Capn Design

May 2003

This month I posted 31 entries, watched 6 videos.

Customer Support Numbers

Posted May 31, 2003

Earlier today I spent a little bit of time waiting to talk to a person at Time Warner Cable (I wanted to know if the digitial audio out on my cable box was actually functional). While on hold I thought about how we could improve the time spent on the phone.

One of the chapters in Faster by James Gleick discusses the ways of the technical help number. He talks about how the companies maximize their operators' time by installing these "sophisticated" phone systems. According to the book, "The software industry alone leaves Americans waiting on hold for an estimated three billion minutes a year." I don't expect this to change anytime soon, but they can at least make my time more enjoyable. Here is my customer support line wishlist:

  • Tell us approximately how long we will be waiting. If it's going to be 10 minutes, I want to know.
  • Do not tell us "thank you for your patience" every thirty seconds. Just let me tune out the music please.
  • When the call starts let me punch in my extension immediately. I don't need to listen to whatever corporate branding and promotion you have to offer.
  • Allow me to press zero or some other number to speak to an operator. Sometimes I don't know what department I need.
  • If you ask for my account or phone number and it isn't in your records, please don't hang up on me. Tivo did this and it was very annoying.
  • Give me a choice of music. Wouldn't it be great if you heard, "You have a 3 minute wait time. Press 1 to listen to jazz, 2 to listen classical, or 3 for the all Yanni channel." At least you'd have a choice.

Add your own wishes in the comments.

Ad-ware, I Have Defeated You!

Posted May 30, 2003

Last week I downloaded a crack for a piece of software. As a result of this download I received a piece of ad-ware that would cause pop-up ads to appear every now and then. Obviously, this was annoying.

First order of business: download an ad-ware smackdown program. I did this and it did not solve my problems. After clearing my cache and cookies I rebooted, but still the same problems. I thought I had been beaten by the assholes.

Then, today, I took a look at the running processes. I kept searching for each one to see if I could associate it with a particular program or piece of hardware. After little luck, I went into the system32 folder and sorted by date. I noticed an executable file that had been created recently and had a suspicious icon. It looked devious. There was an uninstall file, so I gave it a shot. After running it the program must have wanted to get one last ad in as a window popped open. I grrrr-ed and rebooted. Upon reboot, nothing! No ads! I had won. I am victorious.

In other news, I have gotten 6,500 requests for my post on the Honda Commercial. If you look at my referrers page then you'll see what I mean. Craziness.

Too Many Albums?

Posted May 30, 2003

Recently, Todd at What Do I Know? posted a piece about packing up his gigantic music collection in preparation for a move. He realized that the hundred tapes he had as youth were much more memorable than the albums he listens to now. The question raised is whether or not a smaller collection of records will have a greater effect on the person.

As an owner of more than 1000 albums, this question got me thinking. Should I pare down? Do I really need to have this many albums? (Obviously, I don't need this many albums.) After some deliberation I have realized that those who remember the days of old and how they fawned over a small amount of records are living in the past. The albums were influential because of the time period in which they were bought, not because there was less clutter.

Today, when I get a new album is just amazing, I don't listen to much else. The most recent example was Blur's Think Tank. The week after I got it I listened to it over 20 times. I definitely gave it a solid number of spins. Ocassionally a new album will arrive and I will fall in love. Then, it gets played at least once a day. The last one of these was the Starlight Mint's The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of. So, I think it is possible to give an album a lot of attention despite havinga large collection.

What do you think? Would you rather have a few albums become intrinsically linked with a time in your life or be able to experience hundreds of albums without any serious emotional attachment?

Video Game Roundup

Posted May 29, 2003

I've ran across a few good articles over the last couple days and I'll bring them up now.

The Game Industry Crisis
Greg at Games * Design * Art * Culture has posted a piece about the upcoming fiscal crisis in the videogame industry. As system power increases in accordance with Moore's Law, the cost of game development increases with it. Game sales and profits are increasing at a much slower rate. The industry will not be in a good situation until people from my generation turn 40, which is when video games will have a mass appeal. The point is, we will have a serious problem on our hands in a few years and beyond, unless we come up with a solution.

Video Games Good for You
Two American researchers have determined that video games can improve your visual skills. People who play games regularly, especially shoot-em-ups, fared much better in a variety of tests done by the researchers. Really, this doesn't mean much to me as any gamer could tell you that it improves their "visual skills." I guess it is good to have people from the world of science confirm this.

Matthew Barney vs. Donkey Kong
The immediate connection is the concept of climbing up a series of platforms to reach the woman and her guardian. The rest of this piece goes on to explain a lot of other interesting stuff. Now I want to see the movie in its entirity so I can see what exactly he means. Really cool piece.

Super-Duper PS2: PSX
It's a PS2 with a 120GB hard drive, DVD+/-RW, DVR software, USB 2.0, a memory stick slot and connections for the PSP (the upcoming Sony handheld). This machine sounds like a badass machine. I'm curious how much it will cost and what the response will be like when it comes to the states.

Every episode of The State in Quicktime.

Covering the Courts

Posted May 23, 2003

Yesterday I went to a seminar at the Museum of Television and Radio entitled, "Covering the Courts," which focused on the media's coverage of the judicial system. The talk focused mostly on the presence of cameras in the courtroom, and it was basically five against one, with the one person looking to rid the courts of cameras (the panelists are listed here, but the link will die soon).

The main argument against cameras in the courtroom is that it causes people to act differently or to refuse to appear in court, which is an obvious problem. The one, not Neo, told a story of a judge who once held a man on a $1 million bail for a felony misdemeanor in order to make a point on the environment since he knew the cameras would be there. He also mentioned people who refused to testify because they knew a camera would be present.

The rest of the panel was able to win me over, despite my hesitance. I thought that if there was any chance the judicial process could be marred by the cameras then they shouldn't be allowed, but a couple specific points changed my mind. Most importantly, when people are under close scrutiny they tend to perform at a higher level. We had most panelist and a number of audience members testifying to support this argument. Also, one of the panelists, the CEO of Court TV, explained that none of the cases they have documented (over 900) have ever gone to appeal as a result of the cameras. In other words, cameras have never been a huge problem. So, it seems that cameras do more good than harm.

The area that they didn't cover much, and that was mostly do to the makeup of the panel, was how the portrayal of courts effect the television audience. For instance, what does Judge Judy or the People's Court do to the average person's understanding of law? Since most people get their news through local tv news and thus via soundbytes, how can we accurately portray the workings of the court? These are obviously tougher questions and the seminar was only an hour and and a half long. Still, these seem to be more important questions.

How can we provide an accurate portrayal of the court system to the lower class without infusing it with emotion and entertainment? Hopefully you can tell me.

Digital SARS Folk Art

Boing Boing has been compiling this art and it's really cool. (This is one in a series. Follow the link for more)

Ad Space

Posted May 22, 2003

The newest issue of Wired is a great one. It is guest edited by Rem Koolhaas, a man at the forefront of the architecture world, and the issue focuses on different spaces in our world. One of the sections looked at the ad space.

The author, Steve Hayden, discusses how the world has become completely saturated with ads. It's obvious that we see them everywhere and that they all seem somewhat ineffective, but he gives us some numbers to back it up. Every time the number of ads in a television commercial break double, the viewer's ability to remember any given message drops 45 percent. He also mentions that countries with less clutter have more effective ads.

Hayden claims that the answer to our woes is for advertisers to do better ads. Yes, this will increase the effectiveness of the given ad, but how will it help us to wade through the neverending stream of advertisements? Of course I enjoy an ad that is visually stunning or conceptually brilliant, but I am more concerned with the ads that just get in my way. If we accept that these are useless, then how can they be avoided?

I guess I keep asking questions because I don't know the answer. I would love to see media in the U.S. cut down on their number of ads and instead put out a smaller number of quality ads. Unfortunately, this seems unrealistic. In the meantime, I will keep complaining about it until someone insightful happens upon my post and does something about it.

Valid and Expanding

Posted May 22, 2003

Hello readers. I thought I'd take some time to let you know what's going on with this site. A while back I claimed that it would be redesigned by May 1st, and that has obviously come and passed. Instead, I am going to go a different route. The design will stay the same but I going to be completely reformatting the photo section and making it much more prominent. I'm thinking about a two to three week timeline. You'll know when it's all finished because the header image will be different. So things are changing, but also staying the same.

I also finally got a number of the pages to have valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional and CSS code. Most of the archive pages will not validate because I am not going to go back and fix every ampersand and image link. The validation also meant that my CSS now works properly on every page and I am completely free of any table design.

Finally, I am still working on giving the mini-reviews a better home. I have already given the individual archive pages a real design (example) and I'm working on the rest of the site. This is important for RSS users because if you'd rather read the review from within the site, now you don't have to look at a blob of plain text with no formatting.

That's about it in terms of new work. Let me know if you have anything you'd like to see more or less of. You can be blunt, I can take it.

Play with your Pee

A new paper from MIT Media Labs suggests installing a target with sensors in urinals that will interface with a game screen on the wall. It claims to promote cleanliness. In the future you might be able to pee off a hidden image or browse through news stories. Although it is probably a bit extravagant, it sounds like it would be fun. (via Game Girl Advance)

Gov't blackballs photographer

A photographer who has captured photos of wildlife in the arctic is being slapped around by the U.S. Government. His photos contradict what oil companies and Senate members have been arguing, so they try to keep him down. Ths is depressing and exciting at the same time.

Women in Games

Posted May 18, 2003

I just finished reading an article on women in games from the NY Times and I have a lot to say. Before I begin, it's important to know that the article discusses the way women are portrayed in games and not female gamers, as they are two very different topics.

The discussion is similar to the one that occurred when black people first appeared in television and film -- is it better to have black people on tv being portrayed inaccurately or to have them off tv completely? In regards to women, the critics seem to agree that women need to be in games, but there is argument as to whether or not the portrayal is acceptable.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is at one extreme, as women are often beaten or killed, usually after a helathy round of prostitution. Clearly, no critic approves of this. In a game like Tekken 4 the women are capable of defending themselves and often kick ass, but are still hyper-sexualized versions of real women (see image below). All of the games in the Tomb Raider series are also good examples of this. As the article points out, many women have applauded the heroism and stength of Lara Croft but have been disappointed by her incredibly large bust size. Few games give a totally positive portrayal of women -- even games like Super Mario Brothers show the Princess as a completely helpless person that a plumber can save from a hideously large and violent super-turtle.

Tekken 4: Christie

The bottomline is that although women are being given a fair shake in fighting games and often given starring roles in other genres, it is under the wrong pretenses. They are put there and are shaped accordingly in order to appeal to the male gamer's labido. What's more troubling, and isn't fully addressed by the article, is that this accurately portrays real life. Yes, women are finally gaining some equality in society but they are still portrayed as feabile, sexual creatures. A quote from the article sums it up nicely.

"Now women can be killing machines, but adolescent about everything else," Ms. Hooks said.

"That is what one sees in 'Charlie's Angels,' " she continued. "The women kill as ruthlessly and as brutally as any men, but when it comes to sex that drops out and they are little girls. It is a tremendous burden."

At this point I would like to point out that men are also shown as hulking masses of testosterone, only capable of maiming and looting, which reminds us that games, like all fiction, allows people to live out fantasies. Still, we need to remember that authors of any form of fiction have a tremendous power -- the ability to shape our concept of reality.

Now, I challenge the video game industry, and all other industries as well as society, to think of women as equals in all senses of the word. I admit it is fun to visit a fantasy world where men can pretend they are 6'4", incredibly strong and unbearably handsome fighters who get to wrestle with unbearably buxom women, but if this is giving adolescents the idea that women can be treated like dirt then I think we can and should give up these images forever.

Meet Hank

Posted May 16, 2003

Today, I am shipping off an old member of the family and bringing in a new friend. Our 10gb friend, Herman, is being sent to a new home in Chicago. He has spent a good amount of time with me, but I was ready to move on. Hank can hold three times as much and has all the fun new features of his brothers and sisters. He respects Grandpa Herman but knows that he is both younger and more capable. Goodbye Herman, enjoy your new home.

Hello Hank.

Radiohead and The Matrix: Reloaded

Posted May 15, 2003

You ask yourself, what do these two entities have to do with one another? Nothing, at least on the surface. For the last few months I have just assumed that both Hail to the Thief and The Matrix: Reloaded would blow my socks off. There is a shitload of hype and I loved the predecesors. Now, I am questioning this notion.

Yesterday I was chatting via IM with Stevie and she mentioned how she's concerned the new Matrix film will not be everything we had been hoping for. I scoffed and thought, "Impossible." Little did I know that it was at that moment I began to lose my optimistic attitude. I wonder if the quality of either this new film or new album will be able to live up to what has been accomplished before. I have more faith in Radiohead because they have been around longer and their first film wasn't about lesbians who rob mobsters.

Now, the moment of truth is arriving shortly. I will be seeing The Matrix: Reloaded in a couple days and the Radiohead album will arrive in a few weeks. I wonder if I am doomed by my reckless optimism.

Hedwig Tribute!

Posted May 15, 2003

What's with me and exclamation points? Anywho, I just read on Pitchdork that there is going to be a Hedwig tribute disc released entitled Wig in a Box. I would like you to know that I completely and totally love Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I saw the off-broadway play, I saw it in the theaters twice (singing along and pissing people off, mind you), and I own the DVD and original stage show soundtrack. That being known, I am going to buy this tribute disc the second it is released, if not sooner.

The track listing looks really good. I am most excited for the first seven tracks. Here they all are:

Rufus Wainwright: "Origin of Love"
Sleater-Kinney & Fred Schneider (B-52s): "Angry Inch"
The Bens (Ben Folds, Ben Kweller & Ben Lee): "Wicked Little Town (Tommy version)"
Imperial Teen: "Freaks"
Bob Mould: "Nailed"
Yoko Ono & Yo La Tengo: "Hedwig's Lament/Exquisite Corpse"
They Might Be Giants: 'The Long Grift"
The Breeders: "Wicked Little Town (Hedwig version)"
Jonathan Richman: "Origin of Love (reprise)"
Cyndi Lauper & The Minus 5: "Midnight Radio"
Nina Hagen: "Tear Me Down"
Stephen Trask & John Cameron Mitchell: "The Water Song" & "U.F.O.s" (originals)

Cyndi Lauper? With the Minus 5? Amazing, can't wait.

Subway Fare Lowered!

Today a Federal judge rolled back the subway fare to $1.50 because the MTA didn't give all the information on their fiscal troubles to the riders...or something. Yay for saved money!


Posted May 14, 2003

By now it is obvious that iTunes 4 is a smash hit with the peeps, but a new problem is forming. The new software allows users to share their library with others by streaming the songs. This means that you can't copy the tracks, just listen to them. Obviously this was meant to keep people from illegally file-swapping. That has all changed.

Enter in iLeech and iTunesDL (download here). The first is a sourceforge project and the second has yet to be claimed by anyone, as far as I can tell (the link is to one of the early links). These two programs allow you to enter in the location of a stream and download tracks from others' iTunes library. Bring together iTunes, either of these programs and Spymac Music/Share iTunes and you have access to millions of MP3s.

The new question, is what will happen next? The RIAA cannot be happy and Apple now has to make a big decision. Kottke believes that Apple must have know what was going to happen in advance but I don't know if I agree. Then again, this happened so quickly it must have been relatively easy to figure out.

It seems the best option will be to remove the option of broadcasting your iTunes library over the internet and only allow it via Rendezvous. You could still download files from those on your network but you wouldn't be able to browse thousands of libraries. I'm quite excited to find out what happens next.

Further Reading:
A copywriter's take
LA Times via MacCentral
That's it for now, unless you can read French, then check out Google


Posted May 14, 2003

Tonight, I unintentionally bought nine albums. Luckily, it all cost me $65 with tax. Here is what I purchased:

  • Manishevitz - Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down ($2.99) I own Roll Over and love it, so three dollars was a safe investment.
  • Stroke 9 - Rip It Off ($2.99) I really liked their first record and, again, three dollars eases decision making.
  • Superdrag - Head Trip In Every Key ($2.99) Duh. They rule.
  • Blur - Blur ($6.99) I always enjoyed Blur, but Think Tank has put them in a completely new world for me. As a result, I buy this.
  • Cex - Being Ridden ($8.99) Jenny recommended this and I trust her.
  • Run-D.M.C. - Run-D.M.C. ($8.99) I need to own more hip-hop and I have been playing this record on the jukebox a lot lately. I just barely chose this over Raising Hell.
  • Mr. Lif - Emergency Rations ($8.99) I love I Phantom.
  • Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back ($9.99) How have I gone this long without owning this?
  • Cursive - Domestica ($6.99) I have this at home on vinyl, but for this price it is worth having one of my favorite records of all time in a portable format.

I justified the purchase by using birthday money. Granted, I could have used it to eat, but this seemed more important during the hour of shopping.

If This, Then What Else

Posted May 13, 2003

For the past eight weeks I have been taking an improv comedy class at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. I have totally loved it and will definitely keep on taking classes. The reason I am bringing this up now is because I have a Graduation show coming up this weekend. If you'd like to attend, you are more than welcome. I'll tell you this though: It will not be nearly as funny as the normal shows but you will definitely laugh a couple times. You will going mostly to support me. With that said, here are the details.

The Capn's Graduation Show
Sunday, May 18th at 4pm
Upright Citizens Brigade Theater
On the North side of 26th St. just West of 8th Ave.
It costs $5.

If you don't go to this I'll forgive you, but when I ask you to come to shows in a couple years, when I'll ridiculously awesome, you better damn come.

The State on DVD!

Posted May 12, 2003

Finally, The State, our favorite MTV sketch comedy show, is coming to DVD at some point in the future. According to an email and their website:

We [are] going back to the original master tapes and loading it with great extras too, including commentary, interviews, unaired material, etc. Save your money! Stop buying bootlegs! We don't know when exactly this new DVD will be released, but the second we do we'll post here and on our mailng list. (Sign up at

Personally, I can't wait. I have seen a bunch of the episodes but certainly haven't seen them all. As soon as I get the DVD, I'm gonna dip my balls in it!


Interesting. Enter a blog and get recommended blogs based on links on the page.

It's Saturday

Posted May 10, 2003

Moments of today:


Posted May 10, 2003

As I sit at home on this lazy Saturday, channel flipping becomes a wonderful way to pass the time. Ten minutes ago I happened upon a movie that was a favorite of mine when I was a little kid. That movie is Annie. It was one of the movies I would watch dozens of times. Watching it now brings me back to weekends on the couch with a babysitter, gripping the cushions as Annie climbs up the railroad tracks on the bridge. Thank God Punjab was there to save her. The other movie I watched probably hundreds of times was The Wizard of Oz.

Now I want to know, what movies did you watch as a little one? Don't hold back as I want to hear them all, especially from people whom I know read this site but never leave comments. This is your time to shine.

The Ultimate Recycling

Posted May 8, 2003

A while back Wired ran an article about digital paper. It would be like a computer screen packed into a sheet of paper. Essentially, it would mean the end of paper as we know it. Today some U.S. researchers unveiled working samples (via Metafilter).

This technology is going to revolutionize any industry that prints words on paper. The only reason I don't do e-books is because I can't stand staring at a tiny screen when I'm reading a book. I like to have something tangible, thin and bigger than a PDA. If I could have a screen the size of a 8.5" x 11" piece of paper then I would give up paper forever. I would rebuy every book I own.

There is still lots of work to be done on these screens as they are not quite thin enough to be folded in half (currently just under .3 millimeters) and their refresh rate needs to come down from .25 seconds to under 15 milliseconds to display video. In the meantime, start packaging these bad boys as I want one right now. Goodbye recycle bin!

Gaper's Block

Chicago's answer to The Morning News' links. If you want to be informed about interesting events in Chicago then this is the place to go. Also, it's really well designed.

Things Thought/Heard During X2 Previews

Posted May 7, 2003

  • While watching the Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde preview, the girl next to me said, "You'd have to kidnap me to get me to watch that movie." That's a bit extreme, but she has the right idea.
  • The CGI in The Hulk looks a little fake. I don't know if I like that.
  • The movie 28 Days Later is not a sequel to the Sandra Bullock Movie, like I had previously thought.
  • Previews are so tired. It's the same formula for every movie. That's what makes the trailer for The Comedian so funny.
  • Matt Damon in a Farrelly brothers movie? About siamese twins? Weird.
  • In general, the summer movie seasons fucking rocks.

Boston Public's writing

Posted May 6, 2003

I never wanted to admit that my enjoyment of Boston Public was a guilty pleasure, but after last night's episode I must raise my arms in surrender. A couple of the plot lines were just too much.

The vice principal, Mr. Guber, is teaching in the dungeon at the moment and is having trouble bringing Shakespear to his students. He also notices that they are into this "rap" thing, as evidenced by one of his student's pre-class rhyming. So, he tells his class that they don't have to read Shakespeare if they can tell him why Shakespeare "is whack" in verse. Of course, the emcee/student stands up and blows us all away. Guber starts listening to hip-hop and doing the old man "cool" dance in his office. At the end of the episode we find out the talented student was shot by a cop in a gunfight. I could easily explain to you why this is so completely played out, but I think you can figure it out on your own.

The other plot line was the American Idol story. Tamayra Gray is a student at the school (her character's name is Aisha) and everyone now knows her talent. This sleazy guy wants to manage her but the teacher's are protective. They get him to sign a contract but note his sleaziness, obviously eluding to something horrible next week, which is the season finale. Once again, a boring story. Triumph over adversity, or did she? Blah.

Still, I keep watching the show, mostly because of the acting of Geri Ryan and Michael Rappaport. I am sucker for their storylines and and I like the new young teachers as well. So, I'll watch next week and probably all next season, but now I know what I'm getting into -- As the School Turns.

100 Subscriptions

Posted May 5, 2003

I've been using Net News Wire to read my RSS pages for a while now. Since I learned about the technology I have been using it almost exclusively to browse the web. Websites tell me when they update so I don't have to go to every site only to find out they haven't updated.

Today I hit 100 subscriptions (Corante's Got Game? pushed me over the edge) and I thought I'd use this moment to share my love for RSS. Also, I have provided my OPML file (this is where all of the subscription data is saved) for all of you to check out. I'm going to figure out a way to parse it so you can just see what's there.

So, if you haven't tried RSS then now is the time. If you're on OS X then you have to use Net News Wire. It's amazing.

The Last Bite

Posted May 4, 2003

One Bite Left

There is something to be said for the days when you begin with three scrambled eggs and two pieces of toast but are able to finish with one bite of each. It just gets you started on the right foot.

Hello Again

Posted May 3, 2003

If you are seeing this message, I am at a new server now but using the same host. More space, same cost (yay for 50% off deals). If you notice anything missing, please let me know. Thanks.

Also, I made some minor tweaks to the site. The mini-reviews sidebar is now a total of 15 reviews and they're all lumped together, to aviod showing ones that have been around for 6 months. There will be some more changes to that part of the site fairly soon. Oh, all of the RSS feeds are now 2.0.

Album Art

Posted May 1, 2003

I am still sifting through all of the blog entries on the Apple Music Store, and after reading this comment at 37 Signals, I thought about the need for album art. In the past, we needed to have some kind of sleeve to hold our CDs or vinyl, but in a digital world we don't need it.

The comment-er (commentator?) discussed the website being a replacement for the cover art and I think I buy that. Cover art was designed to intice the shopper with interesting images that told us a little about the artist. If downloading music becomes our chosen distribution system, then I think the website is a perfect replacement. I just want to be sure that the art and design are changed with each album release.

My only hope in regards to this new album art is that we'll be able to take it with us on our iPods or whatever is the portable music player of the future. I like being able to go through liner notes and check out the art as I'm listening to a record, especially for the first time.


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