Jun 15, 2016 - Chromecast Audio

Got my chromecast audio today - a streamer that plugs directly into a speaker and is controlled from chromecast-enabled apps on the phone. So now I can listen to music without having to turn on the TV. Just like 20 years ago, except I don’t even have to walk across the room to change the CD.

Excellent!

I am using the LocalCast app on my android phone to stream from my media player (a little Linux box). The app works really well and doesn’t try to phone home for ads: you pay a one-time fee to the developer and ads are a thing of the past. I like it.

Update: The app doesn’t work quite as well as I thought. It drops the cast connection periodically (like 30 minutes).

Feb 09, 2016 - Facebook

I finally (errr, once again) got sick of facebook and deleted my account. It won’t actually be deleted for two weeks, but I can wait.

Here’s the thing: if I am in a good mood and I visit facebook, I become sad. If I am feeling shitty and I visit facebook, I feel shittier. Why would I want something like that in my life?

Maybe there was just too much redundant political stuff. Maybe it was the endless stream of comments from nitwits. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was a giant time-suck. Before deleting the account I looked at my timeline - I had to have been spending an awful lot of time on facebook, “liking” stuff, commenting, posting. Jesus Christ in a box, what a fucking waste.

Twitter is better for me, in the sense that I am never tempted to use it.

Dec 08, 2015 - Roku3

I finally got around to replacing my old Roku with a Roku 3, and what a difference! It is fast, nice UI, and all of the Roku channels that I care about just work.

I also upgraded my router recently, and got a huge speed boost as a result. So with those two upgrades I’m finally able to get Hulu to work, which means I have a sizable part of the Criterion Collection films available. This makes me very happy. And, too, there is Amazon video, which is pretty nice if you have Amazon Prime.

The combination of Roku and Chromecast means I can pretty much cut the cord with Dish Network - not that I’ll actually do that, but I could, nearly.

Dec 08, 2015 - Justhost

I changed web host today, moving from justhost.com to a2hosting.com. I was pretty happy with justhost for the first 18 months, but for the past 3 weeks my website has been down, and the response from justhost has been unimpressive. They have variously claimed that the server is under constant DDoS attack, or that (somehow) another user on the shared host was preventing access to the server.

So I finally got fed up and switched to a2hosting.com. I have a very simple static site, so setup was a breeze. The whole process took less than an hour, including updating DNS records and transferring content to the new server.

We’ll see if I have a better experience here than at justhost.

Update December 8: still good. My external prober says that the website occasionally times out on connection, but it’s rare, and generally the site is quite responsive.

Jan 20, 2014 - Gin Comparison

I did a taste test comparison of three gins last night: Hendricks, Seagram’s Dry, and Uncle Val’s. I was about to the bottom of the Uncle Val’s and decided I should see how it stacks up against better known brands.

You probably haven’t heard of Uncle Val’s; I hadn’t until Joanne brought it home a year or so ago. It’s a very botanical gin, with an almost flowery finish. No off tastes. Perfect, really, for negronis, slightly less so for martinis.

Hendricks has a quite warm flavor - it’s hard to describe, but you get a sensation of warmth on the tongue. It has a very pleasant and (for gin) unobtrusive flavor. I’ve found that it makes a fine martini.

Seagram’s Dry had a distinctively chemical flavor by contrast. Not especially unpleasant, but not really in the same league as the other two. This isn’t a gin I would normally buy - we ended up with it through a long unfortunate series of events.

Uncle Val’s is bottled by 35 Maple St. in Bend, Oregon. It’s a 90 proof gin distilled from grain.

Oh, and the martini I made with the last shot of Uncle Val’s was delicious.

Nov 16, 2013 - Dirty Wars

Jeremy Scahill’s documentary Dirty Wars is now available on NetFlix. Scahill has been reporting on aspects of our Middle Eastern wars for the better part of a decade, most famously with his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Dirty Wars deals with the rise of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), a secretive special operations branch of the military specializing in snatch-and-grab raids, assassination, and a portion of the government’s worldwide drone war. The documentary begins with a look at a raid in Afghanistan in which a US trained police lieutenant and two pregnant woman were killed. Naturally the Pentagon press release claimed that 5 militants were killed in the raid, and attempted to discredit the Guardian reporter who had learned differently, Eventually the truth came out (after ongoing denials from the Pentagon).

From there Scahill moves on to Yemen, then Somalia, and back to Yemen, closing with the drone attack / assassinations of Anwar al Awlaki and, two weeks later, his 16 year old son Abdulrahman.

Sep 16, 2013 - Ugetsu Monogatari

Ugetsu Monogatari (1953, Daiei Film, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi) is widely regarded as one of the great films of all times. It is set in late 17th century Japan, a time of turbulence and war. The story is about two peasant families who get caught up in the violence. It’s sometimes characterized as a “ghost” story, but the ghost aspect is mostly incidental to the main storyline. Mostly this is a story about greed, poor decisions, violence, and loss. The acting is low-key, at least by Japanese standards of the time: natural, understated, but moving.

It was shown on TCM recently, and is available at the Criterion Collection.

Sep 16, 2013 - Safety Last

I watched Safety Last (1923, Hal Roach Studios, starring Harold Lloyd) again last night. Even after 90 years this is still a very funny film. The comic timing is spot on, and the famous building-climb at the end is still breathtaking. It was shown on TCM in early September 2013, and is available in the Criterion Collection on DVD.

Sep 07, 2013 - Tcm Showing The Story Of Film

TCM began a 15 week series on Monday, September 2, 2013, showing the 15 part series The Story of Film - an Odyssey, the brilliant film history by Mark Cousins. I watched the series on Netflix a while back, and found it fascinating. TCM is showing the series as well as many of the movies described in the series. This is quite a treat since many of the films are quite hard to find, and expensive.

The first week, TCM showed a set of short films produced by the Edison company in the 1890s, as well as some films by Meliers and the Lumiere brothers. The films are quite short and, of course, primitive by today’s standards, but often entertaining. It’s astonishing that the films have been preserved. In the case of the Edison films what was preserved was not the film but photographs of each frame of the film and printed in bound books and registered with the copyright office. At the time it was not possible to copyright films (they were brand new technology), but Edison wanted a way to prevent them being pirated. The printed photographs were later transferred back to film, and so they’ve remained available to this day.

Anyway, if you enjoy film history be sure to check out TCM on Mondays from now through November.

Sep 07, 2013 - Gilda 1946

I watched the movie Gilda a few nights ago. It was released in 1946 and starred a very young Glenn Ford and a sizzlin’ hot Rita Hayworth. The movie is set in Argentina in 1946. Glenn Ford plays a professional gambler with advanced card manipulation skills and a handy set of loaded dice. He tries (successfully) to cheat at a local gambling hall, but is caught and roughed up, but later talks the casino owner into hiring him. He soon becomes casino manager and a friend and confidante of the owner. He also meets the owner’s wife, the much younger and free spirited Rita Hayworth. You get the idea that Ford and Hayworth have met before; certainly they seem to have an instant dislike of one another. But, as you can imagine, they eventually have an affair, the husband finds out, and the situation gets ugly.

The main attraction of this movie is the early noir atmosphere, and the chemistry between Ford and Hayworth. And, of course, Hayworth. It’s not a movie that ever made anyone’s 100 best list, but it’s entertaining, well made, and well acted.