Posts 868 to 875:

Spinning Optical Illusion

Check out this optical illusion.  It appears to be spinning, but it’s not.  (The JPEG image format does not support animation.)

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

Custom Route Planning with Google Maps

For a while now I’ve wished that Google Maps would let me create a route by just clicking on the map to create my own points.  Google Maps will give me directions from point A to point B, but I don’t always like the route it chooses; often I’d like to be able to say "Go from point A to point B using a route which goes through point C on the way."

Well does just that.  You just click your starting point, and it creates a marker there; you then keep clicking (creating new markers) along the route you want to create, until you get to your destination.

It’s designed primarily for planning exercise routes as you might have guessed, but it does allow you to set the speed for your route, so it will display the estimated time properly based on the length of the route.

Apparently the site has been around since late 2003, so I’m pretty late on discovering it.  On the other hand it originally used Yahoo and Mapquest maps, and I think we can all agree that the old way of online mapping was barely worth using at all (i.e. non-draggable maps that require the whole page to reload every time you change your view) now that we know the One True Path.

Posted by Anthony on 4 replies

New Apple Ads

Apple introduced some new TV commercials on Monday and I think they’re pretty funny.  You can watch them on the Apple website.

It’s kind of annoying how they present it as "The Mac vs. The PC" when it’s really about Mac vs. Windows.  I run a PC, yet none of the PC-based problems mentioned in the ads affect me at all, because my PC runs Linux, not Windows.

But other than that, the ads are good -- they’re funny and they’re pretty much completely accurate.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies

Jack Bauer's Cell Phone

Over time we’ve seen Jack plug any and all manner of media into his cell phone -- memory cards, 5-and-a-quarter-inch floppies, clay tablets... why can’t he plug the darn recording into there and just transmit it back to CTU already??!?

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

The DaVinci Code Debunked

McLean Bible Church is a church in Washington DC that Kim used to attend while she lived there.  Every week they post the new sermon on their website so that anyone who wants to can listen to it, and Kim and I do that pretty often.  The senior pastor Lon Solomon is one of the best preachers I’ve heard.

Today we listened to his sermon The DaVinci Code Debunked and it was really interesting.  I haven’t read the book nor seen the movie, but I certainly haven’t escaped the constant hype surrounding them.  On The Factor the other night, Bill O’Reilly grilled the author, Dan Brown, and it’s clear that Brown has no evidence to back up his outrageous claims about Jesus and the Bible.  Pastor Lon’s sermon made that abundantly more clear.

Update: And language-nazi that I am, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to stand too much of the book after having read The Dan Brown Code.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies


When I was younger, we had this toy called knickerbockers, or maybe nickerbockers (no "k").  It was just two hard plastic balls connected by a string that was about 12-18 inches long.  The balls were about the size of a golf ball and were brightly colored (orange?).

This strange device also came with one other piece, a small flat plastic stick with a hole in one end, which was the handle for the device.  You pulled the center of the string (as a loop) through the hole in the handle, and then put the balls through the loop in the string so that the string was then locked onto the handle.

The idea was, you would hold the handle out in front of you, so the two halves of the string both hung straight down below the handle, with the balls at the bottom.  You’d then rapidly move the handle up and down, causing the balls to swing apart, out to the sides, and up to the top above the handle, each one forming a half-circle, where they’d then slam together.

I think the point of the toy was the cool sound that the balls made when they clicked together.  Or, the cool sound they made when you separated them from the handle and threw them really hard into the air across your yard.

Anyway, I haven’t seen this toy anywhere for years, and I can’t seem to find it online.  Does anybody else remember this toy, or better yet, know where it could be bought today?

Posted by Anthony on 13 replies

MySpace Sucks; MTV Sucks

Thursday has a new album coming out.  But before it’s even released, you listen to the whole thing by downloading it.  To download it, you can either a) visit the band’s official MySpace page and listen to a stream of it, in an annoying Flash-based audio player, in horrendous sound quality, or b) just use any of the P2P networks and download the whole album in near-perfect quality MP3 files.

Taking Back Sunday has a new album coming out, too.  You can also listen to the whole thing before it’s released, on MTV’s "The Leak" webpage.  But The Leak, in addition to being in an annoying Flash-based page, doesn’t even work in any browser except MS IE.  In Safari it pretends to work, suggesting that you download Windows Media Player to play the music, but then WMP bombs out with an error.  In Firefox or Mozilla, you click on the "Play whole album" link in The Leak and it just sits there, doing nothing.  Of course, you can always just fire up your P2P client and download the whole album in near-perfect quality as MP3 files.

This is so irritating.  Why are huge media companies and record labels such freaking morons?  They literally make it as difficult as possible to utilize their services, and if/when you are finally able to make them work, they make it as unenjoyable as possible by making the quality absolute crap.

I’m so frustrated and angered by this, but the thing is, I will always buy the CD once it comes out, because it’s the right thing to do (supporting the artist, etc, even though the labels screw them on that too) and because I want to actually have the liner notes and the high-quality source audio to make my own MP3s.  But lots and lots of people don’t care about doing the right thing, nor about the liner notes or the CD itself.  The labels are only driving away their own profits by being so stupid.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

Best Album of 2005 (and Other New Music)

It’s a couple months late for any "Best of Last Year" type stuff, I know.  But anyway, my favorite album of 2005 was Lions Write History by In Pieces.  I posted about their first album, Learning to Accept Silence, three years ago; as you can tell from my post, I really loved that album too.

The band had kind of fallen off the map for a year or two after that first album, which made me really sad because they were so good.  I didn’t hear about the new album until a few weeks after it came out, which was also the first time I heard that the band even still existed, so I was psyched.  But I also learned that they had gotten a new vocalist, and since the vocals were one of the best parts of the old album/band, this had me worried.

But my fears were laid to rest as soon as I heard the new album.  The vocalist was different, yes, but somehow similar to the old one, and at the same time he was much better.  The entire album is like that, in fact.  And to use a cliche, Lions Write History is obviously more mature than the first album -- but in a good way.  It’s like how Brand New’s first album Your Favorite Weapon was really good, but then their second album Deja Entendu was so much different, so much more mature, and just so good, even though you still loved the first album.

One of the things I really like about Lions Write History is that most of the songs have little to no formal structure.  They sometimes have a repeating part that’s sort of a chorus, but the music and/or tempo on the "verses" is often totally different for each verse.  And the songs are really long, so in these various non-standard song sections they do a lot of neat exploratory musical stuff.

Of course you can read a thousand words about a song and have no idea what it sounds like, so here are a couple songs you can listen to.  One more thing before we get to that, though: the lyrics on Lions Write History are really good and deep but also mostly very abstract, so I emailed the vocalist Dan Barrett to ask if he’d be willing to explain them to me.  He wrote me a long response and I don’t want to just publicly post all his comments here, but I’ll include the gist of his responses for these two songs.

In Pieces

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, progressive rock

Juarez, Mexico: This song is about the out-of-control crime situation (specifically murder and rape in this case) in Mexico.

Lyrics: One of the warmest countries, and the coldest spot on this cold, gray earth that you call a planet.  And suddenly all of this makes sense.  Way too much sense.  And your American money didn’t buy me a sense of safety.  We watched the ground crack open, and you’re seeing all of their bodies.  We see it every day.  They’re open to the air.  But all we want now is to be happy.  Black cross.  Oh, we know it.  So take this desert sky, and ask me if I’ve ever had sex.  Put your hands around my neck and twist.  Was that good for you?  But all we want now is to be happy.  March 14th, two days before my birthday.  Oh, we don’t expect her back anytime soon.  There’s no such thing as justice in Juarez, Mexico.

Completely Inevitable: This song is about being in love with someone who is long gone, someone who doesn’t care whether you love them or not; it’s arguing against their apathy, trying to make that person feel something beneath their oh-so-cool exterior.

Lyrics: I hate this, this is all I can be.  I hate this, this is all I am.  And I saw you on the battlefield, and I saw you.  Too many second chances, we both know that.  So go ahead, smoke your cigarettes, and I don’t care, and I dare you.  From the way that you walked in the room, yeah we knew, an angel of death.  Oh, so don’t scream like that.  This is impassable terrain.  Shrug it off, and move on.  Because if you’re not dead now, you will be soon, like childhood friends and memories.  Everything is forgotten, nothing is redressed.  You have more to do with all my insecurities than I want to admit.  I can’t, it’s too much, make it stop now.  I don’t usually do this kind of thing.  That’s why I hate myself.  I’m dead.

You can listen to a few more In Pieces songs on their MySpace page, albeit in typical sucky MySpace quality.

Coheed & Cambria

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, progressive rock, sci-fi rock

Each of Coheed & Cambria’s three albums to date is pretty much a masterpiece I’d say.  The music is amazing and the lyrics are very interesting.  The albums are all telling a single story, the details of which are not entirely clear, but the short form of what is known is that Coheed & Cambria are the parents of Claudio (the vocalist), and they have had their memories erased and have been tricked into believing that they must kill their children to save humanity.  Claudio is the only one of his siblings to escape this fate, and he is now trying to defeat the forces that did this to his family, and save the world in the process.

Because of the nature of the story, the albums/lyrics are somewhat violent and there’s lots of talk of death.  There are also parallels to Christianity and (real) humanity, as the wikipedia page shows.  It’s a complex story but I don’t think you necessarily need to know or care about the story to enjoy the music.

And of course, Coheed & Cambria are not a new-for-2005 band, but the tracks here are from their 2005 album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness.

Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial): I’m not entirely sure what this song is about, though the wikipedia page gives some details.  The title seems to be an allusion to Christ since I don’t know any other religion whose God was bloodied and buried; but the lyrics don’t really seem related to the title.

Wake Up: this one is a love song, and it’s uncharacteristically slow and pretty for a Coheed song.  There’s only one reference to death in the whole track!


Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock

Copeland makes catchy rock music.  Their album In Motion is pretty much great end-to-end, and the two tracks below are from it.  You can hear a few more of their songs on their Purevolume page.

No One Really Wins Love Is A Fast Song

I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, semi/mostly-acoustic

I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business is a mostly-acoustic side-project of the vocalist from The Early November.  They have released just one album, a self-titled one; it’s actually from 2004, but I didn’t get it until 2005.  Whatever, but it’s really good.  This is one of those albums where every song is a gem and it’s really hard to pick just 2.  You can hear a few more of their songs on their Purevolume page.

Timshel: starts out slow, but listen to the whole thing.

The Best Happiness Money Can Buy: catchy like gangbusters and way too short.


Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock

June is an incredibly catchy band.  Their album If You Speak Any Faster is awesome.  You can hear a few more of their songs on their Purevolume page.

OK Corral Elevators Are Matchmakers


Genre: techno (not really), IDM (not really), electronic (sorta)

ST (Stefan Ternemar) makes sweet electronic music.  Note that it’s NOT dance music: dance music sucks, ST rocks.  You can download both of his EPs for free: Emotions In A Box and I’ll Meet You There.  Here are the 2 title tracks.  I’m pretty sure these are not from 2005 but that’s when I first heard them.

Emotions In A Box: this song sorta sounds like a Nintendo game.  Actually it could be straight out of Mega Man.  It’s awesome.

I’ll Meet You There: the vocals on this track are great.

The New Amsterdams

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, mostly-acoustic rock

The New Amsterdams are of course a Get Up Kids side-project, just like Reggie and the Full Effect.  And also like RATFE, they are amazing.  You can download the whole album Killed Or Cured from their website, and you should.  Here are a couple tracks from it.  (The New Ams have also released an even newer album called Story Like A Scar that’s available to buy, as opposed to being downloadable from their site.  I don’t have this album yet but it’s sure to be great.)

Heaven Sent Strangled By The Thought

Until Next Time...

There are a few more new bands / bands with new albums from 2005 that I want to post about, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Posted by Anthony on reply

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