Category Archives: Entertainment

Is Your Workspace Devoid of Music?

I have always loved music. Most people do. In my teens, I would listen to music all the time. I’m not really sure when I stopped listening to it all that much.

It’s just a common way we all experience things… or, in some cases, “get over” said experiences. It can be used sort of like a drug. Choose your poison: stimulant or depressant. :) Ok, so that’s being a little dramatic.

But seriously, isn’t our brain capable of be trained (or hardwired if you will) by all input from our environment? So what kind of music is constantly influencing you? Is it helping you? Or is it slowing you down?

Creating Online Playlists

This week I was looking for some good music to help me work and I started working on some playlists @ playlist.com.

Here are two of them that are definitely a work in progress, but I decided to go ahead and share anyway…
Music that helps me stay focused and write without causing me to want to sing along and then forget what I was writing: Amber’s Writing Music

The type of music I like to listen to when I’m doing redundant or tedious things like coding or editing graphics: Music to Motivate a Little

I really don’t know if it is completely legal or not actually. I am assuming so, but some (really I’ve only happened across a couple of them) of the quality of the music files seem to be a little less than perfect quality… makes the service seem a little more shady.

Downloading Music for Free?

Speaking of shady… :) I accidentally stumbled upon a program called Free Youtube to MP3 Converter

And yes, I tried it out on some random video and it quickly and easily ripped me a copy of the audio as an .mp3 file. Nice.

When I first came across this I wondered to myself what could possibly be the legal use for such a tool that (according to Cnet’s Download.com) has been downloaded more than 16 million times as of today’s date.

We live in the virtually real world right? So we all know that a high percentage (I would be afraid to even guess that percentage is out loud) of the 1,377,154 downloaders who had just downloaded the most recent version of the software this last week certain to be those who are using it just to rip off lots of music that, in truth, probably costs too much anyway. In the same breath I must declare that I agree that it’s terrible to steal and yada yada yada…

Regardless of that, my purpose for writing this post is not to talk about FBI warnings or data (including music file) security. I had to write about this juicy little program because it does also have promise to be used for the greater good.

So what could the legal uses of this software be?

You could use it to make your own little podcasts of educational videos posted to teach you how to do this or that. It could be a great way to expose up and coming artists by making it even easier to add their music into your playlist. It makes church music or any private sector choir music videos easily transferred to MP3.

Perhaps beginner artists could pay one company to shoot a video for them and not have to pay another recording studio to master an album for them… or maybe that’s a gray area. I don’t really know how the recording or producing business works so make sure you know what you’re doing.

I’m still working on the extra info about landing pages. It will have to wait until next week though. I was too excited to write about this topic this week. :)

Audiobooks

Fall in love with books again…

My mind is constantly going and my predisposition to continually seek a challenge is also the bane of my existence when it’s time for spring cleaning.

Ugh… cleaning.

Last week I really started to do some deep cleaning, go through clothes that don’t fit the kids any more, throw out socks that lost their match months ago, and started deciding which things we sell or donate to someone who will be able to use them. The trouble for me is that as I’m cleaning my mind wanders and the next thing I know:

  • I’m planning out my week of work
  • my weekend of busyness
  • reminding myself to even dust the ceiling fans before I vacuum
  • I start thinking about what sounds good for dinner (preferably that’s easy to make and clean up)
  • and I can also pretty much guarantee that my train of thought will be halted at least 4 to 8 times per hour sudden interruptions like – “So can I mom? mom? mom?” or “Mom would not like it if she saw you doing that!”

I don’t know about you but after a few of hours of this and I’m tired, bored, or at least fighting off a headache from so much input that I’m getting from myself and my environment.

But this time is different, because I’ve already gotten a lot of it done!

Last week a friend of mine was talking about one of the books she is reading, but she said she is reading it via audiobook.

Brilliant! I thought to myself. I’d wanted to read one of those books too so I got the fourth twilight book “Breaking Dawn” on audiobook and I tell you what, it’s been entertaining me while I’m doing my early spring cleaning.

What a perfect way to keep my mind from trying to solve all of the problems in the world when cleaning for longer periods of time or even just having my hands free to take out the trash and my hands and eyes free to match the ungodly number of socks in the dreaded “sock basket”

I don’t know why, but before that moment I’d always thought of audiobooks as an aid to learn a foreign language or listen to a lecture – something probably boring. Never had I considered it’s entertainment value.

And best of all…are you ready for it? My ears are plugged so the kids actually have to get my attention before they ask or tell anything. :) It’s a win win for me.

Save Money on Your Audiobooks

I went ahead and posted the amazon link here to the book I “read”, but they can get expensive. If you won’t read it over and over, you can borrow some of these types of audiobooks at the library.

I got mine with 2 free credits @ audible.com which is kind of expensive if you ask me because you don’t actually get disks or anything just the audio files. They have a huge collection of them available though.

Where is Your TV Going?

Television has changed so dramatically over the past century. Right now we are on the very cusp of a whole new era. The end of television, TV, the silver screen, the telly as we know it!

We shouldn’t be surprised though, televisions have been becoming more and more like personal computers for the last 15 to 20 years.

It started when we began adding harddrives directly to our TV entertainment systems to record shows we used to watch live via satellite or cable.

Remember TiVo? That was the first digital television recorder I heard about. (This is probably because it literally became it’s own verb.) People would “tivo” everything from cartoons to news.

Today, we have on-demand TV and DVR at our house.

Think about that term “on-demand”. On-demand television was developed to make sure that there is always something on your TV that you want to watch. They are adding new movies, TV shows, and how-to videos to the mix all the time.

We (finally) moved past the analog television infrastructure. Apparently it was too expensive to keep up maintenance, yet to valuable still to just “turn off”. It took years because while the vast majority of people have digital televisions, there was a select few (probably millions) who still had the same TV set they’d purchased 30 years ago. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore huh? :)

Today we are buying blue-ray players and video gaming systems that download apps and connect to the internet just like our computers to log in to Facebook or watch the latest YouTube video that everyone has been talking about.

Where is television headed?

The personal computer and television are becoming one in the same. For many people, they already are.

The internet gives advertisers a huge advantage to customize and target you for certain types of ads. What if they could instantly merge TV and the internet? They would probably know more about you than your some of your best friends right? They’d know what shows you like… (even those you’d never admit to liking), your occupation, where you went/go to college… and high school, your favorite ice cream flavor. They’d know everything they need to know about you, right down to the last Saturday night you were out and drank one too many, because the next Sunday morning you were googling “home remedies for hangovers”. Think about it.

As a web developer, I’ll share a little inside information (for those who are new to this whole idea) on how tracking your media usage is possible. Many many websites now use small tracking “programs” called cookies that get downloaded into your browser cache upon visiting certain website. These cookies track the pages and searches you open while on their site. Search engines like Google can then use those cookies to customize the advertisements you see in the sidebar of their website or affiliates’ websites. They make it easier for you to fill out forms, like auto-saving your name, email address, usernames, etc. so you don’t have to type it in every time.

At first, this probably seems kind of scary right? I am not even trying to start an Apocalypse or anything, However, everyone should at least know (even if it’s the most basic version) what is happening in our world.

So, how do they get away this sort of invasion of privacy? The answer for the consumer is so that you will not be bombarded with irrelevant ads and information that you are not interested in seeing.

Why do they care about such a holistic collection of information about who each one of us is? The answer for the marketing companies is so they can build tremendously effective target market strategies and basically put you in a category to advertise products that you are very likely to buy because thousands of other people in your same “category” bought it and liked it. It’s called data mining and most of the time it’s done for target marketing. He who collects the most information about you and uses it to really understand your needs and wants wins your business.

Example:

Sam has been visiting lots of sites and blogs about football season schedules and his favorite NFL team stats. The ticket sellers (we’ll call Company X) are going to pay the companies lots of money to make sure that Sam and every other person like Sam who is visiting these sites know that Company X has the “best” prices for their next game, the best prices for Super Bowl XLV, and the best seats available to the public…etc.

They do get those seats sold, and probably not at the best price or best seats. You know?

What will this technology look like in the next ten to twenty years?

I predict that in the next ten to twenty years, television will continually consume our lives as it becomes interconnected with personal computing. There will be a continuous battle with obesity and the diseases that come with it as well. I fear that it will be a bigger part of how many people spend their lives, instead of having families and friends they’ll have their upgraded cable systems. We see the TV/PC integration already with the popularity of watching sitcoms online like at Hulu.com and new web shows sprouting up on YouTube. The TV dinners and the “grab and go” type snacks are becoming a staple food for too many households. We will most likely see even bigger frozen foods and instant meals sections in our grocery stores. Have you noticed lately how our grocery stores are positively full of junk food? I would bet that at more than half of all of the products in the more common grocery stores go to are not considered healthy for you.

So that explains the internet but why must all television go digital?

As these smart target marketing systems evolve they will become even more powerful with even more accurate and instant of measurements for digital stereotyping. You can’t say that about the Nielsen rating system which is archaic and seems to be forever stuck in 1980 something when all the cool people got too busy to keep an accurate diary of what tv shows that they watched. LOL!

No, seriously even we have done one of these a few years ago, but after the first day it all became a lot of creative writing. On the last day it became a quick glance at what we usually did watch which was saved with the date and time of the show right there on DVR to write down for the people who take the info. I’m sure I am not the only one who has done this. I gave them the information they wanted, but it was exact and it wasn’t instant, where website analytics and social media networks are.

Real Life Example:

The Nielsen ratings still say that Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien’s popularity are still in the same ballpark with the 18-49 crowd. However, I can get on twitter right now and see that Jay’s 120,000 followers on twitter don’t even remotely compare to Conan’s 2,240,000 followers on twitter! I’d say Conan definitely has the farthest reach. :)

Having all of your web surfing, Facebook “Likes”, and channel surfing info all in one place will enable the system to provide you with program suggestions, product suggestions, and on demand entertainment that will not only follow the same methodology, but it will become more customized and more exact every time you get online.

Example:

Imagine, minding your own business, looking up the latest dirt on Hollywood’s finest and their current disasters and suddenly the system tells you in an ever so pleasing voice:

“I noticed you have really been into (Insert: Topic/Person/Activity Here) lately, so you’ll love this movie rental: (Insert: Movie Title Here). It is available right now for only $5.95!

You buy the movie. You love it and get a prompt at the end: “Got a minute to answer a 3 question survey to let  (Insert: Us/Director’s Name/ Actor’s name/ Actress’s Name/Etc. Here) know how much you loved it!”

How did the system really know that you would love the movie? The answer is because you’d spent 40% of your online time pouring over the same content that is discussed, joked about, or criticized in the movie.

Doesn’t the constant availability of custom entertainment that you have a voice (even if it is ever so small) in what you want to see and which entertainment or information you are into sound like a great idea?!

So, will this have a seriously negative effect on us and future generations? As much as I want to believe that mankind will see and change these troubling trends which are sentencing many to a life of real solitude, I know that mankind is gluttonous and usually chooses the road to instant gratification. As television and personal computing technologies merge, it will become cheap enough for all to “enjoy” for as long as they want. The higher price we might pay is that of our health and our motivation to live a fulfilled life. I mean, why would you want to live healthy, make friends, or even fall in love when we can live vicariously through someone else on a silver screen?

Good Navigation

We are in Michigan today and we’ve had an awesome weekend of skiing over this long holiday weekend. I’ve really come to love this ski resort called Boyne Highlands.

However, while I was going down one of the runs earlier, I got confused about which direction I should go.

There are different “levels” of ski runs that u can go down depending on your experience level…

* There’s the bunny hill which I definitely prefer to be avoid.

* Green runs are easy, they are the kind of runs the are enjoyable for the first couple of runs that I go on… you know, to get familiar with the conditions, make sure my boots aren’t on too tight or too loose.

* Blue runs are ranked “difficult” and “more difficult”. These are my favorite runs. I usually stay on these for the better part of the day.

* Black diamonds are the most difficult and you won’t see me on one of these runs until the end of the day.

* Double black diamonds are for experts only. You probably won’t ever catch me on one of these. Unless I’ve gotten lost… which is almost what happened.

Anyways, on my way down our first hill, I was inspired to write a post about signs and navigation. Here is why:

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Notice how the two pictures are showing you how to get to Mac Gully… an easy run, then a little further down the hill you see a sign to continue on Mac Gully but supposedly turns into a double black diamond!

Actually this sign was letting you know that Mac Gully was to your right as well as an entrance to another run that actually was a double black.

Why in the world would anyone running a ski resort want their visitors to get confused, lost, or have to stop in the middle of a run to try and find a way to go?

Then I got to thinking about website navigation. This week I am planning on doing some serious research on best practices for site navigation and where to place certain buttons,nav bars, search forms, etc. to make everything on your site to be as easy to find as possible.

FW: Why Dogs Bite

Disclaimer: None of these pictures are mine, but I had them sent to me in an email forwarded by my dad. I have no idea who put all of them together, but these pics were too cute and funny not to share. :)

Click to Enlarge a Photo

FW Subject: Dogs are wonderful, aren’t they?‏

Email forward
Dear God – from the dog- all pet lovers
From: THE DOG        wrinkled-dogDear God: Is it on purpose our names are the same, only reversed?

2-dog-with-flowerDear God: Why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another?

3-pretty-puppy-on-bedDear God: When we get to heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it still the same old story?

4-black-pug-dogDear God: Why are there cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit, but not ONE named for a Dog? How often do you see a cougar riding around? We do love a nice ride! Would it be so hard to rename the ‘Chrysler Eagle’ the ‘Chrysler Beagle’?

Dear God: If a Dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad Dog?

5-ginger-puppy

Dear God: We Dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent ID’s, electromagnetic energy fields, and frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

8-dog-mountain-climbingDear God: More meatballs, less spaghetti, please.6-dog-treatDear God: Are there mailmen in Heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize?

7-pretty-fuzzy-dogDear God: Let me give you a list of just some of the things I must remember to be a good Dog.

9-happy-Christmas-dog
1. I will not eat the cats’ food before they eat it or after they throw it up.
2. I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc., just because I like the way they smell.
3. The Litter Box is not a cookie jar.
4. The sofa is not a ‘face towel’.
5. The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.
6. I will not play tug-of-war with Dad’s underwear when he’s on the toilet.
7. Sticking my nose into someone’s crotch is an unacceptable way of saying ‘hello’.
8. I don’t need to suddenly stand straight up when I’m under the coffee table
9. I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house – not after.
10. I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt across the carpet.
11. I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch.
12. The cat is not a ‘squeaky toy’ so when I play with him and he makes that noise, it’s usually not a good thing.