Just finished reading a book for a class, and it made me realize my parents’ house had a “usability bug” when they bought it. The front entrance is a set of double doors. On the inside, there were two doorknobs. Only the right of the two doors opened, so only righthand doorknob would let you out if you turned it. And this knob only worked if you turned it clockwise. Didn’t confuse us expert users who lived there, but it took some explaining to guests (“try the other one. No, turn it the other way.”). Anyway, just had to capture this example somewhere. ‘Bout time I took down the Christmas decorations on this blog, too.

So I’m in my second semester studying information. Classes this semester are

About those “links” links: for fun (and reference) I’ve been tagging class-related links on with the course number. Which brings me to my other point: if you get bored watching this space and its non-updated-ness, try the super-duper feedburner feed which includes those delicious links and my flickr photos, as well as the main nonsense here. But wait there’s more! I threw together a Yahoo! Pipes feed that comes with all that, plus the amazing Twitter feed!

That is all. See you in May?

Β update 2/22/2008: a)The title of this post was inspired by this OK/Cancel comic from 2004. b) This post is now the 3rd google hit for the term “usamajility.”

Shrink-wrap agreements for people!

First,I’ll post in full the text of a certain policy/license agreement:

This is your 3-day wristband for 2007 ACL Music Festival. Wristband must be worn all three days for entry into the Festival. The wristband will be scanned at Festival entrance to allow entry. It is your responsibility to keep wristband secure and in-tact and to ensure no attempts of duplication are made. Subsequent and/or multiple presentations of a counterfeited wristband are VOID and will be seized by Festival security staff. Wristband must fit securely on wrist and cannot be slipped on and off. Wristbands are non-transferable, non-exchangeable and cannot be replaced. Do not remove, stretch or tamper with your wristband in any way or you will not be allowed entry. If the wristband is tampered with or mangled it can not be replaced. Lost or stolen wristbands cannot be replaced. Event takes place rain or shine. THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS WRISTBAND POLICY.

Unfortunately, I did not see this policy until the Festival was over and I had removed my wristband … because it was printed on the inside of the wristband, which was firmly attached to my wrist by Festival staff when I entered the gates on Friday. The outside of the wristband does bear a similar warning in much shorter form:


Silly legal statements aside, this year’s ACL Fest was (musically) great .. off the top of my head, my top 10 would probably be:

  • Gotan Project
  • Arcade Fire
  • Wilco
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Bjork
  • Regina Spektor
  • Andrew Bird
  • Ghostland Observatory
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Ocote Soul Sounds (joint thinger between Grupo Fantasma and Antibalas)

So the music was awesome. The weather was hot, no surprises there. The parking wasn’t too bad, got plenty of exercises walking to and from. The crowds though … maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but it seems ridiculous to have to fight your way to a stage, and still be a quarter-mile away, and then when you sit down, to have to arrange chairs and everything to keep people from creating a pathway right in front of you. And the pathways are there, it seems, because about 1/2 the crowd shows up late because they were watching another band, and the other 1/2 leaves early to go find a spot at another stage for another band.

Alright, I think that’s about enough ranting … I will say that at this point I’m disinclined to go to ACL Fest next year, especially if ticket prices go up yet again. But I probably said the same thing last year. πŸ˜‰

update (9/26/2007): Tickets for next year’s ACL Festival just went on sale (already!). The super low Earlybird Ticket Price is $135 (compare with $120 this year). Meh.

back to school

Howdy, faithful blog readers and random web wanderers!
You have not been forgotten or abandoned!

figured I should post a quick update to let the internets know that I’ve taken a leave from my full-time paying gig and gone back to school. I’m now officially a graduate student at the School of Information at UT. Fascinating stuff so far. I’m finally getting to explore and learn about all kinds of stuff I’ve found interesting but “didn’t have time for.” But this is a “quick update” so I won’t go into that now — I’ll save it for another post, assuming I can write something before another 3 months go by.

Also, I had to post something so that the title of the top post didn’t contain the words “bloated vienna sausage.”

We’ve secretly replaced Larry’s regular finger with a bloated vienna sausage .. let’s see if he notices.

Following the theme of “trouble with critters” this blog seems to be taking on, I was stung by a wasp this past Sunday. I was out on the deck after checking on some meats grilling on the grill .. I think he lives under the railing. It happened so fast that I was yelling and shaking it off before my brain had a chance to process the sentence “wasp stung me!” Didn’t actually see the bug(ger).

But the “vienna sausage” bit is true .. it didn’t actually swell a whole lot until the next morning, but now I can’t bend the finger very well. And it looks even sillier when I straighten it because the knuckle sticks up like a camel hump.

So this is the excitement in my life right now — random animal invasions and attacks. More intersting blogginess will soon return, I promise.

In other non-wildlife news, I did get a new laptop recently, as an early birthday present. It’s a ThinkPad X60 tablet. Very nifty so far, except for Windows Vista, which seems a bit of step backwards from XP in terms of speed and annoyingness. However, speed issues (time-to-hibernate, -boot, -sleep, switch users, etc) have improved a bit with the latest updates. The Annoyingness mainly shows up when installing new software (“Cancel or Allow” ad nauseum). I will eventually install Ubuntu and dual boot it, but I’m afraid I’ll lose some of the nifty tablet stuff that Vista does well. Like handwriting recognition, which is nifty.

I should get back to work … but now someone down the hall is playing guitar … ?!?

*update*: re-reading the previous post, I noticed I said “check back in another two months” … so I was only 3 days off that prediction, totally by accident.

in the belfry?

Well, not exactly … bats in our bedroom though. Alright, just one bat.

So, Natalie’s already asleep, I’m in bed but still awake, watching the tube. Then I hear this scritching noise. Probably one of the cats, I think at first. But it’s different than a cat-trying-to-wake-up-the-humans noise .. and it seems to be coming from overhead. So I pick up my cell phone, turn it on, and shine the screen upwards, and there’s this odd, lumpy shadow on one side of the beam that runs the along the peak of the ceiling. So I get a brighter light, and there’s definitely something there. I wake up Natalie and turn on the overhead light, and it’s apparent that a small furry-ish lump with limbs is attached to our bedroom ceiling. The million-candle-power spotlight leaves no doubt — it is a bat.

So we’re both wide awake now, but extremely tired. Googled a bit on “bats in houses”, and we’ve decided to follow the CDC’s advice and try to get the poor thing tested for rabies somehow. It’s locked up alone in the bedroom, we’re in the guest room. We still have no idea how long it’s been in the house, or how it got inside.

The City of Austin’s website says to call 311, so we did that .. said they’d send someone out tonight to catch it and have it tested.

Update: so I called “city wide information” (311) at 2am, animal control called back at 7:30am, showed up at our door a little after 9am, Bruce Wayne was gone by 9:30. The officer took down some information, including home phone number, so after they run tests they can let us know if we have rabies.

Or you could just wait and see if this blog starts foaming at the mouth.

Need more sleep now. Check back in another two months, maybe I’ll post something else. πŸ˜‰

the randomness of iPods

This was too freaky not to blog about: the iPod just played the same song twice in a row, by different artists. First it played Led Zeppelin’s original “Trampled Underfoot,” immediately followed by the same as performed by Benevento/Russo Duo, recording available on Good stuff.

In other news … work! I am busy and getting busier all the time. I am learning quite a bit though, and not just technical knowledge. πŸ˜‰

Also, we’ve had some serious weather here this week. In Texas, the slightest bit of ice on the roads will shut everything down. They put sand on the roads (not salt), and since it only happens once a year, no one remembers how to drive in this weather. And this time we got enough ice to shut down Austin for three days. But thanks to marvelous technological advancements such as VPN’s and toll-free conference call lines, I was able to work from home Monday through Wednesday.

Wow, last post was in October .. better give some more updates then: Thanksgiving was good, Christmas was good. For more details, you might check out Natalie’s blog.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled radio silence, already in progress.

more music! and stuff

This is turning into a very music-oriented blog. We saw The Decemberists last night at Stubb’s … great show! some notes:

  • after the opener was done (Lavender Diamond, also good .. and I swear I’ve heard one of their songs (You Broke My Heart) before, but I can’t figure out where, and I don’t really remember their name), they started playing a recording of Peter and the Wolf over the sound system
  • When the band was about to come on they had this funny intro (maybe this is standard for their shows, I don’t know): something about “please be courteous to those around you” and ” turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself”
  • I’ve only heard songs from Castaways and Cutouts (since that’s the only CD we own by them), and they only played two songs from that one .. but it was still really good

In other news: been busy lately.
Work: changed positions and departments and buildings back in June. Same company though. Liking it so far — learning a lot.
Non-work: seems like we’ve had something to do almost every weekend since summer started. Either out of town or busy with something at home.

That’s it for now, back to work with ye!

Brain not yet operational, please drink more coffee and try again later.

ACLF 2006 – post-fest notes

I got worn out the 2nd and 3rd days of ACL Fest, and didn’t get around to blogging it in a timely manner. It was, overall, a good time.

* I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – I think we decided we had to see them based on the name of the band and the 30-second clip on . Turned out to be pretty good
* Ben Kweller – heard him at a previous ACLF, but this time he had to quit early due to an unstoppable nosebleed
* Nada Surf – good stuff, but I only listened for a while before getting light-headed and realizing I should probably eat something.
* The Shins – I was looking forward to these guys .. turned out alright, but nothing special .. I think the heat was keeping me from getting too excited about any of the bands.
* What Made Milwaukee Famous – another local band with a semi-long name, another band I’m glad to have discovered at the festival .
we kinda split up after eating .. I wandered around and caught parts of
* Iron and Wine – didn’t stick around very long, even though I like all of the studio stuff I’ve heard
* Explosions in the Sky – great to finally hear them live .. never realized just how loud their songs are supposed to be πŸ™‚ seemed like the perfect setting for this band, too: outside at night
* Brazillian Girls – heard while waiting in the port-a-potty line. sounded cool, may have to check out more.
* Willie Nelson – of course. never seen him in concert before, sounded great. I’m not a huge fan, but I did know most of the songs I heard.
* Massive Attack – sounded good, backdrop on the stage looked cool (some kind of enormous spectrum analyzer type thing), but I think I was just to tired by this point to really get into it. Or I didn’t have enough drugs in my system. πŸ˜›

* Damien “Jr Gong” Marley – caught the tail end as we got to the park, sounded cool
* Jose Gonzalez – very cool, but very quiet and relaxing. guy in front of us left cause he didn’t want to fall asleep. He played that one song (the name of which I still don’t know) they used in the Sony Bravia commercial with all the bouncy balls ..
* Matisyahu – a Hasidic reggae band. good stuff, but we were really there to get a good spot for the Flaming Lips πŸ˜‰
* Son Volt – as people left when Matisyahu was done, we moved up closer to the AT&T stage (and ran into some more friends) in preparation for lip flamage. Since the Heineken stage was opposite the AT&T, we just turned around and listened from there.
* The Flaming Lips’ lived up to their reputation as one of the best live bands – easily the best of the weekend! Confetti everywhere, giant inflatable puppet things, aliens and santa clauses living together .. Mass hysteria! If you ever have the chance, go see them! πŸ˜€ I’m sure we will next time they’re in Austin
* G. Love & Special Sauce – again, just turned around to listen. I think I’ve seen them at every ACL Fest I’ve been to
* Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – started off good and strong, but then the Flaming Lips curse took effect and the sky opened up (Wayne Coyne claimed whenever the Flaming Lips played outdoors, the rain would stop just before they played and then continue when they were done). So the band left the stage while the crowd stood around (or went home) in ponchos and umbrellas . They finally came back and played a half-four past the original end-time of 10pm, and then a 3-song encore after that. More good stuff, knew almost all the songs but were tire *and* soaked at this point, so it was hard to get real excited.

I guess I keep mentally comparing this year’s festival to 3 years ago, when REM closed out day 3 with a completely awesome show. Also, 2003 had much better weather – mostly overcast, but not much actual rain. Still, it was mostly a good weekend.

Natalie was at home, sick on Saturday πŸ™ , but felt good enough on Sunday to come back πŸ™‚

I took today off work (as planned), but still didn’t post Sunday’s pictures on flickr. Instead, I dug through the Live Music Archive looking for artists whose sets we had to skip. Don’t see any of this weekends’ shows on, but I did find a taping of Guster’s set on etree

ACL Fest 2006, Day 1

Howdy! Long time, no blog! How the heck are ya?

Just a quick post about the first day of the festival in case I don’t remember later which bands we saw.

  • Benevento Russo Duo – hadn’t heard of these guys but they were pretty good
  • Asleep at the Wheel – stayed in the shade of the wine tent for these guys, but they sounded great
  • Ted Leo + the Pharmacists – not as good as I was expecting, but still ok .. seemed like the heat was getting to Ted. They did play “Me and Mia”, which was nifty.
  • deadboy and the Elephantmen – another band I’d never heard before that turned out to be really cool
  • Stars – we just kinda hung out in the shade for this one too, but
  • Gnarls Barkley – sounded good, but things were so crowded by this point that it was hard to see much
  • Gomez – sounded alright, again from the shade of the trees, next to the VH1 “Confessional Booth”
  • Sara Hickman – cute stuff at the kiddy stage .. some song about Radiation Man, and Iolana and here llama, but I think we missed the Cantalope song
  • Thievery Corporation – different that what I expected, but really cool .. very eastern sounding with the sitar and stuff. The only song I’d heard previously was Lebanese Blonde, but the rest of their stuff was great too. Also, it’s apparently pronounced Teevery Corporation (ya mon!) πŸ˜‰
  • Van Morrison – good stuff, but we were pretty tired by this point .. I didn’t stand up so I didn’t see much, but they sounded great

Other notes:

It was hot. I almost know how it feels to be a whelk in a supernova. Some rain would be great, but it keeps raining at our house up north but not on Zilker Park. Also, I’m apparently not so good at applying sunscreen — I got sunburned on my left hand (minus the wristband), my knees, and the back of my right leg (?!).

Hot and crunchy chicken cones from Hudson’s on the Bend were tasty. Also popcorn from Children of the Kettle Corn.

Today: The Shins, Calexico, Iron and Wine, Explosions in the Sky, Willie Nelson, Massive Attack, Nada Surf, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, and more sunscreen and liquids

mplayer and fifo’s

If you happen to be taking advantage of the -input file=pipe_file feature of @mplayer@, make sure your $HOME variable is defined whenever you launch mplayer. Otherwise, for some reason, mplayer won’t open the pipe for reading, so the commands don’t get through. And any process that tries to write a command to the pipe will hang.

(I’m messing with launching mplayer from a cgi script, and apparently my cgi scripts have no $HOME. )