26 Dec

A wee bit of Irish (or Scottish)

The BBC have put a tremendous amount of language-learning resources on their web sites. Tonight I’ve been listening to some of the Giota Beag (“A little bit”) introduction to Irish Gaelic. They are nice “bite-size” introductions to basic Irish, in RealPlayer format. They have a similar program for learners of Scottish Gaelic, as well, and this one is in Flash and HTML.

26 Dec

A belated Merry Christmas

My Lava lamp, blue liquid with yellow lava. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! I haven’t been posting much because of holiday distractions, and posting may be slow yet for a couple of weeks, but we will see how it goes. (I may have some great vacation photos for you, though. Stay tuned.)

Among my Christmas haul was the Lava lamp pictured here (a 10″ Lava lamp — so cute and tiny), and the very cool DVD Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. However, I am disappointed that some of the bonus DVD-ROM features aren’t available on the Mac, as the features about the history of the POTC attraction at Disneyland were one of the major reasons I wanted the DVD. I didn’t realize they weren’t Mac-friendly. And I don’t think Jason has a PC with a DVD drive. When I try to access the special features the DVD just tells me I should use a computer with a DVD-ROM drive. Um, I thought I was… Oh well, the movie is good, and there is at least one neat feature about the ride that I can see: a 1968 tv show promoting the ride, with a filmed (but oddly edited) ride through.

We spent our Christmas evening installing Mac OS X 10.3 on a relative’s old indigo iMac 350, which was running OS 9.0.4. This was not exactly fun. First she needed a firmware update. But the firmware update required OS 9.1. She only has dialup and 9.1 is 70 megs. So we had to go home, download it, make a cd, and bring it out. But there was something wrong with the .smi file and it wouldn’t mount. So then we took the laptop down to the Apple Store and downloaded 9.1 again. (Thank you Apple Store for free wireless bandwidth!) We went back to the relative’s house and installed 9.1, but this took some messing around before it would work. (Had to stuff the file for some reason before the Mac could deal with it. Then unstuffed it and off we went.) Then the firmware update. Then the Panther installation, but this took at least an hour of installation time.

Finally it was installed, and amazingly, it seems quite speedy on the slow old iMac. Yay Apple.

But it doesn’t automatically carry over the internet connection info from OS 9, and my relative does not have her login and password because she didn’t think she’d need it again (!). Boo Apple. Why not just import that information if it exists?

But at least the OS is running, so hard crashes will hopefully be a thing of the past for her now. And soon she’ll be back online.

23 Dec

Hell Money

Found via Anita Rowland: pictures of Hell money, with information about how it is used, and pictures of different types. Here’s another Hell money page. When visiting Vancouver’s Chinatown a few years ago, I found that there’s not just Hell Money but also Hell clothes (shirts and ties made of paper), Hell jewelry, Hell passports, and Hell cheque books. (Spelled the Canadian way on the book, hence I’m using it here.) I have a Hell passport and a Hell bankbook, cheque book, and “American Express” card (should that be Hell Express? Actually, it just says “The Bank of Hell,” though it has the familiar green Amex design).

I’m fascinated by these, and I actually sell some Hell bank notes and joss paper at Rubber Trouble, for collage artists to use.

19 Dec

Return of the King and awful seats

Do: see ROTK, multiple times if possible.

Don’t: see ROTK at the Majestic Bay Theatre in Ballard, unless you arrive early enough not to have to sit in the front. The front row seats there are the worst I have seen at any theater, bar none — and craning your neck for three hours is not exactly fun. I was continually distracted by neck aches and the distortion that made Elijah Wood’s neck even more hellishly thick.

The greed of theater owners astounds me. Older theaters always had the front row seats far enough away that you didn’t have to crane your neck. If they want people to come to theaters, they need to ensure that the experience is enjoyable for everyone.

18 Dec

Swearing on the radio

When I was in high school and working for local radio stations, I remember hearing about a Seattle radio personality in the ’60s or early ’70s who had gotten in big trouble with his station for saying, on-air, that the traffic on the freeway was “all screwed-up.” In radio class, we were specifically taught George Carlin’s 7 Words You Can’t Say on Television, just so we wouldn’t ever slip and say them on air. I got in trouble for playing certain Prince songs on C-89 in the early 80s — and once the management decided we couldn’t play them, they would scratch out that part of the vinyl and even write on it with Liquid Paper — “NO AIRPLAY!” (Which was irritating, because then we couldn’t take those records into Studio B and record them onto our own mix tapes.)

But things have changed. Not only do we now hear words like “shit” on network TV occasionally (notably on the ER Mark Green Dies episode), but most people don’t even blink at songs featuring the f-word. Songs that have the word bleeped out often do it in a way that makes the missing word so obvious that I’m not sure why they bother. (Hint: if you keep the f and the k in the recording and just edit the schwa in the middle, you aren’t fooling anyone.) It’s been a gradual change, yes, but a change nonetheless. So what will shock Americans now, if so many of them aren’t shocked by the traditional expletives?

15 Dec

Painting the walls red

Finally got around to painting the foyer today. You can see the photos here. The red was Jason’s choice, but I like it too. It’s hard to get used to such strong colors, though. I think my art will look good with the red background. The paint is Devine Color Cayenne — it has a touch of brown in it but not too much. In the can it looks kind of salmony but dries a deep red — it’s not a color for the timid. Anyway, this is the second time we’ve used the Devine paints, and I strongly recommend them. They are really a joy to paint with. Thick and creamy, high-covering, and no paint stink.

Decorating the foyer will be tough. My electric piano will have to go there, but it really won’t look good. And we have nothing else to put there.

14 Dec

More about Christmas music

Speaking of Christmas songs, Mistletunes is a great reference for just about any Christmas recording in the pop music realm, from the 1950s to the present. I wish it had an index, though; sometimes it’s hard to find songs since they could be listed under decade or genre, and they aren’t cross-referenced.

12 Dec

Martian invasion!

As found on Metafilter: the Mars Attacks Picture Gallery — not about the movie, but about the original early-60s trading card set. The cards were deemed too violent and gory by parents of the day, then pulled from the market. If you had a set of these cards now, they’d be worth a lot of money.

The gallery is part of this Mars Attacks fan site. The pages may have circa-1995 web design, but the cards and their story are kind of interesting.

10 Dec

What are the new Christmas classics?

According to this article, Christmas songs are a lost art. Of the top 25 most-performed holiday songs, the newest one is Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” from 1979 — a terrible song, at that. (Lifelong Beatlefan that I am, I love Macca — but this song is way below what he’s capable of. John Lennon totally whupped Paul in the ex-Beatle Christmas song category.) Certainly one might say that standard songwriting is not as mainstream as it used to be, but holiday tunes are still being composed, and it seems that a lot of more recent classics are ignored by this statistic. Sure, the older classics are still the most-played, which is appropriate for a holiday as steeped in tradition as Christmas. But that doesn’t mean the songs from the last two decades aren’t being played as well. We’ve all heard “Christmas Wrapping” enough times to know better.

I’ll suggest a couple more modern classics, as well: “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid. There are some more recent ones that I like, but I don’t think they get enough airplay to be “classics.” But then again, I’ve been avoiding the radio lately.

Now, the songs that aren’t classics, the ones that make you weep with pain when you hear them for the 100th time each Christmas season? People are writing about them, too.

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