Archive for May, 2009

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Outsourced List #1: Pick One

26 May, 2009

I figure that, in addition to making my own lists (and yes, I know that I said graphs too, I’m working on that. One day.) I should also highlight other lists that other people have made. Like the following:

Pick One

Now, at first glance, this doesn’t seem like a list. It presents you with two alternatives, and you pick the one you like better. This can be as easy as “Fascism” vs. “Dogs” or as difficult as “Freedom” vs. “Justice.” As far as I can tell, they’re randomly selected out of a list of unknown proportions.

This is fun in and of itself. But also, in the top right, there’s a link to the Bottom 10 and the Top 10. A few interesting things about these lists (which I assume are dynamic and so might not be the same when you look at them):

  • Cats are in the Top 10. Dogs are not.
  • Lil’ Wayne is ranked almost as bad as War, Hell, and Fascism
  • Islam is in the Bottom 10, weirdly.
  • Dreams are ranked above Health, Love above Sex, and AIDS and Cancer below Hell.
  • Sleep, although being one of the words, is not in the top ten, although Dreams are.
  • The Internet is somehow in the top ten.

I’d like to see the complete word list for this. There seem to be a bunch of words (granted, I only tried it about 10 times, and there was some overlap, but not much, with the top and bottom 10, so I’ve only seen about 30, probably), but I think not enough to get a really nice ranking of how people think about things. The placement of Islam is particularly suspect, I think you would need a very few words in order to get that ranked as a bad thing, as in my opinion there are many many many things worse than Islam. But whatever.

Finally, choose-one-or-the-other sites are relatively common, so this is not the only one. I would make a list, but I only know a few, so instead here is my favorite one:

Kitten War!

These are often very difficult decisions. But if you see Bug, vote for her. She’s awesome.

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List #4: Ten Albums I Like A Lot

25 May, 2009

This is not a top ten, by any means. I’ve never been good at ranking things like music or movies, even enough to pick a definite “favorite” (although the two movies I would be happy watching without any others for the rest of my life would be Airplane and Independence Day with Jaws and Bladerunner somewhere in the vicinity as well). But, I know which ones I like. Here are ten of them. I’m using bullets instead of numbers because they are all pretty much equal in my mind. I’m also not counting live albums I like a lot because those are a lot like greatest hits albums, but with cheering, so it shouldn’t count.

  • Radiohead – OK Computer
  • The Killers – Hot Fuss
  • The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
  • The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs Volume 2 [I figure it would be cheating to have the full 3-CD set.]
  • Guster – Parachute [This is an old one but I only just discovered it]
  • The Weepies – Hideaway [This is really great. Their other one, Say I Am You is less good but still nice.]
  • Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs [Except for the title track which I really hate.]
  • William Shatner – Has Been [I got this as a semi-joke gift because it’s William Shatner. But, it’s actually really good… Weird, I know, but check it out.]
  • Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
  • Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell

Okay so the last two I started scrolling through my iTunes to find. But, as I said, this isn’t necessarily a top ten, so it’s okay to do that. I would really enjoy listening to any of these again. What’s also nice is that all of these, with perhaps the exception of Bat Out of Hell and Has Been are really good to listen to just a song at a time, and yet all are still amazing as actual albums (except for Rockin’ the Suburbs, where I have to skip Track 9 every time). It’s good when an album is greater than the some of its parts, but the parts are still great in themselves. Anyway, if you haven’t heard any of these, check them out!

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Fun Way to Waste Time

24 May, 2009

This isn’t a list, but a little online game thingie that’s sorta fun. It’s a build-a-kingdom over time game, so you have to wait for stuff to happen… You come back to it later and fun stuff has occurred.

Check It Out!

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List #3: To Make A Graph

21 May, 2009

One really has to have a bunch of data. Now, a lot of the stuff that I have done, or plan to do comes just from various data that a program (like iTunes) automatically gives you, or other bits of paper I have hanging around, where I’ve done calculations or written things done. But a lot of it is more detailed than that, and that requires a slightly more consistent or automatic way of taking things down.

Which brings of, of course, to the internet. Below is a list of a few of the fun tools for recording things (of all kinds) online, all of which I have used at at least some point, if I don’t continue to use.

Spending Diary: This is a pretty handy little guy if you’re trying to stick to a budget. It’s very simple to use, but it does rely somewhat on your memory. Given a day, you put in each transaction you made on that day: what it was, what it cost, and what category it is. For example, one of mine would be Oyster Card Top-Up, £5, Transportation. These each have separate little blanks. What it does is tallies up everything, and gives you nice charts and graphs of how much you spent on what type of thing over a given period. It’s pretty cool, although I’ve since stopped using it because it doesn’t do currency exchange. The data can also be downloaded into an excel document, which is very convenient if you want to play with it yourself.

Last.fm: This one you probably know about, as it’s a little more popular, but it’s still really cool. Thousands of little programs of various sorts can hook onto your iTunes and upload what you’re listening to at any given moment. This all goes to your Last.fm page, where you can see how many times you’ve listened to a particular artist, or song, or genre or… There’s also a radio function so you can play songs from anywhere that are also in your library. What I use it most for, though, actually, is this other site Last Graph. This takes your Last.fm profile data and puts it into a beautiful flowing chart (not flow-chart) of who you’ve listened to over a timeline. It’s a little difficult to describe in words, so head over to the site and check it out!

Yawn Log: Made by some friends of friends of mine, this is a convenient little gadget to tell you how little sleep you’re really getting. Yet another one that I stopped using because I couldn’t really be bothered, it was still fun for a while. You put in when you went to sleep, when you woke up, and if you like, how you slept and dreams and so on. You can set a target amount of sleep per night, and it tells you how close you’ve gotten to that target over the past week, with a graph. It’s a work in progress still, as far as I can tell, so new things are popping up every day.

Wakoopa: This is another automatic one. You download a tiny program, and it records what programs you’ve used and for how long, as well as certain websites (that count as web applications, such as Gmail, or Facebook, or Twitter). Once again, it uploads these to your profile, and presents them as a list and as some nice pie charts so that you can see how distracted you really get. In theory, once it gets a bunch of data, it recommends you programs that you might like. So far I haven’t been interested in any of mine, but there’s still hope.

Mint: This isn’t quite the same as the other ones, it’s more actually functional and less simply interesting. You can put in your financial info (it’s reputable, I swear. Really.) and it collects your various balances from various banks and credit cards and so on in one place, so you don’t have to scavenge around the internet to get them. It can also provide you with charts and graphs of your spending, but since I primarily use cash from ATMs, this is all but useless to me. Nevertheless, for keeping track of how much money I have, it’s a great tool.

TripIt: A very cool way of keeping track of travel information. Useful both for fun’s sake, seeing how many miles you’ve travelled and how many cities and so on, but also again for getting everything in one place. Confirmation codes, things like that. Easy to input stuff, as you jsut send confirmation emails to them, and they magically put everything in. Pretty sweet.

WordPress: This isn’t a link, because it would only be a personal one. When you have a blog on WordPress, such as this one, you get a “Dashboard” along with it. This has handy things like comment tracking, news, and so on, but what really catches my eye is the statistics it gives you. It tells you where people came from to look at your blog, what they looked at, and where they went after. It gives you views per day, per week, and per month. So you can always strive to improve. Until recently these graphs were a little awkward, with a fluctuating baseline, so you couldn’t really get a sense of what was going on, but now that they are set at 0, it’s a wonderful resource. And one I pay attention to too much.

These are just a few of what I imagine are many different applications like them. I’ve read about ones that can track anything quantifiable, such as Daytum, or Plodt, but as I haven’t really used those I can’t say much about them. If you’re interested in quantifying pretty much anything, check out Wolfram Alpha, a search engine that gives you numbers and (hopefully useful) data about whatever you put in. I came across it a little before I found out it was actually useful, and I thought it was lame. But then, for complicated mail-related reasons I had to find out what 8.6 months from December 15th was, and Google completely failed me. I randomly tried Wolfram|Alpha (the proper way to type it I believe), and it worked like a charm! Needless to say I was impressed.

As a final thought, most of these of course bring up a question of privacy. Do you really want the entire internet to know what software you’re using, what you’re listening to, where you’re going? My answer, at least, is absolutely not. With the exception of Mint, these all have an automatic profile, which in theory everyone can see. I have my privacy options on all of them set so that no one but me can see it, which helps it to a certain extent. I realise that the data is still out there, and probably once I get bored with stats I’ll remove myself from all of these. But until then, it’s more fun than it is worrisome. After all, it doesn’t matter that much if someone else knows that I play a lot of Tetris instead of writing, right?

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List #2: Things in My Bag

19 May, 2009

That sounds dirty. Anyway, a while ago, I got a pretty sweet shoulder bag for school. It was advertised, at least by TV Guide, who was not selling it, as being Jack Bauer’s bag from 24. This is probably not the case, as I’ve seen a bunch of similar (but still different) bags being advertised as such by various publications. Nevertheless, I used it to go to and from class. And then I realised something. I often get migraines, and I have medicine that I take at the onset of each one, but that does me no use if it’s not near by. So, I decided I should probably carry it around with me. Which meant that I carried it in my bag, and took my bag essentially everywhere. It became a murse, but for medical reasons. And then it got extended. If I’m carrying it everywhere anyway, and already have one thing in it, why not put more useful stuff in it. So I did. Now, the thing is, what I am constantly prepared for is not the situations of day-to-day life, but rather the situations of being stranded in the wilderness, or on a desert island. Somehow, though, these things still come in handy. Keep in mind I still use this for school, as well.

My Bag

BAG:
Olive Drab Original Danish Style Canvas School Bag (from Fatigues Army Navy & Surplus Gear Co.)

CONTENTS: (ABOVE BLACK LINE: ALWAYS CARRIED) Listed Roughly From Top to Bottom, Left to Right.
12″ Ruler [One came with the bag to provide support, it has since broken, twice. This is the second one I have bought.]
Zippo High Polish Chrome Windproof Lighter (Cross Engraving) [Ideal for fighting vampires.]
Oakley Magnesium Four S Sunglasses (Dark Carbide) [These are apparently really expensive. I found them.]
Ibuprofen {Never hurts to carry pain killers. Ha!]
Deck of Cards
Corkscrew/Bottle Opener
Digital Thermometer
Travel Toothbrush [Normally I carry around a small tube of toothpaste as well, however I am currently using it, so no longer.}
Victorinox “Equestrian” Swiss Army Knife
Chapstick [Apparently this is also sunblocking.]
Tiny Bottle of Cologne.
Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
Hand Sanitizer
Aluminum Sulfate Nick Relief Tube [Stops small cuts from bleeding]
Matches
512 MB Cruzer USB Key
iPod to USB Cord
Compass
Alcohol Wipes [Stolen From Wagamama]
Maps and Schedules of Various Cities and Routes [Trains, buses, ferries, you name it.]
Various Pens [My favorites are a Sharpie, a calligraphy pen, and a Waterman Phileas Fogg fountain pen which is not pictured.]
Sanford Logo 4 Mechanical Pencil [The best mechanical pencil out there. Really.]
Eyeglass Repair Kit
No.2 Leads.
Bobby Pin Made into Crude Lock Pick
Bobby Pin
Sewing Kit
First Aid Kit [Containing another Sewing Kit, Band-aids of various shapes and sizes, antihistamines, and decongestants. And scissors and a tape measure.]
Imitrex [The migraine medicine that started it all]
Kleenex Anti-Viral Tissues [I don’t believe the anti-viral-ness of them, but I got them for free.]
Ricola Cough Drops
“Refresh and Gladden My Spirit” Baha’i Prayer Booklet [The Baha’i are awesome.]
“Living Waters for Thirsty Souls” Mennonite Propaganda Flyer [There’s a story behind this, which I won’t go into.]

(BELOW BLACK LINE: OFTEN CARRIED, BUT NOT ALWAYS):
Sigg Aluminum Water Bottle [With good luck charm around it. Charm from Claire’s.]
Umbrella
Moleskine Notebook
2 GB iPod Nano
Cell Phone (Samsung SCH-900)
Memory Card Reader [Containing a spare card for my camera.]
Rechargeable AA Batteries [Also spare for my camera.]
Creative EP-630 In-Ear Headphones [In a case for Apple In-Ear Headphones, which I had previously but they broke.]

NOT PICTURED:
Canon PowerShot A590IS Digital Camera [This would go under the black line if I could take a picture of it instead of with it.]
Lock Picks [They have come in handy more times than I can count. But, I didn’t trust taking them through airplane security.]
Toothpaste [Already Mentioned]
Fountain Pen [Already Mentioned]

So I believe that’s it for typical things I carry around. And that’s why my shoulder always hurts. The end.

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Far Too Much of My Life, Quantified

16 May, 2009

What follows is a list of all the television shows that I have either seen from beginning to end, every episode that has been broadcast so far, or from the beginning up to a certain point in the series, but every episode in between. There is one exception, but since it’s two episodes off from beginning to end, I figure it counts.

  • 24 [Almost] All That Exist: 164 Episodes out of 7 Seasons, 166 Episodes (Current Season Unfinished). [This is the one I haven’t seen all of, two episodes of Season 1 remain.]
  • Twin Peaks – Full Series: 2 Seasons, 30 Episodes [Not Including Fire Walk With Me.]
  • Battlestar Galactica [New Series] – Full Series: 4 Seasons, 73 Episodes [Not Including Miniseries, Razor, or Webisodes.]
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer – All Episodes up to Episode 4 of Season 6: 104 Episodes out of 7 Seasons, 144 Episodes.
  • Firefly – Full Series: 1 Season, 14 Episodes.
  • Life on Mars [UK] – Full Series: 2 Seasons, 16 Episodes. [Not to be confused with the American remake, which is actually pretty good, but I haven’t really seen much of it.]
  • Lost – All That Exist: 5 Seasons, 103 Episodes.
  • Coupling – All Episodes up to Episode 3 of Season 2: 9 Episodes out of 4 Seasons, 28 Episodes. [Only half an hour long.]
  • Doctor Who [New Series] – All That Exist: 4 Seasons, 56 Episodes. [Technically this shouldn’t count, since it’s just a continuation of the old series, which I have seen a lot of, but nowhere near all…]

That’s all I’m sure of. I’m pretty certain I’ve seen at least two-thirds of Arrested Development consecutively, but I don’t know when I stopped, so I’m not counting it. And things like the OC, which I haven’t seen the first part of the first season of, but everything else, are also not on the list. Things like House, Bones, Numbers, which I’ve seen massive amounts of, but not consecutively are not marked down.And some other shows I’m too embarassed to put down. So it’s not perfect. But what can we learn from this? Well, for one thing, you can tell what kind of stuff I like watching. Sci-fi, stuff with a slightly creepy air that’s otherwise normal, and, umm… well I don’t really know where 24 and Coupling come from. You can also see how much of  at least my life, and probably yours too is spent watching television. Just the shows counted is roughly, including the ads (because it’s easier to calculate, although most of these I watched on DVD or streaming online),  564.5 hours, or 23 and a half days. Add to that all the hours I’ve spent watching shows or episodes that I’ve forgotten or not included for other reasons, and you get at least a full month. Which is pretty impressive. And not necessarily in a good way. I’m sure I could have used that time better. But really, I have no regrets (except for some episodes being pretty bad. Maybe those could go.)

And if you add in the time watching movies then… well, that’s not for today.

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A New Direction For The Blog?

16 May, 2009

So, as I apparently find it rather difficult to ever actually write anything in this blog, I’m going to try to switch it over to something that will take less energy, and hopefully still be interesting to read. So, from now on, or at least until I decide to go back to normal (which will probably not be that long), I’m going to post lists and graphs and stuff from my life that I find cool, with ideally hilarious and/or insightful commentary. I guess I’ve already done this before, with my iTunes playcounts, or my meta-graphs about the stats of this blog, and so on.

I will still be posting reviews of things both real and imagined, ideally, on my co-authored blog (that has had no activity for about two months on it), Dream Reviews. And of course, more about me can be found at my travel blog (soon to become a more typical day-to-day blog when I return from my semester abroad in less than two weeks!), Minded Gaps.

Although the title of this blog will not change, at least for now, I’m going to need a new subtitle, to reflect the new topics… Suggestions?