Monthly Archives: October 2010

Chuck Music

New music is one of the unexpected benefits of having suddenly discovered the awesomeness that is the TV show Chuck.

I hardly listen to the radio, and the radio stations up in the high desert are why. We don’t even get AM radio up here. There’s not much on the FM side either: a handful of religious stations, only one of which has any music to speak of; a country-and-western station, which I don’t listen to; and a classic rock station down in Palm Springs, whose music I’ve known about these last 25-30 years. That leaves KCDZ 107, the only truly local station up here. And, sadly, I don’t care for the music it plays. At all. (Sorry.)

But Chuck has all kinds of music, and I’ve only heard some of it. So, for example: “Now We Can See,” by the Thermals? Great song, and an awesome choice for the scene in “Chuck vs. The Ring” where Chuck and Casey tell Emmett they’ve quit.

Or “Bye, Bye, Bye,” by Plants and Animals? Again, an excellent song, and a perfect for the Parisian ending of “Chuck vs. The Other Guy.” (In part because it foreshadows the following episode.)

Or, from “Chuck vs. the Tooth,” how about — content advisory! — “Right Round,” by Flo Rida? (That link is probably NSFW, by the way.) There were a whole bunch of versions on Amazon (including about a dozen Karaoke treatments) so I got the one that wasn’t marked “explicit lyrics.” Well. It makes me wonder what they could do to make the lyrics any more explicit. It’s a good tune, though.

But there are also gems like “Mr. Roboto.” Kidding. I never liked the version by Styx, to be honest. But this cover version by Jeffster is awesome.

Chuck Season 3

So I began watching Chuck I guess in September sometime, and it’s now become my favorite TV show ever because of its uncanny degree of awesomeness.

So, okay, they finally resolved the tension between Chuck and Sarah over the course of Episodes #48-50 (Chuck vs. the Other Guy, vs. the Honeymooners, and vs. the Role Models). Good for them. Very well done, and what’s not to like?

But I just watched Episode # 51 (16 of Season 3), “Chuck Vs. the Tooth.” I guess there’s some kind of rule that says you have to have tension, because that’s what they’ve got now. The only thing they could have done to ratchet it up any worse would be to put Joss Whedon in charge of an episode to kill off a couple of the main characters.

Indian Cooking in Crock-Pot

About once a quarter, Mrs. Accretion Disc is able to devote half a day to making some kind of Indian-food dish, and those days are awesome. Sadly, they only come once a quarter. But maybe that will change, now that someone has published a book on making Indian food in a crock-pot! The cover illustration is making me drool. (Read the author’s blog here; via Insty.)

A Better Diet Plan

My doctor’s been on my back to lose a few pounds. That’s good, because it’s kept me from gaining any more. Otherwise, it hasn’t been very effective. But now I think I’ve figured out the secret:

After two weeks, the people who slept more lost more fat than the group who slept less. More than half of the weight loss during the 8.5 hours of sleep was fat versus only one quarter of the weight loss during the 5.5 hours of sleep. People literally burned fat while they slept.

I found this on the internet so it must be true. See the whole piece at Psychology Today.

Milky Way is Square?

Researchers create a new map of our galaxy, with the following features:

One conclusion is that the Milky Way has an additional spiral arm, not seen in previous surveys of the galaxy. The new arm is about 30,000 light years from the galactic core at a longitude of between 80 and 140 degrees.

But a bigger surprise is their conclusion that some of the arms in the Milky Way are not curved in the traditional way, but are straight instead. This gives the Milky Way a distinctly squarish look.

Kudus: Technology Review.

Bloody MacPorts

Here’s what I hate about MacPorts:

--->  Fetching xorg-bigreqsproto
--->  Verifying checksum(s) for xorg-bigreqsproto
--->  Extracting xorg-bigreqsproto
--->  Configuring xorg-bigreqsproto
--->  Building xorg-bigreqsproto
--->  Staging xorg-bigreqsproto into destroot
--->  Installing xorg-bigreqsproto @1.1.0_0
--->  Activating xorg-bigreqsproto @1.1.0_0
--->  Cleaning xorg-bigreqsproto
--->  Fetching xorg-inputproto
--->  Verifying checksum(s) for xorg-inputproto


You cannot blink without installing X11. You can’t build python 2.6 without tk, and tk requires X. In order to get a bloody scripting language, you have to install a windowing system, built in the 1980s, that’s been obsolete 10 years. Why, on God’s green earth, is anybody still using X on a Mac? Why aren’t MacPorts ports written so the default is to omit X?

Happy Birthday to Me

In an hour and a half it will be 10/10/10. Could a birthday be any more auspicious than that?

Plus, I will be 49 years old. In the Bible, that would be 7×7 or perfection squared.

So, good for me. Many happy returns of the day, etc. But I’d better enjoy it, because soon enough I’ll be a grumpy old man. Which brings me to today’s science fact: old men really are grumpier. From the Telegraph of the U.K.:

“We laugh twice as much in our teens as we do in our fifties. And our findings suggest that it’s all downhill from 52.”

The study found that while an infant can laugh aloud as many as 300 times every day, life rapidly becomes far less fun.

Awesome Customer Service – Nuance

Earlier today, I posted my initial review of Dragon 2.0, and tweeted the blog entry. I didn’t pan this upgrade, but it wasn’t the most positive review ever. I stand by the review, in any case.

But. I just got a message from Nuance giving me some advice about one of the complaints. And this isn’t the first time that’s happened. A year ago, when I posted my last review, someone at Nuance/MacSpeech followed up with a Twitter response within a few hours. I thought that was a fluke. Apparently it isn’t.

Many (or even most?) software companies make it extraordinarily difficult for you to give them any kind of feedback, much less get help. I used to work in one of the biggest computer companies out there; I know how that is.

But twice now, I’ve gotten a considered response from Nuance/MacSpeech in almost no time.

You know, that makes up for a lot.

Dragon 2.0 nee MacSpeech Dictate

Nuance recently released Dragon 2.0, an update to what was formerly called MacSpeech Dictate. I’ve been using MacSpeech Dictate for nearly two years, and I’ve been pleased with it.

Apart from the new branding, Dragon 2.0 has what seems to be a pretty thin list of new features. I’d say it’s more of a version 1.6 than a 2.0. (Although 1.5 was really a 1.1, so maybe they just count by 0.5 at Nuance.) For example, the new version is “powered by the latest version of the state-of-the-art Dragon speech recognition engine.” That’s not a feature. That’s plumbing and I don’t care. They could make me care by telling me that accuracy is 50% more accurate, or whatever, but they don’t.

The upgrade cost was $50, but I bit. (I actually have two licenses: one for my laptop and one for the iMac at home; I only upgraded one.) Here are some initial observations:

It’s not obviously better or worse than Dictate 1.5 was. If there’s a big improvement somewhere, I haven’t run across it.

But it is far more eager to hear something than it used to be. Whenever I take a breath, it hears “a” or “an” or “I” or “in.” This is hardly “improved speech recognition.” I wish there was some way to tell it not to try so hard. How do you train silence?

One thing is driving me crazy. Traditionally, if you want to un-say something, you say “forget that” or “scratch that.” (Maybe you stuttered or lost your train of thought, or maybe you’re just to lazy to train a word or whatever.) The documentation — never a strong suite with this product — still says that’s what you’re supposed to do. Umm, no. That feature appears to be gone. Inexplicably.

The UI is still a mess. It won’t let you stash it away in a Spaces space; it follows you around everywhere and gets in front of whatever you’re trying to do. They assume that the solution to that problem is to use creepy transparent windows so you can see what it’s obscuring. The result is that you still can’t see what you’re doing, but it’s also hard to see what Dragon is doing too. You can’t make the transparent windows completely opaque, and you can’t increase the font size in them to make it easier to read. I assume someone at Nuance is really invested in this UI, but I can’t imagine a real user liking it.

While I’d been hoping for improvements (e.g., those in my earlier review) this is how it’s always been. But they broke one thing. I always set the recognition window to stay visible, so I can pick from among alternative hearings. Now now there’s a bug that makes it go away when you pick one of them. So you have to re-enable the recognition window. Fail.

That’s what I think after playing with the product for an hour. This release hasn’t been a huge disappointment, but it has definitely been disappointing. I hope 2.01 will be better — even if they call it 2.5 and charge $50 for the upgrade. And in the meantime, I certainly won’t be upgrading the copy on my iMac.