Tuesday, October 31, 2006

50,000 words and you win!

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month.

Everyone should be encouraged to go out and write a 50,000 word novel, finish it by the end of the month, and send it to everyone for Christmas. That way, you have a novel, your friends and family all have gifts, and once everyone notices the sheer number of typos, you will all have something to laugh about for years.

No, I'm not writing a novel this month, but I AM planning on writing a screenplay this month. I just got wind of a new writing contest and am psyching myself up for it.

Even When there is No Homework, I Make Homework

I recently attended a series of coffee classes at White Rock Coffee (hands down the BEST COFFEE SHOP in the Dallas area).

The owners were kind enough to let me bring my camcorder and film the classes, so I made a little video about the class. And here it is...

Monday, October 30, 2006

It is all about how the information is presented…

I have an addiction to comic books.

Ten to fifteen years ago, I started spending on the average of $150 to $250 a month on comics. I did not see this as a problem, even in the time period where I would sometimes choose comics over the weekly pizza that would stretch out over at least four days.

Then I got married, and my wife pointed out to me that I was buying the comics three times each – once when they came out in the monthly serialized format, once again when they came out in a collected paperback version, and a third time when they came out in a slick, hardcover version. The marriage mandate was that I only could buy a comic once. And now I have a nice collection of sweet, sweet artistic-looking hard covers and a little more storage space than I had before.

I was still spending over $100 a month on these hard covers, but didn’t see that as a problem, because it wasn’t like the old days when I spend $250 a month.

Recently, I switched from swinging by the comic book store to pick up my books to having them mailed to my doorstep. And now that I see the manifests, I discovered that I get about 29 pounds of comics a month.

29 pounds.

For whatever reason, showing me the amount of money I spent on comics, or showing the amount of square footage the comics take up in the house didn’t impress me as much as the sheer weight of these books.

29 pounds.

I have a problem. For years people have been telling me that this is a problem, but it hasn’t sunk in until now. Because money is one thing but weight is something else entirely.

29 pounds.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Why I Could Never Run for Office

It looks like I'm in the top 20 of a Huffington Post Write the Caption for this Photo Contest. Because everyone is voting in the comments thread, I keep checking the post every three and a half minutes, just to see if more people are voting for me. And what do you know? Some people are.

Watching the voting process in action is quite nerve-wracking. More than I thought possible.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

So I signed up for a Flickr Account...

It looks like I was able to post few pictures from the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this morning.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Christmas Gift Idea

Ok, I saw this on one of the science blogs I read.

But, truly, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel when we need stuffed pee and poo.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Test test test

Ok, so in my spare time I'm producing an educational podcast. I'm doing things a little differently behind-the-scenes wise, and need to tweak things here and there.

So I'm putting out this test file to see if this works.

Pay no attention to this post.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Podcasts I Like: Techie Podcasts

Remember how you searched for the word “the” on Google and got over 15,470,000,000 responses? Ok, when you search for technology-related podcasts, you will get about twice that number.

Narrowing it down to five was difficult, and I might get some heat because three of the five come from CNET. Sorry folks, CNET does some really great work. They deserve every bit of kudos the world has to offer.

These techie podcasts reflect more of my particular sensibilities, too. They are geeky, but still accessible for tha layman with interest in the shiny fandangle world of the internets. Many of these podcasts also focus on the business and politics of technology, which can be even more interesting than eloquent code.

  1. Buzz Out Loud from CNET – This is the news of the day bundled with commentary and snark. What really makes this (and all of CNET’s podcasts, really) stand out from the crowd is the combination of vibrant personalities and the awareness that the audience is going to be a mix of super-techies and non-techies. You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to “get” the show – it works on the layman’s level as well. Plus 2/3 of the people on the shows are ladies who like technology. Anthropologists should listen to this show just to observe the peek into internet-based gender relations. (My favorite moments are the occasional bits of pleading centered around “Stop the marriage proposals.”)
  2. Slashdot Review – Andy McCasky reads the headlines from Slashdot, and adds an occasional piece of commentary. This is a great, brief dash of technology news that is perfect for driving to work.
  3. One Minute Tip – It is very rarely exactly one minute long, but this podcast contains a little, “nice to know” tip on a weekly basis. Most of the tips focus on iTunes, Photoshop, and Macintosh issues, but every once in awhile, other topics are discussed.
  4. Tech News from News.com – This is like Buzz Out Loud minus the snark and commentary. Just the news, with an occasional reporters roundtable. If anything, it should fill aspiring podcasters with hope, because at least once a week, they blow a line and have to start over.
  5. The Real Deal from CNET – Oh, how I love this podcast. Not necessarily because every podcast is a real winner, but because whenever someone asks me about a popular form of technology, all I have to do is refer him or her to this podcast for a high-level overview of the topic. Say your mom wants to start a blog, just send her to the Real Deal blog podcast. Say your uncle wants to know the lowdown on Ubuntu, send him to the Real Deal podcast about Ubuntu. Directing people to this podcast will make your non-techie pals happy they came to you, but without you going to all that effort of directly helping them.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Podcasts I Like: Home-Grown Podcasts

In theory, I run a podcast on this blog. I haven’t made an entry in awhile, but that doesn’t mean I’m not involved in the podcast community. Mainly, my participation is limited to listening. And sometimes, like in this and the next few blog entries entries, I list them out for the world to see.

I’ve divided my main list into categories for easy consumption. This list is comprised of my favorite home-grown podcasts. These are podcasts started by people not associated with the mass media industry. Some are more professional sounding with others, but all contain the goodness of regular people taking the power of media into their own hands.

  1. Filmspotting / Reel Reviews – I love movies, and these are the two best movie podcasts out there. Filmspotting is the better of the two, primarily because it comes out on a regular basis and it is more of a conversation about current films rather than a monologue/gush about one particular film.
  2. Rocketboom – This is a Monday to Friday daily video podcast starring Joanne Colan. To be completely honest, I had not even heard of it until the original hostess, Amanda Congdon, left the show in a flurry of publicity. The show is fairly random, focusing on “whatever we discovered that is neat today.” There is some techie news, some political news, some internet news, and some silly stuff (like Joanne wandering around Central Park asking people to dance a waltz with her).
  3. AlterEgo / Comic Pants – These are both podcasts by a bunch of guys in a comic shop and it sounds like… like a bunch of guys hanging out in a comic shop. These podcasts are about an hour long each and are really fun for the niche market that is the uber goober crowd.
  4. Winecast – Tim Elliott loves to talk about wine, and his passion inspires me to care more about wine. This podcast has a special place in my heart, because through it, I found my favorite winery – Humanitas Wines.
  5. Thing a WeekJonathan Coulton puts out a song a week, more or less. For whatever reason, I forgot to include him in my monster music blog entry. There is some really great stuff here.

Next entry – tech podcasts!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Where did you hear that?

I don’t listen to radio anymore, and if on the odd chance I do, I listen to talk radio (primarily NPR). But I like finding out about new music. So where are some good places for internet-savvy folk?

Aquarium Drunkard (Aquarium Drunkard MySpace)

Good: Great music posted on a blog. Almost every day, at least two mp3s turn up. There is a little bit of everything in there, whether it be contemporary or classic rock. Most of the music is of the rock/pop variety – very little classical-classical or jazz.

Bad: Despite the fact it has an RSS feed – for whatever reason iTunes doesn’t “see” the mp3 files. You have to go to the webpage and manually download the songs. PLUS, I have NO IDEA how they get away with it. I keep expecting one day to find the website shut down with a little note saying “You came to this website – we’re coming for you NEXT!”

Format: mp3

Frequency: Random, but often

Time: One song at a time

Dallas Does Indie (Dallas Does Indie MySpace)

Good: A nice mix of independent artists, put together in one big sound file. It is like an alternarock mixtape, with the occasional piece from Louis Armstrong or other vintage jazz or blues artist.

Bad: Sometimes the episode is a repeat – but that isn’t all that bad, really.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Weekly

Time: About 30 minutes


Good: One of the best theme-based music podcasts. Brian Ibbott is one of the most personable podcasters out there. This is truly Brian's love, and that shines through. Usually, there are six songs per show, and sometimes there is a thematic link between the songs.

Bad: Brian says um a lot. You may choose to think of this as a charming foible.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Two to three times a week

Time: Thirty minutes to an hour

Not Lame Podcast

Good: Coverville’s Brian Ibbott puts together a list of catchy power pop songs for people to listen to. He chats between songs and is seems less like a podcast than like a cool friend playing you some choice tracks from his CD collection.

Bad: One of my buddies says you can make a drinking game out of how many times Brian says a song sounds like it was influenced by Elvis Costello.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Sorta Monthly

Time: Thirty to forty-five minutes

NPR's Song of the Day

Good: Oh how I love it when people with great taste pass along good music. If I haven’t liked the song, I have at least respected it as a representation for a genre.

Bad: This is all streamed media so you have to go to the NPR website and click the “Listen” button. You can’t download or load up your.mp3 player with this music. There are no links to the iTunes listing for the song, the Amazon listing for the album or the artist’s web site.

Format: Streaming

Frequency: Updated Daily

Time: One pop song length

NPR’s “All Songs Considered” Podcast.

Good: Full-on live concerts from beginning to end. Usually about an hour’s worth of music.

Bad: All the problems with live recording – the sound quality isn’t always the best. The crowd cheering and singing along tends to dominate the music. Sometimes the concerts are not mixed well (in particular, the drums tend to drown out the singer). In between song banter isn’t always entertaining. Because it is an hour, the file size is really, really large.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Sorta Weekly

Time: One concert – usually a half-hour to an hour

KUT’s Austin Music Minute

Good: Austin is a great place for live music. Every day, KUT gives the equivalent of a one-minute shout-out to a band.

Bad: Sometimes one minute just isn’t enough. Right when the song gets good, the podcast ends. This is essentially a commercial for a live show playing somewhere in Austin.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Daily Monday through Friday

Time: One minute EXACTLY

KUT’s Radio witout Borders Live Music Podcast

Good: A nice mix of local and national acts playing live in KUT’s studios.

Bad: The fidelity of the recordings isn’t the best because KUT’s recording equipment is just average. But this is incredibly nitpicky.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Weekly

Time: About half an hour

New York Times Popcast

Good: The staff of the New York Times do what they do in the paper – interview bands and review albums. Only this time, it is an audio version and it includes snippets from the songs so you can hear when they’re talking about when they tell you Jessica Simpson’s new album is “total crapola.”

Bad: Like all music critics, these people are very opinionated and occasionally very, very wrong. Also, you don’t get whole songs as much as song snippets with critics talking over them.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Weekly

Time: About 15 to 20 minutes.

Dallas Observer Music Blog

Good: Full mp3s of Dallas-based musicians that are posted willy-nilly in the Dall Observer’s blog.

Bad: Not updated regularly and can’t sync up with a podcast reader like iTunes. You have to read the blog entry (which may or may not be related to the song) and then manually download the song.

Format: mp3

Frequency: Whenever they feel like it

Time: One song at a time


Good: Lots of electronic music strung together for hours.

Bad: Lots of electronic music strung together for hours.

Format: Podcast

Frequency: Various – there are several different podcasts on the site, and they all say they are different, but to be completely honest, I cannot tell the difference between trance and emo and high-energy trip hop. It is all thump thump thump with some keyboards thrown in. It all sounds like the time Strong Bad made a techno song. The main reason I listen to these podcasts is to give me ideas on how to use the Sony Acid software package I own.

Time: Various, but most of them last an hour

Where I don’t go


MySpace is a great place to connect with bands after you’ve found them, but it is not a good space to explore and find new bands. Here’s why – the MySpace player is fundamentally flawed. If you want to listen to a song, you cannot navigate away from the particular MySpace page without the song stopping. To be completely honest, what MySpace page merits 3 to 5 minutes worth of attention? Puh-leese.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The things I do for breasts...

Dear Friends and Family,

It is difficult to write about breasts.

Sure they’re everywhere, and I should really just be an adult about this, but I know my mom is going to read this email and quite possibly my in-laws. When I think of them reading an email of me rhapsodizing about mammary glands and then asking for money to keep them healthy, my hands lock up about two inches above the keyboard. Sorry, I’m just a little repressed about these things.


I’m trying not to be dirty about this, but breasts are absolutely wonderful, and healthy breasts are even better. There, I said it.

I could quote statistics, but we’ve heard them, and frankly dismissed them, before. I will share with you something better. Something real.

I have two ladies in my life who have struggled with breast cancer. One is in remission and doing great – she’s even walking in the race this year.

The other one went through the surgery, the chemotherapy, and everything… only to find that it didn’t work. She has to start over at square one now, with another surgery and another round of chemotherapy and another round of tests and… another everything.

It is tough. It is tough to see this and to live through this, and I’m just on the sidelines. When you let someone into your heart, you let in all the love they have to offer, but you also let in all their hurt. It bothers me that someone so good and so undeserving can hurt so much.

There has to be a better way to fight breast cancer. There has to be a cure that doesn’t hurt the body more than the sickness. We are capable of so much, we should be capable of finding something better. A cure for all cancers would be incredible; a cure for breast cancer be amazing, but something better than what we currently have… something better is well within our grasp.

So this is what I’m doing to make something better happen - I am walking 5 km in the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure on October 21, 2006. I will wear a T-shirt and will try my best to be a good husband and not to stare at all the breasts when I walk.

And this is what you can do - support in the form of a cash donation. You can skip the Grande Half-Caff Vanilla Latte one morning and send the $5.00 to the Komen foundation. You can put off that iPod purchase for another few months and send a few hundred dollars to the Komen foundation. Whatever you feel is appropriate, I will appreciate it. Your donation is tax-deductible, so you can’t beat that.

You can follow this link and make a donation…


…but if you distrust this internet, please send a donation to this address.

Komen Dallas Affiliate & Race for the Cure®

460 NorthPark Center

P.O. Box 12010

Dallas, TX 75225

I really appreciate time, your contribution, and your attention. You are such a good person.

Love the breasts,

M. Robert Turnage

Monday, October 02, 2006

Websites I Like: Daily Lit

Pretty simple, nifty idea.

Daily Lit takes classic pieces of literature in the public domain, divides them into daily portions, and emails them to you on a daily basis. Impress your friends by telling them how you're reading (or re-reading) books like Common Sense, The Republic, or Leaves of Grass.

Maybe now, your circle of friends will think it is cool that you want to continue educating yourself and will not try to beat you up for being such a nerd.