April, 2004 Archives

To: Sun <apollo@solarsystem.com>
From: Bil
CC: Storm E. Week <rain@yourparade.com>
Subject: Where are you?

Hey Sun, what’s up?

Haven’t seen much of you lately, just wondering how it’s going. I could use your help this weekend, since I have a ticket for Jazz Fest tomorrow. Also, there’s a 3 inch pool of water collecting in my car from an unidentified leak, and it’s been monsooning like crazy.

So that’s it, just wanted to say hi and ask for a little favor. See you soon, I hope!



A common complaint about the current state of music albums is that people don’t want to pay $15 for a couple of good songs. I’m not sure if this is a true complaint or just another justification for illegal downloading, though it’s probably a valid point. When I was in high school I used to blow my paycheck buying cds from current one-hit wonders, but it never seemed to bother me.

What made me think of this is all the talk about iTunes and digital music jukeboxes changing the way we listen to music. I don’t think it’s really changed my listening habits at all. I still generally listen to entire cds of an artist, and I’m not content to just download a few songs of an album, even if I’m not paying for it. Also I’ve noticed that, of the old cds that I’ve ripped into my library, I don’t delete the songs that I am less than enthusiastic about. Maybe it’s because I have an ample hard drive, but I’d just feel weird only having 4 tracks out of 15.

iTunes has made it nice and easy to listen to my entire collection all shuffled up (and the new version’s Party Shuffle makes it even better), but other than that it’s been more of a time saver (no switching discs) rather than a revolution.

Maybe I’m just in the murky middle of those who like music so much that they distinguish between many levels of song quality and those who only have time to listen to their favorite songs. Am I alone in this? Have any of you had your music world turned upside down in the past few years?

iTunes Revolution?

Hahaha, I actually like smoking bans, but what I really like is when smokers get all riled up about laws pertaining to their dirty habit.

The RI Senate passed a bill today banning smoking in all indoor public places except our two gambling facilities (“all encompassing vice dens”). Now the bill goes to the House, where they are expected to be receptive to it, though their version has only temporary exemptions for some places. Once they get their stories straight it should go through, and the Gov is expected to sign it. Good.

Not satisfied with an almost complete ban on indoor smoking, the American Cancer Society says “the permanent exemptions show ‘disregard for the lives of nearly 1,200 employees at both Newport Grand and Lincoln Park.’ ” I know I was extolling their virtues the other day, but the hyperbole about health effects of various things can get a little old. A disregard for their lives?! Ok, health, maybe.

Which isn’t to say that long term exposure to second hand smoke isn’t harmful. It is. But sometimes I get the feeling different groups can get caught up in the science, and that makes people insane. I’d ban indoor smoking in public places (especially restaurants) on a public nuisance basis, but that’s just me.

So good work, Senators! Let the letters to the editor from smokers begin!

Too late to be any good, the Cry for Help free ice cream post!

April 28th was Free Scoop day at participating Baskin-Robbins locations (now infiltrating a Dunkin Donuts near you!) You might ask “Bil, don’t you mean Ben & Jerry’s? They’re the ones who’ve been giving away free ice cream once a year to thank their customers.” That’s true, but the B&J Free Cone Day was actually the day before. You might also ask “So is Baskin-Robbins trying to copy Ben and Jerry’s because, since they can’t compete in quality, they might as well piggy-back marketing efforts with the Vermonters?” Yes.

Now, neither Ben nor Jerry (not the people, but the soulless corporate behemoth which bought their names) really has any leg to stand on anymore in denouncing apers of any sort (start doing crosswords and “aper” will wiggle its way into your vocabulary). Witness: Two of B&J’s newest flavors have been Dulce Delicious, caramel ice cream with a caramel swirl, and Dublin Mudslide, an Irish cream liqueur ice cream.

What’s that? Sounds familiar, but you remember these flavors in a more upscale, less cow-laden store? You must have been at Häagen-Dazs! Over there, their evil flavor scientists came up with (original) flavors like Dulce de Leche, a caramel ice cream with caramel swirls, and Baily’s Irish Cream, a (branded!) Irish cream liqueur flavored ice cream.

As far as I can tell, Unilever has moved it’s new flavor research department from here to here.

Also, to round out the iced bitterness, I ordered one of these the last month and almost choked when it came to $6-change. Actually, I think Em paid for it, but still, it’s the principle! (thanks, babe) In good ice cream news, there’s an amazing place on North Carollton near Canal in New Orleans for gelato. Mmmmm!

My friend Whitney wanted me to pass along some info to my vast, vast (enormous) readership. She’s got a team together for the June 4th Relay for Life, benefiting the American Cancer Society, and we want your help.

The relay is pretty neat. It runs non-stop from 6pm Friday June 4 to noon the next day, like a camp out next to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. They’re looking for as many people as possible to form teams of 8-15 people to take part, so this is a really good opportunity to get some friends together and help out a good cause.

There’s more information here (though you’ll have to enter the Pawtucket zip code, 02861)

If, like me, you don’t have 8-15 friends you can still support Whitney’s team with a tax deductible donation. Any amount would be really appreciated, as they say, every dollar counts. You can click the donate link to give online, or email me if you want to make other arrangements (recommended).

It seems like everyone I know has had close contact with cancer. I’ve lost two grandparents to this disease, and I know how devastating it can be to families. The work done by the American Cancer Society is so important, for researching a cure, for helping victims and their families, for lobbying Congress and everything else they do.

Thank you for anything you can do to help.

Relay for Life

…and I don’t understand women.

Against my better judgment, I clicked on a Mark Patinkin column on ProJo.com today. I think the fact that it mentioned a Providence building in the headline piqued my interest. I should have known better.

First of all, Mark Patinkin is an amazing feature writer. When he goes out and finds a human interest story, he can tweak my heartstrings and keep me reading for pages. But when he sits down at his home office computer to write his column, he makes me want to set my newspaper on fire (in this case, digitally).

As far as I can tell, once a month Mark sits down and looks around his house and writes what he sees, adding a tinge of bewilderment to pretty much everything. Then he looks through some crumpled up notes from his pockets where he wrote down all the things his daughters or their friends have said lately that make him feel old. If he’s short there’s the old standby of “my wife wants another pair of shoes, I just don’t get women!!”

I accept that I’m not really Mark’s target audience, since I know how to use a computer and new things don’t scare me. That’s why I don’t read his columns usually. And I would have given him a pass on today’s drivel today, too, seeing as it was my fault that I naively clicked expecting something worthwhile. But then I read this: “Red Sox prima-donna Manny Ramirez has a bad attitude, but he sure can hit.”

Now, a few lines previous to that he proves he’s behind the times because he couldn’t recognize any of the top iTunes bands (oooh, see how he slipped iTunes in there? Maybe he’s not so out of the loop after all…). But it seems that Mark isn’t on the Sports writers’ email list, because Manny has been awesome this year, playing harder than ever, talking to the media, and being all around non-Prima Donna-ish. This is inexcusable, there will be no disparaging any of the Sox, not this week. Stick to the reality TV stuff.

Hey Mark, you ever notice how you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway? Crazy! I bet the kids don’t even call it a driveway anymore. Double Crazy!

Bright spot: I will say that his last item was great (though it’s someone else’s material): “A Rhode Islander is someone who can pronounce ‘Quonochontaug’ but can’t pronounce ‘Westerly.’ ” There. I was nice.

Dan Shaughnessy, in introducing a column about how good it is to be a Red Sox fan right now, writes:

You will wake up today and gaze in the mirror and you will look like Brad Pitt (Cameron Diaz if you are a woman). Your front lawn will resemble the 18th green at Augusta and there will be a Cadillac Escalade in your driveway. There won’t be a cloud in the sky, there will be no traffic on the roads, and the toll booths all will be gone on the Mass. Pike.

This caught my eye because it so succinctly wraps up a bunch of awful (to me) aspirations. Is this the American Dream nowadays? Vanity, environmental disregard, overpriced and unnecessary luxury, and not having to pay for what you use? Where’s the part about health, family, friends, peace or honor? That list of good things couldn’t get more ego-centric unless you added 3 inches (two cup sizes if you are a woman).

Now, this is just a sports column, and essentially a throwaway thought to set up how sweet it is to have Boston kick Yankee ass. But that’s telling. Everything in there except wishing for good weather is mildly repugnant to me. How many people read that and said “yup, that would be just about perfect.”?

Happiness, it seems, is prettiness, or dumping energy wasting fertilizers on your grass, or being able to cushion your ass while you own the road, which you shouldn’t have to share or pay for.

Aspiring to the Worst

e.dogg mentioned to me the other day that her Outlook Express rules were getting unwieldy, and that spammers were finding ways to write “mortgage” that she couldn’t even imagine. That reminded me to post about what I’ve been using for anti-spam. Since last October, I’ve been using POPfile to classify my email as it comes in, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. It’s free, unobtrusive, easy to manage, and won’t obliterate false positives, so a quick check will let you see if you’ve missed any good email.

Since I started using it, I’ve gotten 6,919 pieces of email, about 65% of which was spam. POPFile says it’s been 98.14% accurate in classifying messages as either spam or not spam, and that includes the short learning period you have to put it through to learn what kind of email you get. Pretty good.

Comments are always open for other experiences with anti-spam software.

If posting is sporadic in the next couple days, it’s likely because I am fighting to maintain internet access. BellSouth, somehow worse than Cox at providing internet access, has me cursing blinking modem lights and ready to throw monitors. For no reason whatsoever, my DSL modem has been losing service for minutes or hours, and mysteriously coming back. I had to venture into dialup hell to listen to Pedro spank the Yankees. The horror!

Ok, so that’s my excuse. I have to try to post this before I run out of ti- *zssst*

Race Against the Modem

Get those brooms out, it’s time to sweep up the mess in the Bronx: the Boston Red Sox win three in a row against the New York Yankees. Due to today’s impending win by the Devil Rays, we can now dust off this beautiful graphic, something as rare as a Monster Seat ticket for less than $200:

Now, it’s April. There’s 144 games left. The Red Sox pitching has been so good it’s unfair to expect it to continue. Same for the bats rotting in the Yankee dugout. OK, with that out of the way…

Suck it, Yankees! We can actually, honestly say “Yankees Suck.” Jeter, 0-24! Six losses in seven tries against your rivals? Trailing the Devil Rays in the standings?! Good luck against Oakland’s Big Three this week…

And, ladies and gentlemen, how ’bout them Red Sox? 24+ Scoreless innings from a bullpen that last year was in full meltdown mode by this point in the season. Starting pitching has been good as advertised, and the bats are doing enough. And Trot and Nomar aren’t even in the lineup yet! Winners of 8 of the last 10… I love this!

Spring Cleaning

The author can take credit if s/he wants, but I got in from a night of drinking and found this on my desktop:

just watching an ad for “carpet fresh no vacuum” here. you just spray it on and leave. like fabreeze. is there a trend here? we dont want to clean. we’ll just cover rotting smells up with perfume and spices. like the middle ages.

now if i could come up with a thought like that more regularly, i could have my own blog.

Guest Blogging via IM

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a project for my marine ecology class. We had to design our own experiment, on any subject we wanted, and carry it out.

I’ve been doing evil experiments on barnacles. Barnacles are those little encrusting guys that just look like white bumps on rocks, boats, piers, and other hard sufaces that come in contact with the ocean. Well they have secret lives that most people don’t know about. There are actually little living bodies in those white bumps. When they are covered in water, they open up their shells and furiously sweep their tiny legs around in the water to collect food.

My experiment is related to this activity, but I won’t go into detail. Anyway, here are some of my barnacles alive, color coded so I know who is who (I also gave them names).

Because I am studying how they feed, I had to kill them (the evil part) and take out their legs, which are called cirri. I photographed the cirri of 20 barnacles today, and then used a program to measure how long the legs were. It was awesome. Here is one of the pics of the legs detached from the body!

I don’t think I can go to the beach ever again without wanting to dissect everything. Gawd bless the sea creechiz.