of things for a busy person to try and do. Why not more? It’s too much. Why not less? You can do less, but it is still called 43 Things.”

43 Folders is a completely different site that’s really a blog about productivity, time management, and other tips to stay efficient and organized. I first found out about Moleskine notebooks at 43 Folders. I don’t necessarily think every single post is all that great, but there are enough interesting ones to keep me checking back every now and then. And why 43? “The site’s title, 43 Folders, refers to the number of manila folders required to build a physical tickler file system. Twelve monthly folders and 31 daily folders are used to build a rotating, one-year ‘look ahead’ system. Maintained daily, it’s a powerful lofi hack for never forgetting to do something (and, consequently, not having to worry about forgetting to do something).”

I’ve had my eye on the M-Audio MicroTrack ever since it was first announced almost a year ago. It was finally released in the middle of October and Joy let me get one (thank you!). The MT is a small digital audio recorder that uses Compact Flash cards for media. That works out great for me because my digital camera also uses Compact Flash, so I already have several cards.

I got the MT primarily to record my Greek class (which is does perfectly), but I’ve also found it handy for several other things:

  • I record quite a few concerts on our TiVo (Austin City Limits, Breakfast With The Arts, etc.), and it is really easy to plug the digital out from the TiVo into the MT to dump those concerts out to wave files. Once I have the wave files, I can either burn them to CDs or convert them to MP3s to make them available on our media player downstairs in the den.
  • I used the MT to record the Nickel Creek concert Joy and I went to last week (NC has a policy that allows you to record their concerts as long as you are unobtrusive when you do it). I used the microphone that came with the MT since that was all I had. It worked pretty well, though I am certain that a quality microphone would work noticeably better. The biggest problem I had was that the concert was very loud, and even at its lowest input setting the MT was still clipping too often. I patched that up after the fact as best I could by compressing the audio and then raising the overall volume slightly to compensate. After fiddling around for a while I have a pretty decent cut of “Any Old Time”, which was probably my favorite part of the show. I think I have lots to learn regarding how to make better recordings of concerts, but this was a start, and the MT definitely made it easy to do.
  • I’ve found it useful for recording random things since the MT makes it so easy to do. For example, I recorded myself saying Charis’s name for her website since it is not a very common name and people don’t always know how it is pronounced. I also think it would be neat to record my grandparents reading stories to Charis because they live far away and if we had those recordings, we could play them back while we look at the books with Charis.

All in all I am very pleased with the MT. It’s a fun gadget (toy) to have around.

Click “more” to see a list of all of the interesting web sites I found this week. I keep track of my favorite sites using del.icio.us, a free web site where you can access your favorite links from any computer and share them with friends. You can also see all of my favorite links (not just the ones from this week).

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Joy and I went to see Nickel Creek last night. I heard about the concert on the radio last week and decided to check online just to see what tickets were left. I was shocked when the ticket system offered me two front row tickets. That was way too good to pass up at only $30 each, so I bought them. It turns out the concert was practically sold out, so I guess those two tickets must have been returned or something shortly before I checked. What a blessing.

Neither of us had seen Nickel Creek live before and the show was even better than I expected. I had heard they were very good in concert, but they were unbelievable! The have almost endless energy and seemingly effortless musical skill. I had a huge grin on my face for the entire concert. I think it’s really neat to see people with so much talent and skill perform because it reminds me of what creation is supposed to be like: beautiful, joyful, masterfully constructed. It was very cool. I’d love to see them again any time.

Our seats were on the left hand side of the theater. We were about 15 feet back from the edge of the stage (there was an orchestra pit) and about 5 feet to the left of Sara’s microphone. The crowd was very appreciative and in the mood for a good time, which made for a fun atmosphere. Here are some of the highlights:

Craziest Moments:

  • About half way though the show, they did a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. Not just a chorus or two, but the entire song, complete with a little bit of gyrating dancing from Chris. Insane.
  • At one point Chris started to introduce the wrong song, and Sara and Sean corrected him. Then Chris went off on a long tangent about an old golden book from his childhood about Tootles the train and how you are always supposed to stay on the tracks. He ended the rambling story by saying something like “so I guess the moral of the story is never try anything new. Way to go Tootles.” It was very funny.

Most Unexpected Moments:

  • In the middle of “House of Tom Bombadil”, they segued into Sara singing Randy Newman’s “Short People”, then finished up Bombadil. Incredibly clever if you get the joke.
  • After several calls from the audience, they launched into a quick rendition of “Rocky Top”, including the opening verse. As you might imagine, the audience went completely nuts.

Best Moments:

  • They performed “Anthony” grouped together around a single microphone with their instruments unplugged. It was absolutely gorgeous.
  • Just before performing “Anthony”, Sara was ready to begin and Chris and Sean were still tuning their instruments. Sara quietly sang a line from Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time” to give the guys a bad time about taking so long. Chris noted that it was a great song and said she should sing it if she knew the rest. Well, she did know the rest, and boy, did she ever sing it. Probably the highlight of the concert for me.

Have you ever seen a font on a web site that you thought was neat and you wanted to use yourself but you had no idea what font it was? If so, I found the answer you’ve been looking for. “What the Font” is a site where you can upload an image of text and the site will tell you what font it is. For some reason I think this site just is amazing.

I tried it out with the Les Miserables font (of course) and the site came back with variations of Caslon, which is correct. Once you find the font, the site has links to purchase the font in several different formats. However, knowing the name of the font, you can also just do a regular web search to find free fonts that are very similar. Within just a few minutes I located several free versions of Caslon that would easily pass as the real thing. Very cool.

For years I used WS-FTP LE as my FTP client. I have a very old copy from 2000 that is free for personal use, but it’s also limited in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of Charis lately, I began to notice the shortcomings of WS-FTP LE much more than I used to. Eventually I got fed up and went to their website with the intention of purchasing a current version, but the $55 dollar price made me think twice. I knew there had to be something out there that would get the job done for a lot less, so I downloaded a wide variety of FTP clients and tried them all out. I was able to rule some of them out almost immediately because I just didn’t like how they worked. Others were okay, but not so great that I thought they really justified their price.

And then I tried FileZilla. The layout of all of the different areas on the screen took a little while to get used to, but once I got past that, I really liked it. FileZilla is very fast and the reconnent behavior when the connection is dropped is actually pretty decent (which is probably the thing that drove me crazy the most with WS-FTP LE). I’ve been using it for several weeks now and I haven’t had a single problem. I particularly love the batch processing for uploads, which is really handy for uploading pictures into my folder structure.

And the best thing of all? FileZilla is free. And open source. And it has an active community on SourceForge. What else could you want?

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