Geek Smithology

October 23, 2008

Nerd Music News

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:09 pm

A few years back, like so many of us, I had a hard drive crash and lost all my music. Since I had to rip several hundred CDs again (still not finished) I now back that stuff up. Anyway, I am writing to announce that the 10,000th song imported into iTunes (mark two) was (drumroll, please. Yes, Foo, you may play it on your Rock Band drum set)…

Ball & Chain by Murder by Death

Much like the Grateful Dead, the name doesn’t really describe the music, which is kinda folk-meets-rock-meets-American McGee’s Alice.

You may now return to your (not so) regularly scheduled blog.

October 21, 2008

The End of Spam on Geek Smithology?

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 8:20 pm

Okay, the CAPTCHA functionality got rid of all comment spam, but there was still a ton of spam coming in via trackbacks. Rather than trying to use spam software (sorry Akismet, but for spam you missed it seemed you marked a real commend as spam. I know you’ve changed, but I haven’t. Not yet.) I’ve decided to turn of trackbacks altogether.

Why? Because the only trackbacks I get seem to be by friends trying to see what a trackback is. Oh, and like 30 spams a day. So I threw the switch and…

Still got like 30 spams a day. WTF? Then it dawned on me that pingbacks are per-post, and that while trackbacks weren’t allowed for new posts, all my old stuff let the spam come flooding in. Dammit! Luckily I know some of this SQL nonsense, and for everyone else out there, to stop the trackback spam, turn off track backs (under Settings->Discussion in wordpress 2.6.2) and then connect to your database and run a query something like this:

1
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<pre>
UPDATE wp_posts SET ping_status = 'closed';
</pre>

And finally, at long last, the spam, my friends, has been silenced. I wish there was some way to pingback spam trackbacks with viruses that would turn their bot-farms into something really disgusting.

Like poop.

October 19, 2008

7×5=35, or Another Update

Filed under: Grab Bag,Personal by Nathan @ 7:59 pm

It occurred to me that when I am 35 my sons will be 7 and 5, which is the kind of coincidence from which I derive tiny amounts of pleasure.

It also occurred to me that as good as Mr. Howard was as Rhodey in Iron Man, wouldn’t Don Cheadle have been even better? Actually, that didn’t occur to me at all, until my buddies over at The Movie Blog reported that that is exactly what is happening.. Remember kids, nobody’s irreplaceable[1].

So how is the great sleeping experiment going? Not bad, if a bit difficult to adjust to because it can be hard to fall asleep when you know you have to. So the first night was find, the second was really horrible – slept about 4 hours. The night after that was pretty average, and I even managed to wake up at my normal wake-up time on Saturday (5:20 – yeah, my wife says I’m insane too) and make it through the day. Today was crash day, a new concept I came up with while the experiment was beginning. Basically, I believe in the concept of a sleep deficit. While I don’t necessarily believe that you can “catch up” on sleep in any holistic sense, I think that it’s a valid concept day-to-day or even week-to-week, so that’s the day where I sleep as long as my body “thinks” it should. This was about nine hours (as opposed to six, which is “the number”).

Going forward, if I find that crash day is consistently far out of touch with my “number”, I will increase the number by some reasonably meaningful amount without going overboard – likely 20 – 30 minutes. Although it will be the harder way to go, I plan to keep the time I wake up as static as possible and start going to be earlier to “create” this extra time. That said, I don’t want to read too much into crash day the first few weeks, since there is so much difficulty just getting into the rhythm of things that it doesn’t really make a difference.

What I can already tell is that I feel much better waking up at a certain time, even on Saturday, then I do just sleeping in. It’s entirely possible that this is due to that when sleeping in I often wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, which always makes one feel worse. I’ve managed to avoid naps for the most part, although I always get drowsy on the bus home, regardless of schedule.

Scientifically speaking, given that we often feel the same way (sleepy, hungry, etc.) at certain times every day, it occurs to me that sleeping the same time every day would lead to a more efficient sleep cycle, and there is vast literature proclaiming that to be the proverbial good thing. That number might not be six (I just really hope it isn’t something like 8.5, which would be difficult to achieve – I’d pretty much need to be in bed already!)

Hope everyone had a cool weekend. I know I did – checked out Wall-E again yesterday at the cheap theatres and not only does it stand up, I actually enjoyed it better the second time around. My wife, who didn’t see it last time really liked it, but bemoaned the fact that most people won’t get the message. I argue that they’ll get it, they just won’t care or change anything about there lives as a result. Welcome to Earth, right? And then today we took the boys to a Halloween party at the house of crazy Bill Davis, whose garage-based haunted house is truly a marvel of technology.

[1] That does not mean that some people aren’t harder to replace than others.

October 14, 2008

An Experiment (and Random Thoughts)

Filed under: Grab Bag,Personal,Sound by Nathan @ 9:31 pm

After a horrific run-in with energy drinks at the end of last week (Thursday and Friday are a blur – it was no longer my skeletal system that was supporting my weight so much as my taurine-thickened blood) I’ve decided to do what any programmer would in this situation – start hacking.

My first “experiment”, which was to just go to bed at some pseudo-random (but often way too late) time and then wake up horrifically early during the weekday and horrifically late (for relatively small values of late according to foo, who at three months and three days my junior occasionally calls me “dad”.[1] This was followed up by liberal (and I mean libertine – at one time I could be seen wandering wide-eyed and drooling, cradling seven empty cans of delicious Sobe Arush Blue (aka Fresca for men), all of which had been consumed earlier that day. As mentioned before, I believe there was some kind of caffeine/taurine blackout.

My next experiment will be to get the same amount of sleep every night (this will, of course, be hard on weekends) at the same time and see how this pans out. I figure it will take a few weeks to even itself out. I will settle on the arbitrary number of six, because that seems achievable and useful. I will try to contain my slavering devotion of beverages whose main concern is artificially providing mental focus via chemicals with little to no long-term study as to their safety to some amount that will allow me to be asleep in time to get my precious six hours.

You might think that because this is a blog, results would follow. While this might be true, since it’s my blog, we may never speak of this again.

In other news, Canada had its federal election today. I, of course, did my part by voting and hope you do to whenever fine votes are being given. Looks like I owe the Ront a coffee – while we both predicted a conservative win (although in the current Canadian political climate, “predicting” a Conservative win is quite the euphemism) I thought Harper would get the majority. He did not. Well played, sir.

In other, even more exciting news, while playing Rock Band tonight I totally grooved on Bowie and threw down a 100% on Moonage Daydream, on guitar, on hard. Now that was sweet. Then we scored 376K on More Than a Feeling[2], which has me absolutely convinced that we can take that sucker to 400K with only drums and guitar. (Medium on drums, Hard on guitar). Let me know if it’s been done. This isn’t my first 100% on hard in Rock Band – I previously did it with Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash, but that practically doesn’t count.

What I really want is some Elvis Costello.

[1] He should be thankful I’m not his dad, ’cause I’d make him take his pocketknife and find me a switch the size of my thumb so I could beat him to within an inch of his life, because that’s how it was done in the old-timey days)
[2] Check out the video, seriously – can you believe these guys?

October 13, 2008

Intimations on Mortality

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 4:40 pm

I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in luck. And though I believe our planet requires a certain balance that we as a species seem intent on ignoring, there is no balance on a cosmic scale — karma is nothing more than an overused dance club name.

But I do believe that life is fragile; it is easier to take away than to give. A few months ago my great aunt was diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer.

Terminal.

There is no more final word in the English language. It is there to let us know that there is no light at the end of this tunnel, just a dead end. Today I got the call I knew was coming, that she died. It was peaceful, because that is was that is what we need to believe. I won’t mourn my aunt for long, but my heart goes out for my uncle, because the room gets a little dusty just thinking about what he’s going through.

It makes me so glad that we finally decided to have children and that we have two perfect boys. You can gather a lot of money, toys, and friends in this life but one day all that you will have left is your family.

In a society where all ideals like manners, chivalry and even decency have gone by the wayside we need to know that when our time comes we’ve done all we can to take care of those we leave behind. Sure, when I die my wife and boys will have more than enough money to live a middle class life, but instead I’ve left them something far more valuable.

Each other.

Goodbye Aunty Helen. I wasn’t much of a nephew, but I love you.

October 12, 2008

Another Blog Update

Filed under: Announce by Nathan @ 9:27 pm

The spam I was getting had reached sickening levels. I could delete all the spam, and then literally watch new ones come in. Now don’t get me wrong, I love \1agra as much as the next guy, but it was pretty tough to sort out the one or two real comments in the 28,000 messages I had awaiting me.

So I got my hands dirty and went to town with SQL, trying to delete posts based on heinously weak heuristics I made up on the spot (for example, if the content of a post was only a single link with rel=”nofollow” I deleted it. That said, if you’ve left a comment and I didn’t approve it, I apologize.

As for the future, I’ve installed the lovely reCAPTCHA for my comments which will hopefully stop at least the stupider spam bots (I think my favorite one that actually left “Jakarta Commons HTTP Client” as the user-agent. So very weak!) So while it will be a tiny bit more of a pain to comment, the chances of them getting accepted and making it through are increased by untold orders of magnitude. I believe you can get the CAPTCHA words read to you if you like that sort of thing (I know I get my Mac to read my posts back to me.[1])

I also went ahead an upgraded to the latest version of WordPress (have to say the post authoring section is vastly improved) so that it will stop bothering me about it.

So there we have it – hopefully there will be less spam, and hopefully there will be more comments. Because what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

It’s the only thing there’s just too little of.

[1] What, doesn’t everyone?

My Son, the Guitar Hero

Filed under: Grab Bag,Sound by Nathan @ 10:43 am

1.jpg I don’t know if this is common, but Xander just pulled off a pair of 70% plus performances in Guitar hero (Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Slow Ride). He is four.

October 11, 2008

Just a few things that are on my mind right now…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 8:55 pm

The iPhone is pretty much the best thing ever. I don’t care what anyone else says.

It’s been a long time now, but there is a new version of Effective Java. It is good.

Stackoverflow is addicting as hell, even with all of the BS noise. As predicted I may be found under the name cynicalman with the Grateful Dead logo.

I have a huge crush on Karen O, the lead singer of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. This crush is approved by my wife.

I was about to type that bulky square-toed dress shoes with thick soles that look as though you could safely walk through a shallow pool of radioactive waste are out. But they were never in. Sorry about 70% of people “dressed up” in downtown Calgary.

No hard feelings Eskimo Bill. Give me a call. Really, I mean it.

September 25, 2008 represented the anniversary of my first year clean and sober. This is a good thing, but it’s had the side effect having making me put on some weight. I’m nowhere remotely close to 300, but I’m a little further along the unhappy side of 200 than I’d rather be (I weighed about 210 when people thought I looked really good. I weighed about 193 when people said “you look sick, what’s going on?”

Five starring Gimme Shelter in Rock Band, on guitar, on hard, with my wife on drums is one of the best natural highs around. Give me a call Fuchs – we need a rock band night so I can see your mad drum skillz (unless they are just skills, in which case I don’t care)

OMG. This conversation just happened
Nathan: Flash quiz. Who sings this song?
Marie: You know I suck at this. Uh, is it that stupid “Franz Ferdinand” or whatever.
Nathan: (gives incredulous look)
Marie: Really, is it them?
Nathan: Yeah. Crazy

I bought a Time Capsule. And I like it.

A couple of weeks ago I scored 230,900 points in the original Donkey Kong. This may be the singular most important video game achievement of my life thus far. Stop laughing and try it. See if you score 10,000.

A band who was in my music collection buy I didn’t really care about until the new iTunes “Genius” feature brought them to my attention, Modest Mouse, is now in regular rotations.

If you aren’t listening to Kevin Smith’s podcast “SModcast” you should be. Right now. Go download them all and start getting weird looks when people look at you funny as you laugh out loud despite yourself.

Mike, things are gonna get worse before they get better, but they will get better.

Safari is my browser now. Sorry Firefox. It’s not you, it’s me, really.

I can’t decide if I don’t get Neighbors by Thomas Berger or if it’s just a shitty book.

Why aren’t Lego Batman or Lego Indiana Jones even remotely as good as Lego Star Wars II?

Is the funniest thing said “on the fly” in a song Beck saying “that was a good drum break” or Harry Connick Jr. saying “go on Benny, beat that dog?” Don’t worry PETA, the dog in question was an upright bass.

Speaking of Beck, what happened to him? By the way in an unrelated note, Portishead put out a new album.

I’m a wuss, because I cried on the bus reading the first chapter of “Hey Nostrodamus” by Douglas Coupland. That’s a good one.

Speaking of books. I don’t get William Gibson. Trying to get through Mona Lisa Overdrive and it’s just not working.

Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman is the best comic you (probably) aren’t reading right now. Go get the trade for The Nightly News right now and thank me later.

You have to listen to Brian Wilson’s latest album at least three times before you’ll stop thinking it sucks.

On the other hand, I started liking David Byrne’s latest album (AMAZING) before it was finished downloading.

7:00am coffee at Caffe Artigiano might be the single best way to start the week.

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