There is a time honored maxim in academia (and elsewhere) that declares that the messier your desk is, the busier you are, and hence the more productive you are. For most of my working life i've been on the opposite end of the spectrum. You see, when my OCD (there's that self-characterization again, i'm beginning to think this isn't a joke) kicks in, i simply cannot continue working without tidying my desk. At minimum such that all my papers and books are in nice piles, at worst such that my desk is spotless and all books and papers are appropriately filed. While i can debate my productivity until the cows come home, i tend to think that for me at least a tidy desk is a mark of efficiency. You see, i leave things on my desk when i can't get to them right away, which means that if there are piles of crap scattered around my office then i have been procrastinating. An empty desk (or email inbox, for that matter) indicates that i am being diligent and tackling tasks as they come. But try explaining that to a peer who pops by your office and is wondering how it could possibly be so clean.
For someone who adored Editors' first two albums, i'm finding In This Light On This Evening almost a betrayal. Yes, in previous concert and album reviews i suggested that they'd better stop relying on Chris Urbanowicz's staccato guitar, however that didn't mean they should abandon it entirely. And it definitely didn't mean they should switch bandwagons to C-grade electro-rock. It's almost like they're charting the direction Joy Division were tipped to pursue before Ian Curtis's demise, only thirty years later and in the midst of legions of other post punk wannabes. Ack.
While my quest for the über-tracker application for iTunes has gone from open source applications like Audioscrobbler to a home grown Visual Basic program called iTunesLog to currently an Applescript application entitled iTunesEvents, one thing i (and others) have continuously struggled with is keeping track of what's played on an iPod. My logging strategy on my main computer focuses on monitoring iTunes and sending play entries to a MySQL database whenever enough of a track is played (usually 50%). The whole reason this is necessary is because iTunes does not keep a complete log of what has been played. It only keeps track of when the last time each track was played, and the total number of times it has been played. Therefore you can generate a "smart playlist" of recently played tracks, but if you played Deerhunter's "Nothing Ever Happened" 20 times, it will only show up once in that playlist. And if you want to ask obtuse questions like "what song did i listen to most in March, 2007?", iTunes can't help you because there is no complete play history. That's why i endeavored to link my play history to a complete MySQL database using a custom-made program.
Enter the iPod problem. Currently i have both my 160GB iPod classic as well as my 8GB iPhone, and i listen to music on each when away from my Mac Pro at work. Each are frequently synched with my main Mac Pro iTunes library. The problem begins with the fact that there is no way to run an application on an iPod that will monitor play habits in real time and send them to a remote database. This may be possible with an iPhone, as it has a network connection and the ability to run custom software, but as yet i haven't undertaken that challenge. Therefore in order to extract an iPod's play history you need to do it at the time it is synched with the main computer. iTunesLog used compare the play dates on an iPod with the main iTunes library whenever an iPod was connected, and would generate a text file of play entries that i could add to my database. However this was in the days when i manually managed my iPod's content. Since becoming a convert to smart playlists, i've had to switch off "manual management", which prevents a program from querying tracks on an iPod. Moreover, my iPods sync immediately on being plugged in, which basically equalizes the play dates between the iPod and iTunes so that this comparison is rendered meaningless.
I'm not the only one who has struggled with this ... Audioscrobbler and last.fm both provide logging tools, but both discuss the issue of getting an iPod play history at length on their support pages and forums. However yesterday i coded what i think is perhaps the best possible solution given iTunes inner workings. My solution doesn't do anything specifically with iPods or iPhones, what it does is compare the iTunes play history with that in the MySQL database. It's a one way comparison ... it basically goes through all the tracks played in iTunes and looks in the database to see if there is an entry with the same (or almost the same) play date. If so, on to the next. If not, then it adds it to the database. This strategy therefore finds tracks that for one reason or another didn't make it into the database, and adds them. This would include tracks played on an iPod or iPhone that has been synched with the iTunes library, or alternately tracks that were played when the MySQL database was down or when the log application wasn't running. It doesn't solve all possible problems ... for example, if my Deerhunter mania continued and i played "Never Stops" all weekend long on my iPod, it would only get added once to the database on the next execution. However, as near as i can tell this is the best solution i'm going to find. I ran it earlier today and found that over the last few years at least 15% of the songs i've played haven't made it into my database. Most certainly more than that, due to the problem mentioned above. However they're in there now. Here's to OCD.
the fucking pubs are fucking dull
the fucking clubs are fucking full
of fucking girls with fucking guys
with fucking murder in their eyes
a fucking bloke gets fucking stabbed
waiting for a fucking cab
you fucking stay at fucking home
the fucking neighbors fucking moan
keep the fucking racket down
this is fucking chickentown
the fucking pies are fucking old
the fucking chips are fucking cold
the fucking beer is fucking flat
the fucking flats have fucking rats
the fucking clocks are fucking wrong
the fucking days are fucking long
it fucking gets you fucking down
When i was just a lad, part of my attempts to shirk convention and cement my non-conformity involved developing a passionate hatred of local heroes the San Francisco 49ers. I can recall rooting for them when they won their first two Super Bowls with Joe Montana, as i was still in elementary school. But by the time the Steve Young era rolled around i was rooting for whoever the Niners were lined up against. So much so that i was getting yelled at by my poor mother, who didn't have the nerve to watch Niner games live and knew that if i was in the other room cheering then something bad was happening. As i was a football fan, i had to have some team to get behind, and as the Raiders were still down in L.A. (and they routinely sucked), the two teams i wound up becoming a fan of were, for no real reason, the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. Both were respectable in the 1988-1992 timeframe, not winning championships but performing adequately. I remember getting really upset after a game in which the Saints blew a chance at the playoffs by letting the Los Angeles Rams come from behind to win. I even remember my favorite player on the Saints, defensive end Pat Swilling. I wanted a Saints baseball hat with "#56 Swilling" printed on the back. Again, for no sensible reason.
Long ago i realized it was ridiculous for me to loathe the 49ers, unfortunately after their glory days and well into their current mediocrity. My fondness for the Vikings and Saints also faded from lack of reason. However this past Sunday my former allegiances went head to head for a place in the Super Bowl, what would be the first for the Saints and a fifth chance for the Vikes to get their first championship. I didn't watch much of the game, but what little i did see put a definite ranking on who my true team was ... who dat? ... the Saints. As the game entered overtime i found myself genuinely nervous that the Saints would lose. Whether this is because i truly love dem Saints or because i can't handle any more Favre gushing, who's to say. But i am feeling a cosmic right that one ended up winning and the other, perhaps more importantly, ended up looooooosing.
On that note, one can only hope that Brett Favre has thrown his last pass in the NFL. And what a perfect ending to his career, as his last throw was a horribly ill-advised cross-field wounded duck that was picked off, ending the Vikes push for a game winning field goal and sending the contest into overtime, where the Saints won the toss, marched downfield, and ended it. The Favre disciples love to tout his gunslinging ways, but i remember plenty of games where he got in a hole, then dug it deeper and deeper by trying to be the hero and throwing more and more bad passes. Four interception games. Games where Favre was undeniably responsible for the loss. His messy divorce from the Packers was more Favre cult revisionism ... nowadays people like to blame the Green Bay brass for letting him go, apparently forgetting that Favre retired and then threw a fit when he changed his mind three months later and found the team in the midst of rebuilding and unwilling to scrap it all to take him back. The fact that he ended up in Minnesota is also frequently explained away ... let's be clear, the chance to go up at least twice against the team that had the audacity to let him go was a huge factor in his decision. I'll admit, i was surprised at his performance this season as Favre appeared to have left his gunslinging ways behind him, trimming down on his mistakes and turning the Vikes from a team with potential to a legitimate powerhouse. I thought he'd get drilled into the turf by week 9 and spend the rest of the season on the bench, but the iron man prevailed. I thought the Vikings had a great shot to best the Saints and make it to the championship game, but at the critical moment Favre's failings reappeared ... a crushing injury that he had to show he could play through (although to be fair, letting Tarvaris Jackson step in would've been much, much worse), and then a horrible pick that he never should've thrown that killed Minnesota's final chance. Brett has undeniable durability and has been an interesting NFL fixture for 19 years, but compared to a Joe Montana? Dan Marino? More recently, Tom Brady? Peyton Manning? Not in the same league. Again, the Favre defenders will point out that he rarely had the supporting cast of those characters, but i can only judge on what i saw. And i saw Favre throwing a lot of bad passes.
V bought me a pair of Ugg slippers last week, and i now find myself putting them on within minutes of walking through the door. I think that makes me officially old.
As mentioned in my re-introductory post, i have fallen out of love with Facebook and Twitter. Now, i was never head over heels into the whole microblogging phenomenon, but lately i've found it harder and harder to ignore their shortcomings. Looking at my Facebook homepage, i find the stream of meaningless chirping (mixing terminology with Twitter here, but it works) maddening. It reminds me of the titular white noise in Don DeLillo's excellent novel ... a neverending torrent (more mixed internet metaphors) of mostly meaningless status updates. This sounds overly harsh against my innocent group friends, and for that i apologize ... i don't mean to denigrate what they put up on the web, but to indict the medium as a whole. Witty remarks or insightful posts get lost amid the slew of crap. At least for me, Facebook provides the illusion that i'm reconnecting with old friends while in reality the connection amounts to learning what they had for breakfast or who they like in this weekend's football games. It's representative of much of my current dissatisfaction with politics and media ... a lot of talking heads providing sound bites about topics that in no way, shape, or form lend themselves to such simplistic representations. However, i'm clearly in the minority on these developments as apparently most of the world would rather have their news and opinions shaped by easy-to-digest bullet points. It also is yet another weapon in the escalating war against intellectualism in this country. The resemblance to DeLillo's not-so-distant dystopian future where rampant consumerism limits the depth of human interaction and endeavors is frightening.
I must provide some disclaimers before going further ... 1) i am not suggesting that my Facebook/Twitter (TwitBook? Facer?), or fac13 posts are more valuable than anyone else's, 2) i am not suggesting that those who use and enjoy microblogging sites are inherently dumb, and 3) despite my distaste, i continue to use both Facebook and Twitter. As with most things i post here, this tirade is purely a means of me analyzing what is and isn't working for me at this point in time ... according to Unix, that would be exactly 1264209920 seconds after midnight, January 1, 1970.
As people who know me will attest, i need a bit more than 140 characters to really build up a head of steam in my ramblings. Therefore, i hope to shift more of my speculations back onto fac13 in the coming weeks and months, and leave my Facebook and Twitter pages to languish in disuse. Except for the occasional flood of Cafeworld messages as Vroo maintains my restaurant venture.
Three or four years ago i had a perfect storm of sorts during the winter holiday. During a rather severe December storm our toilet and tub backed up, prompting a six week series of drain snakings, negotiations with Roto-Rooter, calls to the Redwood City sewage office, and destruction and renovation of our front sidewalk. While we've had intermittent drainage problems thereafter, this issue hasn't weighed on my mind nearly as much as the other effect of the winter storm: the formation of a variety of ponds in our back driveway. Depending on the intensity of the rain, we acquire a puddle in the middle of our driveway, equidistant from the edge of the house and the garage. If the rain keeps up, i can worryingly watch this lagoon expand until it begins to approach the buildings. In addition, thanks to an errant gutter spout that empties too close to the house and walkways that over time no longer slant away from the building, some water also drains into the crawl space and forms puddles down there. Over time there've been a handful of storms that have caused this to happen, and each time i've sat inside chewing on my fingernails fearing the impending collapse of our humble home from a little water. Right now California is in the midst of perhaps the most fierce winter storm in recent memory, with the rain having begun early Monday morning and expected to continue into next week with only minimal breaks. Monday morning i went to work in the rain and came home in the afternoon to find the rain had ceased and the puddles had abated. Same thing Tuesday. By the time V and i left this morning the puddles had reached their usual perch maybe six feet from the buildings, but on the way to drop V at Caltrain the rain continued to come in sheets and i wondered if Tara was floating on her ottoman back at home. It let up a bit at lunch, but walking by the lobby just now i see the gray descending again and know the next squall is on its way.
Now, when this first happened i was in the back yard in the rain with a bucket bailing water from the crawl space and driveway into the bushes. V and her mom laughed at me, saying that our 75 year old house had survived rain before and would again. Somehow in the four years since i've taken this to heart, to the point today that when V mentioned the idea of sandbags i basically blew it off. Que sera, sera. Perhaps i'm secretly pining to see Tara get her sea legs. This "who cares?" attitude is even more inexplicable given that recently i've taken a renewed interest in developing our abode, mounting our flat panel TV on the wall and renovating our sideboard into an entertainment center through the addition of some internal shelves.
I'll survey the damage in a few hours when i get home. Until then, i hope Tara is good at bailing water.
Man, it's been a long time since i opened this up and began typing. Oh, the days, weeks, and months that have passed. The exact duration is lost in the mists of the past ... no wait, i can look at the time stamp. 11 months, 27 days, 7 hours, and 22 minutes. There is no single reason for my absence, just the usual explanation of having too much to do. Aka, being all grown up. I think at 35 there is no way i can rationalize considering myself a "youth" anymore, and that pains me. For god's sake, i'm being referred to as "senior faculty" in my division at Stanford. How the hell did that happen?
But i digress ... the neglect for fac13 actually quite pained me, as relating my experiences and ponderings here has been a treasured and valuable means of self-analysis and reflection over the six years and eight months this site was functionally active. And beyond, as in the 11 months, 27 days, blah blah blah since 10:34am, 2/23/2009, i've read and reread portions of my ramblings. Therefore, here i am again. And, in all honesty, i'm hoping to return to my posting frequency of yore.
I've tried to fill the fac13 void via Twitter and Facebook, and in some ways they have sufficed. Certainly, the imposed brevity of postings there makes it easier to keep up. But therein lies my problem ... how much wisdom can you cram into 140 characters? Elitist, perhaps, but i find Twitter culture exceedingly shallow and lacking wit. Facebook is marginally better, but my antisocial streak causes a problem there. You see, some things i want to record in print not to start a water cooler conversation but just to expose myself. There the possibility of one of my jackass friends (apologies) cracking wise after i've let my guard down has poisoned Facebook for me to an extent. And each time i've stared at the Twitter or Facebook posting form lamenting their shortcomings, i've thought of my beloved fac13.
And so here i am. And there you are. Or not. Either way, i'm smiling.