Monthly Archives: January 2005

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I don't often highlight the blogs I read. I dump them on the sidebar and let folks click. But Cat Trapper's Journal is something special. From Corvallis come the daily struggles of a woman who has an extraordinary dedication to animals, yet speaks of it in the most ordinary way. Her heroic efforts to trap and sterilize feral cats are just everyday events in her life. This humble voice makes her stories all the more poignant. You find yourself getting to know Scully and Rye Pooter and Shyly and all the critters, and cheering and hoping for the best outcome.

A suggestion to the author: if there are local clinics or shelters you use that could stand donations, those links would be lovely on your sidebar.

Update: the blog has moved to: Strayer. Thanks, anonymous commenter!

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Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure
it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money
can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Monday, January 17th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did.
Your picture is on our wall as 'Customer of the Year'. We're all
exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

An aside: I didn't realize until I got the notification that this is a local company. I even have oblique connections with a couple of them. Small world.

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I've been thinking about what makes music bad. These ruminations were prompted by my favorite guilty pleasure, Evanescence. I know they're bad, but I love them anyway. But...why are they bad? What makes, say, a single song become an annoyance to thinking listeners everywhere? Here's what makes music bad for me:

  • Bad lyrics. Roy Orbison is beloved, but he did nothing but sting together clichés--most of the time his lyrics didn't even make sense. Because bad lyrics are very high on my own bad meter, I can't stand Orbison's music. That's not to say that others don't value different things more highly, obviously.

  • Corporate music. I have no love for manufactured pop stars. Note, however, that there is a statute of limitations on this for me. I love the Monkees and many Motown acts, knowing full well that they were put together by a producer.
  • Overexposure. This one often doesn't apply to me, because I don't listen to mainstream radio, but I do realize that a good song can become a monster if it's played twice an hour. This also has a statute of limitations; the overexposed hits of today become the nostalgic joys of the future.
  • Cloning. Notice something about Creed, Train, Silverchair, and Nickelback? Yep, they're all the same band. While there is often an artist or two in any group of clones that stands out, they are usually all blanded-down copies of a master band (Pearl Jam, in this case).

Looking at my list, I can see that my pet example, Evanescence, is probably a victim of overexposure. Because I'm more or less immune, I can still listen without being driven mad.

There is a final factor that also applies, and it's one I try to be free of: the Uncool. I'm pretty sure that Evanescence makes some folks cringe because their music is overdramatic without irony, and has obvious Christian overtones. Maybe one of those would bother me if I didn't enjoy the music itself so much. Hard to say. I get less enamoured of irony as I get older, and I'm hardly going to give up a band I like just because they're into religious mysteries.

The verdict: Evanescence--not bad. Nyah.

UPDATE: Thought of two more to add to the list (and there may be more coming):

  • Unmitigated schmalz. See "That's What Friends Are For".

  • Repetitiveness. When you buy an album, it's nice if there are several different songs on it, not the same one over and over. I'm reminded of the time my dad, a country dj, was reprimanded for introducting Stella Parton's newest single with: "Here's the latest from Stella Parton, which sounds just like the last one..." It was true--"Danger of a Stranger" and "Undercover Lovers" were, melodically, identical. That said, I do think Evancescence is guilty of some repitition on Fallen, but not to the degree that it bothers me.

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I pretty much live on the web. I pay bills, shop, communicate, and learn sitting at my computer. I thought I'd take a post to tell folks what I use, and why.

Bloglines
What: Feed Reader
$$: Free for now (I'll pay when the time comes)
Look at me
Bloglines is a feed aggregator. In English: it puts all the sites you read in one place, so you can see updates and read them much faster. I chose Bloglines over other readers because it's easy to use, and very forgiving of problems with feeds, so I get my fix even if there's a small problem with someone's site.

del.icio.us
What: Bookmarks manager
$$: Free
Look at me
Delicious is a great idea that is changing the web. I recommend jumping in and trying it, as it's difficult to "get" until you do. What I do with it:

  • Organize all my bookmarks. I rarely use my browser for this function anymore. Bookmarks are "tagged" with several keywords, so I can find them easily later.

  • Keep up with several fields of interest, by subscribing to tags in Bloglines (each tag has a feed). What the heck, you say? Suppose a billion people use Delicious, and a million of them like cats. Those million are out there, finding stuff on the web about cats that I haven't seen. They put those sites in Delicious, and tag them "cats". Then I can see them too.
  • Keep up with what my friends are bookmarking. For example, the Spousal Unit.

So Delicious is not only a place for organizing my own thoughts, it's a tremendous source of shared information as well.

Yahoo! Mail
What: Email
$$: My Plus account is $19.99/year
Yep, I use Yahoo. I have for years. I don't like email clients on my computer, as they tend to be more vulnerable to viral attacks, I end up with mail in several places because I'll pull my mail on the web too, and it's a pain if you change ISPs. I like webmail. I like having everything in one place. Yahoo has proven reliable, and the Plus account gives me all the spam protection I need. Just don't expect customer service.

LaunchCast
What: Customized radio
$$: My Plus account is $35.99/year
Look at me
I've been with Launch since about a month after they existed. The idea is you rate music, and after a while your personalized radio station has a pretty good idea of what you like. For the most part, it works really well. In addition, I've found a ton of new music through my personalized station. I pay for the Plus option because I hate ads, but you can try for free. There are tons of pre-programmed stations to get you listening right away.

Equifax CreditWatch
What: ID Theft protection, credit information
$$: Silver option is $49.99/year
A few years ago, I watched a vid at work of an interview with an identity thief. It changed the way I think about my own credit safety, big time. That same day I signed up for CreditWatch, and I'm fairly confident that if someone messed with me, I'd know right away--and knowledge is everything. As an unexpected side-effect, I also cleaned up my credit. Along with watching for any new activity on my credit, I also got a several credit reports, along with all the information I needed to understand my FICO score, and how I could improve it. So I did. That alone was worth the subscription price.

Paytrust
What: Online bill pay
$$: $10.95/month
After decades of trying, a few years ago I finally realized that I cannot pay paper bills. I think I have a genetic defect that makes me horribly allergic to stamp glue. Paytrust (which used to be PayMy Bills, if I recall correctly) was one of the earlier services to come along, and it's good stuff. They are continually improving the service, and are great about listening to user feedback. My bills go directly to Paytrust, and they send me notifications. I go to the site and pay in three clicks. I love this service, and would never go back.

I know there's stuff I'm forgetting, but this is a good start. These services have enriched my life immeasurably. I love this webarnet thingie.