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Muxtape 2

"When New York Was New York"

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Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives


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Moment of Zen


Moment of Zen (inspired by Tim's Koans)

Courtesy of Timmay

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    Tuesday, November 30, 2004

    Cat in a Box

    If we could pull Simone away from her new box for more than five seconds, then maybe we could enroll her in The Infinite Cat Project.

    Monday, November 29, 2004

    Tracks of the Week: Guitars

    My Bloody Valentine "Map Ref 41° N 93° W" - The sound of guitars. Lots and lots of guitars. In the vein of MBV's utterly gorgeous Loveless, this track is a cover of a Wire song. And a beautiful cover at that. Swirling guitars and catchy melodies, the chorus will be stuck in your head for weeks. Buy It.

    Bright "Point" - Bright's one of my favorite Boston bands. Their tight guitar work brings to mind groups of the Krautrock era. Fans of Sonic Youth would also dig this. I go back to this album once or twice a year and each time it's a refreshing listen. What a deal: It's 10 bucks from their label "Ba Da Bing!" Ba Da Bing! Ba Da Boom! Buy It.

    Sunday, November 28, 2004

    Cider rules

    Last night we enjoyed a big ol' pot of hot cider. The recipe's really easy and it's a perfect drink when entertaining, but you can simply make a smaller amount by cutting down the ingredients too.

    1 Gallon of Fresh Apple Cider
    2 Oranges
    Orange Juice
    Cinnamon Sticks
    Ground Cinnamon
    Ground Nutmeg
    Brandy (Ginger Brandy recommended but not necessary)

    Dump approximately 1/2 gallon of cider in a large pot, slice up two oranges and add them with a handful of cranberries. Add only a small splash of orange juice. Add some cloves but don't go overboard. Add the ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg to your desire and let sit on a low heat for at least a half-hour. When the oranges have sunk and look pretty drunk and the cranberries have gone soft, it's time to enjoy! Ladel the cider into some thick mugs, add the brandy and a cinnamon stick. If you make it, let me know how it goes!

    Friday, November 26, 2004

    Oddbabies for your oddfriends

    Whether you like it or not, the holiday shopping season is upon us. If you haven't figured out yet what to get your wacky friends, look no further than Oddbabies. Sure, they're weird, sometimes disturbing, and kinda expensive, but it's more memorable than a gift card.

    The descriptions are just as much fun as the dolls. Francis makes me sad. Stampy is terrific. Hangbaby is random. And I don't know what to think about Frankie Teardrop -- is he named after a Suicide song? Yikes.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    Seeing turkey dinner from space

    I'm heading back to my hometown early this year for the holiday. Today is my dad's birthday (woo! Happy Birthday Dad!). Also I'm very much looking forward to turkey. Lots and lots of turkey. Last year it was 19.69 lb -- I wonder how big it'll be this year?

    Thanks to my new favorite software, Keyhole, you can see exactly where I'll be heading in a few hours. Google recently acquired Keyhole and is now offering a 7-day free trial (full price is $30 for a 1 yr subscription). This is just too cool.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Tracks of the Week: Thanks

    Mike Doughty "Thank You, Lord, For Sending Me the F Train" - You may not immediately recognize the name, but you'll surely recognize the voice if you've ever heard Soul Coughing. Mike (or M. Doughty as he's been known) recorded a 12-song personally-released CD called Skittish a few years ago. All the songs are from '95 and '96. So he was working on these in his spare time while still with Soul Coughing. Funky acoustic ditties. You can still buy the album from Doughty's site at Now, throw me the rope of love! Buy It.

    Explosions in the Sky "The Long Spring" - The Temporary Residence label celebrated its 50th release this year by offering up a compilation called Thank You spotlighting its best and brightest artists. A sedate (and exclusive!) collection of indie instrumentals weaves its way through contributions from Fridge, Parlour, Howard Hello, and many other post-rock groups. This track is a highlight, although the whole album's good for a lazy afternoon. Buy It.

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    Four fowl

    At 8am this morning, we were greeted by a few feathered friends. It was nice to see them, but they better hightail it outta here before Thursday.

    Saturday, November 20, 2004

    MoMA Mia!

    The Museum of Modern Art reopens this morning in midtown Manhattan. I can't wait to check it out. I think admission is free today if you're lucky enough to be nearby.

    If you can't make it to NYC, then I recommend stopping by Coudal's Museum of Online Museums. You'll lose yourself there. Coudal Partners is a Chicago design studio that has one of the best looking sites around.

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    India Pale Karate Monkey

    For $9.99, you can pick up Saranac's new 12 Beers pack. I've never tried much by Saranac, so this is a perfect start. More brewing companies should do this sorta thing -- maybe they do and I'm unaware? Reminds me of a brewery restaurant sampler.

    Right now I'm enjoying a Chocolate Amber Lager: "This brew showcases a variety of dark roasted malts, producing a beer with a deep, rich, almost chocolaty flavor." Quite tasty.

    What? You don't care about this? OK, then. How about a movie of a chimp doing roundhouse kicks?

    Think big today

    The Chicago folks at 37signals have teamed up with the Seattle folks at The Robot Co-op to create a mysterious new product called Twinkler.

    They will reveal more details in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, play with the demo version. In a nutshell, throw some of your goals up there and see what sticks.

    Shoot for the stars. I've gotta get to a day of business intelligence seminars.

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Somerville really living up to its nickname

    I lived in Somerville, MA (AKA Slummerville) for about 5 years before I moved to New Haven. It just so happens that a news story broke today about a deathbed murder confession that not only happened in Somerville, but on my old street! All I can say is YIKES. Go Somerville.

    I'm in awe of... an intersection?!

    There's a 4-way stop in Glastonbury smack-dab in the middle of the busiest area in town. I go through this intersection once in a while during my lunch break. Each time I'm amazed by how incredibly efficient this 4-way stop works. You'd think that the knee-jerk decision to control an extremely congested and fast-moving intersection would be to install the usual traffic signals. But the town opted for four stop signs instead.

    Despite the lunchtime traffic, I usually make it through the intersection quickly. Much faster than if I had to sit and wait at a red light. What makes this work so well? Of all the times I've passed through, other cars have always been cordial by waiting their turn, yet everyone makes it through in a matter of seconds. What's the magic behind this traffic phenomenon? And why don't more busy town centers turn to 4-way stops?

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Keep Believin'

    Tonight I ordered a t-shirt from my friend's company Drunken Bleachers. I'm so excited to get my "Boston Champs" shirt soon! Who knew Timlin's nickname was Timmmaaay!? It makes sense though.

    If you're looking to extend your Red Sox celebration (or enhance your wardrobe with a "Yankees Choke" shirt) then I highly recommend swinging by They have a great selection of non-baseball shirts too. I'm tellin' ya, I'm gonna wear the HECK out of my shirt come spring training time. GIDDY UP!

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Why won't you just line up?!?

    You know by now that I strongly prefer Firefox as my web browser over Internet Explorer. Actually, I'd just as soon punt IE through the goalposts of life if I could. But that's not possible so I'll simply continue to support Firefox as both a user and a developer. And it's the latter I want to touch on tonight.

    Firefox is one of the best (if not *the* best) browser when it comes to adhering to web standards -- those fun little guidelines set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium in hopes of making the planet a better place someday. Your browser is packed with all sorts of code (hopefully to comply with standards) so it knows how to render a webpage properly. However each browser's definition of "properly" differs. Sometimes the difference is substantial and you have to develop a messy set of hacks to get out of hot water. Other times the difference is negligible -- but no less annoying -- as in today's example.

    I'm trying to add a new feature to a website's homepage, namely a pulldown menu with a list of countries that sends the visitor on her/his way to the proper website translated in her/his native language. Simple, right? Well yeah. It's not rocket surgery. So it's a quick job.

    Wo there Kicky Kickerson, not so fast. The pulldown works fine, but I quickly discover that it displays differently between browsers. I give you Exhibit A -- The Firefox interpretation:

    Firefox interpretation

    Everything seems to be doing what it's supposed to. The pulldown menu is displaying as it should and all areas of alignment look good. Now we move to Exhibit B -- The IE interpretation:

    IE interpretation

    Oh Kicky! Where to begin! First, the little yellow arrow doesn't match up properly with the pulldown. Second, the pulldown doesn't match up with the "Go" button. And third (and this is a doozie) there's a tad of extra space immediately below the pulldown which not only pushes the text down but it also throws off the alignment of the dotted horizontal lines that cut across the entire homepage design.

    *smacks forehead in despair*

    This stinks. After playing with margins and spacing and witchcraft, there's seemingly no way to get IE to behave like Firefox. It's a shame too because, as we all know, IE is the weapon of choice out there.

    So is this rant worthy of such a long post? Not really. I'll admit I'm being pretty picky about this, and if you're still with me then you deserve a pat on the back. Yet consider the interaction I'll have when I report this inconsistency, bearing in mind that most people don't know and don't care about Firefox (yet). I'm sure it'll go something like, "Hey Sean, can you fix that spacing below the dropdown?" ... "Umm, no. I tried, but I can't." ... "But it looks like just a line of extra space. Can't you just remove it? It looks bad." ... "No, I'm sorry I'm unable to." ... "Why not?" -- and here's where any argument I once had falls flat on its face -- "Cuz."

    And there's unfortunately no way around it. If you have a solution, by all means, please send it my way. But for now I have to suck up the fact that this little browser issue is what stands between a "job well done" and a "job that's, yeah, basically done, but not looking too good for reasons I can't explain." Sometimes things click beautifully into place, and other times you want to punt IE through the goalposts of life.

    *sigh* Back to work.

    [EDIT: There's a happy ending to this story. I discovered that the extra space below the pulldown menu wasn't caused by the pulldown itself. The space was appearing because I was using a <form> tag where IE takes the liberty of tossing in some extra space after the tag closes. So I played with the "margin-bottom" attribute pixel by pixel until I closed in on that extra space. Bingo. It's been fixed. And it only took me four hours.]

    Whitespace - what say?

    A small study was recently released about the impact of margins and leading (space between lines) on readability and comprehension of online text.

    I bring this up because it's a pertinent issue with all the weblogs that are popping up. Often times, you know on a gut-level what makes for a good looking blog, but you may not know why it's aesthetically pleasing. I think it has a lot to do with the use of whitespace.

    I would've guessed that text with margins and optimal leading would naturally produce a higher level of both readability and comprehension. But surprisingly, this isn't what was found. Although comprehension was better with margins, reading speed was actually better *without* margins. Less distance for the eye to travel? Who knows. Granted, the study involved only 20 participants, but it's an interesting conclusion.

    A whitespace haiku:

    Whitespace is better
    For the eyes and for the brain
    Now hand me a beer.

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    The Snow

    Chris called me the other day when it was snowing in Boston for the first time of the season. Unfortunately I didn't get to see any here on the coast. It was mostly rain aside from a dusting overnight. Anyway we have this thing about playing Coil's "The Snow" whenever we witness the first snowfall. It's just something we joke about and have kept with us since college.

    I've been wanting to post a Coil track here for a while. They've always been one of my favorites over the years. I remember trying to track down their out-of-print Love's Secret Domain album until it was recently re-released. I've always enjoyed the many strange phases of this group. And now the primary member and vocalist John Balance who started the band over 20 years ago has passed away. Due to an unfortunate accident in his home, he died on Saturday. This is very saddening news. He will be missed. So, finally, here's a Coil track.

    Bonus Track of the Week: Coil "The Snow"

    Tracks of the Week: Colors

    Nick Drake "Pink Moon" - Everyone should have this song on their hard drive. So here it is. There's no excuse now. Like the rest of the country, I first heard this song on a VW Cabrio commercial a few years ago. Since then, Nick Drake's Pink Moon has quietly crept further and further up my list of all-time favorite albums. Do yourself a favor and pick up this masterpiece. It'll give you a respite from the usual nervous music. Buy It.

    Ken Nordine "Maroon" - Word jazz. Hip, daddio. Ya dig? A baritone-voiced narrator goes on and on about colors on this 1966 release. Nordine was commissioned by a paint company to create a few spots for black & white commercials. He got so jazzed, he didn't let up and 34 songs later you've got a hodge-podge of 90-second spoken word bits about all the colors of the rainbow and then some. What the heck is cerise? Buy It.

    Sunday, November 14, 2004

    All in a day's work

    Chilly Sundays are for housecleaning and staring at optical illusions.

    Friday, November 12, 2004


    Hot on the heels of the Raymond Scott profile last week, I've decided to spend another post sharing some thoughts about another relatively obscure musician. This time we're going waaaay to the outside to get to the guy known simply as Jandek. No one knows his real name (is it Sterling Smith?)

    Putting out records since 1978 on the mysterious Houston-based label Corwood Industries, Jandek's back catalog, as of this posting, is up to 38 releases. But that could change tomorrow. He's already put out three albums in 2004. Why? Good question. Have you ever *heard* this guy? I hadn't until recently. You've gotta be in an awfully strange mood to get your head around his music.

    It's a bit difficult to describe. Jandek has gone through a few musical phases over the last 25+ years. He started with just a guitar and no sense of how to tune it. He strummed and plucked his way through a number of early albums creating a strange little bluesy world of desolation, heartbreak, and dissonance. Somewhere along the line he adapted electric guitar, drums, bass, and an occassional female vocal.

    Throughout his "career" Jandek has maintained the same weird off-kilter, reclusive image. If there ever was an example of a love-it or hate-it artist, Jandek is it. I'm a sucker for a good mystery though, so I've delved into this strange man's background and I'm warming up to his interpretation of music.

    Bonus Track of the Week: Jandek "Naked in the Afternoon"

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Bebe Rebozo's gazebo

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    This Old Website

    An article I recently stumbled upon really puts web development and design into perspective. "If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers..." is a fascinating little exercise in imagining if houses were like websites. If you're at all involved in web development or even project management, you'll get a good chuckle out of it.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    Firefox is finally here

    After countless beta versions and something called a "Preview Release," Mozilla's Firefox web browser finally turns 1.0 today. The download sites seem to be hit pretty hard this afternoon. It took me a few tries to get there, but I've upgraded and have already noticed a couple things.

    First, after seeing some complaints about not having a "Go" button next to the address bar, the Firefox folks have added one. As far as I can tell, there's no way to remove it either. I think it's kinda pointless. Who picks up their mouse and clicks the "Go" button after keying in a URL when you can just hit Enter?

    [EDIT: You *can* actually remove the "Go" button from the toolbar. Right click in the toolbar area and choose Customize. You can then drag the green "Go" button from the toolbar onto the Customize palette. This will remove it.]

    Second, they still have *not* implemented the Close "X" icons on the tabs themselves. In other words, if you have multiple tabs open, in order to close one, you have to go to the far right of the browser to click the orange "X". They really should think about putting it right on the tab itself. Oh well, maybe next go 'round.

    Today also kicks off the many marketing efforts for Firefox. The Spread Firefox site has been asking for contributions for a full-page New York Times ad. I've heard that's coming out today.

    And finally (and most surprisingly) the talk of Google adopting Firefox for re-branding has resulted in a "Firefox Start" page. Check it out.

    Let the browser wars begin... again.

    Two hundred birds on a wire

    Soon to be two hundred and one.

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    I wonder what Mr. Dewey Decimal would say?

    Launching this week, Delicious Library is a simple way to catalog your books, movies, music, and video games. It's only available for the Mac, so I'm out of luck. But Mac users can leverage the scanning ability of the Apple iSight web camera to grab barcodes and instantly pull down tons of information about each title. There may already be a product like this out there, but the folks at Delicious Monster really seem to get it right with Delicious Library.

    Ho hum. I guess this is yet another reason to make the switch from PC to Mac. Maybe someday.

    In the meantime, hop in line: Firefox 1.0 officially debuts tomorrow.

    Tracks of the Week: Soundtracks

    Ennio Morricone "Cavallina a Cavallo" - Everyone's heard the main title from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" with its curious combination of whistling, electric guitar, piccolo trumpet, and grunting men. It's the ultimate showdown music. What you may not know is that Morricone scored over 500 films during his long prolific career including this track from the 1979 Italian-Japanese production "Dedicato Al Mare Egeo" (Dedicated To The Aegean Sea). Slip this song into the Barbarella soundtrack and no one would ever be the wiser. Buy It.

    Soundcard "Thula" - OK, so this isn't from a real soundtrack. This track is lifted from Blip, Bleep (Soundtracks to Imaginary Video Games). Lucky Kitchen is a small independent music label out of Barcelona, Spain that released initially only 746 copies of "Blip, Bleep" back in 1998. I did a little dance when I finally got ahold of this compilation - #116 of 746. It's spectacularly funny. This track in particular is dancey and fun. Imagine yourself in an Indiana Jones-style adventure game. Out of print.

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    Pea, petti, what's the difference?

    You know what's a good way to get an unintentional laugh out of someone? Accidentally refer to your pea coat as a petticoat.

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Talk about convenient

    I got an email this morning from a recruiter whom I may have contacted earlier this year. I can't remember. Last winter was such a blur with the job search I've lost track of some of the folks I reached out to. Anyway, I'm working in Hartford today and the email was from a technical recruiter at a company that sounded awfully familiar but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Until I looked at his email signature.

    Oh yes! Sapphire Technologies, I think they're nearby. Wait a minute, 111 Founders Plaza -- that's the building *I'm* in. The 8th floor? What the?? They're right down the hall?!?

    I got up from my desk, wandered about 20 feet down the hall and introduced myself: "Hi. My name is Sean. You just emailed me a minute ago?"

    Ahhh... Surprising the heck outta people never gets old.

    Well, he has no job leads or potential projects for me now. But who knows what the future may hold. At least he knows I'm responsive.

    Great Scott!

    Composer, bandleader and inventor Raymond Scott was my uncle. No, no, just kiddin', just kiddin'. He was, however, a prolific musician who delved in jazz, experimental, and electronic music through the '30s, '40s, and '50s. He was also not born Raymond Scott. Harry Warnow was his real name and I just feel like sharing a few interesting facts about the music he made.

    Even if you've never heard of Raymond Scott, you've likely heard his work, most notably "Powerhouse" which graced many early Warner Bros. cartoons. He didn't write it for this purpose, nor did he write anything on Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights to be featured as a soundtrack for Bugs, Porky, and Daffy.

    OK, so that's neat. He wrote some freaky fun jazz that ended up in cartoons. Yes, but he also composed three volumes of Soothing Sounds for Baby designed to entrance babies and act as an aural toy for kids aged 1-18 months. Great ambient music.

    But if you don't like cartoons or babies, then maybe you'll get a kick out of Manhattan Research, Inc. I just picked this up and I'm enjoying all 69 tracks of weird electronic noodlings and amusing corporate advertisements. Highlights are commercials for cough drops, perfume, General Motors, Twinkies, and IBM.

    Some folks thought he was rubbish. But I dig Raymond Scott, and maybe you might too.

    Bonus Track of the Week: Raymond Scott "Powerhouse"

    Thursday, November 04, 2004


    We can all thank Timmaaay for unearthing the South Park Create-A-Character site. I couldn't resist so I went ahead and created one.

    OK, so this doesn't look like me. My hair's not wild and I don't have claws for fingers. But I do like candy, and they didn't have any Hawaiian shirts to choose from. So, close enough.

    Mr. Shammapants

    Waste your bandwidth

    It seems the newest blog meme is to invite visitors to post photos of a collection of things for others to enjoy. For instance, it started with the Logo Smackdown, which led to the Screen Grab Confab, and now there's What's On Your Bookshelf?

    I won't ask any of you to do this. The comments on this site aren't conducive to this sorta thing, what with them being constricted to a pop-up and all. But I wonder what we could start? Maybe a "Music Collection" snapshot? Or a "What's In Your Refrigerator" montage? Or maybe even an "Open Your Front Door And Take a Photo of The First Thing You See" contest?

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    Commiserate with Zippy

    As he often does, Zippy the Pinhead summarizes what most of us are feeling this morning in a 3-panel cartoon. Trying to comprehend the outcome is numbing, and I'll leave it at that.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2004

    Map your memories to music

    The results aren't in yet -- far from it. And based on the most recent polls, it's going to be a tight race. Rather than getting all worked up glued to the TV, take a break and try mapping your memories to music:

    Music Memory is currently gathering data to link memories and music. Do you have a specific song that reminds you of a memory? Your first girlfriend? That cool wedding of your best friend? We are sure that you can find examples!

    Maybe you can document the music you're listening to now and tie it to the memory of waiting for the outcome of Election 2004?

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    Tracks of the Week: Numbers

    Whitwerk "I Wanna Dance with Numbers" - Mash-ups as a musical genre really hit its stride about two years ago. Take two unrelated songs (in this case, Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and Kraftwerk's "Numbers") play them at the same time, and maybe change up the pitch a bit here and there so they fall in sync. For me, the mash-up revolution started here. My friend Steve in Portland, Oregon played the 12" for me while I laughed my butt off. Not available for purchase.

    Conet Project "Phonetic Alphabet Nato" - Mysterious radio communications continue to float around Europe and Asia. No one really knows for sure what these signals mean. Shortwave Numbers Stations are an engaging phenomenon; these stations transmit Morse signals; melodic fragments; strings of numbers (hence their nickname) spoken by male, female, and artificial voices; and other strange noises. This track may sound familiar if you've heard Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I heard a rumor that due to a copyright infringement lawsuit, the label Irdial Discs received enough funds to re-release this 4-CD set last summer. Buy It.