Broad Band

 This morning, I saw an article about how the FCC has created a new site for people to test out their broadband connections.  They want to know what types of speed people are really getting from their broadband providers (never mind that I'm sure ALL providers have optimized connections to the benchmarking sites).  So, I went to, entered in my address and ran the benchmark: 3.3Mb/sec.

Now, that seems a bit slow given that I'm supposed to be getting 10Mb/sec.  But I was using my laptop via a wireless connection and was going through a normal router, so I decided to connect straight up to the cable modem and try again: 17.6Mb/sec.

I think I found the bottleneck.

So, as a final test, I connected my router back into the cable modem, and then connected via Ethernet: 3.5Mb/sec.

I don't know if it's just my router (a cheap Airlink101), but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of other people have this same sort of issue.  It's going to make it very difficult for the FCC to get real numbers in a situation like this.

Now, I seldom worry about bandwidth - I seem to have enough to download youtube HD about real-time, so it shouldn't bother me much.

But it does :-).  Now I have to find a new router...

Phone Home

So, Kris and I were chatting with onefishclappin  and krikwennavd  last night and they mentioned that they were thinking of dumping their cable service.  Like them, I'm currently using the bundled TW service (cable TV, internet, phone) and I'm really thinking the phone (in particular) is a Bad Deal.

Right now, they're charging $40/month (really $48 after taxes and misc. fees) for unlimited calling anywhere in the US.  I suspect that Kris and I seldom go over 1000 minutes a month, so that comes out to $0.05/minute for calling.  I suspect we're closer to about 200-300 minutes a month which puts us at $0.16 to $0.25 a minute - VERY expensive.  Also, I tried to log on the TW site to view my usage, and it only works with IE or Safari, so I can't even use it!

So, I think it's time to go unbundled VOIP.  I ordered a VOIP adapter from Amazon and created an account with CallCentric. I was even able to do a couple of test calls with twinkle  (though the sound was a little funny).  We'll see what happens - if it seems to work reasonably well with the real adapter, I'll transfer our existing phone number to the service and drop TW.

  • Current Mood

Hollywood Voltairing

So, my ears are ringing.  I forgot to bring my ear plugs and the bands were a bit louder than we usually have in Austin.  I could actually feel the air move across the hair on my arm when the drums hit.

The first band, Demonica and the Darklings, were OK.  I liked their vocalist, bass player and drummer and I really liked that they had a belly dancer in the background as part of the act.  But they had a violinist in the role of the lead guitar, which isn't fundamentally a bad thing, but for some reason she was only playing very simple phrases.  I'm not sure if she was a beginner (from some of the (mild) tuning issues I wouldn't be surprised), or if they simply decided to give her a simple role.   But it rubbed me the long way - there were many places that screamed "insert guitar/violin solo here" and I got whole notes.

Igor Spector was pretty neat, but the sound guy had them way too loud for me.  Musically, they tend to sound a lot like the B52s - a very intense strumming guitar, driving drums, and fun lyrics.  I eventually had to move out of the line of fire and then it became almost impossible to understand what the singer was saying.  I wouldn't mind listening to them again in a quieter context or with earplugs.

Voltaire was fun (as usual).  He ended up playing a fairly short set - I suspect it was only about 8-10 songs.  I'm not sure if it was because it was a week night or if something else happened.  There were about two songs that I didn't recognize and the ordering of the set was a bit "funny" (for instance, he did an instrumental for the second song).

Observations of the Hollywood audience vs. the Austin/Elysium audience:

1.  The crowds were about the same size - about 120-150 people.   Voltaire mentioned that they actually had to move to the larger hall at The Knitting Factory due to the number of people.

2.  There's more (and better) dancers in Austin.

3.  Austin audiences tend to sing more in key.

4.  About the same percent of people seemed to know Voltaire's songs and music.

5.  There were many more obvious couples in the Hollywood audience.  In some cases it was _very_ obvious (XPDA).

6.  This was definitely a goth audience, same as Austin.  Austin tends a little more towards the Victorian/velvet than Hollywood.  Also, Austin seemed to have more burgundy and reds where Hollywood was almost all black and white.

Oh, and Kris and my Mom decided that they would drop me off and then figure out something to do while I was at the concert.  Evidently, they first went to Pink's (waited an hour to get a hot dogs which they ate in 5 minutes), then they went back to Hollywood Blvd and wandered around looking at the footprints and stars.  Then they decided to get some dessert and the only restaurant open was Hooters, which is where I found them when I got out of the concert at midnight.  They evidently just got through singing and demonstrating YMCA to the staff there.

I'm almost sorry I missed it.  Almost.

It were a fun evening.

  • Current Music
    Ringing in left ear, hissing in right ear.

Old Home Week

Kris and I are planning on a Southern CA trip sometime this spring, so I rang my parents to see if it was OK if we stay with them.  There wasn't an answer at their house or on their cell phones earlier today, but I did get an answer later on.  The male voice said 'hello'. It wasn't my dad, but sounded oddly familiar.  I paused for a moment, before saying 'hello'.   "How's it goin',", he said, a little bit of amusement creeping into his voice.  Pause.  "Pretty good.".  I finally recognized the voice, "how are you, dude?"

So, my brother, Scott, who lives in N California was down South for some legal stuff and had stopped by my parent's house to stay the night.  It turns out that my parents are in Hawaii.  I can never keep track of them.  Scott and I talked for a while - he's looking for a job now since his old company went under and is currently looking at some biofuel companies.  So, while we're talking, I hear another voice in the background on his side.  My sister (who lives about 45 mins from my parents) stopped by to pick up her dog (long story).  So I talked to her for a bit, then Scott for a little more and then hung up to them to catch up.

See, we tend to talk to each other about once a year or so.  Usually, we try and at least call on birthdays, but if the calls don't make it through, a message is left and there's usually not a retry.  I don't know why we don't talk more - I always like talking to them, but it never seems to happen.

What's also funny, is that I had earlier talked to my aunt Georgia to let her know about our trip and she and I talked for an hour or so.  Then another hour with my siblings.  All interesting people that just happen to be family.  I need to do that a little more often.

But it just seemed strange and wonderful to have an unanticipated reunion on a random January day.  I guess those phone things really work!
  • Current Mood

At the risk of Memeing myself...

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
From Handel's Messiah edited by Watkins Shaw.

It's really a mess with the different voice parts. And we really don't get 5 sentences in one page, so I guess I'll pick the 5th phrase. Hey! It's the hardest line I have in Messiah (bass, choral). "For un-to us a child is born.". The only issue is that the "o" in born continues for 56 notes at high speed.

  • Current Music

(no subject)


The interesting part is that I tried to find the origins of the posting and it came from August 5th! Yup - a month and a half ago - well before the current financial crisis[*]. It's almost like... magic.

So, I've been singing at St. David's Episcopal Church for the past two weekends.  Let's see: that makes 4 services, so it roughly doubles the number of ordinary Sunday services I've attended in my life (I've been to a lot of funerals, weddings, baptisms, etc., but I'm not counting them).  So what makes an avowed atheist go to church?  The music.

At  fairydust1 's suggestion, I had an audition ("voice lesson") with David Stevens, the musical director at St. David's.  He's going to be conducting Handel's Messiah with the Austin Symphony this year, which really sounded like an incredible experience.  I was slightly uncomfortable in that he was bringing in some very talented singers, and I was definitely at the "low end" of his talent pool.  So, singing with the church is giving me more experience with his conducting style and more experience just sight singing a bunch of pieces.  Plus it's really wonderful music (though, the choir is a little too sparse right now to achieve a truly spectacular sound).

So, I could tell that onefishclappin was a little uncomfortable with the idea of an atheist singing in the choir.  I pointed out that a bassoon player blows all kinds of things through their instrument and doesn't expect the instrument to believe any of it.  I don't think she was convinced :-).

I've always thought of a choral ensemble as a single instrument that the conductor 'plays'.  It's a temperamental instrument: one that can frustrate one minute and thrill the next.  But the point is that the ensemble is there to amplify and enhance the conductor's 'vision'.  For my part, I'm trying to contribute to that vision, and that requires me to fall into the meaning of the song.  For the duration of a piece, part of my mind falls in love with Mary Lou, cries at Jeanie's loss, or is awestruck at the risen Christ.  In certain way, these are all the same.  It is a performance - it's there to move the listener.  And, of course, it's moving me at the same time.  In St. David's case, I mainly hope that my voice can enhance the congregation's experience.

But, of course, I'm not coming at this from a theist point of view.  How do other folks feel?

Dang!  If I asked a few weeks ago, I could have gotten Sarah's theist perspective :-).

[*] OK, so we had one back then as well. But it's fun to forget sometimes.

  • Current Music
    How Can I keep from singing (in my head)


So, I know that as you get older that some things don't tend to work the way they used to.  Right now it seems to be my brain.

  A couple of nights ago, Kris and I were Barnes and Noble and I found out that Robert Asprin started writing Myth books again (actually, it was in 2001).  He'd had some run-ins with the IRS and stopped writing until the situation was resolved.  So I bought the next book in the series.

So, I'm home sick today (something strange in my stomach and heavy fatigue) and I start reading the book.  About half way through (only 100 pages - the book is < 200 pages) the story begins to seem familiar.  So, I go upstairs and check the bookshelf.  And find the same book.

I don't know how long ago I bought it, but it evidently didn't stick too much in my head.

So, anybody want a copy of Myth-ion Improbable?

It's still a fun little read.  I wonder how it ends?
  • Current Mood

No excuse

So, Kris and I are back in Williamsburg. Just got back from spending a week down in Corolla, NC with her parents and her brother/sister in law/pair of children. I wasn't much in the mood for spending time at the beach, so spent the time relaxing and catching up on my reading.  Other than that, not too eventful.

Collapse )

So, the primary reason for this trip was to celebrate Kris'  parents' 50th anniversary.  Done.  We decided to also use this as an excuse to pick up a few pieces of furniture that Kris has been wanting from her parents.  So, we're picking up a truck tomorrow and heading off Tuesday morning for the trip back to Austin.   Then we need to figure out what to do on the 4th.
  • Current Mood

Mass Grave

Sometimes I really like getting in the middle of a large crowd, elbow to elbow with people I don't know, all focused on something larger than ourselves. I've felt that wonderful energy in the Capitol 10k race, with 25k people. The same at the barbershop international convention, with 12,000 people all singing 'My Wild Irish Rose' in 4 part harmony.

I feel the urge coming on again. And like the Capitol 10k and barbershop singing, this one needs some Training and Preparation. I bring you Thrill the World. Yes, I want to be dead.

Don't know if I'll make it after barbershop rehearsal Tuesday, but I might try and sneak out a little early. It's going to be hard since we're in final rehearsal for Valentine's Day.

But I want to dance! I want to growl. I want to die! I want... I want... Brains!
  • Current Mood

Bad Numbers

So, this article in the Statesman is the type that upsets me.  The headline, "Study: Texas same-sex couples who have kids earn less than married couples with children" takes some questionable numbers from the study and puts them on the top.  My first thought when I saw the headline was, "I wonder if they controlled for age."  Answer:  not found in the article.

Luckily, they did provide a pointer to the original .pdf.  Real answer: No.  The average age of same-sex couples was 38.6 and the average age of married couples was 45.8.

Now in some cases, you can blame the reporter for cherry picking sensational data, but not in this case.  The glossy study has very neat tables which compare couples and don't control for any other variables.  Bad Researchers!
  • Current Music
    piped in white noise