Saturday, June 04, 2005

Good word

"When you work with somebody that close and you go through experiences like the ones [Steve Wozniak and I] went through, there's a bond in life. Whatever hassles you have, there is a bond. And even though he may not be your best friend as time goes on, there's still something that transcends even friendship, in a way."

--Steve Jobs, Playboy interview, Feb. 1985
All dressed up

Flash memory gets Barbiefied.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Tick tick tick

How distressing to learn that the old "Bucky clock" building on the UW-Madison campus will be demolished so that the business school can expand. I'm fond of the Bucky clock.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

New stuph

You can read my profile of the bassist-singer-rapper-songwriter-producer Meshell Ndegeocello here, and there also is a link over on the right. (The story's called "The pop star's new groove.") On Saturday she headlines the Isthmus Jazz Festival.
The blog of the unborn

Hey everybody, check out the blog of William Karlson-Boeger, the still-gestating son of the lovely Jen and the lovely Chris (the latter is, of course, the bassist for the World's Greatest Lovers and a host of other fine Madison bands). Young William is due in, apparently, four days.
Quality control

A thread on the Isthmus Daily Page Forum praises vinyl records, and that got me to thinking: as I mentioned here, I recently was browsing some issues of Rolling Stone from about 1982, and I was struck by how extensively the magazine covered audio hardware then, including turntables and cartridges. But I also was struck by story after story about how poorly manufactured LPs were at the time. Record stores reported that more and more people were returning records in signficant numbers, because they skipped or otherwise sounded awful. This amazes me; I don't think I've ever returned a CD because of poor manufacturing. But some records I bought in the 1980s and early 1990s definitely had problems. My LP of Elvis Costello's Spike (1989) is all but unlistenable, for example. I think one reason the quality got so bad is that in the early 1980s, record companies began making LPs with as little plastic as possible. This was to save money, which was in dwindling supply what with the recession, the post-disco slump in record sales and the high cost of petroleum after the late 1970s energy crisis.

I wonder if the industry would have shifted to CDs as quickly and thoroughly as it did if consumers hadn't been fed up with shitty records. Audiophiles now hail records for their sonic warmth and attractive cover art, but Rolling Stone articles I read covering the very first CD players did not say: We must preserve this fabulous format, the LP. What they said was more along the lines of: Good riddance. The paranoiac in me also wonders if record companies deliberately made crappy LPs in order to get more people buying CDs. Consumers paid more for CDs than records, after all, and labels made pots of money when music lovers bought CDs of favorite titles they already had on LP.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Good word

"All the best people in life seem to like Linux."

--Steve Wozniak
Good word

"Singers inspire what we want to be in life and how we want to live our lives as much as any heroes."

--Steve Wozniak
I scream

I'm always looking for the perfect frozen dairy outlet, and Madison, Wis. is an excellent place for this sort of questing. First prize generally alternates between Michael's and the Chocolate Shoppe, depending on how I'm feeling, but they're both superb. Dairy Queen also is not to be underestimated, and the Culver's chain is reassuringly omnipresent. I must confess that local favorite Babcock Hall leaves me a little cold, pardon the expression. Don't get me wrong: it's very good ice cream, made by University of Wisconsin food-science experts, but I think there are even better options around these parts. The fact that a Ben & Jerry's outlet will open this summer complicates things delightfully. I think some Wisconsinites might view this as Vermonter carpetbagging, but I say the more, the merrier, especially since Ben & Jerry's ice cream is, let's face it, great.

Recently I scanned the Yellow Pages in search of hidden gems--Monona Bait & Ice Cream looks promising--and I was reminded that there is a local outlet of TCBY, the frozen yogurt chain that was so au courant in the go-go 1980s. (How could I forget? I pass that TCBY all the time; it's in the same mall as one of my favorite Madison landmarks, the budget cinema.) So last weekend Ereck and I, in the spirit of adventure, sampled what posits itself as the country's best yogurt and--

We were profoundly disappointed. That frozen yogurt is a sad confection, almost flavorless, and an air of shame hangs over the place. Quite literally: there are signs saying, "All of the pleasure, none of the guilt," a marketing formula that is fraudulent through and through. First of all, the product gave me no pleasure. Secondly, I reject the notion that dessert equals guilt. But most distressing is the implication that low-fat treats induce no guilt because carbohydrate calories are somehow less fattening than fat calories. This is a fallacy any nutritionist--heck, any sensible person--could clear up in an instant. True, TCBY sells frozen desserts prepared with artificial sweeteners, but the thought of those just makes me shudder.

Never again.
Revenge of the nerd

I spent much of the holiday weekend watching old episodes of "Computer Chronicles," a PBS series that covered the PC industry from 1982 to 2002. The show is archived extensively at (Don't worry; I got out in that fabulous weather, too!) I stumbled across the show in looking for information on my newest distraction, an old Apple IIc I somehow acquired. Anyone got any Apple II software they're not using?

This history fascinates me. PCs are thoroughly mainstream now, but it was only about 25 years ago that Left Coast counterculture types founded microcomputer companies with names like Kentucky Fried Computers, Intergalactic Digital Research--and Apple, supposedly so named because its cofounder Steve Jobs was experimenting with fruititarianism.

Back in the day, acquiring a personal computer--like the Apple I--meant buying a circuit board and some parts and cobbling the thing together with a soldering iron. And once it was assembled, there wasn't much to do with it. (Instant messaging was still a few years away.)

The industry had matured, some, by the time "Computer Chronicles" first aired in 1982, a year after the first IBM PC came out. I was 11 that year, and although I thought computers were pretty fabulous, I wasn't quite sure what they were good for. Sometimes I feel that way now.