Sep 21

Too hip for CDs? Give me a break.

A breathless Gizmodo post announces that CDs are dead, thanks to a Blaupunkt car receiver that has a Secure Digital memory card slot, but doesn’t play CDs. The “sweet little player” sells for $180.
Apparently I’m supposed to be impressed by this, but my reaction is “Big deal.” My car has had a receiver with an SD slot for the better part of a year. It’s a VR3 unit (from Virtual Reality Sound Labs) that I bought at Wal-Mart for $80, and it has a USB port and a CD player in addition to the memory card slot. (Gizmodo’s claim that the Blaupunkt receiver “accepts USB devices” appears to be just plain wrong; there’s no USB port in the picture, and the Technical Details on the Blaupunkt site do not even mention USB. It’s SD or nothing, unless you want to plug an external player into the AUX jack on the front panel.)
I don’t see what’s so “sweet” about a car receiver that costs more than twice what I paid for mine, but has fewer features. Perhaps the “hipness” of this unit is worth an extra $100 to some people, but I didn’t buy my car receiver to impress people. I bought it so I could listen to audio recordings in my car. As for Gizmodo’s suggestion that I take a shovel and bury my CD collection: sure thing, guys. Just as soon as you provide, at your own expense, MP3 replacements for every CD track I own. My CDs are DRM-free, so of course I’ll only accept DRM-free digital files to replace them. Good luck finding those.
Source: Instapundit

Sep 10

Tessellate the cheese

Ruth brought this cartoon to my attention:

This reminded me of something from my own experience. When Bob and I were at university together, the main cafeteria at the student center had several serving lines, one of which specialized in Mexican fast food: tacos, burritos, chimichangas, and so forth. The food was pretty good, but the staff didn’t seem to understand burritos. They were folding the tortilla instead of rolling it, so the burritos came out square, which is just plain wrong.

Bob found this greatly annoying. The cafeteria had a suggestion box, so he wrote what was undoubtedly the most detailed suggestion they ever got: a page-long set of instructions on how to roll a burrito properly, complete with diagrams. (This was many years before either of us had any idea that Bob would end up pursuing a career in technical writing.) I don’t think the cafeteria’s burrito-rolling technique showed any improvement as a result, but at least Bob knew that he had done all he could to address the problem.

Since this story is all about Bob, you may wonder why I’m telling it instead of him. Actually, I suggested that he write a blog post about it, but he says he has no memory of the whole thing. Well, I was there, and it really happened, no matter what he says.

UPDATE: Ben points out this Consumerist post: Subway’s Incorrect Use Of Isosceles Cheese Actually A Vast Conspiracy

Sep 09

D&D Fourth Edition Q&A

Wizards of the Coast released Episode 15 of the D&D Podcast today, and this one has some solid information about the upcoming Fourth Edition. It’s a question and answer session in which Dave Noonan and Mike Mearls respond to two dozen questions from gamers about the new edition. You can see a list of the questions in the show notes, but here are some highlights:

  • How will players convert their 3E characters (and campaigns) to 4E?
  • Will action points be part of the core game?
  • How will encumbrance be handled?
  • Is the monetary system being revamped?
  • What about critical hits?

To hear the answers, you’ll have to listen to the show. What are you waiting for?
(If you don’t know what action points are, you haven’t played in the Eberron setting. But Ben has, and he’s promised to explain how action points work.)

Sep 08

Rats having fun

Most people are bewildered when I tell them that my family has pet rats. Having been indoctrinated with the conventional image of rats as nasty, disease-carrying vermin, they can’t imagine why anyone would want to have such creatures as pets. Of course they don’t realize that domesticated fancy rats are as different from feral rats as dogs are from wolves. I sometimes try to explain how gentle, affectionate, and fun our rats are, but it’s difficult to communicate in words.
From now on, I’m just going to point people to this video. It does an excellent job of conveying how entertaining pet rats can be. I hope the young lady who made the video is planning to pursue a career in television or film production, because she’s quite good at it. Other people have made video recordings of their rats and posted them on YouTube, but those are usually unedited footage and rather boring. This one is not only well edited, but also makes clever use of camera angles and music. Nice work, Linda!

Sep 07

The last one to know

I shouldn’t read comments on YouTube; I really shouldn’t. I’m not sure why the overwhelming majority of the comments on YouTube videos are posted by subliterate morons, but I have seen enough of them to know that this is the case. I know that reading the comments will just infuriate me, so it would be best for everyone if I just refrained from looking.
But sometimes I forget. In this case, I was watching this new music video, a duet sung by Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson. I foolishly allowed my eyes to stray downward, and found myself reading this:
“I didn’t even know Reba could sing, it sounds amazing with her, the original is great too though.”
You didn’t know. . . that Reba McEntire. . . could sing?
I know she’s done a lot of acting, and perhaps you first encountered her in that context. But still — you didn’t know she could sing?
She’s one of the best-selling country music artists of all time: over 60 million records sold. Her first #1 single was in 1982. She’s recorded 29 albums and earned 72 awards. The Country Music Association named her Female Vocalist of the Year four years in a row. And you didn’t know she could sing?
I know a lot of people don’t listen to country or pay any attention to the careers of country musicians. But Reba is a lot more than just a country singer. She’s a crossover international pop megastar. That acting work of hers that I referred to earlier? It included performing on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun, and at Carnegie Hall in South Pacific: classics of musical theatre.
Yes, Reba McEntire can sing.
Good Lord.

Sep 06

The politics of zombies

I recently became aware that some people are supporting Zombie Reagan as a presidential candidate in the 2008 election. Their Reagan nostalgia is understandable, but the idea is doomed to failure.
Most people don’t know this, but zombies are not eligible for the office of President. After the constitutional crisis of 1945 (in which Zombie Roosevelt challenged the succession of Harry Truman), the Constitution was amended to specifically prohibit undead Presidents. The amendment has been the focus of continued debate among constitutional scholars, some of whom have suggested that a zombie would have been preferable to certain postwar Presidents. But no proposal to modify the prohibition has gained sufficient support in Congress. This is is probably because undead politicians prefer to pursue careers in the Senate (which has no ban on zombies and no term limit), and would rather not call attention to the issue. Strom Thurmond, Robert Byrd, and Ted Stevens have all reportedly used their influence to ensure that any zombie-related bills die in committee.
Some students of Futurama have suggested that the repeal of the no-zombie-Presidents rule is inevitable, citing the victory of Richard Nixon’s head in the 3000 election. Critics have countered that Nixon’s head was elected President of the United States of Earth, not the USA. And it remains unclear whether a severed head kept alive in a jar meets the legal definition of “undead”. The question will probably have to be settled by the Supreme Court, and we won’t know whether this has happened until new episodes of Futurama are produced.

Sep 05

Be very afraid

Scientists are continually finding new evidence that everything is trying to kill you, and I do my best to point out new findings of this sort. In the past, I’ve warned you to be afraid of church air and flip-flops. Today I’m also warning you that laser printers and microwave popcorn are deadly. As a precaution, you should wear a hazmat suit at all times while in your office — and at home, too, if you have any laser printers or microwave popcorn there. No need to thank me; I’m just posting this information as a public service.
UPDATE: In order to better highlight this sort of news, I have created a new category of blog posts called “Things that will kill you.”