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Muxtape 2

"When New York Was New York"

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A random selection from my archive:



Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives


My Wishlist

Moment of Zen


Moment of Zen (inspired by Tim's Koans)

Courtesy of Timmay

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    Friday, December 31, 2004

    Dandy doodle

    Using a technique I remembered back from the 4th grade, I free-handed a little doodle today. Go me.

    Dandy doodle

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Thursday, December 30, 2004

    Malware roasting on an open fire

    My Dad is computer savvy so the holidays weren't spent working on the computer to clean it. However, many people went home for the holidays to fix their parents' computers. If you're looking for another way to tighten up security and clean a PC's mess (in addition to what I've said before), then check out How to Fix Mom's Computer. It's a great step-by-step of what one person did for her Mom's Windows 98 machine. There are a few things in there that the Windows security checklist missed.

    Also, I've come to the conclusion that coffee makers should be idiot proof. I know they already are, to some extent. But I mean *really* idiot proof. Like it won't turn on and start brewing if you've forgotten to slip in the plastic basket that the filter and grounds sit in. So yeah, I had a little accident this morning. Coffee all over the counter and floor. But at least the two cups I was able to salvage were excellent. Mmmm.. Starbucks Tanzania.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2004

    What's your Icelandic name?

    I just finished the terrific book Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. The tiny book was packed with fun facts about the fishing industry and the North Atlantic communities that brought about the cod craze. For example, I learned how Icelanders continue to name themselves:

    Icelanders keep their traditions. They spoke, and still do, the same language as the Vikings. And they still do not have family names. Just as Eirik the Red's son, Leifur, became known as Leif Eiriksson, if a modern Icelander named Harold has a son and names him Jóhann, he will be Jóhann Haroldsson. His son will have the last name Jóhannsson; his daughter will be Jóhanndóttir.

    So I suppose if I was born 2,500 miles east of my actual birthplace, my Icelandic name would be Sean Lawrencesson. What would be yours?

    Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    Bibles! Bibles! Get your fresh, hot bibles!

    Stacie discovered that when you leave out a small (but crucial) character in my site's URL, you get the mega site for bible studies and information: Thanks Stacie!

    I guess any subdomain within the "blogpot" domain will get you the bible studies page too. Very nice.

    Be worry free about your free software

    I've mentioned spyware/adware/malware/tupperware here a few times in the past. There's now a site called which lists free, daily-use software that's free from spyware. The creator posted his announcement on Slashdot and asked folks if they could contribute.

    So to avoid spyware you can either begin checking out the links on, or punt your Windows machine through your office window and buy yourself a Mac.

    Monday, December 27, 2004

    Tracks of the Week: Icelandic

    Pyro Technix "Timeline" - I love the Twisted Village record store in Harvard Square. Every time I visit, I stumble upon something new and exciting. A couple years ago I found a compilation of Icelandic electronic music there called 42 More Things To Do in Zero Gravity. I had only heard of 1 or 2 artists, but I saw it was on the Thule Musik label and thought it'd be worth a shot. The 2 CD set is great and reminds me of early ambient Autechre, Black Dog Productions, and the seminal Artificial Intelligence comps on Warp, but with an icy sheen. Out of print.

    Múm "Please Sing My Spring Reverb" - Flying into Reykjavik (or more accurately, Keflavik) is an otherworldly experience. You see snowy mountain-tops off in the distance, and the chilly ocean below you. Just when you think you're going to make a water landing, the ground appears and you touch down. You feel like you've arrived on the moon. The barren landscape is breathtaking. Be sure you have this track for your lunar adventure. Buy It.

    Thursday, December 23, 2004

    Next year: No holiday cards. It's all about the elves.

    Hankerin' to control a choir of elves? Yeah, me too. Check out Zefrank's Carol Maker. Create your own e-card with a pixelated army of chanting elves, or choose to share an existing community carol. Bonus: It's a great way to drive your cat crazy.

    That's it for me, everybody. I'm outta here for a few days to relax over the holidays. I'll be back next week to gear up for the countdown of the top albums of 2004. Woo! Stay tuned for that. (In the meantime, you can check out this nutty holiday mix.)

    I hope everyone has a fun, safe, merry, blissful, joytacular weekend and you get everything you wished for! Happy Holidays!

    Wednesday, December 22, 2004

    There's a bathroom on the right

    Calexico's Feast of Wire was my favorite album from last year. It has so many great little songs on it, including the very catchy "Across the Wire." I've always wondered about one of the lyrics in the last verse though. I finally remembered to look it up today and -- aha! -- apparently it's:

    Alberto y Hermano on the coyote's trail.

    and *NOT*

    Alberto, he had Mono, on the coyote's trail.

    OK. That makes a little more sense to me now.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2004

    Web-related conferences on the horizon

    Molly Holzschlag of has some excellent thoughts on the current issues of web design now that she's returned from Web Design World 2004 in Boston. Given the money and time, I would've loved to attend this conference. I'll just have to wait for the next go-round. In the meantime I've caught some of the seminars online in their archive.

    For those of you in San Francisco, you can catch the next Web Design World March 21-23. And for you Seattlites (is that an approved term?), you can check out the Blog Business Summit that looks awfully interesting January 24-25.

    Monday, December 20, 2004

    Tracks of the Week: Holidays

    Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin "A Marshmallow World (live)" - A ring-a-ding dinger from the 1967 Dean Martin Christmas Show. Ol' Blue Eyes and Deano trade verses in this upbeat ditty. A perfect little song to get you in the holiday spirit (spirits optional). So the world is your snowball just for a song, get out and roll it along! Buy It.

    Sufjan Stevens "Come On! Let's Boogie to the Elf Dance!" - Michigan based Sufjan Stevens has been putting out Christmas EPs for the last few years. This track is off of his most recent holiday EP called Ding Dong! Songs For Christmas Volume Three. I believe this is something Sufjan distributes only through his website. There's no mention of these holiday releases on AllMusic. It's time to get down and do the elf dance! Happy Holidays!

    Saturday, December 18, 2004

    Master of the house, keeper of the inn...

    Remember that Seinfeld episode when Jerry fell in love with a suede jacket? Despite the obnoxious barbershop quartet pink and white striped lining, it was *the* jacket for Jerry. The best was the little exchange between Jerry and Kramer:

    JERRY: Hey.

    KRAMER: Hey. New jacket?

    JERRY: What do you think?

    KRAMER: It's beautiful.

    JERRY: Is it me?

    KRAMER: That's definitely you.

    JERRY: Really?

    KRAMER: That's more you than you've ever been.

    I had a similar experience while coat shopping today. I needed a new winter coat, and after a little searching *WHAMO* I found the perfect jacket for myself. A beautiful Columbia jacket -- a jacket within a jacket even. Perfect fit; nice and warm; pockets up the wazoo. And on sale for $109 (from $240) -- what a steal!

    One small detail though: It's bright yellow. That's OK. I'll wear it with pride and I'm very, very excited about my new purchase. And unlike Jerry's suede, mine can be worn in the rain. I'm never taking it off.

    Friday, December 17, 2004

    Firefox in NY Times

    As promised, the folks at Firefox have printed a massive ad in the New York Times touting the benefits of switching browsers. The left panel is a long list of supporters, so many in fact, the ad needed to be two pages. This huge fundraising campaign pretty much coincided with Firefox downloads hitting the 11 million mark too. Impressive. I'm still very happy with my Firefox experience. But I've also been hearing great things about the (Mac only) OmniWeb. Anyone using that?

    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    I'm keeping a publisher in business

    I'm totally addicted to the New Riders books, especially the "Voices That Matter" series. They all revolve around the concepts of web design, programming, project management, and web standards. There's something so neat and clean about all these books. The way they're written, the techniques they discuss, and the resourceful guides they include, I find myself reaching for these books time and time again when I get stuck.

    I'm not intending to review these thoroughly, but here are a couple thoughts about each of the ones I own. Maybe a last minute gift idea for that special web guy/gal in your life?

    Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman - This is the king daddy of 'em all. The place to begin. Praise for Zeldman's book in the web development community stretches to the ends of this earth. I have to agree, it's a great place to start. You'll receive a terrific introduction to what the world of "web standards" is all about.

    Web Design on a $hoestring by Carrie Bickner - Wife of Zeldman (and new mom!), Bickner's book is probably my 2nd favorite in the series because it presents almost all facets of a successful web development project based on a shoestring budget. Many of the great ideas in this book you can acquire for a grand ol' price tag of $0.00.

    The Unusually Useful Web Book by June Cohen - Of all the "Voices That Matter" books I've read, this one packs in the most information per square inch. You can either read it cover to cover, or flip through willy-nilly to skim helpful tips. It's packed with checklists and worksheets to get yourself on the right track.

    Don't Make Me Think! by Steve Krug - There's more to building a website than the HTML involved. This book is subtitled "A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability." This guide is invaluable when you need to take a hard look at the details. Are your forms user-friendly? Are your navigation elements readily available to all browsers? Are your links properly labeled? This book is a great intro to accessibility concepts too.

    Return on Design by Ani Phyo - The author is a gourmet chef in Portland, Oregon. So you'll be hungry after reading her examples. Great book to pick up on some solid methodologies and project planning insight from one of the founders of the now-defunct

    The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier - This book reads like McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage. Between passages about blending design ideas with marketing techniques, you have some poignant visuals that help develop the author's primary themes and messages, namely how to bridge the distance between business strategy and design.

    Defensive Design for the Web by 37signals - I just finished reading this great book on contingency design. It helps you plan for things when they go wrong -- and the authors assure you, they *will* go wrong. Get some pointers on efficient error messages, online shopping processes, and friendly web copy. This is a terrific book to dig into when you're looking for ways to improve your site.

    If you're interested in any of these books, Amazon has a fair price tag on each of them. Or you could always swing by to borrow some. Now, back to reading...

    Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    (Still) waiting for December 25th

    Waiting under the tree was getting so blasé. Time for some new perspective. Covered up on the futon is apparently the way to go.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004

    The Foghat Rule: Your fourth album should be double live.

    I'm so very excited I stumbled upon the Yo La Tengo "Sugarcube" video again (Note: Real Media link). I originally saw this a while back, but at the time I didn't realize the knuckleheads from Mr. Show were involved. So this makes the 4 minute video extra special now.


    I figured I'd have no use for a Flickr account until my trusty Motorola StarTAC bit the dust and I bought a camera phone. Well, my StarTAC is still hanging on, but I decided to futz around with Flickr a bit today anyway.

    I've added a new area to the sidebar called "Flickr-ing" which randomly serves up three images at a time from my Flickr archive. No new images to speak of -- just a few of my favorites for now. But I plan to toss up highlights as I take new photos. Most of the good stuff usually gets posted to the blog here anyway.

    Having said that, my Flickr account is lonely. I have no contacts. Anyone want to connect with me? Or if you're interested in setting up a free Flickr account, you can have fun with your digital photos online.

    Oh, and hey, you can use your web-enabled phone or PDA to visit Flickr too!

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    Anyone have $2,000 so I can buy this?

    Wow. I've been wondering when something like Sono was going to be made available. Apparently, it'll be ready to ship in January. They have a great demo so you can see its potential. But in a nutshell: "All your digital music. All over your house. All from the palm of your hand." Genius.

    Tracks of the Week: Emotions

    Captain Beefheart "I'm Glad" - Don Van Vliet (aka Capt Beefheart) landed on planet Earth around 1967 to release his debut record Safe as Milk. This is his shot at doo-wop. Compared to Beefheart's later output, like Trout Mask Replica and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), this is pretty tame. So be thankful for that. Buy It.

    Pizzicato Five "Happy Sad" - Syrupy sweet, kitschy Japanese pop is what P5 is all about. You can't help but bounce around the room to this track. A definite highlight from their Sound of Music album from 1995. I still have my "Carte Pizzicato" fan club card that came with the CD. It comes with a warning: "Rubbing card on one's palm more than five times daily is not recommended." What?!? Buy It.

    Sunday, December 12, 2004

    Plow your way through Bahhston has a fun snowplow game where you can plow the streets of Boston after a big nor'eastah. See Fenway Park! Swing by the Hatch Shell! Watch the Green Line roll by! It's very cool, but the arrow key controls left me a little disoriented. That's OK, though, the time limit's pretty forgiving.

    Now GO PLOW!

    Saturday, December 11, 2004


    It's Saturday. Everyone's got an iPod; everyone's looking for free wifi. So go grab your city's list and toss it onto your iPod-a-majig.

    Friday, December 10, 2004

    I suggest you try this

    Google Suggest is now in beta.

    [UPDATE: An interesting experiment with Google's new tool.]

    The suspense is terrible... I hope it lasts.

    Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up for the fifth time in a new Wonka movie called "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" due out this July. The original Willy Wonka is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I've been anxious to catch a trailer of the new film. Now that I've seen it, I'm not sure what to think.

    Now I know that this is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory not Willy Wonka so one can only assume that the new storyline follows the original Roald Dahl book more closely. But I read that the screenwriter had never even seen the 1971 version when asked to write the script. Maybe that's why the new movie looks so darn campy?

    I'm sure it'll be interesting and good. After all, it's clear that Burton was the natural choice to make this film. But the real magic of the first movie comes from the subtle dark and subversive tendencies of Wonka's character. Now, granted, it was Wonka who said that "a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." So maybe that's why Depp looks so goofy in the trailer.

    I'm a little less excited now, but I know I'll go see it next year. Who knows? It's a distant seven months away from release and you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.

    Thursday, December 09, 2004

    A colorful assortment of gigantic Christmas balls

    If our cat didn't get you in the holiday spirit, check out Christmas in Rittenhouse Park. There's a district in Philadelphia where the trees are decked out with colorful balls every year. One blogger wandered through the mist and rain this week to capture some beautiful shots. His site is one of my favorites and he has a fantastic Flash interface for his photo galleries.

    Waiting for December 25th


    Should I stop with the insane cat pictures now?

    Wednesday, December 08, 2004

    SHHH, the Society for HandHeld Hushing

    Never sure how to quell the annoying yakity-yak of cell phone users? Print out and cut up these fun cards (PDF) from SHHH -- the Society for HandHeld Hushing -- courtesy of Coudal.

    These signs are priceless. Although I think they should also add my favorite: "Hey. Let's bring it down about a thousand."

    Gmail Notifier

    Now that we're all trying out Gmail (and each have an extra 27 free accounts to give away), I thought I'd mention a neat little utility called Gmail Notifier. It's a handy tool to show if you have new mail without opening your browser:

    The Gmail Notifier is a downloadable Windows application that alerts you when you have new Gmail messages. It displays an icon in your system tray to let you know if you have unread Gmail messages, and shows you their subjects, senders and snippets, all without your having to open a web browser.

    I've checked it out -- it works well. And no worries about inadvertently downloading malware along with the program. You can read their FAQ for details. Just a little somethin' somethin' to make your daily email checking routine easier.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2004

    The Skype's the limit

    Ever since I saw a neighbor's license plate that read "VOIP" when I was living in Somerville I've been intrigued with Voice Over Internet Protocol. The concept is not new, but it's a technology that's just getting off the ground with services like Vonage, Lingo, and Net2Phone from the big telephone carriers.

    Cheap and/or free phone calls? Sign me up! For some reason, though, I haven't made the plunge yet. Basil, how's it working out for you?

    What I am trying, however, is Skype. Although not technically a VoIP solution, Skype uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology to connect users. With P2P, they say firewalls and configuration aren't problems, which can be the case with VoIP.

    Skype is a free download and free to use -- no spyware or adware bundled with it despite the fact that it was created by the Kazaa folks. All messages are secure and encrypted with 256bit AES (the best published cipher that the world currently has), and it naturally works across all platforms. In addition Skype has built-in IM and file transfer features. If you've used Instant Messaging software, Skype's interface will be very familiar.

    Gee...I can think of at least one international company that could benefit big time from using Skype. PC-to-PC calls are obviously free, but calls to regular phones are also possible at competitive rates, depending solely on the destination country, by buying SkypeOut credit. This is very convenient for outgoing calls, however, unlike other VoIP products, there's no way to receive calls from regular phones.

    Everything I've read about Skype says that the sound quality and absence of delay is unparalleled when matched up with other VoIP services and IM clients. If you'd like to try, you can download Skype and give me a call:

    Add me (seanmcg) and give me a ring. If I'm not around, my answering machine SAM should pick right up. Chat with you soon...

    Monday, December 06, 2004

    Tracks of the Week: Kids

    AFX "Children Talking" - Limited to 3000 copies, the track on this 12" (Hangable Auto Bulb vol. 1) was originally released on the Warp label in 1995. It's Aphex Twin in an early phase of his drill 'n bass work. You can't beat the spoken word sample: "Mashed potatoes? Why do you hate mashed potatoes?" Dark, abstract, and twisted. Out of print.

    Tiny Tim "On the Old Front Porch" - The ukulele-playing, falsetto-voiced eccentric was best known for "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips." What most people probably don't realize is that Tiny Tim (né Herbert Khaury) was also a creditable baritone crooner. You can hear a bit of that on this track. Duetting with himself, Tiny Tim weaves a disturbing tale of two young lovers. Kids will be kids. Out of print.

    Sunday, December 05, 2004

    New favorite snack

    Grape-Nuts mixed in fat free key lime yogurt. I call it Key-Nut Grogurt. Healthy, hearty, and hoo-yah!

    Friday, December 03, 2004

    Take this (print) job and shove it

    You ever spend an hour on a printing problem by fiddling around with the network, checking all the connections, and troubleshooting the printer drivers only to discover the printer was out of paper?

    I have.

    Thursday, December 02, 2004

    Windy & Carl for when it's windy & cold

    When the temperature plummets right around this time every year, one of my favorite things to do is to pull out my Windy & Carl albums. The soothing washes of guitar feedback and drowned vocals are comforting when I know winter will soon be here. Although most of their releases have an icy sound to them (like their phenomenal Antarctica EP), there's something about their music that gets me prepared for the snowy days and long nights ahead.

    Maybe it's some sort of strange conditioning that happened back in college when Chris and I marched out on the frozen campus pond late at night and listened to Antarctica's three long drones. Our relaxation was cut short when security thought we were up to some tomfoolery. We weren't, and he walked away, but not before he gave us a look of "what?!?"

    For some truly deep listening, check out Windy & Carl's 3-CD set called Introspection. It's awesome. Here's something from it:

    Bonus Track of the Week: Windy & Carl "Set Adrift (live on wdet)"

    And while you're at it, check out their record store online. It's called Stormy Records. Buy something from them. They're great people.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    Get your computer ducks in a row

    A few months ago I posted a popular checklist to help boost the security of Windows. The list included software to combat viruses, spyware, malware, adware, tupperware and the like. At the time I hadn't tried much of them except for Firefox. But lately I've cleaned up my machine quite a bit. Originally I was looking to free up some hard drive space but it led me to tighten up security too.

    So I have a few personal thoughts on some of the checklist items to serve as a reminder that it's never a bad time to give your PC some TLC.

    FIREWALL: ZoneAlarm - I'm impressed with this firewall software from Zone Labs. It's very easy to install, and is much less obtrusive (and takes up much less space) than Norton's Personal Firewall. It's a cinch to configure. I have a home network here and sharing files and connecting to the shared printer was simple. What I like most about ZoneAlarm are the prompts you'll receive each time something's trying to reach out to the internet. You can Allow/Deny, with a feature to "remember" so you set it once, and it's done. ZoneAlarm is FREE for individual use and can be downloaded from Zone Labs's Download Site.

    ANTI-VIRUS: TrendMicro PC-cillin - OK, it's an awful name, but I actually like this antivirus solution more than the checklist's recommended Nod32. I had some difficulty keeping a steady internet connection with Nod32 and there were some configuration issues. So I switched to TrendMicro and I fully recommend it over Norton Antivirus and McAfee's VirusScan. It's less bulky and according to numerous match-ups, TrendMicro is actually more comprehensive in both virus definitions and how it scans your files. PC-cillin has a free 30-day trial version and the full licensed version is available for $49.95 -- same price as the competition.

    ANTI-HIJACK: WinPatrol - This little guy is a great utility that's completely inconspicuous. The software is primarily an interface that allows you to tweak your startup items, scheduled tasks, services, and programs associated with file types. I love it just for that. However it does actively prompt you if software attempts to insert itself in your startup repertoire, and it successfully blocks cookies with certain keywords. WinPatrol is a FREE download and can be grabbed from the BillP Studios' Download Site.

    AD BLOCKER: Ad Muncher - Of all the little utilities listed here, Ad Muncher is the one I'm most excited about. It detects advertisements in the form of pop-ups and embedded ads and will wipe them away. As a result, websites render more quickly and this is incredibly useful for non-high speed internet users. I was amazed that it even removed the interstitial ad I always encounter when visiting Ad Muncher is FREE and you can go grab it from their Download Site.

    ANTI-SPYWARE: AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy - The checklist recommends AdAware, but I'm adding Spybot to the list too. There are tons of anti-spyware tools out there, but I use these two the most. If you don't have them, go get them - AdAware is free and so is Spybot. You can't afford to let spyware build up on your computer. I run these cleaners weekly and it's a good habit to get into. Kinda like Saturday night's bath night.

    That's my roundup. If you have other recommendations, please drop them in the comments. I'd love to see what other people are using. The only thing I haven't tried on the original checklist is the Firebird email client. I'll probably be making that leap soon.

    I recommend all of the above products. I've been using all of them together for over a month and have not experienced any software conflicts or performance hits. There's no sense in waiting for a rainy day to install these tools. Give it a go now -- it takes just a few minutes, and most don't even require reboots. Clean things up and *quack* -- get your ducks in a row.