When it rains, it pours - a lot of potentially interesting stuff going on over the last couple of weeks, possible projects (for money!) on the horizon, along with the one I'm currently writing my tail off for. April is my worst month yet as far as this site goes.
And, because things have been so busy lately I managed to put off my taxes until Monday night. Fortunately, I don't have anything very financially complicated going on in my life so far, so Turbotax did the job quite nicely. I wasn't able to e-file from my WindowsME partition, from which I removed Internet Explorer a while ago. Turbotax apparently relies on one or more of the SSL components that get uninstalled by IEradicator, and even after reinstalling IE I couldn't get it to work. I wound up installing Turbotax on my wife's computer and filing from there.
To the federal government and the state of California I have to ask, how much is enough? Yes, taxes are everybody's duty as a citizen, blah, blah, et cetera, but I can't believe that unemployment benefits are taxable income. Talk about kicking a man when he's down, especially since anyone faced with the prospect of living on $230 a week isn't likely to ask the IRS to withhold one cent of it.
What really chaps my hide is that when gainfully employed, I already get tax taken out of every paycheck to cover unemployment insurance; so the government takes their cut twice.
Google has just announced a web API for their most excellent search engine, which allows you to query their servers from within an application and received the search results back as structured data.
In a nutshell, you can search Google without pointing a web browser anywhere near Google.com. In fact, you can search Google without a web browser at all! Talk about possibilities
The API is implemented with SOAP, which is a very cool move on Google's part because it opens the field up to any programming language with TCP/IP and XML functionality... which happens to include PHP.
No killer apps are comming immediately to mind, but I'll be thinking about it. :)
Well, perhaps that's laying it on a bit thick, at age 27. But I took my guitar out of the closet for the first time in nearly a year on Sunday, and actually twiddled around with it some more on Monday and again tonight.
So much I don't know about music theory and guitar playing, and music theory as it applies to guitar playing! I took lessons for about two years in 8th and 9th grade, and played in a band that took third place in a college-wide Battle of The Bands, but I never really scratched the surface... Thermous was never known for musical acuity.
I took trumpet lessons in fifth grade, but I wasn't really into it, and with the foreknowledge that I would be getting braces within the next year or two I dropped it. The trumpet lessons included sight-reading sheet music, which I guess I did OK with... but sight-reading has never really clicked with me.
My guitar teacher was great - he came to my house every week, and now that I think about it I don't remember who referred us to him. Hmmmm.
Chris was a rock guitarist who wasn't too proficient at reading traditional music either; everything I learned from him was written down in tablature, which is a lot easier to decode at a glance while playing... but he knew his scales and chords, and I'm thankful to him for getting at least the basics burned into my brain early on.
A good deal of lesson time was spent watching him listen to a song I had picked out during the previous week, reverse-engineer the guitar parts, and write them down for me. Again, probably not typcial of most music lessons, but to an adolescent male guitar newbie there's nothing more motivating than learning how to play just about all the tracks on Ace Frehley's solo album.
I was pretty good about practicing, but I never got obsessive enough with guitar that that was all I did with my spare time. I don't know if it was out of frustration of not having a real outlet for trying my skills out (my best friend Greg was also learning guitar at the time, and we would jam, but it wasn't a band.) We did actually hook up with a drummer, which was marginally better... but even back then I remember being frustrated at wanting to play my favorite tunes, which at the time would have consisted largely of classic KISS and Led Zeppelin. The closest any of us ever came to songwriting was the obligatory garage-band 1-4-5 blues variation.
I think it was in 10th grade that I got a bug up my ass to learn how to play piano and really read music. I think I took about six months' worth of lessons, and never really took to it; you can't really rock out on a piano/keyboard unless you're Jon Lord, Pat Raymaker, or Wesley Willis (Aside: Well, I do declare! That Wesley Willis page is one of the first sites I ever visited on the World Wide Web, and definitely the first place I ever saw Shockwave in action waaaaay back in 1996. It appears largely unchanged. Whip the Donkey's Ass!)
After moving to New Hampshire in 1990 I didn't do much with my guitar for another four years, when Thermous was formed.
I really miss playing in a band, and that sense of longing has been growing stronger over the last couple of years along with my urge to buy a Theremin from Bob Moog and take up the Banjo. I don't know where this is all heading, but the other day I got my guitar out and, while refreshing myself on those scales and chords, resolved to start playing at least 30 minutes every day. For now I'm trying to focus on playing technically well... clean picking, keeping my damn fingers off the higher strings when forming weird chords, all that stuff.
I blame PBS for showing 'Guitar with Frederick Noad' on Saturday mornings; I watched most of a lesson a few weeks ago and marvelled that I ever considered myself to be "pretty good". Even the simplest of classical guitar excercises blow away that fancy double-pickin' I learned how to do on Stairway to Heaven. And the pace you're expected to follow that sheet music at! Oy! I felt somehow embarassed at letting what little talent I had atrophy, and decided to take advantage of the fine musical instrument that's been gathering dust for most of the last five years.
I should probably hold off on the banjo until we're not living in an apartment building anymore.
Saw this on Metafilter today. Alex Beam from the Boston Globe has written a nasty column about Bloggers and, by extension, the people who read them. (Why are you reading this? I'm not a real writer because I do this for free. Turn off your computer and buy a copy of the Boston Globe, you a-hole.)
I'm going to bring myself down to Mr. Beam's level for a moment: For somebody whose insights are so clearly superior to those of the rest of us, by virtue of being printed on dead trees under an "Old Media" masthead, he certainly has a great big, gnarled, pointy stick up his ass about the fact that people write their own op-ed pieces about stuff and post it on the web for free. For Free! The nerve of some people, trying to cut in on real opinion writers' territory like that.
What puzzles me is the argument he makes, which is that all blogs are crap... if this is the case, what is he so wound up about?
I certainly don't fancy myself any sort of cutting edge neo-journalist-blogger, nor do I put other 'mainstream' blogs on a pedestal. I would hazard a guess that most other people with blogs don't have any illusions about their little hobby sites being The New Wave of Journalism, either.
That being said, I think that many of the comments found on interactive blogs like Metafilter and (if I may be so bold as to call it an interactive blog) Slashdot are often much more insightful and/or informed than "Real" journalists' columns. As an oversimplified example, what does Steve Harvey do once a week in "Only In L.A." that contributors to Portal of Evil don't do for free every day? (Granted, most of the things found on Portal Of Evil aren't fit for mainstream print publication, but you get the idea.)
I think this is the real issue at the root of such biting commentary from folks like Alex Beam and John Dvorak, but they would no sooner admit that than they would admit that some blogs are well-written and entertaining to boot.
I vaguely remember thinking April Fools' Day was kind of funny as a kid, but since I was the kid most likely to be the target of schoolyard pranksters I was probably over that by oh, second grade.
I didn't pay much attention to April Fools' day online last year because I was too worried about where my next paycheck was going to come from... but the glut of fake news stories and 'hacks' (in the MIT sense of the word) today was just plain annoying, and a little bit disquieting. And if the general reaction to Slashdot's all day crapfest is any indication, it's not just me.
The gag is so played that each new fake news story reminds me of a fat, pimply Comp/Sci major with B.O. nudging me with his elbow and snorting "Get It??? Get It??? It's April Fools day, so we made up a fake news story!" Over and over and over again, until the joke that wasn't funny in the first place just makes me want to kill them.